I know, Christmas is over. It's called being fashionably late!
Every year, it happens. Sometime, happening earlier and earlier each year, we get the warning signal that Christmas is just around the corner, when we hear those jingle bells coming from our radios. Everyone reacts differently to this. Some switch the channel faster than frosty can thumpety thump thump or Mary can ever know. And some break out in their best Nat King Cole voice, bellowing along to the song, much to the chagrin of everyone in a 100 foot radius. Whatever the reaction is, one question is always asked at that moment, or shortly thereafter; what is going to be the insanely popular, gotta-have-it Christmas gift of the year?
Picking out just ten toys to represent decades of popular Christmas toys isn't easy, but let's take a stroll through the years and look at some of the most popular gifts to get at Christmas, and how they became cherished gifts to get every year, for years and years to come. Or, how they became very, very hated.
10. Radio Flyer
It goes without saying that this one stuck. In the 1920s, an Italian immigrant by the name Antonio Pasin created a little red wagon that would soon become one of the most recognized names in children's toys, churning out millions of wagons, trikes, and scooters. Antonio actually began building them in 1917, but it wasn't until 1923 that he started his own official company, Liberty Coaster, with employees and all, and started mass producing them. He named his creation after two of his favorite inventions of his time; the radio and the airplane. Antonio's innovation and the technology he used eventually earned him the nickname “Little Ford,” which fit, seeing how he got some of his inspiration from the automotive industry.
Staying in the 1920s, another big seller was the yo-yo. Although it's believed the toy has been around since 1000 B.C., it wasn't until the 20s that another immigrant, this time a Filipino named Pedro Flores, started making yo-yos in the states. Not only did he start that, but he also started the contests where people could do yo-yo tricks and try to outdo each other, which helped keep the yo-yo fever going. He didn't make the name up, however; the toy had been called a yo-yo in the Philippines for hundreds of years. That's the end of that...typing yo-yo that much is hazardous to one's sanity.
Legos are the John Stamos of the toy world. They never have and never will get old. In the 1930s, Ole Kristiansen founded the LEGO company, which is still in the family, owned by his grandson, Kjeld. Danish in history, LEGO is an abbreviation for “leg godt,” which means “play well.” The tiny blocks don't look like much, but the endless things a kid can build with them is what helped the company make a killing. They were made in the 1940s too, but it wouldn't be until 1958 that the blocks took their present form, or something very close to it. Nowadays, Legos can be pretty complex, allowing kids (and adults) to build anything from skyscrapers to boats, to pretty much everything. Imagine how cool Toy Story would be if they introduced a toy made of legos in the next movie...
7. Mr. Potato Head
Best lead-in ever, right?! The movie Toy Story may have been responsible for the crazy mad resurgence in this timeless classic's popularity, but back in the 50s, George Learner started with something as simple as little plug-in facial features that a kid could stick in a potato, and voila! He had himself a potato head. And of course, how could you have a Mr. Potato Head with a Mrs.? In 1953, Mr. P met Mrs. P. With gaining comes losing, however; in 1987, to discourage kids from smoking, Mr. P lost his pipe, and became the official “spokespud” for the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. Be sure to look for the P's in the next Toy Story, if they're lucky enough to star in it once again.
Barbie. No matter what era a person lives in, there has been and will always be a Barbie to represent every culture and every race. No other toy has changes so much over the years to follow the changes in society. From Barbie, we've gotten Ken, Barbie's Dreamhouse, yet another entrant into the Toy Story movie hall of fame, and countless versions of Barbie. She made her debut in 1959, and shows no sign of losing popularity. It took 2 years, but in 1961, Ken was born, so Barbie could have a man. Decades later, we still have dozens of versions of Barbie to weed through, so little Johnny or Susie is happy on Christmas morning. Too bad little Johnny still, on occasion, when Susie isn't watching, will behead Barbie, or give her a permanent haircut.
Every app developer who has made money off apps downloaded onto a kindle or cell phone should take some time out of each day to thank this little gift to the world. With the Japanese invention, the Nintendo Game Boy, which graced our presences in 1989, came Tetris and Super Mario Land, two of the best memories of any child of the 80s and 90s. In the years to follow, the Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance and Advance SP, and Game Boy Micro helped continue the success of this console, until the Nintendo DS in 2004, which pretty much took the Game Boy's place. But in 1989, it led the pack as the best-selling gift.
4. Ninja Turtles
Starting in 1990, Leo, Mikey, Raph and Donnie, along with Bebop, Rocksteady, and the Technodrome took the action figure world by storm. What started out as a joke between two amateur comic book artists, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, turned into something that never did really die out. Using three words from popular trends at the time, X-men (mutants), New Teen Titans, and ninjas in Daredevil, they put them in front of turtles, and boom! A hit was born. While this was a best-seller in 1990, ninja turtle related sales figures have never been better as of late, thanks to a guy named Michael Bay. Many reincarnations of both the movies and cartoons later, we've seen Slash, the palm tree loving turtle, a female ninja turtle, and hopefully soon, Krang! Go ninja, go ninja, go!
3. Tickle Me Elmo
Between Elmo Live in 2008, Let's Rock Elmo in 2011, and Big Hugs Elmo in 2013, and numerous videos showing some twisted individual setting fire to Elmo and watching him writhe around on the ground making horrible nightmare-inducing sounds (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONMwnxowtog), Elmo is probably here to stay, whether we like it or not. Tickle Me Elmo is the best selling Elmo of all time, showing up on shelves in 1996. The only big “holy crap” moment of Elmo's life, that was a bad moment, was when the guy who was the voice of Elmo was involved in a certain little sex scandal. Nevertheless, LOL Elmo, the version that year, sold pretty good. In 2006, things were so wild, people were even selling the Tickle Me Elmo 10th Anniversary doll on eBay for a whopping $5,000. That tickles!
In 1998, a curse was unleashed upon this world like nothing we've ever seen. Furby was born. Okay, so it wasn't that bad. While that furry little guy doesn't seem to have the staying power of Barbie and Elmo, he's stood the test of time pretty good. The fact that it was a toy that learned was a huge boon to its sales, learning English over Furbish, and responding to human interaction. 27 million Furbies a year later, one would think they would be the next Tickle Me Elmo of the immortal toy world. In 2005, a new and improved Furby was turned loose, but by 2007, the fervor had died out again. But what is this world without multiple revivals? In 2012, even more technologically advanced, and with more colors, the Furby revolution started once more, and continues today. Maybe they'll stick around for a while this time!
1. Rubik's Cube
Veering away from laughing robotic animals, video games, and countless electronic devices, let's revisit one last blast from the past real fast. The year is 1980. The world, not having any idea what was in store for it, was about to be introduced to the Rubik's Cube. Now, in today's world, where Candy Crush Saga and Flappy Bird are king (even though they REALLY need to thanks Tetris one more time), a 27 piece cube probably doesn't frighten too many kids. But back in 1980, millions of Americans were getting pissed off, taking stickers off and putting them back on, and chucking the cube across the room once they realized moving the stickers made it impossible to solve this puzzle. Countless competitions and youtube videos later, and even after it got it's own TV show, this is still one pretty popular toy.