One of my personal favorite oddities of action figure history from the 80s and 90s are the action figure lines based on R-rated action movies that the kids of the day couldn’t or wouldn’t see. I wrote about that a bit with the two different Rambo TCT entries I did, but was reminded about that again while re-watching Demolition Man recently. These toys themselves are pretty basic action figures of the time, in fact they were mostly all repaints of The New Adventures of He-Man toys (the space ones). In fact, the only commercial I remember from that He-Man line featured that same bolo-shooting ship thing.
What really made me laugh about this commercial, though, was how they used Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes’ names in the spot. They’re not even trying to hide the fact that they’re marketing a bullet-ridden film and toys based on its characters for kids!
It seems crazy by today’s standards, but when I was a kid I remember thinking how awesome guys like Stallone and Chuck Norris were without ever having seen their actual movies. Between the toys, commercials and video games, it was impossible not to have at least some idea of who these guys were. It was the same thing with Freddy and Jason too, for whatever it’s worth.
Back in the early 90s there was an interesting trend in toys that combined very tiny action figures that came in to-scale playsets that could theoretically fit in a kid’s pocket or backpack. You had Polly Pocket “for girls” and Mighty Max “for boys.” I never got into these actual toys, but did think they were pretty rad at the time. I did however get involved with the Mighty Max cartoon which lasted two seasons. I was taken by the concept of a kid named Max having dimension-hopping adventures (a favorite topic of mine, see my recent Exiles review) with his mentor, a talking chicken named Virgil, and his bulky bodyguard Norman. It’s been ages since I’ve actually watched an episode of the series, but I was a sucker for anything involving a kid going on crazy adventures with weird characters so this was right up my alley.
Had I been a little more on my game this month, I would have stacked every week with a horror or monster-themed Toy Commercial Tuesday entry. Instead you get this pair of Mattel Mad Scientist commercials which will hopefully be enough. Above you can see the awesomely gooey commercial for the Mad Scientist Dissect-An-Alien. From the looks of it, you stuff an alien toy with slime and plastic organs only to rip its chest open and let everything pour out.
Meanwhile, you’ve also got the Monster Lab set which gives you a plastic monster skeleton which you’re supposed to build a body around using clay of some kind. Once you’re done with that, you mix a packet of something mysterious in some water, dunk the little creep and let the new concoction eat the flesh away.
Guys, how insane are these toys? I was thinking recently about how kids used to be exposed to scary things much earlier than they are these days (at least in pop culture, not necessarily in real life). When I was a kid you had everything from monster-themed cartoons to toys like Madballs, not to mention a kind of dull, general awareness of slashers like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Plus, there were horror-like movies that were created in a PG or PG-13 space, but not in a way that felt truncated or less-than. Now, the best you get is a few weeks of Disney Channel, PBS and Nickeloedon programming about costumes and what not, though I will admit, I saw some pretty spooky things on Disney.
I didn’t actually have either of these Mad Scientist toys and probably wouldn’t have liked them back then (I don’t always like getting my hands dirty), but I love the idea of them.
I loved He-Man and the Masters of the Universe pretty hard as a kid. I still have a huge box of action figures, vehicles and playsets and had a great time sitting in front of our gigantic, wood paneled console TV watching the cartoon. I was also a big fan of playing with my action figures like the kids in this commercial. But, for some reason, I don’t think I ever made the connection that you could run a string through the loop on Trap Jaw’s head. This surprises me all the more because the first thing I did when I got my Donatello action figure — my first ever TMNT toy — I tied a strong from the lamp over the kitchen table to the fire place and did essentially what the kids in this commercial did. Good times.
Man, oh man. Remember The New Adventures Of He-Man? No, me neither. Even though I was a huge He-fan as a kid and seemingly would have followed him to the ends of the Earth (or, more appropriately, into space), I didn’t make that jump. I do have memories of the cartoon happening and seeing commercials like the one above. That image of this new He-Man wielding a lightsaber and riding around on a space motorcycle hangs out in my brain pretty iconically. I watched some of the episodes about six years back when the DVDs came out and they’re pretty hilariously bad, but there’s a lot to love in this commercial.
First off, I’m always a fan of seeing my favorite cartoon characters brought to live action life. At first it seemed like only Skeletor got an actor and then BAM, there’s He-Man! I’ve also got to say that this commercial made these toys look awesome. What is that giant spaceship thing?! I want it and I’m 30! Good advertising, Mattel.
Two quotes made this spot perfect for Toy Commercial Tuesday: “You can control his ugly tongue!” and “You can launch Godzilla’s claw!” Now, I’ve seen my fair share of terrible thunder lizard movies and I don’t remember his tongue coming into play that much or his hand leaving his body. Still, this Mattel Shogun Warrior toy looks pretty cool. The whole big robot thing was a few years before my time, but I wish someone had passed me some of those crazy toys when I was a kid. How cool would it have been to have my G.I. Joes or Spider-Man toys face off against them?!
I’m pretty excited about Man of Steel which debuts this weekend. So, I figured I’d look around for some Superman related toy commercials and was surprised to find that there aren’t that many on YouTube. I’m not sure if this one, or a version of it, is even running anywhere, but I did see the Exploders toys at a store recently, so I know that they exist. This commercial was actually posted in the fall of last year, but it certainly reflects the details we know about the film: Zod comes to Earth on the Black Zero which happens to be packed with Kryptonians loyal to him and they fight. While my personal tastes tend to veer towards more traditional action figures, I like the play value involved with these Exploders. Superman obviously doesn’t stretch (unless you’re reading wacky Silver Age stories) but it’s a cool way to get to the idea of flying through the air and smashing through bad guys and other obstacles.