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Official Article

90s Toy Dress-Up Kits

In part one of this series we explored the radical dress-up kits based on 80s toy properties like Masters of the Universe, Transformers, Centurions and even Robocop. This time around we're exploring how the trend continued to grow and innovate in the 90s. So let's roll!

Batman Armor and Crime Control Set, Kenner

At the time that Tim Burton's 1989 Batman hit theaters a company called Toy Biz released some sub-par action figures based on the movie, but in 1991 Kenner got the rights to produce the finest Batman figure line ever called The Dark Knight Collection. Along with beautifully crafted likenesses of the movie actors, we also got dress up kits like this Batman Armor Set. Just look at the wide-eyed look on that kid, he is ready to strike fear into the hearts of criminals with molded plastic muscles and bat-wing cape.

The back of the box reveals just how awesome that Armor Glove could be. Hard plastic projectile features have gone out of style in our litigious society, but in the 90s kids were actually equipped to do some damage. All you had to do was form a fist, press a button and 2 "Claw Missiles" would shoot out. That is power! But wait, there's more...

You couldn't feel like you were doing Batman playtime justice if you weren't rockin' a fully equipped utility belt and this one will have you asking, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?" OK, so the "Freeze Ray weapon" is about 3 movies to early and off-brand for the caped crusader, but that light-up belt buckle is fantastic.

Looking on the back we can see that the remaining trio of items including binoculars, walkie-talkie and microphone (for when Batman hosts The Price Is Right) could be attached to the Freeze Ray gun in order to form a super weapon worthy of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. So wacky, but so fun!

Captain America Accessory Playset, Toy Biz

So as lackluster as their Batman offerings were, Toy Biz quickly jumped ship from DC to produce Marvel Super Heroes action figures. Though I collected them, I was aware of the lesser quality of production. That being said, we didn't have anything better at the time. Part of the extension of that line were dress-up kits like this Captain America outfit. If you ask me, it looks about as good as the Reb Brown Captain America outfit in the late 70s TV movie, which is to say, not that great. I can give Toy Biz points for comics accuracy, but what they really excel at is awkwardness. That tiny "Flying Disc Shield" looks like a personal pan pizza and the chest piece just kind of hangs there like a "Gone Fishing" sign. But their offerings would improve with time, so read through to the end for that revelation.

Hook, Mattel

I was absolutely obsessed with Steven Spielberg's Hook upon its release. I bought trading cards, action figures and even had a Hook birthday party where everybody arrived in pirate garb. Had I known about these dress-up sets, it would have enhanced the experience ten-fold. First things first, that chest plate is just a re-painted version of the gold New Adventures of He-Man one covered in the previous installment with a pirate skull slapped on it instead of the He-Man logo. I also love that in addition to an earring they included an eye patch with the name Hook molded into it. Classy.

There were also two major weapons accessories released. The first came in the form of a Peter Pan Battle Sword which as you'll recall in the film was passed from Rufio to Peter to Thudbutt (hee-hee). The special feature of this sword was that it made pinging sounds as you slashed it around. I have to admit that the swiss-army style Tri-Hook is much cooler, especially with that golden skull sporting jewel eyes. That's some Pirate Bling, Mateys. The hook being flanked by two different knives also adds a level of danger, as I'm sure several kids were poked in the eyes, making that branded Hook eye patch more of a necessity than a luxury.

Apparently there were a whole lot of carded weapons sets as well, though I have to admit I never came across these on toy store pegs. That skull compass was a pretty popular insert and we see the Hook eye-patch making a return appearance. I'm most fascinated by the yellow suction cup ninja star as part of the Lost Boys Weapons set on the bottom that also included a suction cup dart gun.

X-Men Dress-Up Playset, Toy Biz

I told you we'd come back around to Toy Biz and this Wolverine kit is one that I actually owned. What kid didn't want their own set of adamantium claws to walk around with? I recall a neighborhood Halloween party where a kid's mom had sewed him a full Wolverine costume and these 2 items were the finishing touches. Our resident expert, NLogan will surely note that there is no comic book point of reference for Wolverine having a red "Flexi-Claw" glove, but the mask is pretty darn accurate at least.

Here we have a chance for kids to dress-up as Wolverine's rival for Jean Grey's affections, Cyclops. If I'm being honest, I was much more of a Cyclops fan than Wolverine in terms of character design. I just loved the look of that visor, which always reminded me of Robocop (though X-Men predates that 80's movie icon). That being said, I think the reason I never bought this was the dumb piece of plastic replicating the hood that Scott Summers wore up until the Jim Lee redesign when his brown locks were allowed to flow freely. The light up feature is cool, but why couldn't Toy Biz have just made a stand alone visor?

Finally we have the kit that allowed 3rd graders everywhere to take on the persona of the Master of Magnetism, Magneto. That is as faithful recreation of Magneto's helmet as we were going to see until the end of X-Men: First Class more than a decade later. The disc-shooting glove feature is pretty cool as play weapons go, but the text on the box refers to loading a "Magnetic Disk" into a "Magnetic Glove" neither of which are accurate descriptions. If they had been able to incorporate actual magnetism into this kit, it would have taken the fun to another level.

These are far from the only dress-up kits of the 90s (with many more by Toy Biz), but they are surely some of the flashiest. Now I want to hear about the other play weapons and dress-up playsets you remember from this era. What did I miss?
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jkatz Posted on Oct 08, 2018 at 06:44 AM

They didn't make one of those Batman dressup kits for Batman Forever, did they? Were there little kids running around in nipple armor in the 90s? (I mean outside of Gary Glitter's house).

That Captain America mask is more proof that some designs just don't work in real life. Those wings look ridiculous!

NLogan Posted on Oct 07, 2018 at 09:29 PM

Wow I never even saw half of those back in the day. For sure I saw the Batman stuff with the light up belt, etc. The Wolverine stuff (the claws really put me off) never got it, and the Magneto stuff. That Spider-Man one is the coolest along with the Batman mask.

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