The year began with the announcement of toys based on a certain Force-sensitive youngster, and ended with said toys finally becoming available. More than usual, 2020 illustrated very publicly just how long it takes to make a toy, from conception to Walmart shelves. Hasbro still dominated with top licenses, but McFarlane Toys finally made a mighty comeback with major comics-based properties that clearly reinvigorate Todd McFarlane’s personal excitement. With no shortage of favorite action figures to pick from this year, our rules for selection were thus: the toy must have been available at at least one major retailer, and mass-produced, as opposed to made-to-order based on presales. Without that factor, we’d just be showcasing 10 Hot Toys imports every year.
And yes, Grogu basically made the list twice.
10. Chris Jericho (AEW Unrivaled)
It’s true that we generally don’t cover pro-wrestling here at Superhero Hype. But Chris Jericho is also an actor, in movies like Android Apocalypse, Sharknado 3, and Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. So he sneaks in on a technicality. AEW’s new action figure line initially looked like it might be as mediocre as Jakks Pacific’s generic-looking, long-running WWE series. Instead, the first figures out the gate truly impressed, with realistic skin tones and likenesses, detailed tattoos, removable ring gear, and a scale compatible with Mattel’s WWE. Subsequent announcements look like they may overly rely on reusing parts. But at least initially, the line did Le Champion justice. Break out the bubbly.
9. King Kong (NECA)
That NECA does great likenesses is undisputed. But sometimes their figures can break if people play with them too hard. King Kong challenged both these assumptions. In order to take advantage of the portion of Kong rights that are public domain, NECA had to take some creative license. And in making him a big playable chunk, they also created a toy who could do battle and handle a lot of re-posing and parts-switching. Kong is one of those figures people just want to pose and enjoy, and with his easily interchangeable, yet essential, head and hands, he allowed for quick customizing.
8. Gold Armor Wonder Woman (DC Multiverse)
McFarlane Toys made some genuinely impressive strides in picking up the DC Multiverse license, but struggled a bit out of the gate. The first indication that things would quickly go right was this Wonder Woman 1984 movie figure. Released months before the movie to tie into an earlier release date, it featured the right combination of different textures, hidden articulation, clear flight stand and a likeness that actually looked better when compared to actual photos of Gal Gadot, rather than just a general impression of her appearance. Sadly, they haven’t done any more movie figures since. Maybe the Snyder Cut will inspire a whole new League.
7. 1985 Marty McFly (Back to the Future Ultimates)
It took more than “about thirty years” to secure Michael J. Fox’s likeness for Back to the Future toys, but the wait was worth it. NECA brought the long-requested line to fruition with the best mass-market celebrity likeness of 2020. Complete with skateboard, guitar, camera, backpack, and somewhat removable vest, this Marty is so lifelike it looks like he’s about to interrupt you.
6. Profit Director Destro (G.I. Joe Classified)
The “Pimp Daddy” Destro color scheme began in 1997 as a joke that was taken seriously enough to beget a limited production run before cancellation. Since then, Hasbro has treated it like an in-joke to be occasionally revived. But in a year that had most of America watching Tiger King after being suddenly quarantined, the revived G.I. Joe Classified line ran with the idea again. Using more PC language to call him “Profit Director,” Hasbro gave us the metal-masked Cobra arms dealer as Joe Exotic, with money to burn and sunglasses on top of his mask. Frankly, the more absurd and removed from a realistic military line the Joe toys get, the better. But the closer it gets to insane criminal roadside zookeepers? Win.
5. Spawn (Mortal Kombat)
McFarlane Toys crowd-funded a new Spawn figure this year, but the company already put out one that satisfied most fans. As part of the company’s licensing deal with Mortal Kombat, Spawn showed up as a bonus in-game character, allowing the company to include him in the toy line. It was super-poseable like few Spawns before, and it utilized elements from movie and comic designs in a realistic style. All he really lacked was an absurdly huge winged cape. Collectors rewarded the company by snapping up Spawn so quickly that the company reissued him twice, each time with a new weapon. And then they repainted him with blood-splatter.
4. Adventure in the Mystery Mansion (Playmobil Scooby-Doo )
The toy industry often sees an artificial divide between products for kids and collectors. Companies presume the former not to care about detail and accuracy, while typecasting the latter as never wanting to play. With its newfound affinity for licensed properties, Playmobil puts the lie to that notion. Their Scooby-Doo haunted house playset not only features a cartoon-accurate Scooby figure with tons of accessories, but also the most play features for the buck. Flatten the stairs and open secret compartments! Make bones fall down the chimney! Drop figures through a trap door! And in the most elaborate effect, use a smartphone and the provided angled window panels to create holographic “Pepper’s Ghost” projections, just like Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride. Arguably the best pure toy of the year’s figural offerings, and a great holiday decoration to boot.
3. LEGO Razor Crest (The Mandalorian)
The Mandalorian took toy companies by surprise, even though they should have anticipated that a Star Wars TV show starring a Boba Fett-like character would become huge. But Lucasfilm was partly to blame, by keeping key images and the breakout character, The Child/Grogu, a secret from licensees. LEGO, thanks to its reuse of universal brick pieces, quickly adapted with a full-on Razor Crest playset complete with cargo hold and mini-figures. Realizing they couldn’t beat it to market, Hasbro countered with a crowd-funded replica that won’t be out until way into next year.
2. Star Wars Animatronic The Child (The Mandalorian)
Baby Yoda, a.k.a. The Child, a.k.a. Grogu, was destined to become the most in-demand toy of the year no matter what. And for some with stuffed wallets, high-end replicas exist that look like exact copies of the on-screen character. For the rest of us, Hasbro’s animatronic edition proved more reliable at $59.99. Like a miniature Disney ride character, he makes faces, talks, moves realistically, and even “uses the Force.” And that’s before he’s even out of the package.
1. Amazon Exclusive Hugh Jackman Wolverine (X-Men 20th anniversary )
Toy companies can come up with all the gimmicks they like. Cloth costumes, magnets, interchangeable eyes, rocket launchers, whatever. Sometimes all it really boils down to is perfect execution of a perfect character. And this long-awaited, finally-we-got-Fox-movie-rights Marvel Legends figure was exactly that.
What was your top toy of the year? Let us know in comments.
Recommended Purchase: LEGO Star Wars: The Mandalorian The Razor Crest
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