Tuesday 19 May 2020

Playmates Star Trek toys box art by Ron McPherson

I recently came across the art of Ron McPherson, the artist who created much of the box art for the 90s Playmates Star Trek toy range. Between his website and Behance portfolio, he has shared much of his work on the range, giving a rare opportunity to checkout the artwork without all the other box titles and labels. I've paired each piece up with the final box art, to give a look at how the packaging design works. Continue below to check out:

I have to start with the artwork for one of my favourite ever Star Trek toys, the glorious "transwarping" Enterprise, as Playmates named the tri-nacelled future Enterprise from All Good Things....

McPherson's artwork captures stages of the transformation, complete with the hull panel flaps you have to flip out to reveal the refit components.

I reviewed this toy a few years ago, and had much fun making this gif of the transformation in progress:

Next up is Playmates rendition of the USS Voyager. This another of their cooler toys, as it featured motorised nacelles, which move into the warp position as the press of a button - I think the only model of Voyager ever released with this as a motorised function. Appropriately McPherson's artwork captures Voyager in warp mode.

This next piece depicting a Kazon ship is a particularly special look behind the scenes, as the Playmates Kazon ship was never released. Posters on the TrekToy forum have also tracked down pictures of the model, which was clearly a good was along in development.

Aside from revealing a lost toy, the artwork is cool as a companion piece to the Voyager art, with the same composition but the two ships switching positions.

The Klingon Bird of Prey artwork here was used on the TNG branded release of the model, but the same ship art, with a Nexus background, was also used for the Generations themed release of the ship:

In a similar way, the Generations USS Enterprise-B art here, was also used for the USS Excelsior release, which yes, was the same refit model of the Excelsior class! It was at least the later NCC version of the registration number, so maybe we could imagine that instead of Playmates not investing in new molds, they just presented the later refit of the Excelsior we never got to see onscreen...

The Generations release of the USS Enterprise-D was a unique variant, and another example of Playmates offering a fun play feature: It has two pop-up hull sections, which reveal wrecked innards of the ship, that glow fiery red, and make an exploding sound when you press the buttons to cause the damage.

McPherson brings this feature to life rather more vividly than the actual toy, with a much more "real" look to the battle damage. See below for comparison. That said, I still think this is one of the best "battle damaged" ships of all time, as it's way more fun the the usual painted on scorch marks! - My own copy suffered at the hands of many a Lego Bird of Prey in my childhood play, before crashing to a suitable Generations-style impact.

Here's another Enterprise-D, the Space Talk Series version, which promises to play one of hundred randomly selected voice clips from the series at a button's push.

 Here we have a cropped section of the box art for the USS Defiant.

Here's the Insurrection version of the USS Enterprise-E, which naturally comes with a little Captain's yacht model too. As you'll have seen above, McPherson often used swoosh lines to make the ships seem to move; in this case the yacht's swooshes sort of emulate the plastic arm that attaches to the Enterprise on the actual toy to make it appear to be swooshing away.

Many items in the Insurrection line includes this character and title motif McPherson made. And the little Enterprise illustration at the bottom appears on the packaging on several of the Target exclusive action figures based on the film too.

I can't place the similarly styled swooshing USS Voyager art below, a different illustration of the ship was used for Voyager action figures.

This illustration of the Enterprise-E is especially interesting as it shows the fold lines for the packaging it was used on. The artwork appears on the boxes of the 12-inch Insurrection figures, both on the inside of the boxes, and repeated on the outer edge and inside the front flap.

This illustration of Deep Space 9 was used in the same way for the "Wormhole Edition" 12 inch Captain Sisko figure, I think the only DS9 figure Playmates made at this scale.

Here we have another interesting insight into the production of the packaging, the net for the 9 inch Generation figures packaging.

Here we have the USS Enterprise-D as used on the packaging for the Masterpiece Edition release of the 12 inch Captain Picard figure, which came in a book-style presentation box with a book inside.

McPherson's illustration is used on the front, back, and most prominently on the inside of the cover flap:

And here's the classic USS Enterprise, for the matching Masterpiece Edition Captain Kirk release.

The Masterpiece Edition was meant to also include Captain Sisko, Captain Janeway, and Captain Pike, but those three don't seem to have got their releases in the end. There are a few of McPherson's illustrations of the USS Defiant, DS9, and USS Voyager I can't match with any product; so I wonder if they might have been intended for that line.

Here we have the Klingon disruptor, another example of an item that got a reissue also reusing the artwork, with adjusted backgrounds; TNG and Generations themes.

Here's the TOS phaser.

And a TNG era medical tricorder, which seems to feature a somewhat anachronistic uniform choice for the hand holding it.

Finally for Playmates stuff, there's this very unique illustration, of an assimilated Empire State Building, used for an invitation to a First Contact event at the New York Toy Fair.

There are a couple more pieces in McPherson's Star Trek galleries that aren't Playmates at all. These were used to illustrate the covers, promo, and documents of the Activision PC game Away Team.

Do make sure to check out Ron McPherson's website for even more toy illustration; he's also worked on numerous other lines, including Transformers, Indiana Jones, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a whole load more!

Thanks to the excellent Star Trek Art Twitter for pointing me towards McPherson's work, and to the very informative Wixiban website which really helped figure out where some of the pieces were used.

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