Life was good at the Ponderosa Ranch in the mid-60’s. Bonanza was the most-watched program in the USA, the Nevada mountains were still pristine and beautiful, and Little Joe was still a handsome little heartbreaker.
And somewhere up in the mountains (or a company boardroom – we always get our legends confused) somebody looked around the table and said, “Fellas, it’s action figure time!”.
American Character toys knew a good thing when they saw it, and the Bonanza license was a very, very good thing.
At the time, the company was primarily known for its baby dolls, but you just don’t pass up an opportunity like this one.
And so, with features moulded in plastic, packed with great Western accessories, and housed in nice-looking boxes, the Cartwright family hit the toy shelves.
Each ten-inch Bonanza figure came with a gun, a holster, spurs with straps, a canteen and lariat. Little Joe and Ben came with bandanas; Ben and Hoss came with vests. At this point, you may notice one major member of the Cartwright clan is missing.
Actor Pernell Roberts (Adam Cartwright) left the show in 1965, but his action figure likeness had already been produced.
Since American Character no longer had permission to make an Adam figure, they simply added a moustache and called him ‘The Outlaw’.
There were horses for each figure – all came with one hoof up and ball bearings in the grounded feet for mobility.
There was also the ‘Four in One Wagon’, which came with seventy – count ’em, seventy – accessories and could be transformed into an Ore Wagon, a Ranch Wagon, a Covered Wagon and a Chuck Wagon.
Yessir, life was good at the Ponderosa Ranch, even the one made out of moulded plastic.