Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The 1984 Ideal Toy Fair catalog starring Robo Force PART 4: MAXX'S PAD

One crazy trope of old eighties robot cartoons was that the places these mechanical beings lived in were fit less for robos and more suited to hobos. The combination sequence of Mighty Orbots illustrates this perfectly with only Bort in his airplane hangar starting out in a place remotely appropriate for a robot. The other Orbots are living like homeless vagrants, wandering the Arizona desert, embedded in mountains, buried under ice canyons and Crunch even lives in a junkyard. The Voltron lions were like this too, with red lion being kept in the most uncomfortable place on earth-an active volcano! Heck, the Autobots loved volcanoes so much that they didn't even bother moving out of the one their ship crashed into. It's like space robots are the intergalactic equivalent of cucarachas. I can totally sympathize with Leader-1 who decided, hey screw this-we're living in a flying ATAT and it's gonna have a cafeteria.



Portable Robot Action Stronghold
Solitary, brooding and unapproachable, the Fortress of Steele master environment playset is the home battle fortress of the Robo Force. Designed with three different levels of robotic action and adventure, it features a giant citadel dome that flips over to reveal the master laser siege cannon. A working robot crane and hoist lifts Robo Force Action Robot Figures. Other features include a revolving secret passage console, hidden arsenal compartment, "Jaws of Steele" sliding bulkhead door, working jawbridge escape, flip-over stockade cell, throne chamber, laser swivel guns, robot shuttle sled, weapon rack and more. For ages 4 years and up.

Pack: 4 pcs. Wgt: 14 lbs. Cube: 5

The Fortress of Steele shown in the Toy Fair catalog was a prototype with a few color and mold differences compared to the final production version. The blue shuttle sled pictured eventually became orange, the orange weapons rack eventually became blue and the citadel dome which was blue in the catalog was black on the production version. The lowest level of the fortress in the catalog also lacks the molded details of the final version and the stickers shown are completely different from what ended up being used. But those are all rather minor and for the most part this design pretty much made it all the way to production. At first the inclusion of a crane atop a battle fortress may seem odd but given that every other Robo Force figure and vehicle had some sort of grabbing action it's not entirely out of place. In fact the crane is about the only thing that the fortress has in common with the rest of the line and that's part of the reason I feel the Fortress of Steele was the biggest disappointment of Robo Force.


Ideal missed out on a huge opportunity to give the Robo Force an awesome place to live when they came up with the Fortress of Steele. While it was great to see these nearly six inch tall robots get a playset, this was no Castle Greyskull. There wasn't anything explicitly robotty about the Fortress of Steele aside from the computer-themed decals on the walls. It was so generic looking it could have been the long lost Kenner Hoth rebel cafeteria playset. It just didn't scream ROBOTS LIVE HERE in the same way that the GoBot Command Center did. I think every doll house should be the ultimate expression of the character of the dolls living inside it whether they are Barbies or as in the case of Robo Force-sentient vacuum cleaners. The gold standard is what Mattel did with Castle Greyskull and Snake Mountain. Those couldn't fit in any other toyline because they were so specifically products of the universe of the Masters of the Universe. They weren't just houses but something much more-they were the physical incarnations of their occupants' heroic or evil natures (and also their philosophies of home decor). The Fortress of Steele instead looks like some gigantic arctic cockroach volcano. But if not this, then what would the ideal domicile of gas pump shaped warrior robots be? As it turns out Ideal already knew!


In the climax of the Robo Force cartoon the good guy robots attack Nazgar's fortress, which was a huge building in the approximate shape of a Robo Force robot! This was the design I wanted to see in a Robo Force castle, this was the direction they should have gone. I don't even care if they came up with something vaguely resembling their exalted and overhyped hero Maxx Steele, just as long as it looked like a robot it would have been appropriately awesome. I wouldn't be at all surprised if at some point they planned a Nazgar's Fortress playset that looked like this. The GoBots' Thruster who functioned as the evil Renegade Headquarters was the best example of what Robo Force should've had. Unfortunately Thruster looked a little dorky as a vaguely humanoid robotic dollhouse but that's partially due to the compromises in his design that had to be made so he could transform. In Robo Force there was no expectation of transformation, so an all out robot shaped multi-level robothouse could have been done to awesome effect. Oh what I would give to go back in time with all my brilliant ideas that would have saved the Robo Force franchise. Or seeing how silly the whole line was compared to the Transformers and GoBots it would probably have failed anyways, but at least time traveling me would have given the Robo Forcers an awesome cafeteria.

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