Friends, just last month I shared with you the behind the scenes video from the Stan Winston Studios of their work on 1998’s Small Soldiers. In that article I explained why the family-friendly film from Joe Dante was one of the handful of movies released that year that I just had to see on opening day. A large part of that had to do with of course being enamored with the films of Dante like Piranha, Gremlins, and of course The Howling. The third movie being one of those films I caught at that cherished drive-in theater of my youth, which is why it has been selected as a future Saturday Frights Podcast episode. The other reason I was so excited about the release of Small Soldiers has more to do with just loving toys and action figures in general. Furthermore as the trailers for Small Soldiers hinted at, it most certainly had a bit of a Gremlins vibe, as an experimental military chip brings the Commando Elite to life to wreck havoc on an unsuspecting neighborhood.
It is very interesting that none of the Gorgonites, the opposing toy line in the film is featured in that trailer, right? I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was disappointed to see the box office take for Small Soldiers after it’s opening weekend. While not a box office bomb by any stretch of the imagination, I had hoped that it would do well enough at least that we would get not just a sequel but more toys for both the Commando Elite and Gorgonites.
Thankfully over the years Small Soldiers has developed a strong cult following. So much so that it was revealed that a remake was in the works, one of the 200 film and television projects that found itself cancelled when 21st Century Fox was bought by Disney back in 2019. With that cult following though characters from the film have found themselves being made into stunningly faithful high-end collectibles – to say nothing of being screen accurate – taken from the Stan Winston Studio molds in some cases. Case in point Nick Nitro (voiced in the film by Clint Walker) from Yu Liang Lee, who produced the head, forearms, and the lower waist for the foot tall collectible from the actual prop molds from the 1998 film.
Although I should point out that official cold cast porcelain figures were produced for Major Chip Hazard (Tommy Lee Jones), Archer (Frank Langella), Insaniac (Michael McKean), and Freakenstein (McKean) by Softgarage Inc. but only sold in Japan. Of course that is no obstacle for a true Small Soldiers fan, right?
In closing out this article, I am fortunate enough that one of my friends from the arcade is also a huge Small Soldiers fan. He is the one who was kind enough to bring in these wonderful collectibles for Nick Nitro and Major Chip Hazard so that I could share them with you.