Posted on November 7th 2015 by David Mapes
Of all the Visionaries toys the Holodrome remains the Holy Grail for Visionaries fans and collectors. For years fans pondered how far the Holodrome made it through production, with some unsubstantiated claims that the playset, and Season 2 characters, were released in parts of Europe. Could this be true, could the fabled Season 2 toys be out there? The answer is a simple no. We spoke to some of the team at Abrahams-Gentile, the original designers of and owners of the Visionaries brand, and they confirmed that the Holodrome and Season 2 figures did not make it to full production, although engineering pilots had been completed. The steel tools, used to cut the moulds, were manufactured and last seen in a factory in China in the 1980s. A handful of Engineering Pilots for Season 2 characters were produced for Hasbro, and it is believed they remain to this day in their archive facility. As for the Holodrome, it too made it to a completed Engineering Pilot stage (with a few examples being made) though their location remains unknown.
The Holodrome playset was loosely based on Iron Mountain, the home of Merklynn, and featured on the back of Season 1 toys cards in an artist impression of the planned toy. A finalised version was completed and photographed for toyfair magazine, and it is from this image that all of the previous known information had been gathered. Until now.
AGE have confirmed that not only was the Holodrome complete, and shown off, but the fabled “working hologram of Merklynn” was also completed. Using a new technology previous not seen on Visionaries toys, the Merklynn hologram was to feature a rear transmission hologram in order to produce the clear 3D rendering of Merklynn at the top of the playset. A lot of planning and research and development went into the production of this 3D rear transmission hologram (all the holograms featured in Visionaries are front lit, so the light source is in front of the sticker. With rear lit the light source is behind the hologram, allowing you (or a figure) to approach the hologram without effecting it).
The top section of the Holodrome was known as the Holodome (where the hologram was) and could be rotated 360 degrees. In early concepts this section was going to be removable so it could be used as a separate, smaller, base. This removable Holodome playset went through various design incarnations.
One concept we have is of this tree base, which we believed to be another Visionaries playset concept until we spoke to AGE. They confirmed that this was one of many concepts for the Holodrome, although our contact had not previously seen this exact artwork before. The writing on this concept art explains that the base was to have holographic disks (probably firing disks with holograms on them rather than just a holographic sticker of firing disks). Along with these disks the outside trunk of this “tree base” was to have a revolving hologram, although there are no details on what would have been on it. There is also a radar disk on the top and some other firing weapons. Had this continued to be used, instead of the Iron Mountain / Holodrome playset design, then it would have been interesting to see the knights would have gained their power as well as seeing Merklynn living inside a tree.
The second concept for the Holodrome that we own is actually an early concept for the removable Holodome pod from the top of the Holodrome playset. When we first discovered this piece, along with the tree-base, we assumed that this was the inside of the tree, or an alternative design. AGE later confirmed that it was an early concept for the Holodrome, representing how the Holodome was intended to be a stand along playset in its own right. The Visionaries figure say inside the cylindrical centre of the base and the sides opened up in a clasping action.
Unlike the tree-base there are no notes on this concept piece to indicate any holograms or accessories.
The Holodrome Iron Mountain playset was to be packages one to a case due to its size. It featured a back lit hologram which projected the moving image of Merklynn in-front, allowing kids to put their hands through him. There was also set to be a synthesized microphone, like the one used on Snake Mountain, trap-doors, slides (which takes a nod from the Darkling Lord Dragon Playset we have featured in an earlier article, a falling rock bridge and what is described as a swing-away rock hazard.
Below is a part of an email we received from AGE during out discussions on some of the concept art.
The first dragon sketch was an early version of the Darkling Lords Headquarters (the Dragon matched the secondary holographic image that was embedded in all the Darkling Lord totems). The other two I believe are different than the earlier Air Raider type sketches you sent me. Both of these were actually early design directions for the Holodrome play set. I don't remember the first sketch that actually with the forest/tree detailing but the second sketch (the vehicle one) was actually meant to be the part of the top of the Holodrome that could detach from the main playset and also act as a vehicle. Ultimately that was changed to simply be the revolving Holodome that was a permanent part of the playset and not designed to be removed so it could be played with separately since the alignment of the spinning Hologram and the interior light source (the Holodrome used a rear transmission hologram as opposed to a front transmission that was used on the figures) was critical to get a clear 3D image so it was designed as a permanent fixture.
Article written by David Mapes
Research by Steven Mapes
Information confirmed by Abrahams Gentile Entertainment
Concept art owned by The Mapes Brothers