Toy Talk
Volume XIX

By Mark Patraw
Posted on 12/16/13

The nineteenth round of Toy Talk starts now! This week, up in the front, we've got two 2013 Innovation First Hexbug McDonald's toys, Beetle Orange and Speed Beetle Green. Over in the back row, moving left-to-right, there's a 2007 Hasbro Transformers Optimus Prime keychain, a 2012 Mattel Flippin' Frogs game (Wendy's), a 1989 Kenner Real Ghostbusters: Screaming Heroes Egon Spengler, and a 2012 Hasbro Littlest Pet Shop Russell Ferguson (McDonald's). I purchased Optimus Prime (twenty-five cents grab bag on 11/26/13), Egon (fifty cents on 12/3/13), Speed Beetle Green (twenty-five cents grab bag on 12/5/13), and Flippin' Frogs (twenty-five cents grab bag on 12/12/13) from the Ishpeming Saint Vincent de Paul Society thrift store, while Russell Ferguson ($2.44 bag of toys on 9/13/13) and Beetle Orange ($2.44 bag of toys on 10/25/13) came from the Marquette branch of the same thrift store chain. 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!

Autobots, roll out! Er...wait, scratch that, has anyone seen my keys? This is a 3.6" (9.1 cm) tall 2007 Hasbro Transformers Optimus Prime keychain action figure, based on the computer-generated model seen in the Michael Bay live action movies. For a novelty item, Optimus' sculpt and paintwork are pretty impressive, although I think they overdid it on the sheer amount of silver on his chassis. I would have expected Hasbro to skimp on the detailing, considering that he's only a keychain, but I'm happy to say that they went all out and did him justice. It should be obvious, but, in case you were wondering, no, this figure can't actually transform into a semi truck, but, on the upside, that did allow the sculptor to really focus on making his robot mode look great. My sample was missing the actual keychain when I got it; in fact, all that was left of it was a small, bent section of metal hanging out of his back, between his shiny shoulder blades. I can't say that I blame whomever owned this before me for removing it--nobody wants a cumbersome doo-dad hanging off their toy. Shortly after returning home with him, I clipped off that last remnant of the keychain because: (1) it looked terrible and (2) in all likelihood I'd probably end up impaling myself on it when I inevitably step on him with my bare feet (just like a kid, I have a bad habit of leaving my toys strewn all over the floor). So, from here on out, Optimus Prime's glory(?) days of guarding keys are just a memory and he's simply another action figure. While Prime isn't super-poseable, he certainly has more joints than I expected. He's got rotating cut joints at the neck, shoulders, waist, and hips (V-cut), as well as pin-jointed knees. This isn't the most impressive toy of the Autobot's Commander that I've ever owned, but he's better than I expected. If I drove a truck for a living, I couldn't imagine ever using anything else for my keychain--I'd probably go so far as to put a giant Autobot decal on the hood of my rig too. Look out world: I'm transporting five tons of kitty litter, cross-country, and I don't brake for Decepticons!

Just like the Hardee's Shrek ornament I wrote about last time, Wendy's fast food toys aren't something that I see very often (again, my finds are predominately McDonald's offerings, and, to a lesser extent, Burger King). This is a 2012 Mattel Flippin' Frogs game. The box measures about 3.5" (9.0 cm) wide by 3.5" (9.0 cm) long by 1" (2.5 cm) deep, just the right size for stuffing into a pocket for amphibian launching on the go. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that all of the playing pieces (three red frogs, three yellow frogs, and two green pads) are accounted for; the only thing that's missing from this sample is the paper playing instructions. Without them, I assumed that the goal of the game was to get the ketchup-and-mustard hued critters to land on the lily pads (that assumption was doubtlessly influenced by playing too much Frogger on the Atari 2600 back when I was a kid), however, after doing some research online, I found out that what you're really supposed to do is get them inside of the box itself. Those green discs are actually the tools for depressing the tabs on the frogs' posteriors, which results in them flipping through the air once you've exerted enough pressure (I was using my fingertip, which works, but those pads definitely give you more power and distance, not to mention being easier on your hands). I really like that the opened box doubles as the target--that's smart, economical design. This is a game that's probably better suited for younger children, due to its simplicity (whomever gets all three of their frogs into the box first wins), although the challenge can be increased easily by lengthening the distance between the box and your launching point. I'll admit that when I first laid eyes on this item (upon opening the mystery grab bag that it was in), I wasn't terribly impressed, hell, even crestfallen, but, after playing around with it, I can see now that I should have been elated. Flippin' Frogs is definitely one of the better fast food toys that I've purchased in recent memory and I heartily recommend it. Aside from the excellent price, stuff like this is the reason that I enjoy blind grab bags of random toys so much: I often end up with fun things that I never would have even considered purchasing otherwise (I seldom give board games more than a passing glance when I'm in the toy aisles).

From this distance, how could I possibly miss?
And, no, I'm not deliberately cheating, I just had to get my hand that close to the box in order to fit everything into this shot.

Here are a couple of 2013 Innovation First Hexbug McDonald's toys. While there were six different ones available, there are technically only three unique versions, because each one came in two different colors. You could get Beetle (#1 black or #6 orange), Speed Beetle (#2 green or #3 red), and Nano Pullback (#4 blue or #5 black). I've had Beetle Orange for awhile, and, since I acquired Speed Beetle Green recently, I figured it was time to give them a look in Toy Talk. Each has a different means of locomotion. Beetle Orange, clocking in at 2.6" (6.6 cm) in length and 1.3" (3.3 cm) in height, has to be wound up, via the dial on its back, and, once you've done so, it will very slowly, and noisily, walk across any flat surface. On the other hand, Speed Beetle Green, which measures about 3" (7.5 cm) long and 1.2" (3.0 cm) tall, sports a pull-back feature, not unlike many toy cars. Drag it backwards, which will wind the wheel/leg mechanism via friction, and then release it, and the robotic insect will skitter off at a pretty good clip. The green insect is much swifter than the orange bug, just like the proverbial tortoise and hare. I like them both, but, if I had to choose, I think I'd go with the emerald critter because it's bigger, faster, and I really like that neat circuit board decal underneath its transparent shell. I don't think that I'll pick up anymore of these Hexbugs fast food figures individually, but it's likely that I'll end up with some additional ones anyway, as they're recent releases and exactly the type of thing that gets packed into the random bags of toys that I like to buy.

When there's something strange living in your toy box, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!!! Egon is my favorite Real Ghostbusters character, and this particular one is the 5.4" (13.8 cm) tall 1989 Kenner "Screaming Heroes" version. The deal with those was that each character had a wind up fright feature that was activated by plugging the included ghost mini figure into their body. Egon's reaction to a supernatural encounter with "Squidsqueal" (the blue, octopus-like spirit that originally came with him, which, as usual, I don't have) was to spin his upper body around-and-around. Now, it's physiologically impossible to twist your torso like that unless you've got a rubber spine, but I'll give Dr. Spengler a pass, because I'd certainly be terrified enough to contort myself in that fashion too if a tentacled ghost floated up behind me and casually inserted itself into my rectum. Seriously, what's up with that? The whole arrangement is pretty suggestive for a kid's toy. The spring on my figure winds okay, but, for some reason, it won't lock into place, so, as soon as you let go of him, Egon starts spinning whether you like it or not (assuming I'm remembering things right, it's not supposed to do that until you plug the ghost into the port on his posterior). Other than his revolving waist, Egon only has five points of articulation: rotating cut joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips. Knee and elbow articulation would have gone a long way towards making him more versatile, but what can you do? Egon also originally came with two yellow accessories to help him fight his spectral adversary, a PKE Meter and a pistol of some sort, which I presume is a compact version of the neutrona wand from a proton pack. When I was a kid, I had the Peter Venkman (spinning arms) and Ray Stantz (spinning head) figures from this wave as well, but, alas, they're both long gone now. I'm not fond of the colors on this Egon toy. The predominately red and white suit is garish and has a Christmas vibe that doesn't really suit the subject matter, but I suppose Kenner had to keep making the four Ghostbusters look different each time they created a new assortment of figures to avoid confusion and to entice parents to keep buying them. While the hues aren't to my liking, the toy does boast some nice, if sparse, detailing and the head sculpt is a pretty good rendition of how the character looked in the cartoon. There are better Egon toys out there, but, like I said, he is my favorite, and I don't see Real Ghostbusters merchandise in thrift stores very often, so I figured I'd better snap him up.

Maybe I'm wrong, but, based on the line of spines on his head/back, I'm assuming that this 3.7" (9.3 cm) tall 2012 Hasbro Littlest Pet Shop Russell Ferguson McDonald's toy is a hedgehog, as I don't think too many people would keep a porcupine as a pet. The animal's sculpt is solid work, albeit cartoony and afflicted with a gigantic melon, but that's the trademark Littlest Pet Shop look. The sky blue skateboard has some nice detailing on it--each of the wheels have a pawprint sculpted on them, with "LPS" in raised relief in the center, and, likewise, the sides have "Littlest Pet Shop" surrounded by a blazing comet effect. Russell's ride could have used some paintwork to provide some contrast, but, alas, it's all one color. Thanks to an internal mechanism, Mr. Ferguson's head rocks forwards-and-backwards when you roll him across any hard, flat surface. However, because the toy only has a single wheel on its underside (the skateboard's four sculpted wheels are immobile), it doesn't glide too smoothly, and the toy tends to get scuffed up from the resulting friction. This item really needed at least one more wheel on its bottom, to provide a smoother ride and to prevent rub marks on the plastic, or, even better, the ones on the skateboard's sides could have been functional rather than ornamental. I imagine that single wheel design was probably a cost-saving measure. Russell Ferguson is a cute-looking critter, but, taken as a whole, I can't say that I like this toy very much. I feel this would have been a stronger offering if Hasbro and McDonald's had nixed the rocking head feature (or, alternatively, made him a simple bobblehead instead, as they've done with previous LPS figurines) and given Russ a normal skateboard accessory that his feet could attach to via a peg. It always seems like fast food toys have to "do something", but I would argue that a basic toy can be every bit as good, if not better, than a gimmicky one.

I haven't told this story yet, and I'm getting down to the nitty-gritty as far as the things that I bought that day goes, so, I suppose now is as good a time as any: Apparently, I come off as some kind of possessive spaz when I'm shopping for toys in thrift stores. The day that I bought Russell Ferguson, I had the big plastic bag of toys that he was in, TMNT's Shredder, the TMNT Cheapskate vehicle, and Green Lantern Grapplin' Kilowog all piled up and clutched tightly between my arms as I was strolling around the aisles. Well, one of the store's employees came up to me and asked me if I'd like a shopping cart, to which I politely declined, and then, as she walked away, she remarked, "Okay, but you're carrying around that stuff like tomorrow is never going to come."


In retrospect, maybe I should've been an ass and went into full-on Gollum parody mode in response, gripped my plastic goodies even more tightly to my chest, and hissed, "Mine! Nobody touchesss my preciousss!"

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