Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Left: Bleeding-heart liberals launch another unprovoked attack on our nation's youth.

Our society loves a good controversy, no secret there. Divisive issues give our self-centered citizens a chance to stand on their soapboxes and preach about who is right and who is wrong, heaping praise on their champions and scorn on their foes. The media, feeding on our greedy streak, will blow any issue out of proportion for the sake of ratings and/or increased circulation, just another sad commentary on the state of our world.
I'm no different. While controversies concerning sports heroes or celebrities may not interest me in the slightest, smaller controversies, those related to my tiny little world, fascinate me, and give me the chance to puff up in my own pulpit, preaching the Gospel of Right and Wrong. Take, for instance, the world of 1980's toys and cartoons. Not such a hotbed for controversy, right?
WRONG! Children's entertainment in the 80's saw more than its fair share of saucy, polarizing issues in the day, and although they probably don't concern my readers in the slightest, I'm taking this chance to dust off my trusty ol' soapbox and speak out on some of the major battles of my youth.
Moot point, you say? Yesterday's news?
Maybe. But maybe you should be catching up on the latest celebrity gossip in Us Magazine instead of reading this blog. Who knows?
Suck it.


Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future (as I've mentioned before) was a totally awesome live-action sci-fi/fantasy television show and toy line that existed in 1987-88. The advantage that Captain Power had over other toy lines was that the toys themselves were interactive with the television show, i.e. your spaceship could battle with those onscreen. This concept was mind-blowing in its awesomeness to the youth of America, and Captain Power opened to strong ratings and modest financial success.

"Children's television activists"(?) took issue with this premise, claiming that "forcing" kids to buy toys to watch their favorite show was morally wrong. Using a TV show to sell toys was most certainly some sort of Anarchist plot to overthrow the minds of our children and subjugate them to mindless consumerism. Of course.
What these activists didn't take into consideration is that mindless consumerism (when you're a kid) is totally rad. Making your parents buy you stuff was a constant challenge, one that forced you to exercise your mind in a constant chess game of Machievellian scheming. When you won the game, you got toys. Duh. So really, conning kids into buying stuff is actually an EDUCATIONAL exercise.
Captain Power faced further criticism for its violent content, adult themes, and heavy-handed scripts, causing its cancellation after only 22 episodes in 1988. It was a short, embattled trip, but The Captain, bottom line, got people thinking and talking. So what's so bad about that?

Below: A CNN news clip about the Power Controversy.


In 1986, a new animated series called "Ghostbusters" hit the morning cartoon circuit, ostensibly to cash in on the "Ghostbusters" craze caused by the live action film released 2 years earlier. The thing is, this "new" Ghostbusters show (produced by Filmation) featured a different cast of characters than the movie, including a friendly gorilla named Tracy and a purple-skinned punk chick from the future, aptly named Futura. Filmation had no rights to the film franchise and Columbia Pictures (producers of the "Ghostbusters" movie) soon countered with their own tactic.

"The REAL Ghostbusters", an animated spinoff based on the better-known characters from the film, also debuted in 1986. "Slimer", the evil ectoplasmic apparition from the movie, was recast as a benevolent pal of the Ghostbusters, and the series ended up outlasting the other "Ghostbusters" by 3 years and even winning an Emmy. Case closed, right?

Not by a long shot.
As it turns out, "Ghostbusters" (the one with the gorilla) was based on another Filmation property, a TV show that ran from 1975-76 called "The Ghost Busters". Columbia had overlooked this fact when the movie was made, and Filmation promptly sued after its release. As a result of their out-of-court settlement, Columbia was forbidden from using the name "Ghostbusters" for its animated series, instead opting on the kinder, gentler "The REAL Ghostbusters". So it turns out the Columbia Ghostbusters were the dicks in this situation. Who knew?
Filmation had also offered to work in conjunction with Columbia on the animated series, but the Columbia dicks turned them down, instead deciding on animation powerhouse DiC. Harsh!

Below: Assholes.


Above: A totally safe, unrealistic air rifle, identifiable by the orange ring around its muzzle.

I was too lazy to do any real research on this, but if you were a kid in the 80's, you probably remember how, at one point, adults decided that realistic-looking toy guns were hazardous to kids. Soon, toymakers were required by law to put bright, Safety Orange markings all over their plastic weapons to differentiate between their toys and the real thing. Even as a kid, this seemed bogus to me. Any kid who had access to black spraypaint, black tape, or even a magic marker could get rid of those goofy-looking orange markings, bypassing the hard work of legislators and returning the coolness of their toy weapons. Nice try, Senator!
I remeber the plastic AK-47 I got when I was about 7. It was pretty much my favorite accessory, having no lame orange markings or being in any other way discernable from a real AK. It lived a long, full life, and I still loved it and played with it after my dog chewed it up. No lawmaker was going to put an orange mark on the barrel of my gun. They could mark it when they pried it from my cold, dead hands.

Left: Some lawyer tries to prove that a toy gun looks real. Douche.

The basic thinking behind this whole safety campaign seems flawed from the start. Toy guns were to be marked for two basic reasons: A) A criminal could use a toy gun to perpetrate a crime, since toy guns were easier to procure than real guns, and B) An innocent kid walking down the street could be gunned down by the cops if they thought his or her toy gun was real.
To that, I must point at that A) Anyone perpetrating a robbery or burglary using a toy gun is STILL perpetrating a robbery or burglary, and should probably go to jail or get shot anyway, and B) Cops, on general principle, probably shouldn't be gunning down kids in the street, armed or not.
Oh, and C) a little orange strip doesn't really make much difference at all.

Above: Orange strip = safe.
Below: A real, gold-plated AK-47 (from the private collection of Mr. Shelby Cobras).


In 1986, at 7 years old, I truly believed that there was nothing in the universe cooler than "Transformers: The Movie". Not only were the Transformers themselves rad, but the movie (released at the height of their popularity), featured the deaths of many main characters, the true origin story, and tons of violence (controversial in itself). Sparkplug Witwicky (above, shown with son Spike), human companion to the Transformers, was generally a pretty level-headed dude, not known for radical gestures. But it was HIS contribution to the film that was the awesomest and most controversial.

Left: Sparkplug reveals his dark side on an episode of the Transformers TV show.

In the midst of an attack on an unidentified spaceship, Sparkplug dropped the first S-bomb EVER in a kid's movie.
The line: "Oh Shit!"
The effect: Incalculable.
This, my friends, was the end of innocence. "Shit" had been uttered in an animated children's film. There was nothing left, no more barriers to break. Overnight, Sparkplug Witwicky had become a champion of free speech, an exemplar of human rights. He had done the impossible.
Luckily, no one's parents ever noticed.


To anyone who saw the Kevin Costner vehicle "Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves" in the theater back in 1991, I must say: I'm sorry. I remember going to see this weak piece of crap at age 12. The projector actually malfunctioned during the screening and the audience was unable to finish the film. Thank God.
Weaker than the film, though, was the line of tie-in toys. The action figures were an atrocity, but the playset was, wait... Shit, It's THE EWOK VILLAGE!

Above: The Ewok Village (left) and The Robin Hood Sherwood Forest Playset (right). I see no similarities whatsoever.

Unfortunately for unsuspecting kids, designs and even action figure molds are re-used quite often from toy line to toy line. But never so obviously or so lamely was it done than with the rape of the beloved Star Wars toy line by the far inferior "Robin Hood" franchise. Take, for example, the image above. The much-loved Ewok Village Playset was a classic of the Star Wars toy universe. The trapdoor and booby-trap net were innovations for toymakers Kenner, but when they trotted out the EXACT same playset under a different name 8 years after its original release, it was apparent that they were scraping the bottom of the barrel, out of ideas and out of luck. Using Star Wars toys for ANYTHING but Star Wars was a crime. But for "Robin Hood"? Fucking "ROBIN HOOD"!?
Further inspection proves that the Sherwood Forest Playset wasn't the only offender:

Above: Star Wars Gamorrhean Guard (left), Robin Hood Friar Tuck (right)
Below: The most blatant and insulting rip-off of all, the Ewok Battle Wagon (left) and the Robin Hood Battle Wagon (right). At least change the fucking NAME.

Okay, so maybe Robin Hood thieving the toy designs of a way better line isn't the greatest controversy mankind has ever known. But to a kid in the 80's, it certainly was. And I refuse to let these atrocities go unnoticed.



Anonymous said...

in high school some friends and i bought some waterguns and were shooting each other in a parking lot across the street. i guess someone driving by called the police because after a few minutes 3 cop cars roared up, lights flashing, ordered us to drop the weapons, get on the ground...the whole song and dance. we got the usual lecture about "what if i had shot you, kid? how am i supposed to know it was a watergun?"
all this despite the fact that the waterguns were at least 50% bright orange and/or neon green.

ogkijn said...

dood! captain power was the best! i still have both planes/guns. do you have any of the vhs tapes? if so i should bring'em next time i come visit chuffy.

Shelby Cobras said...

i don't have the vhs tapes, man. bummer. you should read my other post on the captain, there's a link in this one. i actually got a captain power action figure for christmas this year. score!

jim said...

The Real Ghostbusters rare designs
Rare early The Real Ghostbusters art from 1986-87: Over 30 black-and-white copies of animation model sheets by DiC Entertainment animation artists. Characters, props and backgrounds are seen in these model sheets.


Anonymous said...

Nah, the Robin Hood movie wasn't that bad and you are a fucking faggot for thinking Star Wars is some holy grail of franchises anymore these days.