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While iconic action figures like TMNT and Transformers have left an undeniable mark on our memories, there’s a whole universe of forgotten heroes waiting to be rediscovered. Join us as we journey through the realms of nostalgia and uncover some of the coolest, strangest, and sadly discontinued action figures from the 90s. These hidden gems may have slipped far from the spotlight, but it makes us wonder: are they worth a reboot?
As Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dominated the market in the 1990s, leading toy brands would do anything to conjure up the next big “crime-fighting hit,” complete with plucky human protagonists, cool heros, obscure villains, vehicles, playsets – whatever it took. This futile quest to compete with TMNT gave us some now-forgotten figures like DIC Entertainment’s Mummies Alive!
This toy line had at it all from an evil wizard, a reborn child Pharoah, embalmed warriors, slithering demons, sinister sorcery, and hero mummies trying to save the earth – all happening in ’90s-era San Francisco. I mean, really, what could go wrong? Well, unfortunately, Mummies Alive! didn’t quite live up to the Ninja Turtle hype. They also had a TV show, but no one could touch those pizza-loving, crime-fighting reptiles.
Nothing that dramatic. The show was eventually canceled as interest dwindled, causing this toy line to slip into obscurity.
The Incredible Crash Test Dummies is a line of rather dynamic ’90s action figures that emulated the crash test dummies that were made popular during a public service advertising campaign surrounding car safety and seatbelts in the late 1980s.
David McDonald and Jim Byrne are responsible for creating these cult classics and Tyco Toys first released the figurines in the early 1990s to capitalize on the PSA campaign’s success. The Dummies had a legion of junkyard-themed villains, and each Crash Test Dummy would explode when a special button on their chest was pressed – the level of destruction was perfect for kids in 1992. These exploding action figures even came with a variety of destructible vehicles, a favorite being the Crash Test Car that becomes totaled when slammed into a wall.
Tyco ended up saying goodbye to The Incredible Crash Test Dummies in 1994. While they were fairly popular, we’re unsure how parents felt about letting their kids play with toys that simulated fatal car accidents. Limbs springing off the Dummies’ bodies and all.
Starting Lineup figures were one of those toys that you were afraid to play with because it was (obviously) going to make you rich one day (duh). These 4-foot tall action figures of popular baseball, basketball, football, and hockey stars even came with a collectible player card.
Invented by Pat McInally, a former professional American football player for the Cincinnati Bengals, and originally produced in 1988 by Kenner and later by Hasbro – Starting Lineup figures began fading from collective memories post-2001 after they were discontinued.
If there’s a reason to dig through your old toy chest, it’s a potential payout (and the memories, of course), but more for the cash. Not so much in this case, with loose figures fetching around only $50. If you held onto the special baseball card that came with the figure, you could add $25 – $35 to the total.
As toy companies continued to try and dethrone TMNT, ’90s kids got more crime-fighting animal action figures than you can imagine. We’re talking sharks, dogs, cows, boars, and dinosaurs, all getting the “rude and crude” TMNT treatment. It probably wasn’t a massive shock when monkeys joined the long list of obscure 90s action figures.
You probably already guessed it, but Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys was also a TV show. The show followed Captain Simian’s adventures, an Earth monkey who was blasted into space in the 60s. Captain Simian and his crew of space primates had to unveil evil Nebula’s plan to enslave the Galaxy and restore peace. You know, classic monkey stuff.
Mattel was responsible for releasing these figures in 1996, when the toy line also boasted plastic versions of Simian, space vehicles, and his Space Monkey crew.
Embarking on a cosmic adventure that ultimately met an untimely end, Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys faced cancellation in 1997. As quickly as the show’s ratings declined, Mattel swiftly removed the toy line from store shelves. Although short-lived, it certainly had its fans and these altruistic monkeys remain a cherished reminder of a bygone era.
Small Soldiers is probably our most memorable entry on the list. Small Soldiers is a 1998 science fiction film starring Kirsten Dunst and Gregory Smith, along with Frank Langella and Tommy Lee Jones’s voices. Even though the film struggled to find an audience (only grossing $54.7 million from a $40 million budget), that didn’t stop Hasbro from making a toy line to go with it.
This “kids” movie is about action figures that come to life in an attempt to kill, well, everyone. While the actual Hasbro figures didn’t come to life (boooo!), they did have some mean-looking faces and weaponry. How about that crossbow…
If you had these figures, you’ll probably remember the anxiety of waiting to see what was inside. The Trash Bag Bunch were tiny creatures hidden in tiny trash bags. The weirdest part? This was an environmental-themed toy series produced by Galoob, based on a group of humanoids (Disposers) who defended the environment and alien monsters (Trashors) who created pollution and excessive waste.
The trash bags would dissolve when submerged in water, you never knew what creature might emerge from the trash. Many say the Trash Bag Bunch was one of the first to jump on the novelty of buying a toy blind. Toy store shelves today are filled with similar water-soluble packages that reveal what’s inside only after purchase. Who knows, maybe today’s toymakers took a page from Galoob’s handbook.
Unfortunately for the Trash Bag Bunch, it may have helped start a trend, but the toy line wasn’t exactly a runaway success and it dissolved forever.
It’s a figure time-tested formula – take an animal, give it supernatural powers, and make them save the world. It worked for the Street Sharks and the Biker Mice, but these pig-like alien warriors slipped right into uncool shortly after their release. These super-weird action figures were created by a toy brand called IMAGINARY LIMITS in 1997.
The Cyborgs were a group of boars battling with the villainous Bionic Bulls for the Galaxy’s fate. Complete with some pretty gnarly villains and an accompanying comic, the Cyboars still failed to make a charge.
After the intergalactic boar-aliens battled The Renegade Bulls for a very short period, kids seemed disinterested in the characters. You would think character names like Hog Kong, Rabid Fire, Cannonball, and Big Horn would have had more traction… nah? The toy line was shelved and left to go down in history as one of, if not THE most forgotten 90s action figures.
Playmates Toys decided to capitalize on a kid’s love for heroes and warriors and undeniable fear of evil skeletons. Naturally creating the super weird series following the valiant warriors fighting against an army of skeletons.
The CBS TV show was released along with the toy line in 1994. No one was really dipping into the skeleton niche at the time, so it did seem poised for popularity. Playmates Toys pulled out all the stops with obscure villains, warriors, skeletons, and outrageous vehicles so good could battle evil. Even after a major marketing scheme, Skeleton Warriors didn’t exactly fly off shelves as the makers had hoped. After a single season, the show was canceled.
All the toys on this list spent a decent amount of time discarded and forgotten in the discount bin at your local toy store, but that doesn’t make them any less rad or legendary!
Should these action figures be given the reboot treatment? The answer lies in the hearts of fans and collectors alike. Giving these figures a second chance could introduce a new generation to the magic of these characters, breathe new life into the franchises, and offer a comeback through innovation. All we ask is they keep the spirit of the original figures preserved while adding that modern twist. It’s in your hands toy makers!
Lee is curator of nostalgia and a long-time collector of loveable junk. An 80s baby, 90s kid, he knows he had it good when it came to Saturday morning cartoons. Spends his life trying to recapture the dopamine hit of playing Game Boy for the first time and believes Beanie Babies will make a fortuitous comeback. Obsessed with everything (and anything) retro, he is your trusted guide to a world of 90s toys, games and collectables.
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