I don't think you can claim to be a fully functioning adult human until you've wrestled that final box containing 'Little Shirley Poo Pants' from the gnarled hands of a pensioner in a Christmas Eve superstore that resembles a scene from The Road. Every year there seems to be some new must-have, riot-inducing toy that hits the shelves, driving kids wild with excitement while driving the parents to eBay in desperation. Over the decades various bizarre, furry, bleepy or cuddly things have caught the imagination. Here are just a few of these hysteria provoking items.
Over 75 years later and this simple, sleek and slinky toy has a place in nearly every home... When naval engineer Richard James did his first demonstration at a little department store in Philadelphia, how would he know that he would be responsible for starting the tradition of parents sleeping outside stores to ensure that perfect gift for their precious little monsters? It's all about the simple pleasures of watching this hypnotizing coil fall down a flight of stairs... Let's just chalk it up to the lack of proper stimulation like Game of Thrones, Angry Birds and Big Bang Theory.
Pet Rock (1975)
I'm really left speechless at this monumental FAIL moment in the history of humankind – I mean, c'mon people a pet rock? Let's just pretend this didn't happen and move on...
Cabbage Patch Kids (1983)
Up until the early 80's, kids were happy with the simple things like a tangerine, a pet rock, an oversized metal coil, some charcoal briquettes and perhaps a stick in their stocking to enjoy on Christmas day. Whether it was the rise of yuppies, commercialisation or Wham, this all changed when the Cabbage Patch Kids were foisted upon the world. Though their origin story involves waterfalls, magical valleys and BunnyBees, this whimsy was forgotten when the toys quickly sold out and punch-ups occurred between desperate parents seeking that hard to find Kid. Even more were sold the following year and soon there were Cabbage Patch albums, cereal and nappies, plus a dangerous trend had begun.
Teddy Ruxpin (1985)
Right after the Cabbage Patch Kids created havoc in toy shop aisles the world over, a furry, slightly disturbing pretender entered the fray. Teddy Ruxpin was a talking, eye-rolling bear who told stories and really freaked you out if you were stoned. Stocks were low of this desirable item on its first Christmas release due to demand and because many of the Ruxpins had defective speech elements causing them to spout gibberish just like that kid in The Exorcist, causing them to be recalled. Which must have been both hilarious and terrifying upon purchase.
We will never know why the Pog sensation happened, or why it fizzled out just as fast. Apparently, we all have Hawaiian elementary school teacher Blossom Galbiso to thank for it's revival, how could she have known the mayhem she was about to cause? Now it's been over 2 decades and I'm pretty sure anybody that was a kid in the 90's or raised kids in the 90's has at least five plastic cases filled with these abandoned cardboard discs. Who's with me on reviving it once more?! Just think of all those lonely, discarded, rejected and untouched pogs – don't they deserve another change?
Tickle Me Elmo (1996)
Despite this Muppet's cute exterior and various delightful speech impediments, Elmo created Ruxpin levels of hysteria when the 'Tickle Me' toy was released. No one knows why it caught the nation's imagination in the way it did, as various Grovers and Cookie Monsters lay dormant and dusty on the shelves. But soon the item was being sold for as much as $1500 (original price $27.99) and toy shop employees were having their ribs snapped during Elmo-mania stampedes.
Beanie Babies (1995)
Beanie Babies had been knocking about, splitting open and spilling out all over the carpet for several years until someone at head office had the bright idea of 'retiring' a few of the more popular models. Instantly, every bratty bean-obsessed child on the planet wanted the rare ones and their desirability sky-rocketed. Soon grown men were weeping in the doorways of toy outlets after a fruitless trip to find Bongo the Monkey or Puffer the Puffin, while elsewhere organised crime gangs switched from drugs and prostitution and instead moved into the more lucrative avenue of counterfeit Beanie Baby production.
It was like the horrors of Ruxpin all over again. But this time instead of spouting gibberish due to a manufacturing glitch, the mutant owl/rodent that was a Furby arrived that way. It slowly mastered English as children screamed abuse at it and clogged up the 'and finally' segments of a lazy news bulletins throughout the holiday season. Over 40 million of the creatures were sold in the first three years of production. About half of these can be seen at any local car boot sale you choose to frequent.
Part pet, part game, part terrifying alien intruder, every kid owned and killed a Tamagotchi in the late 1990s. School lessons were disrupted up and down the country as pupils ignored Home Economics and instead focussed on the care of their electronic pal. Though surely learning about death, eggs and electronics is vital for survival in today's world. Children were required to look after their sprite, feeding, disciplining and cleaning up after them by tapping a button and not leaving it on the bus. Most forgot about the creatures after a couple of days, for others, their Tamagotchis were the only true friends they ever had.
Buzz Lightyear (1995)
Oh the irony, the sweet, sweet irony. A film about forgotten toys spawns an action figure which the toy company didn't make enough of because they didn't think the film would be that popular, leading to over subscription. The ego-driven, delusional co-star of Toy Story was a hit with the kids who managed to find one. The weird world of toy collecting became the focus of the film's sequel, perhaps prompted by the tears and stampedes caused by errant Buzz's and the disappointed looks on children's faces on Christmas morn when they only got a Woody.
Razor Scooter (2000)
While the thought of riding a razor may not seem like the ideal way to pass one's time, back in 2000, it was the only gift worth having. All over the world kids begged, pleaded, promised and vowed to walk their dogs more, take out the rubbish every night and brush their teeth on a regular basis in order to secure their very own scooter. With 5 million scooters sold in just 6 months, and not one to be seen anywhere, one has to ask the question – do all scooters go to Heaven?
Zhu Zhu Pets (2009)
Not to be cynical, but perhaps someone, somewhere (wearing a suit and smoking a big cigar) realised that small, cute, robotic, furry things were the fastest way to create Christmas mayhem, shop assistant trampling and parental depression. And so Zhu Zhu Pets AKA Go Go Hamsters were launched. These little rodents had to be nurtured (like Tamagotchis), were collectable (like Beanie Babies) and have spun off into various other media (like Cabbage Patch Kids). There are now Ninja-battling Zhu Zhus for boys and Zhu Zhu Princesses for girls as well as Babies, Puppies and Rock Stars. Who knew hamsters led such interesting lives?
It's hard to believe that the tablet, something so prominent in the lives of the majority of people living in the West has only been around for a meagre 2 years! Upon the iPad's official launch, it sold 300,000 in the first day alone and over 3 million in the first 80 days. This is one fad that doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.
Furby 2.0 (Best Selling Christmas Toy of 2013)
The walking, talking, furry bundle of joy that every teeny bopper fell in love with at first sight is back a vengeance! The new and improved Furby is armed with fiery LED eyes and a matching smartphone app to feed and play with your pet from afar have just flown off the shelves this Christmas. I personally, find this just a tad worrisome - should we be expecting a comeback of the Pet Rock next? Or perhaps a digital version of the Slinky that you can control remotely to slink down the stairs and scare unsuspecting strangers??