Matt Originally posted on 1/10/03.
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Yup, the Gloworms had action figures. Playskool joined forces with Hasbro to make the toys, which were based on characters from the Glo Friends cartoon show. Yeah, they had a cartoon, too. Though not the largest or most popular children's franchise in the world, it's still pretty impressive that they could attain a marketing blitz this large from what was essentially just a nitelite kids could hug without fear of being burned.
The original Gloworms, from 1982, looked like the one in the logo up above. They had soft plushy bodies with hard plastic heads that glowed in the dark - hence the 'nitelite' thing. It wasn't until they started releasing the toys with battery-operated squeeze lights that the line really took off. Within months, there wasn't a baby, toddler, or young person alive who didn't have one of these filthy grubs gracing their bedroom. Over the years, there were many upgrades and alternate versions of the original sold, ranging from more girlish hot pink Gloworms to softer, smaller Gloworms meant for kids in cribs.
Obviously, the past six or seven years were packed with people swarmed with nostalgia, trying to reconnect with their roots. With the advent of collector shops and Internet auction sites, Gloworms are still hot sellers today. They're quickly replacing porn mags and used condom wrappers as the thing most people try to hide before someone important comes to their house. Hey, just because someone too old for toys bought a Gloworm doesn't mean that they're proud of it. The action figures, though, were far lesser-known.
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As stated, the figures were based on the animated show. I've actually got one of these shows on tape - The Glo Friends Save Christmas. I would've reviewed it, but the story was incredibly intricate and involved some nasty witch kidnapping and torturing Santa Claus. Truth be told, I wasn't prepared to devote that kind of attention to a bunch of cheerful, illuminated worms. Strangely, the show catered more towards kids in the 7-11 age range - possibly overestimating the demographic a bit, since the toys were certainly more suited for very little kids. You expected to see the Gloworms break out with the googoos and gagas on the show, but there they were, speaking better English than I do and wearing French painter's caps.
By no means a popular entry in cartoon lore, the newly christened Glo Friends show didn't last long. In fact, it lasted just long enough for Playskool to get some more toys on the market. Here's my small tribute to these figures - they didn't revolutionize the industry or top too many holiday wishlists, but there's still some undeniable charm in glow-in-the-dark, plastic nematodes.
Here we see two happy-go-lucky tikes enjoying the majesty of the Glo Friends figures. See the book on the table? Their love for these toys is so great that they've decided to write joint diary entries describing the experience every time they play with them. (click here to read a sampling of their entries) The toys were around 3" tall, modeled in plastic so incredibly soft that I'm surprised it wasn't marketed directly as a chew toy. They really should've done that. Kids were gonna chew on the toys anyway - you may as well make them feel less guilty about it.
While the original gained popularity as a worm, the rest of the Glo Friends were other bugs. Crickets, butterflies, snails, spiders - these natural enemies all got along famously. The shared ability to glow created camaraderie, I guess.
That's 'Bopbug' up there. Definitely an interesting fellow - dude's got eight legs and he still needs a cane. Must be a cosmetic cane. Actually, he reminds me a lot of Art Carney, if you injected lots of collagen into his face and genetically mutated him into a bug. Sure, it's a stretch, but you try writing a 1,500-word essay on Glo Friends figures. Wars were fought and won with less effort. Fortunately, the commercial starred a certain luminary everyone knows and loves - she's pretty young in this picture, but that face is too recognizable to go unnoticed...
Well throw my mom off a train, it's Mama Fratelli! The night was sultry!
I keep waiting for the girl to smack Danny DeVito around with the toy while spitting, but as she does is cackle. Not a regular cackle, mind you, but rather the type of cackle which suggests that the little girl has killed three or four people in her day. It was the cackle heard 'round the world, and served as a premiere promotion for the Glo Friends figures. I hate to say this, but if I ever have a daughter that makes faces like that, I'm going to pretend I'm just performing extended babysitting duty for a distant cousin. I'm sure she's quite lovely when not imitating William Hickey, but boy is she scaring me right now. I need a friend to console me. I need a Glo Friend to console me. Let's meet some of the others...
The girl figure was called 'Bashfulbug,' but she had nothing to be bashful about with tits like that. I'm not sure if the things under her arms are wings or oversized cancerous albino tumors. To her right is the insect boy named 'Skunkbug.' His Glo Friends Super Power was the ability to stink out the entire forest. The only one who had an even worse personality trait was 'Prayerbug' - the mantis-shaped Glo Friend who prayed to God whenever something went awry. No, really. Amazingly, Playskool/Hasbro was able to forge almost thirty different character figurines - impressive if you consider the limiting template they were working from.
Some things just have an indescribable quality about them - something about them screams for people to collect the hell out of 'em. Norfin Trolls, for example. Ugly dwarf dolls with poofy hair. There was no rhyme or reason to explain their long-running success, nor is there anyone who can possibly explain exactly why they owned one. But everyone's had a Norfin Troll, even priests and sixty-year-old gravediggers. Glo Friends figures didn't have that kind of success, but they had that same quality. There's just something about them, something that draws you to them against all higher brain functions. The 'worm' thing wasn't the reason - worms aren't popular bugs. And there were plenty of other small rubber squeezy toys. There's no discernible reason for their charm, but still, there it was. With a better marketing campaign, these toys could've easily brought about world peace. I envision President Bush forcing a special report onto all the television networks so he could illustrate a friendly puppet show using two of the figures, each representing a feuding world power. Pretty soon the Middle East would've stopped bombing each other and making their women wear Halloween masks to act more like Gloworm and Bashfulbug. It could've been beautiful. Thanks to eBay and yard sales, maybe there's still some hope.
I forgot to mention the best part! The original Gloworm toys' best feature was their ability to light up. I don't know how they pulled it off, but the luminance that shone from their happy faces was as close to seeing Heaven's inviting light that we'll ever reach without, you know, dying. It wasn't too bright, it wasn't too dim, it was just right. Like the kid bear's porridge. Children were experiencing arthritis at record-setting early ages because they couldn't stop squeezing Gloworm's light-bringing belly - it brought about the warmest, fuzziest feelings ever. Ha, I kid! It was just a light! You bought it! Nyah! No, it was a nice little lighty light, and if these figures were gonna stay true to their ancestry, they had to do something involving acting like a miniature lamp. Soooo...
They weren't just Glo Friends figures, they were glow-in-the-dark Glo Friends figures. Just so this article remains the smallest bit informational, I'll tell you how it works. Glow-in-the-dark toys contain phosphors - a substance that can give off light after soaking it in. Heavy phosphors can let something glow for an extended amount of time, but obviously, these little rubber kiddie toys used light phosphors, only good enough for a few seconds of glow power. Many light switches in children's bedrooms became heavily worn because of this. While these Glo Friends figures weren't incredibly popular items, they're still picked up today by those who collect anything that glows in the dark.
Hey, they didn't change anybody's life or shape anyone's childhood, but they were still cool items for what they were. I don't suggest that everyone go out and buy the entire collection, but you may wanna think about it if you're typically late with paying your electric bills and are getting pretty sick of the fire hazards involved with lightning candles every time the power goes out. Glo Friends: fun, safe, and directly endorsed by a young Anne Ramsey. Get 'em while they're hot. Get 'em while they're free of baby saliva. Get 'em now.