Toys

doll_eyes

I really am sorry for making you wake up to this.  Dolls can be wonderful, or dolls can haunt the very depth of your soul.  Check out the doll manufacturing video below and let me know which side of the fence it falls on.  

Video via Fongbo Toys

 

croc_master_large

What 80’s G.I. Joe did well or at least what I loved the most was taking truly gonzo characters and impractical abilities and then carving out a story with a straight face.  Look at this guy above.  Clearly over-specialized, he was only called out when security demanded the use of a crocodile.  In my mind I imagine him as a TSA employee with his own office and he is called out every once in a while when someone tries to smuggle a baby croc in a bag. Most of the time he just sits in his cubicle trying to play Candy Crush through his full-face leather mask and breathing tube.

From hisstank.com:

Croc Master is a former alligator wrestler and burglar alarm salesman who founded Guard-Gators Inc. in an effort to commercialize the use of alligators for home security. He now keeps Cobra Island secure with a large bask or ultra-aggressive crocodiles that cruise the maze of shallow canals that weave through the island. His system suffers a setback when Blowtorch uses heat-blasting weapons to cut a dry channel directly through the island, bypassing all the ravenous crocs.

Source: G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Python Patrol Croc Master Photo Shoot – HissTank.com

thunderbirds_1966

If I think back, I probably saw Space 1999 before I saw The Thunderbirds, basically going at the Gerry Anderson catalog backwards. Anderson was so proific though that I have keeping up with all of his creations. I am just getting familiar with his UFO series now.

Something about the design of his shows seems to stick with me. I remember the first time I saw Thunderbirds and thinking how odd the character designs were, but after an episode or two they just became characters to me. I think that speaks to the way that Anderson presented. There was enough explosions, fires and spaceships to pull you in, but the stories were always fun and kept you watching. I talk often about how Japanese television was my first exposure to longer story arcs in children’s television, but Anderson was doing it too. Heyou did not underestimate the intelligence of his audience, even if that audience was only six years old.

If you bring up The Thunderbirds with the right generation you will get a warm reception. Mostly the old shows still hold up. As per norm for the time period they still veer into casual racism every once and a while and that is hard to watch, but the miniature sets, pyrotechnics and comedy are still wildly entertaining. I haven’t tested this on my own kids yet, I am not completley confident they would have the same reaction. I allow nostalgia to color a lot of these old memories for me and they may feel more interesting then they actually are.

Since the geeks are currently inheriting the earth we are driving the entertainment, so I guess it was inevitable that we would get a Thunderbirds reboot in this generation. When the new character designs were introduced a few weeks ago the internet unified in a collective ‘ew’. I also joined in the chorus of thinking the characters were more off putting than inspiring.

New-look Thunderbirds

Time passes and we get our first look at the full first trailer and I feel like I get it. The folks in charge of the reboot want to stay as true to the spirit of the original where they can and update it just enough to draw in a new audience. Honestly I think they have hit the target. I came to that conclusion when the trailer gets to the part where they have the futuristic sub with mechanical arms and it felt like Thunderbirds. All the wacky physics made all the memories flood back.

I need to read more detail about how they are filming, but while the characters are computer generated it feels like some of the ships and the sets are still handled in minature which is why a lot of this feels very authentic.

We will have to wait until the full show premeires, but I am now full of optimism. People seem to be getting sick of reboots, but as long as I am entertained I don’t mind the occasional tweak to the formula. Sometimes as it makes the whole better and I am all for introducing a new generation to Anderson’s work.

Here is the old intro folks to kickstart those Saturday morning Gen X and late boomer memories.

gaiking_flying

For a blog named Giant Japanese Robot, I certainly do not have enough posts about Giant Robots.   Part of this is that I am just a regular joe with a job and I post in the time I have and whatever is catching my fancy.  For a while in an earlier incarnation of this site I talked a good bit about advancements in modern robotics, but if I was honest with myself what I really enjoy are those clanky giant mecha that I grew up with in the seventies.  They were huge, colorful, humanoid and completely improbable.

There is a shared camaraderie among those that grew up in that period and watched those shows.   I’ve met folks from a bunch of different places around the world who watched them under different names and dubs and the feeling is still the same.  If the following gives you chills then you know you are in the club.

I spent a lot of time in the basement workshop as a wee boy trying to make giant robot costumes with zero success, so when Raymond Ramos mentions and posts pics that he is working on Gaiking cosplay I am interested, but a bit doubtful.

I was wrong, so wrong.

Raymond Ramos is a local guy who does cosplay, and he absolutely kills it.  From Raymond’s Facebook page you can see that his favored cosplay appears to be perfecting Blade, but he has also done Bane, G.I. Joe and an intimidating Blade Thundercats mashup.

Here is Raymond with the final Gaiking costume compared to an illustration of the robot.

gaiking_comparison

Another more detailed shot of him at Rhode Island Comic Con.

gaiking_solo

 

I’ve seen a lot of people attempt giant robots in cosplay, but never so successfully, at least with the Go Nagai style robots.  Check out his page and support him.  Local artists like Raymond put in a ton of work because they love the genre and they love seeing people react to their creations.  People like him make the world a bit better.

makerfaire-logo

Long time readers will know that I am a big proponent of Maker and DIY culture.  In other times and other places people grow up with this culture and it is natural for them.  I think it also becomes natural for the Tradespeople around us and those that grew up with parents that made things.

For a lot of us though if we want something we need to buy it, if what we want cannot be purchased then we are out of luck.  I know going to elementary school the sentiment was that if something was homemade then it was somehow worse than if you bought it at the store, regardless of merit or quality.

Changing that mindset was a revelation to me.  If I wanted something I could build it, if it didn’t exist I could design it.  My only limitations were money, access to materials and knowledge.  The first two could be overcome most of the time with ingenuity, the latter isn’t really a limit at all.  If I don’t know or understand something the only thing that is stopping me is me.

Maker Faires are a celebration of that mind set and the intelligence and drive of the human spirit, they are a physical manifestation of the term ‘American Ingenuity’.

When you attend the Faire this year you will see large companies and sponsors like our local Hasbrosmall companies like BLT Robotics with their computer controlled hydroponics units and individuals like Martin Lynn who designs practical objects from things we would normally throw away.

If you have never seen 3D printing, laser cutting, and other CNC technologies this will be your opportunity to experience them first hand.  The Faire is an all ages educational environment, some formal like learning how to solder workshops and some informal by talking to the creators, inventors and tinkerers themselves. You will see toys, art, jewelry, computers, practical and impractical machines, robots and things that are difficult to describe.

I go to events like this to be inspired and I hope we will see you there.   It may just spark a lifetime’s worth of enthusiasm for you, your friends or your loved ones.

The Mini Maker Faire this year will be held at three locations this year in Providence, RI from 11am to 6pm.  The locations are the Hasbro building at 1 Hasbro Place, along Adrian Hall Way and AS220 at 115 Empire St, all within walking distance from each other.   If you start at Hasbro the Dunkin’ Donuts Convention Center may be the easiest place to park.  The event is rain or shine so dress appropriately.

Tickets can be purchased HERE and detailed information can be found on the main website.  I’ll leave you with the promotional video from last year, enjoy.

 

 

salmoore

 

I have a real soft spot for GoBots.  They were the first transforming toy that I had seen and despite their simplicity blew my little mind.  They were the only toy at the time that could cause me to put down my Masters of the Universe figures.

Chief baddy among the group was Cy-Kill, a transforming motorcycle that sort of worked, but was good enough for my ten year old self.  The unlicensed (I believe) version from DX9 is named Salmoore and has everything you would expect from fans with careful attention to detail and a love of eighties plastic.

See the full review HERE.

disney_sticker_pack

This is a weird one, but writing is therapeutic and y’all are nice people so I appreciate you bearing with me.

In stereotypical nerd fashion I have a lot of allergies, horrific seasonal allergies, respiratory issues and I can’t eat a lot of fruit until it is cooked.  I know no one cares about that, but it explains me losing a lot of my sense of smell by adulthood.

As a consequence of my broken honker I tend to get quite a few phantom smells.  Sometimes the smells are not really there and sometimes I am smelling one thing, but it is actually something else.

I was just working on the couch and the most powerful smell surrounded me.  It smelled exactly like the little bit of taffy that was included in the packs of the Disney stickerbooks from the late seventies.  I used to gather up my change or beg my parents to buy me these, first for the taffy and then for the four measly stickers that were included.

I kid you not, this taffy was up there with some of the greatest foods ever created.  For reference it was better than the white fun dip sticks, which I know is hard to believe, but you have to trust me on this.  Unfortunately this cannot be proven by science, for if I was to find some of this thirty plus year old taffy I assume it would taste terrible, but I guess I would be willing to try, y’know for science.

Not sure what the smell actually was or even if it was there at all, but it caused me to hunt down and archive the above image, which proves to me that those memories weren’t a hallucination.  Which is comforting.

flappy_box

Check out the Flappy Box above.  If you took many of my interests and combined them into a small package it would be difficult to crate something better than Fawn Qiu has put together.

We have science, math, engineering, art, electronics and the physical skill needed to play a mean Flappy Birdesque game in single stop.  The geeky among us should be pleased.

I’m not sure if Fawn expected her project to explode like it did, but if you go over to her youtube video you will see that in a short time she has garnered almost 2.5 million views.

You may be thinking to yourself “This is a fine item that I may wish to possess” and I would not blame you, not one bit.  Flappy Box is not commercially available, but that doesn’t mean you can’t own one.  Soon the circuit designs will be available for the project as open source, which means you can download them for free and with the right hardware you will be able to make your own.  If you want a little less DIY and also help this project Fawn is running a Kickstarter aimed at using these boxes as engineering teaching tools.

Flappy Box Kickstarter

Proceeds from this very modest Kickstarter will go to holding free engineering workshops for underserved high school female students in NYC.  It ends on April 3rd, so if you are interested I encourage you to participate quickly.

On a serious note I think the potential in the kits is pretty powerful.  Learning how to build the kit and how it works is great on its own, but you can also customize the kits and change them into an infinite number of game variations.  Once the basic skills are learned they extend into other areas of your life.  This is what toys should do, be fun, inspire and lead to greater things.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFpe3Up9T_g

Normally I won’t post an advertisement verbatim, but Goldieblox continues to do a lot of things right.  What Goldieblox gets and most large toy companies do not is that it is difficult to sell toys to girls when your toys are terrible.  The difference between what boys enjoy and what girls enjoy is pretty slight overall and fun is a constant that doesn’t change just because you are a different gender.

Things I love about this:

  • Co-opting the Beastie Boys song and turning it into an empowerment song.
  • Young girls being righteously angry
  • Repurposing pink plastic into something useful

Give kids an opportunity to shine and they will consistently surprise you.

Going with the theme of seriously weird stuff in the eighties Sunbow Productions was an animation studio that originally did television advertisements in for the G.I. Joe toy line.  Eventually they graduated to doing the full animated series for G.I. Joe and Transformers in collaboration with Marvel Productions. (now owned by Disney)

They tried something new in the world of advertainment with the Super Sunday block.  The shows were broken down into small segments with three or four in a single episode I believe the thinking was that they would run with the shows that would ‘stick’ via viewership and toy sales.  The original shoes were Jem and the Holograms, Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines and Robotix.  I may talk about this more later, but I LOVED Robotix, it was a nifty cartoon with robot dinosaurs and a genuinely creative and interesting toy.

Now the Inhumanoids, which I also really enjoyed, eventually replaced Robotix when it didn’t ‘stick’.  It was a really odd cartoon that featured giant, subterranean somewhat demonic creatures battling hero scientists in retro themed exo suits.  You can watch the entire episode above but if you don’t have the time just catch the intro.  This interest started when I came across a Tendril figure at the Toy Vault.  I couldn’t place the figure at the time, but I knew that it was there somewhere in my memory, just needed to dig a bit until memories of twenty-seven years ago came back.

Power Lords

 

Look at this guy.  Technically he is a vehicle for the short lived Power Lords toy line.  I seem to be attracted to toy lines that had short lives because I remember these toys very clearly.  This toy has its organs on the OUTSIDE.  What ten year old would not completely love this?

This was a weird one.  Had a dream last night that I purchased a version of Moss Man from the 1930s, which makes no sense.  Moss Man does not seem like a happy dude.