An action figure is a posable plastic figurine of an action hero, superhero or a character from a movie or television program. These dolls usually are marketed as merchandise intended for boys.
Action figures are useful in making stop motion movies which are gaining popularity among children due to the availability of easy to use computer software for making animated movies.
The term "action figure" was first used by Hasbro in 1964, to market their G.I. Joe figure to boys who wouldn't play with "dolls". G.I. Joe was a military_themed 11.5_inch doll inspired by the TV series "The Lieutenant". The dolls featured changeable clothes, with various outfits to suit different purposes.
During the 1970s, the action figure market was dominated primarily by the Mego Corporation and their standard 8 inch dolls, including the Action Jackson doll. These were constructed with standard plastic bodies and interchangeable heads.
At this time, Takara Toys was licensed by Hasbro to make and sell G.I. Joe toys in Japan, and decided to make their own: the Henshin Cyborg-1 toy used the same G.I. Joe molds, but with transparent plastic revealing cyborg innards, and a chrome head and cyborg feet. Takara wanted to produce toys and playsets for the new character, but the expense was prohibitive. So, a smaller version of the cyborg toy was developed, standing at 3-3/4 inches high, and was first sold in 1974 as Microman. The Microman line was also novel in its use of interchangeable parts. This laid the foundation for both the smaller action figure size and the transforming robot toy.
In 1976 Mego brought the Microman toy line to the United States as the Micronauts.
Takara began producing characters in the Microman line with increasingly robotic features, including Robotman, a 12" robot with room for a Microman pilot, and Mini-Robotman, a 3-3/4" version of Robotman. These toys also featured interchangeable parts, with emphasis placed on the transformation and combination of the characters.
Mego eventually lost control of the market after rejecting the license to produce Star Wars toys in 1976. The widespread success of Kenner's Star Wars 3-3/4" toy line made the newer, smaller size the industry standard. Instead of a single character with outfits that changed for different applications, toy lines included teams of characters with special functions. Led by Star Wars-themed sales, collectible action figures quickly became a multi-million dollar secondary business for movie studios.
In the early 80's, the burgeoning popularity of Japanese robot cartoons such as Gundam encouraged Takara to reinvent the Microman line as the Micro Robots, moving from the cyborg action figure concept to the concept of the living robot. This led to the Micro Change line of toys: objects that could "transform" into robots. In 1984 Hasbro licensed Micro Change and another Takara line, the Diaclone transforming cars, and combined them in the US as the Transformers, spawning a still-continuing family of animated cartoons.
Notable action figures