Remember the opening scene of 1988’s Child’s Play?
Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) chases serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) into a toy store. Nearing death, Ray uses a voodoo spell to transfer his soul into a doll, signaling the start of a cheeky slasher series that’s still going strong in 2017.
But let’s back up for a second, because we HAVE to talk about that toy store…
As I understand it, “Playland Toys” was in reality a dead Chinese restaurant. Where a lesser movie would have stuffed the shelves with generic junk, the fake toy store in Child’s Play was absolutely loaded with legit ‘80s toys.
I’ve watched this scene a billion times and I’m always discovering new things, from Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur to giant G.I. Joe vehicles. I don’t know exactly when this sequence was shot, but judging by the toys, my best guess is 1987.
Some of the goodies are easy to spot. Others only reveal themselves when you pause on a precise frame. All in all, for nostalgia purposes, the scene is worth as much as in-store footage from a 1987 Toys “R” Us.
Below are five of the coolest items spotted in Playland Toys:
Watch closely when Charles Lee Ray breaks into the toy store. Yes, that enormous box at the bottom belongs to Fireball Island, an incredible tabletop game that replaced the usual folding “board” with a giant, three-dimensional landmass!
Fireball Island was huge by anyone’s standards, but to eight-year-old kids with eight-year-old hands, its size was nearly obscene. The game doubled so perfectly as a jungle-themed action figure playset that even kids who had no intention of playing it still wanted one.
(I’m still convinced that Fireball Island’s immense size is what killed it. Shelf space isn’t cheap, and for every Fireball Island, a store could’ve stocked four or five Scrabbles.)
Real Ghostbusters Ecto-1!
I can’t think of another ‘80s “car toy” that was this much of a must-have. If you were seriously into Ghostbusters, it was impossible to consider your collection adequate (let alone complete) without an Ecto-1.
There was something uniquely fetching about Kenner’s Real Ghostbusters toys. Think back: Didn’t getting anything from that line always feel like a major event? Didn’t matter if it was a figure or a firehouse. Those toys were drugs, and they brought the best highs.
Captain Power Interlocker!
The Interlocker was a villainous “vehicle” from the Captain Power collection — “vehicle” in quotes because it was technically just a chair.
Captain Power toys could interact with a series of VHS tapes and even snippets from the live action series, similarly to how the old Nintendo Zapper functioned. It was a great hook, but I was never able to make mine work that way, and judging by many online reviews, I wasn’t alone.
The shame of it was that the toys didn’t need the gimmick to be worth owning. The line consisted of awesome vehicles and even better action figures that stood just fine on their own.
Take the Interlocker, for example. It was more or less in the same scale as Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toys, and a big black chair that looked like Shockwave’s third mode was just as cool as whatever Cobra had on their assembly line.
The crown jewel of Mattel’s Princess of Power collection, the Crystal Castle was for She-Ra what Castle Grayskull was for He-Man.
Course, the Crystal Castle playset was much less “medieval” than Grayskull. It looked kinda like a strawberry-flavored version of Disney’s Grand Floridian.
I’m a big fan of the Princess of Power collection, which was one of the only honest attempts to give ‘80s girls their own “action figure” line. I know that sounds like Mattel was drawing a thick line between boys’ toys and girls’ toys, but the company ended up breaking gender barriers anyway.
There were certainly boys who wanted Princess of Power figures, and there were certainly girls who wanted Masters of the Universe figures.The lines were too connected for any fan to ignore. Baby steps by today’s standards, but I think it meant plenty in the ‘80s.
As Charles Lee Ray stumbled around Playland Toys, I noticed a pair of ThunderTanks hiding in the background. Hell yeah! I must thank Charles for bleeding where he bled.
The ThunderTank looked like a giant cat mixed with one of the Killbots from Chopping Mall. It was a pretty major part of the cartoon series, but I dare say that it was even more monumental in toy form.
In many 1980s action figure lines, there was a central playset that every kid “needed,” and then a side dish vehicle that every kid “wanted.” With LJN’s ThunderCats line, that standard was arguably reversed. We all may have wanted a Cat’s Lair, but we couldn’t live if livin’ was without a ThunderTank.
Thanks for reading! The next time you watch Child’s Play, keep your eyes peeled during the opening scene. Playland even had one of those inflatable Godzillas!
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