Sunday, 11 December 2016

Toys of Christmas Past


So I said the next pot would be less indulgent and that was because I was planning to post my Smartians tribute but Dinosaur Dracula, my main blogging inspiration and by ‘inspiration’ I mean ‘house I repeatedly rob’, did a special edition of his 5 Random Action Figures posts, my favourite of his regular features. This edition was five figures that were all received as gifts at Christmas when he was a kid, he then asked for readers to post some examples/stories of toys/dolls they received as kids in the comments. I started writing a post but it got so long I decided to make it a full blog post, plus remembering is very difficult for me. Why is remembering hard? Apparently it’s a common problem for people who have the mental health issues I have – depression and related issues (paranoia, anxiety etc) - I don’t know why this is, I know that once out of a ‘bout’ of depression I remember very little of what happened when in it but then why does it affect memories of times before I had the problem or during times when I wasn’t having a bout? Is it the medication? Must investigate further. Of course it’s quite possible that it doesn’t apply to me and I just have a really shitty memory for life experiences because I use all my memory blocks to remember the elemental types of Pok√©mon and the real names of X-Men characters. Whatever it is, my memories are quite fragmented and just to be bloody difficult I have more fragments about Birthday gifts than I do Christmas ones.  I did manage to pull out five memories though, so are you sitting comfortably? Then it was Christmas Eve babe, in the drunk tank…

Moby Lick!
Street Sharks, 1995
Because of the way fads in the 1990s tended to go, I’d have ‘a Biker Mice Birthday’ or a ‘Bucky O’Hare Christmas’ with each new line small enough for my mum (who spoils me on both of these occasions and I still feel really guilty about that) to buy the bulk of what was offered, only Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers really lasted longer than one celebration. Going by sites like Figurerealm and Action Figure Archive I’m guessing that ‘the Street Sharks Christmas’ was Christmas 1995, making me 9. My mum got me the four ‘Sharks in their metallic series two paint jobs plus a smattering of villains and allies and their car – the ginormous Sharkcruiser 4X4, a monster truck that’s nearly as tall as Castle Grayskull. Slight digression: later I went on holiday on a canal boat and bought a Street Sharks toy that was broken out of the box (I think it was the Shark Force Tank), my nan wrote a letter of complaint to Mattel and they sent us this huge box that included all of the vehicles and Mecho-Shark, it arrived randomly one day in the summer holidays, if you have not experienced it, imagine a 9 year old child receiving a surprise box of expensive toys for a line he was all-in on, then double that reaction, you’re almost there.
Not being a shark (or even a fish) you’d be right in deducing that Moby Lick wasn’t one of the Street Sharks – he was their friend, a builder I think, who got tricked by Dr Piranoid and I received him in the first ‘lot’ that Street Sharks Christmas. This toy squirts water so it’s instantly better than many other toys, sadly I’ve lost his little red cap because of course of killer whale man with a prehensile tongue had a baseball cap, this was the 1990s. Anyway every Boxing Day we’d go to my Aunt Joycie’s house to see my nan’s side of the family, the only extended family on my mother’s side and I have a picture perfect memory of playing with Moby Lick (of which I received two somehow that Christmas) up her stairs, her stairs were totally enclosed on both sides (unlike ours which were open on one side) and I used to shelter up them like I was in a tunnel of solitude and play with action figures pretending no one knew where I was – even though they had to pass me every time they need to pee.

Cruncher!
Zoids 2, 1994
I think I’ve told this story before on here, but my most vivid Christmas memory is building a set of Zoids 2 kids in the space behind the rocking chair at my Aunt Joycie’s house, me and mum sat there most of boxing day building. We built between 8 and 12 kits that day including the giant Ultrasaurus and after each one we’d set them walking across my great aunt’s thick carpet and see how long they took to fall over, well that’s the game I was playing anyway – I believe Spinefin got the furthest and Hellrunner fell after about half a step. I actually had Zoids for Christmas two years about three years apart (1994 and 1997 I’d guess) and I got them both from the same place – a Garden Centre called Springtime of course, where do you buy your Japanese model kits from? For people who go to the largest and most popular garden centre in the area, the toy section used to be upstairs in what would now be the second of their ‘house’ deco if you could go up there.
I fucking LOVE Zoids, especially Zoids 2 when they gave them all black and metallic colour schemes – not just because of the heaps of nostalgia but because they looked so good; well except Black Rhimos, his colours didn’t really gel, I think too many in too many odd places, he looked like a kid coloured him in using bucket fill on MS Paint. This is Cruncher, better known as Zear Fighter, who received I think the best make-over: that black and metallic green just looks great together, if I ever get a car I want it these colours, and also to be a giant robot bear. I don’t have any of my original Zoids 2 (from either Christmas) left, they seemed to crumble even when just sitting still, Ultrasaurus used to live under my bed (which was a cabin bead, so had about a three foot gap below it) and I swear part of him just used to fall off daily while I slept. This doesn’t seem to happen with any Zoids I own as an adult, so I’m blaming pixies that only target the under 12s.

Toilet Bowlin’ Odie!
Go Go Garfield, 1991
All the things I can’t remember, all the cool shit that I can’t remember where and when I got them, including half my Ninja Turtles, but I can remember getting these pull-back Garfield toys perfectly. I received three – Racin’ Garfield, Mousin’ Garfield and Toilet Bowlin’ Odie and can remember opening them (being ‘festival seating’ presents used to bulk out my pile they were in this cheap, thin silver paper my nan had for about 10 years straight), I remember them being on my pile unwrapped (I still put all my presents into a set of small piles each Christmas and Birthday, so they look like a small cityscape), and I remember playing with them in the hall at night after coming home from my dad’s (I used to go dad’s for the afternoon each Christmas Day). Again I can’t remember getting the original TMNT action figures but I have perfectly clear memories of watching Odie speed along on a khazie with wheels. And it’s not like I can say ‘well if the Turtles had toilet based toys I’d remember that’ because they DID, it was called the Flushomatic, it was awesome, it allowed you to gunge the Turtles through a neon toilet bowl and it has my favourite piece of TMNT box art.
I’m a bit of a Garfield fan on the quiet, as a kid I had a pile of the comics, a pile of the landscape books and a pile of those little books they released, the ones that were a little bit smaller than Goosebumps books? I think I still have those ones, and now I have every strip from 1978 to 2009 on my computer, the strips with the rubber chicken still crack me up. These pull-backs are actually really good, they go well, are great representations of the characters and they were as close to Garfield action figures as I had, I’ve just recently found out that Playmates made a Wacky Wind-Up set of toys and a big collector’s figure to go with Go Go Garfield and now covet them like sacred jewels. 

Toad Storm Trooper!
The S.P.A.C.E. Adventures of Bucky O’Hare & The Toad Wars, 1991
Another memory from 1991 and another relating to my Auntie Joycie’s house, because Christmas Day was so busy for me Boxing Day was really the first opportunity I had to spend time with my new toys and as I was an antisocial fuck even then I’d much rather spend time with Al Negator and Deadeye Duck than my family. I don’t actually remember receiving my Bucky O’Hare figures (though I do know I received the complete line – all 10 figures and both vehicles, god I was spoilt) all I have is this snapshot of looking down my great aunt’s front room toward her garden and seeing the Toad Croaker and Double Bubble semi-sunk in her carpet like they’d just crashed on Degobah. I thought they looked cool.
I’m using the Toad Storm Trooper for this post because I don’t know where my Bucky O’Hare vehicles are, the Toad Storm Troopers were the army builder for the wave, just like those more famous white Stormtroopers (with about the same level of skill when it came to accuracy), ooh two Star Wars references in one section. I kind of associate Bucky O’Hare with Street Sharks even though they came out four years apart (a lifetime for a kid), now I realise this is probably because they were both the dominant franchise for a Christmas of my childhood but I’d like to think it’s also because they were both big, bright, chunky cartoony toys with great sculpts and awesome vehicles that I grew up feeling were criminally underrated; not understanding the concept of nostalgia I couldn’t get why people went so mad over Megos and He-Man (even though I was a complete Masters of the Universe fan) when Street Sharks were just as good quality. I’m really pleased that they’re getting some respect nowadays, some of its 90’s nostalgia (thank god that’s a thing, no more chuckles) but some of it’s just toy collectors appreciating good toys outside of the era they grew up in and that gives me hope for the hobby.

Captain Simian
Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys, 1996
I loved this show as a kid and as an adult who can appreciate the sci-fi parody aspects that much better I like it even more today but I have no idea how I came across it. I can usually remember this – for instance Bucky O’Hare was the fault of my nan being an avid reader and going to our local library all the time, she used to rent me videos and used to rent me the Bucky O’Hare one they had – but I have no idea how I came across Captain Simian. The titular hero here’s a chimp a sentient space ship evolved into an anthropomorph doing a William Shatner impression.
Anyway we’re back at my Auntie Joycie’s only this time we’re sitting in front of her fake marble fireplace, the same one my dad accidentally kicked their poodle into when it tried humping his leg that time and my grandad is showing his brother-in-law (Uncle Fred) the Primate Avenger vehicle, a big-ass monkey-esque ship that split into smaller ships. For some reason his ass was completely fascinated by this and my ability to split it and reassemble it; so he had me demonstrate this to Uncle Fred, beforehand I was just having a little conversation with the good captain and then suddenly I was Debbie McGee. Then I went back to making Captain Simian chat to me about made up space stuff and bananas, I often mumbled to my figures as if they were speaking to me, usually narrating some adventure they’d had, I was lonely. Grandad showed it off, lifting it in the air and turning it, he was sitting in the same rocking chair I built the Zoids behind. Uncle Fred didn’t quite share my Grandad’s interest by the way. My Grandad died this year and despite this being a (rare) happy memory (hmm I don’t know if happy is the right word, confusing and amusing are perhaps better) I hadn’t thought about it until writing this post, it’s nice to have another pleasant thing to remember about him: that one time a toy of mine actually impressed him.  

On that depressing note that’s all I could crowbar out of my head, I really wish I remembered more specifics from my childhood Christmases, most of it is feelings, brought back by certain toys, certain video games, certain decorations, sometimes just certain lighting or weather, I wish my Christmases of today were like those feelings, rich deep colours, warm cosy feelings, half exhausted surrounded by lots of people I only vaguely wanted around but really needed around to feel like the day was extra-special. I still have a nice time at Christmas of course but some of that Christmas feeling is gone and really, cold colours and minimalism are way too common at Christmas these days, I want Christmas to look like a Happy Holidays Barbie not a level from Portal. Well that was cheery, thanks for reading. 

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