5/28/15

"Disney's Healthy Way In Wonderland" (1978 Worksheet masters)

Here's an unusual item.  You know how a certain giant company seems like it's poised to try and take over the world?  You know how Karl Marx is credited with saying that if you take over the schoolrooms, the rest of the country will fall (or something like that)?  Well, apparently, that was exactly Disney's plan in the late 70's!

Or maybe not...but I was in an elementary classroom at this time, and I don't recall my school ever using "fun" types of worksheets like this.  Which brings up another "remember when" scenario! Remember when teachers would use the "pre-photocopy," purple-inked mimeograph method to copy worksheets for class?  I remember teachers coming into class with an armload of freshly-mimeographed purple worksheets.  There was an argument among the other second-graders as to whether the hot-off-the-press papers actually smelled like "grape," but they always smelled like chemicals to me...of course, I never ate the paste, either, but still.

What we have here, then, is a master workbook, full of the 24 originals that would be copied for classroom use, from the halcyon days known as the late 70's, under the oddly-constructed title of "Disney's Healthy Way in Wonderland." (?)

 First off, the cover.  Not only did somebody forget to color Mickey's nose, but it looks like this group of friends have met in the woods to do some oddly-timed teeth-brushing.  You know, like you used to just randomly do as a child.  And, there's no water in sight.  Not a creek, stream, bucket, damp washcloth...nothing.  And just look how fastidious Goofy is about the two teeth that he's got:
"Aw, man, yeah...toothpaste!  Toothpaste....gimme the toothpaste...!" "Now remember boys, only the first one is free!"





There is actually a bit of Wonderland on the pages inside, with a couple of characters like the Mad Hatter, and I think I saw the Smoking Caterpillar (wait, how's THAT healthy?).  
From the back cover, here is the rest of the massive curriculum, which includes titles like "Standards and Citizenship With Winnie the Pooh."  Try making sense out of that.  You will also notice "Metrics Is Easy," part of the failed attempt to push the Metric System on the USA during that time.  Also, another convoluted title:  "Jiminy Cricket's I'm No Fool With Safety," which was probably 24 pages of how not to get squashed (or end up on a fish-hook).  My favorite though has to be "Winnie the Pooh, Nutrition and You."  I can imagine the screams of the President's wife if this book were still being used, where a nation of schoolchildren are taught about the virtues of a daily allowance of five gallons of honey!

5/26/15

Strolling Bowling (c. 1980, Tomy)

I remember when wind-up toys from the great Japanese toy company Tomy were pretty common.  Of course, Tomy is still out there today, but from my young viewpoint, they seemed to come out of nowhere in the late 70's or early 80's.
Here is a charming and fun little toy that I picked up to sell, from nostalgia, but after playing with it, I couldn't part with it.
This is from a series of sports-related wind-up games that also included "Goof-Around Golf" as well as  football one.  All three cleverly folded up into carrying cases, making them completely portable.
For Strolling Bowling, an additional part of the lane hooks onto the end of the board, which also contains a well-designed mechanism for the bowling pins.  Levers on both sides of this add-on allow the pins to be reset, and you are ready to bowl.  Just wind up your little bowling-ball-friend (with holes oriented in an ersatz face, of course) and let him hop down the lane!
When you are finished bowling, everything stores in the lane, which becomes a carrying case, complete with a cut-out to store the wind-up, so it doesn't get rattled around.  Excellent design, and for those of you who note the original price tag, it's $5.99.
Speaking of Tomy, I should really do a feature one of these days on their often-copied masterpiece, RUN YOURSELF RAGGED!

5/22/15

"My Friend Godzilla" (MONSTER MAZES, Watermill Press, 1979)

We all remember these types of books; they were everywhere in our youths.  We had Scholastic Book Orders (which are still around), Weekly Reader, and all sorts of clubs and places to get them.  In the 1970's, activity-based books were huge.  Not just coloring books, but connect-the-dots and maze books had also hit a huge stride.  I recently picked up a super-clean and unused copy of MONSTER MAZES, by Myron M. Morris, published by Watermill Press in 1979.  There's no price printed anywhere, and the back cover is completely blank, so it makes me think it was made for some such book club or give-away scenario.
Inside are 23 mazes, which include things like "Sea Serpent," "Tin Man" (for a hulking robot), "Fire-Breathing Monster," and other mostly very generic names (except for "Frankenstein's Monster," so points for naming him correctly).  And then you get to Maze #17.  Is it "Terrible Lizard" or "Giant Reptile Attack"? No, it's "My Friend Godzilla," which of course includes no ownership information or acknowledgement.  And ironically, it doesn't look THAT much like Godzilla, and they really COULD have gone the generic route, as if it were a Super Friends episode.

My point is, very often, a mummy can be generic, and not be "THE" Mummy, but it's pretty normal, especially in the 70's and 80's, to see Godzilla just be called Godzilla...after all, the more astute writers understood he's not just a dinosaur, he's Godzilla, after all!  You see this quite a bit, and I've talked about it here in this blog...one instance that comes to mind was the extremely enjoyable kids' novel I reviewed here, (where Godzilla was a CHARACTER for goodness sake), as well as the occasional Far Side cartoon.  I've seen it elsewhere in the titles of kid books, and I'm sure you have too:
 
I see these books in my wanderings, and even I don't buy them...but why am I rambling on about all this?  Merely to say that Godzilla is ingrained into our culture, which happened over a long period of time.  Because of this, some people think of him as a generic "thing," to insert into their works, as if they were putting in the Statue of Liberty or Abraham Lincoln, when in reality, there are rights issues involved. (Just ask the day-care owners who decided to paint murals of D*sney characters on their windows and walls.) I'm just marveling at that phenomenon.

You may know that right now, a lawsuit has been filed because of a new film that is trying to use Godzilla as a character in the story, and Toho has pounced upon it, and good for them! Of course, I seriously doubt that the filmmaker's intentions are as innocent as the above examples...

...but back to our fun Friday activity:  enjoy the maze.  You have three minutes and eleven seconds!

5/18/15

Nishijin Super Deluxe EBIRA Pachinko Machine (Model B, 1975)

I sometimes surprise myself with the most unusual things to add to my Godzilla collection!  But more on that exact connection in a moment.  First off, let me start with the obvious--this weekend I crossed another item off from my List of Lifetime Quests, which included things like owning a working theramin (check!), a piece of the Berlin Wall (check!), as well as a pachinko machine!

You may have seen a few in your travels as well.  My problem was, I never knew if they were broken, or what they needed.  Internets to the rescue!

In case you are completely uncultured, pachinko is a hugely popular arcade game in Japan, and has been for years.  Whereas American arcades have become bastions of elementary-school training for the future gamblers of tomorrow, a place where video games have been slowly replaced with rigged "skill cranes" and ticket-dispensing ripoffs of various types, there are and have always been pachinko parlors in Japan (imagine how noisy they must be).  Gambling is illegal in Japan, and the small ball-bearings you win from these machines can be traded for various items.  They even are engraved with different symbols and logos, which represent the various arcades and parlors, just like our domestic tokens! This vertical pinball should not be totally unfamiliar to Americans, as there is an entire game in "The Price Is Right" dedicated to it (at least, I think there still is; I'll admit I haven't watched the show since the Bob Barker days), and even a recent Mario game had an entire pachinko level.
If you grew up in the 1970's, you probably encountered one at some point.  Domestic companies purchased the machines from Japanese parlors, refurbished them, and sold them to willing Americans.  I vividly remember playing one at a relative's house, out of state.

Anyway, to steer back on point, I was looking this thing over, trying to decide on my purchase, when I saw this:
If you read the title of this post, you knew where this was going.  When I first looked at the large lobster-like creature at the center jackpot, I figured there had to be some sort of mistake, so I looked up the Japanese word for lobster, which isn't even close.  Then I remembered that Ebirah is based on the Japanese word for SHRIMP, which is "ebi," of course.  My meanderings through Pachinko forums and websites confirmed for me that the machine was indeed, and quite randomly, based on the Godzilla foe.  (Also, the smaller jackpot spaces, seen above, really look suspiciously like moths to me, but who knows?)  There is a similar machine based on King Kong as well!  It quickly dawned upon me that this was the machine I was meant to own.
Another learning experience was researching the need for power.  (As any aspiring super-villain, I do have the need for power, but here, I mean to say, does the thing need electricity or not?)  Luckily, vintage pachinko machines work on gravity, which, until the government catches on, is completely free.  But a glance at the back of the machine will show you why I had some trepidation:
As it turns out, the lights are indeed powered, but can be wired to a small battery, such as a 9-volt.  I am currently waiting on a wiring kit I purchased from Ebay for $15 to fix this problem.  However, thanks to the helpful information online, I have the machine up and running (when it "jackpots," a bell rings, but this is cleverly powered by the falling metal balls, which I thought was pretty cool).  It was enjoyed all weekend, and will be an excellent item to add to my home office....as well as, who knew, an ancillary item to my Godzilla collection!

5/14/15

The Things That I See (continued)

Another chapter in the ongoing chronicles of random weirdness that I encounter...you know, the kind of weirdness that warrants stopping and taking a photo.
First up, from the "Children's" section of my favorite thrift store, comes the bedtime-reading-aloud classic, THE ELEPHANT MAN.  No nightmares here!
Do you live in a town where, when the first few drops of light rain begin to fall, cars begin sliding off the road, in fits of car-wreck pronography [sic], as if everyone lived in a Cronenberg film?  Well, I do, and the other day, I'm driving home, and I see this.  I mean, I honestly hope nobody was hurt...but how do you even DO this?
Occasionally, I like to visit "cheap stores," you know, the dollar stores, Dollar Generals, and Big Lotses of the world, because I always see interesting and bizarre things there.  I'm not sure exactly what this is, but I'm assuming it's to be eaten.  It's not exactly "gummi," but it's not exactly "household sponge" either.  I'm not sure what attracted my attention the most...it's either the fact that the makers are too lazy to come up with a specific shape for their product, OR it's simply the fact that IT'S STARING AT ME with a "HELP US" look.
Finally, we have this newspaper headline--front page, mind you--from some recent traveling I did.  (File this under "You know it's a slow news day when...")  The thought that went through my mind was, I have actually NEVER been bitten by a snake, and this was EXACTLY the method I've used throughout my life to achieve that.  So maybe I should write an article about it (maybe I just did).

5/1/15

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RUBBER BAND GUN (Gordy International, 1979)

This week, I was reunited with one of my most fondly-remembered "rack toys" of my youth--the Amazing Spider-Man Rubber Band Gun!  Oh, how I loved this thing.  It is super-thin and sleek, and has a feature allowing it to hold several rubber bands, so you don't have to constantly reload.
That is, "automatic repeat action"!!  The icing on the cake were the four stock-art targets included, which give you some of the best Spider-Man villains to shoot at:  The Lizard, Kraven the Hunter, the ultimate Spider-Man foe, the Green Goblin, and Doctor Octopus!
In shipping, the targets did sort of get shifted, but I tapped the package around and got them closer to where they need to be--more tapping is in my future.  Luckily, the targets are stapled together, or we'd have a huge situation of "contents may settle in shipping" on our hands.
Manufactured by Gordy International, who I think made tons of these sort of things...I'm no expert on Rack Toys, but I certainly owned a ton of them in my childhood.
Also, I like how Captain America and the Hulk are added to the artwork on the side, because Marvel. 
Really, the 1970's was the premiere decade for Marvel merchandising...sure, there is actually more out there now.  In fact, I was pondering this recently:  I will bet that you could decorate and supply an entire house with nothing but modern Marvel merchandise, from the wallpaper to the kitchen implements.  This is cool, no doubt, but I prefer the Bronze-Age stuff, back in the days when I had a Spider-Man raincoat, wallet, and placemat to eat lunch on.  I still have the wallet! I should feature that one soon.
And of course, the obligatory plain-backed packaging of the Rack Toy.  These weren't made to be saved; they were impulse-buys, a way to silence a whining child when you were grocery-shopping.

I say this a lot, but it took a few years of biding my time on E-bay, as I've seen carded specimens go
for $135 to $200.  You just have to wait for the right seller (who is actually interested in making a sale, versus starting an item's price at a ridiculous amount) and pounce when it happens!  Now if I can just find a similarly-affordable version of the old Spider-Man Web Maker set!

4/29/15

THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN Original Production Pencil Artwork (Ruby-Spears, 1980-82)

My final piece of animation art (at least for a while) is from the excellent Saturday morning favorite of mine, THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN.  Created by Marvel veteran Steve Gerber (and other Marvel vets wrote for the show, even), and with designs by Alex Toth and the Great One, Jack Kirby, there was no way that this show wasn't going to be incredible.  It was miles beyond the amount of thought process that went into Saturday morning TV of its time.

It's not my most glamorous piece of animation art, but I was lucky to at least find a full-figure shot of Thundarr, as I so badly wanted to own a piece of this wonderful show.

4/27/15

Scalpers can SUCK IT... (part two)

Here we go again...if you remember my previous post on this exact subject, then you know the disdain I have for scalpers and their ilk. Of course, this goes beyond all that, because it's common thievery.

Second verse, same as the first, this time at my local Target, where some dolt has crammed a worthless (ToyBiz?) Cable Legend figure into the tray of a brand-new figure from the current wave of Spider-Man Legends...oh, but he threw in a Zola arm, to make it look "legit."
Nevermind that it doesn't begin to actually fit in the package, or even look halfway right.  As I also proved in my previous post, it does no good to actually POINT OUT the problem to the workers, or managers, because you will only be wasting your own precious time...and then there is the injury you inflict upon yourself (from banging your head against the wall in desperation).

I've decided that, if these stores and their workers are really this stupid (again, see previous post), then they deserve it.

Oh, and to the intrepid soul who did this:  there is a special, hidden level of Dante's Inferno waiting just for you, where you have to lay around in old hot dog water for all eternity!

4/24/15

The Things That I See (continued) A FAIL for Friday

I recently saw this, with my own eyes, even...I had to stop and take a picture! Take a look at this carousel:
Now, take a closer look!
And, even closer still!!
Really? I mean, REALLY?! Either somebody thought they were hilarious, or this is just the most ridiculous thing I've seen in a long time!

4/23/15

Lego Marvel Superheroes Assemble!

I had to re-do my small display case, which has grown to "Heroes" and "Villains" for both Marvel and DC....there's no way to fit them all in...but who needs like 27 Iron Mans anyway? To Lego, Iron Man is their Marvel version of Batman, if that statement makes any sense.  By the way, these nifty cases are $10 at Container Store, and come with three black steps you can arrange in any way you want.  There's also a clear top part, naturally, but I removed it for the photo.

4/21/15

More SUPERFRIENDS Original Production Pencil Artwork (Hanna-Barbera, 1973-85)

Here is the other piece of Superfriends artwork that I purchased.  It would make sense to also label this as being from CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS, since everything the seller had was from that show, but who knows...you probably know about assuming, and where that gets you.  It really could be from any of the early series(es), and with the way things were re-used, I just can't be sure!

4/16/15

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS Original Production Pencil Artwork (Hanna-Barbera, 1977-8)

Here's another of my newest treasures! It's production artwork for Gorilla Grodd from one of the defining animated series of my youth, CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS.  Originally I thought it must be from the opening sequence, but I went back and checked, and the pose doesn't line up 100%, so it;'s probably from another scene.  But, at least Grodd was in only one series...unlike our next upcoming entry, which is much more difficult to pin down...

4/9/15

THE TRANSFORMERS Original Production Pencil Artwork (Sunbow Productions, 1983-4)

I just bought a batch of animation artwork from a handful of shows that were dear to me as a child; shows that were crucial in my creative development.  First up, a piece of the original Transformers animated series.  All of the artwork that the dealers had seemed to be from the "More Than Meets the Eye" mini-series that launched the show, so this piece could easily be as well.  These are the pencil layouts (with corrections) that were used to aid the production of the finished cels.  In the case of THE TRANSFORMERS, artwork like the Wheeljack close-up above was done in the USA, and then sent to South Korea, where studios like Toei (and later AKOM) would produce the finished work.  To top this treasure off, it is signed by the layout artist, Darrel McNeil.  Completely awesome, and more to come!

4/6/15

1995 Godzilla ("Godzilla vs. Destoroyah") NECA, 2015

The fourth figure in mighty NECA's Godzilla series has finally arrived, with promises of NES Godzilla and 1954 Godzilla behind it.  Here's a brief review of the new figure.
The 1995 "DesuGoji" design harkens back to the "death" of Godzilla (goodness, has it been 20 years, really??) at the hands of Destoroyah.  I'm sure there are some technical differences to the 1994 suit, but it's close enough that many producers of Godzilla items have just issued a straight "repaint," and BOOM, new figure for the line.  But did NECA just do that?
Well, yes and no.  It's not a straight "repaint" in the sense that the burning parts of the figure are done with simple paint (like the American Bandai vinyl, for example).  Instead, it would be considered more of a "remold," because the body is actually made of the translucent orange, with the black painted over it, in most areas.  This doesn't come across in simple photos, but it is a superior look to the lazy way.
That said, it brings up the only complaint I can think of, and that is that an LED inside of the chest would knock this figure out of the park...but, I realize that NECA is trying to keep this line down to $20, so I really can't complain too much.
So basically, the body really is the same as the 1994.  I thought at one point that there was a difference in the heads, namely the ears, but it was a trick of the light and my failing eyes.  The pictures tell a different story:
And then, at one point, I thought the 1995 Godzilla was taller, but my 1994 was just slumping (as in this next photo), and once again I was wrong.
Where was I going with that? Oh yes, therefore, the articulation is exactly the same, but that means "fantastic" when it comes to this series.  I mean, consider that the 4" Marvel Universe figures are REMOVING points of articulation, while prices continue to climb, and it will make you appreciate this series all the more.
I've grown to like "Burning" Godzilla over the years...I think my major hang-up was that Toho was actually going to kill him, and that it took Destoroyah to do it, but I've come to accept that burning up--specifically, not being able to contain his own radiation any longer--is a pretty genius concept.  Plus, as I said before, I am going to support this line religiously!
Although, the appearance of peg-holes still baffles me, NECA!  Godzilla figures stand up just fine...it's the Pacific Rim ones that don't!
And finally, a look at Burning Godzilla's new late-night talk show, "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," which is actually one of the free dioramas that Entertainment Earth randomly sends you sometimes.
We conclude with the artwork (the card front is the same as the last two figures).  Buy this figure!