The Geek Beat: Remembering Movie-Related Toys of Christmas Past

The Geek Beat: Remembering Movie-Related Toys of Christmas Past

Dec 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

We hope you're enjoying all your new presents this year, and that Santa remembered to fill your stocking full of geeky gifts. With all the shopping I've been doing for my own child, I can't help thinking about some of the toys that found their way under my family's tree back when it was socially acceptable for me to wear footy pajamas.

Sure, there were lots of toys based on cartoons and television series in my Christmas haul, but along with all of the G.I. Joe and Transformers stuff, there were some pretty memorable movie-related gifts that left an indelible mark on my memories of holidays past. So, in the grand tradition of taking a moment to recall the simpler times, this week's column takes a look back at some of my favorite movie-related Christmas toys from those fuzzy, footy-pajama years.

Oh, and if you're feeling festive, feel free to read each item's headline to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” – it is Christmas, after all.


One of the coolest gifts for Christmas my parents gave to me... was a stuffed little doll of E.T.!

Not only was this piece of merchandise from Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic one of the earliest movie-related gifts that I remember, but I also recall being practically inseparable from it. I carried that eight-inch doll around with me everywhere, and it was one of my most cherished nighttime companions for quite a few years. It took me a little while to find a picture of this particular version of the doll online, and once I did, I couldn't help thinking A) it doesn't actually look that much like the E.T. of the movie; and B) that's probably why it didn't give me (or my parents) nightmares. Looking at some of the other stuffed E.T. toys that were available at the time, there are a few that could very well have scarred me for life. Good call, parental units.


… A dozen Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back sets...

Back in the days before there was such a thing as the “original trilogy” in the Star Wars universe, I vividly recall seeing the icy surface of Hoth trampled by massive, four-legged, caninelike tanks, and watching Luke Skywalker hang upside down at the clutches of a mysterious snow monster. That's about all I remember from that particular experience, as I'm pretty sure I spent most of the movie sleeping and/or playing under the theater's seat – but it was more than enough to make an impression.

When Kenner began rolling out line after line of The Empire Strikes Back merch, my parents were kind enough to indulge me, and I'm sure the seemingly never-ending supply of figures, play sets and vehicles spawned from the film made things easy whenever a gift-giving occasion arose. I distinctly remember expansive adventures in the sandbox with the “Laser Turret and Imperial Droid” play set occupying one corner of the landscape, while Luke hid from a wandering Wampa in the hollowed-out belly of a Tauntaun (which also happened to be a good place to hide candy). And don't even get me started on the mystery of where my beloved AT-AT disappeared to. I'm still grieving that loss.



… Two TRON action figures...

Confession: I don't remember the first time I watched TRON, but I do remember unwrapping my TRON and Flynn action figures and marveling at the glow-in-the-dark color scheme that made the toy line from Disney's 1982 sci-fi film so memorable. The figures were constructed of a see-through, tinted plastic that allowed light to pass through them while the circuitry that adorned each figure glowed in the dark (and made them one of the coolest nighttime toys ever created). Basically, they were kind of like action-figure versions of that baby in the LED suit. I want to find one of these toys so I can hang it from a window like a super-geeky prism.


And a set of Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos!

In the years before we discovered that Chuck Norris' tears can cure cancer, the roundhouse-kicking actor was already one of my favorite action-movie stars, thanks to the one-two punch of my obsession with martial arts movies and my father's willingness to let me watch anything with Norris' name on it. I'm not sure why Norris got a pass, but I've never really questioned it – after all, there are some important lessons for young men to learn in The Octagon (secret schools that train terrorist ninjas are bad news) and Missing in Action (if someone tries to torture you by putting a rat in a bag and then putting the bag over your head, bite the rat). Still, my affection for Norris' on-screen adventures seemed vindicated when the future Walker, Texas Ranger star got his own animated series and line of toys. In addition to the obligatory ninja figures, the line featured several variations of Norris himself with karate-kicking abilities. Oh, and there was also a sumo-wrestler figure with a spring-loaded bear hug that could crack walnuts.



Sure, the Karate Kommandos series was short-lived, but Norris films – and this line of toys – will live forever in my heart.


Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!


Question of the Week: What were some of your favorite movie-related gifts from your childhood?


Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends,, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and is still not quite sure how he ended up writing (and talking) about comics, video games, and movies for a living. His personal blog can be found at, and you can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.






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