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Battling the Trolls

By: onipar

By Anthony J. Rapino

In early 1992, my life was a beacon of wonder and creativity. Only twelve years old and nearing the end of my attendance at PS 163, my elementary school, I still labored under that grand delusion that I was the heroic main character of some epic story. Everything revolved around me. My friends, my brother, and my family—they were all secondary. Stock characters.

I wasn’t egotistical. I was a kid and therefore completely unprepared for the trolls of reality that would descend upon me in the coming years.

After my last true summer of childhood, I entered into junior high school and was on the receiving end of bullying. This along with degrading eyesight that had yet to be corrected resulted in the first poor grades of my young life. Making matters worse, all of my friends from elementary school were in different classes and had new friends.

In the midst of these great changes, I retreated into my safe spaces. Drawing, video games, comics, writing, toys, and movies. Any imaginary world I could occupy, I dove in headfirst. One of my favorite new toys of the year had been Battle Trolls. There was something about the mane of colored hair, the various movie and monster tie-ins, the great weapons. I loved them.

During this deep dive into avoidance, I recruited my friend Thomas to help create new Battle Troll designs. I can’t remember precisely where the idea came from, but I suspect this was one of my many attempts to ignore the tragedy of looming adulthood. A bid to forget the bullies.

What I sent to Hasbro was an embarrassment, but I was too young and deluded to know any better. Reading my handwritten and photocopied letter now, rife with spelling and grammatical errors, I’m stunned the people at Hasbro actually replied.

My favorite part of the letter is the laughable “P.S.” where I politely explain the troll hair is “…not one of are [sic] better parts.” I go on to apologize if the letter “looks like a mess” as “we were in a rush.”

Someone needed to pull young Tony aside and explain the many reasons this postscript was a terrible idea. Unfortunately, no one did, and the correspondence was allowed to sail off to Hasbro headquarters.

Incredibly, it appears my first design, “Universal Trolldier,” was a blatant rip-off and mashup of Trollminator and Sgt. Troll. Inspecting this drawing, I can confirm that the hair is absolutely one of the worst parts in an already abysmal excuse for art. The tragic troll has a debilitating case of “front butt,” raging lockjaw, and insanely proportioned feet and hands. The frozen expression of a man holding back jet streams of severe diarrhea is merely the cherry on top of a toxic sundae.

In a slightly more original concept, I offered a second option: The Troll Lizard. I guess my creativity petered out before I could come up with a better name, though you can’t argue the moniker isn’t apt.

Once again, we have the aforementioned messy attempt at hair, curious proportions, and severely problematic hands, which are so jacked up the troll apparently couldn’t grip the missing laser bow. I’m not entirely sure what laser bows have to do with lizards, but that didn’t stop our headfirst charge into thematic confusion. My favorite part about the Troll Lizard, however, is the peculiar decision to not only add ears, but to have them growing from the side of its eyes. Truly amazing.

Given the haphazard submission, I still can’t believe a representative from Hasbro actually responded. As an adult, I now know (having extensive experience with form letter rejections) that this correspondence was likely prewritten and sent out to anyone submitting ideas. Still, when I was a twelve-year-old kid, receiving an official, signed letter from Hasbro was akin to being knighted. A high honor to be sure. And although the letter amounted to a rejection, Mr. Baptista did send along a list of toy brokers and even encouraged us to continue submitting our designs!

As you can see on the included list of brokers, Thomas and I took the opportunity seriously enough to go through the names and choose likely candidates. I can’t remember if we ever sent materials to these brokers, but my guess is our enthusiasm waned after the Hasbro rejection.

I like to imagine the intervening months, between sending our letter and receiving a reply, were filled with childhood dreams of wonder. The kinds of fantasies that would see Thomas and I swimming through pools of gold like Scrooge McDuck, fielding questions from adoring fans of our toys, and building flourishing careers as designers. The kinds of fantasies that blotted out the pain of growing up.

That’s how it was when I was younger. I built innumerable castles in the air. Every day brought a new dream, each as attainable as the next. At least, they felt reachable to me at the time. As reality ate great chunks of my world away, these dreams grew less and less, replaced by the mundanity of adulthood. But I like to think I held on to a few precious fragments. A way of thinking that is alien to most adults. A mindset that not only shielded me from some of the worst parts of growing up but also paved a secondary road.

A road in the clouds I like to travel now and again when I need a break from the world. A road where I can still remember and dream.

A road where the next submission will be accepted.


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Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 19, 2021 at 03:30 AM

Or at least there should be more toys with front butt variants.

onipar Posted on Feb 12, 2021 at 03:32 PM

Thanks, Mr. Magic! Oh yes, absolutely!

Mr Magic Posted on Feb 11, 2021 at 05:49 PM

Wonderful story! I'm only sorry Hasbro turned you guys down. Still, I know you felt proud when you heard from them.

onipar Posted on Feb 11, 2021 at 03:15 AM

Echidna: Thank you! It's nice to think perhaps they found some merit in our amateur attempts. I'm just glad they sent the drawings back so I'd have them for posterity! :-)

Benjanime: My handwriting was the worst! I had this idea (as you can see) that the more slant my cursive had, the more fancy it would be. Ha!

Vaporman: Thank you! I was especially excited for you to read this one given our project. More toys need front butt.

echidna64 Posted on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:04 PM

Great story! Reading between the lines, I think that they really liked your ideas (especially since they attached a list of toy brokers) but probably couldn't comment publicly due to legal reasons.

Benjanime Posted on Feb 10, 2021 at 06:39 PM

i used to wonder what it would be like sending in my own toy ideas to a familiar toy company too, but i was never bold enough to write a letter at all due to my messy handwriting. props on receiving feedback from hasbro though, i'll bet your parents were impressed!

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 10, 2021 at 06:03 PM

That is incredibly awesome! I can't imagine how excited you must have been to receive a reply from Hasbro! And then the utter disappointment of actually reading it.

I've never heard of a "toy broker". I wonder if that is even a real position anymore?

That Hasbro never made a troll with a "front butt" is also disappointing. LOL

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