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.
In 1988 my kindergarten class was having a Halloween party with just the class immediately after lunch. It was a very exciting experience for me considering I’d never done anything like that before. At the time we couldn’t really afford elaborate or huge costumes, so my dad bought me a generic mask in a box with the classic plastic smock. I was a mutant. So for a few Halloweens we opted for the sweaty plastic mask with no peripheral vision, and odd smock. That is until they were phased out. For years one of the highlights of Halloween was seeing the rows of boxes of plastics masks and smocks for various characters from Superman to Popeye.
The best way to explain the considerable impact John Carpenter’s original slasher has had on me can best be expressed through that infamous Halloween eve when I was a kid. Long before cable, network television played horror movies on Halloween; My brother and I were given the option to watch either “Creepshow” or “Halloween” my brother and I took the option of sitting to watch “Halloween.” I can fondly remember it as one of the worst Halloweens ever because when we sat to watch John Carpenter’s classic we were so scared by the second half that we started crying. This decision later was regretted by us and my mom took the time out to calm us down by letting us watch “Creepshow.”
Few people actually recall that Maxwell Atoms’ iconic characters, Billy and Mandy, were first introduced as part of Cartoon Network’s “Grim & Evil” where they shared a series with the cast of Evil Con Carne. Though “Grim & Evil” only lasted 30 episodes, the pint-sized hell-raisers would soon live on in one of the most successful spin-offs of all time from Cartoon Network’s golden age: “Billy & Mandy” (as I’ll refer to it from here on out) is one of the last really great series from the CN’s “Cartoon Cartoon” era.
1994 was the year to really tune into Nickelodeon. It was a time where they’d hit their stride with programming blocks like SNICK and excellent series like Rugrats, and The Secret World of Alex Mack. It was also the year that “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” premiered (October 30, 1994). Another of the many Klasky Csupo produced animated shows, “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” focused on the world of monsters that hide in our closets, under our beds, and in our toilets. It is one of the few genuinely horror-oriented animated shows that Nickelodeon has aired.
With 2019 seeing the release of the animated reboot of “The Addams Family,” I thought it’d be fun to check out the line of Addams Family video games that came to consoles over the years. I’ve always been an Addams Family fan, preferring the darkly demented family over the more whimsical Munsters. Hopefully the animated movie can be the start of a brand new franchise like “Hotel Transylvania.” Until then, these are the Addams Family games from the absolute best to the utter worst.
What’s your favorite?
We couldn’t afford too many toys when we were kids, but for we always appreciated what stuff our parents could grab for us for Christmas or our birthdays. My toy preferences mostly narrowed down to action figures and play sets with TMNT and superhero figures some of my biggest choices on wish lists as a kid. Along the way I did have some toys that were horror themed, including the Ghostbusters, the Mighty Max play sets, and much more. I was even around during the first wave of McFarlane’s Spawn figures, which were hot commodities for a while, there. These are five of my favorite and most fondly remembered horror themed toys from my childhood.
What were your favorites?
You could basically call “Power of Grayskull” one of the first spin offs from Netflix’s “The Toys That Made Us.” The hit documentary series about the creation of some of the most popular toy lines of all time recently ran an episode about the fascinating history of He-Man. The monstrous eighties toy line and eighties franchise apparently warranted its own documentary. If you haven’t seen the episode, “Power of Grayskull” is a wonderful documentary about the series that digs a bit deeper in to the weird history of He-Man and the Mattel toy line.