Monday, June 15, 2009

DID NEIL ARMSTRONG KILL THE OUTER SPACE MEN?











On May 25, 1961, Prsident John F. Kennedy made an impassioned speech to the US Congress. The purpose of this dramatic speech was to announce his ambitious proposal to land an American man on the moon. American morale had been usnusually low after being beaten into space by the Soviets four years earlier. Kennedy was also hoping to recover from the embarassing Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, which had been a disastrous failure just days earlier.


In the speech, Kennedy said, "First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. "


The speech captured the imagination of the American people. More importantly, America's children began crying out for a realistic space-toy to take their collective imagination to the moon. Enter MAJOR MATT MASON - MATTEL'S MAN IN SPACE. This imaginative toyline hit the scene in 1966 an was an immediate success. The high demand for Matt Mason and space-toys led Colorforms toy guru, Mel Birnkrant, to design an innovative toy to be played alongside Major Matt. THE OUTER SPACE MEN were crafted to scale and with the same rubber-bendy material as Mattel's popular toyline. Even down to the accordian-like joints. In the case of THE OUTER SPACE MEN however, the child was given ultimate control to decide whethter THE OSM were friend of foe to Major Matt. In 1968, the first shipment of 200,000 OUTER SPACE MEN landed in the US. Sales were brisk, and another 300,000 were being manufactured in Honk Kong to be released in the summer of 1969. Mel Birnkrant was also busily working on a Second Series of OSM. That's when Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 took their first steps on the moon. The brave astronauts emerged from the Lunar Lander to find....nothing. No life, no footprints, no alien base, no air....nothing. How are kids going to play out in their snadbox with their atronauts, if there's nothing but sand? And due to shipping delays, there weren't even any OUTER SPACE MEN. Seemingly overnight, "space" became a dirty word in the toy industry. Even with Major Matt as one of its top sellers, Mattel pulled the plug on manufacturing this popular line. Colorforms renamed THE OUTER SPACE MEN, "THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE." But it was too late. Space toys were declared dead. It took almost ten years and a young Jedi by the name of Luke Skywalker to get kids interested in anything space related again. By that time, if you lived on the East Coast, you could probably find a dusty OUTER SPACE MEN on the shelf of some discount department store. So, if your looking for a villain in the interesting life(and death) of THE OUTER SPACE MEN, I suggest you look to Neil Armstrong. American hero, and THE OUTER SPACE MEN "murderer."

1 comment:

Robert J. Sodaro said...

These were the coolest toys, thanks for bring them back