Each summer, the big movie studios roll out a series of big, youth-oriented studio movies, almost always with an accompanying set of toys. Fortunately for the thrifty, summer also means the appearance of knockoff toys, designed to skirt copyright laws and resemble licensed products as closely as possible while avoiding litigation. For example, if you enjoyed 1996's Pocahontas but didn't feel like shelling out big bucks for Disney's toys, toy stores, Kmarts, and truck stops across this great nation were filled with "Indian Princess" dolls. With toy costs rising—$12 for Small Soldiers action figures?—the need for knockoff toys is greater than ever. With that in mind, The Onion presents this guide to fun, inexpensive ways to recreate 1998's blockbusters in your own home.
Toy: The Masked Bandit
Corresponds with: The Mask Of Zorro
Description: This playset, attractively packaged in plastic and cardboard, features a whip-wielding, mask-and-cape-wearing, mustachioed, seemingly leather-clad hero with a white horse, a crossbow, and three silver objects that look nothing like arrows.
Is it an effective substitute?: Fairly. The major flaw is that, unlike Antonio Banderas' incarnation of Zorro (or the picture on the packaging, for that matter), this masked bandit doesn't have a sword. The inclusion of a whip, however, makes him a dead ringer for Bunny Wigglesworth, Zorro's flamboyantly effeminate twin brother, played by George Hamilton in the 1981 mega-hit Zorro, The Gay Blade. When you think about all the other aspects of the Masked Bandit's attire, it's a more appropriate accessory anyway.
Corresponds with: Armageddon and Deep Impact
Description: Rocks are free, plentiful, and come in many shapes, sizes, and colors.
Is it an effective substitute?: Yes. With a rock, you can recreate all the thrills of Armageddon and Deep Impact at none of the cost. Match the proportions, and you can even pretend your Play Soldiers are Bruce Willis' valiant, rough-around-the-edges oil-drillers, determined to save the world. You can even plant the Play Soldiers' American flag on the rock before you blow it up. Or, get a bigger rock, and your Barbie (or Indian Princess) dolls can be Téa Leoni in Deep Impact. Make her fret over journalistic ethics while destruction hurtles toward her at a thousand miles a minute. Awesome!
Toy: UFO Files
Price: 3 for $5
Corresponds with: The X-Files
Description: The set features a whole bunch of aliens with names like Arterian Captain, Marshan Assassin, and Amphiboid Scientist, all of them rubbery and bendable and some with glowing eyes.
Is it an effective substitute?: No. With the exception of the Grey Abductor (pictured) these aliens don't closely resemble anything seen in The X-Files. The packaging features what looks like The X-Files logo, however, and the toys are cheap and bendable. And cheap, bendable aliens are a lot more fun to play with than no aliens at all.
Corresponds with: Godzilla
Description: It's a two-inch version of a giant lizard.
Is it an effective substitute?: Yes and no. Because you can't copyright lizards, this a pretty good substitute, even if it looks more like the older, better Japanese Godzilla than the crappy American one. On the other hand, with Godzilla merchandise not exactly flying off the shelves, the next few months should bring a toy surplus not seen since the aftermath of the Flintstones merchandising debacle of 1994. You might want to wait a while to get the real thing at a discount.
Toy: Play Soldiers
Corresponds with: Small Soldiers
Description: This bag of fun is little more than a plastic American flag and a handful of standard green plastic toy soldiers thrown in with a truck, a tank, and a rescue tent, all of which inexplicably only come up to the solders' waists. It does, however, feature packaging that resembles the Small Soldiers logo.
Is it an effective substitute?: Not really. These little green men are classics, but the toys in Small Soldiers more closely resemble the old 12-inch G.I. Joes. You can find this stuff cheaper elsewhere.