Monday, October 31, 2011

October 2011 Recap



Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in October 2011. If you missed any, or simply want to see them again, click on each "title" to be taken directly to that post. As always, thanks for reading.

Michael Jackson Dolls
The Real Ghostbusters
Married...With Children
Toy Story
Aaahh!! Real Monsters
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Tales From the Cryptkeeper

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Tales from the Cryptkeeper (Ace Novelty)



Happy Halloween, readers! What better way to celebrate than to bring you a post about monsters! Today is a treat for all of you. You get not one, not two, but THREE posts on toys pertaining to spookiness. So keep reading past this post for the other two!

Tales from the Cryptkeeper was a cartoon series which aired on ABC, based off of HBO's highly popular Tales from the Crypt live action series. The series was developed and produced by Nelvana Limited, PeaceArch Entertainment, kaBOOM! Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television Animation, and lasted for two seasons between 1993 and 1994. The series was significantly milder than the live-action series, and followed more of a Scooby Doo theme from episode to episode.


In 1994, Ace Novelty produced a small toy line based on the series which lasted for eight figures, or two series of four figures each. The production was low, as was the quality.

With the exception of the Cryptkeeper, the names of the characters as well as the sculpts were nothing creative, and seemed more like an excuse to cash in on the series - Though between the cartoon and toys, the series never garnered a strong following.

Sadly, the most catching thing to the figures was the bright packaging. With a colorful combination of blue, green, and even the brown, it was easy to spot these figures on any toy isle shelf. However, that didn't necessarily mean that people were buying the toys, and they eventually ended up in the clearance bins of most stores.


The full series consists of the following figures;

SERIES 1

Crypt Keeper (Tuxedo)
The Mummy
The Vampire
The Werewolf

SERIES 2

Crypt Keeper (Robe)
The Frankenstein
The Gargoyle
The Zombie

Despite many secondary market dealers attempts to sell these figures, most go un-purchased. Each figure can readily be found mint on card ranging from $5.00 to $10.00, with whole lots going from $25.00 to $50.00 depending on whether or not people are actually looking for them at the time...Most people are not. This is probably due a lot in part to most people simply not knowing these toys even exist.


In 1997 the series was picked up again, and aired as The New Tales from the Cryptkeeper with an all new animation style. This reimaging of the series didn't last long either.

In 2007, kaBOOM! Entertainment of Toronto, Canada, released the complete 1993/1994 series on DVD. The series is still readily available on sites such as Amazon for a mere $9.99 per set.

While it wasn't the most interesting series of toys to date, it remains an iconic one. It was also a prime example of how independent toy companies were starting to carve out little niches in the toy isle. Although most of them failed and folded, it was a sign of things to come with fly by night toy companies, and random figures - (most destined for the clearance bin) which dominate a good section of toy isles today.

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The Nightmare Before Christmas (Hasbro)



"This is Halloween, this is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween!" Okay, so the lyrics to the song don't transfer well into text. Either way, welcome to our second of three special Halloween posts.

You remember The Nightmare Before Christmas. No, I'm not asking. I'm telling you that you remember it. The movie hit theaters in 1993, and was a huge success, which Tim Burton got all the credit for, when all he did was produce it. Surprisingly for how big it was, it never spawned a sequel.

Hasbro launched a line of toys to coincide with the films release. Because there are so few figures, yet all of them are pretty unique, I'm going to do something a bit different this time. I'm going to talk about each individual one separately (after we go over the packaging).


Each figure came packed in a purple bubble package with a horribly drawn moon in the background to resemble the movie poster. The back of the package identified each character in the top right, and centered on the rest of the card were photos and names of the further available characters.

Going from top to bottom, left to right;

BEHEMOTH

I'm a little surprised that this figure was even made. The character was nothing more than a background presence in the movie, with the exception of his one liner, "Bunny!" The figures eyes shift back and forth to show the character is always looking around wondering what everyone else is contemplating.

EVIL SCIENTIST

More respectively known as Dr. Finklestein, the Evil Scientist figure sported a flip top dome on his head for when the good evil doctor wanted to scratch his brain.

JACK AS SANTA

See "Jack Skellington" below.

JACK SKELLINGTON

Oddly enough, the lamest figure out of the set was the main character, Jack (and Jack as Santa). He had no articulated joints, and standing eight inches high, was nothing more than a bendable figure.

SANTA CLAUS

The rarest figure in the set is the Santa figure. This solid hunk of plastic came with no accessories, no articulation, and was second to largest when compared in size to the Oogie Boogie figure - Gerth wise.

THE MAYOR

Much like in the movie, The Mayor came with the ability to turn his head 360 degrees. Each half was comprised of a different face (happy and angry) that you could display to show the character's current mood.

SALLY

Soon to be Jack's girlfriend, Sally was known to be a rag doll which could take her self apart, limb by limb, and then sew her self back together. While you couldn't sew the doll back together, her arms and legs did pop off to resemble her ability to dismantle herself at will.

WEREWOLF

This is another figure I'm surprised made it into the toy line as much like Behemoth, he was nothing more than a background character, but at least was featured singing in the opening song of the film, "This is Halloween." The figure has the ability to move its jaw up and down for real biting action.

OOGIE BOOGIE

The largest figure in the collection (about twice the size of a regular size character), and a pretty heavy one too, Oogie Boogie was a hefty one to lug around. Not only was this figure awesome to look at, but he also glows in the dark.


Hasbro also released a three pack of Lock, Shock and Barrel, the mischievous children of the film. Each figure came with their respective mask as seen in the movie. Disappointing was that they didn't come with their traveling bathtub to display them in.

The sculpting on all the figures in Hasbro's lineup were pretty accurate to their film counterparts, and it was a nice added touch that each figure was unique in its own way by incorporating things seen in the movie. It was also a nice added accessory that each figure came with a display stand. Something I wish more toy lines would do.

As was the case with most toys of the 90's, the series came and went fast. Collector's had yet to show their true colors for nostalgic collecting, and figures remained a common purchase for children, and not adults. However, these days, fans of all ages show their love of their toys, and while Hasbro may not be producing Nightmare Before Christmas figures, several other companies have tried their hand at it.

The toys still come and go from various sources to this day, and I'm sure as time goes by, only more will come and go based on this amazing cult classic film. Hats off to you, Hasbro, for being the first to produce toys based on these fabulous characters.

On a side note, when collecting this set, one must be very careful. NECA, who would later pick up the rights to produce toys based on the film re-released these figures in slightly modified packaging as "Limited Editions".

Don't forget to keep reading for our third and final Halloween post!

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Aaahh!! Real Monsters (Mattel)



Our third and final post for the day brings you all kinds of monsters...

Aaahh!! Real Monsters! The title says it all. The cartoon series launched on Nickelodeon right before Halloween in 1994, and ran through the end of the year of 1997. The show was based on the adventures of child monsters in training, focusing mainly on the three characters Ickis, Oblina and Krumm. The majority of the episodes focused on the characters making their way to the surface to perform scares for class assignments.


In 1995 Mattel produced a small line of figures based on the series. Though the show had a strong following of fans, it never really took off as a staple in children's entertainment, and as a result the figures saw little success on the market.

It didn't help that Mattel never really seemed to support the line. Advertising was spars, and despite the many options available for playsets, this avenue was never pursued.


After just two waves of figures (series one being known as the basic figures, and series two being known as the Inside Out figures), the line was cancelled - Though the fact of the matter was that many fans didn't even notice that the toy line had come, let alone gone.

The figures can be found on the secondary market for as little as $4.00 - $5.00 mint on card. Though there are a fair amount of dealers out there who think these toys are worth three to four times that price (each), and as a result of pricing as such, they remain unsold.

For those few people out there looking to track these figures down they are as follows;

PHOTO 1 (left to right, top to bottom) - Ickis, Krumm, Oblina, Scarfer, Sproink & Groink (two pack), and The Gromble.

PHOTO 2 (left to right, top to bottom) - Werfel, Haluga, Kaluga, Poomps, Splug and Snarle.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Toy Story (Thinkway Toys)



Believe it or not, since we first started this blog, we've always wanted to do a post on the Toy Story series, but the figures are so hard to get your hands on. Most people didn't collect these back in the day, but instead purchased them for kids. Mint in package toys are not only hard to find, but some people ask a pretty penny for them - Especially for the rarer ones.

Right, so, Toy Story. Everyone knows what it is, Pixar's 1995 breakthrough movie. Everyone has seen it. Everyone loves it - Great movie, great characters, and great voice acting. Like bread and butter, some movies and toys just go hand and hand, and toys there were. Between the three films, and various cartoons, Toy Story has spawned enough toys to create its own plastic army.


Think Way produced six figures for the initial series (and several other Toy Story related items). To be sure, 1995 was Toy Story's year. For Christmas and birthdays, that's all you saw. As an employee for Toy R' Us at the time, I remember vividly that we simply could not keep the shelves stocked with Buzz and Woody toys. We couldn't get them in stock as fast as they were selling. It was a Tickle Me Elmo type of nightmare of biblical proportions.

The figures were almost perfect counterparts to their big screen portrayals, and the packages were bright, and eye catching. A great combination if ever there was one for toys.

This didn't leave room for disappointment - Specifically in the ratio department. Because the line was strictly geared towards figures, characters like Rex and Ham showed no size variation when compared to the other figures. Simply put, they should have been larger - Much larger.

Despite this flaw, it clearly didn't hurt sales.


Seven more figures were quickly produced for series 2, and at this point it was clear that while secondary characters would be released here and there, Think Way was definitely pushing the variations of Buzz and Woody figures out to keep production costs low, and profit high. Between series one and two, there were no less than five variations of Buzz, and four of Woody - A trend that would continue to the series end.

It was an interesting play on Think Way's part to not release characters like Etch or Bo Peep, but instead went with the more terrifying to children, Baby Face (the spider like toy with a baby doll head). I can personally attest that in my time at Toys R' Us, this figure sold the least.


By series 3, Think Way was grasping at straws trying to get kids to remember that just the prior year they had dropped mountains of cash on Toy Story figures. Also known as "To Infinity and Beyond", series 3 was nothing more than repainted Buzz, Woody and Rex figures from prior releases. Now at a total of eight Buzz figures, seven Woody figures, and two Rex figures, it was no wonder that kids had lost interest.

Sales continued, but very slowly, and very poorly. The once hottest isle of the toy store was now a ghost town, with parents occasionally stopping by to purchase a figure or two (now on clearance) for a birthday party they completely forgot about.

Interesting about series 3 is that there are two package variations for each character, and in some cases, three. The reason the series is known as the "To Infinity and Beyond" series is because a package variation exists where this text is displayed across the top of the package. Other variations consist of rounder packaging, and a yellow label displaying the figures names as opposed to red.

For those interested in chasing down variants, there are also gold editions of the three Buzz figures from this series.


Series 4, Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue, or as I like to call it, Oh Good, More Buzz Figures was released as the final set of figures in the line. Sales were dead, and Think Way was making one final push to get children to bite.

In a half assed attempt, they released three more variations of Buzz Lightyear, now up to eleven different versions. Why? One couldn't even begin to guess.

The series officially died out shortly after these three figures were released, and Toy Story figures were a thing of the past until Toy Story 2 hit the big screen. But for that, you're going to have to wait for a later dated post.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Married...With Children (Figures Toy Company)



The year was 2000. Married...With Children had been off the air for three years. Buzz around the series had all but died down. TV shows had yet to test the waters of mass release on DVD format, and people weren't clambering over each other to get their hands on their favorite shows of yesteryear.

So, it was an odd play that Figures Toy Company would license the rights to create a line of toys based on the hugely successful show under the guise "Classic TV Toys". Not only were they simply too late to capitalize on the popularity of the show, but being a small company with little following, they weren't set up to market and produce the quantities that companies such as Hasbro or Mattel could push out. Regardless, the company pushed forward.


SERIES 1

The first series of eight inch figures (or dolls, if you will) consisted of the entire Bundy clan, with the exception of Buck the dog, and the very short lived Six (the semi-adopted or better stated as abandoned young child added to the Bundy family in hopes to boost ratings of the show).

The figures were poorly sculpted, and resembled knock off Barbie dolls with little articulation. The heads were too large, and only with the stretch of ones imagination could you find any resemblance to the actual characters of the show.

The packages were generic packaging at its best, made as either an homage to older Mego toys, or simply because their art department was awful. The color schemes and poorly laid out design were enough to make any serious collector shudder.

Interesting enough was that the figures based off of the two Bundy children, Kelly and Bud, were of their younger selves, and not as seen in the final season of the show. This was especially odd as the second series would go on to produce Jefferson D'Arcy, a character not even introduced into the show until season five.

SERIES 2

It's unknown to the general public if series 2 was a preplanned release or not. I say this because not only was it released right on the heels of series 1, but for how quickly the series disappeared after this, it couldn't have sold that well.

Much like the first series, the second showed little resemblance to the characters, and the same awful package design remained. Rather than produce four new figures, Figures Toy Company only released two new characters, Jefferson and Marcy D'Arcy, and two redressed prior ones, Kelly and Al. Personally, I'm not sure why they didn't go with Griff and Steve Rhodes as opposed to going this route, but it probably all came down to licensing costs versus profit, and the fact that it was simpler and cheaper to produce new clothes than new dolls.

The series ended abruptly after the release of series 2, and can still be found on the secondary market for incredibly cheap. Whole sets (minus the exclusive ones) have sold for as little as $50.00 mint in the package.



During the first and second series, Figures Toy Company offered two exclusive figures (via Classic TV Toys dot com) - Or rather, two new sets of clothing on two older characters - Jefferson with his "No Ma'Am" shirt, and Al sporting his classic Polk High uniform. Much like series 1 and 2, they didn't sell well.

I can't help but think that this series missed its opportunity. Honestly, I didn't even know it existed until just recently, and I was, and still am a huge fan of the show. Had it been released during the shows height of popularity, with a little more marketing, this could have been a larger and better series of toys. Who knows, possibly with playsets such as the Bundy's home, and vehicles like the Bundy's faithful Dodge?

But, a missed opportunity is a missed opportunity, and we'll never know what might have been, only what was. The figures were a great idea, just released at the wrong time.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

The Real Ghostbusters (Kenner)



The Real Ghostbusters? As opposed to the fake ones? Well, yeah - Actually that was the case.

When Ghostbusters was being developed for a cartoon series, Filmation (most famous for He-Man and She-Ra) filed a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures Television due to an infringement of the name. As it was, Filmation had already owned the rights to the TV series name "Ghostbusters" which was a 1970's program the company had developed as a live action series, and later in the 80's as a cartoon series of its own. To get around this, the series was titled The Real Ghostbusters. This not only settled the suit, but let Filmation know that there was only one Ghostbusters, and Columbia's was it.

The first film was already a major success in theaters, so when it came time to produce a cartoon series (1986), Kenner was quick to develop toys. The line launched in 1987, and ran until 1991.

While the figures stayed generally the same (after all, there are only four Ghostbusters), Kenner released several variations throughout the line. Kenner took several liberties with likeness and articulation.

The first series contained the four original Ghostbusters. Each Buster came packed in with their own ghost. This trend of a figure being released with a unique ghost would continue for the entire line.



In 1988 Kenner released the Fright Features figures series. This set included the four Ghostbusters, and their trusty secretary Janine. The Fright Feature toys can only be described as having Tex Avery Syndrome. With the squeeze of their arms and/or legs, each figure would bulge out various body parts such as eyes and tongues.



Kenner followed the Fright Features series with their 1990 Power Pack figures line. By the time this series came out, Ghostbusters 2 was a huge success at the box office. The line incorporated a Louis Tully figure into the mix along with the four main characters and Janine.

Power Pack figures were essentially figures packaged with large power packs. Each figure had their own unique pack.



Screaming Heroes, which also launched in 1989, were figures that would scream. To make this work one would only need attach the packed in ghost to the back of the figure, and squeeze to push air through them. This line did not include a Louis figure, but still had all four Ghostbusters and their secretary.



The last line of figures for 1989 was the Super Fright Features figures. If the Fright Feature figures had Tex Avery syndrome, then the Super Fright Features could only be explained as Super Tex Avery features...TO THE EXTREME!!!!! These figures would fold into themselves, pop exaggerated points of their bodies, and all other sorts of Avery type syndromes.

This set would once again exclude Louis, and only include the four Ghostbusters and Janine.



1990 saw only one line of figures released - the Slimed Heroes. The line included all four Ghostbusters and once again Louis. The way the figures work was that if you doused them with warm water, it would reveal thermal painted slime on the figure. The addition of cold water would make the markings disappear again.



1991 was the last year the series ran, and with it came the final wave of Ghostbusters figures - Ecto Glow Heroes. The set included all four of the busters and Louis. Each figure glowed in the dark.



One particular line Kenner introduced for the series was figures based on classic horror monsters. This set included the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy. The figures while mildly successful never managed to capture the spirit and fun of what Ghostbusters were.



Kenner was given artistic license with the figures, and took that liberty as far as they could go with the line - Especially when it came to the ghosts.

Interestingly enough when the figure based off of the now known as Slimer character, there was no actual name associated with him. When produced as a toy, he was released as simply Green Ghost.

Though Kenner produced several ghost characters, Green Ghost and Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man are the only two recognized as being from the films and/or cartoon series. The first series of Action Ghosts were released in 1987.



A second wave was produced in 1988 which incorporated more play into the Action Ghosts. Specifically, one you would put your fingers through and manipulate it like finger puppets. The other included a zip line which would rev the toy up and send it off in a (somewhat) straight path.



Mini Ghosts were a way for Kenner to incorporate small multipacks of ghosts into the line. They even included mini Gooper Ghosts (see next section below) with a smaller can of Ecto-Plazm.



In the 80's you simply didn't have a toy line if it didn't include some form of slimy goop. The mixture typically stunk, got hard within hours if left without the lid on it, was obnoxiously messy, and was impossible to fully recover for multiple use.

The Gooper Ghost toys served as the vehicle for said slime. Much like the slime from the He-Man series, the Ecto-Plazm was poured down the top of the toy where it would ooze onto the figure below. There were four ghosts created for this line.



Gobblin' Goblins were like mini playsets. Each set contained one large ghost that had chomping action to gobble your heroes up. There were three released in total.



One of the most popular line of figures produced for the series were Haunted Humans. Each figure was designed to look like your average human such as a mail man, police officer and old granny. When manipulated correctly, the figure would transform to show a ghoulish like character.



The most highly coveted piece in the entire series is the Fire House playset. Even opened with missing pieces this item can fetch as much as $100.00 on the secondary market, with prices multiplying by four or five times that for brand new, mint in box ones.



Several vehicles were produced throughout the line, though most of them were just a reimaging of the original Ecto-1 vehicle, with a different number scheme incorporated into the title. As the line progressed, the vehicles went further and further over the top until they became down right silly.



Towards the end of the series Kenner produced two Haunted Vehicles. Much like the Haunted Humans line, these toys could be manipulated to transform into a ghoul.



In a world where most toy lines are lucky to see a one year anniversary, The Real Ghostbusters defied those odds by lasting an impressive five.

Most of the toys are relatively fairly priced on the secondary market, while the rarer original series, Fire House playset, Green Ghost and Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man command a larger value. What makes this series fun to collect is that while it is cheaper than most toy lines out there, it's a lot rarer. Collecting a full mint on card/in box set can take many years to track down all the pieces.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Michael Jackson Dolls (LJN)



Whether you admit it or not, at one point or another, you liked Michael Jackson. Everyone did. It was like a strictly enforced law around the world.

Because the entire world liked Michael Jackson, in 1984 LJN thought it would be a brilliant idea to make some money off of that, and thus the Michael Jackson 12 inch doll collection was born, and Michael-Mania spread even further as a result.

The series was kept small, and focused on the era that made Michael a household name across the world - "The Thriller Era". During this time, Michael was selling millions upon millions of Thriller albums, and swept up an incredible eight Grammy Awards as a result. To say that Michael Jackson was at the height of his career would be as obvious as to state that lava pouring from a volcano is hot. The man was number one across the world.

LJN produced four dolls, all Michael (obviously), all with different clothing, yet the same accessories. Each outfit was meticulously crafted to resemble the Gloved Ones personal ensemble to a "T", right down to his glittering socks, and black shoes.

Each figure came with a Glittering "Magic" Glove (not sure what made it magical), a microphone, and a stand. Two of the four dolls (Thriller, and American Music Awards) came with sunglasses.

The four dolls respectively came to be known and named by their clothing, "Beat It", "Thriller", "American Music Awards", and "Grammy Awards." After all, how else would you be able to identify the same doll over and over?

The packaging design was pretty standard for dolls in the 80's. A rectangle box with a clear plastic area to showcase the figure, with a tight shot photograph (or artist rendition) of the character inside. In this case, a photo of Michael to the left. The name "Michael Jackson" was printed in cursive at the top, perhaps to appear as though it were his actual signature.

While some versions of the doll dressed in the "Billie Jean" outfit have been found on EBay, or other various secondary markets, these dolls are not authentic if they are in the package. While a set of clothing was released for the "Billie Jean" look, there was never a doll packaged with the clothing.

To help Michael stay trendy, a total of six outfits were produced to compliment the line. A respectful tactic that LJN followed was to offer each outfit also available with a doll separately. This helped parents and children not have to buy multiple dolls to get the different outfits.

The six outfits made available were; Thriller, Beat It, Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, Billie Jean, and Human Nature. To date, Human Nature remains the rarest, and most expensive outfit to add to your personal collection.

The packaging for the clothing was also very standard for doll accessories of that time - A large plastic bubble, with each item inside clearly laid out. A small star with the outfit name was to the bottom left of the package. Again, Michael's signature was displayed at the top, with a photo from his neck up.

The dolls and clothing garner a respectable amount on secondary markets these days, but not enough to plan on retiring if you have one for sale. Sellers have asked for between $25.00 to $400.00 for the dolls, and $10.00 to $80.00 for the individual outfits. However, most dolls sell for $30.00 to $50.00 (new in package), and clothing sells for between $10.00 and $25.00 (new in package).

When it comes to this particular line of dolls, people see "Michael Jackson", and assume that since he is deceased, they're sitting on a gold mine. Unfortunately this is not the case, and it would be incredibly helpful if these particular people would do their research prior to listing their items for sale for outrageous amounts.

When you think of toys, you don't often think of music artists. You think movies, cartoons, and possibly even comic books. So to see a Michael Jackson doll (and let alone in the 80's) was a rare treat for fans and collectors. To this day it's not like you can walk into your local toy shop and ask the clerk where the Pearl Jam or Matchbox 20 figures are. They'd probably in turn ask you, "Do they even make those?" Which of course the answer is, "No, they don't."

Do you see what I'm getting at here? To be a singer (in any era), and be given the opportunity to be a toy was, and is a rare honor. If anyone deserved it, surely it was the King of Pop, Mr. Michael Jackson.

What a fascinating collection, with absolute attention to detail. R.I.P., Michael Jackson. Your music and collectibles will be around forever to remind us of the great music you gave this world.

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