Friday, December 05, 2008

VINTAGE SPACE TOAST TOUR 2008-VALLEY OF THE PAULS

The Prince of Macrocrania and I made an unintended overnight stop on our road trip from South Dakota to my native Texas when shortly after leaving Oklahoma City I saw a billboard on the side of the road for the Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. I thought, "Action Figure Museum? Why have I never heard of that before?" Then I realized that while my life experience may grant me a Doctorate in Roboplasticology, when it comes to action figures I only have a couple of community college credits in Spider-Man that don't transfer anywhere. So instead of making it into Dallas as I had planned that night, I decided we'd stay in Pauls Valley and check it out the next day before moving on to Texas. The museum visit derailed and delayed my progress toward Houston just as action figures have derailed and delayed countless toy nerds' progress toward emotional maturity. But like Texas, emotional maturity really ain't all that great once you get there so you may as well have some fun playing with little plastic dolls for boys along the way.

Now I may be dumb about action figures but this was pretty much my idea of action figure Heaven (or Nirvana or Valhalla or that place they took Bilbo to at the end of Return of the King). There were glass case displays of GI Joes, He-Mans, Star Warses and others and a whole room dedicated to Batman. There were a couple of huge dioramas like the one of an action figure collector's room that they have a picture of at their museum image gallery. That was at least thirty feet tall and fifty feet wide and crammed with over a thousand loose and carded figures (including a Defiant Shuttle complex). That alone was worth the six bucks admission. Also there were assloads of carded and loose figures from hundreds of different toylines crammed on every available square inch of horizontal space throughout. I am amazed that anyone could erect such a massive public tribute to the last 30 years of the Wal-Mart action figure aisle. (Toy robots have inspired some erections of my own, but they are nowhere near as massive and I prefer to keep them private.)

Aside from a glass case located out front, there was another area dedcated to Star Wars at the back of the museum. It had a display with carded figures from many Star Wars lines from '78 through the present. That was cool but what I loved was the wall of newspaper clippings, cardbacks and ads for vintage Star Wars toys. They also had the new Hasbro Millenium Falcon on display which I have never seen out of the box. This area might not be all that impressive compared to some dealer booths at toy conventions or even some people's mom's basements, but to me it was fantastic being surrounded by this collection of reminders taking me back to my wasted, squandered, misspent childhood.

Would a more discerning action figure enthusiast like the Pauls Valley Action Figure Museum? I remember back in episode 55 of Big Kev's Geek Stuff, Kev went to the Toy Museum in Natural Bridge, Virgina and although that place way outclasses the Action Figure Museum I went to, Big Kev found it lacking. Now Kev is a bigger action figure fan than I so if he thought the Toy Museum in Virginia sucked then he'd probably hate this place and I imagine all of the same critisisms he had there apply here thousandfold. But I think museums dedicated to toys are a phenomenon in its infancy and they'll probably get better as they grow. The loudest critics may be collectors with collections that would dwarf these museums, but those guys ironically have no place to put them. If anyone wants to say the Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley sucks then go ahead, but first honestly ask yourself if anyone would journey across the country to your mom's basement and pay six bucks to look at your erection. It is probably not the kind of question an emotionally mature adult has pondered, but I can tell it's crossed the mind of at least a couple Oklahomans.

3 comments:

deadbeat Senna said...

were there any toy robots at all? How could they call it a museum and not have toyrobots?

Paul said...

Damn, I was hoping this would be about me.

I never considered Transformers and the like "action figures", but maybe I'm wrong in that.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Yeah, dS, it was slightly robotty with some GoBotty and Autobotty figures, some in that big "collector's room" diorama I mentioned and others just hanging out in various places throughout the museum. They had the usual vintage space toaster superstars-Vehicle Voltron, Optimus Prime, Jetfire, Soundwave, Super GoBot Bug Bite, Devastator and I think a couple other Autobot cars.

I have never considered toy robots to be in the same category as traditional action figures, eiher, Paul. Even the Micronauts which came closest to action figures had such a unique play pattern that it's hard to consider them action figures in the regular sense.

I asked the guys at the museum if they'd ever done a toy robot diorama or section and they said no, but it's something they get asked a lot. Maybe one day they'll put aside space for it but I can understand why they haven't really considered it. "Action figure" has been almost synonymous with "sci fi/comic book character" whereas I see toy robots as another classification entirely.

 

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