Time Warp Toy Box: Week 4
Welcome back to our final installment of Time Warp Toy Box for this Christmas and the last Retrorama of 2007. Hopefully, Santa brought you everything you wanted this year, but if he didn’t, we have some last-minute suggestions from Christmas past.
I would be remiss if I let this month slip by without mentioning a very special anniversary. 40 years ago this month, in December 1967, the song Snoopy’s Christmas was released. This was the second follow-up to Snoopy vs. the Red Baron and would prove not only to be the biggest hit of The Royal Guardsmen’s career but also one of the most popular non-traditional Christmas songs of all time. December 2007 was also the third anniversary of my now annual get together with some of the finest musicians Ocala, Florida has to offer. This year it was just Chris Nunley (and wife Karen) and Bill Balogh who joined me (and my wife Cindy) for lunch at Abio’s restaurant (Billy Taylor was busy at an out of town concert) but we still had a great time. Here’s wishing those Christmas bells 40 more years of ringing peace to all the world and good will to man!
In the mid-1970’s, the Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman television shows were on the top of the rating charts and merchandising was rampant. One of the most popular tie-ins was the Kenner action figure line with the beefy 13-inch Steve Austin figure in his sporty red jumpsuit. The advertisement shown here features the basic action figure (the car engine block that was included for lifting with his “bionic” arm is not shown) and the Porta-Communicator that amounted to a strap-on speaker kids could make their voices come out of. Most interesting though is the bionic video center which has absolutely nothing to do with the show but represents a clever recycling of another trendy toy line, the Kenner movie viewer. These viewers used rectangular cassettes filled with 8mm film and a hand crank kids wound to watch the film at whatever speed they desired. By adding a small screen and a chair for your action figure, Steve Austin could watch the opening credits of his show until the bionic gears wore down!
Speaking of viewers, here is one small taste of the vast GAF View-Master line. View-Master was the hands down leader in the field of children’s projectors with literally hundreds of different circular slide sets available on any subject imaginable. The “Good Guys” set on the left is one of my all time favorites because it came with reels of all the major DC superhero characters including the recently acquired Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Shazam). The Batman reels in this set were from the television series, but all the others were animated. About a year later, View-Master would even the playing field with a similar Marvel set including Spider-Man, The Hulk, and even Doctor Strange! On the right is the holy grail of View-Master products, the talking projector. These talking sets had a clear plastic record on the back of the slides that played a short audio clip as each scene changed. At “just” $26.99 for the projector (reels not included), no kid in my neighborhood had one of these. Note that the replacement bulbs alone are half the price of the superhero set that includes a basic viewer and eight reels!
Fisher-Price had a long-lived line of “Little People” sets that featured rounded wooden figures that could be placed into different slots in the playsets and vehicles. I vividly remember seeing this one for Sesame Street on the back cover of one of the Christmas catalogs from the 70’s at a time when I was already too old for these toys. I always thought it was hilarious that they made Gordon drive the garbage truck and Cookie Monster looks like a traffic cone with eyes (nice detailing, F-P). Later, Bert and Ernie figures were added, but the “Urban Renewal” and “Street Gang Wars” playsets I was always hoping for never materialized!
We end this year’s Christmas shopping on an uneasy note with the Barbie Studio 54 playset! Actually, this was a knock-off “radio discotèque” that featured a built-in microphone so kids could be the deejay of their very own chic nightclub. The female doll in the picture is clearly Barbie but the disturbing-looking male doll is an unknown figure I would love to have! He looks like a leisure-suited Sonny Bono doll gone bad and he’s about to lead this poor small town Barbie down the wrong path! Pimp hat and cocaine not included!
This wraps up Time Warp Toy Box! For Christmas 2007! See you next week for a special New Year’s Retrorama!