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Sidekick/ Companion Figures trend?


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#1 plasticfiend

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:34 PM

Here's a question for some all ya'll toy historians...

 

When did the whole "Companion/ Sidekick" figs trend kick into gear?

 

PlasticSoul's post about the new UNBOX figures Meat and Gristle made me start thinking about companion figures.

 

My earliest memory of them starting was with the Real Ghostbusters line.  I'm sure it happened before then, but that's when I first noticed as a child.  And then eventually it seemed like everyone was doing it.  TMNT, Earthworm Jim, Beetlejuice, hell... even some of the Waterworld figures had companions with them.  

 

In many cases, I know a lot these lines had companion figures that were as cool, if not cooler than the actual primary toy.  SO when did the actual action figure stop being enough and toy companies started upselling us with the included companions?

 

I thought this would be a fun topic/ question to discuss...

 

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#2 ironmask

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:39 PM

More importantly: Why did they stop?!

 

EDIT:

I know Bandai did this with the Ben 10 line, to an extent (not that the mini companions that came with the Ben 10 figures were unique characters...), and the new Zootopia characters some with companions... But largely, they don't really do this anymore... Even the new TMNT figures!


Edited by ironmask, 03 March 2016 - 01:47 PM.

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#3 TheRiddler

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:46 PM

Blackstar!


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#4 ironmask

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:53 PM

Blackstar is a pretty damned good example.

I wonder where Rocks Bugs and Things fits on that spectrum.


Edited by ironmask, 03 March 2016 - 01:55 PM.

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#5 TinyPink

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:54 PM

Yeah, the Kenner GB line sounds about right.  My childhood toys - SW, Mego dolls, Micronauts, etc. - almost never featured a smaller pack-in character.  I want to say that Kenner's GB line was right there with their mini ghosts, and Playmates ran with it during the original Turtles run.  

I definitely associate the 90s, not the 80s, with the notion of 'companion' figures.   

 

I was floored that a tiny Salacious Crumb was included with my Jabba playset because the concept was very foreign to me!

 

Don't forget that a fair few of the 80s Joes came with animal companions!  (Bobcat, snake, vulture, eagle, etc.)

(As did 70s Adventure Team members, come to think of it....manta ray, ape, snakes, mummy, etc....but I consider those more in the realm of 'playsets'.)

 

Goooood one, Riddler!   Completely slipped my mind, and I had most of 'em!

 

 

 


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#6 plasticfiend

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:58 PM

I didn't mention Transformers Decoys... obviously those would count.  And I guess Blackstar would pre-date the Decoys...

 

PF



Blackstar is a pretty damned good example.

I wonder where Rocks Bugs and Things fits on that spectrum.

 

I don't know... they were certainly cool LRGS, but I considered the Mordels to be the point of the line (as opposed to a companion).  I saw them as the food for the Rocks & Bugs.  Without them, you would have an incomplete toy IMO.

 

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#7 bigazzhead

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 02:02 PM

I think we should also bring up this topic while we discuss this one.

http://www.littlerub...howtopic=153484

 

I would love to see this trend come back as well. But I feel like it was more a of thing as long as the figure allowed. For RGB it made sense since the Ghostbusters needed ghost to bust.  I keep hoping for a new line of toys where it's some organization hunting some form of critter or spook to justify the production of companion figures. RGB, Alienators and Men in Black to name a few.


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#8 plasticfiend

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 02:13 PM

Yeah, the Kenner GB line sounds about right.  My childhood toys - SW, Mego dolls, Micronauts, etc. - almost never featured a smaller pack-in character.  I want to say that Kenner's GB line was right there with their mini ghosts, and Playmates ran with it during the original Turtles run.  

I definitely associate the 90s, not the 80s, with the notion of 'companion' figures.   

 

I was floored that a tiny Salacious Crumb was included with my Jabba playset because the concept was very foreign to me!

 

Don't forget that a fair few of the 80s Joes came with animal companions!  (Bobcat, snake, vulture, eagle, etc.)

(As did 70s Adventure Team members, come to think of it....manta ray, ape, snakes, mummy, etc....but I consider those more in the realm of 'playsets'.)

 

Goooood one, Riddler!   Completely slipped my mind, and I had most of 'em!

 

I agree Tiny, I definitely associate the trend with more of a 90's thing.  


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#9 PlasticSoul

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 02:22 PM

Well as far as the why don't more people do it now thing it's kind of tough for independent toy makers. I've been approached by several people wanting to add a mini figure to their own larger figure and it's always the price that stops them. People who do small run vinyl figures usually assume a small injection molded figure will be cheaper but it's never the case. Even if the mold cost is much lower the minimum requirement for any given color to be pulled from an injection mold is usually 1000 figures. For someone who orders and paints batches of vinyl as small as 10 or 15 pieces having 1000 mini companions in one color is kind of pointless.

 

That's the same reason the pig worked so well. The giant Meats figure allowed for a companion in scale that was molded and cast as a vinyl piece instead of something injection molded so the cost was not incredible and the run numbers didn't need to be anything like a mini figure. 


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#10 steverotters

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 02:27 PM


I don't know... they were certainly cool LRGS, but I considered the Mordels to be the point of the line (as opposed to a companion).  I saw them as the food for the Rocks & Bugs.  Without them, you would have an incomplete toy IMO.

 

Blackstar is a great example.

 

RBT is a great example too. The Mordles are the "things."

 

You don't mean literal companions anyway... since most figures that we call companions are baddies and mob/minion types.  Like Real Ghostbusters.

 

It's just a cheap accessory really.  Filler to make the overall package more appealing.  Could be a pet, a friend, a foe, or food. 

 

Monster High is a great recent example. All the original dolls had pets that were static figures.  But, the idea must not be as profitable as we might think, because all the new dolls and new characters do not have these pets.  Some of the original pets have their own line of toys, but there is no focus at all on giving the new characters pets.

 

Ben 10 is a genius toyetic property for several reason.  The one notable here is that the companion figures are actually components to a separate toyline of role-playing toys.  The whole idea of the Omnitrix and the idea that you become the characters through this device that you wear that displays the characters (figures) is a pretty smart concept.  

 

I've been tempted to go after that Zootopia bat and squirrel!  They do seem like what we think of as companion figures, but really Zootopia is just a property with anthropomorphic animals in some sense of scale.  So the lion and the rhino are naturally going to be bigger than the bat and the squirrel.  Some packs have two medium-sized figures.  Some packs have a large figure paired with a small figure.  Still, the bat and the squirrel really stand out and I am probably going to have to get them!

 

Did you notice those bigfigs for The Good Dinosaur?  The big dinos all come with a little bird or mammal.  Fits perfectly with what we think of as companions.  Turns out, they all can be displayed on the Styracosaurus -- kinda, sorta also conforming to what we think of as the build-a-figure gimmick.  (But not really -- the companion model is more appropriate.)

 

One more thing comes to mind.  The Plants vs Zombies line by Jazwares.  The zombies are these taller, articulated figures and the plants are these smaller, static figures. The plants are so much cooler than the zombies! (At least in this particular toyline.)

 

Oh, and Adventure Time had this gimmick where when you bought the bigfig, you got a "companion" that fit in the smaller-scaled toyline. Pffft. The mistake was rolling out the smaller figures first.  They became popular.  The heads wanted to make more money -- how about bigger figures?  Hmm.  And how about we throw a new and *exclusive* smaller (original scale) figure in there too. People will reluctantly buy the bigger figures in order to continue their collection of the original scale. 


Edited by steverotters, 03 March 2016 - 03:22 PM.

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#11 steverotters

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 03:06 PM

A couple things working against the companion-figure trend. 

 

1. It is hard to scale-up.  You start with the biggest version, then you make the minis, then the micros.  If you start out making something small (companion figure size), then you have weakened your chance of that basic character becoming popular in a larger (and more expensive) version.  There are occasional exception, especially when considering the sway of nostalgia and custom pieces.  The general trend when introducing new lines of characters is that you can only capture new markets by taking the toys smaller.  

 

2. For extremely popular A-list toylines, major toy companies will have different lines representing different collectible scales (and price points) running concurrently.  One is not designated as less significant (a mere companion), explicitly by size or packaging. Hasbro is particularly great at this (Marvel, Star Wars, Transformers). 

 

3. There is a great franchise trend where you (the consumer) can role-play as the main character and the collectible figures are basically your trophies or companions.  (Pokemon, Bakugan, Monsuno, Slugterra, etc -- probably many, many more). 

 

4.  The blind-bag / blind-box trend dominates the basic scale and often the cheapest price point too.

 

5.  Another trend where the toy-character is also collecting something -- some special jewel or accessory. Lego and Mega Bloks will often use this gimmick. (Ooh how meta -- my collection has a collection...)

 

6. The build-a-figure gimmick has taken some of the mojo that used to go to the companions.  Its the same really, but instead of having a cool little mob of cheap figures, you have another whole premium figure.  (Woo-hoo?) 

 

7. Which also reminds me of these Super Hero Mashers Micros where instead of a companion or a piece to build a whole new figure, you just get these random heads to other characters.  They never amount a new figure. Just random heads.  And not an alternate expression to switch out on the figure you bought.  No, you buy Captain America and you get Red Skull's head too. For, reasons?  This may be one of the worst gimmick ever, but it's still the same basic principal.  A figure plus something somehow seems more "worth it" than just the figure.  I mean, I will eventually do something with the rando heads... right?

 

8. It's just the cereal premium principal really.  Any cheap little bonus can be the companion.  Just something to make the purchase a little more enticing. Aside from the obvious accessories and companions, some of the easiest things are game pieces, trading cards, or just some bio or stat card you are supposed to cut off of the packaging. That last one is sooo simple. 

 

9. Oh yeah, everything has an app now.  So, it's like you get some stupid virtual companion gimmick instead of something plastic and cool.


Edited by steverotters, 03 March 2016 - 03:51 PM.

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#12 steverotters

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 04:10 PM

One more thing.  Have you guys seen the Shoppies yet? 

 

Turns out, the thousands of different Shopkins that now exist are just companions to the Shoppies. 

 

*Mind blown.*    ;)

 

 

 

Attached Files


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#13 fkro6784

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 05:06 PM

Another reason why the '80s and '90s were the best decades for toys.

 

Blackstar is a great early example for companions, but I think an even earlier one is the Jipps and Mogs from Arco's The Other World (1982 vs. 1983). Can anyone think of ones even earlier?

 

Attached File  mogs.jpg   199.95K   0 downloads     Attached File  jipps.jpg   172.13K   3 downloads

 

'90s had some cool ones too, like the Alienators Evolution companions I never see talked about much. Here's a few of them.

 

Attached File  alienators.jpg   62.03K   3 downloads

 

I would definitely love to see a return of this trend.


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#14 Rubberhammer

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 06:41 PM

WooHoo!
I loves me some sidekicks!





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#15 Draznar

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 06:49 PM

What's the pink translucent guy at the end? Another of those bootleg extreme dinos?


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#16 Rubberhammer

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 07:03 PM

@Draznar, yes it is!






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#17 Draznar

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 07:09 PM

OOOOOOOO them decoys, bro


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#18 plasticfiend

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 09:05 PM

Rubberhammer... what are the two figs at the very bottom of your pics?  The one on the right looks super familiar!

 

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#19 Grencats

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 09:31 PM

I don't think anyone has mentioned the companion figures from Takara Diaclone. They came out only in Japan and Italy during the same time as Blackstar in North America and Greece. The toys came with 1" figures that were plastic and metal and have magnet feet. I particularly like the Waruder alien mini figures. My current avatar is from of one of the Diaclone Walk Insector sets with the Alien Waruder in his Power Suit! The are a different style and scale than the GB, TMNT, or Blackstar.

 

Also Ravage or Laserbeak from Transformers are great examples that originally came with Soundwave.


Edited by Grencats, 03 March 2016 - 09:32 PM.

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#20 bigazzhead

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 08:24 AM

 

 

Ben 10 is a genius toyetic property for several reason.  The one notable here is that the companion figures are actually components to a separate toyline of role-playing toys.  The whole idea of the Omnitrix and the idea that you become the characters through this device that you wear that displays the characters (figures) is a pretty smart concept.  

 

The New ghostbusters will have something like this. The roleplay proton pack has a compartment where you put a mini ghost in, and then it will project that ghost on the wall through the particle thrower so it'll be like you're chasing that ghost.

 

Rubberhammer... what are the two figs at the very bottom of your pics?  The one on the right looks super familiar!

 

PF

 One figure is an Arco/Mattel Mad Scientist companion the other is from Blackstar.


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#21 plasticfiend

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 08:49 AM

The New ghostbusters will have something like this. The roleplay proton pack has a compartment where you put a mini ghost in, and then it will project that ghost on the wall through the particle thrower so it'll be like you're chasing that ghost.

 

 One figure is an Arco/Mattel Mad Scientist companion the other is from Blackstar.

 

Oh wow!  I didn't remember the Mad Scientist line having companions... COOL!

 

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#22 bigazzhead

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 09:29 AM

We can hope that the new TMNT haven't ruled out companions yet.  The 200X series had a line that included em.  They kinda went the RGB route.

 

http://www.tmnttoys....ers/review.html

 

Here's hoping that playmates hasn't abandoned the concept yet. 


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#23 plasticfiend

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 11:42 AM

Hey BIGAZZhead!

 

If you get me for Secret Santa again next year can you send me some companions lol...

 

; )

 

PF


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#24 ironmask

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 01:29 PM

Holy shit... I need those Monster Trappers minis. It hurts my heart, how awesome those things are.


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#25 Smotemotem

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Posted 09 August 2016 - 03:30 PM

I'm late to the party here.

Does Dianoga from the Star Wars Death Star playset count?

If so, that might be the oldest example of this.

Also, do Transformers Headmasters count?

They just got a ressurrection in Titans Return.
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