Dinosaur Dracula!

Weird TMNT toys from the late ’90s!

While scouring ancient and loosely archived versions of Playmates Toys’ website, I found a goldmine of late ‘90s Ninja Turtles crud. What an interesting time for those guys!

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Many of us stopped collecting TMNT toys years before the line died (if it ever truly did), so if you’re like me, you missed some incredible stuff on the tail-end. If you think about it, lots of lines hit their creative peak too late for it to really matter. Arguably, Kenner’s best Star Wars figures were the ones nobody had. Arguably, Mattel’s best Masters of the Universe toys came out long after He-Man lost his cool.

It was the same with Playmates’ Ninja Turtles collection. No longer guaranteed strong sales on brand name alone, the toys grew weirder and more intricate, with the kinds of goofy special features that aren’t seen in toy lines until they hit their seventh string. If you never gave up on TMNT, you were rewarded in a big way.

Below: Tons of Ninja Turtles figures that some of you never knew existed!

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TURTLE-IN-A-TURTLE FIGURES!

Holy hell, I WANT THESE. I was aware of the “micro” line of Ninja Turtles toys, but I had no idea that there were corresponding playsets shaped like Ninja Turtles!

Here, our four heroes start off as “complete” action figures, each with exclusive weapons and accessories. They would’ve been interesting enough even if they didn’t fold out to reveal two miniature Ninja Turtles living inside!

The “base” figures doubled as playsets, with a flavor akin to Mighty Max toys. Every part of them popped up, down or sideways, creating whole little worlds for your mini-figures. As expensive as they’ve become ($60 and up from what I see), can any true TMNT fan resist something called a Turtle In A Turtle? (more…)

1989 Toys “R” Us Treat Box!

During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Toys “R” Us ran several promotions where kids received free treat boxes with every purchase. These were essentially paper lunch boxes, filled with product samples, coupons, and if we were lucky, a little toy.

They sound like simple freebies, and I guess they were, but words can’t express how much those boxes meant to me. The few times that I received them, I sure as hell liked them more than whatever I’d conned Mom into buying me.

For regular readers, this is old news, as I’ve written about these treat boxes twice before. In 1992, TRU issued one with a Batman Returns theme, filled with everything from Fruit Stripe gum to Sesame Street Band-Aids. Later that year, they unveiled a Jurassic Park treat box, appropriately covered with dinosaur games and puzzles.

Other times, TRU unveiled treat boxes even when they weren’t in partnership with any big movie studios:

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This “R” Treat Box, from 1989, may have actually been the first in the series. Brother, it was PHENOMENAL. Covered with pictures of Geoffrey’s family, the many beach references suggest that it was a summer release.

Now, a free cardboard Geoffrey box was reason enough to demand a trip to the toy store, but it’s what was inside that made these so legendary. (more…)

The M.U.S.C.L.E. Battlin’ Belt!

M.U.S.C.L.E. — that’s Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere — is one of my favorite toy lines ever. Imported from Japan where they had a more richly defined story, I prefer the simplified version we got in the States: They were just piles of wacky, nameless wrestlers, nearly as inexpensive to collect as Garbage Pail Kids, but 800 times more fun.

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Most typically sold in 4-packs, M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were also sold in 10-pack cans and 28-pack boxed sets. Barely more than an inch tall, they were essentially super detailed vending machine toys. The toys were made cheap and sold cheap, so any kid who collected M.U.S.C.L.E. figures didn’t just “have a few.” We all had tons of them. That was partly the point.

Raise your hand if you ever commandeered a giant LEGO bucket for your M.U.S.C.L.E. toys. Actually, don’t bother. Didn’t we all?

M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were originally sold in a fleshy pink color, but after the line took off and Mattel saw an opening, all of the wrestlers were re-released in various neon colors. (I don’t think any kid preferred the wild colors, and to this day, the flesh-colored M.U.S.C.L.E. figures are far more popular.)

In Japan, most if not all of the characters had names, allegiances and explanations. In the States, their identities were pretty much up to us. We knew that the main good guy was “Muscle Man” and that the main bad guy was “Terri-Bull,” but beyond that, all we could do was look at the figures and decide for ourselves what they were about.

That was no easy task! The beauty of the line was in how absolutely bizarre it was. Some of the figures appeared roughly human, but most didn’t. One M.U.S.C.L.E. guy looked like a building; another resembled a giant claw. Then there was the one who appeared to have a teacup for a head. Since the three I just mentioned were some of the most popular, “nonsensicality” was one of the line’s biggest draws.

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Most people who collected the figures only collected the figures, ignoring Mattel’s few attempts to branch out beyond them. I’ve already covered the Hard Knockin’ Rockin’ Ring, where two M.U.S.C.L.E. wrestlers squared off in a miniaturized, extra weird version of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots.

Today, I want to focus on Mattel’s other big extra. A little thing called the Battlin’ Belt.

Remembering that M.U.S.C.L.E. was about wrestling at heart, most of the accessories played into that. The Battlin’ Belt was essentially a carrying case, but it was made to look like an honest-to-goodness championship belt. Specifically, the one Ric Flair wore in the NWA. Sure, his was a lot bigger, but his didn’t come with little plastic pockets full of tiny pink monsters. Nor did you have to take headbutts from Harley Race to get it. (more…)

10 things KB Toys sold in 1998!

kbrightI don’t think many of us realized just how wonderful KB Toys was until it went kaput. In fact, things that once seemed annoying about the chain became somehow charming in its wake. (The disorganized clutter! The reliance on old stock that hadn’t been in production for years! The six different price stickers on every single item!)

When KB stores were doing those firesales prior to shutting down, it wasn’t that much different from how they’d been operating all along.

KB had new stuff and even its share of exclusives, but the overall ambiance was that of a discount center. People like me rushed past anything resembling a “current” item for the glories of the back aisles, where comparatively ancient toys begged to be adopted. It was glorious!

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…which leads me to today’s topic, which I guess falls under a category of Deadsites.

KB Toys didn’t go out of business until 2009, so it’s no surprise that they had a major internet presence prior to that. Its online identity wasn’t far apart from the real world version. When looking for new things, it always seemed to be our last resort. (Hell, I’ve been buying Christmas presents online for around 15 years now, and not once can I remember doing it through KB Toys.)

Still, its web presence had the same charm as the actual stores, with wild discounts, loose categories and an overall lack of polish.

What you’re looking at up above is a screenshot of KB Toys’ website from 1998, when they were first getting their feet wet with online selling. Actually, that isn’t even true, because the whole point of the site was to drive people to their brick-and-mortar locations. There were no virtual shopping carts, nor any way to order anything online. What remained was essentially a virtual circular, and my God, did I ever enjoy flipping clicking through its pages!

Below are ten toys promoted on KB’s website back in 1998. May they fill you with as much nostalgic joy as they did me.

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#1: Aliens Figures!

Nothing screams “KB Toys” quite like Kenner’s Aliens figures marked down to goofy prices. Certainly many of you will remember seeing these beauts scattered around the store, usually in dented packaging. I’ve only recently begun to appreciate how awesome that line was, so I’m retroactively mad at myself for skipping these sales. Three Aliens figures for ten bucks? Even by 1998 standards, that was INSANE. (more…)

Five Ghoulish Ghostbusters Goodies!

Thanks largely to the media blitz surrounding its 30th anniversary, Ghostbusters seems hotter than ever. You know how I’m always saying that every Halloween season has “one thing” that ultimately sets it apart from every other Halloween season? In 2014, it’s gotta be Ghostbusters.

Let’s review. The movie returned to theaters. Krispy Kreme made some legendary donuts. There’s more GB merchandise now than ever before, since “doodad makers” have the luxury of catering both to kids and to old idiots like me. Tack on the confirmation of a new movie, and yeah, it’s been a great few months for GB fans.

All of the buzz inspired me to do one last Ghostbusters post before Halloween, so here are five random GB items from my collection. I’ve had some of these things for years, but most were recent pickups. You reading about them justifies me buying them, so thanks in advance!

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#1: Stay Puft Glow Mask! (1986)

I admit that I paid too much for this mostly-broken Halloween mask, but how could I resist? It’s Stay Puft! And, to the best of my knowledge, it’s pretty rare.

Cheap, plastic masks remind me of my earliest Halloweens, back when the ol’ mask-and-smock combo was the In Thing. (You know the kind. You’d get a crude plastic mask based on your favorite cartoon character, along with what was essentially an enormous lobster bib.) Had I spotted this Stay Puft gear back in ‘86, I most definitely would’ve been a Marshmallow Man for Halloween.

It’s worth noting that there isn’t a face this mask would fit. Even imagining myself with the head of a four-year-old, there’s just no way. I think it was sold less on the basis of “hey wear this” and more on the basis of “hey buy this because it’s a glow-in-the-dark Stay Puft head.” Challenge accepted, albeit 28 years late.

I can’t envision a scenario wherein I’d ever have a taxidermied deer head in my house, but I’m going to hang this mask in exactly the same fashion. It’s a trophy I can be proud of, and when I get up in the middle of the night to eat half a brick’s worth of Cracker Barrel cheese, Stay Puft’s faint glow will keep me from stubbing my toes on table legs. (more…)

Inhumanoids Monster Figures!

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I’ve been waiting a looooong time to do this post. Inhumanoids was one of the best toy lines of any decade, and if you’ve been with me for a while, you’ve read that sentiment more than a dozen times. Today, it’s finally time to show you why.

(Or you could just look at that photo. It explains everything in a nutshell.) (more…)

Dino Drac’s November Funpack!

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I know we’re still in Halloween mode, and thank God for that, but if you’ll pardon me this one exception, it’s time to debut Dino Drac’s NOVEMBER 2014 Funpack! (Available to those living in the United States only.)

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If you’re worried about those post-Halloween doldrums, I think November’s Funpack will be a great pick-me-up. It’s quite possibly my favorite one so far! (more…)