A long time ago, in a galaxy…
Actually, no. Let’s try that again.
About a year ago, while passing the No Frills store close to his former workplace in Toronto’s east end, a thought occurred to veteran art director Jamie Mageau: What would a line of generic Star Wars figures look like anyway?
Twelve months later, we have the answer, thanks to his newly unveiled line of “Space Movie” toys. In addition to their immovable arms and legs and a noticeable lack of accessories, Mageau’s so-called “inaction figures” also feature generic names like Villain (Darth Vader), Farm Boy (Luke Skywalker) and Blabberbot (C3-PO).
If you’re a kid craving all the fun and excitement of Star Wars, these are most definitely not the toys you’re looking for.
“There’s no reason why you should want to take them out of their package,” says Mageau, a senior art director whose career has included stops at Zulu Alpha Kilo, Dentsu Canada, Umbra and Yield.
Mageau (that’s him in the bottom photo, wearing a Death Trooper helmet he 3D printed, assembled and painted for the 2018 Star Wars Fan Expo) came up with the project while taking what he calls a “creative break” from the ad industry. “I’ve spent a lot of years in advertising, so I’m taking a bit of a break to recharge and I wanted to have a project while I’m doing that,” he says. “I’ll be back in advertising but I’ll always have my own projects on the side.”
Mageau has been tinkering with fabrication for more than a decade. In 2008, he was the brains behind “The Visible Blundstone” for the footwear company’s Boot it Up!, a fashion and visual arts fundraiser in support of Sketch, a collective that uses art to reach street youth.
An experiment using polymer clay, silicone rubber and casting resin, The Visible Blundstone depicted one of the company’s boot as a living organism, complete with ribs, intestines and other internal organs.
A toy collector since he was a young boy, Mageau says he was encouraged to try making his own collectibles after discovering a New York pop artist called the Super Sucklord—who sells what his website Suckadelic.com describes as bootleg toys that “steal shamelessly from Star Wars, vintage advertising and all manner of pop culture trash.”
Mageau also fell in with a Toronto art toy collective called Toyronto—a self-described “bunch of resin slinging misfits with funny nicknames”—who create collectible toy lines bearing names like “Mr. Business—The Intergalactic Salesman” and “All Seeing Moose Eye.”
“When we get together and start talking it’s all about toys—what we’re creating and supporting and promoting each other,” says Mageau.
Selling for $35 on the website MagoobToys.com, the Space Movie figures are aimed squarely at fanatical Star Wars collectors. Their biggest selling point is the packaging, with its yellow and black colour scheme, lower-case writing and sans serif typeface that has been a signifier of generic products for decades.
“I wanted it to be as perfect as it could be,” says Mageau, who says he spent hours sourcing everything from backing card manufacturers to a company specializing in the plastic bubbles that surround his toys. “I couldn’t even put a number on the hours spent on this,” he says. “It’s been a lot of trial and error and practice, trying to figure out what’s going to work.”
The Space Movie figures are built around the so-called “12-Back” figures from Star Wars, released by the now-defunct U.S toy company Kenner in 1977. “I loved the whole world around it, and how crazy people got about it,” said Mageau who has acquired all 12 of the original figures, long discontinued, via the re-sale market.
Mageau says he has sold about one-third of the 96 figures he created, with 12 of the 16 orders coming from U.S. customers—including one Florida man (and let’s be honest, it’s almost always men) who purchased an entire set.
“He had seen the figures and kind of rolled his eyes, but he was interested enough to click through to the website,” says Mageau. “As soon as he saw the packaging, and how it was displayed and the language around it, he said ‘There’s something special here.'”