Saturday, December 20, 2008

Retro 70's Christmas Toy Spectacular

Unlike my wife, I believe that the 70's were a magical time for our society. This time period represents the golden era for toy marketing/consumerism, and at the Raedeke household we were drinking the Kool-Aid(tm) in a big way. The 70's brought us the birth of skateboarding, sugar-focused breakfast cereal, punk rock, and many other piles of awesomeness. However, those topics are for future posts. Today, I want to talk about the greatest toys of the 70's! For nostalgia purposes, I've tried to find links to toy commercial on youtube. Let's get started...

Big Jim - If G.I. Joe represented the heroism and manliness of WWII, then Big Jim is the penultimate man of the seventies with his mod hair and sporting lifestyle. Looking back, he's a bit sexually ambigous. But what's wrong with a little camping with your friend Big Josh!?! Big Jim reflected the importance of knowing Kung Fu as a life skill, and his karate-action arm unleashed its fury on all sorts of fake wood and fauna. Mom, you completed me when I got his Rescue Rig for Christmas. YOU MUST watch the commercial (apologies for the youtuber's comments in the title screens, but it's the only way to view it). Me thinks the toy designers had a different agenda...

Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces - This is not the kind of toy you should show to a child before bed time! I never owned one of these, but my neighbor did. It's creepiness was overshadowed by the curiousity with "disguises" in the seventies. No video for this one, thank God.

Hot Wheels - These little metal cars have made a huge impact on almost every male in American society. I was lucky to be around when they first hit the scene. Sixteen little cars with mag wheels, and spectraflame paint jobs, in all their glorified muscle car style. How many of you remember the Mongoose and Snake drag race set! Plus, the orange tracks made an excellent whip-like weapon when you were in a fight with your brother. Click here for a slew of Hot Wheels commercials from 1970.

Bing Bang Boing - I didn't know this until I started doing this post, but Marvin Glass and Associates invented many of my favorite toys. He created this awesome Rube Goldberg-style toy, called Bing Bang Boing. The problem with it was you had to have a doctorate in physics to recreate what's happening in the commercial. You gotta love the use of heavy steel ball bearings in a toy - would never happen today.

Vertibird - I'm amazed how many time this toy has been re-launched by different toy companies under different product names. Sorry no youtube for this one.

Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle - This toy made young boys epileptic when it arrived on the Christmas scene. I know that Evel (R.I.P.) is now seen as a drunken, mafia-connected mess, but in the 70's he was a huge star and his motorcycle stunts were major TV events watched by millions. Watching this video makes me want to ride!

AFX Racing - Slot cars and electric track racing were huge in my childhood, and nobody did it better than Aurora's AFX line of products. Later as teens we would apply WD-40 to the tracks for a drifting effect on the cars which required much more skill. The cars from these sets are still highly collectible. Check out this sweet "Smokey and the Bandit" style AFX commercial.

Mattel Electronics Football - Never have tiny LED blits been so captivating for so long! We played with this for hours at a time. I'm sure it caused early carpal tunnel syndrome in many young men. I can still hear the piercing chirp of the touchdown song in my mind. If you'll recall, Coleco's head to head version blew this out of the water shortly after it was introduced - but it was a great ride while it lasted. Here's a youtuber's video about the toy.

Major Matt Mason - OK, purists will note that this was really a hit in the late 60's but I don't care. One of the coolest sets of toys ever made, I still have the space crawler somewhere in a box. I think I'll give it to Hank for Christmas. I like the set design on this commercial - as if every child has a moon-like back patio for space play.

Happy holidays from the Raedeke's!


David said...

Gosh, I wish I could blame Big Josh and Big Jim on my fate as a Tom of Finland groupie, but sadly will have to go with the more obscure Bing, Bang, Bong (apparently the only bong ever sold to kids).

Miles Inada said...

Hugo was utilized by Pee Wee Herman in one of his stand-up routines. We had Hugo, and he haunts me to this day. Probably the most inspired toy ever.

Anonymous said...

shut up! I used to have the Hugo....I'm 38 and only now remembered him after seeing your post...the 70's were awesome!

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