Friday, December 15, 2006

Article: Where the action is

I was driving up I35 in southern Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago when I spotted an intriguing sign. Traffic was crawling due to snow and ice so Sheldon and I decided to follow a whim and headed for Pauls Valley.

Pauls Valley is a cute little town though I’m not sure where the “Paul” or the “Valley” comes from. Part of the town’s charm stems from its many brick streets, more than any other city in Oklahoma. But the real attraction is the world’s first and only Action Figure Museum. The allure of such an unique museum drew us like a magnet.

We drove the snow covered brick streets to the museum eagerly but painfully slowly. We found our destination easily but were intensely disappointment to discover the museum was closed. Closed! Lousy snow. I knew I hated that stuff, all fluffy and sparkling and dangerous to drive in. “Closed due to weather” read the sign on the door.

But what goes up must come down, so Sheldon and I dropped by the museum on our drive back to Texas. Luckily it is open Sundays from 1:00 - 5:00. As we walked up to the door, Sheldon commented that our visit would take all of five seconds. Admittedly neither one of us owns a single action figure, but I knew Sheldon was wrong. What I didn’t know was how wrong he was, we spent about three hours in the museum. Sadly, during that time they had not one other visitor. Maybe it was the weather.

After paying the $6 per person entry fee, we were treated to a guided tour by an extremely well informed man. We saw thousands of figures and he knew what each one was, what year it was made and how many points of articulation it had. Points of articulation are a big thing for action figures, an indication of their value and collectability. Primitive figures have shoulder and hip joints that allow the limbs to swing back and forth and not much else. A good figure has movable wrists and elbows--possibly a posable finger or two--and can grasp a weapon or other talisman.

We marveled at the “Bat Cave” with its multiple versions of Bat Man, Robin, the Bat Mobile, even trusty butler Alfred. There was one of those ride-on toys that you see in front of grocery stores too. When I was a kid I always wanted to drop my quarter into the horse version but here I forked over the money for a ride on the Bat Mobile. It played the music from the old Bat Man TV Show.

The main attraction was the “kid’s room.” Our guide explained that it looked like the room of a 27 year old “boy” who still lived with his mother. Sheldon and I nodded knowingly, we were sure he was describing himself. This display contained more action figures than I imagined existed. The floor was completely covered with an intricate tableau of good verses evil action figures. The wall plastered with figures still in their original packaging. The most interesting item to me was “The Robot” from the TV Show Lost In Space. It rotated, waved its arms and said, “Danger Will Robinson!”

Along with several of those grocery store ride-ons, kids could enjoy a table set up with loads of figures they can play with and a dress-up area with masks, capes, feet or hair of cartoon and comic strip characters. Annoyingly, everything was kid-sized but Sheldon and I cobbled together primitive costumes.

We had a great time and only left because of the long drive we faced and the fact that the museum was closed. If you’re in the Pauls Valley area or you love action figures, I highly recommend a visit. You can find out more at: Click on the poster to get to the actual web page.

Brick street in front of Action Figure Museum. Notice the snow and ice. Those are my tire prints.
The front of the Action Figure Museum. That's Sheldon taking video of something that doesn't move.
Part of the big room display. The whole thing was cramed with action figures so thickly that you couldn't even grasp what was going on.
This is "The Robot" from the Lost In Space TV show. He waves his arms and says "Danger Will Robinson!" when a light is flashed on him.
This is a balrog from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. This is one of the action figures they are most proud of.
Another shot of the Balrog action figure, this time fighting a Gandalf action figure. They are all to scale according to the movie. The Balrog even lights up and makes some kind of roaring noise.
This is me dressing up as some kind of action figure. Note how many points of articulation I have.
This is Sheldon trying to look "super." Good luck with that!

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