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Published on March 28th, 2010 | by Yellow Magpie


1980’s Toys: Revolutionising The Entertainment Industry

Toys define a generation. They are part and parcel of our youth. When we reminisce about our childhood we are remembering a time of innocence and fun when we played for hours with our favourite toy.

Invariably, every child thinks his or her toy is better than toys of his parents’.

However, when we look back upon our childhood, we conclude that some toys were marvellously inventive and creative ideas while others less so. This is especially true of 1980s toys.

Some 1980s toys were cutting-edge and are still around in some shape or form to this day. Portable and affordable, computer games were available in people’s homes for the first time.

The 1980s also saw a revolutionary and almost unnoticed moment in a generation’s culture. One film acted as the 80s version of Bambi transforming our mindsets in the process. Whilst other toys were less successful and solely of the 1980s failing to make the transition and inspire future generations of children.

Nintendo Entertainment System

In 1983 (1985 for non-Asian countries), the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES as it was commonly referred to, woke up the entertainment industry to new possibilities. Computer games were no longer confined to arcades. Now one computer could play a huge variety of different games. The age of entertainment was finally with us. Classics such as Mario Bros, Zelda, Megaman, Duck Hunt and Donkey Kong created their own legacies.

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the United States and Canada) were a huge craze in the 80s. Based upon the enormously popular animated cartoon series, the 1987 television programmes spawned many action figures, costumes, videos and turtles vehicles. The series continues to be a success among children everywhere and the animated programme is currently in its third incarnation.


Originally a Japanese creation, Transformers became an international mega-success story when US toy company, Hasbro, took over two of Takara’s products re-branding them as Transformers. Created as an alien life-form, the toys changed from machines into robots, hitting the shelves in 1984.

There have been some bizarre Transformer toys such as a microscope, a Pepsi Convoy and shoes. Why an alien life-form would want to be a shoe or a microscope defies logic.

With the tag lines ‘Transforms before your eyes‘ and ‘Robots in disguise‘, the Transformer series became a real life example of metamorphosis. From action figures, to television series, from comic books to Hollywood Blockbusters, Transformers have done it all.

The Land Before Time

One of the biggest children’s films of the 1980s was The Land Before Time. This 1988 film was perhaps single-handedly responsible for reviving people’s interest in the prehistoric dinosaurs. The 1980s version of  Bambi, The Land Before Time resulted in 12 direct-to-video sequels, numerous action figures and video games.

It is hard to fathom how important this film was to public consciousness. However, needless to say, it has secured its place in history as a film that helped to pave the way towards environmentalism and humanism.

Guess Who?

One of the most popular board games of the 1980s was Guess Who? Although it was released in the UK in 1979, it was only came to prominence after it was released in the United States in 1982. A two-player game, the object was to guess which character your opponent was thinking about out of a choice of 24 individuals using only yes or no answers.

The Care Bears

Released in 1983, the Care Bears became a phenomenon of the 80s. Care Bear teddies, a successful TV series, and two films followed as the Care Bears reached their zenith during the 1980s.

However, despite numerous attempts, the Care Bears failed to maintain their level of popularity in the 1990s.

My Little Pony

Released in 1981, My Little Pony became one of little girl’s most prized possessions. Tapping into children’s love of horses, the toys consisted of colourful plastic ponies with long manes. Later on the series expanded to include Pegasus and Unicorn toys as well as successful TV series and a feature-length animated film. The range continues to do well to this day and in 2008 it celebrated its 25th anniversary.


Based upon the 1984 film, Ghostbuster toys became a hit with boys and girls during the 80s. From costumes to video games, action figures to animated television series, it was impossible to escape Ghostbusters mania during the 80s.

Police Academy

Despite the 1984 Police Academy film not being suitable for young children, it morphed into becoming some of the most sought-after toys of the 80s. Numerous animated television series, action figures, games and books followed the release of the highly successful first film.

My First Sony

Released in the mid-1980s , My First Sony was the envy of many covetous boys and girls. Based on Sony’s electronic goods, My First Sony was a more colourful, plastic version aimed at children. The range included a Walkman, a microphone, boom box and walkie talkies.

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