The ‘80s were the golden age of the action figure, but not all '80s toylines were gold. For every He-Man or Transformers, there are a dozen series that will never return — either because they’ve been forgotten, or they've been outclassed, or just because they sucked in the first place. Here are 15 toylines whose relaunch is forever aborted.
1) Barnyard Commandoes
The idea of animal warriors is a pretty solid one, as far as boys action figure lines go — it worked for TMNT, after all, as well as about a quarter of the Masters of the Universe toys — but surely someone at Playmates had some reservations about limiting a toyline to sheep and pigs. First of all, pigs and sheep are not high up on the list of animals kids find most fascinating. Second of all, if you’re choosing barnyard animals, why limit it to sheep and pigs? Shockingly, kids had little desire to buy General Hamfat Lardo, Corporal Hy Onahog, or even the Pork-a-pult.
Despite containing space barbarians, demons and dragons, BlackStar was an obvious He-Man rip-off from day one, but whereas He-Man had a terrifying amount of creativity, Blackstar replaced all that with tiny, dwarf-like creatures called Throbbits, making the whole series about saving these little bastards. Even if someone wanted to bring BlackStar back, I doubt Mos Def’s band Black Star, Blackstar Amps, or “Black Star” fragrance owner Avril Lavigne would be amused. And I sincerely doubt any parent nowadays would ever buy their child something called a “throbbit,” at least not without getting put on a potential sex offender list.
3) Computer Warriors
Mattel’s Computer Warriors sounds like an idea that was a bit ahead of its time — a crazy military computer accidentally creates four evil viruses with artificial intelligence, so it then makes four good AIs to track them down. And then the evil viruses learn how to pull a reverse Tron and come into the real world, and the good AIs follow suit, hoping to capture the bad guys on their CD-roms. Sounds like the perfect ‘90s toyline, right? Well, that was part of the problem —Computer Warriors was released in 1989, just before the PC revolution encompassed pretty much everybody. But the bigger problem is that the actual toys transformed into things you’d find on an office desk. Seriously. These Computer Warriors doubled as a clock, a pencil sharpener and even a small soccer trophy. Even kids of the ‘80s weren’t so desperate that they needed to play with office supplies.
People make fun of the GoBots for being Transformers rip-offs, but no one remembers the Convertors, who were GoBots without their winning personality. Hilariously, the Convertors were actually Bandai’s attempt to cash in on Transformers, and Bandai had the Japanese connection to license a lot of the same toy molds as Hasbro did, meaning the Convertors included a lot of Transformers, just in different colors — as well as some other anime toys that nerds nowadays would kill for. I’m pretty sure Hasbro has these rights locked down now.
5) Eagle Force
Back in 1982, the Mego Corporation was still trying to recover from the legendarily horrible decision to pass on the Star Wars toy license. After making countless failed Star Wars rip-offs, they decided to tip-off Hasbro’s G.I. Joe series with Eagle Force. The Eagle Force consisted of colorful and unique soldiers with goofy codenames who fought the evil R.I.O.T. — about the only difference they had from G.I. Joe is that they stood only 2 ¾-inches, a full inch shorter than their Hasbro counterparts. If anyone tried to bring these guys back, they’d be forced to call them Chocking Hazard: The Toy Series.
6) Food Fighters
Kids love anthropomorphized animals (minus farm animals) who fight each other, right? So why wouldn’t they love anthropomorphized food? I don’t know the answer to this, but there’s clearly a reason, as Mattel’s 1989 Food Fighter series — of living foodstuffs in military garb with assorted weapons — was spoiled on arrival. It probably didn’t help that the toys were less action figures and more squeaky toys more suited for a dog’s chew-toy, but whatever. Honestly, a sentient stack of pancakes wielding submachine guns probably deserved better.
7) Golden Girl and the Guardian of the Gemstones
One of the very few She-Ra rip-offs of the ‘80s, Golden Girl and the Guardian of the Gemstones is actually kind of awesome — arguably better than its source material. Unlike She-Ra and her pals, most of whom had nets and butterfly wings and pretty dresses, Golden Girls’ girls all had shields and swords and were ready to kick some ass. While She-Ra dolls' accessories were dresses and horses, Golden Girl was rocking awesome chariots and a castle to fight in front of. Also, while She-Ra’s foe Hordak was relegated to the Masters of the Universe toyline to keep girls’ fragile minds from seeing toys that didn’t have hair they could brush, GGatGotG had a whole group of equally armed evil warrioresses to battle. Frankly, Golden Girl needs a comeback ASAP, but I’m pretty sure the name “Golden Girl” would cause waaay too much confusion amongst parents (and potential disappointment).
8) The Infaceables
The Infaceables seemed pretty awesome when they were released in 1984, because each figure had a regular face that changed into a monstrous face through a cunning use of rubber and an internal vacuum created by extended the figure’s torso. But I would love to see what would happen if you tried to give one of these guys to an 8-year-old nowadays. “What does it do? You pull it like this… and then the face changes? What else does it do? No, changing back does not count as a different feature. Look, where is my Nintendo DS?”
There is one reason and one reason along that Manglor will never be remade, and that’s because it was made out of bullshit. The whole draw of the toyline, according to its makers, was that kids could literally tear the Manglors apart, limb from limb, and then re-attach all the parts without problem. This was not true in any fashion. Ironically, if Manglors had actually been made out of bull feces they’d have been more likely to live up to their promise.
Part of the My Little Pony cartoon n’ toy empire from Hasbro, Moondreamers were small children with big heads and bigger hair — basically, imagine if Toddlers n’ Tiaras had a doll line, and you have the Moondreamers. You’d think that this might actually be a pretty good idea to re-release, but there are three problems: The first is that the plot of Moondreamers is that Crystal Starr and her friends are giving magic crystals to sleeping kids so they can have good dreams, and fighting the evil Queen Scowlene, who wants to give kids nightmares — I can’t imagine that a toyline about grown women whose sole occupation is breaking into the bedrooms of sleeping children would get very far nowadays. The second problem is that like most ‘80s girls toylines, all the characters have stripper names. But the real problem is this:
The Queen Scowlene doll is the most terrifying thing I have ever fucking seen. Talk about nightmares — I can’t imagine any child sleeping ever again after they received this horror.
11) Police Academy
It seems impossible now, but at some point the Police Academy movies — which started as a Meatballs-esque comedy-T&A vehicle for Steve Guttenerg — became such family-friendly entertainment that someone made a Police Academy cartoon, and then someone else made a Police Academy toyline based on that cartoon. This is madness. Despite the best efforts of master thespian Steve Guttenberg, the franchise is somehow forgotten (seriously, who the Scary Movie guys haven’t rebooted it yet is beyond me) and the cartoon/toys even moreso. This is 100% okay with me.
12) Ring Raiders
Despite its hardcore military theme, the fact of the matter is that Ring Raiders were small jets that sat on rings that — gasp! — boys would wear! Given the small but vocal portion of the U.S. population nowadays that freaks the fuck out anytime a boy or girl wanders down the wrong toy aisle, I don’t see any toy company asking for that particular brand of trouble by bringing Ring Raiders back.
13) Rock Lords
Here’s how insane the Transformers craze got in the ‘80s: toy company executives — people who could presumably have conversations with people and both feed and dress themselves — decided to make figures that transformed into rocks. Rocks. Kids didn’t play with rocks in the 1880s. And this wasn’t one company, it was multiple companies! Mattel did it right and only added a few figures to its Masters of the Universe line, but Tonka went all in, and made a whole rock-based GoBots spin-off. It did slightly better than if Tonka had packaged and sold regular rocks, which is to say it sucked. And I imagine it would be even less popular today.
14) Sky Commanders
The sole gimmick of the Sky Commanders was they all had ziplines they could ride down. Unlike rocks, this was actually more than enough for a company to base a toyline on. You could send these figures plummeting off of a desk to the floor, from the top bunk to the bottom, or the upstairs to the bottom floor — kids could do this for hours, happily, and I’m speaking from personal experience. But I feel like zipline toys would lose a little bit of their luster when there’s a PlayStation in the room.
“So… these toys have a sticker on them? It’s one of those stickers that change depending on how you look at them, like you get out of those machines at the grocery store. Huh. That’s it? Nothing else? They just look vaguely different from different angles? Jesus, those stupid face toys were cooler than this.”