Hey there Nerd Crew! I hope your 2020 is off to a great start. Still no word on when we expect to be back in the studio recording awesome new episodes for all of you but I’m hoping by the end of March at the latest but there are still a lot of logistics to work out with scheduling. So, to tide you over and because absolutely nobody asked for it, here are 2 more badass but mostly forgotten toys of the 90s!
Now before of you Nerds have a fit, I didn’t choose these toys because I think they’re bad lines or because they failed miserably. I picked them because they don’t get mentioned all that often anymore outside of the dedicated fan circles. You can mention Kenner’s Dark Knight Collection or Masters of the Universe and even disinterested parties will be able to conjure up at least vague memories of them. The toys on this list aren’t all going to be deep cuts but certainly lines that don’t get as much love and sometimes respect as they should. I’ve got plenty more 90s lines to talk about in future articles. What other topics would you all like to see featured here? Sound off in the comments!
Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars! – Hasbro 1991
Let’s start out this list buy croakin’ us some toads! All you really need about the show these toys is based off of is that its group of mammals fighting an evil empire of toads who are ruled by a maniacal computer and it takes place in space in an alternate dimension called the Aniverse. I’m gonna make you read the comic or watch the cartoon if you’re unfamiliar with this already because it would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t. You deserve to see this show. And no, I’m not just imagining Usagi Yojimbo in a space helmet fighting some melted Ninja Turtles. This show and these toys really existed damnit!
What started off as a comic book created by Larry Hama and Michael Golden in the 80s became a cartoon in the 90s much the same way, and most likely because of, the runaway success Eastman & Laird and Playmates saw with TMNT. I personally think Bucky O’Hare was the first real whole-hearted attempt by a toy company, this time Hasbro, to recreate the appeal of TMNT by creating another series centered around anthropomorphic animals based on comic book characters.
Every kid who grew up in the 80s or 90s probably had at least one video that they rented relentlessly from the video store but really had no clue what it was or that it might be connected to a larger series or toy line. Just a lonely movie on the shelf that you rented once because it had a cool cover and you ended up renting a dozen more times because it was so cool. That was me and my childhood experience with Bucky O’Hare. I wish I had known there were toys produced for this magical cartoon that sat on the shelf in my video store. Just take one look at them and it’s easy to see why I would have wanted them. They would have fit right in with my Ninja Turtles and the Toads could have easily been fill-ins for some amazing crossover with Battle Toads!
Unfortunately, the accompanying cartoon series that I was familiar with through that damn tape didn’t take off and lasted only 13 episodes before it was canned. And since in 1991 I was living on Okinawa there was zero chance those figures were going to show up on a shelf at the local Base Exchange (BX.) It wouldn’t be until years later, when the internet became a thing that I would learn the full scope of what Bucky O’Hare really was and be truly sad that I missed out on it.
There are several rumors as to why the series and toy line failed to take off, one of which is that Hasbro made far more of the “army builder” figures like generic toads and much fewer of the core cast making it hard to find a Bucky or Blinky but apparently it was unwelcomely common to find a pegboard full of Toad Troopers at Toys-r-Us. Fortunately, you can still get these figures used and carded for fairly reasonable prices and there is even a new line of highly detailed figures available from Boss Fight Studio which look amazing and include characters that weren’t originally released in 1991. The image below shows several of the unreleased figures.
Do yourself a favor and check it out. I wish I had more to say about it other than I can’t wait to buy myself some of the figures on eBay to add to my collection. Bucky O’Hare may not be the nostalgia beacon that Masters of the Universe is, but it could have been.
Z-Bots – Galoob 1992-199
Every kid who watched Saturday morning cartoons in the late 80s and early 90s is familiar with John “Motormouth” Moschitta Jr. or “The Fast Talking Guy” who graced commercials for Micro Machines. If you don’t remember Micro Machines or like so many people who read this blog you aren’t old enough to remember them, they were scaled down versions of vehicles that could be used in playsets that tended to fold out of larger vehicles or in the cases of certain licensed products the playsets folded out of say… Darth Vader’s head. They were likely the inspiration behind Polly Pocket and Might Max which in turn inspired the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant-Minis I wrote about last time.
While best known for these scaled down vehicles, there was another offshoot of the Micro Machines brand that doesn’t seem to get a lot of love these days. I’m talking about Micro Machines Z-Bots! Tiny robot action figures were at war with each other (sounds familiar doesn’t it?) These robots however didn’t transform into vehicles or hot dogs or anything like that (though later series introduced some transformative play into the mix) they were just robots with awesome designs and colors who were divided into two factions the “good guy” Z-Bots and the “bad guy” Voids.
When I say these guys had out of this world designs I don’t feel like that is hyperbole so let me paint a picture for you. Close your eyes and imagine someone took your childhood toybox and dumped into a giant blender and then let a blind child put the pieces back together. That’s the type of beauty that went into some of these designs. Take Brainiax for example who must be the lovechild of Krang and his Android Body. It’s essentially a giant brain with a “face” wearing black and red armor covered in silver spikes with two giant, red, pincer like appendages who just want’s the hug his parents never gave him. Then there is Jawbreaker who reminds me of a rejected concept from a 1996 movie adaptation of the Wuzzles. He’s an orange and black colored frog-snail-piranha? Who is crouched down with a bulbous body, giant mouth full of razor teeth and big bulging yellow eyes at the end of black stalks. Oh yeah, and golden drill bits on the back of his legs. I imagine he and I would be great friends and that he’d let me ride him as we go on adventures. Sure, there are a lot of these guys that look like awesome, but generic, robots with cool weapons but then there are characters like these two which are straight up the result of magic mushrooms that lead someone to think that creating Demonic Steampunk Pokémon was a good idea.
The fact that Z-Bots lasted for multiple waves and a Burger King Kids Club promotion without any sort of cartoon or comic book supporting them is impressive. There were also playsets and vehicles released along side them including giant robots that acted as transports/ bases but were also… giant robots. Most of what I had were from the 3 packs and from the Burger King promotion (which also came with POGS!) but I also had the Vector HQ playset which had these tops you could place the robot inside and it would battle another top similar to Beyblade, in which I assume I am an expert because I’ve seen at least 3 different commercials for it and from what I’ve seen on the commercials, Beyblade are just metal tops that spin and hit each other and then fall over and then one of the players probably cries and gets kicked.
I still love the way these robots look nearly 30 years later. As soon as I find mine in the garage of doom I’m adding some to my desk at work. If you haven’t checked these out they’re worth a Google and you can pick them up relatively cheap on eBay if you want to add them to your collection. I didn’t even get into the Mini Zs which were smaller sized robots that came in sets of 15 that I didn’t know existed until researching this article but now find myself compelled to own so maybe there will be a follow up article someday.
And that does it for round 2 of Badass (Mostly) Forgotten Toys of the 90s! How about that, 2 articles out in less than a month? 2020 is going to be a big year and there are still plenty of killer food stuffs coming out and even more toys and collectibles on my radar than I can possibly afford! Fingers crossed that I can keep the articles coming and get back to creating more content for the YouTube channel! Until next time, we just nerd here and now you do too!