McFarlane Toys ALIEN 3-D Movie Poster light bulb replacement (How To)

I've been a fan of the movie ALIEN since before it came out, thanks to fan mags like Starlog back in the 70's. So, A few years ago my son bought me this pretty sweet ALIEN 3-D Movie Poster made by McFarlane Toys.

McFarlane has a line of these 3-D items, but I think this is the only one that lights up. There's space behind the white text block at the bottom for two AA batteries that power a lightbulb behind the egg. When the light is on there's a nice eerie glow emanating from the cracks in the ALIEN egg. The switch is a protruding push-button on the lower right side of the frame.

McFarlane Toys are known for their attention to detail regarding the iconic items they produce. I frequently find nuisance issues with their products, but McFarlane Toys are so good overall that they're worth a little suffering. This is one such tale of temporary despair.

When my son presented me with this little gem I didn't immediately have a place to display it. I tucked it alongside a shelf near my desk for safekeeping until I could give it proper placement. We had already removed the poster from it's box to get a better look at it and we failed to secure it as it was when purchased, with twist ties running through the back panel. Alas, the poster was stowed in such a manner as to apply sufficient force to the push-button switch that the light was activated. Since the package was facing the side of a shelf the dim green glow was not evident, even in the dark.

When I was ready to display the poster I found the light wouldn't come on. I changed the batteries. No joy. I tried another set of batteries. Phooey. "It must be the light bulb" I thought, and I turned the thing around to try and find an access point for the bulb. I couldn't find any obvious way in. There are a number of screws on the back panel, which I removed, only to determine that the back panel is glued firmly in place, which in turn caused me to wonder why the product has screws at all. Then I tested the egg.

Engineers know that egg shapes are surprisingly resistant to pressure from end to end, and I found that to be the case with this soft plastic ALIEN version. The sides would flex but not the point or base. I believed there might be a lip located at the top and bottom of the egg, clipping it to the frame, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't release those imagined plastic latches. Over the years I've managed to break or ding a few treasures by trying a little too hard to repair them, so I turned to the Internet. After about an hour of searching, which included the McFarlane Toys site, I failed to find any useful information.

I gave up any repair attempts, fearing I might damage the gift from my son. So, now it was late, I was tired and frustrated, and I decided to put the thing away and go to bed, slightly disappointed that I wouldn't have a working display on his next visit.

A few weeks later my son called me up and informed me that he had purchased one of these things for himself too! His light had also burned out, but he, being a brash youth, was more willing to apply force, and found that the egg could be removed by simply pulling it away from the panel on which it was mounted. Hurray!

Now, even when you know how one of these things is built, their materials and details are easily damaged by carelessness. Use gentle force when attempting this repair. Very often with such detail oriented items, I've found that removeable/replaceable features are not as they should be, primarily due to issues regarding the paints. It seems these toys are assembled before the paint is fully dried, creating joints and parts to stick when they should not, or that the paint creates a layer thick enough to interfere with an items design specs.

So here's what we found. Three pins hold the egg in place. One pin near the top seems to be fixed to the egg itself. The other two pins are fixed to the back panel and slide into corresponding holes near the bottom of the egg.


1) Carefully grip the sides of the egg (don't squeeze too much, you might damage the matte finish on the back panel or cause the egg's materials to separate or the paint to flake).

2) Pull the egg away from the back panel. Some folks may find that a little tiny bit of wiggling helps, but avoid as much side-to-side or top-to-bottom pressure as you can because you might snap one or more of the pins.

3) Once you've replaced the bulb the egg should simply slide right back into it's secure place.

a) The protruding side-mounted push-button light switch is a design flaw, but was probably the most cost effective choice for McFarlane Toys. The poster has a single hole in the back for a hanger, meaning that turning the light off and on is liable to cause it to move and require straightening. If this matte black frame rubs too much against a light colored wall, it WILL leave a mark. Consider applying tiny felt sticky pads to the back of the poster near the corners.
b) I've considered replacing the cheap incadescent bulb with an LED, but I don't honestly feel I'm up to the project at this time.
c) Please use rechargeable batteries whenever possible. I've had a set of four Panasonic AA's for my digital camera since Autumn of 2003 and haven't experienced any noticeable decline in performance in those nearly seven years.

Good luck if you find yourself needing this page. Please let me know if you've found the information useful.

Image text reproduced here for easier searching:
How many fanboys does it take to change a lightbulb? Two. One to burn it out, and the other to put his collectible at risk. Repairing your McFarlane ALIEN 3-D Movie Poster. Pin Hole 2 Pins Light Bulb


GlengarryX said...

Thanks for this information! I ran into a similar situation with my Alien 3D poster. I can't seem to remove the egg, however. I'm not using too much force to remove it as I don't want to damage the poster - I'd rather a forever darkened egg than a damaged poster overall. Any further tips regarding egg removal?

Thanks again for thinking to post this information. It is very helpful.

BonK! said...

The "using too much force" thing is the tricky part of this process. When the pins holding the egg finally come loose it will probably feel like you've broken the thing. If you look at the photos you'll see where the pins are located inside the egg.

The egg itself is slightly malleable, meaning you can probably slip something under the edge. You might try covering the flat painted poster surface with something, to protect the paint, before you apply some careful leverage to pop the pins from their holes. Also, be careful not to bend or warp the egg too much or it might not sit flat against the poster when you replace it, which would allow light to sneak out in places it shouldn't.

When I put the egg back in place on mine, it stayed firmly by just pushing the pins back into their holes. No adhesives required.

Glad it was helpful, and good luck! :-)

GlengarryX said...

Hey, thanks again. What a pain in the neck though, eh? Haha.

Logan Wood said...

Anyone happen to know what type of bulb is used? I want to have a replacement on hand before I start.

BonK! said...

It's a very common bulb. When I saw the thing it was of a type I'd seen many times before.

Alas, after 3 years, I no longer remember what kind of bulb it was, but I think it was one of those that has two pins on the side, like the Frankenstein monster's neck bolts.

My poster is currently in storage or I'd open it up and take a look. You might have to open yours up to figure out the bulb type.

Good luck!

Johnny said...

Thanks for the info! It helped but I think Mcfarlane toys are cheaply made and I will be staying away from them from now on.

BonK! said...

Johnny, I agree. The details are amazing, but the materials and assembly are lacking. That leaves room for someone else to come along and do better! Some day.