Dinosaur Dracula!

The 1985 JCPenney Christmas Catalog.

Oof. Christmas caught me by surprise this year, and I didn’t write nearly as often as I would’ve liked to. Can’t do anything about that now, so I’ll just try to make this an extra good one!

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Today we’re gonna look at some highlights from the 1985 JCPenney catalog, which was basically another Sears Wish Book, serving as a veritable bible of that year’s hottest toys and games.

I actually covered this exact same catalog way back in 2007, but it seemed criminal to stop at a mere twelve items when the book had hundreds of things worth celebrating. 1985 was an absolute banner year for toys, as I think these seven selections will prove!

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Gobots “Mobile Command Center” Playset!
($26.99)

Remember the AT-AT from Star Wars? This was like the its rad kid sister.

The Mobile Command Center was easily the crown jewel of Tonka’s Gobots collection. Starting off as a four-legged transport not unlike those behemoths from The Empire Strikes Back, the playset then transforms into a multi-level headquarters that doubles as a giant robot. TOO COOL, and not in the Brian Christopher way.

Oh, and speaking of Star Wars, one neat thing about Gobots playsets is how they worked just as nicely with those figures. (Same with G.I. Joe, or any of the other 3-4” lines.)

I’d like to say that I used the Mobile Command Center for that purpose, putting Darth Vader in charge of a futuristic apartment complex with a loft shaped like a robot head. The truth is, I never had one as a kid. A friend of mine did, and I was so jealous. He was one of those friends that I only had scattered after-school play-dates with, while our mothers forced awkward conversation over cups of bad coffee. That guy had everything. His bedroom looked like Toy Fair.

Through him, I saw enough of the Mobile Command Center to know that I was seriously deprived. This as close as we’ve ever come to the fictitious skyscraper robot from Big. Read More…

This $5 dinosaur playset is the best.

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Every Christmas, various department stores dedicate whole aisles to those super cheap “generic” toys. You know the kind. They always come in the same-style boxes, whether they’re sets of dominoes or princess baby dolls.

Shown above is one example. The “Dinosaurs Play Set,” a 21-piece assortment of Not Quite Jurassic Park toys. I found it in Walmart, sandwiched between a similar set that replaced the dinosaurs with tigers, and a stack of “Rad O Control” cars that appeared to come with purposeless mock remotes.

The Dinosaur Play Set leaves us with much to discuss! Read More…

Happy Mother’s Day!

Guys, we need to talk about this Mother’s Day card.

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I made it for my mother in 1986. 1987 at the absolute latest. Considering the card’s enormous size and use of strange paper, I can only assume it was an art project from grade school.

The cover looks innocent enough, or at least as innocent as a cover featuring a shark swimming through blood could look. It’s what inside that troubles me. It’s very curious that both my teacher and mother saw this card and never thought, “hmmm the boy needs help.”

Who knows, maybe they did. Read More…

Obscure Nightmare on Elm Street Playset.

One of the coolest-ever Nightmare on Elm Street toys technically had nothing to do with it:

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In 1988, Tonka launched a small line of Wrecking Crew toys. These were various construction vehicles that could plow through break-apart playsets. (Not a terribly misguided gimmick, given kids’ collective passion for smashing shit.)

Between the line’s simplistic theme and the toys’ nearly generic appearance, very few people remember Wrecking Crew. And that’s unfortunate, because hiding deep within the collection was an awesome and unmistakable nod to none other than Freddy Krueger!

Seriously!

Shown above is the Abandoned School House Playset. It might not seem so remarkable now, but once I show you the finer details, you’re gonna flip. Read More…

Classic Christmas Commercials, Volume 5!

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Welcome to what could be this year’s last batch of Classic Christmas Commercials, donated by our pal Larry. Tonight, you’ll see everything from a super capitalistic Santa to a giant apple pitching cheap underwear. Are you excited?

Call Santa’s Hotline!
(1987)

I’ve seen at least a dozen “Santa hotline” commercials, where various entrepreneurs preyed on every kid’s desire to form a special bond with the big man.

This one is particularly low-key, but I do enjoy the notion that Santa lives in front of a giant purple backdrop. While the voice-over lady clarified that you’d only hear a prerecorded message, you’ll notice that the action implies a live conversation with Santa Claus. (That never happened. At best, Santa would ask for Christmas lists, and then fall silent for a paid minute while clueless kids shouted about dolls and video games.)

In this case, you’d call to hear a special Christmas story from Santa. In the commercial, our hero hangs up after only 25 seconds, as if that was legitimately how long the stories took tell. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose, yadda yadda yadda, he went down in history.” Read More…