Monday, August 10, 2009

VSTP UPDATE: I think for me nostalgia don't apply, but if I'm not nostalgic what then am I? (This is the part where the audience yells "ROBOTARDED!")

Ever since we moved to Miami I've been living the life of a rock star, except without the music, fame, money or the groupies. I guess all I really have in common with rock stars is I'm staying in Florida hotels and I'm playing video games all day and when I wake up I don't know where I am. Actually that sounds less like a rock star and more like a lost Japanese tourist.


Bumblebee's uncle
I am in good company because "lost Japanese tourists" describes the three toy robots lines whose pages I'm updating over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. I'm talking about Mego's Micronauts, Mattel's Shogun Warriors and Hasbro's Transformers from 1984. It's been a challenging update because Transformers 1984 is the only one of these three old toy robot families that I know anything about. Shogun Warriors and Micronauts are still largely outside of my area of expertise, which makes sorting and arranging their ads like constructing a detailed family tree for lost Japanese tourists I've never met. For Shogun Warriors this was pretty easy because there weren't that many different figure assortments but holy hell Micronauts had me hating my hobby, my life and everybody who has ever worked at Mego.


I was wondering why I was going through all this trouble for the Micronauts because like I say, I don't even know those people. Sorting Transformers is several orders of magnitude more complicated than Micronauts but I deal with them just fine because that was an obsession born of childhood. I thought this newspaper ad project was motivated by nostalgia but that can't explain my current devotion to chronicling toys I only had a tangential interest in 30 years ago. This had me questioning the nature of nostalgia and wondering if I'm as stuck in the past as I initially thought I was. What can explain now my fascination with ads for 30 year old Micronauts I never owned or cared much for as a kid? Is a 10 year old boy of today who likes 80s Transformers a nostalgic? You can't exactly go up to a kid like that and rant about how he needs to grow up and stop living in the past (although it would be kind of funny). I have always wanted to be in a situation where I could tell a little kid, "You need to let go of the 80s, Charlie Brown". I think now I understand young people who like 80s Transformers even though they weren't even born yet, or anybody my age who likes Led Zeppelin. This new insight makes it okay for me to like Micronauts and not be saddled with the "nostalgic" label. It also makes Baron Karza the Robert Plant of toy robots rock and roll.


What started all this roboplastic introspection was how I've totally overhauled the Shogun Warriors and Micronauts sections over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. Previously they were just chronologically listed dumps of ads with no real arrangement, but I figured they were getting too big so I gave them table formatting so the information would be more understandable. Now they're broken up into assortments by size or type so that figures and vehicles are separate from playsets and licensed merchandise. Plus I have attempted to write a few paragraphs long introductions for each of these series as I have done for the various Transformers sections of the VSTP. Except you might notice that the paragraphs I've got for the Micronauts section are actually Lorem Ipsum text (I learned this from Nala). This is because I'm waiting for my next trip to the library to get more Micronauts ads. As it stands now I can't really do a good overview of the line's history in newspaper ads because most of what I've got is from '77. I also wanted a break because sorting through all the Micronauts made my brain melt as I tried to figure out whether some toys in that line were action figures or vehicles (or both) and where to put them. Classifying robots that had "tron" in their name like Biotron and Microtron and other toys based on them but not having "tron" names was also a nightmare. Determining what exactly a "tron" was and which characters qualified as "trons" was equally confusing but hey it's not like I'm working at the Micronaut social security administration figuring out benefits for retiring trons so it's no big deal if I get it wrong.


K-Mart 12/12/84
That's a quote from Raymond E. McDonald, Tonka's director of marketing in 19841. He was talking about how he felt GoBots would outpace Transformers in sales in '84 because Tonka's supplier Bandai was a larger company than Takara who was producing Transformers for Hasbro. Although Transformers ended up edging out the GoBots in sales I think Mr. McDonald was right about the supply issues. It became very evident to me as I was uploading a dozen new* ads to the Transformers 1984 section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. I've become aware of patterns in how retailers advertised action figure lines in newspapers during the holiday shopping seasons of the early eighties. Usually what would happen is stores would start their toy advertising during the latter half of October and most toylines' ad volume would peak right after Thanksgiving and stay very strong through the first two weeks of December. But Transformers peaks after Thanksgiving and then virtually disappears while GoBots maintain their ad frequency through Christmas. This is because stores would completely sell out of Transformers and Hasbro had already set allocations on wholesale orders for the '84 assortments so retailers knew they couldn't get anymore. All but a handful of retailers stopped advertising Transformers figures in December but ads for licensed Transformer tie-in merchandise continued strong through the Christmas season. This is why the majority of the dozen new Transformer '84 ads I've found are not for Transformer figures but Transfomrer Halloween costumes, coloring books, radios and velcro ball darts. I'm glad I've gotten these Florida ads up anyways because we're approaching the 25th anniversary of the first Transformers ads I've found. Just like I had KRON-DAY to celebrate my earliest Diakron ad, I guess it's time to get ready for TRAN-DAY!?!


That about does it for this VSTP Update. To see the new ads just go to the Micronauts, Shogun Warriors and Transformers 1984 sections and do a CTRL+F search for "Miami" and "Tampa" and you'll find them. There should be about two dozen new Shoguns, and a dozen each of Micronauts and Transformers for anyone keeping count. My next few library visits will concentrate on '78 and '79 unless I get all excited about Tran-Day and want to do something special for that. We'll see how it goes. The one thing I've learned is that lost Japanese tourist rock stars don't have a plan, they just rock on wherever they are. I wonder if anybody ever started a band so they could have an excuse to visit libraries in different cities, secretly working on amassing a toy robots newspaper ad collection. IF YOU MEET THAT GUY ASK HIM WHAT A TRON IS.

1Sari Horwitz (1984, September 2). TOYS WITH DOUBLE THE FUN. The Washington Post (DC).

*25 years old


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Evil King Macrocranios said...

I wanted to say thanks and I thought it was fitting it was with my Micronauts page that I did you a sort of tribute.


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