The Toys That Made Us

Have you seen the latest docuseries from Netflix: The Toys That Made Us? If not, you really need to put down what you’re doing and immediately binge watch all fours episodes of season one. 

Rarely have I seen a TV series so perfectly aimed at toy photographers and toy collectors. Ok, I will admit I don’t watch a lot of tv so maybe I’m not the best judge. But I can assure you, you will enjoy at least one of the first four episodes. 

The Premise

The premise of the show is to take a deep dive into eight different toy lines. These are the iconic toy lines that have become cultural touch stones for kids who grew up in the 70’s,  80’s and 90’s. If you’re of a certain age, these are the toys that you grew up with. These are the toys that made us. Each episode deals with an individual toy line. In Season 1 the director takes us on a deep dive into the following toy lines: StarWars, Barbie, He-Man and G.I. Joe.

Each episode is a mix of live action recreations, interviews with the original toy designers and period commercials. I especially enjoyed the beautiful close ups of the original toys sprinkled throughout each episode. Sure this is a nice walk down memory lane, but the real entertainment comes from the behind the scenes stories. This is when we get a glimpse at the the people who invented these cultural icons and their stories; both funny and tragic. 

What I Learned

I learned plenty of amusing facts about the Toys That Made Us including the origins if kit bashing. That they aren’t dolls, they’re action figures! That Kenner’s production of Star Wars toys was so behind the demand that first Christmas, that they actually sold empty boxes that could be gifted. The actual toys weren’t delivered until a few months later. Talk about an unconventional solution to a problem! 

I also learned that Barbie has a very risqué origin story. Or that the world of retail toy sales is so cut throat? There are many more juicy tidbits of information to be gleaned from interviews with the people who where at the center of the action. I especially enjoyed watching the original designers reminisce about how they created the Masters of the Universe toy line. Even after all these years, you can tell they had a ball doing their jobs.

Conclusion

I wonder if these toy designers ever dreamed that their creations would inspire an entire generation of adults to keep playing with their childhood toys well into adulthood? In many ways, the toy photography hobby is a wonderful excuse to collect the toys we missed out on as kids, or to reconnect with our childhood favorites. This eight part series is a great way to celebrate as well as acknowledge their influence on us. For me it was a great place to learn about toy lines I wasn’t familiar with like He-Man. I’m afraid to admit I didn’t know who Skeletor was before I saw the episode on He-Man. By the time these toys came out, I was on my way to university. It seems I missed out on all the fun!

The crew behind the Toys That Made Us are hard at work on season two. The next four episodes will feature LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty and Star Trek. Personally I can’t wait until these episodes come out. Its hard to know which episode I will be looking forward to the most: LEGO or Star Trek? Or maybe its Transformers and Hello Kitty? No matter, I’m really looking forward to them all!

Shelly

Have you seen the Toys That Made Us? If so, what was your favorite episode? What was the coolest thing you learned? 

Be sure to tune into our Podcast on February 4th when James Garcia interviews the creator of The Toys That Made Us, Brian Volk-Weiss

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Ship in a Bottle

Have you seen the latest LEGO Ideas: Ship in a Bottle set? Like all the LEGO Ideas sets this one is beautiful. There’s something about these fan driven sets that make them approachable, and very collectible. The Ship in a Bottle is no different.

How do I know? LEGO was kind enough to send around a few copies so that I, and a few Toy Photography friends, could take this cool set out for a spin. I’m here to report on the results and share the images that where created by Brett Wilson, Luigi Priori, Robert Whitehead and myself. Continue reading Ship in a Bottle

Introducing the Toy Photographers Podcast!

We’ve been teasing an exciting announcement, and here it is: We have officially launched our very first podcast! 

The podcast will, of course, be centered around toy photography and the amazing people around the world who have chosen toys as their artistic subjects. You can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Stitcher, or your other preferred “podcatcher” apps, and they’ll also be made available here on the blog. Continue reading Introducing the Toy Photographers Podcast!

Phestive Photo Challenge Winners!

Please join me in celebrating our Phestive Photo Challenge winners! Last month our G+ community contest had a holiday theme. The idea was pretty simple: create a photograph that celebrates your personal holiday tradition.

It’s the 2017 Phestive Season, and we want to see what that means to you! Is it preparing for the Festival of Lights? Shopping until you can’t see straight? Traveling 27 hours to get “home”? Baking with Mom? Taking Dad to the hospital after that light-hanging incident? What about when you were a child? What memories come rushing back? If it’s part of your Phestive Season, we’re challenging you to capture it… with toys! [pointing to the community title] Whether it’s a memory, a wish, or your phavorite seasonal television show, we challenge you to show the rest of us! – R. E. Wolfe (community moderator)

With a description like this, we knew we were going to see images that ran the gamut from traditional, to darn right silly silly to simply beautiful as only toy photographers can create them. We were not disappointed. Continue reading Phestive Photo Challenge Winners!

Photography New Year’s Resolutions

Each new year feels like a blank slate full of possibilities. With that feeling of unlimited possibilities I like to set a few photography new year’s resolutions.

I’ve been talking about setting new year’s resolutions on the blog for more than a few years. These past resolutions include having more fun, five words to define a year and of course learning better technical skills. Brett and I even set one for the blog: create more opportunities to grow and support this community in 2018. Continue reading Photography New Year’s Resolutions

Five Words to Define a Year

Back in January I wrote about five words to define a year. While I had originally meant these words to guide my personal work I thought I would look at the blog through this lens as well.

Growth

Starting this blog was a giant leap of faith. Would anyone follow us? Could we create a community of like minded toy photographers? Obviously the answer to all of these questions and more is ‘Yes!’ Many of our loyal readers followed Brett and I from Stuck in Plastic and we made many new friends along the way!

Our community is vibrant, eclectic and growing. In fact we’ve accomplished so much in our first year that our friends at LEGO have taken notice. We will be receiving even more support from The LEGO Group in 2018. Continue reading Five Words to Define a Year

Power of Words

I have a lot of respect for the power of words. As the year comes to an end I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next. Both personally, for the blog and my own creative life. Like many of the readers of this blog I struggle with keeping my creativity going. I appreciate posts like the one from James on using art books to stimulate creativity.

One of my favorite books to stimulate my own creativity is The Photographer’s Playbook. I’ve been feeling lost lately so I turned to this trusty book of photography assignments. I wanted to revisit an earlier exercise by Cig Harvey: Ideas into pictures, a two part assignment. Because I believe in the power of words, I really enjoyed this task when I first completed it in March 2016. It reminds me of the surrealists use of automatic writing to unlock the subconscious. The other reason I wanted to revisit this assignment was to see if anything had changed in my perspective in the intervening two years. Continue reading Power of Words

Silver Linings

“They say that none of us exists, except in the imagination of his fellows, other than as a intangible, invisible mentality.” – Edgar Rice Burroughs

If you’re posting your toy photography images to social media I can only assume you want your work to be seen. Maybe you want it to be appreciated, or even have it acknowledged by a ‘like’ or a quick comment. But what happens when your work isn’t seen? Maybe its even ignored.

It hurts.

What happens when you participate in one of the twice daily ToyPops (where the concept is to trade like for likes) and receive less than 100 ‘likes’ from the over 300+ participants?

Well that probably hurts too. Continue reading Silver Linings

Feeling Gratitude

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. William Arthur Ward

If you’ve been a reader of my writing for any length of time you know I periodically like to take a moment to pause and reflect on all I have to be grateful for. With the United States Thanksgiving Holiday just passed and the holiday season just around the corner, now seems like a good time to express some gratitude.

Many hands make light work. John Heywood

Continue reading Feeling Gratitude

Absolute Yes

Absolute Yes is not a new concept, I’ve touched on it before. In fact it was my New Year’s resolution this year. My goal was to let five words – wonder, growth, friendship, contentment and giving – define my year. Now I’m paying the price.

Not unlike Brett, I find that life has become far too busy. Too busy in fact to comfortably fit everything I want to do in. I seem to be always working at least several days or even weeks behind schedule. Every day I make a detailed to-do list just to stay on track. I blame my five words of Absolute Yes for this situation. Specifically three of them: growth, friendship and giving. Continue reading Absolute Yes