Kids have a fascination for bugs. Not only are they fun to play with, but a well-placed insect can induce a scream from an unsuspecting sibling. Bugs have minds of their own, however, scurrying at the least opportune moments and ruining the fun. Thankfully, with the invention of Creepy Crawlers, the days of uncooperative insects were over. Now you could make your own rubber replicas, much to your little sister’s horror.
Creepy Crawlers were invented by Mattel Toys in 1964, as a way for kids to make their own rubber versions of their favorite insects. Each set consisted of a set of metal molds. Fill the molds with a few squirts of colored goo, place the pan into a preheated oven, maybe add a few accessories such as the supplied plastic wings, and watch the goo transform into a hideous array of critters. Next, pull the metal pan from the oven, taking care to remember that, although the bugs were fake, the oven was not. Sure, a bunch of former kids have a few battle scars from trying to take out one of those metal pans without the supplied tongs, but it was nothing that a well-placed ice cube couldn’t mend, and it was a small price to pay for creating an arsenal of frightening friends, ready to be placed on a pillow, inside a jacket pocket, or maybe your younger brother’s shoulder.
Throughout the 60s, Mattel sold a wide array of Creepy Crawler sets, expanding the line to include everything from rubber flowers and cartoon characters to facial disguise stuff like fake scars or a third eye. Still, thanks to the oven, it wasn’t considered the safest of toys. A less-dangerous version, called the Thingmaker II, was released in 1978 and featured plastic pans and a reformulated goo that didn’t require much heat. What it did require was an abundance of time, as the new goo took much longer to set. The new Creepy Crawlers were undoubtedly safer, but not quite as much fun. Popularity of the toy began to wane at the end of the 70s decade.
Thankfully, in the 90s, the toy was reintroduced by a company called ToyMax, which developed a lightbulb-powered oven, similar to the Kenner Easy-Bake Ovens of yesteryear. The new goo was more vibrantly colored and some even glowed in the dark. All of this served to revive the popularity of Creepy Crawlers for a whole new generation of kids, eager to unleash their rubber playmates on an unsuspecting populace.
Did you play with Creepy Crawlers as a kid? Do you have any scars to show for it, or perhaps a great story of how you scared your sister? We’d love to hear all of your memories of this iconic toy in our comments section below.