Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stuff On Our TV: Legends of the Hidden Temple

The game show ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’ premiered on Nickelodeon from 1993 until 1995, and was in reruns until 1998. It involved six teams of two competing in three rounds of competition in order to advance to the final round—the Temple.

The six teams first had to cross a moat, usually via rope/floatation/paddling in some way, one partner at a time. If they touched or fell into the water, they had to return to the other side. The top four teams would move on to the Steps of Knowledge, where they would be told the Legend of that episode which would be the theme of the remainder of the episode and then quizzed on their memory. The top two teams would then move on to the Temple Games, competitive games based on facets of the Legend, and the team to win two out of three of the games would move on to the Temple, where they would be expected to retrieve the artifact from the Legend.

This. Show. Was. Awesome.

‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’ is one of the things from our childhood that in my opinion, doesn’t just hold up to hindsight, it is actually becomes more awesome the older you get. (As the original target audience included high school/college students, this is unsurprising.) When I was a little kid, the Temple Guards freaked me out a little bit too much for me to dream of being on ‘Legends’, but looking back, I totally could have schooled those kids on how to assemble the statue in the Shrine of the Silver Monkey.

(Seriously, how did so many kids have so much trouble with that freaking monkey? It was three pieces! Three!)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Wide World of Ty Beanie Babies

Unsurprisingly, along with a ton of Pogs and a ton of Pokemon cards, I also had a ton of Ty Beanie Babies.

Ty Beanie Babies were exactly what they sounded like—little stuffed animals filled with plastic pellets at their center to give them a sort of floppy appearance. They weren’t particularly cuddly, really, and they didn’t do anything. They were your standard little stuffed animals—albeit stuffed animals that came with a name, birthday, and little poem that gave them a more personalized feel. And yet Ty Beanie Babies became a HUGE phenomenon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Frightful Furby

I present to you: the thing of nightmares. 

I have to start by saying that even as a child, I thought Furby was the creepiest thing ever, and I had NO desire to own one. First of all, because what the hell even WAS it—a radioactive owl? It was the closest thing I could think of, at least. The large, blinking eyes that made a very mechanical sound as they opened and closed were freaky, and the idea that it didn’t speak English to begin with, but learned it, honestly weirded me out too. After all, I was a child of the 90s; I didn’t like these silly advanced notions! In retrospect, Furby might have just been ahead of my time.

(However, looking at the Wikipedia article, they were programmed to learn English automatically no matter what, so really, it wasn’t ‘learning.’ If you spoke Spanish? Tough crap, your Furby was still going to speak English. That soothes my 90s soul a bit, that Furbies weren’t TOO advanced. And eventually, Furbies were made with capabilities for up to 24 languages.)

More likely, however, they were just creepy, creepy toys.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Pokemon Empire

The Pokemon franchise was one of the biggest features of our 90s childhood, and really, looking back on that time, it’s amazing how much money a franchise based on insect collecting made when it made it big in the USA in the late 90s. Unlike the Pogs craze, Pokemon still remains extremely popular, and the franchise is still growing and evolving.

Pokemon are, as I’m sure most of you know, those little monster like creatures that fight each other for no apparent reason other than for the sport of it, and live in little balls that people (“trainers”) can carry on their belts.

Once upon a time, there were 151 unique Pokemon. Now, there are 493.

What is so unique, in my opinion, is just how many ways these ‘Pocket Monsters’ (as they were known in Japan) were packaged. There were: trading cards, Gameboy games, Playstation/Nintendo games, stuffed animals, a TV show, books, comics, movies, McDonald’s toys, snacks, clothes, school supplies, action figures, board games, and PLANES. Yes, as in AIRPLANES. And those are just the things I can think of off the top of my head! Nintendo opened up an entire Pokemon store, because they could. Because people would BUY this stuff! In just ten years, Pokemon made Nintendo over 25 billion dollars worldwide (“Pocketing Profits.” ).

Introduction and Pogs: The Bottlecap (?) Game

I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes I look at kids today and I get really, really jealous. Why? Because of the diminished responsibility of childhood? Because of their carefree nature, because I long for the days of recess and believing in Santa? No.

Because their toys? Are insane.

Seriously, I have three first cousins still under the age of ten, and it seems that they turn up their nose at anything that doesn’t perform more than one function. “That’s all it DOES?” was a resounding chorus whenever I’d innocent pass on one of my old toys with the na├»ve belief that they would enjoy it as much as I had. One, a girl, has a shelf overflowing with stuffed animals called Webkinz. They look innocent enough but you take them online and apparently they have a whole virtual WORLD. In my day, that would have been like, three separate toys. Another is a Wii Mario Kart master at the tender age of four, turning the wheel with the Wii remote stuck inside with the sort of skill that makes me wonder how he’ll be when he starts learning how to drive an actual car: “I already know that, I played Wii!”

But then I think, y’know, we had some pretty cool stuff in our day, too. Maybe it wasn’t as technologically advanced, but maybe that was a good thing. We certainly had to use our imagination more. Maybe our toys didn’t come with three separate intended purposes, but by God, we would make them have three purposes!

In “Stuff Fom Our Toybox,” I’m going to take a sometimes snarky, sometimes thoughtful, and always nostalgic look into the toys (with occasional detours into the realms of books and trends) that defined our 90s childhood, and why, deserved or not, we thought they were so awesome.

For my first entry, I thought it was only appropriate to begin with a toy that was defined by the 90s. A flash in the pan, it exploded onto the US scene in the mid 90s, only to disappear into obscurity a few years later, never to be heard from (or played with), again. And yet, when I speak about toys from our childhood, it is immediately what comes to mind for many.

I speak, of course, of Pogs.

The name POG actually comes from the name of a juice (who knew?)—Passionfruit, Orange, and Guava juice. The game of Pogs was originally played with the bottlecaps of this juice, until the Canada Games Company figured that if they slapped some pretty pictures on the top of round discs, they could make a lot of money off of easily amused children.

And they were right.