Roundtable Discussion: What’s Your Favorite Toy Commercial from Childhood?
Hear ye, hear ye! Welcome to the first ever Strange Kids Club roundtable meeting, a brand new column here at the clubhouse where we invite a series of participants from the blogosphere to offer their opinions, insights and shared knowledge of the universe on subjects ranging from cartoon trivia to pop culture nostalgia… you know, important things like that.
[This week we're joined by Shawn Robare, Tommy Day, Michael Corbett and Carlin Trammel. We asked our roundtable participants what their favorite toy commercial from childhood was and here's what they said.]
Robocop and the Ultra Police (1988)
SHAWN ROBARE: Considering this year marks the 25th Anniversary of the classic film Robocop, I’ve been having a hard time getting my mind off of it and all the merchandising that went along with it. Because of the dark black humor, mature themes and extreme ultra-violence in the flick, it’s one of the strangest movies to ever get the full cartoon, lunchbox and a Kenner toy-line treatment.
Growing up I was lucky enough to have a handful of the figures and vehicles from this line and I remember absolutely loving the built-in cap-firing capabilities of the Robocop figure. It might not have sounded quite as intense as when he pulled out his fully automatic Auto-9 from his hidden hip holster and blasted away at Clarence Boddicker or the ED-209, but it was still pretty darn snazzy. If there’s one regret, it’s that I never managed to put my hands on the ED-260 toy, either as a kid or in the intervening years. One day I’ll find one, and I can already see myself recreating this awesome commercial for the Robocop and the Ultra Police toys.
Spy Tech – The Stranger (1989)
TOMMY DAY: The toy commercials I remember most are for toys I never had. I don’t remember the commercials for the toys I got, because why would you need those stored in your memory? I was constantly bombarded with toy commercials for crap that I knew I needed, but (thankfully) never got. Crazy remote controlled cars that came equipped with water-squirting snakes, huge domino sets that probably took an hour to set up and would only get played with once, and other random crap was always being advertised during the countless hours of TV I watched as a kid.
Spy Tech toys just about sum up the kind of crap I always thought I wanted but would have only used once. ‘Case 109: The Stranger’ tries really hard to make this junk look cool though. Rear-view sunglasses, a decoder watch, and a black-light can supposedly help you catch ‘Strangers’ in your neighborhood. Wait, what? These kids are stalking a dude, leaving coded messages about him, following him to a seedy-looking movie theater, and then using a black-light to track him down? They should have gotten the Fast-Talking Disclaimer Guy to add ‘May find things way grosser than footprints when using black-light in a shady theater.’
I don’t know why they chose to have these kids tracking down a pervert instead of trying to cheat on a test or something else that real kids would have used this stuff for, but it was the 90s. Toy companies knew we were Strange Kids and made products we wanted. Or at least thought we wanted.
MICHAEL CORBETT: This wasn’t an easy question to answer, at all. Ultimately though, after mulling over the possibilities, my choice became clear. I don’t think there was a more memorable board game commercial than Crossfire. There isn’t a single one of my friends who can’t recite it with ease, and you can’t really blame them. This commercial made Crossfire seem like matter of life and death. We’ve got a post apocalyptic wasteland where supremacy is decided by how well you can shoot some ball bearing. It’s a bloodspot and the unwashed masses are clearly enthralled by it. Losing insures what I’m sure is a fate worse than death. The defeated child is banished to what I can only imagine is some Superman-esque Phantom Zone, doomed to spend all eternity hurtling perilously through space. With stakes that high, how can you not get caught up in the Crossfire?
G.I. JOE ‘Zartan’ Toy Commercial (1984)
CARLIN TRAMMEL: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero began as a colorful set of army toys with comics based on them. Initially, the concept was relatively grounded in reality, but before too long, the adventures took on more fantastical elements. Once the first cartoon mini-series came out, it was exposed to a whole layer of sci-fi that would go on to be one of it’s signature qualities. The toys stayed relatively free of that for the first two waves, with most of the characters being specialists in some sort of real thing (mortars, communication, scuba, etc.). Once the third wave hit, though, things ramped up and a new character came on the scene that turned things up to 11: Zartan.
This guy was amazing. He came with a vehicle, his skin could change color in sunlight and he had a mask! Wow, did this commercial really oversell it! Didn’t matter. I fell for it and wanted a Zartan so bad. Sadly, I didn’t get one until I was in college and rummaging through a discount toy bin. Even then, I didn’t get a complete Zartan. Once I did get him, he was a little underwhelming. No matter, this commercial holds up and still kind of makes me wish I could ask mom or dad to buy me one.
TMNT ‘Technodrome Playset’ Toy Commercial (1990)
RONDAL SCOTT: There are literally two things that define my childhood: The Real Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sure, there was plenty of other cool stuff that came out during the 80s and 90s, but these two cartoons captivated my attention like no other and went a long way to making me the strange kid I am today. While I could have easily chosen any RGB or TMNT toy commercial from the multitude that came out, there’s only one that stands out as THE definitive favorite: The Technodrome Playset.
To this day I can still remember getting the TMNT Sewer Base playset for Christmas in 1990 (one of the best gifts EVER) and dreaming of how cool it would be for Krang and Shredder to suddenly burst in on the Turtles with their out-of-this-world Technodrome. I mean, the thing is like a mini-Death Star for crying out loud only it’s cooler because there’s a huge friggin’ eyeball sitting on top! Add to that fact the commercial featured footage from the cartoon (see kids – it’s just like the show!) and I was sold. Unfortunately, Christmases came and went and I never did get one… time to check eBay!