How are action figures made?
Toy manufacturing is not an easy process and requires many steps and people. Depending on the equipment each toy manufacturer uses, the process of making an action figure can vary. It's done either with the help of a 3D printer, a machine that sculpts the design pattern into a metal cast that shapes the plastic or the more traditional approach which involves modelers.
To start, aluminum wire, modeling clay and various sculpting tools are used to create the prototype based on a 3D design. The figure is molded from a plastic resin to form the main body and softer plastics, like polypropylene and polyethylene are commonly used to mold smaller parts like hands. When it comes to painting the parts, there are a number of techniques utilized. Some manufacturers use large paint masks, while others hand paint the figure. In mass production, they're stamped on by a printer. Larger areas get airbrushed by a robot arm or again, get hand painted.
Various fabrics, including nylon and rayon, are used for attire. As a final decoration, acrylic paints are used to paint on accessories like belt buckles. The final step is putting all the pieces together. This can be a combination of automated production lines, human assembly lines, and/or physically done by hand.
Why do action figures cost more today?
As some of you may already know, costs of raw materials, labor and shipping keep rising. Even safety testing costs more than ever. Just a few months ago, Reuters published a Retail & Consumer article on how Hasbro toys are going to become more expensive to counter higher raw material costs as the demand for toys and board games increases from families spending more time at home.
Why do some of the same action figures look different?
Ever hear someone say, “I bought my kids the same series action figure, by the same manufacturer, but they look different.” Or how about this? "They mailed me a fake because it doesn't look like the product photo!"
There can be many reasons why this happens and that's because they are often composed of many different parts. Each part of the figures is produced separately and then assembled, making room for error. Even 3D printing has quality control issues because they are more prone to blockages, layer shifting, separating and splitting, grinding filament, warping, dimensional inaccuracies, and so on.
An example of an action figure from the same manufacturer with noticeable differences is Hasbro's Marvel Legends Series Loki Action Figure. Besides his mischievous smile, elongated neck and half sculpted chin, Loki seems to have "crazy eyes" in many of his figures.
Below are photos that were taken of Loki's face next to the manufacturer’s product photo. Depending on how the figure is turned, the flaws are more noticeable.