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Slime Time!

The rise of gooey, drippy slime related toys from the 80’s to the early 90’s is an interesting phenomenon when you consider that fact that many homes still had shag carpeting left over from the 70’s which was in mortal danger of being encrusted with the sticky stuff. But there’s no denying that every kid in the latter part of the 20th century wanted to be gross and make their Mom’s squeal in horror at the sight of the stuff. So let’s take a look at how the toy manufacturers cashed in on this freaky fad.

As you can see, “Slime in a can” took many forms from 1986 until about 1994. It seemed that every major boys action figure line had a reason for their heroes and villains to “Get Goopey”.  My first introduction to the idea of toy slime was through the Masters of The Universe playset The Horde Slime Pit in 1986. Although Hordak and the gang battled She-Ra pretty exclusively in animated form, the “real hair” of those action dolls was definitely not made to get gunked-up with goo, hence the villains showing up in Eternia with this diabolical contraption.

Apparently The Horde’s plan was not to attack the good guys, but rather to make themselves the supreme bad guys of the universe by wiping out the competition. At least this is the conclusion I am drawing from the box art. Instead of He-Man getting glooped, Skeletor’s henchman, Beast-Man is the subject of the slime torture, which is a pretty baffling choice. Really though, when you get to watch slime pour out of a giant dinosaur skull (that looks to be a cousin of the Battle Bones figure carrier), character motivations become a secondary concern.

The best part was that you didn’t have to buy the playset to get in on the super slime action, Horde Slime was available in individual cans and placed right next to the figures in toy aisles! It makes a lot of sense when you think about it, how many kids really made an effort to get the stuff back in the canister after slathering Buzz-Off in sludge? The stuff would dry up and be useless in 24 hours, so of course we were going to come back for more. Or maybe we would just trade our Slime for Ecto-Plazm…

By 1987, The Real Ghostbusters cartoon and accompanying toy line were in full swing, with a major focus on that little green ghosty, Slimer. This being the case, it’s strange that Kenner never produced their line of Ecto-Plazm in green. Instead you had your choice of pink, red, yellow and even blue to use as evidence of ghostly encounters. In my mind, Ghostbusters was the franchise whose inclusion of slime made the most sense. If you consider the infamous scene in the first film where Venkman gets slimed and the rivers of the stuff that were the major plot point of the sequel, it was a no-brainer. That’s not to say that another franchise didn’t have a reason to reach for the power of the Ooze!

It’s funny how as each new fad conquered popular culture, they pretty much just did the same thing as the former champion, but with new character designs. Enter the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their Retromutagen Ooze. Though I always thought it was a missed opportunity that they didn’t put the stuff in the infamous canisters from the comics/cartoon that broke and resulted in their transformation, the fact that they included a glow-in the dark turtle toy embedded in the stuff was fantastic.

They even had an “evil” version of the slime, the unfortunately named “Foot Ooze”. Seeing as the Foot Clan soldiers in the cartoon were robots, I can’t imagine what they would be oozing, unless it was motor oil. The TMNT line also had a similar torture device to The Horde’s Slime Pit (Maybe Shredder and Hordak have the same slime supplier?) called The Flushomatic. Essentially a captured turtle was strapped to a table, subjected to the ooze, which would then turn them back into a normal pet. Plus Playmates even created a toy called Muck-Man who’s whose action feature was that he had holes in his body where the ooze could drip out from!

While we’re on the subject of green creatures mutated by toxic waste, I think it’s time to mention a slime tie-in to a lesser known franchise, Toxic Crusaders. Inspired by the raunchiest, least kid-friendly movies from Troma Studios, The Toxic Avenger. This short-lived 1991 cartoon was actually a lot of fun and the theme song was awesome.  Playmates also produced this line of action figures and I proudly included Toxie in my action figure adventures alongside the turtles.

I actually was not aware until researching for this article that this line included a slime accessory pack, but seeing as how none of these characters would have existed without a can of toxic waste, it’s actually the most essential part of the story. I think Toxic Crusaders kind of spelled the end for the mutated creatures as heroes fad, seeing as they pretty much took it to the 90’s NEON EXTREME. The inheritor of the action figure throne for the 5 years following were the X-Men toys featuring mutants that were a little more pleasing to the eye.

Stepping back into mid-80’s but away from the action figure genre, the quintessential use of slime in a toy for me was the Mad Scientist Dissect and Alien kit. Coming out a decade before FOX aired that TV special with “actual video footage” of such an event, aspiring morticians could prepare for their future livelihood in toy form. My friend’s older brother had one of these sets and it always fascinated/repulsed me.

The idea was that you loaded the alien body with plastic body parts and filled it with slime, you then proceeded to harvest the organs for scientific study (or to throw them at your little sister, your choice).  So it’s basically a slightly more realistic version of the board game Operation…with alien monsters. The gross-out factor if this toy was very high and the manufacturers didn’t shy away from it. Just look at the graphics on the box with the slime oozing out from the opened corpse, I mean that is the best kind of gruesome. I feel like these are the kinds of toys that are so exclusively 80’s that we will never see again.

Of course as we bring this article to a close there’s no way we can leave out a mention of 90’s sensation, Nickelodeon’s GAK. Inspired by the slime from You Can’t Do That On Television which became their trademark (though bearing little resemblance to that chunky green substance), GAK was the next step in the evolution of slime. Coming in a rainbow of colors, it was more durable than anything that had come before it and seem to be meant for multiple uses.

In the early days the packaging encouraged kids to “Glurp” and “Flurp” the GAK by smooshing it back into its plastic container, but eventually they created playsets that let you write on GAK or pump it with air. Plus they took it to the next level with scented GAK, Glow In The Dark GAK, even Solar GAK, it was madness! Also (and this may be totally sexist of me), I feel like this is the point in history where girls actually started playing with slime because GAK was gender-nuetral.

It’s almost as if the slime from all these boy toy lines got spun-off into its own more successful franchise and soon it was the superstar adored by 100% of the audience. Along with Koosh balls, I didn’t know any child in my elementary school from ‘92-’94 who didn’t have a container of GAK somewhere in their house and when you can buy tubs of any product you know it’s become a big deal. To me GAK represents the pinnacle of “slimeocity”, the standard by which all other slimes must be measured. If there was to be a nation of slime, GAK would surely be the emperor.

So tell me about your favorite slimey products. What did I miss?

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pikachulover Posted on Oct 01, 2014 at 02:09 AM

My dolls weren't eating french fries and Perrier. It was more runny than slimy.

Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 30, 2014 at 05:11 PM

@pikachulover: Somehow I am seeing that mixture of water and Playdoh as coming out looking like the dinner served in Better Off Dead...

pikachulover Posted on Sep 30, 2014 at 02:29 AM

I liked to play with the vending machine slime you could get for a quarter. I like silly putty too.

When I was like 8 I made my own slime out of dried up playdoh and water. I was trying to revive it, but I made slime instead. I used to use it as baby food for my dolls and "food" in my play dishes. Some of the dishes are stained from the slime I made.

Nickelodeon Floam was awful! It made a mess everywhere! Zand was better.

Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 30, 2014 at 02:09 AM

In answer to that question, it could be worse. Stinkor.

Great article! I myself enjoyed the Slime Pit, but aside from that I played very little with slime related toys. I think the down sides that you described here were all it took to make me NOT a slime fan. Silly Putty on the other hand...

Hoju Koolander Posted on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:32 PM

@NLogan I thought I remembered that being part of the deal. Still, as incompetent as Beast-Man was, would he really be your first choice of evil minion?

NLogan Posted on Sep 29, 2014 at 10:19 PM

Nice. The Evil Horde Slime Pit created slaves/zombies/slime monsters. Whoever was slimed inside the pit, became under the control of Hordak to do his bidding.

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