We were all kids once upon a time.
‘The Toys That Made Us’ is a well scripted and highly entertaining Netflix documentary series that re-tells the origin stories and history of some of the most iconic toy franchises from the past half century! Each season (there has been three) feature in-depth stories behind 4 different brands, from the Star Wars toys which accompanied the motion picture (season 1), to ‘Hello Kitty’, the cutesy white cat that was emblazoned on countless pink stationery sets world-wide (season 2).
It’s funny how these count-down/documentary style programs walk us down memory lane – however once the wizard’s curtain has been thrown back to uncover the truths behind some toys which we held dear to our hearts as kids…it unfortunately somewhat ruins the romanticism of our childhood.
For example, take Transformers (from season 2 of ‘The Toys That Made Us’) – after watching the episode, I was somewhat deflated to learn that my favourite childhood toy was actually just a re-branded Japanese toy, and that the entire cartoon series was later constructed around the plastic robot just to assist toy sales in the West. Well, obviously their strategy worked, as it was these early morning cartoon shows which got me begging and pestering my parents to buy me these things. So finding out that these transforming toys didn’t have a background story, or a connection with one another until the cartoon drew these tenuous links together? This knowledge somewhat tarnished my fond memories of Optimus Prime and the gang. *Sad look*.
And Season 3 of ‘The Toys That Made Us’ has recently been made available on Netflix – in this season we learn of the brand’s origin stories behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, My Little Pony, and Professional Wrestling.
Before watching this, who knew that TMNT was almost dead in the water as a toy when they were not even a twinkle in their father’s eye?; who knew that the action scenes from Power Rangers were actually taken from a much older Japanese kids series?; who knew that the original mind behind ‘My Little Pony’ wanted to produce realistic looking and realistically coloured horses as the final product for girls?; and who knew there’s so much behind-the scenes politics in wrestling!? But you’ll soon also know of these facts, after you watch ‘The Toys That Made Us’ season 3.
However much knowing these truths may baffle and ruin your rose-coloured view of your childhood, if you’re a truth seeker, and knowing all that goes on behind-the-scenes is your thang, then you’ll love the 3 seasons of ‘The Toys That Made Us’!
For me, watching TTTMU it has highlighted 3 things for me:
One. How blessed/fortunate of a childhood I had – as my parents provided me with so so much. I had a bucket full of G.I. Joes, a clothing basket full of Transformers, and throw in a heap of Lego, Ninja Turtles, and Matchbox cars. Truly a blessed childhood. #Blessed
Two. The generational differences between kids- how even a small gap of 5 years, made such a big difference in what types of toys kids grew up playing with. For example, kids who grew up in the 70s were into Star Trek and Star Wars toys. When being born in the early 80s, I was into the latter era G.I. Joe and Transformers as they were all the buzz when I was 7 – 10.
Three. The gender differences- it’s amazing how guys were largely unaware of girl toys, and girls were largely unaware of boy toys. My Little Pony? Raises eyebrows for me. While my wife wasn’t aware that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was actually a Wrestler before he became a voice in Moana. Gender differences, so weird, so weird!
But acknowledging credit, where credit is due- ‘The Toys That Made Us’ invested extensive time/resources into research/filming, they had amazing levels of access to key people with firsthand accounts of the time in mention, and the editing and the narration by Donald Ian Black is probably a highlight of the show!
So if you’d like to take a walk down memory lane, geek out over some toys, and learn the secrets behind some of the biggest toy franchises, check out ‘The Toys That Made Us’ on Netflix! And if you just want to read all the spoilers, click HERE for all the episode summaries from Wikipedia.