Mel Appel Extraterrestrials Collectible Figure
Item No.: n/a Manufacturer:Remco Includes:Easily lost paper slip (not shown) Action Feature:n/a Retail:$1.99 Availability: ca. 1982 Other: One of four alien figures
A lot of people think that most toys released since the 1970s or 1980s are well-catalogged and are generally explored to their fullest potential. This couldn't be further from the truth. I got this Captain Evets alien toy around the time E.T. was a big thing when I was a very young child and it stuck around a long time. I remember it having a fortune cookie-like paper message inside which I eventually discarded, it had numbers which corresponded to letters and is really simple if you're older than 4. (I was not.)
This figure feels like a kind of a toy that would probably make the designer/urban folk soil themselves in glee. It's ahead of its time, feeling like a cross between a piggy bank and a collectible figure. There's no coin slot, and no limbs to speak of, so really it's just a bizarre creature in a line of aliens who are all named after humans, but backward. "Captain Steve," get it? This 4 1/2-inch tall alien is sculpted crouching, or perhaps sitting, and features clear blue eyes on a tan body. Due to the color of plastic used, the total lack of paint never even registered with me-- the light and shadows filled in the detail nicely, making his smile, his nose, and various rings on his costume pop nicely. He has curly shoes (or boots), pointy ears, and various crests on the back of his head. It looks more than a little like a genie, while other creatures in this line more closely resembled lizards or animals than aliens from another world.
I played with this figure a lot, and it got quite dirty. A "Mr. Clean Magic Eraser" scrubbed off most of the markings in 2012, and this rotocast vinyl figure held up amazingly well over the years. I'm quite taken by its simple form, and how they managed to crank out an incredibly cheap figure which doesn't feel like it came from a $1 store, although that was probably pretty close to what it cost. There is no articulation, it's just a big creature from outer space that came out around the time space toys were going out of fashion. After the end of the space race, this sort of fanciful space creature more or less faded away if it wasn't part of some big movie or a warring faction of robots. (Obviously alien toys still exist, but this sort of thing feels like an antique despite coming from my lifetime.) It's a toy, but it doesn't do anything really. It succeeds or fails on its own charms, so a figure like this relied on its sculpt being appealing more than other toys of the era.
Much like Baggs from a couple of days ago, I'd suggest any fans of designer vinyl toys to burn some calories to track down one or more of this line. The engineering and form is really fascinating to look at, and I firmly believe there would be a market for new figures just like this one. You know, in really small quantities. I can't imagine something like this today, sold to adult toy collectors, costing less than $30. I don't suspect you'll find one easily, but if you do see any other extra figures from the line do let me know. (I wouldn't mind getting the others, myself.)
Remco, the manufacturer, had a reputation as being the king of the knock-off toy companies for years. It's not exactly a knock-off, but it's clearly a toy which owes much of its existence to the appeal of E.T. The Extraterrestrial which suffered greatly as licensed products were late to the market. The toy's packaging boasts the name "Mel Appel," which, as far as my limited research finds, is some dude who worked on dolls or something and presumably TMAC is The Mel Appel Company. Sadly he doesn't have the web presence of another Mel who worked on a great toy line, Mel Birnkrant. Because it drove me nuts looking for more information on these: they read "TMAC 1982" on their bottoms, are hollow, and have a plug in their, um, butts. The plug itself reads "CAPLUGS EC-20" with the numbers "NAS-813-20" and I have no idea what it means, but hopefully my typing it here will help someone who found it at a flea market ID it. You can read more about them on this blog and even see a rare carded sample here.
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