We’ve stepped into a retro-toy time machine – travelling back to the 1990s and kids’ most-wanted toys.
We’re taking a light-hearted trip down the toyshops of memory lane. Did you have any of these under your Christmas tree in 2015? In retrospect, do you wish you hadn’t?
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
A kid-friendly karate show, Mighty Morphin [sic] Power Rangers was actually based on a Japanese kids’ series that featured men rumbling about in rubber monster costumes (and even used footage from said show). Obviously born out of a need to sell toys and maintain ratings, the Rangers went through all sorts of heroes and permutations. So much so that eventually, the Mighty Morphin was dropped and Power Rangers became its own franchise which ended up with 22 series. At least it has a positive message, eh?
I have to confess that I have two original Gameboys. A Japanese version, I bought as an import from a shop when it was first released, and another an uncle gave me, not realising I already had one. Perhaps its most famous release was puzzle game Tetris – I bet you can hear the intro music in your head now, can’t you? (Top trivia: the Soviet government originally owned the rights to the game.)
Thunderbirds’ Tracy Island
In the early 1990s the BBC re-ran puppet series Thunderbirds, which led to a huge increase in toy sales. Tracy Island, the base of the International Rescue organisation, was turned into a play set. And it sold out. I remember this being Big News. Thankfully, Blue Peter came to the rescue and showed kids how to make their own Tracy Island out of tinfoil, loo roll and their parents’ broken promises to get them what they wanted for Christmas.
I had some of these – Star Wars ones at it happens – and even I didn’t know what to do with them. It turns out that that Pogs came from Hawaii; in the 1930s children used milk-bottle caps as playing pieces in the school playground. In the 1990s a teacher introduced her students to the game and it took off across America and the world – which is still baffling to me.
AKA…THE GUILT MACHINE. Tamagotchi was a digital pet that lived in an egg-shaped key-fob. Owners had to make sure the creature was well fed and happy – including cleaning up its digital-poo – otherwise their pet could fall ill and even die. (I never had one of these because I find it hard to keep plants alive, let alone anything else.)
Predicting the current craze for tattoos, Doodle Bear was a teddy that you could draw on, then wash to get rid of the doodles, then draw on again, then wash etc. While little girls may have drawn hearts and flowers, I imagine little boys’ creations would have to be pixelated on daytime TV. (Honestly, the bear’s life sounds like a living nightmare – how would you like to be tattooed daily and then chucked in a washing machine each night, only for the cycle to begin again?)
Crossing Guess Who? with a wrong number, Dream Phone allowed girls to find a ‘secret admirer’ and listen to creepy pre-recorded messages of boys your parents wouldn’t want you to bring home. Do kids even use phones these days, or are they all communicating by telepathic text message?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The 90s kid-friendly version of the Turtles was a departure from the original comics, which were actually rather dark; more Christopher Nolan than Christopher Biggins. On landing in the UK, fears that the turtles might turn kids into real ninjas meant they became known as the ‘Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles’ and had to solve problems by sharing their feelings and playing pat-a-cake. (Only one of those last three facts is true.)
Googly eyed, talking gibberish to anyone that will listen and randomly blowing raspberries. No, it’s not your drunken best friend on Friday night – it’s a Furby! (In 1999 the BBC ran a story that Furbys were banned at NSA headquarters over security concerns. And now I’m on a list.)
Short for ‘pocket monsters’, Pokémon was the brainchild of Satoshi Tajiri. He was inspired to create this monster-collecting-and-battling game by his childhood hobby of collecting insects. He also noticed two Gameboy owners connecting their machines and imagined an insect crossing from one to another. Top trivia: MMA fighter Ronda Rousey is a Pokemon nut. She’s beaten every Pokemon game yet released.