Hello Nerd Crew! Has it really been a year since my last article here? I fail so hard. If you’ve ready any of the update posts or listened to the show you already know it’s been a hell of a year for all of us. We’re hoping 2020 is much better but I refuse to let the Christmas season go by without at least one pointless article about something from my childhood involving toys so here it is, what may be the only article I write for 2019, heres 3 Badass (Mostly) Forgotten Toys of the 90s!
Vince & Larry: The Crash Test Dummies/ The Incredible Crash Dummies – Tyco Toys 1991-1994
You can learn a lot from a dummy, but in the 90s you could play with them too. Based on the iconic National Highway Traffic Safety Administration public service announcements which ran from the mid-1980s until the late-1990s. These PSAs featured two crash test dummies who never wore their seatbelts and were constantly and comically mangled by their refusal to wear the safety restraint. Vince (voiced by Jack Burns) and Larry (voiced by Garfield himself, the great Lorenzo Music) were crushed, dismembered, flattened and had every manner of awful thing happen to them over the years all in the name of getting you to buckle up. Hell, they were once ticketed by the great Barney Fife.
If you were a kid in this era it was impossible to escape their presence. Whether it was on the radio or during a new episode of Muppet Babies, Mr. Belvedere or Johnny Carson, Vince and Larry were everywhere and in 1991 they invaded the toy isle. Vince & Larry: The Crash Test Dummies are the only entry on this list that was produced by the now defunct Tyco Toys (it was acquired by Mattel in 1997) which is probably best known for its RC toys and Tickle Me Elmo. The concept behind the toys was simple but from what I remember I loved these guys. The action figures which fall apart when they receive crashed any of the several vehicles (which also broke apart upon crashing) that were released alongside them. One of the coolest things about the line was the vehicles which featured real safety equipment such as seatbelts and airbags.
Surprisingly these toys were around for a surprisingly long 4 years before they were discontinued even though there was no accompanying Saturday Morning Cartoon to help keep up the hype (though there was a one-off TV special on Fox in 1993.) Such was the appeal of the PSAs as well as the genius behind the figures. Oddly enough, after the first series of figures was released the relationship between the NHTSA and Tyco ended and the series continued without Vince and Larry and the line was rebranded as The Incredible Crash Dummies. Three of the major networks even stopped airing the PSAs out of fear that they would be accused of promoting the toy line.
As popular as I recall these toys being, they’re mostly forgotten and often don’t even appear on lists like this one. Hell, just finding a picture of the toys that isn’t just a random eBay listing is next to impossible. Part of me can see why since I certainly did not have an obsession with them like I did for Ghostbusters or Ninja Turtles but I had quite a few of the first series when it was released and remember playing with them all the time. If we’re being completely honest here, they are probably still in Mama RoRo’s garage waiting to be found and when they are, I’ll probably write another too long article about them.
The Original Battle Trolls – Hasbro 1992-1993
“Every little girl loves little Trolls. But what do guys wish for…” Queue testosterone generating explosions and giant armored thugs bursting through stone walls and you have “big haired dudes with bad attitudes” AKA The Original Battle Trolls! Released by Hasbro in 1992, they were originally meant to give boys a way to collect Trolls which were huge with girls at the time but thought to be embarrassing for boys to like because, the 90s.
These weren’t your typical cute Good Luck or Treasure Trolls with gems in their beebos (that’s what we call a belly button,) Battle Trolls were massive hulking beasts with some articulation (albeit limited.) They were about 50% Troll and 50% hair and each one came with some kind of weapon that could be fired. There was really no rhyme or reason to the designs they chose. Ninjas, Cyclopes, Vampires and the Terminator rubbed elbows and tried to… kill each other? That was the beauty of Battle Trolls, there was absolutely zero story involved. You just got these bad ass hairy monsters in goofy outfits and have them do whatever you want! Rage war against the Technodrome? Pirate Troll ahoy! Ride on top of Ecto-1 and try to eat Egon? Superhero troll away!
Mostly I just picked some of them to be good guys and some to be bad guys and tried to knock over the bad guys with the good guy’s weapons. This was made even easier by the only two… Vehicles? Playsets? One was a giant net shooting crossbow that came with a Cyclops and a Dinosaur with a Viking. Even now I don’t question the choice to include these specific Troll designs with their respective… things? I really don’t know what to call them. Big ass Troll playsets. BATPs, spread the word.
I played with these things for years. Through all the various other toys that were around before them or came along after like Power Rangers Jurassic Park, and even my Star Wars figures got to interact with the Battle Trolls at some point. They were the perfect drop in action figures for any line thanks in most part to the varied character designs you were bound to find at least one who wouldn’t look out of place teaming up with Leonardo. They weren’t my favorite by any means, but they were a convenient way to add a new character to your playtime repertoire.
Just as quickly as these scar covered, booger eating Trolls burst through that stone wall and into our lives they were gone. It’s surprising that in just one short year Hasbro managed to release 3 series of figures totaling 26 in all (though 2 were repaints so count what you will.) There was a 4th series showcased at the New York Toy Fair in 1993 that was to introduce a line of 6 villains to the series called The Evil Horde and while there are pictures out there of these figures and the figures themselves look amazing, I’m glad they didn’t ruin the imaginative play by introducing a mythology to these figures.
TMNT Mini-Mutants – Playmates 1994-1997
I know what half of you are screaming right now. TMNT haven’t been forgotten! They haven’t really stopped making toys based on our heroes in a half shell since the 80s! This is 100% true, but I’m not talking about your standard TMNT action figures. I’m specifically talking about the Mini-Mutants line that was released in 1994 and was available until the end of the original series run in 1997. I consider it forgotten because I never hear it talked about and most of the people I’ve mentioned it to seem to think I’m just being a very special boy, give me an ice cream cone and send me on my way with a pat on the head.
But they were real! If you’re wondering what a Mini-Mutant is, picture Might Max or Polly Pocket only more gnarly and awesome because they were freaking Ninja Turtles! These sets ruled. It was like someone took Micro-Machines, Micromaster Transformers and Mighty Max put them in a TCRI shaker and poured out this delicious Mini-Mutant Martini.
I really don’t know how to describe them other than small playsets contained within various turtles, weapons and vehicles. They also sold packs containing additional figures and vehicles in this mini scale. I remember originally discovering these at Walmart one summer while visiting my grandparents and I was hooked immediately. When we got back to Okinawa at the end of summer, I immediately began searching for them at our Toys-R-Us. I can’t remember exactly when I found them, but I was beyond excited when I did because in Japan they not only had the playset packs but also exclusive character packs with the Super Turtles and vehicle packs with chrome finishes that I hadn’t seen in the States.
I played with these well into high school because they were so damn cool. I kept some of them on my desk in my room (which I admittedly never used) and would grab them occasionally to mess around with. What surprised me most while I was researching these tubular toys was that they have made variations of them ever since the 1994 release for the various turtle properties including the 2003 reboot and 2012 reboot. While I was never a fan of the 2003 TMNT I absolutely loved the 2012 incarnation and I wouldn’t mind adding some of the 2012 TMNT Micro Mutants sets.
The Mini-Mutants and subsequent Micro Mutants playsets and accessories go for quite a bit on eBay which makes me sad because I discovered a few that I want to add to my collection. I wish people talked about these more because in my opinion they were the superior alternative to Mighty Max and other similar properties. They were perfectly executed with great designs; detail and it was so easy to set up massive battles and playsets and not take up an entire room. I hope they see a comeback with the current Rise of the TMNT series, as much as I dislike it the toys have been rather appealing, and I must add a Micro Meatsweats figure to my collection. Hell, an army of Meatsweats, all glistening, all ready to wage battle. It’s the simple dreams that keep me going.
Thank you Nerd Crew for sticking around through a tough 2019! Hopefully I can keep his article thing going through next year. I’ve got a ton of ideas outlined and ready for youall to critique! And we’ve got some fun things planned on the podcast side of things as well so stay tuned for our triumphant return!
So as 2019 draws to a close, from all of us here in our family to all of you there in yours a very Happy New Year. We love you, Nerd Crew!