Halloween Figures Lost to Time
We've all grown up with out favorite toys, action figures, and playthings. However for each that stays in our memory and causes us to live in dreamy nostalgia for 30 years based on 5 years of our youth, there are many more that go unnoticed...unloved...unremembered (English is a flexible language, I can make things up).
So below, I’ve scoured the depths of the collective consciousness and gathered the best of that which has been unreleased or otherwise lost to time. Perhaps I’ll do another for Christmas, but here’s a wide array of those related to our next beloved holiday: Halloween.
Warriors of the Bone TM
We’ll start off with the Warriors of the BoneTM. They came out in the late 1970s, so even I missed the boat. Skeletons were all the rage, so I’ve heard, so it’s not surprising that these dastardly fighter bust out onto the scene. I guess since they were already dead, it gave them a competitive edge. That didn’t stop them from using an array of weapons though. Flint-lock pistols, bowie knives and crutches or something, pimp cane… The last one seems like he’s there for moral support or just to provide lunch after the fighting. He wasn’t allowed to eat though, since the food would just end up in his birdcage of a torso, and that’s sort of gross.
Figures on Trading Cards
Action figures weren’t the only hot commodity. Trading cards were booming in the 80s. Not as booming as the following decade of course, but there were enough empty shelves that needed something—anything—on them. This of course led to a downswing in quality, so instead of getting more toys, we simply got pictures of toys. As you can see, many don’t even appear to be production ready. A bit of molded clay, not even fully dried, and it’s ready to make its cardstock debut. The Dark Helmet inspired pumpkin man was years before its time. Not too many years, but I’d say some royalties are owed.
It would be a while before the hey-day of Ebay and the vibrant and ruthless collector after-market—one in which the term ‘Mint in Box’ would be the difference between grand riches and being laughed out of your local Toy Vault. However mint was an all too common color in 1987, and it was given generous treatment in the apparel of the Command-MintTM lineup.
I’m unsure who the enemies were, or even if they themselves were the baddies, but the only true foes to be fought were fashion faux-pas. Accessories, belt buckles, and even tackle boxes were prime necessities for their daily activities. If anyone needed a cartoon series on Saturday mornings, it was this lineup.
I guess blister pack is the proper term these days for the way-overpriced ReAction figures and the like. But toys came in all sorts of wacky packages. Here’s a few examples ranging from jars to zip-lock bags. Display globes had some popularity for a few minutes too. I included the bubble helmet pumpkin cyborg for lack of a better place to put it, but it intrigues me too much to leave it out. Do pumpkin heads breathe? Do they need special air? What’s the deal with the larger accessory jack-o-lantern? These questions will never have answers. I’m so sorry.
Fab Creations TM
Okay, enough scary figures for the time being, let’s jump into something a bit cuter. Technically not figures, these were kits that allowed you to dress up some basic shaped which would then become figures. Sometimes you’d need to work with a small pumpkin, other times you’d need to find some Styrofoam spheres or even cookie tins.
The main drawback is that the end result never looked like what the product photos would portray. Granted even the professional results were somewhat lacking, but yours would certainly be all the worse.
Not everything was cute, not everything was scary. But there was certainly room in the middle for the genuinely unsettling. Here’s a selection of some of the odder choices ranging from the Goop Robot of 1975, the Batkin of 1994, and the Wintoen of 2002. I skipped over the pumpking plush thing. It may not seem too bizarre, but notice that there’s three legs. That just wouldn’t fly in [current year].
Body Horrors TM
The Body Horrors were a product of the mid-2000s when the horror movies of the time were pushing the boundaries of good taste and the limited of acceptable gore. ‘Dental Work’ was a skeleton/pumpkin hybrid consisting of thousands of teeth (supposedly, I didn’t count). ‘Jack Society’ flaunted his excesses of wealth that led to a life of depravity and violence. ‘Eye Strain’ simply did his best to hold his mere existence together. And ‘Mantis Capsule’ mixed it all up. Skulls, pumpkins, skeletons, thorns… All tropes of course, but a mantis ootheca is certainly a novel idea. You’re unlikely to know that one would bother you on a psychological level until you’re confronted with the horror first-hand. Sadly this didn’t avoid the censors, and the lineup was quickly swept away and forgotten.
Automotons and Transformer-ish Things
I’ve lumped a few there from different decades, but despite the technology and expectations by dirty pawed children, there are some similarities. I’m realizing now that I should have probably ordered them better, but I closed Photoshop already and I didn’t save the source file.
The second is from the 1950s or maybe as early as the 40s, and through some simply levels and such, it would perform some rudimentary actions. The one on the right-most didn’t move, but would light up if properly powered. The others were sort of Transformer knock-offs, but didn’t turn into cars. They just sort of folded up. Not too exciting, but what do you want from bootlegs.
Action figures and toys were only part of the market with plushies and softer options filling out the rest. These first few sort of bridge the gaps, as they were more decorative and free-standing. This necessitated a more rigid core in order to do so, thus making them not as cuddly as they could have been. This also mean that they’d more quickly gather dust, and if you’ve even tried to clean up felt that’s been standing on a shelf, you know what a nightmare that is.
So naturally there had to be something that would comfort a child deep in the night during the witching hour when faint scratching could be heard from behind the closet door. Holding that pug or lamb or whatever that thing is, meant the difference between sacred security and certain death from the closet walker. I have my doubts about that last one though. Seems more for the novelty market if you ask me.
Hard Core Figures
Again, there’s an array here, but the common theme is their provocative nature. The skullmen mean business, and as far and I know they’re not from the same lineup surprisingly. One does stand out, and no…it’s not the Richard ‘Ice Man’ Kuklinski POP prototype from the ill-fated serial killer series. No, it’s that red robot. Why? You Ask. Well that red aesthetic…it’s not paint.
So what happens when the world’s power grid falters after the Teslas become self-aware and chew up all the electricity so they can go off on joy-rides without any human passengers to justify it? Well you need a toy that is mechanical and self-powered through the tried and true, time-tested miracle of potential energy.
Simply wind up the key and let it go. It will walk forward, or maybe roll a bit. Then you wind it up again. Fun for the whole family. The ones that remain after the sentient cars get bored running us over for sport, anyway.
Pumpkins, pumpkins. There’s never a shortage. These here aren’t really toys or figures, but the stuff that gets released during each Halloween/Harvest season and sits on a mantle until you stash it in the attic for the following months. Ideally you would find it and display once again when the time is right, but you know you’ll never remember where you put it, so you’ll have to buy new ones all over again until your land your spot on Hoarders.
Ghouls and Skeletons
I couldn’t find much in the way of specifics, but these certainly have an early 2000s vibe to them. Not too gruesome, but overly detailed and prone to cracking each and every fine detail if you hold them too much. Of course, they also break from UV exposure even when not in use, so it’s a losing proposition right out of the gate. Credit to the smoking witch skeleton. I guess the gimmick here is that you light a mini-incense stick in its mouth, then cover up that sickly smell of the devil’s lettuce that your mom pretends to ignore, but still silently cries at night all the same.
Huh, skulls, yeah. I picked way too many photos, and now I’m stuck writing about them. Have you noticed the paragraphs getting smaller and fewer? Much like the pumpkins, you’d find these at craft stores in the seasonal section, which somehow kicks off with a 50% clearance sales starting in late August. The dirty trick is that the prices are increased to 200% before the sale, so do the math and wake up. Soon enough you’ll be doing pondering the logistics of wartime coal rations.
Boxes play two roles. One is to deliver the product to the store in a reasonably secure mean, and one that also is visually pleasing to the eye. The second is to ensure that maximum value is retained decades later at the cost of robbing a child of his or her precious few years of memory building. Dog ears, wrinkled cardboard, RIPS? No, no, keep those boxes in mint condition, and ensure the next generation only buys toys to store safely in a climate control environment. You won’t be able to live with yourself if the Tooth Dolly can’t fetch a decent price on eBay once the time comes.
Now what do we do for the inconsolable child who wants to actually interact with a new plaything? Well you could lecture about the importance of preservation, but instead enter the fold-out box. It’s the happy medium of being able to seek the toy inside, without the temptation of actually removing it and thus tanking your retirement plan. Granted you can only admire from afar, but it’s better than being in a bin down at the local self-storage lot.
Scraps and Ends
Retail is only one avenue, but it has a sustainability problem. Precious plastic has to be mined from deep within the Earth, and once that’s gone, it’s gone. Enter the craft market and places like Etsy, where individuals alike can glue random bits of stuff together and make their own collectables. One man’s junk is another’s $15 expenditure, of which 20% is skimmed as a transaction fee.
Didn’t I just write about junk? Here’s more. Looks cool, but I can’t be bothered to think up anything new. Luckily, we’re almost done.
So remember when a toy was advertised in a commercial, and the kids would have these elaborate setups in which to play? It wasn’t technically misleading, since none of it was for sale, but one could never hope to have such an environment in reality.
That was more of a personal rant, since here the layouts are more subdued. I’m fairly certain that all those pumpkins don’t come with the figure sets though. And that raised a question: who makes the props for toys. Does the manufacturer spin up some things that will never be sold since they have the factory resources, or is there another company that provides odds and ends? Seems like a niche market, but things like this will keep me up at night nonetheless.
Yay, we’re and the end and pushing 2000 words. On a Friday no less and under and hour before I need to be somewhere else.
Remember Koosh Balls? Remember the knock-offs? You’d be forgiven if you don’t. This one here on the left was sort of a creature mashup, which appears cute at first, but will tempt you to put your finger in its mouth. It’s a feeling not unlike your pinkie in a dog’s nose. Not recommended.
Other items were more practical. Take pencil sharpeners. You could have a cold utilitarian option, but what’s the fun in that? Instead, why not a skull-pumpkin thing balancing yet another non-skull pumpkin on its head. Shove your dull pencil directly up it sinus, grind it to a skin piercing point, and then slowly inhale the intoxicating scent of ground shavings from the aeration vents which are its teeth.
We’ll ignore the pumpkin monk since that makes no sense and jump (HAHA!) into the bean bag chain. Illuminated chairs were in vogue for a time, but the wear and tear usually damaged the wiring to the point that it simply became a regular beanbag chair, at which point stuff was usually piled on it as a makeshift table that never held things flatly.
Thank you for reading about the stuff that time forgot. Feel free to comment which ones you remember.