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SLEEPY HOLLOW Action Figures
McFarlane Toys pushes the envelope with the Headless Horseman.
By Dan Cziraky
November 20, 1999
Tim Burton (the cutting-edge director of such twisted fantasy fare as BATMAN, BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, ED WOOD, and MARS ATTACKS!) and Todd McFarlane (creator of the best-selling comic book SPAWN and founder of McFarlane Toys) now combine their unique visions for a line of action figures based on Burton's new tale of terror, SLEEPY HOLLOW.
The film is a re-telling of Washington Irving's classic short story, 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,' about a legendary Headless Horseman, roaming the countryside looking for his lost head. In the film version, constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) travels to the village to investigate the supposedly supernatural deeds, and finds his eccentric, scientific methods put to the test as they clash head-on with superstition.
McFarlane Toys, renowned for their highly detailed science fiction, fantasy, and horror-based action figure lines, eagerly tackles yet another film-based line after the success of their recent Austin Powers and YELLOW SUBMARINE figures. The SLEEPY HOLLOW line consists of four figures: Ichabod Crane, The Headless Horseman, The Crone, and a Headless Horseman with Horse Boxed Set.
'Likenesses are very important to us,' states Steve Hamady, McFarlane Toys' communications director. 'What we want to do is hit the character right on the head, from his face right down to his shoes, and everything in between. It's just attention to detail. You'll notice in these figures an incredible amount of detail, particularly if you're looking at the Headless Horseman. He's got that Hessian uniform on, and he's got that double-headed dragon on his chest and the wings go up over his shoulders and down his back. The detail on that figure alone is just amazing. If you look at his boots, there's a face with its tongue sticking out, and the tongue holds the spur on the back of his boot. If you look at the movie, these are the exact costumes. There's no cheating, no 'We'll just take a little off here, a little off there.' Everything that you see in the movie, it's on that toy.
'Ichabod Crane comes with a ton of accessories,' he continues. 'It comes with that satchel that has all of his tools, bottles of chemicals and potions. He's got his glasses, two books, and a gun. We're trying to give as much as possible and make it as detailed as possible, and as dead-on to the movie as possible. That's the name of the game for this company. We've always tried to hit everything exactly as it is, and give as many detailed accessories as possible. It just makes for a far more interesting product.'
Comics fans and toy collectors alike have been appreciating McFarlane Toys' attention to detail since McFarlane himself decided to buck the system. Not satisfied with the toys and action figures he saw on the market in the early '90s, he chose to produce his own figures based on his SPAWN comic book characters. The first line of figures debuted in 1994 to raves, but it was the consistent improvements over each successive figure line that won the fledgling Todd Toys (later renamed McFarlane Toys) acclaim. '[Todd has] said each line should be better than the previous line,' commented Hamady. 'We evaluate after we do a line and say, 'How could this have been better?' Even with them being so extremely detailed, we're still looking for weak points. We'll look at it and say, 'You know, we'd like to do something different with joints.' On the Headless Horseman Boxed Set, what we did with his articulation in the knees is, instead of using plastic legs, there's a plastic insert with a rubber overlay, with the joint inside for the knee. So, it bends without actually being able to see a joint at all. There's hidden articulation there. When we can use that type of articulation, we will. We try to hide our articulation as much as we can, along seam lines and things like that. There's always a quest to go beyond what we've done in the last line. It's difficult, and it's getting harder and harder. So, attention to detail is something that we really stress. A lot of companies will get to a certain point and say, 'Look, this is great,' and they sit there, but that's not how you become better. Those are strictly toys. They're not something that people hunt down and collect, because they're saying, 'Hey, this is the same old thing. I got the same thing from this company five years ago. Where are they going? I want something better than this!' Everybody wants better. We've raised the bar, and now they expect it.'
Sculptors at other toy companies often complain that their best work is revised beyond recognition, as the manufacturers sand off details and remove bits and pieces. 'Here, instead of sanding off details, it's like, 'Go back and carve it deeper,' remarked Hamady. 'Give 'em more. If Todd sees one quarter square inch on a figure and there isn't some kind of detail on it, if it's smooth, he'll say, 'Aw, that looks pretty good; what, are you going to go finish it off now? Is this the rough?' He wants more; he wants to see more. The more, the better.'
McFarlane Toys branched out and started to make figures out of other popular characters, such as Sam Keith's THE MAXX and WETWORKS. In 1997, they produced figures based on New Line Cinema's live-action version of SPAWN, featuring detailed likenesses of actors Michael Jai White, Martin Sheen, John Leguizamo, and Melinda Clarke. They also introduced a line of figures based on THE X-FILES feature, with incredible likenesses of star Gillian Anderson and David Duchovney. In 1998, McFarlane introduced the Movie Maniacs line, producing figures of such pop-horror figures as Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, and Eve and Patrick from SPECIES II, as well as an extremely successful line of figures based on the band KISS. Today, McFarlane Toys has video game lines (Metal Gear Solid), a second series of Movie Maniacs (featuring Chucky from CHILD'S PLAY and Brandon Lee as THE CROW), and J. Scott Campbell's adventure comic book DANGER GIRL. 'You can put those figures next to the comic books, and there's no doubt that every curve is exactly how J. Scott Campbell draws them,' beams Hamady. 'They're perfect likenesses. He worked very closely with us on that, to make sure they came out that way.' There are also new SPAWN figures, including second series based on the very popular SPAWN: THE DARK AGES and CURSE OF THE SPAWN.
As toy collectors wax enjoy the SLEEPY HOLLOW line, and await a third series of Movie Maniacs in 2000 (that just might feature Bruce Campbell as Ash from the EVIL DEAD* films and Pinhead from the HELLRAISER series), McFarlane Toys finds itself being wooed by Hollywood. 'We have some people in the movie industry who have kids, and their kids are buying our toys,' explains Hamady. 'They're looking at these toys and going, 'Look at this! This is unbelievable! Maybe we should get ahold of these guys for the next movie.' There are some people that high up who have contacted us and said, 'Listen, my kids are into your toys. Your stuff is great. We should work something out'' Burton was one such Hollywood insider that approached McFarlane Toys first. According to Hamady, the filmmakers had said that Johnny Depp wouldn't even sign off on his likeness unless McFarlane Toys did the sculpting.
ICHABOD CRANE: 6 1/2 iches tall. Articulated at neck, shoulders, left bicep, hips, wrists, and shins. Accessories: eyeglasses, pistol, satchel with hinged flaps, tray of bottles and potions, four forensics tools, two books.
THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN: 5 1/8 inches tall. Articulated at shoulders, right bicep, left elbow, right forearm, waist, and thighs. Accessories: cape, axe, two decapitated heads, snap-on Hessian soldier head, snap-on skull.
THE CRONE: 6 1/16 inches tall. Articulated at neck, shoulders, biceps, forearms, waist, and right ankle, with snakes that pop in and out of eyes and mouth. Accessories: veil, candle, horned skull, two baskets, mortar and pestle.
HEADLESS RIDER AND HORSE BOXED SET: Horseman is 5 13/16 inches tall, stallion is 8 1/16 inches tall. Horseman articulated at shoulders, forearms, waist, hips, and hidden, internal knee joints. Stallion articulated at neck, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. Comes with diorama base featuring gnarled tree and skulls of the Horseman's victims.