When I was a kid I had a toy robot called “Crackbot”.
This toy was released by TOMY in the 80’s as part of a line of toy robots that had electronics, and each had some type of gimmick.
Crackbot had an antennae tail with a sound sensor on the top. Any short sharp loud sound would make him stop rolling around, and nod his head up and down a few times, then continue on his merry way. He had a pudgy round body, oblong-ish head and his arms would swing back and forth as he moved.
It was a cool toy, and I liked it.
However it’s not much of a play pattern. You turn it on, watch it roll around the kitchen floor for five, ten minutes tops. Then you put it away and find something else to play with.
It was not a hands-on type of toy. Picking it up meant it was not rolling around on the floor. I guess I got bored of it after a few months, then it faded into the background of my other childhood toys.
Fast forward a few decades, and I find myself browsing various vintage 80’s robot toys on my tablet in bed at night. Thanks to some of the fan made websites such as the excellent The Old Robots we have a nice reference for anyone looking for information and pictures of the toy lines.
Top stuff, I should really contact whoever runs that site for a Q&A. The Old Robots is a great reference on all types of vintage robots from around the world. The best site possible for any kind of collector to stumble over.
Hundreds of photographs, technical specifications, tips on mods and restorations, and loads of great images of box art, old advertorials – just a fantastic resource and clearly a passion project.
Anyway, so I started feeling nostalgic particularly for the TOMY line of toy robots, and could not quite put my finger on it.
It’s not the electronics and gimmicks which appeal, though they are cool. It’s not that I want to play with them – as there is not a lot you can do with them. Well you can mod the fancy ones to do all sorts of things, making it closer to the Robo-Butler it was advertised as being for badly dressed lazy 80’s kids too busy playing video games to get their own damn snacks.
It’s really the aesthetics of the toys that I love.
Those cute faces and pudgy proportions are just adorable.
Which are beautifully highlighted in some fine digital art by Rocky Bergen.
These smaller TOMY robots look like they want to help out, or could just be cool Robo-Pets for kids.
They are quite beautiful to my eye and then the nostalgia comes in as they have the look of a certain era. The TOMY robots are unmistakably 80’s Japanese toy robots, but they also look like they take their design cues from Futurism, with a little Star Wars and 2001 mixed in.
Their bone white non-color [HOUSE RULE: The Future – Bone White, Space Age] is a staple of science fiction design, the clean white look associated often with advanced technology and Star Ships. Both Star Wars and Star Trek used bold iconic bone white and off white star ships in their various fiction. The TOMY robots unique look also has some of its roots and influence in the architecture and interior decoration elements of Modernism.
So Modernism, Futurism, Japanese Robots and Science Fiction – all those influences are there for the appreciative eye to see in these cute toy robots from TOMY.
The build quality of TOMY toys is typically quite high – they have made a diverse range of quality toys for several decades. TOMY robots are quite fun, and most of them if you pick them up today are broken, but fixable.
I’m useless at fixing things.
So mainly I’m starting a small mini-collection of a select few 80’s robots. It’s like “I’m putting a team together, we’re looking for a few good robots”
Some of the Bots I am looking for are by TOMY, and some by other companies such as the “Talkabot” by AXLON I picked up recently from an ebay auction.
The criteria for me to include such a robot is really it’s aesthetics, more than any features or gimmicks. And I dig robots that vow not to join the Robo-Revolution when it arises. Ever notice how a lot of Japanese robots are quite helpful, or even full on Heroic if you count Super-Robot Mecha like Voltron or Combattler V -while american Robots tend to want to kill us all.
So… Talkabot is an exceptionally cute little fellow.
I’m using stock photos from the wonderful The Old Robots site again here, as I can’t find my photos of the one I own just now, and he’s wedged in between some various Transformers toys, with no dedicated space of his own just yet.
I do have the box, but it’s flat with no foam and a bit tattered.
The Talkabot I bought on ebay still works partly. The motor spins, but the wheel is not moving. I think it’s fixable.
His walkie talkie speaks through his chest, and you control him with the same radio control to drive him around. Except the wheel is not catching properly – a common problem with these old robots. Talkabots little crab hands have a pinch gimmick. A spring keeps them tight, you can open them and put a piece of paper or something small in there for him to carry around while you drive him with the remote.
My next robot I’m hunting will be a Crackbot to replace the one I had when I was a kid.
I don’t have that one anymore, no idea what happened to it.
Seen a few on ebay here and there, but after one that is in good condition and not with faded / yellowed plastic – that yellow fading really ruins the look of these cool robots. If you want good condition ones you have to pay a fair amount for them.
MISB and boxed ones are much higher again, and really out of my price range. I go for loose or unboxed Robo’s, in good clean condition with no major damage to the body shell – but I’m not worried about the interior electronics and such. Often it’s worth paying just a *little* more for a working or fixable robot than a total junker. I’ll take some proper photos of TalkaBot when he has a better area to be displayed in.
I look forward to picking up a number of TOMY 80’s retro robots over the the next year or two, starting with my childhood Crackbot, who took no part in the 80’s drugs wars.