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Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces

Say you were a fan of toys with interchangeable facial features. But say you were also a realist, and a brown potato head just didn’t float your playtime boat.

Say these two things, and then say “Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces” – because Hugo was probably just the plastic noggin you were looking for.

First released in 1975, Hugo was a bald, rather creepy-looking hollow torso and head – vinyl on top, with stuffed cloth arms. But with the head/torso get-up came an accessory kit which toy company Kenner claimed could give the arranging artiste a thousand different end combinations.

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And before you go chalking up that claim to plain old marketing brouhaha, check out the list of special face accoutrement: sideburns, a goatee, eyebrows, noses, chins, scars, warts, eyes, an eye patch, sunglasses, eyeglasses, a mask, a head bandage, moustaches, fangs, and a wig.

And keep in mind, the additional eyes, chins and noses included in this feature menagerie came in addition to the features that Hugo was born with. Hey, a thousand different faces might have been possible after all.

Instead of pegs and holes, Hugo’s features were affixed with temporary glue, which came in two little sticks.

Of course, if you were a real Hugo devotee, you went through those glue sticks in no time, and then you were presented with a problem: paste and white glue were messy and Hugo didn’t much care for having his hair and his warts torn off when they had been attached with such serious adhesives.

Or at least it didn’t look like he did – Hugo never really talked that much.

Kids in the mid to late 1970’s face-arranged for hours, and Pee Wee Herman, incidentally, had some well-remembered ventriloquist fun with Hugo during one of his early comedy stand-up shows.

Future plastic surgeons, future disguise artists, future artists who emulated those off-kilter Picasso-like facial features – for all of you and many others, Hugo was your man.

The box exclaims “Make thousands of pretend friends!” – Yeah, friends who look like they’d shiv a seven-year-old sooner than play dolly with him . . .