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Boogie Man

Afghanistan Assemblage
by yo go re

As you know, we normally only review "real" toys, from big companies, here on OAFE. The closest we've ever gotten to a designer toy is Bodycount, and that was still a fairly major release. Today, though, we have something special for you.

A few weeks ago, pop-culture-y blog Infinite Hollywood interviewed a toy fan and customizer named Rupert Valero. What made his creations stand out was the circumstances of their creation: Valero is a Private First Class in the United States Army, currently deployed to Khandahar, Afghanistan. He's part of an artillery team (that means he helps fire The Big Gun), but in his down time he plays with toys, and makes them as well. We wrote about the interview on our blog, and it turns out Rupert's an OAFE fan, as well.

Valero started making toys in the field as gifts for the Afghani kids: as he said in the interview, the kids over there "have nothing but rocks and bad habits." He made little toys out of discarded junk, and handed them out whenever he went into the field, to teach the kids that the soldiers were friends. As time went by, his creations got larger and more detailed, like this big boy, here.

Boogie Man (we got the name from this Flickr shot) is a giant figure, 10¾" tall to the top of the knot on his head. His body is a 10 oz bottle of Gold Bond body powder, but the multi-layered paintwork helps hide that fact: he looks like he was cobbled together out of an old boiler or something. The limbs are made from the Gatorade lids that are the backbone of the "Valerobots." The guy should really get a sponsorship deal - he spends more time working with Gatorade than Peyton Manning! The little fingers at the ends of the arms are even made from the little rings that are left behind when you twist off the cap.

The robot's head appears to be made from a fruit cup. Two fruit cups, in fact: one painted green for the base of the head, the other to serve as the rusty skull mask. The details of the skull are accomplished by cutting out the shapes, not just painting them on - that gives the Boogie Man a nice feeling of depth, making him seem just a little bit more "real," you know? There's even a second toothy little head underneath.

Articulation is plentiful as well. Boogie Man has a swivel neck, swivel shoulders, swivel shoulders, swivel biceps, swivel biceps, swivel biceps, swiv-- okay, we can't keep that joke up forever. The various parts of the toy are held together through simple use of 550 cord - basically, he pokes a hole through the plastic, runs the rope through it, and tries it off (melting the ends so it doesn't fray). Thus, every cap in the arms and legs can be rotated, even if it wouldn't usually count as articulation, per se. This isn't a robot you put in one pose and leave that way, this is a robot you play with. Swing him around! Slam him into walls! Flail his arms wildly! Have some fun.

Boogie Man's got a really nice "weathered" paintjob. Remember, this started as a yellow bottle and a bunch of bright orange bottle caps, so everything else was done by hand. He still smells like paint, too, so there's no mistake he was handmade.

We've always noticed the .gov and .mil referrers in our monthly traffic, and we're glad to be able to entertain the folks in the military with our stupid little site: after all, if it weren't for the things they do, we wouldn't be able to waste our time complaining about toys. So it's a total honor to own a toy that was made by an active duty serviceman in the middle of a warzone. You can own one, too: just visit Valero's Etsy store and pick out a robot of your own.

-- 04/09/11

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