hasbro indiana jones mighty muggs: mola ram (2008)
I'm sure I've already cited the Hasbro Mighty Muggs line of figures as another recent example of the artist-driven "Urban Vinyl" movement influencing mainstream toy design. Mighty Muggs have a uniform body shape decorated to look like a variety of characters, much like the Qee and Dunny figures that preceded them. Like these toys, Mugg designs are mass-produced or customizable - collectors can buy blank 'DIY' versions to decorate themselves.
Rather than hire popular underground artists to design the new line, Hasbro instead emphasized licensed properties and popular characters. Some were brands they owned outright (such as G.I. Joe or Transformers). Other lines were properties they were already merchandising, such as Marvel Comics superheroes, Star Wars, and characters from the Indiana Jones movies.
The Indy line of Muggs was doubtless intended to leverage the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, exposing a new generation to the characters from all four movies. There weren't a lot of toy figures made back in the day, so I was excited at the prospect of new Indy swag, and stylized swag to boot! Happily, I wasn't disappointed.
Hasbro picked iconic roles from all four films for three series of figures - Indy, Dr. Henry Jones, Sr; Short Round, the Cairo Swordsman, Sallah, Mola Ram, and so forth. While the designs are sometimes a bit busy for my taste (Sallah's is particularly cluttered), the majority of the toys look sharp. The use of color is strong, and the paint apps were consistently clean and tight. Very little paint checking needed for this line!
Mighty Muggs by their nature are constructed uniformly, so that keeps their build quality consistent too. Loose parts are rare, and the surface finish is always smooth and unmarred. Parts will be varied for specific figures without sacrificing much expense or uniformity - there's a solid form that's occasionally used instead of legs, which you'll see on 'cloaked' figures like the Cairo Swordsman. It's a nice touch that prevents the characters from being compromised by the original template form.
My only quibble is with the 'small body' template, designed for figures like Yoda or Short Round. As you can see, the solution here was to shorten the legs, leaving everything else the same. While this makes sense in terms of economy and tooling, the result makes the arms look a bit too long, and the character comes off looking a little like a gorilla. Personally I would've preferred shrinking the entire body a little bit (except for maybe the head), or shortening all the limbs.
Articulation and pose-ability are extremely limited, but these toys really aren't made for that, so I don't consider it a big flaw.
Balance problems are rarely an issue, though the figures do have a high center of gravity. An accessory can sometimes throw this off, but on the whole it's not a series that begs for display stands.
Accessories are very limited as well, but the choices have been intuitive and appropriate. Indy naturally has his whip, Monkey Man his monkey, and the Cairo Swordsman his sword. My vote for best accessory, though, goes to Mola Ram and his cute little detached heart. Adorable!
The packaging is simple, and also conforms to a template. The box graphics play to the line's strengths, using blow-ups of the character on the top panel and front right corner. There's a nice pattern composed of blank Muggs in the more open areas, and the fonts and logos are used in a stylish way. The Mighty Muggs logo itself is bit intrusive, but keeping it black & white helps prevent it from overpowering the overall look.
The saddest thing about this line is that it was canceled - I'm assuming it was due to poor sales. Unfortunately, none of these figures were hard to get at any point, unlike many of their Star Wars or Marvel contemporaries. Several new figures were announced but never released: Toht, Irina Spalko, a white-tuxedo Indy, young Indy, and Satipo. It's a shame because I loved the line, and was really looking forward to getting Marion and Toht Muggs. Enterprising DIY-ers can make their own, but I'm lazy enough to hope that eventually Hasbro will produce these as limited edition convention exclusives.
As I mentioned, it's still not difficult to find any of this line right now. Originally, these toys went for about $10-$15 each. Now, you can get the Cairo Swordsman for $5.99 + shipping on eBay, ditto Mola Ram, Short Round goes for $5.98 + shipping, Monkey Man is $4.95 + shipping, Sallah costs $8.00 + shipping, Dr. Henry Jones Sr. is $8.49 + shipping at Amazon, the Fertility Idol exclusive goes for $16.99 + shipping at ecrater.com, Mutt Williams costs $8.97 + shipping at moviepostersetc.com, and Indy himself goes for $12.97 + shipping at the same site. Watch those shipping charges, and happy shopping!