DVD Review: The Toys That Made Us: Seasons 1 & 2

The first season starts off with a bang and features the history of Star Wars toys, from beginning to present day. None of the big toy companies wanted to touch this sci-fi license but a little toy company called Kenner from Cincinnati stepped up to the plate. They started from scratch, from design to the contract signing, but Kenner delivered a line of toys that finally arrived a year after A New Hope hit theaters and it was a game changer. It took a while to get the merchandise made but it was definitely worth the wait. Kenner cranked out an amazing toy line that kids couldn’t get enough of and it also formed an entire generation of collectors, like me. During the slow time of the Star Wars franchise, Hasbro would come along and purchase the struggling Kenner and then a new line of toys were launched and it hasn’t slowed down since.

The next episode focuses on G.I. Joe, a new line from Hasbro that borrowed a concept from Barbie and became the first doll for boys that would officially be called and action figure. G.I. Joe wasn’t a hit in the beginning but the brains behind the operations came up with new ideas that would appeal to kids. The best thing that happened for this toy line was to give each action figure its own name and release accessory kits for them. G.I. Joe has had several incarnations over the years and has been able to adapt and change with the times. There’s also been numerous animated series and two live-action movies that all spawned toys.

The third episode is all about He-Man and those wild and crazy characters that the Mattel team came up with. This brand was created from scratch by the toy company so it could have something to compete with the other toy companies and their toy lines. Everybody was jumping on the action figure bandwagon and it’s never slowed down. The creators talk about how they came up with He-Man and the characters from the realm of Eternia and the ultimate antagonist for the hero, Skeletor. They also talk about some of the designing mistakes they made along the way.

The final episode in the first season is about Barbie, the groundbreaking doll that just about every girl has played with growing up. This billion dollar doll has been able to stand the test of time because it’s changed over the years as the styles and fashions have changed. Some of the people behind-the-scenes talk about Barbie and her unmatched staying power over the years.

The second season starts off with Star Trek and shows how the toys got off to a rocky start, just like the classic sci-fi series did because nobody wanted to touch it. Finally Remco stepped up and released a toy line that was pretty much rehashed toys from other lines and it was a disaster. Things got a little better when AMT came along and then there was Mego that delivered a home run for Star Trek and Paramount. Galoob made the mistake and jumped in briefly and then Playmates took over the toy line and produced toys until the company just couldn’t do it anymore. All of these relationships were full of production errors, missed opportunities and terrible products but then Art Asylum (aka Diamond Select) came along and changed the game forever. This new toy company released a highly detailed and accurate toy line for Star Trek that finally found the toy company it needed to produce the quality toys to the loyal fanbase. Other toy companies like McFarlane would also hop onboard.

The next episode focuses on Transformers. At one time there was a plastic shortage so the Japanese toy company Takara was cranking out toy robots made out of recycled cans and even a revived the once popular soldier action figure. Even the financially troubled Mego got in on the action and introduced Micronauts which ended up being a huge success. Then there were the Shogun Warriors and Gigantor and this finally led to the introduction of transforming vehicles originally known as the Micro Change line. The concept made its way from Japan to the United States where Hasbro and Takara teamed up to unveil Transformers. This was a major hit from the very beginning and hasn’t slowed down since. Hasbro eventually went out on its own and continued to build on the massive toy line. There have been humerous animated incarnations and evolutions and even the blockbuster movies that have all had amazing toys.

The next episode is about LEGO, a simple plastic brick that has evolved over time. The Danish toy company actually started off making wooden toys but by 1958 it has perfected the plastic building block and its system. Over the years LEGO would open its own theme parks (hello Legoland) and hold the license of numerous television and movie franchises. The toy company did go through a few dark times when it was trying to figure out its next moves to keep the doors open and ultimately came up with several risky ideas that went against its own rules. Hello Bionicle and Ninjago! LEGO stayed persistent with its Star Wars, DC, Marvel and Harry Potter brands that continues to expand to this day. LEGO hasgotten so big that it’s even opened up its own specialty stores. The small plastic brick has continued to expand and evolve over the decades and even introduced new lines and spinoffs plus it even got several animated series and movies based on the empire.

The fourth and final episode in the second season is about the phenomenon called Hello Kitty that took the female world, young and old, by storm. This simple looking cat logo has become a merchandising empire that appeals to girls of all ages. This episode goes back to the beginning and shows how the search for the world’s cutest animal began and how the brand got started that has grown over the years to become the super cute phenomenon it’s become. The formula is, art first, product second.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see up top and the back includes episode listing for each season and credits. The inside features a synopsis for each episode and a few images. Each disc also features some artwork that matches the front cover. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for this standard-definition release were really good.

Bottom line is, I had a blast revisiting The Toys The Made Us because it’s a documentary series that caters to passionate collectors like myself and many others. Each episode focuses on how the brands got started and the good and bad times they all went through. Some of the toys even went away but came back stronger than ever after a long hiatus. There’s also the people behind-the-scenes who talk about their experiences and contributions with the brands that are still going strong to this day. Every hero has to have a villain! I was instantly hooked when the series first aired on Netflix back in 2017 and now it’s finally available on DVD plus there’s some special features to go along with it. The first two seasons of The Toys That Made Us are now available on a 2-disc DVD set and is a must watch for any hardcore collector.

Distributor: Screen Media

Run Time: 2 Discs / 8 Episodes / 358 Minutes

Disc One – Season 1 Episodes:

  • Episode 1: Star Wars
  • Episode 2: G.I. Joe
  • Episode 3: He-Man
  • Episode 4: Barbie

Disc Two – Season 2 Episodes:

  • Episode 5: Star Trek
  • Episode 6: Transformers
  • Episode 7: LEGO
  • Episode 8: Hello Kitty

Rated: Not Rated

DVD Video: Widescreen and Fullframe

DVD Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles: N/A

Special Features: The extras include a making of featurette and deleted scene from one of the episodes.

  • Disc One: Featurette with Show Creator Brian Volk-Weiss (08:23)
  • Disc Two: Star Trek Deleted Scene (01:58)
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