The Toys That Made Us

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The Toys That Made Us
Title screen
Created byBrian Volk-Weiss
Directed by
Narrated byDonald Ian Black
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes12
Executive producers
  • Brian Volk-Weiss
  • Tom Stern
  • Cisco Henson
  • Anne Carkeet
  • Edwin Zane
Running time43-51 minutes
Production companyThe Nacelle Company
Original release
ReleaseDecember 22, 2017 (2017-12-22) –
November 15, 2019 (2019-11-15)

The Toys That Made Us is an American documentary television series created by Brian Volk-Weiss.[1] The first four episodes of the series began streaming on Netflix on December 22, 2017,[2] and the next four were released on May 25, 2018.[3] The eight-episode documentary series, as it was originally touted, focuses on the history of important toy lines. The first four episodes focus on the Star Wars, He-Man, Barbie, and G.I. Joe toy lines[4][5] with subsequent episodes featuring LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty, and Star Trek,[6] which aired on May 25, 2018.[7] On July 19, 2018, it was announced at San Diego Comic-Con that the show had been picked up for a third season, with episodes featuring Power Rangers, professional wrestling, My Little Pony, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and was released to Netflix on November 15, 2019.[8][9]

In November 2019, Netflix released a spin-off series, The Movies That Made Us, focusing on the development of classic films.[10]


Series overview[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally released
14December 22, 2017 (2017-12-22)
24May 25, 2018 (2018-05-25)
34November 15, 2019 (2019-11-15)

Season 1 (2017)[edit]

No. in
TitleOriginal release date
11"Star Wars"December 22, 2017 (2017-12-22)
In 1977, after being rejected by Mattel and Hasbro, Lucasfilm signed with Kenner Products to have toys produced for their sci-fi film Star Wars. This was a huge gamble, as Kenner was a small toy company at the time and the negotiation process started late due to George Lucas' secrecy over the ship designs. Since then, toy sales of the Star Wars franchise have totaled to US$14 billion worldwide.
22"Barbie"December 22, 2017 (2017-12-22)
In a toy industry dominated by the male demographic, Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler broke new ground in 1959 when she took a concept based on the German Bild Lilli doll and introduced the world to Barbie. The toy line has since become the largest selling doll and one of the most influential toys in modern history, selling over a billion dolls globally.
33"He-Man"December 22, 2017 (2017-12-22)

Searching for a new toy line for boys to compete with Star Wars after their toy lines for Clash of the Titans and Flash Gordon flopped, designers at Mattel saw inspiration from Frank Frazetta's artworks, as well as their creative imagination, and launched the Masters of the Universe action figures. The toy line dominated in sales from US$38.2 million in 1982 to US$400 million in 1986 before its demise in 1987 as a result of sales dropping to US$7 million and the critical and financial failure of the live-action film adaptation.

Special guest: Dolph Lundgren
44"G.I. Joe"December 22, 2017 (2017-12-22)
Introduced in 1964, Hasbro's G.I. Joe: America's Movable Fighting Man was the first action figure in toy history, but an oil crisis and declining sales led to the line's demise in 1978. Desperate to hold their own against Kenner's Star Wars line, Hasbro took inspiration from the Reagan Era's Cold War to revive the line as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero in 1982, making over US$51 million that year and becoming one of the most influential boys' toys of all time.

Season 2 (2018)[edit]

No. in
TitleOriginal release date
51"Star Trek"May 25, 2018 (2018-05-25)
Since the original series went on the air in 1966, the Star Trek franchise has had a history of ups and downs in the toy business - from AMT's faithful scale model kit of the USS Enterprise to Remco's obscure tie-in merchandise, to Mego's best–selling action figure line. Following Mego's bankruptcy in 1983 and a string of flops by Ertl and Galoob, Playmates Toys picked up the toy license in the late 1980s and sparked a resurgence in the franchise's toy sales. From the mid-2000s onwards, companies such as Art Asylum and McFarlane Toys continue to keep the Star Trek toy franchise alive.
62"Transformers"May 25, 2018 (2018-05-25)

In 1983, when Hasbro was looking for a fresh, new line to sell alongside G.I. Joe, they bought the license of the Diaclone and Micro Change toys from Takara, then commissioned Marvel Comics to come up with a story-line and character names for the toys. The result: Transformers. Despite Tonka releasing the cheaper GoBots line six months earlier, Hasbro's Transformers took the toy market by storm in 1984, raking in US$150 million that year. At the peak of the toy line's popularity, The Transformers: The Movie hit theaters to further capitalize on its success, but the film polarized fans and collectors with the death of Optimus Prime and majority of the original characters. As Hasbro took full control of Transformers from Takara by the late 1980s, sales declined until the toy line was discontinued in 1991. After the failed Generation 2 reboot, Beast Wars rejuvenated the franchise in 1995. In 2007, the live-action Transformers film solidified Transformers' position as Hasbro's flagship toy line.

Special guest: Peter Cullen
73"LEGO"May 25, 2018 (2018-05-25)
In 1949, after decades of making wooden furniture and toys, Ole Kirk Christiansen's small factory in Billund, Denmark, moved to plastic and created the "Automatic Binding Bricks", which would later be known as LEGO. When the company patented the tube system in 1958, LEGO became the dominant toy line worldwide throughout the 1960s and 1970s. When other competitors capitalized on the expiration of the company's patents in the 1980s, LEGO faced stiff competition until they reported their first loss in 1998. Poor business decisions with film licenses and the failure of the Jack Stone and Galidor lines brought LEGO to near-bankruptcy until Jørgen Vig Knudstorp took over the company and, by bringing it back to its roots, rejuvenated LEGO's profits. By the time The Lego Movie hit theaters in 2014, LEGO became the largest toy franchise in the world.
84"Hello Kitty"May 25, 2018 (2018-05-25)

After leaving his job in the government, Japanese bureaucrat Shintaro Tsuji formed a toy and gift company in 1960 that would later be known as Sanrio. The company had success producing merchandise for popular manga such as Anpanman before purchasing the license for Peanuts. But after being fed up with paying royalties to Charles M. Schulz, Sanrio decided to create their own characters. In 1974, Tsuji and designer Yuko Shimizu worked on a cat-based character that eventually became Hello Kitty. Since her debut, Hello Kitty has become not only the best–selling girl's toy in Japan, but also a pop culture icon for all ages worldwide, earning at least US$5 billion a year.

Special guest: Paris Hilton, Kimora Lee Simmons

Season 3 (2019)[edit]

No. in
TitleOriginal release date
91"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"November 15, 2019 (2019-11-15)

In 1984, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird released the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book. Their self-published work quickly grabbed the attention of Surge Licensing President Mark Freedman, who saw a potential gold mine in the characters. After being rejected by LJN, Mattel, and Hasbro, Freedman got Hong Kong-based Playmates Toys to pick up the Ninja Turtles license for US$150,000. Once the violence level was toned down and the characters were given a lighter, more humorous tone, a five-episode animated series debuted on December 28, 1987. The cartoon's popularity prompted the huge demand for Ninja Turtles action figures in 1988, as toy stores had difficulty keeping them in stock. At the height of the franchise's popularity in 1990, a successful live-action film was released and over 100 million toys were sold. Eastman and Laird later split over creative differences, and the franchise was eventually purchased by Nickelodeon in 2009 for US$60 million.

Special guests: Kevin Smith, Rob Paulsen, and Vanilla Ice
102"Power Rangers"November 15, 2019 (2019-11-15)

Following the success of Kamen Rider, Toei Company and Bandai created the Super Sentai series in the mid-1970s, later incorporating the giant robot element from their Spider-Man series. Finding a western audience for Super Sentai, however, proved to be difficult when Stan Lee and Margaret Loesch failed to get networks to buy Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan. In 1984, Haim Saban bought the international distribution rights of Choudenshi Bioman from Toei, but his pilot episode was rejected by the networks. Eight years later, Saban partnered with Loesch to adapt Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger for North America. Upon its debut in 1993, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a smash hit for Saban, Bandai America, and Fox Kids, with over US$1 billion in toy sales that year. The franchise was purchased by The Walt Disney Company in 2001 before being sold back to Saban in 2010, then to Hasbro in 2018, effectively ending Bandai's involvement after 25 years.

Special guests: David Yost, Walter Emanuel Jones, and Andre Meadows
113"My Little Pony"November 15, 2019 (2019-11-15)

During the 1970s, Hasbro was on the brink of bankruptcy due to the oil crisis. The company's Advanced R&D Department came up with My Pretty Pony, which sold 500,000 units in 1981. A year later, My Pretty Pony was shrunken down, made with softer plastic materials, and painted in bright pastel colors to become My Little Pony, which made US$80 million on its first year. In 1984, the toyline's first animated TV special Rescue at Midnight Castle was released, followed by a theatrical feature film and a TV series in 1986. My Little Pony was discontinued in 1992, but was revived in two generations with mixed results. It was in 2010 that animator Lauren Faust fully revitalized the franchise with My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The show and accompanying toyline became heavily popular not only among girls, but also a male demographic known as "Bronies".

Special guest: Tara Strong, Lauren Faust and John de Lancie
124"Professional Wrestling"November 15, 2019 (2019-11-15)

In 1984, MCA Inc. subsidiary LJN outbid Galoob and Remco to become the first toy company to manufacture figures for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). LJN took the 1985 Toy Fair by storm with their WWF Wrestling Superstars line. Remco counterattacked with their AWA All Star Wrestlers, but failed to outsell LJN's figures. LJN's success in the 1980s, however, was marred by the controversy surrounding their Entertech water gun line, resulting in the company's sale to Acclaim Entertainment in 1990 and the Wrestling Superstars line going to Canadian toy company Grand Toys in 1989. With LJN gone, WWF signed with Hasbro for a new line of wrestling figures that peaked at US$100 million in sales. Meanwhile, Galoob signed on to produce figures for WCW, but when David Galoob was ousted from his own company, he took the WCW license and made figures under his new company The Original San Francisco Toymakers. During the Monday Night War, WWF signed with Jakks Pacific after Hasbro decided not to renew their contract. In 1998, WCW dropped SF Toymakers in favor of Toy Biz for their figures; in turn, SF Toymakers signed with ECW in 1999. The war between wrestling figure companies ended when WWF purchased WCW and ECW in 2001.

Special guests: Justin Roberts, Cody Rhodes, Taboo, Sean Waltman, and Danielle Moinet


  1. ^ "A toy story for nerds like us—Netflix's The Toys That Made Us doc drops next week". Ars Technica. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  2. ^ "New on Netflix in December: 'The Crown,' 'Fuller House,' and more". Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  3. ^ Hall, Charlie (2017-12-29). "Netflix's The Toys That Made Us explains how Star Wars changed toys forever". Polygon. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  4. ^ "Here's What's New to Stream in December on Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu". Vogue. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  5. ^ "Netflix Series THE TOYS THAT MADE US to Premiere on December 22nd - Outright Geekery". Outright Geekery. 2017-11-21. Archived from the original on 2018-10-11. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  6. ^ The Toys That Made Us season two will feature Lego, Star Trek and more, Charlie Hall, Posted January 10, 2018, Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  7. ^ "What's coming soon to Netflix UK in May 2018?". VOD News. April 24, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  8. ^ Moore, Kasey (September 4, 2019). "'The Toys That Made Us' Season 3 Coming to Netflix in November 2019". What's on Netflix. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  9. ^ "Toys That Made Us Season 3 Will Feature Power Rangers, Wrestling, TMNT, and My Little Pony". Bleeding Cool News. July 19, 2018. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  10. ^ "[Trailer] Netflix's "The Movies That Made Us" Shines the Spotlight on 'Ghostbusters' & More on November 29!". Bloody Disgusting. November 26, 2019. Retrieved November 26, 2019.

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