If you grew up in the 1980s, you likely recall that almost every major Hollywood movie and TV show had its own toy line at one point or another, regardless of how appropriate the celluloid source material might have been for the kids who would be clamoring after these plastic trinkets. Aliens, RoboCop, The Terminator; they all had toys for the youngins’ to play with, even if said youngins’ would never be allowed to watch these films in theaters. Of course, we were also way more awesome in the 1980s, so it’s understandable that our toys would be far more desirable than the hyper-sanitized PC pabulum thrust upon kids today.
Bitter vitriol at the modern era’s inability to recapture the likely imagined halcyon days of our youth aside, one classic 1980s film that was never pimped out to Kenner was John Carpenter’s The Thing. A remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World, Carpenter’s movie is one of the few remakes that is actually far superior to its predecessor. The Thing is a master class in creating tension on film, and the movie’s cast, especially lead protagonist Kurt Russell, do an excellent job of depicting a group of men, alone in a barren wilderness, trying and failing to maintain sanity in the face of an incomprehensible evil from beyond the stars. Additionally, the movie’s special effects work, courtesy SFX legend Rob Bottin, were utterly mind-blowing in 1982 and despite the lack of useful CGI in the early 1980s, The Thing is still as unsettling and entertaining as it was when it hit theaters.
Thus, it does make a weird sort of sense that The Thing should have a toy line, and where actual toy companies dropped the ball, a faux commercial creator called “Arlox” has filmed a TV spot that at least gives us a glimpse at what a collection of The Thing action figures might look like. If you were born after 1990 the below-embedded clip will likely hold no meaning for you, but those who grew up during the Reagan years should delight at how well Arlox captures the advertising zeitgeist of the era. In short, it’s totally non-sensical and kinda dumb, but at the same time, totally macho and we’re tempted to call our now-retired parents and bug them until they agree to buy us a MacReady action figure.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that animated snippet at the end was lifted from 1990’s Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue. It was created as a joint venture by McDonalds and Buena Vista Home Video and featured all the big cartoon stars of the time. And what were all these stars doing when gathered in one place? Why, they were battling the dangers of drug addiction, embodied in the animated form of an anthropomorphic cloud of unidentified, presumably psychoactive smoke.
The moral of this story? The 1980s were a very weird time to be a kid (though, in fairness, we had way better breakfast cereal than today’s brats).