First of all, if you haven’t sampled the first season of The Toys That Made Us, go and smash that out quickly now. It’s only four episodes and won’t take long. We’ll wait for you. Back again? Great! By now, you’re probably hooked on the irreverent style of this novel documentary series, what with its effortless humour, fascinating first-hand accounts and even a bit of historical recreation with dodgy 70’s haircuts. What’s the basic gist? In Season 1, TTTMU delved into Star Wars, G.I. Joe, He-Man and Malibu Stacy (sorry, force of habit, Barbie). Season 2 offers very in-depth, behind-the-scenes access to the usually secretive dealmakers and artisans behind the toy lines of LEGO, Star Trek, Transformers and Hello Kitty.Don’t expect to be bogged down in borax and boredom though – this is a documentary anthology for casual outsiders, not the diehard collectors themselves. You’ll receive an easy-to-follow walkthrough of each toy’s cultural significance, the key personnel involved and the financial rollercoaster ride to success (or failure) that followed. The interviewees here are surprisingly candid and often emotional about the opportunities won and lost thirty odd years ago. Take Peter Cullen for example, who is still the voice of Optimus Prime. There’s a touching moment when he recounts some pre-audition advice his decorated Vietnam vet brother gave him on how a “real hero” sounds compared to phoney, aggressive Hollywood heroes. The advice was heeded, Peter landed the gig and a truer rendition of heroic leadership was channelled out to a generation of kids. These are the insights that make this documentary series worth the watch.
Other interesting titbits include Lucille Ball (of I Love Lucy fame) being involved in the Star Trek toys with Rod Roddenberry and her production company. There’s also the tale of toy company Meego, who later secured the license for $5000 to milk $50 million out of it. Dazzle your Transformer-loving mates with the fact that Hasbro was basically copy-pasting the Japanese products of Microman and Diaclone (who in turn had evolved their own robot lines from Hasbro’s own 1964 G.I. Joe toy). It was all a bit incestuous, to be honest.Fans of Hello Kitty might want to keep the anthropomorphic action going with a Netflix anime called Aggretsuko (translation: Aggressive Retsuko). Fair warning, though, it’s a Sanrio production for adults. Think: a 25-year-old Red Panda languishing in an advertising department – her only stress relief, the death metal amateur karaoke circuit. No, for real. That’s the plot.Meanwhile, anybody seeking robots who “have more to them than meets the eye” would do well to check out both Transformers Prime and Transformers: Robots in Disguise on Netflix. For an extra ton of Cybertron, you should also seek out Transformers: The Last Night on Foxtel Now.
Trekkies have plenty of dessert options, too. Foxtel and Prime Video are home to the 1966 Star Trek series and J.J.’s lens-flare-a-go-go 2009 film. We also highly recommend you energise over some Star Trek Discovery via Netflix. Phenomenal new series that one. Set our faces to stunned.
Last but not least, the LEGO brand has built itself quite the home on Netflix. If you haven’t yet seen the LEGO Movie or the LEGO Batman Movie, you need to amend that error now or go hit the bricks, pal.