Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More than meets the munch! OR: Yours for just 3 proofs of purchase and 25 years ago

This candy bar almost has more Transformer nuts than Botcon!

Shortly after the release of the Roboplastic Apocalypse that was the first Michael Bay Transformers movie, a consumer coalition group accused Hasbro of marketing PG-13 films to preschoolers because of the many movie toys made for children under 6 years old. I thought they had some good points but why stop at six year olds! I don't think anyone of any age should have been exposed to that godawful masturbation humor and peeing robots. Now two years later I guess those consumer advocates didn't get anywhere because Snickers is letting you take the fun of alien robot genitalia one step further with their Transformers 2 tie-in promotion featuring Snickerses with yellow nougat called "Nougabot Bars". Bumblebee is on the wrapper and given the phallic nature of a Snickers bar I guess there must be a gigantic demand from people who want Bumblebee's yellow rod and nuts in their mouth. Plus it's covered in chocolate making it the candy bar equivalent of getting a Dirty Sanchez from an alien robot Camaro.


Back when I was a kid there were Transformers food promotions but instead of robot sex metaphors you got something else, like toys or calendars or posters or something. Probably the most famous of these was the 1986 Pepsi Optimus Prime, a lame stickered version of regular Optimus Prime you won if your Pepsi can had a winning tab. (You "can" see a picture of a Pepsi from this contest at the bottom of this page from USA Soda.) Then there were the 1985 Happy Meal toys and the 1986 Ziploc bag iron-ons. I'd say those three are the most famous of the food tie-ins and the ones best documented on the internet. I think they're well known in the Transformer collecting community now because they were items with strong collector appeal even back then and their notoriety has endured. But there were other Transformer food tie-ins from the 1980s that are more obscure because they weren't as sexy exciting as sodarobots, Happy Meals or Robonard Bars.


Pepsi wasn't the only soft drink manufacturer Hasbro worked with to rot the teeth and minds of young robotards. They also ran a promotion on Hi-C packages where you could mail away for a fold out poster calendar called "Battle in the Desert Valley". It contains the three elements that were the quintessential hallmarks of every great piece of Transformers storytelling propaganda: a) a scene with Transformers fighting in the desert near a dam, b) playmate-of-the-month style robot profiles so you get to know the robots better c) bizarre and terrifying stickers, and d) a calendar of 1985. What's great about the cartoony renditions of the robots in the poster is they depict the toys almost exactly as they appeared in real life. Unlike the cartoon which set up kids for disappointment and despair with its sneaky underhanded humanoid portrayals of Ironhide and Ratchet (which in reality were toys that looked like van accidents), there were no shocks or surprises when you looked at this poster and then opened up your Optimus Prime or Starscream-you got pretty much what the poster sold. You can see bigger pictures of the battle scene at John Runski's site and appreciate the lack of what I call "Uncanny Vanny", which is the shock and revulsion one feels at having been tricked by the cartoon into thinking Ironhide and Ratchet were cool toys.


There's not much to say about this 17" x 22" poster of the 1986 battle scene you got when you bought four cans of SpaghettiOs. As far as mail-aways go it's nothing special because everyone who bought or stole a boxed Transformer in 1986 got this scene of the Decepticons attacking Metroplex sitting on a little ball. The guy I bought it off of described it as "delicate" and "stored for the past 25 years in smoke free and pet free environment" and "never hung or displayed" with "NO RIPS or TEARS" and "Super vibrant colors". Which was all true until five minutes after I took this picture when my 2 year old decided to use it for finger paints. MY KINGDOM FOR A TIME MACHINE AND FOUR CANS OF SPAGHETTI-OS!


Finally we have my favorite Transformer promotional food tie-in ever-Frito Lay's epic poster titled "The Power Struggle". The only thing that sucks about this poster is how fragile it is, as if it were made of Fritos itself. If you bought a package of Frito Lay variety packs you got this 17" x 21.5" fold out featuring a mix of cartoonized toy renderings, clips from the 1985 battle scene and Transformer box arts from the front of the toy pacakages. Of course the standard "robots fighting in the desert near a dam" motif is there but what makes this great is the attempt they make at seamlessly incorporating some incredibly static toy images alongside the furiously posed box arts. I love how the addition of laser blasts really pulls all these disparate images together and makes it look like these robots who weren't originally drawn together really are fighting it out alongside each other. But what really puts it over the top for me, what really makes this unique in the pantheon of inappropriate toy robots food marketing was how the Frito-Lay artists decided that Shockwave needed a face! The poster actually tells the story of how Shockwave went on to become a Frito Lay spokesperson after he received an unfortunate laser blast to the kisser that disfigured him for the rest of his life. Since robots don't eat corn chips on Cybertron, their slogan there went from "Betcha can't eat just one" to "Betcha can't see with just one optic sensor". HEY NOW! WAS THAT JOKE CORNY OR WHAT?!


As I savor the really satisfying golden yellow nougat of a Robonard Bar I will be partaking in a sacred tradition born of the union between Transfomrers and junk food that goes back to the earliest days of the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. That tradition is me getting fat, plus robots. I was thinking that if Snickers needed a slogan for their candy it could be something like "Snickers-With all these Transformer nuts it's like having Botcon in your mouth!" SNICKERS DO NOT STEAL MY IDEAS! (Or please do and then pay me a tryptzillion dollars.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

BILLION DOLLAR BUMBLEBEES-The price of love, silence and my adult sanity (after mail-in rebate)

Although I am Nostrodomatron of the Roboplastic Apocalypse I was unprepared for the hilarity of Chicken Pop Pod episode #37. Even I could not have prognosticated the impending LOLpocalypse I had while listening to a bunch of normal guys talking about the old days of Transformers and the Great Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. Hot damn I think I've listened to that podcast at least four times. I know the question on everyone's mind is, "But as this dimension's Nostrodomatron how is it that you did not see this podcast coming, as clearly it is a sign of the Roboplastic Apocalypse?" And well the answer is that despite its name, a Nostrodomatron is only good for looking into the past-specifically 1985.


It is because of Chicken Pop Pod 37 that I've been working on an overhaul of the Transfomers sections of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. The Chicken Pop Podpeople ignited within me untold passions when they kicked off their old school Transfromer discussion with the age old question that has plagued philosophers and toy robots archaeologists since time immemorial-"So how much did Optimus Prime cost back in 1984?" Man, if I were to count all the times I've heard that question pop up in podcasts it would be twice. Still, it bothers me because I of all people should be able to answer it by now. I of all people should be able to come up with a simple comment on their site like, "Dear Chicken Pop Podpeople, HAY GUYS I GO TO LIBRARIES PLUS MICROFILMS. $19.99!" But I couldn't. Why is it that after collecting the retail price data for over 700 Transformers items I couldn't contribute the answer to even the simplest price-related Transfromrer question? Why after spending a little over 10 years at this ad collecting hobby couldn't I definitively say that the answer is Optimus Prime cost X amount of 1984 dollars? You know why I couldn't simply do that? Because for all the data I've collected, the Vintage Space Toaster Palace Transformer sections WERE ALL FUCKY AND HORRIBLE.


K-Mart 10/10/84

When I first got the idea to take a bunch of 25 year old toy robots newspaper ads and put them on the internet it wasn't because I wanted the only website comprised entirely of advertising that generates absolutely no revenue, it was something profoundly more idiotic. It was driven by an appreciation for the ads themselves and their little line art pictures with badly worded descriptions written by K-Mart employees and grocery store cashiers. But all these years later I've realized that this amassed canon of K-Mart Transformers continuity needed organization. I couldn't keep throwing ad upon ad in there in a pile and expect anyone to get anything out of it. In their previous state, the disheveled garbage dumps of randomly arranged hyperlinks that comprised the VSTP's Transformers sections meant nothing to anyone and they could not be easily used in a way that was meaningful without spending hours trying to sift through all the unorganized lists. There was great knowledge buried in those lists, and by extension, great power. But someone had to go in there and make that great knowledge and power meaningful. The task of arranging the information had to become my great responsibility. This was my Uncle Ben moment. Not the Spider-Man Uncle Ben guy who said that with great power comes great responsibility, I mean the rice. It was time to eat rice. Rice with raisins. Looking at all those unorganized toy robots ads made me hungry.


I sat down in the dark of my son's room last Thursday night after I put him to bed. I sat there and I knew what I had to do but just thinking about the enormity of the task of rewriting and rearranging hundreds upon hundreds of ads and links and lines of HTML was overwhelming. Sure, Transformers 1987 through 1990 would be easy enough to reformat and write tables for because there were only a couple dozen ads each in those sections. But '86 and '84? They had over a hundred ads each that would have to be sorted and rearranged. And 1985? I remember being in the dark and thinking to myself, "I'm really not looking forward to 1985". (In this house such a thought is sacrilegious.) That's when I was inspired by a voice from beyond, or at least from the radio next to me. It was Alice Cooper. My 2 year old son and I had been listening to the "Nights with Alice Cooper" radio show as we are known to do at bedtime. While I was sitting there going through my latest roboplastico apocalypse because I couldn't leave a simple comment on someone's podcast, Alice was talking about the dedication it takes being in a band. His words were something like, "You just gotta love what you're doing so much that you don't care how much of a hellish wreck it makes your life". That would be my inspiration as I powered through the hellish wreck my life became over the next week spending all my free time working on the site. Actually my real inspiration was his words and the knowledge that my wife had ordered me a robot tyrannosaurus and it was coming in the mail any day.

Was this one ad with three robots or three robots with one ad? I would have to decide.


So there I was pounding away at the keyboard for at least 3 hours a night for a week, really pushing my sanity and Microsoft Notepad (the program I use to write my HTMLs) to the limits. At my lowest point I hated it so much I couldn't keep going, but I would remember the wisdom imparted upon me by Alice Cooper and I wanted to keep going exactly because I hated it so much. When I went to bed I didn't just have carpal tunnels, I had carpal space bridges. But how could I ever speak with any authority on the revered subject of what Optimus Prime cost at K-Mart 25 years ago if nobody could see the research and make sense of it? More importantly, how could I open and enjoy Masterpiece Grimlock with the guilty conscience that comes from having bad HTMLs and a belly full of Uncle Ben rice? I had to keep going. I felt like if I got through all this I would absolutely deserve my robot tyrannosaurus, but I started to wonder if after all these trials I would even want a robot tyrannosaurus (again, quite a sacrilegious thought here in the Kingdom of Macrocrania).


After seven nights of Notepad busting, carpal tunneling, mind melting, toy robot ad rearranging insanity I made it through. I friggin' reorganized the Transformers 1984, Transformers 1985, Transformers 1986, Transformers 1987, Transformers 1988, Transformers 1989 and Transformers 1990 pages of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace to be more readable and user friendly. And as I looked upon the information finally in its most understandable form I realized that this whole entire quest for the Unified Field Theory of Optimus Prime prices is the biggest, most pointless waste of time I have ever partaken. The truth is that stores back then charged whatever the hell they felt like with no rhyme or reason. Although I have amassed quite a bit of data, unless you live in the towns these ads came from they can't really tell you how much your mom or grandma or whoever bankrolled your toy robots addiction paid for these things. There are fluctuations in price differences from chain to chain and even within the same chain in different cities! Optimus Prime at K-Mart in Denver most likely was cheaper than Optimus Prime at K-Mart in Hockawattamie or wherever you lived. Nothing less than a complete set of all newspaper ads from every city for every day of the year could even begin to hope to answer the question of what Optimus Prime cost in 1984. In the end the only real answer is that it depended. It depended on how much your mom was desperate enough to pay to get you to shut up that day.


I live now with a new burning question that will plague toy robots archaeologists and philosophers-what good is collecting all those ads if I can't give anyone even a ballpark answer to any old Transformers price question? THE ANSWER IS WHO CARES? What deeply rooted truth about humanity or insight into the human soul are we expecting to get from knowing the regular K-Mart price of 25 year old toy robot Volkswagens and their transforming dinosaur cohorts? The only real value is in the "How sick is he, nurse? Well there's this list of 700 toy robots ads prices from libraries across the United States he made complete with descriptions and notes and links to blog posts and all cross referenced against each other but that ultimately mean nothing, doctor" kind of way. Of course I don't think it's totally pointless or I wouldn't be paying 80 bucks a year for webhosting this crap. For me these ads will always be cherished souvenirs for no other reason than they are Transformer mementos from ages ago dug up like fossils in strata from the microfilm archives of the libraries in the cities I've visited. I also come away with a slightly better webpage, plus I made a VSTP t-shirt for my son and after all the work I did rearranging the Transfromer sections I'm proud to make him wear it. NOW NOBODY ASK ME ABOUT VOLTRONS!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

25 Years ago in Transfromers PART 5-DRIVE OF THE MACHINES or:As with the generation it inspired, concieved in the back of a car

The origins of the great fictions are always as fantastic as the stories within them (and by great fictions I mean the stuff with droids and Hobbitses). Lucas wrote Star Wars incorporating mythological symbols and motifs and The Lord of the Rings was born of a writer who had seen the hells of World War II. So as a young pre-teen in 1985 I remember wishing that Transformers too had been born of legends torn from the mind of an angsty English poet. Surely the story of intergalactic war waged between sentient robots took decades for some solitary recluse to write in a cave as he slowly drove himself mad fine tuning the storytelling subtleties and delicate layers of meaning within the subtext of an epic adventure about alien robots that crash into a volcano and turn into Volkswagens.


Playthings Magazine Feb 1984
But in reality I've found that the true creation story of the very core of the Transformers mythos didn't come from the tortured mind of a disturbed genius caveman. Instead there is this excerpt from a book titled "The Real Toy Story" where the writer relates a road trip taken by four guys between Hasbro's Rhode Island headquarters and New York City. (The author doesn't provide and exact date of this historic car ride but my best estimate based on an interview with Hasbro's Senior Vice President of Research and Development George Dunsay would be sometime around June or July of 1983.) The four guys were Hasbro Senior Vice President of Marketing Steve Schwartz, Thomas Griffin who was the president of Griffin-Bacal advertising agency, Paul Kurnit the executive vice president of Griffin-Bacal and Joe Bacal, who I think was the co-chairman and creative director of Griffin-Bacal at the time. I've written before about how Griffin-Bacal was the real creative force behind The Transformers (and also their feelings on the marketing of its predecessor) so it didn't surprise me that these were the guys in the car. It just surprised me that the creation of the Transformers story happened in a car at all. It wasn't the miraculous virgin birth/conception by midichlorians genesis I expected, but it is still fitting that my favorite sci-fi story of robot cars was born in the back of one.


With their jets vs. cars alien space robot fantasy idea in place, Griffin-Bacal would go on to further flesh out the concept alongside Marvel Productions, where comic writer Bob Budiansky and others would come up with names and character profiles and other elements that would complete the background story. Then there came print ads in toy industry trade publications featuring those cars and jets fighting each other in space and eventually other advertising for the line including commercials, comics and the cartoon. Of course there is more, much more to the creation of the Transformers toyline beyond Griffin-Bacal's involvement. What strikes me most about it is how the creation of the franchise and its mythical backstory was such a collaborative effort spread out over the contributions of so many talented individuals. There was no one distinct George Lucas or J.R.R. Tolkien creator type behind the Autobots and Decepticons. THEN MICHAEL BAY COMES ALONG AND CRAPS ALL OVER IT AND OHMYGOD ROBOPLASTIC APOCALYPSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Hello my fellow Macrocranians and welcome to the Roboplastic Apocalypse. If there is one thing I have learned it is that in life and toy robots I may not find salvation but I will find lots of changes. Changes of pace, changes of heart, changes of address, changes from car to helicopter to robot. There's climate change, social change, and the ones that have ruled my life over the last few years-Micro Change and diaper change. Hence there comes a time in an Evil King's reign where he can no longer blog four times a week about 25 year old toy robot Volkswagens and their transforming dinosaur cohorts (although I would really like to). But that doesn't mean I must give up entirely. Maybe once a week is still possible, maybe on Sunday mornings. Welcome to the Roboplastic Apocalypse.


One thing that always bugged me about Please Save Me Robots was how pathetic that title sounded. I always imagined being at Botcon and interviewing some toy robots celebrity and then he asks, "Hey what's the name of your blog?" and I say "Please Save Me Robots" and then the whole room goes silent and everybody in the whole convention from the little kids to the cosplaying Cheetaras looks at me and pees a little in their mouths (or however that saying goes). After buying the PSMR domain and using it here on Bloogler and watermarking a thousand ads with it at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace I felt like I was kind of stuck, but that didn't mean I couldn't change the most fundamentally defining aspect of my online existence-the banner at the top of my blog.


I wanted to change it, but to what? My first idea was "Robotarded Anonymous" but that had a dorky toy robots support group feel to it, and the Thoroughly Informative Transformers Themed Internet Enertainment Sites' message boards already have that angle totally covered. I wanted something more rock and roll-a name and a logo that would look good in a heavy metal shirt kind of way. So I came up with "Robotastic Armageddon" but that sounded like a corny swedish death metal band. What I needed was something with the dorkiness of a toy robots support group but the rock and roll of a corny swedish death metal band. And that's where we are now. Welcome to my new old blog, updated less frequently and changed most radically. Welcome to the Roboplastic Apocalypse.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Minibox 3 Column Blogger Template by James William at 2600 Degrees

Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.