21st April, 2005

Toys R Not What They Were

I went to my Mam’s house the other day, and ended up in the attic trying to find some old tat she needed. In a corner of the roof I rediscovered, packaged carefully under dust sheets, all my old toys. Lots of Matchbox cars, a Big Trak, stupid cuddly toys and (yawn) board games.

Behind these bits and pieces I was delighted to discover my real toys, many of which were boxed and in mint condition. Returning downstairs for a cup of tea and a biscuit, I became all nostalgic, and wondered whether Google could help me track down a bit more detail about these little treasures. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit the 80s.

Weebles

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Weebles wobbled, but they didn’t fall down. The basic weeble was kind of like a Stepford egg, being ever-so-slightly scary looking with a spherical arse. Upon these bizarre frames, Hasbro’s finest toymakers would add sailor costumes, fireman uniforms, air force goggles and so on. The spookiest were the non-achieving weebles, simple village folk who looked like eliptical extras from a Toys R Us-funded League Of Gentlemen episode. In short, Weebles were superb anti-gravity toys that remained forever upright, like some kind of anti-drunk plastic future-flash of a better world.

Action Force

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SAS. Z Force, Q Force, Space Force, and the evil Cobra. Action Force figures began as mini versions of Action Man figures, but gradually grew into a group of crack units based loosely in reality (hence the SAS range). The quality of Action Force figures, accessories, jeeps, tanks and supporting comic strips were excellent, and a worthy if somewhat destined-to-fail rival to the Star Wars merchandising monster (otherwise known as George). I was particularly proud of my SAS jeep with manually-operated yellow guns, my battery-powered tank and my set of complete figures (I had them all). Someone has even scanned in all the Battle Action Force comics for your pleasure. Note that one of the characters was called Snow Job.

Star Wars

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Palitoy’s original Star Wars merchandise was - to put it bluntly - fucking incredible (I think Kenner had the US licence). I’m sure I’m preaching to the perverted, but man, this stuff was good. We all had the figures, we all had some of the ships or other weird craft. My ATAT, Millenium Falcon and Scout Walker are boxed in the attic, and most of the original figures are in a bag up there somewhere. All offers not welcome, all will be refused. These aren’t the toys you’re looking for.

Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle

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Former bank robber and safecracker Evel was a big celebrity when I was a kid. He would appear on the telly on Saturday night jumping tanks of sharks, innumerable buses, the Atlantic Ocean and so on, before privately spending the rest of the night with lots of alcohol, drugs, and chicks. He’s dying of liver disease now, but thank heavens his life inspired the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. Basically, our Evel sat on a superbly made, suspension-enabled scaled replica of his own bike, propped up on some kind of rack and pinion system. As a small boy I would wind and wind the wheel faster and faster and then stop, setting mini Evel and his motorbike racing off down the drive, across the main road, and into Missis O’Neill’s house at No. 32. Sheer class.

Lego

Yeah, we all had Lego. Well done the Danes for inventing a way of turning kids on to the construction industry. I was never bothered with the Technic stuff - bit too complicated. I loved Lego Space, and my Police Station was really good. Like all good toys, the power was in the detail. Who can forget the little wigs, the moon craters and the cylindrical rocket bricks. Just don’t mention Duplo. And what’s with all this Lego Star Wars stuff?

Micro Machines

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They came in collections of five. They were very, very small. I could never find them, though my Dad often used to slip over on them. There were a lot of quality car toys about in the 80s, but Micro Machines topped my chart.

Playdoh Barber Shop

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Not for girls! Not at all. Playdoh is missing from the Periodic Table for some reason, but it’s the element it’s OK to like. The barber shop folks had lots of pin holes in their scalps, and basically all you had to do was shove a load of dough up their arses, through their heads and then style the resulting multi-coloured folicles into stupid punk haircuts. Genius.

Six Million Dollar Man

Ah, Steve Austin in the TV series, brought to life in this 12” action figure that had a magnifying eye, lots of cutaway robotic bits in his limbs, and a bright-red jump suit. This was a serious toy that could whupp Action Man’s sorry arse in any fight. You could even roll back the skin on his arm to reveal the circuitry. Legendary.

What about you?

That’s my selection of highlights. What about you? What’s in your attic? Sold it all on Ebay?! What’s with the terrible modern versions of Weebles, Star Wars and all the crap they make kids want these days?

Was your first computer a ZX Spectrum? Tell everyone about your Rancor Monster or the times you’d hook your Action Man up with your sister’s Barbie Doll. Alternatively, if you can find any decent resources for any of these old toys (especially a decent Star Wars toys site) let me know. Play safe, kids.

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