The action figure industry is based on one idea: that young boys don't exactly have high standards when it comes to quality.
Remember the action figures from your childhood? The ones that gave you hours of unbridled entertainment? As it turns out, some of it was so crappy it borders on depressing.
When a toy manufacturer markets an action figure based off a crazed killing machine, we have to assume they aimed it at children who were told bedtime stories that started off with "So, there I was... knee-deep in Charlie guts... "
Or maybe, as brutally violent as the films are, John Rambo still appeals to the 8-year-old in all of us. He rebels against a world that, as Will Smith said best, parents just don't understand. We all felt like Rambo at one time or another, just wanting to go over to our friend's house to play, causing us to throw a murderous temper tantrum so monumentally destructive no amount of time-out can clean the blood from our hands, unless it involves a 4-by-4 concrete cell and a bucket in which to defecate. Figuratively.Worst Toy in the Line:
This honor actually goes to two horrendously designed figures. First, there's the Rambo figure (appropriately named "Rambo") which is strapped with oodles of killing mechanisms, none which can disguise the fact that he looks like a greased-up cage dancer that just wants to bump and grind his shell-shock away.
Then there is the "RAMBO ONE-MAN ASSULT JET" which is more Rambo then jet.
There is something inherently wrong when you see a man piloting a jet that has replaced a conventional cockpit glass dome with a plastic welding visor, and the typical flight suit with a more breathable shirtless look. When you see a man flying at you in a vehicle that offers about as much protection as a Harley-Davidson, you know the bare-chested psycho steering the thing doesn't care about his own life but, rather, the amount of people-chunks that will inevitably obstruct his view of the slaughter.
Also, the jet, like most of these Rambo toys, is loaded to the sweaty mullet with unnecessary missiles, grenade launchers and guns, all of which goes against the underdog spirit of the whole franchise. All Rambo really needs is an ejector seat and a survival knife with which to rain steel justice upon those of the evil persuasion. In the first movie, the only weapon he's given at the outset of the movie is the fucking forest. This is why a Rambo toy line is so ill-conceived. To make money, every action figure needs tie-in toys, bad ass, death-weilding versions of the Barbie Dream House. But the only Rambo toy you should really need is John Rambo. To put it another way, it's tough to justify tie-in toys when your protagonist only needs his bare hands to punch someone's head off.
What probably started as a slightly clever play on words that should have never made it as far as a toy designers' self-congratulatory smile exploded into a full-on line aimed at the portly, but purchased by all. They must have figured that America's rotund youth would happily go on magical adventures with anthropomorphic hot dogs and donuts while their more athletic peers played outside.
"Combat at its kookiest!" was Mattel's tag line for the toys, but the figures actually came with little plastic guns to shoot each other with. So it wasn't a situation where Major Munch (the donut) was squirting wacky cream filling at Private Pizza. No, the implied combat was done with real bullets. The victims merely looked kooky, which does not make the combat itself "kooky" under modern rules of warfare.
Mean Weener (a sad little fellow with a dripping frankfurter hanging loose from his lips) seems to realize the tragedy of their situation.
"Taco Terror" has seized on his role as warrior and meets the enemy with a scowl, unaware that his tiny helmet is protecting nothing, and only a layer of shredded cheese is protecting his guts from Weener's .45 caliber hollow points.
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The rest of the figures sport Taco's crazed, wide-eyed expression of war-time rage, with the exception of Sergeant Scoop. A half-melted chocolate and vanilla ice cream cone that, judging by his googly eyes and retard smile, was drafted into this war of dinnertime dominance straight out of his "special care" institution.
One can venture to guess that if there were to be a big budget Hollywood adaptation of "Food Fighters" Sergeant Scoop would be the dim-witted, yet lovable solider that we grow attached to only to watch him melt away in a hot fryer grease explosion. The Bugerdier General (a hamburger with arms and legs... duh) would assume a grim voice and say--in voice-over: "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you slurp you cone!" Actual words from Scoop's packaging.
The original Stretch Armstrong toy line was released in 1976, but it was pretty boring when compared to the 1992 line which featured a slew of terrible design features, all of which added to the growing childhood bloodlust to find out just what the fuck that toothy, pompadoured bastard was filled with.
The biggest flaw in the revitalized Stretch Armstrong toy line was revitalizing the Stretch Armstrong toy line. CAP toys (who purchased the property for some reason) grossly overestimated the world's need for a latex sock filled with sex jelly and the line only had a moderate level of success among their target audience: curious children with easy access to scissors.
Once word spread that Stretch was filled with a corn syrup-like substance and not the other-worldly, extra-terrestrial, super-power-giving goop that all children believed was underneath his morose penis-looking limbs, kids just stopped caring about the closeted crime-fighter in the ball shorts and tube top.
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There is no way to sugar coat this: Stretch looks like a dick. Not only do his limbs resemble flaccid penises, his face makes him look like the metaphorical kind of dick who will "accidentally" teabag you as you bench press. He has an air of gym-rat douchebag wafting around him that is only emphasized by the fact that he bares a striking resemblance to silver screen icon of dickdom, William Zabka, better known as "That Cobra Kai dick from The Karate Kid.'"
Above: Stretch Armstrong.
Stretch Armstrong was no fun by any "stretch" of the imagination (get it?!?!). You grab one end and your buddy grabs the other. You run backwards and marvel at this wondrous "draw and quarter" kit for kids, then let go and watch him shrink like a cold penis.
Sure, a more inventive kid could open and drain the doll, then fill it with strawberry jam and watch the "guts" spurt out as they crush him with a rock. But at that point you're making your own fun and the toy has failed you.
We've all experienced it: the arm or leg of your favorite toy broke-off like the cheap Taiwanese piece of playtime shit it was and, just before you got a chance to steal your dad's lighter and attempt to weld that sucker back on, you lose the dismembered appendage. You're then forced to create storylines in which you attempt to rationalize the toys' disfigurement.
Who knew that one day there would be a toy line predicated solely on this idea? Tyco, that's who.
"The Incredible Crash Dummies" was a source of much frustration for kids as its primary function was to break. Evidently, a Tyco big-wig thought, "You know what? All these little fuckers are just gonna keep breaking everything we put out and blame us for shoddy manufacturing anyway, so why don't we flip the so-called script and make a toy that embraces our incompetence and uses it as its selling point!"
Left: Good guys. Right: Bad guys. Whole picture: Shitty toys.
This rousing board meeting speech was probably met with applause, tears of joy and human limbs exploding outward, violently.
No matter how dumb the initial premise of the toys were, kids still paid an arm and a leg (GET IT?) for these things. There was a time when you couldn't step foot on a playground sandbox without getting the sense that you just wandered into the world's most fun recreation of Omaha Beach. Once there, you could sit for hours just watching the children enjoying their little plastic torsos; every once in a while overhearing the sweet voice of a child say, "Where the fuck are my legs at?!"Worst Toy in the Line:
Kids love dogs and cats. Kids love cars. Kids love toys. Therefore, kids should love running over dogs and cats with toy cars.
That was the rationale behind "Hubcat and Bumper." How deranged must one be to design a toy that allows children to simulate vehicular animal homicide?
Abandoning the "push a button and watch him pop" design, Tyco instead opted to install a joint down the middle of the fluffy critters that would allow children to split them in half as if they were road kill. The only thing these shining beacons of animal cruelty were missing was "uber cool soul-crushing guilt action!" which would allow kids to split the toys then be overcome with a brooding sense of looming death and despair. Damn, that would have been fun, huh?
A lot has been made about the homosexual themes in the He-Man universe. And, many a young male began examine their He-Man action figure, feeling oddly uncomfortable at the sight of his flowing Prince Valiant hair-do, his oiled, ridiculously muscled torso and tiny furred Speedo. And, a look on his face that conveyed the act of physical love, captured in mid-grunt.
If He-Man represented a more subtle form of molestation, Skeletor was the polar opposite. His studded black leather costume was reminiscent of a demonic leather daddy, who could have easily graced the covers of many a death-metal album and certain magazines they always sold behind the counter at the convenience store. Way behind.
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Some of you are turning up your noses at the idea of homosexual overtones--we assure you, we do not take the topic lightly.
Let us simply list for you some names of actual He-Man characters:
Still not convinced?
We thus present you with: FISTO.
Can't get enough shitty toys? You may have missed our Christmas Eve rundown of the 5 Least Surprising Toy Recalls. Or, if you're tired of us picking on things you loved when you were young and still innocent, check out yesterday's Nooner, where Ross Wolinsky makes fun of a nice Jewish family that you've probably never met before, and gets disowned in the process.