Toy Talk
- Brief Looks at Recent Thrift Store Acquisitions -

Volume LVIII

By Mark Patraw
Published on 5/18/15

I fear that the hard drive on my relatively ancient personal computer might finally be failing, so, when, and if, it does go kaput, it will obviously become more difficult for me to make/add new content for my web site (like more volumes of Toy Talk), although not impossible, as I can still utilize the public computers at the local libraries to do so.

Around Mother's Day, I was dismayed to find that my Windows 2000 Professional operating system wouldn't boot up properly when I turned the machine on, citing a "SYSTEMced missing or corrupted" error, which, after doing some investigating online, turned out to be a problem with the System Hive in the registry getting lost and/or damaged. It was a frustrating process, and involved downloading and making a quartet of special Windows 2000 Startup floppy disks (my secondhand computer didn't come with the original Windows 2000 Professional installation CD), in order to access the Recovery Console tool, but, thanks to Microsoft's archived help pages, I eventually learned how to fix things up and got my PC running properly again Thursday (the 14th) evening, but I have no idea how long that's going to last.

I bought my machine, used, back in 2004, and I really can't complain, as it's lasted much longer than most people's computers do and it's seldom given me any problems over the years. I don't have the funds for a new one, so, unless I can find another hard drive or PC for dirt cheap, or free, I'll just have to make do without a computer in the house if this one does croak on me. On the one hand, no PC would be a big inconvenience, but, on the other, it'd be liberating, as the hours I typically spend sitting in front of the monitor and keyboard would have to be spent doing any number of other activities instead.

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: Hot Wheels: Color Shifters Creatures.
Manufacturer: Mattel (2010). The toy has a 1987 date molded on its bottom, but that's simply when the original Rodzilla sculpt was done and Mattel apparently hasn't bothered to retool the mold since then.
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 4/22/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: [Dragon neck facing forward] 7.7 cm (3.0") long x 3.1 cm (1.2") wide x 5.2 cm (2.0") high.
Articulation: Dragon neck and wheels.
Notable features: Temperature-sensitive paint.

I've mentioned in the past that I have little interest in toys of cars, trucks, and similar motorized vehicles. However, if you make one that's also a mechanical monster, in this case a dragon, I'm all over it. This wondrous item is Rodzilla (hotrod + Godzilla, get it?), which is a mighty cool name if you ask me.

The sculpt is killer! The dragon is positioned as though it were lying on its back, with the tail curled up around the front hood, its claws cupping the wheels, and the car's gold-chromed engine poking up out of its stomach (it reminds me of the Dust Dragon boss from the second level of Capcom's Forgotten Worlds video game). I also like that the designer (Larry Wood) gave the serpentine neck a rotating cut joint, so that you can swivel the menacing head a full 360o to face whatever direction you wish (I like to think that it spins around to exhale jets of flame at anyone foolish enough to try to pass it in a race).

When I found Rodzilla in the toy bin at the store, it was lime green, which is more-or-less the default hue for a dragon, so I didn't give that another thought, but, after a long trek home in the relative cold (it was around 40oF), I was surprised to see that the toy had turned brick red! Now, this vehicle was super cool to begin with, but color-changing on top of that? Pure awesome!

The color shifting has three stages. At room temperature, it's green, in colder environments, red, and under hotter conditions, bright yellow. Well, technically, I believe that the paint just becomes transparent at high temperatures, and it's the underlying yellow plastic chassis that's showing through that. Adding to the fun, you can also get multiple hues simultaneously with a little ingenuity and imagination (placing a section of the vehicle in a sunbeam, warming parts of the toy in your hands, etc.) I've had a lot of toys with heat sensitive paint over the years, but this is the first one I've ever seen that featured more than two hues!

Small areas of paint are chipped off in multiple spots on my sample, which is a shame, as the color shifting effect is such an integral part of its appearance, but, other than that, my Rodzilla is in good shape. The neck turns easily (if anything, it's too loose) and the vehicle rolls great across any flat surface with a push.

I really like this thing, in fact, I'd go so far as to say it's the best Hot Wheels toy I've ever seen or owned. I don't know how easy this particular color-changing version is to come by, but Mattel produced the Rodzilla vehicle many times between 1988-2014, so, while the sculpt is always the same, you can get it with a variety of paint jobs, including completely chromed versions. Usually, I only search the toy car bin in the hopes of finding smaller Transformers or GoBots, but, from now on, I'm also going to be keeping my eyes open for more of the Hot Wheels: Color Shifters Creatures line.

Toy line: Justice League (Target Exclusive).
Manufacturer: Mattel for DC (2013).
What I paid: Fifty cents on 4/22/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 5.8 cm (2.3") wide x 12.4 cm (4.9") tall.
Articulation: Neck, shoulders, elbows, waist, and hips.
Notable features: None.

DC's superhuman speedster, The Flash, gained his powers when the laboratory he was working in was suddenly struck by a bolt of lightning during a storm. That electrical shock, coupled with getting bathed in the chemicals that he was experimenting with at the time, imbued him with the ability to move his body at incredible speeds. I believe that this is the New 52 incarnation of The Flash, which means it's probably Barry Allen behind the mask, instead of Wally West (not that I really care either way). As long as it's a guy wearing the signature red suit with yellow lightning bolt embellishments, that's good enough for me.

The figure's body is muscular, but fairly smooth and lacking in details (so that it can be re-used, over-and-over again, for different male superheroes). Flash's expression is mostly neutral but there does seem to be an air of determined resolve to the stare and set of his mouth, which is a good look for a crime fighter to have. The pointed golden ears are soft/rubbery, and that's smart design, as it makes it far less likely that they'll get damaged during play (small, projecting parts on toys that are made out of rigid plastic tend to break/shear off when carelessly or roughly handled). The paint is good with fairly crisp lines, although the underlying red plastic does show through a teensy bit in areas where the yellow paint is thin and some of the lightning bolts aren't perfectly centered on the body (particularly on the back of the figure).

That looks like a power walk at best, not a run!

While he completely lacks ball joints of any kind, The Flash's upper body articulation is passable, but, the legs, which only swivel at the hips, are lacking, especially when you take into account how important running is to this particular character. Without knee joints, you can't get a believable sprinting pose with him, and, for The Flash, that's just not cool.

I believe that this particular release was a Target exclusive (available both individually and in a boxed set with Superman, Batman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern). A complete sample (of the single, carded version) should also include a red, tornado-shaped effect, doubtlessly meant to convey the results of The Flash's superhuman speed, but, as he really isn't the type of character that needs or uses accessories, I don't miss it.

This is a decent enough Flash figure, but, with the limited articulation, you just can't get the running poses that this Scarlet Speedster should be capable of, which diminishes his play and display value in my eyes. Sure, he looks okay just standing there, but, arguably more so than anyone else in the DC universe, a toy of The Flash should be able to convey dynamic motion.

Toy line: Sunshine Snowman.
Manufacturer: Evas International Corporation (1996).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 4/22/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 7.0 cm (2.8") base diameter x 10.7 cm (4.2") tall.
Articulation: Nothing in the traditional sense, but the internal components can move/float about freely in the water.
Notable features: Novel/comedic spin on a traditional snow globe.

Arizona isn't a very good location for a snowman to take up residence, as this unfortunate fellow found out the hard way. In the water, there's a broom, hat, carrot nose, pipe, and "coal" eyes/mouth pieces, which are all that's left of the poor schmuck. Of course, when winter comes again, we can hope that he'll magically spring back into shape and live again, just like Frosty, but something tells me that there won't be a happy ending like that in this case . . .

Typically, snow globes have a mixture of glycerine (which makes things "fall" through the liquid more slowly) and water, but this piece seems to only have H2O in it, and I wouldn't have it any other way, because that's all a melted snowman is.

If you ever break the dome, accidentally or intentionally (snow globes also have an annoying tendency to develop spontaneous leaks as they age), you could save the bits inside and use them to decorate a figure made from real snow, Styrofoam balls, or something else. Add some limbs, and maybe a scrap of cloth for a scarf, while you're at it!

This is a simple design/concept, but it's also one of the most clever and creative things I've ever come across. The item is even kind of morbid when you think about it, as what you're holding in your hands is the "corpse" of an unfortunate snowman. If these novelty pieces don't fly off the shelves, wherever they're sold, then there's simply no justice in the world. Other than the possible additions of some tree branch arms and a fabric scarf in the water (and maybe that'd be too busy--sometimes simplicity is better), I can't think of any way to improve on this thing. The dome on mine has more scratches than I'd like, but even that can't diminish my enthusiasm for the Arizona Snowman.

Toy line: Crayola Color Wonder.
Manufacturer: Crayola [the pad is dated 2007, but there's only an indecipherable (to me) combination of numerals and letters molded onto the shafts of the markers].
What I paid: I got the four markers in a twenty-five cents "girls" grab bag on 4/22/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store. The pad of paper was purchased for ten cents, at the same establishment, on 5/16/15.
Size: [Brush-Tip Markers] 16.6 cm (6.5") long x 1.6 cm (0.6") diameter at their thickest.
[Coloring Pad] 21.6 cm (8.5") wide x 25.4 cm (10.0") tall.
Articulation: The cover/pages of the pad can be opened/turned.
Notable features: Markers that only work on special paper.

I got a quartet of markers in a random grab bag of "girls" toys one day, but, when I tested them out, it appeared that all four were spent and useless (which wouldn't have been the first time that I'd purchased dead markers from a thrift store). However, I did notice that, while they weren't making colored markings, they did leave behind transparent wet spots, as though I were drawing with water, which intrigued me. That being the case, I reasoned that there just had to be more going on with them. I even wondered if, given the watery residue that they left behind, maybe they weren't markers at all, but paint brushes (the tips are more brush-like than marker-like). As I wasn't having much luck figuring things out for myself, I decided to take a photograph of the markers and post them on Craftster's forums, in the hope that some of my fellow crafters would be able to help me out, and educate me they did!

By the way, don't leave the bottoms of the marker caps standing on the paper, as shown in
my photo above, because they can leave behind color "rings"--trust me, I speak from experience.

It turns out that what I have are Crayola's Color Wonder Brush-Tip Markers, which are special drawing tools whose markings only show up on the coordinating Color Wonder chemically-treated paper. If you draw with them on nearly anything else, you'll just get that previously-mentioned colorless, water-like effect.

The science behind all of this are "leuco dyes", molecules that are transparent in one form but show color in another. In the case of Color Wonder products, it's two complementary phenol-formaldehyde compounds. When the chemical in the markers' fluid makes physical contact with the coordinating substance on the paper they mix and color is produced. Neat, eh?

While Crayola assures us that the markers won't color clothing, skin, walls, furniture, etc., technically, they're still making marks, they just stay transparent because the surfaces you're drawing on don't contain the needed chemical to produce the reaction that results in the creation of a visible hue. Before I gave up and bought the pad of Color Wonder paper, I conducted a number of experiments using different types of paper and common household chemicals, seeing if I could find something else that the markers would react to besides Crayola's special paper. Alas, all I was ever able to accomplish was getting one of the four markers (I'm not sure which one) to leave a flourescent yellow mark when mixed with wet transparent gloss nail polish.

While only having four colors is limiting, they do work pretty well.
If you're wondering, "Jethro", "Chauncey", and "Pickles" are the respective names of our dog and two cats.

I can certainly understand the appeal that this kind of product would have for parents with young children who can't always be trusted to draw where they're supposed to, but, on the downside, the need to continuously purchase special replacement markers/paper could become relatively expensive over time. There were only fourteen pages left in my secondhand pad when I bought it (brand new, the booklet would have originally had twenty-four of them), and I'd speculate that wouldn't last your average child very long--indeed, some kids might burn through the entire thing in a single sitting! I applaud and appreciate the ingenuity behind the Color Wonder products' design, but, once the novelty of the "magical" color effect wears off, there's really no reason to choose them over cheaper "normal" markers unless you really do have a problem with a child using anything and everything in your home as their canvas.

One last thing: The thrift store also had some Color Wonder coloring books (Disney/Pixar Cars themed ones), but, as I have almost zero interest in that particular film franchise, and I figured that blank pages would be more versatile, I left them in the rack in favor of the basic pad. I just mention it so you'll know that if you, or your child, prefers to color, rather than draw, Crayola has you covered.

Toy line: Angry Birds.
Manufacturer: Mattel for Rovio Mobile Limited (2010).
What I paid: Fifty cents on 4/28/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: Due to its modular nature, the dimensions of the game will vary depending on what kind of structures you build. The box measures 20.0 cm (7.9") wide x 26.6 cm (10.5") tall x 5.2 cm (2.0") deep.
Articulation: The spring-loaded arm on the bird launcher pivots up-and-down.
Notable features: Real-world interpretation of the popular video game.

I've never actually played any of the Angry Birds video games, but, even so, given its popularity and media coverage, I'm well aware of Rovio Mobile's digital creation. Like almost anything that becomes a big hit with the masses, Angry Birds has branched out into other media and merchandise, including this Mattel board game, Knock on Wood.

The object of Angry Birds is for you to help the rotund feathered protagonists get revenge on the green pigs that stole their eggs by flinging them into, and demolishing, the wooden fortresses that they inhabit.

More specifically, your goal is to be the first player to reach 1,000 points. This is accomplished by successfully completing missions, which are ranked at 100 (2 pigs), 200 (3 pigs), and 300 (all 4 pigs) point values. When it's your turn, you pick a Mission card and then another player constructs the building pictured (or invents their own structural design on the fly if you chose a Freestyle card), which you then attempt to demolish using the number and type of birds indicated on the bottom of said card. If you succeed in knocking down all of the pigs, you keep the card and add its point value to your score (plus a bonus 100 points if you also managed to knock down the special yellow egg or star item, in addition to all of your porcine adversaries), but, if you failed to topple all of that green pork, you don't get anything and the card you selected goes into the discard pile. Thus, you can play it safe and slowly build your way up to 1,000 points by choosing the easier 100 point missions, or try to get there more quickly by tackling the harder, but more valuable, higher point challenges.

Example of a 200 point mission.

The instructions say to place the launcher about a foot away from the fortress that you're trying to bust apart. While that might seem too easy, I assure you that it is not, as the flight pattern of the rubbery birds, particularly the aerodynamically-challenged yellow one, is somewhat erratic and unpredictable. Many times, I've missed the structure and pigs completely, even though I'm firing at what amounts to point-blank range. Of course, if you do want to make things more difficult, you could move the bird launcher even further back.

Example of a 300 point mission.

All-in-all, this is a pretty fun and innovative game that's a nice alternative to more traditional, and sedate, board game fare. It'd definitely appeal to children that like to construct, and bust, buildings, although I imagine that replicating some of the more complex pictured fortresses could prove frustrating for younger or less-coordinated kids (I'd recommend Freestyle cards for them, since, other than a few general rules about block/pig placement, there's no "wrong" way to do it, so long as you use all of the pieces listed on the card in your structure). The manufacturer recommends this item for children ages 5-and-up, which sounds about right to me.

Shortly after I purchased this one, the thrift store got in a similar Star Wars-themed Angry Birds "board" game too. Amusingly, in that version, instead of the wooden fortresses seen here, you're aiming at a spherical pig-themed Death Star instead. It was only a buck, and I was tempted, but I figured that one of these was enough . . . for now.

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