Every year around early December, it becomes clear that there is that one ‘must have’ toy that needs to under the Christmas tree ready for opening on December 25th. From Furbies to Tamagotchi’s to last years ‘Hatchimals‘ and to this years current fad of ‘LOL Surprise Dolls‘ these toys bring in big money for the toy companies that make and sell them and while hugely popular they may be, they don’t hold the interest or the market nearly as long as some iconic toy lines did in the early 80’s to the mid to late 90’s.
The new Netflix documentary series The Toys That Made Us takes a long hard and sometimes dark look behind a collection of the most iconic toys that helped shape companies like Mattel and Hasbro to what they are today.
The eight episode season one (four episodes are currently live for streaming with the following four to come in early 2018) offers a look at the early stages of mega lines like Barbie, GI Joe, He-Man and Star Wars and the sometimes chaotic and spur of the moment thinking that brought about some of our childhood’s most beloved characters, designs and the brilliant marketing behind these that made these toys still as relevant today as they were when they started out.
Each episode (that runs at about the 45 minute mark) features vintage adverts, interviews with creators, designers and many many others involved with the creation of these toys with each episode (aired so far) showcasing the numerous minds behind these lines and the confusion (or difference of opinion) everyone seems to suffer from on just who should be credited with the creation of these toys.
The next four episodes are scheduled for early 2016 and feature Transformers, Hello Kitty, Star Trek, and LEGO with a second season already in the planning stages though what will be covered is still unknown.
Some suggestions though for season two:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Playmates / 1988 – present.
Originating as a comic book series, the action figure line by Playmates featuring four ninja trained turtles and their news reporter friend became a mega hit with kids and saw the company hit gold, releasing countless waves of variations of the four main characters and almost every single side character ever featured in the comics, animated series and live action movies. Today, mint carded original figures sell for big dollars.
The X-Men: Toybiz / 1991 – 1998
After acquiring an exclusive license to Marvel Characters in 1993, toy company Toybiz set about releasing the first ever in-depth line of X-men and Marvel action figures that featured everything from 6″ figures to 10″ figures, vehicles, playsets and 12″ fashion dolls. Characters like Wolverine saw 7 different variations, Storm featured a light up lightning bolt on her chest and so big was the line, lesser known characters like Kylun (who featured *barely* in the pages of X-Men side comic Excalibur) were even produced.
Value in original carded figures remains steady – pending the figure – at around the $20-$40 mark.
Celebrity Dolls: Mego / 1976 to 1978.
In 1976, Mego Corporation saw an opportunity to finally take on the massive Barbie market by producing a line of 12″ celebrity dolls with the first two off the ranks being Sonny and Cher dolls to coincide with their hugely popular Prime Time Variety Show. The Cher doll featured an incredible 32 piece wardrobe designed by Bob Mackie and became the number one selling doll that year. Off that success, other dolls including Captain and Tenille, Laverne and Shirley, Dianna Ross, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Suzanne Somers were all released. After shifting their focus to electronic toys in the late 70’s to early 80’s Mego filed for Bankruptcy and closed in 1983.
Original boxed Cher dolls, fashions and playsets can fetch anywhere between $60 to $400.
The Toys That Made Us is now streaming on Netflix Australia.