Category Archives: Toys

Talking Failed Movie Toy Lines on the Nerd Lunch Podcast…

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the folks at the Nerd Lunch podcast to have an interesting conversation about failed movie toy lines…

CT, Paxton, 4th chair guest Kirk from the Schlock Treatment podcast and I talk about what we think goes into making a successful movie toy line, what movie toy lines we though tanked and why, and what lines we would develop given the opportunity.  We throw out some pulp detectives, Visitors from another planet, professional arm wrestlers, crane-kicking kids, and those Lone Ranger figures I mentioned in the League post yesterday.

So if you want to hear me and the guys talking about toys, head on over to the Nerd Lunch site, or heck, you can download the episode by subscribing to the show on iTunes, or even directly right here!

I’m a member in good standing in some pretty prestigious clubs…

I thought I wasn’t going to find time to post this week, but I didn’t want to sit on the following cool stuff for another month (considering I’m going into Halloween lockdown mode soon.)  I recently had a few extra bucks lying around (rare these days) and felt like it was a great opportunity to pick up some really cool stuff from a couple of really swell sites.

Up first is the mega-awesome 8-Bit Zombie Kid’s Club Pack!

I’ve been drooling over the neat clothes at 8-Bit Zombie for awhile, but I always tend to miss out on the shirts that I really want considering they’re released in pretty low print runs and tend to be gobbled up ultra fast.  So when I saw the tweet go out announcing the release of their new Kid’s Club pack I didn’t hesitate and ended up grabbing one post haste.  Let me tell you, I think I would have plunked down the price of admission for their retro custom lunch box alone.  Included in the pack are the super cool lunch box with artwork by Matthew Skiff (featuring such pop culture, cartoon and video game luminaries as Slimer, King Hippo, Cobra Commander, Mr. T, My Pet Monster, Skullface, and Castle Greyskull, as well as 8-Bit’s own Thrashor zombie skater), a club patch, a swell “Nickelodeon Slime” green club t-shirt, and a handful of stickers and buttons.  8BZ was also kind enough to include a vintage pack of Topps TMNT trading cards and a neat M.U.S.C.L.E. figure (#146, Playerman, the living record player!)

One of the aspects that I really dig about 8-Bit Zombie is their keen sense of design and ostentatious use of branding, which always gets me excited.  Heck, even the box they sent the club pack in was covered with awesome branded rubber stamps featuring some of their past t-shirt designs as well as their various 80s-inspired logos.  Sadly, the Kid’s Club Pack is currently sold out, but I’ve heard rumblings of future offerings in the works, so keep your eyes peeled and maybe you can also become a member in good standing…

The second awesome pack I picked up came from the multi-talented Tommy Day over at Top Hat Sasquatch

Tommy recently had a limited run of rad THS t-shirts screen-printed, and he’s currently offering them over at the site (though I’m not sure how many he has left, so if you want one you better head on over and put in an order!)  I was so excited to open the delivery, not only because the t-shirt is swell, but because he also packed a vintage TMNT goody bag to go along with the purchase.  It goes without saying that I love getting stickers, but the buttons and cool trading cards were a great bonus.  Believe it or not, that pack of ALF cards contained a card I desperately needed to complete my set!

When there’s no more room in the toy box…

Well, I can’t help but be in full on Halloween mode right now.  Not only are a lot of stores flinging up their yearly spooky displays, but there are a bunch of toys hitting the pegs that are really getting me in the mood.  Earlier in the year I wrote a bit about the Jakks Pacific line of minifigs called S.L.U.G. Zombies (Scary Little Ugly Guys), as they sort of tie into my love of the OMFG minifigs both in that they share some common influences (namely Monster in My Pocket and M.U.S.C.L.E. minifigs) and as it turns out George Gaspar, the swell dude that’s one half of October Toys, put in a bid for the sculpting job on the Zombies line and even had one of his sculpts make it into the series.

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As far as the line goes, I really love what Jakks is doing by bringing this scale of minifig back into the mainstream.  Though there are a lot of kids buying the heck out of the tiny Squnkies figures, this 1.5″ scale detailed minifig holds a special place in my heart, and I’ve been seriously lacking in toy-buying fodder ever since Hasbro started to curtail their “Heroes” line of figures.  To be honest, I was also waiting for something that wasn’t riffing directly off of a brand I loved as a kid (ala the Transformers, G.I. Joe and Marvel “Heroes” figs), and these S.L.U.G. Zombies really fit the bill.  The first wave of figures hit store shelves back in March, but they were sort of spotty in terms of distribution and it seemed like only a handful of people were actually finding them in the wild.  I was lucky enough to pick up the complete first wave, and was super excited to finally see wave two hit the pegs and in more stores…

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I had heard that Jakks planned on making 100 figures in the Zombies waves of the S.L.U.G. minifigs (I’ve also heard that they’re planning other waves with different themes), but I wasn’t sure how they were going to be releasing them or if this first wave was going to be popular enough to sustain the line long enough for us to see all 100 figures.  I guess it’s doing well enough though, and I relished in the opportunity to pick up a 12-pack coffin set of the second wave.

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Aside from a bunch of new zombie sculpts/concepts, the most interesting factor in wave two is the introduction of some non-zombie figures, the Hunters.  Cast in a more M.U.S.C.L.E.-esque pink/flesh colored rubber, the hunters are pretty darn cool and are infusing some more specific pop culture references into the line.  Whereas the zombies are conceptual for the most part (featuring various sports, occupation, and historic cultural references), the hunters are introducing some more specific character references like the Rambo and Crocodile Dundee figures below…

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Though a lot of these references are mining the nostalgia of the 80s, I do think it’s not so specific that it would mar the enjoyment a kid would get out of playing with and collecting these.  I mean a muscled dude with a rocket launcher should be fun regardless if something identifies him as a Rambo knock-off right?

Well I was all set to write up my thoughts on this second wave last week when all of a sudden I started to hear word on Twitter that folks were already spotting series 3 in stores.  So I went back out on the hunt and secured a couple of the smaller packages with my favorite figures from this new wave (which includes a swell Sean of the Dead minifig hunter as well as my favorite zombie yet, Extra Crispy (aka Colonel Sanders!)

I’ve been having so much fun setting up these little guys on my desk at work, though I’m wondering where I’m going to find the space to display them all if I keep buying them…

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If you’re interested in seeing all 100 proposed figures, Jakks has released this handy checklist poster via the S.L.U.G. Zombies website.  Click on it to blow it up and start checking off the figures you want to collect!

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Oh, and for those wondering, I hear that the special glow-in-the-dark variations of the figures will be available in special tombstone-shaped collector’s cases that are due out in Spetember.  Also, according to Entertainment Earth we can expect a new wave of the zombies to be released each month over the next three months at least

Becoming a Glyos System Addict!

I mentioned recently that I tend not to review much modern stuff that influenced by the 80s era stuff that I loved growing up.  Part of this is because of how I feel about the current 80s regurgitation, but another part is more about spending.  I just don’t buy all that many toys or doodads because the wife and I have no idea where to put this stuff.  We have a bunch of stuff as it is and we hesitate to keep adding to the pile for fear that we’ll become buried in some sort of cool-stuff avalanche.  So when we do pick something up we try to be pretty judicious about what we buy.  Following this train of thought I’ve been limiting a lot of my toy purchases to stuff that is small, literally.  Blind pack Lego minifigs, minimates, the various tiny “Heroes” figures from Hasbro, Hotwheels, etc.  It’s more about display than playability at my age anyway, so why not try to condense the size of a collection with 1.5″ figures instead of the more normal 3.75″-8″ lines.

Then there is the world of independent and small run toys, stuff like vinyl figures from outlets like Kid Robot and a million other indie molders, casters, and painters that work with everything from resin and vinyl to word and PVC.  There’s all sorts of awesome stuff out there, but I’ve kept myself pretty sheltered from it because they’re typically some pretty darn expensive art toys.  I mean if I’m grumbling in the toy aisles of my local Target because G.I. Joe figures are at the crazy inflated price of almost $10 a figure, then you know I won’t be jumping at the chance to pick up independent toys at $40-$100 apiece (not that I don’t want to.)  I’m not saying that there aren’t any cheaper options for these sorts of art toys, I’ve just been hit with sticker-shock so often that I tend to filter them out.

Well, that changed recently after Phillip Reed over at Battlegrip.com spent an entire week looking at a particular independent toy-line.  It’s called the Glyos System and is produced by a group called Onell Design.  I’m not 100% versed in the fiction, but the general idea is that these are a set of futuristic humanoids and robots in space.  The figures range in size from 1.5″ to around 3″ tall and are all comprised of modular pieces of hand painted PVC.  So this system is combining the concept of the action figure with that of a building block set like Lego bricks, that encourages customization…

What really grabbed me at first was the overall design aesthetic of the toys, in particular the color schemes and the odd juxtaposition of simplicity and complex design.  I also loved the design of the various character head sculpts, especially on this little orange guy they call Pheyden (specifically this one is known as the Gears Edge Pheyden.)  The dome shape to the helmet with the skull accents is really cool…

    

I think this design aesthetic is so powerful because it has been expertly culled from all sorts of existing pop culture while retaining a simplicity that completely separates itself from its many influences.  When I look at these figures I can see aspects of films, videogames and cartoons like Robocop, Tron, Alien & Aliens, Metroid, Megaman, Section Z, Robotech (in particular the series three Invid Invasion episodes), Inhumanoids, and the Centurians just to name a few.  At the same time, there isn’t enough of any one of these homages that the Glyos System still feels completely like its own unique design.  That’s a really tough thing to accomplish.

    

There’s also a lot of aspects to these figures that I really dig that are playing off of some of the more modern toy designs like the chibi, or super deformed body design; large hands and feet with slightly disproportionate leg and arm lengths.  Also, I find it very interesting to see this sort of modularity in an action figure line.  Sure, there were a bunch of original Star Wars and He-Man figures that you could pop the heads and arms off of and switch around, but not really since the Micronauts have we seen this sort of concept.  For awhile in the early to mid 2000s there were those Stikfa figures, but their modularity was more about articulation than customization.  I’m sure there are some action figure lines I’m forgetting, but I still think this is a rare concept for the genre.

Though this might be a little greedy and crass, I have to say that what ultimately won me over to buying a bunch of these figures is the really low price point.  There are a handful of older legacy figures in the Onell Design shop that are as low as $4 a piece.  Considering that these are hand cast, assembled and painted, that’s a steal.  Even the newer figures range from $6-$10, which is still more than reasonable when compared to other independent toys.

    

    

What’s also really cool is that this system has infected the indie toy market to such an extent that there are a lot of other people making attachments and figures that are completely interchangeable with the originals.  Onell Design has a sister site called Callgrim that has their own variations on the system that add a whole new level to the collection.  I also love that there are some standard “characters” too; Onell has a couple of main characters, Pheyden and Exellis, Callgrim has their own, The Order (seen below as a standard figure with the robotic blank faceplate) and Callgrim (which has the more hockey mask/skull influenced faceplate.)

    

Callgrim has also taken the modularity to a whole new level by sculpting some of the pieces to be really multi-purpose.  he set I picked up is based around the character called the Warp Dome Terra Mite…

…that figure’s head can be positioned in two ways, one like above that makes it come off as an android sort of robot, or if you twist it around it becomes a variation on the Callgrim faceplate, only a bit more alien.  These head pieces also double for a very cool-looking base piece for a backpack or jet pack…

All in all, though I’m still really new to these toys, I’m becoming addicted to them.  I missed out on the last rollout of figures, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled on the Onell Design and Callgrim blogs for any information on new stuff.  I feel like I’m 8 years-old again!

    

Garbage Pail Kids + M.U.S.C.L.E. + Erasers = The Trash Pack

Though I tend not to cover much of the modern merchandising that plays off of 80s nostalgia, from time to time I do see some stuff that I just have to share.  While walking around Toys R Us the other day looking at their new Halloween displays I stumbled upon some little toys that really caught my eye.  They’re called the Trash Pack

In a nutshell, these little guys are the equivalent of the cheap-o vending toys you tend to find at the entrances to grocery stores and as prizes in arcades.  They’re a collection of 1″ monsters, critters, spoiled food items and bugs (both micro-biotic and insectile in nature) that are a cross between a pencil topper and a charm toy.  Normally I probably would have passed these up as the available packages (containing either 5 or 12 figures) were pretty pricey ($6 for 5 and $10 for 12), but the sheer amount of 80s era influeces packed into these little guys was just too attractive…

First off, the figures are packaged in little plastic garbage cans that immediately evoke the M.U.S.C.L.E. men phenomenon, but there’s also an obvious Garbage Pail Kids vibe with the all the gross gags and collectability.  On top of that these are also riffing off of the current resurgence of figural eraser collecting that’s really gripped kids for the first time in 25 years.  If these had also come with stickers I think my mind would have melted…

  

All in all I have to say that even though the thought that went into the merchandising was pretty cool, the price-point is just way too out of whack.  All told there are almost 200 different figures (including color variations on around 55 different molds) and the chances of scoring a complete set for under $100 seems pretty slim.  When you consider that these are just glorified vending toys, that makes these guys pretty darn expensive.  Also, though some of the molds are pretty cool (I highlighted my favorites in the photos), there are a lot that just don’t read well (in terms of coming across as what they are.)  These are available in 2, 5, and 12 packs, and I think that if the price was reduced by half they might catch on, but I have a hard time seeing parents plunking down the kind of cash it would take to get there kids started out on a decent collection.

  

Spock boldy went where not many Mego action figures have gone before, the house of Branded!

Well, as I’ve hinted at in the past month, the house of Branded was visited by none other than that crazy stone-faced, logical Vulcan Spock!  I recently played host to Eclectorama’s traveling Spock Mego figure on it way around North America, and it was my duty to show him a good time around Duluth, Atlanta, and Athens, Georgia.  Well, the pictures are back from the photomat and they’re up over at Charles’ site!  So click on the picture of Spock below to skate on over to see his vacation photos!

I had a lot of fun with Spock and was a little sad to see him go, but on the bright side, I handed him off to the wonderfully talented Liz Vitale of Puppatoons fame, so I know he’s in good hands.

My hand hurts from painting such action packed art!

The fantabulous Bubblegum Fink passed along a link on his blog to an awesome site filled with G.I. Joe packaging art and file cards called the Art of Joe Online. It’s limited to 1982-1985 which covers the majority of the first wave (when the art had that kick ass burst of flame behind the characters as opposed to the later art which had the weird pixilated digital fire burst) of action figure and vehicle packaging art as well as art from puzzles and some of the book and catalog covers. The cheeky bastard(s) has/have also hidden other G. I. Joe art databases within the pages. If you click on the ‘About‘ link on the front page there’s a list of easter egg hints. I only managed to find a couple, apparently knowing IS only half the battle as I couldn’t figure out the hints, but it was fun nonetheless.  You can click on Mr. Cobra Eels to join the hunt…

Only 25 tickets! That’s a steal…

The woman and I decided this past weekend to “do it up right”, by which I mean that I practically forced her out of the apartment on an adventure to a flea market in the middle of nowhere followed by her choice of fun eating establishment, namely Stevie B’s pizza buffet (which is like the unloved smaller cousin of Chuck E. Cheese with a lot less games and a lot more weird pizza toppings.)

I sought out the flea market in hopes of finding some fun gems from the 80′s but didn’t really find anything. There was one stand that had a bunch of comics and a few magazines. The comics were so mixed up that it was way too much of a chore to look through them, though I did find an issue of Marvel’s Alf for $0.50, so I snagged that. I found a couple Starlogs from the early 80′s with articles on the Dark Crystal and V, so I’m sure I’ll be sharing those in the coming months. Other than that it was a bust though, so I left feeling like I’d never find anything cool from my childhood, at least not this particular weekend.

When we hit Stevie B’s my only expectation was weird ass pizza and some ghetto skee ball. As far as pizza goes, we hit the jackpot. On the buffet were no less than five weird ass pizzas including, baked potato pizza (slices of baked potato, bacon, and cheddar cheese with a sour cream-esque sauce), taco pizza (slasa base topped with ground beef, cheddar cheese, black olives and lettuce), nacho pizza (same as the taco pizza with no lettuce and a lot more corn tortilla chips), mac & cheese pizza (think pizza crust topped with mac & cheese and then topped with mozzarella cheese), and for dessert, Boston cream pie pizza (let your imagination run wild.) Definitely cheered me up.

I was coasting on semi-terrible yet amazingly fun pizza when we hit the tiny game room in the back, hoping that the Galaga machine was at least still there, when I saw them. Two boys were cashing in their meager strings of prize tickets for these little red and yellow envelopes that contained a blast from my childhood. Power Prop Flying Gliders. The day was now complete.

I must have won a hundred of these fragile Styrofoam WWII gliders from Chuck E. Cheese, Showbiz pizza, and the couple of arcades I went to as a kid. Out of all the bins of plastic spider rings, crayons, little plastic jumping frogs, super bounce balls, fake plastic moustaches and pixie sticks, the Power Prop Flying Gliders looked like the best possible option, the winner of the beauty pageant that was cashing in tickets for prizes. It was like the Wheel of Fortune back in the 80′s when you’d spend your loot on the crap residing in the rooms on the spinning platform, and the gliders were always the first choice, with a spider ring thrown in to spend out the ticket change.

As you can see from the scan above, they really are simple as hell. One body with two slits punched in it for the wings and tail rudders, one plastic weight (and propeller holder), and one propeller and pin.

I managed to get enough tickets on crappy skee ball and this weird “shoot a token into a hole via a ski slope” game to get three of these gliders. These are exactly as I remember them, down to the styles and packaging. I’m not sure if these were a product of the 80′s or if they were gliding through parking lots and crowded birthday parties in the 60′s and 70′s as well, but I haven’t seen on in almost 25 years.

I left it up to the lady at the ticket counter to pick out my three gliders because I wanted to be surprised, and she did a pretty good job picking. Not only did I not get a duplicate, but I also got one of three different WWII factions, America, Japan, and Germany. She also managed to pull out one of my favorite designs, the EOCKE Wulf TA 152H, better known in my simple mind as the purplish, blue-red one with the German symbol on it.

After a quick scan of the available designs on the back, the Wulf is the one I’d choose first every time. So yea, me. When I got home and constructed them I went through the same range of emotions that I probably went through as a child, that it felt too light and skimpy to actually fly and then the amazement of watching it soar along my apartment hallway when it did in fact fly very well.

When I was a kid I always wanted one of those large sturdy Styrofoam airplanes that people were always demo-ing in the mall, the all white ones with the blue and red stripes down the side and a penny inserted into slits on both sides of the nose to give it weight. They would always do these awesome loop-de-loops in the open air of the mall and it fascinated me, though they were a bit steeply priced for what they were and I invariably ended up with the flying gliders that I’d score at Chuck E. Cheese instead. In the end, I’m glad I did.

All in all it made for a nice capper to a fun weekend.

3.75" pf Plastic Heaven revisited…

See Hoov, I learn from my mistakes eventually…

Nala over at Plastic Crack tipped me off to a new line of G.I. Joe Classics 3.75″ 25th anniversary figures that Hasbro will be releasing soon.  On the tail of the Transformers Classics line this is both cool and probably a hazard to my bank account.  I especially dig the Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes figures, but the basic Cobra Trooper and Scarlett are pretty bad ass.  Here are a load of pictures from the new line…

The Baroness is pretty good, but her glasses just look awful.  Maybe on the actual figure they’ll look a little better…

The Destro figure is pretty awesome too.  I love that the guns fit in the holsters and junk.

Dukes pretty boring, but then again, Duke is pretty boring, so no surprise there.

So what’s next, a 20th anniversary edition of the Masters of the Universe flick and an uber cool toy line to go with it?  Nevermind…