The Question: What’s The Hottest Christmas Toy You Remember?
By James Guttman, James Bullock, and Dan Crocker Dec 21, 2016 - 2:18 PM
It's time for another edition of "The Question" - We Want Insanity's weekly answer to something we all have our own opinion on. See what we have to say and then share your own. That's what questions like this are for...
This isn’t my answer, but for every parent of a small kid right now, I have two words for you – f**king Hatchimals.
I hate them. You’d think in the Internet age, nothing would be too hard to find… but nope. F**king Hatchimals proved us all wrong. Luckily we were able to find one in time for Christmas, but, as parents, we had really come to grips with the fact that it wouldn’t happen. We even told our daughter that it was a definite possibility that she might have to wait until after Christmas to get one. To her credit, Olivia was really cool about it (which made us push even harder to find one). When we eventually did, it was priced about $20 higher than the going rate, but nowhere near the $300 price tags that some places are putting on them.
Hatchimals, though, are like any other hyped-Holiday toy. You have toy hoarders like the two “genius brothers” I read about who bought a slew of these overpriced egg-hatching dragon dolls and then resold them for a huge markup. Those who live and die by capitalism hail them as marvels. Those who live and die by common decency hail them as douchebags.
To me, though, the hottest Holiday toy I can remember isn’t one that personally affected me from childhood or parenthood. The hottest Holiday toy I can remember had no effect on my life at all and the mere fact that I’m even aware of its influence on society speaks volumes. It’s Tickle Me Elmo.
I had nothing to do with Tickle Me Elmo. It was the Christmas after I graduated High School so I had no desire to get one and no kids to get one for (that I know of – giggidy). Yet I knew all about this red giggling ball of fuzz. He was everywhere. News stories obsessed about it. Plus, there was so much anti-kids show sentiment at the time from Barney to Teletubbies to Elmo himself that even those who didn’t have kids were seething at the thought of this doll being such a hot item. For a laughing toy, it caused nothing but anger, hate, and violence.
When my daughter was a baby, we bought her one and she didn’t care about it. It was around 2009 and, despite being 13 years since the doll’s glory days, it was the first time I had actually seen one. What a piece of ticklish garbage.
My family owns a single picture of me sitting on Santa’s lap. When my mom recounts the story of that day it’s remarkable to me. I’m not smiling in the picture. Actually, I look perturbed and rather frustrated. According to my mom, the journey to the store to get my picture taken with the jolly fat man in a white beard was that of excitement. But the end result was anything but as I never told him what I wanted and just rolled my eyes in disgust. To this day I don’t know exactly why I turned on Santa, but I have a feeling – I knew there was no way, even as a little child with hope and material greed in his eyes that Santa’s elves would be cobbling together plastic toys since all the stories I’d read and TV shows & movies I’d watched depicted Santa’s enslaved workers making things out of wood. Maybe, just maybe I understood the truth that Santa wouldn’t club someone in the head to get little ol’ me that one toy every kid I knew wanted, “The Real Ghostbusters” Firehouse.
Before “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers”, and various early 90s localized anime became the basis of my consumerism as a kid (not to mention wrestling figures), nothing mattered more to yours truly than getting everything “Ghostbusters” imaginable. Thanks to the movie and subsequent cartoon series titled “The Real Ghostbusters”, Slimer-mania was corrupting youths and putting parents in the poor house, especially during the Christmas season. I wasn’t even old enough to go to school when the toys hit store shelves including the “it” item of that year, the sizable replica of the Ghostbuster’s headquarters featuring a wacky fire pole, three levels and a container of slime to pour through the openings of each floor including the roof. On Christmas day I was blessed enough to be the only person I knew both then and in the years to follow who attained the tall beauty. I’ll never forget heading up to my grandma’s later that day, insisting I take it with me to show them. Of course my grandma had not a clue what it was for, but loved the fact I was enjoying myself. I used the firehouse beyond simply playing Ghostbusters as it became not only an extravagant entrance for my wrestling figures, but also the site of some dangerous encounters including the infamous “Buried in Slime” match that permanently stained Virgil green (no, the irony isn’t lost on me).
The hottest toy I remember wanting for myself was the original Atari. It took a few years, but I did get it one Christmas. It was worth the wait for Megamania alone. However, the Atari had nothing on the mass hysteria created by the Cabbage Patch Kids. I was ten years old when they came out, and while I didn't want one myself, I can clearly remember the hoopla surrounding them. There were stories on the news about people elbowing the hell out of each other over these ugly things. They sparked literal riots. In short, people lost their damn minds.
Who knows what sparks these kind of things? The Cabbage Patch Kids certainly weren't innovative toys. They were just dolls. They were so ugly they were cute, but still just dolls. For some reason, however, in 1983 people fell in love with them, and there weren't enough to go around. Some people ended up paying outrageous amounts of money to make sure their kid got one. Other people camped out in front of stores to wait for their chance to grab one. People beat the hell out of each other.
I remember my parents having conversations about this phenomenon—mostly they just laughed at anyone who had enough time and money to go through so much trouble for a toy. I remember people making their own, even uglier, versions of the doll to try and quell their child's insatiable Cabbage Patch lust. A fad like this just sort of ends up feeding on itself. A more cynical me would claim that running short of them was just another marketing ploy. Who really knows though? Although there would be other toy fads over the years, nothing that I can think of comes close to the frenzy these things created.
If you ever feel like the modern world has gotten too crazy, just remember that 30 years ago people beat the hell out of each other over a toy.