Release Date(s)2017-2018 (October 1, 2019)
Studio(s)Nacelle/Netflix (Screen Media)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C+
In the age of nostalgia overload and documentary subjects of all sorts, it was only a matter of time before a producing entity would tackle the world of children’s toys, specifically those that were popular in the 1980s and beyond. Filling that nostalgic gap is The Toys That Made Us, an on-going, multi-part documentary series dedicated to the various playthings of our collective childhoods, interviewing all of the living architects behind their creations.
The Toys That Made Us is a fun and upbeat show, narrated by Donald Ian Black, but what’s interesting about it is that it isn’t overtly controlled by outside interference. It’s not unwise to believe that the show hasn’t had regulation of some kind along the way, but for the most part, it’s an honest, though respectful, account of the events behind the making of the different toy lines. Well-edited, well-produced, and fast-paced, it gets all of the information in successfully, and is never boring. Even episodes devoted to toys that one may not be all that familiar with or interested in are fascinating because of how well-put together they are. As such, The Toys That Made Us is a thoroughly binge-worthy show and one can tear through it with relative ease.
Previously a Netflix exclusive, The Toys That Made Us came to DVD recently, with many complaining about a lack of a high definition release. That has now been remedied. The Toys That Made Us: Seasons 1 & 2 collects all of the previous episodes of the show in full HD, even carrying over the DVD release’s extras, and throwing in a few more for good measure. Disc One features episodes devoted to Star Wars, G.I. Joe, He-Man, and Barbie, while Disc Two highlights toys from the Star Trek, Transformers, LEGO, and Hello Kitty franchises.
The visual quality is much more refined than its streaming and DVD counterparts with further refined levels of fine detail and solid encodes. It features a mix of digitally-shot interviews and live action footage, as well as vintage, shot-on-film material, and other lower quality sources. However, it all blends together well for a vibrant and highly detailed presentation.
The audio is included in English 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. There’s a surprising amount of fidelity to be had, as well as frequent sound effects movement, but the interviewees are heard loud and clear and there are never any instances of dropouts or distortion. Episodes from Season Two are louder than their Season One counterparts, but a quick adjustment of the volume will fix that in a jiffy.
All of the extras are including on Disc Three, and all are presented in HD with a Play All option:
- Featurette with Show Creator Brian Volk-Weiss (8:22)
- Barbie 80s Marketing (1:42)
- More Stories That Made Us – G.I. Joe: The Story of Cobra (1:22)
- More Stories That Made Us – Selling the Show (1:11)
- Jim Swearingen Extended Interview (7:29)
- Peter Cullen Extended Interview (6:33)
- Todd McFarlane on Lego (2:54)
- Todd McFarlane on Star Trek (8:09)
- Hideki Yoke/Takara Tour (10:50)
- Star Wars: Inflatable Lightsaber (0:56)
- Star Wars: The Falcon Mold (1:24)
- Star Wars: Vlix (1:31)
- Star Wars: Peg Warmers (1:15)
- Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi (1:33)
- He-Man: Wonderbread He-Man (2:09)
- Barbie: A Bad Case of Worms (1:42)
- Star Trek: Why the Latest Line Flopped (1:57)
- Transformers: G2 (0:53)
The featurette with Brian Volk-Weiss highlights the show’s creation while The Story of Cobra and Selling the Show reveal an unused idea for the G.I. Joe episode and how the show was greenlit, respectively. Barbie 80s Marketing is more of a deleted scene than a featurette, the extended interviews offer plenty of additional information, and the Hideki Yoke/Takara Tour segment is a longer look at the factory where the Transformers toys were created, which was severely truncated in the final episode. The deleted scenes all feature the same introduction by Brian Volk-Weiss, which is slightly annoying, but offer tidbits of additional excised information. It’s less than an hour of material, and in all honesty, probably could have been spread out over the episode discs without losing quality, and also saved a bit of money. Also included in the package is a small plastic TV toy with The Toys That Made Us on its screen. As is, it’s a decent set of bonus materials, but a little too succinct to warrant the inclusion of a third disc.
With Season Three of The Toys That Made Us right around the corner, it’s likely that we’ll see another Blu-ray release of the show in the future. It’s prime material for Blu-ray consumption and a nice offering for those who don’t use Netflix and want to see what all the fuss is about. It’s definitely a fun show for those interested in how their childhoods were created. For that alone, it comes recommended.
– Tim Salmons