If you’re smart, you’ll watch Jingle All the Way at least once before Christmas. Arnold Schwarzenegger battling Sinbad for 1996’s hottest toy, all so he could make little Anakin Skywalker think he was a good dad? Uh, YES. The ludicrous but lovable film was stupid in all the best ways.
There’s another reason to see it, though.
If you’ll recall, Arnold (sorry, I can only call him Arnold) spent most of the movie hunting a Turbo Man action figure. (A fictitious creation for the film, even if it ultimately became a real thing.)
But since every kid wanted a Turbo Man, obtaining one was nearly impossible. Arnold found this out the hard way, during his infamous trip to Play Co. Toys — the movie’s stand-in for Toys “R” Us.
When toy stores appear in movies, the production team is usually careful to avoid showing too many “real world” items. In Jingle All the Way, all bets were off. Play Co. Toys was LOADED with real world stuff. It was just like being at a TRU in the mid ‘90s.
Some of the items were immediately recognizable. With others, you’d never know what you were looking at without a frame-by-frame investigation. Which is exactly what I did!
In the latest Dino Drac dissection, I’ve picked out twenty-nine different real world toys hiding in Jingle All the Way. This took what felt like a year but was actually only a day and a half. Here’s the breakdown, and a big thanks to RKOLemonJack for telling me to give this movie a closer look!
NOTE: The title of each item below links to more information about it, including others’ reviews or even the original TV commercials. Click ’em if you’re interested!
#1: Tyco Smithsonian Dinosaur Figures!
These simple dinosaurs were actually the same figures that came with the bizarre Dino Riders sets, but without the futuristic weaponry or little alien dudes.
#2: Magic Rocks!
Kits that let you grow neon crystals in just a few minutes, Magic Rocks are still sold today. I can’t speak to their effectiveness, as even though I owned several sets, I never bothered to open the packages. To a ten-year-old, I guess “minutes” still sounded too daunting.
I went shopping for a Lite-Brite several months ago, and was shocked to find absolutely none of them anywhere. Even Amazon doesn’t have ‘em. Are they out of production? I found all sorts of things carrying the Lite-Brite name, but none of the originals. Is it an eBay-only situation, now? I need answers.
#4: Stretch Armstrong!
You’d never catch it while watching the movie in real-time, but yep, he’s there. From Stretch Armstrong’s short-lived ‘90s revival, it’s the titular hero himself: A blonde surfer dude with rubber limbs that could be stretched to obscene lengths.
…and since every limb-stretching superhero needs a limb-stretching villain to beat up, get a load of that long row of Vac-Mans! Vac-Man was roughly 400 times cooler than Stretch, combining elasticity with vacuum-formed poseability! God knows if that makes sense, so I’ll put it in layman’s terms: He was a big red monster wearing Lobot’s headgear. Clearly better than Stretch Armstrong.
#6: Battle Dome!
Little-known but still very impressive, Battle Dome was a Crossfire-esque four-player game that looked like an action figure scale Lazer Tag arena. The objective was to shoot marbles into your opponents’ goals, but the real thrill was in watching those marbles enter the fray by way of several chutes stationed over the battlefield.
#7: Domino Rally!
Domino Rally sets are fantastic… if you have the patience and a gentle hand. Most kids have neither, and trying to set up a giant pile of miniature dominoes without prematurely knocking all of them over has unquestionably blackened the souls of thousands.
This was one of my favorite games, owing much to its unforgettable TV commercial, where kids battled it out in a futuristic dystopia while Almost Sammy Hagar sung the game’s praises. Crossfire was basically Pinball Meets Soccer, and I’m still shocked that something so easy, perfect and cool fell out of production.
#9: Power Spark Plastic Welding Set!
Power Spark kits let kids weld their own toy trucks, with plenty of room for personal touches. Nearly no one is going to remember these. If you do, it’s probably for the “Batmobile” set, which had to be the line’s biggest hit.
#10: Marvel Comics Action Figures!
There were Marvel Comics action figures all over that toy store, which makes sense, because Marvel Comics action figures were all over EVERY toy store in the mid ‘90s. I can’t think of KB Toys without remembering the fourteen clearance bins full of X-Men figures that always seemed to be there.
Various video game systems are barely visible during the scene where Arnold flips out on the annoying toy store dudes, but with a little help from Cipater, I think I’ve figured it out:
#11: Sega Saturn!
For a few months, I got really into gaming, or more specifically, collecting games and systems. The Sega Saturn reminds me of that hobby. I brought a bunch of still-packaged figures to Toys “R” Us, hoping to exchange them for store credit. Many of the figures were years old and almost none of them were purchased at TRU, but I still got my Geoffrey money. I promptly blew it on the last Sega Saturn they had, long after the system was still popular. I think I used it four times, but I sure loved having it bookend my glorious Row of Systems.
#12: Super Nintendo!
By contrast, I played the Super Nintendo constantly, for years. If I could find the plug, I’d be playing it right now. Even to this day, I must have clocked more hours on Super Mario World than any other game. (Long after I’d beaten Bowser, I still loved playing it with a boost from my Game Genie. I believe the effects turned me into an Always-Invincible, Always-Blue-Yoshi’d Mega Mario. I’d pretend I was some assassin sent to absolutely destroy everything in my path. So much fun.)
#13: Sony Playstation!
The original Playstation was another system that I had but rarely played. (A yard sale find long after its glory years, if memory serves.) Honestly, my biggest use for the Playstation was firing up Resident Evil and just letting it sit there, “on” but unused. It added such a nice, creepy ambiance to my bedroom doings.
Nice to see a bunch of Slinkies lazing about. These were the plastic neon versions that were so often used as bracelets.
#15: Micro Machines!
There were TONS of Micro Machines in that toy store. By the mid ‘90s, I think the line had moved onto “themed sets” pretty exclusively. I much preferred the originals, where you’d get a bunch of “normal” cars with no linking traits. (Probably because that dramatically increased the chances of landing the adorable red Corvette.)
#16: Star Wars Micro Machines!
I’m not 100% sure that these are Star Wars Micro Machines, but the timing was right, and when I squint, I can sort of see the Star Wars logo. If I’m remembering things correctly, Star Wars Micro Machines predated the resurgent action figure line. For a while, if you were a kid who never forgot the Star Wars glory years, these sets were the best way to get your jollies.
#17: Mysterious Cheap Action Figures!
I can’t figure out who these guys are, but judging by the packaging and the thin-looking molds, I assume that they were part of some “generic” line. Something like “Warriors of Golden Mountain,” or maybe “Robot Defenders of Good.” I’ll be disappointed if they were actually well-known big-brand figures. If you’re able to identify these, only share your answer if it suits my desires.
UPDATE: Reader Kevin H. has identified these figures as Ninja Warriors, which were indeed of the “generic” sort!
#18: I DON’T KNOW AND I REALLY WANT TO.
Somebody, help! I know I recognize that game, but Google isn’t helping. It looks like it says “Pranksters,” but I can’t be sure. If the placement of the “18” confuses you, I’m talking about the light blue box just above it. The only reason I’m writing this giant article is so someone will tell me what that game is.
UPDATE: Several readers have confirmed that #18 is indeed Pranksters, a box of assorted pranks and gags.
#19: Star Wars Death Star Assault Game!
If I’m looking at the right photos, it came with a miniature Tantive IV, plus a bunch of character standees. Seems like the kind of game you could’ve used as a “toy” with a little imagination. I dig it!
#20: Thin Ice!
In Thin Ice, players take turns adding little marbles to a flimsy sheet of ice… which of course is actually a tissue. Your goal is to avoid being the asshole who breaks the ice, which is interesting, because breaking the ice is by far the best part of the game. I guess that works in an “everybody wins” sense?
#21: Casio Keyboard!
Everyone had one, right? I mean, even if it wasn’t specifically yours, didn’t every house have a Casio keyboard? I’d hate to imagine that there’s even one person who never added a couple of banged keys to one of the preset songs, and acted like they knew what the hell they were doing.
#22: Mr. Mouth!
Still available today, Mr. Mouth lets up to four players catapult plastic flies into a chomping, motorized frog head. God. Even when I describe it in the most mundane way possible, it still sounds fantastic.
#23: Mr. Bucket!
The commercial for this one is more famous than the game itself. Thirty-seconds of Mr. Bucket singing about himself, all while spitting chunks of plastic at frantic children. Legendary!
#24: X-Men Figures!
Yet more X-Men figures, of various types. I’ve long had a sore spot for these guys, but looking back at ‘em now, I can see that there were plenty of great ones. Even in this one screenshot, I think I spot a sliver of the awesome Mojo figure. Now I have a new thing to track down.
#25: Hercules Figures!
If the thought of a Kevin Sorbo action figure doesn’t rock your world, the Hercules line still included some fantastic monster figures. I rarely watched the show, so whenever one came into my possession, I was free to create my own origin story. (Echidna, a tentacled, squid-like creature, was the bartender in my version of the Star Wars cantina, which operated out of the last remaining pieces of my TMNT sewer playset.)
#26: Ghost Rider Figures!
While in the same scale and style as the rest of the Marvel figures, I always held the Ghost Rider branch in higher esteem. I guess it was the cool logo? Or maybe the memory of that one Ghost Rider comic with the glow-in-the-dark cover? I loved how it felt like sandpaper!
#27: Spawn Figures!
I don’t know why I’ve never written about the Spawn line before. I LOVED those toys. The figures varied wildly in sizes and styles, pushing the boundaries of what we thought action figures could be. They don’t seem too groundbreaking in 2013, but compare them to the rest of the figures covered here. In its time, the Spawn collection really stood out.
Sadly obscured by fade transitions, we at least got a solid enough look for me to say with all confidence that those are ZBOTS! While existing under the Micro Machines umbrella, ZBots were more similar to Battle Beasts — albeit with brightly-colored alien robots replacing the lions and tigers. Awesome little figures.
I spotted this in one of the other toy stores Arnold visited during the film, but I still had to include it. I’ve never forgotten that hilarious box, with its obnoxiously huge “IT’S A MOUSE” text. I understand their need to identify the device’s purpose, but something about “IT’S A MOUSE” in Font Size 600 just seems… off. Off in a way worth celebrating.
And that about does it! 29 real world toys and games, hiding in Jingle All the Way. Course, now that I’m inspecting the screenshots again, it’s clear that I could’ve named another 29 toys and games. If you have the time and a magnifying glass, feel free to add your finds in the comments.
Since this article already involved a frame-by-frame study of the film, I figured I’d toss this in, too. Very late in the movie, Arnold literally becomes Turbo Man after a series of mishaps at the 12th annual Twin Cities “Wintertainment” holiday parade. If you’ve seen the movie, you already knew this.
…but if you weren’t paying close attention, you probably missed a ton of recognizable characters marching down the chilly streets. Sonic the Hedgehog, Leonardo, Gumby and more! I’ve plucked out my favorites — see how many others you can spot!
Okay, now I’m done. This took forever to build.
PS: I wrote this whole thing with a head cold, so if anything was incorrect or if the whole thing just generally fell flat, BLAME THAT.