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JTA Presents: Evolutions - Yoda [Original Trilogy]

Welcome to another one of our JTA Presents: Evolutions features! Let’s check out how close or far we are from having an ideal Hasbro 3.75″ Yoda action figure. Have we arrived at definitive status yet? Weigh in and let us know what conclusion you’ll come to by clicking through and adding your two cents in the comments!

Yoda

 

Yoda is one of the most revered characters in the entire Star Wars saga. He was a beloved character in the Original Trilogy. We saw him as a respected leader on the Jedi High Council in the Prequel Trilogy. And we saw him as a warrior in The Clone Wars. But before he gained mass appeal and notoriety as a Jedi General, we all witnessed him train the saga’s most prominent hero of all time: Luke Skywalker. Yoda taught us simple truths

 

Yoda from 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back line.

            

1980’s The Empire Strikes Back Yoda was a late release, but once he arrived in stores, he was one of the most sought-after figures of the year. Add to that Kenner also made his abode for us too, it was a marriage made in heaven that permeated our playtime for years. Kenner approached Yoda’s figure as they did with any other figure in the line. They gave him an impressive five points of articulation and included four separate accessories – the most of any figure up to that point. Throughout the years, multiple variations of skin and snake color would arrive at retail, in addition to numerous repacks as the line look changes from The Empire Strikes Back to Return Of The Jedi and eventually to The Power Of The Force. Many still consider it the best Yoda action figure produced of all time.

 

Yoda from 1996’s The Power Of The Force “2” ]Red] line.

            

1996 was an anxious time for neo-classic Star Wars collectors. After getting over the fact that Star Wars collecting returned in a big way in 1995, 1996 became the years where collectors were beginning Kenner/Hasbro for updates to all of their favorite Star Wars characters as action figures. Yoda was of course on top of many collectors’ wish lists, and Kenner/Hasbro added him to the lineup early in the year. The figure was well-received, but time hasn’t been too kind to the sculpt because it lacks the charm that made the vintage Kenner version so popular. With less articulation and fewer accessories than the 1980 release, Yoda from The Power Of The Force “2” [Red] line is a figure that hardly meets expectations by today’s standards.

 

Yoda from 1998’s The Power Of The Force “2” [FlashBack/CommTech] line.

            

We received a couple of updated Yoda figures in 1998 as The Power Of The Force “2” [Red] line transitioned into both The Power Of The Force “2” [Green/Freeze Frame] and 1998’s The Power Of The Force “2” [FlashBack/CommTech] lines. The first Yoda (not pictured) was part of the Complete Galaxy assortment and barely different from the previously released Yoda figure, aside from receiving more definition in the sculpt, and a few differing paint operations. A more aggressively changed Yoda figure arrived with rooted hair however in The Power Of The Force “2” [FlashBack/CommTech] collection. And this Yoda came with some bizarrely colored orange accessories including a cane and a pot for cooking. Still, the rooted hair didn’t do much to interest collectors because no improvements in the sculpt were evident.

 

Yoda (OTC #02) from 2004’s The Original Trilogy Collection line.

            

Hasbro took a giant leap with 2004’s The Original Trilogy Collection Yoda (#02). (It was also subsequently re-released as 2005’s OTC Yoda (Dagobah Training) (’05 #16) figure.) While the figure didn’t have a perfect likeness to Yoda, and the coloring looked a bit radioactive in effect, Yoda possessed interchangeability so you could display him on an environmental display stand OR Luke Skywalker’s back in a cargo bag. The collecting community resounded with joy when Hasbro released this figure, and the packaging had elements that harkened back to the original vintage Kenner line. We received quite a bit of plastic for $4.99, and Yoda quickly became the most definitive version of the character. That was until Hasbro released The Original Trilogy Collection “Vintage” line.

 

Yoda from 2004’s The Original Trilogy Collection Vintage line.

            

The ”Vintage” Original Trilogy Collection (VOTC) was overwhelming to Star Wars collectors. It was surreal seeing updated Star Wars action figures in the same packaging from more than two decades earlier. And Yoda was no exception. The figure wasn’t a perfect likeness to the onscreen character, but the enhanced articulation Hasbro gave the figure showed collectors that they were trying to make the figures in this sub-line as premium as possible for the technology at the time. By today’s standards, most collectors won’t find Yoda acceptable, but between the included snake, the soft-goods robe, the cane (gimer stick), and the removable belt, Yoda was a 1:1 modern update to the 1980 The Empire Strikes Back Yoda figure. If Hasbro just improved the likeness a bit more, this figure might have stood the test of time.

 

Yoda (#22) from 2014’s The Black Series [Phase I] line.

            

Then there is The Black Series [Phase I] Yoda (#22) figure. (It was also subsequently re-released as 2015’s TBS [P2] Yoda (#06) figure too – with a better paint job.) Hasbro was deceptive to collectors with this figure. If you saw the prototype from Hasbro’s NYCC Preview Party in 2014, they showed a sample that contained a ton of articulation. Then the Boss Fight Studio blueprint leaked out revealing what the original intentions for the figure were. Instead, we received an action figure with a nice sculpt, but with only five points of articulation. Hasbro defended their decision by overselling the figure’s premium soft-goods, but even they weren’t of the caliber collectors expected to see. Until Hasbro revisits this figure and produces it the way it was intended, collectors may never be happy.

 

Yoda from 2015’s Rebels R2-D2/Yoda (MS16) Mission Series set.

            

After the Disney Star Wars takeover, the action figure line started to head in reverse. And when 5POA became the standard for 3.75” action figures, collectors knew that things were not good for the line. But if you could bury your concerns for a moment or two, you could appreciate that some of the 5POA action figures looked pretty good. Sadly, Yoda from the 2015 Rebels R2-D2/Yoda (MS16) Mission Series set wasn’t one of them. The figure has a nice sculpt, but terrible paint operations made it impossible to appreciate it. It feels like Hasbro might have saved themselves from constant criticism if they only ensured paint operations were up to snuff. If figures looked incredible thanks to glorious paint jobs, the angst from the articulation issue might not be as prominent as it is today. In short, this version of Yoda doesn’t meet collectors’ expectations either.

 

Yoda Group Shot

Yoda

 

Questions for discussion:

1. In your opinion, do we have a definitive version of this figure?

2. If we don’t have a definitive version of this figure, should Hasbro tool a new figure from the ground up again, or should they tweak a current sculpt to perfect it instead?

3. If the figure ranks as definitive for you, do you want to see it repackaged in vintage Kenner packaging (The Vintage Collection) if it isn’t already?

4. Add any other points of note or interest in the comments about any of these versions of Yoda action figures.

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