Thursday, October 18, 2007

Which Characters Make The Best Toys?

First of all we have to talk about toys before 1970. From 1970 on everything went to Hell. Not just toys either!

Hanna Barbera character toys used to work well whether they were on or off-model.














Some characters just lend themselves to great merchandise. Usually I collect Hanna Barbera toys because the characters translate so well.Here's one from around 1970-the tip of the change. Boo Boo's face is still cute, but his body is beginning to exhibit lumpy attributes...


WB toys never had a Golden Age.
Strangely, it's hard to find good Warner Bros. toys. They always seem to come out the blandest, even though they are the best cartoons.
These aren't horrible, but they lack the fun of the HB toys.
Of course, the more modern the toys, the more bland they are...
DISNEY FREAK SHOW
But Disney used to be great!











THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION:

At least up until the last couple decades. Now they've ruined the fun with too much quality control and fear by people who don't even like cartoons but are in charge of every aspect of what was once supposed to be fun.
I can't think of much appealing or fun merchandise today. Now everything is either too sweet too conservatively on-model

or too vague, lumpy and soft in a new mushy kind of off-model way.


We are living in the age of vague lumpiness all around, not just in toys, but in every walk of life it seems.

BONUS SUPER-LUMP SECTION


Have toymakers completely abandoned the idea that kids want cute, fun things to play with? Is it possible that toys will get even uglier in a few years? Hard to imagine anything less fun or more formless than what poor kids are stuck with today. No wonder they grow up all angry and their pants don't fit. They are emulating the lumpiness that they've seen all their lives.

What's next?

Maybe fat old people will become fashionable. America's Next Fat Bald Wrinkly Man Show will be a big hit.

I mean fat and wrinkles are the biological equivalent of formless cartoons and toys.

Modern corporations go against obvious human nature and make the opposite of what we naturally crave.

39 comments:

patchwork said...

That Dino cookie-jar kicks ass!

post-80's Star wars and comic book action figures are atrocious as well.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I think some of the best toys have come from Yogi Bear and the Flintstones.

Take a picture of that orange thing on top of your tv!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Hahawhawhawhawhawhawhawhaw!!!!!!! These should be in a book!

Lex said...

Could the lumpiness of modern cartoon toys have anything to do with the lack of construction in the drawings? I think that Mr. Scrotum-Chin from Family Guy would be impossible to turn into a non-lumpy toy.

- Lex

Sphyzex_9 said...

Don't forget about that lead paint.

Bill Field said...

As someone who has designed a few plush characters, I did cleanup on patterns for Samarai Jack and Aku plush figures that turned out pretty good, in my opinion-- the clearer you can communicate with the Chinese manufacturing houses, the better the product you get back. I love the Off Model HB stuff- I recently went to Chicago and got a Knickerbocker Mr. Jinx, his body is black and it was made without a tail! Now, THAT'S offmodel! But he's still very cool...

Sean Worsham said...

Angry Fat Bald Guys Living in their Mother's Basements....FUNNY!!! HHAHHAHAHAH...yet sad.

Ted said...

You seem, by and large, to like toys that differ significantly from the regular depictions of characters. Why then were the mid '90s Spumco toys extremely on model?

Mitch K said...

Dreampets were totally cool... once you see them, you can't really argue that toys today are good.

I know you don't dig the 80's stuff too much... but man, those action figures were WAY cooler back then than they are now. The toy section at Wal-Mart depresses me.

Bill Field said...

There's a Yogi Bear cartoon on right now --- He's the world's greatest skating bear-- no sidekick, he lives in a circus and he's on rollerskates throughout-- what gives? It's definitely early HB-- but I don't think I've ever seen this short!---Talk about off model... (no Jellystone Park, Ranger, or BooBoo!)

Callum said...

Sorry, haven't posted for a while...
I loved this post, and actually laughed out loud at the bonus super-lump section. You should've posted your Fred Flintstone toy with 'downs syndrome eyes', that makes me laugh just thinking about it...

LTC Environment said...

The lumpiness of modern toys could be for safety reasons. Not the children's safety necessarily(nobody gives a rat's ass about that), but for the toy company's safety.

We live in a day and age where an obese man can sue McDonalds for somehow magically making him fat and children are too stupid to function as sentient beings.

With that in mind, imagine how many lawsuits would rain down on any toy company that was to produce anything but formless(no pointy edges, nothing easily swallowable, nothing with a harder consistancy than foam) lumpy masses of unfun.

Bill Drastal Blog Mode!! said...

I thought toys suck because they're now cheaply produced by our friends in China? Not saying its their fault, but that the toys they make are cheap pieces of crap you can break in seconds.

crazyharmke said...

That Disney-stuff is really horrible!
At my parents house, I have a Donald Duck plush which is not bad! But it's already... *calculating*.... 20 years old I think (d*mn I'm getting old!).

Whoo, I definitely want that Dino-cookie-jar for Christmas! ^_^ It's so nice & sweet!

About modern stuff:
A couple of weeks ago, I posted some toys of Fairly Odd Parents on my blog:
http://crazyharmke.blogspot.com/search/label/toys

That were not the only ugly toys of FOP i found... FOP doesn't have ANY nice toy that even looks like the tv-characters...

But I have some toys of Spongebob & his buddies on the dashboard of my car, which are not that bad. They have fun poses & look like the tv-characters too.

quack said...

woa that micky mouse gas mask is out of control. im guessing it was made during the 50's for an H bomb attack?
id like to see how disney marketed those to kids.

Skaffa said...

check out kidrobot

www.kidrobot.com

Operation GutterBall said...

http://shop.tokyocube.com/toys-details.htm?p=575

Operation GutterBall said...

http://www.ningyoushi.com/Mickey_Mouse_Oswald_the_Rabbit_Vinyl_Set_p/disn024-c8.htm

lastangelman said...

Seriously, antiques roadshow should do segment where you are making exactly this kind of point. It could feature you and Steve Worth at the ASIFA.

Gabriel said...

you lost me again. Certain kinds of ugly are funny, i agree, but how is old ugly better than new ugly?

JohnK said...

>>Certain kinds of ugly are funny, i agree, but how is old ugly better than new ugly?<<

I think you just answered your own question.

Ted: The Spumco toys are asymmetrical and designed to have some life and humor. It was quite a task getting the talented sculptors to take them that far, since they were so used to making everything the normal corporate bland way.

If I was still making toys, there would be quite a variety, believe me.

bioshock said...

That last toy you posted is from the show Teen Titans, which I think has some of the best facial expressions of any recent cartoon.

Bryan! said...

I want to wear diapers just so I can have that quickdraw mcgraw gun holster.

Hey John, you probably know about this, but I just saw they are coming out with a 2-book Hardcover set of the COMPLETE DON MARTIN. Here's the link.

he said said...

At least with 80s GI Joe toys you could take them apart and mix up the characters. Toys nowadays aren't meant to be repairable disassemblable or pass-on-able.

Ryan G. said...

Hey John, what happened to the Tenacious D toys? Have they been produced?

cartoon lad said...

1970 does seem to be the year things went downhill in a big way for toys.I wonder why? The 1970 Boo Boo toy you have pictured looks like more of an oven mitt than a toy.

Whit said...

Were there ever any Don Martin toys? There should have been.

Colter said...

Well, first of all .. the old toys are good for one thing.. a laugh. Yes they are constructed well, and are great for drawing exercises but they look like crap.

Colter said...

bryan!:

I want to wear diapers just so I can have that quickdraw mcgraw gun holster.


Live the dream, this is the internet.

PCUnfunny said...

Those HB toys were cool. Fun off model foolishness.



"That last toy you posted is from the show Teen Titans, which I think has some of the best facial expressions of any recent cartoon."

I am sorry but I have to disagree. Those expression were just sterile anime repeated constantly, big heads with white eyes, fang like teeth,and circles for hands. Now before you respond, please post a pic of the contrary.

PCUnfunny said...

Oh and I wanted to make a comment about the lazy fat guys. Why is it that modern cartoon characters can't do a damn thing ? Remember when they use to dance,sing,and act ?

Kali Fontecchio said...

Eddie!!!

Dagan Moriarty said...

hahaha :)

Great post, John!

I find your posts concerning toys some of your best and brightest!
This is a wonderful example of appealing vs. unappealing.

Your thoughts sound RIGHT on the money to me... The older toys that you show have a spirited sense of fun about them. Many ARE ridiculously "OFF-MODEL," but they strike me almost the same as some of the earlier Golden Books... Like they are actually "artfully off-model," if that makes sense...
;)
...Sort of another take on the characters, I'd say.
As for the newer examples, i think "lumpy" nails it. -hahaha
There's just no 'fun' there for me... They strike me as "We don't give a crap, just make a (fill-in-the-blank) doll." Kind of soul-less.
Great stuff! And it's so interesting to me to be able to draw the parallels from this hard merchandise to actual character design. Appeal is SUCH a 'touchy-feely' thing, but... it's kinda NOT.
:)
Eh, you said it best, I'm just here to applaud it.

David Germain said...

Modern corporations go against obvious human nature and make the opposite of what we naturally crave.

Speaking of which, we've been scrambling around here at work for the past week because of a scare brought upon TV executives (I won't say what TV corporation they work for so that they don't get all pissy and call for their lawyers). For a few months now we've been animating our scenes in Flash and then pasting in the backgrounds when they were finished. However, recently the TV execs decided that all the background colours must be changed. What we had at first were BGs coloured in Flash with an effects layer added on top which made them look as though they'd been rendered in coloured pencil so that they were both more gentle on the eyes and more closely resemble the books the TV show is based on (that being Richard Scarry's Busy Town). The BGs changes the execs made took away that effects layer revealing only the flat colours and, on top of all that, the colours were changed to the bright primary "Candt Cane Lane" hues that have caused Mr. John K. to punch holes in walls and such. We had changed the BGs in one episode when the order came down from the head office to change the BGs back to what they were. Only the sidewalk and street colours are to be changed now. All that production time wasted for nothing.

It's been said many times here and elsewhere, the executives in charge of the money are menaces to animation and creativity in general. Worse yet, there are too many of them and they hold WAY too much power within the industry. Sadly, a mass genocidal execution of them all would be frowned upon (not to mention rather tough to organize). So, maybe we should take Bob Barker's advice and simply have them spayed or neutered. It's just maintaining the balance of nature, nothing more. ;P

Brian said...

When I think back on my childhood I can think of only a few toys I actually played with. The rest were bought then placed on a shelf or in a toy box.

The first 5 years of my life, my teddy bear and rubber ducky was nearly worn out because I played with them so much. Then as I got older it was plastic cars, plastic boats (for the tub), Hot Wheels cars, Matchbox cars, little green plastic army men, SSP racers (pull cord race cars), and then my bicycle. It was never a cartoon character toy that I really actually played with.

I loved cartoons as much as anyone, but (in my opinion), cartoon character toys have always sucked, whether on-model or off-model, old or new. They're just not made with real kids playing in mind.

Tim said...

Everything that has Mickey Mouse in this post is nightmarish. I want a collection of them just to leave them on my enemies' doorsteps.

NextGen (Hector) said...

Those Mickey Mouse toys freak me out.

AniKey said...

LOL!!
Love the the "Chernobyl Mickey'!!
Looks like he just survived...

http://bp1.blogger.com/_mJ4lc_Q9Q6k/RxeGQ5ExMAI/AAAAAAAAIhQ/fsLWSsJnmB8/s1600-h/9Mouse-detail.jpg

indoorkid said...

I disagree with your "fat balt man" notion. If anything, plastic surgery "fembot" types are the living equivalent of generic, inorganic lumpy toys. You could draw a parallel between the blandness and overwhelming aesthetic of, say, new toys and new toy-like women.

Conversely - fat, bald, wrinkly folks have something going on! Lumps, folds spots - infinate variety and uniqueness. I know what I'd rather be drawing...