In the summer of 1991 Disney released The Rocketeer in theatres as well as a ton of merchandise in stores. Counting on this movie to be their summer blockbuster the movie made back what it cost plus a little extra, but Disney considered it not a profit, cut their plans to make two more films, and had all the Rocketeer merchandise shipped to the mid-west where it was drastically marked down and put in 99 cent stores.
I first learned of The Rocketeer through issues of the great comic magazine “Comics Scene”. There were a few issues about the comic itself as well as the movie. Tie in some issues of “Starlog Magazine” and I was hooked on this film. When I saw the teaser trailer for the movie before “What About Bob?” with The Thousandth Man I knew I’d be seeing this movie for sure.
The movie itself was great, a Disney-styled version of the comics and one that had the Indiana–Jones-vibe Disney was going for, and I was nuts for it. That’s when my collecting began. The comic shop I went to had tons of Rocketeer merchandise. Each week I’d work, then on Saturday’s go to the mall to buy some. I did this for weeks when, fearing they’d sell out, I brought in $90.00 and bought the rest of what I needed.
One thing that still surprises me to this day is how Disney, in all of their merchandising, never made a series of action figures for what was their summer block-buster. Ever since 1977 with the success of Star Wars, every summer block-buster had action figures. While Star Wars could make tons of figures besides the core group of characters, after all there were so many aliens in the film; films like Raiders of the Lost Ark had a toy line that just kept to the core of the film.
Both ways worked, yet, the Rocketeer had no figures.
The closest thing it had to an action figure was a “Bend Em” figure from Just Toys (the same type of figure and company that would release Star Wars versions years later). The Rocketeer Bend Em had a rocket pack you could put on or remove, but other than that, that was it. Limited play ability, not much of a figure for action, and other than having a really cool card design, the Bend Em looked better in the card than out of it.
Applause released a 9 inch doll of The Rocketeer as well. Already posed, this doll didn’t do much. Not really moveable, this doll looked better on a shelf then it played as a toy.
While Disney has throughout the years made up for this with detailed collector dolls like the Medicom Rocketeer Scale Figure, nice statues, the 2014 Hallmark ornament, the great Funko POP! and ReAction figures, 1991 was a rough year for Rocketeer collectors. Yes, there were other collectibles out there, but what I wanted most of all was a toy line to collect.
So, today, I present The Rocketeer toy line that should have been.
The Rocketeer figures would be the size of the Kenner Star Wars / Raiders of the Lost Ark figures. Personally I find this the best size. Perhaps with bending knees like the Raiders line. The following figures would be:
Cliff Secord/The Rocketeer – with removable helmet & rocket pack
Jenny – in regular clothes
Jenny – mail-away figure in the white South Seas Club dress
Vehicle wise there would be two:
Cliff & Peevy’s Gee Bee Racer
The bi-plane from the air circus that Malcolm flies with a Malcolm figure dressed as a clown
There would be one play set essential to the movie, The Bulldog Café. This would serve not only as a play set but a carrying case for the figures. This would open on a hinge. The first level would be the café, the second the attic with an escape hatch for the Rocketeer to fly from. Close the case and you can carry it with you to wherever you’re going to play The Rocketeer.
We could debate the need for a second line of characters like Bigelow from the air circus, gangster Eddie Valentine and his gang, the pilots that hang out at the Bulldog Café and even Howard Hughes, but I find these unnecessary. I think the core characters listed above would do well.
There we go. The Rocketeer toy line that never was. While this never will be, we can be thankful for the Rocketeer stuff Disney does release, like the Funko ReAction figure released this year. It might be 23 years after the movie and just the Rocketeer, but we finally have a Rocketeer action figure.