I don't have a kid (yet"¦ give me another five months or so), and I don't have any nieces or nephews or friends with kids over the age of three. So I'm not really understanding this whole Zhu Zhu thing. Apparently it's the must-have toy this year. That I understand. I was working retail when the Tickle Me Elmo craze was at its height. Time magazine has assembled a list of the Top Ten Toy crazes ever, and you'd better believe that giggly red Muppet makes the top five. Here's the whole list:
1. Zhu Zhu Pets.
The Year: 2009
The Toy: Zhu Zhu pets are little robotic hamsters that basically do three things: coo/purr, "explore" and sleep. They sound like a stuffed version of Tamagotchis to me (don't remember those? Skip to #4). The little furry machines retail for a scant $10 each, but demand is so high that Zhu Zhu pets are reselling for nearly $100 on eBay.
The enemy: So far? Pet stores. Why buy a real hamster when you could spend $10 on one that doesn't crap, stink, bite, or require real food?
2. Bratz Dolls.
The Year: 2001
The Toy: You thought Barbie was a bad influence? When Bratz entered the scene in 2001, they made Barbie look like she belonged on Little House.
The Enemy: Parents weren't crazy about them, finding their tight and revealing clothing and copious amounts of makeup, um, a little adult.
The Year: 1998.
The Toy: This fuzzy robot (hmm"¦ sounds suspiciously like Zhu Zhu Pets) was appealing to kids because the toy could "learn" English. Part of the reason it was such a craze is that magazines were impressed with the toy's learning ability as well - Time itself was hyping up the gadget before it was even on the market after seeing it at a toy convention.
The Enemy: Katie Couric. Yeah, they talk, but they talk incessantly, irritating parents everywhere. While interviewing a representative from manufacturer Tiger on The Today Show, Couric snipped, "Can you get them to shut up now?"
The Year: 1996
The Toy: About the size of a large-ish keychain, Tamagotchis were kind of like a super low-tech Nintendogs. The hand-held electronic egg put kids in charge of a pixel-y little creature, with responsibilities from feeding it to entertaining it to putting it to bed.
The Enemy: Teachers. If you didn't feed and entertain your Tamagotchi, it would "die," sometimes in just four to six hours, causing a lot of faux-pet owners to bring the infernal thing to school. As a result, Tamagotchis were banned in many schools.
5. Tickle Me Elmo
The Year: 1996.
The Toy: A stuffed Elmo that LOLed infectiously.
The Enemy: Parents. Every kid wanted one of these and supply just did not meet demand. What went for $29 in stores was going for up to $2,000 online. Needless to say, a lot of parents had to disappoint their kids at Christmas that year.
6. Beanie Babies.
The Year: 1995
The Toy: Small, fairly unremarkable bean bag creatures.
The Enemy: The FBI. Beanie Babies were so sought-after and collectible that counterfeits were being produced at an alarming rate. In the late "˜90s, the FBI spent time busting the perpetrators. I'm sure people who enter the FBI as a profession do so because they want to spend time investigating the production of fake plushies.
The Year: 1995.
The Toy: Some cardboard disks with pictures printed on them. Really. But the variation in pictures meant that they were collectible, so of course people went nuts for them. The way you played POGs was kind of like marbles in that you could win the other player's POGs if you were playing for keeps.
The Enemy: Again, schools. Because you could potentially "win" POGs, some schools considered it gambling and banned the game from their grounds.
8. Cabbage Patch Kids.
The Year: 1983.
The Toy: Pudgy-faced dolls.
The Enemy: Garbage Pail Kids. After Cabbage Patch Kids came out and were such a hit, the Topps company parodied the wholesome dolls by creating a trading card featuring a very similar looking version that did terrible things and had names like "Adam Bomb." The Cabbage Patch people were not happy. They sued and settled out of court; Topps agreed to make their characters a little less Cabbage Patch-like.
9. Rubik's Cube.
The Year: 1980.
The Toy: C'mon, you know the Rubik's Cube.
The Enemy: People who are easily frustrated solving puzzles. I'm not going to name names, but I know this girl who peeled the colored stickers off and stuck them back on to act like she had solved the cube. The stickers' wrinkled edges, crooked placement and decreased stickiness were dead giveaways to my mom. I mean, her mom.
10. Pet Rocks.
The Year: 1975.
The Toy: A rock. Seriously. A rock.
The Enemy: Kids who really, really wanted a puppy for Christmas.
What was your must-have toy of yesteryear? Mine was definitely a stuffed Fievel. I adored An American Tail and knew I would die, just absolutely die, if the young Mr. Mousekewitz didn't appear under our Christmas tree. Luckily, he did, and I still have him. Sure, he's missing his tail, his pants, his hat and 99% of the fuzz on his nose, but I still plan on passing him down to Baby Conradt in May. Maybe I'll sew him some new pants by then.