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)

Enjoy the sights & sounds of the season!

I want everyone to get into the holiday mood with the help of a video I made back in 2004. I have been trying to upload this 30 minute video for a long time, but a certain video site would shoot me down and hit me with all kinds of copyright issues. Well, this video, A Multimedia Christmas Card, which I made in 2004, is finally online. What’s it about you ask? The Christmas holiday, okay, that’s obvious, but what it includes are classic holiday songs and clips from movies like Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story. I even snuck in a photo of me celebrating Christmas in the late 1980s. If you like it, let me know. If you don’t…um, try to phrase your disdain nicely. Season’s Greetings!

A Multimedia Christmas Card – 2004 from Justin Salvato on Vimeo.

Allison’s Written Words/Retroist Christmas Commercial Kickoff!

That’s right, Allison’s Written Words wants to team up with Retroist by – brace thyself – kicking off the holiday season with a big commercial block!

That Tease!

Late Saturday night/early Sunday AM, and I show you a glimpse of a recording session.

No life, I tells ya!

Allison’s Written Words and Retroist – The Joint Presentation!

It’s no secret that I love combining my world on here with the one I’ve carved out on Allison’s Written Words.  I share teasers for my articles here over on my blog, create videos with mention of both sites, and affiliate myself with both anywhere and everywhere I possibly can.

I love the work I do with both sites, and I’m proud of the opportunity to continue letting my geek flag fly simultaneously.

That said…

Allison’s Written Words/Retroist Christmas Commercial Kickoff!

Last week, I worked on my first commercial block commentary, after several efforts of dipping my toes in video games  and, well, “video games.” I’ve loved the opportunity to hone my “comedic” skills and show you some great nostalgia at the same time.

The commercial block I selected is from the November 28, 1998 airing of Saturday Night Live Goes Commercial, Volume 2. The tape originates from WNBC 4 New York, my former home market NBC station. The special aired as one of the prime time specials the late-night sketch show was famous for during the 1998-1999 season. It was the second one that year, and the highest-rated one. Not bad for primetime AND a holiday weekend Saturday night!

There’s a healthy mix of Christmas-themed commercials, promos, product ads, short-lived television shows, and even The More You Know. Throw in a local newscast teaser and you’ve got nostalgia AND awesomeness.

That’s right, nostalgia AND awesomeness! Because those two should always go hand-in-hand!

So go on and click play, and join me in watching some commercials!

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Atari wishes you a Happy Holiday

The moment Thanksgiving dinner is over, I am in the Christmas zone. I am watching holiday movies, specials, music videos related to Christmas and searching YouTube for old holiday commercials. I don’t know what it is, but when I see an old Christmas commercial about video games, I find that to really satisfy my holiday cravings. So here’s one from the early 1980s and it’s showing the Atari 2600 in several different households.

[Via] My Saturday Mornings

transformers

Transformers were poised to make coleslaw out of the Cabbage Patch Kids for Christmas 1984

In Christmas of 1984 the toy world was shifting. Video games were hitting a rough spot and action figure toys were already years old. Even the heavy hitter of the year before, the Cabbage Patch Kid was not looking to repeat what it did the year before. No, according to just about everyone, the hot toys for Christmas of 1984 were going to be robots. Which robots in particular? The Transformers, of course.

In this report from the CBC from that year, they discuss not just the Transformers, but other great robot toys including site favorite Tomy VERBOT. As well as non-robot toys like Rainbow Brite and He-Man.

Read Verbot the Voice Activated Robot

The toy footage is pretty amazing. They even include a short loop of the original Transformers in front of this techy background at 3:15. However that is just a small piece of this nearly eight minute video. They also discuss people against war toys. Some great interviews with precocious kids including one who wants a pair of glasses that will not get foggy for Christmas.

Watching this now, I chuckle, but I think these type of news shows sent waves of fear through my Mother. What was going to be the hot toy? Was I even aware of it? Could she get her hands on it? These were all the things that stuff like this report would raise. She usually ignored things like the section about War Toys, but that sort of talk was dangerous. It almost got my DnD books taken away because of the negative press around that game.

I think I was still very much into GI Joe in 1984 as were my friends. It would be at least a few months before a Transformer would appear in my circle of playmates. So I am glad my Mom was not on top of this trend. Although, I got to admit, I really would have loved a Verbot.

Watch this report from Christmas of 1984 about the Transformers