July 22, 2012

RETURN OF THE GALAXY LASER TEAM



One of the first things I ever blogged about is an assortment of mysterious vintage plastic space figures I bought at a grocery store when I was a kid.



Since then, clues about the series have popped up around the web, and now they are commonly known as the Galaxy Laser Team (except for the time they were packaged as Star Patrol.) They were initially produced at the Processed Plastic Factory in Illinois and sold by Tim-Mee toys in 1978.  Five-inch jumbo versions of the characters showed up in 1979, and later they became a product of Mexico. The set combined the fun of classic, plastic soldiers with our unquenchable craving for all things Star Wars, thus, during the handful of years that they were available they generated countless fond memories in young brains around the globe.

The supply of GLTs on ebay doesn't always match the demand, but now folks seeking a little outer space action have another option.  The entire set has been reissued by Tim-Mee Toys and they are produced from the original molds.



The new 48 figure (and 2 starship) sets are available on Amazon for $12.50. The neon green and fuchsia color combos are gone in favor of the more logical black and gray. Unlike the seemingly random assortments in the sets of yore, each modern bag includes six of each figure design, three of both color which means that the forces are finally equally matched and countless skirmishes among friends and brothers can be avoided.

UPDATE: Jeff Imell of Victory Buy, the man we can thank for the reissue, comments:
"While researching the Team, I learned that Processed Plastic (Tim Mee) had some pretty tricked out machinery to not only manufacture, but to package their various figures. Figures were packed randomly according to weight from large bins, so they tried to keep all the different poses in a set about the same weight when they created the molds. The factory that's producing the reissues isn't using that packing machinery. Instead, the figures are cast in one color and immediately dumped into the plastic bag, and then those bags are run through again when they cast the second color. That's why the original sets were somewhat random, but the reissues contain an exact number of each figure. In this case, the mold contains 3 of each figure and one ship. This difference in the packaging part of production is also a big part of why the reissues are only in two colors. We'll have to weigh some of the GLT figures and see if they might have reworked the molds to balance out the weights of the different figures in the set"

Here's a look at one of each of them...


And here's an up-close comparison. The new one is on the right...



The new sculpts seem to be identical to the vintage figures with the slight exception of the robot and the turtle-crab guy.  The robot's back is hollowed out and the turtle's shell is a bit flatter with a pattern of different proportions.

UPDATE: Regarding the differences, Jeff Imell says:
"I'm glad you mentioned the robot and turtle variants. These changes to the mold were not done for the reissue, but were made at some point in the past. You'll find original figures of both variants. It may have been done to save on plastic. I've also noticed that the robot feet are bigger on the hollowed out version, so it may not have been to save on plastic, or maybe the hollowed out robot was less stable than the full-figured predecessor."


Thanks to a Fun Blog commenter named Gustavo from Buenos Aires we also know that these characters made an appearance in Argentinan Children's magazine called "Anteojito" in 1980. They had their own monthly supplemental story line called "Ekaton, The People Lost In Space."  Here are a few panels...








The full stories are available here...
Episode 1: http://www.mediafire.com/view/?3g2on5wdv741qpq
Episode 2: http://www.mediafire.com/view/?qpxa9ch5hcvfnv3
Episode 3: http://www.mediafire.com/view/?mbut5dvx71zgu43
Episode 4: http://www.mediafire.com/view/?osy8p6ruaf82o86

It's not clear whether or not the story was designed to promote the toys, or if it's the product of a resourceful storyteller who was inspired by them. Regardless, I think it's thrilling to see the artist's interpretation and watch the team in action. Hollywood take note, the world is ready for a Galaxy Laser Team motion picture!

24 comments:

Don said...

Hah, thanks for solving a mystery. When my brother in law was a kid he wanted Star Wars figures and his mom got him these instead. I never knew what the heck he was talking about with neon colored army men type toys, now I do. Thanks!

Rob said...

This is great news! I love the style of those illustrations. Thanks so much for posting this!

VictoryBuy said...

Hey Kirk,

I'm glad you mentioned the robot and lurtle variants. These changes to the mold were not done for the reissue, but were made at some point in the past. You'll find original figures of both variants. It may have been done to save on plastic. I've also noticed that the robot feet are bigger on the hollowed out version, so it may not have been to save on plastic, or maybe the hollowed out robot was less stable than the full-figured predecessor.

We're hoping to get Tim Mee dinos and possibly cave-men reissued for the fall. Does anyone have an opinion on realistic vs bright colors for the dinos?

Thanks for the great write-up about the Team, Jeff (VictoryBuy)

C. Elam said...

My 40th birthday is on Wednesday, and yet here I am totally excited about a box of little plastic toys. I LOVED these figures, and just thought they were the coolest thing ever. I may have to splurge and buy a set, because honestly, this is fantastic.

Kirk D. said...

Don- Ha, I've heard of that same scenario happening to several different people. Anyway, glad the mystery is solved!

Rob- You're welcome and I agree about the art style. Now if only someone would translate the copy.

Jeff- That's good to know, I put your comment up in the post after the observation. I wish I could go back in time and sit in on the meetings that lead to such decisions. I wonder if they got letters about them falling down, or if someone got a promotion for their plastic reduction idea. It's way more interesting to me than it should be.

Dinosaur-wise,that's a toughie. I grew up with the colored ones and I was fond of the colors. Yet when I look at more natural colored toy dinos I can see the appeal.
Since dinosaur color is all speculation anyway, I suppose you can't go wrong.


Elam- Happy Birthday! I too was super excited as I ripped open the bag. My son and I have spent many hours playing with them, sometimes pitting reissues against originals.

VictoryBuy said...

While researching the Team, I learned that Processed Plastic (Tim Mee) had some pretty tricked out machinery to not only manufacture, but to package their various figures. Figures were packed randomly according to weight from large bins, so they tried to keep all the different poses in a set about the same weight when they created the molds. The factory that's producing the reissues isn't using that packing machinery. Instead, the figures are cast in one color and immediately dumped into the plastic bag, and then those bags are run through again when they cast the second color. That's why the original sets were somewhat random, but the reissues contain an exact number of each figure. In this case, the mold contains 3 of each figure and one ship. This difference in the packaging part of production is also a big part of why the reissues are only in two colors. We'll have to weigh some of the GLT figures and see if they might have reworked the molds to balance out the weights of the different figures in the set.

Kirk D. said...

More great info Jeff! I posted it above as well. I should have given you an official interview!

Gumba G Gadwa said...

Ah, the late 70s, the lone female gets something to type on, everybody else gets a gun, sword, or claws!

I love the sexy pose on the bag art -- how is that helping to enter important stellar information? They could have at least followed through on the molds (I know, I'm sure the art was afterwards), she could have served as "turtle distraction."

... or, they could have just given her a gun :)

Jody B. said...

I think my Mom got us some of these at Safeway one time. Even as a kid I could tell they were echoing Star Wars characters. Must get these reissues! Also the company name, Tim-Mee Toys, rules.

Anonymous said...

The amazing thing is that I remember full-size toy versions of the ray guns as well - definitely had the pistol with its flashlight bulb and batteries... =)

VictoryBuy said...

I read an interview of the former Processed Plastic production foreman who talked about the laser gun flashlight being his favorite product. It was originally a Buck Rogers Sonic Ray gun from the 50's made by Norton-Honer Toy Company. PP bought all the tooling and reworked it extensivly to improve it, and sold it for many years. I suspect it predates the Team by a few years, but haven't found any definititive date on it yet, of they bought it directly from Norton-Honer. If you look closely, the figure is holding a gun that looks awfully similar...

They also had a full size helmet (just like the figure, except with 2 antennas), laser rifle (similar to space yeti's), and even a light sword. You can't help but wonder that if the laser pistol was from an older toy line, perhaps other items were as well? The front half of the laser rifle is very similar to another type of Norton-Honer sonic ray gun.

Congrats to Kirk on the Boing Boing post.

Anonymous said...

Jeff (VictoryBuy),
I live in CR. Can I assume that's where you work, too, with J.Lloyd?
Brian O.

Ryan said...

HOLY CRAP.

I totally had like a bucketful of those things when I was a kid.

I also had these very Gundam-esque looking robots, about the same size.I don't think they were manufactured by the same company, though.

VictoryBuy said...

Hey Ryan,

Did your Gundam guys look anything like these?

http://ferretbee.com/images/catalog/rn/rn-robot/rn-robot.jpg


Hey Brian,

I'm actually located in Scranton, PA. I've sold plastic army guys (among many other things) online for about 10 years, and have been looking for a source of US made figures for a long time. I purchased some of old Tim Mee inventory from Jlloyd a while back and kept in touch. Last year, I was able to contract a small (by manufacturing standards--but huge for me) production run of the 1960's era M-16 Army Men, and learned the company still had the tooling for other figures. I began researching to decide which figure set would be best to resurrect next, and found some great blogs (including Secret Fun) about the space figures. I immediately became obsessed and knew the Team had to be next, even though I never had them as a kid. I had Tim Mee Cowboys, Indians, and Dinos, but I was all about the Kenner Star Wars figures in '78. Luckily, the soldiers have done well enough that we were able to move forward and get another great old toy set resurrected. The factory that's manufacturing the reissues is incredibly busy with big-box store orders for another product line right now, but they've been kind enough (and I've been persistent enough) to fit in my projects, even though they don't really have the time--and they've done a stellar job to boot. I couldn't be happier with the quality of the figures. Hopefully, we'll get a run of the 1970's Tim Mee dinosaurs reissued for the fall to join the army guys and GLT. I've also been looking into a reissue of the big Cliff Mountain that was included in the Tim Mee boxed sets produced as a stand-alone accessory. The quantity required for an item like this is really huge, so that project is still in the 'iffy stages'. I know a lot of Team fans would like to see a reissue of the figures in bright colors, but that's a ways off yet--I have to wait until the current stockpile dwindles a bit. Stuff you can do to help get the word out: 'Like' the Team on Amazon, write an Amazon review (if you have a set), 'Like' the new GLT Facebook page (I just launched it today). facebook.com/GalaxyLaserTeam

Thanks to everyone for the feedback and support!

Robert Diber said...

Back when you did the original post is when I first discovered your blog. I remembered playing with these when I was young and having a great time. Soon after reading the first post, I started combing the dollar stores in hopes of finding a set, but to no avail.

When I saw the title of the new post in my Google Reader, I immediately thought it might be about the space soldiers. To my great delight it was. Thanks for following up on this! You have made this "old man" feel just a bit younger and remember what it is like to have a boundless imagination. I have since ordered two sets from Amazon.

Thanks again! Keep posting this great stuff.

VictoryBuy said...

Hey Teamers,

I was just going through some vintage GLT figures I recently acquired and noticed another 'variant' tidbit. It seems the robot mold was modified not once, but twice. We know the original solid body mailbox droid was hollowed out at the back at some point, but I've also found hollow body droids with both original sized feet and the larger size feet. Why that change was made is beyond me. I'll try to get some pics up on the GLT facebook page over the weekend.

I've also noticed that the stiffness/flexibility of the plastic varies quite a bit as well.

Brother Bill said...

Kirk:

Love me some more Fake Star Wars!!

On a related topic, I am wondering if you have any info/insight on a set of random grab-bag plastic monsters they used to sell in the 70s... some were dinosaurs, others were original designs that appeared to be hodge-podge of other animals(a Chinese dragonish one, an ardvarkish one,etc.) They weren't based on any existing property, making them difficult to find. The only info I've been able to find about them is a SINGLE WEB POSTING (but it has a picture and everything...!) Got anything on this?

http://actionfiguresca.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=toys&action=display&thread=8789

Stefan Jones said...

I never heard of these figures, or the associated comics.

In the late 70s I played a science fiction minatures war game called Starguard. Metal figures of aliens and different human star-nations, with rules for movement and combat. I used other lines of figures for science fiction role playing games. (Similar to D&D.)

These figures could be used for RPGs. They're pretty nicely molded. What size are they? Are they made of a plastic that could take paint?

Kirk D. said...

Robert- That is great to hear, thank you!

Jeff- Cool! I'll check em out.

Brother Bill- I've never seen those either but I think Stefan has a good theory.
Not the same at all, but they reminded me of a set of generic monsters I bought in the 90s at a dollar store and gave away. Now I must see if I can track down any info. They came with a plastic spooky tree and oddly enough one of the monsters was Toxic Avenger but that's the only recognizable one.

No One said...

These came to my memory a couple years ago. I recall my dad bought me a bucket of these when I was sick. It was slightly different though, as I. Don't recall getting any guys in space suits and instead had a skinnier robot with his arms sort of away from his hips.

I think I thought of these as they're a couple on the cover of the novel "redclaw" by phillip palmer and I thought how cool it would be to have these again.

I did buy a set, and they are awesome, wish they were cheaper tho so I could buy more. I like the old colors better, but I can't complain.

Can't wait for cavemen and dinos, all I need is those and some good western ones!

Jay said...

After reading your blog post last year I immediately bought a set on Amazon. I'm in Heaven because I no longer need to go hunting them down on ebay!

Thank you!!

Kirk D. said...

No One- that is truly a beautiful memory, the bucket of Galaxy Rangers for a sick son. I love that.

Jay- Awesome, so glad I was able to lead you to these!

jfroco said...

Thank you!!! I'm from Chile, and I have these figures when I was a kid.. it took me days to find about them until I found your post. I remember that they were given away in a 7up soda promo.

Buying inmediately!!!

Kirk D. said...

Glad to hear it jfroco! Wow, 7up huh? These guys have shown up all over the place!