Toychest Time Machine: Mattel’s Mad Scientist Toy Line
Long before the live-action insanity of TYCO’s Doctor Dreadful series of messy, sugar-packed wares hit shelves, Mattel had developed a way to tap into the male youth market of the 80s with their Mad Scientist series of toys, accessories and faux-science shenanigans.
It’s fairly well known that all 8-12 year old boys are, by law, required to like gross-out humor full of fart jokes and “running,” goopey snot gags. Just ask anyone from Cartoon Network and I’m sure they’ve got the stat sheets to prove it. Even as an adult, I must admit that I get an occasional kick from freaking out a co-worker or my 12 year old daughter with some carefully hidden whoopie cushion of conspicuously placed rubber bug.
Therein lies the genius behind the Mad Scientist’s marketing gimmick. As evidenced in the commercial above, the animated mad genius was always paired against some unseen censor (I’m thinking uptight toy maker or angry parent) who deemed his experiments to be “Too Gross.” Of course, reverse psychology is bound to kick in and drive kids screaming through the aisles of their local Toys R’ Us to find the lastest, greatest gross-out to impress their friends.
To magnify the experience, Mattel even developed a series of comic strips that fleshed out Dr. Sy N. Tist’s (the Mad Scientist) background and which would run on the back of each toy/product. The comic strips really helped draw me in as a kid, most likely even moreso since Dr. Sy looked like some cast-off from an episode of Inspector Gadget. Since I didn’t know off-hand who each character was meant to be, the comics helped give me an incentive to squish, squash and stretch each creature to my heart’s desire.
The initial series consisted of “Monster Kits” with two varieties: Monster Flesh (think Play-Doh) and Living Ice (Gummy Bears from Hell). Both sets came with three different and yet equally derivative names such as Slugore or I-Chomp. The concept behind these “Monster Kits” were that you could take either the flesh or the ice and by placing them in a small mold (included), you could create custom little monsters of you own. Fun to a point, but not very effective in re-creating the awesomness found on the back of each package.
After these came the ever-so-pointless, but oh so fun “Alien Blood” creatures which essentially consisted of three separate squeezable monstrosities that oozed glow-in-the-dark slime from either there mouth, nose or eye socket. With toys like these its little wonder that male horror fans of my generation have grown to be fans of “splatstick” horror comedies. Apparently there was also a larger, “Dissect-An-Alien” kit released that allowed you to peel off layers of the creature as slime poured out of its body (geez, no wonder aliens hate us so much).
This really covers the extent of my knowledge of the line, though I have seen other toys and accessories from the series such as the “Monster Lab” from the commercial above, an “Eyeball Maker,” “Time Freaks” (monster watches with digital readout, oh boy!), and “Splatters” which where sorta like full-bodied Madballs that splattered ooze and bodyparts in all directions upon squeezing them. There was also a costume complete with “crazy eyes” and lab equipment and some pretty cool action figures (see below) by a company called ARCO. I’d love to get my hands on one of the action figures for the awesome-looking accessories alone… is that a skull with red daisies/horns smoking a cigar?! Sweet!
While doing research for this article, I also discovered that there had been a direct-to-VHS Mad Scientist cartoon produced by Southern Star Productions in 1988 that featured the adequately animated exploits of Dr. Sy and his young ward Brian, who also took part in many of Dr. Sy’s kooky, comic strip adventures. Consisting of two 15 minute episodes, the short-lived series probably served as just another outlet for Mattel to fill their pockets, but still proves to be slightly entertaining nonetheless. Check out the first episode right here: