Hollywood likes to reimagine classic movies, but several toy companies are not reimagining, but actually recreating classic older toys. Mattel went back and made new tooling and re-released versions of the classic Masters of the Universe line, NECA has created Tron and Nightmare Before Christmas toys, and now Palisades Toys is wading in with one of Mego's properties - the Micronauts.
The Micronauts are probably best known in the US as a Mego product, but the genesis of the line has roots in Japan with Takara. Takara created a line of toys called Microman, and they worked with the then king of the hill Mego Corporation to bring them beyond the island country. Rumor has it that Mego was negotiating what would become Micronauts when they were asked about marketing Star Wars, and since they were doing a space toy line they passed on it, and eventually Kenner got the license. This was a case of 'nothing of significance happened on this date' (the King of England wrote that in his journal on July 4, 1776), but eventually that one decision would not only change the hierarchy of toy companies but eventually be a reason that Mego no longer exists.
Micronauts began life in Japan as Microman from Takara, and this was an offshoot of a GI Joe like line called Henshin Cyborg. By shrinking the figures down to 3-3/4" size they were able to create a line of vehicles and playsets for the figures, and when this was done in 1974 it was before Star Wars made that scale extremely popular. From there Mego took the reins and developed and produced the line for the rest of the world, and the line was successful despite the fact that it wasn't a tv or movie license. The need for licensing is another by-product of the success of Star Wars in the merchandising arena.
The basic tale of Microman was that the good micromen fought the evil Acroyear, and this was kept largely intact for the translation to Mego. The story for Micronauts was that they lived in a microverse too small to be seen by the human eye, and in it the good Micronauts fought the evil ones. Microman figures became Time Traveler (and other figures) while the Acroyear maintained their names. Marvel Comics published comics to flesh out the world of the Micronauts, and the series ran for several years.
The first series of Micronauts were nearly identical to the Takara toys, with some small changes in colors and parts to control costs. After some success with the line, Mego eventually developed new Micronauts figures in the alien line, and supplemented them with vehicles and playsets. Over the course of 1976 to 1980 Mego produced five series of figures as well as numerous vehicles and playsets, but even though the line was a success when seen alone, the company was in deep financial trouble and eventually went bankrupt.
The Micronaut toys had a number of interesting designs and play features. The overall tagline is the 'interchangeable world of the Micronauts' and the figures had many parts that could be changed out from one figure to another, or changed for a single figure to give it a different look and enhance play value. Magnets were also incorporated in the figures, and the 'magno figures' use a magnetic ball and socket joint, and figures were made of both plastic and metal parts. There were glow-in-the-dark components added, to give the figures an even more unique look, and for their original time period they were some of the most articulated toys available.
Palisades Toys is not the first company to re-release the Micronauts toys. Just after the bankruptcy of Mego there were several companies who created their own releases of Micronauts. Lion Rock produced some toys after Mego's demise, but the most well-known are those made by Hourtoy and M & D toys called The Interchangeables. Now Palisades Toys has the license and is making authentic re-releases for the line.
The approach taken by Palisades Toys has been to create toys as authentic as possible, and to accomplish this they have enlisted the help of many Micronauts collectors. They have taken notes and actually had toys donated to be reverse engineered in order to produce new tooling and re-create the originals with absolute fidelity. There were many contributors (and their names are listed on every package in tribute) to help the project, and the figures that were donated made the ultimate sacrifice. The toys were deconstructed and destroyed so that others might live, and such selflessness should not go unnoticed. Now that you have noticed, we'll move on. In addition to getting the tooling created, the interchangeability was maintained and the magno figures were built using the same system of ball, socket and magnets. The dedication of Palisades and the fans is the driving force in the line, and that is apparent.
There are six figures planned for the first assortment of figures, but only four were available for this Spotlight feature. Baron Karza, Force Commander, Acroyear and Time Traveler are covered here while Membros and Space Glider are part of the assortment, just not part of this feature. The second assortment will appear some time next year, and we'll provide more details as they are available. The plans for the second series from Toy Fair called for Pharoid, Centaurus, Galactic Defender, and Repto, with the Red Falcon as a future deluxe figure.
Collectors who are extreme completists are going to find this line both extremely frustrating and rewarding. To have a complete set of these will be quite a task, and if you manage it you are truly worthy of being called a 'micronut'! The frustrating part is that many of the figures will have several color variations, and there are several exclusives to either retailers or the Palisades Collector Club.
Acroyear and Time Traveler both are available carded and the Baron and Commander both come in deluxe box sets, complete with their mounts. All the figures have cards (which are also stickers) with new art depicting the characters painted by Dave Dorman. Dave's artwork has graced many a Palisades product, including the Reservoir Dogs figures and new GI Joe bust packaging.
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
Time Traveler is the hoi polloi of the Micronauts, and he weighs in on the side of good. If there was ever an attack of the clones, these guys would be it because they all look alike. Thankfully, they come in a variety of colors and they have a removable chest piece so they (and you) can tell them apart. The figure's design was taken almost directly from the Japanese Microman line, though the feet were changed. They should have changed their underwear, because these guys stink after too much sushi.
Originally there were four different chest pieces, but now their number has grown to six. Each Time Traveler comes with all six pieces and an 'L' shaped connecting piece. The L is used to connect the figure into some of the vehicles, or into another Micronaut that has a peg hole that it will fit in. There is a stand included that has two pegs the perfectly fit the feet of Time Traveler, to make sure he can stand after those long trips. The various versions of Time Traveler for the retro release are red opaque, black opaque, clear transparent and blue transparent. For completists out there it isn't quite so easy, because there is also an exclusive version of Time Traveler available from Dynamic Forces. This version has glow-in-the-dark pieces and a smoky black body. (The carded picture of this exclusive shown in the gallery for Time Traveler lacks the sticker that is on all the ones shipped from Dynamic Forces.)
The articulation on these figures is impressive even today for a 3-3/4" figure, much less when you consider they were designed in the late 1970's. The shoulders and thighs are ball-jointed, the knees and elbow bend (and each has over 90 degrees of motion) and the waist twists. The waist also allows some bending motion due to the construction; with a rubber 'o' ring connecting top and bottom. The wrists, ankles and neck have a ball joint so they can move in two planes, though the design of both doesn't allow as much movement as the shoulder or thigh ball-joints. The feet, hands and chest plate are removable, and the figure is made of plastic with metal rivets at the joints.
Every saga needs a bad guy, and the Acroyears fit the bill. What they lack in menace they make up in clean wind power from their pair of pinwheels. The Acroyear haven't realized the 70's are over, because they still tool around in their fashion skates. When they aren't trying to rule the microverse they love to roller disco and party! The Acroyears are the cannon fodder for Baron Karza, so they are smaller than the Baron (easier to dominate) and not as cool looking.
The Acroyear figures are somewhat off-balance because it's a prerequisite for being evil and their bodies are made of metal. The whole chest piece is metal with the rest of the figure being made of plastic (except one wheel on each foot). These guys come with a stand (that doesn't work so well since they don't have foot pegs), a sword, a glider pack and a spy drone. Not to be outdone by Time Traveler, the Acroyear have many variations in color to make sure you know which is which. Red opaque, clear transparent, blue opaque and yellow transparent are the colors that the Acroyears have adapted for ease of filing and microversal domination.
Time Traveler seems to have the edge on Acroyear for articulation, but not on cool glider accessories. The ball-jointed shoulders are here but the thighs, knees and elbows can only bend. The ankles twist, but the waist and wrists are stationary. The arms and head are removable and so are the cool roller skates. The Acroyear is the same size as Time Traveler so he can legitimately pick on someone his own size.
Following the theme of this Spotlight (and the Micronauts) there should be a leader for the good guys, and it takes a brave soul to want to lead and protect the scrawny Time Travelers. That person is Force Commander, and he is literally the white knight of the Microverse. Force Commander looks and awful lot like Baron Karza due to the evolution of the magno beings and tooling re-use for the toys. Force Commander does have a different head, and this one seems to have an enclosed air supply. Remember what we said about the stinky Time Travelers after sushi, and it all makes sense.
Force Commander is a magno figure, and he uses magnets with ball and socket joints to move and swap out body parts. This means he has the same range of motion as a ball-joint but his limbs and head are easily removable and swappable. The shoulders, neck and thighs have magno joints with knees and elbows that bend. The hands are missiles that can be launched from the arms and the chest has missile-launching cavity in the front. The hand missile launchers are even more touchy than Karza's and you'll stand a good chance of losing them is you play with this toy a lot.
Where would a knight be without a horse? This knight has one in Oberon, a white stallion that matches Force Commander's color and Andromeda's sculpting. Oberon and Force Commander can join together to form a centaur (once Oberon's head is removed), or they can fight together. They are both six and half inches tall alone, and seven and a half inches tall as a centaur. Like the head, the tail and legs can be removed, and there are wheels included that can fit into those spots to make a tank-like vehicle. The legs can bend at the knees, the shoes come off and the thighs twist. There are peg holes on the sides and a pair of magno joints (one on each side) to mount weaponry.
The weaponry included is enough to start a Russian republic, with two rocket launchers (with small rockets), and four wheels that can be swapped out for the legs. There are two drill bit arms and a small missile for the chest and three other missiles with large rubber tips. The chroming on Oberon is gold vice the silver used for Andromeda. There is a collar-like piece that has a peg on one side and some peg holes that must be something good. Two adaptors for changing a pegged weapon to a magno joint are included, and the accessories and launching parts kept this item from passing safety tests as a toy. So this (and Baron Karza) are labeled as 18 & up and are not toys, technically speaking. Other not-toys you can get at 18 are cigarettes and r-rated movies and killed in the military. You can't legally buy a drink though. Go figure...
You might need that drink when you find out that Force Commander is available from one place only - the Palisades Collector Club. Force Commander was originally slated as a retailer exclusive but things didn't work out and rather than cancel the piece there will be a limited number of these produced and sold through the club. There will be 360 produced in total, and there will be three variations. The most common (half will be this version) is the standard one shown in this Spotlight, molded in white with red details. There will be a variant with red translucent plastic that will be limited to 120 and then a chase variant in all-clear plastic limited to 60. Plans have not be finalized as to exactly how these will be sold, so check the Palisades home page - if you want one of these you must join the Collectors Club.
Evil henchmen need someone to hench for, and the guy who fills that spot for the Micronauts in Baron Karza. Just being a Baron is pretty evil, but being black with red highlights puts him over the top and the guy even looks evil. If that weren't enough he doesn't like kittens and did an internship at the IRS, so he has a certificate to prove he's evil. He bears a passing resemblance to Darth Vader in the mask and removable hand department, but since both debuted around the same time it may just be a coincidence. That's our story and we're sticking to it!
Vader used the force and so does the Baron, just not the same one. One is mystical but the other is magnetic, and along with springs the evil Baron can take on anyone. Baron Karza is one of the magno figures, and he has magnets with ball and socket joints. This means he has the same range of motion as a ball-joint but his limbs and head are easily removable. The shoulders, neck and thighs have magno joints with knees and elbows that bend. Both hands are actually missiles that can be launched and the chest has a cavity for missiles. The hand missile launchers are very touchy and you'll spend a good deal of time chasing down the hands after you accidentally launch them everywhere.
Included with Baron Karza is his faithful steed Andromeda. Andromeda is a black horse that can be combined with Karza to form a centaur. Andromeda and Baron Karza tower over the Time Traveler and Acroyear and each are six and a half inches tall. The combined beast is an inch taller. Andromeda has one magno joint on each side, and the head comes off for Baron Karza to do his 'Godfather' impression. The legs and tail come off and there are peg holes on the sides and in the neck (when the head is off). The legs are articulated with thigh twists and knee bends, and the shoes come off (which is how you know they are Japanese).
The Baron and Andromeda come completely armed with loads of accessories. There are two rocket launchers with small rockets, and two drill bit arms inside. There are four wheels which can be swapped out for the legs on Andromeda to make a tank. There is a small missile for the chest and three other missiles with large rubber tips. There is a collar-like piece that has a peg on one side and some peg holes that looks ominous. Two adaptors for changing a pegged weapon to a magno joint are included, and all the various accessories and launching parts kept this item from passing safety tests as a toy. So this (and Force Commander) are labeled as 18 & up and are not toys, even though they do an amazing impression.
Baron Karza and Andromeda are the same figures as Force Commander and Oberon save for the heads on the humanoid figures and their colors. Baron Karza is shown in his traditional back with red trim, all the accessories are the same and Andromeda's chrome is silver. There are three versions of this set, the most common being the standard one. The chase version is an all-clear version, and there is a reverse version with red translucent plastic and black trim. The Baron ships in cases of six with three being standard, two being the red translucent reverse version and one being all-clear. There was a gold version of Karza created for the people who donated figures to Palisades to be reverse-engineered, and if you didn't give one you don't get one of these. Since all the people who donated are probably hard-core fans, you probably won't see these show up on eBay any time soon. There is a non-existent radioactive version that you won't be able to find no matter what.
The key feature of the Micronauts isn't the story or the construction, but the design of the figures. The design was based around a simple premise - interchangeability. This is the same concept that drives many building toys (like LEGO, K'Nex and Mega-Bloks), and it is the one thing that sets these figures apart from most others. The figures are all easily modified and reconfigured to match your imagination, and are designed for play.
The magno system and the peg and hole systems used in Micronauts are universal throughout the line. This means an arm or leg can be switched from Force Commander to Baron Karza, or the accessories can be freely interchanged between all the figures. The gallery that follows gives you an inkling of what you can create with the parts given here, and some long-time Micronauts fans may be aghast at some of the creations. However, it is almost Halloween as this is written, and a little scare is good now and again. What's better is taking the tabula rasa that these toys can give, and turning it into something that was never planned until you thought of it.
Take a look at the very basic possibilities inherent in these toys to express yourself and your imagination. The only thing you have to lose is your boredom. And maybe one of the hands!
Pictures of Acroyear
Pictures of Baron Karza
Pictures of Force Commander
Pictures of Oberon
Pictures of Time Traveler
More Pictures of the Micronauts
|Where to buy Micronauts: The regular Micronauts retail in the $7.99 to 10.99 USD price range, while the Baron Karza set retails in the $21.99 to $25.99 price range. Micronauts are sold in specialty stores, as well as comic book stores and various online toy and collectibles retailers.
Several such online stores are RTM sponsors Big Bad Toy Store and The Outer Reaches. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)