Toy Talk
Volume LI

By Mark Patraw
Posted on 12/1/14

I had the introduction to this installment of Toy Talk all written up, telling how I hadn't been having much luck in finding interesting secondhand toys lately, but then I ended up buying a whole paper grocery bag full of playthings on Black Friday (if you're wondering, the thrift store in question only had clothing and Christmas mugs on sale that day, not toys, so, I wasn't loading up because of a special deal or anything like that, they just happened to have a bunch of items that I wanted), as such, the discussion I had typed up about slim pickings naturally ended up on the cutting room floor as a result. Anyway, provided that I don't get too distracted with other things (or lazy) I expect that I'll be writing up the next volume of Toy Talk, specifically to cover some of those Black Friday purchases, in the near future.

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/assortment: Teletubbies
Manufacturer: Burger King (1999) for Ragdoll Productions.
What I paid: One of several items in a twenty-five cents "boys" grab bag that I purchased on 10/10/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: (Excluding clip-on and tush tag) 12.0 cm (4.7") long by 7.8 cm (3.1") tall.
Articulation: Clip-on clasp.
Notable features: None.

He may appear to be a robotic elephant, but this strange creature is actually Noo-Noo, the living vacuum cleaner "pet" of the Teletubbies. I never really watched that children's show, other than catching brief glimpses of it whilst channel-surfing, so I had absolutely no idea what this item was when I first laid eyes upon it (and, without the benefit of the copyright information printed on the tush tag, I still probably wouldn't know). On the television program, Noo-Noo occasionally vacuums up the Teletubbies' food or possessions, when he gets excited, which prompts them all to scream, "Naughty Noo-Noo!" and chase the contraption around their house, an exercise which then usually ends in hugs.

Noo-Noo was one of the six clip-on plush toys that were available as part of Burger King's 1999 Teletubbies promotion. The other five figures included, of course, the four Teletubbies themselves (Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky Winky) and, for reasons beyond my understanding, a brown rabbit. At the time, Burger King was also selling Tubby Custard, produced by Kraft Foods, which also tied into the Teletubbies franchise.

As far as accuracy goes, this plush toy's shape is a little bit off when compared to photos of the actual Noo-Noo prop from the show. The body of the vacuum should be a cylinder mounted on a rectangular base, but that isn't quite the case here--the form is more bag-like. Noo-Noo should also have a wider brush attached to the bottom of his nose hose. While this is still an attractive looking piece, and I understand that compromises often have to be made when converting an object into plush form, I feel that Burger King could have put some additional effort into making Noo-Noo's shape more defined and accurate.

Noo-Noo is made from polyester and stuffed with polypropylene pellets, while the eyes appear to be felt. The clip-on is molded from plastic. Noo-Noo's stitching is flawless and the material/pattern is vibrant (all of the mechanical panels and details incorporated into the fabric look great!) If Noo-Noo gets dirty (and what dust sucker doesn't?), he should only be surface washed.

McDonald's did a very similar Teletubbies Happy Meal promotion in 2000, but, as their assortment of plush clip-ons only included the four Teletubbies (their Laa-Laa is pictured above and below), I'd give Burger King the edge because they produced more characters. However, the McDonald's ones do feature spring-powered gripping arms, so that they can "hug" things, that the Burger King ones lack, so, that might be a factor to consider, depending on what you want to do with them.

I have little-to-no-interest in Teletubbies, but Noo-Noo is a fairly unusual and goofy-looking plush "animal", so that alone gives him some novelty value in my book (animate vacuum cleaners are relatively uncommon, especially in toy form). While it's highly unlikely that I'd buy any more of these individually, it is possible I might eventually end up with a complete set of fast food Teletubbies clip-ons (or, more realistically, a mixed set of McDonald's and Burger King ones) over time, simply as a result of buying so many bags of random toys.

Toy line/assortment: Disney Fairies
Manufacturer: JAKKS Pacific (2010) for Disney.
What I paid: Fifty cents on 9/5/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 9.7 cm (3.8") wide x 24.0 cm (9.4") tall (excluding the hair bun).
Articulation: Neck, shoulders, mid-torso, and hips.
Notable features: None.

This is one of JAKKS Pacific's Tinker Bell fashion dolls. While Disney's interpretation of the character got her start in their 1953 Peter Pan animated film, in recent years, she's moved out of Peter's shadow to become a popular, and profitable, character with her own adventures and associated merchandise. You go, girl!

Tinker Bell's head sculpt and hair look great. I think JAKKS' did a very nice job of capturing her animated look in doll form--I particularly like her cute pointed ears and full "chipmunk" cheeks. Tink's golden tresses are tied up into a bun, and I didn't take it down, for fear of never being able to get it to look right again. There are a number of errant strands that have come loose, but that's only to be expected with a secondhand toy that's probably seen more than a few hours of play time in a child's hands. Her ears aren't pierced, although that'd be easy enough to do with a needle if you wanted to add some earrings.

Tink's body is fairly typical for a play doll. She's slim and petite with an oversized noggin. Her proportions aren't terribly realistic, but then she's a cartoon character after all, what do you expect? My sample had a little flap of plastic hanging off of the back of her left knee (probably an artifact from the molding process), which I cut off with nail clippers. Tinker Bell also has green panties, painted onto her body, to protect her modesty; however, as she's a toy intended for children, and, as such, isn't anatomically correct, it's not like Tinker Bell has anything that she needs to worry about concealing anyway.

The doll's articulation is okay, but there's room for improvement. She moves at the neck, shoulders, mid-torso, and hips (all of them ball-jointed or nearly so). The absence of knee articulation altogether is surprising--there doesn't even appear to be the usual internal "clicky" ratchet joints inside of them, although perhaps I'm not pushing hard enough (I don't want to exert too much pressure though, for fear of cracking, or putting stress marks in, her plastic legs). In addition to what she does have, I would have liked to have seen joints at the elbows, wrists, waist, knees, and ankles. Due to her sharply arched feet, it's nearly impossible to get Tinker Bell to stand barefooted without the assistance of a stand or something to lean her up against (I don't have any for her, but it's possible shoes would make a difference in her stability).

JAKKS has produced several Tinker Bell dolls, so it's hard for me to ascertain exactly which one this is. At the very least I imagine a complete sample would have come with clothing (most likely her iconic short green dress or some variant thereof), shoes, and wings. It's likely that Tink also originally came with a hair brush, and perhaps a doll stand.

The purple floral-and-Tinker Bell pattern top and skirt that my doll came with are actually hand-made affairs. For a while, I was convinced that they were the "real deal" and spent a lot of time fruitlessly searching on Google and eBay trying to locate photos of a Tinker Bell doll wearing the same ensemble, but to no avail. I can't pay a higher compliment to the original seamstress/tailor than admitting that I was completely fooled that these were authentic pieces. It was only recently, when I inspected the stitching style and cut of the fabric more closely, after yet another fruitless online photo search, that I came to the realization that both articles were sewn from scratch. The top opens and closes in the back, via a metal hook/eyelet affair (which probably should have tipped me off more than anything else, as those are almost unheard of on modern, mass-produced fashion play dolls), which leaves a lot of her back exposed, but, as that was almost certainly done to accommodate her wings, it's perfectly understandable. Rather than velcro, the skirt has a simple elastic waist, which is a design choice that I also prefer on doll clothing (one would thing that'd cost toy manufacturers less than velcro too, but perhaps that isn't the case). Both articles are fairly easy to remove and put back on again, although I imagine the metal catch could be tricky for smaller children to manage.

Provided that they're well made like this, I'm perfectly fine with my dolls sporting hand-crafted garments, especially when they incorporate a character-specific pattern like these. This skirt and top combo is what I've kept on Tinker Bell, ever since I bought her, other than changing her clothing for this photo shoot, and what I intend to continue displaying her in for the foreseeable future. That said, if I ever acquire her iconic green dress I may switch her into that.

For variety's sake, pictured above are several photos of Tinker Bell sporting some different fashions. They're all MGA Bratz garments, which fit her pretty well. The two plastic bags of Bratz clothing that I've purchased in the past (like the one shown here, in Volume XXXVII) have turned out to be very good investments! Despite her magical fairy nature, Tink looks surprisingly good in "normal" human attire, although the lack of wings on my sample probably has a lot to do with that.

Here are all of the Disney Fairies/Peter Pan items that I currently own. The identical Smee twins are from a 2002 McDonald's Happy Meal assortment (each figure in that set also originally came with a piece of the Jolly Roger too, so that you could build Hook's pirate ship if you collected them all, which is pretty neat!), the two purple items are pencil-top erasers, and the Tinker Bell portrait with the transparent wings is the top view of a rather impressively-designed DecoPac party favor ring.

I like fairies, but, when it comes to Peter Pan, I'm rooting for Captain Hook. That said, this is a very nice looking doll that displays well. Her only real shortcomings are her limited mobility and the fact that my secondhand one didn't come with her wings. In the past, I've come across several of Tinker Bell's female fairy friends in thrift store doll bins too, but they always seem to be damaged (scribbled on, horrible hair cuts, etc.--children must enjoy torturing winged pixies), otherwise, I probably would have added them to my collection as well.

Toy line/assortment: Transformers: Beast Machines
Manufacturer: McDonald's (2000) for Hasbro/Takara.
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 6/21/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: In robot mode, Cheetor is 4.5 cm (1.8") wide by 8.4 cm (3.3") tall, and, while in cheetah form, he's 7.7 cm (3.0") long by 5.4 cm (2.1") tall.
Articulation: Torso/head assembly, shoulders, hips, and knees.
Notable features: Transforms from robot to cheetah and back again.

Here's another one of the 2000 McDonald's Transformers: Beast Machines Happy Meal toys: Cheetor. I was fairly impressed with the Optimus Primal figure I looked at back in Volume XLIII, so, when I saw Cheetor in the toy bin, I snatched him up (the fact that his alt mode is a cat was also a selling point for me, as I love kitties). In addition to the robotic ape and feline, the 9-figure assortment also included Megatron, Jetstorm, Rattrap, Blackarachnia, Thrust, Nightscream, and Tankor.

Cheetor was the youngest, and most immature/reckless, of the original heroic Maximals (which are the Beast Wars/Machines equivalent of the Autobots), although he did became more responsible over time--so much so that he eventually earned the rank of second-in-command, and then replaced Optimus Primal as the leader of the Maximals group after Optimus sacrificed his life to restore Cybertron.

Cheetor's conversion process is very basic, although given that he's just a cheap fast food toy, that's no surprise. You simply slide out Cheetor's torso, rotate it around so that either the robot or cat head is pointed upwards, push the torso back into place again, and then pivot the limbs into either an erect or prone pose, depending on whether you want him in feline or robot form. If you wish, you can also position the cat head so that it's facing forward in robot mode, giving Cheetor a more bestial look, which I actually prefer to the humanoid noggin. The knees on the legs also extend outwards a short distance and rotate around--as far as I can tell, that has no purpose as far as the transformation process is concerned, so the knee articulation is just there for posing.

Cheetor is an attractive toy. The colors green and yellow usually contrast well and look good together, and that's certainly the case here. I also like that they used transparent green plastic, instead of making the entire figure opaque; it adds a lot to the Maximal's appearance. There's quite a bit of molded detail all over Cheetor's chassis too if you look closely--the original sculptor(s) obviously put a lot of time and effort into crafting this piece. Proportionately, both the robot and cat heads are too small in my opinion, but, given how the transformation process on this figure works, that was probably unavoidable.

There's not a lot of paint work on this guy (just the yellow forearms, red symbol on the right shoulder, green features on the heads, and the brown spots), but what is there is applied pretty well. I would have liked to have seen a lot more of those cheetah spots on the yellow areas of his body though, and a paint wash, or line work, would make all of the little sculpted details on the figure really stand out. Alas, that many paint operations just wouldn't cost out on an inexpensive fast food promotion like this, but I imagine that a talented customizer could transform (pun intended) Cheetor into something truly special.

McDonald's Optimus Primal and Cheetor.

Beast Wars/Machines isn't my cup of tea when it comes to the various incarnations of the Transformers franchise, but Cheetor is a nice toy regardless, and definitely better-than-average when it comes to fast food playthings. I wouldn't go out of my way to try to collect a complete set of these, but I may pick up some more of the characters if the opportunity arises.

Toy line/assortment: Small Soldiers
Manufacturer: Hasbro (1998) for Dreamworks.
What I paid: Fifty cents on 11/20/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 10.3 cm (4.1") wide by 15.7 cm (6.2") tall.
Articulation: Neck, shoulders, and hips.
Notable features: Spring-loaded projectile accessory (which I don't have).

This military madman is Major Chip Hazard, the primary antagonist from the 1998 Dreamworks film Small Soldiers (he was voiced by Tommy Lee Jones). In a nutshell, the plot of said movie was that military-grade, high-end microchips were foolishly installed into a line of motorized action figures, which then become animated, sentient beings as a result, and, as you can probably guess, trouble ensued. Chip Hazard is the leader of the Commando Elite (the bad guys, who are patterned after Hasbro's G.I.JOE figures) who wage war against the monstrous, but peaceful, Gorgonites (the good guys).

I've seen said film several times over the years. As a toy maker/collector/enthusiast, a movie that pivots around playthings coming to life and waging war against one another is obviously going to appeal to me, but, I can't say that I found the picture to be anything better than average. In particular, I think that it struggles between trying to be both family-friendly/comedic and a horror film (sort of a "lite" version of the murderous Chucky found in the Child's Play franchise). It got a PG-13 rating, probably due to the violence (there are some disturbing mutilations and dismemberments, albeit done to toys).

Chip Hazard was ultimately destroyed when Alan Abernathy, the human protagonist of the film, thrust the Major between two transformers during a struggle atop a power pole, zapping him, and creating an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that fried all of the microchips of the remaining Commando Elite figures.

This plastic rendition of the Major looks very sharp! The sculpt captures the character's likeness in a superb fashion and the colors are vibrant and contrast well. My Chip has some bits of paint rubbed off in several spots, most noticeably on his gloves and hair, but that's to be expected on a secondhand toy that's about sixteen years old. I also like that the figure has a lot of heft/bulk--he feels very solid and sturdy in comparison to many modern action figures that can break relatively easily.

Chip's mobility, while serviceable, is somewhat disappointing. He's got a rotating neck, shoulders, and hips--that's it. They're all fairly stiff too, especially the neck, but I definitely prefer tight to loose when it comes to articulation. Adding injury to insult, there are elbow, mid-torso, knee, and ankle joints sculpted onto his body, to reinforce the idea that he's a toy come to life, but they don't actually do anything. At least he's well-balanced and stands fine without any external support.

A complete sample of this toy should include a silver laser pistol and an arm-mounted, spring-loaded rocket launcher that fires a red missile projectile. Without said launcher slid onto it, the raised, flesh-colored groove on Chip's left forearm looks awkward. Judging from online photos and a video I looked at, both of those firearms seem fine, but I think it would have been neat if Hasbro had given him one or more of the improvised weapons that the Commando Elite ended up using in the film (Chip, and the others, were disgusted to find that their toy weapon accessories couldn't do any damage in the real world, so they had to get creative and make their own). The gun that you see pictured here is one that I made, the Sniper Pistol from the video game Turok: Evolution. I tried to get a variety of my other toy firearms to fit into his left hand (his right is a closed fist), but didn't have much luck, as their handgrips were all too big or the guns were too small.

Chip's lack of articulation is a shame (and the fact that there are immobile joints sculpted onto his body only reminds you of what could have been if Hasbro had invested a little more time and money into the development of these figures), but, other than that, he's a great looking rendition of the villain. Even if you've never seen, or have no interest in, Small Soldiers, Chip still makes for a good generic soldier during play time. I'd definitely consider picking up some more Commando Elite or Gorgonite characters from this assortment.

Toy line/assortment: Unknown, possibly inapplicable.
Manufacturer: Unknown.
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 10/28/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 25.0 cm (9.8") wingspan. 8.7 cm (3.4") body length (excluding wings and antennae).
Articulation: Bendable antennae, wings, and legs.
Notable features: None.

What we have here is a fabric insect built up around a poseable internal wire armature. While it's probably supposed to represent a butterfly, the pale coloration strikes me as more moth-like. I imagine that this item was intended to be used as a garden decoration, or something similar, but it's bendable appendages qualify it as an action figure of sorts in my eyes (I found it in the knick-knacks section of the store if you're wondering). Judging by its construction/design, particularly the paint job on the wings, I'm fairly confident that this butterfly was mass-produced, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that it's really a one-of-a-kind, hand-made object either.

The antennae, wing edges, and legs all have wire running through them, allowing you to alter their positions by bending them into a variety of configurations. That's generally how I articulate my own hand-made figures too. If you have one of these, or something similar, please note that metal is subject to stress fatigue, as such, if you bend it too much, the wire will eventually snap, so don't overdo it. I'd recommend just finding one pose that you really like and leaving it that way. In the case of my butterfly here, I curled the antennae upwards slightly (they were straight as arrows when I got it), adjusted the angle/tilt of the wings, and arranged the legs so that the insect could stand on its own without tipping over.

The pattern painted onto the translucent wings, while a bit sloppy on close inspection, looks great and is very convincing. Mine are nearly pristine, but I imagine that the wings would probably be the easiest thing to damage on something like this, especially if they were to get poked or snagged on something (in particular, I shudder to think of the tattered mess that would result from one of our cats getting a hold of them).

The body shape is also impressive in appearance. The stuffed fabric eyes, head, thorax, and abdomen are all tied off into individual sections and the overall form is fairly anatomically accurate. While the uniform white coloration is fine, I think some subtle detailing would have gone a long way to adding some more realism.

Visually, the legs are the weakest aspect of the butterfly, as they're nothing more than twine/thread wrapped around the underlying wire (the antennae are done exactly the same way, but, as they're straight in nature, and thicker at the ends, they look a lot better). Some of the limbs are longer than the others and sport unattractive bulges here-and-there, which gives them a mismatched look that I don't care for. I considered trimming them all down to the same length, and cutting off the bumps, but, after some consideration, I concluded that might not be the best idea, as they'd probably start to unravel on me if I clipped them, which would be even worse, so I decided to leave them as they are. I think the strategic addition of more twine, to thicken sections of the legs and give them a segmented look, would improve their appearance.

I primarily bought this insect because I thought it looked cool, but I also had another motive. I figured that the butterfly was also the right size to use as fake wings for my Tinker Bell doll, and sure enough, provided you ignore the legs and antennae, she looks pretty good wearing her bug "backpack", at least from the front (sure, I could've bent the extremities around her body and tucked them underneath her clothes, but, I'm too lazy, and, as mentioned earlier, I don't want to subject them to excessive bending for fear of breakage). Speaking of which, this arrangement reminds me a lot of Coleco's 1980s Sectaurs Night Fighting Dargon action figure and his winged pet/ally Parafly, who could mount onto Dargon's back in a similar fashion.

Amongst other things, this flying bug could also be used as a substitute for Mothra in a Godzilla display, the giant moth enemies found in survival horror video games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, or even as an unusual winged mount for various fantasy characters.

Here's the butterfly sampling the nectar from a blue rose that's in bad need of dusting (I literally had not touched it in years before taking it down for this photo). It's from the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Blue Venus Weed figure that I made way back in 2006.

I enjoy insects in general, both real and fictional, and can appreciate a well-crafted fabric critter, so this is an item that I'm pleased to add to my collection. I do wish that the legs were more polished in appearance, but, other than that, it's an attractive piece that can be utilized in numerous display scenarios or just admired for its own design.

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