Sweet Streets Figures
By Past Nastification
One day, very soon, Rob is going to scold me. “Those aren’t action figures! They’re dolls!” he’ll exclaim as he tries to make me understand that Sweet Street figures have no place on a GI Joe action figure review site. “I already tolerated the review of those Tina Fey and Amy Pohler figures!”
And he’d be right. But my grandfather always said to give credit where it’s due. There is a lot to begrudgingly like about these figures. So, this review is for you, Grandpa! (It’s probably best that he’s dead).
Anyway, Sweet Streets was a line of action figures/dolls, obviously aimed at girls, not adult collectors, from the early 2000’s. Painfully close to ARAH scale, at least for the first year or two when they looked more like action figures before changing style to something more like a doll. The shift from action figure to doll was probably because someone at Fisher-Price made the realization that the toys came off more like action figures than had been planned. That’s just speculation.
What makes an action figure an action figure and not a doll? Well, technically the government, when it assesses fees and tariffs and other governmental things. And the government has ruled that action figures are, in fact, dolls (because dolls get tariffed at a higher rate than other toys). I heard this somewhere years ago and would swear it was GI Joe specific, but couldn’t find the exact source material on this. But a similar article can be found at http://nowiknow.com/the-x-factor/ for your enjoyment.
It’s very subjective, of course, and really does come down to personal choice. My best argument is that these Sweet Streets simply feel more like action figures than dolls, very much in the tradition of the old Fisher-Price Adventure People (FPAP) and Tonka Play People (TPP). These figures have limited articulation, which is mostly done like early 5POA figures from decades ago. Most of them also don’t have sculpted eyes, but instead the wide shallow craters in which the eyes are painted, just like the old FPAP did.
Most of the figures have the 5POA. Neck, shoulders, legs at hips (a few figures have less).
With surprisingly accurate proportions, good sculpting, and decent paint applications, there is an action figure resonance to this line, even if Fisher-Price never intended it. From what I can gather just by sifting through eBay lots, the format changed from action figure-ish to more doll-ish a few years into the line. Those later Sweet Streets entries have oversized heads and deformed cutesy proportions, which is what makes them dolls and not action figures by my standards. The later dolls in the line aren’t the early figures I’m talking about here. Just to clarify.
Unlike the FPAP or TPP, this line has zero machismo in it. I mean ZERO. There are no cops or firefighters or mechanics or workaholics or grizzled adventurers. The crossing guard and the mail carrier, likely romantic interests for each other in a Lifetime made-for-TV movie, are the toughest figures in the line.
The line is ethnically and socially diverse, adding more realism to any civilian population for a diorama, but a bit more range would have been interesting. All of the figures have a clean cut, upwardly mobile feel. If anything, the addition of a mechanic or a plumber would have been interesting- but Fisher-Price might not have seen the appeal of oily hands or an ass-crack. Sweet Streets is only one step away from rainbows and unicorns.
I’m not a diorama builder, but I believe these figures could easily work as civilians in a city/town environment, when mixed in with other similar figures. Let FPAP or TPP cover the manly man careers. Sweet Streets could fill in the “sensitive fathers who drive minivans and drink craft beers” slot were in not for the scale issues (more on that below). The more diverse a civilian populace could be, by blending figure lines, the better. If you like low POA figures, there’s no reason to ignore the qualities of these figures just because they weren’t aimed at our overgrown manchild demographic.
Note to self: don’t let this mission creep lead into anything Polly Pocket related. That is a bridge too far. Another note to self: Sweet Street was a bridge too far. Another another note to self: see if eBay has any cheap Polly Pocket lots. Those vehicles might be customizable.
In addition to the very limited articulation, there is a scale hurdle to including these figures in with Joes. Forget about ever standing Sweet Street figures next to any Modern Era figures and expecting the figures to vibe together visually.
But it can work with ARAH figures (and probably some of the New Sculpt ones, too). Many of the Sweet Streets men figures are just barely over 3”, whereas the original ARAH figures were 3.75”. So, if you pair the Sweet Streets figures with ARAH figures and mentally fudge it, these would be acceptable as shorter men. The average American male is 5’9”, so we’ll assume that the Joes standard buck is right around that if not taller. Sweet Streets men just happen to be the slighter-framed guys around 5’3” or so. Sure there are probably a few short Joes, like Tunnel Rat. I’d be lying if I said the idea of customizing one of these figures into a Tunnel Rat hasn’t flashed through my head.
In theory, this idea works. However, the figures are really too short compared to ARAH figures to come off as short men. Thankfully, there are some stylistic difference between the adult ARAH headsculpts of men and the Sweet Streets headsculpts of men. The ARAH figures, for the most part, range from having determined facial expressions over rugged heads (think ’82 Grunt) to having super macho expressions over lantern jaws and magnificent cheekbones (think ’93 Muskrat). Sweet Streets figures feature wide joyful eyes and somewhat rounded features. When set next to ARAH figures, Sweet Streets figures simply read as being teenagers or a bit younger. This is further helped by the fact that the ARAH figures usually had a head-to-body ration of about 1:6 (which is normal for regular people). Sweet Streets figures have a ratio of about 1:5. (just enough to make them look younger by comparison). If you’re curious, the Modern Era figures frequently have the 1:8 ratio, which is John Byrne’s standard for making superhero drawings look heroic.
Even for the women the height discrepancy with ARAH figures is too much to consider them adults. Recast them in your mind as teenagers and they work just fine.
The younger figures, the ones that are 5-ish years old to 11-ish years old, are already about the right size for ARAH figures. They’re actually slightly overscaled for the men/women figures in their own line.
In the photographs with Cobra Commander, I’ve placed the Sweet Streets figures that are kids, as well as the ones that age-shift next to ARAH figures. I know that particular CC is really an Indiana Jones figure that Hasbro tossed a CC head one, but it scales with the Crimson Guard figures.
Now that I’ve done my best to sidestep the scale issue, let’s look at figures while mostly ignoring the height issue.
The sculpting on these figures is very clean. They’re so well detailed that they’re starting to look somewhat dated (like watching News Radio or The West Wing now and realizing that the clothing and hair styles have lapsed). This is actually a compliment, because for this to have happened a certain level of realism had to be attained first.
Most of the figures easily group into the categories of “suburbanite men”, “suburbanite women”, “foodservice industry employee”, “public service worker”, or “children”. I have no idea what sets these figures came with or if they have names.
The suburbanite men (looking at them for what they were intended to be, not as the teenagers they become when compared to ARAH figures) are appropriately decked out in casual wear, with one sporting an open blazer-style jacket. The jacket is open at the waist and flows down around the beltline. This is much better execution that Hasbro did on Headman’s suit. Sometimes just having a front piece and a back piece is better than having a front piece, a back piece, and a waist to complicate the flow of things.
The suburbanite women are very nicely sculpted, particularly the two with long skirts. Unlike how Kenner would make the break the dresses/robes of some vintage Star Wars figures (Princess Leia, Emperor Palpatine) into two separate legs, the Sweet Streets figures maintain an unbroken dress. This still allows for the legs (“unilegs”?) to move together at the hips, but keeps the visual of the dresses in check.
The foodservice industry employees look like kids working their first jobs. The kind of jobs where they will spend all of their time goofing off and being stupid, leaving the mundane work to be done by their despondent 40 something year old bosses.
The public service worker provides good example of the FPAP DNA finding its way into this line. There’s a doctor, a lifeguard, a crossing guard, and a letter carrier. These are all occupations that the FPAP didn’t make (I think there was a nurse), but would eventually have gotten around to (I’m speculating again) if the line had continued.
Keep in mind that most of these figures experience the scale-related age drop compared to ARAH figures. They become children. The public service worker figures in particular look like kids playing dress-up. That’s okay, maybe it’s Halloween in ARAH World.
I’ve taken the figures that don’t age-shift and photographed them next to an ARAH Scarlett, a FPAP Firefighter, and MASK’s Bruce Sato so you can compare them.
Children might be the most needed in terms of filling in an age bracket for ARAH action figures. There just haven’t been a lot of kids in this scale (which, again, is easy to sidestep since they should be smaller than adults). There are a few FPAP, young Anakin Skywalker figures, a Chap Mei broken leg kid, the kid with a flashlight from the Jurassic Park II line, and Spritle from Speed Racer. Probably a few others.
All of the Sweet Streets children are surprisingly nuanced in sculpt. Many have intricate clothing with crisp details, realistic faces, and then-trendy hair designs.
Looking at all of the figures, not one of them is poorly sculpted. They’re minimalist for the most part, but whoever did the design work actually put time and effort into creating a very clean and fluid look. A few heads are frustratingly close to being passable on Joe bodies for customs.
If only these figures were closer to 1:18 scale instead of 1:23 scale. They’d be perfect to continue to FPAP legacy, or at least a toothless version of it. Even as they are, Sweet Street figures are simple but respectable figures. Or at least diorama pieces.
And two afterthoughts:
1. Before you decide to jump in with Rob and chastise me, keep in mind that Hasbro’s withheld any Joe goodness for a couple of years now. And the GIJCC figures are just out of my price range. This leads to purchasing… experimentation. You know how it goes. You’re on eBay looking at figures and then somehow Sweet Street figures show up in mixed lots and then the purchase is made. It’s possible that I’m metaphorically stuck in the Desert of No New Toys, just drinking the engine coolant from my broken down car because there is no water to be found. Thanks for making me buy these, Hasbro. But the coolant is pretty tasty!
2. So, now I ask a favor of you who build dioramas: try to include some of these figures if you’d be willing and let me know if I’m nuts or not.