We’ve dug in our archives and found some great favourites from 30 years ago.
1. Transformers, (particularly Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime). Thirty years ago a robotic man that could turn into a car and then back again became the best-selling toy at Christmas, leading to a stock shortage that devastated thousands of doe-eyed children and anguished their helpless parents. Cleverly marketed along with the popular cartoon series at the time, the Transformers’ brand endures through Michael Bay’s immensely popular demonstrations of CGI technology.
2. Cabbage Patch Kids. The story goes that a ten-year-old boy following a Bunny Bee discovered the Cabbage Patch Kids after being led into their waterfall habitat. The boy then extracted the Cabbage Patch babies from their natural home and sold them for adoption. Parents bought them to appease their own offspring, sometimes resorting to fighting other parents for the privilege. The popular toy fad reached its zenith in 1985.
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3. Pound Puppies. Also available for adoption were Pound Puppies, stuffed toy dogs with large floppy ears and wide wholesome eyes. The toys sold well in the UK, but were even more popular in the US where they inspired an animated TV series and a widely-despised standalone film.
4. Atari 2600. One of the first major home video game consoles, the Atari’s 2600 model continued to be popular throughout the 1980s. Modest and austere by today’s standards, the console played host to many classics of the genre including Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Likely to be superseded this Christmas by newer next-generation models.
5. Care Bears. A huge year for the Care Bears as it coincided with the release of their first feature film. There were many multicoloured bears to collect, each one further differentiated with a unique insignia branded onto their stomachs. The Care Bears remain resolute in a crowded toy market, undergoing seemingly biannual relaunches and makeovers.
6. Rainbow Brite. A young girl with complete dominion over nature logically extends her power to encompass all the colours of the universe. An entire media franchise is born and a doll of the eponymous hero sells extremely well in 1985. The brand’s popularity fluctuated over the next thirty years, and the toys are currently only sold in the US and Canada.
7. G.I. Joe. A reinvention of the toy-line branded G.I. Joe ‘a real American hero’ and made him about a third of his original size. Somewhat emasculated, the international peace-keeper developed a ‘swivel-arm’ action to entertain and amuse children. He remains part of a worldwide media franchise behemoth.
8. Skateboards. In 1985, Back to the Future came out in cinemas and transport changed forever. Children weighed up their options: the Delorean was infeasible and a hover-board unlikely, but skateboarding was certainly possible. Cue a rocketing demand come Christmas time after the film’s December release.
9. Teddy Ruxpin. An animatronic talking bear whose mouth and eyes moved whilst an audio cassette lodged in his back played recorded stories became a huge seller in the mid-1980s. Advances in technology eventually made Teddy Ruxpin redundant and he was discontinued five years ago. He is now found being bought and sold in the dark corners of the internet.
10. Trivial Pursuit. Not strictly a toy but Trivial Pursuit was near the peak of its popularity in 1985. The game developed a huge following due to its acute mixture of dense quiz questions and convoluted board layout. Remains the bane of Christmas for many.