Do You Remember “The Christmas Toy”?

Well, if you forgot, then your previous Christmas toy (and toys) will be sad.

Timeless Treasures of Christmas

Some Christmas specials remain timeless treasures of years gone by, watched by several generations. The stories are timeless, the songs sung over and over again, and the word “classic” is bandied around. There are other specials that have the look, feel, and makings of a classic holiday tradition, only to mire in obscurity. These specials disappear after airing once, remembered by the children who watched that year, but never witnessed by anyone else thereafter.

This is the story of one such special, remembered fondly by this writer (and those who were old enough to know about it in 1986), but not really by anyone else.

This is the story of The Christmas Toy.

The Christmas Toy

ABC aired The Christmas Toy on December 6, 1986, sponsored by Kraft Foods, produced by the Jim Henson Company, and featuring a Santa suit-clad Kermit the Frog setting the stage.

The story takes place within a playroom, where the toys come to life when no one is around. (I know this sounds unoriginal, but this was nine years before Toy Story, so hear me out). The toys are aware that their fate hinges on not being out of position, as to freeze them forever. This particular evening in the playroom, however, is a Big Deal…it’s Christmas Eve!

Old Balthazar tells the toys that a new toy will join the group after the kids open presents the next day. Of course, this does not sit well with Rugby the Tiger Cub, who will not stand for being replaced as his owner’s favorite Christmas Toy.

And what happens next is a harrowing journey through the quiet hallways of the family home, all in a quest to be the Christmas Toy…now and forever!

It’s quite the adventure, complete with songs, familiar Muppet voices, and the Kraft TV recipes in lieu of actual commercials.

Which brings me to the next thing about this special…

“Celebrate the Season With Kraft!”

Since The Christmas Toy was sponsored by Kraft Foods, the ad space was given over to Kraft. And while they could have just run ads for their products, they took it a step further…

Uploads via Allison Venezio / Allison’s Written Words

(Yes, this was a feature on my blog in December 2015)

Kraft Foods showed off all the amazing recipes one could make with their foodstuffs, thanks to coupons in the Sunday paper, and recipes in that week’s TV Guide.

I particularly loved this…

MAGIC!

So you’ve got amazing commercials for amazing yuletide eatings, and a Christmas special that’s all Muppets and Christmas.

So what happened? Why did this disappear into obscurity?

Where Did The Christmas Toy Go?

To answer your question…I have no idea.

The Christmas Toy wound up being a one-and-done special, as primetime Christmas programming goes. The special disappeared from conscious memory for seven years (save for the kids whose parents taped the special in 1986, like mine did), until resurfacing on VHS in 1993, and DVD in 2008, albeit edited for legal reasons to omit Kermit the Frog’s introduction.

You say “legal reasons,” I say “Disney will sue into oblivion.”

Probably wasn’t Disney’s doing (the DVD came out in 2008, and I don’t believe Disney owned The Muppets until a few years later), but someone didn’t want Kermit appearing here!

I’ve never been able to find any reason this special went into obscurity after its initial 1986 airing, but I treasure my recorded VHS of it – so much so, I transferred it to a DVD in 2009 to keep it preserved. I just transferred it to my laptop last night to keep a digital copy as a backup.

And yes, it is that good. The Christmas Toy became a yearly tradition for me for years, even if I watched it by myself. I plan to watch it this year (for the first time since 2009!) to recapture the magic all over again!

Availability

As for availability…its almost non-existent.

The DVD is out-of-print (the only way I can explain why a new copy is over $50), and forget YouTube – my last YouTube account was terminated because I uploaded this rare classic. Let’s just say Lionsgate found me out four years later (seriously, four years!).

To The Wayside…Like Last Year’s Christmas Toy!

I’m not ok with the “fall to the wayside” treatment The Christmas Toy got since its release. Among Muppet/Jim Henson specials, this one has the makings of a classic. I can assume it may have been Kraft’s sponsorship that has kept it from airing again. Perhaps this was meant to be a one-and done deal? I’m not sure, but I do know this…it’s not right.

I can’t stress that enough, apparently.

The story of hoping to be loved forever, and the lengths one will go (even when it is unnecessary) when that love is doubted makes for a timeless story. If you have an original print of the special, consider yourself lucky, and cherish it. Please, make a copy of your VHS, just keep it well preserved.

Like the toys in the special, The Christmas Toy deserves to be loved too.

Look, I Found A Clip!

If you truly want to get a song stuck in your head the rest of the day, may I recommend this clip?

Upload via LionsgateVOD

Related Reads

I did a four-part series on the Kraft TV Recipes on my blog in 2015, if you’re feeling particularly empowered to read them!

Hostess Gifts (Week 1)

Tree Trimming (Week 2)

Christmas Eve (Week 3)

New Year’s Eve (Week 4)

Bubble Bobble - Christoper Tupa

Retro Arcade Art By CTupa: Bubble Bobble (1986)

Bubble Bobble is an arcade game that I’m certain many of you will remember fondly. This marks the latest classic arcade title that Christopher Tupa has chosen for his Retro Arcade Art project. In fact I can vividly remember where I first experienced Bubble Bobble. It wasn’t at the fabled Showbiz Pizza of my youth or any local arcade. It was actually in the lobby of a movie theater. I enjoyed the game so much I excused myself from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. As the film let out I was still pumping quarters into Bubble Bobble as my Father came to collect me.
Bubble Bobble - Arcade Marquee

Bubble Bobble allows one or two Players to take on the roles of two dinosaurs. Simply named Bob and Bub. The duo are tasked with entering the Cave of Monsters. Which just so happens to be 100 levels of monster filled mayhem. Both Bub and Bob aren’t doing this for the sense of adventure. They are in fact on a quest to rescue their girlfriends who have been kidnapped!
Bubble Bobble - Intro

I should add as well the Players only have the ability to produce bubbles to protect themselves! Furthermore besides using those bubbles to trap various foes and dispatching them. Players are able to create bubbles and use them as stepping stones. To reach higher spots of course as well as navigating the maze-like stages.

When using your weapon against your foes. You let those bubbles fly which envelops the enemies. Then the Player needs to touch said bubbles to burst them – which in turn reveals food products.
Bubble Bobble - Food

Picking these up provides extra points and a skilled player will rack up even greater points by dispatching multiple enemies at the same time.
Bubble Bobble - Shooting Bubbles

It should go without saying that our heroes will lose a life if they make contact with an enemy that hasn’t been trapped. Not to mention the various projectiles that enemies can fire at Bub and Bob. Also of note is the Player only has a limited amount of time to bust those bubble trapped foes. If the enemy breaks free of its bubble prison it becomes red and moves much faster. You should think of how the bad guys behave in 1983’s Mario Bros. by Nintendo for a good example.
Bubble Bobble - Mario Bros

In Bubble Bobble there are a few more elements to help out Bob and Bud. There are types of power-ups that will grant the Player special abilities. Such as the Fire bubble which will cause a section of the nearest platform to ignite. Obliterating any enemies it might come in contact with. While our heroes won’t suffer damage they will be stunned if they are caught in the flames, until the effect wears off. Then there is the bubble housing the element of water. When struck by the Player it will cause a waterfall to pour down across the platforms to the bottom of the stage. Killing all foes it catches in the wrath of its tidal wave. Last but certainly not least is the Lightning bubble. Hitting this power-up unleashes a lightning bolt that travels horizontally across the screen slaying the enemies it touches.
Bubble Bobble - Lightning

There are certain bubbles that appear during a stage that have letters within. If a Player manages to spell Extend they will of course gain an extra life. To clear each stage, Bob and Bud must defeat all enemies.
Bubble Bobble - Extend

In closing, perhaps the duo of Bubble Bobble‘s greatest weapon is they are just so darned cute. Their charming design certainly is one of the reasons I kept pumping quarters into the game when I first discovered it!

Did you know that Bubble Bobble was so popular that a limited edition soundtrack was released in 1987?


It’s totally true. The soundtrack was released back on January 25, 1987. Featuring the music which was composed by Tadashi Kimijima and Zuntata.

[Via] Otouto72


As always with CTupa’s Retro Arcade Art project, you can purchase the artwork featured in this post. The originals are ink and watercolor and are 5″x7″ on 8.5″x11″ size paper. You can hop on over to Christopher’s Official Site to contact him as well as check out more artwork from his project!

Don’t forget to check out CTupa’s previous entries in his Retro Arcade Art Project as well!

Ready Player One - Back to the Future

New Ready Player One Trailer Brings The Retro!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, was a book that celebrated its love of retro pop culture. Perhaps it went beyond celebration and into proudly flaunting it. So many references to 80s films, TV shows, and video games are in the mix. It should come as no surprise that I fell in love with it upon picking it up. And now we have a live action film set to debut in 2018. Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg who knows a thing or two about 80s movies, right?

[Via] Warner Bros. Pictures

Ready Player One received a quite lengthy teaser earlier this year. Even then it was giving retro fans a glimpse at what was in store. Quick shots of everything from The Iron Giant, Joust, The Road Warrior, and many more. All of these elements are the digital representations of those people living in the online world of the OASIS. As you saw in the trailer it is basically the ultimate virtual reality simulator. Furthermore it is mixed with an advanced version of the internet. Certainly the dystopian aspects of the Ready Player One universe make it clear why people would spend all their time in the OASIS.
Ready Player One - The Stacks

Earlier today the full trailer for Ready Player One dropped. It too -like the teaser is full of Easter eggs. So I decided to point out a few of the worthy tips of the hat to some of the pop culture goodness. However…as a matter of fact we are going to start with a mystery. While the symbol on Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) backpack certainly looks familiar. I am afraid I can’t place it. How about you?
Ready Player One - backpack

Ready Player One - Backpack Symbol

Here is a better look

Far easier to spot in the Ready Player One trailer is the ’66 Batmobile. Which is located in the bottom as well as the Speed Racer‘s Mach 5. Of course we shouldn’t forget the fact that Ryu is walking past the legendary vehicle!
Ready Player One - Mach 5

The digital avatar of Wade Watts or Parzival as he is known in the OASIS – is decked out in some awesome retro gear. It was in fact Owen Treolo on the I Grew Up Star Wars Facebook page that pointed this out. Parzival is sporting the holster from none other than Han Solo of Star Wars fame. In addition his belt buckle is sporting the Thundercats insignia. To say nothing that he has wisely chosen Doc Brown’s DeLorean from Back to the Future as his ride. Wade obviously has good taste in pop culture!
Ready Player One - Thundercats

In this digital night club scene, we have none other than Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. I wonder if she is working there or just getting herself some digital liquid refreshment?
Ready Player One - Lara Croft

And while this motorcycle scene is exciting it also features the monster truck known as Bigfoot. As well as an almost hidden reference to 1987’s Robocop. You can see the Delta City billboard in the background!
Ready Player One - Bigfoot

Obviously around the same scene, it appears that King Kong is making his presence known. I can’t help but wonder if the mighty ape won’t try to stop the racers as they attempt to win the copper key?
Ready Player One - King Kong

In this scene we have a mighty charge of characters. I was certainly surprised to see who was leading the rush into battle. We have 1991’s Battletoads. Behind them appears to be one of the ostrich riding knights from Joust!
Ready Player One - Battletoads

Not to be outdone in the call to battle of course. We have Tracer from Overwatch who appears to be backed up by Chun-Li from Street Fighter.
Ready Player One - Tracer

While The Iron Giant makes an appearance in this full trailer. It looks like he is joined by someone piloting a Gundam. While I am not positive I assume this is a reference from 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam series?
Ready Player One - Gundam

So there you have it, friends. Just a few of the pop culture nods that made me excited. I’m very much looking forward to Ready Player One when it hits theaters next March. While I’ve drunk deeply of the Kool-Aid, it’s safe to say that there are many who are less than impressed. Which is understandable. Naturally. In fact the Retroist wrote a fantastic article about it all.
Ready Player One - Poster

Did I mention that in the new Ready Player One trailer – Chucky from Child’s Play shows up?


Who knew that Chucky had such mad ninja skills?!

Update: I totally missed a glaringly obvious nod to the 1992 Mortal Kombat series. When in the trailer we are told of the hidden Easter Eggs we see what certainly appears to be a shrine to the gaming series. Including in the shot are statues of Raiden as well as Scoprion and Sub-Zero. This I should add is all courtesy of Bloody Disgusting and I obviously feel like a fool for not catching it!
Ready Player One - Mortal Kombat

“One Magic Christmas” in my basement (movie review)

There’s a Disney holiday film that many find disturbing. It’s called One Magic Christmas and stars Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton. In this video, Robie Juinor (1980s robot from Radio Shack) and I discuss this film. There are plenty of spoilers, heck, I basically tell the whole story of the movie in just under ten minutes. I try to explain why I like the film. There’s some silly stuff in the video outside of the fact that I’m having a conversation with a toy robot…

[Via] Justin Salvato

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Scream Factory

It’s A Christmas Miracle. Silent Night, Deadly Night Is Out On Scream Factory Blu-ray!

Silent Night, Deadly Night is not necessarily one of the “must sees” for the casual horror fan looking for a campy thrill. It’s savage, violent and punishing. The story opens with young Billy Chapman whose dreams of a white Christmas are obliterated when he witnesses a deranged criminal, dressed in a dime store Santa suit, brutally murder his father and mother on Christmas Eve. Orphaned after the killing of his parents, Billy and his little brother are raised under the oppressive arm of a devout nun who teaches Billy the consequences of being naughty, which mostly ends up with him being tied to his bed or beaten.

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Old Man Peabody

Old Man Peabody sharing the bad news to young Billy about Santa Claus.

When Billy turns eighteen, he half-wittedly gets a job at a toy store around (wait for it) Christmas and ends up having to play (wait for it) Santa. Needless to say, the years of pent up anger and confusion surrounding the death of his parents at the hand of jolly St. Nick rip loose the fractured wiring in Billy’s head and off he goes hacking up anyone he deems is on the naughty list, which is pretty much anyone he meets. Nothing is left to the imagination as Billy dices his way through a blood splattered winter wonderland and the film’s conclusion shares very little with the Capra’esque triumph of George Bailey – it is inevitably not a wonderful life.

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Snowman

“Snowmen were absolutely harmed or injured during the making of this film.”

I LOVE this movie. Like many kids of the 80s who remember the TV commercial, I was terrified and mesmerized at the same time. The image of Santa pulling the gun from his red velvet pocket was burned in my brain, etched there to this day. The film’s poster of an axe wielding Santa sliding down a chimney is macabre and brilliant marketing. However, all this violent Santa imagery didn’t sit well with parents and they pressured TriStar Pictures for the film’s removal from theaters. At the Beyond Fest screening of the film a few years back, the producers discussed this controversy and explained the money trail : Tri-Star Pictures (the distributor), Columbia Pictures (partnered with TriStar) and Coca-Cola (owned Columbia). Coca-Cola has a long advertising history with Santa Claus and the stirrings from angry parents didn’t sit well with the family friendly soft drink company. Mind you, this anger was all based on commercials only! It’s not like the film was meant for kids. Regardless, it was yanked from theaters.

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Poster

“Maybe he’s just a fireman?”

I finally discovered the film on VHS in the 90s and immediately started having Silent Night, Deadly Night parties that consisted of four guys sitting around my dumpy Miami apartment drunkenly watching the film. Those humble beginnings turned into a full blown event in Hollywood that lasted for several years. I’ve owned the film on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD. I’ve got the Death Waltz vinyl signed by the cast and crew. The film’s eerie Doo-wop styled Christmas carol “Santa’s Watching” becomes my ringtone every December. Setting aside the conventional slasher fare of numerous creative kills, Silent Night, Deadly Night adds a very rich backstory to why Billy becomes a killer. Instead of a five minute flashback origin story, the filmmakers treat us to twenty five minutes of set up. I think that’s what separates it from the rest of the Halloween/Friday the 13th knockoffs and why I think we are still talking about the film 30+ years later.

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Laserdisc

“My new Scream Factory Blu-ray along with my signed Death Waltz Vinyl, my Laserdisc and a bloody axe hand crafted by my wife as a prop for our former SNDN/Die Hard Christmas Party.”

This year, it’s a Christmas miracle because Scream Factory has released Silent Night, Deadly Night on Blu-ray, and it’s the best I’ve ever seen it! Scream Factory has done their established awesome job of loading the release up with fun extras (notably a “then and now” locations tour), but the centerpiece is the disc’s HD transfer from the original camera negative. How these guys at Scream Factory dig up the bones of these classics is beyond me, but thank goodness they do. Now, this two disc set also comes with the un-cut version, which has been available on Laserdisc and DVD. Sadly, the original camera negatives from the extended scenes could not be found, so Scream Factory used the best available standard definition versions and cut them in with their new mastered footage. It’s a bumpy contrast, but they did the best they could and the serious fan will enjoy it. Honestly, after having seen both versions over the years, you aren’t missing much in those extended scenes – some blood, guts and the occasional added sleaze – but to view the crispest version would be to watch the theatrical release. One thing I wanted to shine the Retroist spotlight on is the incredible shots from Ira’s Toy Store.

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Toy Store

“Ira’s reminds me of Cut-Rate toys on Devon Avenue in Chicago.”

The store is featured heavily in the film’s second act and showcased some big toys of the era. These days that would be problematic and tricky with licenses and clearances, but this was the 80s man! Greydon Clark’s Joysticks features every popular coin-op game of the era, think he got the licenses to use Pac Man? Think again, internet lawyer troll. Now, for full transparency, I had spent time doing a bunch of screen grabs to curate a collection of stills from the movie but then I thought, ‘Hey, I bet some other toy nerd has already done this.” Lo and behold, a quick Google search turned up a few sites that have done a marvelous (and probably better) job cataloging and identifying the toys in Ira’s. One was written by the supremely talented John Squires (aka @FreddyInSpace) and he’s got a nice post you can read over at Bloody Disgusting.

Also, here’s a funny post from 2010 by writer David W. About how disorganized Ira’s shelves are.

I will add one more to the mix. Seen behind the shrewd Mr. Sims is the Zaxxon board game. I had that game, but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you how to play it. In doing some research, I had no recollection of the board or pieces. My guess is I didn’t play it much, but I do love that artwork!

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Zaxxon

“Mr. Sims is nobody’s friend.

So, grab your milk and cookies and get your copy of Silent Night, Deadly Night on Blu-ray here!
Silent Night, Deadly Night - Scream Factory - Blu Ray

One last thing, I started my review stating that “Silent Night, Deadly Night is not necessarily one of the “must sees” for the casual horror fan looking for a campy thrill.” Please take that to heart. It’s not a goofy slasher romp. With the right audience, it’s totally entertaining. But with the wrong audience, you might get a few raised eyebrows. Definitely not for the faint of heart and certainly not for anyone who might take offense with a raging, axe throwing, homicidal Santa Claus. Before you share with your loved ones this holiday season, consider your audience.

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Patrick J. Doody and Patrick Brian Wilson

Meeting Billy Chapman himself, Robert Brian Wilson. The Egyptian Theater, Hollywood. 2014.”