Reliving Your Childhood With Netflix’s “The Toys That Made Us”
Sun, April 18, 2021

Reliving Your Childhood With Netflix’s “The Toys That Made Us”

Now on its third season, Netflix's "The Toys That Made Us" gives viewers another dose of nostalgia through the toys of their childhood. Season 3 features some particular hard-hitters with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," "My Little Pony," and action figures of professional wrestling superstars / Photo by: Foxy Who via Wikimedia Commons

 

Now on its third season, Netflix's "The Toys That Made Us" gives viewers another dose of nostalgia through the toys of their childhood. Season 3 features some particular hard-hitters with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," "My Little Pony," and action figures of professional wrestling superstars.

That lineup is pretty loaded, but Netflix managed to do well in dealing with all the history of those toys. Creator Brian Volk-Weiss admitted, though, that there were hang-ups in the production, specifically in licensing. They were able to move past that and the question now is: Would there be a fourth season? Or will our trip down toy memory lane end here?


More Than Nostalgia

"The Toys That Made Us 3" (TTTMU) is praised for its top-notch editing, pacing, and an impressive lineup of guest stars, including talking heads and industry experts, who gave their two cents on the featured toys, their history, and their impact.

Most of the cast aren't known in the household, but they still played a vital role in creating some of the iconic toys of the 80s and the 90s along with the franchises. The Netflix original series is more than just a nostalgic escape; it's a documentary of "some of the craziest, most influential pop culture movements in the modern era," entertainment website Collider says.

For instance, the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" episode did more than just tell the unexpected success story of the franchise. The episode unraveled the root of its emotional heart in the storybook-turned-contentious relationship of its creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

It also looked into how self-described "Fifth Turtle" Mark Freedman gambled on the indie comic duo to help them make the sewer-living superheroes into a global phenomenon relevant even until today. This trend continued in the episode of the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers."

According to Collider, the episode discussed how Bandai America pulled itself together from being a struggling subsidiary of the Japanese parent to a major toymaker in the world while boasting the genius of media proprietor Haim Saban.

Bottom line, all the wildly successful and well-loved franchises known today began with visionaries, who were confident in their idea that they didn't take no for an answer—and there were a lot of those negative responses in the past.

"The Toys That Made Us 3" (TTTMU) is praised for its top-notch editing, pacing, and an impressive lineup of guest stars, including talking heads and industry experts, who gave their two cents on the featured toys, their history, and their impact / Photo by: Mike Mozart via Flickr

 

A New Kind of Challenge

Volk-Weiss said the current season of TTTMU is his best work so far and came clean that they did experience some stumbles along the way. One of the major issues they had was getting permission to feature most of the archival footage they found.

In an interview with tech news site Polygon, the series creator said what made the process interesting and complicated was when they wanted to use a commercial. Since some of the toys featured go way back, commercials from their starting years were likely to be used. The problem is they have to deal with a handful of licensing work. If that commercial or clip used music, for instance, they then would have to seek a certain law firm. Clips that featured children deal with a whole different law to get the rights to feature them. "And then there’s the thought, 'Do we have to track them down and get their blessing? Yes or no? Does somebody own that commercial? Yes or no?' So, that’s where it gets very interesting," Volk-Weiss told Polygon.

They were able to resolve that issue and now have an entire infrastructure to follow in production. It was made from scrap and helped build up the show as well as the recently launched "Movies That Made Us."

"I wouldn’t call it licensing hell," the creator clarified. "I’d call it 'licensing following the rules of the road.' But it’s not the licensing, necessarily."

If another season is confirmed, the creator said they will feature favorites like "Matchbox," "Cabbage Patch Kids," "NERF," and possibly "Dungeons & Dragons" / Photo by: boviate via Wikimedia Commons


Satisfying Curiosity

Among the top 100 entertainment franchises, 98 are either from the US or Japan. It's a no-brainer why American franchises are there but the interesting thing is how did Japan manage to produce money-making hits and made a staggering impact on the world?

That's the question that TTTMU aims to answer—although it may never actually do. Still, looking into the history of these toys still satisfies that itching curiosity but only for a little bit. TTTMU will unlikely run out of toys to feature and the cultural impact they made. And with this comes toy-related issues of origin, influence, and their future.

'I’m just curious about toys I don’t know anything about," Volk-Weiss said during an interview with Inverse, a digital media company covering technology, science, and culture. "I don’t know that much about NERF. I don’t know D&D. The little research I’ve done into Strawberry Shortcake, I find interesting. I want to know more."

So does this mean there's going to be a fourth season? Yes, only if Netflix sees that people are interested in it. To get season four that much-wanted green light, Volk-Weiss encourages people to watch the series as much as they can or even just watching a full season once.

If another season is confirmed, the creator said they will feature favorites like "Matchbox," "Cabbage Patch Kids," "NERF," and possibly "Dungeons & Dragons."

We can only hope that our trip down memory lane continues with this very interesting Netflix series.