Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Toy Chest Tuesday! Spectra vs. Aurora!

Toy companies often compete with each other when particular toy lines catch on with the masses. This usually gives way to some suspicious looking toy lines that almost seem doppelganger-ish in their appearance. Who could forget Golden Girl riding on the coattails of She-Ra's popularity? Or Barbie and the Rockers trying to rock out like Jem? Even the Battletoads in all their antithesis to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still couldn't escape some similarities. (Though I really do wish Battletoads had seen some figures released.)

Of course this whole toy doppelganger issue can even span decades (Voltron and Power Rangers anyone?) and can also happen in the present toy climate. Monster High rules all ghouls, but Bratzillaz are really working hard to be head of the class. So the doppelganger thing really got me thinking about this week's Toy Chest. Sometimes toy doppelgangers compete in such a way it is really hard to figure out which one is better. Clearly in some cases, it is obvious about the superiority (She-Ra will always trump Golden Girl, no matter what they say) but every now and then two similar toy lines make it very difficult to figure out which one was cooler. So today's Toy Chest is a special edition of toy vs. toy! Spectra vs. Aurora!

We'll start with the Spectra line since it was released first. Mattel introduced the Spectra line in 1986. They were lacy and spacy! Spectra dolls were modeled after Barbie, but their bodies were fully articulated and covered in vac metal. I am totally having a vac metal moment it would seem. Anyways the only section that was not covered in vac metal were the doll's heads. Each character had a unique hair color and made up face. Let's check out some pictures!

Spectra

The tag line for Spectra was that they were Lacy... Spacy... Out-of-this-world! Not only did these dolls have vac metal bodies, but they were also wearing a lot of shimmering lace! Spectra was the main character, but we will be looking at AstraGold, the greatest party giver in the galaxy. That title alone is out of this world.

The back of the box featured all kinds of fun stuff. At the top of the box was the Spectra story, with the dolls below, and the other extra items to collect as well. I love the silver on the box, it really pops against the pictures of the items. So there were four Spectra females and one male. The male looks a little like a futuristic Rio from Jem.

The basic synopsis for Spectra was pretty cool, and I'm surprised there hasn't been a sitcom yet. Spectra and her teen friends are from the planet Shimmeron. They want to go to Earth and show the Earth teens how it is really done. As a result, the Shimmerons also hope to learn a thing or two about teen life, which they do by way of skateboards, hot dogs, rock music, and shopping malls. Personally if I was a teen alien, I am not sure I would want to travel to Earth. Real teen Earth life is not like Clueless, ok? Anyways AstraGold is like the party goddess of the galaxy. (This may be one of the reasons why I own this particular Spectra doll.) Her parties are always a hit, and that just makes me like her more.

From left to right we have UltraViolet, StylaBlue, Spectra herself, Tom Comet, and AstraGold. These dolls were basically MoonDreamers grown up. And since they were wanting to learn more about teen Earth culture, I can only think that Madonna's Like a Virgin left a big influence on their style. Spectra looks like she is ready to roll around on a stage at the MTV Video Music Awards. Also, StylaBlue would make the perfect custom for a Netossa doll, wouldn't she?

Fans were able to collect more than just Spectra and her friends. There were Space Magics Accessories. A pet named Spark Dog. And the Buffatron Bed. No, the Buffatron Bed is not some strange device from 50 Shades of Grey. The play set doubles as a place to rest Spectra's head while also buffing all that vac metal. It is like a spa, for Shimmerons.

I had heavily contemplated removing AstraGold from her packaging, but I just couldn't take her off the card. I just felt like it'd be sacrilege to do something to such a rare item. Anyways, the exciting thing about Spectra was all the articulation. Unlike Earth teen Barbie, Spectra and friends could be moved and posed in all kinds of directions. Due to all this articulation, along with the flat feet, Spectra dolls could stand on their own. AstraGold came with ballet flats and a hair pick. Her outfit also consisted of lace leggings under a lacy shiny skirt and top.

AstraGold's face had a futuristic look with bright eye shadow and some fun shapes on her cheeks. A lacy ribbon was in her hair. Her golden locks also had shimmery fibers woven in. The other really cool thing about these dolls was the unique colors used for the vac metal. Each doll had their specific colors. AstraGold had a golden metal look to go with her hair.

Each doll also came with a little bio card. One side was a picture while the other was the bio.

AstraGold's bio really just goes on and on about how much of a party planner she is. There is also some instructional dance moves for the Shimmeron Shuffle, the dance style that all the cool Shimmerons are doing. So I actually tried the Shimmeron Shuffle in my living room, and I don't think I'd be invited back to any parties if I was dancing like that. Guess Tom Comet won't be asking me to dance. Darn. Space chips 'n dip are also AstraGold's favorite food. I really want to know what that means. It sounds really good. 

Aside from the bio card, there was also a little product booklet that came with the dolls.

There is a longer bio about Shimmeron before the items are addressed. Spectra is the leader, as if the title didn't give that away. As leader, that is really where her personality ends. The other characters seem to have bigger roles and more importance, like AstraGold and her parties.

Rio, err, I mean Tom Comet is pretty cool. He is a fan of sports and is also a Mr. Fix-it. The device in his hand is a Shimmeron game player, and was something you had to purchase separately. Spark Dog is Spectra's pet. He can also sniff out fun from far away. I love how the dog looks more like R2D2 and parts from a car wash. I even believe there were sets where Spectra and Spark Dog could be purchased together.

The three friends all had their own roles. UltraViolet was the beauty queen, ready to dispense beauty tips. We already know who AstraGold is. And StylaBlue was the fashion space-setter, helping all the Earth teens look like... Madonna circa 1984. In some ways it all makes sense, you just have to go with it. Actually the areas of expertise that Spectra and her friends had, really helped reflect aspects of teen culture. I just wonder though what a line like this would look like now.

Space Magics accessories were sold separately. The items brought some of that Shimmeron magic to Earth. The Body Buffer helps keep Shimmeron metal polished while the Fashion Selector picks out a new lacy outfit to wear. The other items are the Game Player, and the Party Planner. Both are required for the ultimate party. The Game Player livened the mood up with games to play while the Party Planner helped decide which activity the Shimmerons and Earth teens would be doing during the festivities. It all seems so '50s squeaky clean. And I have a theory about that later on.

The Buffatron Bed was a very interesting play set. Basically a vanity and bed, the play set helped keep the Spectra dolls polished and ready for the next party. The mattress was furry and hot pink, while the lacy canopy really seemed spacey for that time.

Spectra fans could also mail-in the above photo for a Shimmeron Travel Kit. I have never seen what the Travel Kit came with, but I have read that it was basic stuff, like a map, stickers, and a letter from Spectra among a few other things.

This picture described the buffer accessory as well as preparing the Spectra fan for all the out-of-this-world fashions that could also be purchased separately. Before we discuss fashions, can I just say how strange (in the best sense) this line was? I mean a buffing accessory? Getting your vac metal body buffed before a party? This was not your average doll line. It was a bit out-of-this-world odd.

There were a decent number of Spectra fashions to purchase. Each one featured lace and shimmery accents. Each outfit was for a common Earth-like experience, but each outfit really seemed futuristic with just a dash of '80s charm. Tom Cat's tuxedo is probably the least futuristic out of the bunch, but they all seem a bit over the top.
 
Aurora
 
Released in 1987 right after Spectra, Aurora was made by Tonka. The concept was highly similar, except instead of coming from space, Aurora and friends came from the future. The Future Looks Beautiful! In the future, everyone has vac metal bodies and regular heads with splashes of color for hair. It is nice to know though that in the future we will all be wearing shimmery and lacy outfits too! Guess those Shimmerons really end up leaving a lasting impression on Earth.

The back of the box shows off the other dolls to collect from Aurora. There were only four dolls to collect in the series. Aurora was the main character, but we will be looking at Lustra.

The back of the box not only showed off the dolls themselves, but also the exciting reasons as to why one should buy Aurora dolls. Aurora was the main character. There was also Crysta. The poses for the dolls were important, because they really showed off how the dolls could be posed. This was different from the Spectra box.

Mirra and Lustra rounded up the other two Aurora dolls. Like Spectra dolls, the names for these dolls was very closely tied to the concept and theme.

The premise for Aurora was more basic than Spectra. Aurora and her friends come from the future to bestow high fashions to those in the present. There is really no other reason for the time travelling. Forget going back in time to deliver cures for diseases or to see what was on store shelves in the '80s. No. Aurora just wants to drop off some futuristic fashions. Actually, wouldn't it be funny if in the future people travel back in time to donate their clothes? Like in the future there is no Good Will or Salvation Army or other like-minded organizations. Instead future generations must travel back in time to get rid of their clothes. I'm smelling a reboot.

Looking at the lovely Lustra, there are certainly some similarities between these dolls and Mattel's Spectra line. The vac metal is there. The shiny outfits are also there along with the poseability. So there were some similarities, as well as some differences. Spectra had more lace and outrageous makeup, while the Aurora doll's faces were bare and their hair did not have any shimmery fibers. There was also another difference...

The future is so bright, Lustra's gotta wear shades. Or does she? Do not blink, the Aurora dolls did have gem stones for eyes. Like the Twinkle-Eyed My Little Ponies, Aurora and her friends each had their own specially colored gemstone eyes. Lustra's were purple, and this was something that really stood out for the dolls.

Like Spectra, Aurora also came with a little booklet of items.

The dolls were really all about the fashion.

Aurora is the golden girl of tomorrow. The booklet really seemed like a mini fashion magazine. One thing that I would have liked to seen with this line was more diversity. There were only four dolls and they were all white. I would have liked some extra dolls with some other skin colors. And maybe a male character too. I am always curious to see how doll lines treat the male characters.

Mirra took hold of the blue color spectrum, however notice the little bio themes. Each doll is devoid of personality, they are basically just models. This is interesting because the charm found in Spectra is gone, but the concept for Aurora really seems like a high end fashion magazine. Almost like these dolls would be found in a collectible store instead of toy stores. They also had an anime feel to them.

Out of all the Aurora dolls, I think Lustra is the coolest. Her dress is very interesting and different. She almost looks like she'd be friends with Judy Jetson or something. Which she very well could be. Without any real sense of who these dolls are, the owner in a way, can really create a whole interesting and unique back story. Like maybe Lustra is friends with Judy Jetson, and she travels to the past to donate her old club clothes so that the clothes don't pile up and add to the Future's pollution problems. Or maybe the shimmery clothes can't bio degrade, so Lustra ends up donating them to the past to lessen her chromatic footprint, which in turn causes the pollution to build up in the first place, thus causing the future to be unable to handle it all. Now that is a fun back story. Fashion kills.

Finally we have Crysta, who in my opinion would make a great custom Glimmer doll, barring the whole gemstone eye thing. Finally there is a bio that shows some semblance of story. Crysta's date is going to be dazzled by her and the outfit. That sounds interesting until you realize that in order to dazzle the attention of a man, you will have to wait for someone in the future to donate their old clothes to you. I mean that is a long wait. Especially when that time travelling donator of fashion might not even show up!

The booklet ends up changing from the dolls, to the fashion sets that can be purchased separately. The future of fashion is beautiful! There are space parties to attend and an actual time travel suit. It looks a little Tin Man-esque, but I love the whole sci-fi element used for this doll line.

Other outfits to choose from involved a ballet outfit and some golden pants for a futuristic night on the town. The ballet look is pretty cool. Like the back of the box, these images also show off all the different ways that these dolls can be posed.

The final two outfits to purchase were a nice glamorous coat and short dress for the evening as well as a pant suit for lunch. With all these outfits to wear, it was a shame that no play sets were made for these dolls. It seemed like there were plenty of things for these dolls to do in the future.

The future wouldn't be bright for these dolls though. Both Spectra and Aurora did not last long on shelves. Spectra lasted slightly longer due to being released in 1986 along with some play sets that went through till 1987. The dolls were popular, however around that time there was also a flood of other popular dolls on the market. As such some doll lines fell by the wayside.
 
However, there was something special about Spectra and Aurora. As I mentioned earlier, there was a bigger theme about both of these lines that didn't really come from space or the future. If anything, these lines seemed to come from the past. If you really look these two lines over, they have a very 1950s and early '60s vibe. For example the whole teen party planning and wholesome American fun from Spectra reminds me of those Hollywood teen movies from the '50s. And the "Future is Beautiful" motto from Aurora is also reminiscent of the ideas that were going on during those decades. Like the whole, "home of tomorrow" or something. There were so many new things happening culturally in the '50s and '60s that had this, "the future is here" vibe that I really felt from both doll lines, though mostly with Aurora. This idea of the look of the future, or the idea of hope that the future is going to be beautiful and amazing. I just feel like that was such a trait marked by the '50s and early '60s. So even though both lines have space age and futuristic qualities, there is something kitschy too. Of course if we look at the late '80s, there were certain toylines that looked back to that '50s charm. (Pee Wee's Playhouse for example.) Every decade ends up looking back at the past to get excited over things. For awhile now folks have been looking back at the '80s for ideas and nostalgia, and if you close your eyes you can even hear the '90s getting a comeback as well. So during the '80s, I think there were certain aspects of the '50s and '60s that got played out in toy lines, among other places as well. If that makes sense.
 
This brings me to the biggest issue at hand. Spectra vs. Aurora. Which one is the better toy line? I'm not sure I can say. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. I love the theme and storyline from Spectra but I think the Aurora dolls are prettier. Either way, they both utilized the vac metal process for some cool looking dolls, so I am going to say they both win. They were cool dolls and really showed off the range of items that could be found on the toy aisles in the late '80s.
 
That is about it for Toy Chest Tuesday! So what do you think? Did you like Spectra or Aurora more? Leave a comment and let me know. I hope you are all doing well, and as always, keep it here! There will be all kinds of fun stuff coming up. Until next time!

8 comments:

  1. This is the first I have ever heard of Spectra or Aurora! These seem to have flew right under my radar..Im not sure how. Now I must own them! Another item on the never ending list of things I need to find.

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    1. Oh you must find some of these items! They are really cool. I never had any growing up, but my friend did across the street, and I always thought they were cool.

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  2. Great article! I read it to see if I can add something, but that will be impossible. Both lines are amazing, I like more Spectra, because it has more characters and a robopoodle. The second line is also great, but a little short to me, with only four figures.

    Sci-fi themed toys for girls are somehow rare (more usual is fantasy than sci-fi), She-Ra is of course, the big reference (by the way, with some metallized figures too), and also their followers Golden Girl, and unknown bootlegs... in this other case I tend to find cooler the toyline, the more obvious it is, that it is a bootleg. I don't know if you checked my entry about "goodess of the ultra-cosmos", great line!

    Another amazing point in the package of Spectra, that is also much from the 80s with rainbow letters over silver surface, remind me of some tapes (maybe videotapes) we had at home for home-recordings.

    Thanks for showing those toys and for the great review.

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    1. Hey Gog! Thank you for the comment. I think I lean more towards Spectra too, Aurora just didn't have enough. And you can never go wrong with a robopoodle. She-Ra did have some cool stuff with the vac metal on Entrapta (who has appeared on Toy Chest) and if the proto type Star sisters had been made back in the day, they would have had some vac metal too, if I am not mistaken.

      There were actually a great deal of She-Ra bootlegs, I did read your article on Goddess of the Ultra-Cosmos. I thought I had left a comment, but I may not have. There was also Goddess of Wonder, but I only recall those from my youth. I don't think I have ever seen a mint item in the present, though I always look from time to time.

      And the rainbow letters on the silver was such a cool '80s thing. I just loved the use of color back then for toylines. It was the best.

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    2. Yes, Entrapta... I was not sure about the name. I bought the figure some years ago in a flea market (w/o accs). The Star Sisters were first released just a few months ago in the new MOTU line (MOTUC or MOTU Classics), I never heard of them before they were released, but they look great!

      I still need to check a lot of articles here, Entrapta, for example.

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    3. Yes the Star Sisters were originally slated as part of a fourth series of She-Ra dolls that never made it. The original designs for the action dolls were really cool and very different from what came out earlier this year.

      And here is the link for Entrapta on here http://diaryofadorkette.blogspot.com/2011/10/toy-chest-tuesday-entrapta.html

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  3. These are rad-I like the robot dog! I love generic figures-the crappier the better, but I must disagree that the Power Rangers were a rip off of Voltron. The "Super Sentai" Tokusatsu (Japanese live action superhero series) dates back to I believe 1975 in Japan while Voltron didn't show up until the mid 1980's. I didn't know this when I was a kid of course, but as I got older and more obsessed with live action Japanese shows about guys in costumes punching monsters I started learning about all the shows we never got to see in America. Before Power Rangers and their ilk all we got was Ultraman, the Space Giants, Spectreman and Jonny Socko-but there were literally TONS of shows like this in Japan. There are like ten different Ultraman series alone. Super Sentai-or "power rangers" as they are called in the U.S-has a bunch of different series of shows dating back to the 70's. It's just it wasn't until the 90's that Saban decided to "Americanize" one of the more recent installments. Actually, it had been done before. Back in the 80's (Voltron's era of course) some comedians did a comedy dub of "Dynaman" one of the older Power Ranger ancestors. Check out this clip:
    http://www.windycitynovelties.com/214221p/stone-wall-scene-setter-roll.html?ProdRec=Yes

    it aired on U.S.A's late night "Night Flight" programming block and briefly on Nickelodeon. It never caught on like Power Rangers and was largely forgotten by the time that show debuted in the U.S almost a decade later. So it's more likely Voltron was a tribute to Super Sentai. Just some dorky trivia for ya!

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    1. Thank you for letting me know that! I had no clue. I was always a more casual fan of both Voltron and Power Rangers, so there is a whole lot that I am just not aware of. Well that changes everything! I was aware that shows like Power Rangers and Voltron were popular, I just always assumed that Voltron had been around longer. Great clip too. I knew nothing at all about this! I love learning these new things. Thanks for always keeping me up to date. : )

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