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Monday, December 29, 2008

8 Old School Toys That Got Badass Makeovers

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Some say the children of this generation will be the first in a long while to have life harder than their parents. The economy, the environment, the wars... the future has looked brighter.

We would feel sorry for them, but then we see their fucking toys, which pretty much makes the stuff we played with look like bullshit.


The Concept:

Back in the 80s, toymaker Hasbro was forced to answer the difficult question, "How does one harvest a profit from young boys' innate need to blow each other away with firearms, whilst keeping lawsuits to a minimum?" The answer was NERF: harmless foam ball-shooting, air-powered toys.


The first NERF shooter, uninspiringly named "Blast-A-Ball," required raw elbow grease to fire balls at other children. The harder the pump, the farther the ball flew. The execution was simple, yet painful, which appealed to the kids. Its total lack of resemblance to a real gun kept moms relatively happy as well.


Ladies and gentleman, meet the NERF Vulcan EBF-25. Presumably the fucking nightmare of mothers everywhere, this battery-operated (SIX D-cells!), belt-fed, fully automatic monstrosity can rain down a shitstorm of NERF darts for as long as the 25 or 50 round belts will last.

A far cry from the Blast-A-Ball indeed. No toy in history has better allowed young boys to greet the arrival of their little sister home from school with a reenactment of the Normandy beach landing. The only downside is the limited range. If only you had some kind of...

Oh, yeah. NERF made a sniper rifle. The victims will never even hear the shot that NERFed them.

Super Soaker

The Concept:

First released in the late 80s, the Super Soaker was also created by Hasbro, possibly as a more refreshing version of their NERF gun. It was designed to harness the ungodly power of water and wind into a small children's toy. Since then it has remained at the forefront of traditional "summer fun" imagery.


The first Super Soaker was, believe it or not, designed by an actual rocket scientist named Dr. Lonnie Johnson. It used a very rudimentary pump to pressurize water and a simple valve and trigger system to shoot it, which is disappointingly about as far from rocket science and nuclear engineering as the design could have been.


This is the appropriately named Super Soaker Monster XL. With the capacity to hold 3500 milliliters of water (or urine, depending on who you're playing with) and the ability to shoot liquid humiliation up to 41 feet, the whole rocket scientist thing is starting to make sense.

The Monster XL also features not one, but TWO barrels with 6 different nozzles per barrel. That adds up to about 36 different ways to put out your best friend's eye. The ludicrous weight and the fact that it takes 43 fucking pumps to get the water up to pressure offer up reasonable disadvantages, but since water gun fights are always half water gun fight and half "who brought the biggest dick" competition, none of that really matters.

Hot Wheels

The Concept:

We're sure we're not telling you anything you don't already know when we say that Hot Wheels are miniature die-cast cars with dynamic multi axular momentum technology (ie, they roll). They are usually based on real-life production cars but sometimes are modeled after bad acid trips, with wheels added later (for the rolling). Shortly after the introduction of the cars, Mattel launched various tracks to take full advantage of the cars' rollability.


The classic tracks were just gravity mixed with about five feet of plastic all topped off with a small jump at the end. The "jump" was complete with a flat "ring of fire" cardboard cutout, so as to help the kids send a message that said "I'm edgy, yet boring and miserable."


As a rule, the moment classic toys are introduced to electricity, shit starts getting out of hand. This rule has not been lost on Mattel who recently released this: The Speed Racer Sky Jump Track.

This is the culmination of cars, track, electric motors and gravity all wrapped into one giant ball of sheer what-the-fuckery. We've examined the photos and we've even watched this commercial for the thing and still have no idea what's going on. It is awesome, however, so we really couldn't care less how it works.


The Concept:

Transformers toys are remembered as being awesome, even if the backstory left some unanswered questions (what were the Autobots called before they landed on Earth and chose to be cars? Did they really think people wouldn't notice a bunch of driverless vehicles bombing around town? What if one gets pulled over for speeding?).


The first toys from the 80s were not quite as awesome as you probably remember them. The car usually transformed into a cumbersome and downright awkward-looking robot.

And even though Optimus Prime up there couldn't move around a whole lot in his robot form, he did transform in about four easy steps.


With the 2008 release of the new Transformers movie, Hollywood's godless pedaling of cheap merchandise called on Hasbro to release a newer, updated version of the classic Optimus Prime. We'll let this video do the talking.

Now that looks like a freaking robot. And it transforms and walks by itself!

Okay, that is a lie. You still have to do it by hand and it takes like 20 minutes (the new one has more moving parts in his feet than the old one had in his whole body). To make Optimus Prime far more badass they wound up creating the the goddamn Rubik's Cube of toys. You know, like, if the Rubik's Cube weren't already a toy. Shut up.

Pedal Cars

The Concept:

Just as a baby goose is born with the genetic desire to pack up and head south each winter, young children are born with the same intrinsic desire to be on the open road, in a car (also like baby geese, children are sticky and annoying; but that's an issue for a separate article).


Take one part bicycle, two pages out of the Flintstones automobile design book and one hard-spoiled child and you have a pedal car. It seems like a really fun idea in theory but, in actuality, the single-speed gearing of a bike mixed with the weight of the metal shell, seats and wheels meant operation of the thing bordered on child labor. Still, the pedal car remained very sought after for generations to come.


Somewhere along the line, the pedal car needed an update. Something that addressed modern childrens' growing resentment of physical activity. What it needed was a motor.

Toymaker Fischer Price was the knight in shining armor on this one with the creation of their Power Wheels line. At first, Power Wheels vehicles were very basic with small electric motors and rudimentary Jeep-like styling. Now, Fischer Price has unleashed a car that says "When I grow up, I want to be too rich to care about the environment." This giant bastard comes with tinted windows, a set of dubs and even a fully functional FM transmitter which, no doubt, blasts shitty radio static through its real-live rear subwoofers.

The icing on the cake? It has to be the "LVNLG" ("Living Large" for the non-license plate slang savvy) vanity plate. It's a subtle little message that tells your classmates precisely how you're living (large, with the implication that you are also in charge).

G.I. Joe

The Concept:

The G.I. Joe line of toys has always been the definition of "action figures," featuring moving joints, changeable outfits and ripped man-bodies underneath. If this all sounds a bit gay on paper than it should be noted that G.I. Joe figures are all armed with a vast array of weaponry. Also, if you ever suggest that Snake Eyes might be gay, make no mistake, you will be dead before you even see the movement in the darkness.


Back in the 60s, Hasbro was commissioned to play down the negative stigma surrounding US soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. The result was four, 12-inch tall dress-up dolls featuring realistic camouflage fatigues and weapons of the time. The figurines represented the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. There was no real storyline at the time which limited the allure of the toys.


Somewhere along the line, G.I. Joe picked up the familiar storyline that we all best associate with the toys: G.I. Joe Team vs. the Evil Cobra Organization. A classic tale of good vs. evil. Well guess what. Somewhere else along the line the franchise picked up a very different storyline and a new look to boot, highlighted by the newest figurine: The DARK NINJA MASTER.

The Hasbro website explains it best: "The rogue DARK NINJA MASTER was exiled to a cave beneath Arashikage Mountain for betraying the ninja clans. After finding the Moon's Blood, a mystical stone of great power, he was able to channel the energy of dead ninjas, making him almost unstoppable. Seeking revenge, he has emerged from his subterranean prison to destroy all ninjas. Only two people can stop him: STORM SHADOW and SNAKE EYES. The two adversaries must join forces, for only by working together will they be strong enough to defeat this evil super-ninja."



The Concept:

Long before the internet came along and ruined life as we knew it, Children amused themselves with the most primitive of toys. At the top of the food chain was the yo-yo. Believed to date back to around 500 B.C. in Greece, and even believed to have been used as a crude weapon in the Philippines, the yo-yo (pronounced yo-yo) made a roaring comeback in the 1920s as a toy, and to a lesser extent as a weapon.


The first commercialized yo-yos in America were sold in vast majority by entrepreneur Donald Duncan and children couldn't get enough of them. The design was elementary: two wooden or plastic discs, connected by an axle with a string tied to it. To keep the user from flinging the yo-yo comically through the nearest window pane, the string featured a tiny finger loop at the opposite end. A loop that, as we all remember, tightens relentlessly with each toss until the finger tip is a healthy shade of purple.

After each throw, physics would prevail and the yo-yo would wind itself back up, right into the user's hand. That is, unless, the string has been twisted in any way, in which case the yo-yo proceeds to just fucking hover above the ground, spinning around mockingly. What fun!


In the past 80 or so years, the yo-yo has seen some pretty mundane innovations, such as a ball bearing axle for better spin efficiency and the addition of flashing lights, to name a few. But finally, someone has rolled up their sleeves and is ready to fuck shit up all over the yo-yo world. Meet the ReGEN; half yo-yo, half MP3 player and just a pinch retarded.

The most groundbreaking aspect of the design is the fact that apparently just 10-12 throws an hour will provide more than enough juice. Which is good news if you have a long drive to work, or have to take the crowded subway in your daily grind. It also holds up to 200 songs to ensure that your wrist gives out way before your music does.

"But," we wondered, "How do you listen to music if you're constantly throwing this little robot?" The answer is wireless Bluetooth headphones. Here's a thought: When the music-listening technology that comes with today's yo-yos is cooler and more advanced than the music-listening technology that came with portable CD players in our day, the youth of today officially rescinds its right to ever complain about anything. Ever.

Toy Airplanes

The Concept:

For whatever reason, young boys are all drawn to the same passions in youth: cars, guns and airplanes. Mark our words: The toy company that designs some kind of all-terrain falcon with a built-in flamethrower is the company that is going to crush the competition.


Ah yes, the balsa wood toy airplane. This timeless piece of aeronautical simplicity came in a thin little paper bag containing five or six pieces that were easily assembled into a painfully fragile, questionably airworthy, model plane.

A descent throw might yield 8 seconds of shit-your-pants excitement until the inevitable crash landing sheared a wing off. If you were the rich kid on the block, your plane might have come with a faux propeller that basically A) provided some serious, flight hindering drag and B) made all your poor friends hate you.


If there was one thing the toy planes of yonder were lacking, it was controllability. Guaranteed crash landings and the subsequent walks of shame to go pick up the pieces started to wear a little thin. The advent of radio-control provided an answer for that. But for model builders Aviation Design, that was child's play. Hense, the birth of the FALCON 7X business jet.

We still can't decide what the craziest aspect of this "toy" is. Perhaps it's the retractable landing gear. Perhaps it's the fully furnished interior complete with automatic stairway (for the new CEO Barbie?). Perhaps it's the actual, working jet engines, all three of them. Or maybe it's the ridiculous fucking size of the thing.

Yeah, that's definitely it. It's actually big enough to show up on radar. Too bad one crash would set you back a cool four grand.

Still, we want one. Please send this giant toy plane monster to the Cracked Headquarters for Christmas, please. Or, at the very least, send us one of these... shoot other people's planes down with.