Why Were Action Figures So Much Better in the 80s and 90s Than They Are Now?
I can remember watching Saturday morning cartoons with my brother and sister, and it seemed like every single commercial was advertising a new action figure. For kids in the 80s and 90s, action figures were the best toys on the market. There were so many heroes and villains to choose from, and the thrill of collecting an entire set of action figures couldn’t be beat.
Some of the most popular action figures among my friends and I were G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and Dragon Ball Z. The Thundercats and X-Men figures were also very popular. Is it just me, or does something seem different about action figures now? I’m fairly certain that children still play with action figures, but they don’t seem to have the same level of captivation that gripped my generation. Here’s a look at why action figures were so much better in the 80’s and 90’s than they are today:
Action Figures First — TV Shows Second
I always thought that action figures were made to coincide with other popular forms of media, like TV shows and movies. Recently, I was surprised to learn that some of my favorite TV shows growing up were actually action figures first. Mighty Max, Street Sharks, Care Bears, and He-Man were all designed as toys first. The creators spent time and energy carefully planning and designing their action figures to create a great product. Because of this, they found so much success with their action figures that they spun-off TV shows to keep their fans engaged. The same level of thought doesn’t go into action figures nowadays. Action figures are made after-the-fact, and they are just sold to make a quick profit and boost a show’s ratings.
Alternative Sources of Entertainment
Demand for physical toys has been steadily declining since the creation of video games and other forms of digital entertainment. Electronic toys are also very popular with today’s youth, and I can’t say that I blame them. These forms of entertainment are getting hyper-realistic, and it’s easy to become engrossed in a video game that makes you feel like you’re actually exploring outer space. These diversions can be really fun, but I don’t think kids use their imaginations in quite the same ways with them that they would with a good action figure.
The popularity of action figures in the 80’s and 90’s has created a huge marketplace for these toys, and that enables some people to feel more like investors than collectors. As kids, our parents wouldn’t spend much money on forms of entertainment, but the Internet age has changed our daily habits. Everyone has a game console, Netflix, and access to an infinite supply of web content. Although the action figures of my childhood seemed expensive, they do not compare with the price gouging of today’s market. Toys that would cost in the neighborhood of $10-15 when we were kids are now $20 or more, and that’s not simply because of inflation. As cheap as plastic and paint are, fans should be seeing a small drop in price, not a 30% increase.
I’m convinced that the golden era of action figures is behind us. Thankfully, I was there to have lived it, and I still have my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys around here somewhere….