I Love Junk

Archive for the ‘Toys’ Category

On my way into Walmart today to get groceries, I noticed some adorable Star Trek dolls in the claw machine. I really wanted Spock, but predictably he was on the bottom and Kirk was on top. I take no responsibility for where that sentence takes your mind. There was a Sulu within reach, but Sulu isn’t really worth blowing 10 bucks in quarters on, and I didn’t want Kirk, because fuck Kirk. I still haven’t forgiven William Shatner for all my childhood phobias involving carbon monoxide and escalators. When other kids were scared of the dark or the boogeyman, I was lying awake convinced that somewhere in my house there was colorless, odorless poison gas seeping out, waiting to kill me while I slept.

So anyway, I decided to skip the claw machine. I suck at them anyway. But I did still manage to come away with something stupid and Star Trek-related:

The quality of these images suck because my camera was being a whore, but you see that? AN ACTUAL TOY IN A CEREAL BOX. Not something to send away for, not a stupid pedometer or some other lame health thing. An actual prize right there in the actual box. I didn’t notice this right away, because 85% of my brain was devoted to going “lol, frosted butts” and the other 15% was preoccupied with the fact that I really needed to pee. But eventually the words “beam up” finally penetrated into the geek lobe of my brain and I examined the box a little closer.

The dorkiness of the words “beam up badge” already had me convinced this thing sucked before I even opened the box. I was correct. The back of the box shows the five different badges you can get. Obviously the most badass ones to have would be either the Command or the Klingon one, but that was not my destiny. Instead I got a lousy redshirt badge, confirming something I’ve long suspected: Kelloggs wants me to die.

The quality of the badge is even less than what you’d expect from a cereal prize. It lights up as promised, but there’s no way to clip it on, and you have to hold the button down to keep it lit up, making it absolutely useless as anything other than a tool to annoy your parents and/or cats. Still, this is the first time in years I’ve seen a toy prize in a cereal box, let alone one that was relevant to my interests at the time, so I’m pretty happy. Especially since I have plenty of cats to annoy.

It’s that time of year again – the season to be greedy! Every year around October or November my mom starts bugging me to make a wishlist, and since she’s computer illiterate I can’t just direct her to Amazon. Part of me is glad for this, because it’s a lot more fun to make a list the old-fashioned way, but part of me is frustrated because the stuff I want is mostly obscure shit my mom can’t find. Much as I love Target, they consistently fail to carry Venture Bros. T-shirts and out-of-print prog rock albums. Each year I grow more and more tempted to just say fuck it and ask for toys, despite having reached the frightening stage of life where I’d actually prefer a bunch of kitchen gadgets that only do one thing. I swear I thought that stuff was stupid as recently as last year. Nobody warned me that 23 would be the age where I’d turn into Filburt and make a break for Kerplopitgoes Island, yet here I go doing just that. Help!

Still, the frustration of trying to figure out what the hell I want that my mom can actually figure out how to buy leaves me wishing I could just curl up with a big catalog to circle stuff in. And so, to keep feeling like a kid at Christmas, I’ve decided to browse and review this year’s…

Last year, I remember some people complaining that the Big Toy Book had dwindled to a thin, crappy insert. This year, TRU is boasting an 80-page wonderland as its “Biggest Toy Book Ever!” Unfortunately I can’t vouch for either of these claims, because I only got my grubby little meathooks on a BTB once in my entire childhood, when I was about six or seven. I nearly pissed myself with glee, only to have the experience spoiled five seconds later when my mom warned me that my grandpa’s shitty pickup truck wouldn’t make it all the way to Toys R Us and she did her shopping at Walmart. (My parents always went with the lame “we bring your presents and Santa just fills your stocking” version of Christmas.) Once you got tired of building forts in the woods, growing up in the sticks sucked.

Since my life is so empty without the Big Toy Book experience, I’ve decided to browse this year’s BTB with an eye for what I totally would have circled as a kid. And probably some stuff I’d still circle now. Toys R Us told me not to grow up, dammit.

#1: Dora Designer Dollhouse!

As much as I’d like to be all hardcore and insist that there is no way in fucking hell that I would have liked Dora the Explorer, the truth is I pretty much embraced anything Nickelodeon threw my way. Plus I was obsessed with learning other languages, so I probably would have been all over that shit. But the real reason I would have circled this is more basic: it’s the first true dollhouse in the catalog. Dollhouses were probably the only reason I played with dolls, and they made me the Sims addict I am today. It’s too bad I’m honest, or I could have a cushy job in real estate. Instead, I’m sure in 20 years I’ll be one of those women who watches HGTV all day and orders fake fireplaces from QVC.

Also, take note of that $79.99 pricetag. That’s going to be a recurring theme here, and from now on I totally forgive my parents for all the toys I begged for and never received. I can’t believe the video games and DVD sets I ask for now are actually less expensive than the piles of Chinese plastic I got as a kid.

#2: Imaginarium Marble Mania Genius!

You know those elaborate neon circulatory systems people set up for their hamsters to run around in? I used to be fascinated by those things, and I wanted a hamster just so I could have a series of tubes even before the internets were invented. Of course, the several thousand cats we already had prevented me from getting any rodents, so I was secretly bitter. All that angst could have been prevented if I’d had this marble thingy, because it’s the same basic idea, except that cats are less likely to eat the marbles and barf them all over the living room rug.

#3: Animal Planet Baby Jungle Fortress Playset! (Embiggen!)

At 30 bucks, this is one of the few items I might have actually had a shot at getting. I used to love those little playsets you buy at the zoo that consisted of a bunch of shitty plastic animals and for some reason a bunch of shitty plastic fences. This is like someone took those and moved them into the elaborate fantasy treehouse from the “kids stranded on an island” episode of the Simpsons. It even has little researchers you can have your lions maul, and a MONKEY ELEVATOR! What could be better than a monkey elevator?

#4: Imaginarium Creative Artist Easel!

I’m pretty sure stuff like this is the real reason my mom generally steered me away from toy catalogs. I was perfectly content to draw at the kitchen table as long as I didn’t know shit like this existed. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay 80 bucks for a glorified clipboard, but the catalog makes this look like the most sublimely awesome thing that has ever existed. To rub salt in the wound, there are two smaller, less expensive easels right next to this one on the page, but any child with taste is going to circle this impressive beast and possibly cry if they receive one of its cheaper cousins. Toys R Us likes to give parents high blood pressure.

#5: Play-Doh Creativity Center! (Embiggen!)

I loved Play-Doh, but I never considered it a toy, and certainly not a toy worth begging Santa for. It was more of a diversion you begged your grandma for in the dollar store as a reward for being quiet while she spent about a year shopping for oven mitts. This playset raises Play-Doh to something worth coveting. I’m not really sure what exactly all the extra stuff is, but it looks impressive, which is all it takes to land it on any little kid’s wishlist.

#6: Imaginarium Wooden Dollhouse! (Embiggen!)

I already had a very expensive and impressive Barbie house, so my request for this thing would have been completely ignored, but damn if I wouldn’t have asked for it anyway. There are two other equally impressive dollhouses on the page, but this one is the most colorful. I came into the world thinking the 80s were totally normal, so I liked my toys as neon and busy as possible. Plus, this house has the always-coveted doll elevator, plus a DISCO BALL! My adult self takes issue with the fact that the bathtub seems to be in the kitchen, but I highly doubt my child self would have given a shit.

#7: Mega Bloks King Arthur Battle Action Castle!

I was never really into castles and knights and princesses and shit, but if I was paying enough attention to notice this was a castle you build yourself, I would have been all over it. There’s also a good chance I would have circled it just because it’s the biggest thing on the page. I’d be more certain that I would have liked this if there wasn’t a boy in the picture. Boys have cooties, especially when you’re seven. Either way, this thing looks pretty awesome.

#8: Lincoln Logs Big L Ranch!

I’m kind of puzzled as to why these two items are combined, because they seem to have nothing to do with one another beyond being building toys. Anyway, I would have circled this because I loved the hell out of Lincoln Logs. We had them in my kindergarten class, and I only got to play with them ONCE. Lousy traumatic childhood.

#9: K’nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine!

SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP THIS THING IS BADASS. I want one now. I have absolutely no idea what this does once it’s built, but I want it anyway.

There’s several pages of Lego sets after this, but the shitty way they’re presented guarantees that there is no way in hell I would have asked for any of them. They’re mostly just pictures of the boxes, and the background is orange. Fuck orange.

#10: Pokemon Electronic Pokeball!

Technically I’m trying to write this about stuff I would have wanted as a kid young enough to still be browsing TRU catalogs without feeling the need to hide them under my mattress in shame, but since Pokemon didn’t come around until I was in middle school, I can’t really apply that here. I did totally love Pokemon when it finally did come out, so I can’t help thinking I would have loved it as a little kid too, especially given my love affair with all things Nintendo. So I’m gonna count this thing as something I would have dug, even though I have absolutely no clue as to what it does.

#11: Hot Wheels Trick Tracks Ultimate Stunt World!

I always wanted an elaborate car set and never had one. I generally suspected that this was because my mom wanted to subtly steer me away from “boyish” stuff, but on closer inspection I think it’s just because the interesting ones cost a bajillion dollars. This set is the mother of them all, including a crazyass loop-the-loop and several things that appear to be on fire. It’s Mouse Trap on steroids.

#12: Barbie Jammin’ Jeep!

This is one thing I KNOW I would have asked for, because I totally did. And instead of a Barbie Jeep I got… another, cheaper Jeep that did exactly the same thing but didn’t have pink flowers plastered all over it. Naturally, I threw a fit. I’m forever impressed that my parents never attempted to kill me. I did eventually grow to love my ugly blue Jeep, which I would happily crash into trees every five seconds because I sucked at steering. I drive better now, I promise.

#13: Moon Shoes!

I always, always wanted a pair of Moon Shoes. Every time I go into a toy store, I stare wistfully at the Moon Shoes, wonder if they would support my adult weight, and then remember that I have a trampoline at home and don’t need them. Still, they look like a shitload of fun.

The next several pages are a bunch of swingsets and trampolines and playhouses. I wasn’t stupid enough to ask for a $900 jungle gym for Christmas, but I sure as hell would have drooled over the page for a solid two minutes before moving on.

#14: Operation: Spongebob Squarepants Edition!

#15: Twister Hopscotch!

Spongebob wasn’t around when I was a kid, but Nicktoons were, and I was addicted to every last one of them. I’m 100% sure that if I were a kid now I’d be making plans to build my own pineapple house. And I always loved Operation, even though it gave me several heart attacks every time I screwed up. If I ever develop an aneurysm I’m totally blaming the combined effects of playing Operation and Perfection in my early years.

And I have no idea what Twister Hopscotch is, but it looks like a good way to get your friends to humiliate themselves. That always makes for a fun Saturday.

#16: FurReal Friends – Biscuit My Lovin’ Pup

I’ve always loved animals, and I doubt I could have passed up a life-size animatronic dog plush. Of course, my parents would have been awfully quick to remind me that I already had an actual dog, one that hadn’t cost $160. Take it from me, parents just don’t understand.

#17: Baby Alive Learns to Potty!

I’ve written about Baby Alive before, and I doubt I would have been able to pass up a variation of this sadistic doll that includes a potty. ‘Course, now that I have a job that involves changing diapers all day, this doll doesn’t seem nearly as cute. But as long as she still includes sugary slime food, I’d be happy.

#18: Little Tikes Deluxe Wooden Kitchen & Laundry Center!

I always loved play kitchens and play food, and would try to hog the little kitchen corner in kindergarten and run all the other kids out. Yet, somehow I grew into a person who would rather eat nasty microwave mystery food than spend 10 minutes cooking something more edible. Go figure. Anyway, this kitchen set is one of the really awesome ones, where “awesome” as defined as “the kind my parents couldn’t have bought without selling me and defeating the purpose of buying toys in the first place.” Plus, it has laundry! As an adult who has to do actual laundry, I have trouble getting excited over this feature, but I’m pretty sure as a little kid I would have wet my pants with joy at the idea. Then I’d have something to wash.

#19: Barbie Diamond Castle Princess Liana!

I always asked for at least one new Barbie for every Christmas and birthday, and this one is SPARKLY. I feel kinda sad for Barbie’s non-Aryan friends in the background though. Usually the “secondary character” Barbies are the same exact doll with a different color outfit, but this time their dresses are actually inferior to Barbie’s fancy hoop skirt number. There’s an eerie subtext to that which I’m not going to explore here. Barbie isn’t supposed to make me think.

After several pages of High School Musical shit I’m losing some steam here, but that’s realistic, because as a kid I probably would have gotten bored by now and wandered off to go watch Roundhouse. Still, I’m going to plod on through, because there’s still plenty more neat stuff in the pages to come.

#20: Project Runway Fashion Design Set!

I don’t give a rat’s ass about Project Runway and would be pretty satisfied if it fell off the earth so that people in all my LJ communities would stop bringing it up. But I’m intrigued by this toy because it’s like an artsier version of Fashion Plates: you get a little poseable anatomy mannequin, and based on that you draw women and then add clothes to them. This is a pretty impressive little kit, and as an adult I like the idea of little kids learning serious art skills from a toy based on a TV show that, as far as I can tell, revolves entirely around bitchfights. As a kid, I would have picked this entirely for the little mannequin thing.

#21: First Act iCarly Musical Instruments!

My executive adult opinion of iCarly is that it sucks, but as I mentioned previously, I always ate up whatever Nickelodeon fed me. Also, I was obsessed with music even as a little kid, and these are the first musical instruments in the catalog that don’t have Miley Cyrus plastered all over them. Plus, I used to love the color blue, until I hated it.

#22: iCarly Digital Camcorder!

I would have been totally convinced that owning this would get me on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Or if I was a kid now, I would have used it to put videos of my cats on Youtube. Either way, camcorders rock.

#23: First Act Electronic Drum Pad!

More music stuff. I should point out that there are several billion musical instruments in the ad and I would have wanted ALL OF THEM. And while I stick to melodic instruments now, as a kid I definitely would have gravitated toward drums, because they combined two things that I loved:

1) Music, and

2) Hitting things with a stick.

I’m pretty sure that second factor is why most real drummers chose the instrument they did.

#24: Guitar Hero World Tour!

Okay, seriously, I want this now. Can’t put it on my wishlist ’cause my mom would destroy Tokyo upon seeing the price, but in a perfect world I’d totally get this, despite already owning two real guitars, and despite the fact that for the price of this game, I could add a real drum kit to that. Christmas isn’t supposed to make sense.

#25: Nintendo R/C Mario Kart 2-Pack! (Embiggen!)

I’m skipping most of the video games because I would have wanted ALL OF THEM and I still do, but my love of Mario wouldn’t have allowed me to pass up on these little guys. Heck, I’d still buy those now, were it not for the little voice telling me all the stuff 30 bucks would buy that I would actually use. I hate that voice.

The incredible part of this little journey through the Big Toy Book is how much it really did make me feel like a kid again. I could picture myself sitting at the kitchen table circling all this stuff with a fat red Magic Marker and praying Santa would really deliver it, and it helped me recapture the spirit in which I begged for this stuff. A child’s request for loads of toys may seem like unbridled, selfish greed, but it’s really a dreamy sort of awe at all the great things there are to have and do in the world. Plus, who cares if a toy is 80 bucks if an old fat guy is supposed to make it with magic? Obviously those are the prices for people who don’t believe. Shun the unbeliever! Shuuuun!

August 2020