12/17/14

Cecil Disguise Kit (Mattel, 1962)

I guess technically, the full title of this item would be "Lovable, Plush Cecil and his Disguise Kit."  This is another of the stellar Mattel products made to support the 1962 cartoon series, and once again, Mattel designers exceed expectations.  This is definitely one of my favorite Beany & Cecil items (well, Cecil item, to be fair).
Inside the box is a wonderful plush Cecil, along with piles of costume pieces that can be used by creative kids in a variety of ways.  Kind of a dress-up doll for the cooler kids, and a toy that would appeal to both genders...back when we acknowledged things like that, of course.
And here is what's included! A ton of stuff...hats, a black cape with a collar that can be reversed, a black beard/wig, a large blonde swatch that can be hair (or a mane), a metal sherrif's star (that pins on), a set of tusks, two different sets of teeth, a large moustache, glasses, a grass skirt (!), a garland of flowers, and a button-up vest! Oh, and Cecil really does have a tail, I inadvertently kept the cartoon's running joke going, there.
Also, as the back of the box implies, there is a heavy wire inside of the plush Cecil, which would allow some posability.  Interestingly, the box mentions 18 as the number of disguises, but only 17 are shown, scattered all around the box artwork.  Let's look at them now!
1) Judge (a popular choice in any kid's pantomime, of course); 2) Hula Dancer (a little Bugs Bunny cross-dressing going on, there); 3) Pirate; 4) Sherrif; 5) Walrus (!);
6) Cannibal (Oh dear! OH dear...the less said the better); 7) Bandit; 8) Granny; 9) Indian (Oh dear again...but you know, it hardly works here...there's no way to even get the grass skirt to do that, because it ties on!);
10) Lion; 11) Dishonest John (villain of both the TIME FOR BEANY puppet show and BEANY & CECIL cartoon series);
12) Devil (woah, there, "What are you doing in there, Johnny?" "Nothin' Ma, just talking to the Devil!"); 13) Auntie (..."auntie"?);
14) Horse; 15) Cowboy (just never at the same time);
16) Super Cecil (this actually refers to something that would happen in the original cartoon, so points for that...but apparently the only item my set is missing is the triangular "S" insignia, I guess.  Of course, it would be easily reproducable, thanks to the artwork here), and finally, 17) Farmer.
So there you have it; everything you need to turn your Cecil into a variety of things: some creative, some delicately offensive to various races.
Definitely one of my favorite vintage collectibles! And at the top of my Beany & Cecil list. Way to go, Mattel!

12/15/14

Godzilla New Cap Collection Set (1995)

Who remembers milkcaps? No? Okay, try this: who remembers Pogs? Now I have your attention.  Of course you do.  If you were alive in the mid-90's, there was no escaping what was the ultimate marketing ploy...because they were extremely cheap to produce by the bazillions, of course.  Just in case you just flew in from Pluto: Pogs were the brand-name of an older game that was brought over from Hawaii (mostly), in which the cardboard discs from the top of milk bottles were stacked and knocked over by another disc (a "slammer," although I wonder what they used originally), and in doing so, you would win some of your opponent's discs, sort of like marbles.  It was a huge fad in the mid-1990's that was everywhere, and then, like all fads, burned out and went away forever.
At the time, you could buy milkcaps of just about any licensed character, although the Pog brand mostly produced their own designs and artwork.  I must have had a thousand of these things, including Spider-Man and Star Wars sets.  But, upon reflection, I have to say that I rarely see any used ones in thrift stores, probably because if you played with them enough, they wore out, and were basically disposable.  
Pictured: not Godzilla
This set was produced at the height of milkcap-mania, to promote Godzilla's upcoming death in GODZILLA vs DESTOROYAH in 1995.  Like the larger sets, it included a "stage" to play on, and two "slammers," which gave you everything you would need to play.
Destoroyah "Slammer"
I have some other Godzilla-related milkcaps that are much older, and may even be unauthorized, that I will have to scan and post here sometime.
Spacegodzilla "Slammer"


12/12/14

Mickey Mouse Picture Cubes (West Germany, unknown)

You probably had a set similar to these; I know I did as a kid.  While these haven't completely vanished from the toy landscape, there are still a few sets of "Puzzle Blocks" being made today.  Basically, these were six puzzles in one, made up of wooden cubes, each with 1/12 of the image glued to them.  Usually they came in a tray or carrying case, allowing the owner to have a place to assemble the pictures.  
Like so.
Unfortunately, I don't know much about the origin of this set, other than it was made in West Germany (at a time when the "West" was still specified), and some of the art is a bit wonky.  Unfortunately, there's not a year anywhere to be seen.  Also, I cleaned the crayon off of the case, but not until AFTER I had taken the photos...
If you are more than the casual D*sney fan, then you are in luck.  The artwork on the carrying case will teach you the names of two of the Three Little Pigs...
...as well as the name of only ONE of Mickey's nephews, in this case Morty.  Strangely, some of the art is repeated from the back, and on this one side, the manufacturers revert to German.
 
These puzzle cube sets also usually came with a set of "cheat sheets," so you could see the complete picture of the puzzle you were trying to complete.  Usually, these got damaged and lost.  I have 4 out of 6 here.
And now, on to our six puzzles, in no particular order:
Donald's nephews feed Dumbo a bucket of something, and either offer him popcorn, or possibly root beer..?
Yet another D*sney situation that wouldn't exist today: that of gun-toting Mickey.  He has brought his rifle out into the jungle, but only stands around offering the hand of friendship...and then the shooting started.
This time, TWO situations that wouldn't exist today! Mickey with rifle, among the Indian...ducks, that is.  And, apparently, they have kidnapped one of his nephews? It's a D*sney SEARCHERS.
It's hard to tell if slightly-off-model Mickey has even launched his zeppelin yet...but since there is half a crow, we are led to believe he is in flight.  Note that this is the second puzzle so far that includes half a crow...oh, and Donald is the worst uncle ever.
Here, the Three Little Pigs are about to become dinner, and are serenading Thumper.  Isn't that Thumper?

Pretending to be a family, Donald takes his brood to the beach...only two nephews are shown, because one fell out of the blimp from Donald's negligence.  Oh, and one is riding a dolphin (?)...also, Scrooge McDuck is digging furiously, either digging up or burying the treasure chest.  I can't imagine he would be burying it though...maybe it contains the third nephew!

12/10/14

TALK TO CECIL game (Mattel, 1961)

When Bob Clampett's wonderful characters made the jump from TIME FOR BEANY (the black-and-white daily puppet show) to colorful animated TV cartoon show in 1962, the marketing was very well-planned.  Mattel was the main sponsor, and they produced lots of fantastic items for kids to enjoy.  
Today, we look at the TALK TO CECIL game.  It was more than just a board game, because it included a talking Cecil puppet!  An in-joke in the cartoon was that Cecil was never completely seen, which preserved his identity as a puppet: the tip of his tail may have been used once, but they avoided it as often as possible, and even his actual length was never clear.  This may have presented problems when it came time to make various plush toys of the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent; after all, stuffed animals have to have a beginning and end...or they won't stay stuffed.  However, retaining the puppet concept worked perfectly for this interactive board game, which was a concept ahead of its time.
I'm sure the presence of the puppet alone sold copies of this game.  But, the talking toy had an actual purpose in playing the board game! The game play sort of reminds me of the GUESS WHO type of games that are still sold today, because one of Cecil's phrases would correspond to certain character cards, such as "Look for a hat."  That meant the player got to keep that card for points, and meanwhile advance along the game board.
Fifteen character cards were included, plus little Bakelite playing pieces that looked like Beany!
And speaking of the game board, even it was shaped like Cecil, and was somewhat customizable, being designed like a jigsaw puzzle, allowing some variation in play:
(And here's another example of where Cecil has to have a tail, or the board wouldn't have an end.) Here is a better look at the wonderful artwork for the fifteen character cards:
An interesting thing about the items produced for the cartoon is how Clampett kept even his unused characters alive.  Characters like Clowny and Wong appeared frequently in the puppet show, but are barely glimpsed in the cartoon (this may have been wise in the case of Wong...case in point: Mr. Magoo).
I think that Mattel really succeeded with this game, rather than just selling a puppet, or even just selling a talking puppet.  One note about that, though.  If you have ever seen vintage "talking" items, especially stuffed animals, then you know that the "talk box" could be rather huge, and it definitely is in this case.  It's so bulky, you have to have a very small hand to operate the puppet, but of course the game was made for children, so I can't complain too much.  The pull-string on mine operates perfectly, but when Cecil talks, he sounds like Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST played at a much slower speed, so I decided not to push the issue.  It's possible the spinning mechanism is restricted somehow (if you ever had an old SEE & SAY, you know what I mean), but you don't want to pull his string when you are alone in the dark. 

12/8/14

Godzilla 1985 figure (NECA, 2014)

Neca managed to squeak in one more figure in their Godzilla series before the year was over!  Third in the line is GODZILLA 1985, incidentally the only of the 28 films to never have an official DVD release, and another unique suit that was used only once.
While possibly my least favorite Godzilla design, this was a great choice for an action figure, because the suit is under-represented...and, come to think of it, when the movie came out, there were no toys available in America that captured its likeness accurately, so this is new territory.
Another thing, you have to hand it to Neca, again, because when the prototype for this figure was first shown, it didn't look much like the suit from the film, especially the head.  They went back, corrected the mistake, and still got the figure out before the end of the year! That is service.
It does look like the torso was re-used, and I guess the dorsal plates, but why not.  One thing you will notice is the legs are definitely new.  The stance of this figure is totally different.  I can't tell from stills whether Godzilla in the movie stands like this, and I haven't seen the film in several years.
And, the tail has the stubby, rounded end we all love, instead of coming to a point like the last figure (1994).  Neca is definitely learning from their mistakes.
Also, the paint job on my figure is excellent--look at the claws this time out; they are very well done.  Yes, he does have some tooth decay going on in the photo above, but it's not a deal-breaker.  Compare the likeness with this still:
Of course, with any Godzilla suit, the accuracy of the likeness is all about the head design.  One thing I didn't do is actually close the jaw (duh), because crucial to the 1985 (1984 in Japan) design are the oversized "fangs" overlapping.  I will have to do that.
All in all, I didn't expect to be so thrilled with this figure, but this series is coming along nicely.  I think the move toward the earlier films excites me, as well as the thought process involved in choosing a little-represented suit!  If I read correctly, next up is the 1995 "Burning Godzilla," and then supposedly a 1954, which I am most excited about.
And again, I would be remiss if I didn't point out these figures are TWENTY BUCKS.  You just can't beat that, folks. 
The front of the inlay card is the same as the previous figure, but here are the inserts that are new:
Inlay Card

Backing Card (back)

12/5/14

GODZILLA vs MEGALON Color Stills (Cinema Shares, 1976)

Fantastic promotional shot of all four of the film's monsters together!
As we have discussed in several spots, there was a metric ton of marketing done for GODZILLA vs MEGALON, but no lobby cards were produced.  Instead, the normal set of stills was issued in full color, which I think is a pretty unique move.  We are going to look at five phenomenal ones here, and then an interesting little bonus at the end:
Megalon and Gigan decide what to do with the fallen Jet Jaguar.
Godzilla decides what to do with the fallen Megalon.
Godzilla, trying to get Gigan to fall.
Godzilla (holding a tree), has somehow outsmarted both foes, who appear to be lost.  This is another promotional shot, and the blob in the upper left must be part of the photo, as it's in all of the ones I have seen.
I thought this last one was pretty cool too--it's the original envelope the Megalon materials came in!  Wouldn't quite fit on the scanner.