There was a golden age of toy making twenty years ago. Sure, they make cool toys now, but for the most part they are just various electronic gadgets coated in plastic. During the 80s, before the video game industry had its stranglehold on the child demographics, toys were a super power. Mattel and Hasbro poured money into advertising. The television networks fought for that money every Saturday morning right before my eyes with amazing cartoons and loads of advertisements. I would watch my favorite cartoons, and then see advertisement after advertisement for the most incredible toys. Then I would run to my parents, and ask them for it for Christmas, my birthday, Arbor Day, or just to keep my love and affection. But alas they would say no with the certainty that I would move on. Well its twenty years later, and I have not.
So how do I lash out all of this repressed anguish and disappointment, I write it out. However, there is too much for a single article alone, so I am beginning with the pop culture dominator, Star Wars. The toys of Star Wars plagued my childhood. They put out some amazing toys, and I had none of them. The best one I got was the Darth Vader action figure and a C3PO that you could take a part. My memories of Star Wars merchandise bring back nothing but heartache.
As a matter of fact the earliest heart breaking toy story that I can remember came from Star Wars. It hit the market shortly after Return of the Jedi came out. What was the one thing every boy found specifically in Return of the Jedi that was absolutely awesome? Ewoks! Hell no! The speeder bike made its appearance. A flying motorcycle like machine that shoots lasers, and makes a cool noise, yes I believe I would like one of those. Unfortunately, no one actually made a speeder bike, but they capitalized on the speeder bike popularity and made the next best thing. The speeder bike swing set.
Look at it. It still amazes me. It was a clubhouse with a freaking speeder bike swing on it.
I begged my parents for one, but they insisted that I could not have one because we lived in an apartment and did not have the yard it required. Then being a very logical four year old, I made the reasonable suggestion that they could buy it for me, and put it my grandparents yard. My parents however were not as reasonable as I was, and still said no. Now, according to internet rumors, there are only four complete speeder bike swing sets left in the U.S. So even if I could scrounge together the thousands of dollars that these sell for I would not be able play with it because it is a collectors item and I am too old and too fat.
The next one, and the most obvious money making toy for Star Wars, is the lightsaber.
Like every other kid, any time I got my hands on a flashlight I became Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, or Obi-Wan Kenobi. Jumping around, swinging it around while making vwoom vwoom sound. I guess my parents saw how much I enjoyed a flashlight light saber, and decided that there was no reason to get me the actual toy.
My cousin(who usually had the toys I wanted, but not in this case) and I found another way to reenact our favorite Star Wars lightsaber battles. He had hundreds of those orange Hot Wheels race tracks, which we made into makeshift lightsabers.
The only problem with this game is that getting hit by these race tracks hurts like hell. We would finish these battles covered with rectangular red marks, and occasionally bleeding a little bit, but no pain is strong enough to keep a boy from a lightsaber battle.
Fortunately, the best part of the release of episodes 1-3 was the release of new and better toy lightsabers. I now have a reasonable collection. I got my first one for my 22nd birthday. That day my cousin, who is a year older than me, and I got to have our first real lightsaber battle. It was everything that I always thought it would be.
Finally, there were all the vehicles and headquarters. These left me pretty distrought because my cousin had quite a few of these, so I would get to play with them, but on his terms. We played what he wanted, how he wanted, or we would not play with them. It was quite the bargaining chip considering that he had the Millennium Falcon, the AT-AT, the Ewok Village, and Yodas house.
What did I have you ask? A Tauntaun.
He could put numerous action figures into an all out war defending different headquarters with each side attacking each other by land and air. I could ride a tauntaun.
I am going to have to stop now. Headquarter and vehicle toys are a particular sore spot for me even outside of Star Wars, but that, depending on the reader response to this article, will be continued in The Best Toys I Never Had Part II Vehicles and Headquarters.