Category Archives: Toys

I’m having a nostalgic ReAction to these toys!

If the 80s was all about an insane amount of merchandising and toy branding, there was one small place where we were all sort of collectively let down by this blitz and that’s movie-themed toy lines.  Sure, we had a ton of Kenner Star Wars figures, there were a handful of Raiders of the Lost Ark toys, and we even got four Legend of the Lone Ranger figures from Gabriel, but there were so many hugely popular flicks that never had lines released.  I’m looking at you Ghostbusters.  Most of the toy lines were tied into either cartoons, or cartoon spin-offs of movies (okay, we did have Real Ghostbusters toys, but it’s just not the same.)  It really wasn’t until the 90s when we started to see movies regularly getting their own short run toy lines (the Shadow, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, and Dick Tracy all spring to mind.)  So for years us 80s kids had to really concentrate, evoke the theme song of the Muppet Babies, and use our imagination (said with all the extra syllables baby Piggy added in the cartoon.)  I distinctly remember using my G.I. Joe and Star Wars figures to play V or the Last Starfighter (the B-Wing pilot from RoTJ made a good stand in for Alex from the Last Starfighter, and if you turned his head around he makes a nice Shocktrooper from  V.)

In the past couple of decades a lot of toy companies have done some fun work addressing the lack of 80s movie toys, but the figures are usually in the 6-8″ scale and are sculpted in such a way where they tend to only work as one-pose plastic statues.  Again, fun, but it they never really hit that “action figure” nostalgia I have for Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures.  Well, last year a couple of companies teamed up (Funko and Super7) to release vintage Kenner-style figures based on original molds for the movie Alien.  These were a huge hit with really fun retro inspired cardbacks and limited articulation and detail in the sculpts.  Sure, it’s a little gimmicky and it evokes a false sense of nostalgia, but who cares, these figures are a lot of fun!  Based on the success of that line Funko and Super7 have launched a much larger line of these ReAction figures that will start hitting stores this month.  Most of these toys feature characters from movies which either never had toys or never had complete lines, but there are also a few sets of TV Show figures thrown in as well.  There’s a lot of great stuff in the line including stuff from the Terminator, Predator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser, Halloween, The Crow, Escape From New York, Pulp Fiction and the Rocketeer, but the two lines that have really grabbed my attention are a series of Goonies and Back to the Future figures!

Sloth

I can’t even express how long I’ve wanted to have vintage style Goonies figures.  In this first wave there are five figures including Sloth and the kids (Mikey, Mouth, Chunk and Data), and I hope they sell well enough that we can get a second wave featuring at least Stef, Andy and Brand, but I’d love a set of Fratelli’s for sure.

Mikey

Mouth

Data

Chunk

I know a lot of folks have been bummed that the sculpting and paint apps are super simple, but I actually like that.  It reminds me a lot of the original Star Wars figures and honestly these toys aren’t about photo-realistic accuracy, they’re about having fun toys to have further make believe Goonies adventures with.  Besides, if you’re like me then you’ll want two sets, one I can open (and have fun with) and one to hang on the wall of Branded HQ.  The card art alone is worth it for me on these.

I’m not quite as jazzed about the BTTF figures, though mostly this is because the design team at Funko/Super7 chose to use one standard image for the card art (and in doing so chose NOT to license/use the bitchin’ Drew Struzan poster art.)

Marty

It’s not a huge deal, but because of the repetitive card art these won’t look as good on the wall, so I’ll probably just end up opening a single set…

Doc Brown

George

Biff

Again, I hope these sell well enough for a second wave because I’d really like to have a Loraine, as well as a Marty in the radioactivity suit as Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan!  As it is, at least I can re-enact George punching Biff in the parking lot of the Enchantment Under the Sea dance…

The Goonies figures are slated to be released in October while the Back to the Future figures should be hitting pegs in June.  They’re all up and available for pre-order at Amazon right now!

Apparently 8 is the magic number…

So, in just a couple of weeks Branded in the 80s will turn 8 years old.  Though it’s kind of arbitrary, we tend to focus on the “big” anniversaries in the five-year increment territory, but I had a couple of milestones I really wanted to hit when I started this project.  The first was making it to the seven year mark because I have a special fondness for that particular digit.  The second is marking the 8th birthday of the site because again, it has a special meaning to me.  I first dreamed of having my own little spot on the internet back around 1998.  I’d been farting around the interwebs via AOL and Compuserve and I really wanted to stake out a small piece of the digital landscape to do something.  My best friend, who was in the midst of getting his computer science degree at the time, had just recently built a website for a class project and he promised me he’d help me build one of my own.  It never materialized, though a lot of that had to do with my not knowing exactly what it was that I wanted to do with a website.  Regardless, that marks the beginning of what would eventually become Branded, and it took me eight long years of brainstorming and procrastinating before I eventually settled on what I wanted to do.  So in the back of my brain I’ve always hoped that I’d be able to keep this thing going at least as long as it took me to get it off the ground.  Well, mission accomplished I guess.  As for my next milestone, well, I don’t really have one I guess.  I’m kind of curious to see what will happen at the eleven year mark considering that will mean that I would have spent slightly more time talking about the 80s than the decade itself lasted.

Anyway, when I look back at where the site started and where it really took off for me the one aspect that kind of changed everything was when I started investing in a pretty stupidly large collection of 80s stickers to scan and share.  Part of this came out of wanting to acquire a bunch of the stickers I had as a kid, but another was that there was a distinct lack of sticker scans floating around on the internet and I felt like it was an opportunity to contribute a small portion to the digital nostalgic pop culture zeitgeist.  One of the aspects I love about the nostalgia-minded community is the eagerness to share the cool junk that we love.  So it was pretty neat timing that while I was thinking back on all of this I was approached by the cool lady behind the rad RainbowBrite.co.uk website with to help share some fun stuff.

cologo01She obviously runs a pretty neat Rainbow Brite fan site, so she acquired a bunch of info and ephemera to post up there.  But in her research and collecting she’s amassed a bunch of other cool non-RB stuff that she felt needed to get out there.  So she graciously offered to send me some scans of a pretty neat 1985 Mattel Events Guide to share here at Branded.  Tying this in a bit more into my silly milestone is that I just happened to turn eight the year this Event guide was published (seriously, there has to be something to this, numerology-wise…)

Mattel Events Guide 1

These event guides were sent out to retailers as a way for Mattel to bolster excitement for their product lines and I’m sure to secure a larger market share of the retail market by encouraging stores to increase orders and devote more shelf and peg space to Mattel stuff.  They did this by helping to host local in-store meet and greet events with some of Mattel’s most popular brands and characters.  So if you were lucky enough to shake hands with Skeletor at a Toys R Us back int he day, most likely this was one of the guides that the store had to help them schedule and promote the event…

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It’s really cool to get a glimpse into this aspect of the marketing and promotion of some of our favorite toys from back in the 80s.  Not only is it cool to see some rad artwork that only exists to promote these in-store events (like the neat illustration of the Hot Wheels play area that was shipped to the store), but it’s also awesome to see and read about some of the swag for the event that was either given away (like the Hot Wheels kid’s drivers licenses) or became a “free item with purchase” like the super cool Hot Wheels combination watch/wallet below!

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1985 was also a great year for Mattel toys because they were hip deep in the Marvel Secret Wars toy line…

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What really struck me about this Secret Wars event is that it wasn’t just geared towards boys.  Mattel makes it clear that “boys AND girls” will received a free water color poster.  That kind of inclusion back in the 80s seems pretty rare, but then again, Mattel worked on some pretty progressive toy lines like these two favorites, Princess of Power and Masters of the Universe!  I mean I know most of the boys who were into He-Man were also secretly into She-Ra…

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Man, I feel like I missed out so much on these in-store events.  I never managed to attend one and after reading through this guide I feel like I missed out on some amazing experiences and swag.  So, I wonder if a little boy could have been initiated into the Legion of Good receiving a free golden power ring and poster?  I sure as hell hope so.  Also, holy crap, a 15 foot high replica of the Crystal Castle?!?  How awesome would that have been to see?  I wonder if the stores had to ship them back or of they were ordered to destroy them.  I have to imagine that one of these must have made it into a private collection.  Hell, at that size it would practically be big enough for kids to play in as a fort.  The mid boggles at the possibilities…

Mattel Events Guide 6

Apparently for ’85 Mattel introduced new full body costumes for He-Man and Skeletor.  I’ve seen photos of buff guys in the He-Man duds before, but never a full body costume like this complete with toy-accurate mask and all.  I like that they even managed to replicate the spiny fin on Skeletor’s wrists (like on the toy…)  Sadly there was no 15 foot Castle Greyskull or Snake Mountain, but there were some pretty rad glow in the dark posters!

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A lot of this stuff has to be pretty rare.  I searched for awhile and couldn’t find and example of the glow in the dark Masters of the Universe poster (not even on He-Man.org!)  So it;s cool at least to get a glimpse into this promotional world to know that this stuff exists.  FYI, there’s a bit more to this Event Guide, specifically the Rainbow Brite section, but if you want to see that head on over to the cool RainbowBrite.co.uk to find out what was in that in-store event.  Thanks again to them for sharing this rad piece of 80s toy ephemera and helping to make the nostalgia community that much richer!

Mattel Events Guide 8

 

Reclaiming my Childhood: Miscellaneous Edition

So I’ve written numerous times about how much I want to rebuild the toy collection I had as a child and how difficult that is for me because I’m not all that fond of buying loose used toys.  I have a  mental block against buying another kid’s memories if that makes sense.  So my stance has been to patiently wait until I find min on card (or mint in box) versions of the stuff I want.  Again, this comes with its own set of hurdles, mainly monetary in nature.  As much as I want to re-collect these treasures, I find it next to impossible to fork over much money to procure them.  Same story told a million times by other toy collectors and nostalgia buffs.  Lately my tactic has been to ignore the really popular toy lines, the Transformers, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Star Wars and M.A.S.K. in lieu of searching out the more obscure stuff.  Depending, the prices can be much cheaper and there aren’t quite as many 30-somethings clamoring for them so they’re easier to snag without getting into bidding wars on eBay.

I was pretty excited this past weekend when I stumbled upon one of these slightly more obscure toys at the local vintage toy shop I’ve been frequenting.  Sitting there in a glass display case was a single carded Tonto action figure from The Legend of the Lone Ranger line by Gabriel from 1980…

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Sure, the card was pretty beat up with a huge crease across the top, but this is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for on my vintage toy hunt.  The intention isn’t to keep the figure hermetically sealed on the card anyway; I want to open it up and hold it again.  So for $10 how could I pass this up?

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I originally had both Tonto and the Lone Ranger from this Gabriel line based on the 1980 film.  I honestly don’t think I ever saw the movie but I did catch the old black and white series on reruns and loved the Filmation cartoon, so at some point I must have begged my parents for these.  I must have been 3 or 4 at the time.  Though I’d love to reacquire both figures, Tonto was always my favorite because he came with both a pistol and a really neat buck knife.  I wrote about this action figure line awhile back as well

Tonto

I also vividly remember loving his purple belt/sash.  Even as a kid I appreciated fun color matching in my action figures.  With both of the figures I had, my favorite aspect was that you could actually holster their pistols and sheath Tonto’s buck knife.  This was pretty advanced for action figures this early in the 80s.  I mean aside from some removable helmets and the lightsaber action on the early Star Wars figures most toys weren’t that intricate.  These also had knee-joint articulation as opposed to the Kenner figures, a stepping stone that would lead to the broader range of joints that Hasbro would use with G.I. Joe.

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I love the card art for these toys as well, working in the tone and style of the movie’s poster art, but instead of just cloning the painting they did a new piece just for the toys…

Tonto 5

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I also love the Silver Bullet on the back of the card.  I’m not positive, but I wonder if the idea was to treat the bullets like the Kenner Star Wars points (or the later Robot and Flag points that Hasbro offered with Transformers and G.I. Joe) so that kids could save them up and use them to mail away for special promotional figures or sets.  There was actually a mail-away cardboard playset for these Gabriel figures, but weirdly enough the form requested that kids cut out the character names from the cards to act as the proof of purchase?!?  Check out this ad my good friend Paxton posted on his site The Cavalcade of Awesome when he was taking about the similar Kenner Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid toy line from the same year…

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Total missed opportunity to use the Silver Bullet Points!  Just another example that I was born too late to make awesome branding decisions for these companies.  Gotta work on that time machine…

Anyway, over the past couple of months I managed to pick up some more slightly obscure action figures I had when I was a kid.  I thought this would be a fun time to share those as well.  My parents took some chances on odd toy lines and I’m curious whether they thought that I wasn’t interested in them or if they just bought them as a fluke?  I had a bunch of figures in which I only owned one or two of the toys like the ThunderCats (just had Mumm-Ra and Slithe), Silverhawks (just had a Quicksilver), or Tonto and the Lone Ranger.  In this same camp were Warduke (from the LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) and some miscellaneous Blackstar villain figure (which I must have quickly rejected or lost) because I had one of the little included neon green demon PVC figures…

Blackstar Demon

I’m really loving picking up this miscellaneous figures since they’re basically one and done.  They really feel a lot like a true missing piece to my past being put back in place.  I will say that I broke my normal loose figure buying rules with these.  I saw the Galoob Blackstar Demon at a toy show up in Baltimore and I couldn’t beat the price.  Besides, it’s not like I want to shell out the moolah for a mint Blackstar villain on the card when I’m not even sure which one I had.

DandD Warduke

As for Warduke here, well, I recently won a D&D Dwarf figure from this same line from The Garage Sale of Awesome and it felt weird owning that and not my long lost Warduke.  I had some Amazon cash burning a hole in my pocket so I picked one up blindly from a third party seller for a couple bucks.  He’s not in the best shape (mostly some gauntlet paint wear and he’s missing his rad shield and ice sword, but I’ve researched MOC prices for this little guy and man, that is just never going to happen on my budget!

All in all these guys make for one awesomely Awkward Toy Family Photo!

Awkward Family Photo 80s Toys Edition

They also look great in my collection that adorns (read: is taking over) my entertainment center…

Toys

Now, if I can just find a cheap Quicksilver figure from the Silverhawks line…

Geeky Valentines weekend shenanigans

This past weekend my girlfriend Jaime and I took the opportunity of some downtime to check out a couple of cool sites in and around Baltimore.  I’m still seeing a lot of the city for the first time and we lucked into a pair of free tickets to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum right across the street from the Orioles Stadium, so we thought it would be fun to head downtown and check it out.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.  I only heard the words comic museum and toys, but I was intrigued.  When we pulled up to the building on Saturday morning it was a little unassuming, but as soon as you walk inside you’re bombarded by large-scale banners of all sorts of pop culture fun from 50s era tin toys to recreations of famous comic covers done in a more modern style.  Once you get past the front desk you’re greeted by an amazing hallway covered from floor to ceiling with rare film one-sheets, product merchandising ephemera, and some pretty inspiring artwork (including a couple breathtaking conceptual pieces from the ’66 era Batman TV series!

museum

The museum is broken up into a series of seven or eight individual exhibits including a comic book retrospective, a turn of the century comic strip showcase, a local Baltimore pop culture collection, a collectible and art show centered on African American works, and a number of rooms full to the brim of collectibles and antiques divided by decade.  There’s so much amazing stuff on display that you could probably spend an hour in each of the rooms and not see everything in one visit.  The comic retrospective alone is worth the price of admission as there are some truly “amazing” pieces in the collection including copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 and Action Comics #1!

comics

shawn Jaime

In addition to some of the heavy hitter powerhouse comics above, there was a really nice collection of 50s & 60s era EC, Atlas, and Dell comics, as well as a bunch of those really cool mini hardcover digests from the 30s and 40s featuring The Shadow, Buck Rogers, and Tarzan.  There were some nice Esiner Spirit inserts which I’ve also never seen in person before.  I loved getting a chance to see some of the rarer formative books in person for the first time, but it was also rad to see copies of more modern books like issue one of Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or the wall of 90s era books featuring all sorts of gimmicks and cover enhancements (that I bought into back in the day hook, line, and sinker!)

In the comic strip exhibit I was a little bummed that there were no copies of Little Nemo in Slumberland, but there was a surprise that totally made up for it.  I was really excited to see a couple of Winsor McCay Gertie the Dinosaur drawings.  I mean talk about animation history!

gertie

All of the comic book stuff was really neat, but the rooms where my eyes really lit up were the rooms dedicated to pop culture collectibles and toys.  From Disney, Popeye, and Little Orphan Annie all the way to the Transformers, Masters of the Universe and (gasp!) Vanilla Ice, there was something for everyone on display.  

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Some of my favorite older pieces included a LOA decoder pin (which of course elicited a series of A Christmas Story quotes from both Jaime and I) and a really nice collection of vintage PEZ dispensers (featuring three of my favorite Universal Monsters)…

pez

There was also a display of Monkees memorabilia, teen magazines and and a sweet insulated lunchbox that I would have killed for as a kid.  I grew up watching the series on Nickelodeon and for all intents and purposes they were my first favorite band (with a little competition form the Beach Boys and Weird Al.)

monkees

As far as the more recent stuff, the toys and collectibles that I have some true nostalgia for, Geppi’s did not disappoint.  Though I wouldn’t call the collection exhaustive, it was diverse enough to be really fun and it featured items that don’t tend to get the same spotlight shown on them.  So whereas they had a very nice mint in package Transformers Jetfire, as well as an Optimus Prime and Grimlock, I was honestly more excited to see their collection of Super Friends (Nabisco) and Star Wars cookie and cereal boxes!  I remember collecting the Super Friends boxes for awhile around the time that the first Burton Batman film hit theaters…

cookies

There was also a nice collection of vintage MOC Dukes of Hazzard toys.  Not quite as obscure, but still not as popular as the Transformers.

dukes

I loved seeing these because of it just drives home how cool the impending Funko/Super7 ReAction figures are that are about to start hitting the pegs.   In addition to all this there were also some weirder pieces and arrangements in the collection that showcased the sense of humor of the curators.  Whether it was the BFF placement of the Buger King and Ronald McDonald or the oddly suggestive C3P0 tape dispenser, Geppi’s surely has a lighter side to their exhibits…

best buds

C3P-Wow

If you’re in the Baltimore area and you want a fun place to spend and afternoon I’d highly suggest stopping into Geppi’s Entertainment museum.  There’s a to to see and they also have a pretty decent pop culture gift shop.  I could leave with out a swell ThunderCats Mumm-ra vinyl Funko Pop figure!

On Sunday we braved the icy streets and made our way further south into Washington, DC, specifically the Georgetown area so that we could visit a cinematic landmark I’ve wanted to see for a long time.  For those of you that are horror fans, you’ve probably already figured out what I’m talking about by the mere suggestion of film and georgetown, but for those who might not know, The Exorcist was filmed in and around this area back in 1972.  I’ve wanted to visit this town and walk the staircase where Father Karras took his fatal plunge in the film…

excorcist 2

Let me just say that picking the dead of winter to visit this site was a precarious decision indeed.  The streets leading to the steps were on steep hills and coated in inches of thick slippery ice.  Luckily the steps themselves were pretty much ice-free, so we could still traverse them.  Also, in an odd turn of events, Jaime had secretly cued up the Exorcist theme so she could be set to play it as we walked the staircase, and before she could actually play it it automatically started playing as we approached it!  Maybe there’s a weird hidden glitch where based on your GPS Spotify will surprise you with rad music cues.  Or maybe Pazuzu possessed her phone :p

excorsist 1

All in all is was an amazing Valentines day weekend…

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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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…

photo

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.

IMG_1608

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 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!

Reclaiming another small piece of my childhood…

I think it might surprise folks that I don’t have a huge collection of vintage toys from the 80s.  Almost none of my original toys made it through the plethora of family moves throughout the 90s (my parents secretly disposed of most of my childhood things claiming they were lost), the the few pieces that survived were either foolishly destroyed or traded away.  It didn’t help matters that as a kid I was always a “trader” swapping toys with friends as a means of getting stuff my parents didn’t gift me on birthdays and Christmas.  My history is littered with boneheaded toy transactions where I was most assuredly on the losing end of the bargain.

Case in point, my rash decision at age 12 to trade a garbage bag full of my Transformers for a Hot Wheels Rally Case full of about  40 Micro Machines cars and planes.  For some reason my parents ignored my pleas for some of these, and the rad commercials staring John Moschitta were driving me crazy with tiny vehicle lust.  Since I never had an allowance until in my later teen years, there was no way I could buy these on my own (40 MM, at $4 per pack of 5, works out to about $32 which to me at the time was nearing Scrooge McDuck net worth territory.)  So it made perfect sense to trade almost all of my transformers.  What did I give up?  Optimus Prime, Red Alert, Ironhide, Ratchet, Inferno, Sideswipe, Swoop, Soundwave, Buzzsaw, Dirge, Shrapnel, Kickback, Bombshell, Crosshairs, all five Terrorcons, a couple of Stunticons, Wreckgar, Beachcomber, Brawn, Warpath, Cliffjumper, and all of Computron.  Easily $250 worth of toys for a measly handful of Micro Machines.  I’m super glad my parents never found out (or let me know if they did uncover my black market toy swaps.)  For years I’d regretted it, and it wasn’t until the past six or seven years that I was able to come to terms with it after replacing a few of these toys with some Toys R Us reissues.  But there are a bunch of Transformers what weren’t put out again, and have been way too over-priced to even contemplate picking up mint on card or MIB.  This past weekend though, after visiting a toy store I thought was no longer open, I finally managed to reconnect with another of these lost Transformers (well, sort of.)

Afterburner 1

While browsing the tiny, impossibly cramped vintage toy shop I locked eyes with one of my favorite Transformers, Computron’s right arm, the Techobot Afterburner.  I’m not sure whether it’s his Tron-esque design, the cool looking white canopy/cockpit, the orange color scheme or the simple fact that he was one of the rare 80s era motorcycle toys, but Afterburner has always been burned into my psyche as a childhood favorite toy.  When I saw this carded figure I had to have it and was temporarily blinded by the fact that the bubble had been lifter and he was missing his rad pulse cannon.

Afterburner 4

Honestly, I didn’t care all that much because missing pieces or not, this was still a brand new Afterburner complete with card.  I’ve mentioned in the past that I have some weird issues when it comes to “buying back my childhood” and how I’m not all that keen on acquiring vintage opened toys as they’re essentially someone else’s memories.  Sure, we all share the common pop culture pool of toys and cartoons which binds us in a sense, but the specific toys that were loved and played with are very individual.  So when I happen upon old/new stock at a reasonable price it’s like having my birthday and Christmas all rolled up in one.  Extra added bonus with this particular Afterburner is that it was also packaged with a Transformers Decoy minifig, something I never had and have always wanted.  Win Win!

Afterburner 2

I immediately purchased the figure and the first thing I did on the way to the car was take a snapshot to share on instagram, twitter and facebook.  Inevitably the question came up about whether I intended to open the figure or to keep him (relatively) sealed.  Well I ended up opening him and here’s why…

Afterburner 3

First of all, the card and bubble weren’t in the best shape, and the bubble had been lifted further off the card that I realized initially (in my excitement I didn’t inspect it too closely, I just assumed the one pulse cannon had been removed.)  That alone would have bugged me, what with the staples used to close the bottom bubble and all.  More importantly I just really wanted to hold the toy again and to transform and pose him.  So I took out my sharpest knife and proceeded to cut away the portions of the bubble that weren’t glued down to free my new treasure…

Well, it was mush to my chagrin after opening Afterburner when I realized that this was not an almost mint on card toy.  In fact, this was a well played with and kinda grungy figure!  I should have realized this as the stickers had already been placed on the toy, but I really figured it out when I took him out and the side of the toy that was facing inward towards the card was dirty as all hell.  There was some sort of sticky gunk in the wheel well and there were years of dust and dirt in the crevasses.  Sigh.  I’m 95% sure this specific figure and card weren’t originally together either.  If I had to guess, the shop owner found the card with the bubble, weapons, and Decoy attached and put in a loose Afterburner he had on hand.  The fact that the one side was all clean sort of confirms that for me.  Am I pissed?  No.  But it confirmed that my decision to open the toy was the best bet.

Afterburner 7

Not only was the toy dirty, but he was a bitch and a half to transform.  I thought for certain that I was going to snap it in half while trying to bend the waist joint.  Judging by what looks like some super glue residue at the base of his head (which doubles as the connecting pin for attaching it as Computron’s arm), the head/neck piece was also broken and glued back on.  Still though, after I cleaned him up and very gingerly transformed him I did get a little thrill and it felt nice to hold him in my hands almost 25 years after stupidly giving him up.  Seriously, is his alt mode not the coolest toy motorcycle since Condor from M.A.S.K?

Afterburner 5

Afterburner 8

Luckily I was able to preserve his cardback and the inserts.  Because the package came from a Decoy edition, it was packed with a mini fold out comic which is really fun.  There was also a mail in form for Reflector (something I’ve coveted for years), as well as instructions on how to form Computron.  Isn’t this card artwork just the coolest?!?  I’m so happy that a nice hardcover book featuring Transformers box art is coming out in May (I’ve already pre-ordered my copy!)

Transformers Afterburner Cardback 1987 front

Transformers Afterburner Cardback 1987

Here’s the Decoy minicomic…

Transformers Decoy mini comic 1987 2

Transformers Decoy mini comic 1987 1

And that rad Reflector mail-away…

Transformers Reflector Mailaway 2 1987

Transformers Reflector Mailaway 1 1987

Only 2 Robot Points huh?  Well, I guess I only need one and a half more!!!

Transformers Robot Points 1987

Lastly, for anyone curious about how to form Computron, here you go…

Transformers Computron Instructions

I sure would love to have the other 4 figures to be able to form the full Computron again.  Since this Afterburner was originally someone else’s memory maybe I’ll be able to make an exception and pick up some opened figures.  Who knows.  Maybe someday…

Afterburner 6