Thursday, January 22, 2009


I just put up twenty or so new* Voltron ads over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. You can Ctrl+F for "Houston" or "El Paso" once you're in the Voltron section and find them like that. I think I have now seen every possible way there is to arrange the same five toy robot lions on a table. Any sane person would go crazy after cataloging over a hundred ads of the same basic robot, but I am part of a super force of space explorers specially trained to bring back Voltron (ads).


Forbidden Planet 11/23/84
Occasionally some libraries will have newspaper microfilms from other cities, most commonly Los Angeles and New York. This was the case in El Paso where I was able to take a look at some New York Timeses from 1984. When I saw this Forbidden Planet ad I was a little shocked because I knew the Matchbox Voltron toys didn't come out until March of 1985. Then I remembered-oh, duh. This is probably that Bandai GoDaiKin GoLion that preceeded the release of the Matchbox line. Notice in the ad they don't expressly mention Voltron in the list of toylines they stock. That's because Voltron didn't exist as a toyline yet but these guys were pretty slick putting GoLion up because Voltron was the hottest cartoon that year. It's a brilliant piece of marketing that probably got people into the store and although I'm putting it in the GoDaiKin section I thought it was worth mentioning in this Voltron themed update.


Toys R Us 12/15/85
Conceptually Voltron does not translate well into items and objects that are not toy robots. I am still surprised at how many different ways this property got licensed out despite this and occasionally I'll run across some weird merchandising tie in that goes beyond the scope of what I thought Voltron could (or should) be. The vast majority of times this stuff is total crap like the transforming Voltron binoculars, Voltron shaped flashlight or the Voltron calculator. But this ad for the Voltron slot car set showed me that sometimes the cross merchandising could transcend total crap to create something inspired. It's almost a no-brainer that this crossover would be made considering Matchbox's history of making slot car racing sets but still the concept of slot cars that were space lions is brilliant! It's space-lions-in-my-peanut-butter brilliance! I tried looking for this set for sale on the secondary market but the only thing I've found is one red lion and the guy wants 60 bucks for it. At that price I can't imagine what the whole set would demand. Unfortunately I don't have that kind of money lion around.


Pic n Save 11/24/88
My morbid fascination with the demise of Voltron continued to be fed with a number of depressing post-1986 ads. I'd previously found an ad from December of 1987 where the clearance outlet Pic n Save was was selling off the deluxe Voltron sets for $19.95 and I thought that was depressing. But in El Paso I found an ad from a whole year later where Pic n Save went 5 dollars cheaper! Remember, these were the big giant Matchbox sets that everybody remembers that once used to retail for upwards of $60. It's really sad to see it all came apart for Voltron because those were really nice toys. Why did Voltron come in like a lion and go out like a...lion on clearance at Pic n Save? I know the toys were released after the series had already run all its episodes and vehicle team didn't really endear itself among the kids and the sets were really expensive even by today's standards and there was the whole lead poisoning scare in '86, but it really surprises me that these toys were so unpopular after 1985!

*over 20 years old

1 comment:

Weasel said...

I can't help but think that the market may have just been a bit over-saturated by then; we had Go-Bots, Transformers, Voltron, and about a zillion knock-offs. There probably just wasn't enough room for so many robots and one franchinse had to fall by the wayside. The lead scare didn't help matters either.

I also can't help but wonder if there were some quality control issues with those robot lions: my ex (Mr. Frots) had an original Voltron. The thing fell apart within two weeks. To this day the word "trash" always follows the word "Voltron" whenever he mentions the franchise. Make of that as you will.


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