Adventure Action Figure Set
Item No.: No. 5754 Manufacturer:Playmobil Includes:Snake, turtle, another turtle, alligator, pelican, campfire, strongbox, cookware, two figures, canteen, tiny island with tree, rifle, binoculars, radio, axe, knife, and all the parts to make the hovercraft Action Feature:n/a Retail:$14.99 Availability:2005 Other:Croc + Boat = Croc Boat
I've been going to Toy Fair for years. Around the time that the Croc Boat hit stores, Playmobil started making products specifically for the US mass market - Walmart, Toys R Us, Target, and the like - and those were shown behind closed doors in the Javits Center, which means the press weren't able to see it... nor were people who were toy buyers but not the mass market. The big shots. You know who you are. Anyway, the specialty stuff on the main floor was for the little shops, and there was this whole separate line of products just for the big guys. Sometimes these were smaller, missing a few parts or being some sort of remixed gift set to meet a price point. The good news/bad news is that this program didn't last and for a few, glorious years you could pick up cheap, cheap, cheap Playmobil on clearance at Target or Ross - or on a good day, Toys R Us. This set was $15-$20 at first. I got it for $3.74. Target has no time for slow sellers, but I certainly have time to buy cheap German toys. (Although, as far as I know, this one may not have been sold in Germany.)
During that era - and also this era - I had a mathematical formula for buying literally any clearance Playmobil set. Price = 2X, where X = number of figures in the set. If I saw a big box treehouse or arctic dinosaur dig for $7 - oh, and I did - I'd buy those. If I saw a $10 Roman Arena... eh, close enough. What else was I going to do, not buy a set where presumably you could feed your pirates to the lions?
Most of the sets that were in this program had something most Playmobil sets lack - a name on the front of the box, and in English. Most Playmobil sets feature a 4- or 5-digit item number a brand logo, and maybe a small parts warning. Any set's name usually is derived from a price list or Playmobil's web site - this is why so many fans buy and sell (and identify) sets by numbers, an incredibly efficient system that cuts through translation errors. It's the kind of thing I wish we could see in literally every other toy line ever. Don't tell me you have an Optimus Prime - give me the SKU. Get specific. But I digress. This boat was a US exclusive in this set, but elements from it (specifically the hovercraft) would be sold as a bagged Direct Service item later.
The hovercraft assembles rather easily, and the fan element has spinning fans and moving vanes. There's a control yoke that rotates inside, plus a rubber strap to keep the trunk in place. Also, like many Playmobil toys, it really floats. There's even a place to clamp on the underwater motor, so you can throw it on your pool and have it zip around. It's kind of brilliant - the toy itself was relatively cheap, but if you wanted a motorized (or RC motorized) upgrade, you could buy one. And you could easily shuffle that motor from one boat to another as it fit your fancy. This is the sort of thing the US toy industry rarely does - you're generally forced to buy an entire electronic toy instead. This minimizes waste and lets you actually play with stuff to see what happens. (I sadly do not have a motor. But I do have the counterweight piece for Nessie.)
The design of the boat is indicative of some of the cognitive dissonance evident in Playmobil's global marketing strategy. As mentioned above, most sets have no names on the box - so in the USA, a set may be called "Boat with Explorers" while in Germany it's "Boat with Hunters." Different markets, different attitudes - in this case, the Croc Boat has a boat with "Crocodile Observation" written on it, despite having swamp hunt pirate people wearing swords and carrying guns. Kids get the flexibility of writing their own story for the toy, which has no copy on the box to tell you what to do. Maybe one guy is the pirate and the other is some sort of reptile fanatic with an Indiana Jones wardrobe. I don't know. I just buy these things.
The watercraft itself is charming and durable, feeling puffy and light despite being made of what feels like pretty sturdy plastic. The rubbery net has held up well despite years of age, but admittedly, not a lot of use. (In case you didn't do the math, the set's been around for about 16 years.) It seats two figures, but additional figures can hold on to those red rails and hang off the side with one foot on the inflatable part of the hovercraft. It's a surprisingly excellent design.
The gear is good and the figures are repurposed from previous sets - if you bought any of the specialty stuff from years before, you may well have similar if not identical figures in your collection from previous jungle themed sets. As Playmobil buying required mail-order or visits to specialty (or, gag, educational) toy shops for many fans, the figures may well have been totally new to Target customers. Also since the leather jacket man was from 1999, there's a chance those kids aged out of the hobby and anyone seeing this set was new to the brand.
Knock-off Indiana Jones has a brown jacket with a vaguely leopard trim, plus orange trim around the sleeves. A blue shirt with a bandolier indicates a ne'er-do-well of some sort, and the hat is just necessary to go with the jacket. His buddy has bright orange clothes, a cheetah vest, a headband, and a lot of hair. Both figures are not nearly as complex as today's - what with variant arm builds or bprinted legs - but are consistent with the style we usually got in the late 1990s.
Joining them are a small selection of animals. There's a pelican you can perch on the tree! It's cute. There are two tiny turtles, and you have to assemble them with their shells. The selling point may be the alligator, which is a smaller version with articulation at the neck and jaw. Other versions have moving legs or limbs, but not this one - it's smaller and cheaper, and has unpainted yellow eyes. How is this possible? Playmobil dual-injection molds many of their toys, so there's a yellow plastic piece inset in the toy's head - so if you scuff it, the eyes are still yellow. There's no paint to scuff off, the gator is entirely molded in color. This is true for many of the toys they produce, which keeps them looking nice much longer than some of the American equivalents. This is also why they may cost more. Also, our reptile friend can float in water too.
It wouldn't be a swamp without a little land. A tiny island represents a marshy landmark with reeds and a tree for your figures to camp at, hang out around, or float past. It's not exactly fun in and of itself, but it's a nice addition to the set and it makes a great bit of atmosphere if you just display these things on a shelf.
Finishing off the set is a tiny campfire with some gear like a pot, a pan, and some other tools. Also a canteen, binoculars, and other outdoorsy stuff. You can write your own stories here, with several useful accessories you can give these guys, store in the box, or keep somewhere on the boat.
I opened this set years ago - before I took the box shots, obviously - and while I always liked it, I think I neglected to appreciate just what it was I got for the money. At the time, my attitude was "oh sweet, I'll pay four bucks for Fake Indiana Jones, two turtles, and a croc!" This is still my attitude, but it's remarkable just how much stuff you got - even for the time, it was a decent amount of plastic for the money. (A single "Specials" or "Pals" figure could range anywhere from $2-$5, depending on the store.) As of my writing this, I don't see any boxed ones for sale and an incomplete one (labeled as complete, but with the wrong croc) goes for over $30 delivered in the USA. Which isn't bad, given the age. It's a nice set, although you may not need it if you have the appropriate add-ons boat set or the figures from previously sold sets. Of course now, it's all old, and you're not a completist, so just get whatever's priced nice or looks fun.
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