Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Nickelodeon Gak

If there's one thing we know, it's that nothing entices a child like mysterious scientific compounds. If it's been whipped up in a beaker or heated over a Bunsen burner, I assure you, they would like a part of it. In fact, if you could just package any potentially toxic experimental remnants in your lab and ship them to Mattel and TYCO distribution centers nationwide, that would probably be easiest.

Gak was one of those inexplicable phenomenons that only children could understand. It served no direct purpose outside of our general distractability and bemusement. Gak was a perfect blend of slime and silly putty with whoopie-cushion-style talents. Suddenly, you had in your possession a messy, slimy, hyper-colored, fart-producing goo. As a child, what's not to love?

"Playing with" Gak could potentially pose an issue. There was nothing you could really do with Gak. It wouldn't maintain a shape like play-doh or silly putty, and it dried out easily if not tended to properly. Not to mention it made your hands smell terrible. Really, just awful. I don't know what they made that stuff out of, but it was remarkably potent. And God forbid you played with Gak within a 10 mile radius of carpeting. The consistency of Gak was rather drizzly and hence prone to all sorts of droppage. Many of us child Gak enthusiasts were forced to incur the wrath of livid parents upon the realization that we had just smushed a tubful of purple mystery goo into their padded berber.

The Nickelodeon/Mattel team was smart enough to realize that despite the obvious mesmerizing qualities of Gak, it would only hold a child's attention for so long on its own. Sure, the clever transparent plastic star-shaped containers (known as "Gak Splats") made it entertaining to re-squish the Gak back into its packaging, but squishy fart sounds alone can only take a toy so far. Luckily, they had conceived of a few other brilliant Gak-related devices from which to accelerate the franchise:

Observe, a commercial for the original Nickelodeon Gak:

As a service to all of you, I will forgo my limited sense of propriety and just come right out with it: I owned an inordinate number of these Gak splatting devices. They were incredibly simplistic in their design, and despite their giving use to the Gak substance, they still served no practical purpose. Let us explore, if you will, a few of the marvelous Gak tools by which we were endlessly entertained:

The Gak Inflator
This was an incredibly mechanical-looking device for its absolutely unnecessary existence. The major aim behind inflating Gak was to shove air into a thin pocker of Gak to produce a chewing-gum style bubble. You would simply insert the Gak, pump the device, and inflate a Gak bubble until it burst. This product deftly circumvented the question of "Why?" and went directly to the "Why not?" Why not inflate a bubble of flatulent goo? In fact, why not create a colorful plastic device with the specific intention of bubbling Gak? As an adult, you may see through this faulty (read: lack of) logic, but as a child it all made perfect, satifyingly-poppable sense.

The Gak Vac

A sort of inverse to the Gak inflator, this piece of toy equipment served the sole purpose of vacuuming up Gak into a chamber and subsequently spitting it back out with the press of a button. The more sadistic amon us would employ action figures on which to splat the aforementioned Gak. This was sort of an at-home version of Nickelodeon's classic sliming action. As a result, my Barbie's hair has yet to recover from it's green Gak deep-conditioning treatment.

The Gak Copier

Whenever I'm scribbling away on an etch-a-sketch or a Magnadoodle, I often think to myself, "You know what would be really super? If I could imprint this image temporarily onto a sticky rubbery substance." Luckily Mattel's telepathy department was hard at work that day and devised a device, so it seemed, to meet my specific doodling needs. The Gak copier allowed children to draw an image, close the device with a fresh coating of Gak on one side and the drawing on the other, and transfer the image onto the Gak. While the device was more of a glorified heavy-book-to-close-it-in, I would not recommend using a book from your own home by which to complete this copying. I know my parents certainly would not, after I ruined the M volume of our Encyclopedia Britannica. I just wanted to see if I could transfer the image of a manatee onto a wad of Gak. FYI, you can not.

Gak came in all sorts of other varieties; glow-in-the-dark, scented, multi-packs...the possibilities were truly endless. One key thing these Gak products all shared was the ubiquitous Gak-specific warning label:

I don't know if you were aware, but Gak is a trademarked product. I probably shouldn't even be using the word Gak, considering the amount of mini-TMs they have plastered on this thing. I can only imagine I'm infringing on their copyright by thinking about the product at all.

They certainly made good use of their bold, all-caps lettering capabilities. GAK IS NOT A FOOD PRODUCT. You have to sort of respect the way they put this directly after the phrase "Gak is non-toxic." It's like telling Gak-crazed childen, "Sure, this stuff may not kill you on contact, but please refrain from eating an entire Splat of it."

It's also very kind of them to include directions for how to re-moisturize your disgusting, stringy, dried-up cornhusk-esque Gak. Simply "work in" some water! Perhaps it's just me, but the phrase "work in" seems unnecessarily gross and potentially graphic. Why can't we just add a teaspoon of water? Mix with a teaspoon of water? No, that will not do; it's preferable to massage in that water gently and tenderly.

Oh, and by the way, don't even THINK about playing with Gak on, well, anything. I can understand the carpeting part, but varnished and unvarnished surfaces? Isn't that, um, everything? I may be mistaken here, but I assume that if it's not varnished, it's unvarnished. In what sort of an environment is it safe to play with Gak? An anti-gravity simulator? I suppose the cleanup would be simple. Just use the Gak Vac!

Also, dry cleaning will not remove Gak. Don't even try it, buster. All hope is lost. We warned you about playing with Gak on surfaces, didn't we?

Despite all of these warnings, we still craved Gak splats with a near-religious fervor. Sure, those warnings could be a bit ominous to adults, but hey, we were kids. All we cared about was sliming GI Joes and producing endlessly hilarious Gak flatulence.

But never, ever on the carpet.

Check it out:
How to make your own Gak


Fidgeting Gidget said...

Ha! I loved that stuff. I had green, so I always pretended it was snot and I loved to make it fart in the corner of the container.

Teach.Workout.Love said...

LOL i remember that stuff !!!

Laila P said...

Aww, we never had Gak over here :(
I remember Silly Putty though!

Katie said...

Gak was the best!!! And I think it's making a comeback as the kids I babysit for were playing with something similar last time I watched them.

kadler said...

I totally had Gak.

Jenny @ Practically Perfect... said...

Oh my, I remember this! I always thought that it stunk!

Mr. Condescending said...

hahaha wow I completely forget about this stuff

Sadako said...

I remember Gak, but my mom was savvy or something, so she wouldn't let me buy it. It's like the one 90s era thing I was deprived of, and now I want it. SO BAD!

Anonymous said...

I may sound nuts but does anyone remember a gak like product that you mixed yourself and then put it in the fridge to set? It was a light blue colour and it was awesome.

PsychoBabble said...

I am currently taking a cough syrup (for adults) that tastes just like the purple gak I use to have. (it tastes the way Gak smelled) It none the less triggered my childhood senses and the thought of Gak appeared. Thank you for your thorough explanation of what "Gak" is because I'm reposting this to my facebook page for some of my older folks and 90's friends.

SimonCabron said...

I am looking for a gak shooter, but can't find one anywhere! if anybody could please help!

Unknown said...

Anon: I believe you're talking about Ooblek.

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