Tag Archives: Toys R Us

It’s the End, the End of the Century

Wall to, wall-to-wall toys, Lets Go!
Wall to, wall-to-wall toys, Lets Go!
Wall to, wall-to-wall toys, Lets Go!
Wall to, wall-to-wall toys, Lets Go!

Will you remember Kaycee Kangaroo, Peter Panda, Mr. Kay Bee,
and Geoffrey the Giraffe?
It’s the end, the end of the toy stores!
It’s the end, the end of the Century!

Imagine the above set to the tune of the Ramones “Do You Remember Rock ‘n Roll Radio”.  This year we’re seeing the end of an era as the bankruptcy and eventual liquidation of the world’s largest (and honestly last) brick and mortar toy store chain, Toys R Us, begins to unfold. The story of how the retail giant stumbled and fell is a long and complex tale involving mismanagement, buyouts, greedy venture capital firms and an unwillingness to adapt to the modern marketplace, and it’s not one that I feel comfortable enough interpreting here. This also isn’t intended to be a eulogy piece for the chain. There are plenty of folks out there doing a way better job of sending off the toy store. In fact, if you want to read a short and incredibly poignant reflection, check out Matt from Dinosaur Dracula sharing some of his thoughts on twitter in a thread that sums up the way a lot of us are feeling.

Matt touches on this concept of the store acting as a sort of battery recharge station for our soul. This idea that just ducking in and scanning the aisles for a few minutes was way more important than actually shopping for toys in the store. I highly identify with that notion, having found myself practicing that very act on many occasions over the last twenty years. Matt is lucky (in my opinion) in that he’s lived his entire life in the vicinity of the same exact location and thus has formed a pretty tight bond with the store which I’m sure increases the sadness of losing Toys R Us. Having bounced all over the country in my forty years, I have a much more tenuous bond with any one location, but I have had some pretty emotional experiences revisiting the store that was located in Altamonte Springs, FL near Orlando. That was the location where I was first introduced to the chain, and one where I have some vivid memories of scanning through pegs full of G.I. Joe and Star Wars figures. Again, like Matt, it wasn’t so much the actual layout or aisles of the store that resonated with me as these have changed so many times over the decades that they are nothing like what I remember as a kid.  But it was the location, the building, sunken parking lot, and the ramp up to the front door. Those are things that have stayed exactly the same for the last 30 or so years.

Even more so than the end of Toys R Us in particular, what I’m really struck by in the wake of the bankruptcy is the end of the concept of wall-to-wall toy stores. The landscape is littered with the empty husks of fallen chain stores. Some of these buildings have found new tenants. There is a PetCo where the Duluth, GA Toys R Us store once anchored the Mall Corners strip mall. There’s a Goodwill Superstore where a Kiddie City once stood in Bel Air, MD. Sometimes these empty storefronts are just rusting cancers that are slowly draining the life out of once great indoor malls like a lot of Kay Bee store locations.

What I’m realizing as I try and look at this trend from outside of my own nostalgia is that this is a sign of the end of the golden era for my own generation. I can’t count how many times I sat and listened to my father talk about how different the world seemed in the first 40 years of his life. How much seemed to change during the 70s and 80s that obliterated the world that he was accustomed to growing up in the 40s and 50s. Institutions that he imagined would be around forever that had disappeared almost overnight. Soda fountains, local pharmacies, 5 & Dimes, seasonal burger or fry stands, car hops, diners, drive-ins or his favorite, smoking in restaurants. This is the way of the world. Things change, the center does not hold.

But I think what we might want to take away from this situation isn’t that things fall apart. Just that things change. It’s hard not to feel like the whole way of life we’re accustomed to is dying, and it is for the most part. But the next generation will not care. I think back to when I was a kid and there were still some institutions around like Drive-Ins and Woolworth’s. When they basically evaporated I was totally cool with it. I was a kid. There were still movie theaters to go to and even though the local Woolworth’s closed, there was still K-Mart, Wal-Mart and eventually Target. So kids these days, they’ll bounce back. There are still Targets and Wal-Marts with huge toy sections. Amazon is basically a virtual Toys R Us. And probably one of the biggest realizations that we as adults have to come to grips with? Kids just don’t play with toys the same way that we did 20 and 30 years ago. Video games, television and Youtube have superseded toys in a lot of households. Sure, we still buy a lot of toys for kids, but I’ve watched first-hand has nieces and nephews receive the kind of toys that I had as a kid and they just sit in their rooms collecting dust.

If we grieve for the loss of Toys R Us, we’re grieving for a past that we’re no longer living in. It’s the essence of nostalgia. Though it might seem like the world is falling apart, it’s really just shifting to accommodate a new generation. I’m not saying we shouldn’t get misty-eyed, or plan that big final trip to the store nearest us for one last hurrah, just that we shouldn’t worry too much about how the next generation is going to handle this. Those kids are going to be just fine and will be obsessing over something today that we could probably care less about. Just like our parents, who most likely didn’t like seeing Toys R Us dominate the landscape in the 70s and 80s, helping to usher in the age of the big box store and sending the death knell for all the smaller and more local shops they loved their whole lives. The wheel turns.

Taking a Closer Look at an Awesome Bedroom!

I was recently inspired by Tim over at Flashlights Are Something to Eat and Johnny at Freddy in Space to finally get off my butt and write about a topic I’ve been meaning to get to for what seems like forever, namely, taking an awesome 80s film and finding cool stuff in the background that makes said film even more awesome.  Specifically I wanted to take a closer look at some of the kid’s bedrooms that I kind of obsess over.  Not sure if I’m going to make this a reoccurring column just yet, but either way I wanted to focus on just one room today.  Probably my favorite kid’s bedroom in an 80s flick, let’s take a closer look at Sara’s room  from 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting!

Adventures in Babysitting

So, Matt at Dinosaur Dracula recently wrote about this room, mainly to point out the inclusion of a certain plush toy that I’ll get to in a minute, and pretty much anyone who has seen this flick knows that Sara is mildly obsessed with a nordic Marvel character that goes by the name Thor (ever heard of him?), but there is a metric ton of other cool stuff in this room…

AIB 1 Small

So, let’s take a look at what I was able to spy in the room.  In the screen shot above we of course have a ton of Thor references (which I haven’t numbers because that was just going to get out of hand) including the large cut-out standee on the wall to the right, the wicked awesome Thor bedspread, the Thor Halloween mask hanging from the right bedpost, and the super cool drawing of Thor on the rainbow bridge to the upper left of the bed.  So, what else is hiding in this image…

1). A Wrinkles Puppy puppet plush made by Ganz in the early 80s.

2). A Geoffrey the Giraffe Toys ‘R Us plush

3). A Cabbage Patch Kids plush.

4). Transformers Walkie Talkie (the 2nd handset in in another shot)

5). Giant Donald Duck coloring book.

Here’s a closer look at that Transformers Walkie Talkie and the Wrinkles plush…

Wrinkles Transformers

There’s some sort of big action figure behind the walkie talkie that I can’t place (purple, yellow and red with a silver head), any guesses?

*UPDATE #1* You guys are quick!  Huge thanks go out to Jaime of Shezcrafti.com and Matt of Geektarded for solving a couple of the toy mysteries!  As Ms. Hood points out in the comments, the large plush on the bed is none other than one of the Pillow People, in particular Punky Pillow!

pillow people

Dr. Geektarded identified the toy behind the Transformers Walkie Talkie as an Inter-Changeables Cosmobot, a re-colored Micronauts Biotron figure.

Inter-Changeables Cosmobot

Photo from Microforever.com

This sequence moves pretty fast as the camera pans across the room, so most of these shots are kind of blurry, but let’s take a look at another shot a few frames past the first…

AIB 2 Small

The Thor reference count now jumps from 4 to 7 as there are two more drawings on the art desk and a third on the floor next to the dresser.  But what else is there to spy in the room?

6). AMToy Super Pickle Hot Dog Plush hanging from the ceiling…

7). A Rainbow Brite plush, the Sprite known as Sparks (and this is the second series Hatful Sparks – ’cause he has an Indian headdress…)

8). A super rad poster of Jelly Beans that I felt I had to point to…

*UPDATE #2* I don’t know where that Hot Dog is from (Thanks to Jack Frost for solving the Hot Dog mystery!), but I managed to find a clearer picture, as well as a better one of Sparks…

Spark Hot Dog

Moving right along, here’s out next screen shot…

AIB 3 Small

Okay, I’m officially going to give up counting Thor references because there are like a billion on the floor by Sara.  I will say that it’s rad how often she can be seen sporting the Thor helmet.  More importantly, this shot has two more awesome background elements…

9). A Lots-a-Lots-a-Legggggs plush toy.

10). Probably my favorite background spotting, a 1985 Transformers Soundwave Cassette Player by Durham Industries that actually plays full size tapes (many thanks go to Steve at the Roboplastic Apocalypse for helping me identify this rad piece)!  I had never heard of this tape player existing before I spotted the over-sized Soundwave in the background.  So cool!

Soundwave Leggggs

**UPDATE** I missed a couple of toys when I initially wrote this post back in 2013.  In the screen shot above and below you can clearly see two Madballs on top of Sarah’s dresser to the left of the Lotsaleggs, namely Wolf Breath and Lock Lips.  Can’t believe I missed these!

locklips wolfbreath

AIB 4 Small

There was one straggler that I couldn’t get into the same screen shot with the last two, another favorite spotting in this room…

11). A Darth Vader “The Force” Light Saber from 1983!  I had Luke’s green one form Return of the Jedi.  For those that don’t remember, these had hollow plastic blades that were designed to catch the air to make some pretty wicker saber noises.  Reis at the Dork Horde has a great write up about his Vader Saber

AIB 5 Small

Next up we have three more Thor sitings with another large standee, the light switch cover above it (not on the actual light switch as it’s one of those weird paddle switches) an another drawing above that.  And on the shelf to the right…

12). Transformers Dinobots Snarl wall clock from Concept Clocks (which happens to have a reversible image plate with the Insecticon Bombshell on the other side!)  It’s so damn rad that Sara is also a major Transformers fan…

AIB 6 Small

In the above shot you can get a better look at that Thor drawing on the wall (and there’s another off to the right.)  But let’s take a look at the bookshelves shall we…

13). A Disney Fluppy Puppy plush.

14). A 2nd set of Transformers Walkie Talkies, this one shaped like Optimus Prime

*UPDATE #3* I have no idea what that red plush is next to the Transformers clock.  It looks like it has a ton of sharp teeth though. *Thanks to Newton G. of Infinite Hollywood for identifying the red toothy plush as LB the Bounder from Teddy Ruxpin!

Optimus Fluppy

LB the Bounder Teddy Ruxpin

And for the last screenshot, a much more recognizable background item…

AIB 7 Small

15). A My Pet Monster plush.  Always wanted one.  Never got one.

So there you have it.  Sara from Adventures in Babysitting has a pretty darn awesome bedroom filled with all kinds of rad toys,  a lot of which I wished I had as a kid.  Did you spot anything that I missed?

*UPDATE #4Can anyone identify the grey and red robot by Sara’s feet?  Thanks to Jason Brown for identifying the robot at Sara’s feet as none other than a Radio Shack Robie the Robot remote control robot!

Robie

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Eugene’s Room from The Monster Squad

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Elliot’s room from E.T.

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big