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Archive for the ‘Toys’ Category

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Posted by Big Boo on July 20th, 2011

Subbuteo Table FootballI’ve never been a big fan of the “beautiful game” it has to be said, but as a kid even I wanted a Subbuteo table football (or flick football as I called it back then) set to play with. There’s something about those little men on the plastic hemispheres that stirs some inner urge in men across the country to try and flick an oversized ball past a goalkeeper on a stick.

Subbuteo was invented by a chap named Peter Adolph. He initially placed adverts in The Boy’s Own back in 1946 for the game, but it wasn’t until the following year that final sets were sent out to eager customers. Initially Adolph wanted to call the game simply “Hobby”, but his application for a trademark was turned down, so instead the game became known as Subbuteo.

Why Subbuteo? In a rather convoluted piece of logic the name comes from the latin name Falco subbuteo, which is a bird of prey more commonly known as the Eurasian Hobby, which links back to Adolph’s original choice of name.

The first sets were quite simple, with wire and paper goal posts and cardboard cut out players attached to weighted buttons. It wasn’t until 1961 that the more recognisable three dimensional plastic men would be introduced, which in turn saw various changes and refinements until we reach the Eighties, when the nicely painted “lightweight” figure was introduced.

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Holly Hobbie

Posted by Big Boo on July 6th, 2011

Original Holly HobbieIf you were one of those Child of the 1980’s that were actually born in the Seventies, then you may remember a range of girls toys named Holly Hobbie.

Holly Hobbie was not actually a toy range first and foremost however, in fact the rag doll style characters bearing the name were actually originally conceived for use on greetings cards. There are a surprising number of toy lines which started off this way, with the Care Bears and Rainbow Brite being two other examples I can think of off the top of my head.

Another interesting fact about Holly Hobbie is that the name for these old fashioned looking characters actually came from the artist that created them. Denise Holly Ulinskas was the artist in question, who married a man named Hobbie and so became known as Holly Hobbie! When she originally sold her designs to American Greetings the character had no name, so Holly’s name was used to refer to the images, and I guess that name must have just stuck.

The Holly Hobbie characters always had a little air of mystery about them, since most of the time they were drawn side on or from behind, and very little of the face (if any) was visible due to the large bonnet worn on the head. Obviously when the toy line was started the doll had to have a face, but it was always the bonnet, rag doll style dress and brown boots which took precedence.

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Fake Vomit

Posted by Big Boo on June 29th, 2011

Fake VomitI hope you’re not eating your dinner whilst reading this one (and if you are, what are you doing on the computer whilst eating anyway – you’ll get food in the keyboard).

Fake vomit or Trick Sick (not to be confused with Trick Stick) is one of those joke toys that kids always find highly amusing for some reason, a bit like fake dog poo.

Made from plastic and made to look, well, like sick (complete with “carrot chunks”) the idea is to shock and disgust adults by placing said item in a strategic place (e.g. in the middle of your Mum’s brand new living room carpet).

Sadly I’ve no fascinating tale related to fake “technicolour yawns” of my own to relate, but a great one is that told by Chunk to the Fratellis in The Goonies. He says about going to the cinema and making vomiting sounds before throwing some fake puke into the audience, which caused a mass vomiting session in the cinema. Funny, though perhaps not so funny had you been in the audience in question!

So if the inner child inside of you still feels like playing a practical joke of this manner (perhaps your Mum has just had another new carpet fitted and it would be a good repeat gag?) you can get hold of your very own plastic sick from Silly Jokes.

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The Wuzzles

Posted by Big Boo on June 24th, 2011

The WuzzlesThe Wuzzles was an animated series made by Disney in 1985, and given it only managed to notch up a single series of 13 episodes obviously was at the back of the queue when the usually Disney magic sparkle dust of success was being handed out.

It first aired at around the same time as Gummi Bears, another series aimed at a similar target demographic. The Gummi’s managed to do a little better for themselves that The Wuzzles, but only slightly.

So what on Earth is a Wuzzle then? Well, a Wuzzle is a creature that is a mix of two regular animals. For example there was Bumblelion, who was a mix of a lion and a bumble bee. In appearance he looked pretty much like what you would expect a anthropomorphised cartoon lion to look like, except he also had antennae, wings and a stripy stomach.

Other characters from the Isle of Wuz included Rhinokey (rhino and monkey), Eleroo (elephant and kangaroo), Hoppopotamus (rabbit and hippo) and Butterbear (butterfly and bear). These were all good guys, but of course there has to be bad guys, the main villain being Crock, who was somewhat bizarrely half crocodile and half dinosaur (though which particular dinosaur I don’t know, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was a Tyrannosaurus Rex – it usually is).

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Real Brick Building Sets

Posted by Big Boo on June 20th, 2011

Building BricksHere’s an old toy I have very dim memories of from my youth, so much so that I’m not even sure I remember its real name. I believe it was called Link, though it may have been spelled Linq instead, or indeed I might be completely wrong about the name entirely.

What I do remember though is that I wanted a set and never got one.

Basically Link (if that was its name of course) was a kit that allowed you to build houses out of real miniature bricks held together with cement, or at least something close to cement that was safe for kids to play with anyway.

You built up your model house exactly as if you were building a real house, laying the bricks in courses then slotting in windows and doors (assuming you’d left the right size gap of course) before putting on the roof, which I’m sure involved gluing little roof tiles together, though whether you had a wooden frame to build against like in a real house I’m not sure.

I think this is a toy that must have died out in the Eighties (or possibly late Seventies), but was extremely popular with little lads and lasses across the country during the Fifties and Sixties.

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Rub Down Transfers

Posted by Big Boo on June 13th, 2011

Rub Down TransfersDo you remember Letraset? Those sheets of letters that came on a sheet of plastic that when rubbed over with a soft pencil could be transferred onto a sheet of paper? I’m sure you can still get them from places like Staples of other office supply shops.

Well, the Rub Down Transfers I’m thinking of were very similar to these, and indeed the first instances of them were made by the company that made Letraset. Instead of little letters on the plastic sheet you had full colour pictures which could be rubbed off onto paper or cardboard to make an interesting scene.

Also known as Action Transfers or by the brand name Kalkitos, you normally bought them as a pack containing a sheet of the transfers and a thin cardboard background image onto which you could rub the transfers to make an instant piece of artwork.

Sometimes you also got a special plastic wand that you could use instead of a pencil to rub the transfer down, but I always preferred using a pencil since you could more easily tell when you had rubbed over the entire image, so you didn’t lift the plastic too soon and leave half the image behind.

There were a huge number of sets to choose from, some licensed from films and TV programmes (I remember having a set for E.T.) whilst others were of more generic themes such as wild or farm animals, cars, superheroes and much more.

I certainly enjoyed playing with these as a child, and they have recently been relaunched in Singapore. Head over to the Kalkitos website if you want to learn more though, as they apparently will ship worldwide.

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Posted by Big Boo on June 1st, 2011

ArkanoidDuring the good old days of 8-bit home computers it was common practice for arcade games to make their way across to the home by way of lots of unofficial copies, many of them written by people at home for fun. For example, Pacman became Munchman, Puckman, Trashman, Gobbler, BigYellowEatingGuy and so on. All of these took the basic gameplay of the original, usually adding nothing except maybe changing the ghosts into something else in the process.

In 1986 Japanese arcade game company Taito did something similar when they released Arkanoid. The game was based heavily on Atari’s earlier Breakout, which came out some 10 years earlier. In Breakout you controlled a bat at the bottom of the screen which you used to bounce a ball around. At the top of the screen were some bricks which smashed when the ball hit them, scoring you points.

Arkanoid took this idea and evolved it, with the main addition being power-ups. Sometimes when you destroyed a brick, a capsule would fall down the screen. If you caught this with your bat (which in Arkanoid was actually meant to be a spaceship called a Vaus, but to all intents and purposes it was a bat) you were awarded a new ability, which ranged from making the bat bigger or smaller, making it sticky so the ball could be caught, splitting the ball into three or my personal favourite, giving you the ability to fire laser bolts to destroy the bricks.

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Posted by Big Boo on May 27th, 2011

yahtzeeMost boardgames, or at least those which are well known and advertised on television, are aimed at children, but every so often you’ll see a boardgame that is aimed more at adult game players becoming very popular. Trivial Pursuit and Mastermind are two which immediately spring to mind, and Yahtzee was another.

Yahtzee is a game played with five ordinary dice and it borrows its rules heavily from the card game Poker. Players take turns to throw the five dice, with the aim being to try and match one of the allowed scoring combinations. After rolling the player can choose to roll any number of the dice again, and then once more, in order to try and improve the combination of dice.

Each player has a score sheet on which to keep track of their total points, and at the end of each turn they must write a score in against one of the allowed combinations of their choosing. The combinations are things like four or five of a the same number (the latter being given the name Yahtzee) or a straight (a run of numbers, for example 4-5-6-7).

If they don’t match any combination, or the sequence they have achieved already has a score against it, they must choose one of the combinations and score a zero against it. When all players have scored a number in every box of their score sheets, the game is over and the winner is the player with the highest total score.

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