Netflix’s sleeper hit, The Toys That Made Us is back, with four more hour-long episodes, and if you enjoyed the last four, are a collector, a fan, or just curious about how these toys became the legends that they are, you won’t want to miss it.
This time, the four episodes cover Star Trek (LLAP), Transformers (Roll Out), LEGO (Play On), and Hello Kitty (Err….).
These four episodes stick to the format of previous episodes. It starts with a reenactment, usually of how the toys first came to be. Then we follow the history of the toys and franchise through an excited narrator, interviews with the people directly involved and lots of awkward pauses for some reason. Oh, and the series was originally supposed to be eight episodes long, but it seems that they are going with four episodes per season now.
Ah yes, the other giant space franchise, and you bet the episode makes plenty of comparison between the two. Even if you were never much of a Trekkie, there is a lot to learn from this episode. For example, did you know that Lucille Ball of “I Love Lucy” fame had a big hand in Star Trek’s creation? I’m sure the bigger Star Trek fans knew this, but to a non-fan, that’s a big whoa moment.
You’ll also get to know the history of the toys and the ingenuity that goes into it. From label-slapping to reusing parts of other toys to create a completely new toy, you get a peek into how toy prototyping and creating works. You also learn what doesn’t work, like putting the name of a Star Trek character onto an existing toy helmet with a giant, flashing siren. It is so captivating to see the toys develop from simple soldier figurines, to highly articulate, carefully sculpted pieces of art.
No. Not Bay. Not now, not ever. When you mention Transformers now, the images that’ll come up are those of explosions, noisy metal robots, and a sexy Fox opening the bonnet of a car. But unlike a lot of big movie franchises, the Transformer movies did not come before the toys. Transformers existed as beloved toys to many children around the world since the ‘80s, and it was so heartwarming to see its humble beginnings.
And before they were Robots In Disguise, they were known as Diaclone and they came from Japan.
We learn a little bit of Japanese history here, how during the tail end of World War II, the Japanese would gather all the tin cans discarded in American military bases, and turn the scraps of metal into toys, specifically robot toys. Thus, the Japanese obsession with robots began.
Now we don’t actually see any toys resembling the Transformers we know and love today until around the 8-minute mark, and we don’t even hear the toys being called Transformers until the 13-minute mark, but don’t let that discourage you! It’ll make you appreciate the toys even more when you learn about how the Transformers came to be.
As fascinating as it is to see the Transformers transform, any Transformers fan must appreciate it whenever Hideaki Yoke appears on screen. As lead designer for the Transformers’ line until 2017, he is undoubtedly the heart of this line. He’s always smiling and you can see exactly how much he loved working on the Transformers. Keep watching until the last few minutes where everyone praises him for what he’s done, and for the special message left inside Yoke-san’s retirement present.
In addition, find out why Optimus Prime did what he had to do, and why he returned.
Pick amazing sculptures or painful torture – both paint an accurate picture of the iconic Danish toy. LEGO is one of those toys that many of us have probably played with at one point or another. This is yet another franchise that had its beginning entwined with World War II. Who knew that using all the metals for bullets and guns would give way for wooden toys to take over the market?
Having started as a wooden toy company, LEGO then transitioned into making “Automatic Binding Bricks”, though they were far from the only company to do so. To set themselves apart, they asked a Modernist painter of the time, Mondrian, to help with their colours and designs. So yes, these humble colourful bricks share a history with Modern Art history. Cue inspiration.
We are soon introduced to the LEGO System, which you will hear over and over again throughout this entire episode, until you get sick of it. But to their credit, it is a system that works. Add to that their patented clutch mechanism in their bricks, and they’ve got a gold mine in their hands.
These bricks are the perfect toys to kickstart children’s imagination and creativity because of how simple it is. You’ve got the LEGO robotics and the LEGO sculptures and so many more. You can see some of that creativity through the robotics competition that they cover, or the amazing LEGO sculptures created by someone whose sole job is to play around with LEGO.
Did you know that Hello Kitty is not a cat? And that she’s British? And that she actually does have a mouth? Those are only some of the facts that folks will learn after watching this very enlightening episode. This Japanese franchise also had very humble beginnings – it started out as a very simple coin pouch and grew into an international sensation.
In previous episodes, the producers interviewed designers as well as fans of each franchise to talk about said toys, and unless you’re very deep into the fandom, you probably won’t have heard of these people who worked behind the scenes. But in this Hello Kitty episode, the producers manage to not only get one, but two very well known reality TV stars, Paris Hilton and Kimora Lee Simmons, to talk about the iconic cat.
At first, they seemed to be really out of place in this super geeky, nerdy show. Two former models? Talking about toys? How… unlikely. But once you hear them talk about how much they love Hello Kitty, you begin to realize that obsessing about something is not a trait exclusive to the fanboys of comics and toys. Anyone, even someone like Paris Hilton, can be a nerd about something, and that is simply beautiful.
Oh, there’s a special part in this episode that is especially of interest for those who were in Singapore in 2000. Nothing quite like Singaporeans who don’t want to miss out on something. Remember the long queues?
And that’s all of the episodes of the second part of this 8-part documentary series. Whether you’re a casual fan of Star Wars or a diehard Hello Kitty lady, there’s something here for everyone. The silly reenactments, the heartfelt interviews and the detailed history lessons make for a great blend of education and entertainment.
There’s more to come in Season 3, which was just announced at SDCC. We’ll be looking forward to 4 more episodes of toy franchises we all love: Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony and Wrestling. Can’t wait!
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Back with four more episodes, The Toys That Made Us gives you exactly what it promises, more toys, more fans, more craziness. Want to know how Hello Kitty became the empire that it is? Want to know how many windows are on the Star Trek Enterprise? Satisfy your collector’s urges and watch to be the completionist that you are.
Story - 10/10
Direction - 9/10
Geek Satisfaction - 10/10