?More than 60 years after they first hit the market, Colorforms are still being produced today. That my friends is called staying power. The brand is currently owned by University Games, who in recent years have released Colorforms based on Yo Gabba Gabba! and SpongeBob SquarePants. Even though it is extraordinarily difficult for such a low-tech plaything to compete these days, these toys that “stick like magic” continue to endure. This is due to issues ranging from familiarity and nostalgia to the fact that Colorforms still inspire imagination in an era when most of their competitors do not.
Back in 2008, Topless Robot looked at the 5 Greatest (and 5 Most Ridiculous) Colorforms Playsets. Today’s Daily List drops the negative aspect of its predecessor to again focus on the cream of the Colorforms crop. From oddities that reveal the secret kinks of your favorite Hanna-Barbera characters to playtime’s final frontier, here are 10 more of the greatest Colorforms playsets.
Holy nostalgia, Batman! Over the years, there have been several Batman-themed Colorforms released. These are hands down the best. (Although the Superadventure Colorforms playset that also featured Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman is well worth braving the online marketplace to seek out). As you may have guessed from the Adam West-esque voiceover of the above commercial, this was released in conjunction with the 1960s Batman TV series. The removable limbs of the characters as featured here is suitably cheesy given the source material that this set was based on. Will Batman and the Boy Wonder save the day? With this set, the fate of Gotham City is in your hands. No pressure, kids.
9) The Flintstones Cartoon Set
?Was Bedrock secretly a town full of swingers? That seems to be what this Colorforms set from 1972 implies. Here we see Wilma and Betty wearing revealing dresses while Fred and Barney stand around in their skivvies. The instructions claim that this is so users of the set can choose the characters’ wardrobes. Though the smart money says that they are just waiting for Mr. and Mrs. Slate to arrive so their key party can start. After all, it was the ’70s.
8) Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog Dream Date
It’s the question that Muppet lovers and degenerates alike have agonized over for years: what would a romantic evening between Kermit and Miss Piggy be like? In 1981, Colorforms revealed the answer to this question…and it wasn’t pretty. This toy is called “Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog Dream Date,” so it’s a safe bet that this was an accurate representation of what the pair’s mutual idea of what a perfect night out is. The troubling thing is that out of an infinite amount of possible date scenarios the one they settled upon involved forcing their friends to serve/entertain them. They fantasized about it. That’s some sick shit. It makes you wonder if the Muppets just a conduit for Jim Henson’s thoughts about indentured servitude. You just know they didn’t tip poor Fozzie well, and one can only imagine how many times Miss Piggy insisted on having the Electric Mayhem play “Never Before, Never Again.” Then to top things off, she went home and bitched about the restaurant on Yelp. It may have been a dream date for the frog and pig, but for everyone else involved it was a fucking nightmare.
7) Smurf Land
The 1980s were a magical decade where Smurfs were harmless cartoon characters as opposed to the unkillable CGI terrors they are today. During the heyday of Smurf mania, Colorforms released this deluxe playset that offered up a massive recreation of the Smurf Village. What was especially fun about this set is that the background opened out on both sides to enlarge the playing area. Additionally, it came with 43 different pieces which resulted in an enormous amount of replay value. That’s more Smurf for your buck folks. Of course, the large amount of Colorforms included with this means that finding a complete set these days is about as rare as seeing female sex organs in Smurf Village. After all, it’s not like kids give a Smurf about keeping toys intact. Smurf.
?Not to be confused with the Gremlins Deluxe Playset that appeared on the previous list, this release featured a mock up of Billy Peltzer’s bedroom (and no, pervs, a Colorform mock-up of Phoebe Cates’ Kate character wasn’t included). Instead, the diorama recreates the scene in which Gizmo first spawns some additional Mogwai. What’s nice about this playset is that it perfectly compliments the deluxe playset that chronicles events from later in the film. When utilized together they both gave 1980s kids the chance to recreate the movie whenever they liked in lieu of a decent line of action figures.
5) Dungeons & Dragons
?Meet your new toy obsession. When D&D popularity was peaking in the mid-1980s, TSR’s role-playing empire had extended to ancillary products like LJN’s ill-fated action figure line and this set. This was released roughly around the same time as the figures, and as such feature the same unjustly forgotten characters (Strongheart, we hardly ye). What it lacks in mainstream popularity, it more than makes up for in execution. Both the background and character art for this set is the finest for any Colorforms set — even though it somewhat comedically features a dungeon and a dragon. Overlooking that bit of literal goofiness, it’s tough not to admire this. If nothing else it serves as an example of just how far-reaching the D&D phenomenon was in the 1980s.
4) The Count’s Colorforms Castle
?Proving that not all educational toys have to be lame, this had Sesame Street’s resident bloodsucker teaching pre-schoolers how to count from one to ten. A bit more interactive than most Colorforms toys, it allowed kids to turn a dial that changed the number and picture that appeared in the middle of the background. After the learning was through, kids enjoyed a monster party in which the Count hosted guests ranging from Grover to Harry Monster. The result? One, one cool Colorforms toy! Bwahaha.
3) King Kong’s Panorama Play Set
?The gifts given to us by 1976’s remake of King Kong include Charles Grodin doing a dry run of the sort of villainous character he would go on to master in The Great Muppet Caper, some impressive (for its time) effects work by Rick Baker, Jessica Lange playing a character with the dumbest name for a female lead in movie history (Dwan!) and a merchandising onslaught that gave us this inventive toy. This billed itself as “a super colossal King Kong size Colorforms set,” and that was no lie. The thing was a behemoth that featured a 32-inch, two-sided play area. One side featured Skull Island, with the reverse showcasing the New York City skyline and World Trade Center. As for the titular gorilla, he came with interchangeable limbs that could be posed on the diorama. Post-9/11, these sets tend to go for ridiculous amounts of money on eBay. So if you see one at a yard sale, pounce.
2) Desktop Mad Men/The Nicolas Cage Adventure Set (tie)
Sometimes the best Colorforms are those of the knock-off variety. Thus we have these unofficial Colorform representations of two quite different pop culture titans. The Desktop Mad Men features vinyl versions of Don Draper and company that you can stick and lift against any of the four included backgrounds: the Sterling Cooper office, the Draper kitchen, a bar and a hotel room. Fittingly, all of the characters are posed in such a way that you can place their drink of choice (included as accessories) in their eagerly awaiting hands. The set was designed by Dyna Moe, the artist who was also responsible for the Mad Men Yourself craze of a few years back. Interestingly enough, the Desktop Mad Men set captures the tone of its source material better than any officially licensed Colorforms set ever did. Unfortunately, this was only made available to journalists and advertisers in order to promote the third season of the series. Expect to pay roughly $25 online if you want one of your own.
Equally wonderful is the Nicolas Cage Adventure Set, artist Brandon Bird’s tribute to everybody’s favorite batshit crazy thespian. For a mere $12, you can order yourself one and see what happens when Nic Cage visits a haunted house and/or travels to a tropical island — the included backgrounds for the set. This one comes with three unique versions of Cage, as well as accessories ranging from a cloaked skeleton to an ice cream cone (the only downside to this is that it will make you long for an animated Nicolas Cage series in which he solves crimes with the aid of a snack-loving dog and a team of racially diverse gymnasts). To be honest, the only thing from keeping these physical realizations of awesomeness from topping the list is that they aren’t officially licensed Colorforms sets. Make no mistake though, they rule.
1) Star Trek
With the possible exception of the Mego action figures, no 1970s toy based on Star Trek ignited the fires of imagination better than this simple playset. Featuring little more than a recreation of the Enterprise’s bridge and transport room, the toy inspired everyone who crossed its path to create their own Starfleet adventures. It was a weird time for Trek fandom when this hit store shelves back in 1975. Even though the grassroots movement to bring the show back had already yielded the Star Trek animated series, the franchise’s future was far from certain. Because toys like this one perpetuated interest in Kirk and Spock, they helped ensure its inevitable return. So I suppose in some immeasurable way, the Star Trek Colorforms set is responsible for that bullshit Borg episode of Enterprise. I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.