Saturday, November 01, 2008

NO WEBLOG FOR OLD ROBOTS part 5: Please Save Me A Long Time Ago!

Although I consider myself the Indiana Jones of toy robots archaeology and I romanticize my hobby with terms like Roboplasticology, the truth is that all I'm doing is looking through trash as I go pop culture dumpster diving in the library microfilm archives of America. And although my search focuses on the roboplastical, I do on occasion come across ads for toys I remember that played a much smaller role in my robot obsessed 80s childhood (and a much larger one in the childhoods of kids not afflicted with roboplasti-tardation). So join me all this week as we take a non-robot oriented look at a couple other toylines that also made an impression on my Scraplets riddled brain.

Children's Palace 02 December 1979

Gold Circle 11/26/78
I've had to make some very hard choices in my life, just as all men who love toy robots do. Not easy ones like should I get a tattoo of Dirk Benedict or should I dye my hair red and spike it like Getter Dragon*, I mean really tough decisions like joining the military, getting married, having a kid-really difficult, life altering stuff like that. Also, learning the force. Right up there with them, held in equal regard with all of those crossroads of life is my decision to not include Star Wars ads in the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. I said no to droids and ATATs but Battlestar Galactica makes the cut. It haunts me to this day, because how could you try to imagine what a "space toaster" looks like and not immediately have R2-D2 or the Jawa sandcrawler come to mind? Well I had to draw the line somewhere, and that line ended up between Starbuck's cigar and Princess Leia's star puffs. I realize I have made mistakes in life.


OG Wilson 11/26/78
But even though I don't have a Star Wars section at the Vintage Space Place Toasters, I do love Star Wars and I'm a sucker for old vintage Star Wars ads. I don't have to remind anyone how huge the small Star Wars action figures were once they started hitting stores in '78. What I've found though is that ads for the 3 3/4 inch figures were rather rare during the 1978 holiday season. Stores would advertise lots of other Star Wars merchandise like the large 12 inch figures or the spaceships (both action figure sized and in the small diecast scale) but in '78 there were very few ads for the 3 3/4 inch action figures. I thought this '78 figure ad shortage was unique to Rapid City but I've noticed it elsewhere in cities where you'd think distribution would be better. By '78 there were at least 20 figures out but finding ads for even the first twelve is almost impossible, even for a computer!

LaBelle's 21 November 1979

1979 is where the gold is in terms of Star Wars ads. Stores were confident enough in their supply that they advertised the hell out of Star Wars. Even the Boba Fett figure is frequently featured in ad line art and he was a tail ender of the original line. This probably has more to do with stores just using whatever ad line art they got from their distributor regardless of what the actual stock was. I thought I sort of blew it when I posted a bunch of Boba-Fett related ads in an old post where all I wrote about was peeing my pants when I met Darth Vader, but it turns out I still have other early Boba Fett line art like that above. I have noticed that ads from stores using their own photographs of the actual small action figures is pretty rare even in 1979 and that doesn't change until after the Empire Strikes Back line. But for Star Wars I am most likely to come across stores with pictures of the 12 inch line before I see the photos of the 3 3/4 inch stuff.


ToyCo 11/18/79
One thing I really miss about the toy ads from the seventies and early eighties is how the stores would oftentimes run gigantic text descriptions alongside the photos or line art. This ad from a Pittsburgh store called ToyCo is an extreme example where multiple Wikipedia articles are given for everything pictured. The descriptions are loaded with entrancingly written details you just don't get in ads today. The vehicles are described as dramatic reproductions or authentic replicas and Darth Vader is "ready for an attack by Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi or Luke Skywalker". The 3 3/4 inch figure descriptions are great, too. "All figures have movable arms and legs for posing and come with their 'weapons' they use in the movie". Professional toy collector virtuoso wackos scoff at the notion that the figures I grew up with were articulated at all but when you're five years old in 1979, trust me, you didn't give a shit. And I also didn't care that half those characters didn't even have weapons in the movie but I loved that their toys came with laser guns. I believe laser guns should come with all action figures. I wished Darth Vader had a laser uzi.


JC Penny 12/12/79
One of my all time favorite Star Wars action figure memories was being five or six and playing Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader with my sister who was a year younger. At some point Luke Skywalker's head came off and they weren't designed to do that without massive play induced action figure head trauma. (Did I mention not a single star wars toy I had survived my childhood?) You would think the death of Luke Skywalker action figure would be reason for a five year old to explode into tears, but I just looked at broken Luke and I looked at Darth Vader and I snapped off Darth Vader's head and we changed the game to Star Wars: Marbles. I remember us laughing and laughing while playing Star Wars: Marbles but I don't think my mom was very happy with the fantastic new play pattern I invented. THOSE FIGURES COST TWO DOLLARS EACH!

Sears 25 November 1979 (Alaska)
Sears 25 November 1979 (Pennsylvania)

One of my favorite 70s Star Wars ads is the above Sears ad that I found in both Anchorage, Alaska and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I couldn't get a good picture in Pennsylvania and the Anchorage picture is great, but it has Alaska prices. And as I've learned, depending on the market Sears engages in some Mighty Shifty Retail Pricing. Even with the bad angle and blurriness of the Pittsburgh ad you can still see prices in Alaska were 1 to 4 dollars higher depending on the item. I love the ad because it's got a bit of everything-the figures, the Cantina playset, the Dewback, a remote control R2-D2, a couple ships and even 12-inch Boba Fett. There's even a guest appearance by Twiki from Buck Rogers!


KMart 11/21/79
One of my greatest moments of robotardation growing up was trying to convince my mom when I was five that I wanted a C-3P0 not because it would be my first Star Wars toy, but because I could learn about robots from studying how the wires in his belly connected his inner mechanisms. Yes, I believed at five years old that Kenner was selling actual working, talking 3 inch tall droids for two dollars. Then when we went to KMart and she bought it for me I realized the toy had no wires or mechanisms and was just an articulated plastic doll. Thankfully my mom did not require progress reports on my reverse engineering of Star Warsian technology. You would think from this behavior that Star Wars inspired myself and many of my generation to grow up to pursue careers in robotology or droidology or whatever people who do robot stuff do. But trust me, I know from experience that instead of becoming famous esteemed roboticians, many of us went on to be stay at home dads who spend our wives' money going on imaginary concert tours of libraries all over the US looking at Star Wars newspaper ads on microfilm and writing about toy robots all day. THANK YOU GEORGE LUCAS.


Gold Circle 09 December 1979
Although Shogun Warriors and Micronauts beat Star Wars to market, they never quite had that intangible little special something that made them as popular. (I suspect the intangible little special something may have been a blockbuster movie with incredible special effects playing constantly in theaters for years and years.) Whatever it was, Star Wars action figures came at a magical time in my life called childhood where imagination overcame the shortfalls of action figure engineering and I loved them. Not enough to put them in the Vintage Space Toaster Palace, but enough that I take a picture (or hundred) when I see them in the newspaper archives of America's libraries. Excluding Star Wars ads was a tough decision to make but I think it was the right choice. Having Dirk Benedict's face on my butt-now that's hard to live with.

* of course the answer to both is yes


deadbeat Senna said...

Hey I just caught your whiny butt on Toybender complaining about a lack of commentos. Well this no robots week sucked, you're gay, and Peter Cullen probably hates you.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

We are all Peter Cullen's unwanted children.

Weasel said...

^ Says you. I wanna be Dan Gilvezan's unwanted child.

(Come on, you know I just had to say that!)

Heavyarms said...

I think you made the right call excluding SW ads. Makes the VSTP more unique, I think.

I actually managed to save some of my SW figures from garage sales and stuff. I was thinking about putting some pictures of them up.

Dirk Benedict is a non-autograph signing douche.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

I say do it, especially if they are not Droids or remotely robotty. Doing a week about things non roboplastical was a fun sort of break for me and got me out of my comfort zone. I know your theme can be pretty much whatever so it may not be a big deal to break form and write about Star Wars.

I love blogs about vintage Star Wars figures. Everybody has good stories to tell about old Star Wars toys. I love blogs like that especially if they're entertaining.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Dirk Nebedict is my non-autograph signing douche hero.


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