Monday, September 05, 2016

Let's Talk About Nineties Fandoms

Pokémon Trading Card Game (Base Set)
Growing up there was a certain unspoken hierarchy to my toys that didn’t always follow the most recent trends in popular fandoms. Of all the franchises that I admired as a kid, three stood out among the rest: Power Rangers, Jurassic Park and Pokémon

Power Rangers was the very first toy line to catch my attention. Consisting mostly of Zords, action figures and a few weapons, they were my most valuable collectibles. Had it not been for a neglectful decade of teenage angst, topped by a highly disorganized move from our old house to my parent’s current one, most of them would be complete and in working order to this day. Sadly, it was not meant to be this way. 

Although most of the Zords are complete and in played, yet, excellent condition, some of the action figures are missing a few parts and a lot of the older Zords have sticker damage, and a thin layer of dust covering most of their crevices from years of poorly designed displays. Some of the electronics no longer work, either due to battery corrosion or to some other damage that they’ve sustained throughout the years. The worst case is my Power Dome set that is now only a display model, since the batteries I left inside it completely corroded its electronics. The cardboard display that came with the box is also ruined. 

Luckily a large part of my Power Rangers collectibles are still doing great. Especially the ones from Zeo and In Space. As for the other ones, it’s nothing that some thorough cleaning and attention can’t fix.

Even though my Power Rangers toys were always the main attraction of my collection, a new contestant soon made its way into their turf, Kenner’s very successful 1997 The Lost World, Jurassic Park toy line. Made up mostly of Dinosaurs, it also featured a few action figures and vehicles inspired by the movie. 

As a kid who dreamt about becoming a Paleontologist, it’s no surprise that I ended up going to great lengths to save every single part of my The Lost World collectibles, keeping them very close to me throughout the years. Some have a few layers of dust, not much different from the ones that plague my older Zords, but the electronics still work and all parts are accounted for. 

Over the last couple of years, after discovering that many toys from the original series never made it into stores in Portugal, I’ve managed to buy on eBay a few of the ones that caught my attention. My collection has since grown, in many ways thanks to Jurassic World’s premiere and both Lego and Hasbro’s new line of Dinosaur toy sets inspired by this franchise.

However, the nineties wouldn’t be complete without Pokémon, the franchise that toppled every other fandom, and the last one to transition from the 1990s to the early 2000s, and from my childhood into my adolescence. Although I did own a few figurines and the cutest ever Mew figure, Pokémon had me hooked over its Trading Card Game. 

Not only did I answer the call to catch them all, I also played in local tournaments, eager to earn badges and whichever prizes made it my way. As luck would have it, I had a tournament base right at the end of my street, just a few houses from my own. My main goal was to complete my card collection, but I also managed to build a strong and balanced deck that allowed me to advance comfortably through my local tournaments.

My love of Pokémon never really faded, but this fad was destined to last no more than a couple of years. Becoming a teenager meant that toys and Trading Card Games were no longer cool, and hanging on to them just stopped being worth all the social humiliation that came from such a childish fascination. How wrong was I, but alas, it’s hard to be yourself in a time before the advent of social media. Luckily, I did manage to complete the first ten sets of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, from the ominous Base Set to Neo Destiny. And in spite of all the social pressure for one to get rid of his toys, I merely had to hide them away from prying eyes, and keep them safe as these years of adolescent anxiety faded away from my path. 

My parents always supported my hobbies, especially when they didn’t need to worry about spending their own money on them. My mom did end up throwing away some of my old toys, but apart from a few Lego sets and some unrecognizable loose parts, she always took good care of them, even when it seemed I wasn’t interested in them any longer. 

These three franchises accompanied me throughout my childhood and are still a part of me to this day. These are my most valuable collectibles, and the ones that I am still willing to invest on, even as a young adult who doesn’t really have any real use for his toys other than the feeling of owning them.

There were other franchises that played smaller, yet significant roles in my childhood. The Land Before Time, Dragon Ball, Back to the Future and Ghostbusters, came in second, after the big three, and, on a lower level, movies like Space Jam, Independence Day and 1999’s Godzilla, also managed to sneak a toy or two into my collection. I was a true child of the nineties, and most of my fandoms are a product of the most popular trends of that decade. In a time before internet critics and easily unimpressed fans, all a movie needed to be popular was to look cool and to have an appealing set of merchandise and collectibles. I was truly lucky to live through such a plentiful decade. 

All these other franchises can’t compare to Power Rangers, Jurassic Park or Pokémon. The Land Before Time is my favorite movie series of all time, and even today I get excited about each new release. However, besides the VHS tapes and later one, its DVD releases, the only toys I own are the Pizza Hut collectible puppets. A set of six hand puppets that represent the gang of five little Dinosaurs and the evil Sharptooth that terrorized them throughout the original film.

Dragon Ball was the anime to watch if you were a kid in the nineties. I would always run home after school to catch the latest episode. As for toys, I only really owned two official ones, Krillin from DBZ and a Super Saiyan 3 Goku from the first anime movie that my aunt gave to me as a First Communion gift. I did manage to collect a Dragon Ball chess game from Planeta DeAgostini. It’s a very cool piece with heroes and villains facing off against each other in a chess board. 

My love of Back to the Future and Ghostbusters, coupled with my recently found passion for Lego sets, meant I couldn’t pass the opportunity of owning their respective Lego Ideas sets. I will, however, be passing on Ghostbuster’s Lego Firehouse since it’s just way too expensive, but I do own a few Funko Pop’s from Back to the Future.

The only other toy that I hold dear, and hope one day to find a way to display it, is a board game from the movie Space Jam, with all the main characters. Alike my DBZ chessboard it sets the heroes against the villains in a very well thought-out playset, with excellent artwork done on each of the figurines. 

Being a fan of so many great movies and TV shows, means that you need to make hard choices when you decide to invest in their respective merchandise. It’s truly a constant struggle between how much money you’re willing to spend and whichever fandom you love so dearly.

Growing up in the nineties, being a responsible child and having my parents support, helped me to keep a considerable part of my toy collection intact. However, one can never forget that the purpose of a toy is to be played with, and that there is no greater joy than to let a child play with his or her favorite toy. Toys allow them to travel to new worlds of pure imagination, where everything is possible, and where there is no limit but the inspiration of a young mind.

So let your toys tell their story. There’s a whole Universe of possibilities, just open your mind and press play.    

No comments: