?“It’s too dangerous for you to play with.” Virtually all of our parents said this to us at one point in our childhoods. Now some of us realize that our parents were only looking out for us, but at that precise moment in your childhood their very presence made you sick. “This is bullshit,” we thought but didn’t dare say out loud. “Even as an 8-year-old, I’m dimly aware that toys require signficant safety testing before they get to store shelves. That’s how the get those ‘Ages 10 and up’ designations. How dangerous could this toy really be?
Quite dangerous, actually. Saftey tests miss things all the time, and few adults who work at toy company remember how children’s tendency to turn anything into a weapon to harm other children. But our parents knew, and these six toys of the ’90s were a large part of the reason why.
First invented by Victor Petrusek and distributed by Tiger Electronics during the ’80s, the Skip-It reached its zenith in the ’90s — dubbed the “Skip-It Renaissance” — when a counter was added to the ball of the toy so one could keep score of their number of skips. Skip-It was praised by parents for encouraging physical fitness in children and, because of their blessing, it’s no wonder we were all eager to go out and buy a Skip-It of our very own. Indeed, it was a fun outdoor toy, but there was always the risk of having the ball come slamming into your ankle if you worked up some serious momentum on the thing. By the end of the day, it wasn’t at all surprising to return home with bruised and swollen ankles from an intense Skip-It session. Due to its dangerous nature, I wouldn’t be surprised if Petrusek was inspired by some ancient Roman practice of capital punishment, where the emperor would sit in his private box in the colosseum and watch with glee as the day’s convicted criminals swung a spiked ball around their feet, ending once the individual’s ankle has been shattered and rendered irreparable.
5) Spin Fighters
?Spin Fighters is one of those forgotten toylines since their production ran from the early ’90s to sometime around 1996 or 1997. Spin Fighters were essentially die-cast metal tops that came in gold and black variants (denoting heroes and villains, respectively), and on these tops were decals featuring characters from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Street Fighter, and WWF. There were also arena bowls (made of dinky plastic) available only at big-box stores such as KB Toys and J.C. Penny. But the toys’ claim to dangerous fame comes in the form of the launchers. The top would be wound in the launcher, with the push of a switch on the side sending it flying down into the arena. The more you wound, however, the tighter the top got in the launcher, indicating that this thing was going to come shooting out like a bullet. So basically if you were playing this game with another child who wasn’t of a sound mind, you can bet that he or she was aiming straight for your face — point-blank range, too, since both of you would be in close proximity to the arena, a plastic bowl soon to be flooded with your tears of pain.
4) Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid
Just when you finished telling yourself as a kid that the events of Child’s Play and its subsequent sequels could — in a mundane world governed by rationality — never happen, Mattel (the license holders of the Cabbage Patch dolls at the time) had cranked out this demon doll from their nightmare machine: the Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid. Coming packaged with plastic food, one would force feed the doll and watch as the internal mechanisms in its head made it appear that it was chewing and swallowing the snacks. Sounds innocuous, right? Wrong! The doll was devoid of an actual on-off switch and could only be activated by inserting something in its mouth. Weeks after its release during the ’96 holiday season, stories began pouring in of kids getting their hair caught in the mouth and being pulled into the doll (I guess after the monotony of eating the same plastic french fry and carrot stick over and over, the doll wanted something with more substance, like the savory flavor of a human scalp). A few horrifying and incriminating news stories later, the Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid was recalled, canceled and locked in a blast-proof vault to never menace society again.
3) Dragon Flyz
Dragon Flyz were the male equivalent of Sky Dancers (both made by Galoob). But instead of fairies and fluffy clouds, boys were given a girl’s toy with a monstrous testosterone boost of dragons and cybernetic armor. Released in the mid-’90s, a year or two after the line’s feminine counterparts, boys soon learned where their sister’s black eyes and busted teeth were coming from. While they were getting smacked in the face with their Sky Dancers, us guys were getting beat up by our Dragon Flyz. Seriously, if you gave that chord a good rip, your sky warrior launched like an erratic missile off its predetermined flightpath, ricocheting off the walls while you ran away looking for cover. Most of the time the figure wouldn’t launch upward, but straight into your face, leaving a nice black and blue for school pictures the next day that no new haircut or sweater from grandma could fix. It goes without saying why this toyline was canceled, but it’s still much more manly to say you got assaulted by a Dragon Flyz than your sister’s Sky Dancer.
2) Star Wars Lightsaber
Many Star Wars fans will mark the mid-’90s as the decade famous for revitalizing the franchise in respect to toys and other collectibles after their decline in popularity during the late ’80s. Of them, you have to admit none were quite as awesome as the re-imagined toy lightsaber. True, it may have been nothing more than glorified collapsible plastic tubing (with the saber’s tip never quite staying locked in place), but it was as close as we were going to get to wielding the actual thing back then. But being that this list is devoted to dangerous toys, the Star Wars lightsaber was, practically, a blunt weapon designed specifically for children. Thus, parents were quick to remind us to be gentle wielding our translucent cudgels during faux-lightsaber duels in the yard. Gentle…? GENTLE?! When — in our endless imaginations — we’re staring down Darth Vader as the fate of the universe hangs in the balance, we have to be anything but gentle! And, more often than not, we were specifically reenacting that pivotal moment in Return of the Jedi when Luke, giving in to Vader’s taunts, goes ballistic and pins him against the railing in the Emperor’s throne room, relentlessly bombarding his father with forceful saber strikes. But instead of the electric crackle of clashing lightsabers and epic dialogue, it was more the hollow, plasticy smack of the toys and crying over bruises and minor lacerations resulting from rough play.
1) Creepy Crawlers Oven
Ah, the Creepy Crawlers oven. The day I saw that glorious green and orange plastic oven being shown during an in-store demo at FAO Schwarz back in the early ’90s, I had to have it; the power of an insect-making god contained within a plastic box. Fleeting moment of nostalgia aside, the Creepy Crawlers oven is a prime example of a toy that was every bit as dangerous as it was fun. Packaged with molds made of metal, the internal lightbulb that turned your bugs from wild-colored goop to rubber made the mold trays extremely hot in the process (with the heat emitted from the oven itself being somewhat uncomfortable). So if you were an impatient little tot too distracted to realize that the oven also came with a plastic paddle to remove the molds safely, you were definitely going to be clutching your burnt digits within seconds. The toy was one big waiting game of pain! Regardless, making your rubber dragonfly jiggle about was definitely worth the first degree burns.