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In their day, they ranked from the downright unpopular to the unrivaled best seller. But as time went by, prince and pauper alike rose to supernova status. Today, they are the toys that dreams are made of.
Today they are... Toys of Legend!

20th Century Fox's 1979 movie Alien"IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM"

Kenner Alien Action Figure


Part II


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As you can see, things were not looking so hot for Kenner. Probably the main reason for their mad rush to grab the Alien license was that they had been massively behind in toy production when the Star Wars demand had initially hit. This time, they wanted to be sure that bulk merchandise would be ready once the cinema flood began. Because of this planning ahead, Kenner was neck-deep in manufacturing of its Alien flagship product, the Large Alien Figure. When the bad news started to filter back... not only was the movie to be a grisly thriller, more like Psycho than Star Wars. Not only was the monster like something out of a biologists worst nightmare, but the censors could not allow the film to be released with anything less than an 'R' rating due to the horror and violence it contained. That meant no kids going to the movies, and that was a toy company's worst nightmare. Stuck with a large amount of dubious-at-best merchandise, Kenner decided to halt production of any further product until public reaction was gauged on the movie's release.

Kenner had produced a board game, a movie viewer and the large Alien figure, all shipped to toy stores with all fingers crossed. And when the movie premiered in 1979 and the toys were out, nothing could be heard but screaming in Kenner's consumer complaints department. The sales for the figure were exceedingly poor, with most kids being too frightened by its nauseating appearance to want it. Besides, even those little ironguts that did like it found it near impossible to convince their parents to cough up for the loathsome creature (except literally). And what of the few brave young space cadets who managed to capture one? Most were so affected by the horrid plastic beast that their mums and dads were on the hotline to Kenner to rant and rave about endless broken nights consoling their nightmare riddled child, after tossing the offending monster into the nearest bin or high cupboard shelf, out of harms way. Quickly realized to be a cold potato by toyshop owners, the large Alien figure was swiftly consigned to the discount bins, to make way for more user-friendly product (most likely the next Star Wars shipment!). The figures were seen in mass quantities in the early 1980's for as little as $10 each at department stores. All in all, the Kenner Alien experience had been a disaster. Not knowing until too late that they'd sunken their kid-oriented bucks into an adult oriented film, Kenner were the proud owners of a bucket load of toys totally unsuited to their target audience. Perhaps the recipe for toy sales of the cosmic order needed one more pointer: look before you cook!

As is often the case in Toytown, the stinker to the past is the star of the future. And indeed, the Kenner large Alien figure is one of the most coveted action figure collectibles of all time. Why is it so? Like with many other difficult to find toys, the answer is manifold. Just a quick look at the thing, and you know it stands out in the crowd. Eighteen inches high, stark deathly grey with chrome shark like teeth and sickeningly elongated head covered by an eerie translucent dome, this is a toy not to be menaced with, the kind of plaything that would make Buzz Lightyear resign from defending the toy universe. Nothing as gruesomely frightening as this had ever been made into a toy before. What's more the figure is extremely well made and faithful to the movie monster, an example of Kenner's craft at its finest. The detailed moulded skin is a brilliant recreation of artist Giger's 'bio-mechanical' flesh, while the features that place this toy in the action figure category have not clashed one iota with its movie authentic nature. Spring loaded grabbing arms, see-through plastic dome with glowing 'brain' interior, spectacular firing inner jaw, twisting spines on its back and flexible tail for hanging attack poses. All these things which worked against the Alien toy in 1979 have made it the lusted after creature it is today, especially when combined with the enduring cult status that the Alien genre now has amongst sci-fi collectors. Despite its initial bulk production, it is a real challenge to find a loose Kenner Alien in any condition, let alone complete. Your most likely discovery would be one without the transparent dome (falls off at a moments notice), without the inner jaw (falls out at two moments notice) and missing the largest upper back spine (breaks off with a minor wallop). Finding one boxed, in its stark blue and grey window-faced packaging bearing the foreboding message 'WARNING! ALIEN IS HERE!', is truly a feat indeed.

Of course, times change and kids change with them. Today's young'uns are a wilder bunch, with much higher shock thresholds then those of 1979. The Alien concept has since been successfully commercialized to a younger audience in the form of two movie sequels with more accessible ratings, a comic book saga set in the Alien universe, a swag of computer games, and of course, Kenner's return in 1992, with its outstanding range of Aliens action figures and toys, this time in the 5 inch format. Not surprisingly, plans had been made for a small action figure line in 1979, with some very nice factory prototypes being produced, but... well, you know the rest. So, our big fella was a bit too far ahead of his time, but thanks to Kenner's risk that didn't pay off, there is now one king size plastic trophy lurking out there, waiting to strike at action figure and monster collectors alike.

-john graham

Kenner Alien Figure, 20th Century Fox 1979 movie Alien


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