Author Archives: Shawn Robare

A Super Fun Show…with Learning!

I recently stumbled across a pretty fun web series created by and staring Lexie Kahanovitz called Super Fun Show with Learning!  It’s a weird mix of animation, puppetry, and live action comedy that takes a dystopian, cartoon-addled look at the millennial generation’s experience.  Imagine Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by way of Kidd Video filtered through the lens of David Cronenberg.  After being downsized by a cyberpunk middle manager who only talks in corporate-speak, Sandy Childs, the heroine of the series, has to figure out how to survive with no money, mounting debt, and an addiction to personal electronics.

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There series homages Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Videodrome, with a little bit of Who Framed Roger Rabbit thrown in for good measure (specifically the tone of the shoe-melting scene.)  With an NES chiptunes soundtrack and the a color palette straight out of Windows 95 MS Paint, the first episode is a trippy look at modern problems with a playful injection of 80s/90s era nostalgia.  It reminds me a lot of another independent film project I had the opportunity to preview recently, Don Thacker’s Motivational Growth (which I’ll be talking about in more detail over at the Cult Film Club soon.)

The first episode is available for free on youtube, and Lexie and crew are hard at work on the second installment and have a kickstarter going to try and secure some funding.  I know I’m curious to see where the series goes, an she totally secured my dollars when she states in the KS video that the second episode will feature a sequence inside the TV that they need “…to make an amazing Tron suit…” for, so I backed the project.  If you dig what you see maybe you’ll be interested in helping to fund it too.  I will say, though it’s more or less pg-13, it’s more on the Videodrome side of things than say Kidd Video, so be warned ;)  If you decide back the project, leave a comment and tell ‘em Branded sent ya!

Is it worth revisiting 80s films on the big screen?

It may sound weird, but I find myself asking this question a lot.  Over the past decade I’ve noticed that a lot of the films I grew up loving have started seeing revival screenings in movie theaters.  It actually probably started in the late 90s with the 20th anniversary of Star Wars and the special editions that were re-released on the big screen.  Not long after there was a 20-year anniversary screening of Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut of Alien, and eventually there was the 2002 special edition of E.T.  At the time I was in college and hitting the theater multiple times a week as it seemed like I had tons of free time and extra money for catching movies.  These days both time and money seem to be vanishing into a black hole and I barely make the room in my budget or schedule for new movies, let alone flicks I’ve seen dozens, sometimes (gulp – I’ll admit) hundreds, of times.  I tend to throw on 80s flicks while I’m farting around home, doing chores, cooking, or just for background noise while I’m working on the site.  So I feel like I’ve seen so many of these movies to death, and when the opportunity comes for catching one of them on the big screen I always find myself wondering if it’s really worth it.  I found myself skipping out on a lot of opportunities to catch these flicks in the theater until this past fall when I snagged some unbeatable deals.

There’s a small theater chain in my area called Studio Movie Grill that’s been hosting a series of semi-monthly $2 screenings featuring one-night-only engagements of some pretty cool 80s flicks like Ghostbusters and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.  At two bucks I couldn’t pass up on the chance to see both of these on the big screen again (both of which I saw back in the early 80s, E.T. during both it’s initial run and when it was brought back into theaters in 1985.)  I had a lot of fun reliving the theater experience with these, both of which were filled with families that were exposing their kids to them for the first time (as I gleaned from overhearing parents explaining the various plot points during the movie), but would I still go in the future if I wasn’t getting such an awesome deal on admission?

Short answer?  Yes.  Emphatic yes.  If you would have asked me before I went into both of these screenings if I thought I’d learn or experience anything new about these movies that I’ve seen so many times I stopped counting, I would have chuckled and said no.  I mean between the ability to practically get the theatrical experience at home on a 60-inch screen with surround sound, or slim likely hood that I’d notice anything that hasn’t already been documented a million times on the internet, what new could I really get from seeing these in the theater?  Well, I would have been wrong for dismissing the experience because for the first time in a very long time I saw these movies with totally fresh eyes.  I’m sure part of this is the communal theater-going vibe, but I noticed so many little details that I never noticed before.

For instance, in Ghostbusters I never noticed how many times the Stay Puft brand is peppered throughout the film before we get to see the form of the Destroyer that so innocently just pops into Ray Stanz’s mind.  When Dana comes home from shopping she unpacks a bag of Stay Puft marshmallows for one, but there are also mural advertisements on the sides of buildings in some shots!  Also, did you know that none other than Ron “The Hedghog” Jeremy has a cameo appearance in the crowd scene right after Walter Peck has the containment unit shutdown?  Yup, he’s there in the crowd.  I also never noticed the Chinese hat Ray is wearing as a thank you gift in the montage sequence when the Ghostbusters’ business is taking the city by storm (when they apparently helped a restaurant rid themselves of a spook.)

As for E.T., I took extra special care to keep an eye out for details in Elliot’s room since I’d been having so much fun analyzing the bedrooms in 80s kid’s flicks recently.  I already did an examination of his room a while back, but damn if I didn’t find more stuff!  First of all, when I originally dissected the room there was a weird dart board cabinet that I couldn’t identify (number 15 in the below picture…

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Well, it was as plain as day on the big screen.  #15 is in fact an Artful Dodger dart board cabinet from Oliver Twist!

artful dodger

Now that I’ve identified that it doesn’t do much to explain why the Artful Dodger is on a dart board cabinet, but still, mystery solved.  In addition to this I also noticed some more toys in Elliot’s room, as well as in their living room!

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1). Chutes and Ladders boardgame

2). Magic 8 Ball

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3). Lego Universal Building Set

4). Empire Strikes Back Twin-Pod Cloud Car

cloud car

5). Super Simon Electronic Game

super simon

Though the Super Simon box is in the screen shot above (in Elliot’s room), the game itself is actually on a shelf in the living room…

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But for the first time I noticed that there are also some other fun things in the living room like…

6). An Atari 2600

7). Big Trak from Milton Bradley

big trax

There were also a bunch of other small, fun things I noticed throughout the film.  Little details, like how John Williams drops into Yoda’s Theme for a could of beats during the Halloween scene when E.T. sees a kid dressed up in a Don Post Yoda mask…

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…or the fact that Dee Wallace is wearing a really weird handgun pin on her vest in one sequence…

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Sure, these things haven’t radically changed my outlook on the film, but any time I have the opportunity to learn something new about a film I thought I knew everything about, well that’s worth a full-priced movie ticket if you ask me.

I’m actually pretty excited as the Studio Movie Grill has announced their 2014 schedule of $2 revival screenings and there are a bunch of flicks I can’t wait to see in the theater (and for some it will be the first time I’ve seen them on the big screen.  There are two categories of events, the Brews & Views and the Family Rewind.  The former features some more recent fare mixed in, but there are a few flicks I’m looking forward to catching…

Bews and Views

Totally looking forward to catching Alien, Temple of Doom, and Jaws.  As for the Family Rewind, there’s way more on that list that I’m going to try and catch…

rewind

I mean, holy crap, I never got a chance to see The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, Goonies, Annie, The Princess Bride, and Gremlins in the big screen as a kid, and I can’t wait to see Back to the Future and Big on the silver screen again.  All in all this looks like it’s going to be a fun year at the movies catching up on all my favorites from the 80s!  So seriously, if you get a chance to catch a revival screening, or you have a Studio Movie Grill near you, it’s totally worth seeing these flicks in the theater again.  You won’t regret it!

Rebuilding the 80s, brick by brick…

So it was announced today that the 7th official Lego Cuusoo project is going to be brick artist Brent Waller’s Ghostbusters play set.  I was pretty excited when I saw the news because the work he did on his Ecto-1 is kind of beyond superb…

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Not only is the Ecto-1 really beautiful, but his minifigs of our four heroes managed to really nail the personalities of Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter.

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For those unfamiliar, Lego Cuusoo is a community-building based platform to submit ideas to Lego.  These projects are put out to the public for support, and if they garner enough attention and votes the project is submitted to a review board for the possibility of becoming a production set.  The set that drew my attention to this concept was the Back to the Future DeLorean submitted early last year…

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The DeLorean wasn’t the first “branded” Cuusoo project, but it’s the first older property that I’m sure fans have been making builds of for years to finally see an official release.  I haven’t picked it up yet, but it sure is tempting.  The final build is slightly different than the proposed version above, a little blockier and a bit less sleek, but it’s still pretty fantastic…

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Coming hot on the heels of M. Togami’s Back to the Future DeLorean, this new Ghostbusters project got me thinking about what other possible 80s era projects builders have in the works.  I mean with two major 80s properties now available you know folks have to be scrambling to showcase their skills on other franchises.  It reminded me of a pretty rad series of Goonies sets I saw up on the site recently designed by a builder that goes by the handle Lyonsblood…

goonies 1

These Goonies sets manage to capture the adventure and aesthetic of the film in a very condensed format.  Take the organ of bones play set he calls Skeleton Scare.  The slide, the pit of spikes and the overall design of the cave are very rad and easily evoke the flick.  He’s also designed a set for One-Eyed Willie’s pirate ship…

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But what really sold me on the Goonies designs were the minifig sets of both the Goonies gang, as well as Mama Fratelli and her boys.

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As neat as these were I figured they’d probably never see the light of day, but after seeing Funko release a series of vinyl Pop Goonies figures there might be some hope just yet!  So, what other fun 80s-centric projects are floating around on Lego Cuusoo?  How about this rad large format build of the Dukes of Hazzard General Lee by artist Kenta974!

Dukes of Hazzard 1

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I love how he rendered the rebel flag on the roof, though it’s a design element that is the nail int eh coffin of this project never coming to fruition.  I’d have a hard time seeing Lego seek branding approval for such a controversial symbol as that iconic flag.  Even so, the build is awesome.  While we’re on the subject of rad cars, how about this super cool rendition of the Knight Industries Two Thousand by StevesXD

Knight Rider

He really managed to nail K.I.T.T.’s sleek curves and I think any Knightrider fan would love to have this on their shelf…

How could we have the Ecto-1, BTTF Time Machine, the General Lee and K.I.T.T. without the A-Team and B.A.’s super cool van?!?  Thanks to Isreal Lemus, we can take a look at a possible design as well as Hannibal, Murdock, B.A. and Faceman…

A-Team

Are we likely to see these other projects coming to full Cuusoo fruition?  Probably not.  I’d have to hazard a guess that the A-Team is too violent a property, the Dukes of Hazzard too controversial, and Knightrider not quite popular enough on the pop culture spectrum to garner enough potential buyers, but I think that the Goonies set has an honest to goodness shot if it can manage to get enough votes to put it in front of the review board.

The only build that’s absent from this list that really surprises me is Airwolf.  I must have spent two solid years trying to perfect my own “Lady” out of my rag tag mix of Space and Town sets as a kid.  I’m really kind of flabbergasted that no one has submitted a build for one on Cuusoo yet.  I couldn;t close out this post without one though, so here’s a beautiful build of the “Lady” by artist Orion Pax

Airwolf

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Shuffle them Duke boys good Rosco…

I mentioned in this past weekend’s Battle Cat toddler hopper piece that I found something pretty nifty and cheap at a local vintage toy shop.  I went into Billy’s Toys expecting to come out with something, I mean with the sheer amount of cool vintage stuff he has on hand it’d be hard to leave empty handed.  I had expected that item to be a toy though, since that’s what he specializes in.  Though I had my eye on a couple carded Bionic Six figures and a pretty rad Tonto figure released by Gabriel back in 1981, as I made my way through the store a number of times I just couldn’t decide what I wanted.  That is until I spotted a small orange box in the back of a glass case which featured some very familiar faces…

Dukes of Hazzard Card Game

It had to be kismet as I was just lamenting last week that there didn’t seem to be enough 80s era properties being used to make board and card games.  With my girlfriend Jaime I’d just picked up a copy of Looney Labs Back to the Future card game released in 2010.  We’d had fun learning the mechanics and playing that, and though I’m looking forward to breaking out that deck again I was kind of hoping that there were more games out there that were similar branded with some of the other movies and TV shows I grew up loving so much.  So when I laid my eyes on this Dukes of Hazzard card game box I was pretty darn excited!

Dukes of Hazzard Card Game 3

Though the box was a little beat up, the cards were all accounted for and in really good shape.  After reading through the rules a few times I’m still kind of confused on how exactly the game works (it never states how many cards can be played per turn, or if there is a strict hand-size, etc.), but I’m still champing at the bit to break this out during our next game night.  Even of the game itself isn’t a hit, I’m pretty enamored by the artwork on the cards which was well worth the purchase price alone…

Dukes of Hazzard Card Game 2

Of course, once I realized these cards existed it eventually led me to eBay so see how many other 80s era, vintage, branded games were floating around out there.  I knew there were several board games (Knightrider, Goonies, G.I. Joe, Indiana Jones, and the Silverhawks just to name a few), but I was more curious about card games.  Let me just say there are A LOT of them and I kinda went nuts picking up a bunch that were pretty reasonably priced.  Soon copies of the E.T., Return of the Jedi, G.I. Joe, A-Team, and Transformers card games should be winging their way into my collection and I have my eye on the Gremlins, Munsters (granted, it’s from the 60s, but I still grew up on them), Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, and Masters of the Universe games as well.  Some of these are pretty basic from the descriptions and consist of standardized decks built for playing run of the mill games like War or some form of picture puzzle matching, but others seem a little more original.  Either way, I’m pretty sure Jaime and I have some fun game nights in our future.

Which reminds me, in addition to breaking out that new Back to the Future game we recently bought, Jaime also introduced me to the insanity that is Electronic Mall Madness!

mall madness

I think we’re definitely going to have to breakout my copy of Go For It! soon as well…

 

And then there’s that time you almost spent $600 on a toddler toy…

So, felt a little listless hanging around the apartment this weekend and decided to make the 45 minute trek up to my favorite local vintage shop called Billy’s Toys.  I just recently picked up an almost min-on-card Transformers Afterburner there and I was curious about some of the store stock that I probably missed on my first visit.  The place is literally packed floor to ceiling with toys, statues and comics.  They’re hiding in buckets and boxes, tucked in-between shelves and even slid underneath some of the glass display cases.  It’s kind of ridiculous in the best way imaginable and feels a lot like falling down the rabbit hole when you step inside the small store.  I decided to give myself a strict budget of $30 because if I didn’t I’d probably end up signing over my bank account and all future earnings with the sheer amount of stuff that I want to take home from this place.

There were a few things that caught my eye in the $20-$30 range (in particular a couple of mint carded action figures including Rock 1 from the Bionic Six and a Gabriel Tonto) but I restrained myself and ended up leaving only ten dollars lighter in the wallet.  I’ll be taking some pictures and scanning in some amazing artwork for a piece later in the week to share my new treasure, but I have to share something else I saw in the store today, something I’d only heard rumors about and have never laid eyes on until today.  Much like the supremely rad Star Wars Speeder Bike Jungle Gym, the following holy grail item is proof that there are kids out there that had a way better childhood than I did.  Behold, the Masters of the Universe Battle Cat toddler hopper!

Battle Cat Hopper

This piece was truly a thing of beauty.  It’s easily three feet long, four feet high, and 2 and a half feet across.  Seriously, this would be like having a baby Battle Cat as a pet, it’s that large.  I can’t even count the number of times I daydreamed about hopping on Battle Cat’s back and riding him through the woods near my house, chasing down all the older kids who picked on me and giving rides to all of my close friends.  To find out that I could have had that experience as a kid (well, more or less) is kind of mind blowing.  I have to be honest.  Even with my very strict budgetary limit set, I seriously mulled over the idea of dropping six bills on this guy if only to mount him over my bed or couch.  I practically had to drag myself out of the store!

I wonder what other amazing pieces of ride-able pop culture amazingness I missed out on in my childhood?  Was there a coin-operated Airwolf ride in malls?  A fully decked out Street Hawk BMX bike?  A Transformers Sideswipe Power Wheels?!?

Teeny Tiny Thunderhawk

Things have been pretty nuts this week, but yesterday there was a slight calm in the storm with a very fun mail day.  Last week I showcased my collection of pop culture 1:64th scale die-cast vehicles and in the comments my good buddy Jason Gross of the super cool Rediscover the 80s website and podcast (of which I was a guest) pointed me to something I didn’t know existed, a Hot Wheels-sized Thunderhawk from the cartoon/toy line M.A.S.K.!  It didn’t even occur to me to hunt for 80s era action cartoon vehicles in this scale, and after a quick scan of eBay one of these little beauties was purchased and making its way to my pop culture parking lot…

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According to the original baggie it came sealed in this was a premium offered by Kenner in 1986 and produced by Yatming Diecast, a Chinese toy company that has since moved from 1:64th scale offerings to more upscale adult collectors cars.  I have no idea what the promotion consisted of to snag one of these back in the 80s, but from what I can tell there were no other M.A.S.K. vehicles produced in this size.

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I was so stoked to open the box and release this car from the original baggie.  Though it’s cool having the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine and Flintstones family car in my collection, this is more in line with what I really want parked in my tiny pop culture garage.  If only there were some G.I. Joe, Transformers or Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors vehicles available in this scale!  I suppose I could pick up the Hot Wheels Retro Entertainment release of Ren’s yellow VW Bug from Footloose and add an Autobot symbol to the hood for a makeshift Bumblebee…

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This toy isn’t an exact replica of Thunderhawk unfortunately.  For one, it’s missing the rad spoiler with the purple grid pattern, but more importantly the doors are in the classic style of a standard 1983 Chevy Camero instead of the super cool gull-wing doors from the cartoon and standard M.A.S.K. toy…

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THAWK LWB

Even though it’s slightly different, it’s still close enough for me, and it’s official!  So happy to add Matt Tracker’s ride to my collection…

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1.21 Gigawatts of fun…

This past weekend I stumbled upon something pretty cool while I was browsing through Alternate Worlds, a Baltimore area comic shop, with my girlfriend Jaime.  A co-worker had suggested the store to her since they have a great selection of comics, games and toys.  I was curious if there was anything eighties-centric that I might want to pick up, so we jumped in the car and took a trip over to check it out this past Saturday.  Though the store did have a few vintage G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and Transformers, the item that caught my attention was actually something that was released just a few years ago, the Back to the Future Card Game by Looney Labs

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Though the game debuted in 2010, this is the first time I saw it and I couldn’t pass up the chance to snag a copy.  I mean, it was my density, er, destiny because Jaime and I were looking for some more 2-player games we could play and, well, Back to the Future.  I mean how often do you see 80s movie-themed card or board games that aren’t stupidly expensive?  When we got home, after a quick game of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Trouble (which we found an the 5 Below in the same shopping center as the comic shop), we ripped open the shrink wrap so we could check out the game…

BTTF Card Game 2

Included are three sets of cards, the main game deck, a small stack of player character ID cards, and set of 28 timeline cards that act as a game board of sorts.  The concept is pretty simple, each player is randomly dealt an ID card featuring a descendant of one of the main characters from the Back to the Future movie trilogy.  There are various McFlys, Browns, Tannens as well as some of the more obscure families like the Needles and Berrys and Stricklands (even the Strickland descendants know the McFlys have always been slackers…)

BTTF Card Game 3

Each character has a list of events associated with them that they need to make sure happen in order for them to both exist and to win the game.  These events are recorded on the timeline cards which are spread out chronologically and act a game board.  Each timeline card has two possible variations of the event listed, and these can be manipulated by the players using cards from the game deck…

BTTF Card Game 4

In the set of timeline cards there are specific “linchpin” events that the player can alter (flip to show a different outcome – like when Marty McFly Jr. agrees to help Griff Tannen and his gang in BTTF 2), and changing them has a ripple effect that flips subsequent cards.  Based on the character that you draw you’ll be targeting some of these “linchpin” events, changing the past so that your den…destiny can be fulfilled.  (Alright, stopping with the density jokes.)  The characters/players alter these event cards by using cards from the main game deck which consists of various items and actions.

BTTF Card Game 5

For me this is where the game really shines as the cards feature a bunch of fun stuff from the movies like cases of plutonium (thanks to your friendly neighborhood Libyan nationalists), the Gray’s Sports Almanac, hooverboards, or copies of George McFly’s debut novel A Match Made in Space.  There are also six time machine cards which feature the various incarnations of the classic DeLorean as well as the train from BTTF 3.

All in all the game is a little confusing on the first play through as it takes a while to get used to how the cards interact, and there are some play/draw variations that are hard to keep straight, but the game goes pretty quick and by the second time it should be a lot smoother.  I wasn’t familiar with Looney Labs when I picked this Back to the Future game up, but apparently after doing a little digging it looks like it’s this set is based on their Chrononauts Card Game.  So if you’re familiar with that than this one should be a cinch to pick up on the mechanics.

Unfortunately the BTTF Card Game is no longer in print, but there are still reasonably priced copies available on Amazon.  Now, if only someone would come out with a Monster Squad-themed card game I’d be in heaven…

My Pop Culture Parking Lot…

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my love for tiny pop culture vehicles here at Branded so I decided to gather up all of my little die-cast beauties and go outside for a little photo-shoot this past weekend.  I can’t even begin to say how happy I am that companies like Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning are putting out so many 1:64 scale toys to feed my obsession with 80s era cars, trucks, and other rad modes of transportation from all the films and TV that I loved as a kid…

Pop Culture Parking Lot

I don’t have everything that I’d like to have in the collection, but it’s getting to the point where the tiny valets are having a hard time finding a place to park these babies!  I shared the handful of vehicles I managed to procure a couple years ago on the site a while back, like the Back to the Future DeLorean and Tron: Legacy Lightcycle in the picture above.  Since then I’ve managed to track down a bunch of new releases, as well as a couple of older pieces that I’m really excited about.  For instance, right behind the DeLorean you can spot Cooter’s Mustang from the Dukes of Hazzard.  Speaking of the DoH, I finally managed to track down an ERTL General Lee!

General Lee

That’s been a huge hole in my collection for years, but now I can start jumping over all sorts of 1:64 scale lakes and ravines.  Of course, what fun is having Bo & Luke’s sweet ride without Roscoe’s Sheriff Cruiser to chase it?

Roscoes Car DoH

I didn’t have that many little toy cars as a kid (though I distinctly remember playing with the yellow Incredible Hulk Hot Wheels Scene Machine), but I always wanted these Dukes of Hazzard cars.  I had a friend named Timmy who had a bunch of them as well as a large fold up plastic floor mat that had all of Hazzard county on it that he received for his birthday.  I have some vivid memories of laying down near that mat tracing the various roads with my finger while munching on some novelty bologna bubble gum slices that Timmy also got for his birthday…

One of the rad aspects of 80s era TV was all of the shows that either featured some cool cars or were dedicated to an awesome vehicle like Street Hawk, Riptide, Magnum P.I., Airwolf or the ridiculously awesome Knightrider!  Thanks to the recent Hot Wheels releases I now have K.I.T.T. and even K.A.R.R.!

KITT and KARR

I was just reading that there should be a third Knightrider release in the 2014 Retro Entertainment series from Hot Wheels, so I’m curious whether we’ll be getting one of the two cool Semis, either the Knight Foundations mobile command 16-wheeler or the evil Goliath!

Of course any collection of neat TV vehicles wouldn’t be complete without B.A. Baracus’ van and Face’s cool white Vette from the A-Team

BAB Van A-Team

Face Vett A-TEam

But not all of my favorite TV vehicles hail from the 80s as there were some other shows that I adored as a kid which I caught in reruns on Nickelodeon (either during weekdays or on Nick at Night.)  I was so excited when I realized that Johnny Lightning released the Monkees’ Monkee-Mobile back in 1998…

Monkees

Similarly Johnny Lightning put out the Munsters’ Koach in the early 2000s…

Munsters Koach

I decided that I wouldn’t limit my acquisitions to just real vehicles either and was super stoked when Hot Wheels started putting out cartoon-accurate stuff this past year as well.  I had to have the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine…

Mystery Machine

Hot Wheels has also begun releasing some other Hanna Barbera vehicles like the Flintstones family car and the Jetsons spaceship.  It’s kind of blurry in the background of that first parking lot photo, but if you squint you can make out the Flintstones car on the back right.  I decided not to feature it as there’s a better version hitting store shelves soon that has more accurate colors that I’d like to pick up.

Drawing from the 60s (and another show I caught in reruns) as well as the 80s are a couple of my favorite variations of the Batmobile…

Batmobiles 66 and 89

I used to have an ERTL Burton Batmobile, but lost it along the way over the years so I was really happy to replace it with the newer Hot Wheels release.  I was also happy to finally pick up the ’66 version from the old Adam West show recently as well.  Segueing into films, I wanted to share the first pop culture vehicle that sparked off this current trend in Hot Wheels retro cars, the 2010 release of the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters

Ecto-1

According to that 2014 release article I linked to above we’re in store for a second Ghostbusters vehicle release this year which I’m assuming is the Ecto-2 from the sequel (with the digital marquee and the checker tape siderunners.)  It would be kind of cool to get the beat-up original version of the hearse before it was pimped out by Ray though.

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Even though Hot Wheels has ramped up their production of these pop culture cars they’re still pretty difficult to find on store pegs.  I’m sure it’s a mix of scalpers snatching up all the product and the popularity of these coveted 1/64th scale cars, but it can be a real headache for collectors.  For instance I’ve been looking everywhere for the recent release of the Muppet’s converted school bus from the first flick.  I have yet to see one in the wild, but I was super lucky when gentleman and scholar CT over at Nerd Lunch very graciously gifted me with one this past Christmas!

Electric Mayhem Muppets

In fact that’s also how I managed to procure the Knightrider K.A.R.R. above, when the super cool William Bruce West sent me one he found.  I’ve been trying to spread the tiny car karma around whenever I find stuff that are hard to track down (like the Kroger grocery store Halloween Hot Wheels exclusive Slimer redeco Ecto-1 above…)

The most recent car I’ve tracked down for my collection isn’t an official pop culture car release, but close enough for me, this 1958 Plymouth Fury, AKA Christine from the Stephen King novel and John Carpenter movie…

Christine

Even though my pop culture parking lot is getting pretty full there are still some wishlist items that I’d love to hunt down, both releases I know are coming and some that I’m hopeful for (but not holding my breath.  So I’ll end this with my wishlist, but I’m curious, what vehicles do you have in your collection and what are you looking to procure?

Branded 1:64 scale vehicle wishlist….

1). Airwolf (Released by ETRL in the 80s, but also a Japanese Hot Wheels exclusive)

2). 1948 yellow Ford Super DeLuxe Club convertible from Karate Kid (potentially this year!)

3). 250 GT California model Ferrari from Ferris Bueller (Available from Hot Wheels)

4). Ecto-2 from Ghostbusters II (There is a Johnny Lightning release)

5). Buckaroo Banzai Jetcar (no chance in hell, sigh)

6). Porkchop Express from Big Trouble in Little China

7). Mad Max’s Interceptor (maybe with the new flick?)

8). Street Hawk motorcycle

9). Megaforce Dune Buggy & Motorcycle (Hot Wheels 80s)

10). Flight of the Navigator Spaceship

11). Thunder Road from the Explorers

12). Dracula’s Hearse from The Monster Squad

13). Mama Fatelli’s 4×4 from The Goonies

14). Light up VW Bug from The Money Pit

15). Harry’s Mutt Cutts Van from Dumb & Dumber

16). Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation

The Seedy Adult Underworld of 80s Family Entertainment

I know every generation says this about the decades when they came of age, but growing up in the 80s was seriously a whole different world; like living on another planet at times.  There was a lot more going on when it came to entertainment aimed at kids in terms of adult themes and material that surely went over the head of most of the viewing audience.  Looking back I love this and really appreciate that the creators and writers didn’t dumb down the content, even if some of it might stray a little further towards “adult” than many people might realize. You definitely saw this in a cartoon like Ren & Stimpy (which granted was the early 90s, but was the culmination of the freedom the previous decade expressed), which constantly toed the line of what was considered decent for a kid’s show.  Heck, I’ve mentioned before that I think John Kricfalusi is very probably the guy responsible for animating anthropomorphic penis aliens into the background sequences in the Saturday morning cartoon Galaxy High (particularly in the first and second episodes)…

Galaxy High penis creature 2

I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day about catching up with some 80s flicks that they hadn’t seen in over 20 years, in particular Ghostbusters and the Goonies.  The topic turned to the awkward dream sequence featuring a sex scene between Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stanz and spectral “presence”.  I guess you could call it oral innuendo, but the background behind that sequence is pretty plain.  Ray banged a ghost.  It’s one of the interesting aspects of reading the original Richard Mueller novelization

Ghostbusters Novelization

In the book (which is based on the Aykroyd/Ramis screenplay) we learn that, that dream sequence was actually from a real sequence planned for later in the film.  Right after Ray and Winston are driving through the city talking about the end of the world, when the two go to Fort Detmerring looking for a spook. They split up and Ray stumbles upon a room that is a replica of a revolutionary war officer’s barracks. He finds a uniform and puts it on, lays on a bed and promptly falls asleep. When he wakes, the ghost they were looking for is about to go to town on his junk. Apparently this sequence was largely cut, but I’m betting none of them wanted to ditch the blowjob joke, so they sandwiched it into the montage (and it also explains the old war uniform Ray is wearing beyond the fact that they morphed the scene into a dream.)  What’s even weirder is that this is actually the culmination of a plot thread in the book where Ray is both lonely and changing his feelings about catching the ghosts. Since Peter is courting Dana and (in the book) Egon and Janine are becoming an item, Ray is looking to blow off some steam, and the experience with the ghost is just what he was looking for. Also, there’s a bit with Ray thinking about how it might be wrong to catch these ghosts just to jail them in the containment unit, and when he awakes to his spectral date-night he wonders if maybe some ghosts are good.

The author, Mueller, actually expands the sexuality in the novel here and there. For instance, everyone thinks about sex to one degree or another, but if I’m used to dealing with a character where this is never brought up, say the Librarian in the opening sequence of Ghostbusters, then when she starts “thinking” about how she feels guilty for seeking out all kinds of ancient kinky woodcuts featuring taboo sexual practices in the library’s non-public collection, well, I get a little weirded out. As far as I can tell, the librarian character in the script is slightly different; she’s written to be rotund and in her mid to late twenties, but for all intents and purposes the scene in the script is almost shot for shot what we’ve come to know and love in the final film. Mueller, though, felt the need to paint her as a bit more sad and depraved, which for an incidental character is pretty weird. This sort of thing pops up here and there in the novel, including in the scene where we’re first introduced to Dana as she gets out of a cab and goes into her building. The narrative is fractured into a bunch of perspectives as a handful of people on the street take notice of her and give their two cents. One of these includes an elderly man walking his dog who glances at her and thinks, “…how long (has) it been since it’s been long…

This is actually a trend in 80s era novelizations, and for some movies that might be surprising, like say, the Goonies book

Goonies Novelization

Now you may be asking what could possibly be sexualized in the Goonies, I mean it’s not like there’s a secret love scene between Chunk and Sloth right?!?  Well, Sloth love Chunk, but that’s actually (and thankfully) not explored in the novel, but that didn’t stop author James Kahn from evoking electricity-induced orgasms.  Say what?!  Um yeah.  So in the wishing well sequence, at the end, after Andy has sent up the bucket empty, all the kids realize that they’re covered in leeches. Data has a bright idea and end up strapping two wires to a 20-volt battery. He sticks the wires in the water by his feet sending a light electrical charge through his body that’s lethal enough to kill the leeches. He does this for the rest of them, and afterwards, James Kahn tags on a small scene that is, well, almost obscene. After getting the shock, Andy and Stef are standing off to the side, and Kahn describes them as having “…limp smile(s) and small sigh(s)…” Then Stef says to Andy, “I got all tingly – just my luck, I’m in love with a pond!” After which the following passage appears: ‘It annoyed Andy, for some reason, I don’t know, like someone had made her feel good and she didn’t want to…’ Then Andy hauls off and slaps Data saying “Don’t-you-ever-try-that-again-with-me-Buster!” What the hell! Did Kahn actually suggest that Andy and Stef had orgasms from the electric shock!?!  Yeah, yeas he did.

What I’m really curious about is how much of this was in the original shooting script.  I know the leech sequence was in the script (as it made it’s way into both version of the book, including the leaner kid’s version) and was shot and deleted (and has sadly been lost to time), but how much of the subtly was in the actual film versus something that Kahn added for the book.  On the one hand, looking back this is so weird and out of place in the story, yet I have to remind myself that I was reading about pre-teen and teen orgasms in Judy Blume books when I was 7 years old!

There had to be flicks that were completely pure and free from blowjobs and sexual innuendo though right?  I mean you’d never see any of that in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial right?!  Wrong.  Again, taking a look at the novelization by William Kotzwinkle we get a much darker depiction of the story than what would eventually end up on film (well, I’m assuming the following sequences weren’t shot…)

ET Novelization

There’s a sequence in the novel where Elliot, Steve and Gertie’s mother Mary (played by an exasperated Dee Wallace in the film) is so lonely and lost in her own mind that she fantasizes about disappearing from life and, believe it or not, masturbation. (See page 17; the innuendo is there.) She’s also simultaneously dreading the world her children have to face, wondering if they’ll succumb to overdosing on drugs, all while listening in on them playing a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons in the kitchen.  There’s also portions of the book where E.T. becomes weirdly stalker-ish and longs to bond with Mary, starring at her from the closet, thinking about how he could fulfill her needs.  E.T. even gets pretty downright creepy in the sequel novel, E.T. The Book of the Green Planet, where he reaches out to his long lost friend from Earth, melding with the now older Elliot’s mind from across the cosmos.  It comes across very peeping Tom-like, and sort of disturbing.  Experiencing love and yearning “through” Elliot.

ET sequel

All in all, though all of this adult stuff might seem really questionable on the surface of things, again, I’m really glad that these authors and creators took the chance to expose kids to the real world.  Some of it is for the sake of comedy, some of it is important info that awkward pre-teens probably need, and some of it is just exploring deeper adult themes.  Weird, interesting and kind of neat…

The Transformers Legacy Boxart book will melt your mind…

On the heels of my Transformers Afterburner toy acquisition from this past weekend I wanted to take a second and point to the super rad new book about to be released, Transformers Legacy: A Celebration of Transformers Package Art.

tflegacy

One of the things that really gets me excited about finding toys in their original packaging (or “with” in the case of Afterburner) is that I get to get a real up close and personal look at the accompanying artwork that I loved staring at as a kid.  It puts me right back into my 10 year-old shoes as I was walking up and down the toy aisles of my local Albertson’s or Lionel Playworld.  I used to love going grocery shopping with my mom late at night on a Friday or Saturday as I could just obsess over all the toys for an hour or so as she went about her business.  I wish I could afford to pick more vintage stuff MIB on mint on card, but I win the lottery ten or fifteen times that just isn’t going to happen.  Luckily publishers are starting to come around to the idea of archiving this wonderful art, as is the case with the Transformers Legacy book being put out by IDW in May…

Legacy pg 4

I’m pretty stoked to get my hands on this tome of amazing airbrushed robot madness, and from the sound of it, at 300 pages with with interviews and essays with/by the original artists this book sounds like it’s going to be pretty exhaustive.  I’m really curious to see what Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster have put together.  Honestly, this sort of thing is the culmination of the whole 80s nostalgia boom.  I mean when we’re getting nice hardcover editions of toy box art from our childhood you know our generation is running things! Seriously though, I hope this is just the first of many such volumes.  Since IDW is also doing a bang up job with the G.I. Joe license as well I hope we’ll get to see that artwork in a similar format.

Legacy pg 1

Transformers Legacy is set to be released on May 6th, and you can pre-order it at Amazon right now!