Friday, October 05, 2007

Bantha Fodder: Er Dewback Fodder?

I'm often astonished when I look back at the toys from my youth and then at the toys of today's youth. For instance, when I was a kid, the superhero Aquaman (from The Super Friends!) was a stable, short-haired all-American (and rather Aryan...) looking-fellow; a blond version of Superman (down to the hair curl). Now, he's a one-eyed, hook-handed, mangy guy with a mane of long lion-like hair.

Exhibit B: Look at the 1977 Star Wars Bantha (from Kenner) versus the 1997 Bantha from Kenner. The 1977 Bantha (above) looks like a relatively placid and happy dinosaur, whereas the more recent Bantha (below) is snarling and appears downright mean!

What's the change? Well, I don't specifically think our culture is actually meaner now (though someone may want to debate me on that...), but I do believe sincerely that childhood is shorter than it was thirty years ago. We ask our kids to grow up a lot faster, I believe now, then we did then. Just go to a department store and check out the girl's clothing section and you'll see what I mean: she's asked to be a "hottie" by age five, which is not just ridiculous, but downright creepy. I have a little boy (Joel) about to turn one year old next Tuesday, and I want him to enjoy his childhood as long as possible without being affected by negative or adult images from the culture.

And like our ever-evolving American cinema - toys have become grittier and more realistic in the last three decades. We demand accuracy for our toys today, and of course, the design of the Bantha changed after the 1997 Star Wars special edition and the advent of CGI. Also, let's face it, anything with the name Star Wars on it now has two prospective buyers: a six-year old kid and the thirty-six year old (like me!). So a balance has to be struck between the kid market and the collector's market.

I'd rather Joel play with the 1970s Bantha when he's really little, and then work up to the more angry one when he's ten or so.

Blogger's Note: My friend Chris Johnson just pointed out to me that the creature (and toy) in question is a Dewback and not a Bantha. He has revoked my geek credentials!!!! Great, now I'm on probation...


  1. astrid9:25 AM

    Do you think that you, meaning the collector generation, have influenced the design of modern toys by the very fact that you are half the market? Or do you think little kids tastes actually run to the gritty and realistic?

    Having spent some time with an 8-year-old I can confirm that kids still have very active imaginations - the other day she played happily at my kitchen counter with some leftover washers and plastic parts from the new shower head we installed. (Apparently, to her, a rubber washer looked like a woodchuck. Who knew?)

    I think since companies know that the parents are the ones with the cash, they make sure you're going to want the toy as much as your kids do.

  2. joey_bishop_jr.9:35 AM

    Also, I think we're still seeing the after effects of about 3-5 years ago when the rush was to make everything as EXTREME!!! as it could be- even Doritos.

  3. Anonymous10:37 AM

    Ok, it's not a Bantha dude, it's a Dewback. Bantha's are the things with horns that the Sandpeople ride. This is a Dewback, seen only briefly in the original version of A New Hope being ridden by Stormtroopers.

    In fact, so little of the Dewback was seen originally that Kenner had to invent what the feet and tail looked like. It also had that blank expression because it was a big prop. The second looks like it does because that is how they look in the Special Edition.