When I was a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, there were so many incredible, robust toy lines to get into. I was a big fan of He-Man, Transformers, M.A.S.K., G.I. Joe and the Ninja Turtles, but there were even more ideas that seemed to just hit and disappear forever. So, you might go to the store, get something cool, tear open the box and then never know what that thing was actually called. For years, that was the case with a Pepsi can toy I have that splits open to reveal a tiny robot man and a flying…chair or something for him. Only years later would I come to find out the line was called Computer Warriors and had this great commercial!
Just look at how glorious these toys are! I was already a fan of small toys that looked like other things and could change! Plus, you add in the mystery of those things I kept hearing about called home computers and you have the recipe for something incredible! Also, maybe this is where I realized that soccer is evil!
Alas, the Mattel line apparently didn’t do as well as they hoped and it only lasted the one wave. I did just discover that there was supposed to be a cartoon as well, though it never got past the pilot stage! Oh what could have been. Actually, thinking about it, this idea could easily be brought back right now. I’ve got two kids and it seems like everything’s already about being these cool, tiny little toys. Include some blind bag options and, like, an iPad that turns into something and you’ve got a hit on your hands Mattel!
Last week, I showed you all a detailed view of half of the mostly-monsters toys I lined up in my office this year to get into the Halloween spirit. The first batch included a Masters Of The Universe Classics giant, one of Jack Kirby’s hottest creations, Buffy, a trio of Stranger Things characters, my guy Beetlejuice, a pair of Hellboys and horror icons like Frankenstein’s Monster, Freddy Krueger and Pinhead! Want to see who else made the cut [cue cleaver chopping sound effect]?
To say that this Halloween season will be unlike any other is like saying that Leatherface has a unique take on cosmetics. My wife and I are still taking the pandemic seriously (it’s incredibly stupid that anyone has to say that, wear a damn mask) so trick or treating for the kids is all but cancelled. We’re trying to figure out a new way to celebrate, but we’ll see how that goes. Personally, this year will be very different for me because I’ve got a house full of people who want nothing to do with horror movies (or are too young to see them). So, I’m doing my best to squeeze them in where and when I can, but am also focusing on a lot of comics and books. But, I also decided to decorate the shelf in my office with a small army of fiends in action figure form that date all the way back to my childhood!
Having had about another week of time with these toys, I can say that all of them — even the larger ones — are absolutely super fun. My kids keep wandering over and playing with the smaller versions as well as the larger ones. To be honest, I also find myself launching cars through the mountain terrain. Now I’ve got to see the new film!
I find myself continually fascinated by the 1980s trend of selling scary things to children. I missed a lot of that, but even as a kid I loved Gremlinswhich begat movies like Ghoulies, Critters and the Troll films. The Mattel-distributed Boglins toys are also part of that mini-monster lineage. The toys themselves were creepy puppets that allowed you to manipulated their mouths and eyes. From the looks of this amazing commercial, they were ready for the big screen and probably looked better than some of the Gremlins clones out in the world around this time.
I don’t specifically remember Boglins from my childhood, but do remember walking into the research office when I worked at Wizard and seeing one of them lying on a makeshift end table created from piles of longboxes next to my boss’s desk. The ToyFare guys were doing a retro toy feature on the line and this was the one being shot for art purposes. I bet I have that issue sitting around somewhere in my garage. If I ever find it, I’ll scan it and post it here on the blog!
I’ve got more She-Ra goodness here on this week’s TCT. This time around the spot focuses solely on the Princes of Power herself. I’m still shocked by how restrained and gentle the girls in this commercial are, to almost Stepford degrees. Compare that ad to this He-Man one I wrote about last summer and they’re totally different! It’s too bad Mattel felt the need to go this route and I assume it didn’t represent how girls of the time actually played with these toys. My 3 year old started watching She-Ra and not a week later was chasing her Papa around the house with a wrapping paper tube craving an all-out battle. I’d guess that was far more the norm than distant fawning and adulation being bestowed upon a toy that’s literally put on a pedestal.
My three year old daughter has discovered and fallen in love with She-Ra in the past few months. So, it seemed like a good time to go back and scope out some of the commercials Mattel made back in the 80s to appeal the young girls they wanted to sell these toys to. Growing up I was pretty hardcore into He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but I honestly don’t remember much about his sister She-Ra. I not only didn’t watch the show, but possibly blocked out the whole franchise, which is odd because I have memories of other “girl-centric” franchises of the day like My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch and the like.
So, I’ve been looking at a lot of this stuff with fresh eyes and think there’s a lot of solid, interesting ideas here. In fact, I’m pretty sure She-Ra would make a better movie than He-Man, but that’s neither here nor there, really. I love this spot for all the usual reasons. I dig seeing kids play with toys and am a longtime playset fan. It is interesting to me how restrained the girls are in this commercial though. Were this a commercial for a “boy toy” the little guys would be going crazy for the new piece of play equipment, but these girls look at the Crystal Castle almost reverentially. They should have been able to show their excitement for such a cool toy!
Even as a pretty huge He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe fan growing up, I somehow missed the whole Horde thing. I remember Hordak and his robots, but not so much the rest of the villains that came along with him. I scored a Grizzlor and Hordak from this time in the past few years at a flea market, but that’s about it. It might be for the best, because, had kid-me known there was another MOTU playset out there along with a bad guy who could turn into a motorcycle (Dragstor) and a double robot with swap-out parts (Multi-Bot), I would very well might have lost my mind. It’s just funny how you think you had such a good handle on something when you were a kid, but there was this whole other part that you completely missed. I guess that won’t happen anymore these days thanks to the internet.
To say I was excited when He-Man got relaunched in 2002 would be an understatement. But, I wasn’t able to watch on a regular basis because I was in college. Between Cartoon Network’s ever-changing schedule and my own busy schedule, I only caught a few episodes, but liked what I saw. I was a huge fan of the property as a kid, so this rejuvenation — which also included action figures and a variety of comic books — was a big deal for me.
While I missed out on most of he cartoon, I had better luck picking up the action figures here and there and have a pretty solid collection these days. The posed, highly detailed figures might not be be my favorite modern MOTU toys — how can it not be Mattycollector’s Masters Of The Universe Classics? — but they were so rad at the time. Someday I hope to have a place to display all three generations of my He-Man toys in one place to show the evolution of the character.
I’m pretty certain you can completely trace my love of playsets to this one right here. I was lucky enough to score not just Castle Grayskull but also Snake Mountain. I would set them up next to each other and send my toys on epic journeys and battles against one another using all the fun tricks and secrets of both sets. I love that immersive quality of toys and action figures from the 80s. It’s fun to just play with your toys, but to have a recognizable environment to put them in is just next level. I’ve still got both of these at my folks’ house and I about lost my mind when I saw that Mattel made a new one for their Masters Of The Universe Classics line.