Fisher-Price Adventure People Opticon Action Figure Fisher-Price, 1981
Day #2,457: September 20, 2022
Opticon Space Robots Action Fun!
Adventure People Action Figures
Item No.: Asst. 392 No. 371 Manufacturer:Fisher-Price Includes:n/a Action Feature:Distinctive configurations and not-quite-kaleidoscope lens head Retail:$0.48-$2 Availability: ca. 1982 Other: That toy washing machine you always wanted
I am pretty enamored with new toys made to look like old toys, some of which - like Healey Made's stunning 3 3/4-inch Glyos-compaitble figures - get somewhat expensive. $25 isn't terrible, but it dawned on me that rather than buy new figures that look like old figures I wish I had, I could also buy the actual old figures. For example, Opticon. The figure is dated 1981, the packaging is labeled 1979, and as far as I can tell the first catalog online with him in it is from 1983 - but I can't find a 1982 catalog. I assume this means he came out in 1982, but I can't be completely sure - which means that when I picked up this figure on the roughest toy packaging I've ever seen outside of a Kay-Bee Toys clearance bin in Tucson, AZ (ask my friend Shaun for the footage.) When I opened Opticon, it was about 40 years old.
Most single-carded Adventure People tended to be repaints, or retools, of other figures. Opticon was the rare carded figure that doesn't share any tooling with any other figure in the line. You could get him in a 3-pack or by himself, and what's funny is he's very much of his time. Iin 1982 and 1983, there's a good chance kids were also getting The Empire Strikes Back droids like FX-7 and 2-1B, meaning they're probably open to unusual body types with unusual configurations. Opticon absolutely feels like a toy inspired by someone who saw, but did not entirely grasp, the unique Star Wars aesthetic. Maybe it was someone who just wanted something that looked more like a distant cousin of Micronauts, and more or less nailed it. What I found charming about the idea of owning this figure was that I didn't have anything else that seemed similar, and I already had Optivos [FOTD #1,910], the Onell Design tribute to this guy.
This figure just barely predates the transforming toy phenomenon of the 1980s, when GoBots and Transformers took the baton from Micronauts and then beat them to death. This is notable because the toy, as packaged, feels very much like a toy designed to play with a kid's imagination. In its default robot mode, it looks like some sort of robot... or washing machine. The feet look like space ship rockets, so you could rotate him and "whoosh" him around to pretend you got a tiny toy vehicle. However, the packaging shows the toy as a much taller, unfolded robot where the "front" is now the back and his center of gravity changes a bit. On my sample, the soles of the feet are slightly rounded so this means he struggles to stay standing upright without assistance or finding of a "sweet spot." Better tooled feet could have solved that, but such is life. It's good, but not perfect. The folded-up droid can stand with relative ease.
Like many figures of his era, it's light on paint. Loose samples typically have his silver and black buttons scuffed, which is why I went after a rough packaged version. The paint was perfect! There are 39 silver buttons and 2 black ones, and I'm trying to take care to not scuff them. That mirrored finish is tough for a toy that had to survive in a child's toy box, and I hope it won't flake off if I look at it funny. I don't know that they're meant to represent anything in particular, and the figure looks a lot like some of the chunky Tomy robots of his era. Or a calculator. It's fun, it's goofy, and when fully extended he's 4 1/2-inches tall.
Despite being removed from a card and never touched by human hands, the limbs on mine are a tiny bit loose - they may sag with gravity when held up. Other figures I've seen tend to be tight for quite some time, so this was a surprise. The legs rotate fully, and the arms do too - this allows you to reconfigure the figure. He can't hold anything, he can't sit in anything, and he can barely stand without assistance - it's a truly weird robot. You're buying this guy because he looks cool, and because you have a grain of rice or some tiny shim to prop him up somewhere. The shorter configuration is a bit more stable on its own, but when clammed up he has no moving parts. When fully extended, you can move the arms up and down to work the controls of a playset or ship.
The sculpting is very simple, with lots of flat surfaces, a few fake buttons, and some ribbed parts - they didn't go out of their way to overdo it here. There's a lot to look at, and the design is open to interpretation. The big orange gem seems to be a good possibility for the eye - hence the name Opticon - as it's a jewel you can peer through and see things through an amber haze. When I opened this figure, the gem was a little dirty due to age (and possibly the environment), fogged over and needing to be wiped down. It was particularly hard to get the grime off the inside, but using the right tools, it was doable. When compressed, the giant jewel absolutely needs to be clean - otherwise it just looks kind of gross. When fully extended, the emphasis is on an orange, backlit hole - so you don't notice as much.
Some old figures are classics, but Opticon shows his age. Having to clean a mint-off-the-card figure was a new experience, but other than the grime it's in good shape. Tthe silver is clean, the black buttons are nice, and most of the plastic was in good shape too minus a few random flecks of black and white on the body. I think for the original price (adjusted for inflation) this is an absolute gem for toy collectors everywhere. But, thanks to the weird clear plastic grime and the inability to stand, I wouldn't recommend this figure at a premium price to everybody unless you feel you just have to play with one for yourself. It's good, but Clawtron is much cheaper and arguably has aged much more nicely. He seems like a good fit to hang out with classic Pharoids and some recent robot toys I've bought, and seems like he would make a lot of kids happy as an extra addition to their 1980s Star Wars toy boxes.
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