The 9 Most Terrific Thing-Makers In Toydom

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?The urge to create — to make, if you will — bubbles inside every young toy enthusiast. Some satiate this need by hacking radio-controlled cars; some spend all their time building with Legos or customizing action figures; still others prefer instead to start from scratch. These children inevitably begged their parents and legal guardian for a “thing-maker.”

“Thing-maker” sets allowed children to effectively create their own toys and action figures from raw materials. Kids had to pour
molds, stamp plastic sheets and even melt down raw materials to produce the final product — while trying to avoid burning their fingers or setting their little sister’s hair on fire in the process, since thing-makers inevitably heated up to several million degrees Fahrenheit in order to melt and mold plastic.

In today’s world of high-tech 3-D printers and relatively inexpensive
prototyping tools, it’s easy to take previous decades’ “thing-maker”
toys for granted, but they were and are worthy of note. Continue reading to celebrate 10 venerable toys that made toys, a process as strange and wonderful as pandas mating.

9) Terminator Bio-Flesh Regenerator

Even though the logic behind encasing robots in organic material to allow them to time travel isn’t 100 percent sound (beyond putting a human actor in charge of a robot role), it makes for a delightfully gross toy concept. The Terminator Bio-Flesh Regenerator gave kids fresh out of Terminator 2: Judgment Day the chance to rip Schwarzenegger’s grimace apart again and again to reveal a formerly murderous metallic skull. It’s a shame this creepy assembly-line fun didn’t resurge for Salvation, as kids need to prepare for the upcoming robot war now more than ever.

8) X-Men Weapon X Lab

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?Pretty much the same concept as the Terminator’s Bio-Flesh Regenerator, this Wolverine-centric toy gave users a chance to reverse the process. Instead of grafting flesh to a cybernetic skeleton, they were instead pumping metal into a fleshy body. A more accurate toy would have included an escaped Wolvie’s rebellious berserker rage, but Toy Biz was wise not to build it in, as it would have resulted in many, many X-fan casualties.

7) Strange Change Time Machine

Decades before kids were storing monsters on CDs in Monster Rancher or tossing Pok?mon into spherical storage devices, the Strange Change Time Machine compressed and decompressed dinosaurs and other beasts into stackable disks. Like many of the makers on this list, the Strange Change Time Machine saw multiple releases under a few different names, proving the concept of bizarre animal storage as ageless as the plastic foam used to pull it off.

6) Johnny Toymaker

Never before has a complex toymaker transferred the effects of Beatlemania upon so many young boys than in this old school Johnny Toymaker commercial. Artificial televised hoot’n and holler’n aside, JT seems to communicate the simplicity of a, oh, 30-step process in one loud, dizzying ad. In reality, the skills learned through this process are pretty valuable to a life-long toy nerd, which means that although Johnny Toymaker wasn’t perfect, today’s action figure customizers can probably see the value in having owned one.

5) Vac-U-Form

Even though it mostly just stamped out plastic plate-like shells, the Vac-U-Form’s sheer shaping capacity is extremely impressive. While many of its molds required auxiliary parts to become fully functional playthings (cars needed chassis and wheels, etc.) early users surely felt empowered by its industrial-strength output capacity and the toy’s commercial’s encouragement to customize.

4) Nickelodeon Melt-O-Matic


?Nickelodeon’s plastic-casting toy may not have packed many molds, but the glue-gun like process of melting down colored cylinders is novel enough to commend. Depending on one’s tolerance of Rocketpower, it may seem like a shame to see the toy devoted to one property. The greatest advantage of the toy, however, was removing the safeguards to coat other action figures/items with bulky plastic. Modding made simple, even if it likely violated users’ limited warranty.

3) Metal Molder

While most thingmakers count on the relatively low melting/curing point of plastics, the Metal Molder instead gave users the chance to cast a metallic substance into the shapes they desired. Made by Toymax (the company responsible for popularizing Creepy Crawlers in the ’90s), the toy melted down small metallic pellets before solidifying them into a number of shapes, including cars, skulls and robots. Pieces were typically smaller than most plastic-based thingmakers, but the novelty of self-casting something a bit less rubbery than other machines offered was likely satisfying for many.

2) Super Injector


?Toymax’s Super Injector was a dream come true for fans of green army men. There were several maker models; each packed with an appropriately themed playset and vehicle. The alien series contained a UFO set, the military maker came with a combat scene and the robot maker included a factory locale. Even though the machine is relatively limited in terms of toy diversity, just the thought of a limitless supply of green army men to destroy is enough to send most into a state of temporary near-catatonic bliss.

1) Creepy Crawlers

Even though this thingmaker hasn’t seen a proper release in a few years and bounced between Mattel, Toymax and Jakks Pacific in its almost five decades of production, Creepy Crawlers is probably the most recognizable goop-baking toy on the list. After all, how many other thingmakers had an animated series and an action figure line? Between its standard bug molds to its numerous licensed trays, there’s not a lot kids couldn’t make by pouring Plasti-Goop into a mold and curing it in the Magic Maker. Though it’s currently between releases after Pok?mon and Star Wars-themed sets hit the market in the late 2000’s, many fans probably wouldn’t mind picking one up after losing their originals to garage sales.