I have a soft spot for well made toys. All of the action figures and vehicles from my childhood that I remember most fondly were solidly constructed. I’ve already raved on this website about the die-cast Voltron lions and the WWF Wrestling Superstars that for my entire life I believed were rubber until I watched The Toys That Made Us and found out were PVC. It’s a weird thing to focus on, but anybody who had a GI Joe’s legs fall off because the elastic band broke knows how important durable toys are to dumb little monster children who bury, throw, and dunk into the toilet the plastic spoils of mom and dad’s paychecks. It’s the reason I’ve written about those Superstars and M.U.S.C.L.E. men while GI Joe hasn’t been the subject of an article to date, and it’s the reason that today I’m writing about Army Ants. I hate insects, always have, and I was also never one of those kids that got heavily invested in the military, so on the surface this toy line appealed to zero of my interests, yet here we are.
The concept for Army Ants is so obvious it’s a wonder this toy line didn’t exist before 1987. Army ants exist. Plastic Army men toys exist. Why not combine them? Whoever pitched this spent less time dreaming it up than I did with that overwritten intro paragraph up there. Well the limited amount of time they did spend paid off, because when the line was released it was popular. Army Ants were divided up into two armies, orange and blue. Each had five divisions with some variance among the sides. For orange, it was Strike Force, Assault, Snipers, Bazookas, and Aerial Assault. Blue faced off with Special Forces, Mortars, Artillery, Flame Throwers, and Bombers. The divisions were sold separately, so each army had four three packs to purchase and an eight pack that contained the general and his strike/special forces.
For me, the appeal was in the design. Army Ants often get grouped together with M.U.S.C.L.E. wrestlers which makes sense because the packaging was similar and they were released in the same general time-frame. I know I always associate the two and remember getting both at the same time one Christmas or birthday. Like M.U.S.C.L.E. the detailing in the designs was fairly intricate. There was also variety among the divisions. Each ant was equipped with a personality of sorts that made it worthwhile to collect as many of them as possible.
There was one characteristic all of the Army Ants had in common: squishy abdomens! With the look of grapes and the feel of super bounce balls they weren’t actually all that squishy, but they did add a fun ick factor to the toys.
Most people probably don’t remember Army Ants if they even knew the toy line existed to begin with, and that’s too bad, because it means the people that do are asking and paying way too much for them online. I fear I’m going to be joining them soon.
Did you have Army Ants? What did you think? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
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