Pogo Bal Commercial, Circa 1987

Hasbro’s Pogo Bal made a splash in the States during the summer of 1987, becoming the third bestselling toy on the market after G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (also Hasbro) and Barbie. Invented in 1969 by two Belgians, Raphael J. Van Der Cleyen and Wilfried F. Ribbens, the updated pogo stick became “immensely popular” in Europe during 1985, where it was sold as “Lolo Ball” or “Lolobal.” Hasbro acquired the rights soon after…

“The World’s Great Animals Come to Life”: Safari Cards, 1976 – 1986

Safari Cards were an English translation of a set of collectible zoological information facts first devised and published in Switzerland. Original publisher Éditions Rencontre in Lausanne, Switzerland specialized in subscription encyclopedias and other educational toys in the 1950s and ’60s. Intended explicitly from the very beginning to democratize learning and bring the classics of French-language literature to the public…

Gender Roles Included: The Unreal Estate of 1980s Playsets

By J.E. Anckorn

In the 1980s, the action figure ruled the toy store shelves. Some kids were loyal to one franchise (I was a strictly My Little Pony girl, myself). Some children’s affections and parental pursestrings could stretch to several different brands, but whatever flavor of molded plastic you were hooked on, the pinnacle of aspirational toys was always the playset. These big-box behemoths offered a fantasy local where our toys…

“21st Century Global Guardians”: Corgi’s X-Ploratrons, 1979

Billed as “global guardians,” the X-Ploratrons were four toy vehicles, each equipped with its own novelty tool—mirror, magnifying glass, compass, and magnet—and charged with protecting humanity in the “fictitious disaster-wrecked world of the 21st century,” where “the elements rebel against man!” They were long-established die-cast toy brand Corgi’s attempt to adapt to the wave of SF-driven commerce that followed the unprecedented success of Star Wars

Diaclone Television Commercials, 1980 – 1984

Having become an aficionado of YouTube compilations of television commercials from the ’70s and ’80s, being introduced to this particular collection was a real treat. And such an uncanny one! Here are the Transformers I played with as a kid—Optimus Prime, Wheeljack, Ratchet, Sideswipe—in their original context as members of the Diaclone (ダイアクロン Daiakuron) line of toys from Japan…

“All Them Damn Hippies”: Joseph Sargent’s ‘White Lightning’, 1973

By K.E. Roberts

White Lightning is the first in a long line of films and TV series about righteous lawbreakers in the post-Vietnam American South, where corrupt cops chase hot-rodding bootleggers and paid-by-the-mile truckers through the meager towns and backwoods scorned by “the people in Washington,” a mythical land whose isolated, protective communities both resent and revel in their perceived marginalization…