Toys of Yesterday: The Incredible Crash Dummies
3:00 PM on 06.09.2010
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: to be thrown into walls, dropped out of window, to blow apart into pieces, only to be put back together and have it done again ... and again ... and again.
But where did they come from? And where did they all of the sudden go to after so many years? I've known some of the answers, but if you remember these toys and are wondering those exact things, then you're in luck. Hit the jump to go back down memory lane with me, and perhaps, learn a bit about the Crash Dummies!
(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 ...
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