I was separating a stack of papers into “keep” and “toss” piles, and buried underneath so many hotel receipts and menus for dead restaurants, there it was…
Yeah, this one went into the “keep” pile. It’s the Toys “R” Us Summer Fun Book, from 1986! Lightweight and only around a dozen pages, I’m guessing they came packed with Sunday newspapers. The contents aren’t nearly as voluminous as what we used to see in Sears Wish Books, but there was certainly enough to make me a remember a time when toys were my everything. Here are the highlights:
This remains one of my favorite doll concepts ever. Each creature blended two animals into a new one, and it was exactly that kind of perverse mutation that made dolls okay for boys to squish.
For example, the fellow on the lower-left was Eleroo, a kangaroo/elephant hybrid. More adorably, Tycoon mixed a tiger with a racoon. The Wuzzles had a cartoon series and the full complement of awareness-raising kiddy nonsense, but I’m not sure it needed it. “Two animals in one” was awesome enough. Just look at Syfy’s Friday night lineup.
I haven’t seen one of these in person, but judging by the description, I assume Garfield opened his eyes when you picked up the phone, and closed them when you hung up. Despite the collectible value, novelty phone prices were so ridiculous in the ‘80s that you could buy this same electro-cat for a fraction of the price today.
(And yes, I checked. They’re selling for as low as 8 bucks. I also noticed that this is just one of several hundred Garfield phones. I wouldn’t have thought that “Garfield phones” could be such a hot commodity, but the proof is in the 240+ matches on eBay.)
Even people who were never fans of pro-wrestling remember LJN’s collection of large, rubber WWF figures. It was perhaps the popularity of those toys that inspired other wrestling organizations to go for their slice of the pie.
Made by Remco, these AWA figures shared their scale with He-Man and Skeletor. TRU didn’t identify them, but I recognize this trio as the Fabulous Freebirds. They were sold together in a single package, and even by 1986 standards, $10 for an action figure three-pack was a great deal. (Since wrestling fans can be ravenous collectors, that same three-pack fetches $250 today.)
Of course, the premiere item in the collection was the Road Warriors two-pack. If you’re unfamiliar with that tag team, the Road Warriors were basically face-painted Terminators who wore spiky alien football gear. You didn’t have to know what an “AWA” was to want those figures.
Pound Puppies & Pound Purries!
I’ll never forget the month I spent treating my Pound Puppy like a real dog, but this catalog reminded me that there were also Pound Purries. Whereas the “dumpy” look of the pooches only made them more endearing, the technology wasn’t nearly as successful with cats. Depending on the angle, Pound Purries either looked wildly injured or like cheap piñatas.
Super Spin Car Wash!
Oh, I totally owned Matchbox’s Super Spin Car Wash. Many action features were packed into this inexpensive playset! You could spray your Matchbox cars with water, wash them with twirling sponges, and finish them off in the hilarious “Spin Dry” chamber, which heroically established that this was never meant to resemble a real life car wash.
The playset also came with a plastic mat, which cheaply doubled its size and gave kids the “Matchbox parking lot” they always dreamed about.
Speak & Spell / Math / Read!
If you’re my age, these were your first iPads. Speak & Spell, Speak & Read and Speak & Math were battery-operated handhelds that taught kids spelling, reading and, uh, mathing. I haven’t played with them in decades, but I can still remember their crude sound effects and weird robot voices.
Blessed by no less than E.T. himself, they were the coolest “learning toys” I ever had. Many people didn’t own computers back then, and even fewer had anything resembling laptops. In 1986, these devices felt so hoity-toity that kids didn’t care one bit about them having educational purposes.
(And if they did, hell, it was easy to pretend that your Speak & Spell was actually a magic microcomputer, capable of storing abstract thoughts with the push of a single button.)
I’ve always had a soft spot for Popples, but I could never figure out why until trying to describe them in a single sentence: “Alien circus animals that transform into giant, neon Mogwai balls.” What’s not to love?
Though not shown here, my favorites were the extra small Popples. While retaining all of the larger versions’ cuteness, those dolls were tiny enough to carry in your pocket. In a world without Puckmarin from Flight of the Navigator, miniature Popples were as close as kids got to adorable pets from outer space.
I wrote about The Animal many years ago, but I’ll never pass on an opportunity to champion one of the greatest toy commercials ever made. Using what could only roughly be described as an ad jingle, that commercial seemed to play ten thousand times a day.
I know few people who actually owned this crazy truck with the retractable claw tires, but everyone remembers the commercial.
Rambo Electronic Uzi!
I feel like it’d be hard to get away with a realistic toy Uzi in today’s world, if it’s even still legal to try.
I love how the description refers to it as a “mighty” Uzi, if only because that encouraged kids to make “Mighty Uzi” its official, canonical title.
Last and best, a spread of old Masters of the Universe toys, including the sneakily kinky Slime Pit playset. Holy shit, the Slime Pit was only ten bucks?! Read my review to find out why that was such a bargain.
He-Man and Skeletor already had a few figures under their belts by 1986, so these new ones needed an extra something to stand out. He-Man got “flying fists” and a spinning weapon, while Skeletor — never one to be topped — came with giant monster claws that you’d slip over the figure’s normal hands.
I’m also thrilled to see Stonedar and Rokkon represented. Those were the Comet Warriors figures, which could transform into… rocks. Some argue that Mattel made them in response to Hasbro’s Transformers, which may explain why these supposed rock people looked so much like robots.
PS: Can I just mention how much I love the way toy stores used to photograph Masters of the Universe stuff? The spreads were always so inspired. Here, a distant planet’s battlefield was represented by all of the same shit kids would’ve found in their backyards. It looks like a tank for a turtle/bunny hybrid.
Thank you for reading about old toys.