Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Toys That Made Us (Season 1)

Some brands are so ubiquitous, it’s impossible to imagine someone that doesn’t know what they are.   If you walked down a busy street in a major city, I’d imagine that everyone would know what Taco Bell is.  You’d probably be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Microsoft.  The same goes for toys.  Netflix produced a documentary series about eight toy lines, dividing them in to two seasons.

The first four episodes deal with Star Wars, Barbie, He-Man and G.I. Joe in that order.  Even if you didn’t play with any of those toy lines, you’re probably familiar with them.  Most people my age either had some of those toys or knew someone who did.  That’s how popular these toys were.

Each episode details the history of the toy line.  We see interviews from key people, like designers and writers  In the case of Star Wars, they were made to cash in on the success of the movies.  With He-Man and G.I. Joe, the reverse was true.  The comics and TV series were made to promote the toys.  Either way, toy companies were talking about millions of dollars in sales every year.

Each episode runs under an hour.  There wasn’t much that I would consider new information.  You don’t really get to see a lot of the details.  It’s more like who the major players were.  Some people came up with the general idea.  Some people developed characters or art.  In the case of He-Man, the comics and TV show were one man’s quick-witted attempt to get the company to produce the toys.

I think most of it is the perspective  As a child, you can forget that there’s a business end to the stuff you want.  To companies like Mattel and Hasbro, these are how they keep the lights on.  Most adults won’t be surprised by this.  It’s kind of fun to see what people (and the companies) had to go through to get the products to market.

I don’t know that the series is meant for a general audience.  If you didn’t own one of those four toys, you’re probably not going to be interested in that particular episode.  Each line had it’s ups and downs.  I do remember playing with He-Man as a child.  That was probably the most interesting episode to me.  The others didn’t seem to have that same connection.  I knew people that were really into Star Wars and I think we had a few of the smaller G.I. Joe toys, sure.  I just didn’t feel like I took anything away from those episodes.

I think, if anything, the series is geared more towards collectors.  I might watch the next four episodes, mostly because it includes two toy lines (Transformers and LEGO) that I played with.  The opening theme indicates that this is an eight-part series, so I don’t know that there will be a third season.  I’d be interested to see what they might do with that, though.

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