New on Netflix: The Toys that made Us

8개월 전

While this series isn't exactly brand new it only recently started to receive a high level of visibility. As a daily user of Netflix this was not a show that I would have even been able to find without a great deal of looking for it in the past.

The series focuses on the plastic toy craze, mostly of the 70's, 80's, and 90's, of which i think many of us were at least in some capacity a part of. While the show has its merits and is certainly a trip down memory lane for any older viewers and / or collectors, it is very lacking in some very key areas.

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Initially released in 2017, the first 4 episodes focused on toy lines that shaped a good bit of my childhood and subsequently the throwing away of what I have to imagine was hundreds of dollars annually on the part of my parents and also at least 40% of my paper-route earnings: Star Wars, He-Man, and G.I. Joe (there was also a Barbie episode but I never had one of those because of the lack of weaponry.)

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They focus on two aspects of each of the toy brands: How they came into being and also how collectors view the toys today. I had a great many Star Wars toys as a kid, some of which would be worth a butt ton of money if I hadn't been a kid at the time and immediately abused the hell out of them and subsequently destroyed them.

This side of things is quite interesting, especially when they get down to the brass tax and show that George Lucas, not knowing that this first film was going to go on to become the most valuable franchise of all time, was willing to allow the use of his visionary ideas for a mere 2.5% commission. Obviously later contracts would carry much higher percentage rates, but at the start the designers at Kenner didn't even know the significance of what the items were that they were producing.


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Kenner was not told what the names of the characters and various vehicles were and had no idea what their part was in the story. You may recall that Lucas was incredibly secretive about his stories, not even revealing the plot to cast members until days or even minutes before shooting various scenes. Therefore, Kenner was given drawings and blueprints of various parts of the show and told to manufacture items such as "The Dark Lord" (Darth Vader), "the Farmer Hero" (Luke Skywalker), and later "Smuggler Spacecraft" (The Millennium Falcon) without having any idea in what way the various toys tied into the film or even what names needed to be printed on the packaging until after the film was released. There was some novelization of Star Wars before the film was released, but Kenner was either instructed to, or decided to not speculate on the names of anything.


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Obviously, this would end up paying out bigly for Kenner in the end, but it wasn't without it's hiccups because they were not actually a very large manufacturer of toys at the time. They did however manage to make it work and also pull in a tremendous amount of money. It is said in the series that "Star Wars has made $7 billion at the box office and the toys, throughout the years, have sold twice that amount."

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They visit various collectors who have impressive collections, including this fella who claims to have every single piece of publicly available Star Wars merch ever created.

He even has one of the Boba Fett prototypes that was never released to the public for "choking hazard" legal reasons. It is amusing to me that the Boba Fett was never released for this reason because I think that in the wrong hands, just about everything involved in all the toys was a choking hazard.

This part of the story is interesting but honestly, it is too long and even for a Star Wars nerd like me, I found myself getting bored because rather than focus exclusively on the toys themselves, they focus entirely too much on various executives involved in negotiations between various companies. I don't mean to be insensitive but I don't think the average viewer actually cares about who the CEO and lawyers were at Kenner - we want to know how the Millennium Falcon was made.


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There is another key area that the show is severely lacking: They very rarely talk about what these toys are worth today and doing so would add a lot of entertainment value to the series. It is almost never mentioned at all and in my mind this is a critical mistake. Imagine if Pawn Stars just talked about how rare and sought after something was but never talked about how much it is worth?

While I realize that the major focus of the series is to be an "origin" show, certainly they are aware that their target audience is going to be collectors and fanbois, all of which would really like to have this information.


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Example: The original Jawa with a cloth cape is today worth $10,000 and one has sold for over $50,000.

While I was a huge fan of this stuff as a kid and just happened to be the perfect age to be a primary recipient of this plastic garbage I found the show to be, sadly, boring. This could have been remedied by streamlining the content and having each hour-long episode at least 20 minutes shorter. I'm afraid that this show is plagued with what a lot of Netflix specials feature: A tremendous amount of filler for the sake of filling an hour.

My recommendation for my fellow nerds out there would be to load up the episodes, find the toy line that is most applicable to you, and watch that one. I would honestly be surprised if anyone were to find this interesting enough to watch all of them

My overall nerdy rating! 4 / 10


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One of my best friends out here in LA made millions in the 80s in the toy and doll industry.. he and his partner went from sculpting props for mcdonalds playgrounds and movie sets to being one of the first people in the world to sculpt action figures to be reproduced in mass.

I have had loads of conversations with him when he tells me about how nuts and insane it was back then. They went from working for meager salaries to rich almost over night when the plastic toy craze took off.

My wife works in this industry as well, but the money is nothing like it was back then. You would be surprised at how few people there around in the industry designing all the major toys for companies like Mattel, Hasbro, MGAE etc. It's a very small world!

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well i watched 5 of the episodes and all of them basically came to the conclusion that you are suggesting but it suppose it isn't all that surprising that this stuff would all be provided by the same people. I think they did a pretty good job, whoever they were.

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By the way - I just watched the first episode of 'Toys that made us'. My buddy Steve is actually in the first episode.. They are interviewing him because he was the sculptor who did (and still does) most of the Ninja Turtles toys for Playmates.

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I also know the girl that pops up a few times. She and her sister ran turtles blog for years. We call them the 'turtle girls' because we can never remember their names when they show up at the studio or at comic con.. lol. I've talked to her a million times but still don't know her name.

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lol, that's pretty awesome dude. I wonder if @blewitt knows anyone in here as well.

I had a friend in college that used to talk about how he had a toy when he was a kid that said Revenge of the Jedi on the packaging. It was apparently the name they were going to use for Episode VI originally. I guess the toy company had made all the packaging before the name got changed to Return of the Jedi. He was always so mad that the toy and package were long gone because they would probably be worth a lot of money.

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They were very real, as was the offer for the BobaFett that is featured on this packaging that never got actually delivered.

The packaging is worth more than the toy is in most instances but at least with me, I would imagine that as soon as the item was paid for the box / package was immediately removed and probably destroyed.

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I think you are right. I have a tub of GI Joe guys that are practically worthless because I actually played the crap out of them. Great memories!