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Toys of Yesterday

Toys of Yesterday: Monster in My Pocket

Oct 31 // Scarecroodle
In the beginning, there were 48. The Monster in My Pocket franchise franchise launched around 1991 with its first series of 48 mono-colored soft rubber monster figurines and an accompanying trading card set. The figures were *intended* to also be game pieces (following in the tradition of things like Battle Beasts) and subsequently each figure featured a point value on its back. When two monsters "fought", the one with the higher point value won. Although a stupid gimmick, it helped break the figures up and establish some as being more important than others. The initial release made use of only four colors: yellow, purple, red, and green. Although the figures appeared in multiple colors, the rarer value versions either appeared in fewer colors, or the color swaps were rarer. The very common figures (5-point and 10-point, like Spring-heeled Jack) could frequently be seen in any of the thee colors. The initial package configurations mainly consisted of 4-packs that featured visible 5 & 10-point monsters along with more expensive 12-packs which featured one visible 25-point monster while the rest were random. Thus, somewhat ironically, it was easier to get the 25-point monster you wanted than either a 15 or 25-pointer. The 25-pointers, the big dogs in the yard, were the Great Beast, Behemoth, the Hydra, the Werewolf, the Griffin, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I'm still not sure why the Werewolf deserved the honor but, at the time, I didn't question it. Werewolves were cool. I believe I owned two copies of the Werewolf and managed to misplace both. In fact, these are surprisingly easy to lose. I even misplaced two figures while shooting these photos! Speaking of losing figures, what I can find of my original collection doesn't even fill a small container (I probably owned roundabouts of 150 or 200 from the early series). Given that these were my original figures, I've kept them separate from the figurines that I've picked up since then. After all, these figures were a part of my childhood while those other figures were a part of someone else's. The first series featured a different mix of monster types. This included classic movie monsters such the ghost, the mummy, a zombie, Frankenstein's Monster (just called "The Monster" in the guide), a vampire, and a vampiress. As a kid, these were probably the monsters you knew very well. However, it also featured famous mythological monsters like the griffin, Medusa, the hydra, cyclops, and the ogre. These were monsters you had probably heard of or seen on tv, in movies, etc. Going a bit deeper, there were also mythological monsters (and characters) you probably hadn't heard of as a kid, like Coatlique, the Wendigo, the many-headed Jotun troll (who appears in that Epcot viking ride), the Cockatrice, the Catoblepas, and Karnak. More controversially you had things like Kali, an actively worshipped Hindu goddess (who, by her inclusion, is viewed as a monster). She was one of the characters who would be renamed when the series relaunched in the early 2000s. I will say that I liked this figure as a kid. It was a cool design. Also, in case you were wondering if it got more offensive, they did Ganesha in series 2. Naturally two of my favorite things were associated with the lore: the monster checklist (seen right) which came in almost every figure configuration and the cards (seen left). Back when 7-11 was giving away (or selling?) promo packs with a limited number of cards, you better believe I was always trying to get my parents to go to 7-11. The cards were also just sold 11 to a pack. Each one features some neat character artwork on the front (pictured next to some of the figures) and a bio on the back. The style of the cardback varied based on the monsters' point values. Amusingly enough, the coolest design was given to the 20-point monsters instead of the 25-pointers. The cards don't necessarily explain the rationales behind the point values. Personally, the series may have marked the first time that I had even heard of a few of these monsters (possibly including the witch Baba Yaga or the fearsome Manticore). It helped to foster a love of mythology. (Side-note: While Manticores are usually depicted with the head of a man (with multiple rows of teeth), a lion's body, and a scorpion tail, this version opts for a pincher tail. While I don't understand the change, it does look cooler.) Some of my favorite figures from that first series were Cerberus, the Cyclops, the Ogre, Medusa, (I don't know why I have a second Cyclops there but hey, he was really cool), the Jotun Troll, and the Gremlin. Naturally that number also included the Werewolf and Roc, neither of which I have a copy of any more. Series 1 probably represented the line's highest point in some ways. There were a lot of promotional items (including variant colors of these monsters for people who might want a pink Wendigo; with the alternate colored versions from promos and other markets it can be hard to know a bootleg) and tie-ins, including a battle card game which I never learned how to play. Matchbox naturally wanted to capitalize on the existing success so they took things in a weird (and very annoying) direction. Series 2 expanded the line with another 24 monsters (basically they were just trying to crank *something* out). Besides the selection being weaker, Matchbox must have thought that they needed to one-up the previous offerings (maybe because they were giving half the selection?). But how would they go about that? First, the line used obnoxious neon colors. Figures were available in neon green, neon pink (because boys, the primary consumer of this product, just love hot pink), neon blue, and neon orange. But wait, there's more! To show that these figures were "cooler" than the previous set, the point values instead ranged from 10 to 30. How could they possibly top that? Meet the "Super Scary" line, a series of 24 multi-colored monsters... who went all the way up to 100 points. Oh, and did I mention that some glow in the dark? Looking back now, the series reeks of desparation. The actual sculpting, in many cases, was nowhere near as nice as either series 1 or 2. The figures were also a bit larger than the originals (because bigger is better?!). Even as a kid, I didn't like these that much. The series consisted almost entirely of things you'd never heard of yet they were stronger the more famous creatures, often outrageously so. The point system effectively backfired. I lost interest in the line and, reportedly, so did America. The line was mostly sold in Europe and Latin America after that. There was a relaunch in the 2000s which updated many of the designs (and replaced some of the politically incorrect names), but it was produced by a different company and basically limited to the UK and other regions outside the U.S.. It apparently didn't last long and, because of the scarce supply, the figures tend to sell for quite a bit more than the original series. Oh, and that tv show? It never made it past the special. Monster in My Pocket was a really neat line and it's a shame that its success (in the U.S.) was so brief. The figurines themselves still hold up remarkably well (the first series or two, anyway) thanks to an attention to detail. They're also reasonably inexpensive if you want to pick some up. If you want to learn more, be sure to check out the wiki.
Monster in My Pocket photo
Is that a monster in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Before there were Pocket Monsters (Pokemon), there was Monster in My Pocket. This surprisingly basic toy series would go on to have its own video game, tv show*, comics, trading cards, a board game, and a TON of pointless pro...

Toys of Yesterday: TMNT - The Next Mutation

Jan 25 // Chris Pranger
1996 was a different world. Much different from the one we see today, and far different from the rosy vision we have of the world in 1987 when the original Ninja Turtles figures stormed the nation with their greatness. I was a silly child, hardly 10-years-old, and all I knew was that I missed seeing the Ninja Turtles on top and in charge. Enter Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation to utterly ruin any hopes I had at the time. The show was, to put it lightly, horsesh*t. Instead of another animated continuation, Next Mutation was a live action mish-mash of the animated cartoon and the movie trilogy, with the Shredder still being alive but the Turtles living in the abandoned subway station. The acting was bad, the action was terrible, and everything felt pitiful, though that may be due to the show's owners: Saban. Yup, the same company making Power Rangers was now making live action Ninja Turtles, and yes, there was one horrendous crossover that hurts my teeth to think about. But enough of the sorrow! There's plenty of good that came from Next Mutation, and I'm not talking about the fifth Turtle. Yes, we'll get to her (her?!) in a moment, but when we're talking about the gang, it's best to start with the leader of the bunch and take a look at Leonardo. The new toy line did something that hadn't previously been done before and made Leo larger than the other Turtles, actually making him bulky and more commanding. I loved this little touch and it made me feel that, despite missing the mark with the show, the action figures had a lot of promise. He came with a handful of odd weaponry, worst off being his duel katana which had been turned into one huge sword that could split into two. Strange, but who's arguing with a Leonardo suffering from Roid Rage? Raph got back to his comic roots and became a rebel with a bad attitude once again, another step in the right direction. His huge misstep was again in his weapons, which were still sai but now they were stupidly large and could connect, making one giant unwieldy thing that looked too dumb to exist. I liked the sculpt though as Raph was hunched a bit, making him slightly shorter than the others, plus his right arm was wickedly bent making for a serious right hook when playing rough. Even as a kid I looked for signature moves like that, and Raph didn't disappoint. Venus de Milo, the fifth Turtle that no one asked for, was turned into a figure that no one wanted. She even looks silly, with a generally weak sculpt and a face that seems much too playful to be taken seriously as a master of Shinobi. I had to buy her though, otherwise the collection would feel incomplete. Without going any further, you could probably guess which figure was always left on the rack. In the show, Venus was just painful to watch since her entire function was to be "The Girl" next to the obvious boy's club that the Turtles usually were (April was nowhere to be seen by the way). This was one of those clear attempts to pull in female viewers, but it just watered down the whole show and made it creepy seeing Mike and Don lusting after her as the only female Turtle they've ever seen. Speaking of the Turtle in orange, my favorite through and through, Michelangelo got one of the best updates next to Leo. Mike's sculpt is fantastic, giving him a wicked grin and hands in a position no other figures were typically in: palms facing straight up. It was like he was lifting weights or something, but I didn't mind. I was addicted to this Mike figure, and next to the Mutating Michelangelo from the original figure line, this figure is probably my second most played with toy ever. The reason behind this has to do with my next great love, Dragon Ball Z. The anime had finally struck a cord with me after I witnessed Goku transform into a Super Saiyan, so as soon as I could I buy a Super Saiyan Goku figure, it was time to give the Turtles a new plot line that involved an upgrade to their own super form. Hence, the Next Mutation toys functioned most frequently as the Super Mutant transformations, with Mike and Goku fighting any and every figure that dared to challenge them. One of the odd things about these toys was the material they were made out of. While the body was hard plastic, the arms and legs were a rubbery, bendy material that could pop off without any trouble. This meant that, effectively, you could mix-and-match limbs between Turtles, which I did on occasions. This also meant that if need be, such as after getting hit by a stray Ultimate Energy Attack, they could have arms and legs totally blown off. Mike suffered at least one defeat like this, though it should be noted that I refrained from summoning the Eternal Dragon more than perhaps once in the entirety of my plotlines, despite having like 70 or 80 Dragon Balls. Finally, Donatello gets a new mold, though the Don I own isn't from the standard figure line but rather a line where every Turtle has a skateboard that changes into a luge board (it was definitely the height of the 90's). The boards themselves were just fine, but it was odd that the figures in this line were made with hard plastic again, so Don couldn't have his arms or legs removed, though he was capable of twisting his wrist, something the other figures could not do. His new bo staff was, unfortunately, pathetic and never used in plotlines, though why would he need it when he could just fire energy blasts now? The Dragon Lord, a new archenemy for the Turtles, got his very own derpy figure as seen here. He has a reversible cape that came with a cardboard wall of sorts, apparently meant to be like a camouflaged background or something moronic that no kid would ever have found interesting. More interesting though was his gun, an insane monstrosity that could only have come from the minds at Saban. He sadly suffers from Shoulder Pad Syndrome, a terrible condition where the mobility of a toy's arms are restricted due to some molded fixture of their sculpt, such as shoulder pads as seen here. One birthday yielded me a version of Raphael on his signature bike from the show, fully-loaded with a missile launcher in the back and blades that you could pull out to attack nearby cars. I decided these were wings and would allow him to glide if it came to that. I also decided that since I didn't want to waste a perfectly good figure, this would not be Raph but rather a new, robot Turtle named Sam. He was a good guy, for the most part, but he was also pretty cool and ultra powerful. He rode around with one of the Biker Mice From Mars, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you which one. Speaking of cool, the Turtle Humvee, the answer to the Party Wagon, was a sight to behold. While the Turtle Van had a flip-out seat on the door, it was somewhat lacking. The Turtle Hummer, however, has spring-loaded battering side clubs, a pizza-launching front mount, room for four Turtles, a command center, a rack for skateboards, a ramp, a roof-mounted ball cannon, and even a winch because why not. Simply, and this is blasphemy, the Turtle Humvee beats the Party Wagon hands down. Here's a shot of Venus up on the roof, showing off the cannon up there. You can also see the skateboard, ramp, and battering clubs more clearly. This was one decked-out vehicle, one without a lot of nonsense. It had so many functions that I hardly knew how to go about my play sessions. Strange that a show so bad would get the main vehicle so very right in the toy line though. If you're looking to score the Hummer, I don't know if you'll find one still in the box, let alone with a complete accessory pack. The Turtles themselves are at least half readily available online in the usual shopping markets, but don't expect to pay anything less than US$39.99 for one still in the box. Your best bet is absolutely garage sales and flea markets, though these toys didn't seem to sell very well or for very long, so my hypothesis is that anyone who did buy these (and I include myself there) doesn't want to give them up as they are downright awesome. I'll leave you then with a hefty competition. The original Playmates line had much more variety, but when it comes to the basic figures in head-to-head competition, I actually prefer the Next Mutation figures a little bit. Tough decision! But hey, if you have any of these figures, leave a comment and let me know. I'm really curious to see who else thought these were cool, or who else thought these were lame. Whatevs, both good. And with that, enjoy the video and party on!
Retro TMNT toys photo

I stick to my word, and so since it is the last Wednesday of January, it is time for another Toys of Yesterday. When we last saw each other, I was talking about Street Sharks and how they were, surprisingly, beyond awesome ac...

Retro: Street Sharks photo
Retro: Street Sharks

Toys of Yesterday: Street Sharks

Dec 28
// Chris Pranger
Has it already been a month? Well, last time we were together, I dug up some truly random figures from the Stone Protectors line. At the end of the video there I hinted at what was coming next, claiming that much like Stone P...

Toys of Yesterday: Stone Protectors

Nov 30 // Chris Pranger
Stone Protectors are everything that was wrong with the '90s. Deep in the jungle of team-based hero groups during one fateful year (1993), the owners of the Troll dolls property decided that what Troll dolls needed was an edgier and above all more '90s take on the classic big-haired, wide-grinned, magic-stoned Trolls. The result was to naturally throw everything they could against the wall and see what would stick, culminating in some of the most unoriginal, sloppy products money and shame could buy. The plot of the animated series and toy line (yes, toy lines had plots back then) revolves around a rock band of five teenagers who aren't very successful at all. After a particularly heinous set, they stumble upon five magic stones that embed themselves in their chests, turning them from ordinary losers into grotesque rockers with apparently magic talent and severe cases of Ugly Face. Each of the five had a different colored stone and a different skill, such as rock climber, samurai, soldier, wrestler, and "accelerator," which just meant "he was the obligatory character with roller skates and sun glasses." I swear, I'm not making any of this up. Here's the theme song to the animated show: There are simply no words for that, so let's just move onto the horror reserved for the toys themselves, right? I was thankful not to own the entire set, only having access to three of the five Stone Protectors and none of the villains or vehicles (because toy lines in the 90s were required by law to have vehicles of some sort). Here's the first figure I was drawn to, Maxwell the Accelerator. Notice those radical inline skates! Be amazed by the tubular shades! Stand in stunned silence at the gnarly hair! But hey, at least he's safe and wears knee and elbow pads because kids, remember that safety always comes first! These figures all adhere to the Ninja Turtle design right down to every single bit of articulation as the legs move on a pivot joint at the hip, the arms move up and down and can twist at the elbow, and their heads move side to side. These are Ninja Turtle action figures with more hair and less detail. Sad. Here we have Angus the Soldier. You can tell he's a solider because he has camo pants and grenades strapped to his chest. This is probably the face that comes off the worst since he doesn't look either friendly or intimidating, but rather like he doesn't even know where he is. I'm not even saying he looks mentally challenged; I'm saying he looks like he has about as much brain power as one of the trolls from Lord of the Rings. You know, like the one that attacked the group in the Mines of Moria? Yeah, that sort of brain power. And this is the guy who's skilled with firearms and explosives. Yikes. Now here's my actual favorite, even more than the accelerator over there. This is Chester and he's the wrestling expert, as you can tell by the leotard and the He-Man stature. You can really see the gem mashed into his chest here, though what pictures can't capture (the video does) is the ability of the stones to flash when the right arms are twisted down. Each toy had a flint strike that the arm activated, creating a spark and a perfect gimmick to conclude the ridiculousness of these generic toys. So who would be dumb enough to make these? Why the Ace Novelty Toy Company of course! They wanted to create a line of figures spun off from the hugely popular Troll dolls, but for some incredibly odd reason they wanted to distance themselves from the tall-haired fad as much as possible. Why? No clue, but I have a feeling that Stone Protectors were originally more like Stoned Protectors if you get my drift ... They were high. They had to be high. What I'm saying is that the creators were high on weed and made these while high. Again, I can't stress the Ninja Turtle vibe enough. They're built exactly like toys from the Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, but with those sparking stones added for no good reason. However, no one seems to be capable of matching the Turtles when it comes to sculpt detail and just Not Looking Stupidness. More baffling is that each stone is differently colored and the cartoon shows Maxwell with the red stone and Chester with the orange one, swapped here for the action figures. They can't even keep continuity straight between the toy line and the cartoon created to advertise the toy line! If you're actually looking to pick these up, again, garage sales will be your best bet, but you can probably find them online for very cheap. I already found some auctions on Chester and Maxwell each going loose for US$3. Again, I have no clue why you'd want these though, so you're on your own there as I want no part of that. And with that this month's Toys of Yesterday is complete! Well, except for the video, but that's after this paragraph. See the amazing craptasticness in action! Witness the unwitting failures of the 90's! Gasp at my ability to hold these without my flesh being seared from the toxic burning these toys exude! But oh, what's this? I have another toy line from the '90s that also tried to ride on the TMNT gravy train? Yes I certainly do, but you'll have to wait until December for that. Until then, I'll see you on Memory Lane.
Retro: Stone Protectors photo

Greetings, fellow classic toy enthusiasts! As you may have noticed, I have been AFK for the better part of November. Well, despite my hectic life, I've managed to come back for the last Wednesday of the month and bring to you...

Toys of Yesterday: Playmates' Dick Tracy action figures

Oct 26 // Chris Pranger
Journey with me back to the early 1990s, will you? I'm roughly 5 years old and I cannot get enough action figures. My grandma, being the enlightened one that I reference frequently, knew that the only way to satiate this need of mine was to have a constant selection of new action figures found at thrift stores and garage sales. One such day yielded six figures from the Dick Tracy figure line by Playmates made during 1990. Playmates had been in business since 1966 and by the time the Dick Tracy movie came to fruition, they'd been producing the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for just over two years. Perhaps it's not really a surprise, then, that the Dick Tracy figures seem to have a similar design! The toys coincided with the movie, featuring likenesses similar to the characters seen on-screen. Or at least, that's what I assume, as I haven't seen the movie in question. Still, even as a kid I had a basic grasp of who Dick Tracy was and what he did. I knew he was a detective who found gangsters in the 1920s or '30s, had a yellow hat and coat, and ... did I mention the yellow hat and coat? Man, was that a cool look. There's one missing from this line-up, though: The Blank, the film's antagonist. According to Topless Robot, "The story goes that the Blank was initially held back from the first toy release because it had a removable mask, and would therefore give away the plot twist. However, when the toyline didn't become the hit Playmates was hoping for, they canceled their plans to release the Blank at mass retail in the United States." The story goes on to say that The Blank's figure was released only as a Canadian Sears exclusive in 1990, with only 3,000 figures rumored to be made. The figures themselves seemed very strange though. Despite going for a somewhat attempt at physical likenesses to the actors, the body proportions were just plain goofy. The entire line looks squashed so that each character could be mistaken for a dwarf when standing next to other toy lines (lucky for Dick Tracy, the Marvel Legends line didn't exist yet). Here's a character by the name of Al "Big Boy" Caprice. The appearance is pretty standard for this line where the villains have faces contorted into grotesque expressions of "I am a bad guy!" However, they are at the very least vibrantly colored, which is a major plus for a kid. I wasn't looking for realism in my action figures as much as accessories and bright paint jobs. I got at least for the second part of my wish. This is Rodent, probably my favorite of the villains purely based on the purple suit and bowler. I have him holding one of the two tommy guns that came with the second-hand group. There were a lot more accessories when bought brand new, such as handguns and clubs, but I didn't own any of them. Most figures had a standard holster belt that either want around their waist or their shoulder or something like that, though when looking at some images of the fully-loaded toys, the belts looked really out of place. I don't mind them being lost in the transition. The Brow, as shown above, continues the trend of mangled faces. Thankfully for me, the character Flattop wasn't included in the group, a real blessing as some of these figures just get uglier and uglier. It's not even really a good kind of ugly either. It's just plain ugly. The models lack a lot of the personality that other Playmates toy lines, such as Ninja Turtles, had in spades. All of these figures are just guys in vibrantly colored suits. One figure called The Tramp was pulled from the line after people complained about a homeless person being portrayed as a criminal, so we can confirm that parents though about things too much back in the early 90's as well. They also don't stand all too great either as their legs are somewhat constricted. It fits the mood of some, like Mumbles up there, but doesn't help for standing the toys up during play. Half the time they'd just fall over, and the other half I'd be forced to make them stand like goobers since they had no choice to be bow-legged. Still, they had enough articulation to make me happy as they moved at the leg joints, the shoulders, the neck, and the wrists. It could have been a whole lot worse. Finally we come to Shoulders, a guy I always though was a toy maker due to the handcuffs under his jacket appearing to my younger mind to be the turncrank on a wind-up toy of some sort. Sure it was weird, but it added a bit more personality to the toys than what they were actually designed with, and that's a shame. A good action figure should be cool no matter your grasp of the source material. These were banking almost entirely off the hope that kids would know what they were buying. Naturally, I can't go a full article without bringing Ninja Turtles into the mix, but it makes quite a bit of sense seeing as how both lines were made by Playmates and have roughly the same scale. The 5" size works for the Turtles, but not so much for Dick Tracy. If you'd like to find an in-package Dick Tracy, they really aren't that expensive. Here's one for US$5. If you don't mind loose figures, here are 11 for US$53.95. I'd suggest checking thrift stores and yard sales, just as my grandma did, but the choice is up for you. So then, did anyone else have any of these figures? Or did they want to have some of these figures and never did? Go ahead and leave a message and let me know. Otherwise, enjoy the video and come back next month for a toy property I'm also certain no one else has ever heard about.
Retro: Dick Tracy photo

Hello and welcome to the last Wednesday of the month! I've had a lot of fun doing the occasional Show and Tell feature, but the standard trend had me talking about toys that were, how shall I say, old. As a result, we decided...

Toys of Yesterday: Playmobil

Mar 30 // Brian Szabelski
[Playmobil factory in Zirndorf, Germany] So, let's begin in the town of Zirndorf, located in northern Bavaria, Germany. Located in Zirndorf is the company Geobra Brandstätter (or the Brandstätter Group), originally founded under a different name in 1876 in the city of Fürth, Germany. The company was founded by a locksmith named Andreas Brandstätter to build locks and other metalworking items like ornamental fittings. Andreas' son Georg later took over the company, renaming it Metallwarenfabrik Georg Brandstätter, and moved the headquarters to its current home of Zirndorf in 1921. By the 1930s, though, the company had moved on from its roots in making locks and was instead producing telephones, cash registers, and other items for toy shops out of sheet metal. It was also around this time that the company changed its name again to Geobra Brandstätter, but it wouldn't be until Georg's son Horst came aboard in 1954 that the first steps toward what would become Playmobil began. As it turns out, Horst Brandstätter was a fan of plastics, and around this time, the hula hoop was the hot ticket. Attempting to seize upon this opportunity, Horst went to work on designing a machine that could mold soft plastic hoses into hoop shapes. Geobra Brandstätter would use these machines to mass-produce hula hoops and make quite a bit of money off them. When the hula hoop bubble burst, Horst was left with his machines, but seemingly no use for it. Undaunted, he decided to investigate further and figured out he could use a similar process to make plastic toys of any shape that a mold could be made from, which would be the route Geobra would take from that point forward. But soon, problems exposed itself: the oil crisis of the 1970s and the competitive costs of producing items in third-world countries. With the prices of raw materials climbing rapidly, the company found itself producing smaller toy vehicles that came with tiny figures. These toys were designed under the Head of Development at Geobra and the man considered to be the "Father of Playmobil", Hans Beck. While the figures themselves weren't supposed to be the focal point, they soon became the focus of Beck's attention, and while he wasn't immediately sold on them, Horst Brandstätter continued to allow Beck to work on the figures. For the next three years, Beck would work on his little figures, determining through research that simpler toys with fewer joints, but still with a good deal of poseability, were the way to go. When children would come over to visit, "I would put the little figures in their hands without saying anything about what they were," Beck said in a 1997 interview with the Christian Science Monitor. They accepted them right away.... They invented little scenarios for them. They never grew tired of playing with them." Eventually, Beck's prototypes began to mix both the simple and complex: lacks of elbow and knee joints, as well as simple designs for the face and body, played to Beck's earlier ideas. However, as time wore on, the original Playmobil figures gained a key feature: they were made to be customizable, featuring interchangeable parts with other figures that let children to come up with possibilites limited only by their imagination and what they had in their collection itself. As the 1970s wore on, the oil crisis got worse, and with Geobra needing to do more with the plastic they produced, Beck's tiny figures fit the bill. By February 1974, Playmobil was ready for its big debut at Europe's largest toy convention, the Nürnberg International Toy Fair. Unfortunately, few companies showed any interest, and only one — an independent Dutch distributor — made an order for a year's worth of figures. The toys quickly proved popular, and soon, Playmobil's doubters became some of its first buyers. [1974 Construction Playmobil series] The first Playmobil figures were released as part of three sets. The packaging and accessories were simple: they showed off what came with the set and were color-coded by what series they were part of. Blue packaging were construction series figures; green was knights series figures; and red was Indians series figures. Each figure had only four joints of articulation (neck, both shoulders and waist) while horses for the Indians and knights sets had a single joint in the neck so the head could move up and down. For the most part, figures were cast in a single color for their bodies, with the accessories that could be interchanged adding in detail. They were, in essence, everything Hans Beck had intended. A few years later, even more customization for kids was made available when Playmobil started shipping uncolored figures that kids could color in with markers however they chose. [Playmobil Color pirates set (1978-1986)] When it comes to how Playmobil’s changed throughout the years … there actually isn’t that much to talk about. The boxes changed, going from plain blue to featuring more dynamic backdrops, but the figures themselves really haven’t. The biggest changes were the addition of articulated wrists and the end of the uncolored figure lines, leaving just the pre-colored figures. Designs of some pieces, like the Citycar, have changed over the years as well as they were discontinued and later brought back, but the Playmobil people themselves maintain the same look and the same simple, limited poseability that’s made them popular for more than 35 years. But where Playmobil has grown significantly has been in the number of different themed playsets they’ve released — including into areas Hans Beck never wanted them to go into, such as a jumbo jet and a submarine he said wouldn’t fit scale-wise. Over the years, the Playmobil line has gone from simple sets of pirates or construction workers to skiiers, operating rooms, classrooms and Victorian houses to full-scale Western, underwater exploration and dinosaur excavation series. If you can name it, then there’s probably been a Playmobil series released of it, even if it’s been long discontinued. And there's even a few, like Chinese railroad workers, that haven't been released for various reasons (in the railroad workers case, because it might have been seen as insensitive). [Mandarake's impressive 2011 Playmobil display — image via Kaiju Korner. Yeah, that's ALL filled with Playmobil sets from throughout the years!] Today, Geobra Brandstätter is Germany's largest toy manufacturer, in no doubt because of Playmobil, having 2010 sales of €559 million (approx. US$788 million). Even with the economic downturn in Europe and across many parts of the world, Playmobil sales saw growth in many countries and it remains quite popular. Of course, not all the news has been so grand: Playmobil's FunStore in Woodbridge, N.J., closed its doors in January, leaving the Playmobil FunPark in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., as the last company-owned store or park in the U.S. Hans Beck passed away in early 2009, just before the 35th anniversary of his creation. But Playmobil continues to live on as a toy not only of yesteryear, but probably of the future as well. [Thanks to Playmobil's official site and Collectobil for providing historical information and images on the Playmobil series]
Retro: Playmobil photo

Germany has brought us many wonderful things: the printing press, the theory of relativity, the autobahn and it's complete lack of speed limits (well, at least when I drive my imaginary Porsche 911 down it in my mind), Rammst...

Toys of Yesterday: WWF/WCW Figures

Jan 26 // Andres Cerrato
The 1980s were a transitional period for professional wrestling. The growing dominance of the World Wrestling Federation put an end to many of territorial companies. The characters of the Iron Shiek, Jessie "The Body" Ventura, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, and Rowdy Roddy Piper became the heroes and villains of a generation's childhood. They weren't just a cell of animation, but actual people. Even though they did crossover to the cartoonish side of things, their stories felt real for that generation. In 1984, LJN released the Wrestling Superstars collection of figures. The figures attempted to capture that mystique of those characters. You would be able flex their arms and that's about it. In their current condition though, they will just keep the ability to stay as they are. Ask any kid of the 80s though, figures like these were great. They stood up to them constant abuse of slamming against one another and imagination was necessary. Wrestling would have its highest heights during this time, which meant just about anything would get made. Yes, you could write on the sidewalk with Hulk Hogan. I do find it unfortunately ironic that you'd grind out Jake the Snake into piles of dust, but I wouldn't at all mind seeing that fate be given to Ultimate Warrior, especially given his comic career. As the 80s gave way to the 90s, World Championship Wrestling began to make its mark on the industry. The figures weren't the best at the beginning either, as evidenced by Sting up above. WCW's figures were originally made by a company called The Toymakers. The early figures were a lot like the 1984 LJN WWF line, but a tad smaller.  It wouldn't be until the mid 1990s that wrestling started to see some quality figures. WCW started to dominate wrestling thanks in large part due to the creation of the nWo. With the popularity growing, it was a matter of time before quality figures would come to the market. Toy Biz was tasked with the creation of new figures and they set forth a standard in wrestling figures that wouldn't be matched until Mattel acquired the WWE license in 2010.  Toy Biz made their claim to fame with their Marvel Legends series and their line of figures for WCW were of the same quality. The figures would begin to feature great articulation and gimmicks. The figures became more than just literal stand-ins for your legends, but actually capable of re-enacting them. In the figure above, you can have Goldberg do his signature Jackhammer on a Masked Wrestler, whom is actually Rey Mysterio. If there is anything I wish I could create, it's getting Rey Mysterio to job to someone. Not all of the gimmicks were great though. In the figure above, Roddy Piper uses his bagpipe as a missile launcher. Other figures in the line were just as silly, including Hak (better known as ECW's Sandman) using a kendo stick to launch missiles out of a food cart. These figures do raise a great question though: What's with the missile fetish? After Toy Biz took over the WCW line, Toymakers wasn't out of production for too long. They took that upstart Philadelphia promotion, Extreme Championship Wrestling, and created a line for them. The figures didn't last that long, eventually disappearing once the WWF took ownership of ECW. The figures themselves weren't that remarkable for the time, much like the company's WCW figures. In fact, the only thing I can say that is remarkable is that Tommy Dreamer still looks exactly the same from 10 years ago when this figure was made.  With the 90s coming to an end, the luster of the nWo began to wear off and the Attitude Era of WWF began the takeover. The figures were now being done by Jakks Pacific, which brought actual action to WWF action figures. The company would create a wide range of figures with just about every gimmick imaginable. They would also make figures of just about anyone on the roster, including the referees, even though they didn't resemble them that greatly. In fact, resemblance is a problem that Jakks would continue having up until their recent debut edition of TNA Wrestling figures. The company had more than its share of controversy. In 1999, this figure of Al Snow caused a stir at Walmart due to disembodied doll head that it came with. Ignoring decades of brothers ripping Barbie heads off and the fact that it's a mannequin's head, a consumer group lobbied for and got the figure's removal from the marketplace. Quality wasn't the best either as you can tell by this figure of Goldust. They got the coat right, but they could never get the face right. It's scary when it looks more like Shelton Benjamin than a guy with paint on his face. If you thought WCW had horrible gimmick figures, they were nowhere close to those of the WWF. The S.T.O.M.P. line featured WWF superstars as a military strike force. Nothing should be scarier than seeing the Undertaker with a scythe, Stone Cold as Rambo or Ahmed Johnson with an arm-mounted chainsaw. Though you can't get more gimmicky or awful than this combo pack of wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson. At the height of his popularity, The Rock took the role of the Scorpion King in the sequel to The Mummy. He would eventually leave wrestling and referring to himself as The Rock behind, but this cringe-inducing figure is a reminder of that horrid transition. I imagine this as a face of horror.  When I first saw this figure, I could do nothing but laugh at how bad his face looks. I then laugh some more when I realize that this is probably how people reacted while watching The Tooth Fairy. If you look to the right, the shot of Dwayne looks more like the famous "Crying Indian" commercial than The Rock. You would think that the guy would want the figure to at least look like him. As to why he would do it? Well, everyone has a price! I'd like to give a special thank you to my friend, Rob for providing his collection for this edition of Toys of Yesterday. You can visit his site, Planet Rob, for video reviews and riffs of nostalgic goods.
WWF/WCW Figures photo
"Did you see when Hulk Hogan body-slammed Andre the Giant?"
I had a friend ask me that, to which I had to respond no, as I was only 2 years old at the time of Wrestlemania III. The days of my unconscious youth were those of that golden age of professional wrestling. Every Saturday mor...


Toys of Yesterday: Kenner's Batman Returns action figure line

Nov 24
// Crystal White
Writing about toys is great, but playing with them is better. At least it was, and still is, for me. That's why I decided to write this month's Toys of Yesterday about my most beloved action figure collection that I had as a ...

Toys of Yesterday: Stretch Armstrong

Oct 27 // Brian Szabelski
Stretch Armstrong's history begins in 1976. A year before they were to acquire the rights to the Star Wars for a new toy line, Kenner Toys released a muscle-bound, black shorts-wearing gel-filled rubber man upon the world. Stretch Armstrong didn't really look like much when you opened up the box, kind of like a circus strongman.But had he been in the circus, lifting weights would not have been his specialty. You see, the muscular fellow had powers comparable to Reed Richards of Fantastic Four fame. His limbs could be stretched out into any number of crazy shapes. Usually, this would result in the child who owned Stretch putting him in some compromising position that would get him grounded. But what also was nice was that Stretch would revert to his normal shape when unstretched, meaning you could undo what you did quickly if Mom or Dad was walking around the corner. And if that wasn't enough, they also came out with Stretch Serpent, which looked a hundred times more phallic. Not shockingly, this one didn't quite take off like Stretch did. Nor did Stretch Olivia and Ollie, who were octopi, or Stretch X-Ray, which had transparent skin so you could see his organs. Throughout the 1980s, Stretch Armstrong stayed pretty much the same, which probably didn't help too much as toys became more advanced and started competing with video games for kids' attention. Kenner got bought by Tonka (and subsequently by Hasbro), and it seemed like poor Stretch was doomed. Especially since the gel could harden over time, making stretch no longer ... well ... stretch. But Cap Toys resurrected Stretch in the early 1990s. And the look ... well, in hindsight, he looks terrifying. Like the brother of Punch-Out!'s Super Macho Man. Long story short, his perfectly fine strongman look and the muscles were gone, replaced with that gigantic chin and ridiculously terrifying grin. Just look at that. Let it sink in. It's going to haunt me tonight.I don't remember it being so creepy as a child, but now ... now I don't think I'd touch it with a ten-foot pole, and I'd probably be ripping  Cap Toys a new one for ruining what was a perfectly good figure design with this new one. It's just ... that grin ... AAAAAAAAGH!Of course, since this was the 1990s, Cap Toys decided that a spin-off figure was needed. And thus entered Fetch Armstrong, Stretch's faithful dachshund with the same terrifying grin and a a stretchable body filled with gel. But if you think that was enough ... you were dead wrong. They didn't just release spin-offs of Stretch alone like a ninja version, oh no. There was the Stretch Limo, a car that Stretch could not only ride in, but that stretched out as well, complete with that terrifying grin on the front grill. In my later years, I have since wondered why a man who could stretch to great distances and theoretically stretch himself between any two points would need a car. It must have been a status symbol or something, I dunno.But what good is all of this without a villain? Enter the evil Vac Man! Vac Man was a red, muscular fellow from outer space who also happened to have that hideous grin. But Vac Man was actually different than Stretch in that he was filled with a non-toxic vegetable substance that was hard, and you could vacuum-seal him, essentially, to get him to stay in place ... well, forever. One press of a button and air would come rushing in to restore him to his normal shape. Sadly, it didn't help much because the substance eventually wore down over time, as mine did. Some of the warnings were pretty funny, though. Eventually, Cap Toys was gobbled up by Hasbro, and around that time, all things Stretch Armstrong faded away. No more frightening grins, no more cheesy commercials ...the world was safe again.Or so I thought until recently. That's when I was told of some horrible news: there's a movie based on Stretch Armstong in the works. Dead serious, folks. With this guy as the star: I'm about to have a whole new set of nightmares. And I think there's only one way to really respond to that:

Most of the time, Toys of Yesterday is about the toys we loved growing up. And in a way, this week's subject, Stretch Armstrong, was a toy I played with in my younger years, mostly at friend's houses. It was far from a consta...

Toys of Yesterday: Digimon

Sep 29 // Brian Szabelski
Before we begin, let me make it clear: we're not talking about the animated series or the rest of that crap. We're also not mentioning the more recent Digimon toys, because they have little real connection to the original virtual pet other than name and a few other basics. And with that out of the way, let us begin:By 1997, Tamagotchi had flourished and become a cash cow for Bandai. But they still had a problem, after all: Tamagotchi was marketed to and extremely popular with women. Young boys in Japan didn't have an equivalent virtual pet to play with, but Bandai likely had an easy inspiration: insect collecting and fighting. The pastime had always been popular with young boys in Japan, and a game based on that concept had come out in February 1996 for the Nintendo Game Boy called Pocket Monsters. That game promptly blew the doors off everything in its path, and perhaps both the insect collecting/fighting pastime and the wild success of the first two Pokemon games led Bandai to believe that the monster fighting genre was the way to go.On June 26, 1997, Bandai's answer to their problem was released upon the public in the form of Digimon, an obvious portmanteau of "digital" and "monster." The original Digimon was designed with boys in mind: not carrying a feminine egg shape, Digimon were big and blocky (for a virtual pet, at least) with an outer texture made to look like bricks, with a frame made to look like a broken cage surrounding the LCD screen. Part of that blockiness was also by design, thanks to two metal contacts at the top of the Digimon that were used for linking Digimon together for battles. The rectangular shape probably also helped make docking a lot easier. Like their egg-shaped brethren, they were banned ina  lot of schools for being a distraction. However, that wasn't all they had in common. Tamagotchi and Digimon shared the same basic functions and many similar elements. Players still had to take care of their Digimon by feeding them, cleaning up their poop, making sure they got enough rest, though for the Digimon series, this was toned down a little bit since young boys apparently don't like taking care of animals so much.But the big difference was the battling! And the training! Digimon needed to train in order to even be able to battle. Training was done via shadowsparring on each Digimon itself through a mini-game in which you had to attack in the right direction. If you won 3 out of 5 matches, your strength grew and eventually, you began to rank up. The more you fought and grew, the closer you came to evolving to the adult stage. Battling itself was simple, too: all you had to do was link them up, select monster match mode, and watch the fireworks unfold. Battling too many times was bad, though, so you had to be careful! Your win-loss record was also kept internally, and if your Digimon ended up injured after the match, you had to heal it until it was all better. It was all rather simply, but hey, when you're young, stuff like this is ridiculously cool.Of course, there were also different versions throughout Digimon history. Originally, the box-shaped Digimon would go through six versions, each adding in new characters and colors, but retain the same initial basics. A mini version was also later produced, but big changes didn't come until the Pendulum series was unveiled. Besides the new shape, these Pendulum Digimon had a "pendulum mode" which was really just a pedometer inside the Digimon and a new Digimon evolution level. Other than that, it was still the same old Digimon kids had grown to love years before.There were changes, too, between the Japanese and U.S. versions. In the Japanese version, Digimon whose time expired died, while in the U.S. version, they went to the Digimon Mainframe, apparently because U.S. kids needed a happier ending. A handful of Digimon names changed, too, most notably Devimon becoming Darkmon because Devimon is too terrifying for small American children, I guess. However, by 2000, things had begun to change. The original Digimon started taking a backseat to the animated series which had debuted the previous year. Within a few years, the next version of Digimon virtual pets, Pendulum X, would ultimately be redesigned to fit more in line with the animated series, marking an end to the original pets and seemingly an end to our tale.So, what's become of it today? The original toys have been somewhat forgotten by a younger generation of fans who have only grown up on the anime series and believe that to be the original source material. It never was able to put a dent in the mighty Pokemon machine, which still chugs along today as one of Nintendo's cornerstone franchises and perhaps even its most profitable one. But on the other hand, while the internal batteries of some old versions of Pokemon Red, Green, Blue and Yellow have begun to fade and fail, making the game carts not work, Bandai's been getting the last laugh: almost all of the Digimon that were well taken care of still seem to be operable (including mine, last time I checked) and can often be found for sale on eBay and other sites.

Last month, we brought you a Toys of Yesterday feature on Tamagotchi. So perhaps it only makes sense that this month, the Toys of Yesterday spotlight shines on its sibling, Digimon. While eventually it turned out to take a di...

Toys of Yesterday: Tamagotchi

Aug 25 // Brian Szabelski
So how did this all come about? The answer lies in the relatively simple story of one Bandai employee. Aki Maita, who had joined the company in 1990, was looking for something she could carry around easily that would also compliment her busy lifestyle and small apartment. Dogs and cats don't exactly work for that, but out of it came the initial idea for a small digital pet, which eventually became Tamagotchi. And she didn't get a promotion, raise or bonus for her creation, which apparently according to a handful of interviews I've read, never really bothered her.The world would be introduced to Aki Maita's idea in 1996, when Bandai dropped the Tamagotchi bomb on Japan. North America and the rest of the world were soon to follow, and before they knew it, Bandai had a full-blown craze on their hands. People couldn't stop getting their hands on the little digital toys, to the tune of 70 million units sold by 2008, and Tamagotchi spawned a whole series of imitators and other virtual pets inspired by it. That included both Bandai's own Digimon and Nintendo's Pokemon Pikachu, but both those are stories for another time. Heck, you could say Tamagotchi birthed the modern virtual pet toy genre, which is of course the reason it's so important.  The name Tamagotchi, for any Japanese student, should probably be pretty easy to figure out. It's a portmanteau of sorts of "tamago" (egg) and "watch" (as in wrist watch), also explaining the egg-shape of the Tamagotchi itself. The traditional layout has remained the same: a screen with three buttons underneath for deciding how to care for your little critter.Depending on what Tamagotchi you own, the basics of what you can do with them might be a little different (a little more on that to follow), but how an owner interacted with them was pretty much the same. Owners started off with an egg, which would hatch and could be named. From there on out, it was purely raising your Tamagotchi by playing with it, feeding it, cleaning up its poops and taking care of it every day. Failure to take care of a Tamagotchi properly killed it, not unlike that time you dropped your egg baby in home ec class, you monster.Depending on how you raised your Tamagotchi and what gender it was, it would grow into different forms as it progressed through each life stage. Eventually, your Tamagotchi would be paired with another of the opposite gender, mate, then leave behind an again to start the whole process over. Ah, the circle of life.  As I hinted at earlier, there are several different versions of Tamagotchi, but for Toys of Yesterday, we're going to focus on the ones you likely remember: the original launch version and the follow-up version 2. In the above image, you can see them in the second row from the bottom, namely on the right side. Original Tamagotchi can always be picked out easily: their keychains are on top of the egg. These earlier versions were produced between 1996 and 2004, and the major difference between the two versions were new items, foods and games in the later version.  For both versions, there were hundreds, if not maybe even thousands, of different combinations of styles and colors for the casing. Some were clear, some were two-tone, some had patterns: what kind of Tamagotchi you could end up having was entirely up to chance, and for the most part, no two people in the same school really had the same ones. Or at least that was my experience. For the record, the one I had when I was younger is the exact same as the translucent orange one in the second from bottom row, third from the right.  That being said, even with the original Tamagotchi, there were many Japanese exclusive versions. There was TamaOtch, which was named after a Japanese actress and could become a movie star; Santaclautch, which you can see above, that was literally a Christmas-style Tamagotchi; and Ocean and Garden versions of the original Tamagotchi. They even made a Mothra Tamagotchi.   Seriously. That's it right there.  By 2004, Tamagotchi was ready for a bit of a makeover, as technology had progressed a bit. Bandai responded with a brand-new Tamagotchi for the 21st century, Tamagotchi Connection. Featuring a pause option and infrared connection via a new infrared sensor embedded in the top of the Tamagotchi Connection shell, the upgraded Tamagotchi had better graphics and animations, but at its core, was still the same pet we'd all grown up loving. Later editions allowed for pets to be move stars or rockers, as well as added in connectivity with cell phones in Japan (but not in the U.S.).Today, the series has undergone another change: it's name. Now called TamaTown by Tamagotchi in its newest iteration, the new ones push connectivity to the Internet in a big way and allow you to link up a "character" with your device to unlock more stuff. There's even a carrying case for all your crap. Seriously. It makes me pine for the days of old, when a simply little plastic egg with three buttons was enough to keep you busy for hours on its own ...

"Tamagotchi." The word alone conjures up memories of long hours training and cleaning up poop, over schools who were so pissed about these things distracting kids that they flat-out banned them, about even your mom ...

Toys of Yesterday: Furby

Jul 21 // Brian Szabelski
The year was 1998. President Bill Clinton was busy getting in trouble for not keeping his pants up. Microsoft was getting involved in its first major lawsuit with the U.S. And somewhere in New York City, at that year's Toy Fair, the world would get its first glimpse of what would be grabbing headlines in only a few months:   Furby. Designed and developed by Dave Hampton and Caleb Chung, Furbies were designed to do one thing in particular: get people's attention and sell like hotcakes. Toy companies certainly like toys that do that, so many were very interested upon seeing Furby, including Tiger Electronics, who ended up producing the little fellow with support from new parent company Hasbro, who had just announced they were buying them a few days prior. It wasn't the first electronic pet, nor at the time of it's initial announcement, even the most popular, a title that belonged to Bandai's Tamagotchi. In fact, according to a Time article, Tamagotchi's 1997 Toy Fair appearance is what inspired Dave Hampton to come up with Furby in the first place.  Sure, there were other toys out there at the time, including a few that were waiting in the wings like Sony's super-expensive AIBO, a electronic dog. But with a US$35 price point, Furby was cheap. While the AIBO and its US$1500-2500 price point was the equivalent of a modern supercar like a Nissan GT-R or a Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, Furby was the equivalent of a Volkswagen Beetle: something for everyone. Except, well, the Furby can never really be as cool as the Beetle ever was.  The first line of Furbys were 6" tall and came in six different colors, with four different eye options. They were also ... rather odd looking. The beak of a bird, the ears of a cat, all that fur and those big eyes made them look like something that escaped from the laboratory of Dr. Moreau.For their time, Furbys were actualy surprisingly sophisticated. Using a light sensitive cell and infrared sensors, they could determine between light and dark and would respond accordngly, sleeping in darkness and being awake in the light. The sensors also let them communicate via infrared data transmissions, which is how they "magically" made Furbys interact with each other. The Furby's internal chips allowed for them to be programmed with multiple capabilities, including the ability to interpret and react to sounds they picked up via a hidden microphone.So of course, the fur bodies made sense, as they actually allowed all of the technology to be hidden from view. And then there was the language, which you needed a dictionary to even understand: Furbish. It was exactly like Elvish ... except without the elves. Or anything that really made it cool. Eventually, over time, they would learn English from their owners, but until you put forth the effort to actually try and "teach" them anything, they simply kept blabbing on. And God help you if you lost the little dictionary they came with, as this was before everyone had the Internet to go use to reference these things.  Even the NSA was afraid of them. Of course, turns out those fears were pretty overstated since Furbys could only learn from a pre-programed number of English phrases, and I doubt "covert operations in Iran" was in their vocabulary.Still, when the holiday season came around, everyone wanted a Furby, with many, many people frustrated about not being able to get one. Heck, there were even two guys in Minneapolis who ran around the city fighting each other to get the last one and they both ended up in this parade dressed in character and ... wait, that's the plot to Jingle All The Way. Sorry. Silly joke aside, the scene from Jingle All The Way in which Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad end up fighting in the store with everyone else to get the last of the Turboman figures pretty much sums up how the Furby craze was handled during the 1998 holiday season, except with fewer comedic gags and more serious arguing and fisticuffs. Part of the problem came from the media pushing stories about Furbys being the "it" item for 1998's holiday season, sending people panicking to toy stores to look for Furbys months ahead of the expected rush. They didn't find any, which led to a self-fulfilling prophecy and scared parents looking everywhere for Furbys that hadn't even shipped from Tiger and Hasbro's factories yet. Once the idea was already out there about Furbys being something every child "must have," chaos ensued. That's where the fights and near stampedes came from. In fact, many parents who didn't buy their kids Furbys got police-escorted visits from child services.*  Of course, all wasn't peachy with Furby. The main complaint about them wasn't their looks, but that they were annoying little things that would never shut up if you didn't keep them hidden in a closet or remove the batteries. You see, the designers had left out one important detail: Furby had no on/off switch. That meant you had to either trick it to go to sleep or remove the batteries. Or if you hated it enough, destroy the critter. What made it worse on top of all that was Furby needed to be fed on a pretty regular basis, and if you neglected to do so, it wouldn't do anything until you did. Literally. And if it got sick because you didn't feed him, you had to work overtime just to get it back to normal, so it could annoy you with it's rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in Furbish or tell you some stupid story that made no sense.  Furbys were more than just a holiday toy craze, though, selling well into the following year and beyond. Even McDonalds made Furby toys, though for Furby fans, it probably saddened them that they were cheap plastic pieces and nothing more. After a while, Furby fever died down and Tiger Electronics was essentially folded into Hasbro entirely. Hasbro went on to create FurReal Friends based off the early Furby technology, this time modeling them after real-life animals and thus making somewhat less annoying because they didn't sit there talking all day. The line was successful, but not to the extent Furby was. And so, Hasbro decided to bring them back, but not quite as people remembered them:   Basically, the new Furbys featured more emotions than their predecessors, but they also looked like someone had force fed a Furby until it was morbidly obese. Oh, the horror. The horror ...Sometime in 2007, Furby finally met its end, having been reduced to an afterthought in today's toy world. Today, they're mainly confined to the realm of Furby fans and modders who can make Furby do crazy things. Do I personally miss Furby, though? No, not really. For as much as some people love it, I've never been a Furby fan, and through no fault of its own, Furby made toys as holiday fads a much, much bigger part of our culture every fall and winter. But I guess it could be much worse than that. After all, one day in the future, we could find out that stupid little furball lead to something bad. Of course, maybe I'm just overracting —  Ohhhhhhhhhhh crap. *No, not really. No children were taken away because they didn't get a Furby. I think.

Welcome once again, Tomopop readers, to another edition of Toys of Yesterday, where we look back at the toys we knew growing up and perhaps, at the same time, both educate and entertain you. And normally, this is where I bust...

Toys of Yesterday: The Incredible Crash Dummies

Jun 09 // Brian Szabelski
(Editor's note: Normally, this is where we'd be showing off a ton of pictures of these classic toys. But for some reason ... finding actual pictures of the original Crash Dummies figures is painfully difficult! The only good news is that most of the old Crash Dummies ads are still on YouTube, so you'll be seeing more videos in this post than normal.)  The Incredible Crash Dummies began life in a seemingly innocuous way: a series of PSAs starting in 1985 from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, encouraging people to wear seat belts. The PSAs proved to be quite popular, with the two dummies featured, named Vince and Larry (and voiced by actors Jack Burns and Lorenzo Music, respectively) becoming stars in their own right.And of course, like any hot property, companies were interested in making a ton of money off of them. One of those companies happened to be toymaker Tyco, who eventually snapped up the rights to produce a series of figures based on the dummies, calling them Vince and Larry: The Crash Dummies. The original series focused around the two original dummies, as well as some of their newly created friends, but all was not kosher. Afraid that the original PSAs would amount to free advertising, most of the major boradcast networks abruptly dropped the crash dummy PSAs from their channels. This in turn put an end to the PSA campaign and forced Tyco to rename Vince and Larry as Slick and Spin.  The Dummies themselves are about the average size of action figures back in the day and had multiple poseable joints. What of course made them different was that they would fly apart, or as I preferred to say, explode, thanks to a spring-loaded system that held their limbs together via some plastic pegs. All you had to do was hit one of the big impact buttons on their chests, and boom, their arms, heads and legs popped off. The only downside to this happened to be the type of plastic they used was a bit brittle, so actually breaking limbs cleanly off in a crash or by tossing them hard into a wall was not at all uncommon. The original line up features Vince and Larry (and later, Slick and Spin), two crash pets (a cat and dog) as a single pack, two other Dummies named Daryl and Spare Tire (who was, not coincidentally, fat) and oddly enough, a Crash Dummy baby.    Nope, totally not making that one up, folks. And the little guy's seat had an impact button that let you make him fly out of it.  My personal favorite, though, was the little crash cat, Hubcat. I liked to put him behind the wheel of the car sometimes and let him drive. Well, at least it explained why they'd crash so much ...   And speaking of the cars, the Crash Dummies line had several different vehicles and "crash-tastic" playsets. The most common of these was the little red number you see above, the original Crash Car. Specially designed with crumple zones in the front and lots of loose-fitting pieces, the Crash Car was easy to destroy. Perhaps too literally, because just about everything on the car, from the windshield to the front tires to the roof, would fly off the car on impact and have to be snapped back into place afterward. However, after a lot of wear and tear, things started snapping and breaking pretty easily, leaving kids with busted Crash Cars they really couldn't use. Such was the case with mine, where one of my front tires is so bent I can't properly put it back in. And the moving parts in the front don't quite work as well as they used to, either. But still, it was fun to send this flying down the hallway and smashing into the door of my bedroom, sending bits and pieces of the passengers all over the place.   But the fine folks at Tyco decided that a car just wasn't good enough. They added a Crash Chopper to the mix, which had two awesome parts to it. First, the bike would fly apart and, if done properly, send your Crash Dummy flying over the handlebars and skidding down the hallway or sidewalk. But better yet, the sidecar actually split off from the bike itself and would also crash and "break apart," sending its occupant tumbling for a wild ride themselves. Throw in a Crash Car for a head-on collision, and boy, were you ever in business!  The oddest of all the toys, though, had to be the Crash 'n' Bash Chair. The basic premise behind it? Strap a Dummy down into the chair and hit the buttons to pound him in the chest with a giant hammer-like device. He goes off, you get to put him back together and he does it again. Seriously, these guys are friggin' masochists, aren't they? Then, of course, there was the big playset that was a standard part of any good 1990s toy line: the Test Crash Center. I didn't own this myself — a friend or two did — and it was actually somewhat disappointing. Sure, you could launch your Dummies at walls and crash your Crash Car through a "brick wall" ... but couldn't you do that already? I mean, wasn't that what they were intended for in the first place? It seems even more silly today than it did almost 20 years ago.  1993 was the year that brought the most change for the toy line. Not only were the figures redesigned in brighter colors with their new "Pro-Tek Suits," but they actually gained a series of antagonists: the evil Junkbots.  The Junkbots were the same size as the regular Dummies, if not a little bigger. While they didn't blow apart like the Dummies did, they all came with weapons that the robots could hold, and their parts were interchangeable. But what perhaps made them such good counterparts for the Dummies was that each came with its own spring-fired weapon that could be used to make the Dummies explode without them having to crash in a car. Sadly, we never really got to explore why exactly the Junkbots hated the Dummies so much. Maybe they were old parts form all their crashed cars, manifested into living creatures? We'll never know. Why? Because by 1994, the Dummies had been played out, and the entire line essentially disappeared. A final line was released in South America and Europe that continued the 1993 line. Tyco was purchased by Mattel in the mid-1990s, and Mattel released a Hot Wheels-branded line of Crash Dummies, but these didn't fare as well, never quite gaining the attention of the previous series. By 2001, they were done with as Mattel moved on to other figure lines, though they tried once more to revive the line in 2005. It didn't quite work as well as expected, and as of today, the Incredible Crash Dummies are collecting dust. But with all the perils of modern-day driving (including the idiots who text while behind the wheel), there's always a chance the Crash Dummies could reappear ...

Of the many toys I collected as a young boy, perhaps none of them were as tossed around and smashed around as my small collection of Incredible Crash Dummies figures. Then again, that was the entire point of their existence: ...


Toys of Yesterday: Hasbro/Tomy ZOIDS model kits

May 26
// Garrett Yim
In this Toys of Yesterday, I wanted to take a trip back, but not too far into the past. Many of you may remember the Zoids animation that aired on Cartoon Network's Toonami block back in 2001. Well, for those of you who do re...

Toys of Yesterday: Arnold Schwartzenegger in Commando

May 20 // Jason Millward
  When I was an 8 year-old kid living in Detroit, I would often hang out at my buddy Steven Douglas' house. There we would game on his Atari 2600 (until I threw a temper tantrum), watch horror movies, and discuss the goings-on in the World Wrestling Federation until we were blue in the face. Many of my life-long obsessions began in that house. His parents were wicked cool (and somehow put up with my bratty, hyper-active ways), and allowed us to watch pretty much whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. I saw my first Freddy Kruger flick there. Ditto on Texas Chainsaw Massacre. More to topic, my first Schwartzenegger flick, Commando.  The cheesy one-liners, the massive violence, the flabby Australian villain with zero acting ability (not to mention the hotness that is Rae Dawn Chong) were all on display for this impressionable young lad to take in. I instantly fell in love with these low budget action flicks, and was forever changed.  Sometime after that fateful day, my parents took me to Toys-R-Us to spend my birthday money. While browsing through the action figure aisle, I came across this guy. Made by Galoob, this was an incredible toy for that time. Back then most figures were very poorly sculpted. Especially if it was based on a film. Licensed toys were usually cheap cash-ins designed to part the parents of spoiled children from their cash. We were kids. We didn't know any better. All we did know was that we wanted them and that was enough. This, however, was quite an exception. This toy actually resembles Arnold in his role as John Matrix. It has quite a bit of attention to detail. He's all decked out and ready for war, just like he was at the end of the movie. From the vest that is loaded with weapons to the face paint, this is no generic toy. It's effing Commando! Aside from the above average (even from today's standards) facial detail, Arnie's signature bulging muscles looked fantastic. The rubber vest that he wore was removable, and even had a sheath for the removable survival knife. In addition, he had removable cloth pants that was quite unusual for it's time. Back then, toys were marketed to children, and the adult collector's market didn't exist in the form that it does today. It was incredibly unusual for a hard R-rated film to have spawned a series of toys. Even more unusual in that it was from what was essentially a b-movie. For this to be such a great figure on top of all of that is quite a lucky occurrence. Sadly, my pal Steven died almost ten years ago. He suffered through Muscular Dystrophy his whole life, and bravely battled it until the end. I do miss that kid and think about him every so often. I was pretty much a creep back then, but I'm happy that I had such a sweet and forgiving friend like him living right down the block.If it wasn't for him introducing me to so many great things, I know that I wouldn't be here writing for this site today. This one's for you, buddy!

Like a great many people, I recently visited my local cineplex to check out the sequel to the greatest superhero film of all time. (Yes, Iron Man is 32 times better than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight combined. Deal with i...


Toys of Yesterday: Ivan Drago from Rocky IV figures

Apr 08
// Joshua Hayes
Upon watching Clubber Lang in Rocky III, I didn't think a boxing villain could be any more interesting. What a quick talking, fierce character, whose only motivation is to beat Rocky at any cost. Mr. T plays that character to...

Toys Of Yesterday: Masters of the Universe Rattlor

Apr 06
// Joshua Hayes
That old Masters of the Universe line does it for me, the new stuff is either too expensive or just tries to look too cool. I am all about old toys. I can't buy enough of them. I'm at a point where I want dupes. I want to hav...

Toys Of Yesterday: Masters of the Universe Kobra Khan

Mar 23
// Joshua Hayes
By the power of Greyskull! I know these new shows might have some okay villains, but He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had some of the best villains of all time! The toys were what that show was all about. Those villains...

Toys of Yesterday: My brother's Bionicles

Mar 17 // Tomopop Staff
For those of you not in the know, this is the original Toa, Toa Tahu the fire dude. Yes, that is his official name. Fire dude. No, not really, but that would be pretty awesome! There are 6 Toa in every set; fire, water, ice, earth, air, and a black one. He is rock or some such, but I always found it funny that there was both earth AND rock, yet no plant. The green one was air. Cause, you know, air is totally green. Anyway, the guy in front is Tahu, the leader of the Toa and thus every kid's favorite. I liked Gali the best, but then again she was the only girl. Behind him is the last fire Toa from the most recent set. See the change in size? However, bigger doesn't equal better. The original Toa are far more poseable--I had to remove a piece from the new one'e leg to get him in that position.  And here we have the first enemy of the Toa, the very ferocious Borak. Two of these are actually mine--the black and green ones, the red in the middle is one of the newer Boraks. You can tell cause of the fancy design on his faceplate. The Borak are definitely my favorite villains from the series. They got a bit creepy later on (Piraka, anyone?), but the Borak are kind of cute! I mean, they look like chickens and roll up into balls. You can also have them whack things with their heads as seen above, but that just makes them even more chicken like.  Plus their leader is a Queen, which makes them especially cool. Then again, most of the bad guys in Bionicle land have a female leader. Maybe the creator has a grudge against his ex wife?  That fine lady in the middle is Gali, the water Toa. She is mine--I don't have many Bionicles but I have almost all of the versions of Gali. Her weapons got lost a long time ago, so sadly Gali is defenseless against all of those other dudes! Thankfully she has tiny water guy (you can tell I am very knowledgeable about Bionicles!) to help her out! She was one of the minis that came in Happy Meals way back when, and of course there are about 3 sets of them running around my house. The yellow guy is one of the Rahkshi, the bad guys that came after the Borak. Still pretty cool, but no chicken heads! I do love the double sided weapon, way better than whacking people with your skull. The one on the right is a custom my brother made for me several years ago, and he has a very special place in my collection. Some of his pieces are spray-painted and have chipped over time, but that only makes him look deconstructed and badass. He is surprisingly easy to pose, even though he looks a bit top-heavy. He also folds in half, and has wings! Yeah, that's right, you guys are all envious of my awesome Bionicle custom. And here is one of the newer Bionicle constructs. As you can see, they got a lot more complicated as the years went by. I mean, I can't even tell what this is. A bike? A monster? A weapon of mass destruction? In any case, it's pretty awesome. And it has a old school looking Toa in it, so bonus points for not using one of those huge crazy dudes! Also, huge props to my brother for actually figuring out how to build something this complicated--do you know how hard those instruction booklets are to read? And just to give you an idea of how massive my brother's collection is, here is his box of masks. That's right, the entire thing is just masks. It's about 6" deep--the masks that is, not the actual box. That's right, 6" of masks. There are probably ~150 in there, and very few are duplicates.  And last but not least, here they are all together! Hanging out on my Gazelle, cause they are warriors and need to stay in shape. I had forgotten how much fun they are to play with before i took them out to pose, but man it was awesome! They are so easy to move around and put in awesome poses. It is rather sad that Lego decided to discontinue the line, and I am sure my brother will be heartbroken when we actually tell him. But thankfully there are hundreds of custom designs out there, and he can always come up with new Bionicles of his own. This was a truly awesome toy line, and hopefully one day they will decide to bring it back to life. ZOMBIE BIONICLES!  I'd like to extend a huge thank you to my brother who built all these guys (aside from the ones that are mine) just for this photoshoot. He was super excited about having his toys online, so feel free to leave a comment for him and I will be sure to pass on the message. ^^ And don't forget that there are a bunch more pictures in the gallery, so go check them out!

My brother loves Bionicles. And not in a "he is rather fond of them" sense, but in a "he owns every one ever made" kind of way. That's right, every single Bionicle, including the ones you got at fast food ...

Toys of Yesterday: The bear, the parrot, and the mouse

Mar 03 // Tomopop Staff
 Once upon a time there was a boy who had three friends. He grew up with them, cared about them, then he decided that one of them was less worthy of his attention. He started ignoring his friend and one day, his parrot friend disappeared.  His two remaining friends felt lonely. The boy just thought he had misplaced his parrot. It wasn't important. He was getting to old for stuffed animals. He would just find him the next time he cleaned his room. A couple of weeks later the boy came home from school to discover that Mickey Mouse had gone missing.  Suddenly, Fuzzy was all alone. Without his friends the boy was never happy. But he didn't care. He would find the others when he cleaned his room. Fuzzy was still the only one that mattered. He had been with the boy since birth and would never leave his side. Until one day when the boy came home and found something terrible.  The boy was alone. His friends had left him. Yet he still didn't care. Why would he? He was 13 years old, that is far too old for stuffed animals. Fuzzy was gone, Parrot was gone, Mickey was gone, and the boy just didn't care. Until one day he saw his neighbors child with what he thought might have been his friends.  He went downstairs to get a better look. There was no mistaking it now. It was Fuzzy and Mickey, his best friends through so much of his life had left him due to his neglect and for the first time in a long time, he felt pain. He was sad. They were his friends, his family, and he had neglected them. It was their choice but he couldn't take their loss. He went crying to his mother, angrily shouting about his stuffed animals. His mother spoke: "I thought you didn't care about them anymore?"He had no words left but tears. He had been torn up inside at the loss of his friends. Stomping and slamming doors on his way to his room he cried himself to sleep. Later that evening, he was awoken by a poke in the shoulder. It was his mother."I have something for you," she said as she revealed his best friend, Fuzzy.  The boy gave his precious Fuzzy a hug only to find that he still gave the best hugs ever. But the boy still felt alone. Fuzzy was his favorite bear but he still missed his other friends. Suddenly, he heard a sound from behind and saw a parrot fly through his door and land on the counter in front of him.The boy was happy and yes still lonely. He wanted all of his friends back, yet Mickey still hadn't returned. The boy kept seeing the kid across the street having fun with his friend and his loneliness remained. Days later upon returning from school, the boy returned to his room and found something glorious.  Mickey was back! He had returned bruised and battered from living with the bully across the stree, yet he had returned.  The boy was angry when he saw the state of his friend Mickey. Paint on his side, his mouth torn up; Mickey was a mess. It didn't matter to the boy, though. Mickey was home and with him once again. The boy had his friends back and he was content. They were together again, a family once more. And they all lived happily ever after.The end ...

What was special to you growing up? Your first stuffed animal, your first little toy? When did you get them?  On the day I was born, I was given a teddy bear. A bear that has followed me through my entire life. One I sti...


Toys of Yesterday: Real Ghostbusters

Feb 17
// Joshua Hayes
I know most people in their mid twenties and early thirties liked the two movies and the cartoon. If you're like me, the Ghostbusters mean something to you. I don't know what exactly, but something! I really enjoyed the two f...

Toys of Yesterday: Sgt. Slaughter, G.I. Joe hero

Feb 03 // Brian Szabelski
The real Sgt. Slaughter is Robert Remus, born in Parris Island, South Carolina in 1948. Parris Island is, of course, home to the U.S. Marine Corps training base, so it only made sense that Slaughter joined the Marines for several years before he began his professional wrestling career in the 1970s. By 1980, Slaughter had joined the then-WWF as a heel (or bad guy). It wasn't until 1984 that he became a fan favorite and a face (or good guy) when he started a feud with the Iron Shiek, defending America's honor against the hated Iranian. His popularity soon exploded, putting him up with the likes of Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan, and with that came plenty of other opportunities.Around the same time Slaughter was getting popular, Hasbro was busy working on their new G.I. Joe line, which they had re-launched in 1982. Of course, having a notable face attached to their new product would do wonders for Hasbro, and someone got the idea to approach Sgt. Slaughter. After all, he was popular and his drill sergeant character would fit in will with the theme of the series. And so, after negotiations, Sgt. Slaughter was added to the G.I. Joe universe via a character that shared his name and likeness, but dropped the wrestling background to become G.I. Joe's personal instructor. However, it all came at a price: Slaughter's involvement in the G.I. Joe line, and Vince McMahon's disapproval of it, was one of several reasons Slaughter left the WWF in 1985 for the rival AWA. While wrestling there, Slaughter continued to be Hasbro's public face and spokesperson for the G.I. Joe line, starring in a number of commercials and appearing both in the animated series and movie based on the figure line. In 1990, Slaughter came back to the WWF, this time as an Iraqi sympathizing heel in light of the invasion of Kuwait, and as such, his involvement with Hasbro and the G.I. Joe line wound down to a close. Today, Sgt. Slaughter still makes appearances at big events with Hasbro, such as Comic-Con, when they have G.I. Joe-related announcements. Oh, and he still wrestles from time to time, too, even at age 61.  But, of course, you're here for the figures, aren't you? Then let's not bore you any further. The actual Sgt. Slaughter figure was really not much different than any of the other G.I. Joe figures. It just had his unmistakable face, drill sergeant's hat and shades, but otherwise, the construction of the Sgt. Slaughter figure matched whatever Hasbro was doing with the rest of the G.I. Joe line at the time; however, since his body did differ from the rest of the Joes, Slaughter's parts were all unique to his figure. Five versions of Slaughter were released, according to, with the first being available as a mail-order figure only. The next two versions came as pack-ins, while the fourth was released commercially and the fifth was a G.I. Joe convention exclusive in 2006. All five were relatively similar to one another, and they all did a pretty good job of recreating Slaughter's likeness. Well, as much as a tiny plastic figure could.

If you grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s, you grew up with G.I. Joe. I know I sure did, and I spent hours upon hours playing with those figures, occasionally managing to pop an arm or a leg off that required "surgery....

Toys of Yesterday: Warrior of Planet P

Jan 20 // Jason Millward
As was the standard from the beginning of time through the turn of the 21st century, licensed toys were horrible. The Starship Troopers line didn't try too hard to buck tradition. The standard figures released were Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), Ace Levy (Jake Busey), and Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards). They not only completely failed to resemble their real-life counterparts, but the outfits they wore didn't look a thing like the movie versions. The war outfits for Ace and Johnny were pastel, for crying out loud! Not good. The warrior bug, on the other hand, was fantastic in every way. It is a perfect representation of the computer-generated bug from the film. The sculpt was dead-on. The paint-job looks incredibly authentic. Finally, the articulation was really well done.Each of the four legs, as well arm-like appendages, are mounted with ball joints. This enabled the warrior bug to be thrown into nearly any pose. It always makes me wish that I had four hands so that I could make this thing properly walk across the floor. The jaws are able to clamp down onto a figure. The pincers when snapped shut, will hold the weight of a standard 6-inch figure with no problems. And 12 years later, the ball joints in the legs are still strong enough to not budge a millimeter when taking on that same weight. This arachnid is an example of quality craftsmanship. It's battery operated, so when you open and shut the jaws, it makes metallic slicing noises. There's also a button on it's back which activates hissing. Over time the batteries in mine have died and for that I am thankful. I wouldn't consider the sounds iconic or even accurate. A neat concept, but the delivery left me indifferent. Now if it had Clancy Brown's voice shouting "Medic!", it never would have gotten old. Nor Michael Ironside saying "Everyone fights. No one quits. You don't do your job, I'll shoot you myself." I would never fail to find uses for those. They say that the only good bug is a dead bug. I have to disagree. I love this evil space-monster dearly. Even though the rest of the Starship Troopers figures are sitting in a box, never again to see the light of day, this guy has been proudly on display for over a decade. For that, I owe Galoob my eternal gratitude. As I do to John D. for dragging me to see that movie for the first time.

I remember it as if it were yesterday. One night in the fall of 1997, I was sitting at a diner with my oldest friend, John Drauss. We were discussing Nostradamus' prophecies regarding the end of the world. Then he starts tell...

Toys of Yesterday: Jem and the Holograms dolls

Dec 23 // Colette Bennett
Just in case you have no memory of Jem, I am going to give you a quick refresher: Jem was the star of an animated series made by Hasbro, from the same people that created G.I. Joe and Transformers. The funny thing is, they said the show was meant to appeal to both boys and girls, but the primary color was pink and all the members of the Holograms were female. Remarkably enough, it gained a female audience. I wonder why. Jem was the first woman I had ever seen who had completely white hair (it looks pink in the illustrations, but was always white in the show). I thought this was possibly the most killer thing ever and vowed that one day I too would have white hair. This has not happened yet, but I figure if I put it off long enough it'll turn white anyway when I get old. So it's all good!Jem (or Jerrica, which was her real name) was the first of the dolls that I got. I recall she was slightly larger than Barbie, more of an Amazon build, with longer, curvier legs and a larger head. Jem's boyfriend Rio was possibly the lamest looking guy ever, with purple hair and a gold cropped tuxedo jacket. Let me repeat myself for emphasis - GOLD CROPPED TUXEDO JACKET. Only in the Eighties could this has flown, ladies and gentlemen.Wow. Anyway, Jem also had some pretty incredible bandmates, including Aja, Kimber, Raya and Shana. Each doll came with a cassette tape which I also thought was totally metal at the time, and they all had really cool, vivid makeup and hairstyles. I did not own all of them, but I did have a few and I remember there was nothing cooler than playing with them and imagining the concerts they would hold. It was so girl power before girl power was even cool!I want to say thanks to Hasbro for totally putting out the opposite of Barbie in this time and giving girls like me a more different, eclectic type of doll to play with and look up to as a character. Sure, these dolls have all the tacky hallmarks of the Eighties, but they were an incredible alternative to Barbie's super-fifties vision of the perfect blond boyfriend and the wardrobe of perfect pink suits and dresses. These girls weren't afraid to be a little different, and thanks to toys like this, neither was I!

I know if you have any memory of Hasbro's collection of dolls based on the animated characters from Jem and the Holograms, you're looking at the header above and thinking, "I DO NOT remember Jem ever looking like THAT.&q...

Toys of Yesterday: Fisher-Price's Little People

Dec 09 // Brian Szabelski
The series began with this little creepy number in 1959 — the Safety School Bus. And I say creepy because OMG LOOK AT THE FACE ON THAT BUS IT IS TERRIFYING. Plus, the glass roof and lack of windows? That can't be safe. I know I wouldn't want to be riding to school on this number, namely because it'd give me horrifying nightmares. And hey, it's still less horrifying than the new Little People. Eventually, the little people grew up and expanded their world into other areas, like Ferris wheels, schoolhouses, barns and airports. They also added in things like snowmobiles which really didn't make a lot of sense, as the snowmobiles were like ten times the size of their little wooden and plastic riders, but I guess the Little People target audience wouldn't really care too much. The plane was a frequent favorite of mine as a young boy, though mine was orange instead of green. It also spent a lot of time in the bottom of pools and half-buried in piles of dirt because like all young boys, I liked to crash things. Still, it not only survived, but never showed signs of wear and tear, perhaps a testament to the quality the Little People were built to. It also for some reason made a clicking noise when it rolled, which I don't think is a good thing for real airplanes to do. But there's one thing no one mentioned that was a huge part of my childhood: the Little People Main Street set. This was (besides the airport) the biggest Little People playset my parents had ever bought for us. Not only was it portable, but Main Street came with a ton of stuff: cars, letters, Little People, a traffic light and other city signs ... this was the biggest and best set I could ever remember there being. There were plenty of hidden little things, too: the circular ramp had a parking garage behind it, for instance, and the back panels of the shops pulled up to reveal a pet shop and barber shop. Or well, it was at least the facades of both those shops. My favorite part was the little ice cream shop which, when the seats were pressed inward into the building, had a "Closed" sign that would come down and literally close off the shop. Like some of my other toys, I don't know if my parents kept them, but I suspect they have them somewhere in their basement, collecting dust.Little People have stood the test of time as popular toys, bringing many people into the world of toys at a young age and sometimes becoming the canvas themselves. Heck, they've even been used to do a parody of Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" (NSFW). But it's clear that what was started 50 years ago endures today because of their simplicity in addition to being a part of our childhoods. It's just a little peg that goes into a hole in a car or a seat, but somehow, those little pegs became real people to each and every one of us. And that is perhaps the greatest thing about Little People of all: they helped build the imagination we all still have and use today.

Though we all have different interests on Tomopop, there are a few things that everyone can relate to, mostly because at one time or another, they've been a part of our lives. Fisher-Price's Little People series is certainly ...

Toys of Yesterday: Teddy Ruxpin

Nov 21 // Colette Bennett
Wow, just looking at the box and the books makes me feel such nostalgia! I remember paging through them over and over (but first, of course, I ripped out the cassette tape that made Teddy talk and jammed it in as quickly as possible). And it was just as good as I imagined ... in fact, even better. Kind of creepy, isn't it? And yet at the time, I could recite the little "My name is Teddy Ruxpin ... can you and I be friends?" thing, like, pitch-perfectly. No wonder I didn't have too many friends back then. Anyway, Teddy went through quite a few incarnations, first being manufactured by Worlds of Wonder, then falling into Playskool's hands after they bankrupted.  Playskool tried to use a cartridge system instead of cassette tapes to bring Teddy to life, but they were easily damaged so that didn't last too long. He was distributed by Yes! Entertainment afterward and eventually fell into the hands of BackPack Toys, and you can in fact buy a shiny new version of him from them now.   It looks so happy and ... modern. Not that that's a bad thing, I guess. He uses digital cartridges now, too, and he's priced a little bit more moderately at $49.99. Wave of the future! Anyway, back in the day, Teddy had a friend named Grubby, who I also wanted (but did not get as one of these things was pricey enough as is).  Crappy picture quality, but hey, there they are! I recollect Ted had a few other friends too: Fobs, Wooly Whatsit, Tweeg and L.B. Bounder. I never had any of those either. I guess my parents figured one expensive-ass talking bear was plenty enough to keep me amused.  The unofficial Teddy Ruxpin FAQ advises that you can purchase one of the original Teddies mint in box for between $40-$100, but I've seen them at many a thrift store in my time, so if for some reason you want one just go hunting and I'll bet you'll bump into one. Can't promise you'll find a cassette to make him talk, but that's what eBay is for!  

I know to anyone born after 1985, the idea of a talking bear must seem like the lamest thing in the world. However, I was eight years old at the time Worlds of Wonder put Teddy Ruxpin on the market, and to me he was easily th...

Toys of Yesterday: The Darth Vader Collector's Case

Nov 04 // Colette Bennett
My first reaction to the good old Darth Carrying case was to wonder if it was rare. Actually, it's quite the opposite -- these guys are floating around all over the place. According to the Star Wars Archive Database, if you were a male child in the eighties, not owning one of these was the equivalent of growing up underneath a rock. If you own one in mint condition with the packaging, well, that's a different story. I'd like to apologize for the quality of this picture -- the iPhone is hardly an excellent camera -- but I wanted to show off the inside of the case so those of you who may never have seen it can remember. As you can see, there was a labeled slot for each figure within, which made it easy to tell at a glance which ones you still needed to complete your collection.This case was made by Kenner, and while it wasn't always functionally perfect (the vinyl one was much more functional but kinda boring), it was obviously HELLA cool, and being a small child I really wasn't worried about how functional my toys were as long as they kind of worked. Perhaps there were many Star Wars related items that were equally as cool (God knows there are gobs of new ones even now), but this one has the treasured spot in my memory as the coolest of them all. Do you have any special Star Wars items you remember loving from way back when?

The other day, I was wandering through a thrift store and suddenly my eyes landed on an item that mystically had the power to transport me back in time. Literally, I saw it and I fell into a portal. On the other side of the p...

Toys of Yesterday: McDonald's Teenie Beanie Babies 1997

Oct 21 // Rio McCarthy
 The year was 1997, and Teenie Beanies were serious business. Although, the commercial is technically for the 1998 run, you get the picture. These little guys were everywhere, and I mean... EVERYWHERE. Never in my life have I seen such a mass chaos around a toy, granted Elmo came close, but everyone was out to get these TY beanies no matter what it took. I honestly feel terrible for any employee of McDonald's during the time of April 11th to May 15th, 1997 because when these toys broke out there were some of the longest lines I've ever seen just fighting and clamoring to get their hands on these toys. This was during the height of the Beanie Babies craze, and I've never seen such an eclectic group of people all spazzing about trying to get these. Members of my family who thought I was dumb for wanting toys of the sort all lost their mind and decided they all needed them as well, and I could tell that's what happened in a lot of families based on how many people showed up to get them. Even the bags were decked out in Teenie Beanie images, as were most of the McDonald's promotional posters that were strung about the restaurants. I honestly can't even remember what was so attractive about these toys, even though I was insanely obsessed with Beanie Babies at the time, sure they were cute, but apparently there had to be something else because the hysteria was amazing.Restaurants would run out of the toys extremely quickly, especially if there were a particular one you were looking for, which imitated the way the original Beanie Babies sold out in stores all over the place. I used to get my Beanie Babies from the local Hallmark store, and at a point it became insanely rare not to see a "Beanie Babies: SOLD OUT" sign hanging in the window. The first toy in the 1997 Teenie Beanies series was Patti the Platypus. I wasn't aware that Platypus were magenta, but TY was known for not always sticking to the real colors of the animals they represent, which that was part of the fun of the toys themselves. Number 2 of the Teenie Beanies was Pinky the Flamingo, and I mean what more could you want than a pink flamingo? Number 3 on the list was little Chops the Lamb, which makes me giggle as I totally used to have a Lambchop puppet as well, but that's a whole other matter. Number 4 to be released was Chocolate the Moose, who has some of the cutest little antlers I've ever seen on a plush. There needs to be more moose plushies made, someone get on that! Goldie the Goldfish was number 5 of those released, and it was kind of just really plain. The other toys seemed to have more detail than this one, so it just seems bland to me.  Number 6 was Speedy the Turtle and I'd have to say looking back on it now, he was probably my favorite. Of course the name is ironic, but he's just too cute not to love. I absolutely adore his little feet, as they're just too cute for words. Next on the list is number 7, which was Seamore the Seal. Seamore seems a very weird way to spell his name if you ask me, but I see what they did using 'sea', har har. Some of the names were just too corny for me sometimes. Now number 8 was Snort the Bull, which was kind of surprising to find out that among people I knew as a child this was one of the most sought after of the Teenie Beanies. Maybe that's because I hung out with boys more often, but he sure was popular here.  Number 9 on this quickly ending list is Quacks the Duck, who was based off the original Beanie Baby, Quackers. A lot of the Teenie Beanies ended up being based on their original sized friends, which they should be considering they're suppose to be somewhat like the Beanie Babies' babies. Last up in the number 10 slot is Lizz the Lizard, and although I'm not sure what type of lizard it's suppose to be, Lizz was another of my favorite. Purple's one of my favorite colors, so that started it as a winner, but the tongue almost made me giggle insanely because I found it hilarious for some reason. Unfortunately for us collectors out there, the Beanie Babies didn't hold onto their value much, and especially not the Teenie Beanies. At one point during the craze, the set of 10 beanies would go for over $100, but now you can find them for much, much less. It's lucky for those of you who are just now wanting to pick them up, for us who have Rubbermaid containers crammed full, we're still hoping for the revolution to come full circle so that they're worth something once again.If this set's something you'd like to pick up, be sure to check out eBay now, as there are several auctions where you can pick them up for very low prices. Who knows, maybe if you pick up a set now they'll be worth something before you know it, and if all else fails you've got a nice set filled with cuteness on your hands.

McDonald's is known for having some amazing Happy Meal toys, but within my lifetime I don't remember any such toys causing the amount of chaos that the Teenie Beanie Babies did when they started appearing in 1997. The Beanie ...


Toys of Yesterday: Sonic & Knuckles UK Mini Figures

Oct 14
// Rio McCarthy
It's a well established fact that I'm a giant nerd for Sonic the Hedgehog, and around the time of these figures you wouldn't have been able to part me from my Sonic comics. Unfortunately with these being a UK only set I never...

Toys of Yesterday: SEGA at Jack in the Box

Sep 09 // Rio McCarthy
 The year was 1999, and 10 years to today's date the SEGA Dreamcast was released and would forever change the world of gaming. Sonic was set to take the world by storm once again with Sonic Adventure, and Ecco would soon follow, but not before being released as toys in Jack in the Box Kid's Meals! These are pretty rare fast food toys, so photos aren't easy to come by, and neither are the toys themselves with there only being one set on eBay at this point in time.  They came packaged just like normal Kid's Meal toys, but seemed rather large compared to most of the toys you would get as a kid. There were four of them in total, but apparently only Ecco and Knuckles are safe for all ages, as you have to wait until you're at least 3 to be able to play with Bug and Sonic, but let's take a closer look anyway.  You might already notice that these aren't quite as joyous as the McDonald's toys, and they weren't from what I can tell. I sadly never got to own these for myself because we didn't have a Jack in the Box anywhere near me to go nab them. Sonic was a pull-back racer type of toy, where you pulled him backwards and let go then he would roll away. Which makes sense for the fact that Sonic is faster than the speed of sound, but... what's with the yellow legs? I assume it was suppose to make it look like his figure eight run, but it was sadly kind of a poor job. Next up was Knuckles, with which I can only say 'Wow...' I'm honestly not sure what happened to him, but if their plan was to make him look like a zombie statue, then congratulations you achieved it. He honestly didn't do anything, and was just a statue which is sad because I absolutely love Knuckles and enjoyed that he got yet another toy, but it's almost creepy! Does anyone here actually remember Bug! for the SEGA Saturn? I do, but then again I'm nerdy for all things SEGA. Well, they re-released it for the PC and I'm assuming that's what they were promoting when they released this toy in the meals. If you don't remember it, or are too much of a youngin' for that, then check out this video on Youtube of the gameplay. It was a great platformer, but we're not here to talk about the games, we're here for the toys. Bug was a wind up walker, where you wound up the post on his side and he would walk around like he did in the game. A listing I saw for it said it was 5 inches tall, which seems ridiculously huge for a Kid's Meal toy! Last up was Ecco the Dolphin, which apparently no one wanted to hold onto their Ecco toy because pictures are practically impossible to get ahold of. Poor Uncle Ecco. Well, anywho being as no one decided to keep theirs I actually am not positive on what it does. From the looks of it it's a wind up toy that swims, so when you wind up the peg on its side its tail flaps and it'll swim around in water. I really feel I need to own this for who knows what reason, damn you Ecco! Another thing they did at Jack in the Box was allow you to buy SEGA PC games with your meal. If you had bought a Kid's Meal you could get the games for $1.99 or if you wanted to buy them outright you could for $5.99. As you can tell from the above photo Sonic 3D Blast was one of those titles, which makes sense why they were ready to get rid of them considering Sonic Adventure was about to blow everyone's minds. It looks as if you're trying to get your hands on a set of the toys you might be paying at the very least $15 or more, as these just seem to be few and far between. Just for nostalgia sake I really want to find myself a set, but it looks like I've got a search ahead of me. What do you think? Do you remember these, still have them, or find yourself wanting them for the heck of it?[Photos Via Sonic Gear]

Last month I reminded you just how awesome the Sonic 3 toys were at McDonalds, and now I come with another blast from the past which are the Jack in the Box SEGA toys. These weren't nearly as popular as the Happy Meal toys, e...

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