1980s Talking Dolls: They’ll All Be Talkin’ To Ya!

Tape Talkers: So Many 1980s Talking Dolls…

Teddy Ruxpin may have been the first of the tape deck talking dolls, but the legion following in his storytelling lead is an amazing tale in itself. It is a tale of the literal video tape, stored in the archives of our VHS collections.

Shall we take a journey through this land of talking dolls?

(Special thanks to Retroist reader Sailor Brite for her request, which inspired this follow up to my previous article on Cricket’s instruction tape!)

“You’re My Friend…”

1980s talking dolls were a world of amazingness. Ask any talking doll owner/watcher of You Tube archives.

Though technologically dated by today’s harsh standards, talking dolls were the thing of marvel in the mid 1980s. Pop in a tape/cartridge, press a button, and a whole world unfolds. In 20 minutes, you’ll hear a few songs, laugh at a few jokes, or be lulled into sleep by a bedtime story or song. We dressed them, colored with them, and probably wanted to feed them our peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For a young child of the 1980s, a talking doll was a first friend, even if most of them couldn’t talk back, they were still company.

There were also several “squeeze to talk” dolls mixed in with the tape (audio cassette) talkers. These didn’t tell stories, but they did ask you to do stuff…like kill family members…

Talky Tina, how did you get a hold of my keyboard?!

And once you brush off the creepiness of time, these dolls (even the creepy-looking ones) really start to look amazing all over again.

Dated, but amazing.

Worlds of Wonders (And Playmates Abound!)

Worlds of Wonder and Playmates dominated the 1980s talking doll market. They were at the forefront of the cassette tape-controlled talkers. You’ve likely heard of both companies and the their other toys (and if you like this kind of history, you know what happened to Worlds of Wonder). While Ideal and Coleco also made a minor dent at the time, the dominance truly belonged to Playmates and Worlds of Wonder.

The trend took off in 1985 with Worlds of Wonder’s Teddy Ruxpin, and while he was the first, he had some amazing company. Also in good company? The amount of nostalgic ’80s kids with massive archives of amazing commercials, and the select few who take to YouTube to actually show us their still-working dolls in action.

How about we take a look at some of these marvels of robotic technology?

Teddy Ruxpin

Uploaded by RetroStatic

Uploaded by TELEVISIONARCHIVES

Uploaded by Beta Max

Teddy Ruxpin launched the “tape talkers” trend, and the very definition of a “first friend.” Launched in 1985, Teddy had a world of storybook-and-tape stories, clothes, a cartoon, and even an octopede named Grubby as a friend.

Uploaded by Jen Wolford

He was the “best friend” for your “best friend,” but you had to own Teddy in order to operate him. I didn’t have Grubby (just Teddy), but I love watching videos of them interacting. The 1980s just feel like a whole other time when this was what we played with.

“Come dream with me tonight…let’s go to far off places…”

(By the way, I wrote about the horrifying side of Teddy Ruxpin over on my blog.)

Cricket

Uploaded by Peter

No lie – I’ve had this song stuck in my head since I worked on my Cricket instruction tape article (“You and me, me and you!”).

Picture it: New Jersey, sometime in 1986. I saw a deceptively-advertised Cricket skipping along a path, I knew I wanted her for Christmas. And in December, it happened. My four-year-old heart was in love immediately. She was my “first friend” of choice, and her stories were always fun to listen and interact with. I’m not above admitting my full-out, undivided, hardcore partcipation in anything Cricket commanded.

Cricket was loads of fun until an unfortunate “traumatic event” that involved leaving the Yellow Fast Forward Button pressed overnight and this motor noise (perhaps I needed an instructional tape refresher?) that terrified my seven-year-old self. I have since hated noises that sound like the low hummings of a motor, but it may have been moreso the sound of her voice when it was obvious the batteries were drained that scared me.

Let’s just say Cricket wasn’t “Talkin’ to me” for awhile.

I did eventually play with and grew to love her all over again, but by the time I was ten years old, she was more fun for hair styling than anything (don’t worry, her hair never got cut!). She eventually went to the donation bins with other toys when I was fourteen, and I really wish I kept her.

Oh, and that “skipping” commercial? It was found, but someone butchered it…

Uploaded (and horrifyingly dubbed over!) by Jon Runnfeldt

Why, God?!

Corky

Uploaded by Teddy Ruxpin and Friends

Ah Cricket’s little brother, one of those Good Guys dolls…

I’m just kidding, this is not Chucky.  But that is the “child” voice for the “Tommy” doll that would become Chucky.

Corky was the “spin off” off Cricket, a little brother who couldn’t interact with Cricket the way Grubby could with Teddy Ruxpin. But that was ok, because he had stories and adventures all his own.

My cousin (and I think one of my friends from hgh school) had both Cricket and Corky, so I had some interaction with him in the 1980s and beyond. I see lots of You Tube comments discussing his creepiness, but he’s actually kind of cute. He would have been a welcome addition in my house.

We’ll file him under “first boyfriend” material.

Jill

Uploaded by SpacedCobraTV

“Hi, my name is Jill.  And I’m alot like you, alot like you!”

Yeah, I’m the blonde equivalent of a Chucky doll, with weird moving arms and head action that scream “I’m a cuddly android”, responding to simple “yes” and “no” commands and making her “story different,” like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book on crack.

You, my friend, are NOT alot like me.

Jill was the “older sister” of Cricket and Corky (though she didn’t have any kind of connection to them in the cannon of storytelling). Also a cassette talker type (but instead with cartridges), Julie had voice recognition capabilities, and your answer had her scroll through the catridge for the appropriate answer, changing the outcome of the “story” she told.

From what I’ve seen of Jill, she’s a motormouth. She’s a (stereo)typical teenager, but wow, she was interesting. The videos of her in action are a tad creepy, but I would have had alot of fun with this doll if I had her.

And like Cricket and Teddy Ruxpin, you’ll never get her theme song unstuck from your consciousness. You can hope for it not to enter your subconscious mind, but I’ve been woken up at 3 am because that part of my brain doesn’t shutup.

But it is so catchy!

Julie

Uploaded by spinlbl

Julie was Worlds of Wonder’s equivalent of Jill. Likely younger in represented age, Julie also used cartridges and responded to voices, but also to light changes, and had a sensor in her finger that allowed her to respond to her books by touch. She seemed ahead of her time, and decidedly less creepy than Jill.

It had to be the voice.

These Worlds of Wonder commercials had such a whimsical flair (must be the narrator, he did all of these Worlds of Wonder commercials), but this one had such a “Greatest Creation Ever” flair. This doll felt like God to the guy who wanted to scream her creation from the rooftops! Just let the little girl have her!

That guy should be aware of how God Complexes start…

Snoopy

Uploaded by UncleCathode

Uploaded by snoopsbme

Wow, Snoopy can talk!

I had no clue a Talking Snoopy was a thing until about 10 years ago. I would have expected Charlie Brown, but Worlds of Wonder really knew how to think out of the box. Snoopy’s voice conveys an infectious energy for what he usually only thinks about.

Someone buy me a Snoopy, this is too freakin’ cute!

Mickey Mouse

Uploaded by balldlocks

“Come along and join the club that’s made for you and me…”

You know the song, so why bother finishing it?

Worlds of Wonder continues on their out-of-the-box thinking by creating a talking Mickey that is more than just squeezing a tummy or hand. He tells stories and connects to Goofy with the “animation cord” that Grubby and Charlie Brown also utilized.

Mother Goose

Uploaded by Ads “R” Us

I almost owned one of these!

My mom had mentioned one time that considered buying me Mother Goose, but decided not to. I’m wondering if this was before Iexpressed interest in Cricket. Given the choice, I would rather have Cricket for the variety of games and stories she had.

I did eventually have the opportunity to play with Mother Goose when I was in kindergarten – one of my childhood friends from my dance class owned one, and yes, she was quite impressive. Not being much of a nursery rhyme/fairy tale type probably was a bigger factor in why this was probably not the best fit for me. Looking back, I would have loved this doll, but Cricket was much more my personality.

On some level, she still is.

Big Bird

Uploaded by Jason Harder

Ideal tried its hand at creating a tape talker with everyone’s favorite yellow bird. My friend from high school (who also had Cricket and Corky)  told me she used to hold this while watching Follow That Bird. I love this commercial and how engaged the kids playing are. I know they’re paid for their enthusiasm, but I’m sure this toy could spark that in real life too.

ALF

Uploaded by Allison Venezio / Allison’s Written Words (yep, yours truly!) for my Throwback Thursday article – July 20, 2017

Wisecracking ALF told the lucky children who squeezed his tummy a one-liner from his repertoire. He didn’t need tapes or cartridges, just batteries and a kid to squeeze his tummy.

I’m sure having a cat around didn’t hurt either. :-)

Coleco also manufactured this equally short-lived “tape talker” version…

Uploaded by retrontario

I could watch his ears move all day!

Baby Heather

Uploaded by PhakeNam

Baby Heather, much like Wisecracking ALF, was a “squeeze to talk doll.” Made by Mattel, she needed her hand squeezed, and she said all the usual baby things that only a fake baby could. No deciphering cries, no screaming to find out what was wrong with the doll, just her addressing her needs to you.

So realistic, you know. As realistic as talking Alien Life Forms from Melmac.

Baby Talk

Uploaded by Luigi Bastardo

This is one of those commercials that I always remembered, but could never figure out the name. I am convinced my one cousin (who had Cricket and Corky) had this one too. Baby Talk is a “squeeze to talk” baby, and like Baby Heather, can tell you exactly what it needs. I distinctly remember this doll would say that she was sleepy, and close her eyes, only to completely shut off after a short time. And she was one of those dolls that you didn’t have to keep pushing the hand – she would just talk until she was sick of you and wanted to “sleep.”

This was Galoob’s effort at a talker, but I’ve never seen any “tape talkers” among their efforts.

“Your Friend, What I’d Like To Be!”

I realize there’s alot of ground covered here, but when I was focusing on the main players of the the 1980s talking doll world, it was hard to figure out who the “main players” were. It’s obvious that there was some dominance of the “cassette talker” world, but some clearly held more ground than others.

I still find it amazing that dolls like Jill and Julie exist, and that Snoopy actually had a voice! My mom told me one time that she wanted to get me Mother Goose (and looking at it from a nostalgic point of view, that would have been so cool!). I hate that I was ever afraid of Cricket when I left her in Fast Forward button limbo, because she was such a fun doll. I’d also love to have her so I can listen to her silly stories (seriously, people of You Tube, allow me to live vicariously through you and put up some of those stories!).

As for the “Squeeze” talkers, these are classics. Lower tech in nature, but still loveable in large doses, these got plenty of attention from the happy children who got to play with them.

The advancements in technology make toys like this look silly and dated by the high standards of today’s children (so nitpicky!), but for us, they truly were a world of wonder.

I’ll be talkin’ to ya…about this again. Not this, but something similar to this.

“I’m alot like you, alot like you…”

Make Jill the Demon stop!!!!!!

Pirates of the Caribbean Models

These Pirates Of The Caribbean Models Are To Die For!

Pirates of the Caribbean Models
Welcome to The Death of Super Blog Team Up. As the title indicates, this time we’re all looking at famous deaths of fictional characters. I decided to go with a group that is more famous after dying than they were while living – the spooky skeletons of Disneyland’s classic ride Pirates Of The Caribbean.

When I was a kid plastic and balsa wood model kits were extremely popular. One of the most famous sets were for…
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
…the Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean models. One of the things which made these sets so popular is that they moved. Their Zap / Action feature was powered by rubber bands.

Thanks to the sites TAY666, The Pirate Surgeon’s Journal, Universal Monster Army, and Sweet Skulls I was able to compile a wonderful set of photos of these models. I’ll be looking at five of these awesome sets in this post.

Condemned To Chains Forever
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
For this awesome Pirates of the Caribbean models special feature we have a skeleton who is chained to a block fighting an alligator. The sword in this kit moves up and down of course.

Deadman’s Raft
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
Pirates of the Caribbean Models

I love this model. It features two skeletons. One is standing at the wheel steering the remains of the ship. The other skeleton pops up from a box and stabs a dagger in a map. Here are the model pieces still in the box.
Pirates of the Carribean Models

Fate of the Mutineers
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
A skeleton has fallen into quicksand. His fellow skeleton tries to pull him out, but only succeeds in ripping off his arm. The whole time, a giant crab lurks menacingly in the background.
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
Here are the the parts and instructions for this model.

Freed in the Nick of Time
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
In this Pirates of the Caribbean model, one skeleton with a sword has to cut free a fellow skeleton before he is dragged under by a squid.
Pirates of the Caribbean Models
Here are the parts for this model.

Fear not, Mateys, there is more pirate treasure in your future. I found so many great photos of these spooktacular models, that I’ll be featuring more in a future post.

[Via] ACME Music Net

If this taste of Pirates of the Caribbean models has you thirsty for more – why not check out the time that Johnny Depp met his animatronic self!

Please check out the other contributors to The Death of Super Blog Team Up. They’re dying to meet you.
Comic Reviews By Walt: Death of the Mutanimals (Archie-TMNT)
Longbox Graveyard: Death of Captain Marvel
Between The Pages: The Death of Spock (Wrath of Khan) This one was also written
by yours truly! Between the Pages is my other home on the web.
Chris is on Infinite Earths: Death of Supergirl
Crapbox Son of Cthulhu: Death of My Love for Marvel Comics
Comics and Coffee: Superman – The Man Who Murdered the World
Superhero Satellite: Death of a Collector’s Passion. A redemption story.
Unspoken Decade: UltraVerse – Future Shock
In My Not So Humble Opinion: The Death of Galactus

Caring For Cricket Doll With This Instructional Tape!

But first, I’ll demonstrate how to take care of a whole other kind of cricket!

It has nothing to do with doll care.

There’s a Point In Here Somewhere…

If you grew up during the magical decade of the 1980s, and you were my age, you may have had at least one talking doll-type toy. Either that, or you saw a commercial for a talking doll. The latter probably applies if you were an older kid, and dolls were so “not your age.” And that’s ok, I was you ten years later, explaining that I was “too old” for The Baby-Sitters Club.

“I’m almost thirteen! I can’t read these books anymore, and I’m NOT seeing that movie!”

(Likely my actual words)

Anyway, the actual subject…

Talking Dolls

Talking dolls are not new ground for me in my Retroist writings (Related: Do You Know the Answer…Box? and Live Action Teddy Ruxpin…Now With More Night Terrors!). I still have a working Teddy Ruxpin (ultra creepy because his eyes don’t work, so he’s sorta catatonic). And at one time, I had a Cricket Doll. Teddy stayed in my brother’s room, Cricket in mine. Both were equally fun, played with, and loved (but not to the point of damage or disrepair).

I remember wanting Cricket as a four-year-old in 1986. In fact, I think it was this commercial that did it for me…

Uploaded by Westerleb

I’m still convinced there is a commercial where she walks.

Seriously, if anyone knows what I’m talking about, please help me find that commercial! I know it exists!

False advertising aside, I got her as a Christmas present from my that year (I have to check with my mom – I think she came from my grandparents). I also have pictures from Christmas Day. Perhaps I’ll scan it, as long as my mom can easily be cropped out (or is ok with you seeing her in the background!)

Anyway…

Instruction Manuals for Kids Who Can’t Read

An Instruction manual is required/common practice for any complex-to-operate toy. However, the real struggle when marketing these toys to the younger set is that they likely don’t read or comprehend written instructions. So someone at Playmates Toys (perhaps the creators themselves?) had the right idea in creating an instruction manual that didn’t have to be read AND spoke on the level that a child would understand.

Operating and Caring For Cricket

In addition to the story/song tape (the “Unnamed/No Theme Blue Label Tape”) included with Cricket, she came with a beige label tape called Operating & Caring for Cricket, featuring Cricket’s voice, and speaking on a child’s level to explain how to care for her.

Uploaded by BB182000

Fun fact: My Cricket had the outfit in this video (Indoor Playtime).

The care tape covers the basics – battery types, inserting batteries and cassettes, auto shut off (in play mode only), the types of buttons (“The green one turns me on, and the red one turns me off!”), proper cleaning and hair care, and two things that are REALLY bad for Cricket (“Water and DIRT!”).

You know, all the usual manual information, told on a child level. I’m pretty sure the actress liked saying Alkaline batteries (AL-KA-LIIIIINE!).

Oh, and the Yellow Fast Forward/Blue Rewind buttons? For the love of everything, press the Red Stop Button when she’s done. There’s nothing quiet nightmare fuel-inducing like waking up to the sound of the tape deck motor.

I know this from experience.

There’s Just One More Thing…

I found this tape (strangely) fascinating, and listened to it like its a normal part of the whole “Cricket Experience.” Further adding to that “fascination,” Side B of this tape worked properly in any cassette player.

Guess who listened to it in their Walkman?

I’m not above admitting my guilt, folks. It’s why you read my stuff – you pretty much expect it!

And now that you know all about how to operate Cricket doll (including using AL-KA-LINE batteries?!), get out there and operate her properly! Why? Because you want that sickeningly sweet/cute voice to terrify you for a long, long time.

Further Reading…

In May 2017, I wrote a post that demonstrates what a Cricket cassette sounds like in your standard tape deck (among other things).

This Happened With Our Very Nostalgic Technology!

I’m always trying to find out things about my beloved talking dolls.

Let’s just say that “I’ll be talkin’ to ya” about it again!

Too sickeningly cute?

Thunder Road

1986’s Thunder Road Was Inspired By The Road Warrior!

I feel I should clarify how Thunder Road wasn’t exactly inspired by 1981’s The Road Warrior. In all honesty I should say Thunder Road totally copied elements from Mad Max creator, George Miller’s epic post-apocalyptic film!

[Via] Warner Bros.

Now before I jump into Thunder Road proper. This is the point where I remind you that in my youth my father didn’t exactly curb what movies we were watching because of ratings. In 1981 for example some parents might have certainly questioned taking a nine-year-old with them to The Road Warriorr. My Father of course was a single parent and when a film came along he wished to see he would take me. As long as he thought I could handle the subject matter that is.

Having said that I can also add that the young man at the box office gave us a questioning look when we bought our tickets.
Thunder Road

Anyway, a mere five years after The Road Warrior blew audiences away. Milton Bradley delivered Thunder Road! These following images as well as information about the game comes courtesy of BoardGameGeek.

Instead of Max Rockatansky’s last of the V8 Interceptors. Players in Milton Bradley’s board game use the Avenger.

Thunder Road

Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.


Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.

Furthermore, players in Thunder Road have two additional road vehicles. The Eliminator is of course inspired by Pappagallo’s “Lone Wolf” custom built vehicle from the 1981 film.

Thunder Road

Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.


Thunder Road
Thunder Road

Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.

The last road vehicle, The Doom Buggy, is naturally based off some of the marauder dune buggies from The Road Warrior.

Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.



Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.

Players have one other vehicle they can count on during the game. That would be the Thunder Chopper, which appears to be their answer to the Gyro Captain.

Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.


Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.

So you might be wondering how Thunder Road plays out, right? Each player selects their colored vehicles and then attempts to accomplish one of two things. Destroy every vehicle of your opposing players by shooting or ramming into them. Or on the other hand you can simply try to outdistance them, leave them behind you.

Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.

It is important to realize that there are two game boards that connect to make up the highway. The first car to reach the end of the second board then takes the first piece and puts it in front. Woe be to those vehicles of course that were on the flipped first board. As they are now completely out of the game!

[Via] Spaced Cobra TV

Now here is the part where I sadly have to tell you some bad news. While the game is available out there on Ebay…the prices are nuts. Ranging anywhere from $60 dollars for an incomplete edition to $250 for a complete version.

Thanks to BoardGameGeek it appears that there has been quite a following built up around this 1986 board game. And I highly suggest you follow the link to check how players have modded the game and pieces to fit in with the Mad Max universe.

Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.

In that Mad Max: Fury Road inspired game of Thunder Road…I believe I can make out Coma the Doof Warrior!


“Leading us into battle was Coma The Doof Warrior. Blind since birth. Coma wore a mask made from the dried skin of his murdered mother’s screaming face. His fire breathing weapon played the music of mayhem, It whipped us into a bloody battle rage”

Eclipso '66

Eclipso ’66…Playing Cards With Batman Part Two

Welcome back to the Best Event Ever, an annual team-up of podcasts and blogs. Last year, we looked at Bloodlines, this year we’re tackling the 25th anniversary of Eclipso: The Darkness Within.

A brief recap from the first post about the Batman card game. Eclipso: The Darkness Within was the 2nd attempt by DC Comics to turn the character into a major villain like The Joker, Lex Luthor, and Darkseid. Believe it or not, DC’s first attempt to make him famous occurred all the way back in the Bat-tastic Year 1966.

There is so much cool Eclipso ‘66 stuff, that it will take separate posts to cover it. It all started in fact with Eclipso ‘66…What A Puzzling Beginning! – looking at some wonderful Batman ’66 puzzles made by Whitman.
Eclipso - Batman

In addition, as a reminder these images are courtesy of Vintage Batman and Willie Baronet. The wonderful Batman card game also featured character portraits for:
Eclipso '66
Eclipso '66
Batman and Robin out of costume.

Eclipso '66
Their amazing butler, who unfortunately looks nothing like the wonderful Alan Napier.

Eclipso '66
Since Dick Grayson is an orphan, I always assumed that Harriet Cooper was Bruce Wayne’s Aunt. I was surprised to learn that she is in fact Dick Grayson’s Aunt.

Eclipso '66
Unfortunately, Commissioner Gordon’s sidekick Chief O’Hara didn’t get a card.

Eclipso '66
Instead, the boys in blue are represented by this card.

Eclipso '66
The Mayor of Gotham City also makes an appearance. Again, he looks nothing like Mayor Linseed.

Batman has the coolest vehicles around, so thankfully they get their own cards as well.
Eclipso '66

Of all the Batmobiles, the one from this TV series is my favorite. Launchpad McQuack could do a better job flying the Batplane!
Eclipso '66

Eclipso '66
This is probably my favorite card in the whole set. It is so silly. It looks even less air worthy than the Flintstone Flyer. Image from the amazing Cartoon Brew.
Eclipso '66 - Flintstone Flyer

What would Batman be without his rogues gallery? This card game features seven more villains in addition to Eclipso ’66 and the Queen Bee. Batman’s big four – Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and Riddler are present.
Eclipso '66
Eclipso '66
Eclipso '66
These days, Cat Woman is one word.

Eclipso '66
Did you know that before Frank Gorshin’s wonderful performance as the Riddler, he was a minor Batman villain who didn’t appear in comics very often?

Eclipso '66
Mr. Zero was the original name of Mr. Freeze. But, I don’t think he was ever referred to as Mr. Zero in Batman ‘66.

Eclipso '66
Calendar Man is a really odd choice because in back in 1966, he was a minor villain with only a handful of appearances. It wasn’t until 1996 and Batman: The Long Halloween that he became popular.

Eclipso '66
Blockbuster was a brand new Bat-villain who first appeared in November 1965. While he is still around, he never became a major Bat-villain.


Image courtesy of YvonneCraig.Com My only complaint about this set of cards is that Batgirl wasn’t included. But in all fairness, Yvonne Craig didn’t appear on Batman ‘66 until September 1967. That is a year after these cards were produced. So, I think I can forgive her absence. :)

Remember to revisit The Retroist in a few days for the conclusion of the Eclipso ‘66 trilogy.


Next time out, we’ll be reading comic books together. You won’t want to miss this because one of Eclipso’s relatives and the Queen Bee’s fiancé will be joining us. Hint: they both also appeared in this post. Want to read or listen to more about Eclipso? Check out the other amazing Best Event Ever members:
Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill
Chris is on Infinite Earths
Coffee & Comics Podcast
For the Non-Discerning Reader
I’m The Gun
The Pop Culture Palace
Relatively Geeky Network
Rolle Spine Podcasts