Philippine Daily Inquirer

‘Toys’ do­cuseries of­fers in­sight into pop cul­ture phe­nom­ena/

- By Oliver M. Pu­lum­barit @olip­u­lum­barit

In­sight­ful, in­for­ma­tive and funny, “The Toys That Made Us” is a Net­flix do­cuseries that ex­plores the his­to­ries of mer­chan­dise that be­came pop­u­lar and in­flu­en­tial, whether they were part of a film prop­erty or stood proudly on their own mer­its.

Pop cul­ture buffs, through the eight-episode show, can get a bet­ter per­spec­tive of how toys can play a sig­nif­i­cant part in shap­ing child­hood and build­ing up busi­nesses.

The nos­tal­gia-trig­ger­ing first episode cen­ters on the birth of “Star Wars” ac­tion fig­ures. The still-un­known film re­quired mer­chan­dise, but six months be­fore its the­atri­cal re­lease in 1977, the more es­tab­lished toy com­pa­nies re­jected the idea of mak­ing them for lack of time. The project is then given to a Cincin­nati com­pany, Ken­ner, which aimed for “toyetic” (in­dus­try par­lance for playable) de­signs. Ul­ti­mately, cre­ator Ge­orge Lu­cas would find his first toy deal un­sa­vory.

While Lu­cas him­self de­clined to ap­pear in the docu, the episode is made lively by en­thu­si­as­tic his­to­ri­ans, de­sign­ers and ex­ec­u­tives—and snappy seg­ments.

Just as in­trigu­ing is the oft­con­tro­ver­sial back­story of Bar­bie dolls. From its long his­tory of ap­peal­ing to a doll-hun­gry mar­ket, to the en­mi­ties and ri­val­ries that sprouted through the years, Bar­bie’s place in toy his­tory is metic­u­lously doc­u­mented.

Also for­mi­da­ble con­querors of the ’ 80s toy mar­ket were He-Man and G.I. Joe ac­tion fig­ures. How the He-Man de­sign was con­cep­tu­al­ized is thor­oughly ex­plained in one amus­ing episode. The way G.I. Joe was de­vel­oped and how ef­fec­tively these “pa­tri­otic” fig­ures were pro­moted dur­ing the Cold War are also il­lu­mi­nat­ingly pre­sented in an­other.

Other episodes fo­cus on sim­i­larly dis­tinct play­things that cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of chil­dren from all over the world.

The Lego episode tack­les the ori­gin of the beloved toys, from their hum­ble be­gin­nings along­side sim­pler wooden toys, to the com­pany’s trans­for­ma­tion into a jug­ger­naut in the toy arena.

The Hello Kitty episode, mean­while, re­veals its early days, and the im­pact it con­tin­ues to have out­side its Ja­panese home. Celeb col­lec­tors like Kimora Lee Simmons and Paris Hilton dis­cuss their love for the cat­like girl—ap­par­ently, she isn’t fe­line—whose im­age is em­bla­zoned on count­less pricey items.

There is also a fo­cus on “Star Trek” col­lectibles, from the weird se­lec­tion in­spired by the ’60s TV show, to the bet­ter­crafted fig­ures that even­tu­ally fol­lowed, decades later. And one episode about the Trans­form­ers fol­lows the Ja­panese toy ro­bots’ reimag­i­na­tion at the New York of­fices of Mar­vel Comics in the ’80s.

“The Toys That Made Us” mind­fully goes through those eras to of­fer mind­sets and cul­tural im­pli­ca­tions of such prod­ucts’ suc­cesses, and in some cases, their even­tual fail­ures. The do­cus re­it­er­ate that these objects have be­come es­sen­tial to peo­ple of all ages.

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 ??  ?? “He-Man and the Masters of the Uni­verse”
“He-Man and the Masters of the Uni­verse”
 ??  ?? Paris Hilton in “The Toys That Made Us”
Paris Hilton in “The Toys That Made Us”

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