Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bionics in Miniature (Part 6: Bigfeet!)

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6



Been awhile since I did a post for the ol' bionic toy line, hasn't it? (Let me take a look...) Yikes! Last one was three months back, so it's definitely time to move things along, which I will do right now by starting in on Part 6: Bionic Bigfoot(s).

First though, how about a little character background material, for those who don't normally keep up on all things Cybernetic Sasquatch? (You know who you are, I'm not gonna embarrass you by calling it out.)

Okay then. Bionic Bigfoot was a recurring friend-slash-foe of The Six Million Dollar Man's, and showed up in three different story arcs over the course of five episodes throughout the TV series. The actual episodes were:
And yes, apparently "Bigfoot V" really was named that just because it was the fifth episode to feature the Bionic Bigfoot character. Does that seem terribly lazy only to me?

At any rate, there were too many episodes for me to (want to) give you a play-by-play here, but if you follow those links above, you'll find all the information your hairy cyborg heart could ever desire. There's even behind the scenes stuff you wouldn't pick up just watching the episodes yourself.

For my part, I'll just say that in the TV show, Bionic Bigfoot was a cybernetic alien organism, created by a group of (also alien) scientists. These scientists had been hiding out in their mountain base, studying humankind, for a couple of hundred years (they could slip in and out of time, so they weren't aging very fast). They were basically using their cyborg as a deterrent, to instill a sense of mystery and awe into the locals, which they hoped would keep anyone from snooping too close and discovering them.

Which probably worked fine in the 18th and 19th centuries, but not so much when 20th century government workers showed up on the mountain to do earthquake research. Especially when one of those government workers was a snoopy bionic man.

Anyway, the first story arc was all about discovering who these aliens are and what they're doing here. The second one had an alien splinter group using Bigfoot for nefarious purposes, and the last one just kind of had Bigfoot wandering around and malfunctioning, with our bionic heroes showing up to help him out. In a nutshell. (A tiny nutshell, maybe from a hazelnut.)

And here I have to say that while I've always thought both Bigfoot and cyborgs are terribly cool, going with a Bigfoot cyborg was a little weird for me, even as a kid. Two great tastes that don't taste quite as good together, kinda like those dark chocolate peanut butter cups. But that's just me.

Could be that's why I've always slightly preferred "Day of the Robot" and "The Return of the Robot Maker" to these Sasquatch episodes. Not saying I don't love the Sasquatch stories as well (heaven forbid), just that I love the straight-on robot stories a little more. I always did have a soft spot for humany robots and cyborgs over non-humany ones.

So. Bigfoot was played by a couple of different actors, legendary Andre the Giant (in the first two parter), and Ted Cassidy after that. Both guys did a fine job, but I've always been partial to Andre's Bigfoot: At 7 feet 4 inches and 500 pounds, Andre was a much bigger man than 6 foot 9 (and relatively slender) Ted was. Andre, being bigger, just filled out the suit in a more convincing way for me.

Let's just take a quick look at our two TV Sasquatches side-by-side before moving on to Kenner's doll:

GRONK!
Andre (and Lee)
GRUNK!
Ted
And.... Done. On to the dolls.



Bionic Bigfoot (Kenner 1977)


Okay, so Kenner Bigfoot came out in 1977, about a year after he was introduced in the TV series. Now, obviously it was a great idea to make the doll: he'd already appeared on TV four times (three SMDM episodes and one Bionic Woman crossover), and 70s kids were seriously riding the Bigfoot train. I was one of 'em. I totally remember playing Steve Austin/Bionic Bigfoot (being a loner-kid, I had dual roles) in my room and out in the forest by my house. So yeah, this doll had to be a no-brainer for Kenner execs.

Sigh.

But here's the thing, and I hate to even say this out loud: Bionic Bigfoot just wasn't a very good doll. Only my opinion of course, but let's get him down from the shelf and have a look, then you can decide for yourself.

"I am only an alien beast, and I cannot spell 'articulation'."

I know. Right now you're thinking "Hey Dan, what are you being all down on Bionic Bigfoot Doll for? He looks pretty cool to me." And I totally agree. He does look cool, just standing there.

Bionic BackfootSidesquatch

Looks great from the back and side, too. This doll possesses multi-angle handsomeness, and that's nothing to sneeze at. He's channeling Ted more than he is Andre, but I'm cool with that. At fourteen and a half inches tall, he towers over thirteen inch Kenner Steve, so I'm okay with the Ted Cassidy slimness and features.

My problems with the doll (and there are exactly four of them) have nothing at all to do with his dashing looks. Y'see, this mighty man-beast has a grand total of four points of articulation. "Say what, Dan?" You heard right: four lonely joints with which to place Bionic Bigfoot into (not so) cool play poses. Hips. Shoulders. Period.

Other than standing about and looking intimidating, there are just two poses ol' BB can decently strike, and I've graciously presented them for you here:

Pose 1: Drinking Giraffe
Pose 2: Sandbox Toddler

And while this total lack of playability (we all know that articulation equals playability) irks me greatly (think if this doll had Steve or Maskatron-level articulation, or if you could pull his robotic arm off like Steve did in that first TV episode), he does have a couple of bionic features that (kind of) offset the woe.

The most obvious one is that rectangular plate you can see outlined on his chest. When Steve punches Bigfoot in the gut that plate pops off, revealing Bigfoot's bionic (or nyosynthetic, in his case) circuitry.

Ouch.

Those TV aliens from the show never did explain which parts of Bigfoot aren't flesh and blood, all they ever said was he's a cybernetically enhanced lower life form from their home planet. Maybe their version of a bionic gorilla? Anyway, this plate popping off to show a chest full of robotics makes it look like he's electronic through and through, which doesn't seem terribly accurate. But I'll take what I can get with this doll, feature-wise.

Speaking of which, the other feature Bigfoot shipped with was his "powerful spring-loaded arms." This means his arms attach to his body via a rubber band that runs through his torso, shoulder to shoulder. You can pull them apart and let them spring closed around an object (like a Kenner Steve, or a plastic boulder you happen to have sitting around in your toy box) and he'll hold the object aloft in his mighty Bigfoot grip.

At least, he could do that when he was a little newer. My doll's band has lost it's elasticity with age, so his arms don't do much but hang loosely from his shoulder joints. I read something online about how to replace the rubber band with an o-ring, but I've yet to pick one up and give it a try. Plus, I'm kind of scared to.

What if it doesn't work? I'll be stuck with an armless Bigfoot, and how un-cool will that be? Pretty sure I don't want to fork out two hundred bucks for a replacement. Even so, I'll probably try the repair one of these days. Definitely if my current doll's band snaps and he's armless anyway. Nothing to lose then, right?

I digress.

Let's see, what else can I give you on this guy? Oh. Mine doesn't have his original packaging, but here's a couple of shots I found on the web. It had two variations, depending on whether you bought him before or after Biosonic Steve came out.

Bionic Bigfoot......and Bionic Grip Steve.

The initial packaging (above) shows Bionic Grip Steve lifting Bigfoot with his Power Arm, which he wasn't actually able to do. My guess is one of the reasons they even made a Biosonic Steve at all, was so there would be a Steve who actually could lift Bigfoot. (You remember we talked about that in Part 4.)

Bionic Bigfoot......and Biosonic Steve.

As far as packaging for the later release, they just flipped that front image and added Steve's new outfit to both front and back. Notice both sets of packaging have Ted Cassidy's likeness on them.

I tried to find a copy of Bigfoot's instruction sheet so you could take a look at that, but no luck. So I guess that about covers it for Kenner's man-beast.

Let's take a look at BBPs cybernetic cryptid.



Bionic Bigfoot (Bif Bang Pow! 2012)


This little fellow has his charms, to be sure. I say "little" because he looks terribly small standing on my shelf next to Kenner's 14½ inch Bionic Beast. But at 9½ inches himself, he actually towers nicely over BBPs 8 inch Steve. It's all relative, I guess. Anyway, he was one of the first SMDM dolls BBP released, and initially you could only get him as one-half of a (separately packaged) two-pack along with Track Suit Steve. (Although these days you can get him aftermarket, on his own.)

Okay. Let's get Little Bigfoot down down off the shelf and have ourselves a look:

Bionic Bigbelly

Yeah, so there'll be no getting around us discussing Little Bigfoot's rotundness. It's the first thing I notice whenever I look at this doll. I don't know why they went for exactly this look. My best guess is they wanted to increase the doll's girth, beyond what the doll had on its own. (Surely adding stuffing to the suit was less expensive than using more plastic for the doll itself, right?) But what I don't get is why they didn't use half (or less) of the amount of stuffing we're seeing here.

I'm assuming BBP created a pattern and/or prototype for the suit, which they then sent off to some company that made the suits for them. Did the suits arrive back at BBP looking vastly different than the reference materials they'd provided, and it was too late or too expensive to have them redone? Dunno. But the doll is reasonably Bigfoot-sized without his fur suit on, and this much stuffing just takes him over the top.

Oh. I'm forgetting you haven't actually seen Little Bigfoot without his fur coat yet. I'll take it off real quick, so you can see how much of him is suit versus not suit.

Remove-A-Suit: Instant Slimming Effect!

See? This fellow is half the man without his stuffed-suit-ness. I actually think he looks more like Kenner's doll (shape-wise) without his suit than he does with it. But since Kenner's doll always struck me as a bit too slender, my take is Little Bigfoot would look just about right with some stuffing beneath his fur--maybe a quarter or half of what he ended up with. Okay. Enough with the suit.

The other thing I notice, sans suit, is that Little Bigfoot seems to have been put together from a couple of different doll types. Looks to me like he's got 8-inch-doll arms and legs attached to a somewhat-bigger-doll torso. Which looks weird at first, but I'm thinking it's not actually a bad way to give the guy some extra body girth if you're working with a tight budget (and I always assume that's the case when it comes to BBP). Plus you never see these things unless you take his fur off, anyway. So not a big deal by any means.

Now having a plus size torso helps with girth, but it looks like most of Little Bigfoot's height is coming from a little further down, with those leg extensions. These also seem a little weird at first, but again, it's a pretty inventive way of upping his height when you're working with limited funds. And the only real problem I've noticed with 'em (it's not a big one) is that having joints in the middle of his calves can make for a little weirdness when you're posing him. Obviously the extra height is worth it. Nothing worse than a supposedly giant figure clocking in at average or less than average size. (I'm talking to you, 7 inch Mego Hulk.)

Anyway, take a look at naked Little Bigfoot standing next to naked Steve. You can see those arms and legs of Bigfoot's are Steve-sized and that the two would be pretty much identical in height if Bigfoot didn't have his leg extensions. Oh, and while we're here, how many points of articulation do you see on naked Little Bigfoot? Is it four? Seven? Maybe eight? No, it's thirteen. As far as playability goes, this little guy is twice the doll at half the size. Even if his ankles are in the middle of his calves.

Standing on a 1 inch block puts Steve right up into Sasquatch territory.

So other than his stylish fur suit, what is it that makes Little Bigfoot, Bigfoot? The answers to that are his beastly head, hands and feet. So let's take a closer look at them.

Kenner's Bigfoot was pretty obviously modeled after Ted Cassidy, and BBP wisely went the other way, basing their doll on Andre the Giant. I say "wisely" only because I'm assuming more people would have been interested in a doll that wasn't just a miniature Kenner-clone. Besides, my gut tells me Andre's generally favored over Ted by fans. Anyway, Little Bigfoot's head sculpt is based on Andre, and it's really not too bad. Not a perfect likeness, by any means, but you can definitely see Andre in there. (Which is more than I can say for Lee Majors and BBPs Steve head.)

We just want to......pump you up!

As far as Little Bigfoot's hands and feet go, both sets of extremities do their jobs, but I have to say his hands turned out better than his feet. Not only are they painted to simulate fur (which you would expect at the very least), they're also slightly larger than standard 8 inch doll hands, have claws, and sport a molded-in furry look, which is a nice touch. His feet have the paint and molded-in fur, but they're pretty diminutive in size for a character named Bigfoot.

Bionic BighandsBionic Tallbutsmallfoot

So we're getting pretty close to the end of Little Bigfoot, here. About the only thing left to show you is his accessory. Like the other BBP dolls, Bigfoot has little in the way of bionic features. Well, he has no bionic features per se, at all. But since he and Track Suit Steve were originally sold as a pair, he does have a key chain that plays a few of his bionic sounds. (You'll remember Track Suit Steve's own key chain from Part 2.)

dun-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh

Nothing differentiates this key chain from Steve's, other than its color. As in both have the same logo and such, but Steve's is red (like his track suit) and Bigfoot's is brown (like his fur). Each time you press Bigfoot's Key chain, you get one of three variations on his bionic sound, with various pitch changes: one pitches low to high, one high to low, and one with no pitch change. If that makes sense. Think jumping up, jumping down, and throwing a punch.

Okay. That about wraps us up for these dolls. I'll part with a comparison shot (yay!) of both actors and their dolls. Because being the kind of guy I am, that's how I roll. Your welcome.


Next time, we'll be looking at Kenner's and Bif Bang Pow's versions of Steve's boss and sometimes friend, old Oscar Goldman himself. And that will be pretty high on the fun meter, mostly on account of Kenner Oscar's ultra-cool exploding briefcase. Now that was a cool accessory.

Until then.

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