From Turbo Man to Talkboy: The Top Toy-Centric Christmas Films
A list of the best holiday films that give toys the star treatment!
There isn’t a single person alive that can’t relate to having or receiving a favorite toy as a child (or as an adult! Toys just get better as we get older!) The Christmas 🎄 holiday, in popular culture at least, is all about the presents 🎁, including toys! We put together a list of holiday movies 🎥 where toys take center stage.
1. The Christmas Toy
Years before Pixar’s Toy Story, there was The Christmas Toy. This Jim Henson classic from 1986 is about a child’s roomful of toys that come to life when humans aren’t around. At Christmas, the toys anxiously wait for the child’s inevitable new toy to enter the scene, and the favorite, Rugby 🐯, hatches a plan to make sure he remains the favorite when something shiny and new appears.
2. Jingle All the Way
Arnold Swarzennegger stars in this comedy about holiday toy mayhem and commercialism. Determined to get the season’s hottest toy, the Turbo Man Action Figure, for his son for Christmas, a dad is discouraged when it’s sold out everywhere. He strikes up a rivalry with another dad who is also determined to find the toy for his own son, and their simultaneous quests result in comedy and all sorts of high jinks. Ultimately, though, everyone must learn what the season is really about.
3. A Christmas Story
A modern classic and all-around intergenerational favorite, A Christmas Story is about the youthful singular quest for that one toy you want more than anything (relatable). In little Ralphie’s case, it’s the Red Ryder range-model BB gun. Convincing his parents is the challenge, and along the way Ralphie gets into all sorts of shenanigans. Folks who grew up with this movie have loved it throughout the years and it gains new fans all the time. It’s so popular, you can even visit the house where most of the action in the movie takes place.
4. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Home Alone is arguably one of the best Christmas movies of all time but its sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is the film that features a modern-for-1992 toy: the Talkboy voice recorder. The Talkboy has a pretty interesting history: while the gadget was a prop conceived for the film, Tiger Electronics released the actual toy, and its Deluxe version became a craze during the 1993 holiday season. The company even released a pink version: the Deluxe Talkgirl, in 1995. In the film, Kevin uses the device to get by alone in NYC and to help trap his repeat enemies–the hilarious robber bandits who attempted to seize his home in the first movie–when they plan to rob a beautiful toy store. It’s safe to say that toys–and the spirit of giving–are at the heart of this movie.
5. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
An eccentric inventor and toymaker knows he’s created something special that will change his life forever. But when his trusted apprentice steals his invention, he loses everything. Decades later, his equally inventive granddaughter comes to the rescue with a new idea, and together they harness the spirit of magical toy making.
6. Life-Size 2: A Christmas Eve
Life-Size is a 2000 Disney Channel Movie original, starring none other than a young Lindsay Lohan. So a Christmastime sequel in 2018 is out of left field. But this (albeit pretty cheesy) film pre-dates a modern masterpiece (ahem, the Barbie movie) in that it’s about a doll who once belonged to Grace, a girl who is now a jaded adult and in need of some inspiration from her old friend. Grace is the CEO of Marathon Toys, a toy company she inherited, and in an unwise decision, plays to cut the Eve doll from their product line. Just like in the first film, a magic spell makes Grace’s old Eve doll from her own childhood to come alive. And she’ll help Grace connect with the girl she used to be.
Since Buddy the Elf works in Santa’s toy workshop, we’re including this one. In the modern classic, Elf, Buddy is a human raised as an elf amongst the other workshop elves at the North Pole. Buddy travels from the North Pole to New York City in search of his father, and causes havoc along the way. The film is filled with iconic comedy moments from Will Ferrell and a downright enchanting version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” from Zoey Deschanel. The movie inspires everyone to dig deep down and find that childlike spirit: the person inside who loves handmade paper snowflakes, children’s storybooks, and Santa, obviously.
8. 8-Bit Christmas
What we love about this movie is that it combines the tech obsessions of kids today with the vintage video game culture of the 80s and 90s (with a highly relatable Cabbage Patch Doll obsession flashback weaved in). In 8-Bit Christmas, a dad tells his cell-phone-obsessed daughter the story of how he wanted nothing more than to receive a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas as a kid. Unfortunately his parents thought video games would rot his brain, so he had to find other ways to try to get it into his own hands. What transpires is a comedy about the crazy things people will do for a toy they want, and what happens when they realize there’s more to the season than a coveted gift.
9. The Nutcracker (1993)
The Nutcracker might just be the original Christmas toy story! A toymaker, Herr Drosselmeyer, is the local magician and also godfather to young Marie. On Christmas Eve, he gifts Marie and her brother Fritz a wooden nutcracker doll. Fritz breaks the doll, and along with it Marie’s heart. During the night, Marie checks in on her broken doll, and magically the entire parlor comes to life. Including a gigantic Christmas tree, life-sized mice and gingerbread soldiers take over the room. The beloved toy nutcracker also becomes life-sized, and turns into a Prince. Together Marie and the Prince journey into the forest to the Land of Sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy, of course. Composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote the score for the Imperial Russian Ballet in the late 1800s, and it’s been a classic ever since. The 1993 film version is a taping of George Ballanchine’s staging of the ballet and stars Macaulay Culkin, fresh off his success as Kevin McAllister in the Home Alone movies, as the Nutcracker Prince.
10. Toy Story
Ok, ok, you got us: Toy Story is not necessarily a holiday movie. BUT! The franchise did have a holiday TV special, Toy Story: That Time Forgot, a feature in which our familiar toy friends are a bit neglected in favor of video games around Christmas. And actually, the original film was released in late November 1995, and trailers dubbed it THE must-see film for the holiday season. And because art imitates life (see also: Jingle All the Way), the Buzz Lightyear action figure doll has a storied history. Before the original movie was released in 1995, the merchandising for the toys in the film weren’t as thoughtfully planned out as they could have been, given that despite Disney’s own prediction, Toy Story became the huge success it did. Mattel declined to make a Buzz Lightyear toy prior to the release of the film, so a small Canadian company, Thinkway Toys, stepped in to make a version in time for the movie release. But missteps were made: the toy itself wasn’t entirely accurate to the film, and the inventory didn’t meet the demand following the film’s success. Two more Buzz Lightyear toys debuted in the following year, and the 1996 holiday season was the year parents went absolutely crazy to find sold-out-everywhere Buzz Lightyear toys, often having to opt for resale at a 400% markup! Sounds like the plot of a great holiday film about a toy….
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