‘The Toys That Made Us’ Creator Brian Volk-Weiss Explains Why Your Favorite Toy Isn’t On the Netflix Show
From He-Man to Hello Kitty, The Toys That Made Us offers up a mega-dose of nostalgia for anyone who still has a soft spot for their favorite childhood playthings. Each episode of the Netflix series (which returns for season 3 on November 15) tells the story of one iconic toy. From the dueling personalities at Mattel who created the Masters of the Universe to the rise and fall (and rise again) of Lego, the series offers a peek behind the toy-making curtain.
Showbiz Cheat Sheet chatted with The Toys That Made Us creator Brian Volk-Weiss about how the four toys featured this season were selected, why your favorite toy may not have made the cut, and what toy from today he thinks will stand the test of time.
‘The Mount Rushmore of toys’
The Toys That Made Us Season 3 will focus on four toys: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony, Power Rangers, and wrestling figures.
What separates those toys from all the others? They all could be included on “the Mount Rushmore of toys,” Volk-Weiss explained.
“I wanted every toy to have at least one character that if there was a Mount Rushmore of toys, people would know what it was,” he said. “For example, my wife doesn’t really know anything about Transformers, but she knows who Optimus Prime is. She knows Bumblebee.”
Not only did each toy need to be monument-worthy, but it also needed to have staying power.
“We really wanted to have every toy have at least two generations of fans,” said Volk-Weiss. “I want the toy to be in perpetual production.”
Finally, every toy had to have a good story. That wasn’t the case with every popular toy line, where sometimes the story was, “We thought of it. We made it. It was a hit. There are no twists or turns,” Volk-Weiss explained.
There’s a reason your favorite toy isn’t on the show
Given those criteria, there are some beloved toys that simply didn’t make the cut.
“A lot of people say to me, why don’t you do SilverHawks or M.A.S.K?” Volk-Weiss said. “And I’m like, because those were on TV for two years and no one knows who that is.”
That said, there are still some toys that the show’s creator says he’d like to cover in future episodes, if given the opportunity.
“I really hope we get to do Hot Wheels,” he said. Nerf, Dungeons and Dragons, and Super Friends are also on his wish list. So is an episode about Happy Meal toys.
The toys that shouldn’t have been made
While it’s not clear what the future holds for The Toys That Made Us, Volk-Weiss does have an idea for how he’d close out the series.
“I really want to make an episode called ‘The Toys That Should Have Not Been Made,’” he said. That episode would likely focus on LJN’s failed line of toys produced for David Lynch’s sci-fi epic Dune. The 1984 movie was a box-office bomb, and the associated toys didn’t exactly catch on with kids. But at the time, everyone involved thought they had the next Star Wars on their hands.
“I’ve met some of the people that worked at LJN and on the Dune line,” Volk-Weiss said. “A lot of the stuff that we heard in the Star Wars episode [from season 1] from Kenner about making the Star Wars toys — like, ‘I read the script and I knew it would be a hit’ — we heard the same thing with Dune.”
Given reports that today’s kids are shunning traditional toys, are there any toys from today that will have the same staying powers as Ninja Turtles or My Little Pony? Volk-Weiss points to Shopkins, a line of small collectible characters in the shape of grocery store items that’s been around since 2014.
“My daughter, and even my son, they are so into Shopkins,” he said. “My daughter [whose room is] the biggest mess ever, nothing is organized … her Shopkins are meticulously organized. So that’s a real safe bet.”