Kenner Jurassic Park Ellie Sattler Action Figure Kenner, 1993
Day #366: March 29, 2012
Ellie Sattler Behold Laura Dern... more or less
Jurassic Park Series I
Item No.: n/a Manufacturer:Kenner Includes:Grappling hook, backpack, Triceratops hatchling, trading card Action Feature:Firing grappling hook Retail: $5.99 Availability: Summer 1993 Other: The first take on Laura Dern
The first Jurassic Park figure I picked up was Ellie Sattler. Not because I thought she was particularly fantastic or hot or anything, but I decided I was going to have a fat Triceratops hatchling toy and this was the way to get it. Sidekick mini-figures are sort of a rare thing lately, but it was a great cheap way to increase sales-- people would buy a larger figure if the mini ghost, dinosaur, monster, facehugger alien, or mutant included in the package happened to be appealing enough.
Female figures in the 1980s and 1990s were pretty frumpy-- as we saw with Vasquez from Aliens yesterday, this was a period in which Kenner wouldn't really spring for things like hair or make-up. As such, the only things that really set apart the ladies (aside from boobs or the costume) might be long hair or slightly larger lips. In the case of Ellie Sattler, she benefitted from longer blond hair and a pink shirt which, more than likely, would not be the kind of thing you'd see on Jeff Goldblum or Sam Neill. The character's outfit actually matches the movie quite nicely, minus the "JP" logo which was slapped on damn near everything because this sort of branding was really the only thing Kenner could use to set these apart from pretty much any other dinosaur toy line. Or so they thought, anyway, other than Tyco's Dino-Riders in the 1980s, there weren't a lot of options for medium to high-quality dinosaur action figures and to this day, arguably, there still aren't many easily bought.
So she looks girly-- this is good, this is important. Shorts and a tight shirt set her apart, and her belt has some really cool sculpted details. Her left hand is particularly interesting, in that she's wearing an unpainted bracelet. (Kenner painted Ripley's bracelet.) The left hand was also sculpted so it could grip the pistol in its holster, but she could not remove the holster from the leg. It's a nice and odd touch, giving the figure interaction with an accessory that doesn't actually exist. It's clever, I appreciate it.
After getting religion with Batman, Kenner realized all figures absolutely must have large rocket-firing accessories. In the 1980s, you got a tiny gun or a stick. In 1993, you got weapons so large, they made it difficult if not impossible for the figure to hold them. This blue gun has green buttons and a green grappling hook which you can use to annoy dinosaurs or presumably climb electric fences. The backpack is a nice bonus, it fits well and looks sort of neat. It doesn't serve much of a purpose beyond looking neat, and it serves as a reminder of an ancient time when figures were cheap and the accessories were as big as the figures.
Rounding out the set is an adorable yellow and green Triceratops baby, which, let's face it, is why we all bought this figure. It has a JP tramp stamp/cutie mark on its hip, plus tiny little horns, painted eyes, and zero articulation. I was always surprised Kenner didn't market these figures as a collectible mini-figure line. In the late 2000s, they started to bundle the little guys together from Jurassic Park III to varying degrees of success. It's a great little figure, and it's my hope that toy companies continue to look into the past and bring this kind of thing back. This isn't a NECA figure with amazing detail or a supremely authentic license, but it was fun and cheap and offered a lot of bang for the buck. Even in 1993 it was obvious this was pretty neat for the money, which is sort of depressing as we march toward $10 4-inch figures with one or no accessories.
It's interesting to note how female figure collecting-- once a unique subcategory, due to there being so few female action figures-- was completely turned on its head when McFarlane Toys (nee Todd Toys) cranked out the first "sexy" action figures that weren't hideous. This spawned countless tiny companies doing their take on the hottie princess of Hell, although none of it really changed Kenner or Hasbro's direction-- each line got one or two token women, and the odd repaint. Ellie was given a new head sculpt and new paint job in the second year of this line. I'd suggest sticking with the first one, it just feels right.
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