TV, Film, and Entertainment News Daily

All Those Wonderful Toys (Well, Their Commercials)

Perhaps it’s a longing for simpler times – or maybe it’s that I wasn’t raised in the US and so missed out on these the first time around – but I’ve become obsessed with old-school television commercials for toys recently: Transformers! He-Man! Super Powers! Each one was sold separately, but seemed to promise so much happiness, it’s almost painful to watch.

There’s definitely a formula to these ads, but that’s half of their charm; the idea that you show a cartoon to identify the characters for the viewer in their more familiar form, then cut to boys (and it was always boys, in these commercials) playing with their toys in breathless excitement, ending with either a logo of a picture of the toys not in motion for once, usually with a voiceover warning parents how expensive it’d be to buy everything seen in the commercial (“Sold separately” really translated to “I’m sorry, parents,” didn’t it?).

Even recognizing that formula, though, and being almost three decades removed from when these commercials first aired, there’s something wonderful about these commercials. They seem so… innocent isn’t the right word, of course – they are created just to sell you something, after all – but perhaps “simple” or “unsophisticated” is what I’m going for. There’s little guile here, no real attempt to promise anything that the toys can’t deliver. Look at how kind of ridiculous the Super Powers figures look with their “powers” in action, for example:

Despite that, though, the ads do make the toys seem appealing, just because of the gonzo lifestyle they promote, where you always have friends to play with, and your dad will occasionally join in. It’s not quite the promise of a nuclear family, but there’s something weirdly comforting about it nonetheless. Who wouldn’t want this life, when they’re a kid?

And so, that’s a large part of the appeal for me: The odd time capsule nature of the ads, offering this happy lifestyle for kids that seems curiously old-fashioned now (Kids playing together! That that seems old-fashioned is fairly depressing in and of itself). But, I must admit, there’s also the part of me that’s just nostalgic for these toys, these brands. There are so many things featured in these ads that I had, and so many more that I would’ve wanted had I known they existed…

We had our own versions in the UK, of course, but they weren’t as great, to be honest:

Seriously, how can that compare with this?

I open it to you, dear readers: What were the best toys (and toy commercials) of the 1980s? What ones should I be looking for, and what toys do you most fondly remember from your youth?

News From Our Partners

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.hoffman.165 Adam Hoffman

    I was a Ninja Turtles kid growing up.  Not sure if those commercials are any good.

  • Juggalord

    I was a Transformers kid myself. I was totally addicted to them. I always had to have the newest ones, even if they sucked – like Cosmos. The prides of my collection were Devestator & Metroplex. Man, how I miss my Transformers. =) Buying reissues (original molds) of the G1s can cost up to $300. *sigh* Nothing beats die cast metal toys.

  • jjwspider

    I still love the Masters of the Universe commercials better than almost any other toy commercial from that era.  However, the Transformers and GI Joe commercials were excellent as well.  You may want to look for some GoBots commercials as they were done in the same vein.  If you really want a blast from the past though, look for cereal and fast food commercials from the 80’s.

  • Ronnie

    I still remember that “evil twin brothers” jingle from when I was a kid!

  • Viperhenry

    G.I.Joe for me than and now!

  • Demoncat4

    i was both a transformer and super powers kid. though mostly super powers. but kept my optimus prime. and also found the toy line m.a.s.k interesting. which is batch of commercials you can check out along with a bizzare toy line called Sectar’s

  • thesnappysneezer

    Rainbow Brite, Jem, Strawberry Shortcake, and She-Ra

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QCE3DAGWPKEMCBZGTMALLF3D2U Jeffrey

    GI Joe had the best marketing for me in the 80’s;  they combined fun toys with a media blitz of cartoons and comic books.  I’ll never forget seeing my first commercial for one of the Marvel Comics…I was hooked on the entire GI Joe line after that.  Some days I wish they could catch that lightning in a bottle for another toyline so my kids could experience what I did (even if it makes me really, really broke by the end….)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/7DLZKO4LXIM46LCUZ6SQQB44QI Pedro Bear

    Marshall Bravestar was awesome. The toys were epic in scale.

  • Skiker

    Is that Peter Cullen’s voice on the Dragon Blaster Skeletor ad on the last clip? Optimus Prime flogging off Master’s Of The Universe toys…..nice!

  • Michael_howey

    Always wanted the centurions toys but never had any. I would have killed for “Wild Weasel”.

  • Ptor Praetorious

    post deleted by author

  • http://twitter.com/SanctumBlog PTOR

    Looking at these commercials, I find myself drawn more towards the PLAYSETS than the figures.

    Castle Greyskull and the Hall of Justice are totally wicked-awesome.

    I never really had any action figures as a kid.
    A few Star Wars figures (Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Yoda, Stormtrooper) but that’s about it.
    My parents weren’t cool with a boy playing with dolls.

    The few action figures I had I bought on my own with paper-route or
    part-time job earnings (CRYSTAR, VISIONARIES, a few SUPER POWERS figures
    [Batman, Green Arrow and Dr. Fate]).

    I remember for my birthday wanting a ROM SPACEKNIGHT figure and got a tape recorder instead.

    Eventually, I got not one but TWO ROM SPACEKNIGHTS (and blogged about
    the whole story – with videos showing how the toy works, the original
    commercial, sound FX and pics galore).

    http://sanctumsanctorumcomix.blogspot.com/2009/04/idol-pursuits-rom-spaceknight-is-here.html

    A buddy of mine had a bunch of the MEGO figures but he used them as dart-board practice.
    That always broke my heart.

    Presently, (to make up for all the lost childhood opportunities, I
    guess) I’m a big fan of the Marvel Legends figures, but I’ve got a ton
    of super-hero action figures from all different time-spans.

    ~P~
    Sanctum Sanctorum Comix

     

  • http://twitter.com/SanctumBlog PTOR

    Looking at these commercials, I find myself drawn more towards the PLAYSETS than the figures.

    Castle Greyskull and the Hall of Justice are totally wicked-awesome.

    I never really had any action figures as a kid.
    A few Star Wars figures (Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Yoda, Stormtrooper) but that’s about it.
    My parents weren’t cool with a boy playing with dolls.

    The few action figures I had I bought on my own with paper-route or
    part-time job earnings (CRYSTAR, VISIONARIES, a few SUPER POWERS figures
    [Batman, Green Arrow and Dr. Fate]).

    I remember for my birthday wanting a ROM SPACEKNIGHT figure and got a tape recorder instead.

    Eventually, I got not one but TWO ROM SPACEKNIGHTS (and blogged about
    the whole story – with videos showing how the toy works, the original
    commercial, sound FX and pics galore).

    http://sanctumsanctorumcomix.blogspot.com/2009/04/idol-pursuits-rom-spaceknight-is-here.html

    A buddy of mine had a bunch of the MEGO figures but he used them as dart-board practice.
    That always broke my heart.

    Presently, (to make up for all the lost childhood opportunities, I
    guess) I’m a big fan of the Marvel Legends figures, but I’ve got a ton
    of super-hero action figures from all different time-spans.

    ~P~
    Sanctum Sanctorum Comix