I finally ordered the Lil Pocahontas from the My Little Fairy Tale line, and it’s got more surprises than I expected. I already called it the black sheep of the toy line, not actually being based on a fairy tale; and I mentioned how it’s the playset that proves these toys were knockoffs of the Disney versions of said stories.
But then it arrives in the mail, and wouldn’t you know it? It’s almost half the size of the rest! Even the dolls are at a smaller scale than Goldilocks, one of the smallest of the regular MLF dolls. Really caught me off guard, and it makes the tiny detailing of this set all the more impressive.
The landscape is impressively detailed and nicely colored, with a waterfall and creek cutting through the middle, and two different buildings to explore. The Chief doll is still my favorite part, with his amazingly detailed face. Pocahontas herself is pretty derpy with her distorted balloon head. I think this set is also missing an animal, since the deluxe carded version comes with two different animals.
I mentioned in the Lovely Kitty article that there were several alternate versions of this particular Polly Pocket knockoff, using the same molds with different names and different paint jobs. The others are Pretty Pixies, Petite Princess, and Betty’s Club. I suspect Lovely Kitty was the first — her name is still featured on the Betty’s Club version of the tennis/yacht race set.
I’ll be updating this post as I make new discoveries.
The first variant I got is a Pretty Pixies beach house with an easter egg colorscheme. I’m happy that the umbrella was intact. I later picked up a Petite Princess version of the beach house with a grim blue-and-burgundy horror-movie-night palette, and a Betty’s Club mini-locket depicting some kind of tropical campsite infested with rabbits.
Also interesting to note is the doll variants. Lovely Kitty looks like an albino blow-up doll, but her twins are much better painted and resemble proper pigtailed girls molded in better plastic. I suspect these are the dolls that go with Betty’s Club, though, because ebay listings of complete Pretty Pixies sets show yet another variant of Kitty with red hair and navy blue outfit: derp-wise she appears to be a hybrid of the first two, with normal skin tone but badly drawn-on face.
Most interesting of all the dolls is the smaller, better-dressed, and non-articulated Kitty, of which two have already popped up on Polly facebook groups lately. Her base is the same shape as the others, which originally led me to believe she was none other than the titular Petite Princess. However, I recently discoverd that was not the case when I purchased a carded ‘Princess set with the same red-haired doll mentioned above. So the identity of this little gal is still a mystery. (EDIT: Mystery solved in this article.)
It does appear, however, that Petite Princess included makeup items to set her apart from her cousins. The size of the cards appears to vary drastically as well.
Further inspection reveals the cardback referring to the product as “Petite Miss”, making things even more confusing.
Betty’s Club also sports this odd anomaly. Even on the cards, all the sets are the same, so I’m not sure where this fifth set came from — clearly a redesign of the yacht races set that I have. It clearly says Betty’s Club on the outside of the compact.
EDIT 6/4/2019: It must be an early version, because a carded one just popped up with yet another toy line name, Claire’s Secret Locket. The doll for this set is very different as well: no pigtails, and no waist hinge, but clearly it’s what the pigtailed version is based on.
I recently discovered the company Hinstar produced a ton of weird little knockoff toy lines in the 80s or 90s, mostly in the form of 6-inch vinyl soldier toys. Apparently they also dabbled briefly in the mini-playset scene with Small World – Pocket Paradise.
No idea why this series of toys was given the Small World header, unless there were other mini-playsets by Hinstar (EDIT: there indeed were, such as Power Striker Rangers). What’s interesting is that they’re sort of a Polly Pocket / Mighty Max style toy, but with a bootleg Sanrio flavor: all the figures are cartoon animals, which I initially mistook for carnival prizes since all these toys are carnival themed.
They are indeed endearing in their shoddiness. I was sure this one came with a frog, but I was mistaken. The hippo is pretty darn cute though.
I got this one because it had a ton of figures and I liked the design of the collapsing ferris wheel. There is also a train set, an eatery/octopus merry-go-round, and another one I have yet to identify.
There are also two or three mini-playsets with wrist straps, one of which I managed to get carded. The card was partly popped off from age (see yellowed plastic in bubble) and held on with staples, so I removed the staples in order to take it out whenever I want. Despite having nearly a dozen of these little Sanrio knockoff characters now, I still don’t have Bizarro Keroppi!
There’s also this impressive Apple Hotel jumbo playset I’d love to get my hands on.
I really, REALLY hope this thing is legit: that a toy company repurposed the mold for Vicious Volcano when the Flintstones movie came out in 1994 (one year before Sammy Steel was a thing), and made this cute little playset thing.
Presumably if it IS real, there were two, and half the figures are from the other set.
Even if it’s a custom job, it’s pretty badass. Haven’t been able to find the figures anywhere on their own, and I don’t know yet if I want to shell out what the seller is asking for it without knowing for sure where it came from (he WAS nice enough to let me use his photos, though).
EDIT: THEY’RE REAL! Just found a listing with carded sets being sold in France! Apparently Flintstones were extremely popular there.
There are a number of Mighty Max toy variants that collectors will want to be aware of, some much rarer than others. I don’t have a single one, so I had to borrow photos from ebay and other places once again in order to archive them here. Excuse the occasional bad photo, since I didn’t take these, and due to Photobucket deciding to flush itself down the crapper and yank away everyone’s off-site hosted pics, I had to borrow thumbnails in some cases.
Corpus (Series 2) got a pastel makeover to make it less scary, I guess. Now it looks like the worst easter egg ever.
Battle Conqueror got a weird death metal repaint, making him look strangely modern.
Ice Alien (Series 1) has a rarely seen cousin, the Fire Alien. I’m not sure if that’s what it said on the card, too, or if that’s just the nickname for this odd variant, which may have come with one of the UK multi-packs.
Wolfship 7 (Series 1) gets another gaudy color scheme that makes the original toys look positively subtle. Either that or these variant aliens are colorblind.
This is an official variant of Scorpion (Series 2), made to resemble as closely as possible a shitty custom paint job by a mong on the internet.
I hope to find better pics of this one: the red variant of Kronosaur (Series 1), which still looks ridiculous, but not quite as bad as the others.
Aurore graciously donated these beautiful photos of the rare blue Lockjaw (Series 2). Guess Big Blue smothered to death in his pretty pink coffin.
There’s also a super rare periwinkle Rhesus variant apparently, which I’ve never seen apart from this photo.
I’ve also seen variants listed of Arachnoid, Skull Dungeon, and Doom Dragon (Series 1). The Arachnoid variant has a near-imperceptibly browner case, and with the latter two I failed to see any difference from the originals. As far as I know, these are all the official variants. Anything else is probably a knockoff or a shit custom repaint.
I put this together after I started pondering which of the Mighty Max toys were objectively the best and worst as far as design, aesthetic, and functionality goes.
Best: Series 1
The highlight of the toy line definitely got off to a great start with Series 1. There are a lot of creative designs and very distinct locales, with a good balance of spooky, colorful, and endearing to introduce young kids to a toy line that would get progressively more gruesome as they got older. The compact designs weren’t as outrageous as Series 3, but none of the Series 1 entries are forgettable, whether or not you like the cutesy design aesthetic. The whole thing has a 50s cult monster movie vibe, with tributes to Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Fly, and the countless cult and alien films of the era. Each set also has one or two cool gimmicks to make it stand out from the others, like moving machinery, giant monsters that are part of the inerior AND exterior, and tightrope acts to name a few.
Worst: Series 2
Series 2 isn’t “bad” by any stretch. It just isn’t as inspired as 1’s distinct locales or Series 3’s amazing compositions. Where it falls short is how half of them have bland exteriors, strange color choices for interiors, and/or general lack of anything going on inside, almost like oversized horror heads.
Series 1 Best: Palace of Poison
Not only does it feature the badass setting of ancient Egypt, it has the most creative design of Series 1 that can depict a dig site with or without a giant snake shrine protruding from the sand, or an elaborate tomb with a tightrope act. The color scheme is unmisakably sandy and the whole thing gives a great Indiana Jones vibe. Every area is interactive and pitting sweet little Max against a giant scorpion for the amusement of a dehydrated despot is truly magical.
Series 1 Worst: Ice Alien
A great color scheme is wasted on a rather dull interior, foreshadowing half of the Series 2 sets. It’s extremely pretty and has a wonderfully detailed exterior, but inside it’s just kinda bland, and the big monster is sort of amorphous and not terribly memorable (though it is neat that it features one complete ice alien and two more still forming out of the glacier). The main baddie is pretty cool at least, and didn’t use the awkward-looking hinged waist mechanic.
Honorable Mention: Skull Dungeon
Awesomely detailed tribute to Frankenstein. When you mention Mighty Max, this is immediately what I think of. A shining example of what the toy line was capable of, and never fails to impress: every time I show this one off, I get a gasp of delight. Bonus points for the awesome jawbridge that makes a rare use of a playset’s interior AND exterior.
Series 2 Best: Maneater
An attack sub designed as a giant shark is amazing all on its own, and allows Max to fight on the inside AND outside, which is rare for a doom zone. The details are exquisite and the colors and overall aesthetic are a perfect balance of flesh, tech, and treasure. It also splits into various layers: from giant shark, to attack sub in a cavernous bay, to an undersea treasure trove or biomech ship interior. Top it off with a cool squidman, two squid minions, and a cyber-manta jetski, and you’ve got a winner.
Series 2 Worst: Scorpion
Worst was initially a tie among Ape King, Scorpion, and Battlecat given the lack of interesting interior design, among other problems. Originally I picked Battle Cat because it lacks a titular cat and has a gaudy Polly Pocket palette, but after some deliberation I realized Scorpion was the biggest offender. For all their faults, the other two can at least stand on their own. Scorpion is basically two vehicles, one of them totally impractical, the other only interesting when combined with other sets.
Honorable Mention: Cyclops
Shades of Skull Dungeon, but much more macabre. There’s a ton of interactivity in this dungeon, a very cool giant eyeball monster, and a compact that screams Ray Harryhausen. A great layout as well, with the twin stairs leading up the horn and onto the upper landing. It’s easy to fall in love with this one, and it’s my personal favorite of Series 2.
Series 3 Best: Fly
An awesomely detailed giant fly compact hatches into a Cronenberg-esque nightmare filled with giant maneating bugs and squirming human hosts for their parasitic young, with a little mad science thrown in via the man-fly villain and his cyber-bug forklift thing. The compact’s eyes double as sliding windows in a very cool clockwork touch. Color choice is perfect here, screaming “alien bug” and other general unpleasantness. Cool setting and very cool goodies inside, most of which contribute to the overall presentation whether the set is closed or open.
Series 3 Worst: Cyberskull
Nothing in this set resembles much of anything. It’s a random mix of bone and computer guts. Yawn.
Honorable Mention: Nautilus
I really wish more of the playsets went with the vertical split gimmick seen here — some of the less interesting playsets might have benefitted from it. It’s an awesome two-part bisection of a biomechanical submarine lair, but hurts from the gaudy Polly Pocket colorscheme. I guess parents were getting angry about the macabre atmosphere of these toys and felt goofy pastels would tone it down sufficiently to placate them. With a more macabre palette this might have had a shot at my #1 spot for Series 3.
Best: Series 2
Whereas most horror heads were glorified figure carrying cases, the Series 2 ‘Heads did it right by establishing a tangible and interactive environment inside. The overall designs were also the most fearless of the whole toy line, with lots of gore and gross fleshtones. Fantastic work.
Worst: Series 3
Series 3 was the first sign of the toy line’s downward spiral. Like Series 1, the interiors were a bit lazy and uninspired, but they also didn’t include the featured bad guy! It’s nothing but shit vehicles and henchmen here, and just about all of these designs had lots of room for improvement before final production.
Series 1 Best: Kronosaur
It’s almost impossible to pick a best from the series that started bringing out Mighty Max’s more gruesome side: each of the original Horror Heads had a tangible environment but figures that were lacking, or lazy environments with really great figures and accessories, with exterior designs that were okay on average. I settled on this one because it has the best balance of all three. A beautifully lush colorscheme, an interior with bloody and mechanical highlights, a wonderfully mean-looking caveman villain, and an excellently designed exterior complete with the compact clasp being incorporated as the kronosaur’s incisors, all makes this one a winner. It looks good in your collection and has neat stuff on the inside. Best of all, it’s really easy to find on ebay.
Series 1 Worst: Sea Squirm
The monsters are awkwardly posed and the interior has a lot of clutter. They put more thought into the looks than the functionality for this one. As I said, most of the Series 1 ‘Heads are aesthetically beautiful, but limited play-wise; this one is the extreme in both. Really pretty pattern on the serpent’s skin, and a lovely undersea motif overall, just bettter suited to making your collection look good than actually playing with.
Honorable Mention: Zomboid
It’s so wonderfully icky I can’t ignore it. Disgusting interior of a giant rotting human, with the abcessed brain as the villain and a giant centipede sidekick. What’s not to like?
Series 2 Best: Corpus
Takes a note from Maneater by providing a shifting environment: the action takes place at an open grave or inside a spooky catacomb. Either way, it’s a great idea with some spooky-ass bad guys, grim Poe-esque detail, and a palette so disturbing they had to make a “safer” pastel-colored re-release.
Series 2 Worst: Werewolf
It gets points for great presentation, but lacks the titular Werewolf, thus the set has a lack of overall direction. Honestly not that bad for a “worst” pick, further demonstrating the expert design of Series 2.
Honorable Mention: Ax Man
This one has the most fun interactive feature: a giant swiveling guillotine for disemboweling Max. Co-starring gruesome maniac with a chainsaw!
Series 3 Best: Beetlebrow
This is as close as the awful Series 3 comes to including the featured villain in the set, unlike the other three, and the showdown basically boils down to a jousting contest: Max riding a giant tick, versus the beetle borg riding a space jetski. The color scheme has some nice stark contrasts, the interior features hapless astronauts being eaten alive by parasites, and when the set is closed up, all of the components contribute to a rather fearsome space bug mug. The theme is the least abstract — people being fed to alien parasites by a scooter-riding bug-bot — and there’s plenty of goodies to fool around with. Too bad it’s impossible to find on ebay, probably the rarest of the entire toy line.
Series 3 Worst: Hydron/Rhesus 7
A “planet of the apes” setting is perfect for Mighty Max, but they bungle it pretty badly here. Half the pieces form the worst vehicle in toy history, and again the (ridiculous looking) main villain is strangely absent. There was plenty of room for both Hydron and his lackey and a smaller, more sensible mount for Max. All the good designers must’ve left the company by this point.
Honorable Mention: Freako
Freako is the black sheep of this series: the only one to lack both a vehicle AND the “removable jaws” aesthetic of the other three sets. It also has a great exterior design with a striking color scheme that really grabs your eye, and everything inside does a nice job conveying “circus freakshow”. Unfortunately the compact’s interior, while awesomely psychadelic, is useless except as a carrying case, and again the featured villain is absent. Why not a retractable highwire and a Freako figure?
Everything about this screams “awesome”. Undead ED209 with a variety of killer missiles/extending arms, a flying vehicle for Max or Cyberskull, and a command post inside the big guy’s head. Battle Masters / Battle Max / Whatever the hell you call this particular branch of the line was never better than this.
Worst: Lava Beast
It seems when the designers didn’t know what to do, they defaulted to lava, and the result is always dull. A nice minimalist colorscheme, and the big guy can eat the little guys and puke them back up. There’s nothing interesting inside, and the accessories are all bland.
Honorable Mention: Battle Conquerer
Easily one of the best in this series: a giant lion-man with giant weapons that he OR Norman can use, plus a dragon-jet with a ballista for finishing him off. Only gripe is the Conquerer’s crappy “side kick” leg pose. Handsome metallic color palette as well. A great medieval counterpart to the sci-fi Cybot — if you only own one from this series, and it’s not Cybot, make it this one.
Best: Skull Mountain
The pictures speak for themselves. If this were a GI Joe playset, it would be six feet tall. It’s the biggest set in the toy line, and filled with tons of goodies and features: skelevator, dragon lair, two retracting bridges, a face-changing villain, projctile weapons, a guillotine, a submarine bay…Skull Mountain has it all.
Worst: Terror Talons / Dread Star
A giant horror head with lots of figures. The only intersting part is the wall-face throne that opens and closes it jaws and moves its eyes around. This coulda been two more doom zones. Utter crap.
Honorable Mention: Dragon Isle
Like Skull Mountain, every inch of this set is a finely detailed environment, although there is only half as much to do. The bay areas are particularly spooky and delightful. One of the easiest MM toys to find on ebay, too.
Best Overall Collection: Horror Heads, Series 2
As far as design, creativity, atmosphere, and playability, this set is the most consistent across the board. Every other collection has its ups and downs; here, even the downs have enough going for them to put the “worst” of the other collections to shame. Not only are these great looking and fun to play with, they attest to the creativity of the designers: look what they were able to do with such restrictions on space, size, and number of pieces. These are outstanding, and if you only own one collection, you could do a hell of a lot worse than this. Each one draws your attention and admiration.
A lot of ebay members have difficulty listing Mighty Max items, probably for good reason: each set comes with lots of small parts that can easily be lost by the average seven-year-old.
Still, if you’re going to list anything for sale on ebay, you need to do your research first — too many sellers lump pieces together without knowing what goes with what, and nobody wants to buy an incomplete set, or be forced to buy multiple lots just to get all the right pieces.
This article should serve you as a springboard for being sure of what you have, which parts go with it, and whether the item is complete or not. You can often use my photos for reference, since all of my toys are complete (except the Monster Heads toys, missing a single figure), but I don’t have every Mighty Max toy ever, so you’ll have to do some research yourself.
PLAYSETS BY TYPE
First, know what items you have. If you have the name of the item, you can do an image search for that item, and almost always find photos of the complete item with all its parts. Mighty Max toys came in the following forms:
DOOM ZONES – the typical playsets, hand-sized compacts slightly larger in diameter than a drink coaster. They seem to average $10 to $20 depending on condition and availability. There were 3 separate series of these toys, listed above in order. Each came with a randomly distributed Max figure.
Series 1: Skull Dungeon, Doom Dragon, Arachnoid, Ice Alien, Palace of Poison, Wolfship 7.
Series 2: Cyclops, Maneater, Battlecat (Hellcat), Ape King, Dino Lab, Scorpion
Series 3: Nautilus, Rattus, Fly, Geela Guts (Lizard), The Hand, Cyber Skull
HORROR HEADS – Smaller playsets that fit in your palm, which usually only came with a couple of figures. Typically range from $8 to $15 if complete and not badly beaten up. There was also a trilogy of these toys, but Series 2 and 3 consisted of four playsets apiece, while Series 1 consisted of eight. Each came with a randomly distributed Max figure.
Series 1: Vamp Byter (Nightwing), Nuke Ranger, Robot Invader (Droid Invader), Zomboid, Kronosaur, Lava Beast, Sea Squirm, Skull Warrior
Series 2: Corpus, Axe Man (Spike), Lockjaw, Werewolf
Series 3: Talon (Clawber), Rhesus 4 (Hydron), Freako, Beetle Brow
SHRUNKEN HEADS – These were the size of a brooch, and came with one removable piece: an exclusive Max figure. Shrunken Heads came carded in pairs. There were two series, but I don’t have any photos of the second series. They’re nicely sculpted and painted, so you can probably get away with selling one for as much as $8. Series 2 Shrunken Heads go for as much as $50 a pop, but I advise against pricing them that high, especially since they’re ugly and badly designed.
Series 1: Insectoid, Brain Face, Head Case (Meltdown), Wraptile, Vampyre, Mummy, Rat Trap, Rock Monster
Series 2: Skullmaster, Fang, Dr. Zygote, Conquerer, Gargoyle, Necrosaur, Lava Lord, Doom
MONSTER HEADS – Cheapo toys that weren’t even playset compacts. It’s hard to tell if the Max figures were randomly distributed or unique to each set; most photos will show the same Max with each set, so best stick with it. The Max figure on the far left is from the Heroes & Villains series — I lost the figure that came with the gold dragon head.
GIANT PLAYSETS – These usually aren’t categoried in Mighty Max Playset Terminology, so I lump them together. Search for Skull Mountain, Dragon Island, Skullmaster Mega Head, Terror Talons / Dread Star, and Magus when researching Mighty Max toys to see examples of complete sets. Terror Talons was released in the UK as Dread Star, and came with an additional figure and vehicle — make sure you know which version you have before listing it.
BATTLE WARRIORS – Also known as Action Masters, these were action figures that opened into questionable playsets and came with oodles of loot. Pictured above with Magus to show the scale difference.
HEROES & VILLAINS – Bluebird released six 7-figure packs under this title. Half of them were repaints of previous Doom Zone and Horror Head figures, while the ones pictured above are from the sets based on the cartoon.
WRISTWATCHES – These photos are courtesy of the Toy Museum. Five of these adorable watches were produced, to my knowledge: based on Doom Dragon, Ice Alien, Wolfship 7, and Skull Dungeon (above) of Series 1, and a fifth based on Geela Guts of Series 3. Each came with a Max figure, which could stand in the diorama.
DREAD HEADS – Photo courtesy of Funkycosmic at ebay, a regular Mighty Max seller. These severed heads had troll hair and hinged jaws for gobbling the Max figure each came with. They must’ve made these in response to kids losing their Maxes all the time.
MULTI-PACKS – These count among the rarest of Mighty Max items, and new ones keep popping up. Photos are impossible to come by (thanks, Bram Brouwers!), but the better-known ones were titled “Triple Horror” and “Clash of the Titans” (the multilingual one pictured above is a recent discovery by Ideal). Clash is a two-pack including variants of Battle Conqueror and Scorpion. Triple Horror includes a Wolfship 7 variant and the Lava Beast and Kronosaur horror heads, but there’s another version that includes The Hand instead of Wolfship. These boxed sets are elusive to the point of legend, but you can find the variants on ebay by themselves with little trouble. There’s also the rare French carded two-pack.
WHICH MAX IS WHICH?
I wrote an article on the subject of identifying Max figures, to make sure you list your playsets with the correct one before calling it complete. It should be required reading for anyone selling Mighty Max toys: Max collectors will generally know if you’ve listed a Series 1 Max with a Series 3 playset. It may not affect whether they buy the item or not, but the more accurate your package, the more enticing it is, and the happier your buyer will be (because now they don’t have to find the right figure separately).
Do your research before you list. And make sure your prices (and shipping especially) are reasonable. It could be the difference between selling the item and relisting it over and over ’til doomsday.
I decided to give my Japanese Pokemon figures a home, and bought three mini-playsets on ebay for cheap. They were a lot tinier than I anticipated, which isn’t a bad thing: they’re pretty damned adorable.
I quite like the beach one. The city one is a bit crowded, although the pokemon hospital would make for some great mad science experiments.
I was playing around with Mighty Max as long as I had the toys out for updated photos, and tried to come up with as many interesting environmental combinations as I could, mostly by theme.
CYBORGS, ALIENS, and MINI-MAX
ADVENTURES in ANCIENT EGYPT
MAX GOES to HELL
GHOULS & GHOSTS & MAD SCIENCE
DEEP SEA & PREHISTERIA
Someone on ebay recently sold me a carded Sammy Steel for cheap. It’s nice to get to see one of the packaging cards again after all these years.
Face Mountain was apparently the most common set, because I’ve seen other people selling the same set on ebay before. It’s basically a more kid-friendly version of Mighty Max Grapples with Battlecat…except Sammy actually came with a cat! The sabretooth tiger figure is pretty neat, and with a bit of a repaint would make a good stand-in for the tiger in the Max set.
I noticed, too, that this Face Mountain uses different materials than the one I originally got. The fourth photo shows my original villain figures next to the new ones. The left caveman is badly painted in fleshtones and likely molded from the same brown plastic as the playset itself. The same goes for the tiger, which has a slightly better paintjob. The figures on the right were molded from fleshtone plastic and painted a bit less amateurishly. The titular face on top of the new playset’s outer lid is also more defined and a bit less faded. I’m guessing this was a later release with better materials.
This playset has never been opened ’til now (the packaging was falling apart when I bought it, and fell completely away in transit), so it’s in pristine condition. Hopefully I’ll come into more carded sets in the future.