12 inch Figures for the Disney Parks – Part 2
Short recap from part 1 a few weeks back – Mattel was starting to make a ton of money with their Disney Classics line (most of us would think of it as Disney Princesses but it predated that official marketing collection and was the first time all the female Disney Characters were brought together). With Mattel’s new position as an official “Strategic Partner” with Disney, the parks were interested in some special product from their new partner. The Heart Family Visits Disneyland and the Pirates of the Caribbean were some of the first new product to ship from this request.
At the same time as Pirates, another male figure shipped – Davy Crockett. This used the same Ken body with the bent arms. The head was actually Grandpa Heart – just repainted. The tunic and pants were made in brushed tricot to look like buckskin and it even has the little fringe trim. One of the fun parts not seen in the package are the two-tone sewn moccasins. He also has a pouch made of darker brushed tricot with fringe. There is a belt and knife sheath of matching dark brown flocked rayon. The really fun part is the full fur coonskin cap. The one part that looks a little odd is the clear strap needed to keep it on his head in the package.
We had to get creative for his accessories. The knife was the same Big Jim knife we used on the Pirate. However, he really needed a tomahawk or hatchet. Big Jim did not have one which the figure could not hold it in his hand (a requirement) so I pulled one from the Buzz Off character from Masters of the Universe. With the big loop handle that would fit the figure’s hand and it could even attach on his belt.
I really wanted to include Davy’s special rifle “Old Betsy,” but that suggestion was shot down immediately. I even had a nice 1/6th scale version for the concept model. The management at the time mandated “NO GUNS”. To show how far they took this, there were some special Barbies sold directly to the military PX system in various armed service uniforms. The Stars and Stripes Army Barbie and Ken in desert camouflage really should have been armed with the M-16. I even gave the designer some 1/6th scale versions for the presentation models, but even for real modern Army they were turned down.
I chose to push for the Davy Crockett figure for a few different reasons. 1) Davy Crockett is a true Disney icon if you grew up in those years. 2) Davy was the best example to signify Frontier Land – a figure for each land was an additional facet I incorporated when presenting all the concept figures. 3) The video had just been re-released of the three original Davy Crockett Disneyland television show episodes compiled into a movie. It was for sale in the Disney Stores in the malls so I knew it would be in the parks also.
4) I enjoyed playing with my Marx Daniel Boone, Bill Buck and Jed Gibson scout figures. I even took those parts and combined them with Odin the Viking as he had a much better beard for a mountain man.
5) At that time, I was working in the Mattel LSP group (Large Doll, Small Dolls and Plush) which designed all toys for girls except Barbie. This gave me a chance to do a 12” male figure that was not a glittery prince. (It would be years before I worked on Joe).
So… there were other VHS tapes released that year of the various Disney live-action classics. Many of the serials made for the Disneyland show were based on characters that were Walt’s heroes growing. The serials often started with three episodes of each character which were later assembled into short films. This illustrious list includes Zorro (with Guy Williams later to play in Lost in Space and which later spawned its own series), Swamp Fox (staring a very serious and young Leslie Neilson), the Nine Lives of Elfego Baca staring the young Robert Loggia famous for such films as Independence Day and Scarface) and The Story of Robin Hood.
A Robin Hood figure was made and presented since the video was out, it could be used for Euro Disney and seemed very universal. It used a unique Ken head sculpted with long hair. I pushed the colors to be more green to match the US expectation of Robin hood, rather than matching the muted natural tones from the film. The tunic was brushed tricot and he had Lincoln green pants. He had a soft goods bag of gold to steal from the rich and give to the poor. He had tall sewn boots of flocked rayon like the pirate. He also had a belt with knife sheath and a quiver for arrows. There was to be the same Big Jim knife and a bow/arrow set from the Big Jim Karl May Indians that could really shoot.
Unfortunately, it was not as ironically identified as Disney in the way that Davy and the pirate clearly are. Therefore, Robin Hood was dropped from the proposed line.
There was one more rereleased VHS tape that I tried to make a figure from – 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. It was in concept development for a wave 2 set, but it was dropped before it was finished. The plan was to do Captain Nemo in his diving outfit. At that time, there were still Nautilus submarines in Disney World and influences from that film in Euro Disney. We made a perfect model of his underwater rifle. There was a head mocked up by adding a beard of Sculpy to the Davy/Grandpa head. The real ambitious part was rotocast breathing tanks with that were soft and hollow so they could shoot a harpoon off the side with air pressure. Only test pieces were made of these parts and there was not a final figure completed.
The fun did not end there. There were other concepts that shipped and some that did not ship to be revealed later.
What is your favorite live-action hero serial from the Disneyland show?