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Long before the invention of Gak in 1992, goopy, gloppy substances had been featured predominately in various toy lines since the late 1970’s.
It was around Christmas time in 1976 that Mattel unleashed upon the world a little creation simply called “Slime”. It was originally sold in containers that resembled little trash cans, as well as with Mattel’s “Slime Monster Game”.
Then, beginning locally in Canada in 1979 before airing internationally in 1981, a little show called You Can’t Do That on Television took the concept of slime to a whole new level. It was an iconic gag in the show that anytime a cast member uttered the words “I don’t know”, they were drenched from above in lime green slime (a gag which owes a great debt to another, earlier variety show, Rowen and Martin’s Laugh In). It was one of the first programs picked up by then-fledgling youth-oriented network, Nickelodeon. In fact, it is because of the popularity of YCDTOTV that green slime became iconic to the network itself, and remains so to this day.
By no small coincidence, it was also in the early 80’s that slime as a toy began to proliferate through various franchises, including The Real Ghostbusters (where it was referred to as “ecto-plazm”), Masters of the Universe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Troma’s Toxic Crusaders. There were numerous play sets featuring creative ways to drip, slop, and spill slime onto just about everything. Unfortunately, parent groups periodically protested the product, as the substance proved to have unfavorable effects on their furnishings.
Green slime became so popular that it even managed to make its way into children’s shampoo, liquid hand soap, and even breakfast cereal! Meanwhile, the horror movies of the 1980’s proved to be just as gooey and gloppy, as the use of more and more outrageous special effects created a tour de force of grue and gore. The mid 80’s also saw the popularity of the Garbage Pail Kids card series, which took great, gooey delight reveling in sheer revulsion, quite often in slimy, slobbery ways.
Today’s slimy substances, such as Gak, Floam, and other products, have since been overhauled to make them as safe as possible—both for the consumer, and the consumer’s parents’ furniture. While slime has since outlived its prior popularity (becoming replaced by more intriguing substances, such as kinetic sand), it shall remain a defining part of every late 70’s-80’s childhood, as well as a slippery milestone of our pop culture past.