In 1979’s classic ALIEN movie, the crew of the Nostromo fought against an Alien terror that invaded their spaceship. In the months following the film’s highly successful May 25th debut that year — 18″ ALIEN figures were released in toy and department stores abroad — and for some, that might as well have been considered a horrific “Alien invasion” in its own right.
20th Century Fox, the studio which had produced the movie, and the toy company Kenner, which was in the midst of producing their highly successful line of STAR WARS action figures and toys based upon the 1977 blockbuster, both sought to merchandise another sci-fi property. Given that they’d worked together on STAR WARS, creating ALIEN merchandise tie-ins seemed to be a logical choice.
However, when Kenner unleashed their ALIEN figures to the public, conservative parental groups were outraged — lambasting Kenner for creating what they referred to as essentially an abomination — with further uproar that the grotesque figure was taken from an R rated movie. Compounded by lackluster sales, Kenner heeded the outcry, and stopped production. As a result, the figures quickly faded from store shelves, and many were thrown into bargain bins — which often damaged them and their artwork filled cardboard box housings. As well, some figures were stripped of their boxes altogether when being thrown into the bins.
Today, this figure is a highly sought after collectible — often selling for hundreds of dollars if its in well kept condition, and it can reach into the thousands if found in its original, unblemished packaging.
Kenner’s 1979 ALIEN 18″ figure television commercial
As is the case in the ALIEN movies though — the Alien can never truly be stopped — and now this ALIEN figure has experienced a “resurrection”.
At the recent annual Comic-Con held in San Diego, California — Gentle Giant, who produce many highly detailed figures and maquettes, revealed a replica of the 1979 ALIEN Kenner action figure that they will soon be offering — and while the original figure was 18″, this new incarnation will stand at 24″ in height (most likely to differentiate it from the original, which is an admirable move for collectors). This figure replicates all of the details of Kenner’s figure, right down to the projecting inner jaws. The original box art, and the poster that came with it, will also be reproduced for this release.
The short lifespan of the 18″ ALIEN figure wasn’t the only casualty for collectors of the film in 1979 — Kenner had planned a 3 3/4″ action figure line, the likes of which it had created with their STAR WARS figures — but plans were quickly disbanded once the ALIEN figure had been jettisoned. Among the planned figures: Ripley, Dallas, Ash, the Alien, and Kane — who was depicted in the space suit he wore when having his classic “close encounter” with an Alien Facehugger (a suit designed by the late, great French artist Moebius). There was even a plan for a Nostromo spaceship playset that the figures could hunt the ALIEN down in — or rather, be hunted in.
Now, after all of these years of “hypersleep” — these figures have finally arrived at their destination. Pop culture toymaker Super7 has spent the past few years tracking down reference materials in order to recreate these collector “Holy Grail” figures — using actual figure prototype and photo reference materials. Over the past many months, they’ve been traveling the convention circuit, touting news of their upcoming releases, and at this recent Comic-Con, they offered convention goers the first opportunity to buy the figures — in a creative way that mirrors how persons were first able to purchase the original STAR WARS figures in 1977 — via a Early Bird Certificate Package. The certificate was exclusive to Comic-Con attendees who pre-purchased all five figures — and it’ll most certainly be a unique ALIEN collectible for years to come. Collectors will also be able to pre-order the figures directly from Super7 online starting August 1st, as well as a Burger King style ALIEN four glass set with artwork depicting key moments from the movie. Both the figures and glasses will begin shipping late October. Another Super7 Comic-Con exclusive: mock-ups of two unpainted prototype “salesperson samples” of the 3 3/4″ Kane and Alien figures — on the opening night of the convention, several people lined up and around the Super7 booth, and these figure two-packs quickly sold out.
Given that next year marks the 35th anniversary of the original ALIEN movie — it’s very fitting that these great collectibles have now come full circle, and have been brought to fruition.
To quote Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Ash (Ian Holm) from the 1979 ALIEN movie:
Ripley: “How do we kill it Ash? There’s gotta be a way of killing it. How? How do we do it?”
Ash: “You can’t. You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.”
Apparently those outraged parental groups didn’t actually see the movie when seeking the Alien’s demise in 1979 — they would’ve known better.
– Jay West
West has worked in the film industry for studios such as Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon – and has written for various movie related publications and websites: including the LA Times — regarding film, pop culture, and movie memorabilia collecting — West himself being a collector over 35 years. West was a Creative Consultant on the ALIEN Anthology Blu-Ray set for all four ALIEN movies, and actually has a life size Queen Alien, Alien Warrior, and Alien Eggs in his home!