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Posted at 1:30 PM ET, 06/18/2010

Friday list: Our favorite retro toys

By Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly

The opening of "Toy Story 3," which marks the return of the franchise that gave us Woody, Buzz Lightyear and a Mr. Potato Head with the voice of Don Rickles, has put us in a playful mood.

And repeat viewings of the "Toy Story 3" viral video that's been circulating since April -- the one that promotes new "TS 3" character Lotso in a commercial purposely doctored to look like it was ripped from a 1983 VHS tape -- has put us in a decidedly retro-toy mood.

As Pixar's "Toy Story" movies remind us, once upon a time we were all little kids who lived for every moment we could spend in the company of Barbie, Weebles and Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. With that in mind, Liz and I have focused today's Friday list on our favorite toys from our childhoods. Of course, we encourage you to add your own favorites in the comments section. Unless, of course, your favorite is Baby Alive. That doll gave us the creeps.

Jen's favorite retro toys

1. ColecoVision

It's hard to believe that this 1982 video game console -- which followed on the heels of the Atari 2600 and Intellivision -- was considered a stunning example of arcade-accurate visuals. But at the time, it was. And when I got one for Christmas that year, I completely skipped the annual pillaging of the stockings so I could dive right into Donkey Kong, Carnival, Venture and (my then-favorite) Smurfs: Rescue in Gargamel's Castle. As much as I love my Wii, the fluid-motion delights it provides still don't compare to the triumph I felt when -- after approximately 800 hours of play -- I finally freed Smurfette from her video-game-imposed prison. Unfortunately, as the clip below proves, ColecoVision got a little overzealous in its development of ancillary products (Adam, a home computer attachment? Really?), which is why the system was discontinued a mere two years later.

2. Sindy's townhouse

I had more than my share of Barbies and Barbie accessories as a child. For God's sake, I even had Skipper. But regardless of how dreamy Barbie's Dream House was supposed to be, it never compared to the totally happening townhouse owned by Sindy, a doll perhaps best described as the Skeet Ulrich to Barbie's Johnny Depp. (Although, to her credit, she was endorsed by Cindy Brady.) With a spiral staircase, a working elevator and a stereo that could actually play (gasp!) the real radio, I would happily live in that three-story piece of real estate if I could only figure out a way to miniaturize myself.

3. Fisher Price play sets

The family house. The village. The castle. The hospital. The school house. I had every one of these babies -- complete with the spherical little people, who actually make a brief appearance in "Toy Story 3" -- when I was growing up. And since my mother has never thrown away a single toy since 1974, my son gets to play with them now.

4. Perfection

There's a reason I'm the twitchy, jumpy nervous wreck I am today. It's because I spent too much time trying to jam all those plastic stars, ovals and other shapes into the Perfection board before it went pop. Even the theme song makes me feel compelled to assume a cat-like state of alertness.

5. Glamour Gals

I'm convinced now that Candice Bushnell, Darren Star, Michael Patrick King and Sarah Jessica Parker collectively went back in time and created these dolls, thereby guaranteeing that, years later, an entire generation of women would embrace "Sex and the City." Honestly, the SATC ladies and these dolls have a lot in common. Glamour Gals had a zillion different outfits, a carrying case (with revolving door) to house all the dolls and their corresponding ensembles, a party house, a party boat and, of course, a salon, which allowed them to get prettied up for the next splashy event on the party house and/or boat. From a feminist perspective, pretty much everything about these dolls is wrong. But when I was in elementary school, all of it felt so right.

Liz's favorite retro toys

I was an Army brat, so we had to travel light and I wasn't able -- like many friends I met in my travels -- to accumulate toys in basements, attics and closets. As a result, I no longer have any of these toys though, for obvious reasons, I wish I did.

1. Charlie's Angels hideaway house

Jen may have been totally smitten with Sindy's townhouse (and who spells "Sindy" like that, anyway?), but my early house-envy was completely focused on the Charlie's Angels hideaway house I got as a gift for Christmas in, I believe, 1978. Although it had absolutely zero basis in real life (aka the actual show), the house -- which was elevated and spun around a base -- was the height of '70s cool, complete with wood paneling, roof deck, orange appliances and plenty of room for my Charlie's Angels dolls to hatch their crime-solving plans.

2. Slip n' Slide

I was, for lack of a better word, a tomboy. Until I hit puberty, I was always more comfortable in a tree or playing stick ball than I was in a dress or, like my childhood BFF Nicole, surrounded by pink princess gear. So Whammo's Slip n' Slide, which allowed for plenty of opportunities for bruises and broken bones, was one of my favorite summer pasttimes. Back in the day it was more of a slippery sheet of plastic, over which we'd place a hose to get the surface up to maximum slickness (which, of course, meant dangerously fast slipping and sliding). Today's models are totally like having your own water park at home. Me, I'll stick with old school.

3. Mousetrap

I'm not sure what genius thought up this game, but kids like toys with lots of moving parts and Mousetrap totally scratched that itch. Of course, the fun tended to get cut short after about the third or fourth usage because of the inevitable loss of a crucial piece of one of the gazillion parts.

4. Atari 2600

While Jen had her tricked-out ColecoVision game system, I made do with the good old Atari 2600. Countless hours were spent -- and thoroughly enjoyed -- playing faves like Defender, Pong, Pac-Man and (best of all) Pitfall -- all using a joystick (except for pong, which used the paddle) that maneuvered like a bar of lead sunk in quick-dry cement.

5. Tina Bear

This hurts to write about, so bear (ha ha) with me. Tina was my best bud. Exactly when the brown stuffed bear first arrived in my life, I couldn't say. I just remember it always being with me. In fact, one of my first memories is of taking the bear into a baby pool, forever changing it from a fluffy, soft plush toy into a dense little furball with matted hair. That was when Tina was still Teddy, by the way. Teddy morphed into Tina a year or so after the pool incident, when I dressed him in one of my old baby dresses and he became a she. She wore that faded green dress for the next two decades until, one horrific day, my dog decided to eviscerate Tina -- leaving behind nothing but a pile of brown fibers, green rags and (more than likely toxic) stuffing.

By Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly  | June 18, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Friday Lists, Pop Culture  | Tags:  Friday Lists  
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Sindy? What was she? A stripper?

Mine, the Barbie Country Camper

My Donny & Marie dolls, stage & microphone which was sort of a Mr. Microphone knockoff. It was just like the mics Donny & Marie used, silver & white with that long antennae out the end.

I was also really into my record player & this, the Ipod of the 70s:

I'd put it in the basket on this (or something close to that, I couldn't find an exact copy) with an Osmonds 8 track in it:

And just ride the summer days away!

Posted by: wadejg | June 18, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Nerds of a certain age fondly recall Duncan Yo-Yos.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 18, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I recall wanting a Slip 'n' Slide like nothing else for a few summers. (Of course, when I did actually try one, it was kind of a disappointment; I'd built it up in my head as the Best Thing Ever. Sigh.)

Colecovision! I remember the Smurfs game! Friends of ours had it at their summer house, and I would occasionally try to play. Unfortunately, I lacked the motor skills to get beyond the first level (the one where you jumped over the fences). Had a lot of fun though.

I was a child of the 80s, and my two big things were Pound Puppies and My Little Ponies. One year for Christmas I got a My Little Pony bed tent. I loved that thing, loved it like burning.

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | June 18, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Growing up in the West, my toybox looked more like an ad for the NRA* than anything else. It was full of politically incorrect fake firearms. One of my favorites was a totally plastic 3/4 replica of an AR-15, later reincarnated as the M-16 military rifle. I was less attached to the real thing some 10 years later...

*If they are going to keep backing handgun laws, why aren't they the NHGA? Or ever better the NSNSA (National Saturday Night Special Assn.)

Posted by: reddragon1 | June 18, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Duncan Yo-Yos.

Mine was yellow. I saved up for it after having a cheaper red learner yo-yo that had a dull finish.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 18, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

What, no mention of Twister?

Liz, Mousetrap was useless. Did anyone actually ever play the game itself or just try and build the durn thing? And I'm with Jen on Perfection. ("Quick! Quick! Ten seconds left! Almooosttt havv----" CRASH! "Darnit!")

Tinkertoys. While the rest of the world played with Legos and Lincoln Logs, we enjoyed putting together much more dangerous wooden sticks, wheels and the like in ways guaranteed to put our eyes at risk of poke-age.

We were the first family in the neighborhood to have video games when we got Pong. ("BOOP!") It rocked. Then the neighbors who always spoiled their kids got them an Atari console with FOUR games instead of one. Instantly we were old news. Not that I'm bitter.

Beyond that, it was outdoor sports and indoor board games. I learned my world geography thanks to Risk (and was tremendously disappointed when I learned that Yakutsk and Irkutsk weren't actual countries).

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | June 18, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to TD for mentioning Twister.

I also loved Mystery Date, which we played at an older friend's house (I was a bit young for it). Enjoyed opening the door to see who my date would be.

Barbies, barbies, barbies. Blond Barbie for me (I was blond); brunette Barbie for my older sister (she was brunette). Had Malibu Ken, but he was pretty useless. Also had Skipper. And when we got the new Skipper with the curly blond pigtails, I cut old Skipper's hair shorter and she became Skipper's best friend, Rudy.

Our Barbies and Skippers would routinely go camping in the yard in my Barbie's giant pink jeep. They often slept outside overnight.

Some 30 years later, my mother was weeding one of her flower beds and found a long lost Barbie high-heeled shoe.

Oh, and I'm old enough to have had Mr. Potato Head when his body was a real potato.

Posted by: BMore_Cat_Lover | June 18, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

"Some 30 years later, my mother was weeding one of her flower beds and found a long lost Barbie high-heeled shoe."


Posted by: td_in_baltimore | June 18, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Play Family Village was the best!

Also --

Lite Brite, Spirograph, Spinart...

The Barbie Make-up Head

The Sonny and Cher dolls with Cher's dressing room and the catwalk/stage

The Star Trek Bridge

The Lemon Twist Jump Rope

Mad Libs.

Posted by: DCLocal20 | June 18, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Sindy was actually originally the British equivalent of Barbie. She was licensed for American distribution for a while in the late 70's...don't know if she's still around.

I loved my Fisher-Price record player, & later, my tape recorder.

I was also a HUGE fan of Legos, back when they were just blocks & you didn't have to make something specific out of them. Also, it was highly comedic when I'd accidentally leave one out, & my dad would step on it & launch a stream of colorful invective. Legos are indirectly responsible for my current prowess in swearing.

Posted by: weaselB | June 18, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Jane West, hands down.

I had the Barbie and the Ken. I even had the Farrah Faucet doll in all her white jumpsuited glory.

But nothing, nothing compares to a chick with a horse, two guns (rifle and revolver), a campfire cook set and a nifty shoulder bag complete with lipstick and compact.

Now I think I'm going to have to go on eBay to find one just so I can play with her again . . .

Posted by: aellura | June 18, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

the Apple ][+ was of course my favorite toy... the hours wasted playing 'gold disc' wizardry (i think i could probably get to the elevator now if you put it in front of me)... and just because i later ended up able to program in 6502 assembly doesnt mean it wasnt a toy....

from a more traditional 'toy' standpoint i'm going to go with the A-Team dart guns - that shot the HARD plastic darts with the suction cups on the end (none of that crappy soft gummy plastic stuff that couldnt put your eye out). ahhh - good times...

Posted by: quintiliusvarus | June 18, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

I am growing The TickleMe Plant. It is amazing and real. The leaves instantly fold and even the branches droop when Tickled!
I first saw it as a child in the Botanical gardens, now it can be grown all year indoors! I was more then thrilled to find the TickleMe Plant Greenhouse to grow it in on line at
or just search TickleMe Plant. See the video!

Posted by: GoGreen3 | June 19, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

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