Exploring the two reasons behind the Toy Big Bang...
As I remember it – hazily, since this was more than 20 years ago – my toddler son and I needed one last “zot” to finish our project. The result was a swooping, colorful structure that might, in the forge of my son’s imagination, serve as anything from a rollercoaster to a warship to a dinosaur from Lost Atlantis.
By Andrew Ferguson
cosmic expansion wasn’t merely a vast increase in toys on sale to badgered parents. More perniciously, it also involved an unprecedented exfoliation of parts within the toys themselves.
But wait: What, you might ask, the hell is a zot? If you don’t know, I can only stand back and envy the sheltered, unadventurous life you’ve lived. A zot was a close relative of a “toober.” These soft and pliable foam pieces made up the toy called, rather literal- mindedly, Toobers & Zots. I used to think of them as the Mr. and Mrs. Jack Sprat of the toy world: the long, lean toober and the smaller, flatter, circular zot. Toobers were measured in feet, while zots came in several sizes, but most ranged from a half-dollar diameter down to that of a pencil rollercoaster-warship-dinosaur, the zot that we needed eluded us. We were surrounded on the floor with seemingly thousands of zots... but not the necessary, the indispensable, the Platonic zot that would complete our dream. I had seen it moments ago, and then it was gone. There’s a poignant end to this story, which I’ll get to in a moment. But first a historical note: Roughly around the time of my son’s toddlerhood, America experienced the Toy Big Bang , a singularity in the history of consumerism and consumption in our beloved, bloated country. The eraser. Easy to miss, in other words. And sure enough, as we finished the
The cosmic expansion wasn’t merely a vast increase in toys on sale to badgered parents. More perniciously, it also involved an unprecedented exfoliation of parts within the toys themselves.
Toobers & Zots, which had come on the market only months before we confronted the case of the missing zot, was an excellent example. It was sold as a single toy, but in fact consisted of dozens and dozens of individual pieces. And the collateral damage of the Big Bang touched practically every toy line. For instance: Toys tied to the Star Wars franchise in the late ‘70s, which clogged the bedrooms of my two nephews, were usually single pieces of injection-molded plastic, like a big bulky Millennium Falcon or an (actually pretty cool) Death Star. But by the 1990s, when my
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American Consequences | 49
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