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Retro Toys rising – The pulling power of Nostalgia

by Peter Jenkinson


WERE YOU a Game Boy or a Cabbage Patch kid? Perhaps you stockpiled Pokemon cards, befriended Furby or tamed Tamagotchi. Whilst there have always been a smattering of retro favourite toys and characters on our shelves it is evident from our travels that 2016 really could be year of the retro.
It is a great time to be getting all nostalgic and you don’t have to do so alone.  There are many newly revamped toys and TV shows which are suitable for all. From the acres upon acres of trade show halls through which we have travelled in the first part of this year we’ve seen an exciting rise in the amount of retro toys about to return …. and dare we say it, some are better they were the first time around.
We don’t think it’s because toy companies are running out of ideas! Or that TV production companies are searching through archives and thinking yeah, we’ll have a go at bringing that one back.  It is, as you’d expect, a tad more scientific than that and the most far-reaching reason we can see for the revival is, that we’re all allowed to be big kids like never before. If you have some smaller kids of your own even better …. buy the toys with them in mind and enjoy!
From the rise in vinyl record sales and slow cookers making a comeback there’s plenty to celebrate and that includes the non-return of the hairdo’s and questionable clothing collections from back when.
Here’s a sneak peek at some of the toys en-route these coming months and a look at some on aisles now:
Stretch Armstrong

Part eighties wrestler (a distant relation of Brigitte Neilsen perhaps) this trunk wearing icon is making a return this year. If the media noise is anything to go by this chap is set to be a huge hit. For those who’ve not seen Mr Armstrong, that’s Stretch to his fans, he is the ultimate stress relief toy. Hold on to one of his limbs or head and pull with all your might. Feel free to involve others – all of you moving in opposing directions. Once filled with corn syrup we’re unsure of the internals this time around.  However we do know that the same stuff is being used to create a stretch Scooby Doo too.
Best for – Stress relief and comedy Instagram snaps
Remember when – Your childish curiosity meant you HAD to see the gunk inside, and then immediately wish you hadn’t done it.
Danger Mouse

Rebooted, re-scripted and animated to satisfy the exacting standards of TV-watching kids these days, Danger Mouse has returned to our screens and made its way right to the top of the ratings charts. The show has lost none of its tongue-in-cheek humour and is a laugh-out-loud show with real family appeal. The new toy range features everything a fan could wish for; a ten-inch five-phrase uttering Danger Mouse figure, the MKVI car, all the other characters in three-inch vinyl with accessories and a range of talking plush – Crikey!
Best for – Those who enjoy singing theme tunes
Remember when – Penfolds voice in the original was Terry Scott of Carry On fame (Danger Mouse was David Jason of Only Fools and Horses fame).

A television staple back in the seventies, these whistling mice from outer space used a new method called stop-animation to film.  Created by the same people behind Bagpuss, the entire camera set-up was held in place by a home-made Meccano rig and a Morse Code button used to capture the painstaking process frame by frame. The original Clangers were created from a whopping 3 kilometers of wool by the wife of one of the creators. In one episode called The Rock Collector the spaceman plants a flag on their planet. It features elements of USA and Russian flags including both the stars & stripes and the hammer & sickle, as when the episode was made the production team didn’t know who might be first to land on the moon – USA or Russia. The new toy lines range from talking plush (well, whistling ones) to play sets to recreate your own space adventures.
Best for – Letting kids get really creative and crafty making their own lunar surfaces and drawing solar scenes.
Remember when – The Soup Dragon used to make his very distinct sound?

Almost twenty years has passed since they first appeared on the screen, yet these characters are the youngest to make the retro grade.  Parents of kids that grew up with the original series will have fond memories of how the show quietened kids and that theme-tune – once implanted – would stay in your head all day.  So the series is back, another 60 are set to be made – Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po are very much back.  In 1997 the toy range was fairly limited by comparison to the new line up but outsold other toys twice over.  The latest range is pretty extensive and includes a Teletubbies Peebles range and an oversize pull-along Nom Nom the vacuum machine.
Best for – Getting younger kids to interact with the characters on-screen
Remember when – All the characters would go into a slight frenzy on-screen at the mere mention of “Tubbie Custard”?
Mr Frosty

Much cheaper than repeatedly buying ice pops from the shops this ice-crushing machine was a favourite with parents as its main ingredient was relatively cheap.  Of course you didn’t want to eat snow cones that weren’t flavoured so adding your own cordial or syrups, usually to sickly excess, was the norm.  The new machine features extra utensils to help create even more ice-based beverages.  Kids will most certainly try and set up “shop” in the summer.
Best for – Saving a small fortune on ice pops
Remember when – Parents would borrow yours for extended periods to create their own cocktails?

So the slot car brand has never really gone away.  For over half a century now they’ve stayed in the game but more recently faced an onslaught of competition.  First from the obvious, console racing titles.  Then,  from more recent app-controlled racing games and cars embedded with smart sensors.  These competing toys have had the brand looking for a response.  In the guise of their new set called ARC (app race control) AIR it is the first ever to use non-cable connected controls, and that is certainly overdue.  Far more than this however, the system connects with an iPad over Bluetooth to deliver loads of realistic race statistics and scenarios.  From tyre blowouts to pit stops and plenty more besides, this will see Scalextric back on the podium.
Best for – Reluctant slot car racers to get to grips with the best set yet
Remember when – Cars would seemingly come off the track at every corner?
So what are your retro memories? What was your favourite old school sweet that you’d enjoy with an episode of Grange Hill or Crackerjack?  What toy did you have to put down when the chimes of the ice-cream van could be heard outside?