The Toys That Made Us-Episode 1

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Guest Writer: Doug Knoth

Netflix has the geek from your childhood covered! “The Toys That Made Us” is a fact filled journey of discovery (especially for the unanointed) offering a rare glimpse into the development of the toys that shaped us. From concept, to store shelves, the stories are told by the actual people that introduced “He-Man” and “G.I. Joe” to the imaginations of millions of us, shaping our imaginations and building the toy aisles into what they are today.

Naturally, the first part of the 8 part series focuses on the one toy that defined the modern action figure. Sure, G.I. Joe and Mego were here long before Star Wars pummeled the competition. But I will be the first to admit the unpopular fact, these were DOLLS for boys. (Let both the boos, and hisses commence).

Screen cap from the trailer ©Netflix

© Netflix

The 3 ¾ revolution was about to begin, and a small toy company in Cincinnati, Ohio was to become the unlikely king of the boys toy Market. One part desperation and 99 parts hard work, Star Wars was about to be unleashed. Though it is only fair to point out if not for Fisher-Price’s wildly popular “Adventure People” 3 ¾ line, Star Wars may never have been. Intrigued? The show does not flat out give credit where due, the original prototypes submitted to Lucasfilm, were modified (or Kit-Bashed) figures altered to reflect what Kenner had in mind for their uncertain destiny.

I don’t want to give a blow for blow recap of the episode, otherwise, where’s the fun in watching it? But needless to say as an expert on vintage Star Wars action figures, I did not at all feel like “I know that already, get on with it”. The actual people who did the work, made the models, and brought the toys to market offer new insight and the inner workings of the most unlikely toy success story of all time. Hearing the creators giving their emotional first-hand accounts, breathes new life into familiar facts, and their genuine passion for the business offers a unique perspective into how the toys were developed.

Experts like Steve Sansweet who is the owner of the most famous Star Wars collection and museum in the world, Rancho Obi-Wan offers his expertise, and weighs in on the importance of how the timing and marketing strategies captured lightning in a bottle, and took a small time plastic toy company known for the Easy Bake Oven to new heights and an insane profit margin.

What I liked most, were the recreations of the events that most of us could only imagine. In a meager 45 minute episode, they hit all of the important points brilliantly. I am sure the editors could have made a 2 hour cut easily, but opted to retain the digestible format that actually makes the series binge-worthy.

So, if you have 45 minutes to spare, watch this ASAP! People that do not know the story of the toy line nobody wanted, will find it even more interesting. How in the world did kids convince their parents to spend money on an empty box? How did one man’s vision of “Toyetic” products dominate an untapped market? How on earth did they manage to launch a toy line mere months before a top-secret movie launch? All these questions and more are answered in the first episode of “The Toys That Made Us”!

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    Timothy Connolly

    Star Wars action figures from the 1970s will always have a special place in my heart.

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    John Enfield

    This is a great documentary series! One of the producers of the show is a member of one of the Star Wars collectors’ groups I’m in on Facebook. He says they are working on a season two that will include Transformers among other things.

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