By Mark Patraw
Posted on 12/11/14
By and large, when I don't come home empty-handed, I usually end up buying more "girls" toys than "boys" playthings these days. While it's true that I have had a much stronger interest in dolls over the last year-or-so, it's usually more a question of availability, as the thrift stores almost always seem to stock more "girls" items than "boys" (for example, Barbie and Bratz dolls are much easier to find, and in greater quantities, than G.I.JOE or Master of the Universe figures)--my hypothesis on that is that males tend to be more destructive in general, so fewer of their playthings survive long enough to get donated to secondhand shops. I can remember one particular day, long ago, when my younger brother and I decided to destroy literally dozens of our action figures--just on a whim (and, oh, how I now wish that I still had all of the stuff that we foolishly annihilated). Of course, girls can be just as violent with their toys--recently, I read a study where the researchers found that a large proportion of middle-school-aged girls readily admitted to instances of intentionally mutilating and/or "torturing" their Barbie dolls (an activity that I had always stereotypically assumed was almost exclusively a male thing).
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: The Wuzzles (Hasbro Softies assortment).
Manufacturer: Hasbro (1984) for Disney.
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 11/28/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 26.5 cm (10.4") wide x 31.0 cm (12.2") tall.
Notable features: None.
The Wuzzles was a Disney cartoon, with a relatively short run of only thirteen (lucky!) episodes in 1985, that chronicled the adventures of a bunch of hybrid animals living on the Island of Wuz. Each Wuzzle was a combination of two creatures. This golden one, Butterbear, is a fusion of a butterfly and bear (although that doesn't explain why she has flowers for antennae). The other main characters included Bumblelion (bumble bee + lion), Rhinokey (rhinoceros + monkey), Moosel (moose + seal), Eleroo (elephant + kangaroo), Hoppopotamus (hippopotamus + rabbit), and their primary antagonist, Crocosaur (crocodile + dinosaur). Strangely, for some reason, all of the Wuzzle characters had wings, even if the two relevant animals that the individual was a combination of did not.
Apparently this is how genetics work on the Island of Wuz . . .
On the show, Butterbear (voiced by Kathleen Helppie) was a gentle and patient character who's main interest/hobby was gardening (speaking of which, all the plants on the Island of Wuz were also hybrids, such as "appleberries"). Bumblelion has romantic feelings for Butterbear, and Hoppopotamus adores Bumblelion--can you say love triangle?. Oh, the drama!
This plush figure captures Butterbear's cartoon appearance fairly well in the general sense, but I think the head/face could have used some more work. Her eyes, nose, and ears should all be bigger and the cheeks more pronounced. To me, it looks more like Hasbro used an existing teddy bear pattern in order to produce this plush animal, rather than designing it from the ground up to look like her. Compare the toy with this official Butterbear artwork for yourself:
For a thirty-year-old stuffed animal, Butterbear is in very nice shape. The fabric is still vibrant, the stitching isn't unraveling, and there's not a single hole to be seen. Her tush tag has been written on with permanent marker though. One side says "Staff", the other I can't decipher ("Bateman" is my best guess, but that's probably not right). Based on said script, I like to imagine that Butterbear spent many years "working" as part of the staff at a hospital, school, day care, or similar location, where she got to play with children everyday, and now, in her twilight years, she's "retired" and has come to live with me.
The tag indicates that she's made out of synthetic and cellulose fibers and should only be surface washed. White and yellow are two colors that are tough to keep clean, so, it's pretty amazing, at least to me, that she doesn't have any stains or anything (the white petals on the flowers are a little dingy, but nothing terrible). Oh yeah, she's also got a hard purple plastic "W", for Wuzzle, accent on her left thigh/buttock.
If I had my choice of Wuzzles, Butterbear wouldn't be my first pick, simply because I liked several of the other characters better, but it's still nice to have another plush memento from one of the animated television programs that I enjoyed watching as a child. They're fairly large, so, in terms of storage space, I wouldn't want to stockpile a bunch of The Wuzzles plush figures, but I could see myself picking up another one or two. (Who knows? Perhaps Bumblelion will show up to rekindle their romance someday.) Although, given that they're about three decades old now, I don't think I'm likely to run across another one in this good condition again anytime soon.
Toy line/assortment: Definitely Dinosaurs!
Manufacturer: Playskool (1987).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents each ($0.50 total) on 11/28/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 5.7 cm (2.2") wide x 8.8 cm (3.5") tall.
Articulation: Neck, shoulders, and hips.
Notable features: None.
These two prehistoric chums are action figures from Playskool's Definitely Dinosaurs! toy line, which was marketed towards younger children. The cavemen, and occasionally cavewomen, were usually sold, boxed, with a larger dinosaur mount/friend and a comic book, but the humans could also be purchased, carded, as two-packs, without a giant reptile companion. Later, smaller dinosaurs, sans cavemen handlers, were also produced for sale at retail stores and the Wendy's fast food chain. I don't have either reptile, but Brin (red sling leotard) would have originally came with the brown Triceratops, Dozer, and Romur (yellow loincloth and boots) was sold with the purple Parasaurolophus, Parax.
The cavemen's sculpts are relatively simplistic and cartoony, but attractive, and that type of look is typical for the time period and target audience. The paint work is also fairly minimal (just the clothing, hair, and eyes without any drybrushing or washes) but looks fine--I would have picked a different color than red for Brin's sling leotard though, as it doesn't contrast very well with his skin tone. There's obviously paint wear on both samples (I should really bust out the black Sharpie and "fix" the hair, eyebrows, and Romur's beard), which is unfortunate, but given their age, not surprising. I intend to use them for their intended purpose (i.e., prehistoric shenanigans), however, with a little customization and imagination, I think these guys would also make great dwarves, gnomes, or hobbits/halflings that could be used in conjunction with 6" figures.
The same figure molds got used over-and-over again, in different color combinations, to create unique characters. For example, Brin and Zindar were made from the exact same body and head, but Zindar is Caucasian, sports brown hair, and has a green sling leotard.
Brin and Romur have the same amount of articulation: rotating cut joints at the base of the neck, shoulders, and hips. All they can do is look around, stand or sit, and raise/lower their arms. It isn't a lot, but that level of mobility is more-or-less the norm when it comes to figures intended for the target age set (I don't know if it's true or not, but I have read that too many joints can actually frustrate younger children who may not understand how to utilize it properly).
Man, either you and I have been growing a lot lately, Brin, or the dinosaurs around these parts have been shrinking!
I like this pair of cavemen quite a bit (Romur's my favorite though--I dig that curly beard) and I'm certainly interested in accumulating some more. I should probably keep my eyes out for a properly-scaled dinosaur or two for them to ride as well.
Toy line/assortment: My Little Pony (Twice as Fancy & Standard assortments)
Manufacturer: Hasbro (2009).
What I paid: Fifty cents each ($1.50 altogether) on 11/28/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: (Rainbow Dashes, excluding manes and tails) 6.8 cm (2.7") long by 10.2 cm (4.0") high.
(Scootaloo, excluding mane and tail) 6.4 cm (2.5") long by 9.7 cm (3.8") high.
Articulation: Rotating necks.
Notable features: None.
Like some of the other 1980s toy franchises (most notably Transformers) that have been around for many years, and have been re-launched multiple times, Hasbro's My Little Pony releases are classified by generation. For example, the original 1982-1994 figures are "Generation 1" (G1 for short), and the current My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic toys (2010-to-the-present) are known as "Generation 4" (G4). However, "Generation 3" (2003-2009) differs from the others in that, near the end of its run, Hasbro decided to shake things up by drastically altering the sculpt of the ponies, hence collectors usually refer to those figures as an evolution, "Generation 3.5". Chronologically, the G3.5 ponies are supposed to be "child" versions of the more mature G3 ponies, which accounts for their new look. Opinions of the revamped G3.5 toys naturally varies; some MLP collectors love them while others dislike them. Personally, I think they're cute and a believable halfway step between G3 and the smaller G4 horses.
Comparison between G3 Thistle Whistle (left), G3.5 Scootaloo (center), and G4 Pinkie Pie (right).
In addition to getting smaller (you can thank the sluggish economy and high oil prices for that), the sculpts also became more simplified over time.
At first, I was certain that all three of these ponies shared the exact same sculpt and pose, but, upon closer inspection, and measuring, I found that Scootaloo's body is slightly smaller and slimmer than the two Rainbow Dashes'. Otherwise, they differ only in the color of the vinyl that they were molded from, the hue of their manes/tails, and the paint applications. As such, it's fair to say that I'm really just buying the same toy over-and-over again with cosmetic variations. That obviously cuts Hasbro's manufacturing costs, but it also makes for a somewhat monotonous display. The two Rainbow Dashes are the same character, so it makes sense that they'd have identical anatomy, but I think Hasbro could have done more to make them unique.
This trio of ponies all feature rotating neck joints, which is better than nothing, but a single point of articulation is far below the norm for an action figure, so, they're essentially almost statues. Sure, you can also style their manes and tails, but, in my book, that's pretty limited play potential compared to, say, a Barbie doll. In a perfect world, they'd also have several points of articulation in each leg, to provide a wide variety of trotting, galloping, and rearing poses, but, unfortunately, that's just not how Hasbro usually rolls with their MLP brand, and that immobility is arguably the franchise's greatest shortcoming.
Scootaloo, and one of the two Rainbow Dashes, are both from the "Twice as Fancy (TaF)" assortment, which simply means that they have more elaborate "cutie marks" applied to their bodies. Instead of the usual small design located on the right hip (as seen on the "standard" Rainbow Dash figure), the TaF ponies have much larger "graffiti" printed all over that side of their bodies. I like it, although one could make the argument that it's too "busy" and, given that it's only applied to one side of the animal, makes the toy's overall appearance asymmetric.
All three of these figures would have originally come packaged in a windowed box, with a comb/brush accessory, and retailed for about $6 a piece.
The G3.5 incarnation of Scootaloo is a funloving, athletic pony who enjoys the outdoors and playing all sorts of games. Scootaloo adores butterflies (hence her cutie mark) and buzzes around Ponyville on her motorized scooter when galloping just isn't fast enough to get her where she wants to go. Her older sister is Cheerilee.
Scootaloo's light orange pelt contrasts nicely with her pink-and-purple locks. Her mane is rooted slightly differently than the Rainbow Dashes', as the forelock is orientated horizontally, rather than vertically, resulting in cute, sideswept bangs. The hair is easy to comb and its spring-like nature mirrors the pony's fictional personality.
In Generation 3.5, Rainbow Dash is the fashionable one, so she's always concerned with looking trendy. She loves putting on, and performing in, fashion shows, and the other ponies always come to her when they need advice on their attire. I didn't bother trying to replicate it in my photos, but G3.5 Rainbow Dash is usually depicted with part of her mane pulled up into a ponytail, which is a rather unusual look for a horse in my opinion, but that does help her stand out more.
Rainbow Dash's multi-colored hair is obviously her biggest visual asset (and the primary reason I like the character so much). While it looks great as-is, I would have much preferred that Hasbro had incorporated a rich red instead of so much pink into her mane (I don't hate pink or anything, I just feel that toy manufacturers rely on it too much as their default color choice when it comes to girls' toys, and a proper rainbow should have red in it). The slightly-curled tresses of the Rainbow Dash duo comb out easily and have a lot of bounce to them. I like both versions, but, in the interest of variety and matching Scootaloo, I'd probably go with the TaF Rainbow Dash if I could only keep one of them (while I don't regret my purchase, there really wasn't any pressing need for me to buy both of them when they're so similar--I shouldn't have let myself get carried away and left one Rainbow Dash for someone else to adopt).
Comparison with 2008 McDonald's G3 Scootaloo (there are G3.5 McDonald's MLP toys too, but I don't currently own any).
Comparison with G4 2012 McDonald's Rainbow Dash and a ring of unknown origin (most likely a party favor or cupcake decoration).
All three of these young mares are adorable, but, even though Rainbow Dash is my absolute favorite G4 character, I found that I actually liked Scootaloo the best out of this particular trio of toys. G3.5 ponies may not appeal to every MLP fan's tastes, but I enjoy them and will likely purchase more in the future.
Toy line/assortment: Children's Garden of Critters
Manufacturer: United Design Corporation (1995).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 12/10/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 12.7 cm (5.0") wide x 11.5 cm (4.5") tall, excluding the tail [the cat is 16.7 cm (6.6") high if you count that appendage].
Notable features: None.
I primarily picked up this Black & White Kitten Door Percher because it resembles Baggy, our 16-year-old cat who passed away near the end of October. The resin feline isn't a perfect likeness, but it's in the ballpark, and that's good enough for me. Despite the Children's Garden of Critters brand name, I wouldn't really consider this thing to be a toy (it's heavy and brittle--your average young child would probably end up breaking it in minutes and they could also do some serious damage if they tossed this kitten sculpture at someone or something else) but it would make a nice decoration for any cat lover's room.
The two photos above depict how the kitten looked before I cleaned and restored it.
The cat itself was in good physical condition when I purchased it, but, as is often the case with these animal resin figurines, the paint had chipped/worn off many of the raised, fur-textured areas as a result of handling and abrasion. So, I got out my bottle of matte black acrylic paint, as well as a toothpick "paintbrush", and fixed kitty-cat-splat right up again (although, looking at these photos, I can see that I missed several spots).
When I bought the kitten, the back also had no less than six strips of foam stuck to it. What the hell? I'm inclined to doubt that the manufacturer put them there, as this item is meant to be displayed erect, not lying prone (and even if UDC was going to do so, I find it rather unlikely that they would have placed such an excessive amount of padding on the cat). All I can say is that somebody must have been really worried about this kitty scratching up whatever surface they had it lying on. Naturally, after I shot a photo of that mess for this web page, I removed them, as they were unsightly and completely unnecessary. I got most of the sticker residue off, but they did leave rectangular outlines and a bit of discolored yellow staining. Fortunately, that's easily hidden when the cat is displayed with its back to a wall.
This black & white feline's sculpt is very nice. The proportions/anatomy/pose are solid and the original artist obviously devoted a great amount of time and attention to doing all of the fine fur texture work. With the exception of the lifelike eyes, which I would guess are either glass or plastic, the entire cat is made from heavy, dense resin. If you dropped the poor kitty on the floor, it would surely shatter, and if you had the further misfortune of the cat landing on one of your bare feet instead, you'd likely be making a trip to the hospital.
Other than the areas I felt the need to fix, the paintwork is good. Granted, there are only a handful of colors in play here, but the separations between the black and white hues are well done with subtle, airbrushed gray transitions. While I like it fine as-is, it'd be interesting to see this same sculpture done up with other fur patterns and colors.
Here's the kitten chilling at its new home, up on one of my shelves, with a bunch of my other junk.
That pair of brightly-hued birds, to the right of the cat, had better watch out!
All rise! The Itty-Bitty-Kitty-Committee is now in session.
I always peruse the knick-knacks when I'm in a thrift store, but, while many of them are cool or interesting, I seldom buy any. However, in this case, the kitten's attractive appearance, and its resemblance to the late Boo-Bag, were all it took for me to decide it was coming home. Sure, it took a little more work that usual to get it into acceptable display condition, but the end result was worth it.
Toy line/assortment: Marvel Legends (Spider-man Sandman Build-a-Figure wave)
Manufacturer: Hasbro (2008) for Marvel Comics.
What I paid: Fifty cents on 12/5/14 from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 7.2 cm (2.8") wide x 15.0 cm (5.9") tall.
Articulation: Neck, shoulders, biceps, double elbows, wrists, mid-torso, hips, thighs, double knees, and ankles.
Notable features: Included a Sandman Build-a-Figure component (which I don't have).
When Hasbro produced its Spider-man 3 action figures, to coincide with the theatrical release of said movie, long-time Marvel collectors were in for an unwelcome surprise: they were done in the 5" scale. What's the problem with that? Well, for years, Toy Biz, the previous holder of the Marvel toy manufacturing license, had set the standard by producing excellent, super-articulated 6" scale Marvel Legends (ML) figures which were very popular with kids and collectors alike, so, for Hasbro to decrease the size of its Spider-man 3 offerings meant that they couldn't be mixed-and-matched with existing 6" ML and Spider-man collections (unless you were willing to overlook size discrepancies).
However, all was not lost, as Hasbro later released a special Spider-man movie themed assortment of 6" ML toys to rectify the situation, whose cast encompassed characters from all three films. And, in typical ML fashion, by purchasing all eight of the figures in the wave (red & blue-suited Spider-man, black-suited Spider-man, Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, Mary Jane Watson, Sandman, Venom, and New Goblin), you could acquire all of the pieces necessary to assemble a bonus ninth "Build-a-Figure (BAF)" toy, a second version of Sandman, exhibiting his powers in a more dramatic fashion. On the downside, three of the figures (Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, and "normal" Spider-man) were re-issues of existing Toy Biz products, "forcing" completists to re-buy characters that they already owned in order to assemble the BAF.
New Goblin is actually Harry Osborn (portrayed by James Franco), the son of the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn (William Dafoe). I like James Franco, but I'm not a fan of the New Goblin costume design, because, instead of looking like his monstrous namesake, like the various comic book Green Goblins usually do, the New Goblin outfit comes off as some kind of generic hi-tech soldier. Don't get me wrong, the sculpt is very good, with all sorts of finely rendered details, but it just doesn't say Marvel Goblin to me in any way. Color-wise, even though it wouldn't be movie-accurate, I would also have liked to see more of the metallic green, found on the face mask, back, and elbow pads, used on the rest of the figure, to contrast with all of that black (I think that ebony gets overused in general when it comes to the uniforms of characters in superhero films, everyone from Batman to the X-men).
Toy Biz's 2005 Marvel Legends 1st Appearance Spider-man just LOVED this photo shoot. No, really, he did.
I'm sure Peter is already looking forward to the next time he can "assist" me with more super villain photography.
Like most Marvel Legends figures, New Goblin is very poseable, thanks to the copious amounts of articulation (30 joints, 22 if you don't count a pin-and-disc ball joint as two like I do). While reading my words, in other reviews, about what I consider to be poor-to-average articulation on a toy, you may well wonder what my benchmark is, and the answer is figures like New Goblin here (compare him to the one-jointed My Little Ponies toys on this same page, which are also produced by Hasbro, and you'll have a better understanding of why their almost total lack of mobility doesn't impress me). The rubbery belt/holster, permanently attached to the waist and hip, restricts the range of motion in his right leg somewhat, as do some elements of the sculpt (the flared boot cuffs for example), but, despite that, New Goblin can be twisted into all sorts of dynamic poses which allows for many display options.
A complete sample of this toy should include a sword (the blade of which can be snapped onto the small, removable clip on his back for storage), a glider with footpegs for his feet, and the head of the Sandman Build-a-Figure. A removable mask, or, alternatively, a second swappable head, showcasing James Franco's face, would have been a great choice too, but Hasbro didn't do it. As I don't have them, the photo above is a rough approximation of what those first two accessories would look like, utilizing Toy Biz's Marvel Legends Series 11 Ultron's glider and a sword from Lord of the Rings Legolas.
Comparison with Toy Biz's 2005 12" rotocast Green Goblin.
Even though he's not dressed in his most iconic costume, that figure is, in my opinion, the best Green Goblin toy ever made.
While I don't care for the New Goblin costume design, on its own merits, I do like the figure itself. If I don't want to use him in-character, New Goblin can easily find temp work as a generic secret agent, soldier, or thug in any number of playtime scenarios. I'm always on the lookout for more Marvel Legends toys (this is the first secondhand one, that wasn't broken or unreasonably priced, that I've run across in quite some time), as such, I'm happy to add him to my box of Marvel Comics figures.
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