ESCI Figures – Pantography

Big Brothers

Scaling Up

In 1988, ESCI produced a surprise. A new range of plastic figures was launched in the larger 1:35 scale. If the figures looked strangely familiar, this was because exactly the same figures had appeared in their 1:72 range. So, obviously, some sort of re-use or re-engineering was involved here. More importantly, how do the larger figures compare?

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Airfix Military Series – Comparison

Checking Out the Competition

A Crowded Marketplace

As we have seen in Fighting Toy Stories, the Airfix Military Series of 1:32 plastic figures were both cheap and good quality. They sold well, and not un-naturally, other manufacturers were attracted to the market. How well did the Airfix figures stack up against the opposition?

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ESCI Figures – Plastics

Hard or Soft?

Plastics

Over the years, military figures have been made in various types of plastic. The two forms most used are polystyrene and polythene. The former can be categorised as ‘hard’ because it is rigid and the latter ‘soft’, because it is flexible. ESCI has used both types, so let’s explore why by taking a look at a typical set that has been modelled in both materials – the Afrika Korps.

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Airfix Military Series – Heavy Weapons

Additional Firepower

Supporting the Infantry

Most of the sets produced by Airfix were of troops fighting on the front line. As such they are usually armed with the most common weapons such as rifles, sub and light machine guns, and grenades. During World War 2, all armies supported these troops with a smaller number of men equipped with heavier weapons; heavier in the literal sense, and usually operated by a small crew, but capable of putting out a higher firepower.   

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ESCI Figures – Introduction

1980s Benchmark

ESCI

ESCI was established in Italy in 1930, to trade goods between the mainland and the Italian colonies – hence its name “Ente Scambi Coloniali Internazionali” or, roughly translated, the “International Colonial Trade Exchange”. In the 1960s ESCI began importing Japanese plastic construction kits, and in 1972 began producing its own kits. It was the first firm to produce 1:72 military vehicles (Airfix at that time were working in 1:76) and as part of this range produced small sets of hard plastic infantry.

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Airfix Military Series – Accuracy

Faithful or Flawed?

The Importance of Accuracy

Airfix was proud to claim accuracy for their kits, emphasising their quality and attention to detail, and naturally wished this reputation to also apply to the figures they produced. After all, many of their buyers were knowledgeable enough to complain if they made mistakes, and in the 1970s there were plenty of competitors who could step into the gap if the figures proved to be inaccurate. So, how well did they fare with the Military Series? To make a judgement, let’s go back in history to the fateful day of Waterloo, 18 June 1815.

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Airfix Military Series – Poses

Predictable Positions?

Poses

Sets of toy soldiers tend to be composed of a handful of fairly predictable poses. After all, buyers love, and expect to find, certain standard poses. But when faced with competition, manufacturers have to find ways of standing out from the crowd. So, what can you do to the poses to excite the market?

There are two obvious and complementary ways of increasing the attractiveness of the sets – by expanding the number of poses in a set, and by innovating with new, and hopefully more exciting, ones. Airfix experimented with both of these, and a good example to illustrate this is their set of Second World War German mountain troops.

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