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Very few imaginations beat an awesome playset
July 3, 2013 12:34 PM   Subscribe

The Fourteen Greatest Action Figure Playsets of All Time
posted by prize bull octorok (156 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I Knew a kid who had that Death Star. Fucker.
posted by Artw at 12:37 PM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


U.S.S. Flagg or... oh there it is.

What it lacked in special features it more than made up in being fucking enormous

Exactly. My best friend across the street had it. I didn't, but I couldn't have anyway because I don't think there was a room in our house it would have fit in.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:38 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Confused, didn't one use sand and rocks and scraps of wood?
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:39 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I enjoyed this list enough to post it here, I felt it suffered from a glaring lack of Snake Mountain.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:44 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


My brother and I had the Jurassic Park playset with the command compound. It had a little speaker where you pressed the button and could hear people say things (I don't remember exactly, but I think at least one was a message about the compys getting loose) and it had a net you could fling and came with the official Ford Explorer with a fucking rocket launcher mount.

The best part about the JP set was that all of the toys had jagged-shaped DINO DAMAGE pieces you could pop off after your dinosaurs attacked everyone.

I am very disappointed to see it absent from this list.
posted by phunniemee at 12:47 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain one year for Christmas. Snake Mountain was cool because you could shake the microphone cable and it sounded like thunder.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:51 PM on July 3, 2013


I had Ewok Village and Castle Greyskull. I still wish I had gotten the Death Star playset. I *dreamed* about owning it.
posted by grubi at 12:52 PM on July 3, 2013


I had the Death Star. It wasn't as fun as they make it look.
posted by goethean at 12:55 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


The best playset in the G.I. Joe line wasn’t the Defiant, and it’s wasn’t the U.S.S. Flagg. It didn’t even belong to the good guys. It was Cobra’s Terrordrome playset...

Nah. I didn't own any of these, but I saw all three. The Flagg was by far the most impressive and coolest. I only saw it once, in a basement belonging to a kid I didn't know very well. It was the only one that didn't underwhelm me when I saw it in person.

I also had a friend who had those Star Wars action-figure carrying cases shaped like, if I recall, the heads of Darth Vader and C-3PO. Not playsets, but those were pretty cool.
posted by cribcage at 12:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The dirty secret was that none of them were fun as they made them look.

But you still wanted them, oh, yes, you wanted them.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 12:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


When my kids were little I found a Resurrection playset (complete with Roman guards! And apostles!), Jonah and the whale and other assorted pieces at Salvation Army(like the sets in this forum) that got incorporated in to the Playmobil world. Many were crucified and locked in the tomb. But, BEHOLD! Santa rises again! Along with one of the Playmobil monks!

The bible based toys did not hold up as well as Playmobil so they only lasted thru one summer's play. Best summer evar.
posted by readery at 12:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Greyskull was the only thing on that list I had, but I can't remember the circumstances under which I ended up with it. I do very clearly remember pleading and bargaining for (what felt like) months for Snake Mountain when I was five, and the drive to Sears to pick it up when my parents finally caved. Snake Mountain was a big fucking deal for me, and let me assure you, it was as fun as it looked.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:59 PM on July 3, 2013


What, no G.I. Joe Headquarters Command Center?
posted by Rangeboy at 12:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would give my dog or sister for that Muppets Playset to be in my library.

Wowweeewowow.[/walken]
posted by DigDoug at 12:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wifey and I sell at flea markets, and we've found that Castle Grayskull is an asset just to bring people over to our booth. For crying out loud, people pose with it for pictures. We've had several, mostly just the outer shell for looks, but whenever we have one sitting out it draws the thirty-somethings over like a moth to a flame. We price it around $20-$30, and inevitably it'll sell, so we have to get another one from a rummage sale or off eBay. It's a marketing tool as much as a profitable sale.

Strangely, we've got a Snake Mountain now (fresh out of Grayskulls) and that doesn't have the same reaction.

They seem to be missing any girly stuff, though -- I'm a guy, but leaving out any of the Barbie house playsets is a slight against the toymaker's skills. Or, the Strawberry Shortcake house -- it is huge and detailed and totally beats the TMNT playset on their list.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


My best friend across the street had it.

My friend's brother had it. It was fucking insane. We used it as a stage to faithfully re-enact Band Aid as authentically as possible. (Jem and the Holograms opened for Barbie and the Rockers, right?)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


I had Castle Greyskull and the Fortress of Fangs, which was actually pretty cool.

I had one friend who had both the Flagg and the Terrordrome, but unfortunately I didn't really meet him until we were just slightly past GI Joe playing age.

I had another friend who had the Ewok Village, and that actually was pretty fun.
posted by LionIndex at 1:00 PM on July 3, 2013


Greyskull and Fortress of Fangs here. The toys I'd most like back were the M.A.S.K. ones (and I'd still like to have a job that required me to pick team members for projects a la Matt Tracker). A school mate's uncle worked at Hasbro, so he had U.S.S. Flagg. I like to think my imagination was better developed for not having something that forced all of your playing to be nautically themed.
posted by yerfatma at 1:01 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is missing Micronauts, who had some amazing playsets, including god damn pneumatic tubes.

It's also missing Fisher-Price Adventure People, which I loved as a kid, and now realize were really hipster action figures.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:03 PM on July 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


This Gobots playset outlasted my interest in cheap plastic toys because it had a built in motion detector and alarm.
posted by fartron at 1:05 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


What, no G.I. Joe Headquarters Command Center?

I had that, and I sold it to some neighbor kids who were friends of mine at a garage sale, and because it was so big, their parents made them bring it back for a refund. A few years later, they bought it a second time, and again their mother made them come back with it, but this time my parents made me tell them "no refunds."
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:05 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Greyskull and Fortress of Fangs here.

Man, I was so certain I'd be the only one with that combo.

I like to think my imagination was better developed for not having something that forced all of your playing to be nautically themed.

And what do you do if you don't have any aircraft? Have guys run around on the deck?
posted by LionIndex at 1:06 PM on July 3, 2013


Rangeboy: What, no G.I. Joe Headquarters Command Center?

I was so heartbroken when the cat peed in our GI Joe Headquarters. In his defense, it did look a little bit like a litterbox.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:07 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


CTRL-F "Fisher Price Adventure People"

0 of 0 Results

PFFFFT! No. Needs Fisher Price Adventure People. Note all the coolio ladies!
Holy cow the rush of visceral memories.. I can SMELL that rubber octopus. And the collie dog! I'm actually tearing up a little.
posted by Erasmouse at 1:07 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sys Rq: "We used it as a stage to faithfully re-enact Band Aid as authentically as possible. (Jem and the Holograms opened for Barbie and the Rockers, right?)
"

The only thing not accurate about this recreation is that the billing should have been the other way around. Barbie was just a model/stewardess/surgeon/astronaut who was a musician in her free time. Jem was a fucking artist.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:08 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I had that, and I sold it to some neighbor kids who were friends of mine at a garage sale, and because it was so big, their parents made them bring it back for a refund.

I totally did that with a kid down the street who was a few years younger than me, although it wasn't for G.I. Joes--maybe some Transformers? Anyway, his dad made me give them back. Sadly, that was pretty much the apex of my dealmaking skills.
posted by Rangeboy at 1:08 PM on July 3, 2013


Erasmouse: Needs Fisher Price Adventure People.

Oh, man! I had a bunch of those, including the translucent people, but I had no idea what they were. Thanks for that memory. I remember that squid, too.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:10 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember the second time it happened, my parents were actually kind of irritated, like "I don't care if you're friends; you don't give REFUNDS at a damn GARAGE SALE. If his parents don't want him to have it, let THEM have a garage sale and get rid of it."
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


No Ghostbusters Fire House?

Granted it was always more fun to actually strap on toy proton packs and spent a merry afternoon running around the basement (an oil burner makes a fine stand-in for the Containment Unit) catching the ghost that possessed the old exercise bike in our authentic, pneumatically operated rolling ghost traps, but the action figures were cool too.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rangeboy: I had that, and I sold it to some neighbor kids who were friends of mine at a garage sale, and because it was so big, their parents made them bring it back for a refund.

I once swapped my Millennium Falcon for a GI Joe fighter jet of some make or another and my parents were furious and made me trade back immediately. Amazingly good call on their part. I owe you one for that, Mom and Dad.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:11 PM on July 3, 2013


The Defiant? Sisko worked for GI Joe?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:12 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


A school mate's uncle worked at Hasbro, so he had U.S.S. Flagg.

My parents had a friend who worked at Hasbro. He was maybe the coolest guy in the world, because he was into model trains and his entire basement—I mean, his entire basement—was model trains. There was a button you could push to sound the horn, and he had an engine rigged to smoke. I'm sure those things are relatively common in the grown-up world of model trains, but when you're a kid, it sure seems elite.

I heard him talk about this mythical Hasbro "factory store," and finally one year for my birthday, as I was almost too old for action figures, my parents arranged for him to invite me into the factory store. I was allowed to bring one friend. I was pretty sure the store was a time-capsule vault of Hasbro treasures, and I was hoping against hope they'd have a first-edition Storm Shadow. I had the second version, with the hood, but I knew somebody who had the original and I was jealous.

It turned out the store had nothing old, but they were selling the Python Patrol stuff before it had been widely released or advertised on the cartoon. I had no idea what it was, just that it was GI Joe and it looked weird.
posted by cribcage at 1:12 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My most ill-advised trade was definitely exchanging the Mauler for a Water Moccasin and some action figures. Unfortunately, that one stuck.
posted by Rangeboy at 1:14 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The dirty secret was that none of them were fun as they made them look.

I can remember wanting all of the amazing, vibrant playsets so badly when I saw them in my parents' mail-order catalogues back in the 70s. But somehow, when it came around to my birthday, I ended up with Lego, or a train set, or a skateboard, or (one particularly excellent christmas) a POOL TABLE. I think it was because my parents, having grown up around WWII and the subsequent years of rationing, failed to understand the hypnotic allure all the spangly crap with a play life of half an hour.

And now that I'm a parent (and a much more affluent one than my parents), I realise how incredibly hard it is to keep all of that cruft our of your home.
posted by pipeski at 1:14 PM on July 3, 2013


I had a friend who had the death star playset. I was completely obsessed with the Trash Compacter Monster figure that came with that set for some reason, and ended up trading him something for it* (probably a Yoda figure. I had tons of those - not sure why). Anyway, I couldn't get enough of the Trash Compacter Monster. I played with that thing for weeks. It even ended up being my go-to monster for attacking my sister's Barbie stuff for a while.

Until I found out that it was strangely satisfying to nibble at its tentacles. A stumpy Trash Compactor Monster isn't half as scary as a fully-tenticled one, so the monster eventually went the way of the dodo and Boba Fett had to re-assume his duties as main Barbie harrier.

*They didn't sell that monster apart from the set, as far as my mid-'70s research skills could reveal.
posted by Pecinpah at 1:14 PM on July 3, 2013


I was at a Quake Con some years back and a guy had turned his Castle Greyskull playset into the housing for his tower. The drawbridge thing came down and was the CD-ROM drive, and various lights were in the skull's eyes, and there were probably other cool things....it was freaking awesome.
posted by resurrexit at 1:19 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


What, no Fisher-Price Farm Playset? Boo. And mooooooooo...
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:22 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


New blood. (Too bad they didn't make it 5 feet tall.)
posted by planetesimal at 1:24 PM on July 3, 2013


I think it was because my parents, having grown up around WWII and the subsequent years of rationing, failed to understand the hypnotic allure all the spangly crap with a play life of half an hour.

Yeah, tell me about it. My father, although not as old as yours, had a decent job when I was young but came from a conservative blue collar background, so he simply did not understand why I would even want toys at all. I had friends who had platoons of Stormtroopers or Cobra troopers and whole playsets of the He-Man universe. I had a Skeletor, C3P0, and a single Jawa. I think at one point I was able to get all (4? or 5? of) the Constructicons and then was informed that I didn't need anymore. You can guess that most of my toys had to fight make believe nemesis', while I went to my friends houses and watched as they enacted lifelike battles that involved firecrackers blowing up the excess figures.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 1:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't believe no one mentioned Hordak's Slime Pit!

That goop was awesome, but it didn't mix well with carpets. Sorry ma.
posted by stenseng at 1:33 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had another friend who had the Ewok Village, and that actually was pretty fun.

I somehow wound up with two of those, and I felt like a fucking king. A KING, I SAY.
posted by COBRA! at 1:33 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had the Death Star set when I was five, and my primary memories of it (aside from the trash compactor, which was every bit as awesome as you might imagine) was that it constantly, constantly, constantly fell apart. Perhaps it would have held up better in the care of a child less enthusiastic than myself, but what would have been the point of owning it, then?

The best childhood playset was the one that I built with Lincoln Logs. We'd pose my action figures in them, and then my father and I would obliterate them by using them for target practice with his dart gun.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:34 PM on July 3, 2013


I found my old USS Flagg in my mom's attic about 12 years ago. I hauled it back to VA from GA set about trying to assemble the thing. I didn't get far, apparently even though I had 10,000 pieces of plastic, I was still missing quite a few. I sold it on eBay for parts.
posted by COD at 1:39 PM on July 3, 2013


Oh yeah, Lincoln Logs were just about the right scale for Star Wars figures as I recall.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:40 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


RonButNotStupid: "No Ghostbusters Fire House?"

Yesss. My childhood preferences went Ghostbusters > MASK > everything else. Until TMNT toys/cartoons/TMNT Adventures comics came along.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:40 PM on July 3, 2013


Not a playset, but any love for Stompers out there?
posted by stenseng at 1:48 PM on July 3, 2013


GI Joe fighter jet

I don't know what went on in that cockpit (or what horrible chemicals the parachute was made of), but that is still one of the worst smells I ever encountered. It didn't go away with age either. Pilot must have come with a kung fu shit by mistake.
posted by yerfatma at 1:49 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I soooo want the Muppets Playset. If I only had a spare 1,500$ laying around.

:(
posted by el io at 1:51 PM on July 3, 2013


New blood. (Too bad they didn't make it 5 feet tall.)

This sent me on a quest to figure out what the giant Transformer toy I had that was like a base with a train track or something. After 15 minutes of poking around, it appears the Transformer in question was Omega Supreme.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:52 PM on July 3, 2013


Fuck out of my hallway 90s kids, you are making too much noise.

Parking Ramp Service Center 930 4eva!
posted by Ad hominem at 1:53 PM on July 3, 2013 [23 favorites]


For those who have $250 to spare, there is a ginormous Lego Ewok Village set that has just been released.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:53 PM on July 3, 2013


This is missing Micronauts, who had some amazing playsets, including god damn pneumatic tubes.

I have a Rocket Tubes set stored in my garage! Pity the pieces have warped over time and aren't particularly airtight anymore :(

Several years ago I was generously gifted a (used, but in excellent condition) Battle Cruiser set (a childhood favorite of mine, the original long lost), which arrived via mail at my office -- inspiring a friend and coworker to embark on a years-long eBay quest to regain the halycon days of his youth by buying everything he could get his hands on.
posted by retronic at 1:53 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


No GI Joe Mobile Command Center? Whatever man, I loved that thing.
posted by drezdn at 1:54 PM on July 3, 2013


I always get a little sad when it comes to M.A.S.K. nostalgia, because that was the cartoon I was really into when I began to outgrow them. I never got into collecting the toys (although I remember seriously lusting after Switchblade for a time), and Pirahna was among the last action figure-type toys that I got as a kid. I can distinctly remember playing with it and having a few moments of... I don't know what. Faltering imagination, maybe? I didn't have any adults or even peers telling me I was too old to play with that stuff anymore, it was more like some internal battery running down, at least for "make stuff fly around with my hands while making machine gun noises with my mouth" type play.

I never fully outgrew Lego, though. With Lego you could build your own damn playsets!
posted by usonian at 1:58 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wait, does Space Cruiser and Moonbase count? If so, that is the best playset there ever was or ever will be.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


No Major Matt Mason Lunar Base? Epic, epic fail.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, does Space Cruiser and Moonbase count? If so, that is the best playset there ever was or ever will be.

This is 100 percent correct.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:03 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


usonian - I think M.A.S.K. was near the tail end of the "gun noises with my mouth" style play as well, at age 11 or so. It was, in some ways, the ultimate of the transforming-stuff-with-guns toys that were so popular in the 1980s (see Transformers, Go-Bots, the best GI Joe stuff, etc). I even got Boulder Mountain, which was the biggest toy I ever owned.

As for the Death Star, a friend got it when they got their tonsils out. I remember telling my parents that my throat hurt in a desperate attempt to get the same.

Now I can get my kids the cool new ImagineNext playsets, which are both more awesome and cheaper (relatively) than anything we had growing up.
posted by blahblahblah at 2:06 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wait, does Space Cruiser and Moonbase count?
Moonbase plates were indeed precious commodities! My Lego holy grail was the Technic Auto Chassis. I still really kind of want one... maybe when I hit my midlife crisis I'll be able to afford one.
posted by usonian at 2:07 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I enjoyed this list enough to post it here, I felt it suffered from a glaring lack of Snake Mountain.

Ya know, I was GONNA say "Where's Snake Mountain?!" but then I saw Eternia, which I had never before even heard of, and figured, "Oh, forget it. Eternia beats that shit all to hell."

Flagg I heard of though. That was a thing that even young boy me was somehow wise enough to not even allow himself to want.

And wasn't there a G. I. Joe SR-71? Does that count as a playset? Because it was very large if memory serves.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 2:09 PM on July 3, 2013


And wasn't there a G. I. Joe SR-71? Does that count as a playset? Because it was very large if memory serves.

Yeah, it was a Cobra thing with a piggyback little plane that rode on the back of the main one. The two GI Joe jets that I remember were based on an F-14 and some experimental reverse-swept wing thing. A friend and I tried to make the F-14 fly with rocket engines, but we couldn't get them to ignite simultaneously, so Ace suffered some pretty severe crashes that day. His helmet kept him safe.

For a short time, some friends and I were sort of into Eagle Force. One of us had the playset, and I think it might have been me, but it obviously wasn't such great shakes if I barely remember it. I also had the jet, the jeep, and the raft set.
posted by LionIndex at 2:15 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody ever realizes I'm name-checking a 30 year-old commercial when I do the 'What do we have here?.'
Sigh.
posted by Flashman at 2:16 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is something about the "Individual Specific and Highly Limited Power" concept of MASK (and other toy/shows of that era) that was just so appealing to me as a kid. It even extended into a slight fascination (at a safe distance for a pre-teen boy) for Care Bears and their Care Bear Stare powers.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:19 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


usonian: My Lego holy grail was the Technic Auto Chassis.

I had that motherfucker. It was a bear for me (and probably mostly my Dad) to assemble, but damn it was hot. The pistons, the suspension, the steering column. I loved that thing.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:22 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


As always, I am surprised that so few people know of the other Death Star playset.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:24 PM on July 3, 2013


No big playsets for me. I did have Yoda's Swampy Rootball Hut, which was awesome with a Millennium Falcon crashed on top of it.
My sister got the Ewok Village. She wasn't particularly Star Wars inclined, and didn't really have any figs that scale, but she still wouldn't let me play with it outside of her direct supervision.

Also had that forward-swept-wing Joe fighter jet, and the Stealth Fighter which had cruise missiles, and I remember finding that a little disturbing even then.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:26 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


As always, I am surprised that so few people know of the other Death Star playset.

Oh wait, THAT was the one he had. The fucker.
posted by Artw at 2:35 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


My neighbor had this Bionic Woman play set that was like, Jaime's classroom with secret panels and stuff. I coveted it.
posted by Biblio at 2:39 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a fan of Mega Force toys, unfortunately only during the very tail end of their life cycle.
posted by mkb at 2:40 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Ghost Busters firehouse was great, especially with the spinning "pole" platform that the Ghostbusters could ride down. And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' sewer was fun. But all those sets were my brother's things. I fought battles with him and his friend, but they devolved into arguments over force fields pretty fast. Specifically, can you shoot out of a force field, but not allow shots to enter back in?

Anyway, my play area was the hillside along our drainage ditch/creek, where I'd make hiding places for GI Joes in the soft earth and various weeds. There weren't any battles, just hunkering down for whatever nastiness was around and about.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:42 PM on July 3, 2013


Every year at Christmas, my now 36-year-old cousin laments that his mother sold his Castle Grayskull at a garage sale sometime in the 1990s. We hear about it every year! If I'd known I could pick one up for $30 on eBay, I would have bought it for him years ago.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:46 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fun nerdy trivia: in 2008, Hasbro released Matt Trakker, leader of MASK, as a GI Joe figure, establishing that they share the same universe.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:48 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't lie... I was a spoiled little shit. I had the Barbie Dream House (the yellow and orange A-frame job) with the Barbie Dream Pool, the Ewok Tree House, She-Ra's Crystal Castle (complete with a CRYSTAL THRONE ELEVATOR THAT ROSE UP OUT OF THE TOP OF THE CASTLE), the Strawberry Shortcake playset, the Little People Garage (probably tops in longevity- it was one of my earliest toys and one of the last I gave up) and a soft Rainbow Brite playhouse set up. All the Barbies, Ewoks, Marchbox cars, Various She-ra friends and Rainbow Brite dudes had all kinds of adventures and romances together and visited each other's pads. Everyone but the huge, soft Rainbow Brite guys LOVED the Dream Pool.
posted by cilantro at 2:53 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


And wasn't there a G. I. Joe SR-71?

Yeah, it was a Cobra thing with a piggyback little plane that rode on the back of the main one.


That was the Night Raven. One of the ones I really wanted but never got.

The two GI Joe jets that I remember were based on an F-14 and some experimental reverse-swept wing thing.


The F-14 was the Sky Striker, made famous by the cartoons. I had a beat-up one that was missing most of the pieces that my aunt had bought at a yard sale. I always preferred the Cobra jet, the A-10 Thunderbolt-inspired Rattler.

The other one you're talking about is probably the X-30 Conquest.

What's that? Why yes, I am a grown-ass man talking about toys on the Internet. I mean, it's not like I was planning on doing any actual work today, anyway.
posted by Rangeboy at 2:54 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dammit, I was a kid in the eighties, the decade for cheap plastic action figure crap and I never had any of the cool toys. Even most of the Star Wars action figures I had were the weird Europe only ones that are now worth serious cash, but I mainly used as torture victims.

If only I'd had richer parents, or less siblings...
posted by MartinWisse at 2:56 PM on July 3, 2013


Rock Steady, I still clearly remember the Christmas I got that. Probably the best toy I ever had. *sigh*
posted by wintermind at 2:59 PM on July 3, 2013


My brother and I had the Death Star. We got a lot of mileage out of that thing, and I think it succumbed to the terrors of attrition over the years and got smaller and smaller. Pieces broke off, parts went missing. I distinctly remember the little foam bits from the trash compactor getting all dry and crumbly after a few years. I'd like to think what remains is in a box in my parents' basement, but I'm pretty sure even that got pitched a decade ago.

Ah, nostalgia, is there any day you can't make bittersweet?
posted by zardoz at 3:00 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that with the first poster who said that the lack of the Mego Star Trek Bridge set is an inexcusable oversight.

... hi childhood... [sniff] ... I miss you.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:00 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had the Death Star. It wasn't as fun as they make it look.

But it was still more fun than SWTOR. * Goes back to grinding GSI rep. *
posted by The Bellman at 3:00 PM on July 3, 2013


Technic Auto Chassis

Oh man. I thought the 8847 Dragster I had was pretty cool cool. But that's only because I didn't know about that 8865 Test Car, which clearly is way awesomer.
posted by aubilenon at 3:04 PM on July 3, 2013


Oh actually I just remembered I also had the 8855 Prop Plane which would have gone a considerable way towards assuaging my jealousy about the 8865 Test Car.

The long term effect of this is that I always think of Technic bricks with the holes as always being yellow by default.
posted by aubilenon at 3:08 PM on July 3, 2013


I had the Wheeled Warriors giant tank playset, which was cool, but I really wanted their interstellar transport ship playset (which didn't exist because that was a thing on the Star Wars-ripoff cartoon and not the toys).

Later near the end of my action figure days I had a lot of fun building a cardboard sewer hideout for the Turtles. It was pretty intricate as I recall--I definitely tried to make it seem like it was the product of three separate sewer-building periods in NYC history.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fun nerdy trivia: in 2008, Hasbro released Matt Trakker, leader of MASK, as a GI Joe figure, establishing that they share the same universe.

Does anyone remember that one Transformer episode where Starscream made all these elaborate plans and almost came out victorious at the end, but instead loses and ends up meeting with some dude dressed in a trenchcoat in the park and the guy ends the conversation by yelling "COBRAAA!"?
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 3:12 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


People have mentioned Strawberry Shortcake, but failed to mention the Treehouse. I had GI Joes, Transformers back when they first came out, and lots of playsets, but the Strawberry Shortcake Treehouse was the business.

It was freaking awesome. Notice how the top of the tree is bigger than this kid's head. It could smash down and had a carry handle so you could wrench your back carrying that big thing downstairs to the basement. The treehouse had a full kitchen, microwave, pot rack, extendable stairs, and weighed 150 kid pounds. No lie, every time I draw a tree on a piece of paper to this day, it is a copy of that treehouse.
posted by cashman at 3:13 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


SPHINX!
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was so heartbroken when the cat peed in our GI Joe Headquarters.

There is a number 1 hit country song in there somewhere, but I'm not the guy to write it.
posted by The Bellman at 3:14 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


I can't lie... I was a spoiled little shit.

I believe the term I used for people like you was "lucky duck".
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 3:15 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't think anything could compete with the Death Star or the TNG or TOS bridges, but, wow, the USS Flagg is totally rad.

The best playsets I had were the bathtub, the mud pit behind the shed, and the awesome sparawling Barbie mansion we built in the basement out of old ceiling and floor tiles. That thing was like a one-story Winchester Mystery House. With LEGO-and-Easter-egg toilets and a king size master bed made out of an 8-track player.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:25 PM on July 3, 2013


Jeebus, so much lust there for me.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 3:26 PM on July 3, 2013


Not nearly enough giant lego pirate ships for my taste.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:26 PM on July 3, 2013


I totally had that command center. I also had the base that looked like an oil derrick, the one with the stilts. It was a fine docking station for the hovercraft.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:27 PM on July 3, 2013


I guess I had a few playsets over the years:

The Star Wars Death Star was basically a plastic frame with cardboard panels that would slot into it. It was fun but did fall apart pretty easily.

G.I.Joe Headquarters was very cool. It had specific slots for the MOBAT and the VAMP (which had a lift so it could shoot through the window slot or over the wall) as well as a command center and a brig for captured Cobra troops.

The G.I.Joe Battle Platform was great for outdoor play because everything but the missiles were attached. I once built a mountain in the snow and perched the platform on top.

Only one kid in my school had the USS Flagg. He was known as the G.I.Joe fiend with indulgent parents. The kind who would buy him multiple Cobra figures so he could have an army. Sigh.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:29 PM on July 3, 2013


No Major Matt Mason Lunar Base? Epic, epic fail.

Indeed. Not only was it totally next week's future when it came out, the commercials were in rhyme. Take that, He-Man and you weak-ass tiny GI Joes!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:33 PM on July 3, 2013


Fleebnork: "The G.I.Joe Battle Platform was great for outdoor play because everything but the missiles were attached. I once built a mountain in the snow and perched the platform on top. "

HA! That's the one I was trying to remember.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:37 PM on July 3, 2013


Actually, if you want to die of jealousy, what will get you isn't who used to have what. It's my friend Mike who, upon moving into a house with a pool, went on eBay and got his kid a whole fleet of original, mint condition GI Joe water vehicles to play with, including the hovercraft, the hydrofoil, the personnel carrier, and several others I forget. This photo is from last month.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:42 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Les Miserables action figures. (I got a chuckle.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:43 PM on July 3, 2013


When I was a kid, there was a series of toy sets.. I cannot remember the name of them.. but the basic idea was that they were sort of the polar opposite of construction sets, they were demolition sets. You spent somewhere between 10 minutes and several hours building a structure whose size and complexity was in direct proportion to the amount your parents paid for it. From a small girder framed tower to a massive oil platform. Then used a device specific to the set, whose complexity and overall FUCK YEAH factor was directly proportionate to the money spent. From a simple fulcrum lever that you pounded with your fist (girder tower) to a three part, Rube Goldberg-esque device that spectacularly brought down the seriously MASSIVE (it was on par with the aircraft carrier in the article) oil platform.

Does anyone else remember these, or ever have any of them? I have never been able to find any information, but they certainly existed. I blew up space shuttle launching pads, and firework warehouses in addition to the girder tower and oil platform in my childhood.
posted by mediocre at 3:50 PM on July 3, 2013


I was so heartbroken when the cat peed in our GI Joe Headquarters.

There is a number 1 hit country song in there somewhere, but I'm not the guy to write it.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that was a Belle & Sebastian song.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:54 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I almost forgot about one of the best playset series of all time: Army Gear!

There's gotta be a connection between that serpent emblem and the Mortal Kombat logo.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:00 PM on July 3, 2013


We live near Grace Cole Nature Reserve. As far as my kids know, it's Greyskull Park.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:04 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


There definitely needs to be a Tumblr or such that features all of these playsets being terrorized by kittens.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:08 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mad Scientist Monster Lab. My 8-year-old fingers did not have the dexterity to make cool looking monsters out of whatever that stuff was. Now, that playset is giving 34-year-old-me is getting some serious Mengele vibes.
posted by HeroZero at 4:15 PM on July 3, 2013


The dirty secret was that none of them were fun as they made them look.

Boulder Hill was pretty damned fun, man. It had a boulder! And gas pumps that were also secret guns!

Also, I'm pretty sure my Dad bought me Metroplex and let me play with it one weekend right after he and my Mom divorced, but it mysteriously disappeared and no one spoke of it ever again and I think my Mom made him return it or give it away or something so we didn't get all spoiled and stuff out of their post-divorce guilt.
posted by Hoopo at 4:16 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


No mention of the My Little Pony Dream Castle?

Though not nearly as impressive as the Paradise Estates, which came out a few years later. Oh man did I covet that. It was HUGE.
posted by Windigo at 4:22 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Parking Ramp Service Center 930 4eva!

That was so awesome.

I had the Fisher Price Family Castle. I loved how it had little secret places and things, like the trap door at the top dumping down into the dungeon. Every part of it was fun.
posted by fleacircus at 4:23 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is missing Micronauts

Probably the most fantastic, mysterious and forgotten toys since the 1970's. The Marvel comic was awesome. Great stuff.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:23 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Needs Fisher Price Adventure People.

I totally had these sets as a kid. Apart from Star Wars, the list is definitely a 1980's phenomenon.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:24 PM on July 3, 2013


(Googling Paradise Estates led me to this unusual 'photoshoot'. Oh, the things you find in the cast-off corners of the web!)
posted by Windigo at 4:24 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, I always drooled over most of these, but at least got the hint early on that most of them sucked to actually play with.

I did love the Playskool Castle since it was the perfect size for GI Joes to go through the trapdoor. And I really dug the MicroMachines sets, even though those were my little brother's.
posted by klangklangston at 4:41 PM on July 3, 2013


Had a crapton of Micronauts as a kid. Samizdata Approved!

Also, weak sauce on the list if it did NOT include the GIANT ASS Eagle I from Space 1999.

And, I had one of the Mad Scientist kits I loved (as an adult). Talk Mengele? This one had you add power to the gooey flesh you molded onto a custom skeleton you built. Then you added a different powder to the water in the vat. Then all you needed to add was a 20 year old Samizdata adding screams and cackling madly while showing off how the kit made the flesh bubble off to just about anyone who asked.
posted by Samizdata at 4:42 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Though not nearly as impressive as the Paradise Estates, which came out a few years later. Oh man did I covet that. It was HUGE.

Yeeesssssss Paradise Estates! My MLPonies had to sleep in cardboard boxes instead, I was so sad.

There was an entire episode of the cartoon in which magic paint made Paradise Estates sentient and evil, and all the ponies got kicked out of the building by their own malevolent talking furniture. My Little Haunting Of Pony Hill House = best playset EVER.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:54 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Snake Mountain was great, but I got an inordinate amount of joy from the Starriors' Armored Battle Station. Launchable cobra-headed robot car (with another *scorpion* robot car inside), sorta-customizable with most of the other Starriors' tiny guns? Yes, please.
posted by Mrrranda at 4:55 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was never much of a purist, and would mix and match sets freely. Near the end of my "playing with toys a lot" years, I was also kind of obsessed with The Bounty mutiny, and I used to set my G. I. Joe guys from the Tactical Battle Platform adrift in the Fisher-Price Sea Shark. The forward compartment was filled with a meager supply of food and water, and a toolbox from yet another series of toys. It didn't work out so well for some of the Joes. Good times.
posted by wintermind at 4:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]



This is missing Micronauts

Probably the most fantastic, mysterious and forgotten toys since the 1970's. The Marvel comic was awesome. Great stuff.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:23 PM on July 3 [+] [!]


Indeed, and yet this has awakened a heretofore buried memory. One 1970s Christmas I received a Micronauts playset,very complex and cool. A few days after Xmas I took out the instruction manual and brought it to the local Idlenot restaurant with my dad, where I had my customary turkey sandwich on white with a chocolate milk on the side.

Somehow, when we left, the instruction manual stayed behind and was lost forever. My dad, who was a handy guy, could never figure out how to assemble it. So it lay there for years, unassembled. Sad. Lonely. A representation of a future world that was never to be. One day, it was simply gone, a rectangle of dust outlined the space it had occupied.

Motherfuckin Micronauts, your world was too complex and doomed to fail . . .
posted by jeremias at 5:09 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Awesome, but on the other hand once me and a friend tried to build an actual jumping platform from planks and car springs we found, it didn't work out but we spent an awesome afternoon hammering away.

A Pattern Language: Adventure Playground
posted by Tom-B at 5:15 PM on July 3, 2013


First of all, greatest of all time where all time includes nothing from before the 1980s. Second, Major Matt Mason kicked ass.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:45 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Boulder Hill was pretty damned fun, man.

To be clear, I never said playing with those sets were not fun at all, just not as fun as they made them out to be. Most kids with those playsets usually didn't put half as much love or enthusiasm into play as the kids in the commercials did. Not even close. Those kids were selling the shit out of the fun you could have with them. They were all like "fuck yeah!" with high fives and fist pumps. I'm pretty sure they would have made the kids do literal backflips of joy if they thought it would have sold more toys.

I'm not saying I didn't have a blast playing with my or my friends toys, but, rose tinted glasses aside, we we're never high-fiving over them.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 5:58 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


For God's sake, what is with all the love for the diminutive, mutant 1980's perversion of G.I. Joe, which was just a tool of commerce for a crappy cartoon series? You children have no idea what you missed out on in the '60s and '70s. The original, 12-inch tall G.I. Joe with lifelike hair (especially prior to the Kung Fu Grip model) just was what it was: a boy's doll. No TV series to promote, just a tool for your imagination. My proudest moment of my fourth year of life came when I dictated a story about G.I. Joe for my mother to submit to the Adventure Team, and they sent me back a letter of recognition and a wearable plastic Adventure Team medallion.

And then, when I received the G.I. Joe Mercury capsule for Christmas c. 1970, that foil-wrapped spacesuit and awesome grey plastic spaceship with the clear sliding hatch, as well as the little floppy plastic record of audio from John Glenn's trip into space ("Roger, the clock is operating; we're under way!") , spoiled every possible Christmas thereafter. I still wait and ponder what might make Christmas worthwhile to me as that one.

Also, what about the Star Trek original series playset, with the spinning transporter booth? That was a lot of fun!
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 6:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had the GI Joe command center, but used to drool over the little catalogs they included with the sets that showed the whole range of everything in the toy lines. I had quite an extensive collection -- these days i see what some of those figures and vehicles go for on ebay and wince thinking about the scrap pile that remained after my younger cousins got their hands on it.

I remember a friend who claimed to have the USS Flagg, but when I finally got to visit his house, he had some excuse about why it wasn't there. That and the space shuttle were definitely aspirational!

I still look at gi joe toys in stores sometimes, but the quality seems to have taken a nosedive since my day.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:16 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


118 comments and no mention of Tracy Island?

My 5 year old son was into the Thunderbirds, almost single handedly due to a $2 Shop off-brand DVD of the series I bought him on a whim.

He would get up at 5.30m an watch the DVD quietly, not disturbing the rest of the house: he studied the Thunderbirds and became quite expert at their ways and odd turns of phrase.

At the start of each episode was one of those ads that you can't fast forward through because of some dark art protection mechanism that is beyond me, so he would see an ad for the glorious battery operated Tracy Island with palm trees that divided like the red sea and light up faces of the Tracy family who at a push of a button would mutter things like "Thunderbird 1 to Base: there's trouble ahead!"or such and he would see that ad multiple times every time he watched that damn DVD.

I was not the least surprised when he wrote an early letter to Santa asking for Tracy Island. His fool father assured him that such a thing was well within Santa Claus magic powers to provide.

Fool father then set about trying to acquire a Tracy Island only to discover them selling for hundreds of dollars on Ebay (unboxed) as collectors toy of some demand and not even with the accompanying Thunderbird ships that were sold separately.

So, lesson for young parents out there, just beware of $2 off brand DVD's.
posted by Plutocratte at 7:18 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sent me on a quest to figure out what the giant Transformer toy I had that was like a base with a train track or something. After 15 minutes of poking around, it appears the Transformer in question was Omega Supreme.

! That one was basically legendary for us, having been born just too late to have gotten the awesome G1 toys.

The Fisher Price Service Center was indeed super awesome, as was the Farm (although mine never mooed!), and this thread has dredged up memories of the Gobot command center that was in my kindergarten classroom for some reason.

But the reason you waited all year until you got to stay with your cousins in the summer was the LEGO monorail.
posted by junco at 7:20 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hm, I just unearthed my own vague Micronauts memory. I had a couple of the figures kicking around that I never played with a lot, and at some point my grandparents bought me Hornetroid. Looking at the Wikipedia article I see I would have been five or six based on the product timeline, which probably explains why I remember it never being 100% right; I probably tried to put it together myself.

I don't think they ever had a playset, but Metal Man figures were pretty darn cool. Solid metal, fully-jointed robot/spaceman figures!
posted by usonian at 7:30 PM on July 3, 2013


Fun nerdy trivia: in 2008, Hasbro released Matt Trakker, leader of MASK, as a GI Joe figure, establishing that they share the same universe.

Does anyone remember that one Transformer episode where Starscream made all these elaborate plans and almost came out victorious at the end, but instead loses and ends up meeting with some dude dressed in a trenchcoat in the park and the guy ends the conversation by yelling "COBRAAA!"?


That rabbit hole goes very deep. Flint's daughter Marissa featured in some of the later G1 Transformers stories, but for crossover goodness, you can't beat Hector Ramirez who can be used to place Inhumanoids and Jem into the mix too.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:30 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain guy here.

It's not quite a playset, but one of the coolest He-Man toys was Point Dread and the Talon Fighter. This was an aircraft fighter shaped like a falcon and actually attached to the top of Castle Grayskull. For about a week, I was the coolest kid on the block.

And then some kid got the Ewok Village and it was all over. There were definite Star Wars vs. He-Man camps on our suburban block.
posted by zooropa at 7:34 PM on July 3, 2013


For those of us who have not yet (quite) grown up . . . Castle Grayskull Version 2.0
posted by anansi at 7:36 PM on July 3, 2013


Anyone else have Battle Beasts? They had thermal-transparent stickers; supposedly, you'd match one of yours against a friend's and rub their patch to play earth-fire-air/rock-paper-scissors with. We never really bothered with that.

Growing up, my folks were of modest means but were still able to get me a two-pack every so often so I had a few, a lot less than my friends, and that's a great business model.
posted by porpoise at 7:48 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow, all those Fisher Price sets are really transporting me back. I had the airport and the barn and the circus train at home, and we had the castle and the service station at my kindergarten.

It's a shame they changed the little people. Lost all their charm.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:24 PM on July 3, 2013


JimInLoganSquare: "For God's sake, what is with all the love for the diminutive, mutant 1980's perversion of G.I. Joe, which was just a tool of commerce for a crappy cartoon series? You children have no idea what you missed out on in the '60s and '70s. The original, 12-inch tall G.I. Joe with lifelike hair (especially prior to the Kung Fu Grip model) just was what it was: a boy's doll. "

I actually had one of the 12 inch GI Joe dolls (and the submarine and the glider (that was actually a kite with a seat for Joe on it), too. My mom used to hand sew pajamas, sleeping bags, etc. for him. I inherited all of that stuff from my brother. Those were fun in their way.

But the smaller action figure GI Joes were awesome. More (and more vivid) characters, crazy vehicles, more interesting stories. And the cartoon was certainly a shill for toys, but the first few seasons (before the original producers handed it off to some other yahoos) was actually a pretty cool show. (Does anyone remember "The Viper Is Coming"?)

Just so you know: smaller GI Joe was pretty cool.

After all... knowing is half the battle.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Does anyone remember "The Viper Is Coming"?

Possibly the defining televisual moment of my life.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:31 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the Fisher-Price Play Family sets were the shizz. We only got to play with the elaborate ones like the airport and garage at school or doctor's waiting rooms, but we played the hell out of the house, A-frame, and camper.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:37 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had the Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Playset, which was every bit as cardboardtastic as it looks. But wow did I have fun playing with that thing, and I managed to keep it in playable shape for years. And then one year my parents bought me Metroplex for my birthday and I was the coolest kid in the world for about 3 weeks.

And DirtyOldTown, that Viper episode blew my mind. A whole episode, one long wind-up for a pun??
posted by 1adam12 at 8:38 PM on July 3, 2013


I actually had one of the 12 inch GI Joe dolls (and the subarine and the glider (that was actually a kite with a seat for Joe on it), too. My mom used to hand sew pajamas, sleeping bags, etc. for him.

I had the UK version, 'Action Man' (with "eagle eyes"), but this was me too: clothes and a sleeping bag, sewn by my mum and grandmother. My gran even knit some little sweaters for my Action Men, and my mum made a fold-down roof from canvas and a frame of bent coat hanger for the Action Man land rover. Mothers.
posted by Flashman at 8:40 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was sold on GI Joe toys to the exclusion of everything else after the epic two parter "There's No Place Like Springfield" (part 1) (part 2). I would later come to understand this as a riff on The Prisoner.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:55 PM on July 3, 2013


Ohhhh, is this ever bringing back the memories for me. I had the Death Star playset (LOVED the trash compactor!) and the Jabba the Hutt playset, among others. I coveted the Millennium Falcon playset but never got it.

Other things I had: the Treehouse, the Barbie Dream Pool, the Playskool McDonald's playset, and several of the Fisher Price playsets: the house, the farm, and the service station have all been mentioned. But my favorite Fisher Price playsets were the Sesame Street Playset and the Sesame Street Clubhouse. I can't believe those two haven't been mentioned yet!
posted by SisterHavana at 9:19 PM on July 3, 2013


These threads always remind me of the Harvey Jacobs short story, "My Rose and My Glove."
posted by Chrysostom at 10:10 PM on July 3, 2013


"Anyone else have Battle Beasts? They had thermal-transparent stickers; supposedly, you'd match one of yours against a friend's and rub their patch to play earth-fire-air/rock-paper-scissors with. We never really bothered with that.

Growing up, my folks were of modest means but were still able to get me a two-pack every so often so I had a few, a lot less than my friends, and that's a great business model.
"

Oh, motherfucker, I loved those. The badges always fell off immediately, but you could swap the arms between each other, customizing some kinda crazy badger-snake-dog-man with a hook.

Those and Musclemen were my favorites.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 PM on July 3, 2013


My dad made a topographic Hoth adventure play set for me out of stacked and glued foam core. It was for the 1" metal Star Wars figures, and had to have been three or four feet long. In retrospect, an unusual level of awesome.
posted by migurski at 11:22 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, yeah: my younger sister asked for the Polly Pocket Pop-Up Playhouse for Christmas for like four or five years running. I'm not sure if she ever got one. Maybe I'll dig one up on eBay. Granted, she's 25 now, but it might be funny.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:30 PM on July 3, 2013


I had Battle Beasts, porpoise! For one brief period I remember them being an absolutely huge deal, and never being able to find just the right animal/element combinations I wanted.

This was their best playset. You're insubordinate, iguana guy! I'm sending you to beetle jail!
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:01 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're only mentioned in the comments of that article, but my brother and I had all of the fantastic Kenner Micro Collection playsets and vehicles that came with painted die-cast figures. They were awesome. The sets fit together very well and worked great, with no cardboard or other cheap shortcuts. We played them to pieces. I was surprised to find mint-in-mint-box sets for less than $100 on e-bay.

We also had the Droid Factory.

Also, as was mentioned above by others, my brother and I would mix it up. "Playing People" we would call it. These were epic adventures where Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca (All in Hoth gear because it was cooler), the G.I. Joes, and the Fisher-Price Adventure People, along with The Woodsey's and a rabbit puppet named Barnaby would embark on the Water Moccasin, Sea Explorer, Sea Shark, T.V. Action Team van, and the Alpha Probe to retake the Woodsey village from the assorted bad guys we had around.

P.S. I'm a sentimental old fool and now I'm crying looking at the stupid toy squirrels that my brother loved so much when he was little and we had so much fun playing with.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:23 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Those and Musclemen were my favorites.
M.U.S.C.L.E.s (Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere) were very, very cool. They came in blister packs of four, plastic garbage cans of ten, and I think there was a super-deluxe box of probably 20 or 30 that you could get, although I never did. The blister packs were only a buck or two (if I recall correctly) which was prime allowance money bait. They were packaged randomly, so you would have to paw through every one on the rack looking for the best selection. I wound up with a pretty good bunch of them, though not the entire collection. They were and are fascinating to just sit and look at; such intricately detailed weirdness.
posted by usonian at 4:19 AM on July 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was not the least surprised when he wrote an early letter to Santa asking for Tracy Island. His fool father assured him that such a thing was well within Santa Claus magic powers to provide.

Fool father then set about trying to acquire a Tracy Island only to discover them selling for hundreds of dollars on Ebay (unboxed) as collectors toy of some demand and not even with the accompanying Thunderbird ships that were sold separately.


You should have made your son a Blue Peter Tracy Island. Blue Peter broadcast the instructions after all the Tracy Islands ran out in shops. The best of public service broadcasting - an immediate response to a national crisis, with a little lesson about make-do-and-mend thrown in to boot.
posted by Acheman at 5:26 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rocket Surgeon: Does anyone remember that one Transformer episode where Starscream made all these elaborate plans and almost came out victorious at the end, but instead loses and ends up meeting with some dude dressed in a trenchcoat in the park and the guy ends the conversation by yelling "COBRAAA!"?

The fact that GI Joe and Transformers are in the same world is canon. Well, as much as any of the comics are canon; both GI Joe and Transformers comics-vs-cartoons-vs-toypackaging is loose and has all sort of holes, but a comic miniseries is a pretty sure thing.

Speaking of which, if we're doing callbacks to childhood: one of the few non-Ranger Rick subscriptions I had when I was a kid was a subscription to the GI Joe comic. It was dark and gritty and much more like a Sgt Rock comic than the cartoon. Really opened my eyes to a whole different type of comic writing.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:56 AM on July 4, 2013


Guys, when can we play with our Game of Thrones action figures???

Westeros playset? Fake blood and fake nudity? Pull a string and hear "You know nothing John Snow"
posted by oceanjesse at 7:28 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


You should have made your son a Blue Peter Tracy Island. Blue Peter broadcast the instructions after all the Tracy Islands ran out in shops. The best of public service broadcasting - an immediate response to a national crisis, with a little lesson about make-do-and-mend thrown in to boot.

How much do you wanna bet that the same people who came up with the crisps-package Tracy Island for the BBC went on to have something to do with Games Workshop?
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:06 AM on July 4, 2013


The Star Wars die-cast sets were amazing, usually much better than the larger scale sets. They all came with battle damage triggers, too. Push a button, and the whole thing popped apart. Awesome stuff.

I was pretty horribly spoiled (woohoo, divorce and the young child in the 80's), and had tons of figures. G.I. Joes, Transformers, the bunch. I remember very distinctly the agonizing pain of my pinkie finger getting stuck in the moonbase Transformer (the one that had a motorized tank on a track) when I was pushing the tank tread/leg back in, pinning my finger between the tread and the shell of the toy. That was pretty unpleasant, but somehow, no broken skin, no blood, no foul.

The best sets, though, were the ones we made at my friend's house. He had a big deck behind his house, and the snow would pile up during the winter. We'd create a network of roads, tunnels, fortified positions, battlefields, all made from the snow, and we'd play G.I. Joe until our hands went numb.

Every spring, the snow would thaw, and we'd find the rusted corpses of the Joes that had perished due to carelessness.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:41 PM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, I had no idea there was a playset octorok!

Also had a few M.U.S.C.L.E.S.s, too. They got grubby really quick in some environments but they had a remarkable amount of detail for their size and cost. I'd probably still get a kick out of them, but now probably more appreciating the tricks needed to cast or features that were designed for the casting method, of the thing, than using them as an extension of my imagination.
posted by porpoise at 7:44 PM on July 4, 2013


While FPPs about active Kickstarters are verboten, there's nothing against mentioning them in a comment, so with all the love for M.U.S.C.L.E.S. in this thread, let me just give a mention to the S.U.C.K.L.E. (Simply Unimportant Collectable Kitschy Little Eyesores) Kickstarter.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:51 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


For God's sake, what is with all the love for the diminutive, mutant 1980's perversion of G.I. Joe, which was just a tool of commerce for a crappy cartoon series?

I think it was actually the other way around. Although as much I religiously watched the GI Joe and Transformers shows after school, the former never quite managed to brainwash me into getting the toys as much as the latter. (And watching them now, the cartoons had their clever moments.)

I did have a friend who had a ton of Joe toys, including the Flagg. Though it came a few years later, I coveted the laughably smaller and cheaper Micromachines aircraft carrier, but by then I'd outgrown toys. We moved when I was ten, and the original Transformers line had pretty much ended, and it was right around then that I realized, as cool as it would've been to have the cooler toys that were available (TMNT in particular), it just didn't feel like it wasn't worth getting.

And by then video games had pretty much taken over, for better or worse. And I did stick with Legos for a few more years (though I never understood why they had recommended max ages on the packaging). If only they'd had those "Pick a Brick" deals when I was a kid. Oh man.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:42 PM on July 4, 2013


The Woodseys! Almost forgot about them...I had the log house and loved it. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 12:50 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Notes from a thread read:

there is sufficient interest expressed in this thread to justify a devoted poster unearthing both the Micronauts and 12" GI Joe linkospheres.

I endorse the TOS bridge as best playset ever, but then I would now, wouldn't I?

I had a few scattered Matt Mason things, like the grape-head alien (HOW MUCH?!! JEBUS) and the space crawler, but no actual Matt Mason, and I don't recall the name at all. Instead, the crawler came with a little astronaut figure that looked more like actual Apollo-era moon-landing astronauts, and he had a) the ability to walk and b) batteries and a motor that included a little fitted bit so you could sit him in the crawler or other wheeled toys and he would DRIVE AROUND. I have no idea what the line was called and it was definitely a Matt Mason spinoff, but the little astronaut was pretty unique.

I think the original poster left out the undisputed most-amazing-large-toy (well, disputed with tye USS Flagg, maybe) of all time Space 1999 Eagle off the list because he arbitrarily was excluding vehicles, sort of. The Flagg got a pass because it was too big to move once assembled.

The oversize playset I actually remember most clearly was a simple molded plastic hollow rockface fortress, maybe three feet tall, designed for use with the old standby 2" molded plastic army figures. It came with a huge number of both green (US) and blue-grey (German) army figures, maybe some jeeps, and like four molded spring-loaded plastic howitzers that fired slightly smaller than pachinko size ball bearings. I believe the playset was sold as based on the assault on Montecassino. It was a friend's and there were enough troops to keep four little kids busy for hours.

One of those little kids is today a bigwig in USAF Space Command, so let that be a case in point.
posted by mwhybark at 11:33 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The oversize playset I actually remember most clearly was a simple molded plastic hollow rockface fortress, maybe three feet tall, designed for use with the old standby 2" molded plastic army figures.

Yeah, there were a few variants of that, but it was the Navarone playset.
posted by planetesimal at 10:21 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


JimInLoganSquare: "For God's sake, what is with all the love for the diminutive, mutant 1980's perversion of G.I. Joe, which was just a tool of commerce for a crappy cartoon series? You children have no idea what you missed out on in the '60s and '70s. The original, 12-inch tall G.I. Joe with lifelike hair (especially prior to the Kung Fu Grip model) just was what it was: a boy's doll. No TV series to promote, just a tool for your imagination. My proudest moment of my fourth year of life came when I dictated a story about G.I. Joe for my mother to submit to the Adventure Team, and they sent me back a letter of recognition and a wearable plastic Adventure Team medallion.

And then, when I received the G.I. Joe Mercury capsule for Christmas c. 1970, that foil-wrapped spacesuit and awesome grey plastic spaceship with the clear sliding hatch, as well as the little floppy plastic record of audio from John Glenn's trip into space ("Roger, the clock is operating; we're under way!") , spoiled every possible Christmas thereafter. I still wait and ponder what might make Christmas worthwhile to me as that one.

Also, what about the Star Trek original series playset, with the spinning transporter booth? That was a lot of fun!
"

Crikey. Classic Joes. More of my not-so-well-hidden sadism to the inanimate.

My friends and I had a battalion or more of the classic nappy heady models that had various horrible injuries (some exacerbated by stolen red nail polish from moms). We had them handy so we could easily swap them in as needed.

"OH NO! Joe stepped on a land mine!"

(swap in legless model)

"God it hurts, but I MUST get to headquarters!"

And so on and so on.

I never did the outfits so much.

Also, at the bottom of Lake Decatur, in Decatur, IL is a classic Joe. Was visiting family and my uncle had a giant orange injection molded aircraft carrier with a hole in the top. I had a GI Joe with a sailor outfit. The conclusion should not even have to be enumerated.

Sailor Joe promptly hits the water in the S.S. Orange. Which promptly floats about 10 feet from the shore. Which then promptly capsizes and sinks. And if you know any thing about Lake Decatur, you would think of Lake Springfield from The Simpsons, which is why we did NOT promptly mount a rescue mission.
posted by Samizdata at 10:54 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also spent hideous amounts of money for Strawberry Shortcake for a little sister who is now a lawyer/mother of two.

Fuck me sideways, I am old.
posted by Samizdata at 11:02 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there were a few variants of that, but it was the Navarone playset.

Hm... possible, but at least in the 1981 example cited, off by a decade. I did not own it, thus my recall is suspect. Case in point: I don't recall defensive cannon. On the other hand, if that was yours, wouldn't you make your playdates take the offensive side?

I guess the yellow plastic for non-firing cannons and miscellaneous support stuff is a 1981 adaptation for child safety rules which make sound sense but are as sad as a lawn dart ban.
posted by mwhybark at 7:35 PM on July 6, 2013


Further advanced 1970s playset nonsense:

Weebles Treehouse.
posted by mwhybark at 7:42 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


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