THE CHRISTMAS TOY
Notable Examples: Rugby, The Elf on a Shelf, Snowden, etc.
Commonly Featured In: Toy Stores, Books, & Films
The one most common thing above all others on Christmas is children receiving toys from family and the man in red himself. In the beginning, the option of toys was limited insomuch that a great many toys were either dolls or stuffed animals but almost entirely based on real or make believe things. That is to say one could easily find a stuffed bear dressed up as a soldier than say a figurine done up to the likeness of a popular character. In our modern era, toys have become more and more based on something that has already existed in some other media and rare is the toy that is wholly and utterly unique.
Yet what toy is it that best describes Christmas as a whole? Is it a figurine based on some comic book hero coveted by collectors or properly played with by children? Is it that new video game system that features the best of graphics and hardware until such a time as it becomes obsolete and oftentimes within the span of a year? Is it a toy the likes of the “Elf on a Shelf” that come around only once a year and are forgotten for the rest? Perhaps it’s the toys of yester year that may no longer sustain their popularity as they once did but are remembered nonetheless even by the younger generations who know them by name if not by reputation.
It’s all of them and none of them. Of the toys I’ve seen throughout my life, I personally think that the ones that best exemplify the meaning of Christmas, and toys as a whole, are the classics. Plush animals, dolls, even the atypical toy soldier could make for a good holder for Christmas Toy. That’s not to say that modern toys certainly can’t try and fit the bill but… let’s be honest people. How many of you can remember with crystal clarity the toys you got when you were a child but for a select few that stuck by your side for years?
I myself still have my plush dragon puppet sitting upon the foot of my bed even as I sit here typing this blog entry. Not the first toy I had received as a child and certainly not the last but Draggy, and yes I’m well aware of the lack of imagination to his name but in my defense I was all of four years old at the time, was my de-facto toy for years. The… chief, I suppose, of all the other toys and one whom I, in my childhood naivety, thought of as the leader and teacher to all my other toys much like how Woody was portrayed in Toy Story or the plush bear Balthazar from Jim Henson’s The Christmas Toy and its spin-off series, The Secret Life of Toys.
To those unawares, The Christmas Toy and its spin-off series, was basically Toy Story but predated it by several years with the original special airing in 1986. The overall summary of the film special was a toy tiger, by name of Rugby, learning that Christmas was here again and that he may be replaced as his child’s favorite toy concocts a scheme to become her Christmas toy once more by placing himself in the box of her new toy.
The special and its series was… cute… I suppose and the idea was not wholly an unoriginal one considering the idea of toys coming to life when no one was watching has been done numerous times in various media but… It just doesn’t really go anywhere with the idea like Toy Story and its sequels did. The puppetry was fantastic as always and there are plenty of moments where it was impossible to tell the real toy from a puppet version but overall…
As to the toys that try and market themselves during the holiday season… None of them really seem to last either, at least not beyond a few years at best. Stores like Target or Dayton’s tried to market a specific toy every year at Christmas and, in the case of Target’s toy Snowden the snowman, had even tried to make other media pertaining to them. As I recall, Snowden had books, animated specials, and even an ice show to his name.
There’s not even a Wikipedia page to him beyond the ice show itself and, as of this post, that’s all that there is to him. Considering that he somehow had a year that he shared the spotlight with Raggedy Ann and Andy, that’s… really depressing.
And to those who don’t know who either Ann or Andy are…
… Please don’t make me feel older than I suddenly feel.
Whether it’s the latest action figure, a character from a video game given physical form, or even that classic plush toy found in the aisles of a local Toys ‘R Us, in the end, what makes a Christmas Toy is not the toy itself. It’s the love and affection a child can give unto it. Toys come and go and childhood is fleeting but even so, it’s the toys that mattered most to a child not just at Christmas time but for every time before and since that earn them the title of Christmas Toy.