Tuesday, September 12, 2006

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 47: Ideal's Universal Task Force



In 1980, The Ideal Toy Corporation (in Newark, N.J. 07105) and Interfun Toys combined to create a series of fun paper-based toys in the mold of Letraset Action Transfers. In particular, the companies released six "adventure sets" that were kind of like colorforms; kind of like iron-transfer shirts. But all in all, these toys could provide kids with hours of fun. I remember 'em well, and - yes - still own several.

These "super rub down action transfer" sets each came in a "sci-fantasy pack" which contained the following materials: over sixty multi-color action transfers, over fifty glow-in the-dark "action" transfers, two starships to cut out, decorate and fly, one iron-on for your T-shirt and best of all, a 12" x 23" full color battle scene for "you to complete."

These sets came under the title "Universal Task Force" and featured a diverse group of space heroes doing battle across the universe against villains of all varieties. "Only you can decide the fate of your heroes!" the toy packs blared, and indeed, that was true. There were six sets featuring the Universal Task force in all:

In "Commander Clone: Sabotage!" you could take the Task Force Leader, Commander Clone (and his army of clones) into a space battle against "sinister invaders" called "The Gree" who were attacking giant Solar Conservors over the Eden-like planet of Kabaal!

In Demona: "Mutant Marauders and Fallout Freaks," you were with the mutated (but hot!) femme fatale Demona. "The nerve-endings in her brain warped, twisted, reformed in new connections...till she felt the dark areas of her mind open up! She was still a human, still a woman, but now she had the power of the Dark Forces to command!," the description blared. And her mission was to lead a convoy of "Normals" across a vast desert - a nuclear wasteland (populated by mutants) - to safety.

In "Friends of Fire: City of Conflict," the robot law enforcement team, "the Friends of Fire" (which resembled classic BSG Cylons...) dealt with a riot on Kolos, a "giant city-asteroid" on the planet Kolos following a contested election between the People's Party and the Elitist Party. This "cyborg clean-up crew" had "only one order" programmed into them: "Stop the conflict!" This was the first Universal Task Force set I ever saw, and I was fascinated by it.

Then there were the adventures of other Universal Task Force members: Kaarl The Korrector ("Rampant Reptoids") and The Lasers (Insectae Invasion), though I was never lucky enough to have those, dammit. All in all, I had just four of the six.

The last adventure of the Universal Task Force was tiltled "Robot Revolt" and it featured the whole bloomin' team (Commander Clone, Demona, Friends of Fire, etc.) battling robots gone mad on the mining planet Syn-Syn.

I don't know anybody else who remembers this Ideal Toy franchise from 1980, and even though the writing on the backs of the sci-fi packs admonished kids to "watch out for the further adventures of the the Universal Task Force," they never came.

But heck, when I was ten years-old, I had a lot of fun putting the task force through its paces.

10 comments:

  1. Francis, UK8:33 AM

    Wow, now that does take me back to when I was nine. Never forgotten them at all either, they made such an impact on my early childhood!

    The Lasers was my favourite and I swore that not all the stickers were present so I wrote and said this and got sent an extra set and then has masses of Insects flying around.

    Thanks for posting this, happy days again!

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  2. Hey Francis!

    You are the FIRST person I've ever encountered who remembers this toy! So it's great to make your acquaintance!!!

    I had all the sets except Kaarl the Korrector and the Lasers!

    I loved this toy too, and am always on the look-out for more news about it.

    Thanks for writing.

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  3. Hey Francis!

    You are the FIRST person I've ever encountered who remembers this toy! So it's great to make your acquaintance!!!

    I had all the sets except Kaarl the Korrector and the Lasers!

    I loved this toy too, and am always on the look-out for more news about it.

    Thanks for writing.

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  4. Francis, UK6:25 AM

    Hi John,

    Firstly, sorry about the English - there is certainly a decline in its use when you get excited, and believe me, I was excited when I realised that someone else had known about these sets. I really don't remember the iron-on stickers or the DIY spaceships (hey, I was 9!), just all the transfers and the fun that I had with them. But I never forgot, and even now try and create wargame scenarios based on what little I remember of the games. It was a sad day when we had to move house for the second time though as I think that that's when my sets went missing (read 'binned'), and ever since then I've been trying to find out about these, even to the point of searching eBay for used copies, but alas, to no avail.

    Anyway, I've waffled enough, but thanks again for the memories.

    Francis

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  5. Anonymous5:38 AM

    I used to visit Harewood House in Yorkshire quite often as a kid to play in the adventure playground and I always used to get a set of this series from the gift shop there. I could never remember the name 'Universal Task Force' until I saw one on an old clip of Swap Shop the other day. These were brilliant sets, I'd love to get an unopened one of ebay but these must be as rare as rocking horse poop now!

    Thanks for posting this stuff!

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  6. I have a couple of these - I *do* have the Lazers, insectae invasion set, and Demona, and I might have one of the others, but I think it's just those two.

    I even created a D& D character based on Demona, and I drew and drew until I almost kind of sort of could draw her and that monster horse :) I still have a bunch of the stickers not put onto the papers, but they're so brittle now some of them just sluff off.

    They should really make more of these. They were lots of fun. The glow in the dark things were very cool. (There were PLENTY of laser pewpew ones in the Insectae invasion set.)

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  7. Oh man, about every couple of years I search all over the internet for any information about these - they were such a cool thing from my childhood but NOBODY has heard of them. I hadn't done a search for a while, and I was delighted to find your page in the write up. I only wish you would scan the full inner spread from the four sets you do own. I think I threw out my copies when I finally had to clear all my childhood stuff from my garage. Thanks so much for the write up & the trip down memory lane!

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  8. Anonymous6:08 PM

    Yes, I remember these, I had all 6 - they were 99p each (2 weeks pocket money! but my mother was a soft touch ;) ). I liked Kaarl & his merry band of axe-wielding space barbarians best. I liked Demona too, of course. Shame they never made more, or a TV cartoon series - it would have been *incredibly* violent :D

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  9. Hi all,

    Me and my brother had all of these except the Reptoid one. They were ace!! I even bought a couple of them a second time!! This guy has some info on them for those that are interested...

    Cheers, Matt

    http://www.seven-wonders.co.uk/atsetsutf.html

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  10. Anonymous5:50 PM

    Great to see these pictures! I had the one with Demona, my brother had Karl, so I guess there was a bit of crossover transfer swapping when we decorated our backgrounds. The laser transfers seemed like the most amazing thing at the time. This was a highly prized possession in my childhood - a gateway to a fantasy world blu-tacked to the back of my bedroom door. I guess it got thrown away on my behalf as I remember searching fruitlessly for it for ages. Would be brilliant to see these re-issued, so much more engaging than the consoles today's kids have to make do with. CG.

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