?Before children had access to videogames worth playing, an internet worth being rude on or lightsaber toys worth beating one another senseless with, the options for a solid electronic plaything were limited at best. Thankfully, Hasbro’s Lite-Brite illuminated the void, giving children everywhere the opportunity to drop their coloring books for a brighter and presumably more expensive alternative. Enough kids dug the toy and plugged colored plastic pegs into the grid-like screen fastened over a light box, but the toy’s default (and, in the case of the clown, completely terrifying) templates weren’t enough – kids needed a way not to use their imagination. Hasbro heeded the call, adapting dozens of kid-friendly intellectual properties for refill packs that included “stencils” showing youngsters how to construct their favorite characters from across cartoons, movies and more. Read on to celebrate the magical colored lights in their nerdiest and most wonderful guises.
?Blue and white pegs may seem like the order of the day for the Smurfs patterns, but Hasbro knew to introduce colorful elements like Papa Smurf’s red hat and the multicolored standardized ‘shroom housing that dotted the blue dudes’ village. All around, the Smurfs look pretty good lit up, which may or may not be part of some overarching Gargamellian plot to kill them.
9) The Muppet Show
?When “it’s time to light the lights” on a Lite-Brite, the Muppets are a pretty solid bet. With a wide variety of colorful characters, it’s easy to put together a Gonzo, Kermit or Miss Piggy without scraping the bottom of the color barrel.
8) My Little Pony
?With so many variations of glow-in-the-dark ponies, it may seem redundant to illuminate every little girl’s favorite anatomically wrecked and hauntingly hoofless equines, but for whatever reason, the My Little Pony stencils are right on. Not only do subtle variations in color help every hippy construct what resemble elaborate vanside murals, when viewed under the influence of select chemicals, it’s probably a bit like staring into a glowing night sky as the Pegasus constellation achieves cosmic awareness. If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is.
?Easily one of the most wonderfully bizarre animated series to slip out of the Disney Afternoon birthing canal, Talespin makes for some equally bizarre lighting fun. The Jungle Book‘s Baloo, along with a cast of anthropomorphic animals from the ’30s are all pretty awesome candidates to construct with plastic pegs, and this refill pack pretty much gave each of them a chance to shine – especially Baloo’s honk’n seaplane that resisted lightning while covered in tires somehow.
6) Fraggle Rock
?Considering the Fraggles lived underground with no obvious sources of light or heat, bringing them to the Lite-Brite may have inadvertently weakened their evolutionary survival mechanisms, rendering them dependent on the technology of man. If so, this refill could be blamed for the decline of the Fraggle empire, crippling an entire ecosystem and weakening a once proud race to the point of irrelevance – just like the Fraggle Rock animated series! Whatever the case, glowing Doozers will haunt your dreams.
5) Mr. T
?If you think about it, Lite-Brite and Mr. T are practically a match made in ostentatious jewelry heaven. Considering how much gold the dude hoisted during his heyday, kids could get straight up lazy plugging yellow peg after yellow peg in an attempt to illustrate his unending radiance. In fact, anything less would have been a pity for fools that Mr. T may have taken the time to mention.
?The Transformers are an intellectual property that’s gotten the Lite-Brite treatment a few times over the years, but the current refill pack may be the best. While the initial offering coincided with the original Transformers cartoon, the latest pack seems more like a friendly cross section of TF lore with character models devoid of the rank animal stank that emits from the film franchise. This is likely of very little consolation to Bayphobes, but at least there’s no pattern teaching kids to depict a bright version of Bumblebee peeing on anything.
3) G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
?Rooted in nonsensical violence, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is a great fit for illuminated wargames. Colorful combat scenes are a snap with the right pegs, and if you run out of the colors you need – it’s no big deal because half of the awesome characters and vehicles only need vague silhouettes as their decked out in black. Honestly, if a child wanted to be an ironic smartass, they’d only have to point to an empty screen and declare that Snake Eyes was using his ninja skills to blend in. What’s more, kids could even color code Joe and Cobra rifle fire with the appropriate glowing laser. It’s a good thing too because, in this particular case, glowing is half the battle.
2) Star Wars
?Before kids had access to Photoshop, one of the best ways to fundamentally disrupt your friends’ perceptions of Star Wars characters (other than by simply drawing) must have been to screw with their designs on a Lite-Brite. Just imagine how the tykes of ’77 responded to the idea of a glowing pink Darth Vader. Their minds were probably so blown that they imaginary future blogged about it on their Apple II’s. Man, the imaginary fake ’70s I make up and lie about were pretty much a golden age.
1) Superheroes/Super Friends
?There are a lot of awesome Lite-Brite refills, but only two sets give bulb artists Batman smiling, the Hulk punching through a wall, Spider-Man shooting yellow webs and, well, Wonder Woman. Marvel and DC purists may scoff at the notion of considering these sets equal, but considering how similar the sets really are, it’s a pretty harmless comparison. Is a decidedly somber Hulk headshot worth any less than a Bats who seems to be wearing lipstick? No, these drab super hero expressions are akin in their lack of quality and should be celebrated. Here’s to you Lite-Brite refill packs. May you always make things look less good and much brighter with little effort on our part.