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Mattel Thingmaker
(aka Creepy Crawlers aka Vac-U-Maker etc)

Mattel's Thingmaker toy was introduced in the 1960's, and is known under a variety of names and configurations, including the Vac-U- Maker, Vac-U-Form, Creepy Crawlers, Creeple Peeple, etc. Whatever the precise setup, the toy was created for children to make their own small playthings out of raw materials.

Thingmaker The toy worked by using a simple molding process. One- or two-sided molds were filled with a supplied plastic goop which were then heated; the goop would firm up and and the result would be a small rubbery item such as a bug or even a miniature plastic toy soldier. In the case of Vac-U-Form and Vac-U-Maker, children would work a small pump to force the plastic to extrude within (or around) a certain shape.

Of course, because of the heating element (and the perceived toxicity of the goop), the toy was subject to much parental and nannyist scrutiny, and as a result, disappeared for some time. It is again available for modern children, however, thanks to companies other than Mattel; and with the right supervision, it is as safe as any other complicated plaything. (For another hot-element toy of the 60's, see the article on Mattel's Strange Change Machine.)

The most popular Thingmaker spinoff sets included:

Vac-U-Form and Vac-U-Maker - the original toys which actually preceded Thingmaker. Beginning with Vac-U-Maker, kids could make their own little plastic versions of bugs, lizards, toads, and spiders.

Creepy Crawlers - the original toy to fall under the category line of 'Thingmaker.' It contained molds for a surprisingly large variety of creatures, and even included small clear-plastic wings to attach to the flying insects. An offshoot of this was the Giant Creepy Crawlers set, which featured larger insects, one to a mold (whereas the previous set's molds allowed the creation of two smaller creepies at once).

Fright Factory - a delightfully fiendish set which allowed kids to create 'scary' items like little skeletons, shrunken heads, and even vampire teeth to wear to the dentist's office.

Creeple Peeple - a set for producing weird little creatures (like something out of a Basil Wolverton nightmare), complete with arms and legs, that one could stick on a pencil to make little figures.

Fun Flowers - this being the 1960's, kids could make their own little plastic flowers in a variety of designs and colors.

Fighting Men - for producing little plastic toy soldiers. Actually one of the more innovative sets, this one allowed to kids to also create little weapons and accessories for their very GI Joe-like little warriors.

Super Cartoon Maker - this set allowed kids to make their own little comic strips; molds were provided to create miniature Peanuts characters such as Snoopy and Linus, and kids would place the plastic figures over a printed comic-like background.

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