The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

November 6, 2008

The Ongoing 1980s Pop Culture Recycling Program Remains in Effect

Filed under: Culture — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:33 am

With Halloween now officially in the books and the elections done with (bringing with them four years of sunshine and rainbows or fire and brimstone, depending on your political persuasion,) the stores are now free to go ahead and load up the shelves with wall-to-wall Christmas cheer for the next couple of months.  As usual, Costco got an early start on the whole thing this year, with Christmas trees and ridiculously oversized yard decorations making their appearance early in September, but with the passing of All Hallows Eve, they’re ready to pour on the Holiday cheer, beginning with the toy aisles, chock full of all the hottest toys for the season… assuming it’s still 1986.


Back in the day, Teddy Ruxpin was one of the hottest toys on the market, in spite of its exorbitant pricetag of $70 (about $131 adjusted for inflation.)  For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the product, Teddy Ruxpin is an animatronic teddy bear that tells stores (from specially designed cassette tapes) with synchronized facial movements, and was also the subject of a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon show.  Ultimately, Worlds of Wonder(the company which originally sold Teddy Ruxpin) became the victim of their own success and the stock market crash of 1987  and went bankrupt, but surprisingly enough, the Teddy Ruxpin brand has been through a number of different companies between then and now, and this bear has also made the switch from cassette tape to digital media in its current form.  Interestingly enough, the new Teddy Ruxpin has the same MSRP of $70 as the old one, although Costco knocks more than $20 off that price to sell these for $46.99.

Another of Worlds of Wonder’s more notable products (and one that actually found its way under the Christmas tree for me and my brothers back in the day) was Lazer Tag,  It turns out that this is another brand that hasn’t strayed too far from the shelves of your friendly neighborhood toy store, although the product bears more resemblance to the current lineup of Nerf guns than to its Eighties counterpart (which is probably not surprising, since both the Nerf and Lazer Tag brands are owned by Hasbro these days.)  As with all the toys the cool kids wanted back in the day, Laser Tag also managed to spawn a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon series known as Lazer Tag Academy, in the grand tradition of tacking a paper-thin plot onto a 30-minute commercial.  Although I’m sure these Lazer tag sets are superior in just about every way imaginable to the old stuff, the style just leaves something to be desired.  I’d much rather see the old style Lazer Tag stuff on the shelf again, even if the design was so Eighties it was ridiculous. 

Having grown into a state of semi-responsible adulthood without having bothered to father any children along the way (yet, at least) means that I don’t really have much of an excuse for hanging out in the toy aisles at the store these days, but I’m sure that between now and Christmas I’ll probably run into more of this type of stuff.  I have noted that there’s been an ongoing trend for a number of years now to recycle 80s pop culture for the now grown up kids of that generation to pass on to their children, and these are just a few examples of some of the things that I was pretty sure I’d never see again after 1992 that have somehow found their way back to the shelves.  Then again, with a few exceptions, it’s not like the current pop cultire is really pulling its weight, but that’s another post for another time.

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