Acetate Sculpt for Leia Hoth Action Figure
The standard material for sculpting action figures--as well as a great many other consumer products--is wax. The material allows for a great degree of detail as well as great malleability. You can melt it, mold it, scrape it, texture it; and if you make a mistake, it's not a big deal--you just heat up the botched portion and fix it as you will.

Given these advantages, it should come as no surprise that the great majority of Kenner Star Wars action figures were sculpted in wax. It's what every in-house sculptor at the company used almost exclusively.

But there was a contract sculptor working for Kenner during the vintage years who used a different material. His name was Bill Lemon. An old-time toy sculptor who had cut his teeth sculpting model kits such as those produced by the Aurora company, Lemon preferred to work in a hard, unforgiving substance called acetate.

The process Lemon used to create his sculpts was, by nature, subtractive. That is, it progressed by means of carving, with Lemon working exactingly to remove bits of acetate from a larger, unformed block. The process is best likened to a sculptor who carves into solid marble rather than modeling in clay.

The Bill Lemon work you see here is, of course, the sculpt for the Hoth Princess Leia figure. It was sculpted in seven distinct portions, all of which fit together snugly like a smooth, pink Voltron.

You can see how tightly the detail is rendered in these head close-ups. You can also make out the remnants of a red parting line drawn over the braid by whoever made the silicon mold.

Lemon's material and style were best suited to hard, mechanical details--the kind of thing you'd see on droids and other mechanical items. His human subjects usually have a somewhat stiff appearance. In fact, Kenner's in-house sculptors often found themselves amending Lemon's work in order to make it softer and more life-like. You can see evidence of that here if you look closely at the face and butt. Those white splotches you see are the remnants of putty applied in order to soften the fair princess's features.

This item holds a special place in my collection in part because it was so long in coming. I originally acquired the legs and one arm back in the late '90s. Then, over five years later, I purchased the head from a different source. The missing arm and torso were located with the original source about a year after that (they were floating around at the bottom of a cardboard box). You can imagine how satisfying it was to finally unite all the pieces, possibly for the first time since the early '80s.

These last couple of photos show the sculpt beside some other Leia Hoth prototypes I own, one proto-molded and one hardcopy.

Description by: Ron Salvatore
Photo: Ron Salvatore
From the collection of: Ron Salvatore
Country:United States
Film:Empire Strikes Back
Category:Prototypes / Action Figure Related


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