Tucked into the December ‘85 issue of Family Circle was a pleasant surprise:
Behold, Toys “R” Us’s 1985 Christmas Dream Book!
Back in the ‘80s, TRU didn’t produce giant catalogs, instead relying on limited-page circulars that either came with your Sunday newspaper or got stapled into certain magazines.
This one was 12 pages and mostly aimed at parents, as I doubt that very many kids were ardent readers of Family Circle. Beyond showcasing that year’s hottest toys, the Dream Book also pushed TRU’s special holiday hours. “Open ‘til midnight!” The idea of being able to buy action figures at 11:30 just blew my mind as a kid.
Below are five highlights from TRU’s 1985 Christmas Dream Book. May they spark as many memories for you as they did for me.
Thruster from Gobots! ($23.87)
The more I reflect on Tonka’s Gobots collection, the more I appreciate it. One advantage Gobots had over Transformers was that since the scale of its core figures hovered in that four-inch zone, you could seamlessly work them into multiversal adventures with your G.I. Joe and Star Wars toys.
Tl;dr: If Luke Skywalker and Destro wanted to have coffee with a transforming robot, they’d probably invite Leader-1, not Optimus.
Plus, that line had some great playsets. I’ve already written about the GoBots Command Center, which was like an AT-AT mixed with a four-star hotel. That was my favorite, but Thruster was a close second.
Transforming from a giant spaceship into a giant robot, Thruster had ample space for regular Gobots figures, plus a fetching neon head that looked as if someone took a Sharpie highlighter to Boba Fett’s helmet. So great!
WWF Superstars Wrestling Ring! ($15.97)
As I’ve mentioned in past articles, I come from a Christmas Eve family. It’s an Italian thing. Since Christmas Day meant very little at home, my tradition was to spend it at my best friend’s house. He lived right across the street, and his family was all about December 25th.
I usually went over in the morning, right after he and his older brother opened their presents. Back in ‘85, I walked into their den to find them obsessing over LJN’s WWF Sling ‘Em Fling ‘Em Wrestling Ring. Simple as it was, I still consider it the best toy wrestling ring ever produced.
Because LJN’s WWF figures were so big and heavy, the Sling ‘Em Fling ‘Em Wrestling Ring was huge and sturdy by necessity. It wasn’t indestructible, but you had to be extremely aggressive to make a dent in that thing. Frankly, the toy was more likely to break you than the other way around.
I watched them marvel over that ring for less than a minute before jetting home to grab my pile of WWF figures. We then spent a solid hour bashing them together, bruising our hands and egos as we attempted to win imaginary titles.
It was one of the best Christmas mornings of my childhood. I didn’t win many matches, but I did learn that multicolored tree garland doubled nicely as a robe for my eight-inch Macho Man.
Voltron Figures! ($2.97)
Oh, the brothers I just mentioned — the ones I spent Christmas ‘85 wrestling with? They’re part of this pick, too.
One afternoon, the three of us were stomping around my backyard. Literally, I mean. I can’t remember what game we were playing, but it involved stomping over sticks and weeds. Maybe we were pretending to be a family of Godzillas, I don’t know.
After a few minutes, one of us stepped into a nest of yellowjackets. We were frozen in place by their constant stings, screaming our heads off. Eventually, our mothers realized that these weren’t ordinary “playtime screams,” and rescued us.
I’d estimate that each of us were stung 5-7 times. Because action figures soothed kids a lot quicker than bacitracin, my mother watched us while their mother zipped to Toys “R” Us for three plastic bribes. “Stop crying, and you’ll get a present.”
She ended up buying us Voltron figures. Most people only remember Voltron for the titular robot, but the regular action figures — particularly the villains — were pretty amazing, too.
I got Robeast Mutilor, one of my all-time favorite figures, who kinda resembled Zurg from Toy Story. My friend’s older brother got Robeast Scorpius, a classic blue monster who somehow looked more like Mer-Man than Mer-Man himself.
And my best friend? He got Haggar the Witch. That’s her on the lower-left. After comparing his silly little witch to the figures me and his brother got, he burst back into tears. Actually, he cried even harder about that than the yellowjackets!
ThunderCats Figures! ($4.97)
Eh, what the hell? Here’s another story starring my childhood best friend. (Yes, the same one who got killed by yellowjackets and then killed again by the witch from Voltron.)
We both spent a year as part of the Cub Scouts. Of course, in our neighborhood, we were Cub Scouts in name only. The weekly sessions were run by a rotating team of mothers, and we hardly did anything that Cub Scouts were supposed to do. (I mean, there’s a reason why I still can’t tie knots.)
Anyway, in ‘85 or ‘86, our little crew had a Christmas party, staged from a side room in a small church. Everyone was supposed to bring a wrapped gift, which would then be given out grab bag-style.
He and I took the responsibility seriously. We insisted that our mothers bring us to Toys “R” Us beforehand, where we selected two ThunderCats figures for the gift pile. He picked Lion-O (shown above) and I chose Mumm-Ra. Naturally, we assumed that all of the other gifts would be at least that good.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Seems like we were the only Scouts who put any thought into our gifts. The rest of the presents were ridiculously bad — like the sorts of toys you might’ve found on a dusty shelf at a discount pharmacy.
He got a three-pack of handballs. I got a tiny remote control tank that would’ve been an obvious regift even if the wires weren’t completely frayed. We shot each other disgusted looks as other kids ran off with our ThunderCats.
My Buddy Doll! ($24.97)
It’s wild to think about, but the Child’s Play franchise would look dramatically different if My Buddy never existed. There have been conflicting stories, but c’mon, Chucky was obviously inspired by those dolls, which peaked in popularity right around the time Child’s Play started production.
Chucky has eight movies under his belt, plus a new TV series. There are people who are only now becoming Chucky fans, and many of them have never even heard of a My Buddy doll. Dunno if I should feel blessed by knowledge or just really old.
I didn’t have My Buddy as a child, but I knew several kids who did, and they absolutely treated that thing like a living, breathing friend. I saw the merits for sure, but I already had Coleco’s ALF doll, and it was tough to imagine some plastic-faced boy being more fun to talk to than ALF.
Thanks for reading! This won’t be the only vintage toy catalog I tackle this season, but if you’re thirsty for more, here are some from the past: