I hope you have enjoyed the last 24 days chaotically themed or eclectic blog posts as the Man of TIN Advent Calendar.
From your likes and comments, it seems that many of you have enjoyed the varied nature of these December posts and thank you for taking the time to leave these comments, I really enjoy reading them.
This is my other Advent Calendar, part of the beautiful traditional Toy Shop Advent Calendar that we have been opening at home this Christmas, designed by talented modern British artist EmilySutton. http://www.emillustrates.com
This was a gift earlier this year and one Rotadraw set that I would dearly have loved as a child, in place of the mishmash of random Disney characters that we had instead.
Does anyone else remember Rotadraw? The ‘Magic’ of the Magic Rotadraw discs was drawing in the numbered slot then turning the dial, held in place on a card drawing board with a drawing pin. You usually had no idea what each numbered bit did in the overall picture, hidden as it was by the coloured plastic. At the end you lifted the disc off and – as if by magic – a completed drawing appeared.
This secondhand set had only the discs but had the attractive box showing not only what the Rotadraw discs would produce, but also what our haircuts and clothes were like back in the 1970s. American sets were also called Rondographs.
Officer, advancing rifleman and artilleryman with sponge. Stylish!
Drawing them onto a scene was always difficult as you couldn’t always tell where the figure would be under the disc. The alternative was to colour in the outline figures, cut them out and stick them onto a backscene.
Another challenge was reversing the figures. It could be done on thin paper or by marking all the numbers on the back of the disc! Fiddly …
As you can see in the picture, you can see the drawing pin hole and the 12 o’clock mark that helps you turn the Rotadraw disc dial numbers to the very same top mark.
Simple magic and possible to make paper or card soldiers to stick potentially onto thin wood.
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, Advent Calendar Day 21 on 21 December 2018.
Man of TIN AdventCalendarDay3 – Looking up “Toy Soldiers” on the Etsy website is an easy way to lose several hours of an evening (and hopefully not lose or spend too much money).
The Etsy prices are generally not cheap (it is a retro, vintage, crafty, antique sellers platform site) but you do see some fascinating metal and plastic Toy Soldier figures from all over the world including Eastern Europe and America.
Perfect for online “window shopping”.
Shipping sometimes obviously adds prohibitively to costs from outside the U.K.
Disclaimer: Man of TIN cannot be held responsible for the loss of your time or hard earned cash from mentioning toy soldiers and Etsy. Searching for ‘toy soldiers’ on Etsy also occasionally brings up ‘adult’ material / figures.
I have bought from Etsy several times from UK and overseas sellers with no problems.
One set that caught my eye but I didn’t buy (no longer available – ships from Bulgaria http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/RETROne?ref=si_shop ) are these interestingly blue uniformed versions of the Airfix 1:32 British paratroopers with very thick bases – Eastern European clones or copies?
I took a screen shot of these for my toy soldier scrapbook, so that now when they are sold and gone from Etsy, I still have the memory. All good reference and research.
Close up you might notice a range of Army Blue troop types.
Above: The first two were once Britain’s Redcoat Guards marching with rifles at slope, followed by two Britain’s Redcoat Line infantry, a Fimo base repair to a damaged footless US Marines figure, (Home cast? type) Officer with pistol and one of my recent Home cast infantry.
From the back – The simple white belts, equipment and cross belts show up more than practical black and gives a proper toy soldier look.
Basing and Painting
A variety of basing can be seen, experimenting with bases for these soldiers to be part of future Close Little Wars skirmish games on the games table or in the summer garden.
Four of them are based on 2p coins, although I am still experimenting with the best adhesive. Wood Glue might not be strong enough. Whilst it was still wet and white, I mixed in some flock to see how this worked. Flock basing is not very traditional toy soldier but then the two pence bases are practical, suitably light but weighty enough, inexpensive and more importantly, to hand.
Trying to find interesting 54mm civilian figures is always a challenge. Apart from an unusual set ordered online from China, it usually involves looking out for figures with playsets or vehicles.
An expensive way to acquire a few figures!
Parading Through The Zoo
It was always frustrating as a child to have a zoo or farm or a parade set out but no visitors to watch; it usually resulted in lots of troops endlessly parading with their bands through the model zoo (H.G. Wells Floor Games style) along with assorted military staff feeding the animals, selling tickets etc.
Zoo animals were an important and long running part of any lead or plastic figure series, from Britain’s onwards.
To be fair, military bands and other forms of entertainment and display from balloon rides and fetes to fireworks to lifeboat launches were not unknown in the Victorian zoo such as Bristol Zoo. A bandstand was an everyday part of parks, seaside promenades, botanic gardens and often zoos.
This carried right through at Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo from Victorian times into the 1950s, they staged elaborate military and historical tableaux through both world wars with a local cast of hundreds. Their theatrical stock of obsolete muskets were borrowed by the early Home Guard units locally in 1940.
Today, Edinburgh Zoo has a penguin called Nils Olaf “commissioned” into the Norwegian Royal Guard and occasionally visited and paraded by his fellow (human) comrades in their magnificent full dress uniform.
The Zoo and Wartime Morale
I have 1939 ‘propaganda’ press pictures of servicemen enjoying elephant rides at Belle Vue Zoo Manchester. This was sort of true of many British Zoos in wartime – there were special rates for servicemen (and lady friends) in uniform, entertainments in WW1 for injured servicemen.
In the first few weeks of being closed to the public on ARP grounds in September 1939, London Zoo made arrangements for servicemen to walk round for the animals to look at. ‘The Zoo’ also made their canteen over to the RAF as the big houses around became RAF Regent’s Park full of training aircrew.
Britain’s and other lead toy soldier manufacturers made plenty of civilians and farm workers in the more pacifist aftermath of WW1. Plastic manufacturers haven’t widely followed suit and painted railway figures in this 54mm /1:32 scale are often quite expensive.
Failing the mounting of a full scale military parade through your zoo, Wild West town etc. all day and everyday, some normal civilians are useful for floor games, sandpit games or wargames.
F.E. Perry in his quirky First Book of War Games and Second Book of War Games often featured civilian or town settings alongside his wargames scenario / photographs.
These feature sets came from a zoo gift shop with two zebra striped jeeps handy for conversion, some brilliant wooden watch towers and rope ways (of which more anon), a couple of odd sized animals and these interesting modern civilians. Similar figures are made for dinosaur playsets.
Something similar to the girl child in the photos has recently been repainted and reused in a Slinkachu type way on the front cover of an art photography book about the recent group of artists / photographers playing with scale for satiric, unsettling or comic effect.
Microworlds contains some slightly disturbing dystopian or to some tasteless items from a range of photographers.
More plastics including civilians are featured on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors sister blogsite –
Police and firefighters are now available sometimes in pound store tubes, suitable for conversion.
Back in the 1980s there were Britain’s Deetail nurses, doctors and construction workers, not forgetting the Britain’s farm workers ranging from lead to Herald plastic and a modern farm worker range still around in toy shops or online today.
In future blogposts I will feature more civilian figures to be used for game scenarios from the Chinese made sets available online to the useful USA manufactured Toob “heritage” plastic figures roughly in 54mm, also purchased online.
Steve Weston’s Plastic Warrior website also feature an excellent set of Mexican Wild West civilians or peasants.
A Very Happy Christmas to all my readers, gamers and blog friends.
Gaming to me has always been a little bit like The Nutcracker story.
There seem to be lots of Nutcracker Soldiers around as a Christmas decoration theme this year.
I’m not very knowledgeable about ballet, nevertheless the idea of toys coming to life (at midnight naturally) has long had an appeal to me and many other children and adults.
The fact (or facet of the imagination) that some toys are likely to be bad, jealous, malevolent makes for a more interesting story, just as in the Steadfast Toy Soldier. An instant Enemy! Instant villains, instant bad guys.
The Nutcracker features the basics of narrative and gaming – good and bad, overcoming evil. Colourful uniforms, childlike toys. Return to the nursery etc. and the basic plot of Toy Story.
1,2,3, 4 – I declare a Toy War!
I like the creative tangents and incidental hobby learning stuff whilst surfing the Internet – all more inspiration for gaming scenarios, historical background and uniform paint schemes.
There are stacks of Pinterest and Wikimedia images of The Nutcracker, the toy soldiers and other characters. Well worth a search through for some bling uniform Imagi-Nations inspiration.
The Tchaikovsky ballet, once of the Tzarist Russian era, is now an American snowy Christmas classic with many adaptations from Duke Ellington jazz to cartoons.
Hoffman was an interesting Prussian character and story teller living in the upheaval of Napoleonic Europe, writing in the Romantic or Gothic vein of the Bronte sisters but with the folk tale influence of Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen also wrote and lived during wartime, namely the Danish wars of 1864 and the mid 19th Century. He is quoted in the book that inspired the Danish TV series 1864.
The idea of Nutcracker toy soldiers defeating the evil mouse king and his troops throws up some interesting fantastic / fantasy gaming scenarios.
Silvered metal finish inexpensive Nutcracker charm Soldiers are available as charms or pendants in batches on EBay or Etsy. Silicone food moulds of The Nutcracker are also available for Fimo toy soldier production.
A seven-headed mouse king, now there would be a figure …
The Nutcracker Plot or Storyline
The grandfather clock begins to chime … Mice begin to come out from beneath the floor boards, including the seven-headed Mouse King.
The dolls in the toy cabinet come alive and begin to move, the nutcracker taking command and leading them into battle after putting Marie’s ribbon on as a token.
The battle goes to the dolls at first, but they are eventually overwhelmed by the mice.
Marie, seeing the nutcracker about to be taken prisoner, takes off her slipper and throws it at the Mouse King, then faints into the toy cabinet’s glass door, cutting her arm badly.
(Plot summary, Hoffmann’s Nutcracker story – Wikipedia)
Slipper artillery, now there’s another thing …
Check out Youtubè sections ballet or cartoon versions (about 25-30mins in) of The Nutcracker’s ‘battle with the mice’ and you’ll variously see innovative cheese artillery, mousetraps, Christmas present terrain or scenery, toy forts, cavalry, cannons, the lot, performed by dance companies big and small all over the world. Tchaikovsky’s music here reminds me greatly of his martial 1812 Overture, beloved of many wargamers.