I’ve got something a little different today, a fun new piece outside of my usual history of comic books coverage. Polygon has been celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the cinematic release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (I know, I can’t believe it’s been that long either) with their “Year of the Ring” coverage, and I got to be part of the fun with an article on the history and legacy of Toy Biz’s trilogy-spanning action figure line. The piece went up today, and I had a great time putting it together.
I started collecting Toy Biz’s Lord of the Rings toys as soon as they hit shops, over a month before the movie’s release. I’d read the entire trilogy for the first time the summer before and absolutely loved the books, and the movie looked so cool that I spent all of my birthday money that fall on collecting the fellowship. I got Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Gimli, and Legolas right way, then got Boromir (and Lurtz, in a two-pack!) for Christmas. Strider proved elusive. That one was hard to find, and I finally got it years later when it was re-released. I’d accumulated several Aragorns in the meantime, though.
The line was unlike anything I’d ever seen from action figures before. I had a huge Star Trek figure collection, and while they were awesome, they weren’t exactly the most detailed or poseable. Toy Biz’s Lord of the Rings figures were both, with realistic, textured clothing and weapons, amazing sculpts, and they were so well articulated that I could set them up and recreate my favourite movie scenes. The initial wave was great, and the line only grew better and more comprehensive with each passing movie. Then the movies ended, and Toy Biz kept making new action figures for another two years! I collected them all the while, ultimately amassing in the ballpark of half of the nearly 150 different figures they released.
My article looks at the creation and impact of the line, using the fact that Toy Biz made THIRTEEN different Frodos as a jumping off point to explore the company’s fantastically over the top commitment to scope and detail. As the opening paragraph explains, Frodo only wore ONE outfit for the bulk of the trilogy! And still they made thirteen distinct versions of him. Toy Biz was hardcore, and their dedication and innovation changed the game. You can trace a direct line from the Lord of the Rings line to action figure behemoths like Hasbro’s Marvel Legends and Star Wars‘ Black Series.
Plus, the figures were just awesome, and awesomeness deserves to be celebrated.
Check out the article, and if you’re interested in learning more about the line I highly recommend the Lords of the Rings Toy Archive. They’ve got tons of information, along with a huge database of all the different action figures. If you’re a toy nerd at all, it’s really fun to explore the impressive breadth of the line and learn even more about these fantastic figures.