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The Evolution of Fun

Having been born in the early 90's I was exposed to several toy trends growing up: Beanie Babies, The Furby, Pokemon Cards, Pogs (while my brother and his friends loved them, I was too young to get it.)

This Picture was taken in the early 1990's if you couldn't tell...

And one which not many seem to recall:
Crazy Bones

Of those fads, the only one I embraced was Crazy Bones, my brother and I bought packet after packet of them, searching for those "elusive" and "rare" Crazy Bones made of fantastic materials or which had slight defects affecting their values.

Sadly, like the Holy Grail, the diamond crazy bone was but a thing of legend.

Instead of attaching myself to those passing fads, my toy love involved two beautiful words: action figure.
Starting in the mid-1990's I can trace my toy love, my own evolution of fun. 

In the time before memory, before pre-school, before anything meaningful, my toys were like most other babies' toys.  Play Skool dolls, Wooden Blocks, stuffed toys, the classic things you give a baby.

The tower of rings was a favorite of mine.

I have few memories of using these toys, but I must have enjoyed them. When we had a yard sale in 2001 we pulled boxes and boxes of old toys from the attic, hundreds of pieces I had not seen in years, but still recognized. 
A few went to the nursery in our church, like our sit'n spin.

If the name didn't explain the object, these directions should help.

The Church nursery also had a rocking boat that, when turned over, could act as a sort of foot bridge. My brother and I had plenty of fun on both sides of that toy, even after we should have been too old to use it.

The First Figures
The first action figures I recall owning were related to Batman, from the Keaton/Kilmer movies but especially from the Animated Series/Mask of the Phantasm. 
The Animated Series Batman toys had far more variety, and the longevity of the series meant there were plenty of villains, special suits, and accessories to go with Batman and Robin.
Some pieces even came out based on the comics, which I never read as a child but recognize now.

The ultra-dark Knightfall story, while well suited to action figures, was not a comic series I was ready to read at age 5. 

I don't recall owning too many figures from this time, with the exception of color changes and minor alterations, Batman looks the same no matter what you do to him, he is Batman after all. 
My favorite was the Bruce Wayne/Batman change figure. 

You would pop Bruce's head down and put the batman mask/cowl and cape over it. Bam! Instant Batman!
Eventually, I lost the cowl and would occupy my time playing "headless horseman" with the head taped down. Eventually, the spring inside couldn't take any more games of headless horseman, and the head sank into his chest forever. That was the end of my favorite figure, and, in turn, the end of my Batman love. 

The Lost World
When The Lost World: Jurassic Park came out in may of 1997 the game was changed. My Batman toys fell aside and instead I took up the dinosaurs and humans who battled them. My brother, who had not shared my enthusiasm for Batman action figures, embraced The Lost World figures. 

His favorite piece was his Jeep, we wore it out and lost every accompanying part before too long. 

We were lucky to have parents willing to indulge our whims, and we had almost every Lost World toy you could imagine, except one:

The Mobile Command Center!

There was nothing we wanted more than the Mobile Command Center, it was my brother's and my number one item for Christmas 1997.
My parents, however, could not find it anywhere, not at Wal-Mart, not at KB Toys, nowhere!
We were told Santa would be unable to bring it; we were crushed. 
Then, that morning, we went downstairs and saw a large box under the tree...could it be?
It was the Mobile Command Center, in all its glory. My brother and I were ecstatic, a Christmas miracle, the kind they make TV movies about, had been performed that night! 

We enjoyed our Lost World merchandise for a solid year, from Summer 1997 to summer 1998, but by that next summer I had begun getting int
o other toys, while my brother was starting to leave the idea of action figures behind entirely. 

From Dinosaurs to Star Wars
In 1997 George Lucas altered the original Star Wars Trilogy and re-released them to theaters as "Special Editions." Regardless of how the public viewed the Special Edition films, their release coincided with a massive upturn in interest in the series. This meant a great influx of new toys, and old toys, were being restocked on shelves. 
Very fortunate for me, as I was one of those boys made interested in Star Wars after the re-release. 
The first Star Wars toy I ever owned was, honestly, not even a part of the films.

Such wondrous creations existed only in the minds of toy creators, not George Lucas. 

The two big Star Wars toy series at this time were "Power of the Force" and "Shadows of the Empire" (based on the book of the same name.) I hadn't read the book but loved the toys that came from it, they became more characters for my vast stories and "movies" I would make. 

At my peak I owned over 250 distinct figures, and a few doubles to compensate for ones who became broken, worn down, or temporarily lost. 
It was not simply the figures I owned, but also sets, vehicles, and other accessories.

Unfortunately, Boba Fett's Slave 1 was one ship I never owned, much to my chagrin. I wanted it more for the block of Han in Carbonite than the ship itself. 

I learned more about character names and stats from the toys than from the films.
The release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace only increased my desire to own all I could of Star Wars action figures, some of my favorites were released that year, including: 
Queen Amidala
I am not sure why I gravitated towards this piece so heavily, I think I may have had a bit of a crush on Natalie back when that film came out. 

She soon became the focal piece of most of my stories, and in them she was partnered with:
They may be mother and son in the film canon, but to me they were husband and wife spy team Jack and Lyn -Intergalactic Agents of Good! 

I would bring "Jack and Lyn" everywhere, they were as permanent to my pockets as a wallet or keys might be to an adult. I would play with my figures in the bathtub, at the beach (leading to the unfortunate burial and loss of a Princess Leia,) in church, in my desk at school. I never left them and they never left me.

But, seemingly overnight, I dropped my beloved Star Wars figures, and took up with a new love....

Part two coming soon, thank you for reading. 

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Fulton4V Posted on Jun 02, 2014 at 02:23 PM

Lots of cool toys! My grandma had something like that sit and spin tohy but there was not any middle post to hang on to. You just sat on this big circle and used your hands to spin yourself. It was made of metal and had a bunch of ridges in it. I dont know what that was.

DoctorRyan Posted on May 28, 2014 at 04:36 AM

Good article, I really enjoyed how you made up your own storylines with your toys as I also did quite a bit. Of course I always pretended that I myself was He-Man as I was quite small when I was little. Your story brought those memories back to me. So thank you, great writing.

Vaporman87 Posted on May 27, 2014 at 06:06 PM

Nothing so wondrous as our childhood toy collections, is there? Like you, I tended to take my figures out of their traditional roles and re-purpose them for my own storylines.

I think I have mentioned before that many times my G.I. Joe figures took on new personae in the form of my schoolmates. That happened quite a bit, and usually Baroness was my boyhood crush. LOL

I can recall the nice selection of Batman Animated action figures. That was truly a classic show, and one that produced a wealth of characters to draw from.

I can also recall the night my friend and I went to watch The Matrix, and then hit up Toys 'R Us for their late night introduction of the Phantom Menace toys. There was so much hope for those movies then. What a let down. >:[

I'm looking forward to Part Two kstrom!

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