Archive for the 'Dimensions for Children (DFC)' Category

Christmas Toy Aisle Zen, 1983

K-Mart Toy Shopping 1983

The store is a K-Mart in Billings, Montana, and I’m only going to name one of the toys I see, other than the gorgeous, underrated Crystar figures the kid is holding: there are Dragonriders of the Styx figures hanging on the rack in front of him. You guys name the rest.

‘Tis the season. Visit posts of Christmas past here.

(Photo via the Billings Gazette)

Dragonriders of the Styx Toys: Demon Flyer, Serpent Rider, and Skull Sled (DFC, 1983)

Dragonriders Flyer 1983

Dragonriders Serpent 1983

Dragonriders Sled 1983

Dragonriders Serpent 1983-2

The most priceless “free wheeling” fantasy toy line of the ’80s, and I’m not talking about cash value. The action figures are here.

Dragonriders of the Styx Action Figures (DFC, 1983)

Dragonriders Wizard 1983

DOTS Ragnar 1983

Dragonriders Knight 1983

DOTS Guliz 1983

Dragonriders Demon 1983

DOTS Dragon Man 1983

Dragonriders Wizard 1983-2

Dragonriders Card Back V2

As I wrote in a previous post, I believe that DFC’s Dragonriders of the Styx Fantasy Playset (1981) is the first traditional playset to be released in response to the popularity of D&D. It must have sold decently, because (1) DFC subsequently released a number of playset variations on the fantasy theme, (2) Dragonriders appeared in major department store catalogs, and (3) a line of action figures followed in 1983 bearing the Dragonriders name. The action figures were released the same year as LJN’s AD&D action figure line. I don’t know which line hit the shelves first.

As you can see, the figures are not terribly impressive, though they’re undeniably campy and historical. All of the individually sold figures are included above. (The Wizard figure also came in a black hat/robe.) All other figures and vehicles will be posted separately. The names of the figures appear on the card back only, which I thought was strange. Obviously they were produced hastily (“The Wizard”? “Dragon Man”?), probably in an attempt to beat LJN’s AD&D line and capitalize on the debut of the D&D animated series in September of 1983.

UPDATE: I’m adding a second version of the card back that includes a typical epic fantasy backstory. I’m also adding some price tags below.

Dragonriders Price-1

Dragonriders Price-2

DFC Toys: Demons of Castlelon Fantasy Action Playset (1982)

DFC Demons 1982

DFC Demons 1982-3

DFC Demons 1982-2

DFC (Dimensions For Children) put out at least six fantasy playsets in the early ’80s. You’ve seen Dragonriders of the Styx (1981), probably the first to be released, and the only one I’ve seen in a major catalog. This is the first time I’ve seen Demons of Castlelon. There’s another version called Dungeons of Castlelon—same figures and playmat, different box.

DFC Dungeons of Castlelon

As others have noted, the green snake figure looks suspiciously like David Sutherland’s Naga from the first edition Monster Manual.

Sutherland Naga

At some point, DFC started producing the figure without facial features or ears, no doubt due to copyright issues. UPDATE (1/19/14): Here’s a photo of both versions of the Naga, courtesy of Little Weirdos/Flickr.

DFC Naga

Other known sets include Fires of Shandarr, The Tower of the Night, and The Forest of Doom.

DFC Fires of Shandarr

DFC Tower of the Night

DFC Forest of Doom

DFC Forest of Doom-2

I’ll do separate posts on each set as I score better photos.

(Image credits: Demons of Castlelon: eBay seller The Lost Item Carousel; Dungeons of Castlelon: Tales from the Big Board; Naga: James Brady; Fires of Shandarr and The Tower of Night: Virtual Toy Chest; The Forest of Doom: Action Figure Archive)

DFC Toys: Dragonriders of the Styx Fantasy Playset (1981)

Dragonriders 1981

Dragonriders 1981-2

Dragonriders-2 1981

Dragonriders-3 1981

Dragonriders-4 1981

The coolest, and maybe the earliest, D&D-inspired fantasy playset I’ve seen so far. (I don’t count Warriors of the Galaxy, which is more of a MOTU-chasing spacy-fantasy.) The set is huge, first of all: it’s almost as big as the kid laying next to it on the box cover. Second, the figures are a good, creative mix, even if the dragon mount looks kind of like a Tauntaun. Third, I dig the maze with the gold prize in the middle, the obvious place for the green dragon to crouch.

UPDATE (4/6/14): As I said here, my assumption now is that Dragonriders is the first playset to be packaged and produced in response to the popularity of D&D.

‘Dragonriders’ was likely taken from Anne McCaffrey’s popular Dragonriders of Pern trilogy, released under that name in a collected edition in 1978. The Styx is a river in Greek Mythology running into the underworld. It’s also the name of a rock band—you’ll remember them from the 1983 hit single “Mr. Roboto.” Paradise Theater, the band’s only album to hit #1 on the US charts, came out in January, 1981.

Here’s the set—pretty expensive, compared to Castle Greyskull—in the 1982 J.C. Penney catalog.

Dragonriders Catalog 1982

Read a firsthand account of someone who owned it at Two-Bit Nonsense.

DFC also released an action figure line of the same name starting in 1983. I’ll talk about that in a future post.

(Images via eBay and Wishbook/Flickr)

Miner Industries: Dragon Crest (1983) and Mysterious Castle (1982) Playsets

Dragon Crest MPC

Dragon Crest MPC-2

I ran across the Dragon Crest playset at toyranch’s Flickr. I found nearly the same set, renamed Mysterious Castle, in the 1982 Sears Christmas Catalog. The date on the Dragon Crest set is a guess. At some point in 1979, Multiple Toymakers ceased operations and Miner Industries partnered with Union Major. Many or all of Multiple’s molds fell to Miner, much like Mego acquired various Marx Toys’ molds in ’79. It was the year that marked the beginning of the end for the traditional playset.

Sears Catalog 1982 pg608-3

Sears Catalog 1982 pg608-2

The big addition to Mysterious Castle is the cheesy dragon and his/her lair. The mat is also a little different. Beyond that, it looks like all the pieces have been recycled from previous Multiple sets, including Castle Attack and Castle Warfare (1964), Battle of the Knights (1965), and Carry Case Castle (1969). The “fiend” figures are from the famous Pop-Top Horrors designs first produced in 1964.

Marx started putting out medieval sets in the ’50s, but Dragon Crest marks the first time the traditional knights/castle theme was combined with monsters, including dragons, thanks to the booming fantasy/D&D market.

UPDATE (4/6/14): I’m now betting that DFC’s Dragonriders of the Styx Fantasy Playset (1981) was the first to present a theme inspired by D&D. That would mean Dragon Crest was released at some point after Mysterious Castle. I’m changing the date on the set from 1981 to 1983 for now.


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