Thursday, December 17, 2009

Toy of the week, Monday, December 14, 2009

Last week I featured a toy from Galoob that flew under the controversy radar and highlighted some of the most shocking moments from the classic sci-fi/horror film Alien.  Toy history has had countless scenarios of recalls based on safety issues ranging from a baby doll that could "eat" but wound up eating a little girls hair-- nearly scalping her in the process, to an infamous Cylon Raider toy which fired tiny plastic missiles and nearly blinded a young boy, or even the lead-based paint controversy of recent years.  It's much "easier" for a toy to find itself immersed in controversy based on safety concerns.  Much more rare are the examples of toys that made headlines because they embody questionable subject matter.  Generally toys like this need to be targeted buy an individual or organization that carries enough weight to get the public to vote with their wallets.  In the case of the Freddy Krueger doll that I mentioned last week, a Christian advocacy group known as the National Federation for decency had parents boycotting toy stores which ultimately lead to the toys discontinuation in a surprising one week time span.

In the mid 90's toy maker Galoob boldly flew in the face of previous controversies and produced a handful of toys based on the 1979 sci-fi horror film Alien  This week I continue featuring these toys with a really nice model of the space craft Narcissus.  In the movie a commercial space towing vessel called the Nostromo landed on a remote planet after receiving a radio transmission.  Their efforts to investigate the transmission ultimately results in nearly the entire crew of the Nostromo being exterminated by a hostile parasitic alien organism.   Sigourney Weaver's character Ripley is the sole survivor-- but not before engaging in a final showdown with the alien in the Nostromo's escape craft-- a small vessel named the Narcissus.

I have to hand it to the toy designers at Galoob.  This toy thoughtfully recreates the classic final showdown between Ripley and the alien down to some very small details.  For example Ripley's cat "Jones" is finely rendered in a small carrier inside the detailed interior of this toy.  Jones the cat was the only other survivor of the alien attack and went on to be featured in the sequel.

There are many other details to enjoy so please investigate the Alien Action Fleet Narcissus in the Vehicles Gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities.

Full steam ahead...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Toy of the week, Monday, December 7, 2009

Throughout the history of toys there have only been a few that have been pulled off the toy store shelves because they represented something so scary and violent that parental advocacy groups rallied to have them removed.  Two examples are legendary: 20 years ago the wholesome and beloved toy company Matchbox released a doll of horror movie staple Freddy Krueger.  Strangely,  a toy of a gruesomely disfigured serial child killer attracted the attention of a Christian advocacy group that dubbed themselves The National Federation for Decency.  This group previously focused their efforts on such "dangerous" targets as TV's Three's Company and Charlie's Angels.  Long story short, the group was successful and the toy was ultimately removed from shelves in less than one week.  This of course instantly launched the toy into collectible toy history.  

Lets step back even further to 1979.  Ridley Scott had just released the classic Sci Fi horror film Alien.  Based on the success of Star Wars, toy company Kenner began development of a line of Alien toys that would include a large 12" doll of the creature and a full line of 3 3/4" figures.  The 12" doll was the first toy to make it to the shelves.  Stories are mixed on this example but many people say that kids were "afraid" of the Alien doll and in fairly short order the line was scrapped including the unreleased smaller figures.  The Alien doll may be one of the most sought after collectibles in toy history and boxed examples have been known fetch $500.

Some times it is not the toys that spark controversy that are noteworthy-- instead it is the ones that manage to fly under the radar.  Fifteen years later toy company Galoob had acquired the rights to the Alien line and released in limited numbers some really amazing toys and playsets in their Micro Machines and Action Fleet lines.  I already featured the APC vehicle as seen in the movie Aliens.  For the next two weeks I am going to feature two toys from Galoob that capture the horror of Ridley Scott's classic  film Alien in surprising detail.

The first example appears to be simply a statue of the alien's ghoulish head-- however when you open this toy up it reveals an entire playset that recreates some of the films most intense and frightening moments.  Amazingly the most shocking and bloody scene in Alien is depicted in this toy.  I am talking about the scene where the character Kane begins convulsing at the dinner table, and the larval stage of the alien suddenly erupts from his chest cavity leaving him dead and his ship mates splattered in blood.  How Galoob managed to release a toy that highlights this scene is a mystery to me.  It is even an "action feature".  By rotating a small knob on the back of the toy the chest burster spins and Kane's body moves around on the table.  Pretty cool.

There are far too many details, and other action features on this toy to mention here, so I suggest you step into the Dioramas Gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities and explore the Micro Machines Alien Transforming Playset.  Just remember, in space, no one can hear you scream...

Related Posts:
Alien Kubrick Space Jocky

Full steam ahead...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Toy of the week, Monday, November 30, 2009

This week is all about filling in and catching up.  Honestly the toy of the week almost fell off my radar-- but fear not!  I am committed to this experiment in cataloging my absurdly large toy collection and I am here with another toy.  But first I must get a little business out of the way.  Last week I launched a new exhibition at Coyote Point Museum.  The new exhibition, Tinkering, highlights the importance and beauty of mechanics, invention, and creative problem solving.  I will add another post with a few pictures of the exhibition but for now you can take a look at this article in The Mercury News about Tinkering or you can visit the CPM website for more information.

Last week I also visited Minnesota.  Of course the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities was founded there and many wonderful pieces are still there waiting to be brought to California.  I undertook a major sorting effort to weed out the riff raff.  In fact I have so many toys that I need to do a serious purging and this weekend I will be attempting to sell some 200 action figures, in original packages, that used to live in my parents attic!

By getting rid of all these toys it only allows me to increase my bandwidth to care for, and display, the real treasures of my collection which is what this blog is all about.  This blog is also about being thorough and accurate and in the interest of that I am taking today to fill out the vintage Stomper 4x4 collection in the vehicles gallery.  Because I have always been a fan of crawler based vehicles, and because the crawler Stomper vehicles tend to be more rare I am offering up two vintage Stomper construction vehicles from the mid 80's.  So take a look at these Stomper Construction Vehicles and educate yourself about the history of Stompers.

Full steam ahead...