Playsets, where have you gone? In searching for the top five mini playsets it became extremely difficult not to fall completely into the Star Wars and G.I. Joe collections. Hasbro/ Kenner it seems, had that market cornered. Why can’t these exist today? So without further ado here are AFJ’s "5 Marvelous Mini Playsets”.
5. G.I. Joe’s Transportable Tactical Battle Platform
Perhaps one of the biggest “mini” playsets ever takes the number five spot because it could only be transported by G.I. Joe Tomahawk Helicopters. The Transportable Tactical Battle Platform had a store shelf life from 1985 to 1987. Complete with mini helipad for the G.I. Joe Sky Hawk, MIM-72 Surface to Air Missiles and dual 75 MM “Defender” Cannons. For such a small play set it had a lot of bite. What truly made this mini playset perfect was that you could drop it anywhere. Perfect for the backyard, the living room or grandma’s house, the T.T.B.P. was the key to your victory. Sure the G.I. Joe Headquarters was massive, but who wants to wait for the Cobra to show up? This eighties gem was the perfect launch pad to start your attack.
4. Doctor Who’s TARDIS
The Doctor literally goes nowhere without it. It has taken him from one side of the universe to the other and to the very end of time itself. The fourth spot on our list goes to probably the essential mini playset, Doctor Who’s TARDIS. The TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space) originally had the ability to change its appearance to blend in with its environment. One of the Doctor’s adventures in 1950’s London had it take the shape of a police box. Shortly thereafter it was damaged and it has remained that way ever since. As playsets go having just the police box version of the TARDIS might be enough to fly you around the galaxy but since the TARDIS has no weaponry it’s just a blue box. By having the complete playset the adventure can really begin as the Doctor and his companion struggle with what’s outside the door.
3. The Hordak Slime Pit
Easily one of the coolest toys from the eighties as this mini playset not only struck fear into the hearts of the heroes but the villains as well. Hordak truly was evil as the box indicates because poor evil Beast Man was the first to get slimed. Mattel released this bizarre torture device as part of their Masters of the Universe line. It was to transform its victims into, according to the package, “mindless slime zombies, who are totally loyal to Hordak”. Let’s face it though. What we really loved was the slime. Dripping and oozing its way from the giant dinosaur skull it covered our Masters of the Universe figures, save one. It was recommended that Moss Man steer clear of the evil slime for it would ruin him. Regardless, it is one of the all-time great mini playsets as it ushered in the era of slimy toys and accessories.
2. The Well of the Souls
The Raiders of the Lost Ark toy line is one of the most sought-after collections from the eighties. It had only had a few figures, vehicles and playsets. Though the Raider’s Map Room playset from the film is a must-have for collectors it falls short for several reasons. We’re you interested in reliving finding where the ark was hidden or actually finding the ark? The Well of the Souls indeed had the ark and more notably had a cover for the ark sporting none other than R2-D2 and C-3PO. Kenner didn’t miss a trick with this cross-promotion but more importantly, these caricatures were identical to the props used in the film. The Well of the Souls also had a mummy, tons of snakes, a rope, torches, and a breakaway wall. Kenner did it right for this toy line in the short time it had. This mini playset in a word was perfect.
The marvelous thing about all Star Wars toys was that they kept the adventure going after the film ended. There are numerous playsets spanning from Tatooine to the forest moon of Endor. Each supplied hours upon hours of adventure. The playset that many fans had Luke Skywalker coming back to was Dagobah. We all wanted to see Luke complete his training and to do that he had to return to Yoda. Complete with a “bog”, force moveable boxes and a mini Sith influenced hallucinogenic cave helps Dagobah take the number one spot. The Empire Strikes Back was not only the hay day for the Star Wars saga but it also ushered in an onslaught of toys and action figures that make Star Wars a giant in the toy collecting universe. Dagobah might look like a couple pieces of plastic with a few moveable parts and accessories however it will forever be that magical place where Luke returned to complete his training and sparked our imaginations.