- Brief Looks at Recent Thrift Store Acquisitions -
By Mark Patraw
Published on 4/18/15
It's been a little over two months since the last time I published a volume of Toy Talk, so, I figured I'd better get one up. I've actually been working on this page for quite a while, but I've just been lazy about finishing it. In the future, I'm going to attempt to reduce the amount of text/photos I use here, as I have a tendency to go overboard (these pages were originally intended to be brief reviews after all). Shortening things up also makes it more likely that I'll get future volumes out more frequently, although I'm certainly not going to make any promises on that front.
I found an original, die-cast GoBots Pathfinder, for a mere twenty-five cents, the other week, and was super-excited (it's been 2-3 years since the last time I ran across one of those 30-year-old Tonka GoBots figures) until I noticed that the vacuum-metallized silver bottom on one of her feet was missing. While I can usually make peace with the absence of accessories, I'm a lot more picky when it comes to missing body parts, so, after a lengthy internal debate, I reluctantly put her back in the toy bin (and, trust me, I thoroughly searched the bottom of that container in the vain hope of finding her foot bottom, but, of course, it wasn't there). They also had a Transformers: Bot Shots green tank (presumably Brawl), for fifty cents, that I wanted, but his entire right foot was snapped off, plus his automatic-transformation spring mechanism was broken, so he had to stay behind too. It's frustrating and disheartening to find stuff that you'd like to purchase only to discover that said items are broken/incomplete on closer inspection. As far as shape-changing robots go, that just wasn't my lucky day.
As always, if anyone reading this knows more information about any of these items, that I haven't already discussed below, and would like to share, or just chat about toys, feel free to e-mail me and let me know!
Toy line: Batman: The Animated Series.
Manufacturer: McDonalds for DC (1993).
What I paid: [Joker & Riddler] Fifty cents "DC Heros [sic] & Villains" grab bag on 6/9/14 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store. [Poison Ivy] Twenty-five cents on 2/10/15 at the same establishment.
Size: [Joker] 9.1 cm (3.6") long x 4.0 cm (1.6") wide x 5.1 (2.0") tall.
[Poison Ivy] 8.6 cm (3.4") long x 4.5 cm (1.8") wide x 5.1 (2.0") tall.
[Riddler] 4.9 cm (1.9") wide x 9.5 (3.7") tall.
Articulation: [Joker] Wheels, seat, and battering ram.
[Poison Ivy] Wheels and plant jaws.
[Riddler] Neck, shoulders, and waist.
Notable features: [Joker] Spring-loaded battering ram.
[Poison Ivy] Chomping venus fly trap jaws.
Here we have three of the villains from McDonald's 1993 Batman: The Animated Series promotion, which tied into the Warner Bros. animated cartoon series of the same name. I used to watch that show all the time, and I've always been a fan of the Caped Crusader, as such, these are right up my alley. I like that McDonald's divided up the eight toys in this assortment into two different categories, four action figures (Batman, Catwoman, Batgirl, and Riddler) and four figure/vehicle combos (Two-face, Poison Ivy, Robin, and Joker), rather than doing them all the same way. Sure, it may irk some collectors that they don't match and they're out of scale with one another, but I prefer variety in this case.
I'm going to do these alphabetically, so, that means we'll start off with the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill in the cartoon). Indisputably Batman's most recognizable and infamous adversary, there was simply no chance that Mr. J wouldn't be included in this Happy Meal collection. He's sculpted behind the wheel of his purple Jokermobile, grinning maniacally, and, naturally, there's a surprise "gag" incorporated into his ride. Push the yellow seat downwards and the Joker's giant, leering likeness, mounted on the front of the car, will instantly spring forward, like a battering ram, to pulverize Batman or anyone else foolish enough to be standing in his way. Even though it's supposed to be cartoon-like, I feel that the car, sans giant head, is too plain and could have used a bit more detail (I do appreciate the crowned "J" on the trunk though), but the Joker, both the man and the ram, look good. My sample has some paint wear and the screws are rusty (it must have gotten left out in the rain/snow or been a bathtub toy at some point), but, considering its age, this toy is in fairly good shape, and the action feature still works flawlessly.
Next, let's take a look at the femme fatale, Poison Ivy (voiced by Diane Pershing). This toy is, by far, my favorite out of the entire set (it doesn't hurt that Ms. Ivy is a smoking-hot redhead either). I really like the organic design of her car (it reminds me of the Wheeled Warriors Monster Minds) and the bright coloration is appropriate for the cartoon source material. Rolling the vehicle across any flat surface causes the pink venus fly trap jaws to repeatedly open-and-close, "chomping" anything in Poison Ivy's path. It's a cool effect and consistent with the type of behavior you'd expect from this plant-obsessed woman. However, the maw does look more like a clam than a venus fly trap to me, and, given its color and Poison Ivy's gender, that makes me wonder if maybe someone on the design team was trying to sneak in a subtle reference to a particular part of the female anatomy.
I found another copy of this toy, a couple of weeks after I bought this one, in the same store, and, while I was tempted, I reasoned that one was enough, so I left her for someone else to buy. It did make me think though: What are the odds are of seeing two samples of a toy, that's over twenty years old, in such a short span of time?
Finally, we have the Riddler (voiced by John Glover). I never cared much for this character. His gimmick, committing crimes, and leaving clues around Gotham City for Batman to solve, just isn't very exciting, and it's hard to take him seriously as a bonafide threat to anyone. That said, this is a nice rendition of the puzzler; he's looking pretty dandy in his slick green jacket and bowler hat. I think McDonald's should have put a cane, gun, sack of money, or something, in his left hand, because the way that arm is sculpted/positioned, it looks like he should be holding something. The Riddler's articulation is relatively limited, and his shoulders joints are cut at an angle, rather than straight, which I seldom like, but at least you can vary his pose a bit and he does stand well. Like the Joker, he's got paint wear and a rusty screw--perhaps they both belonged to the same child (I did get them both in the same bag of toys after all)?
Riddle me this: What do the wheeled bat, rose, and clown all have in common?
They all produce car-bon monoxide!
While I wouldn't mind having a complete set of these Batman: The Animated Series fast food toys, I'd rather just have the two villains I'm missing, Two-Face and Catwoman, as the bad guys/gals are almost always my favorites in any fictional franchise (I'm not a big fan or Robin or Batgirl, and, like many collectors, if anything, I have too many Batmen). There have been a lot of DC fast food promotions over they years and I feel that this was one of the better, if not the best, ones.
Toy line: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Manufacturer: DecoPac for Viacom (2013).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 2/6/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 11.4 cm (4.5") base diameter x 5.7 cm (2.2") tall.
Notable features: None.
In addition to the Godzilla one I wrote about last time, I also picked up this cool Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cake topper that same day. The four brothers (left-to-right, Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo) peering out from under a manhole lid is one of the most iconic looks for the foursome, so that was a great design choice on DecoPac's part.
The quartet look fine from the front, but they're not fully sculpted, so, from the sides and angles, you can see that they're hollow and "incomplete" (i.e., the turtles don't have shells, bandana ties, etc.) The manhole lid does do a pretty good job of concealing this though. Otherwise, the sculpts are an accurate representation of how the four brothers look on Nickelodeon's current computer-animated television show.
The paint work on this item is pretty good. DecoPac could have taken the easy way out and made all four brothers the same shade of green, but they actually went to the trouble of doing them in their individual skin colors which I appreciate (the plastic is molded in Donatello's olive hue, so, technically, only his three sibling's bodies are painted, not his). They even remembered Michelangelo's freckles! The sewer lid decal, which sports the TMNT's logo, is also nice and sharp.
While it was originally intended as a cake decoration, this piece would make a great addition to any TMNT fan's collection of memorabilia. Speaking of which, I know that the dessert that the four brothers adorned had green frosting because I ended up picking a bunch of that dried sugary substance out of the recessed rim of the circular base, with a toothpick, when I got home with my purchase and cleaned it.
Toy line: Don't Wake the Dragon!
Manufacturer: Parker Brothers (1986).
What I paid: Fifty cents on 4/14/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: [Game Board] 27.4 cm (10.8") wide/long x 8.3 cm (3.3") tall.
Articulation: Dragon jaws, "waker" button, and shaking icebergs.
Notable features: Motorized shaking game board.
Gather 'round friends, and hear the tale of four brave penguins who journeyed across the harsh Antarctic landscape on a quest to recover their stolen eggs from the dreaded purple dragon, Big Snore, with only their top hats to help them! I believe that I can vaguely recall seeing the television commercial for this Don't Wake the Dragon! toy as a child, but, while we had a lot of different board games, neither my siblings nor I ever had this particular one. Once I spotted this thing up on the shelf in the thrift store, and cracked open the box to confirm that it was still functional and that all of the playing pieces were present, I had to have it!
The gameplay of Don't Wake the Dragon! (which is labeled for ages 5 and up) is pretty straight-forward. All you have to do is go around the board once, acquire an egg along the way, which must be carried precariously on the top of your hat, and safely return it to your nest again. Of course, as the title of the game implies, you have to beware of the giant snoozing lizard. Any time that one of the penguins lands on a "roaring dragon space", the player who controls said behatted bird must press the purple "dragon waker" button, which results in the yawning of the beast and the shaking of one, or more, of the white iceberg structures, potentially sending penguins, their precious eggs, or both, tumbling down to the ground. Naturally, if you lose your egg, you've got to get another one all over again, but, as the board is littered with "egg spaces", that's easy enough to do, which prevents too much frustration.
My cardboard box is pretty trashed (especially the lid), but the game itself is in excellent, working condition, and all of the pieces, even the paper instructions, are present and accounted for. Not only that, but I've even got an extra, sixth egg (the list of contents indicates that there should be five). That's pretty impressive for a game that's almost thirty-years-old! I also like that the board shaking feature is mechanical in nature (probably spring-powered), not electrical, so you don't need any batteries to play.
My sample also inexplicably came with a couple of "bonus" accessories: a blue doll shoe and a puzzle piece that looks like it's got part of the Coca-Cola logo on it. What on earth is anyone going to do with just one shoe or piece of a puzzle? That's classic thrift store madness! If anybody reading this recognizes what toy that footwear belongs to (it looks elvish to me), kindly send an e-mail and educate me, because I'd really like to know.
Don't Wake the Dragon! is a fairly simple and short game that relies largely on its shaking board gimmick for the fun, but I love it. Younger children would probably get a bigger kick out of this than older ones, but I think anybody can enjoy it with the right mindset. If penguins in top hats aren't hardcore enough for you, replace them with Dungeons & Dragons hero/heroine miniatures and pretend you're stealing eggs from Smaug or something.
Toy line: Barbie (adaptations of the direct-to-video The Princess and the Pauper, Swan Lake, Rapunzel, and The Nutcracker films).
Manufacturer: Reader's Digest for Mattel (2010).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 3/10/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: [Book] 24.2 cm (9.5") wide x 29.8 cm (11.7") tall.
[Projector] 7.5 cm (3.0") wide x 11.0 cm (4.3") long x 4.0 cm (1.6") tall.
[Reels] 3.2 cm (1.3") diameter x 0.5 cm (0.2") thick.
Articulation: [Projector] On/off switch, focusing ring, and reels spin in slot.
Notable features: Light-up movie projector with interchangeable reels.
What's better than a book or a toy? How about something that's both! This 2010 Reader's Digest Barbie Movie Theater (ISBN 978-0-7944-1974-5) storybook focuses on adaptations (written by Merry North) of four of Mattel's direct-to-video computer-animated Barbie films: Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001), Barbie as Rapunzel (2002), Barbie of Swan Lake (2003), and Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper (2004). That'd be all well-and-good, but Reader's Digest went the extra mile and also included a working mini movie projector, with tiny, interchangeable film reels depicting various still shots from said movies.
Those two holes were originally used to secure the projector to the book, probably to deter shoplifters.
They're unattractive, but, a necessary evil, as nobody would want to buy the book with a missing projector.
So, as you read the stories, or have them read to you, the projector is employed to display additional images, on a nearby wall or other surface, as you go along. That's a pretty neat and innovative idea if you ask me! I also like that the projector and reels can all be stored securely on the book itself, when not in use, so that they don't get lost (the fact that this secondhand sample still has all of its components is a testament to how effective that design decision was!)
Please don't be a complete idiot like me and mistake the movie projector for a Viewmaster and look into the lens while the light is on. The instructions, which I didn't bother reading until hours after I had already stared into the projector's glaring bulb multiple times, specifically warn you NOT to do that! I really don't know what my problem is: the photo on the back of the book clearly depicts the two girls using the device to project images onto the wall, not looking into it, and yet, I ignored that completely, immediately, and erroneously, assuming the projector was a Viewmaster and using it accordingly. I'm lucky I didn't damage my eyes.
This is how you're supposed to utilize the projector, don't be a fool like me and stare into it!
Alas, as is often the case, the real world effect doesn't look nearly as nice as the photoshopped promotional image. The projected stills don't display that great unless the room is fairly dark. The focusing ring does function pretty well though, rotating it allows you to sharpen the image as needed, depending on how far away you're holding the projector from whatever surface you're shining the image upon (the greater the distance, the larger the image becomes). Here's a shot of how things look in actual use, in a nearly completely darkened room (as it was a sunny morning when I took these photos, I closed the curtains and put a blanket over the window to boot). The tiny picture on the left is the projected image (four fairy girls from image #2 on the Swan Lake reel), while my hand, holding the illuminated projector, is on the right. I apologize that the quality is pretty bad, but my digital camera doesn't take photos in low-light conditions very well when the flash is turned off.
The projector itself feels solid and well-made. I wouldn't drop it on the floor or bounce it off of a wall, but, with normal handling, it should be fine. As there are only three moving parts to worry about (the on/off switch, rotating the reel to change pictures, and adjusting the focusing ring to sharpen them), both children and adults should be able to operate it successfully with little, if any, trouble. Of course, because this is a Barbie product, they had to make it pink, but at least its a deeper, richer shade of that hue.
The projector runs on two AA batteries, which can be accessed, with a screwdriver, from the panel on the bottom of the device. If it ever burns out, the E10 2.3v 0.27A bulb can also be removed and replaced from that same access port.
So, wonderful, the book comes with a fancy-schmancy movie projector, but how are the actual stories? Only so-so, I'm afraid. That's more a knock against the original screenwriters, not Ms. North, as these are adaptations, so she had to adhere closely to the films' contents. The stories aren't terrible or anything, I just prefer the "classic" renditions over these "Barbie-fied" versions (although it's certainly commendable to replace the usual male protagonists of The Prince and the Pauper with females, which gives that particular legend a new feel). The printed movie images are high quality and the pages of each tale are color-coded to match the reels, which was a nice design choice.
The Princess and the Pauper gets top billing in this collection, as Anneliese and Erika are featured prominently on the book's cover and that film gets two reels of movie stills, compared to one reel each for the other three movies. I'd venture that's because The Princess and the Pauper was the most recent (2004) of the four included Barbie features at the time that this book was published.
Brand-new, this hardcover children's book was relatively expensive, at the suggested retail cost of $20, but, given that it does include the movie projector and reel accessories, which I would guess account for at least a third of the asking price, that isn't too bad (not that I'd have ever paid full retail for it, mind you, but that does seem fairly reasonable to me, compared to what many books go for these days).
Because I love cats, here's a close-up of Wolfie and Serafina, the respective feline companions of Erika and Anneliese, from The Princess and the Pauper.
While I like and collect Barbie dolls, I wouldn't have purchased this book (even for twenty-five cents!) if it hadn't also included the toy projector and reels, so, Reader's Digest and Mattel's marketing ploy worked on me. I imagine that playing around with the projector might entice children to read when they otherwise wouldn't, so, that's a plus in its favor too. That said, I think a more traditional collection of fairy tales would be a better investment, as it'd offer a wider selection of stories than this one, but, if you've got a young girl that likes both reading (or being read to) and Barbie, and you also feel that she'd enjoy the projector (and what kid wouldn't?), I don't see how you could go wrong.
The manufacturer/printer recommends this item for children 24 months and older.
Toy line: Imaginext (Monsters University assortment).
Manufacturer: Mattel, under their Fisher-Price label, for Disney/Pixar (2013).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 3/27/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: [Excluding vacuum gun] 6.1 cm (2.4") wide x 7.7 cm (3.0") tall.
Articulation: Shoulders (all four) and hips (the legs move as a unit, not individually).
Notable features: None.
This is a CDA (Child Detection Agency) Agent. In Disney/Pixar's Monsters, Inc. and (its' more recent prequel) Monsters University films, most of the creatures are incredibly paranoid about bringing back any kind of germs or contaminants from the children that they routinely scare in the human world, thus, the CDA is the organization that ensures their "protection" from said "threat" (kids are always sick, and none too sanitary, so I can hardly blame them).
The CDA Agent is a figure that would appeal to me even if it wasn't associated with a popular movie license. Four-armed characters are fairly rare in toy form, and hazmat suits always look cool/sinister, so the design pushes all the right buttons in my book. Mattel's Imaginext toys are designed and intended for younger children, which is why they're fairly smooth and simplistic in form, but many adult collectors, like myself, enjoy them too.
The vacuum "gun", backpack canisters, and the accompanying hoses, are all permanently attached to the figure, so you never have to worry about losing them, and the "weapon" can be held in any of the four hands. I only have the figure, but, originally, this toy would have come packaged with the CDA Van. Said vehicle featured opening/closing bumper "jaws" and room for figures in both the front seat and the back of the van. Given the opportunity, I don't know if I'd purchase the vehicle or not, as it doesn't look too exciting to me in Mattel's stock photos, but, if I found one in good shape, and the price was right, I might.
Left-to-right: CDA Agent, Yeti, Celia Mae, James P. "Sulley" Sullivan, and Henry J. Waternoose.
Disney/Pixar's Monsters, Inc./University franchise doesn't appeal to me all that much (while I often see toys of them at thrift stores, especially Mike and Sulley, I seldom purchase any), but, some of the characters, like this anonymous CDA trooper, are pretty neat, and I like Imaginext stuff and creatures in general, so, it's possible that I might acquire more of them in the future.
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