Although I’m a seasoned adult, I still love toys. No trip to a retail store is complete without a stroll through its toy department.
I also look back on some of the toys of my childhood with great fondness. Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Blackstar, Voltron and Transformers were among my favorite major lines, and smaller lines, such as Mego’s The Dukes of Hazzard and Kenner’s Knight Rider were also favorites.
Still, even to this day, there are items from favorite television series and feature films that I wish would have been made as toys — but weren’t.
In another post (link) I lamented that Panosh Place’s planned 1986 wave of Voltron toys never materialized. How cool would it have been to have multiple, Voltron-sized robeasts, action figures of some of the Vehicle Team Voltron characters — and a Castle of Doom playset?
Here are some other toys that I wish would have been made in the 1980s (or late 1970s):
- Neighborhood of Make-Believe playset from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Mr. Rogers stressed that “it’s not your toys — they’re just beside you,” but I would love to have had a playset of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe beside me when I was a younger kid. In the TV show, Mr. Rogers had custom-made miniatures of various locales of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe — the castle, the rocking chair factory, X’s tree, the Museum-Go-Round, Daniel’s clock, the Eiffel Tower and more — but nothing on retail shelves filled a similar role for Rogers’ television friends. In 1977 Ideal Toy Corporation had planned to release a playset of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, but for whatever reason, it never happened.
- Castle Doom playset from Voltron: Defender of the Universe: As I already mentioned, Panosh Place planned to release a Castle of Doom playset in 1986… but while I would love to own the prototype of the playset, assuming it even still exists… it leaves something to be desired. The Castle of Lions playset, released by Panosh Place in 1985, is one of my favorite playsets from the era of my childhood. One reason is that its exterior actually resembles its counterpart from the animated cartoon. The same can’t be said of Panosh Place’s planned Castle of Doom. Although no photos of the folded-up Castle of Doom playset are known to exist, it couldn’t possibly have looked like what was depicted in the TV series. I would like to have seen not only “just” a Castle Doom playset, but one that was as awesome as the Castle of Lions playset — with an exterior that looked like what was shown on TV, and an interior chock full of play features.
- Imperial Star Destroyer vehicle/playset from the original Star Wars trilogy: Kenner’s amazing and enormous Star Wars toy line included a Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer playset for its 3-3/4″ action figures, but… well… it sucked. I didn’t own one when I was a kid, and I never wanted one. As I drooled over photos of toys in the pack-in catalogs and holiday season store mail-order catalogs, this one never piqued my interest. I finally purchased a playset when I was in my twenties, and it still didn’t impress me. It looked nothing like the ship in the movie, and while its interior was arguably a creative amalgamation of interior features of the ship from the film, nothing about the playset screamed “awesome.” A couple years ago, I purchased a 1983 Ocean Queen Cruise Ship playset from Kenner’s Glamour Gals line, and it made me wonder what Kenner could have done with a Star Destroyer had they thought bigger and more boldly when it came to the Star Destroyer. With a Star Destroyer playset measuring, say, 36″ in length, there would be room for a proper command deck, Vader’s meditation chamber, a jail cell, weapon turrets, Probot storage, a miniaturized version of a TIE Fighter… and perhaps even “stilts” that would allow the Star Destroyer to straddle a never-made toy of the Tantive IV — the Rebel Blockade Runner that is overtaken by a Star Destroyer in the opening scenes of the original Star Wars.
- USS Enterprise vehicle/playset from Star Trek: In the 1970s toy company Mego produced a sizeable line of Star Trek action figures and toys, most of which were related to its 8″ line of action figures. One of these was a playset of the USS Enterprise from the 1960s Star Trek television series. The playset was basically a decorated box that opened into a conglomeration of features of the Enterprise’s bridge and transporter room. Make no mistake: the playset was really cool — especially for 8″ action figures — but as a 3-3/4″ action figure junkie, I wish there had been a more ambitious vehicle/playset for 3-3/4″ action figures. Mego made a line of 3-3/4″ action figures based on the 1979 feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and accompanying them was a playset of the Enterprise bridge from that film — but it was only the bridge, and it was cheaply made from vacuum-formed plastic. ERTL produced a small set of 3-3/4″ action figures for the 1984 film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock… but they made no playsets. Galoob produced 3-3/4″ action figures based on the 1987-1994 television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and while the company had plans to produce what would have been a superb playset of that show’s USS Enterprise, the toy never materialized on retail shelves, and even if it had… there wasn’t much more to the playset interior beyond the bridge. Recently I’ve begun to imagine what a large playset of the Enterprise from the first three Star Trek feature films might have been like. I will likely develop the idea, perhaps even to the point of constructing a foam core mock-up. We’ll see. Funko’s recent 3/3-4″ ReAction figures based on the 1960s Star Trek TV series have made me want a similarly sized Enterprise vehicle/playset from that show, too.
- Vehicle Team Voltron and action figures from the Vehicle Team episdoes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe: Panosh Place’s entire 1985 wave of 3-3/4″ Voltron action figures and related toys featured elements from only the more popular Lion Force episodes of the animated cartoon. Although the Vehicle Team episodes, robot and characters were far less popular than the Lion Force ones… a transformable toy of the robot, with vehicles that could carry 3-3/4″ action figures of the pilots would have been awesome(tron). I’m actually making my own custom Vehicle Team Voltron toy, which will be compatible with custom action figures made for me on commission by the talented pock63.
- Cloud City playset from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: My friends at RetroBlasting recently commented on the lack of a decent Bespin/Cloud City playset for Kenner’s 3-3/4″ action figures. I wanted one, too! Kenner did make three combinable Bespin playsets for its poorly received and short-lived Micro Collection line. These playsets were cool — too cool to be made only for the tiny, non-poseable figures from that line. Gentle Giant, if you’re reading this, please take a breather from making super-sized versions of the old 3-3/4″ action figures, and super-size all of the Micro Collection playsets so that they’re compatible with the old 3-3/4″ action figures!
- “Ultimate” Death Star playset from Star Wars and Return of the Jedi: Perhaps my all-time favorite action figure playset is Kenner’s Death Star Space Station. It’s the stuff of legend — four stories of play feature-packed greatness. In many other countries, Palitoy released a mostly cardboard, yet amazing and downright beautiful Death Star playset — a two-story dome 60 centimeters in diameter. Hasbro made two small Death Star playets in the 1990s, and Kenner produced two combinable Death Star playsets for its Micro Collection. As cool as each of these playsets is in its own way, in 2008 they were all obliterated in awesomeness, as if by the Death Star’s own superlaser, by LEGO’s Death Star. Although technically a building set and scaled for LEGO mini-figures, the playset has pretty much every feature imaginable in a Death Star playset that isn’t the size of a small moon. Somewhat resembling two Pailtoy Death Stars arranged into a sphere, LEGO’s offering is three levels of greatness. I wish the designers of this playset could have time-traveled back to 1982 and convinced Kenner to have produced something at least this awesome for its 3-3/4″ action figures as a tie-in for Return of the Jedi.
- Blade Runner action figures and Spinner: Ridley Scott’s 1982 box-office bomb, Blade Runner, was rated R by the MPAA, but it is my favorite movie, so I want toys! 3-3/4″ action figures of Deckard, Rachael, Roy, Leon, Pris, Zhora, Sebastian and Gaff — and Gaff’s Spinner — would have been more cool than cool.
- Voyagers action figures: Voyagers, first broadcast in 1982, was a one-season wonder: a family-friendly educational and entertaining television series about Phineas Bogg and sidekick Jeffrey Jones’ travels through time to help history along. I want 3-3/4″ action figures of Bogg and Jones.
- The Last Starfighter action figures and vehicles: The Last Starfighter — a 1984 feature film about a teenaged boy who dreams of bigger things… and, thanks to his video game-playing skills, embarks on an interstellar adventure of a lifetime — is another of my favorite films. Galoob planned to release action figures based on the film, but they were never produced. A line of action figures, plus a Gunstar and Centauri’s car, would have been cooler than a Death Blossom.
- AirWolf action figures and helicopter: The 1980s TV series AirWolf featured pilot Stringfellow Hawke and aircraft pilot and mechanic Dominic Santini who took part in covert operations in their super-helicopter, AirWolf, on behalf of a mysterious organization called The Firm. I’m sure that this blog is beginning to read like a broken record, but 3-3/4″ action figures of Hawke and Santini, and a figure-compatible AirWolf helicopter, with deployable wing and underside weapons, and perhaps a lever-activated rotor, like the G.I. Joe Dragonfly had, would have been cool.
- Knight Rider transforming KITT car and action figure: Kenner sold the Knight 2000 Voice Car, a now-iconic talking KITT car with Michael Knight driver. The toy and the television series are among my childhood favorites. Still, Knight Rider aired between 1982 and 1986, overlapping Kenner’s 1985-1988 MASK toy line, which featured smaller-scale street vehicles that could transform into battle machines. In an arguably jump-the-shark move, in Knight Rider‘s final season, KITT gained “Super Pursuit Mode” — the ability to drive even faster with the help of all-new pop-out components. A KITT toy with this capability — and, by the way, also with a Michael Knight action figure — would have been neat, whether at MASK scale, 3-3/4″ scale or the larger scale of the Voice Car.
- Plan 9 From Outer Space action figures: Edward D. Wood, Jr.’s most well known film, unjustifiably considered by some the worst movie ever made, the 1959 film Plan 9 From Outer Space deserved a line of 8″ Mego-style action figures. Even though Mego’s 8″ action figures were made in the 1970s, long after the film’s completion and years before it resurfaced and became a cult classic, the Mego design aesthetic seems most apropos for action figures based on this film. Perhaps the “Old Man” could have swappable heads — one of Bela Lugosi, and one of Tom Mason.
What toys do you wish had been made in the 1980s?