Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Store sighting: Empire Strikes Back Vintage 9 pack...

The very limited and highly anticipated Target exclusive Empire Strikes Back vintage 9 figure set has hit store shelves. I just saw a good quantity of these tonight at my local Target. These are reissues of figures I already own so I decided to pass on it. If you don't have these individual figures already it's a pretty good deal for 9 figures in cool retro packaging for $49.99. If you can't find it on the shelves at your Target store it might be in the stockroom. Jut punch in the following DPCI number on any of the store's price scanners: 087-06-1620. Happy hunting!

Monday, November 29, 2010

TRON LEGACY: Movie theater premiums, Coke Zero, etc...

As we get closer to the December 17 release of TRON more movie theaters are starting to gear up with tons of cool promotions. My local AMC theater is giving away some really cool TRON LEGACY cups with the purchase of a large soft drink. The cups are meant to promote the film as well as the upcoming video game and the promotional tie in between Disney and Coke Zero. The coke cups should be available at all AMC theaters nationwide. You can also download a really cool TRON LEGACY / COKE ZERO app for your iphone right now for free.

The El Capitan theater in Hollywood will be giving away reusable plastic TRON LEGACY popcorn buckets to patrons who purchase pop corn during all the TRON showings from December 17 to January 20. I can't wait to see the film on opening weekend at The El Capitan, as they always do they'll be having some extra attractions for movie goers including a laser light show before every screening and some cool props on display in the theater lobby including a life size mock up of the new Sam Flynn lightcycle. Celebration Cinemas and Imax will also be having TRON popcorn buckets starting on December 1. You can refill your TRON buckets twice per visit at the theater. I'll have a full report from the TRON LEGACY opening weekend at the El Capitan theater as well as pics from any props on display.

If you hear of any other cool theater premiums or promotions for TRON LEGACY let me know in the comments section!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

TRON Lightcycles from Spin Master...

I still remember watching TRON for the first time as a kid on a Sunday evening during The Wonderful World of Disney back in the mid 80s. I was 2 years old when the film first came out in theaters so I didn't get a chance to experience it until its T.V. debut. To this day I still remember the thrill I felt watching the lightcycle chase scene. It was so visceral, exciting, and just plain fun that I kept replaying it in my head and trying to recreate it with my G.I.JOE motorcycles and Star Wars speeder bikes.

I had no idea back then that TOMMY had released a series of TRON figures and lightcycles so I was never able to get them. By the time I saw the film any toy merchandise had long been off the shelves. With the upcoming release of TRON LEGACY we've been treated to some superb toys from Spin Master. I was expecting to be completely disappointed by this toy line given Spin Master's less than impressive track record until I picked up their Impulse Projection figures a few weeks ago and reviewed them for the blog. Those were so impressive that I decided to give the rest of the line a try. I couldn't wait to finally pick me up some lightcycles. I'm glad to report that I'm really happy with these vehicles. Let's take a closer look at them.

To start off the packaging is pretty cool. Spin Master goes with the now standard window box packaging but they make it more exciting by adding cool artwork featuring the lightcycles in action right under the window area. Back in the 80s a big part of what made us pick up a toy and beg our parents to buy it for us was the very imaginative and exciting art that covered these boxes. Sadly those days of elaborate package art are gone so it's really nice to see Spin Master make an effort to make these boxes look as exciting as possible.

The Sam Flynn bike box has a pretty cool gimmick at the bottom with two holes that serve as viewers giving you a 3 dimensional image of the bike in action. Again, this is the sort of thing that makes a kid pick up an item at a store and really get excited about playing with the actual toy by seeing it in action in an imaginary scenario. Kudos to Spin Masters for having this idea and incorporating it into what is already a pretty darn impressive and creative packaging job.

The toys themselves are beautiful and loads of fun. They're jam packed with features as well as some really cool looking lights and sounds features. It's been a long time since I was this excited over a toy line based on a movie, specially when dealing with a company that's not really known for producing great looking toys that can also be considered highly collectible.

The Sam Flynn bike is a sleek and attractive vehicle and the Spin Master version captures it's essence perfectly. There's multiple ways to activate the lights and sounds features. My favorite function makes the engine sounds rev up as well as all the lights as you roll the bike on a flat surface. Also, once the wheels roll, the engine mechanism in the mid part of the bike's body begins to turn. A great detail which adds more realism to the toy. From certain angles this lightcycle looks like a futuristic version of the Bat Pod from The Dark Knight.

The TRON LEGACY figures fit perfectly on the bike. It comes with a plastic, non articulated rider figurine which you'll want to remove, strap to an ESTES rocket and launch as soon as possible since there's not much use for it. The only good thing about the included rider figure is that you can remove the helmeted head and put it on your regular articulated Sam Flynn figure's body.

The bike also has "working" air brakes which add more play features. Not just a great toy but a beautiful display piece as well. I could never afford anything that company's like Hot Toys put out but with this bike I can have a pretty detailed replica which I can also play with for less than 20 bucks. Not a bad deal at all!

There's also a CLU lightcycle which is a slightly different version of this bike designed to look like the one used in the film by Jeff Bridges' evil computer program-counterpart. That bike is only currently available at Walmart. There are rumors that Spin Master will begin to ship it to every other retailer that carries the line with their wave 2 assortment.

The Kevin Flynn bike is a new deco on the classic TRON bike we all love from the original film. With a very modern white and black color palette, reminiscent of an Apple Ipod or Macbook, the bike modernizes the look of the classic film's design.

With an opening cockpit and an interior that actually has some details on the control areas this updated lightcycle is perfect for fans of the original TRON. Like I mentioned before I never got to pick up the original TOMMY bikes so this one was a must have for me.

The bike looks really beautiful when lit up. The design is really simple, yet clean and elegant. I love toy vehicles with cockpits that open up and can house action figures. They're a lot more fun to play with. I was able to fit my Sam Flynn figure inside perfectly. Once you get your figure inside the bike lights up on each side, specifically the area surrounding the wheels as well as through a series of small openings between the cockpit and the wheels.

I found myself racing these babies down my table and doing wheelies with them immediately after opening the boxes and feeling like a 6 year old kid again. What more can you ask of a toy than that? Plus, if you're not the type to play with your toys then you still have a beautiful yet inexpensive display piece. Spin Master has really hit the mark with these cycles. I can't think of any kid out there who wouldn't be able to get countless hours of fun out of these.

The Kevin Flynn lightcycle is priced about 5 to 10 dollars less than the Sam bike so it does not include any sound effects, it only lights up. I would've liked for it to also have sound effects but it's not something that ruins it. I still think it's a great piece. They probably wanted to have a lower price point vehicle and had to sacrifice the sound feature in order to hit the price mark.

If I had to choose between lights or sounds I'd go with lights so I'm glad Spin Master made this decision. I still haven't seen any footage of this bike in action in the film so I'm not sure how it ties into the storyline, but regardless it's great to get a new version of a beloved classic vehicle.

Right now you can pick each one of these bikes for $14.95 and $19.95 respectively from most retailers. A lot of stores and websites are offering deals for Cyber Monday including Toys 'R Us online where you can pick them up for 20% off.

I'm really enjoying these toys and finding myself pleasantly surprised by Spin Master's efforts. Check back later in the week for more reviews of other TRON products from this truly impressive line.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

TRON week is coming...

As you can see from the blury pic of my desk I have a lot of TRON stuff to open up, read, and play with. I've been swamped the last few days and haven't had a chance to go over all the great TRON items that are starting to hit stores. Next week in honor of the original 80s classic and the upcoming sequel I'll be blogging about TRON every night. Toy pics and reviews, book reviews, and an in depth look at the making of the original film with many rare photographs I've been scanning from my vintage magazines and books collection. END OF LINE.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Home Alone merchandise flashback...

It's sort of become a tradition for my friends and I to watch Home Alone on Thanksgiving evening, or at least have it playing in the background at our yearly get together. Tonight we upheld our tradition. After watching the film again I started thinking of the Super Nintendo video game based on the first film which I got for Christmas the year it came out. Then I thought about all the stuff that came out during the release of the second movie which led me to the brilliant conclusion that I should write about all those goodies on tonight's Nostalgia Factory post.

As a moderately budgeted family comedy Home Alone was not expected to be the gigantic financial success it went on to become. So when 20th Century Fox made preparations for the film's release they didn't have anything to draw in major tie in and merchandising partners to produce items for the film's release. Once the film opened to big numbers at the box office the story changed and THQ quickly drew up a deal with the studio to produce toys and games based on the hit movie.

These days THQ only focuses on Video Games but back then the company would produce board games, dolls and many other items. After all THQ stands for Toy Headquarters. The offerings from THQ included the video game for multiple platforms which for a quickly put together movie tie in game was not terrible. I spent many long hours playing the SNES version back in the day. Also available from THQ was a Screaming Kevin figure. The figure was about 9 inches tall and would play back an electronically recorded scream. The face looked just like Kevin's from the film's classic after shave scene.

THQ also put out a 17 inch doll with a really impressive likeness to Macaulay Culkin. The doll would play back multiple lines from the film once someone would pull the chord on the back. The outfit and the head sculpt were really good on this doll. It was like staring at a mini Kevin McAllister. The face was just adorable and to this day I think it's one of the best likenesses ever captured on a toy doll. Remember this is way before the days of Tonner's collectible dolls and this was merely a play item not a high end collector's piece. I really love how the doll had the Home Alone logo on the left sweater sleeve, just to make sure if someone didn't recognize the character they studio could still get a plug for the film.

THQ also came out with a pretty lame board game. It's very difficult to capture the kinetic fun and all the gags from the movie on a plain old dice and board game like this one. If they really wanted to make a board game in the spirit of the film they should have come up with something along the lines of Mouse Trap -- a game where you have multiple pieces which allow you to build booby traps right on the game board. This game was a major missed opportunity.

Also after the film's release multiple companies produced t-shirts, posters, pins and other items utilizing imagery from the film's promotional campaign.

For Home Alone 2 things were much different as Fox now had a sequel to one of the highest grossing comedies of all time on their hands. Multiple companies lined up to try and get the rights to produce all kinds of merchandise for the film. THQ was again selected for the games based on the film and Tiger toys came in to produce a series of electronic gadgets and games as part of a line of products centered around an item which would actually end up as a key prop on the film. Like most major movies the film also got a novelization courtesy of Scholastic books.

THQ produced a follow up video game for the SNES and various other consoles as well as a much improved board game, this new electronic version utilized voices and pre-recorded dialogue to help move the game along. It was a better concept than the original almost generic board game, but still not able to capture the fun and the spirit of the films. It seems like such an easy idea to create a booby trap focused board game to tie into the films, but on two occasions THQ missed their mark on this.

Tiger Toys, best known for their line of handheld electronic games, produced their typical black and white, squiggly line, static background electronic handheld game for Home Alone 2 but they also created the key prop for the film and an item many believed would go on to become the most coveted piece in every kid's wish list: The Talk Boy.

In Home Alone 2 we see Kevin utilizing the Talk Boy to pull off a couple of fast ones on the adults. When I first saw the movie I thought it was one of the coolest things ever. It just looked amazing. Unfortunately after closer inspection you'd realize it was nothing more than a Walkman with the ability to record and slow your voice. I wonder how many kids did go on to blackmail their sisters after recording them with the Talk Boy while they fooled around with their boyfriends.

Tiger promoted the item heavily. The commercial would play multiple times during all the afternoon kid shows as well as on Saturday morning. I'm pretty sure the Talk Boy was also featured on that year's Toys R Us big toy book. Not only did Tiger make a big hoopla about the item being used in the film they had so much faith in the product they made multiple versions of it including a pink one for girls aptly named Talk Girl.

Tiger also applied the same concept to a series of pens as part of their Talkboy F/X line. After the movie had come and gone and kids everywhere had forgotten about Kevin's handy talk boy, Tiger kept trying to squeeze some juice out of this line by producing the Talk Boy in multiple colors and adding more items to their Talkboy F/X line. Even though there was no Talkboy pen in the movie they marketed it as a Home Alone 2 item. Later releases in the Talk Boy line such as the Talk Boy Shock Rocker, dropped the Home Alone logo from the packaging completely since Kevin never used a shock rocker version of the Talk Boy to record his own gangsta rap tunes in the film.

The Home Alone 17 inch Kevin doll was re-released with different clothes now sporting Kevin's backpack and his New York threads.

THQ wasn't satisfied with just their electronic board game so they put out yet another almost generic standard board and dice game just as atrocious as the one from the first movie.

Raisin Bran had some games inspired by the film on the back of select boxes of cereal too.
I found it odd that none of my friends remembered any of these items whenever we'd talk about Home Alone. The first two films have gone on to become modern Christmas classics and are loved by people of all ages. You'd have to be a real Grinch not to love these movies. So if there's a major Home Alone fan on your gift list this year you might wanna track down some of these vintage items on Ebay. Happy Hunting.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree...

It's odd that a symbol for speaking up against the commercialism of Christmas has actually become a mass produced item which pops up every holiday season in most stores. The pathetic little Christmas tree that Charlie Brown picks out at the tree market, for which he's made fun of by all his friends, has become an iconic image that millions have come to associate with the beloved character of Charlie Brown, his struggles and everything he stands for.

We finally picked up the decorative replica of this little tree after seeing it in stores every Christmas season. It's a reminder of one of our favorite Holiday traditions, watching A Charlie Brown Christmas with our loved ones and smiling with great joy as Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang make us laugh, cheer and stop to remember the true meaning of the season.

I'm glad that in a society which continues to try and veer away from the true meaning of Christmas we have a yearly reminder of what we should actually be celebrating thanks to good old Charlie Brown and this beloved television special.

As dinky as the little tree is it's one of the most beautiful ornaments you could put up this holiday season. Plus it's much cheaper than any tree at the lot. There's a lot of fun to be had with this little tree specially if you have any Peanuts figurines. We placed some of them under the tree to add to the fun.

I'm a big Peanuts fan so when the fall begins I have 3 great Holiday specials to look forward to. I also took out my skating Snoopy plush that my brother gave me for Christmas almost ten years ago. Another great Holiday souvenir which has a lot of meaning for me, just like the little tree had for Charlie Brown.


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