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Long thought to be the domain of merely children looking forward to the next summer blockbuster, Hasbro's Marvel Legends line is a premium brand of action figure marketed to those who are looking for a product a cut above your typical toy. With a product line that's grown with its core audience, the Legends series has to offer something more in order to keep collectors invested. Part of what's helped the line stay on its game is the fact that the figures boast lifelike appearances that match the stars they're intended to capture, with Paul Rudd's Scott Lang from Ant-Man and The Wasp being the most recent, and apparently one of the easiest, the company has pressed into plastic posterity. And one could say it's all down to his trademark, lovable smirk.
So what makes Rudd's smirk from Ant-Man and The Wasp so special when it comes to making a pretty impressive action figure subject? Well, I was lucky enough to talk to Dwight Stall, the Senior Product Design Manager for Hasbro, who told CinemaBlend it comes down to the following factor that makes the company's Photo Real process:
Some actors are easier to capture in action figure form than others. Paul Rudd happens to have easily recognizable features, so it allowed us to capture the attitude of his character with his trademark smirk in the sculpting stage.
As anyone who's played with or even glanced at your standard action figure, the degree of how well a random figure looks like the character they're supposed to represent has been far from perfect in the past. As the market progressed, so did the figures, leading up to the age of the Marvel Legends and Star Wars: Black Series -- the two lines that use the Photo Real technology that the company has developed. It all adds up to the steps required to take that seemingly ageless smirk from our reality into the world of toys.
The Photo Real process was something that Hasbro's Far East offices proposed in order to capture the likeness of film stars to a degree better than ever available on the market. Starting with Zoe Saldana's Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the Marvel Legends line employed this process as its proprietary method to make figures so lifelike, they'll make you do a double take on the floor of a crowded exhibition. I know that's how I first noticed it, as when I was invited to Hasbro's Toy Fair show this past spring, Paul Rudd's smirk on his Ant-Man and The Wasp figure was so perfected, I had to learn more about it.
To see what I'm talking about, take a look at the photo below, showing off said figure in great detail:
So how does the process work? Well, obviously with something like Photo Real, the specifics are in the eye of those doing the hard work with the proprietary line. However, Dwight Stall was kind enough during our conversation to provide some surface details as to how their Marvel Legends line gets as close to realism as it possibly can. Stall described the nuts and bolts of Photo Real's magic as follows:
The process starts with a 3D sculpt of the head and face. Once we have an approved sculpt, we overlay digital photo reference provided to us by Marvel to capture the intricacies of each actor's likeness.
Hasbro's access to Marvel's studio reference materials helps the companies nail the Photo Real process down to a science. Every detail, from a costume to a smirk, gets etched into the figure that's going onto the shelves, and it's all thanks to paying close attention to what's on the screen, and transferring it onto the figure. While other products in the Marvel Legends line are similarly impressive, for me, Paul Rudd's Scott Lang figure for Ant-Man and The Wasp is the most impressive, and the best example of why Hasbro's Photo Real process works, and why the Marvel Legends series is worth the attention and marketshare it commands.
For now, this process is exclusively being used for the Marvel Legends and Star Wars Black Series product lines, but there's no telling where this can be applied in the future. All I know is that after seeing the Paul Rudd figure for Ant-Man and The Wasp, I'm starting to think that Hasbro could make a killing on a line made up solely of Rudd's other iconic characters. That's something to think about going into your screening of Ant-Man and The Wasp, which hits theaters this Thursday night, especially if Scott Lang is left around to make his way into Avengers 4 next May. Should that be the case, you can probably expect another Marvel Legends figure with his charming face on it around that same timeframe.