MALIBU, Calif. -- In the black-and-gold plastic trunks, weighing in at 3 ounces, standing nearly 7 inches tall, hailing from a factory in China, the Italian Stallion: Rocky Balboa!
The meat-punching, steps-sprinting, "Yo, Adrian!"-screaming boxer will live again, as toy manufacturer Jakks Pacific Inc. announced a licensing deal with MGM Consumer Products on Friday. Playing off the 30th anniversary of the original Rocky film and the expected-December release of the franchise's sixth installment, Rocky Balboa, Jakks will release a line of action figures and play sets tied to the series this fall.
After punching his way through adversity, heartbreak and serious blows to the head, Jakks hopes the Philly-bred pugilist will go the distance one more time.
"He's not pretentious, he's a good person, he does the right thing and he's involved in a brutal profession," said Jeremy Padawer, vice president of boys entertainment and pet products. "He's a poor dude, doesn't have an outstanding education, has no backup plan, but he's extremely lovable. ... In the action-figure world, there's a huge place for good versus evil."
Besides the debt-collector with a heart of gold and a mean left hook, the collection will include dutiful girlfriend/wife Adrian, showy rival-turned-buddy Apollo Creed and evil, communist punching machine Ivan Drago. The $7.99 Rocky will come in a variety of trunks, body styles and levels of damage -- swollen eye sold separately.
Jakks will also produce Rocky's most famed opponent, in very limited quantities.
"This is the very first time in the history of the world when a dead slab of beef will get a figure," Padawer said. "In all seriousness, it has a huge place in the Rocky lore, so we're going to definitely include it."
The company, which made a name for itself producing similar figures of World Wrestling Entertainment stars, will begin the line in October, releasing six to eight figures from the first film. Following up each two months with subsequent movies, it eventually plans for a line of up to 50 figures, two boxing ring play sets, a replica championship belt and $19.99 electronic boxing gloves that make punching noises and play the familiar "Gonna Fly Now" theme song.
Getting kids to play with figures tied to to a franchise launched in 1976 can be a tricky endeavor, but Padawer expects the line will skew a little more heavily toward the collector market. The figures can be posed brawling in either a $10 basic, plastic ring or a $49.99 model with die-cast posts, foam turnbuckles and fabric skirts.
"It's really important that they have a sense of humor about it," said Chris Byrne, a New York consultant who runs TheToyGuy.com.
Padawer, who acknowledges that it takes "a truly bizarre guy" to make it in the action-figure business, has indeed embraced the humorous side of Rocky. While paying homage to the films' iconic status, the line clearly taps into the kitschy potential.