Picture E.T., going through his ballsy rebellious college years.
Presto Magix were little rub-on transfer kits that provided some of the best ten minutes of fun a kid could ever have. Though suffering from decreased production these days, the sets still pop up every now and again when a hot new kiddie fad is just screaming to be capitalized on. Over the years, there's been Presto Magix kits based on all sorts of movies and television shows. They ranged in size from small supermarket stocking stuffers to much more elaborate boxed sets, providing children the opportunity to feel 'artsy' regardless of their ability to draw a straight line.
Each kit came with a background canvas based on things like Spider-Man, Strawberry Shortcake, and G.I. Joe. The real coup were the sheets of rub-on transfers, which could be scribbled over to make characters appear wherever you wanted them to on the provided canvas. Most kids preferred to use the transfers in conjunction with notebook decorations and the like, but through it all, Presto Magix were a seriously good time for all who had 'em. I used to beg for these by the truckload, and I don't think a single week went by during my childhood where I didn't spend at least an hour immortalizing Darth Vader and Snake Eyes as star attractions of the back of my Trapper Keeper folders. The kits weren't incredibly popular even in their heyday, but I enjoyed them enough to go out and buy one of the original boxed sets to give y'all a closer look. The only two reasonably priced sets I could find were based on Return of the Jedi and Precious Moments. Guess which one I picked.
I had this exact same kit as a kid, and can distinctly recall the feeling of unbridled glory as I opened up the box and made various Lando Calrissians in various Lando Calrissian poses pop up all over the canvas. This was one of the largest of the Presto Magix kits - usually, they were far smaller and came in little plastic baggies. They weren't even toy store fodder - you were more likely to find these things at a drug store or a deli. I'm not saying that George was able to transcend his fabled trilogy through the wide distribution of silly Presto Magix kits, but hey, there's enough evidence to give credence to the claim. I'm not really sure what that last sentence means or if it's even composed correctly, but these Presto sets make me so giddy and carefree. I feel like a bird, or more precisely, the only bird in the whole wide world who can rub Princess Leia transfers onto looseleaf paper. I'm one incredible bird.
Today's article presents a firsthand and in-depth look at the Return of the Jedi Presto Magix kit, so if you've forgotten why you used to love 'em, here's your chance to relive the experience.
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Up above is a scan of the instructions. Basic enough. Presto Magix had a magician in a white top hat as their mascot, which might explain why the kits weren't that popular. Choosing the right mascot is important, and it's a skill that these toy companies have only mastered in more recent years. If Presto Magix had to start their journey over today, I assume the white magician would be replaced by a sinister looking wolf with red eyes and a human head in its mouth. That's the kind of thing that'd make a kid spill their allowance. Magicians in white top hats are only good mascots if you're trying to peddle bathroom grime cleaners. I'm just sayin.
There's the canvas - it's actually quite nice, almost like a board game. It's folded in the middle, so you can stand the canvas up as a neat centerpiece once you're done rubbing all those transfers onto it. For whatever reason, Presto Magix was really big on the Star Wars movies. There were at least a dozen different sets inspired by the trilogy, but this one's easily the best. Our motif is Jabba the Hutt's palace, and there's certainly enough room to fit all of the 65,000 included transfers without needing to overlap 'em.
The box promoted the inclusion of the Presto Magix 'Magix Stick.' I have to admit, I was a little disappointed to find that the Magix Stick I received didn't have it's name printed on it in white lettering. I felt cheated, like R2 when he played space chess with the big gorilla. These 'Magix Sticks' were only included in the more expensive boxed sets. With the regular kits, you just used any old pencil.
Though the Magix Stick makes more a smoother transfer, it's nowhere near as fun as using a regular pencil. I'm really not sure why that is; I can only assume it has something to do with the plastic Magix Stick not having an edible eraser or soft wood to chew on while you're deciding where Han Solo should go.
Ah, and there's the transfer sheets. This particular set was a gold mine, including seven different sheets with well over a hundred different things to rub with that stupid red stick. Virtually every character from Return of the Jedi is represented - not just the ones from Jabba's palace. There's at least four different Admiral Ackbar transfers, and for some reason, thirteen transfers picturing small bowls of fruit. I guess Jabba likes fruit. So much for my theory that he ate live frogs and only live frogs. I hate it when I'm wrong.
Aside from the characters and fruit displays, there's plenty of other strange things included on the sheets. I counted 26 different tufts of grass, 47 'explosion' transfers, a dozen walking sticks, three jugs filled with fluorescent pink liquid, and two instances of Darth Vader transfers where he's shorter than the also-included Jawas. For the sake of volume, they had to sacrifice the true-to-scale thing a little bit. Oh well. Short Vaders can be fun, especially if the pitch of their voice goes up as their size decreases. If only these transfers could talk. My kingdom for a talking midget Vader transfer. Ober, ober.
The animated picture shown above explains the gimmick of Presto Magix. After placing the transfer sheet wherever you prefer, you use the dumb stick to scribble over a particular character until he's magically transferred onto the canvas. It's imperative that you scribble over the entire character, otherwise you'll lift the sheet and find out that poor C-3P0 only has half his head.
I promise, it's a lot more fun than it looks. If you don't believe me, ask your grandmother. Hopefully one of them is still alive. Even if she doesn't confirm what I'm telling you, at least you'll get to hear her say 'what the Hell is a Presto Magic?' Asking that question is the only way in the world to get your grandmother to say that. Unless you've got a gun and a mean streak. This shit clicks on so many levels.
The best part about these kits lie in their ability to make kids who sucked at art feel like they were actually pretty good at it. After all, if you want to get really technical, rubbing the transfers onto the canvas could be construed as 'drawing.' But instead of crude cariactures, you end up with perfect miniature representations of your favorite movie stars. The picture above shows Princess Leia, R2, a Jawa, and Chewbacca. They look just as they should. Positively perfect. It'll help boost a kid's artistic ego way more than any attempt at drawing the characters themselves. Here's the proof:
Presto Magix: 1, Freehand: 0. Though I do kind of like how Chewbacca's legs came out. Makes me crave a chicken drumstick. I don't eat drumsticks, so that's a pretty powerful example of suggestion. Go Chewy! Also notice that one of Leia's legs is longer than the other. I got distracted after drawing giant tits on her chest.
Wow, this was a lot of work. Honestly, it took me a good hour to get those transfers on there, and I was still only around 75% done. The smaller kits only took a few minutes to complete. Given that my poor overworked hand had begun to swell and throb like a cock by the jacuzzi jets, I'm starting to think that maybe this kit wasn't intended to be completed in one sitting. That better be the truth - I'm too young to have brittle hands. Let's take a closer look at some of the action going on within the four corners of Jabba's palatial Presto Magix canvas...
Here's Luke Skywalker fending off a Gamorrean Guard. Ol' Gamo isn't a transfer, but rather part of the canvas' original artwork. He's also approximately five times larger than he should be, which explains his mundane 'so what' reaction to a charging Jedi Knight.
Jabba and Bib Fortuna are also oversized originals, but I gave them the royal treatment. Look, he even has two C-3P0s! I'm a little creeped out by the fact that Salacious Crumb dwarves Princess Leia, but in a good way. Now a small part of my psyche will remember a vague case where Jabba's pet spidermonkey could conceivably swallow Princess Leia whole. I appreciate that. I also appreciate Bib Fortuna a lot more when his head surpasses four feet in height. Presto Magix rocks.
The kit gives you the chance to create scenes you'd never see in the movies. Up above, father and son mutilate the Rancor Monster with their lightsabers. You know, that's a much more touching moment than what we actually got. Vader and Luke fighting dinosaurs side-by-side is way more heartfelt than Luke crying while burning his dad's dead body to a crisp. Then again, I'm not so sure anyone would really be surprised by the idea that a Presto Magix canvas scene can make more sense than a Star Wars movie script. Peeyousa yous stinka prequelsa.
There's Jabba's fat slave dancer with the six breasts. Just mentioning it so this article turns up first on Google when someone types in 'six breasts.' Mission complete.
Working on the provided canvas is fun, but Presto Magix transfers can be used on virtually any type of paper. If you used precision while doing the pencil-rubbing, you could even switch body parts between different characters. I made smoke rise from 3P0's hand to illustrate my own pain - boy, this kit took a lot of effort. If the damn computer wasn't already sending me down a dark Carpal tunnel, this'll surely push me over the edge. The payoff is still worth it, though. I got to play God to a bunch of Star Wars rub-on transfers.
The kits aren't too difficult to find even nowadays - one quick search on eBay should land you several Presto options. The smaller sets haven't appreciated in value much either, so you won't have to sacrifice food for a week just because you want to decorate a legal pad with R2-D2 emblems. This particular super-sized kit is an exception, and is priced accordingly. (read: it costs too much, don't buy it) Still, now I've got a great fold-out scene to put on top of the ol' wall unit...
Hooray! Overall, I'd strongly recommend these Presto Magix kits for curiosity enthusiasts or for people who are really mad at the hand they use to write with. They sort of fall under the category of Play-Doh and Colorforms, but I've always preferred 'em over their more popular contemporaries. Play-Doh and Colorforms didn't let you scribble with red sticks, much less afford you the chance to make Luke and Vader slay beasts together. I've often reviewed things here on the site which didn't exactly set my world on fire. Presto Magix? My world isn't on fire really, but it's certainly pretty warm. A+.
P.S. - I'm currently selling some collectible lots off the site. 20.00 postpaid gets you two Gremlins book-and-record sets, an E.T. book, and a personalized drawing made by me, complete with forged autographs. If interested, click here for more info.