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Monday, February 21, 2005

Dangerous Toys

BoingBoing featured some toy links yesterday, including, on the Deadly Toys page, the Fisher Price "little people" plastic dolls.
When my kids were little we could get these figures in tractors, boats, farms, garbage trucks, airplanes and airports, but usually the trucks, tractors and boats were forgotten and only the people were prized. (Except Melina and her little brother did like the control tower and liked to play plane-crash.)

These little people can also kill you by rolling when you walk on them, causing you to fall and have a fatal concussion.

Fisher Price people were Melina's favorites when she was tiny. I remember one rainy afternoon on vacation she set up scores of them on every available shelf and surface out on the porch and played not-particularly-benevolent dictator.

Nowadays you can't buy them, because little kids can choke on them. There are stupid fat ones now (see right), but it's not the same. Oh well, I suppose Sim City is an adequate substitute.

The "dangerous toys" site reminded me of two other dangerous toys I loved.

One from my own childhood is the game "Booby-Trap." Small eatable poisonous choke-inducing wooden pucks are packed into a frame and a spring-loaded bar rams them into a tight space.

One by one players try to decide which pucks are not bearing weight and one by one pucks are removed. Sometimes nothing happens - sometimes there is a small shift - and eventually guaranteed! there will be a massive snap and the game is over and pucks can go flying.

Let me count all the ways this is not OK any more. Therefore only the vintage models are available; I bought four of them on eBay. Their springs need replacing though, the snap is not as satisfying as it used to be.

Another very very dangerous toy, from the early 1980s, was our Hello Kitty amusement park ride. I don't know the real name, it was from Japan. A battery drove an escalator up which the little kitties which will choke you to death if you're not careful traveled, in buckets, bumping and shaking, with a constant grinding noise. It reminded me of ski lifts in the Caucasus Mountains, only not so high.

When the kitties in their buckets reached the top, gravity shot them careening down the track in a big spiral with entertaining interruptions along the way. Then it was back to the escalator and around again and again. And again and again. And again. With a constant grinding noise.

The game was enduring and omnipresent until I was eight months pregnant with my second kid when, due to impaired vertical peripheral vision (that is to say inability to see around my stomach to the floor), I fell over it with a huge crash and smashed it completely into tiny plastic shards.

Nowadays you can't find this Hello Kitty amusement park ride, it's far too dangerous. Instead, you can get Hello Kitty cellphones, pocketbooks, and personal vibrators.

Another game on the BoingBoing site I never saw but I'm sure my brothers would have loved: Fireball Island.

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At 7:38 AM, Blogger Waterfall said...

I loved little people. More than anything. I hate the new fat ones. My sister and I played with little people ALL the time. She called them "mimi's." I blogged about them a couple of months ago. So much fun. It's a miracle that my sister and I survived engaging in such a dangerous activity!

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Isabella K said...

Fortunately, I have handfuls of old little people left over from my own childhood. Most of them are wood, with plastic hairpieces afixed, but some are plastic, notably the very distinguished-looking black and white dog (of which I have 3!). My 2-year-old loves them. It does hurt to step on them, particularly the little girl with the pointy pigtails, but the new fat ones with their flailing arms are equally treacherous.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I really miss "Bag-o-glass". Great fun, notwithstanding the cuts and scatches.

Ever see that skit on SNL with Ackroyd as a hack salesman of dangerous toys? Another one was a plastic bag you wore over your head. Something like that. Too early to think. Send coffee! Plus vite! :)



At 11:36 AM, Blogger Badaunt said...

I remember very few toys in our house that weren't battered and/or in bits, aside from Dinky toys. (The Dinky toys all vanished for a year or so, though, because my brother had 'posted' them down the back of the piano.)

But the games we played would probably get my parents arrested these days. My personal favourite was the 7-meter swing. You were pulled by a rope, not pushed, and clinging to the ropes sat on a little board - and FLEW.

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Little kiddie toys will inevitably cause you pain no matter how "safe." There's nothing quite like the sensation of a nice Lego brick, for example, embedding itself in the arch of your foot. It activates this unique nerve that acupuncturists probably know all about - the Lego Brick Nerve.

Simplicity can also be appealing; my six-year-old half-brother likes to take a bucket of driveway gravel into the house and lay it out in neat little minefields on the stairs. Just to be sure he's gonna get you.

Hey, how about those little critters, "jacks," used in the game known as "jacks." this is an exotic reference for me because they were pretty much outlawed even before my 80s childhood, but I did get to lay hands on them a few times. Boy are they evil. to me they look like fish hooks, or like those little illegal IUDs.


At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the little Fisher-Price guys! There was one who wore black and had a moustachio - looked a bit like the baddie in Rocky & Bullwinkle, I thought. I liked the girl in blue with the yellow braids too. They were great!

We had the Fisher-Price garage with the little cars. Put the little people in the little car - voila! - American life! Gas & Go!

Jacks were FUN Melina! But not half so fun or deadly as the Israeli version - Chamesh Avanim. These "Five Stones" were cubes of polished metal with SHARP! edges. Much pain! Made the game yet more challenging. I was quite good at Chamesh Avanim when I was twelve or thirteen. I have the scars on my hands to prove it!

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Natsthename said...

We loved those Little People and still have quite the collection in the basement, even though they have not been touched in about 3 or 4 years. I guess I don't want to put them in a garage sale now, do I? Sheesh. Perhaps I'll stick them on ebay! By the way, I wonder how many kids actually choked on these? (I'll look it up!)

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Elisson said...

I remember an excellent toy that today would be considered so un-PC, so fraught with Deadly Danger, that I could be run out of town on a rail for just thinking about it.

I refer, of course, to the Crash Car.

This was a toy car that was designed so that when you ran it into a solid object - wall, chair leg, whatever - it would fly apart into a buncha little flinders. You would then take the pieces, snap 'em back into place, and you'd be ready to roll again. It was spring-loaded, so those chunks really flew.

You would, of course, provide your own sound effects. WHAM! Smash!Aaaaarggghhhh!

Now? Fuhgeddaboudit.

At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the worst parts of the new little people is their political correctness. Nearly all of the construction workers are women... I have a little boy, he wants some male construction workers, or firemen, or police men... a female cop even came with the police station... come on... the Daddy doesn't come with the minivan.

At 4:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ellison has it right -the crash car was more than a toy. It was a wonderfully traumatic event! We had a Boxer dog who would have chased out of the house an invading Seal Team 6, but that poor dog would try to hide under the sofa (draw a mental picture of THAT!) whenever my crash car would find the baseboard travelling at a scale speed of, oh, 600 mph or so. VROOOOOM! SCREEEEEECH!! >CRAAAAAASSSHHHH!!!!!<" "Slugger! Here boy! Help me find the right fender! Slugger? Dad! Slugger won't come out from under the sofa!"

At 7:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived around the corner from the family whose son swallowed one of the original little people. The hat got lodged in his throat and by the time they got it out he was brain damaged. He has spent the rest of his life dealing with his disabilities. The family received a huge settlement, moved to an expensive home and then Fisher Price changed the design. All of us who played with the original little people can't stand the new design, but this family wished the new design had been around when their son was younger.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous jeffcoslacker said...

It's amazing we all survived to adulthood, after spending a childhood playing with trachea plugs and sharpened lead base painted sticks, weighted lawn darts and no bicycle helmets.

My friends and I used to play a game with the lawn darts we called "Incoming!"...we'd get all eight darts and throw them straight up as high as possible, then run like hell.

Yeah, it was stupid. But incredibly fun....

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous jeffcoslacker said...

Elisson, I don't know if you are thinking of the same one, but my brother and I had "SST Demolition Derby"...two battered-looking cars with the zip-T stick that you'd rip out, spinning the flywheel motor, set them down and let them go at each other into head-on collisions, and the pieces would explode all over the room....great fun, and taught me some interesting principles of high speed collision physics, which still fascinates me...even seemingly senseless violent toys provide a spark of interest to a child who likes to think about what they are observing...

At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Luther said...

Little kiddie toys will inevitably cause you pain no matter how "safe." There's nothing quite like the sensation of a nice Lego brick, for example, embedding itself in the arch of your foot. It activates this unique nerve that acupuncturists probably know all about - the Lego Brick Nerve.


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