Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Year of Trash

2015 was not particularly great for It's Trash Culture. My attention shifted from posting here and turned to other social medias, like Twitter and Instagram, where minimum effort paid out a much larger reward. Those accounts have accumulated several hundred more followers than this blog, which is equal parts awesome and sorta' heart-breaking. Neither of them would exist without this, the place I started to celebrate all the stupid and wonderful things that have won my heart over the years. I'm here to wax nostalgic and to share the bizarre stuff I've unearthed in my constant search for more pop-culture bullshit. That's always been my mission statement, and the previous year was a complete failure. Well, okay, mostly complete. I did manage to get halfway through the Friday the 13th franchise before slacking off and disappearing for two months.

I can't guarantee that the next year will be any different. There are always half-hearted promises to post more that fall to the wayside. I always have the best of intentions, don't I? The combination of crippling anxieties and unadulterated laziness that makes up 92% of my existence almost always win in the end, though. The urge to give up, to let It's Trash Culture waste away into nothing, is overwhelming. But somehow not as much as my love for talking about Z-grade films and old Happy Meal toys.

Yes, I'm actually here to chat a little bit about old Happy Meal toys.

Even if there came a day where I packed away this blog, that won't stop me from transforming into a borderline hoarder before I go too. The hunt, hitting up thrift shops and flea markets for oddball collectibles and forgotten treasures, will always flow through my blood. Yesterday was the first day of a new year, and it was spent like so many of the days of yesteryear; stopping by my local Savers Thrift on the way home from work. Their wall of grab-bags has been an absolute treasure trove the last couple years, and my latest visit was no exception.

A pair of bags marked $1.99 were packed full of nostalgic catnip in the form of '80s and '90s era Happy Meal toys. Above is a quick glimpse at most of the goodies I took home and added to The Trash Collection, but we'll be taking a better look at several of the pieces in a second. Everything from Tiny Toons to Super Mario Bros. 3, with a handful of less notable [but still wildly exciting] giveaways included. Are you still glad that I decided to stick around for 2016?

Let's see what we can do to change that.

We're gonna start with McDonalds' main man, Mr. Ronald McDonald, The Hamburger-Happy Clown. This PVC-version of everyone's favorite fast-food peddling mascot was available in Happy Meals back in 1988. Despite being the prime age for devouring Happy Meals during '88, I somehow never owned this particular piece until now. I love its simplicity, and apparently that giant star that Ronald's leaning on glows in the dark. Which means that it'll find a spot on the shelf nearby my bed that's loaded with lots of glow-in-the-dark toys and trinkets.

The Tiny Toons flip-cars were released three years later, and were the first of two sets that McDonalds released for the franchise in the early '90s. These are both actually the same toy; each car flipped over to reveal a second character, and this one features Montana Max and Gogo the Dodo. I already owned a couple of the other toys in this particular set, so I'll be holding onto one of these and probably trading off the extra. Or maybe not. Maybe I'll keep 'em both because I am a crazy person who needs more children's toys from two decades back in his possession.

Here's what first caught my eye in those grab-bags yesterday. The raccoon-variation of Mario and a Koopa Paratrooper were released in 1989, the same year that The Wizard debuted in theaters, and both served as a proper introduction to the world of Super Mario Bros. 3 for kids in North America. I remember having the Paratrooper toy when they were originally available, and mine suffered the same fate as this guy; the pump that was attached to activate his "jumping" feature is long-gone. It's not the worst thing ever, because he actually displays a lot better without the awkward obstruction.

You might have noticed the pair of Gadgets, the wacky mouse-inventor from Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers, hanging out in the background. It's another set that McDonald's featured back in '89, but it's one that I skipped entirely as a kid. I was probably too distraught over never getting a Goomba from the previous Mario wave, and swore off Happy Meals until 1992 when they'd do a Batman Returns tie-in. Still, golly, she's a pretty cool and totally adorable addition. I guess I'll have to hunt down a Monterey Jack to display alongside her.


I honestly don't remember them ever releasing a set of Hook (1991) Happy Meal toys, so imagine my surprise and my excitement when I discovered this Rufio hiding away in one of the grab-bags. It's far from the best representation of my favorite edgy Lost Boy, but beggars can't be choosers. Actually, I doubt I'll hang onto him for very long, because it's a garbage toy with a water-squirting action feature. Unless you're a member of The Masters of the Universe [Snout-Spout] or a goddamn Pokemon [Blastoise], don't ever find yourself saddled with a water-squirting action feature. You'll probably end up thrown away, and even I won't rescue you from that landfill, Ru-fi-oooh.

Until doing some quick research for the release years on these toys, I didn't know that The Fry Guys [or Fry Kids] were originally Hamburglar-esque villains. They were first called The French-Fry Gobblins, and were known to sing songs while stealing peoples' french-fries. My appreciation for these bizarre characters has since increased a hundredfold. I think they may have knocked Grimace from the top-spot in my Top Ten McDonaldland Inhabitants list that I plan on posting sometime in 2023.

Rounding out this hodgepodge trio is Taz Flash from the Super Looney Tunes. While originally intended to see release a year earlier, where it would run alongside Toy Biz's DC Comics Super Heroes toy-line, the Happy Meal wave was delayed until 1992, a year after the Toy Biz line was cancelled. Still, seeing the classic Warner Bros. characters dressed up in super-hero costumes was a pretty neat concept, and pairing Taz, the Tasmanian Devil, with The Flash was a brilliant move. The early '90s were big for both characters; The Flash had his own television series, which aired on CBS from 1990 to 1991, and Taz was riding high on the Looney Tunes resurgence of the decade, scoring his own animated series, Taz-Mania, and becoming one of the brand's flagship characters.

Unfortunately, I didn't save the best for last.

I'm not particularly fond of Garfield outside of his Halloween adventure, and seeing him dressed up for a jungle safari and smiling is pushing all the wrong buttons. I'd much rather that McDonald's had done up a series of Happy Meal toys based on Garfield's animated peers, the gang from U.S Acres. Safari Garfield isn't the worst thing in the world, I guess, but that doesn't ease the pain of never owning a Wade Duck toy.

There isn't much to say about Miss Piggy, either. She was part of the Muppet Babies set that was released in 1987, back when I didn't totally despise her character. Yeah, Miss Piggy is easily my least favorite Muppet, which I know isn't a particularly novel opinion. Everyone hates Piggy, right? She might end up along with Rufio in the nearest trash receptacle before I hit publish on this post. I could save her pink car for Garfield to use, but that fucking lazy, lasagna-loving cat might not be far behind.

I barely remember Gravedale High, a short-lived animated series featuring the voice of Rick Moranis, but the guy in the middle is the third Happy Meal toy based on it that I own. He's Sid, son of The Invisible Man, who was the class-clown impersonator in his monstrous high-school clique. Based on the rather cool giveaway toys I've acquired this last year, and from little I've read about the series, I'm really tempted to go back and watch the show. Most animated programs from '91 haven't held up very well, but any show that stars Ricki Lake as the voice of a chubby mummy-girl named Cleofatra can't be all bad.

Oh, and I lied about not saving the best for last.

Totally unrelated from all the talk of McDonald's Happy Meals is Batly the Bat, my absolute favorite character from Eureeka's Castle. I was perhaps a couple years too old to watch the children's show when it began airing on Nickelodeon back in '89, but I remember summer days spent at my grandparents' home, hanging out with my kid sister and my younger cousin and watching it. Pizza Hut released a trio of puppets the following year, and I have vague memories of my cousin having the Magellan the Dragon one.

I nearly lost my cool when I saw Batly stuffed in a grab-bag, packed in next to a Barbie doll and some lousy Spider-Man toy, hanging out on the toy-wall. Even if he didn't look like he might be Brain Gremlin's nerdy distant relative, there was no way that I was leaving him behind. Batly has already taken up permanent residence on a nearby stack of VHS and Betamax tapes, where I can glance over adoringly at him whenever the fuck I want.

Actually, I'm lucky I didn't get too distracted putting this all together with him only a couple feet away.