Back in the 1990’s, I wanted to try the Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker by Mattel, but I never got a chance to. It looked like fun, but what’s a girl going to do with a load of rubbery plastic bugs? Fast forward, and I finally get a chance to try out making my own Thingmaker creations with the 1969 Super Cartoon Maker Featuring Snoopy and his Peanuts Pals by Mattel. The toy comes with nine metal molds, a hot plate, Plasti-goop, a tray handle, cartoon accessories and instructions.
Creating with a Super Cartoon Maker
The first thing I’d need to make my Peanuts pals was Plasti-goop. Plasti-goop is essentially a liquid PVC (polyvinyl chloride) that turns into a rubbery, flexible solid when cured. While I did have some from the original, I wasn’t sure how safe or effective it would be after all these years. Instead, I picked up a six pack of Patti-Goop. While the new version might seem pricey, the original replacement cost of a bottle of Plasti-goop was $1.35, or over $10 adjusted for inflation (2022).
Other than the Plasti-goop, everything else was included in the original Super Cartoon Maker kit. Even the hot plate still worked after all these years. It was a little dirty from old goop spills, so it did smell bad when first heating it. Leaving the windows open during the process was essential.
For detailed areas, a toothpick was the perfect tool. It really helped get the goop into smaller areas and not create a mess trying to use the squeeze bottle. A plastic lid worked well as a palette for dispensing small amounts of goop and for mixing custom colors. The Plasti-goop does not harden over time at room temperature, so small containers might be helpful if you’re planning on multiple sessions. For any mistakes or spills, I used a cotton swab for clean-up.
The Process of using a Thingmaker
The basic process of starts with adding Plasti-goop to the molds. Once added, the mold is heated for around five to seven minutes, depending on the thickness of the goop. Once the goop has cured, the mold is removed and placed in a bath of cool water, making sure not to get any water in the mold itself if more plasti-goop needs to be added. After the cured Plasti-goop is complete, the characters can be removed from the mold.
The Peanuts characters are a little more complex than your typical Creepy Crawler. Each color needs to be cured separately so that they don’t blend together in a psychedelic swirl. First, the black areas need to be outlined. Then, any of the other colors can be added, curing after each section is complete. I would typically work on black, then the skin tone, followed by the clothing colors.
While it might seem simple, getting the characters looking just right can be complex. Since Plasti-goop has the consistency of white glue, it doesn’t cling to the walls of the mold. To ensure details, like Charlie Brown’s zig-zag, would be fully visible, I had to plan out how to layer in the colors to create the effect. Finally, I believe my molds might have had some debris from the previous owners. A few Snoopy molds had odd spots that may have been old Plasti-goop I didn’t notice when cleaning the molds.>
A little bit of blue. A little bit of yellow. Who needs to buy an extra container of green? If you just need a small amount of a secondary color, mixing it using the primary colors is easy enough. Brown was a tricky color to mix. I tried my best to get a wood grain effect by swirling the colors in the mold, which sort of worked. However, one time it came out too aerated and sticky after curing, so I may have overmixed and had to start again. The fun part was seeing the swirled colors on the back of the molds when doing the final fill.
The Final Product
I was frankly amazed at how well these turned out. There is a level of patience you need to have to take the time to do the details. Even with being picky on doing these right, I still missed details and got some colors in the wrong spots. Try to fill in too many colors at once and you will get a swirled mess.
It took around six hours to do all of these molds. The first mold for the video I did on its own. However, off-camera I was bouncing between molds. When one was heating and one was chilling, I was busy filling in the next mold with Plasti-goop.
Overall, it was a lot of fun. If you can get the chance to use one of these Thingmaker toys, I would recommend trying it. The final product is fun to play with, especially paired with the included comic strip props and speech balloons. The colors turn out beautifully and most of the molds are a pretty good likeness to the original Schulz drawings.
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