Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Great Moments in Geek Collectibles History: McFarlane Toys' Alien Queen




Watching horror and sci-fi films is easy, but collecting screen-accurate merchandise based on those films is hard.

In this post, I'll be taking a look at the Alien Queen figure that was produced by McFarlane Toys in 2003 as part of its Movie Maniacs line. At the time of its release, this figure was one of the few Alien Queen replicas that could be bought for a reasonable price. The film collectibles market has changed considerably since then, and this figure represents are pivotal moment in how the market had changed from expensive statues, busts and model kits of the '80s and '90s to the much more affordable items that are available today. Read on ...

Before McFarlane Toys' release of its version of the Alien Queen, screen-accurate versions of this creature were very hard to find. Most of them were difficult and expensive model kits, which ruled out fans who wouldn't--or couldn't--buy and assemble models. When Kenner had the toy license for Aliens in the '90s, it released two Alien Queen action figures: The first one as a stand-alone figure that looked like a hokey rip-off of the Alien Queen, while the second one was included as part of a Queen Hive play set and was much, much closer to what the monster looked like in the movie. Unfortunately, the play set didn't sell well and it became very difficult to find.



A tale of two queens: Kenner's first Alien Queen figure (above) and its second (below).



At the time, McFarlane Toys' Alien Queen was one of the most impressive scale representations of its cinematic counterpart. Through the Movie Maniacs line that began in 1998, McFarlane had already released five sets of figures that were based upon popular characters from action, fantasy, horror and sci-fi films. The sixth set in 2003 was completely devoted to the monsters from the Alien and Predator movies, and the Alien Queen set was the centerpiece of this set.




For the Alien Queen, McFarlane Toys used a soft plastic sculpt to capture almost every detail of the monster as it had appeared on the silver screen. The figure came with a display base upon which it could stand, a base that also included a cocooned human victim with a chestbuster emerging from her torso. Because of how the Alien Queen stands on the base, it looks like her xenomorphic majesty is attending the birth of one of her parasitic hatchlings.

McFarlane Toys modeled the base's victim figure after the first cocooned victim the Colonial Marines encounter in Aliens. Not only did this extra nod to the movie increase the appeal of the product to fans, but it also provided a scale comparison of how big the Alien Queen is in relation to a human. (The Quint figure and Orca boat served a similar purpose for the Movie Maniacs Jaws diorama.)



The cocooned victim on the Alien Queen display base (above) and in Aliens (below).



Upon thorough examination of this action figure in relation to the collectible action figures that came after it, it's obvious that this item represents an early effort to bridge the gap between affordable and detail-inaccurate toys and expensive, screen-accurate collectibles. As a result, this Alien Queen was sold as an action figure but it had more in common with the aesthetics of a statue. Like most of the other Movie Maniacs line, the Alien Queen had been sculpted to assume a specific pose. The addition of articulation points unnecessary: Even though the Queen's arms and legs had hinges and ball joints, they didn't help the figure stand independently from its base. I understand that making this item out of soft plastic kept its price down, but as a display piece it would have been much more durable had it been made with a firmer plastic.

The shortcomings of its first Alien Queen figure were not lost on the folks at McFarlane Toys. McFarlane's next Alien Queen figure was released as part of the tie-in line for the Alien vs. Predator (AvP) movie. However, this Alien Queen was part of a set of AvP dioramas and was thus made from a firmer plastic than its predecessor.


McFarlane Toys' second Alien Queen, from the AvP line.


The Alien Queen figures that were released after the ones by McFarlane Toys hew closer to action figure designs. In particular, the Alien Queens released by Revoltech and NECA include many, many points of articulation, which allow collectors to display these figures in whatever position they choose. Nevertheless, McFarlane Toys' Alien Queen was an important step in bringing the prices of screen-accurate collectibles down for fans with smaller budgets.




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