The mind of a child is a difficult thing to tame. With no space for historically significant events, mathematics, or any practical kind of information, kids instead possess minds that are full of fanciful imaginings. Monsters, magic, faraway lands and their toy collections are far more likely to occupy their rapidly-developing brains than any kind of scholastic lesson. However, there is one thing that can captures a child’s attention like lint on tape: icky, slimy, disgusting bugs.
Originally made by Mattel in 1964, Creepy Crawlers is a creative toy for kids who are old enough to play with hot things without horribly burning themselves. Basically, the toy consists of die-cast metal molds of assorted critters that are a receptacle for an oozing, liquid chemical substance called Plastigoop. The goop is heated in the machine until it set into a semi-solid, rubbery form and then the critters are popped out of their metal molds once cooled. The result is endless amounts of rubbery bug toys that make any kid squeal with joy.
The problem with the older models is that they actually contained an electric hot plate oven. In a kid’s hands, this thing might have well been an unattended pack of matches. With all of the concerns over child safety, Mattel released a 2.0 version in 1978 in which the Plastigoop was heated by itself and then poured into cold molds. It was a failure because this method took over an hour to make a completed creature and the reformulated Plastigoop did not work well at all. The attempted revival faded into obscurity.
I always thought fanny packs got a raw deal. There’s no way they should be as socially oppressed as they most definitely are in everyday situations. In this age of smart phones, iPods, fistfuls of cash and credit cards, it would be nice to have a zipper-secured bundle wrapped around your waist to hold important things. Now confined to lame dads on vacation and strapped to the front handlebars of a 3 year old’s Huffy, the fanny pack has all but reached extinction.
Here we have another priceless artifact I found in a Rubbermaid tub labeled “Ninja Turtle Stuff.” It is my first, my most beloved fanny pack.
As I’ve said previously, pretty much anything with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles logo can find a spot in my collection. I have a bit of a soft spot for those gnarly green dudes. The logo on this nylon fanny pack is exquisitely screened on and, even after nearly 20 years of sitting in a tub, shows almost no signs of wear or tear. This thing was built to last.
Digging around in a giant rubbermaid bin labeled “Ninja Turtle Stuff,” I came across a few historical gems that I’m going to be showcasing in a series of articles I’m also labeling “Ninja Turtle Stuff.” The first in the series is a look back to the simple pleasures of pop-up books.
Pop-up books are like children’s books on acid. They take the humble appeal of a regularly-illustrated, vanilla storybook and steer it directly into the realm of the strange. Instead of flat, lifeless pictures strewn across the page, there are three dimensional objects bent in a way that makes them magically stand up as you turn the pages. The real reason these books are so fun for kids are the interactive portions, though. Instead of just having your favorite bedtime story read to you over and over again by your parents, now you can actually PLAY with it.
I remember being totally obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pop-Up Storybook when I was a kid. It actually held a special place in the pants drawer of my bureau, always within reach when I wanted to gaze upon its colorful goodness.
They went to school and whispered about the Spice Girls and the two boys in town behind their seemingly nonexistent teachers’ backs. They went home in a giant shoebox-schoolbus, and by the time they hit the first bus stop, the bus’s contents had shifted considerably. The school was always right by the nice part of town, so the popular girls—Polly with the blonde pigtails, Polly in the pink minidress, Polly’s brunette friend who always wore a swimsuit to school—were the first ones off the bus. I could have made them go home and do their homework, but after they finished cheerleading practice, it was usually partytime (whatever 7-year-old me thought cool teenagers did at parties).
At the height of their popularity, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ruled the world. From cereals to video games to international musical stage tours to snack cakes, there was no medium those green bastards wouldn’t infiltrate.
Their most successful foray of all, however, was into the world of toys. Hundreds of different figures were produced and some of them were even re-released recently for another round of children and nostalgically-geeky adults like myself to snatch up and cradle in sublime solemnity.
Despite all of the interesting characters like the Rat King and Mondo Gecko, it was the playsets that really reigned supreme. There was the aptly-named Turtle Van, their dingy sewer hideout, the Turtle Blimp, and many others that littered the carpeted floors of many a kid’s bedroom in the 90s.
All of that aside, those figures and playsets had absolutely nothing on the epitome of amazing Ninja Turtle toys. This wasn’t just a playset, this was a dream come true. This was the toy that marked many people’s most memorable Christmas morning ever. This was the most magical, inspiring piece of colored plastic ever to grace the shelves of a local KB Toys, Kiddie City, or Toys R Us. This was the one toy to rule them all. This was THE TECHNODROME.