We love hearing from fellow Kenner collectors who are passionate about the toys they collect. Joseph Chiera is one of those collectors! Joseph noticed that the site was lacking in our Wonder World coverage, so he fixed that by sending us the following article about his collection! – Dan
Author: Joseph Chiera (Kenner collector since 1984).
All photos property of Joseph Chiera.
I remember having many Kenner toys during my childhood, but one series especially sticks out in my mind. I remember seeing the commercials on TV for Wonder World aquarium kits, where a boy and girl cross through a wall of ‘water’ and are transported into a “new dimension where you can suspend objects in time and space!” I can still hear the jingle of the commercial with the catchy tune: “Wonder World! A Magical World in the Making!
I begged my parents to get this for me, and, for my next birthday, we went to Kay-Bee Toy Store and purchased the “Whale Family” set. I have to admit I was surprised by how small this kit was. Still, I was excited to get home and be able to recreate the fantastic scenes I saw on TV.
To make the gel, you need to mix 12 ounces of distilled, room-temperature water with the contents of the packet provided in a sealed container; shaking vigorously for the first 30 seconds then continue shaking for another minute and a half. Then you must immediately pour the mixture into the tank and quickly add the rinsed gravel. At the end, you are left waiting for 45 minutes for the gel to set and the water to clear up before beginning the process of ‘suspended animation’.
Being an 11 year old, I had no idea what distilled water was but figured tap water was the next best thing. In my haste, I also forgot to rinse the gravel before getting to that step and added it right out of the bag. Needless to say, the water neither truly cleared up nor became congealed enough to hold the weight of the whales. Luckily, additional packets were included (probably for this reason), and my dad took me to the supermarket the next day to pick up distilled water and try again. This time we followed the directions entirely, finally getting to the last steps and using the pipette and tweezers provided to add air bubbles and recreate the scene on the front of the box. After that there wasn’t much else to do but display it proudly on a shelf in the kitchen.
Kenner produced several different “Wonder World” sets during the short run of this series including the “Whale Family,” “Sea Horse Family,” and “Tropical Friends” pictured above. They are more difficult to come by these days, only showing up rarely on auction sites (unless you’re looking for the Star Wars “Power of the Force” which is the most common set you’re likely to find). Over the years, I have tried to complete this series in my collection of 90’s Kenner toys. I haven’t yet tried to relive that experience of setting up one of the aquariums, but I am curious to see if the gel packet would still work after almost 20 years.
Below are a few more pieces of my collection:
I remember seeing the “My Pretty Mermaid” and “Piranha Attack” in stores, but I don’t think I actually owned them as a kid. Here are the images of the boxes:
The figures in these sets are made of hard plastic. They are pretty detailed as seen below (My Pretty Mermaid and Piranha Attack):
Also included in each set were additional gel packets, blue tweezers and pipette for adding air bubbles into the gel. Also pictured is the tank from “My Pretty Mermaid,” using a quarter to demonstrate the size. This set held 38 fl oz.
One of the larger sets created was “Ocean Wedding,” featuring a bride and groom angel fish being married by a squid; complete with wedding rings, cake, book, flower girl and ring bearer fish as well. I’m not sure what creative mind came up with this concept at Kenner, but I think it’s brilliant.
You could also purchase additional accessory packs for your Wonder World Aquarium. “With these Wonder World accessory sets, you can add to the scenes you’ve already made, or create new and exciting worlds to display.”
I think that Kenner must have also had some affiliation with Sea World during this time. Included with several of the sets was a discount on admission to the park, as well as a Grand Prize Sweepstakes offer for roundtrip airfair for 4, admission to any of the parks, hotel accomodations for 3 nights, car rental, and behind the scenes VIP tour! I “Wonder” if anybody won this. (Kenner had similar offers in another line of toys at the same time, Littlest Pet Shop, and also featured Sea World Stars as part of their collections).
The hype of Wonder World aquarium seems to have been short lived, yet it remains a unique and memorable part of the history of the amazing Kenner!