LITTLE BIG MAN
Bradgate's Small Soldier
Little Big Man was an action figure made for the British toy market in the mid-1970s.
Not as well known as his big brother, Action Man, he was produced by Bradgate - Wholesale Div of Palitoy Limited.
His creation was inspired by the commercial success of Spain's top selling action figure range, Madelman.
However, it's an overlooked consideration that Little Big Man may have also been produced, in part at least, to secure a piece of the domestic market?
When Little Big Man appeared in our shops, a small armada of Madelman also arrived in the UK.
This small scale invasion force was introduced to our shores by Exclusive UK Distributors, Pedigree Toys.
Little Big Man and first generation Madelman figures look similar. It's a forgivable mistake to misidentify them.
Both stand at 6.5 - 7 inches tall. Both figure lines were designed without ankles and feet. Instead, they feature distinctive ankle-pegs for their signature push-on boots and frogman fins.
Both have identical hand configurations with fragile fingers and thumbs. The immediate similarities stop there.
Madelman had been around since 1968 and was a top quality toy.
He was a solid, robust plastic figure, with advanced 'atomium' articulation and distinctive 'crystal' eyes. For his size, he punched above his weight.
His world was populated by a wealth of uniforms, accessories and vehicles; characterised by variety, high end production values, attention to detail and quality finish to fabrics.
By contrast, Bradgate's light weight Little Big Man was a poor relation. He suffered from cheap production values and was easily broken. His fragile body was held together by a perishable internal rubber band.
His uniforms and accessories fared no better. Overall quality was lacking. The cut and finish of fabrics was sometimes rough around the edges and could fray with play.
None of this would have mattered to kids though. No more than the abstract concept for preserving the packaging for the future.
Low production values meant lower manufacturing costs and ultimately lower retail prices, making Little Big Man a good partner for kids to team up with.
Little Big Man followed popular action figure themes of the day; including those which mimicked Madelman and Action Man.
During his short shelf life, Little Big Man offered kids a selection of carded and boxed figures, plus small accessory packs. The line included;
Basic Soldier, Underwater Mission ...
Sabotage, Paratroop Attack, Medic, Mountain Assault, Arctic Patrol,
Tropical Combat ...
Alpine Adventure, Motorway Patrol and On Safari, which included a tent.
The Pony Express and Mountie Patrol were even saddled up with their own horses. A Motorway Patrol Car appears to have been produced, possibly in very small numbers.
A Safari Car was also planned, but it's unclear if this was produced?
For all his fragile flaws, Little Big Man is often remembered with fond affection by those who enjoyed him as kids.
Costing less than Action Man, this pint-sized hero offered pocket money value and fun...
he was easily carried around in the inner pocket of a school blazer by day dreaming kids like me.
Love him or hate him, Little Big Man was part of the childhood scene back then.
Poor production values have inevitably ensured that good examples are difficult to find today.
His appeal as a desirable toy amongst vintage action figure fiends is on the up. Collectors increasingly want lesser known figures to complement their collections.
Once, a little player in the big game. Now the essential and legendary Little Big Man, stands head and shoulders above all the rest!
Well... no, not really... truth is he's still a little on the short side and still a bit wobbly on his spindly plastic legs...
but he is an absolutely ace action figure to have in those cobwebbed toy cabinets packed with our emotional investments and dusty childhood memories.