Toys of Christmas Present

- wadE

Last year I took a look at the toys I got for Christmas while growing up.

My days of getting toys died off in my early teens. G.I. Joe was still king, and no one had even heard of a Power Ranger.

I realized I was hopelessly out of touch with what that hot toys were these days, so I headed to the closest Target to find out!

First we need to realize that there are regional differences in toys, and what is stocked here in Minnesota may not be the big thing out east/south/west, but I figured Target would be a good barometer for what was popular these days since they are pretty mainstream. Also, what is popular vs. what Mattel has paid Target for shelf space might differ.

The reason I mention that is the first aisle I entered was all cars, with one side of the aisle devoted exclusively to Hot Wheels. I had no idea cars were still popular. I had (and probably still have at my parent's house) a giant box of cars when I was young, but there weren't whole aisles dedicated to them at the toy store! Maybe kids today aren't as stupid as I think they are.

Next aisle I was greeted by an updated old friend, G.I. Joe. I remember that they brought back the original 1 ft. tall G.I. Joe figures, but was surprised to still see them on the shelves. I have two older brothers who had those original figures, and they were surprisingly fun to play with. Basically toys for tough kids, who still liked to dress dolls.

Anyway, many of the original figures are for sale, but with makeovers. Cobra Commander was there, but has ditched the blue outfit and hood for a much more slimming black ensemble. Duke was there, and actually looked tough. Sadly, no Lady Jaye.

Then next section had something called Zoids. I had never heard of Zoids, they seem to be robot-like animals that you can buy as action figures, or as model kits. Seems that they are based off of a cartoon of Japanese origin (read: anime). So, pretty standard stuff.

Surprisingly, there was not much Star Wars stuff. A few figures, a few ships, couple of larger figures/dolls. Pretty disappointing. Looks like George Lucas has successfully turned off the younger generation on Star Wars, thanks a lot Jar Jar!

It's not that movies from over a year ago are out of style as toys. There was a ton of Spiderman toys, much more than Star Wars. On the other hand, there was a pretty limited variety of Lord Of The Rings toys.

Next up was a decent sized section of Transformers (and some of the imitators). Transformers these days look incredibly cheap. Not that the originals were the most sturdy (I'm looking right at you Optimus Prime!), but these didn't have a speck of metal in them. At least the originals were made of the same cheap metal that Matchbox cars were made from. Today they are 100% plastic, and probably break in 2.3 seconds.

As I turn the corner my eyes widen as I see Power Rangers. Didn't these things die off when the cartoon went off the air? What kid is asking for Power Rangers for Christmas? Seriously...how are these things still in the market?

Speaking of things inexplicably still in the market, Masters Of The Universe? I never owned any MOTU figures, much preferred to focus on the Star Wars/G.I. Joe figures, mostly because they could fit in each others ships/playsets. MOTU was way too big, more expensive, and were even less positional than Star Wars figures.

So far, so good. I'm not as out of touch as I thought I was. Hot Wheels, G.I. Joe, He Man... You could find those same toys on the shelf 15 years ago.

As with our last skirmish in the middle east, soldiers are big this year. Next was a whole line of Soldiers Of The World action figures, but were more like the "big" G.I. Joes. They even had some vehicles to drive around in.

Turning into the next aisle I felt right at home, a whole aisle devoted to Legos! Besides becoming much more specialized over the years with pieces that allowed you to make things that looked more like spaceships or castles, Lego has also worked out agreements with other toys and companies. Most notably is Star Wars. They had an AT-AT made from Legos! It was $99.99, but if I were 10, I'd be begging my parents for that! (hell, I almost bought it for myself)

I eventually dragged myself out of that aisle and discovered that Target has its own brand of toys called, Kool Toyz. Spelling things wrong is soooo kool (and so is Target for having nothing on their website about these toyz)! Their own brand had some pretty good stuff, a sampling of all the other toys: some Tonka truck type things, play tools, some big sized action figures (police officer and fireman), and the usual planes, trains, and automobiles. One cool thing they did have was a large aircraft carrier that came with various types of planes. Some of which would never land on an aircraft carrier, but I don't think the kids are going to care. If you (or your child) aren't name brand shopper, this is perfect. Everything seemed to be priced at $15, but you got the same amount of toy as you would get by spending $30-$60 on any name brand.

That was the end of they "boys" section. I had a hard time thinking about what toys girls played with when I was younger. I didn't have any sisters, so outside of Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake, and Cabbage Patch dolls (although I knew a lot of boys who had one), I have no idea what toys were available for girls, but if Target is any indication, there isn't much. There was one whole aisle devoted to Barbie, both sides of the aisle. It seems that Barbie is still queen of the castle, but there are several competitors vying for the throne. Disney had a lot of figures and dolls available. There was something else called Polly, and what seems to be the biggest threat to Barbie, Bratz.

Bratz seem to be if Barbie grew up in "da hood". Their outfits are more casual/hip/slutty. The figures have heavy makeup (lipliner, eye shadow) on and seem to epitomize the word "ghetto". While I wouldn't want my own daughter to have Barbie as a role model or influence on looks and fashion, I'd lean more towards Barbie then Da Bratz. Maybe that's why people become republican, they have kids. :-D

Anyway, the next aisle has a sign titled "Girls Activities". This of course translates directly into "Easy Bake Oven". Oddly enough there were several other things that were just for boys, the bug maker kit for instance that had pictures of two boys on the box. But still, any sort of "cooking" kit was found in this aisle.

As with most toys, even this section has sold out. You could buy Cinnabon mix for your Easy Bake Oven. You could buy a McFlurry Maker, Hershey Chocolate Magic maker, ICEE maker, SpongeBob Sno-Cone maker, and even a cotton candy machine. Also for the nostalgic, they had Sea Monkeys, and Shrinky Dinks. (if you don't know what those last two are, you need to watch more VH1)

Not to be disappointed, Strawberry Shortcake lives on...as fashion kits, and drawing books? The Care Bears also make a reappearance in drawing book form!

There was also a large section for Hello Kitty stuff. Hello Kitty cellphones, Hello Kitty jewelry making kit, Hello Kitty makeup kit, Hello Kitty scrapbook kit, Hello Kitty puppet theatre, etc.

That was it for the real toys...all that was left was the preschool stuff (which Fisher Price still dominates) and the "learning" section, which was completely dominated by Leap Frog. Fisher Price was trying to get back into this section, and scare me to death with motion detecting displays of their latest learning sets, which scream out when you walk by, "Learn to read with Power Touch! Press the yellow button to begin!!!" or "Hi! I'm Kasey the Kinderbot! Press the white button to get started!!! When Target isn't very busy and no one is around, those things can scare the crap out of you!

Oddly enough, besides the Leap Pad stuff, there really doesn't seem to be a "Must Have" toy this year. When considering some of the must have toys of the past, such as Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo, this isn't a negative thing.

All in all, not bad. Things have changed too much and I didn't see one Pokemon the entire time, this gives me reason to think that our society might not be going into the toilet after all!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and Happy New Year!!!

- 12/03/2002


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