There’ s no doubt about it, the most recent franchises which are popping up are all recycled 70s and 80s favourites (or at least approximations of that theme). It seems as though industries aimed at kids have got savvy to the fact that today’s parents grew up in that time period and so they already identify strongly with certain franchises. For me it’s superman, ghostbusters, gummy bears, care bears, the ewoks, transformers, ghost rider, the x-men, teenage mutant ‘hero’ turtles (here in the UK they changed ‘ninja’ to ‘hero’ due to some controversy or other, to be honest ninja makes more sense but the theme tune doesn’t sound right to me) and to a lesser extent thundercats. I know that in my heart of hearts I will find it harder to say no to purchasing any of these products than anything else and a lot of people in the toy industry know this.
The strange thing is I can’t get mad about this, all the best to them so long as they bring me more re-invented characters from my childhood. This industry is like someone I want to hate but I just can’t do it, they have the charm of my childhood mixed with modern technology, bringing toys, TV and film to heights I could only dream of as a kid. The new turtles cartoons are awesome, I love what they did with the new turtles (the discovery of ‘pi-zzaa’), I’m eagerly anticipating my chance to go and catch man of steel, the transformers movies were awesome especially the last one with Leonard Nimoy and the bit where (oh wait just in case I spoil it for anyone) anyway you’re like ‘Awesome!’ and then you’re like ‘No wayyyy…whaaaaaaat?!!!!’ (sorry that’s my nineties teenager talking, he gets out sometimes, apologies).
The industry is even able to manufacture this nostalgia with movies like ‘Wreck it Ralph’ where the general feel is based around classic 80s arcade games but bears no direct relation to anything from our childhood. It makes those of us who grew up in this time feel as though the world revolves around them and I say keep it coming, I’ll gladly hand over my cash for more of this kind of thing. However, underneath my appreciation of this is something deeper, I’m starting to realise that if this trend continues my sons and I will share commonality in a way that I didn’t see with my parents. During the 80s TV, films/movies and toys all changed dramatically and the computer games industry was in the very early stages of it’s development.
I would talk to my mum and my dad about their childhoods and though it sounded nice and though I could find some commonality I have to admit their reaction to characters that I was crazy about was less than I hoped and that grated a little. It wasn’t their fault, these were brand new characters that had never existed when they were kids and they did their best to remember their names etc. but the erosion of 60s and 70s TV stereotypes meant that my mum frequently thought the transformers were all baddies and the humans goodies and I just couldn’t seem to explain the autobot vs. decepticon dynamic so that it stuck.
Ben 10 and other recent contributions follow a similarly grey ethical dynamic which my parents’ generation find hard to follow but we kind of get it, OK so I see big scary alien but thanks to the TV shows I watched as a kid I withhold judgement on what camp he falls into until I get a feel for the kind of things this character gets up to.
I’m hoping this helps me to stay connected with my kids, it doesn’t hurt that my enjoyment of these kinds of shows when I was a kid means that I still enjoy that kind of show now, so I’ll happily sit through a ben10/ care bears/ turtles marathon. The industry may be cashing in but by recycling these old franchises they’re also ensuring that parents and children have something in common. My message to anyone out there who is responsible for this industry development: keep up the good work. Oh and now that Disney owns Star Wars is there any chance of some new Ewoks episodes (or at least a DVD release of the old ones) ? Logan’s a bit young for Star Wars yet but I’d happily sit though a bunch of Ewoks episodes.
Anyway thanks again for reading. All the toys pictured above are available at Fun Junction stores (Perth and Crieff). So what are you most happy to see come back? Is there anything you think has gone wrong in this franchise recycling extravaganza? Oh and while I remember, may I turn everyone’s attention to one of the best movie trailers I’ve seen in a while (I hope to God it’s real), when this comes out I AM THERE!