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  1. #1

    Are we falling into the nostalgia trap?

    Philosophical debate here.

    Last week at my local comic shop I was in ear shot of a couple of guys debating the lack of artistic comics these days and how the new stuff is just fluff pandering to the 20's something and their need for nostalgia and gotta have it mentality. About how artists, corporations, and even toys are just being pumped out to feed our need of association and belonging. Give us a recycled piece of our childhood back, hoping we bite on recycled items and buy they stuff our parents never bought for us, keeping that 80's ideal of materialism alive in us where we have to have it all. Keeping us in an ignorant bliss, of a sugar coated childlike non-rationalizing state.

    I think they moved onto the spiderman move and how comics are the new comercials, and marketing venue. A 50+ page color advertisement for a new toy line, movie, or childhood memories. Some one also threw in all these 80's sitcom reunions and "where are they now" shows and how well they do.

    I didn't give it much thought till I was in the toy isle friday night at Target, and started looking at the new toys. The so called new Transformers are the same old 80's figure with a new paint job and name. It seems some of them have switched sides also. Today I went to TRU just to look and He-Man is back in full swing, same old cruddy figures in a new package. GI Joe is back with all new sculpts, and reading this months Toy Fair, or Lee's...I can't remember...but rumor has it that the Thundercats are coming back too, and there's talk of the TMNT making a return since they started the comic back up. There's a new GI Joe comic, a new Transformers comic, and TMNT was leading the way with the new comics. Star Wars comics are all the rage with the new comics, heck throw in Tomb Raider comics, and I'm starting to wonder if we are blinding falling into this marketing ploy.

    How many years of, 5 year anniversary, 10 year anniversary, 25 year anniversary, will they pump this stuff out for? How many re-do's of He-Man, Prime, Cobra Commander, Vader's will be buy into to capture a bit of our childhood when some of these items have been drastically changed from what we originally had.

    I'm leaving this open to debate and courious as to what people think about this.

    Are we falling into a nostalgic trap of toys, and do you agree or disagree with the idea that they are mainly targeting us 20 somethings?

  2. #2

    Re: Are we falling into the nostalgia trap?

    Well, for the most part, it is a correct statement. "Corporate" thinking is based entirely on a profit motive...not on risk taking. It's far easier to look at precedent and repackage it than to take a chance on an entirely new concept and possibly fail. Now, the newly packaged rehash may fail just as badly as a brand new idea, but the Junior VP who ok's the nostaligic product to be rehashed can keep his job longer if he can point to a product's history of success. If it fails now, it certainly isn't his fault. It worked before, didn't it. The exact same mentality goes into the decisions of what movies get made and who will star in them. Taking a chance on an unknown quantity is bound to get a guy fired. We couldn't have that now, could we.

    Who knows exactly when this whole nostalgic marketing ploy began. THE BIG CHILL certainly played that card to it's fullest potential and not only got plenty of baby boomers into the theaters, but sold tons of records (round vinyl flat things with grooves ) as well. The reselling of toys is just a continuation of a "safe" way of doing business as corporations continue their rampant takeover of the world.


  3. #3
    Yeah, I'd say that there's some merit to the theory. I can't speak to the comics aspect of it (and yes, according to Toyfare the Thundercats are returning to comics although not toys - yet ).

    Stillakid, I like that idea on precedent and risk taking. Personally, I think it's a goldmine in many respects as many of the original fans (take He-Man and myself for example) were kids when it first came out. The idea might be that since I am now a wage earning adult, I might be inclined to spend on the things I loved as a kid but couldn't always get. To an extent, that's true as I still fund a limited Star Wars collection. And yes, there might be some failures too as people can't spend on everything they want.

    That's where I come back to the He-Man example - If I had the money, I'd buy a lot of them too, but even though I am not participating, plenty of other people are. Inevitably, something will probably come back out of nostalgia and flop commercial.

    Are there any examples already? The only items I can think of right now have all done fairly well . . .

  4. #4
    I agree and can't help it either. How many times have I or any of you been in a store and seen something like a He-Man toy and remember the cartoon and the toys that you used to play with. It does bring back memories of a time when life was simple and all you had to worry about was playing. I think in this world where there is so much hate and bad things going on,that a little distraction is a good thing. If it is nostalgia so be it. As long as it bring a smile on your face and some good old memories. I see nothing wrong with it.
    "I have a bad feeling about this".

    "Just when I remembered what it was,I forgot where I put it."

  5. #5
    I do see the trend; but I don't think it is unique to our generation. Remember all the 50s nostalgia in the 70s and 80s?

    I'm interested in some of it, SW for instance; but many of the rehashes fail to bring back that sense of excitement from getting a new toy. Thus, if I am waxing nostalgic I will usually try to stick to buying the original discontinued toys. GI Joe for instance, the new line fails miserably in capturing the feel of the ARAH line, thus I stick to collecting only the pre-1987 ARAH figures.

    Of course, nostalgia can have it's benefits. When GL tried to obtain the rights to Flash Gordon to update it for the 70s he failed, thus he simply began to write his own Flash Gordon space-opera called Star Wars. So while most nostalgic products are ill-conceived swill, the occasional nostalgic item will change the landscape of pop-culture forever and push towards the future while remembering the past.

    Besides, it's easier to sell the truly revolutionary ideas under the nostalgia banner. That's how GL got Fox to agree to finance Star Wars in 1973.
    "To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence… When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." - C.S. Lewis

  6. #6
    Each rising generation has their nostalgia period and corporate America answers to the call. I don't think generations ever get out of it though. The Baby Boomers are still hooked on their past but as their buying power changes so do the products. Look at all the Retro cars coming out now. Those generations relate to the cars of their past as their were their first taste of freedom.

    For those of us in our 20-30's we don't relate to the cars as much as well as we haven't reached our peak earning potential. We probably won't be getting our Retro Dodge K-Cars in 10-15 years since I won't be pining for those even if I had the money. We relate to the boom of TV/Movies and their related toys as well as those toys that were stand alones. The companies think this is a great market as it has great cross-over appeal. A movie can reach a much larger audience even for those who didn't read the comics or watch the cartoons. Toys are loved by the older collector as well as the youth of today even if they don't know that HeMan or Star Wars isn't new.

    There will be many years of movies and TV shows that are aimed at "our" generation. We've seen already and it's growing every month. How many people actually know who ALF is? Without any introduction this character from 10 years ago is selling stuff on TV. Boy, what demographic are they trying to reach with that?

    I for one, welcome the rebirth of these things. For once I have the money to spent on these items unlike my youth. I'll willingly part with my money to fill my apartment/house with novelties of my childhood/young adult life. Thank you to the executives who are preying on my interests and weaknesses. This is great!
    "No one helped me so why should I help you?" - College professor circa 1999

    By choosing not to decide you still have made a choice.

    I'm in love with the women of Univision.

  7. #7
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    So, is the Barbie doll bought today, bought out of "nostalgia"? Or Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh merchandise? And bringing up G.I.Joe is interesting since you refer to in the era of Transformers and He-man. Joe has been around a lot longer than that, so is the ten year old who buys a 12" Joe figure, buying it out of nostalgia? In a way the the "Real American Hero" figures of the 80's were a revival for the toyline. Transformers never really left, so its hard to say they are being rereleased for nostalgic purposes. The same thing is true for comics. There's been Spiderman comics every week for the last 40 years. I don't see how they could "bring it back" if it never left. And what about all the "nostalgic" toy lines they HAVEN'T brought back. Where's the Get-Along Gang reissues? or the Simon &Simon feature film? They only bring stuff back if they think it still has legs and they can wring it for a few more bucks. Nostalgia plays into it, but they are counting on NEW consumers to be just as excited. They wouldn't rerelease something based solely on it's nostalgic appeal. Look at the new Scooby-Doo movie. it's aimed at kids, not the original fans. If they had catered it to the now adult fan base they would have left in all those pot jokes and Velma's a lesbian jokes that got cut. So corporatoins will dig through the closet from time to time and pull out an old idea, dust it off, and spiff it up for us, but it was probably a good idea to begin with or they wouldn't bother.
    Who's a sexy kitty? Who is? Yes, you are. You're a SEXY kitty...

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  8. #8
    I think that some of those toy lines are seeing a return due to nostalgia. Transformers never left but the rumored return of the G1 line is purely for the nostalgic collector as well as the release of the cartoon on DVD. Robotech is slowing building a return with the release of the Masterpiece Edition Valkyries as well as the entire triology being released on DVD. Yes, GI Joe was revived by the figures of the 80's but now we're seeing the release of those same figures today. Sure, some kid might be interested in the line a pick up a couple figures and vehicles but I say it's geared towards those of the 80's. The kids of today have no reference with these re-released 80's toys. They've probably never seen a GI Joe cartoon or know who the characters are. HeMan is back in original packaging and touted as a collectors line. A lot of these toy lines have no support now in terms of their own TV show/Cartoon or even commercials. Toy companies understand the power of nostalgia and that they don't require new young fans to buy into it.

    Yeah, the superhero movies aren't much for nostalgia as you said. They're a 50 year old industry that has never left but has recently found a new media in film. On TV we've seen Dukes of Hazzard reunions, the Cheers cast continues to reappear, Gary Coleman, ALF, Knight Rider came back in a new form a few years ago and will be returning soon again. I'm sure that there are plenty of other shows/toy lines that won't return like the others have. All I can say is the stuff that is reappearing is great! The marketing department has found an easy mark in me.
    "No one helped me so why should I help you?" - College professor circa 1999

    By choosing not to decide you still have made a choice.

    I'm in love with the women of Univision.

  9. #9
    Originally posted by Exhaust Port


    Yeah, the superhero movies aren't much for nostalgia as you said. They're a 50 year old industry that has never left but has recently found a new media in film. On TV we've seen Dukes of Hazzard reunions, the Cheers cast continues to reappear, Gary Coleman, ALF, Knight Rider came back in a new form a few years ago and will be returning soon again. I'm sure that there are plenty of other shows/toy lines that won't return like the others have. All I can say is the stuff that is reappearing is great! The marketing department has found an easy mark in me.

    Great! But what happens when they run out of "nostaligia" to recycle for spontaneous superficial pleasure? How soon until we see a FRIENDS reunion special? Yeah, I know, it's still on the air. But Tom Hanks is getting (got, actually) a LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD!!! Interesting, huh? I didn't realize that he was going to die soon or had decided to retire. What, there aren't enough older folks who don't deserve an award like this? The fact of the matter is that older "faces" don't fill seats and generate profits the way a contemporary one does. How many modern consumers will sit down to watch a Lifetime achievement award ceremony for Imogene Coco over Tom Hanks?

    Just like a speeding jet eventually catches up to the sound barrier, it looks as if the entertainment machine is burning through tried and tested concepts so quickly that it has to use more and more recent material to resell. Creating new and more interesting ideas involves significant risk on new talent and money....a gamble that the conglomerates aren't interested in doing so much anymore.

  10. #10
    I believe the whole 80s nostalgia kick began around '95 (around the release of POTF2) for the toylines. Transformers started to get a second wind. G.I. Joe, which had never really went away completely, also started to swell in popularity. But it has been the last couple of years (since around '99) that things have really skyrocketed. With the release of the SE trilogy and the PT fueling the SW toy sales and nostalgia, the release of G1 reissues by Takara (which have been gobbled up by American collectors), releaseof the MOTU figures, etc., we have seen a major return to the 80s-brand toys that really defined that decade's genre. The rest of the pop culture throwbacks have REALLY picked up steam over the last couple of years. The aforementioned TV reunions, movie franchises, and revival of 80s music have all joined the fray. I say Bravo...but I am biased, as I am a rabid 80s nut (http://80salive.com).

    But what was mentioned is true; Corporate America likes to play it safe, and if they think they have struck on an idea that is popular, they will ride it into the ground. Little, by little, it became apparent that the generation who grew up in the 80s ("children of the 80s") was a viable market that dug all of the retro pop-culture. What we are seeing now is a result of that "revelation". And, if history is any indicator, they will ride it as far as it will take them.

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