Death Star Playset

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I spent some fantastic quality time with my nine year old daughter.  Together we enjoyed playing with Star Wars figures, in this case some of those from my vintage collection.

I also dug out my Death Star playset, and we set about playing scenes from the film.

Or at least I did, she was more interested in making her own stories up.  Why won’t anyone sensibly recreate the movie with me?  Ever?!  Ah well, at least she had fun.

Now, your Highness, we will discuss the location of hidden Rebel Base…

Perhaps she would respond to an alternative form of persuasion?

All of my Star Wars toy collection means a lot to me, but there are a few items I have that I’m really proud of – and stoked to own.  This Death Star Playset is one of the outstanding pieces in the collection.

It’s made from cardboard sections that slot together, creating a number of rooms in which to recreate scenes from the film.  Rescue Princess Leia and escape via the garbage chute?  No problem.  Have Han Solo chase a squad of stormtroopers into a dead end?  Easily accomplished.

It was bought second hand – along with a few other playsets – back in the early 80s, when I was about 10.  Someone advertised them for sale in the local paper, and my Dad bought them for me.  I was very happy as I’d wanted this playset (and the others) for a long time.  I think the lot cost about £20 at the time, which is a pretty good price.

The Death Star on it’s own is probably worth a lot more than that now.  Although it’s not in mint condition – the box is pretty beaten up (always was) and there are a few tears here and there, as you can see in the photos.  In the USA, they had a plastic Death Star, and this Palitoy UK cardboard version is quite sought after over there.

It was fantastic fun, bringing back a lot of great memories.  I enjoyed setting the figures up and recreating little scenes from the film. The cell block fight and the trash compactor were great, in particular.

Recreating mini versions of the film with my figures was always a major goal for me – still is!  With this playset that aim became much more attainable.  When I was a kid, I only had two stormtroopers and one Death Squad Commander, so my Death Star looked a little empty.  Over the years I’ve added a few troops to the collection (very cheaply) and now the whole set up looks much more impressive.

The main reason I’d dug the Death Star out was to place my new “retro style” Grand Moff Tarkin figure in there.  I got him for Christmas along with the Escape the Death Star board game.  Tarkin was never made for the action figure line originally, and he was a glaring absence when trying to recreate the movie.

However, I didn’t realise that my new Tarkin was sealed on a card inside the board game box.  I didn’t dare open him.  So the Death Star is still not quite finished.

Should I have just opened Tarkin anyway?!

Ewok Village Playset

I have a lot of Star Wars toys.  Not everything, but a lot of stuff.  Most of it was collected when the toys were originally released, back when I was a kid.  Luckily, I’ve kept them all, and since the late nineties I’ve sporadically added to the collection.

The Ewok Village Playset was a toy I never owned as a kid.  Released as part of the Return of the Jedi toy line, it’s a large and feature packed set that provides a perfect home for your cuddly-yet-vicious little Empire destroyers.

There’s a fire for roasting Han Solo; a net for capturing rebels; a throne for C-3PO; an elevator for lifting figures up – and a secret escape chute for them to escape down.  All of these neat play features and more; plus it makes a cool diorama for displaying your ROTJ action figures.

When I got into collecting Star Wars toys again in the late 90s, the Ewok Village was on my list of “wants”.  I tracked this example down to a toy shop in Manchester and picked it up for £60, if I remember correctly.

I don’t think that shop is still there now.  Or at least, I’ve not found it on subsequent visits.  It seems to have vanished mysteriously into thin air…

Although opened, this Ewok Village was complete in box, with all the bits packed inside in little baggies.  It’s easy to assemble – before long you can start to recreate some moments from the film.

And that’s exactly what I wanted to do here, with this series of photos: showcase some of my figures from the original line, as they appear in the film.  I decided against doing a further photo session with more modern figures due to time!

There are two scenes recreated here.  Firstly, the Rebels held captive by the Ewoks, whilst 3PO sits on his wooden throne.  Han is held above the fire, about to make a tasty celebratory meal.  The others are gathered (not tethered to wooden poles as in the film, as nothing like that exists for these toys) as they attempt to persuade their way out of the situation.

Unfortunately, a figure of Leia in her Ewok robes was never made for the original line, so she’s not present.  Maybe I will have to create this again with the later figures after all, as that the Princess in that outfit was made later on.  But hey, I’m not aiming for 100% screen accuracy here, just the best I can with what I have available.

I love ensemble scenes using action figures, so another I wanted to recreate was the end of the film.  The Empire has been destroyed, the Galaxy is free: the Rebels celebrate their victory with their short, furry allies and all looks good for the future.

The ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin are represented by their vintage figures, plus the main heroes are joined in their rejoicing with numerous members of the Rebel Alliance on Endor.

Ensemble scenes like this are my favourites in the movie, because it’s fun to spot random characters and details that were dropped into the film.  This is the sort of thing that creates the rich diversity of Star Wars, and what constantly intrigues me.  So, it’s nice to try to create something with toys that aims for as wide a scope.

So here are the two scenes: reasonably screen accurate, but not shackled to that original image.  I did the best I could, and it was great fun.

One big mistake?  Yes, I forgot to take a photo of the box the Ewok Village came in.  Never mind, you can Google that, should you need to.

May the Force be with you!

Smurfs

How did the Smurf fascination begin?  I remember being a little kid in the late 70s and everyone in my class loving the “The Smurf Song” by Father Abraham and the Smurfs.  We were little and I guess we thought they were cute.

Then a couple of years later, on a family holiday in West Wales, I got one of the promotional Smurf figures from a petrol station.  It was the artist smurf.  I chose him because, even though he was a painter, I liked art.

I may have never bought another Smurf at all, after that first one, except that he got chewed up by our dog.  So I went to buy a replacement but couldn’t find the same one, and bought another.  So the collection began…

Smurfs became another one of the toys that would get played with, amongst me and my friends.  Some of the other kids had smurfs too, so we could put them all together and create little stories.  I have loads of fond memories of playing with them, outdoors on warm summer days.

Of course, there was the Hanna-Barbera cartoon too, which kept interest rolling along. 

Over time, I picked up more smurfs to add to the collection.  On holidays, sometimes a souvenir would be a Star Wars figure; other times a smurf or a comic book.  I remember my Gran always used to buy my sister and I a smurf when we went shopping with her.

Occasionally, I’ll find a character that I don’t already have at a toy collector fair or Comic Con.  Maybe even a carboot sale.  It’s still fun to find a new one to add to the collection.

I think the attraction of smurfs was the variety; like may other things I’ve collected, it’s fun to have a diverse collection of different characters.  I used to draw designs for my own Smurfs when I was a kid, too – just the same way as I designed my own superheroes.

Anyway, you can see here most of my collection (and some of my sister’s that I have for “safe keeping”).  Some of the classic characters, like Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Brainy – even Gargamel and his cat, Azrael.

Some of my favourites are the Clown, which is really detailed.  Plus of course the Skateboarder, which I’m really proud of.  I bought him before I’d ever stepped on a skateboard, so I have a real fondness for that one.

There’s loads of others out there, and I’d really love a smurf house for them.  Or several houses, to make a smurf village!  Unlikely that’ll ever happen.

That “Smurf Song” found it’s way into my burgeoning vinyl collection a while ago.  I did eventually replace the artist smurf, too.  Still got my first one, though, mangled and chewed up though he may be.

Dedicated to my great childhood friend Brendan O’Neil, who inspired my imagination all those years ago.  RIP.

Talacre Playlist

Recently, we had a family weekend break in Talacre, North Wales.  It was to celebrate Mrs Platinum Al’s Dad’s big birthday.  We had a great couple of nights in a caravan at the Talacre Beach Holiday Park.

In the evenings, we often found ourselves having a drink and a chat whilst taking turns to select some music from the old iPods.  Here are the tracks I played.  Some were suggested or requested by others, some I chose to force on them!

  1. The Beatles – “Misery”
  2. The Beatles – “Anna (Go To Him)”
  3. Queen – Fat Bottomed Girls
  4. Queen – Flash
  5. Queen – Seven Seas of Rhye
  6. Suzi Quatro – “Can the Can”
  7. Suzi Quatro – “48 Crash”
  8. Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire”
  9. Johnny Cash – “Orange Blossom Special”
  10. Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash – “Jackson”
  11. Chris Isaak – “Wicked Game”
  12. Chris Isaak – “You Owe Me Some Kind of Love”
  13. The Animals – “House of the Rising Sun”
  14. Eddie Cochran – “Summertime Blues”
  15. T.Rex – “20th Century Boy”
  16. The Kinks – “You Really Got Me”
  17. The Kinks – “All Day and All of the Night”
  18. The Kinks – “Tired of Waiting For You”
  19. Little Richard – “Good Golly Miss Molly”
  20. Roy Orbison – “Only the Lonely”
  21. Roy Orbison – “Crying”
  22. Roy Orbison – “Dream Baby”
  23. Roy Orbison – “Working for the Man”
  24. 2 Unlimited – “No Limit”
  25. The Clash – “I Fought the Law”
  26. The Clash – “Should I Stay or Should I Go”
  27. The Clash – “Rock the Casbah”
  28. The Damned – “Eloise”
  29. Rolling Stones – “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
  30. Rolling Stones – “Honky Tonk Women”

Really nice place, Talacre.  Recommended.

Oh, and Happy Birthday Graham!

Superhero Action Figures

You may well be familiar with the Mego action figures of the 1970s – they made dozens of superhero dolls approximately 8 inches tall.  You can see my Batmobile and Captain Americar toys (all I have left from my Mego collection) in an earlier post.  They also made figures for Planet of the Apes and tons of other licenses.

Other than the 8″ line, there were also a series of 3.75″ superhero figures, known Comic Action Heroes.  These examples of this range of figures have been in my collection since the late 1970’s.

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Originally I bought a Spiderman figure, from the sadly long gone Toy & Hobby in Chester, but he broke.  This line of figures weren’t the most robust – a common problem was the legs breaking off.  the body below the waist was made of rubber, and likely to give way.

So Spiderman was posted back to the Customer Service department.  A few weeks later I received a parcel containing some replacement figures – these are the ones you see here.  No Spiderman unfortunately, but I got a few others as compensation.

The Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin was pretty cool to have.  Strangely, Batman’s head was made out of soft rubber which was attached to his cape.  As a result, you could pop off Batman’s head if you so desired.  Also a bit bizarre, the Boy Wonder is actually taller than his pal!

The Joker was a nice figure, quite good facial detail.  I remember also owning Superman in this batch, but he’s long since disappeared.  And I think my sister had the Wonder Woman toy.

The final figure from this range is The Incredible Hulk.  Raging green and mean, he wears traditional purple pants and also has a good face sculpt.  However, Hulk’s left arm (not seen in the photo) fell off, and had to be reattached with glue.  Like I said, not very robust.

A couple of years later, Mego made further superhero action figures, in the Pocket Super Heroes line.  They were very similar to the earlier figures, but with straight legs rather than bent.  My only figure from this line is Lex Luthor.  Again Lex has a good (for the time) face sculpt – I’ve always thought there was a resemblance to Gene Hackman.

These Super Heroes were pretty cool figures that I loved.  A shame that they weren’t very durable, and that Spidey isn’t in my toy box any more.  Still, cool seventies toys that bring back loads of memories.

You can read more about this range of toys at Toymania here.

Random Longboard Playlist #2

On Sunday 2nd November I went out for a quick skate on my longboard.  Luckily the weather has been fairly warm and dry, meaning that a short skate trip was possible.  Usually at this time of year, it’s too cold and wet outside for cruising and carving.  That skate might be the last of 2014, as the pleasant autumn has now decayed into winter.

As is often the case, the iPod went on shuffle, and here are the songs that provided a soundtrack to skate.

  1. Napalm Death – “Blind to the Truth”
  2. Volbeat – “Our Loved Ones”
  3. Blaze Bayley – “Madness and Sorrow”
  4. The Offspring – “Killboy Powerhead”
  5. Curtis Mayfield – “Party Night”
  6. Alice Russell – “Living the Life of a Dreamer (Mr. Scruff Remix)”
  7. Rocket From The Crypt – “Normal Carpet Ride”
  8. Electric Light Orchestra – “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”
  9. Smokey Robinson – “Being With You”
  10. Anthrax – “Imitation of Life”
  11. Buckcherry – “Broken Glass”
  12. Pink Floyd – “Wish You Were Here”
  13. Zombina & The Skeletones – “I Go Psycho!”
  14. The Clash – “Rock the Casbah”
  15. Screaming Trees – “Witness”
  16. Run DMC – “Can You Rock It Like This”
  17. Judas Priest – “Living After Midnight” 10366066_10152942352488714_5260061854670921576_n

Bat Mobile and Captain Americar

As promised, I am introducing some new topics tot the Virtual Hot Tub for 2014.  To begin, an excursion into the world of toys is presented here for you.

For this very first Toy based post, here are some pictures of the Bat Mobile and Captain Americar.  These were produced by Mego in the 1970’s.  Both are from my collection and have been in my possession since the early 80’s.

Mego were one of the leading toy companies of the 1970’s.  Amongst their most popular lines were the World’s Greatest Super Heroes: 8 inch action figures of popular comic book heroes with cloth costumes.  They produced lines of both DC and Marvel characters, meaning you could create epic adventures spanning the properties – such as Thor versus Green Arrow.  Or Hulk versus Batman.  Or anything else you could imagine.

Alas, my Mego super heroes are lost to the mists of time, scattered into broken fragments.  All I have left are these two vehicles, and some great memories.

Bat Mobile

Modelled after the Bat Mobile in the classic Adam West sixties television show, this vehicle can carry both Batman and Robin into action. IMG_2497

Captain Americar

Captain America’s car.  See what they did there?  The cool feature on this vehicle is that Cap’s shield on the front of the car is thrust forward with the flick of the switch, to knock bad guys off their feet.  Or your sister’s Barbie dolls, whatever. IMG_2066

As I no longer have the heroes to go with these vehicles, they may well find their way onto Ebay in the future.  We shall see.

Check out the Mego Museum here.