When Pee Wee’s Big Adventure hit the big screen in 1985, everybody fell in love with the nerdy character created by comedian Paul Reubens. Due to the film’s box office success, Pee Wee Herman would soon delight children (and more than a few adults) with the critically acclaimed Saturday morning show, Pee Wee’s Playhouse. It was only natural that a whole assortment of merchandising would follow closely behind. Everything from lunchboxes to trading cards hit the shelves. Perhaps none of the products were more memorable than the Talking Pee Wee doll.
Produced by Matchbox toys, the Talking Pee Wee Doll was a must-have on many a Christmas list. In the world of dolls (or action figures, if you prefer), Pee Wee towered over the competition, standing at 17 inches tall. He wore the same familiar gray suit, white buck shoes, and red bowtie as his human counterpart and sported a body that, although was mostly stuffed fabric, contained hands and a head molded out of solid vinyl. With the same boyish grin and indestructible crew cut hairstyle that fans had grown to love, Talking Pee Wee was a respectable likeness of the iconic character.
Of course, the best feature was Pee Wee’s ability to talk. Harkening back to the speaking dolls of yesteryear, Pee Wee’s vocal chords were activated by an old-fashioned pull-string mechanism. With a good yank, Pee Wee was ready to spout out one of five familiar catchphrases such as “I’m Pee Wee Herman!,” “Made you look!,” “I know you are but what am I?,” “Ha-Ha” and finally, that trademark Pee Wee yell. A folding, vinyl Pee-Wee Playhouse Playset was also made available, which included everything you might expect – a talking window and floor, dancing flowers and a front door to welcome guests (just in case, say, your Superman action figure wanted to pay a visit).
The future looked bright for all things Pee Wee until actor Paul Reubens was arrested in a Florida movie theater in the early 90s. The show was cancelled and the dolls were quietly removed from toy store shelves. Reubens retired the character at that point, seemingly forever.
But, the public has proven themselves willing to forgive Reubens for his past misadventures and Pee Wee remains a cult favorite for many a fan. In recent years, Reubens has taken the character to the stage, and rumors persist about a new Pee-Wee film. Meanwhile, the original films still enjoy a respectable following, and the television show lives in the world of videotapes and DVD. But for the true fan, nothing tops out the collection like a good ol’ Pee Wee Herman doll, a toy that can often fetch respectable prices on the collector market.
Did you own one of these hard-to-find dolls in your youth? Did you and your Talking Pee Wee doll converse about all matters of life? Inquiring minds want to know! Share all of your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this iconic 80s character that lives in our collective memories.