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Главная  Каталог  История игрушек   Выпуск 44  100 лучших игрушек 20 века. Места с 20 по 11
Star Bird
Space transport in “contains electronic circuitry” unique selling point lunacy!
A masterpiece of timely ‘70s toy design, proudly marrying X-Wing-influenced rear spoilers to a swanlike stem and detachable cockpit fighter, the first remarkable thing about Star Bird was its sheer size. Forget buzzing around the garden with Matchbox or Dinky toys clutched in your tiny paw, this monster was a serious piece of space hardware. Once assembled (a process in itself reminiscent of some gung-ho, AK-47 lock ‘n’ load film montage) and fully liveried with the enclosed stickers, the Star Bird Space Avenger (as it was later to be re-christened) weighed in at a couple of kilos and stood over a foot long. It was, however, perfectly balanced - meaning it could be cradled with one hand gripping the neck and rendering it simplicity itself to swoop and zoom into interstellar battle on the patio. Which is where the real unique selling point came in, because the second remarkable thing about Star Bird was that buried somewhere in its plastic hull was a motion-sensitive gizmo (we’re hoping something gyroscopic but possibly just a marble in a tube) that could tell whether or not the ship was in a “dive” or a “climb” (at least, whether you were pointing it up or down or not), and emit the appropriate rising or falling drone. The currency offered by such a feature in terms of playground hierarchy was almost immeasurable, marking a clear line in the sand between those who had the incessant hum of galactic ionic engines literally in their grasp and those who had to resort to oral simulation of same. MB later introduced the Star Bird Space Intruder to the range (a smaller, blacker and therefore evil iteration of the toy) which added insult to injury for kids who weren’t even lucky enough to own the Avenger and moved the pleasure even further from reach (insofar as no child would consider owning the latter without the former). The Ying/Yang relationship of the two ships extended to combat scenarios, with each being able to “react” to the LED laser cannon attacks of the other. Totally minted kids could also get the cardboard Space Command Centre but, seriously, by this point it was just rampant consumerism.
Evel Knievel
Wind-up rightwing stuntman
You won't get anyone like Evel Knievel again. A mid-western bike shop owner with a taste for self-publicity, Evel somehow managed to hold great swathes of the international media in his hand, as he set up ever more elaborate stunt jumps with his trusty bike. The famed Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle consisted of a semi-poseable Evel figure and bike which hooked up to a red plastic "energiser" with a chunky red handle with which you wound the bike's gyro. Then off he'd race, to jump over ramps, flaming hoops, cats etc. Then there was the similarly energized Stunt and Crash Car whose appeal was limited as the figure, safely ensconced inside, couldn't fall off and bend his limbs in the wrong direction in a Wembley Stadium style. Other merchandise included the Dragster, the trail bike, the scramble van, the Super Jet Cycle (daft sci-fi bike with plastic thrusters), the Fast Tracker (chunky moon buggy/quad bike affair), Escape from Skull Canyon (some green plastic rocks for Evel to jump over), and other still more esoteric stuff no one you knew ever owned. Sadly, the man's career peaked with the overblown prog stunt that was Snake Canyon and rotten film Viva Knievel, and his trans-Atlantic fame quickly faded.
Flight Deck
“All the thrills and excitement of landing a jet fighter on an aircraft carrier”
Some toys are born great, some toys achieve greatness, and some toys have greatness thrust upon them. Then again, some toys are just so damn great that they have acquired a near-mythical status over the years simply by word of mouth. These are the toys that no one ever saw in real life, nor owned (even though they definitely knew a kid up the street who said his cousin had one), least of all actually played with. High up on the list of such toys, and once possibly glimpsed pretty high on the shelves of Smiths too, was Flight Deck (re-christened a few years later, after a couple of small modifications, as Super Flight Deck in implicit acknowledgement – we reckon – of just how legendary this toy had become). As if we needed any further convincing, one chap's Internet diary detailing his obsession with getting hold of one as an adult (see http://www.stuffwelove.co.uk) is proof enough of the thrall it kept us in. Note the following checklist of factors in its favour. Parents required to knock through a ground floor wall just to create a space big enough to set it up? Check. Degree in light engineering necessary to understand the combined complexity of the various cables, pulleys, levers and counterweights? Check. Fully realised cockpit and joystick as close to a real life jet any youngster could hope to get? Check. However, despite all this, Flight Deck still stumbles on one point. Why go to all the effort of inspiring kids to turn their living room in a reasonable replica of the Ark Royal, only to manufacture the little fighter itself (an F4 Phantom at 1/72 scale, fact fans) in dull grey or – worse still – yellow (when any fule kno that the Red Arrows, flying Hawk 100s, were the definitive Cream era aeronauts)? Attention to detail. It’s not much to ask, is it?
Sonic Ear
Industry-standard surveillance gadget mistakenly marketed as children’s plaything
We know this existed. We remember the telly ads featuring a lad spying on his family and neighbours from the garden. We remember the shape and size of the thing, something like a cross between a rifle and a trombone, fashioned in white and red plastic (and not to be confused with the U.S. “super” version, which parabolically anticipated Murdoch’s micro satellite dishes). What we don’t know is if anyone ever owned one. Seemingly on sale for about a fortnight in the summer of 1978, although never spotted on toyshop shelves, the Sonic Ear (nice solipsism implicit in the name, there) was hastily erased from history - clearly as part of some government cover-up or national security conspiracy. Sure, it might have been possible that the ability to eavesdrop on the confidential conversations of people up to 200 yards away contravened some kind of privacy law, but we reckon that’s what they wanted us to think. There was obviously a more sinister agent at work and we strongly suspect it may have been connected to the nanny state’s wider scheme to prevent us kids from “breaking out” and becoming Tomorrow People (whilst at the same time denying us the high-tech equipment we, as homo superiors, would require for our intergalactic adventures). The Sonic Ear (and, the more we think about it, the more we’re convinced that the ‘E’ on the logo was shaped like a human ear) was just the tip of the iceberg in that respect but, of course, you won’t hear us saying this out loud. You never know who might be listening.
Tasco Telescope
Watch the skies
It must’ve been tough for a grown-up with a genuine interest in astronomy but an income that could only support it on the never-never, having to flick through the kids’ pages of Kay’s to indulge their hobby. We can picture them skipping past the Spiderman suits, Wendy houses, climbing frames and paddling pools in amongst the “outdoor activity” toys before finding the fishing rods, binoculars (sorry, Patrick Moore, a sturdy pair of binoculars just isn’t good enough) and, ultimately, the page with the telescopes on it. Although, now we come to think about it, perhaps the catalogue people placed them there deliberately to effect a slight embarrassment. This is, after all, a hobby that numbers amongst its enthusiasts Curly from Coronation Street and Newsround stalwarts Reg Turnbull and Heather Couper (none of whom, in our humble opinion, have ever received a scrubbing with the glamour flannel). When they reached the peak of their popularity in the UFO-obsessed ‘70s (Close Encounters in the cinemas, Arthur C Clarke on the telly and The Unexplained stacked in corner shops), if you put one of the 100x magnification - minimum – telescopes on your Christmas wish list you were reaching for the stars in more ways than one. Fashioned in Space Shuttle-informed white plastic and black trim, and invariably astronomically expensive (if you were after the half-decent reflector-type, that is), ironically a further problem with a Tasco telescope was the amount of, ahem, space needed to own one. Unless you were lucky enough to live in an observatory, the chances are you wouldn’t be able to leave it on its tripod in a spare Easterly-facing room until Halley’s Comet rolled by. To this day we still wonder what “azimuth” means, why one would employ a “moon filter” and, indeed, what a lunar eclipse looks like magnified onto a black piece of card.
Six Million Dollar Man
Lee Majors’ pension fund
"Gentlemen, we can rebuild him - we have the technology". Yes, and every last cent of it was funded by sales of the spin-off merchandising. In red tracksuited action figure form, Steve Austin came complete with an impressive array of pseudo-bionic features that included a magnifying lens eye (and which featured none of those cool bar-chart things that appeared when we "saw" through his eyes in the series), an arm with easily torn fake skin that rolled back to reveal various plastic fittings, and a "bionic grip" operated by pressing the substantial red button protruding awkwardly from his back. Affluent individuals could also invest in a set of interchangeable limbs, namely a Laser Arm (which shone a red light), a Sonic Neutraliser (some sort of karate chop/ray gun combination) and the self-explanatory Oxygen Supply Arm, plus a couple of pairs of legs that simply repeated the peel-to-reveal-bionic-workings gimmick. His main corresponding playset was the Bionic Transport And Repair Station, a thermos flask-like contraption that stood a full seventeen and a half inches tall and opened to reveal all manner of mock-computer equipment that could interact with his bionic attachments (and indeed closed to resemble a rudimentary spaceship with barely enough room for the rebuilt one to swing the proverbial cat) although this was no match for the "also available" interchangeable and rather slick land/air Bionic Mission Vehicle. In a bid to ensure that girls didn't miss out on the action, a corresponding figure of Bionic Woman Jaime Sommers was also produced. However, her main accessory was - gasp - a purse, along with disturbingly tanglesome blow-wave hair. The fact that in lieu of a Transport And Repair Station Jaime could be augmented with a sports car, dream home, various fashionable costume changes and a downright baffling Bionic Beauty Salon suggests that the manufacturers weren't quite trying their hardest to break down the barriers of gender stereotyping. Also available were several villains - Maskatron, who apparently only had one million dollars spent on him and was so haunted by that fact that he sought to wreak revenge by wearing interchangeable masks of Steve Austin and Oscar Goldman; the Fembot, who did much the same for Jaime; and the unforgettable Bionic Bigfoot, a strange ape/robot hybrid with more than a passing resemblance to Dave Lee Travis, and of whom it was not entirely clear whether he was supposed to be on the side of good or evil, although he did have a flimsy handle incorporated into his design to facilitate ease of bionic lifting. Frankly, the number of different toys available in this range was ridiculous, especially when the difficulty involved in finding even the Steve Austin doll in the shops is taken into account.
Paul Daniels' TV Magic Tricks
Individually packaged tricks with colour-based difficulty rating
It is the evangelical duty of every TV Cream staffer to remind people that, once upon a time, Paul Daniels was a popular, entertaining magician whose programmes would be watched and enjoyed by millions of families all over the country. Now, of course, thanks to doggedly persistent rumours about some compromising photos of Debbie McGee and that bloody Louis Theroux documentary, the man’s just about tolerated as an eccentric (if slightly suspicious-acting) millionaire funding his wife’s doomed ambition to be a ballerina. ‘Twas not ever thus. In our youth, and back in the day when he was still wearing the wig (and - be honest - who wasn’t genuinely surprised when he revealed he’d discovered “a way to comb his hair to cover the bald patch” and discarded the rug?), there was nothing we wanted to save up our pocket money for more than to buy another one of Paul Daniels’ TV magic tricks. It was, of course, marketing genius. Each trick would be numbered (there were over a dozen to collect), rated on difficulty (Blue – easy; Red – fairly easy; Purple – slightly harder; Black – master magician; that sort of thing), and packaged in oddly-shaped plastic and card fold-out tubes (containing props and instructions). Of course, as the tricks became more and more sophisticated, up the dark (and expensive) end of the scale, the props became more and more simple (whereas the instructions became inversely more complicated). One of these contained only a length of rope and a massive booklet depicting the entire cut-and-restore routine. The more simple tricks included a drinks coaster from which magically appeared a coin, some gold rings on a red velveteen square under which playing cards would vanish, and the crazy cube that we don’t know what was supposed to do. Paul urged us in the accompanying leaflets to develop our own “patter” and learn the art of misdirection although, with an audience comprising only the family pets, it wasn’t strictly necessary. Forget dodgy compendium packages, bloody “mind control”, or hanging around in Perspex boxes, these were real magic, and highly addictive.
My Little Pony
Small plastic horse that belongs to you
While the males of the species were busily trying to cover every available surface in their bedroom with the massed ranks of Zoids (q.v.) and Transformers, what was it that girls were supposed to be doing? The answer, of course, is playing horses, albeit it in the most nauseatingly candy-coloured fashion possible. Every My Little Pony came in a different pastel shade, with a different jaunty tilt of the head and a different but always relentlessly perky name (par for the course were Blossom, Tootsie, Bubbles and, most oddly, the pornstar-like Cherries Jubilee). Perhaps to prove that little girls can be nag-happy consumers too, the idea was simply to acquire as many as you possibly could, but unlike Transformers, these didn't even DO anything. Nope, not a thing. They were moulded solid, so you couldn't even move their bulgy plastic limbs. All right, you could comb their manes and tails, but the charm tended to wear thin soon after an older brother tried to give one of them dreadlocks and got the whole thing irreparably tangled. Perhaps sensing this inbuilt audience irritation factor, Hasbro started to churn out range after range of slightly different Ponies to exponentially expand the collection. Why not try a unicorn, a seahorse or a Pegasus this time? Or what about a Baby Pony (hmm, where did those come from, mummy?) Or how about a Boy Pony - its masculinity in no doubt because of its mighty hooves and delightfully macho name like Lightning or Fireball? And stretching the brand to breaking point, there were several potential locations for horse-play - the Gymkhana set (make it jump over things!), Grooming Parlour (give it a hairdo!) and the ultimate Dream Castle (make it live out its days in a glorious heap of twiddly purple plastic!). And contrary to the standard joke at the time, My Little Knacker's Yard and My Little Glue Factory were never available. Shame, that.
The champion game of all!
The famous tabletop baize cloth "flick-to-kick" football interpretation needs no introduction. From the Ј2.49 scale replica of the FA Cup to the full-on World Cup sets bursting with teams, referees, balls, a fence surround, an "electronic" scoreboard and little manager & coach figurines (you can tell them apart because one is wearing a sheepskin jacket), most young football fans will have encountered this at some point. Whether they stuck with it was a different matter. Though the range offered all sorts of goodies for you to collect, and the eventual introduction of pre-packaged real-life teams brought an air of partisanship, the twin problems of a) finding someone else to play with (Mums being curiously reluctant), and 2) fathoming out the over-complex rules ("you can't do that, see Rule 7(f)!") meant that it only ever found lasting appeal with adolescent football fanatics of the let's-collect-it, update-your-Shoot-league-ladders ilk. Along with all the equipment necessary for the game were extraneous items of tat like corner flags, linesmen standing attentively with their flags in the air and the famous floodlights (always the centrepiece of TV ads featuring highly excited young boys slotting one home with a flick of the finger). On the plus side, it allowed the young fanatic to revel in his own football fantasies, creating (and meticulously recording) superleagues, tournaments and reprising classic fixtures of the past, all with a full rota of staff, press and TV chaps watching on. Talk in the ‘Nineties of TV coverage and a bid to become an Olympic sport (the twin goals of all joke sports) depicted the brand as more loved than it actually was. If this list were entitled "Top 100 Toys You Stood On", then Subbuteo would probably be challenging for the title. But it isn't and, in retrospect, Subbuteo doesn't even (ahem) make the first eleven. The brand was a strong one, however, and several different sports were miniaturised over the years. Most famously there was Subbuteo Rugby that, amongst the usual paraphenalia, sported an odd device used to simulate scrums - the Scrummage Machine. A big old bit of rugby ball-shaped beige plastic, it had six holes in the sides and one in the top. Place players next to holes, put ball in top, see who wins possession. They also tried Subbuteo Hockey and Subbuteo Cricket, the latter eventually being eclipsed by Test Match. There was even a Subbuteo Angling set once, though on inspection this turned out to be a rather drab board game instead of little plastic men sitting on the sides of a fish tank dangling tiny fishing rods into the water (and many thanks to Danny Baker for that last memory). Nomenclature nugget: the name Subbuteo comes not from some mythical Brazilian full-back, but the Latin name of the hobby falcon (Falco subbuteo) because the inventor of this new 'hobby' was a bird watcher.
The 'other' racing set
An improvement on the olD Scalextric, Ideal's Total Control Racing, the '80s "upgrade" of the doughty original, liberated vehicles and led to more tactical play, and indeed fun. Further innovations up Ideal's sleeve included cars with working headlights, the snazzy-sounding Super Booster which gave cars a short-lived extra boost of speed at crucial moments, and best of all the jam car, a slow-moving extra vehicle which dawdled round the track of its own volition to further complicate racing matters. The slotless system was improved upon by Matchbox with their Lanechanger set, which held the cars in a firmer grip, lanewise, as they shot round the bends - a problem with fast-moving TCR races, in which the cars always seemed to fling themselves into the outside lane no matter how much you fiddled with the lane-changing control. Better yet was the outlaw pursuit-themed Matchbox Race 'N' Chase, in which a police car chased a stripy Corvette round a track with a tactically crucial tip-up bridge in the centre, and the ability to suddenly swerve the cars and skid round 180 degrees to head off in the opposite direction. A special mention should be given to the frankly bizarre Hornby 3DS, a weird monorail-cum-spaceship which was steered around by one player in the time-honoured slot-car racing fashion, while another player fired a light-sensitive gun at the ship to clock up as many hits as possible. Sadly this inspired combination of Scalextric and, erm, Stop Boris failed to catch on.

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