Linger on Youtube for a little while and you’ll likely find at least fifty toy collectors and or pop culture buffs that have a slew of videos looking back at classic toy lines and franchises. What makes “Toys That Made Us: Seasons 1 & 2” such a unique series is that it attempts to offer up much more than memories. Creator Brian Volk-Weiss’s series could very well have fallen back on pure nostalgia, but instead opens up the scope of these world changing toy lines. There’s deeper insight, stark truths about how and why these toys were created, and a look in to the business of it all.
Whether or not you subscribe to the idea of collecting, there’s no denying the toys that the hit Netflix series “Toys That Made Us” spotlights changed the world and altered our perceptions of fantasy. “Toys That Made Us” is an exhaustive and insightful look in to the massive toy lines that shaped the discussion of pop culture and entertainment in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Some of the tales are fun, some funny, and some just incredibly fascinating. The nostalgia and sentimentality is measured and balanced in what is a very unique and fascinating deep dive in some of the most gargantuan toy lines ever invented. Toys like Barbie, TMNT, He-Man, and GI Joe are explored, as well as Hello Kitty, and Transformers.
First and foremost every topic has a fascinating back story, and you might just walk away learning something new, even if you fancy yourself a pop culture scholar. After rushing out the series on DVD late last year, Netflix finally unleashes the two first seasons on Blu-Ray. This time it’s packed with more features than the previous release, and yes, even features a small eighties television collectible in the packaging.
Included is an eight minute featurette with Show Creator Brian Volk-Weiss from his own collectables room. Volk-Weiss, who is also an avid collector, introduces the show’s structure, the assembly process, fan reaction to the series, key moments from episodes from the first two seasons, his all time favorite toys, and so much more. There’s the two minute Barbie 80’s Marketing, a deleted scene that explores the process of reviving Barbie sales when it was falling out of favor with consumers.
More Stories that Made Us: GI Joe the Story of Cobra is a two minute look at Marvel’s role in creating a villain for Hasbro’s G.I. Joe line. More Stories that Made Us: Selling the Show is a brief one minute look at the process of getting the show from made. There’s the seven minute Jim Swearingen Extended Interview, where Swearingen discusses seeing Star Wars, spending an hour with George Lucas, movie and toy tie-ins, and his career working in toy design.
There’s the six minute Peter Cullen Extended Interview; the iconic voice of Optimus Prime discusses his fame, the Transformers franchise, his personal Transformers toy collection, his real-life relationships with fellow famed voice actor Frank Welker, and working with Hasbro. There’s the three minute discussion with Todd McFarlane on LEGO and how he fills the niche spaces between large brands as well as the longevity of construction toys.
There’s also a discussion with Todd McFarlane on Star Trek, who discusses collecting Star Trek, the importance of character detailing and recognizability, and Trek fandom. There’s a great eleven minutes behind-the-scenes tour of where Hideki Yoke/Takara’s toys come to life, from conception to production. And finally we get Deleted Scenes with small introductory vignettes. Included are scenes about the Star Wars Inflatable Lightsaber, Star Wars The Falcon Mold, Star Wars VLIX, Star Wars Peg Warmers, Star Wars Revenge of the Jedi, He-Man Wonderbread, Barbie a Bad Case of the Worms, Star Trek, and Transformers G2.
Although Warner Archive lists their newest release as “Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season,” it’s not. It’s actually the fourth season of “Veronica Mars” but the first season of the Hulu iteration. Whatever you want to identify it as is all up to you, I guess. In either case, after the somewhat acclaimed feature film, “Veronica Mars” is finally revived for the loyal Marsh-Mallows that have wanted more Mars since the show ended years ago.
After the movie ended, Veronica Mars sadly didn’t take off as an FBI Agent, as she now spends most of her days as a private security consultant for rich yuppies in her home town of Neptune, California. After an explosion kills a group of people during spring break, Mars and her dad Keith take it upon themselves to investigate. Along the way they discover a ring of political corruption, black mailing, and a Mexican crime boss.
Meanwhile Logan (Jason Dohring) returns from active duty prepared to start a new life with Veronica, all the while Veronica takes a liking to an inquisitive young girl who is also investigating the culprit to avenge her father. Things get more difficult when Keith begins to have memory problems and fears he might have a terminal illness.
“Veronica Mars” is not the same show you used to love, but it’s as good as it gets in delivering some great fan service and whatnot. Wallace is only in a hand full of scenes and barely involves himself in the core mystery, while Mac is absolutely nowhere to be found. Fans of Tina Majorino’s underdog heroine will be saddened to see she’s not even mentioned this season. There’s not a ton of word on whether Majorino is actually returning. In either case, the big mystery revolves around Veronica and her impromptu apprentice, as well as he struggle to maintain some sense of stability with Logan.
Logan is a character who wants so much more, but Veronica is hesitant to make any plans that are final and complete. This creates the fascinating noir conflict that we’re used to. Thankfully Enrico Colantoni is back in full force as Keith who is given a big storyline, and Francis Capra reprises his role as “Weevil” much to my relief. The producers aren’t able to bring everyone on board for the big revival, but they make due with the characters we’re given, while also introducing new characters we can fall in love with.
Kirby Howell-Baptiste, is great as Neptune Nightclub owner Nicole Malloy, while Isabela Vidovic works beautifully off of Bell as her spiritual successor. In either case, it’s an imperfect but entertaining return to Neptune with the Mars family. Here’s hoping Hulu gives us a season five—er—two—uh, five? The Blu-Ray release comes with the “Veronica Mars” cast and crew Q&A from 2019’s Comic Con. That’s about it. I hope we get some more material down the line.
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