With Toys R Us counting down its final days, people from many generations are thinking back to their memories of the store. I already wrote something about mine. But not just the store itself, but it was the things they and other retailers sold at the time. In those days there was a lot out there. Sure, there were the big lines the kids of the day knew like He-man, G.I. Joe, Transformers, My Little Pony (not the cool one either. I mean the first generation), and all the rest, but sometimes the fun in it is looking back to the more obscure lines out there that may not have had as much room on the store pegboard but still had a big place in our hearts. So here is a look at 5 obscure toy lines for those days gone by.
Barnyard Commandos ( Playmates 1989-1990)
A series based on the military battle between pigs (or P.O.R.K.S) and sheep (R.A.M.S.). What they were fighting over I’m not really sure. These guys were soft plastic and not articulated so they weren’t in the mold of a G.I. Joe figure (figuratively or literally). They came with a gun or some weapon to do battle with but since they had no movement or anything, it was a real hands-on affair that needed a lot of imagination. A cartoon was produced but only 13 episodes were made and wasn’t picked up anywhere. The commercials though aired all the time so we knew they were out there.
Sky Commanders (Kenner 1987)
Another toy line based on a really short cartoon series. The story is that the evil Lucus Plague is trying to claim control over a new element that is discovered when a new continent is formed on Earth (around the South Pacific) and a team lead by the heroic Mike Summit has to stop him and his crew. The whole thing was based on mountaineering so all the small little figures (to scale with the more popular MASK figures) came with backpacks and safety guide ropes. The vehicles they tooled around in attached to guide lines that you hung up as they zipped around fighting each other, at least until all those wires became an ungodly tangled mess. The cartoon series only lasted a few months and had 13 episodes, but it was carried on the syndicated Funtastic Worl of Hanna Barbera line up so it got a lot of eyeball time and WAY more merchandise a series that short should have had.
Anything Trolls (early 90s)
In the day, Trolls were EVERYWHERE. The little guys with the long hair weren’t just sitting on desks and pencils, but there were a couple of toy lines and at least one animated series. Besides the regular Troll figures people were actually collecting there was Battle Trolls, the bigger figures that didn’t do anything but the story was… well they didn’t really have one. There was also Stone Protectors that was a rip off of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, but the characters became Troll guys instead of turtles becoming human. When the Troll fad died out, thankfully these shows and toys did as well. Just like any cash in on some fad, these fell out of style quickly.
Go-Bots (Tonka 1983-1987)
Tonka’s answer to the Transformers. Pretty much the same premise too. Space aliens turn into cars and trucks and fought each other. You had the heroic jet Leader-1 (the Jet) leading the good guys against the evil motorcycle Cy-kill. The cartoon series only lasted a single year in Syndication But unlike some of the other lines on this list, it got 65 episodes between 1984 and 1985. The toys hung around even longer. The oddest part of this was eventually all the rights to the names and the characters were given over to Hasbro and show up in the Transformer universe now.
Food Fighters (Mattel 1989)
Militarize anthropomorphic food. That about explains this lineup. Think about a cross between G.I. Joes of the 80’s if they bonded with dog toys shaped like burgers, hot dogs, cookies and things like that. This line up was available mostly in discount stores more than the big retail places. Food fighters also have no cartoon series, no comic series, no movie, none of that and here we were as kids buying soft plastic hamburgers, hot dogs, and stacks of pancakes that came with weapons to do battle with. The didn’t last long, but they made an impact.
Crazy ideas? Sure. But you can’t say we didn’t have fun!