The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began using crash test dummies in a Public Safety Advertising campaign in 1986. These shorts featured two crash test dummies: Vince, voiced by Jack Burns, and Larry, voiced by Lorenzo Music. Their slapstick antics and slogan, “You Can Learn a Lot from a Dummy”, made these commercials very popular and helped encourage seat belt usage. Years after the first PSA aired, Tyco signed on to elevate the campaign with the Incredible Crash Dummies toy line.
Tyco began producing the Incredible Crash Dummies toys in 1991. The lead designer of the toys was David McDonald and Jim Byrne, who set out to create a unique set of toys that were designed to break apart. Each part of the line, from the pets to the cars to the playset was designed with crashing in mind.
Despite the focus on crashing and breaking apart, Tyco fell in line with the tone of the PSAs by promoting seat belt usage. Each of the toys came with a Crash Dummy file card that included a slogan that mentioned seat belts. Even the vehicles included Crash Dummy stories that promoted seat belts as cool and the way to go.
The first series of toys, released in 1991, was the only group that featured the characters from the original PSAs, Vince and Larry. Aside from these two characters, Tyco released action figures of Daryl, Spare Tire, Skid the Kid, and a duo of pets, Hubcap and Bumper. Canada received an exclusive action figure, a recolored Daryl figure called Pitstop.
Otherwise, this first series included several vehicles and two playsets. The vehicles were the Crash Car with Dash, Student Driver Car with Axel, Crash Cycle, Crash Copper, Crash ATV with Flip, Crash Lawn Mower with Wack, and the Crash Go-Cart with J.R. Meanwhile, the playsets were the Crash Test Center and the Crash & Bash Chair.
The first major change in the Incredible Crash Dummies toy line appeared in the second series, where Slick and Spin were introduced as Vince and Larry’s replacements. Otherwise, this series continued to carry many of the same toys from the first. The notable exceptions were the mail-in exclusives Citgo Slick and Citgo Spin.
The third series gained the Pro-Tek Suits subline, which reflected the special suits that these toys wore. According to the toy line’s bios, these pro-tek suits make the dummies faster and stronger. It also introduced a villainous group, the Junkbots. Aside from the Pro-Tek suits, this series introduced new characters like Bull, Chip, Dent, and Ted. There were also new vehicles like the Flip-Over Truck and Dirt Digger.
The fourth series introduced yet another twist, racing suits along with racing vehicles. As this was the last series, many of the toys from 1994 only had limited releases. There were a few new characters that only appeared in this series, like Darlene, Rod, and Gasket. Moreover, the vehicles received a brand new line-up with a racing theme. Unfortunately, Tyco only produced a limited number of all Incredible Crash Dummies Toys from the 1994 series before it was fully canceled.
To help sell the Incredible Crash Test Dummies toy line, a half-hour television special was created for Fox Kids. It presented the adventures of Slick and Spin as they battled the evil plots of Junkman. Junkman had been born when an evil head was attached to the body of Ted, who had been given the indestructible Torso-9000. Junkman then proceeded to capture Dr. Zub so that he could mass-produce the Torso-9000. Thus, Slick and Spin set off to rescue Dr. Zub.
The Incredible Crash Dummies also gained a video game from LJN. This single-player alternated between Slick and Spin on an adventure to save their friends from the Junkman. It was released in America on the Mega Drive, Genesis, Super NES, and Nintendo Entertainment System in 1993, while most European versions came out in 1992. The only exception was the Master System PAL version that came out in 1993. However, a Game Gear version of the game appeared in the US and Europe in 1992 and in Japan in 1994.
The popularity of the Incredible Crash Dummies toy line also earned them a small comic book series published by Harvey. This series only lasted 3 issues, which all came out from November 1993 until January 1994.
After Mattel bought Tyco in 1998, they integrated the Crash Test Dummies into their Hot Wheels brand. The Incredible Crash Dummies officially returned to store shelves in 2003. Even though Mattel had full rights to the original toy line, they opted to create a new set of characters. These new characters were Crash, Splice, Crunch, and Gyro, with each name chosen to indicate what sort of action gimmick the toy had. For instance, Splice would split apart while Gyro had a spinning torso and legs. As this was a Hot Wheels brand, there was a healthy selection of vehicles to crash.
To help sell this new iteration of the Incredible Crash Dummies, several animated shorts aired on Fox Kids. 4Kids Entertainment produced these shorts that aired around 2004 and featured Mattel’s new cast of characters. So, it followed the antics of Crash, Splice, Crunch, and Gyro.
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