Friday, December 21, 2007

Thingmaker: Make Toys or Grilled Cheese Sandwiches!

This is the third in a series of trips down memory lane featuring Muley's favorite childhood Christmas toys.

This toy was a big favorite with me and my brothers. The foundation of the toy was Thingmaker, basically a heated metal plate that would take metal molds filled with liquid plastic and cook the plastic until the resulting shapes became hard and rubbery. But the product is commonly referred to as "Creepy Crawlers," which was the name given to the products of one of the most popular series of themed molds you could buy to work with Thingmaker.

If you go into a toy store nowadays, I believe they sell something under the Creepy Crawlers name. The idea is the same, but from what I have seen it is a pale imitation of the original Thingmaker system. The new one looks like a modified Easy Bake oven, with plastic parts and using the equivalent of a light bulb to bake the plastic. The original Thingmaker, by contrast, was like a little metal foundry in your home. The molds were made of thick metal, and the Thingmaker was able to heat that metal up so hot that you would burn the dickens out of your tiny, tender hands if you didn't remove the molds just right.

I would guess that Creepy Crawlers were probably the most popular things you could make with Thingmaker, but as you can see from the clipped advertisement here, you could also make other stuff like scary makeup items. I also remember that at our house we had molds that allowed us to create toy soldiers. One mold would make the front part of the soldier's body, a second mold would make the back half, and I guess you were supposed to fit the two halves together while the thing was still warm and sticky so that they'd dry into one figure. A third mold let you make rifles and grenades and such. The idea was that you could eventually create enough of the little guys to form your own army. But, unlike G.I. Joes, Thingmaker soldiers were as rubbery as the fake snakes and vampire teeth it also cooked up. It's as though some alien from space swooped down and removed all of the bones from a U.S. Army battalion.

Besides providing me hours of enjoyment being my own Dr. Frankenstein, I loved the sheer utilitarianism of the names Mattel gave to this toy and its components. The thing you made stuff in was called...the thing maker. The liquid goop you poured into the molds was called...goop.

When it comes to summing up Thingmaker, I believe radarmagazine does it best: "Nothing says safety like an open hot plate. And nothing says fun like using that open hot plate to create molten, rubbery insects you can throw at your sister while narrowly avoiding setting the house ablaze."

1 comment:

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