Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frustrating Toy Hall of Fame, Part I

When you were a kid, was there ever a toy that seemed like the coolest thing ever in the commercial, yet turned out to be a dud when you actually got one?  Here's some I remember...
1.  The Yo-yo.
The commercial always had kids doing something like this:
"Anyone can play!" the commercial promised,  "Rock the baby!  Walk the Dog!  Even Loop the Loop!"
I couldn't wait to get a yo-yo and do some tricks.
Then I got one.
 It did this:
I believe that trick is called "Drop and Stay There."  
With some practice I mastered other tricks, including "Tangle the String," "Get Thrown Outside for Swinging That Around Indoors," "Get the String Grubby Looking," and best of all, "Loop-the-Thwack!"
2. Rubik's Cube
This one was sneaky.  It was fun to play with.  Then I discovered something awful:
I couldn't  solve it.
I could solve one or two sides, but that was about it.    And everyone seemed to know a kid or two who could solve the freaking thing.   The rest of us "solved" it by taking at apart and putting it together.
3. Slinky
In commercials it walked downhill or (down the steps) like it was alive!
In real life it either just sat there, or, if given a push, plunked down a step and, well,  sat there.
Of course, you could always do this!
Wheee!  We're talking  minutes of fun here! 
This (PG-13) cartoon sums up the slinky experience nicely
4.  Super Elastic Bubble Plastic

I've blogged about this before.  It was a tube of glop.  In the commercial, kids put a dollop of glop on a straw and inflate  it into jumbo bubbles.   According to the commercial, these bubbles "last and last!"
Every time I tried it, I ended up with sorry, lopsided blobs that lasted (and lasted) for a three minutes before they broke.
5. Mousetrap

The commercial showed a cartoony Rube Goldberg device.  Crazy music played.   A kid turned the crank, which triggered a kicking boot, that released a ball that sprung a lever and so on.  The end result  was a cage dropping on a  plastic mouse as  delighted kids yelled "Mouse Trap!"
The real life game had two problems:

1.  It was dificult to assemble.
2.  When assembled, it didn't really work.

I imagine this conversation occurred at the toy factory before the game hit the stores.

Toy Designer A:  We gotta scrap that Rube Goldberg mouse catcher toy.  It's just too hard to put together.

Toy Designer B: Hmmm.... about we make assembling the toy part of a game?   Make it a challenge.   Like hitting a bull's eye in darts or bowling a strike.

Toy Designer A:  Yeah, that's good, but even when the thing's built it doesn't work that often.  Who wants to build something that doesn't work?

Toy Designer B:  Good point...  ...wait!  I got it.    The fact that it only works sometimes is part of the game too.  Like a roll of the dice.   We'll make it a board game...!
The rest is history. 


Linda said...

I love "Loop the Thwack"! I used to play that.

p.s. I really do love your Mousetrap illo.

stray said...

All just so true. I always loved the look of Mousetrap at least -- and had such high hopes (great illustration).

Namowal said...

Thanks, Linda,
No kid has truly broken in his yo yo until he or she smacks it into his/her head.

Thanks, stray,
Mousetrap looked so cool and cartoony
in the commercial, and even in person. If only it worked!

Mike Healy said...

Great post and drawings!

Ah yes, the balloon gloop...I'm surprised one can still find that stuff! Doesn't that stuff make you a bit loopy if not in a well-ventilated area? It won't just be the colors in the goo that's all swirly-looking! jerky move or roll of the dice, and the trap came down. Or you lose some of the pieces, thanks to the cats batting them under the couch. bad twist or turn, and it was forever a useless piece of crap that you couldn't unravel, or just made it even knottier!

Rubik's Cube...I had the pyramid one, the round one, and the free one in the box of Corn Chex, with little drawings of Chex pieces on them. Couldn't solve it? No problem: you just peeled off the little stickers, and put them where they should be (of course, it always showed, or they never stuck again the same way)

Edana said...

Hah! I remember playing Mousetrap. Well, that is, I remember assembling Mousetrap. I loved assembling Moustrap, but I don't remember doing anything beyond that, ever.

My slinky worked wonderfully! Did you have a lame plastic one? The metal one we had always went down the stairs.

And...the rubik's cube...gah. I remember once sitting there peeling the stickers off a normal 3x3 cube while my younger brother was properly solving the 4x4 one. Freakin' engineers...

Namowal said...

Thanks, Mike,
I'm surprised you can still find the balloon stuff too. Surely it's toxic, flammable, and hallucinogenic to boot. That being said, I might pick up some next time I see it to see if my bubble blowing skills have improved with age...

I remember they pyramid puzzle and some others too. I guess when the toy companies saw how popular the cube was, everyone wanted to invent the next puzzle craze.

Hi Edana,
I had a metal slinky (and agree they are superior to the plastic ones), but mine was still stubborn. (I probably should have sent it downstairs with more force to really get it "walking")
Funny about your brother solving the 4x4 one. I never bothered touching that one!
My younger brother is an engineer too, but even he was stumped by the cube as a kid!

booda baby said...

Oh, I see ... you're the perfect consumer they cooked these irresistible things up for. :) I take that back. That they marketed to.

Namowal said...

Hi Boodababy,
I was a sucker for every toy commercial that ran between 1970-1976. It's funny to see them again on You-tube. What seemed so amazing at the time looks so hokey now.

By the way, one of my favorite "toys" growing up was a pad of paper and some markers...

Anonymous said...

By the way, I think the absolute worst Rubik's Cube-related thing was that Saturday-morning cartoon show that was made based on it, called "Rubik, the Magic Cube". Talk about total early '80s tackiness, and flagrant product tie-in!!!

Namowal said...

I remember that t.v. show.
The cube character looked like a creepy half troll/half cube. I agree it was pretty much a thirty minute commercial for the Rubiks Cube.
At least they didn't make a cartoon like "Slinky, the Wonderful Toy!" or or "Duncan, the Imperial Yoyo!"

walterworld said...

Nice post...

The first illustration is my favorite; that duck is VERY confident in his Yo-Yo skills!

Pile Girl said...

Your blog is my favorite!
I thought I was the only person who couldn't safely operate a yo-yo. Has anyone else forgotten how to ride a bicycle? Only me? Thought so!
I have a vague memory of having a Mousetrap game. I don't remember actually playing it, though. I probably just liked the idea of it.
Here's my post on Rubik's Cube;

Namowal said...

Thanks, Walterworld.
That's how I thought playing with a yoyo would be...
...until I got my hands on one.

Thanks, Pile Girl,
Your Rubik's cube cartoon is cute. :)
I bet someday they come out with an iCube where each square is a lcd screen, so you can instantly "reset" the colors.
As for bike riding, I can only operate a beach cruiser. If it has hand breaks, multi-speeds, front leaning seating, or anything else that bike snobs consider "real bikes," I'm clueless.

Mike Healy said...

And let's never forget Mel Brooks and his mastery of the paddle-ball: "Give these out to the boys in lieu of's warped! Why do I always get a warped one!?!?"

Namowal said...

Hi Mike,
That's funny, I was going to include the paddle ball in part 2 of this series.
Was the paddle ball joke from Blazing Saddles?

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Namowal said...

Yes, that stuff (or current day knock-offs of it) has more fumes than an airplane glue factory. Maybe that was part of the plan- the kid got so high off the fumes that he didn't care that the damn stuff didn't work. ;)

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