Four forgotten toy lines ripe for revival, plus one we never want to see again!
We were going to call this nostalgia blast “Only 80s kids will remember THIS!” but then we included a toy from the 1960s.
Army Gear was a line of small playsets, similar to Polly Pocket or Mighty Max, but with a military theme (obviously). Each set was a piece of realistic-looking military equipment that unfolded to reveal a playset like a missile silo or an aircraft carrier. There were tiny army figures and vehicles included in each set.
Galoob released two series of Army Gear toys before ending the line. Of course, in the 1980s a toy gun could look like a gun, and having each playset also serve as a roleplay toy was half the appeal of Army Gear toys. Sadly, given modern toy safety laws, we’re not likely to ever see the likes of Army Gear again.
The idea behind Battle Beasts was simple – cybernetic animals with armor and weapons. They were simple two-inch figures with articulation limited to rotating shoulder joints. The play pattern was a variation on Rock-Paper-Scissors, with the “elements” Wood, Fire, and Water being used instead. Sold in packs of two, each Battle Beast had a rubsign emblem kids would rub to reveal the figure’s element, determining the outcome of the game. The designs of the characters were wildly imaginative, and a small number of vehicles and playsets (mainly designed around forest themes) were also released.
Talk of a Battle Beasts revival crops up from time to time. With modern tooling, articulation, and a larger size class, Battle Beasts could rule store shelves once more!
Fun to note is that in Japan, the Battle Beasts were part of Takara’s Transformers line. Called “BeastFormers” and introduced in the Japanese Transformers: Headmasters cartoon, the characters were introduced when Decepticons invaded the planet Beast.
MAJOR MATT MASON
In the 1960s, every boy wanted to be an astronaut. Mattel seized on this when they created Major Matt Mason, a line of figures featuring four spacefaring adventurers; Major Matt Mason, Sergeant Storm, Lieutenant Jeff Long, and civilian astronaut Doug Davis. The Major Matt Mason line was fairly realistic in its portrayal of then-current space exploration, though later releases added science fiction elements to the mythology. Alien characters were introduced, both as allies and adversaries for Mason and his team. A Moon Base playset was also sold.
Think a forgotten toy line from almost 50 years ago is doomed to remain in obscurity? As recently as 2011, there was talk of Robert Zemeckis directing a new Major Matt Mason movie starring Tom Hanks.
Tomy’s Starriors were an offshoot of the Zoids brand, and had one of the most creative stories for an 80s toy line. Facing the threat of intense solar flares, mankind has fled the surface of the Earth, leaving the planet in the care of intelligent robots tasked with defending the world while humanity lays in stasis. With the passage of time, the very existence of mankind has faded into myth, until a human skull is uncovered by one of the robots, setting off a conflict between opposing Starriors factions. The Protector seek to find humanity’s surviving remnants and restore them to their rightful place on the Earth’s surface, while the Destructors, fearing deactivation upon humanity’s return, fight to thwart the Protectors’ quest.
The Starriors figures themselves were interesting robot designs, each with a wind-up weapon gimmick. Inside each figure’s head was a tiny human figure (a leftover from the line’s roots in the Zoids line) which was explained as the robot’s “control circuits” having been crafted in mankind’s image. Limbs and heads could be swapped between figures, proving a small degree of customization, a unique play pattern for the time. Two series of figures and playsets were released, but without the promotion of a cartoon series, the line failed to catch on. Mini-comics produced by Marvel were included with each figure, and a four-issue limited series was also released as well as two readalong audiobooks. Today the line is all but forgotten, and a revival seems sadly unlikely.
Seriously, Mattel? These things look like they came out a cereal box. And not even good cereal, either! Here’s hoping Food Fighters stay in the garbage bin where they belong.
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