One of my best childhood memories involved three correlating things: the Service Merchandise catalog, Star Wars toys, and my Christmas wish list.
Each December during the 1980s, I would study the catalog and make my Christmas list. The Luke Skywalker action figure, the X-wing and TIE fighters, the R2-D2 remote control, and the coveted (and expensive) AT-AT Walker – they all made it.
My generous parents bought me most things on that list, although I never did get the AT-AT. But that’s OK. It likely taught me a few valuable lessons about life, and I had a blast playing with the other toys, anyway.
Childhood toys elicit emotions and memories that few things can. They’re also often one of the possessions that we simply refuse to throw away.
Netflix knows this, and it’s taken advantage of it with a fun original series, The Toys That Made Us. Season 1 covered Star Wars, Barbie, He-Man and G.I. Joe toys, while Season 2 – which recently debuted on Netflix – examines Star Trek, Transformers, LEGO and Hello Kitty toys.
Each episode spans about 43 minutes and examines the little-known history of the toys of our youth: Such as how Kenner – a little-known toy manufacturer of the 1970s – landed the Star Wars contract. Or how LEGO nearly went bankrupt before it became the huge corporation of today. Or how Barbie’s creator drew inspiration from a German toy.
It’s not a dry documentary, though. It’s a fast-faced and sometimes quirky “trip back in time” that will leave you wanting more. But, please, don’t start collecting toys again. The Bible (Matthew 6:19-21) has something to say about that. Besides, you’re an adult.
Each episode is rated TV-14, and there is only occasional language.
Disney’s Bolt (July 22, PG) — A pampered Hollywood dog enters the real world and discovers that he doesn’t have the super powers he had on the big screen. Animated. Rated PG for some mild action and peril.
Jurassic Park trilogy (July 1, PG-13) — Long before the Jurassic World trilogy got its start, moviegoers flocked to theaters to watch the original trilogy: Jurassic Park (1993), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), and Jurassic Park III (2001). Be honest: You enjoy watching dinosaurs chase people through the forest (provided the people get away, of course). All three films are rated PG-13 for sci-fi terror and language.
The Who Was? Show (TV-Y7) — It’s always fun when parents can learn something from a kid’s show. That’s certainly true with The Who Was? Show, a live-action series that offers an irreverent look at historical figures. It’s rated TV-Y7, although I noted a few moments that some parents would find inappropriate.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (July 1, PG-13) – A robotic “boy” becomes the first robot programmed to love and to live within a family. But is he a boy or a robot? Directed by Steven Spielberg. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content, minor language and violent images.
Alpha and Omega film series (July 1 and 8, various ratings) – My children enjoyed the 2010 animated movie Alpha and Omega, but did you know there also was a series of sequel-type straight-to-DVD films? Four Alpha and Omega films come to Hulu July 1: Alpha and Omega (2010), Alpha and Omega: The Great World Games (2014), Alpha and Omega: Dino Dogs (2016) and Alpha and Omega: The Big Fuhreeze (2016). Another one comes to Hulu July 8: Alpha and Omega: Journey to Bear Kingdom (2017). I haven’t watch all of them, but they’re worth a shot on a rainy day. Alpha and Omega was rated PG; the others are unrated.
Victoria and Abdul (July 28, PG-13) – Set in the later years of Queen Victoria’s life, this film is based on a true story and tells about the unlikely friendship between the queen and a prison clerk, Abdul Karim. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language.
Michael Foust is the husband of an amazing wife named Julie and the father of four small children. He has covered the intersection of faith and entertainment for more than a decade.