Saturday, December 12, 2009

Attack of the 45 millimeter robots ad

The first wind up toy robots I ever had as a kid weren't the Tomy Zoids I got for Christmas in '83. They were another kind of wind up made by Tomy that I got four Christmases earlier. They were called Rascal Robots and they were tiny windups that looked like a cross between R2-D2 and the “Danger, Will Robinson!” robot from Lost in Space. They had a strong late sixties sci-fi design to them but the real crazy thing about their design was their size-at only 4 1/2 centimeters tall they made Bumblebee look like a giant. Although they were tiny they were still a lot of fun when you wound two up, put them on a collision course towards each other and played robot fight. One would usually knock the other down. Tomy eventually perfected the wind up robot death battle idea with their Robo Strux line of big menacing looking motorized robot dinosaurs with laser guns. Yet Robo Strux looked like they were made for war so they lacked the ironic fun that comes from seeing cute things like Rascal Robots fight each other. I think it's hilariously entertaining to see two pissed off R2-D2s trying to beat each other up.


You'd think a four centimeter toy robot would be entirely forgettable when it came to marketing, but incredibly not only have I found newspaper ads for Rascal Robots, they are among some of the wordiest most descriptive ads for any toy I've ever seen. It's insane the amount of text devoted to such simple little toys in this one ad I found from December of '79. Here's the over ninety word(!) paragraph written to describe the Rascal Robots:
Gibsons 12/20/79

"Wind these little rascals up and let 'em wander, they look like they came from way out yonder. Rascal Robots are the cutest little wind ups to come along this century. They toddle along with a great walking action, are easy to wind, have the famous Tomy wind-up mechanism, are long running and have a metalized finish that will take a lot of flights into space and a lot of falls to earth. These little rascals sure aren't commonplace, they look like they came from outer space. For young astronauts ages 3 and up."


Generally in the seventies and early eighties toy robots newspaper ads were a lot more descriptive than what we have today but this one is extreme even by those standards. I've seen ads for the GI Joe aircraft carrier that don't have that many words. It even opens and closes with poems! What really impresses me was how even the most trivial detail of the toy's construction was turned into a selling point. About the only things they missed were the see through dome and how Rascal Robots were ribbed for your pleasure. Yet this is easily one of the best marketing jobs ever. This ad masterfully balances equal amounts of hyperbole and accurate product description. The addition of poems is genius. I have never ever seen poems in a toy robots ad before and will probably never see one again. Even Hasbro-the kings of made up stories about transforming alien toy robot space Volkswagens-never came close to this level of hype and BS. Sadly, little to no promotional flavor text was written for Tomy's later Zoids and Robo Strux ads. The wordy style of the Rascal Robots ad fell victim to space constraints as retailers began cramming more and more products on every page. But I promise the legacy will live on once I put this ad up in the Miscellaneous Robots section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. Then we can all relive the days when not a lot of robot got a whole buttload of newspaper ad.

1 comment:

fairplaythings said...

Those little guys were everywhere. I must have had at least three myself. And while they have since disappeared to the great toy box in the sky, broken hands and all, I was relieved to learn that I didn't have to troll ebay for their replacement but simply plop down a few bucks at Michael's. Yes, they may be weirdly coloured but they are our robots, sitting in the impulse bin at the cashier station.


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