Thingmaker

Thingmaker

Synopsis of Toy

Many toys promise “hours of fun,” but in practice, we all know how quickly the fun factor usually fades. One of the rare exceptions to this rule is the Thingmaker, a creative item that has won over toy fans young and old since the 1960’s by allowing them to make everything from creepy-crawly insects and snakes to cartoon characters. The time-consuming process necessary to pull this off kept kids of all ages occupied for countless hours. In the process, it has become a prized possession (and an obsession) for creatively-inclined people of all ages.

Mattel debuted the first Thingmaker sets in 1964 with Creepy Crawlers (a variety of bugs, snakes, bats and other gruesome members of the animal kingdom) as their featured creation. The many Thingmaker sets that followed made many different things, but all sets generally consisted of the same stock items to create these marvels. There were metal molds, special “Plastigoop” used to fill these molds, an open-face oven to bake the molds in, a cooling pan to cool the creations, tongs to use for mold handling, and a set of adornments (beads, paint, etc.) that were used to decorate the finished creations. It was quite a lot of gear, and it was used in a complex process that kept kids busy for hours.

The Thingmaker process began as the Plastigoop was poured into molds, often combining colors to get exactly the right shade. These molds would then be placed into electrically-powered Thing Maker Oven to bake for a few minutes. When they were ready, they would smoke ever so slightly and create a very distinct chemical odor. At this point, the tongs came into play, carefully removing the molds from the Oven and dipping them into a cooling pan filled with cold water. The molds would create an ear-satisfying sizzle when they hit the cold water. After a few minutes, they would cool to the point they could be handled.

Once fully cooled, the young thing-makers gently pried their new rubbery creations from the molds and added the finishing touches with the decoration accessories that came in the kit. Needless to say, this whole process required thorough attention and timing. If the molds were undercooked, the result was a lump of icky goo. If the molds were overcooked, the creation would get stuck to the mold. There was also a slight element of danger in handling the hot molds, especially if you got too excited and tried to remove a still-hot item from a mold that wasn’t fully cooled. But done properly, the process could be quite rewarding, and many Thingmaker owners quickly blossomed into true artists.

Thingmaker and Creepy Crawlers were immediate hits, leading to the introduction of new Thingmaker kits and several add-on kits in 1965. The new Thingmaker kits featured Fighting Men (toy soldiers) and Creeple People (strange little creatures that could double as pencil-toppers). Maker Packs were also introduced that year. These add-on sets basically contained everything in a Thingmaker kit except for the oven, allowing people who already owned the Creepy Crawlers to add Fighting Men and Creeple People to their Thingmaker repertoire. Finally, there were Accessory Kits that consisted of a few molds and a bottle of Plastigoop. The first Accessory kit allowed Thingmakers to make Batman toys.

Like their predecessors, these new Thingmaker items were a smashing success. They became a necessity for any creatively inclined kid and, as the years passed, the varieties of things that could be produced by a Thingmaker increased exponentially. Cartoon fans got kits for Superman, The Green Hornet, Tarzan and the Peanuts characters. Kids who liked icky creatures bought Slitheries (snakes), Squirtles (bugs that could squirt water) and Mini Dragons. Meanwhile, horror fans snapped up Skeletons, Shrunken Heads, and Fang and Claw sets that made fake fangs and claws for their faces and hands. These varieties ensured that the Thingmaker kept different kinds of kids happy, giving the toy a long shelf life in the process.

During its heyday, Thingmaker also inspired a number of spin-off toys by Mattel that used variations on the same basic technology. The first was Vac-U-Form, a toy that allowed its users to mold plastic into everything from toy cars and boats to wearable badges and disguises. This was followed by the Hot Wheels Factory, which allowed kids to manufacture their own working toy cars, and Incredible Edibles, which used special edible goop that came in flavors like raspberry, cherry and root beer to create strange-looking but edible candies. The latter toy was later expanded to make Kooky Kakes, real cakes that could be decorated to look like little creatures. It also included plastic feet for the Kooky Kakes to stand on.

In the early 1970’s, parents and lawmakers alike became worried about the safety of toys, and the Thingmaker got caught in this crossfire. Despite its successful history, Mattel quietly discontinued the toy in 1974. Thingmaker and its components swiftly became prized items for nostalgia buffs and toy collectors. Though it was no longer available, Thingmaker continued to be a cult favorite and lingered in the memories of its many former owners.

Any toy loved by so many people was destined to make a comeback, and in 1992, Toymax resurrected the Thingmaker for a new generation of toy fans. Meanwhile, the legend of this amazing toy continues to be spread by its devotees through a variety of popular websites on the internet. With fans this dedicated, it's likely that the Thingmaker and the “hours of fun” that it provides will entertain many generations to come.

Release History of Toy

1964 - Creepy Crawlers
1965 - Fighting Men
1965 - Creeple Peeples
1966 - Fun Flowers
1966 - Fright Factory
1967 - Picadoos
1967 - Fun Flowers
1967 - Mini-Dragons
1968 - Eeeeks!
1968 - Zoofie Goofies
1969 - Jillions Of Jewels

Sub Categories of Toys

arts & crafts
hobbies
models

Toy and Game Manufacturer

Mattel, Toybox

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