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RETRO REVIEW: Roy Rogers gives you the Snorks

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Apparently, back in 1988, the Roy Rogers restaurant chain was looking to compete with McDonalds by trying to outdo their Happy Meal toy lineup. Since picky little kids really drove parents fast food choices, it was often up to what chain had the best toy that specific week.

But in 1988, Roy Rogers decided to give away figurines based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon - Snorks. The 3-inch tall Snorks figurines that Roy Rogers gave away were actually produced by Schleich. And Schlech is a German toy company that’s still around today (and still releasing new Smurfs toys).

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Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was able to partake in the Roy Rogers’ menu once or twice as a child. And since these toys are really all that’s memorable about the restaurant – I guess the fact that it was named after an old western film star made it unique – that might have something to do with why the chain never made it past the mid-Atlantic.

The Snorks cartoon series originally ran from 1984 to 1989. While there were hopes that it would rival The Smurfs in popularity, it never achieved that type of success. The two cartoons had a number of the same voice artists, editors, and producers. This likely led folks to think what I thought as a kid – “the Snorks are the underwater Smurfs”.

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Roy Rogers got in on the tail end of the Snorks bandwagon. The restaurant included a number of the most popular characters. I’ve seen Allstar, Dimmy, Casey and Tooter available around eBay. And each character has various poses or activities they’re involved in. Most of the figures usually sell right around $10.00.

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The Snorks figure I picked up goes by the name of Tooter. Surprisingly enough…it’s not because he has irritable bowel syndrome. Tooter can only communicate with toots and beeps. It was a wonderful use of voice actor Frank Welker’s talents. This is a guy who’s also voiced roles such as Fred (Scooby-Doo), Jabberjaw, Megatron (Transformers), and Doctor Claw (Inspector Gadget).

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While Allstar was the main character, I always felt that Tooter was the comic relief on the show. He was clearly modeled after Harpo Marx, who usually communicated using a horn or whistling in film. He also had the wild hairstyle similar to the second oldest Marx brother.

The Tooter figurine appears ready to go hiking. I’m pretty sure that might not go so well…since he lives underwater. The lone articulation is that Tooter’s “snorkel” has a wire armature in it…allowing itself to bend. Imagine all of the phallic jokes that were made at this little guy’s expense. And just for imagining that…you will now be forced to listen to the Snorks theme song.

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