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 Gremlins which 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.
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.