Island of Misfit Toys: George Bailey (Exclusive Premiere, 1997)
The Christmas creep is fully in effect on the Island of Misfit Toys, as we’ll be looking at Exclusive Premiere’s It’s A Wonderful Life George Bailey action figure. Yes, you read that right. Some company made a Jimmy Stewart action figure in 1997.
Exclusive Premiere was a small toy company from the late 1990’s specializing in toys based on TV and film properties of yesteryear; movies like Casablanca and television shows like Happy Days, The Munsters, and The Honeymooners were all made into toys by EP. Further, these toys were made in a style that befit the nostalgic air of those properties. To wit, most of Exclusive Premiere’s output were 8 inch dolls with cloth outfits. These offerings are very similar to the Mego action figures that were very popular in the Seventies, although it’s clear that EP was a lot more exacting in their designs.
I bought this George Bailey toy at a small comic and toy convention in New York State for $3 dollars. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it mixed in amongst the assorted garbage toys the vendor was selling. It’s so singularly strange. Yet… I must admit, I am the perfect buyer for this thing. I have a small collection of Christmas themed action figures that I decorate with every December and I love oddities born out of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
George Bailey comes in a very nice box with a window on the front. The packaging describes and displays the toy and the accessories very well… and it’s clearly held up to a lot of abuse in the 16 years since it was on store shelves. This line seems to have been made for the 50th Anniversary of It’s a Wonderful Life and is a “Limited Edition Collector’s Series.” According to the box, only 18,000 of these were made for sale.
My George Bailey is #1887 of #18,918… meaning there were about 1,000 extra of these toys made. I don’t know who to believe, the box or the sticker. Suffice to say, this kind of limited numbering was all the rage during the big Toy Collector Boom of the 1990’s. I doubt it means much in 2013, seeing as I snagged ol’ George for three bucks.
The back of the box is surprising in how much work went into it. There’s a synopsis of the film on a Christmas tree shaped outlay…
…which pulls back to reveal a host of stills from the movie, as well as some memorable lines.
When opened, George is held in place by an ungodly number of twist ties.
A couple of other things of note about this box. Firstly, it provides customers with a website URL which is now sadly defunct. By my estimation, Exclusive Premiere only had about three good years of producing collector toys before they petered out of existence. Secondly, it looks like this series was exclusively available at Target stores in the 1990’s. In the late nineties/ early aughts, there were quite a few competing Christmas-themed toy lines in stores. All the majorly toyetic lines got their due: most of the Rankin-Bass properties (Rudolph, Frosty, A Year Without A Santa Claus, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town), A Charlie Brown Christmas, and so on. I have to imagine these toys were shelved with those toys.
I don’t remember ever going on so long about the package a toy came in before in these posts, but I just have to say… it’s a really sturdy, well done box. I almost don’t want to take it out!
Now, one of the good things about doing a “doll” line of toys is the reuse of a basic body. George Bailey uses what looks to be Exclusive Premiere’s basic “man” body. The only things that make this toy distinct are the clothes and the head sculpt… so let’s talk about the head sculpt. All things being equal, this is a middling representation of Jimmy Stewart.
You’d recognize him if he’s in this box with the film title emblazoned all over it but… hand it to someone passingly familiar with the actor at any other time of the year than December and I bet you get a blank stare. Still, there are some nice details, especially on Stewart’s nose and hairline. I also thought the sculpt underneath the eyes does a lot to capture the actor.
Upon closer inspection, the shoes and socks are sculpted details rather than cloth goods.
Again, we have to go straight back to that head sculpt to find they only paint applications on the figure. Stewart’s blue eyes and eye wrinkles are all painted-on details. It’s somewhat funny to look at this representation of George Bailey when you consider It’s a Wonderful Life was a black and white film.
The only other paint is on the “basket of money” accessory and those look pretty bland, although I do give EP props for giving the money in the basket both a green AND silver paint application.
Ok, here’s where I’m going to let you all down. George Bailey comes dressed to the hilt in a cloth suit. I’ll talk about it in detail in a moment but what I’m not going to peel all the doll clothes off to get exact pictures of these joints. On toys like these, you can get the clothes off… but once you put them back on, they never look the same. Suffice to say, George has nine major joints – a cut joint at the neck, ball joints at the shoulders and hips, and joints at the elbows and knees. All of the joints are tight and work well.
I’m going to count George’s outfit as an accessory. George comes wearing a brown suit jacket, matching pants, a white dress shirt, braces, and a red, green, and gold necktie. The white dress shirt has three buttons up the middle but is attached together by velcro. Ditto the suit’s pants – a velcro seam at the back serves to fit it to George’s waist. The suit jacket and necktie are fairly ugly and ill fitting, but perhaps that’s appropriate considering the dire financial straits of the Bailey Savings and Loan. I have to wonder on what did Exclusive Premiere base their color choices for these clothes on – were there any color photos of the original outfits from the movie? Did they just look at a colorized version of the film? Make a guess?
As far as more traditional accessories, George comes with two: the suitcase he was never able to use (so tied down George was to Bedford Falls) and the basket of money from the film’s final moments.
Both of these are good, screen specific accessories. The suitcase especially is nice, with a working hinge. They rest nicely in George’s sculpted hands.
Oh, one last soft good, George comes with a removable green scarf.
This is a Misfit Toy if ever there was one… but to my surprise, I kind of love this George Bailey. Not enough to make “violent love” to it or anything, but it’s quite a nice toy once out of the impressive package! I’ve never been the biggest fan of It’s a Wonderful Life, but I fully appreciate its’ place in the canon of Christmas cinema. I’ll proudly display George with the rest of my Christmas collection and I’ll be on the lookout for the other two toys in the series, Mary Bailey and Clarence the Angel.
Yes, you read that right, there are TWO OTHER It’s a Wonderful Life action figures.