Saturday, December 13, 2008

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK #82: McDonalds' Space Raiders (Diener Ind.; 1979-1980)

Waaaay back In the late 1970s, Diener Ind. and McDonalds teamed up for the occasion of the newly released Happy Meal feature at the restaurant.

In particular, in 1979-1980, Diener produced a variety of two-inch figures that would be sold in the cardboard H.M. boxes along with the burgers and fries.

A variety of figurine sets from Deiner were produced. There were McDonalds figures (like Mayor McCheese and Ronald McDonald...), Space Creatures (which included a Ymir, an Outer Limits alien and the alien from I Married a Monster From Outer Space [1958]...), not to mention sets of both jungle and undersea animals.

But as a kid, I collected the "Space Raiders" line obsessively.

In particular, I remember collecting these figurines during a family cross-country van trip from New Jersey to California (and back...) when I was nine years old.

Back in those days, a visit to McDonalds was a big (and rare...) treat, and my older sister and I would beg my parents to let us stop there so we could get Happy Meals...and collect these figures. More often than not, our parents indulged us.

These little toys were of paramount importance to me as a youngster that summer, because I had very few toys with me on the cross-country trip. As I said, we were traveling by van, and space was at a premium. Which meant -- for me -- very few action figures and almost no spaceships. These Space Raiders toys offered a whole new world of adventure, and they were small and compact.

The 2-inch Space Raiders figurines came in orange, pink, yellow, blue, green and brown. There was a whole array of characters and ships in the set. They were all made of a very soft but relatively durable rubber (and they could double as erasers, actually, should you get mad at them).

The characters in the line were ZAMA (a robot who resembles a cross between the Lost In Space B9 robot and R2-D2), BRAK (a creature who looks like the Metalunan Mutant from This Island Earth), DARD (a Darth Vader knock-off), and the angry-appearing HORTA.

Going back to my childhood, we had all of these characters, but I played with a blue ZAMA and my sister adopted a pink HORTA. Our brown DARD was sort of the universal bad guy, and I can't remember how BRAK fit in the mix.

Of the ships, there was a Forbidden Planet-style flying saucer called LYRA-4. We had a green one, I recall, and at some point, needed a replacement for it because the first one developed a fracture. But there were other spaceships too, including the rocketship ALTAIR.

Not pictured here -- though I recall that we had them -- were the KRYGO-5 (a sort of space shuttle design) and another ship...which I don't remember at all except it was shaped like a cigar and featured a dorsal booster.

As a kid in the seventies, I got a lot of mileage out of these figurines. Today I wonder how many other Generation X'ers remember looking forward to new Space Raiders inside McDonalds Happy Meals.

For more information on the Diener Ind.'s 1970s Space Raiders collection, check out Light Years to Yesteryear.

7 comments:

  1. I have come to the end of my journey. I had some of these, but now all that remains is an armless Brak and no memory of what the toys were called. I've searched long and hard for information on this toy series, and now I've found it!

    I'm surprised to learn these were included in Happy Meals, and date back to before I was born! I'm almost certain (although it's possible I'm conflating two different alien mini-figure series) that these were sold individually in stores in the early '90s. I first learned of them when I found the head of one (Dard, apparently) on the ground one day, and my best friend told me what it was and where I could buy others like it.

    Now I can use eBay to rebuild my collection and conquer the galaxy!

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  2. Anonymous7:43 PM

    Wowww..very cool..a blast from the past. I collected "Dard" and all the other characters back in 1979. As a matter of fact I am playing with my 7 year old son and "Dard" is 30 years old and still loved by kids young and old. Excellent!!! :) DJ Benny Cole vegaspartydj.com

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  3. Anonymous2:27 AM

    I was born in 1971 and I remember having these toys in the 1980's and until now I had no idea where I got them. Thanks for this post!!

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  4. Scott Lute9:25 AM

    I loved these as well. I was born in 69, and we rarely went to McDonald's, but when we did I loved collecting these.

    My fave was a blue Horta- he was always the hero. :)

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  5. Hi Scott,

    These guys are definitely great. I made up a whole world of adventure around mine as a kid as well. My hero was Blue Zama (who was always teamed with a pink Horta, for some reason...). And of couse, Dard was the prince of darkness...

    Thanks for the comment!

    best,
    JKM

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  6. Anonymous8:06 PM

    I still have some of these ROBOTS that were actually sold in toy stores BEFORE the MickyDee deal.

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  7. Anonymous2:05 AM

    Thanks for the pictures! I have been looking online over the years for someone to post pictures of these sets. Some of the original HM treats, I too had a small collection, but I now have no idea where the are. I continue to search through boxes every time I go back home. Are those still in the original "soft" form? How has the material held up after all these years?

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