So, the other day, a big brown box arrived on my doorstep. I might have bought another Stormtrooper kit.
This one is the latest product from ANOVOS, a company that manufactures "quality in screen accurate uniforms and prop replicas accomplished by the manufacturing and marketing of limited offerings from movies, television and contemporary media."
This is a whole different ballgame than the MTK kit I outlined building in earlier installments of this column. Where that one was a fan-sculpted costume that was heavily derived from the original suits, the ANOVOS armour is a licensed costume, made with the blessing of LucasFilm. It's a big shift in the costuming world, because up until this point, licensed costumes ranged from decent to poor.
ANOVOS isn't the first officially licensed costumes out there. Companies such as Altmans, Don Post (the original licensee), Master Replicas and Museum Replicas have been allowed to manufacture helmets in the past (eFX has the current licence for prop helmets), while Rubies and ANOVOS currently manufacture costumes. StarWarsHelmets has a pretty good rundown of the various types out there.
Rubies has a fairly poor reputation in the costuming world: their stormtrooper is pretty miserable looking, even compared to fan sculpts. When ANOVOS burst onto the scene, they appeared to be doing something that hadn't been done before: a stormtrooper costume that was both manufactured with a high level of quality, and accurate.
Founded by two former 501st members, Joe Salcedo and Dana Gasser, this doesn't come as a surprise: the company has been manufacturing costumes from Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and Star Wars (Ghostbusters is coming soon), and they have had access to not only LucasFilm's archives, but had early access to The Force Awakens' Stormtroopers.
ANOVOS has been a hit with costumes thus far, but the road to today has been rough. The company has been using a tiered pricing plan: if you get in on the ground floor, you get a hefty discount, but you have to wait for a while. In April 2015, they opened up orders for their Classic Stormtrooper (ANH variant), at $US350 ($486), an insane price. I had just bought my MTK, and was kicking myself a bit. However, the release date was vague: Fall 2015.
That date was pushed back quite a bit: September turned to October to November to December. With The Force Awakens arriving in theatres, a number of would-be costumers were discovering that the kit wouldn't arrive in time, due to delays in approval, manufacturing and shipping. It wasn't until late December and early January 2016 that they started arriving to costumers. Earlier this month, the company announced that they had some surplus kits available in this first run: 300 of them. I ended up picking one up, because from what I was seeing, they looked pretty nice.
I might have a problem. From left to right, a history of Stormtrooper helmets: FX (vaccuformed ABS), Master Replicas CE helmet (idealised, and really nice, injection moulded). MTK helmet, (vaccuformed ABS), ANOVOS helmet, (vaccuformed ABS).
The ANOVOS team was able to get their hands on some screen-used costumes from LucasFilm's archives and from private collectors and went to work on a new sculpt, one in which some "parts have been cleaned up and idealised for a uniform appearance".
The original stormtrooper costumes were far from ideal: the helmets and parts were asymetrical, which can look a little strange if you're looking at it closely. ANOVOS appears to have closed the gap a little: it's not entirely an idealised set of armour, but it's been worked over a bit.
So, how does it look?
Out of the box, there's a couple of things that I noticed about this right off.
- The suit is entirely vaccuformed ABS, just like the MTK kit that I have, but it feels thicker (I haven't measured it), but more importantly, the pulls are super crisp. What I mean by this is when heated plastic is pulled down over a buck, a soft pull means that the corners and creases might be a bit more rounded. Not here. The belt, knee bandolier and other details are really nice.
- To help with assembly, the bucks include a cut line around each piece, which is really helpful, and not something I've seen in any fan sculpts before. It takes some of the guesswork out of the cutting process.
- They have also helpfully numbered each part, which is nice. The kit came with IKEA-like directions, which you can download here (which should be somewhat useful even for non-ANOVOS builds). Some of the parts were apparently mis-labelled, but it's not a bad thing to have.
- The helmet is decent, but it will need some work. They come pre-assembled (which is awesome, because TK helmets are a pain in the arse to build), and ready to wear. The internal hard-hat liner is something that I'll probably tear out, and will replace with foam or something a little more comfortable. But, there's been some complaints about build quality, and it's something that they should improve on as time goes on.
- The ANOVOS kit also comes with quite a few extras: straps, rivets, a neck seal, underarmor, an assembled belt (which I'll probably also replace), cover stripes, holster, and a couple of other items that you'd normally have to buy elsewhere. For the price and everything that's included, it seems like it's a good price. The only things it really doesn't include is the blaster and boots.
So, I've talked myself into building another stormtrooper.