As a new feature on Fandomania, we’re going to dig deep into the vaults, toy boxes, and the bargain bins at swap meets, uncovering some of our favorite stuff from the past that has become buried in time — whether it be a short-lived but memorable TV series, a once popular line of toys, or even a unsung comic book series. For my first offering, I point the spotlight on my favorite line of toys — toys that made wearing your seat belt cool.
Of course I’m talking about the Incredible Crash Dummies, Tyco’s insanely popular lines of toys inspired by the classic series of safety commercials featuring the long-suffering crash dummies Vince and Larry. The commercials naturally involved our two oft suffering buddies putting themselves in the front seats without safety belts and smashing into a wall. The commercials were tagged with wonderful catchphrases like “Don’t be a dummy, buckle your safety belt” and “You could learn a lot from a dummy, buckle your safety belt.”
The commercials were so memorable that kids didn’t mind getting interrupted from the latest adventures of He-Man, so long as they saw the latest adventures of Vince and Larry.
Before their existence, it can only be assumed that the rate of child death (sans seat belt) was on the rise. So, sometime in the very early 90s Tyco brought Vince and Larry into our homes via a line of action figures. The action figures had a stupendous gimmick: they were one of the few toys for which breaking them was totally encouraged. Every single item in the toy line was able to break apart. Vince and Larry, Slick and Spin, and Chip and Dent all were able to explode via pressure buttons on their chest, resulting in their arms, legs, and head falling on the floor. There were other variants to the line: Daryl, whose head would shoot up on a pole; and the portly Spare Tire, whose wild trick was his eyes, ears, and tongue popping out. When the toy line began, there were also other bizarre dummies like a baby dummy who included a stroller with an ejector seat. Plus, there was a pair of dummy pets: a cat and a dog that both had the ability to be flattened like roadkill.
Of course, you can’t be crash dummies unless you have something to crash in. To that end, the dummies never were lacking in the accessories department. They came with a variety of cars that included a passenger side ejector seat, an air bag on the driver side, a detachable roof, and a crunchable hood which also causes the front tires to fly off. Then there were the motorcycles. The bike came complete with a passenger seat sidecar. In the event of a crash, the driver would be ejected, as was the passenger. These motorcycles guaranteed massive dummy dismemberments, which definitely helped in discouraging me from ever riding a motorcycle. The next inevitable step for the avid collector was to have a place for the dummies to do all their crashing. That’s where the test center comes in…
The toys were an unrivaled hit for a substantial amount of time — so much so that, after the introduction of the new stars Slick and Spin, Tyco introduced the new line which made the dummies a sort of superteam, setting an example for safety. The new line showed Slick, Spin, and their old friends in their new Pro-Tek suits. We were also given some new dummies: the twins Chip and Dent, the big Good ol’ Dummy Bull, and the custodian Wack, who came complete with a crashable lawnmower. Tyco also opted to give the dummies enemies in the form of the Junkbots, led by Junkman, a dummy gone rogue who creates henchmen all for the purpose of making the world a not-so-safe place to be.
The concept worked because at that point the dummies’ popularity hit their zenith with other products, including video games on the NES, SNES, and Genesis. While the NES game was mediocre at best, the SNES and Genesis versions were vastly superior on all fronts (understandable since the NES was practically on its way out by that point).
The next inevitable step for the Incredible Crash Dummies was to return to television, this time in the form of a computer-animated series. The pilot episode aired on FOX Kids and was written by Savage Steve Holland, whose prior creation on FOX, Eek! The Cat, was a favorite with Saturday morning audiences.
Though the pilot was enthusiastically received by the target audience, the reasons are unknown as to why the series was never picked up.
As time went on, The Incredible Crash Dummies’ popularity diminished with the changing world and became another relic of a key period in the development of a generation of kids. Will we be seeing the dummies again? Who knows? Either way, that’s why we love a little bit of nostalgia.
Don’t be afraid to comment! Did you love crashing toy cars all over the house? Did playing with the toys actually encourage you to wear your seat belt? Tell us below!