My relationship with Pixar is rocky, because they sell me on tight stories with impressive technological advancements and then spend 90-120 minutes trying to make me cry. I don't appreciate that. When I saw the early concepts for Lightyear, the movie's concept of a "real movie" on which the Toy Story toy was based sounded like a hard sell to fans. But the space ships! Oh, the space ships. Everything looked like an old Fisher-Price toy, so I wanted to pick up at least one of them - but sadly they didn't make the one that looked like a Vic Viper. So when I saw the Hyperspeed Explorer XL-01 I had to buy it. The saying of "there are no bad products, only bad prices" is very true here because this is an excellent, sturdy space ship and at $15-$20, it was perfectly good. But since they didn't slap the name on the front of the box, no kid would ask for it. "Mom, get me the one that costs $15-$20!" said no child ever. You have to lean into the name, and if you can't identify the product by looking at it, it's doomed. This entire line is filled with nifty retro 1980s space ship designs, and an absolute dunderhead decided to downplay things like a big colorful movie logo or any identifiable names on the vehicles or figures. If this line's packaging were a school project, I would fail them all and kick them out of the program.
The toy itself is quite nice, and for $5.49 I had to have it. Much like Playmobil, Imaginext makes some great toys and once the price is low enough, literally any toy that includes at least one figure is fun enough to buy. Worst-case scenario, you wind up with one or two nice figures for five or six bucks. At $10-$15, this is comparable to or better than a lot of the action toys on the market these days. Since Mattel, Spin Master, and Hasbro all seem to be steering into pleasing aging "fan" markets, "toy" gets ignored - but not in Imaginext. This gray and blue ship has traditional red Imaginext action elements and is actually pretty decent.
The test pilot Buzz Lightyear is the epitome of "nothing special." There's no clear plastic "glass" on his helmet, there are no bells, no whistles. It's not as colorful or accurate to what you saw in the movie, but it's still pretty good. The flip-buttons that seem borrowed from Star Wars are gone and replaced with a flat, white spot. The gloves aren't the right color, and the helmet is lacking in painted detail. That's how it goes when you get things down to a price point, and for Imaginext it's a fair trade.
Light on painted detail, the figure still looks good. He has bright eyes and even skin paint, the vest, knee pads, and belt have jut a little bit of decoration on them. It's very decent - there's nothing amazing about it, and if it weren't from a licensed property you'd probably be very happy with the simple design. It looks like a pilot of any 1980s video game vehicle - if this was your Moon Patrol or Gradius go-to guy, you'd be pretty OK with it.
The vehicle itself is a masterclass in corner cutting. The toy has no labels - nearly everything is molded in color. The blue nose and fin and wings? Blue plastic. The dark gray elements? molded in gray. The only paint on the toy is behind the cockpit, where you insert the blue fin on the back. At first glance I assumed it was also molded in color, until I saw the tiniest bit of paint slop around the edges. It's a smart design, but it also made the toy look a little less fun. The canopy glass is molded in a very milky clear color, and it is tough to make out the figure inside. You can tell someone's in there, but it's not like the back of the packaging which implies clear glass with decorated elements.
The sculpting is very toylike, with a massive cockpit that's big enough to not only fit the Buzz Lightyear in the box, but most other figures I checked. Even the giant-headed Adventure People-derived Imaginext guys fit in here with no problem. Good job, Mattel/Fisher-Price! This is the only way a figure can interact with the ship - there are no cannons to grab or jump seats. He can sit inside, grab the controls, and fly off to... whatever. It's a nice toy.
The toy has one big red button that serves all your action feature needs. Pull the trigger, and it causes the blue wings to droop down and the rocket to launch. Unfortunately you can't do one without the other - but at least it does something. I've bought some very nice Imaginext space toys that just roll, or look cool - this does do something and in 2022, that's almost a luxury feature.
If you see this on clearance, buy it. If you have a small Imaginext collection, it's great. Sadly the handle is too small for adult fans, but protrudes down too much for the toy to lay flat on a table or shelf. It will topple over. A few extra days in the design oven could have yielded a more stable toy, but it's sturdy and compared to the vehicles you can get for $8-$10 it's excellent. For what I paid for it, it's phenomenal. I still think it would be an acceptable gift for a kid - the bigger ship doesn't do much more other than lights and sounds for a much higher price. Thanks to the general cheapness of the toy, you'll probably see a few of these in thrift stores (minus the rocket and figure) in the near future with minimal dings, scratches or wear. And it'll probably be worth throwing down $3-$5 to get it, if you and your kid already has some Imaginext toy figures at home.
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