Thursday, October 30, 2008

NO WEBLOG FOR OLD ROBOTS part 4: Please Save Me, Yo!

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.

Circus World 30 November 1983


Kmart 11/24/83
To this day I have never quite understood the appeal of the GI Joe line of fighting metrosexual village people dolls and their tanks and jeeps and helicopters. To many Americans, not liking GI Joe ranks up there with "not supporting the troops". Also, "being a nazi drug dealer". I remember looking out the car window as a kid whenever my dad drove us by Fort Bliss in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. He'd always get excited at the miles and miles of tanks and jeeps and helicopters and I swear if Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" music would have come over the radio at that moment my dad would have exploded from being corny. So when kids would bring GI Joe catalogs to school and tell me to look at them and I saw the toys of tanks and jeeps and helicopters I couldn't believe somebody made a toyline out of driving by Fort Bliss. I'd think, GI Joe? Really? I imagine somewhere there's a guy who grew up with his dad driving by used car lots to go to the pawn shop to buy guns and cassette players and he's thinking, Transformers? Really?

JC Penny 16 October 1983 (Alaska)
Sears 11 December 1983 (Alaska)


Kresges 11/28/83
Watching the opening intro to GI Joe is like getting blasted in the face with a rapid fire machine gun that shoots the word "GI Joe" at you instead of bullets but just as loud. It's sixty seconds of the most visually explosive and mindbendingly loud opening in cartoon history, jackhammering the name of the show repeatedly into your brain 10 times in one minute while bombs go off and aircraft explode and tanks and running and laser beams. After "GI Joe", the word that comes in second is "fight" or "fighting" which they say four times, establishing the idea that there was fighting. About halfway through a narrator starts a monologue repeating everything the song just said, explaining the existence of GI Joe, why they were fighting and who the bad guys were while a montage plays with scenes of hand to hand combat, stuff blowing up and more laser beams. I would have preferred a little more subtlety. How about a minute long sequence of maybe Scarlett and Lady J humming the theme song and giggling, wearing towels in the GI Joe shower while eating a banana. And then after 57 seconds the Baroness could walk in with a bunch more bananas and whisper to the camera, "GI Joe" with her finger on her bottom lip. God I hope that's the plot of the new movie.

Montgomery Ward 11/28/84


Although the concept of tanks and jeeps and helicopters didn't resonate with me I did watch the first two five part cartoons and I gave it a chance. But I kept meta-critiquing it. I could never get over that in the intro they keep referring to GI Joe as a "he", so you would think that based on the opening sequence there'd be one guy named GI Joe and he'd be doing a lot of fighting. But that's not what GI Joe was about. GI Joe was about a team of metrosexuals and all they did was drive around in their tanks and jeeps and helicopters for four episodes trying to figure out where the fight was and then in the fifth episode they get there and the fighting commenced. And they had names that didn't make sense like Storm Shadow, who's a ninja wearing white but if you think about it, shadows are gray or black. I guess I just wasn't the target audience who could overlook getting jerked around like that. But talking transforming robot Volkswagens? Sign me up, dude!

Sears 06 November 1985 (Alaska)
Sears 08 November 1985 (Texas)
Cobra COLA was higher in Alaska


K-Mart 11/26/86
I didn't totally hate GI Joe, I just didn't like it enough to be all into getting the figures. Heck, GI Joe has appeared here at PSMR multiple times before, from ads for the Defiant Shuttle Complex to terrorist pajamas and as a kid even I could not escape the urge to own a Snake Eyes or three (although I could resist the urge to open them). I just do not understand the popularity that consistently kept GI Joe toys so heavily advertised for most all of the eighties while the Transformers only had maybe two good years of being featured in newspaper ads. On a larger scale, how could plastic army men outlast legendary 80s action figure lines and even colossal video game fads like Atari and Nintendo? How has a GI Joe toyline existed every year since 1982? How could GI Joe have been the best selling toy in America in 1984 (according to against Transformers and He-Man? How does GI Joe do it? I'll tell you how. It is my suspicion that the US Government subsidizes the production of GI Joe comics and toys as a propaganda tactic. They do this publicly in other countries and I think the 1982 GI Joe action figure line was the secret prototype. I also believe Robotech is the reason I see so many Air Force guys with bad haircuts.

Lionel Playworld 18 November 1987
Target 18 October 1987


The tiny bit of ads I've got here are not even the tip of the GI Joe iceberg. I have seen enough GI Joe ads on library microfilm to outnumber all the robot ads I've ever collected for the Vintage Space Toaster Palace combined. Throughout the last 25 years some GI Joe items might have been discounted or gone clearance like the above Lionel Playworld ad shows (check out the USS Flag for 60 bucks) but the line always continued like an unstoppable armada of tanks and jeeps and helicopters. There is no end to it, even to this day. Although I have never understood its appeal and believe it to be covert military propaganda, GI Joe toys are some of the most fantastic looking unappealing military propaganda I have ever seen. I am thankful for it because nothing brings back those memories of my dad driving me by Fort Bliss like walking down the GI Joe aisle at Toys R Us.

Motive Parts & Supply 23 November 1988

You can see more GI Joe ads at YoJoe.Com and on Flickr.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NO WEBLOG FOR OLD ROBOTS part 3: Please Save Me He-Mans!

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.

JC Penny 24 November 1982


Albertsons 11/30/84
He-Man! Just thinking of the name brings back memories of the booming bass of the announcer's voice in the opening seconds of that cartoon. I will never forget watching that show everyday after school in late '83 and playing with the assloads of He-Mans my mom had been buying me since '82 (although I must admit I never had Barrie Cat). He-Man also consumed large amounts of my time while I was in school because I was always drawing him on my notebook paper while the teacher was talking. And until the sad day that my mom cut off our He-Man because she thought the toys were getting satanic, He-Man was all that got me through after Return of the Jedi left me cold. I guess I was on the rebound after Star Wars ended, stuck between toylationships and He-Man was there and I was weak and vulnerable. He had big muscles and a nice house. He had all sorts of cool rides and he was even a cat guy. We were just using each other when all along I should have been hanging out with that cute little red Lamborghini from Japan!

Murphy's Mart 21 November 1984


Before I go further, I have always called the line "He-Man". When I look at somebody's Masters of the Universe collection I always think, man, look at all those He-Mans. I know the correct term has got to be "Masters of the Universe" or "Masters". Even "MOTUs" would probably be more acceptable. Hell, even the retarded sounding "He-Men" would be a more proper plural but ever since I was a kid I have always used the silly sounding and grammatically incorrect "He-Mans". But hey, with names like Spydor, Panthor and the Attak Trak, He-man wasn't exactly a toyline for budding grammarians or orthographers.


Albertsons 11/30/84
You gotta have a bike! Transformers and GoBots were both rather unimaginative with the naming of their plastic tricycle bikes. Both of their bikes shared the generic name "Power Cycle". Voltron did a little better with the "Lion Cycle". But before all these rather generic and uninspired attempts at plastic bike branding, there was the brilliant and magical moniker used for the He-Man bike-THE MIGHTY CYCLE. Man that name had balls! It's what I imagine Evil Kinevil wished he would have called his bike. Tell me this isn't the greatest plastic bike commercial you've ever seen! Okay, honestly I was a little disappointed in the commercial because I was expecting He-Man to show up at some point and shoot his sword lightning at one of the kids as they're riding, instantly vaporizing the boy and turning the Master Cycle into a robotic Mecha Battle Cat that would transform into a suit of armor for He-Man to wear as he leaps into space and kills the sun.


My focus when searching though old microfilms is entirely on toy robots ads and if I stray from that it's usually for good reason. One great reason came up when I saw the Gimbels ad below. Amongst all the other Mattel toys they were advertising for their "Mattel Week" was a three pack that is something of a holy grail for He-Man collectors. I found the Lionel Playworld ad next to it interesting because it's from late 1986 and by then toystores had stopped advertising He-Man as much as they used to. To see an ad with so much Masters of the Universe line art love in one place was rather novel, even if it was within the context of a liquidation ad. The characters shown illustrate why He-Man lost favor in my house. Mom thought the Snake Men were a bit over the top and I thought Snout Spout and the Comet Warriors were a bit over the shark.

Gimbels 11/20/83
Lionel Playworld 11/28/86


Playworld 11/18/87
The most powerful clearances in the universe handed He-Man his butt in 1987. Although I jumped that sinking ship early, He-Mannerisms would stay with me. Even decades later my love of He-man would make me both famous amongst literate toy collectors and an object of ridicule amongst hipster Antarcticans. I once started a thread on the Usenet group where I remarked that the 2000 reissue Teela looked fat. I was credited when that comment made it into the following month's Toyfare magazine, which makes me a famous published guy or something. Then once during a poetry slam in Antarctica I introduced myself as "Esteban, prince of Eternia and defender of the secrets of Castle Greyskull". I could tell by the rolling eyes and stunned silence that those Antarcticans weren't exactly the kinds of people who posted to I took comfort in knowing that even though I was considered a weirdo in Antartcatica, the last refuge of social rejects and outcasts from all corners of human civilization, it was geographically impossible to kick me off the planet. THAT WAS THE LAST TIME I READ GREEN EGGS AND HAM TO THOSE FUCKERS!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NO WEBLOG FOR OLD ROBOTS part 2: Please Save Me Secret Wars!

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.

Target 09/02/84
The Transformers were what got me into the insane world of comic book shops and action figure collecting. Transformers figures had no secondary market value in the 80s and the book was never considered a serious comic amongst my childhood friends, but it opened the doors into the terrifying and bizarre world of grown ups who took reading comics and playing with toys to a whole other level. I would probably never have stepped into a comic book store and could have lived my whole life content with buying Transformers comics at the Bag-n-Save grocery store were it not for the one time Spider-Man made an appearance in Transformers #3. It wasn't just any Spider-Man-it was black costume Spider-Man. That tripped me out because Spider-Man didn't tell me he was planning on changing his costume when I met him at K-Mart in '79.


I loved that black costume Spider-Man and the very first non-Transformers comic I sought out was Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 because it explained where the black costume came from. Unfortunately the El Paso Bag-n-Save didn't keep back issues of comics even though I did try saving some Amazing Spider-Mans for future buying by sticking them in the Low Rider magazines. I thought nobody read Low Rider, but boy was I wrong and those well hidden Spider-Mans disappeared anyway. Now that I think about it, I may have inadvertently introduced El Asombroso Hombre Araña to a whole generation of cholos.

Secret Wars was an insanely popular comic back in '85. By the time I found a comic shop that had it, Secret Wars #8 was commanding the astronomical price of five dollars. To my horror and delight there was an accompanying toyline although the truth is Secret Wars started as a toyline first. Way back then it was an unprecedented milestone to have 3 3/4 inch action figures made of Marvel characters. Even as a toy robot obsessed weirdo I realized having a Wolverine the right size to fight Darth Vader was a really big deal. But black costume Spider-Man didn't come out in the initial wave and without the internet or toy magazines to tell me that it was coming I resigned myself to thinking it would never be made in my lifetime. This is because I was familiar with the concept of "Marvel time"-that is, in the Marvel Universe time runs at a rate slower than in the real world. This is why Spider-Man was a teenager in comics for like 25 years. What people don't know was that Marvel Time applied in real life, too. Why the hell else did it take over 20 years to finally get an action figure of normal Spider-Man? Marvel time at work!

GC Murphy 09/30/84

I remember Lionel Playworld having an endcap full of Secret Wars toys well after the comic had come and gone. While looking through them for an Iron Man (because he kind of looked roboty) I came across black costume Spider-Man. Holy crap was that a total surprise. All the other Secret Warriors faded from my mind. After having to pay multiple times the cover price for the comic I swore that I would not open my black costume Spider-Man because of its collectibility. That lasted about a week. Although there have been many different and better plastic permutations of black Spider-Man costume since, that first one has always been my favorite and it's one of the few toys that survived my childhood intact.


Secret Wars was a lot more than Spider-Man and while in Alaska I found a really nice giant ad from Carrs that ran 18 November 1984. It showed the Tower of Doom playset, some Secret Wars vehicles and action figures of a few of the most famous and recognizable characters from the Marvel Universe like Captain America and Wolverine Man! 1984 was an awesome year. I can't imagine how often the Transformers versus Secret Wars wars played out in playgrounds all over. Marvel must have got wind of this because last year there was a comic book crossover where the Transfomrers got to hang out with and get beat up by not just Spider-Man but a lot of the characters from Secret Wars including Wolverine Man! It only took 25 years! MARVEL TIME NOT DEAD!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A nerd by any other name is just as retarded

Beyonce wants to be called Sasha Fierce now. Although I thought making it big with her given name was quite an accomplishment, I can totally sympathize with having to change one's identity-or at least having to change the imaginary made up bullshit name I use on the internet. It has happened a couple of times already. When I first got on the internet in 1997 I thought I was being totally underground by using the handle of what I thought was an obscure character from a mostly forgotten cartoon. But instead of thinking I was all cool and underground, people thought I was lame for calling myself Optimus Prime. I should have known the internet was comprised of people who would know that kind of stuff already. I now realize I should have picked Sasha Fierce Optimus Prime .


I decided I needed a totally new, totally original fake internet name that was entirely future proof. But since I wasn't creative enough to come up with anything on my own, I decided to use the name the other Target stockboys used to make fun of me with. "crazysteve" lasted me a good ten years before I discovered that there were tons more internet Steves who considered themselves crazy. I considered slight variations on the theme such as "craziersteve", "crazierthanthoseothersteves" and "crazieststeve", but the damn doppelgangers had become my personal internet Marla Singers. Instead of wasting the rest of my life waging some sort of "crazy off" against every other internet steve to see who truly deserved the title, I decided to ditch that name about three years ago. I am grateful that I did because I just found out that...


Apparently there's this character on the Drake and Josh show that goes by Crazy Steve. It is really weird to hear my Transformer nerd name being used on television. Honestly, I must admit that Nickelodeon Crazy Steve is way crazier than I. He would have out-crazied me in the first round of the crazysteve crazy off. And that is how it should be. I've moved on and hopefully I should be good until The Weather Channel comes out with the Evil King Macrocranios Weather Super Show.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

NO WEBLOG FOR OLD ROBOTS part 1: Please Save Me Yenilmez Savaşçilar!

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.


Sears 11/06/86
You ever feel like beating up a tree? Do rocks piss you off? Did you absolutely hate Captain Planet and wish they'd make a cartoon about blowing up the environment instead of saving it? Well that's what Inhumanoids was-scientists in biohazard suits on steroids kicking the earth's ass. Punching trees and rocks and stuff. Or at least that's how I remember it. The thing with me is that once I figure out there won't be robots I change the channel.


One thing that did stick in my mind about Inhumanoids was that it was a monster toyline. Not monster in the sense that it was extremely popular, monster in the sense that it had monsters. I think at the time they were pretty scary for when they came out, but in this post-McFarlane world they're pretty tame. Still, the cartoon was one of the better animated Sunbow productions and those monsters were pretty frightening in the show. On a scale with Madballs on one end and animated satanic decapitation snuff porn films on the other, Inhumanoids ranks only slightly below the decapitations. Maybe I was a 12 year old wuss?

Target 12/14/86

While I lived in Turkey I found a couple video CDs of Inhumanoids at the supermarket and although they were dubbed in Turkish I gave them a try. THIS HAS NEVER STOPPED ME BEFORE. I watched a couple of episodes of "Invincible Warriors" (the translated Turkish name for Inhumanoids) and it was pretty trippy. All I can say is my 22 year old memories of this show were pretty right on-lots of monsters, lots of scientists, lots of trees getting their asses kicked.

Hills 11/16/86

Children's Palace 11/30/86

I can't really say much more about Inhumanoids other than when I'm looking through old microfilm I never see much advertising for them. Although I've been to quite a few toy shows I only rarely see them on the secondary market. Right now at one of the antique stores in downtown Rapid City there's a $1 bin of old action figures and among them is an Inhumanoids tree guy. (I WOOD buy it, but I keep LEAFing it there.) I guess the line died off because young monster loving, tree hating future scientists were kind of a niche market. If you want to find out more about Inhumaniods, I recommend "logging on" to

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Before I start on "No Weblog for Old Robots Week" I want to end my coverage of Vintage Space Toast Tour Denver with the customary recap of highlights from the ads I found there. Before I get into that, though, I want to bitch about what an enormous pain it was looking through microfilm for old toy robots newspaper ads in Denver. I thought a week would be more than enough to do a fairly exhaustive search of newspapers published during the last three months of every year from 1975 through 1990. But as it turned out, in the 80s Denver had TWO competing newspapers, each with their own daily and Sunday editions. Since some advertisers would put the same ad in both papers while other stores' ads would be exclusive to one paper or the other, I had to look through BOTH papers to make sure I got everything. Even with a week I ran out of time and due to prioritizing what time I did have, I ended up having to skip 1979 through 1982. It was a pain in the ads! RRRAAARGH!


Then I found the microfilms up through 1986 were made so that they displayed a negative image (white text on a black background) which is extremely disorienting for me. Plus the quality of many of the rolls was totally craptastic. For example, after much eyestrain I think the 1984 Circus World ad on the right is supposed to show car mode Wheeljack and robot Sideswipe and Mirage standing in front of a sealed Sunstreaker box with cassette deck Soundwave on the right, plus possibly some other figures. But because it's a blotchy, blobby, overexposed negative I almost missed it! It's a miracle I even found the ad at all! Sometimes the rolls were so bad I hoped I wouldn't find anything because it's heartbreaking when I see what I know is a good ad for a significant piece of toy robot history and it's a big messed up blur. RRRAAARGH!


The seventies were the greatest time to be a kid during Halloween because there was a fantastic selection of Ben Cooper costumes allowing you to trick or treat as a giant robot or ruthless genocidal tyrant from outer (or inner) space. I found a Woolworth ad from 26 October 1979 featuring Ben Cooper costumes of Darth Vader, the Micronauts' Baron Karza and Mazinga the Shogun Warrior. Unfortunately the line art of the kids wearing those three awesomest of awesome costumes was not grouped all together. You would think the the obvious arrangement would be Vader, Karza and Mazinga, but instead we get Vader and Mazinga next to friggin' Holly Hobbie! And interdimensional homocidal maniac Baron Karza is next to the kids wearing costumes of friggin' Pink Panther and Mickey Mouse! RRRAAARGH!


Okay, it's November 23rd, 1978. The unthinkable has yet to happen. Target runs the following ad for the Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper and Cylon Raider with text admitting that they "launch missiles". Aside from the usual creepiness of these pre-choking incident ads, this one is all sorts of super ironic in that Target also runs a blurb saying "play safe All toys sold at Target are tested for safety at an independent laboratory. Target meets or exceeds government safety more way that says 'We Care!'" This independent Target toy safety testing laboratory sure missed a big one with those Battlestar Galactica missiles. I'm left wondering who exactly was working at this independent Target laboratory and what did it look like? RRRAAARGH!


An 80s toy robot line simply could not be taken seriously if it did not have a badass plastic tricycle. Transfomrers had one. GoBots had one. Zoids and Zybots did not. There is a correlation there. Plastic tricycle was the merchandising tie-in that said your licensed robot property was here to stay (at least until the next "product reimagining" as Rock Lords). And like the GoBots and Transformers before them, Voltron had a bike, too! The coolest kid on the block was the one who furiously peddled his Voltron bike like a madman from house to house, steering with one hand with his big metal Voltron in the other, screaming RRRAAARGH! RRRAAARGH! like a manic space lion. I admit being jealous as I stared in awe at the spectacle of devotion inspired by Voltron, but now that I think about it, he was probably just batshit crazy from all that lead paint poisoning. RRRAAARGH!


What was the largest 80s transforming robot toy ever sold at retail? A Shogun Warrior? The SDF-1? Fortress Maximus? NO! They all pale in comparison to GOBOT RIDEM. A 26 inch tall monster robot that transformed into a ride on toy more powerful than Voltron bike, more terrifying than a Ben Cooper Darth Vader Halloween mask and possibly more dangerous than a Target independent toy testing laboratory! You can goof on it if you want, but now that I'm a dad I would kill many Bothans for one of these. It is insanely awesome! RRRAAARGH!

NEXT WEEK: NO WEBLOG FOR OLD ROBOTS (I've got an ad feeling about this)

Starting Monday I am going to go robot free! That's right, a whole week of me blabbing about 80s newspaper ads that do NOT have toy robots in them! Believe it or don't, over the years I've collected some non-robot ads! My knowledge of non-roboplastic toylines is weak, but hey, even I know ads for He-Man 3 packs, the Sears exclusive GI Joe playsets, and figures and vehicles from Dune are pretty interesting. I figured I might as well put them up somewhere so get ready for a week of Please Save Me He-Man, Please Save Me G.I. Joe, Please Save Me Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Please Save Me Star Wars and a whole bunch of other non-roboplastic blasphemy! What can I possibly write about toys that in most cases I never had and know nothing about? I guess we'll see!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A somewhat brief and very incomplete history of 1980s ToyStoreSauruses in Denver (by someone who never lived there) part 2 of 2: Lionel Playworld

Denver, Colorado is famous for having assloads of dinosaur bones. It's the place dinosaurs went to die, much like my laundry room is the place toy robots go to die. Denver in the nineties was also fantastic place for uncovering my favorite type of archaeological artifacts-fossils known in roboplasticology as roboplasticus transformus.


Why was Denver such a hotbed of 80s toy robot activity? How did all sorts of crazy roboplasticus transformus get there? The answer is that Denver was a breeding ground for one of the greatest ToyStoreSaurus to have ever roamed the 1984. From 1980 through 1987, seven Lionel Playworlds opened in Colorado with six of them in or around the greater Denver metropolitan area. I grew up in a place where there was only one Playworld and it left in its wake memories of dozens of clearance priced Dinobots. How much better then must Denver have been with half a dozen Playworlds! It must have left behind whole herds of of clearance priced robot Triceratopses!

28 October 198029 October 1980 pg 129 October 1980 pg 2

The very first two Lionel Playworlds in Colorado held their simultaneous grand openings in Denver on 30 October 1980. They were at 6791 W Colfax in the JCRS Shopping Center and 10615 Melody Ave just west of Northglen Mall. The amount of promotion done for the grand opening was staggering. Playworld gave away 1,000 Hot Wheels cars, 2,000 t-shirts, 1,000 plants (for the adults), 500 buy-one-get-one-free Burger King coupons and free tickets to Nuggets and Rockies (the hockey Rockies) games. There were special appearances by Denver Broncos and Nuggets players, Miss Colorado 1980, a magician, a frisbee demonstration and even friggin' Blinky the Clown! There were also big name celebrities in attendance like Frankenstein, Strawberry Shortcake, Spider-Man, Mister Potato Head and Kaycee kangaroo. Not as great as the best toystore grand opening ever, but still very impressive.

This is what now stands at 6791 West Colfax

The third and fourth Colorado Playworlds had their grand openings in the Denver area on 23 October 1986. One store was in the Arvada Marketplace at 52nd & Wadsworth and the other was by Aurora Mall on 14301 E Exposition Ave. The Aurora Mall building is now a Korean restaurant and I filmed VINTAGE SPACE TOAST TOUR DENVERADO LIVE (part 2) there.


Then on 15 November 1987 three more Playworlds opened up in Colorado. I think these would be the last Playworld store openings of the eighties because although I know an eighth store opened in Colorado Springs, I never saw it mentioned in any 80s Denver area ad. It may have opened in 89 because I know it was up by July of '90. This round of openings included stores in southwest Denver at the Southwest Commons shopping center, one in Glendale (an enclave within Denver) at South Colorado Boulevard & E. Ohio Avenue, and finally one in Fort Collins, Colorado at The Pavillion shopping center.

It looks like 1987 was when it all started turning to kangaroo crap for Playworld because I think that's the year one of the original two Playworlds closed (the one at 6791 West Colfax). Their ads stop mentioning that location in '87. Then in 1988 Playworld stopped including weekly color circulars in the Sunday newspapers. Instead, they ran some black and white ads with little reminders that if you want the circular you needed to go to the store to get it. Was this clever marketing meant to get people in the store or could Playworld just not afford to put their circulars in the Sunday paper anymore? Whatever it was, it sucked because Playworld circulars were a great source of Transformers ad line art and by excluding themselves from the Sunday papers they excluded themselves from being archived on library microfilm.


Kaycee Kangaroo took some more bad bounces in the late 80s. Judging from the ads, in 1989 the other of the original two Denver stores closed, leaving them with five Colorado locations in 1990, four of which were in or around Denver. Then when Toys R Us showed up in June 1990 it really fell apart. A new store opened in Colorado Springs but by the fall of '91 Playworld was down to just three Colorado stores when they went out of business. Why they opened that last store only to have it close a year later is beyond me. Maybe like the dinosaurs, Playworld went to Colorado to die.

I will stand in front of anything if it looks like it could have been Playworld


Unlike Children's Palace with its unique architecture, old Playworld buildings are very difficult to locate because they look just like any other brick big box store. So I had a hellacious time in Denver trying to take pictures of the buildings that used to be Playworlds. I tried asking people who looked old and even comic shop employees, but nobody seems to live or work near where they grew up so nobody remembered Playworld. Nobody except for one comic shop employee guy, but the Hobby Lobby location he told me used to be Playworld in southwest Denver isn't even in the right shopping center. Between faded memories and changing shopping center landscapes I couldn't say for certain if any of the pictures I took are of buildings that used to be Playworld. It's bad enough that this Colorado ToyStoreSaurus is long extinct but what's worse is nobody even remembers being trampled by it. But I know you were here, Playworld! Nothing else could explain the assloads of Denver Dinobots you left behind!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I have read the argument made that little boys will pretend to shoot things by making a gun with their hand and all toy gun makers do is provide a prop to flesh out the fantasy a bit. The idea is that the play pattern is already going to occur and there are other themes beyond gunplay like pretend wrestling, superhero imitating and of course, war. Being a little boy once myself I thought that playing war was just another natural play pattern and I would be doing it regardless of whether I was pretending with factions comprised of army men, rubber dinosaurs or plastic robots (or even plastic rubber dinosaur robot armies). But holy crap I just came across a buttload of Robotech commercials and now I wonder how much war playing I did was a result of watching toy commercials and trying to emulate them.

When the little girl says "Get ready for battle!" it weirds me out. It isn't something I expect little girls to say. Maybe certain gender roles are ingrained in my brain and that's why I find it jarring. It occurs to me that instead of targeting 80s war toys and their cartoon tie-ins children's advocates would have had more of a case if they targeted the 30 second commercials. The shows were just entertainment and once out of the box the toys could be played with however a child wanted. But the 30 second commercials were where kids were given explicit examples of how the toys should be played with. The commercials were where I saw other little boys banging their robots together and little girls making their dolls go on pretend dates. Thank you, 80s toy commercial producers because had I never seen any toy commercials I would never have been able to figure out what to do with all those rocket launchers, swords and rifles my plastic rubber dinosaur robots came with.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Recorded Sunday, 12 October 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

The next best thing to reading there

Google has been archiving newspaper articles and in some instances, microfilm of the papers themselves have been digitized! This kicks ass because it's like a virtual microfilm machine that lets me strain my eyes and sanity searching through the Saint Petersburgh Times at home without ever having to go to Florida. The pull out ads are missing so its usefulness as a source for vintage space toaster ads is limited, but oftentimes I'll run into a great toy robots related article that makes the looking worthwhile.

Friday, October 17, 2008

25 years ago in Transfomrers PART 4: IN SPANISH IT MEANS KRONDAY!

Back in 1993 I was vacationing in Denver when I went into a comic book shop and under the counter glass they had what looked like a red Transformers Sunstreaker and a black Ironhide. I had no idea what they were and the comic shop guy said they were "the rare Japanese versions". Just as goats have an innate fear and distrust of chupacabras, I fear and distrust information from comic shop employees. This was way before I had internet and pre Thoroughly Informative Transformers Themed Internet Entertainment Sites so I had no way of fact checking comic shop man's assertion. But I got the feeling he wasn't very credible because in the same display there was a Hubcap he was trying to pawn off as Bumblejumper. This "Hubblejumper" misidentification is usually indicative of either a) comic shop assholery (if they're trying to rip off people who don't know better) or b) comic shop dumbassery (as in, they are dumbasses). The latter is usually the case.


Japanese or not, twenty bucks each seemed a bit steep for the wrong colored and possibly knockoff Sunstreaker and Ironhide, but I bought them anyways. I noticed the red countach had a sticker that said "Diakron" on it and years later the internet helped me figure out just what these things were. It turned out Diakron was an attempt by Takara (the japanese creators of many toys that would eventually be sold as Transformers) to market their own line of transforming toy robots in America back in 1983. This was before Hasbro partnered up with them to create the Transformers. The Diakron line was originally made up of a robot called Multiforce 14, three pull back and go Powerdashers, and three transforming robot cars named DK-1, DK-2 and DK-3. Those last three were toys that would eventually go on to become known as Sunstreaker, Ironhide and Trailbreaker once Hasbro picked them for Transformers, except they started out in different colors from their Transformer release. Diakron is also the tenth circle of toy robot hell-after you know about it, forever does that knowledge mark you a nerd.


Despite being the first attempt at a US release of Takara's transforming robots (which would later go on to become one of the most popular toylines ever), Diakron itself has gone down in history as being unsuccessful. But is this the truth? There exists an interview with Paul Kurnit, the then executive
vice president of Griffin-Bacal during the launch of the Transformers, where Mr. Kurnit states that one problem the line had was that Diakron's name "had no meaning to anyone". I take personal offense at that. Obviously in Spanish it means "Kron Day".

TRU 14 December 1984
Mr. kurnit also goes on to say Diakron's "launch was a colossal failure because in no way, other than the fact that they were ingenious toys, did it connect to anything meaningful in kids' lives". Kurnit isn't the only former exec harsh on the 'Kron. George Dunsay, Hasbro's vice president of research and development in 84, states the line didn't do well because of a lack of marketing. So here we have a pattern of executives involved in the creation of the Transfomers repeatedly stressing the "failure" of Takara to market their robot toys successfully in the US. But I've seen ads that show Takara continued selling the Multiforce 14 well into 1985. While it's true that the Diakron name 'died' after 1984, all Takara did was change it to Kronoform and continue to sell their Multiforce 14 and other robots that were not picked up as Transformers. I also recognize Japanese marketing brilliance in "Kronoform" being a way for Takara to keep their "Kron" while capitalizing off the Trans"Form"ers name. Despite being a marketing failure to some, DiaKron(oform) remained profitable enough that it lasted at least three years. There is no denying that some of Takara's toys would not have reached the level of popularity they enjoyed had they not been reborn as Transformers, but there is also no denying the rage that swept a nation, KRONOFORM ROBOT WATCH!


Circus World 28 November 1984
I personally don't remember Diakron on the toystore shelves but it was '83 and at nine years old I was all obsessed with He-Man. I used to beat myself up for not being more sentient as a child because it cost me a chance to be on the Diakron bandwagon from the beginning (and also forty bucks at that comic book store 10 years later). But then that interview with George Dunsay came along and he stated that Diakron was a Toys R Us exclusive line. Since I had a couple of friends older than me who remembered TRU being the only place they saw Diakron back in the day, I accepted that and I stopped hating on my He-Man obsessed 9 year old self. My hometown of El Paso, Texas didn't get a Toys R Us until 1987. I was at peace with myself in the same way that I can accept not being the guy who invented Star Wars because 30-years-older-than-me George Lucas beat me to it.

But then little holes began springing up in that TRU exclusive theory. First off, why have I never seen a Diakron toy with a TRU price tag? Speaking of price tag, there's a picture of a Diakron countach at Super Toy Archive where the badly mangled price tag seems to be that of KB Toys. I rationalized that by theorizing KB oftentimes acted as toy liquidators and maybe they bought up TRU's remaining Diakron stock for clearancing at their stores. I could still live with myself if that were the case because El Paso just barely got a KB in '83 and they were all about new toys, not clearance stuff. So I still never had a chance, right?


But there were always lingering doubts in my mind. How could Denver, a place that never had a Toys R Us until 1990, have Diakrons in comic shops? Toy robots archaeology was much simpler before eBay because where you found toy robots was usually the same geographic area where they were sold at retail. Finding a toy robot on the secondary market at a swap meet or garage sale or comic shop was strong evidence that the toy robot originated at a toystore in that area. I found the usual exception to this back in the 90s was comic shops near military bases because military people tend to come from everywhere and sell their stuff to the nearest collectibles dealer. But the bases in Colorado were all in or near Colorado Springs, 80 miles south of Denver. How could I have found roboarchaeological evidence of Diakrons in Denver in 1993 if they were Toys R Us exclusives ten years prior?

Circus World 30 November 1983
Then a bomb dropped on me during Vintage Space Toast Tour Denver this month when I was looking for Zoids ads in 1983 newspapers. Again, Denver didn't have a Toys R Us until 1990 so finding a Diakron Robot Cars ad was the last thing I ever thought would happen. But lo and behold, in the Novemeber 30th, 1983 edition of the Rocky Mountain News was a flyer from Circus World advertising Diakron Robot Cars of the Future. I was both excited and pissed off. Excited because a Diakron Robot Cars ad is one of my Vintage Space Toaster Palace holy grails, and pissed off because this proved Diakron was not Toys R Us exclusive, KB probably did have them new in El Paso in '83, and I was a nine year old dumbass.


Circus World was a very different, very separate retail chain from Toys R Us. In the wake of this ad and the KB price tag at Super Toy Archive I can only conclude Dunsay misremembered, but I'm left wondering why he'd say Diakron was exclusive to TRU. There's got to be a nugget of truth in there somewhere. Did he really mean Diakron was exclusive to the less prominent Circus World, but he forgot the specific chain? I've never found a TRU ad for Diakron but that means little. And I certainly don't feel betrayed by George Dunsay or anything. This isn't Ben Kenobi telling me Darth Vader killed my father (and then it turns out Darth Vader is my father). It's more like Ben Kenobi telling me Darth Vader had an extensive Diakron collection, all of which he bought at Toys R Us.


I was pretty happy to find the robot cars ad on this, the 25th anniversary of the Diakron line. I think I will celebrate November 30th as Kron Day in rememberance. Now that I've found a Circus World Diakron Robot Cars ad, the next step is to find one from Toys R Us and maybe even Kay Bee. Then after that, build a time machine and go back to 1983, wait in KayBee Toys in El Paso and smack my 9 year old He-Man loving self in the back of the head when I see him in the action figure aisle.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Recorded Saturday, 11 October 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A somewhat brief and very incomplete history of 1980s ToyStoreSauruses in Denver (by someone who never lived there) part 1 of 2: Children's Palace

Much like a caveman being mauled by a Tyrannosaurus, my wife finds my hobbies incomprehensible and terrifying. So what I tell her is Roboplasticology-the study of ancient toy robot ads of long ago-is much like dinocheology, the study of ancient dinosaur bones. Famous real life dinosaur dinocheologists like Doctor Alan Grant have much in common with Roboplasticologists like myself. Just as dinocheologists dig through rock to find deeply buried fossilized dinosaur bones, I dig through countless reels of library microfilm searching for deeply buried photocopied toy robots ads. At the end of the day, Dinocheologists can put all their bones together and have a more or less complete Tyrannosaurus that tells them about the ancient world of dinosaurs. Much like them, I put my ads together to construct ToyStoreSaurus skeletons that tell me of the ancient world of now extinct 1980s retail stores that sold toy robots. ToyStoreSaurus is closely related to the enormous Wasteoftimeus Rex.


During Vintage Space Toast Tour Denver I was able to get a rough idea of what the 1980s Colorado toy robots scene was like. Much like the Jurassic Period, the 1980s were a time when now extinct giants thrived in the greater Denver metropolitan area-giants like Lionel Playworld and Children's Palace. Unfortunately the deadliest predator in the ancient world of ToyStoreSauruses was the dreaded ToysaReUs. Once a ToysaReUs Rex entered the retail environment it would mercilessly consume the sales of all other toy stores until they became extinct. This is exactly what happened in Denver. Denver in the 80s was a peaceful place where multiple Lionel Playworlds and Children's Palaces coexisted in harmony for almost a decade until the carnivorous ToysaReUs came along in 1990 and killed them all off within a year and a half.

21 October 198416 November 1984

But before the dark times, before the empire of Geoffrey Giraffe, there were five Children's Palace stores in Colorado with four of them being in or near the greater Denver metropolitan area. One of my goals was to track down and take pictures of the buildings that these stores used to be in (if they still existed). The first store opened in October of 1984 and was located at 5022 South Jellison Way in southwest Denver. It was followed within a few weeks by a store at 13686 E Alameda Avenue next to Aurora Mall. They both had their grand opening on November 17th, 1984. I was fortunate enough to find the buildings that used to be these first two Children's Palaces. It wasn't hard because the architecture is pretty unique. The Jellison store is now a gymnastics center and it's where I filmed VINTAGE SPACE TOAST TOUR DENVERADO LIVE (part 1 of 3). The Alameda store is now a Dollar Tree.

Denver's first Children's Palace

Denver's other first Children's Palace

Unfortunately the buildings that used to be the other two Children's Palaces in Denver weren't as easy to locate. They opened in 1988 along with a store in Colorado Springs. One of them was at 7025 West 88th and when I drove there I found a gigantic Ross store that didn't look very Children's Palacey to me. The other location was listed in the ads as being next to the doomed Cinderella City, a mall in Englewood that has since been demolished. I drove around endlessly looking for that Cinderella City Children's Palace but I could not find a store that matched the architecture I was looking for. Either it was built differently, renovated, or demolished along with the rest of the mall. Also, I could be dumb and just didn't see it.

This is the store at the address of what used to be a Children's Palace

I was really grateful for Children's Palace because all throughout the mid to late 80s they ran Sunday sales flyers during the holiday season. Other stores weren't as consistent with their full color pull out ads, but Children's Palace always had something in that Sunday paper. Near the way end of the Transformers toyline in '89 and '90, Children's Palace could be counted on to still throw in some robots in their ads well after most other chains had dropped advertising Transformers completely. This helped me immensely while I was looking for those tail end Transformer ads amongst an onslaught of newsprint Nintendos and Ninja Turtles.


The end of Children's Palace in Colorado came September 15, 1991 when they closed their doors forever. If I ever go back to Denver for another Vintage Space Toast Tour I will check out the papers from that era to see if they advertised during those last lonely days. For now I am happy to have found a couple of ads from their heyday. One of my favorite Children's Palace flyers has a front page that proclaims "DISCOVER HOW MUCH LESS TOYS CAN COST!" and then right under that they have the Omega Supreme of GI Joe playsets, the Defiant Space Shuttle Complex which cost over $100. Oh, mighty Children's Palace I can almost still hear you roar.

22 November 198704 December 1988

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