Tag Archives: GI Joe

The History Behind Iconic Toys in Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us.

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Star Wars toys remain a big draw card for kids and adult collectors.

Every year around early December, it becomes clear that there is that one ‘must have’ toy that needs to under the Christmas tree ready for opening on December 25th. From Furbies to Tamagotchi’s to last years ‘Hatchimals‘ and to this years current fad of ‘LOL Surprise Dolls‘ these toys bring in big money for the toy companies that make and sell them and while hugely popular they may be, they don’t hold the interest or the market nearly as long as some iconic toy lines did in the early 80’s to the mid to late 90’s.

The new Netflix documentary series The Toys That Made Us takes a long hard and sometimes dark look behind a collection of the most iconic toys that helped shape companies like Mattel and Hasbro to what they are today.

The eight episode season one (four episodes are currently live for streaming with the following four to come in early 2018) offers a look at the early stages of mega lines like Barbie, GI Joe, He-Man and Star Wars and the sometimes chaotic and spur of the moment thinking that brought about some of our childhood’s most beloved characters, designs and the brilliant marketing behind these that made these toys still as relevant today as they were when they started out.

Mattel - 2016 New York Toy Fair
Barbie’s origin is explored in depth and it’s quite racy!

Each episode (that runs at about the 45 minute mark) features vintage adverts, interviews with creators, designers and many many others involved with the creation of these toys with each episode (aired so far) showcasing the numerous minds behind these lines and the confusion (or difference of opinion) everyone seems to suffer from on just who should be credited with the creation of these toys.

The next four episodes are scheduled for early 2016 and feature Transformers, Hello Kitty, Star Trek, and LEGO with a second season already in the planning stages though what will be covered is still unknown.

Some suggestions though for season two:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Playmates / 1988 – present.

Original Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Originating as a comic book series, the action figure line by Playmates featuring four ninja trained turtles and their news reporter friend became a mega hit with kids and saw the company hit gold, releasing countless waves of variations of the four main characters and almost every single side character ever featured in the comics, animated series and live action movies.  Today, mint carded original figures sell for big dollars.

The X-Men: Toybiz / 1991 – 1998

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 After acquiring an exclusive license to Marvel Characters in 1993, toy company Toybiz set about releasing the first ever in-depth line of X-men and Marvel action figures that featured everything from 6″ figures to 10″ figures, vehicles, playsets and 12″ fashion dolls.  Characters like Wolverine saw 7 different variations, Storm featured a light up lightning bolt on her chest and so big was the line, lesser known characters like Kylun (who featured *barely* in the pages of X-Men side comic Excalibur) were even produced.

Value in original carded figures remains steady – pending the figure – at around the $20-$40 mark.

Celebrity Dolls: Mego / 1976 to 1978.

8861676521_e88590a1e7In 1976, Mego Corporation saw an opportunity to finally take on the massive Barbie market by producing a line of 12″ celebrity dolls with the first two off the ranks being Sonny and Cher dolls to coincide with their hugely popular Prime Time Variety Show.  The Cher doll featured an incredible 32 piece wardrobe designed by Bob Mackie and became the number one selling doll that year.  Off that success, other dolls including Captain and Tenille, Laverne and Shirley, Dianna Ross, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Suzanne Somers were all released.  After shifting their focus to electronic toys in the late 70’s to early 80’s Mego filed for Bankruptcy and closed in 1983.

Original boxed Cher dolls, fashions and playsets can fetch anywhere between $60 to $400.

The Toys That Made Us is now streaming on Netflix Australia.

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Toy Review: Total Soldier Corps Elite Vs The Curse

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Fans and collectors of the long running GI Joe figures by Hasbro will undoubtedly, during their time, have come across the well known knock-off line “The Corps” figures by Lanard Toys.  It’s pointless in trying to deny it!  We all had them infiltrating our collections at one time or another!  They’re cheaper though less articulated and are more readily available on store shelves than Joes are currently here in Australia.

Though recently, Lanard re-branded the Corps line as The Corps Elite Vs The Curse, released a bunch of brand new vehicles, mega play sets and figures, introduced new characters with better articulation and launched a website featuring bios, artwork and mini comics.  It’s a big and bold move for the company, but a smart one, especially in an age where its competitor in Hasbro’s GI Joe are becoming more and more scarce on toy shelves and collectors are screaming for more releases.

The biggest and best change to the line is the introduction of two female characters, never seen before within the Corps line.  Somehow, over all these years, there has been zero female presence within the Corps line which, looking back, is rather odd considering Lanards influence of Hasbro’s Joe line which contains a strong female presence with characters like Scarlet, Lady Jaye, Baroness, Agent Helix…the list goes on.

Snake Bite by Lanard Toys. Photo from Actionfigurebarbecue.com
                                         Snake Bite by Lanard Toys. Photo from Actionfigurebarbecue.com

That’s all changed now with ‘Snake Bite’ and ‘Puma’ permanently added to the roster and due to their popularity, could lead the way to even more gals to future Corps releases.  Snake Bite, the red headed Aussie chick and Puma, the gun toting bad-girl brunette feature a brand new head sculpt each though share the same body, but also feature increased articulation on a Corps figure.  The new figures offer 6 points of articulation from hinged knees, ball jointed hips, swivel mid-torso, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, and a ball jointed head (standard Corps figures usually offer 4-5 points of articulation) which will keep the Joe fans happy.  The paint apps are nice with Snake Bite’s funky side shaved red hair and green/grey camouflage and Puma’s brown pompadour pony-tail and red/brown uniform.  The only miss is Snake Bite is missing her eye under her red fringe.

The brand new three figure packs also offer up a series of weapons (of which the girls have two throwing daggers, a pistol and crossbow each AND with added ports, these girls can hold all their weapons at once!) along with a motorcycle which, judging by the articulation needed to put the figure on, is made specifically for Puma and Snake Bite.

Brand new character Puma
Brand new character Puma

These new Corps figures have been floating around England and the USA for a few months now and have recently begun popping up in Target stores here in Australia oddly branded through Target’s budget Kids Space line (I say odd as Lanard’s website lists KMart as the official Aussie distributor for the line and Kmart confirmed to me that these figures aren’t releasing until Jan 2016) The price point for these figures are pretty neat also with the three pack selling at Target for $8 each (yep, $8 for three figures, a bunch of weapons and a vehicle!) and single carded figures for only $3 each – though, just like everywhere else, Puma and Snake Bite are not sold individually.

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The official figures with detailed card back
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Target Australia’s Kids Space offering

Where Hasbro’s effort with GI Joe being literally non existent on shelves anymore, Lanard’s newer offerings have arrived at the right time and with the right price point.  Affordable, visual, fun and diverse!  You can find the figure packs via Target Australia under their Kids Space budget toy line right now or as the official Corps Elite branding in Kmart Australia in Jan 2016.