Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 178: Cloud Car Pilot (Concept)

CLOUD CAR PILOT Expanded Universe
Power of the Force Expanded Universe
Item No.:
Asst. 69620 No. 69786
Number: n/a
Includes: Cloud Car with Firing Projectile
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $14.99
Availability: Fall 1998
Appearances: The Art Of The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: Cloud cars are atmospheric vessels that employ both repulsorlifts and ion engines, filling the important gap between airspeeders and starfighters. Functional in many ways, twin-cockpit, patrol cars escorted the Millennium Falcon and her crew onto Cloud City during The Empire Strikes Back. It was here that Darth Vader had Han Solo frozen in carbonite while Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO were held prisoners of the Empire. This single cockpit cloud car was designed and built based on production sketches found in The Art of Star Wars; its brainchild was renown Star Wars artist, Ralph McQuarrie. (Taken from the figure's box.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelf.

Commentary: While this figure is indeed sold as a Cloud Car Pilot, the concept art for this figure wasn't originally intended for that purpose. (I'm also not entirely sure it was designed by Ralph McQuarrie*.) The figure itself looks more like a futuristic fast food employee, with stupid had and matching uniform. The figure is arguably the weakest (and absolutely the shortest) of the Expanded Universe Vehicles pilot line, with the standard six points of articulation. Oh, and a "molting" problem-- even if properly cared for, I've seen examples of the figure become somewhat sticky. The sculpting isn't anything too exciting, but neither is the source material. It's nice to have what essentially amounts to "Cloud City Citizen", but ultimately what you see is what you get here. The figure really offers no surprises, aside from being a 1998 figure with very tiny hands (something we see more of today) and an unusually short stature. As far as I know, the face was not meant to resemble anyone, but you have to admit it looks a smidge like Anthony Daniels in this picture.

Collector's Notes: *= I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mr. McQuarrie briefly at a convention in 1997, and was in the room when someone showed him one of the items. Most amusing was hearing him look at it and go "this one wasn't one of mine, this was Joe's" (or something to that effect) but I didn't get a good look at to what he was referring. (Probably the Speeder Bike before packaging was finalized, but still, amusing.) Why am I bringing this up now? Well, the rumor going around for 2007 is that all the "concept" figures are Ralph McQuarrie's, but there were more than a few concepts done by the likes of Joe Johnston, John Mollo, and Nilo Rodis-Jamero, to name a few. So don't be too shocked if something is labeled incorrectly going forward. And to be clear, I popped through some reference books and unfortunately did not find any information on who developed the Cloud Car. I'm fairly sure this figure is not a McQuarrie design, but unfortunately The Star Wars Chronicles doesn't help me here. (And all my art of books are in boxes. Let that be a lesson to you, kids, a well-stored library is a happy library.) This isn't a figure that's especially great in and of itself, but seeing how few concept vehicles exist, and how small the entire Expanded Universe line was in 1998, it's still worth snagging for collectors. If nothing else, it's still a fun little toy.

Day 178: October 31, 2006

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