Monday, September 01, 2014

Memory Bank: The Strange Change Machine (Mattel; 1967)

When I was about six or seven, back in the mid-1970s, I would often visit my granny and grandpa’s house in Verona, New Jersey on Sunday afternoons. My uncle Larry lived there as well, and he was always very gracious about sharing his toys with me when I came over.

And there was one toy Larry owned that I always wanted to play with on those weekend visits: Mattel's A Strange Change Toy Featuring The Lost World.

This "electrical toy,” manufactured in 1967 is actually but a small hot plate or heating chamber of sorts.  

But the box art colorfully describes the mechanism as a "mysterious strange change machine" that "changes time capsules" and offers you -- a mad scientist -- "the opportunity to create 16 hidden wonders of the lost world" as they "appear and disappear into capsules over and over again."

What this comes down to, essentially, is this: with a pair of blue plastic tongs (included), you would insert small red, yellow and green "capsules" into the heating chamber (and on top of the hot plate).  As they heated up, the cubes would unfold in glorious slow-motion into the shapes of plastic monsters, dinosaurs, bugs, and other creatures.

The box also reads: "Discovered to date: Membrane Men, Fragments of Space Creatures... Crawlers... fliers... Skeletons of Human Types.... Mummies... Robots."  So you had a lot of neat monsters to choose from, though I was always partial to the dinosaurs.

So as you can likely imagine, A Strange Change Toy was a genre-style product of tremendous fun, even if it was very easy to burn yourself on the strange change machine. I always considered getting burned finger-tips a badge of honor, actually.  By the same token, this toy could never be sold to children today without parents complaining about it, I suspect.  It probably wasn't overly safe -- especially if left plugged in -- but it made for hours of fun.

This Mattel invention also came complete with a "compressor" on the red heating unit so you could crush the 16 hidden wonders back into their original cube forms and start all over again.


Mattel's "A Strange Change" Toy also came equipped with a green 3-D Base for your plastic lost world creatures to inhabit, and a landscape map of the lost world that you could hang as background to the base. As a little one, I was as enamored of the 3-D base as I was with the toy, because it gave my dinosaurs a prehistoric-looking home.

The instructions read: "The Green 3-D base is the lost world home for all the creatures. For more lost world strange change fun, play with your creatures on the colorful map of the lost world on the other side of this sheet!"

Today, there could be a Strange Change app for our iPhones, I suppose, but Joel and I still occasionally get the old Strange Change Machine down off the shelf in my home office and then burn our finger-tips together for a while.


  1. I so missed out on some great toys.

  2. Anonymous5:35 PM

    Me and my brother spent hours playing with this game. And yeah - it could never be sold today with all the child protection bs, but IT WAS FUN!!!!!