In the late 1970s, IDEAL hastily revived one of its older toy lines, Star Team, to meet the demand for science-fiction toys. While they had the chance to take on the Star Wars license, the company had no faith in the science fiction genre. So, they were utterly unprepared for the film’s phenomenal success and surge of sci-fi interest. With no toy line prepared, they reused previous molds to modify them and revive the Star Team.
In 1968, the toy manufacturer designed the Star (Star Travel And Reconnaissance) Team line filled with role-play toys that let children explore their dreams of going to space. The company created an extensive range of role-play toys for the toy line. It included STAR Team Space Belt, Space Boots, Astro Headset, Astro Beacon, Nebulizer (a gun), and R.G.D. (Remote Gripper Device). There was also the Space Helmet, Rank Insignia and mission badges collection, and the XPL (Exploratory Probe Launcher).
As the space craze of the late 60s died down, IDEAL moved away from producing Star Team toys. Thus, the line was canceled in 1971. Beyond concluding the Star Team toys, IDEAL set their sights on other genres, believing space and science fiction were not profit-generating.
Revival of the Star Team Toy Line in 1978
IDEAL still had this mindset when George Lucas began seeking a toy company to partner with. Feeling that action television series were more suited for successful toy lines, IDEAL passed on 20th Century Fox’s offer. However, they quickly backpedaled on their stance once they realized the movie was a game-changing success. Since they no longer had a chance to secure a license with the movie studio, IDEAL instead decided to create their own toys to capitalize on the craze.
Desiring to release toys before Kenner could properly launch their line, IDEAL had to rush out a set of toys. They also did not have the budget to create new expensive molds. This left no time for designing new action figures. So, the company looked back through its catalog to find toys that would match the space theme. This brought them back to the Star Team toy line, which required a new selection of toys to meet the company’s needs. Luckily, they located a few action figures and vehicles that could be modified to become the new stars of the Star Team.
Even though IDEAL decided to recycle old molds from their prior toy lines, they did tweak the designs. They also created new outfits and decals for these toys. So, they effectively transitioned into the new Star Team toy line.
Recycling old toys to create the new Star Team
The Knight of Darkness
To design the new villain for the toy line, IDEAL turned to their successful Captain Action figure. By creating a new outfit for the action figure and modifying the mold, they transformed it into the terrifying Knight of Darkness. Thus, he became a somber and powerful 11 ½” fully poseable figure wearing a black cape. He also wore a black and silver uniform and had a grim masked head, completing the imposing appearance. The Knight of Darkness, No. 4603-7, acted as the fearsome enemy of Zeroid and Zem-21. Moreover, he came with a futuristic weapon that he could hold in his hands.
The Knight of Darkness was not the only new figure with a recycled mold. To create one of their heroic robots, Zem-21, IDEAL turned to their previous J. J. Armes action figure. While the original mold was for a human character, they reworked it to turn it into the cyborg entity, No. 4602-9 Zem-21. This new 9” poseable toy sported a mechanical chrome body and green head with angular features. So, he became the super-science robot of tomorrow. However, Zem-21 was not the leader of the new Star Team; that role landed on his companion, Zeroid.
IDEAL did little to hide the source of their second robot figure for the new Star Team. Zeroid originated from the 1960s Zeroids toy line, which featured multiple cylindrical robots with electronic features. IDEAL selected Zogg, one of the only robots from the older line that lacked projectiles, then modified elements like his head. He gained a new look that more closely resembled the concurrent trend by giving him a dome-top head.
Zeroid, No. 4600-3, was a highly detailed 5 ½” robot with moveable arms. This toy rolled on a twin tread base to move around. He also featured a special flashing signal lamp that could be used to send messages to his friends. This toy came to life with the use of 2 “AA” batteries. With Zeroid’s brains, the Star Team was ready to take on the Knight of Darkness
Kent and His Cosmis Cruiser
One more action figure appeared in the new Star Team toy line; however, it was only available in a vehicle set. Kent and His Cosmic Cruiser was one of the final additions to the Star Team toy line. Thus, this character and vehicle are also one of the rarest pieces of the line.
Kent stood 9” tall and wore a Star Team emblazoned orange uniform with a helmet. He could then blast through space in his Cosmic Cruiser or leave the vehicle for adventure on distant planets. This fully poseable toy was ready for space action.
Meanwhile, the Cosmic Cruiser resembled an actual space vehicle with a blunt nose designed for re-entry through atmospheres. This vehicle also featured a computer control panel and wheels for push-play action on any surface. It came with decals that featured authentic Star Team insignia and markings.
There was a second vehicle set in IDEAL’s Star Team toy line, No. 4601-1 Star Hawk, another toy that originated from the Zeroids toy line named Zem XXI. IDEAL recolored and repurposed the toy for the new Star Team line. Likewise, it remained the designated ship for Zeroid in this new line.
The Star Hawk was an impressive 14” in diameter, capable of carrying the 5 ½” robot action figure. The super interplanetary vehicle featured a transparent cockpit dome, computer instrument panel, and three pods for landing. It even featured a mechanical airlock door that made a space-themed sound when it opened and a retractable ramp for boarding and disembarking. Moreover, the legs and ramp automatically extended when the door was opened. Notably, this vehicle required some assembly and 2 AA batteries.
Completing the Star Team Toy Line and the Marvel Comics tie-in
Aside from these action figures and vehicles, IDEAL released a new Space-Team-themed board game. The Battling Spaceships helped cement the revived toy line’s new space action theme.
With all these elements in place, IDEAL advertised the revived Star Team line as action figures that brought the future down to Earth today. It was filled with stalwart heroes, menacing villains, loveable robots, and space vehicles that could conquer the space system. So, they hoped it would meet the demands of the space-crazed market.
However, IDEAL did not simply dump this toy line into the market. They also set up a comic book through Marvel Comics to help introduce the line. The S.T.A.R. Team comic came out in 1977 and provided a simple plot for the line. Set in the year 3000, the Knight of Darkness from the Black Nebula threatened Earth with his imposing shadow warriors. Thus, the Star Team, composed of Zem-21, Zeroid Blue, and Zeroid Red, formed in response to this threat.
IDEAL’s efforts did not go unnoticed nor unchallenged. Understanding that the company planned to compete against their line, 20th Century Fox and Kenner sent IDEAL a cease and desist letter. IDEAL did not intend to pull their toy line, so the dispute went to court. The court sided with IDEAL’s side that Star Team was distinct enough not to be confused with Star Wars. Moreover, the Star Team brand existed long before Star Wars came around.
The Current State of the Star Team Toy Line
After IDEAL shut down its doors, its catalog moved between multiple companies. Initially, it was bought by CBS Toys. It was then split between American Plastic Toys and View-Master. Many of IDEAL’s former toys were then picked up by Tyco, which later became part of Mattel. In recent years, Toyfinity purchased the rights to create Star Team toys.
Toyfinity decided to revive Star Team and Zeroids as connected parts of the Robo Force toy line. These new incarnations of the characters were introduced in a Robo Force comic book. Meanwhile, the toys became part of the Glyos System toy line.
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