Friday list: Our favorite retro toys
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly
| June 18, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories: Friday Lists, Pop Culture | Tags: Friday Lists
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