Saturday, 23 January 2016

Dragon Flyz!

Now for something informative, which means it won't be very funny, but never mind eh? 


Dragon Flyz is a difficult line to understand, despite being adequately popular and now being the basis for a whole bunch of baffling Superhero toys:


If you remember them at all, you probably remember them as being action figures that shot from dragons and some hoo-hah about them being dangerous (they were, gloriously so, just ask my dad and his no-longer-perfectly-spherule-due-to-Dragon-Flyz-impact bald head). Usual sources of information like Figure Archive or Figurerealm aren’t going to be much use to you here, hell for ages Figurerealm listed the main characters under the obvious nicknames the submitted had given them – like ‘Happy’. Happily (pun?) I have spent ages piecing together information so I can, y’know, buy the toys and I thus I can share with you all I know, aren’t you lucky? So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:


Firstly there are two lines, the original line that began in 1995 from Galoob and a failed attempt at a relaunch from 2005 and Play Along Toys, the easiest way to tell the two apart is that the original line has the wings (propellers) attached around the neck, while the new line has them attached via a backpack with the propellers above their heads. The 2005 line figures are also smaller and in a different art style, more Bruce Timm (the bloke who did Batman: The Animated Series). Here; you can see how different they are via my Z’Neth figure from each line:

With that out the way I’m going to completely ignore the 2005 line. So back to 1994 and Galoob, whereupon they release Sky Dancers. A line of 5” dolls with rooted hair in a pirouette pose, each with wings on their arms and a plug on their feet that popped into a launcher, when you pulled a chord on said launcher the sky dancers spun up to the air and (kind of) gracefully descended. To sell this type of toy to boys Galoob put out Dragon Flyz the following year and supported both toylines with a cartoon by Savin Yeatman-Eiffel and produced by Gaumont Multim√©dia that debuted in 1996. What few sources there are disagree on whether Dragon Flyz was a cartoon with a toy tie-in, a boys spin-off from Sky Dancers or whether one or both was in fact the other way around, I have no idea about the behinds the scenes development of the toys but the order of events I just gave you is correct so without any other info I’m lead to believe that Sky Dancers beget Dragon Flyz and both were supported by a cartoon but remember that, for instance, Masters of the Universe figures Leech, Hordak, Grizzlor, Mantenna and Modulok, the Princess of Power toys and She-RA: Princess of Power cartoon were all developed simultaneously so release order doesn’t always mean anything, also Dragon Flyz is copyrighted to Abrams Gentile Entertainment on the boxes, which would imply that even though the toys came first, they weren’t developed by Galoob but rather licensed by them.


Anyway, in 1995 the first Dragon Flyz toys are released, although I can’t find any cardbacks to back this up I’m sure that, the 1995-1996 figures were released in the order I will now I tell you about them in, all cardbacks I’ve found list all of the following though. The main ‘focus’ were the figure & launcher packs, six were released in tall boxes rather than on standard blister cards: Z’neth (blue), Peak (purple), Summit (green), Apex (silver), Dreadwing (red) and Fryte (pale purple)1. Following these, or accompanying them, depending, were a line of figures on blister cards, they came without launchers and were made up of repaints of the six figures released in the Figure and Launcher packs plus two others – Dark Z’Neth and Dram, Dark Z’Neth was also a variant. The 7 carded figures were Z’Neth with Sky Assault Gear (black and white), Peak with Solar Blast Power (orange), Summit with Cloud Cover Camo (white and metallic blue), Apex with Firestorm Camo (reds), Dreadwing with Molten Lava Skin (black and blue), Fryte with Sky Wars Tattoos (white and blue), Dark Z’neth with Windripper Flight Gear (blues) and Dram (bronze and blue). Also released were three slightly larger sets packed the same as the Figure & Launcher sets, these were the Figure, Launcher and Gremwing sets – Peak and Dreading were repainted again and Dark Z’Neth was released in his standard form, and each figure came with an unnamed launcher and a named Gremwing – of note is that Peak is now using the launcher mould that Z’Neth used (exclusively) in the Figure & Launcher sets. The three Figures with Flying Gremwing and Launchers were Peak (dark metallic green), Dark Z’neth (red) and Dreadwing (red and neon green) with the Gremwings Arize, Boltz and Gorejaw.      Accompanying all of this was the line’s big ticket item, Riptor, an in- scale articulated dragon that came with Wing Master Z’Neth (gold) and a Gremwing. Gremwings are smaller figures that look like angry ice-cream cones with wings; the Riptor Gremwing is unnamed but is red with a white beard and looks suspiciously like Mr Miyagi, it also shares it’s sculpt with Boltz (the Gremwing that came with Dark Z’Neth).

life-size scan of the blister card
click for a MUCH bigger image
This era of Dragon Flyz is very easy to find out about, and very easy to find second hand, in fact it’s not even that hard to find them boxed, though the three Figure/Launcher/Gremwing packs are slightly more difficult to locate. This is because all of this got a ‘world-wide’ release, specifically in America and we all know that 90% of the English Speaking Internet is American. Things change with the 1997 releases, whose distribution was so poor that I didn’t know they existed at the time and many other sites only just recently started acknowledging half of them. Here’s what I do know:

 The line was given a do-over with only Riptor and the Figure, Launcher & Gremwing packs remaining; the carded action figures were replaced with a new line of figures, the Figure and Launcher sets were likewise2 with at least two new launcher sculpts to go with them, these figures use new sculpts for the figures but like their 1996 equivalents share them. The only single carded figure from 1997 I can confirm as being part of the wave is Fire Flyer Peak (Pinky-red), and the only Figure & Launcher sets being Drak with Thunderfang (gold) and Summit with Doublestrike (black and silver). All of the new sculpts for 1997 (so everything except those included in the Gremwing sets) have a new wing shape with hooked bottom rather than a simply rounded one. Accompanying these were two new sub-lines – F.I.S.T. Force & Battle Blazers. F.I.S.T. Force were actually shown in the last episodes of the cartoon and came carded, bigger than Gremwings but similar in look and lack of articulation they came with a dumpy dragon launcher that you held like a mug of coffee – hence Fist Force (F.I.S.T. stood for Fly, Infiltrate, Strike, Terminate btw):


The six members of FIST Force were Zoomfire (red and purple), Gnatzman (black, yellow & red), Zingwing (turquoise, red & yellow), Jamkon (orange, red, green & purple) and Bluebeam (Black, blue & orange) and I have no idea what Jamkon means, none. Battle Blazers figures featured new light up transparent legs and were also packaged with a launcher in the same large boxes as two Figure & Launcher waves and the Figure, Gremwing & Launcher sets (I think) and included a new launcher sculpt, crystal-like dragon:
               

The three figures confirmed for the line were Crystal Storm Z’neth with Icewing (silver), Luminator Dram with Shock Fire (black & orange) and Thunderblaze Dread Wing with Lightning Boltz (red, black, blue & green); I also think this is the line that Draman was released in3. FIST Fighters were almost certainly released in America - given that they had an English language advert (fun fact, all the Dagon Flyz adverts were done by Colin Chilvers, the bloke who directed Jacko’s Smooth Criminal video – no, really).



After these two more items were released, a second Big Ticket dragon and a final wave of Figure & Launcher sets to replace the Battle Blazers4 – the dragon was Doomfyre, a three headed black and green monster with sparking action and a repaint of the 1995-6 Summit (grey, black and green) and the final wave of sets was the Blazin’ Battle Screamers, new figures that lit up and made a noise:


These figures used repaints of the Battle Blazers with a new launcher mould (a crouching dragon with its wings raised) and the only one I have a confirmed name for is Molten Might Dreadwing (with Red Doom Black Heart) but at least a version of Dram and another version of Dreadwing (in orange & green) looks to be part of it, though it’s possible this is just a colour variation I suppose. That brings us to the qualifying statement about the 1997 figures – I have no proof exactly how many were actually released; of those listed I can confirm that only Gnatzman, Zoomfire, Bluebeem, Summit with Doublestrike, Luminator Dram,  Thunderblaze Dread Wing, Doomfyre and Molten Might Dreadwing along with the currently unnamed orange version of Molten Might Dreadwing were released, though I have no reason to not believe that all the FIST Force and Blazin’ Battle Screamers were put out, incidentally Colin Chilvers made a Blazin’ Battle Screamers advert but I can’t find it online, this combined with a box with only English Language text should imply that they had a US release, at least it does to me.

The unknown orange
Molten Might Dreadwing
And that just about rounds up every Dragon Flyz figure you can find online, except two. The first is a green and gold repaint of Z’Neth called Golden Rey Z’Neth with Gold Wing Riptor, my version – and every other version I can find for sale – came in a white mailer box and is copyrighted 1996, that usually only means one thing: a mail-away. However it’s also equally likely it could be some kind of exclusive and in fact it features copyright information for Avon Products (as in Avon Catalogues) and Avon do and did sell toys, included licenced products – so it reckon it’s both a mail-away AND an exclusive, an Avon Exclusive. The other is the figure shesfantastic.com has, and have decided is Nocturna [http://www.shesfantastic.com/2013/04/dragon-flyz-nocturna.html], a prominent villain in the cartoon (and one of the sexiest characters in 90’s cartoons, perhaps all cartoons actually). However it’s only really possible that she was released in the 1997 carded figure wave or figure & launcher sets. As she doesn’t feature the transparent legs required to make her a Battle Blazer or Blazin’ Battle Screamer figure there is, at present, no other way she could have been released, or planned to be released.


Also of note is that all of the main characters had different names in Europe, and you’ll sometimes see sites mixing them up or thinking the repaints are different characters (that She’s Fantastic article does this, for instance) so here’s a list of the characters with their European names:

Z’Neth = Falcon
Apex = Vega
Peak = Turbine
Summit = Nembo
Dram = Uragan
Dread Wing = Lord Molox
Fryte = Taurus
Dark Z’Neth = Dark Falcon
Riptor = Raptor
Doomfyre = Vulcan    
Gnatzman = Hyperion
Zingwing = Mistral
Zoomfire = Icarus
Bluebeam = Damon
Jamkon = Saetta del Sole

Finally Burger King included Dragon Flyz in one of their 1996 Kids Club Meal promotions, if I remember correctly it wasn’t wholly dedicated to Dragon Flyz, it may have been a mix of Dragon Flyz and Sky Dancers, but it was one of those ‘some for boys, some for girls’ split promotions and included two Dragon Flyz figures – Z’neth and Peak – these are smaller with plastic wings (rather than foam) but brilliantly they fit onto a regular launcher:


And that’s your lot for Dragon Flyz, they’re one of my favourite action figure lines and I have many fond memories of bouncing them off…well everything and it’s a terrible shame they only lasted two years and for one of those years their distribution was minimal, I guess they just didn’t sell that well in America5, although Galoob was bought the following year by Hasbro so maybe the company was just in trouble in general? I want it to be that, I don’t want to think something I liked was a commercial failure – but given how many commercial failures I like, it’s probably the case. Thanks for reading about 90's toys!

1 Their launchers, which only used three moulds, were named Riptor, Windstorm, Sky-Fury, Blazewind, Blackheart and Skunk respectively.
2 Rationale: the card backs for all figures released in 1997 no longer show the original carded figures or Figure & Launcher sets.
3 Rationale: he has transparent legs but not the chunky mechanism on his wings required to make the Blazin’ Battle Screamers ‘screaming’ action feature.
4 Rationale: the Blazin’ Battle Screamers and Doomfyre boxes show the Blazin’ Battle Screamers in place of the Battle Blazers, this I deduce that a) they came out together and b) the Battle Blazers were replaced.
5 The controversy about how dangerous the toys were was actually over Sky Dancers, and was in 2000, leading to a recall of those toys in June that year, Dragon Flyz had been out of production for three years by then. 

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