There’s something about toy ads from the ’80s, with their perfect settings for playing in and amazingly beautiful days outside and toys that seemed to animate themselves. It was like every kid had a mountain, river, underground battle cage, and forest in their back yard and lots of smooth, flat surfaces upon which to lay out all toys of any given toy line. In the spirit of “I want that!” here are five toys (and their ads) that I bugged my parents for relentlessly back then.
1. MASK. – One time, I was playing MASK with a friend and I commented something to the effect of “M.A.S.K. is really like the Wuzzles of the vehicle world,” and instantly regretted it, realizing I had exposed a familiarity with the Wuzzles that I perhaps should have been embarrassed of. Regardless, it’s true!
MASK was basically a world of duality; every vehicle could transform into another vehicle. Even the base was a innocuous gas station until the switch was flipped and it became a battle fortress. A motorcycle could (somehow) become a helicopter and a big rig transformed into a missle silo. I think my favorite was Thunder Hawk, a really hot car with that would pop its winged doors at the touch of a button and then somehow fly with those winged doors:
Here’s another spot, this one for the entire toy line.
2. Clue II: Murder in Disguise – This blew my mind as a kid. A sequel to the board game Clue! Nevermind that the board game didn’t really have the sort of strong narrative that lent itself to a sequel – as an ’80s kid all I needed was a “2” placed after something to turn it into an object of desire.
Apparently Clue II expands the mystery outside of just one mansion, travelling the world with the same base characters plus a few new ones. I never had this as a kid or any VHS game really, but in 1986 I would have sworn that these things were the wave of the future. The VHS content is posted on YouTube, and I’ll admit I’ve watched more of them than I should have.
Here’s the ad:
3. Atari 2600 accessories – The number of accessories available for the 2600 is kind of staggering (and sickening?) when you consider what a basic, early system it is. I love the part about the upcoming educational games – that was a nut that the Nintendo Entertainment System tried to crack, too, before the industry gave up on that feature altogether as a console selling point.
4. Snowspeeder – For some reason this was the Star Wars vehicle that resonated with me.
I would draw pictures of this thing all the time. I was totally jealous of any of my friends who had this toy, and none of them really seemed to like it that much. I can see their point; it’s a cool ship to be sure, but there are so many slicker vehicles in the Star Wars universe. For me, though, this was it.
5. Pogo Bal – I guess this thing was intended to be a safer, worse version of a pogo stick (and hula hoop?) and they seem to have succeeded. It was easier to use than a pogo stick for sure, but you couldn’t really get much air on it. And it wasn’t even as satisfying as the unsatisfying hula hoop.
I really wanted one of these, and I’m almost ashamed to admit that. With so many other toys of the ’80s, the commercials and appearance and licensing tie-ins really sold a certain experience and made any disappointment with the actual toys themselves something you could blame on your own lack of imagination. Not the Pogo Bal. It’s clearly a terrible product and a seven year old kid could have easily seen that. The box art really sold the Pogo Bal’s similarity to the planet Saturn, and that seemed to be all it took for me to want one.
See you next week for part 2!