Monday, January 27, 2014

Comparisons: The Original Chakram (II of IV)

Hello again Xenites!

Today I bring you the second part of the chakram comparisons. Let's resume it were we left it last time, comparing the different chakram replica versions that have been developed until today.

In my previous post I analyzed the original props and the Icons replica (the first official reproduction ever made of the chakram), so now it's turn to study the next: the Creation Entertainment replica.

But before we start, a thank you note:

This post wouldn't have been possible without the INVALUABLE info, photos and help from fellow collector Edgar/Otsillac. He painstakingly studied these and other chakrams for years, and generously wrote about all his findings on the Xena forums. This is a mixture of all his vast knowledge about this matter and my own notes. He's the one to credit.

Edgar, heartfelt thanks! 

- THE CREATION ENT REPLICA

Creation Entertainment logo.

This is not the first time I talk about Creation Entertainment. And it won't be the last. But I think a little recap is in order.

Creation Entertainment (shortened to "Creation Ent" or simply "Creation") is a company focused on producing fan conventions devoted to films, comics and TV shows, with notorious examples such as Star Trek, V or Stargate. Starting from 1997, they were also the ones in charge of doing the Hercules and Xena conventions (together at first, and then separately).

One of the most exciting and interesting activities underwent in the Creation cons were the Charity Auctions. These auctions were unique events that offered to the public original items from the series (props, costume pieces, ephemera...). In the very first Hercules&Xena convention in Burbank '97, Creation auctioned an original Xena chakram brought from the set in New Zealand, and the bids quickly skyrocketed. The fight was heated, and the piece ended up being sold for thousands of dollars.

Although unusual, this could have been seen as something casual and isolated. But some time later they auctioned a real Xena sword prop, with similar results. It was clear then that the fandom wasn't settled, and wanted more original items. Thus the reason why I believe Creation Entertainment first came up with the idea of producing Xena "high standard" replicas. I ignore if they had done it before for any other TV series (certainly not Hercules, but most likely Star Trek), but in Xena's case it was certain there was a solid market out there, eager to get "real" stuff from the show.

I'm not sure about the exact dates, but I think at some point during 1997 or 1998 Creation put up for sale their first Original chakram replicas. What made them different to the already existing Icons replicas? A simple but important fact: they were "forged by the blacksmiths at Pacific Renaissance Pictures Ltd. New Zealand". These made-to-retail replicas had never been used on the show or handled by Lucy Lawless, but were nevertheless forged by the same prop masters that were producing the chakrams for the series. So, for the average fans they were (almost) the real deal, brought to fans in a limited edition of 500 units. And they were a total success.

Was it really worth it? Were those replicas that much accurate respect the others? Let's figure it out.

Versions of the Creation Ent replica: First of all, let's analyze the different versions that exist of the Creation replica. Much like the Icons replica, the reproductions made by Creation Entertainment passed through different models, in which the chakram design suffered slight modifications. Using them as a reference, we can draw four different versions:

1.- First Generation

Both sides of a Creation 1stGen replica.
Photos by Otsillac.

The first model Creation offered to the public had a design similar to the chakram props seen on early Season 2. That is, with more regular lines than the somewhat organic designs seen on Season 1, but still less refined than the models seen in following seasons.

As you can observe in the image above, the 1stGen Creation Ent replica is characterized by thin and shallow black contour lines, as well as a mirror-like finish and a dark shade of gold paint.

Overall its aspect is already noticeably different than the Icons replica, partly because both replicas were made in two very distinct ways. The Icons replicas (made in the States) are sections of a large aluminum tube, sectioned and then grounded down to obtain the shape of the chakram. On the other hand, Creation chakrams are made out of molten aluminum cast from a mold. It might seem unimportant, but that actually affects the final look&feel of the replica in a big way: Creation chakrams are warmer, more "realistic", while Icons' look much colder and more mechanic.

2.- Second Generation

Both sides of a Creation 2ndGen replica.
Photos by Otsillac.

Creation chakrams had a license that covered 500 units, but were made against order, according to demand. I believe when they ran out of the first 100 or so units and had to produce more, they decided to update the mold. By then, the prop seen in the series had become more refined and geometric, and this new mold reflected those changes.

The 2ndGen Creation chakrams correspond to a design circa the end of Season 2 and the whole of Season 3. At first sight, a detail catches the eye: the contour lines are darker and have more depth than the ones from the previous design. But if we look thoroughly, we'll see other changes. For example, the gold color is lighter and more accurate than before - this might be due to the use of a new finish to protect the paint, or a change in the pain itself. The polishing degree has varied as well. It isn't reflective anymore. The mirror-like effect has been replaced by a duller (and almost matte) finish, much more realistic and warrior-like.

On the left, the Creation 1stGen replica. On the right, the 2ndGen.  Look the
clear differences between the contour lines, the gold hues and the polishing degree.
Photos by Otsillac.

3.- Third Generation

Both sides of a Creation 3rdGen chakram.

In the 3rdGen replica, changes are subtler. The light shade of gold and the matte finish remain, but the contour lines are a tad more detailed now, and also a tiny bit thicker and darker. If you compare the pics with the previous model, try looking at the squared-pattern side, you'll see the changes I mention better over there. But I insist, it's a subtle difference.

This design corresponds to Season 4, and is my favorite original chakram model from the whole show. I estimate only Creation replicas between number 350 and 420 were made with this mold.

4.- Fourth Generation

Both sides of a Creation 4thGen replica - I only have low quality pics of this one.
Photos by DavesXenaFever.

This one is the version I have less documented. I've only seen pictures of one chakram of this particular kind.

This final design corresponds to the very last numbers of the limited edition - I believe only the last 50 or so chakrams came out of this mold. It looks similar to the chakram seen on S5 episode "Chakram", and brings about some important and noticeable changes:

- First, the return of a darker hue of gold in the paint.
- Second, visibly thicker and darker contour lines in the patterns, that lose all previous trace of organic origin or hand-made aspect. These lines seem to be perfectly even, geometric and straight.
- Third, the tip of the bolts or saw teeth in the saw-like pattern are longer, a bit more stretched out than before.
- And fourth, the squared pattern now presents a brand-new characteristic - an engraving in the blade, stating "Made in New Zealand".

Those familiar with Creation Ent replicas will recognize the NZ Stamp. It's a typical feature in most of their replicas. Although it only appears in the last numbers of the original chakram replica, it's present in three fourths of the Yin Yang chakrams and most Gabrielle battle staffs. Other Creation products, like Xena's sword or Gabrielle's sais, always have it.

A close-up to the NZ stamp on the blade.
Photo by DavesXenaFever.

Accuracy level: Just like I did with the Icons replicas in my previous post, now it's turn to evaluate the accuracy level of the Creation Ent chakrams in comparison with the original props. We've seen this can be tricky due to the evolution of the design in props during the series, so my reference will be a peak-design (Season 4) chakram.

Once again I'll offer a score based on the five different points I mentioned any "real chakram" should have - size, material, both patterns and blade edge. Also as before, for these purposes I won't take into consideration any extra feature coming with the chakram, of which I'll speak later.

a.- First Generation


       1. Size: Correct. The Creation replicas are slightly different in size as 
       compared to originals, but difference is minimal. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       2. Material (shine & color)Incorrect. It has a mirror-like finish (a).
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       3. Saw-like pattern: Incorrect. The lines (b) are too thin and shallow.
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       4. Squared pattern: Incorrect. The contour lines are too thin as well.
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       5. Blade edge: Correct. Unlike later models, the first Creation replicas
       have a thin blade edge.
       ............................................................................................. Score: 1/1

       ____________________________________________TOTAL: 3,5/5

This score is, of course, relative. The early S2 look&feel of the replica is theoretically canon in the show, so it could be defended as accurate. This works for those who consider XWP a mere TV show, humanly imperfect, made in NZ by real people and real-world actors.

However, I choose to believe Xena is a mythological/fantastical reality, an imaginary universe itself. In this world the chakram (a mythical and quasi-magical weapon surrounded by mystery) exists, and isn't supposed to change its aspect every now and then. According to that, this earlier design (although faithful to a certain representation of the chakram in the series) is not yet "mature" if compared to the "perfect chakram".

b.- Second & Third Generations


       1. Size: Correct. Difference with a real prop is minimal. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       2. Material (shine & color): Correct. It has a correct polishing degree,
       more similar to the one seen on-screen. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       3. Saw-like pattern: Correct. Contour lines might be still a bit organic
       and irregular, but the overall look is faithful to the "real chakram". 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       4. Squared pattern: Correct. This pattern looks faithful as well.
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       5. Blade edge: Incorrect. The blade edge is thick and blunt, it doesn't
       look "sharp" enough to fit the descriptions given in the series.
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1

       ____________________________________________TOTAL: 4,5/5

Once again, rating these two models is kind of complicated. I'm following the parameters established with the real props in my first entry, thus why the thick blade edge scores negatively. However, it's a fact many props used on-screen actually had this kind of edge, as seen in many scenes. So, in theory we could say they are very accurate respecting those props, if not to the perfect "idealized chakram" we seek. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about this topic.

Here you can see the blade edge of the Creation replica.

c.- Fourth Generation


       1. Size: Correct. As before, difference with a real prop is minimal. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       2. Material (shine & color)Correct. It has a correct polishing degree,
       more similar to the one seen on-screen. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       3. Saw-like pattern: Correct. The saw teeth tips are a little stretched, 
       but the result doesn't affect the general look of the pattern. Thickness
       of the contour lines is not too much and looks harmonious.
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       4. Squared pattern: Incorrect. Overall look is ok, but the NZ stamp 
       greatly distorts this side of the chakram.
       ......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       5. Blade edge: Let's say Incorrect. I don't know 100% for sure, but I 
       suppose the edge remains unchanged, thick and blunt instead of thin.
       ......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1

       _____________________________________________TOTAL: 4/5

I'm not fond of the NZ stamp myself, but the reason it scores negatively has nothing to do with that: Xena's chakram doesn't have any engraving. As simple as that. Nevertheless, I'm positive there are people who appreciate it as a signal of the replica's authenticity, and are not bothered by it. This, as many other things, are subjective to you.

With all that much said, let's start reviewing the bonuses that came included with the Creation chakrams.

Additional features: If there's one thing that brings out the Creation replica respect the others is the shadowbox.

Creation Ent chakram replicas came within an elegant black shadowbox display, comprising a front made of plexiglass and a frame of wood painted in black. The inside, lined with a synthetic black fabric, was adorned with a circular photo of Xena in a "warrior pose", occupying the space that corresponds with the inner circle of the piece, and a brass plaque showing the exact number of the limited edition.

Oddly enough, though the basics always remained the same, Creation shadowboxes presented several different designs (three, to be exact), that changed almost in accordance with the aforementioned variations of the chakram itself. They are/were as follows:

a.- The First Shadowbox

Creation Ent Magazine ad, showing the first original chakram.

The original design of the shadowbox was simple yet classy. The chakram hangs from a metal hook, in a fashion that always reminds me to when she carries the chakram on her hip. The frame sports a plain black design, that includes a silver inner rim and a small metal lock on its right side.

The plain black frame, with the silver inner rim.
Photo by CarolSt.
Close-up to the lateral metal lock.
Photo by Beatlesrock.

The Xena photo shows her clinging to the ropes of a fallen wood bridge.

Close-up to the metal hook and Xena photo.
Photo by CarolSt.

The brass plaque reads as follows: "Chakram" - Forged by the blacksmiths at Pacific Renaissance Pictures Ltd. New Zealand - Limited edition XXX of 500. Xena: Warrior Princess. TM & © 1997 U.T.E."

Photo by Beatlesrock.

b.- The Second Shadowbox

The second shadowbox is a variation of the first, only changing the picture of Xena. The silvery inner rim has also disappeared from the frame. The rest of the elements look similar.

See how the metal rim is now missing.
Photo by Otsillac.

This is a transition model, and the rarest shadowbox out of the three designs. I believe only a dozen or so of these were made.

The photo now shows Xena wielding her sword.
Photo by Otsillac.

c.- The Third Shadowbox

Creation Ent Magazine ad, showing the final design.

The third and final shadowbox is also quite rare, though in number many must exist. My own chakram (#385/500) has it, so I presume over 100 replicas have this shadowbox design.

This time, the changes are not merely aesthetic. The frame is different and has complex moldings carved on its surface. It has lost the metal lock, and now presents a strong velcro type closure. The inside has changed as well: instead of the metal hook (that some users say scratched the gold paint out of the chakram) the chakram now rests in a soft moulded area protruding from the inner circle of the piece, lined with the same synthetic black fabric that covers the background panel.

As you can see, the central photo is the same as in the second shadowbox.

Here you can appreciate the intricate moldings in the frame.

It's important to underline this final kind of shadowbox was more or less conserved for the Yin Yang chakrams. The Y&Y shadowboxes are almost identical, varying only a couple of details: the photo, and the position of the protruded ring (in the outer circle instead of the inner circle).

Certificates: To finish this review of the Creation Ent replicas, I'd like to briefly take into account the certificate that accompanied the chakram.


Creation chakram COAs were very simple. They have a short text certifying the authenticity of the piece, and are signed by Creation Ent CEOs Adam Malin and Gary Berman. A detail I find curious is that the actual number of the chakram is not written (it only says "The Chakram is limited to an edition of 500"). Thus the only proof to that is the plaque of the shadowbox.

This lack of detail might be the reason why many collectors lost or misplaced their COAs, resulting in many sales without COA. They are rarely included. On the other hand, that also makes them interchangeable.

Conclusion: Again, briefly, what is left to say? Creation Ent replicas are my favorites. They are not perfect at all (in fact, when I first hold one I was hugely disappointed), but they are by far the most accurate chakram replicas to date. Hence why they are so rare, expensive and difficult to get. They look great hanging on the wall, and the shadowbox is definitely a great cool-looking bonus, as is the brass plaque.

***

This is it for the moment! Next I'll be reviewing the Todd's Costumes replicas.

Note: All photomontages by me. Original pics by collectors Beatlesrock, CarolSt, DavesXenaFever, Otsillac and me. 


Once again, special thanks to Otsillac for all the source info.

2 comments:

  1. I have just enjoyed reading your information on the various chakrams. I have a Y&Y chakram displayed in the 3rd style of shadowbox. It is #399/500. Can you tell me what this collectible is selling for these days? I have someone interested in purchasing it but he isn't offering too much. Thought you might be able to give me an idea and/or perhaps know someone who would be interested in purchasing it. Thanks so much.

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    Replies
    1. Hello Kim. Sure, I can help you out with both things. Please write me an e-mail and I'll gladly tell you my opinion. It's secretkabeiros AT gmail DOT com. Cheers!

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