Kids’ Toys That Should Really Exist
There was a story on io9 last week about all of the toy concepts that George Lucas originally rejected for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – things like an inflatable Emperor’s throne, a Death Star basketball, or a Jabba the Hutt beanbag chair. (It’s kind of crazy to realize that Lucasfilm actually rejects ANY marketing tie-in or merchandising concept.) And, while I mourn for the Dagobah-themed pencil sharpener that I’ll never get to own, it did get me thinking about all of the toys as a kid that I used to dream about, but that never actually existed.
As a kid, I could never understand why toy companies hadn’t thought to make me the toys I REALLY coveted, toys like (and these will date me) an uber-detailed Ghostbusters proton pack, full-sized M.A.S.K. Matt Trakker mask, a remote-controlled time-travelling Delorean, a Bionic Commando grappling hook arm, or a full action figure set of the cast of The Misfits of Science. (I am a very old man.) In my mind, those all seemed like concepts that could EASILY become the best-selling toys in the world, so I just couldn’t grasp why I never saw any of those toys on the shelf at my local Toys R Us.
And now, as a parent, I keep finding myself running into a similar experience. Several times a year, I’ll find myself searching on Amazon or eBay for a toy that I’m 150% sure will be PERFECT for my five-year-old daughter, only to discover that the toy in question doesn’t, in fact, exist. So, as the very geeky dad of a young girl and in the hope that I can actual influence or guilt some toy manufacturers into making these dreams come true, here are my picks for the top toys that don’t currently exist, but that really, really should.
1) Alice from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in Full Battle Armor
This one totally bums me out. When my daughter first saw the trailers for Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and saw Mia Wasikowska in her bad-ass, Jabberwocky-slaying suit of armor, she got crazy excited about “the princess knight, the princess knight! Look, Daddy, she’s going to get the dragon herself!” And my heart just melted. I was so happy that my little girl responded in such a way to watching a strong woman kicking butt. (Even Peggy Orenstein, the feminist author of the wonderfully insightful Cinderella Ate My Daughter, applauded the portrayal of Alice in Burton’s film.) Even though she was too young to see the movie yet, I ran to my computer to order my daughter a Battle Armor Alice action figure from the Disney Store and…it didn’t exist. How could it not exist?! There were Dress-Me-Up Alice dolls and action figures of Alice in her fancy party dress, but the most iconic image of the whole film – when Alice straps on her armor and vorpal blade to her “snicker-snack” on – and, nope, apparently, that doesn’t even warrant an action figure. What a missed opportunity. And what a sad gender disparity fail for Disney.
2) Scooby Doo Villains Action Figures
Aside from perhaps Batman, Scooby Doo and Mystery Inc. might have the most iconic rogues’ gallery in all of pop culture. The Black Knight, Miner Forty-Niner, Charlie the Robot, The Creeper, The Wax Phantom, Space Kook – the list goes on, growing and expanding with each subsequent Scooby series, particularly in the EXCELLENT new Mystery Incorporated series on The Cartoon Network, which has introduced this great level of X-Files-esque mythology onto the whole Scooby mythos. Yes, there have been many toy versions of the core Scooby gang, but strangely, even though EVERY episode of Scooby Doo revolves around a villain, shockingly few Scooby villains have ever been made into toys. Which is CRAZY. If I buy a set of Scooby action figures, who are they supposed to chase around and catch in overly-elaborate traps? If you search on eBay, you’ll find an old, expensive four-pack of some villain figures – the Ghost Clown, The Witch Doctor, etc. – and there are some very cheesy small Mini-Mates sets that include a few monsters, but, with the depth and breadth of Scooby’s villain base, the options are pretty pathetic. Kids need a nice, robust collection of Scooby bad guys that they can bust with their Mystery Gang AND – this should go without saying – every monster should have a detachable head that lifts off to reveal the disgruntled employee, amusement park owner, or Harlem Globetrotter inside.
3) ANY Tiny Titans Toys
Historically, Marvel and DC Comics have not done a spectacular job of creating really engaging comic lines for really young readers, but, probably the biggest success story of the past few years – creatively, at least – has been DC’s Tiny Titans comic series. Thanks largely to the inspired character design by Art Baltazar, Tiny Titans is one of the few mainstream comic books out there that is actually made for elementary school readers. Baltazar created these wickedly cute, wickedly fun redesigns of DC’s cadre of sidekicks and superpets – the adults are mostly shown only from the legs down, a la The Muppet Babies – that, in my experience, kids really, really respond to.
My daughter can’t get enough of Tiny Titans. It seems like the PERFECT gateway drug to get young developing readers obsessed with the world of DC Comics and, as such, I find it very surprising that DC/Warner Bros hasn’t capitalized on that connection and merchandised the heck of the Titans yet. As far as I can tell, I can’t find ANY licensed Tiny Titans toys online – no action figures, plush dolls, dress-up costumes, Happy Meal toys, etc. – which, again, just feels weird to me. I normally don’t advocate for a giant faceless corporation to create more junk I’ll have to buy my daughter, but the Tiny Titans just seem so accessible and cool that I find it hard to believe that said faceless corporation would leave so much money on the table.
4) Inflatable Godzilla Kaiju-Style Monster Suits with Cardboard Towns That Kids Can Destroy
Am I crazy for this one? They sell those inflatable sumo suits for kids nowadays and I think letting kids battle each other as 50-foot Japanese monsters is WAY more fun than just pretending to be some fat wrestlers. Now this took me by surprise, but my five-year-old daughter is OBSESSED with Godzilla. She loves him. She came home from preschool one day talking about how a friend told her all about “Godzilla and his nuclear fire” and she wouldn’t stop until, much to her delight, I found some YouTube clips of the big guy in action and she fell further in love. (Godzilla movies are surprisingly kid-appropriate.) And we have a ton of fun pretending to be Godzilla or his other various monster friends, stepping on fake cities and roaring like idiots. With that in mind, it would be HILARIOUS to let kids get dressed up in soft, inflatable monster suits – styled after Godzilla or his huge canon of monster pals – and run at each other in mock battle. THEN you can also give them little cardboard or papercraft city structures to build before the fight, giving them the satisfaction of really stomping on some good old-fashioned infrastructure while they wrestle Inflatable Mothra to the ground. It might sound insane, but I think it could be the next Hulk Hands, if it’s done right.
As the geeky dad of a five-year-old girl, I revisit my own childhood desires for all of the toys I really want (still). You never think that a company like Lucasfilm would give up the opportunity to sell anything to anyone, but it happens. Maybe someday, by the time I’m a grandfather, with as much gentle prodding as I can do, we’ll see some of these toys come to market.[featured/header image pics from Action Figure Insider]