3 Reasons Artists NEED to Watch The Toys that Made Us | The Toys that Made Us Review

I recorded some thoughts from the Netflix documentary series "The Toys that Made Us". I enjoyed the series immensely and can't wait for the next four episodes of the eight part season to be uploaded to Netflix- I literally binged the first part in one sitting! The Toys that Made Us leads us through meeting the various quirky personalities that were involved in the creation and production mass market toys. We get to see both the creative and business side of what it takes to bring a toy to the public.


Watch the Toys that Made Us Review


The series is more so an overview of the various toy franchises the likes of Star Wars, He-Man, Barbie, and G.I. Joe than a deep-dive into the histories of these toy lines, which makes sense since Netflix caters more to the general public rather than creating documentary series for toy aficionados. That being said, if there were three to four hour director's cut with more detailed histories of each of these toy lines, I'd be on-board to watch them!


Here are 3 Reasons Why I think Artists Need to Watch The Toys that Made Us Netflix documentary:

1. The Importance of Story Telling

2. Success Isn't a Straight Line

3. Your Art Needs a Tangible Form


 1. The Importance of Story Telling.

One theme that's repeatedly echoed throughout the documentary's that a toy's advantage comes from it having some way of resonating with the public, whether that be a comic book, cartoon, or movie, things really took-off for a toy line when it had a way of creating an emotionally attachment with an audience. Toys become more than pieces of plastic to someone when they evoke the feelings related to a beloved story.


2. Success Isn't a Straight Line

Much like Edison's failed 99 filaments to get to the 1 that gave us the light bulb, the path to success is often fraught with set-backs and outright failures. The creator's of G.I. at Mattel had to contend with the decline in popularity of the U.S. military, particularly during the Vietnam War, love of Star Wars ebbed and flowed for a variety of reasons, and Barbie had to change with the times. At varying times certain ideas or projects may need to be shelved as priorities shift and others may simply not work for a host of reasons. While following your passion projects is usually the way to go, you may find that it may have to morph from the ideal to what's possible for you to complete in a timely manner. You can also take inspiration and influence from work that's come before you or even your contemporaries if you're absorbing someone else's style whole-cloth- on this topic, I highly recommend Austin Kleon's book "Steal Like an Artist".

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon


3. Your Art Needs a Tangible Form

Looping back to story telling, once you've told the story of the world you've created through your chosen media, you need to create tangible pieces of that world that people could collect and own. While there's nothing necessarily wrong with an artist selling prints of their work, I think there's a real solid case for more "consumer friendly" items. Books, playing cards, postcards, toys, art on games, clothes- things that people would more readily touch and engage with are going to be a much easier sell than a piece of art to go on one's limited wall space.


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