A Mattel Thingmaker toy consists of a series of die-cast metal molds, into which is poured a liquid chemical substance called Plastigoop, which comes in many colors. The mold is then heated atop an open-face electric hot plate oven. The Plastigoop is cured by the heat, and when cooled, is removed from the mold, forming solid, rubbery replicas.
The concept of the Thingmaker was actually introduced in 1963, as part of Mattel's 'Vac-U-Maker' set. This omnibus toy combined the new molds and Plastigoop technology with the existing 'Vac-u-form' machine, which molded simple sculptures by heating thin sheets of plastic, then using a vacuum pump to form the softened plastic over hard plastic forms. Following this introduction period, the Thingmaker portion was spun off as a separate set, and the 'Creepy Crawlers' line began in earnest.
Mattel produced many Thingmaker sets as follow-ups to the original 'Creepy Crawlers' throughout the 1960s, utilizing a variety of themes, aimed at both boys and girls.
Mattel packaged molds from various sets to be sold separately, and also combined molds into larger omnibus editions, encompassing several themes into one set, under names such as 'Triple Thingmaker', 'Super Thingmaker', or even 'Every Thingmaker'. There were also several exclusive single mold sets, such as Superman and Tarzan, and original Mattel concepts like Squirtles and Gangly Danglies.
First you poured goop of various colors into the molds. Then you would plug in the 'Thingmaker' and place the mold on the heating element. After a few minutes the plastigoop would be ready to 'sniff' as it would start to smoke slightly (especially if you poured the goop over the side of the mold) and give off a very distinctive odor. Removing the mold from the machine with a pair of tongs you would place it in a cooling tray half filled with water. This would result in an interesting sizzling sound as the very hot metal and plastic came into contact with cold tap water. There was usually a prying metal tool (or sometimes a plastic knife) to help you remove the finished product from the mold. Several of the sets allowed you to combine completed pieces together to form bigger toys. These sets included; Eeeks!, Mini-Dragons, Zoofie Goofies, Fun Flowers, and to a lesser extent Creeple Peeple.
Creepy Crawlers: The original set. You can make bugs, rats, toads, and other creepies.
Giant Creepy Crawlers (1965): The second Creepy Crawler set.
Creeple Peeple (1965): Allows you to make weird people out of pencils.
Fighting Men (1965): Bendable soldiers, weapons, equipment and vehicles.
Fright Factory (1966): Allows you to make shrunken heads, skeletons, disguises, etc.
Fun Flowers (1966): You can make plastic flower arrangements and other decorations.
Mini-Dragons (1967): With this set you can make many different types of dragons.
Eeeeks! (1968): Like Mini-Dragons, but you make bugs instead of dragons.
Zoofie-Goofies (1968): Make animals using pipe cleaners and plasti-goop body parts.
Incredible Edibles: The creepies you made were edible.
Super Cartoon Maker (1969)
Jillions of Jewels (1970)
After laying dormant for more than a decade, the "Creepy Crawlers" brand was given renewed life in 1992, courtesy of a New York-based company called ToyMax. With much stricter safety regulations in place, the new version of the Creepy Crawlers set re-introduced the metal molds and earlier Plastigoop-type formulation, but now utilized a light bulb-powered "Magic Maker" heater, with a heat-triggered door that remained closed until the mold had cooled sufficiently to be handled safely (in theory, anyway). The name "Magic Maker", as well as the new oven design, were borrowed from an earlier '80s-era toy that melted clear colored plastic granules to form sun catcher window decorations. The ToyMax "Creepy Crawlers" set introduced a whole new generation of kids to the fun of making their own rubbery bugs. Over the next five years new mold designs were released as well as new mold packs. Apparently Mattel, the originator of Creepy Crawlers, had let its trademarks lapse, for many of the original Mattel concepts were revisited, such as "Creeple Peeple", "Mini-Dragons", "Eeeks" (ToyMax changed the spelling), and "DollyMaker". Numerous licenses were also employed, resulting in mold designs featuring such diverse characters as Bugs Bunny, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Batman, and The Mask.
Don't forget to visit the website of Dr. Goop for Plastigoop news, molds sales & more!
What's it worth? Take a look at this Thingmaker price guide: sold listings for a value indication.