Welcome to spring, worst of the seasons. May it charm you by being full of pollen and hot enough for bugs.
But the season isn’t all bad. If nothing else, it gave me an excuse to scan several pages from this 1995 Toys “R” Us Spring Catalog, which was so generously donated by my pal, Chris.
Below are my seven favorite items from the catalog, running the gamut from choking monsters to trucks with snakes in them. Yes, 1995 was pretty out there. Remember the end of Batman Forever?
Jibba Jabber & Ms. Jibba Jabber!
Jibba Jabber dolls made silly noises when you shook them. The strange creatures were popular, but some folks took issue with toys that appeared to advocate choking. (Indeed, some of the sounds Jibba Jabber made could only be construed as “playful strangulation.”)
In fact, customer complaints led Ertl to include a pamphlet with each doll about Shaken Baby Syndrome, which stated nobody should treat a real person the way they treated Jibba Jabber.
I think if you’re at a point where you need to package essays about Shaken Baby Syndrome with your toys, maybe it’s time to just ditch the toys. Instead, Ertl made an additional set of Jibba Jabbers dressed like hippies and space aliens. I guess that works too.
TMNT Mini Mutants Transports & Playsets
($4.99 – $9.99 each)
I never owned these as a kid, I guess because I was only barely a kid when they debuted. Still, I’ve long been fascinated with the TMNT Mini Mutants collection, which was in the vein of Mighty Max yet somehow more reminiscent of Micro Machines.
This photo used cheap parlor tricks to suggest immodest sizes, but make no mistake, these were little toys. The best of them was the Party Wagon Playset, which was practically a scale replica of the old Sewer Playset.
Mini Mutants toys now sell for aggravating prices, but if you want a lime green compact that hides a Ninja Turtle-themed football field, you really have no other options.
Doctor Dreadful Drink Lab & Food Lab!
I never had any Doctor Dreadful kits myself, but I believe they were the eat-what-you-make versions of Creepy Crawlers. Toys like this were more fun on paper than in practice, owing to their 50-step processes and every kid’s inherent compulsion to half-ass each of them.
Nevertheless, I’ve spent over two decades wondering if spooning a bootleg Slurpee out of a plastic skull could really be as fun as it looks. I mean, there’s no way it isn’t, but I tell myself there’s a chance because it dulls the pain of regret.
Street Sharks Hand Sharks!
In addition to the more famous action figures, Street Sharks also had these screwy Hand Sharks. You might remember them from that video of Vin Diesel earning an honest living at the 1994 Toy Fair expo.
I love how that little girl put so much into making the same face as her Hand Shark. I also love how the length and curvature of her arm was clearly fudged, unless I’m to really believe that her arm expanded like one of those black snakes you light on the 4th of July.
Tyco Jet Turbo Python!
I covered the TV commercial for Tyco’s Python back in 2015, so let me regurgitate old thoughts like a snake with a too-big rat:
A radio-controlled truck with a pop-up water-spitting snake is one hyphen too many for Old Matt, but had I been a little kid when the Python debuted, I would not have shut up until I owned four of them.
The idea was that you could make the snake blast unsuspecting victims with water, but I don’t think that was the right gag for a radio-controlled car. If anything, I’m gonna use it to shoot water at my friends’ cars, and then those cars would probably malfunction, and then my friends would break all four of my Tyco Pythons. Then Earth explodes.
Regardless, it was a giant cobra popping out of a truck, and that’s exactly the type of Elm Street shit that a person like me should always celebrate. A+ on the Tyco Python — remember it the next time it’s 1995.
Super Nintendo Games!
($37.99 – $72.99 each)
73 bucks for WWF Raw?! What the hell went on in that game? Could you win money?
Of all the SNES carts shown here, it’s Mortal Kombat II that grabs me most. I will forever associate the first Mortal Kombat with its arcade cabinet, but in my world, Mortal Kombat II and the Super Nintendo are still happily married.
The SNES version came out in ‘93, and I have such fond memories of playing it late at night on our downstairs TV, surrounded by darkness. Mortal Kombat II seemed more supernaturally spooky than its predecessor, and if you created the right ambiance, playing it was like creating a horror movie.
I used to fall asleep with the intro screen still on, and then spend the whole night having nightmares about evil boars. (There were no evil boars in Mortal Kombat II, but the intro music was undeniably evil boarsy.)
Super Soaker XP150!
My last Super Soaker was the Super Soaker 100. This one looks a lot like it, albeit with cooler colors and an additional water tank. Notice how casual the little boy is about this, as if Super Soaker battles weren’t completely serious and generally life-threatening.
In my day, it felt like we were all striving to hurt each other. We’d aim for eyes and open mouths, and if our targets turned sideways, hello eardrums. The literal only time I can remember using a Super Soaker for something other than killing my friends was when I tried to spell “EAT LEAD TRACY” out of water on the schoolyard wall.
Thank you for reading about some of 1995’s best toys, and thanks again to Chris for donating the catalog!