Tuesday, November 04, 2008

NAUT AGAIN!


When I was rifling through my hard drive for vintage Star Wars ads I came across a Micronauts ad misfiled in my Star Wars folders. It was naut the ad I was looking for! I dug a little deeper and found 10 other new* Micronauts ads that I either thought I'd already put up at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace or didn't know I had. They were naut unexpected!

I LOVES YOU, I LOVES YOU NAUT

Target 13 November 1977
A couple years ago I wrote some ridiculous, hateful, ignorant and unfunny things about the Mego Micronauts toyline from the seventies. I'd like to add to that today with this Micronauts themed edition of Vintage Space Toaster Palace Update. Even though I think that Micronauts are kind of silly I still respect their place in la historia roboplastico. It is the Micronauts line that I believe ushered in the modern roboplastical age so I was pretty thrilled to find an ad for the Micronauts Warp Racer, Crater Cruncher and Ultronic Scooter vehicles from 1977. This Target ad is a good example of why Micronauts are hard for me to take seriously. They look less like time travelling space warriors from inner space and more like Dick Dastardly's opponents in the way out Wacky Races.

I USED TO HAVE FUZZY NAUTS

The Vintage Toasters Palace Spaces Galactica previously only had one line art ad representing the Micronaut Time Traveller and it was real blurry. It looked like crap and the ad text described it as a "Micromaut". While the blurriness can be blamed on my craptastic camera skills, the ad copy writers really should naut have messed up the name like that. It wasn't the greatest ad in the microverse, but now thanks to the fantastically crisp clear microfilm at the Z. J. Loussac Public Library Rocket Tubes Complex in Anchorage, Alaska, I now have a really good Time Traveller ad. They also had some nice line art for Acroyear II which I'd never run across before and from Pittsburgh I dug out an ad I didn't know I had for the Aquatron. I also put up that Woolworth ad for the Ben Cooper costume of Baron Karza I found in Denver. That costume looks like it's doing some kind of happy dance. I can almost hear it singing, "We're the slip nauts, slippin' on nauts, clownin' around, and slippin' on nauts".

MULTIPLE LINES OF NAUT

As I was catching up on my Micronauts ads I noticed that I've never seen a toy with as many different line art renditions as the Micronaut Battle Cruiser. Most toys only have one drawing that gets used over and over by multiple different stores. Transformers and GoBots are the usual exception with drawings for each of their modes, but to have a toy that gets multiple line art renditions for the same basic form is highly unusual. I've found five different drawings of the Battle Cruiser so far. Only the Transformer Shockwave has had more drawings, and that's counting variations of both modes and his Radio Shack counterpart. Why was the Battle Cruiser drawn so many different ways? I DO NAUT KNOW!
KMart 11/21/79
Montgomery Ward 12/06/78

Pay N Save 12/14/78
Ardan 11/23/79
*30 year old

7 comments:

deadbeat Senna said...

these obscure references take me all the way to the yaer 2000.

Weasel said...

I did naut know anything about this toyline. They're kinda cool in a goofy sort of way.

Bryan said...

Highly recommended Micronaut-related websites:

http://www.innerspaceonline.com
http://www.microforever.com

I had a lengthier reply that indulged in some self-mockery as a Micronaut fan, but Blogger ate it somehow. I'll just mention that the toys were created in Japan in 1974, and first sold in the US in late 1976, well before Star Wars and a full year before the Star Wars toyline copied the 3 3/4 inch format with clunkier, barely posable toys of their own with depressingly non-interchangeable vehicles... (kids geddoff my lawn!) Also the Micronauts started the "rivets and o-ring" articulation that would later be used by the 80's GI Joe line. The inventor of both this and the size format was a Japanese fellow named Iwakichi Ogawa, the inventor behind the original toyline.

They may be cheesy and retro now, but when Micronauts (and its Japanese parent series Microman) came out, they were the best SF toyline available on the market, and innovated lot of concepts that seem commonplace since. And the Japanese toyline lived on and continued to evolve to eventually spawn the toys that became licensed as Transformers. Not bad for an original toy series that wasn't based on any popular franchise itself...

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Is there any proof of the Micronauts first hitting the shelves in late 1976? Megocentral.com states that the line debuted at the October 1976 Toy Fair, which would mean that there was only a little over one month to get product in the stores for that holiday season. A late '76 release seems highly unlikely to me. Even innerspace puts the release during 1977. I'm no microscholar but I've been looking for holiday '76 Micronaut ads and I've not found one store that had them.

Store ads don't have to be the definitive proof for me. If there were a Mego executive who remembered them being shipped out and received before January '77 I'd love to read that.

Bryan said...

That's an excellent question. My own recollection had said so, but now you mention it, checking my own info appears to corroborate what you said so far. Because of the toy fair debut and the 1976 copyright stamps on the toys themselves, along with the toys coming out before the Star Wars toys, I had assumed it was a 1976 holiday launch. My own immediate sources agree that it's probable that the actual product didn't appear on shelves until around the same time as the Star Wars movie launch. That could easily have been a calculated move, as Mego was well aware that they had missed the opportunity for the Star Wars license while Marty Abrams had been overseas concerning the Micronauts license (a story told often from all three sides--Marty's, Kenner's and the guy from Fox who went to Mego first because of the success of the Planet of the Apes toys). So I could see Mego deliberately timing their own "space toy product" to capitalize on the hype around Star Wars before Kenner had any real product of their own ready yet. But let me check with the real expert I know on the subject, he might have some more solid data on the timing of the product release from some of the interviews he's done and/or collected. :)

There's a common misconception that Micronauts were a knock-off of Star Wars (and even the bogus claim that Star Wars was the first 3 3/4" toyline) which we stubborn fans of the line are always trying to dispel when we can. I won't deny that Mego desperately wanted that market share though, and ruined themselves grabbing nearly every next SF license that came next, none of which ever came close (though at least they had some profits from Buck Rogers). Micronauts at least was the #2 boys toy line for sales during most of its run. But with no major license tie-in and no successful revivals, it's since been doomed to obscurity on these shores.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Thanks for looking into it. Like I said I'm not knowledgeable on Micronauts but I've read enough people tying them to a '76 release that I keep looking for an ad from then whenever I can. It would be one of my personal holy grail level discoveries if I ever do come across one from that year. If there's an authoritative source that could give me a definitive pre '77 release date then I would have some hope, but right now I feel like I've wasted a lot of time looking through those '76 microfilm reels.

Bryan said...

Haven't had a chance to dig out the article, but my friend Ray Miller, who wrote the MegoCentral article you referenced, has pointed me to an interview he did that may have some more solid quotes from Larry Jones, who owned the firm that negotiated the license of the toys from Takara to Mego and also developed some of the US-original product (the aliens with "brains that glow in the dark"). From Ray:

"They were offered at the "Fall Toy Fair" in '76 with samples and packaging mockups and Mego took orders, iirc, so they got their proof-of-trade but weren't actually available for consumer purchase until early '77."

The early 1977 really sounds more and more believable to me. I vaguely remember the television ads for the toys before or around summer vacation that year.

Speaking of, Ray owns a number of restored TV ads which I host for him on my blogsite:
http://rockettubes.livejournal.com/23292.html

Anyway, I'll find that interview soon and let you know.

 

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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.