Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 2011 Recap



Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in December 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.

Star Wars Advent 2011
Erector Sets, Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs
Gremlins
Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves
A Christmas Story

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Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas Story (Neca)



It wouldn't be Christmas without "A Christmas Story," the 1983 movie that became an instant holiday classic thanks to its winning cast and quotable scenes. The film is as time-honored a tradition as getting your tongue stuck to a pole in freezing weather.



In 2003, NECA produced a small assortment of figures based on this iconic film. The packaging was in a rather festive green, with a red Christmas ball sticker for the figure's name. All four family members, and Ralphie's best friend, Flick were produced for the line. An incredibly rare figure, Ralphie in Bunny Suit was also produced towards the tail end of the series.

In 2008, NECA followed it up with one additional figure, Scut Farkus. The packaging was slimmed down, and utilized a red cardboard backer. A green strip at the bottom was designated for the figure's name. NECA also released the majority of the prior figures in this new packaging design, though they are much rarer, and more difficult to find than the original green packaged ones.

As we take a look at each individual figure (below), we thought it would be fun to also see where these particular actors are today.


Peter Billingsley (Ralphie)

Ralphie Parker, played by Peter Billingsley, had just one Christmas wish as a nine-year-old in the 1940s: an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and "this thing which tells time."

Luckily Ralphie never did shoot his eye out, and Billingsley has gone on to have quite the merry career. Now, Billingsley works behind the camera as a producer for films like "Iron Man" and "Four Christmases," in which he also has small on-screen roles. He directed Vince Vaughn's comedy "Couples Retreat."


Scott Schwartz (Flick)

Schwartz played Ralphie's pal Flick, who landed himself in a sticky situation after falling victim to the dreaded triple dog dare. Schwartz played a few childhood roles, in "A Christmas Story" and in "The Toy" in 1982. In 1985, he starred as Adam Weisman alongside Liza Minnelli and Corey Haim in "A Time to Live."

The grown-up Schwartz also starred in a few films that weren't so family-friendly - including "Scotty's X-Rated Adventure." He dabbled in the adult film industry until 2000, then attempted to break back into the mainstream acting scene.


Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker)

Dillon played Ralphie's ever-doting mother, Mrs. Parker. Dillon has steadily starred in movies throughout her career from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in 1977 to Mrs. Rogers in "Captain America" in 1990 (co-starring again with Mr. Parker, Darren McGavin).

One of Dillon's most important roles as of lately was as Rose Gator in the 1999 film "Magnolia." She played the wife of TV game show host, Jimmy Gator. She also starred in the drag queen comedy, "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything!" as Merna in 1995.

Dillon's resume includes more than a dozen TV movies as well as TV series appearances in recent shows like "Law and Order: SVU" and "Heartland."

Ian Petrella (Randy Parker)

The baby of the family is all grown up these days! Ian Petrella played Randy Parker, Ralphie's adorable little bro who struggled with picky eating habits and a bulky snowsuit.

Inspired by Petrella's character, Randy Bibs are on sale at the A Christmas Story House Gift Shop these days...

As for Petrella, he went on to star in more than a few TV series. He played Bill on 'Who's The Boss?' and Alex on 'Diff'rent Stroke.' You could also catch him on 'Beverly Hills, 90210,' 'Once a Hero,' and in 2009's 'Crafty.'

These days, Petrella focuses on animation and puppetry rather than acting. Petrella worked on a Jim Henson project as a puppeteer. Petrella co-founded a production company that creates web content and produces various animated shorts.


Darren McGavin (The Old Man)

Darren McGavin played Ralphie's profanity-unleashing father, known to his sons as The Old Man.

McGavin's long, varied career included big-screen, small-screen and stage roles, as well as producing, directing and writing credits. McGavin starred 'Billy Madison' in 1995, as the fed-up father to an immature and down-right lazy, Billy Madison.

We fondly remember McGavin in his heroic newspaper reporter role in the short-lived horror TV series, "Night Stalker." He passed away in 2006 at the age of 83.


Zack Ward (Scut Farkus)

Farkus was portrayed by Zack Ward, who's still acting as an adult. Ward went on a rampage as Postal Dude in the horror-comedy "Postal" (2007). He also played First Sergeant Donnelly in "Transformers" that same year.

Ward's acting resume is extensive, and he's even popped up on your TV screen in "Warehouse 13," "Dollhouse," and "Cold Case." Ward's big into the horror-themed scene, if you couldn't tell. You can also see him in "Resident Evil: Apocalypse," "BloodRayne 2: Deliverance," and "Freddy vs. Jason."

Starting off as the bully in "A Christmas Story" put Ward well on his way for his future acting ventures.



Two box sets were produced over the course of the series. The first was the four pack "Parker Family" which included each member of the family. The second, which had no official name, was that of the children from the film. The latter pack even included the new Scut Farkus figure.



NECA extended the line to include the 10 and 12 inch talking figures. Though they were not as popular as the regular sized figures (not that the figures were all that popular either).

As we make our rounds to the various retail stores this year, while we have seen some new items based off of the film such as; Bobble Heads, Leg Lamp Replicas, and other various nick knacks, we have yet to see any new figures emerge. It's possible that NECA has cashed in their chips on the series, but at the same time, it's difficult to tell considering there was a five year laps between figures being released in the past. So will there be more? I suppose only time will tell. Until then, we at least have these.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 24




Holiday Yoda


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Friday, December 23, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 23




Christmas Tree


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 22




A-Wing Fighter


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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 21




Millenium Falcon


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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 20




TIE Fighter


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Monday, December 19, 2011

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Kenner)



In 1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves opened in movie theaters across the U.S., and was an overnight success. Doubters of Costner's ability to play the rogue in green were silenced immediately. Personally I thought the movie was okay for a viewing, but wouldn't go out of my way to see the film again.


Kenner produced a small line of figures to coincide with the film's release. Designed in the same fashion as Kenner was accustomed to, the figures had little articulation, and poorly resembled the actors who portrayed them.

The package design was also fairly standard for Kenner's MO. A colorful photo of the actual actor stood to the side of the bubbled figure, all of which was encased inside of a red border which surrounded the entire card.

There are two known variations from this particular toy line, and both are for each of the two Robin Hood figures. One variation (supposedly) resembles Kevin Costner, while the second is simply a molded standard head for the figure which is not meant to resemble anyone living or deceased.

The majority of the main characters are available in the first and only series, but some key characters are definitely missing such as Maid Marion, Mortianna, Guy of Gisborne, and Duncan. It's unknown if a second series was ever planned as sales never warranted further figures.


As you look at my photo of the vehicles and playsets, you may think I've made some kind of mistake by including two Star Wars items. But, look closer. The Sherwood Forest playset is clearly a repainted Ewok Village (from the Return of the Jedi line), and the Battle Wagon is just a repainted Ewok Battle Wagon (from the Power of the Force line). I guess Kenner figured why design something new when they already had "perfect" designs for toys already drafted up that would fit in the realm of Robin Hood.

What's great about this collection of toys is that not only are they easy to get, they're relatively cheap. I've seen complete collections which include all eight figures, plus the two variant Robin Hood figures, all three vehicles, and the playset all in sealed boxes/packages for as little as $175.00.

If you're looking to get your hands on a unique collection of toys, this is certainly one to consider. Everyone remembers the movie - Not many know about the toys. Think of the conversation piece this series would potentially have.

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Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 19




TIE Fighter Pilot


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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 18




Y-Wing Fighter


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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 17




Weapon Rack


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Friday, December 16, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 16




Clone Pilot


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 15




Republic Gunship


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 14




Mouse Droid


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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 13




R2-Q5


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Monday, December 12, 2011

Gremlins (Neca)



Keep them out of light, especially sunlight - it will kill them. Don't ever get them wet. But the most important thing, the thing you must never forget....no matter how much they cry, no matter how much they beg, never, never feed them after midnight!


I personally never understand why toy companies produce toys that are years beyond their prime. But, don't get me wrong, some of these are great toys they're just too late to catch the majority of people's attention.

In 2003, NECA produced a series of four figures based on the 1980's films Gremlins, and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. The figures ranged from 4 to 6.5 inches each, and came packed with a great assortment of accessories.

The series included;

Gizmo - Measures 4" tall. Articulation: ball jointed neck, shoulders, forearms, swivel waist Accessories: 3-D Glasses and Baby Mogwai Puff Balls.

Stripe - Measures 6.5" tall. Articulation: ball jointed neck and shoulders, elbows, wrists, v-crotch Accessories: saw blade, assortment of candy, bag of popcorn, and rooted hair.

Brain - Measures 6.5" tall. Articulation: ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, elbows, wrists, v-crotch Accessories: removable glasses, text book, and beaker/flask.

Poker Player - Measures 6.5" tall. Articulation: ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, elbows, wrists, v-crotch Accessories: removable visor, single card that pins to ear, hand of cards, pile of popcorn, cookies, and poker chips.

Despite being great sculpts, the figures failed to find success, probably due to the high price tag of each figure (approximately $12 to $15 each), and the unsold units were quickly moved to the clearance isle.

If you hit places like Toys R' Us, you can find some of the figures here and there (in the clearance isles), but for the most part the series has dwindled away. Secondary market dealers attempt to get about $20.00 per figure, but for the most part they don't sell.

The attention to detail is amazing (though I don't know why Gizmo has a neck), and these figures are definitely worth adding to your collection, but finding them at a reasonable price is a challenge in and of itself.

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Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 12




Rebel Snowspeeder


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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 11




Battle Droid (Blue)


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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 10




Imperial Shuttle


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Friday, December 9, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 9




X-Wing Fighter


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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 8




X-Wing Pilot


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 7




Tool/Weapon Rack


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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 6




Chewbacca


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Monday, December 5, 2011

Erector Sets, Tinkertoys, And Lincoln Logs, Oh My!



Way before Legos (1949) and a Duplo Blocks (1969), educational toys such as the one's showcased in the title were all the rave among parents looking to stimulate their children's minds while at the same time providing them with quality toys that were fun, and would survive the test of might that children so often put on their toys. This week, we're going to take a look at three of those toys that to this day still stand as an iconic staple in homes.


ERECTOR SETS

Born in Salem, Oregon in 1884. A. C. Gilbert (1884-1962), boyhood love was magic tricks: he became so proficient that he once matched a traveling professional magician trick for trick, and earned the prescient praise, Gilbert was also a brilliant student, and soon went on to Yale Medical School. He helped pay his tuition by performing as a magician, and founded a company, Mysto Manufacturing, which sold magic kits for kids. In 1909, Gilbert finished medical school, but decided to expand his budding toy business rather than practice as a doctor.
Like many residents of New Haven, Connecticut, he often took the train to New York City; and on one trip in 1911 he was inspired with what would be the most popular of his dozens of inventions.

Watching out the train window as some workmen positioned and riveted the steel beams of an electrical power-line tower, Gilbert decided to create a children's construction kit: not just a toy, but an assemblage of metal beams with evenly spaced holes for bolts to pass through, screws, bolts, pulleys, gears and eventually even engines. A British toy company called Meccano Company was then selling a similar kit, but Gilbert's Erector set was more realistic and had a number of technical advantages --- most notably, steel beams that were not flat but bent lengthwise at a 90-degree angle, so that four of them nested side-to-side formed a very sturdy, square, hollow support beam.

Gilbert began selling the "Mysto Erector Structural Steel Builder" in 1913, backed by the first major American ad campaign for a toy. The Erector set quickly became one of the most popular toys of all time: living rooms across the country were transformed into miniature metropoles, filled with skyscrapers, bridges and railways. Those kids who already owned a set would beg Santa annually for an upgrade, aiming for the elusive "No. 12 1/2" deluxe kit that came with blueprints for the "Mysterious Walking Giant" robot. It is difficult for anyone under the age of 35 today to appreciate just how popular the Erector set was for over half a century.

A. C. Gilbert was one of the most multi-talented inventors of all time. With many fields open to his ingenuity, he chose to educate and entertain children through toys.


TINKERTOYS

Spokes, spools, rods and reels . . . Playskool's Tinkertoy Construction Sets, the tools of America's tinkerers were invented in 1914. Tinkertoy Construction Sets are one of the truly classic toys of all time. They have driven the imaginations of children for generations, proving that fun and stimulating toys never lose their appeal.

The possibilities for construction play are endless with Tinkertoy Construction Sets. In 1992, to freshen up in preparation for the big 80 birthday event, Playskool unveiled a major redesign to this classic toy of motion and construction. The new, all-plastic Tinkertoy sets feature brightly-colored, easy-to-assemble parts that allow kids to build bigger structures than ever before. Each set includes instructions to create vehicles that really roll, tall towers and even free moving Ferris Wheels.

Tinkertoy Construction Sets are the invention of Charles Pajeau, a stonemason from Evanston, Illinois who established The Toy Tinkers company. Inspired by watching children play with pencils, sticks and empty spools of thread, Pajeau developed several basic wooden parts which children could assemble in a variety of three dimensional abstract ways. He designed his first set in his garage, and with high hopes, displayed the toy at the 1914 American Toy Fair. But nobody was interested. He tried his marketing skills again at Christmas time. He hired several midgets, dressed them in elf costumes, and had them play with "Tinker Toys" in a display window at a Chicago department store. This publicity stunt made all the difference in the world. A year later, over a million sets had been sold. Playskool acquired the Tinkertoy line from Child Guidance in 1985.


LINCOLN LOGS

In the 1910s, American builders were busy on construction sites in the city and in the playroom. Introduced just after Tinkertoys and the Erector Set, Lincoln Logs were yet another construction toy to make it big during the decade. John Lloyd Wright, son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, brought out the line of sturdy, interlocking logs in 1916. Wright claimed that the foundation of Tokyo’s earthquake-proof Imperial Hotel, which he saw while it was under construction, inspired the shape of his logs.

Lincoln Logs turned out to be a toymaker’s dream. The original sets were an instant success, and after World War II, sales of Lincoln Logs got another boost from the baby boom. The sets were popular among postwar parents because they were more sophisticated than plain building blocks but still challenged children’s powers of concentration and eye-hand coordination. Ironically, Lincoln Logs—long a favorite of proponents of educational toys—were among the first toys to be promoted on a television show, 1953’s Pioneer Playhouse. The ads targeted affluent parents, who were most likely to own a television set and to buy educational toys.


It's simply amazing to see toys on the market today that have withstood the test of time of (nearly) a century. As a child of the 80's, I've seen tons of toy lines come and go. To see something from before my time on this Earth, and as simple as Lincoln Logs still selling well on the market today makes one take a step back and say, "Perhaps simple is better."

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Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 5




Slave I


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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 4




Spider Droid


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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 3




Mechano Chair


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Friday, December 2, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 2




Nute Gunray


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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - December 1




Republic Cruiser


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