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By Thomas Wheeler

With the debut in the theaters of the very long-awaited fourth Indiana Jones movie, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", we have also seen a return to the toy aisles of a very nice array of Indiana Jones action figures. And this is perhaps even more long overdue.

Think about it. Kenner produced a capable enough version of action figures, for the time, based on the original movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark". These figures were very much like Star Wars figures of the time. Same size, pretty much the same construction, same detail level. LJN produced a small and short-lived like for the second Indiana Jones movie, "Temple of Doom", which (IMHO) remains the most poorly regarded of the Indiana Jones movies. And there were no toys for the third movie, "Last Crusade", even though it is generally well-regarded.

Hasbro very obviously intends to make up for that. About the only thing you can say that the new Indiana Jones toys have in common with their predecessors is a certain structural resemblance to Star Wars figures. Of course, if you consider how much more advanced, better articulated, and certainly more detailed most Star Wars figures are these days compared to their ancestors, that's pretty high praise.

Unlike some action figure lines based on specific movies, which tend to endure for the season of the film's release and then vanish from the shelves (or even more embarrassingly, hit the clearance bins). It's a cool concept with four movies and if they want to stretch it, you've got that Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV show and probably some other stuff I don't even know about.

Indiana Jones is not as extensive a universe as Star Wars. But there is still plenty of resource material to work with, which hasn't been touched toywise to any great extent in twenty years or more. Hasbro's got plenty here to keep the line going.

The action figure line is focused on a series of 3-3/4" figures that are either individually-packaged with some small accessories, or in deluxe packs that are either two-packs, or have more extensive accessories. There are also some very impressive vehicles which I hope to add to my collection at some point, but for now, I'd like to focus on one of the deluxe packs.

Based on a scene from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, the first movie, the set is entitled, simply, INDIANA JONES WITH HORSE.

What's a horse doing in here? Let's remember the time period of the movie -- the 1930's. Horses were still regarded as a viable form of transportation, especially in some of the semi-remote parts of the world where Indy tended to hang around.

As described on the back of the package, this set recreates a particular scene from the movie: Desperate to catch up with a German convoy smuggling the Ark out of Egypt, Indiana Jones steals a horse from the Tanis excavation site. Taking a shortcut through the desert sand dunes, he spurs the horse into a fast gallop. He gains on the convoy until he is so close, he is able to leap from his saddle onto a cargo truck, taking the German soldiers by surprise."

Yeah, I'd think someone pulling a stunt like that would take anyone by surprise. Fast horse, too.

This was hardly the only time Indy was on horseback. He also appears at the end of Last Crusade riding a horse. I have no idea what the horsemanship skills of Harrison Ford might be, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the man knows how to ride.

Animals aren't something that turn up in the action figure world all that often. I'm not sure we can legitimately count the various dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. Yes, they're animals. Great big extinct ones. Nor do I think we can entirely consider the various animals from the Star Wars universe. I don't think we're going to see a tauntaun or a bantha at the zoo anytime soon. As for the Beast Wars Transformers, come on, they're ultimately sentient robots.

Really, the only action figure line I can think of that had any noticeable, realistic animal presence was G.I. Joe. Mutt had his dog Junkyard. Spirit had his eagle Freedom. Shipwreck had that parrot of his, Polly, and it was a contest as to which one was more sarcastic. And these and quite a few others were rendered into plastic and sold with the figure. But there were two things to note here -- there was never a horse in the G.I. Joe line, and none of the animals they produced had any articulation. They were just a solid piece of plastic. The closest any of them came to being able to do anything was that you could fill up Finback, the dolphin that came with the Eco-Warriors Deep Six figure, with water, and have him spit it out through his mouth. Interesting action feature...

Inevitably, the Indiana Jones line has attracted the attention of the G.I. Joe community, with its German soldiers, its Russian soldiers, and its assorted military vehicles. And now we also have an official, Hasbro-made horse! Of course, it's meant for Indiana Jones to ride. But there's no real reason why Wild Bill can't take it out for a spin here and there.

So -- regardless of who's riding it -- how's the horse? It's really impressive, that's how. Hasbro really went all-out on this animal.

An odd thought crossed my mind just now. Does Hasbro have separate sculptors when they need to do a realistic animal? It's one thing to sculpt a human. It's another thing to sculpt some of the oddball alien creatures and alien animals from something like Star Wars. It's quite another thing to sculpt and design a realistic animal.

Whatever the case, and whoever Hasbro employed to design and sculpt this horse, they did a very nice job. The animal stands about 4-1/4" in height to the tips of his ears - a good height, and is about 4-1/2" in length, not counting the very fancy tail, which is clearly designed to look like it's blowing along at "full gallop", which extends the length of the toy to 6".

It -- looks like a horse. I know that sounds a little odd to say, but it just seems to me that this is something that could've been messed up. It really does look like a horse, and a very realistic one. The proportions all look good, and the sculpted detail is truly superb.

The horse is mostly an off-white in color, with some darker grey around the fact and hooves. The mane and tail are a yellowish white, and there's a little tan around the lower legs, which is probably intended to represent desert dirt.

Then we have the articulation. This isn't a G.I. Joe animal. It isn't just a solid piece of plastic. This thing has a ton of articulation. The horse can move it's head, not only up and down, but pivot side to side a bit, as well. It moves at the neck, and the tail moves. And the legs are all articulated at the body, knees, and hooves, and not just with a forward and back motion, but the knees and hooves also have a rotational point. This is one very limber horse!

I found one little detail amusing. It's not uncommon to occasionally see, on a humanoid action figure, an "L" or "R" on the leg or foot, to tell the factory assembler where that piece is supposed to go, especially if the pieces are similar. But, what do you do if what you're putting together has four legs, especially the hooves, which are all pretty similar? If you check the bottom of the hooves, you'll see that each one has one or more little dots sculpted into it -- one, two, three, or four, and that they are placed in numerical order. The markings are unobtrusive, and it was an interesting touch.

The horse also has a very nicely sculpted saddle, with an attached blanket under it, and the necessary -- headgear (I honestly don't know what this is supposed to be called) and reigns for whoever happens to be riding the horse. The saddle also has stirrups. All of this equipment is removable should one wish it to be.

Honestly, this is with all probability the finest horse toy Hasbro has ever produced!

So, how's the Indiana Jones figure that comes with this? Thought I was going to leave him out, did you? I wouldn't do that. Indy's nicely done, too. The facesculpt is excellent. The hat is attached on this figure, which is probably just as well if he's going to be on a horse going at full gallop. The jacket is part vest, and has some flexibility, and everything in the proper color. There's a spray of desert-colored dust on his lower legs and shoes -- not inappropriate under the circumstances.

Indy is also wearing a pouch slung over one shoulder and technically tucked under the jacket. His accessories include a pistol and a coiled whip. The Indy figure is also wearing a pair of tan gloves.

Articulation of the figure is excellent. Indy is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. Most of his points of articulation have a multiple range of movement, and the legs are posed in such a way that Indy looks good standing up, sort of an "action pose", but they spread enough when he's posed in a seating position so that he can very easily be seated on the horse. I'm not sure you can fit the feet in the stirrups, but you might be able to. Indy was in such a hurry in that scene I think he was more concerned with just getting where he needed to be as fast as he could.

If I have one complaint, it's a problem I've seen cropping up in this line more than once, and it's with a particular aspect of the painted detail. While most of it is superbly well done, right down to belt buckles and shirt buttons, I've had some trouble obtaining figures with neatly painted eyes. Now, in fairness, we're talking about very small figures here, and Hasbro is having the eyes very extensively painted -- whites, colored irises, pupils, and a line above them representing upper eyelashes. That's about four paint steps right there. On the other hand, if they're going have this done, then their painters need to improve their precision and their aim just a bit.

However, that's a relatively minor point -- although one I still feel needs to be addressed given the degree to which I've seen it turn up across the board in this entire line -- on an otherwise very decent Indiana Jones action figure.

So what's my final take on this? It's a cool set. It may seem a little indistinct from a movie standpoint, given some of the more recognizable sets, like the one with the Ark of the Covenant, or the German Motorcycle, or whatever, but Indiana's horse-chase scene was an impressive part of "Raisers of the Lost Ark", and this is a very impressive horse that Hasbro has produced for this set, that with a little imagination on the part of a multi-toy collector, doesn't necessarily have to be restricted to duty with Indy. As I said, I believe it's perhaps the best horse action figure ever produced, certainly in this size range.

And the Indiana Jones figure that comes with it is nicely done, too. All of that said, the INDIANA JONES RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK INDIANA JONES WITH HORSE Set definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!