The more I harness the power of the internet to look into things from my childhood, the more I realize 1994 was the banner year of the entire era. Pogs. The SNES version of Mortal Kombat 2. Green Day’s breakthrough. The peak popularity of the Phoenix Suns. The first Nerf guns. Seems like every time I dig into the stuff I have vague, fond memories about, the year 1994 pops up again and again.
Which brings me to the gloriously named Doctor Dreadful Food Lab. Kind of a boys’ version of the EZ Bake Oven, the DDFL – as it shall henceforth be abbreviated – combined the creature creation allure of Creepy Crawlers with actual candy. Good candy!
Let’s have a look at the commercial shall we?
God, that is every commercial for kids’ toys in the 90’s. Two cool kids and one adult cartoon character getting super excited about the toy in a hyperactive, in-theme environment. Lots of fast cuts. There was a strict 30 second time limit on these things.
I still remember taking this out of the box when I got it and my dad having a suspiciously difficult time making sense of how the thing worked. He’s never been the “read the directions” type, so our first attempt at strawberry brains was a disaster. If I’m remembering correctly, all the DDFL creations were done by mixing different powdered components together with water. We mixed together the packets for the brains in the wrong order, or forgot a step, and the whole thing erupted in foam like a bottle of Corona that’s been gently jostled.
The brains (once I got the formula down) ended up being by far the best, taste-wise, a creamy strawberry delight. The consistency was sort of lumpy, barely coagulated gelatin, which is PERFECT. If the taste can’t be gross at least the texture ought to be.
The monster skin was the weirdest. You mixed everything up in a little tub, and once it started to congeal you’d dip a little skeleton arm in, pull it up and there’d be a mucusy sheet of yellow-white sugary… stuff dangling off. I don’t think it had much taste – just sugar like the stick in a packet of Fun Dip. But if any of you out there are “texture people” with your food aversions, the monster skin would have been a Fear Factor level challenge for you I expect.
I don’t remember the gummy spiders shown on the box that well. I have a very vague memory of that one not really working correctly. Like maybe I never managed to get the gummy alchemy right. Then again, I also think the set pictured above might have been a re-release. I’ve only been able to find a super low-res image of an alternate box for the DDFL, and it looks a lot more familiar to me:
I wish I lived in a world where this concept just got more and more ridiculous, and you could go to Toys R Us today and buy add-on modules to make your own grotesque monster-related candy factory that looks like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. After the food lab, Dr. Dreadful, MD released the drink lab, and then later the Zombie Lab, which was similar to the original food lab but revolving around a single zombie head. An edible zombie head. Boys are weird.
For now, I’m just wondering whether it’s worth my money to hit eBay up on a vintage DDFL and refill kit, and whether those powder packets have a firm expiration date…