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Finding Inspiration In Popples And Power Rangers

Mike Fahey Sep 06, 2017. 14 comments

Playing around with some of the latest Power Ranger Dino Charge toys and transformable plushies from Saban’s Popples reboot has inspired me to do two things—one noble, and one mildly insane.

A table filled with toys from these two very different lines united under Saban Brands says a lot about the world we live in now and the one we lived in back in say 1986, when Hallmark American Greetings (mind the flub in the video) introduced the cuddle fluffballs known as Popples to the world.

While the advertising for those original popping plushies features both boys and girls turning them inside out, as a 13-year-old at the time it seemed pretty clear—these were toys for girls. Look at the pastel colors. See how fluffy they are? They are so fluffy I could die.

They had a one-hour television special hosted by Shelly Duvall. They had a television show. They had a Star Comics (a Marvel imprint) comic book, but they weren’t for me.

Maybe it was peer pressure. Maybe it was my little sister, whose toys I felt I automatically had to despise. Either way, I feel like I missed out, especially on that Shelly Duvall special.

Smaller Popples retail for $9.99.

Now Popples have returned, both as a toy line and a Netflix original CG series. The series is a bit cloying but the messages are pretty great. Lulu, one of the toys I play with in the video above, is an inventor. My favorite character, Yikes (on the right there), is pretty much insane.

Lulu is pretty awesome, and she only costs $19.99.

The toys themselves reflect the character of the show, rather than being balls of mildly creepy (looking back) fluff. They’ve come a long way, these Popples.

And so have we. Or maybe so have I—your mileage may vary—but messing about with these newer Popples and seeing the way my kids react to them have inspired me to look outside of the action figure and LEGO aisles for toys for my twin four-year-old boys. There’s good stuff in plush section, good stuff in the doll section. There’s no reason to keep them from half of the fun things because they’re boys.

That’s the noble-ish inspiration. The Power Rangers toys, on the other hand...

I never fell as hard for Power Rangers as I should have. I was 20 when Saban Entertainment bizarrely ported over Japan’s Super Sentai series, keeping the action bits but replacing the unmasked parts with new footage shot with English-speaking actors. I was old enough to appreciate the effort. I was old enough to have a massive crush on Kimberly. I just wasn’t old enough for the toys.

What I mean is I wanted the toys. Any combination of things coming together to form a giant robot was right up my alley. I just wasn’t old or accomplished enough to have any sort of disposable income that wasn’t going towards dating or eating. So I put the show out of my mind. I didn’t watch any of the various iterations over the years. I didn’t watch Big Bad Beetle Borgs. I didn’t watch Knights Of Tir Na Nog.

Some of you are actively weeping for me right now.

For the sake of this Toy Time video I did watch a couple episodes of Power Rangers Dino Charge (not Force) to get a feel for these toys. My initial impression? Saban really wants to sell me some little plastic dinosaur crystals. They call them Energems. I am not calling them that.

The one my children love the most so far doesn’t come with one.

The Imaginex T-Rex with Red Power Ranger is your safest bet if you don’t want your children clamoring for more little plastic cylinders. It’s only $19.99, it shoots missiles (don’t worry, they’ll lose them) and has an open and closing mouth. He’s safe.

The $59.99 Rumble N Roar T-Zex Zord from Bandai is not safe. It spins around in a threatening manner, playing the Power Rangers television show theme. It stomps. It smashes. It’s actually pretty awesome.

But it’s also the main enabler of power crystal collecting. See that thing sticking out of its mouth? Put in a different one and you get different sounds. It’s got something like over 30 different lights and sounds to be unlocked, just waiting for the right power crystals to come along. Toys’R’Us sells a set with 27 of them or so. I am considering buying it. Help me.

The $29.99 Dino Spike Battle Sword is a little safer. I mean, your kids will hit each other with it, but probably not hard enough that you’ll have to pay to get them healed or buy more power crystals. It does take them—inserting them in the hilt “charges up” its lights and sounds—but the coolest mechanic of the toy is the way you pull back the hand and it unfolds, chomping light a dinosaur mouth with silver teeth. Check out the video up top to see it in action.

So what inspiration have I drawn from my time with the Dino Charge toys? Between my appreciation of the toys themselves and my children’’s reactions to me watching the show for research, I’ve been inspired to watch all of Power Rangers.

All of it. From the first season of Mighty Morphin’ to Power Rangers Dino Charge, which will probably be Power Rangers Dino Super Charge by the time I get there.

That’s right, Super Sentai fans. I am taking the plunge. Two decades of shows, all at once...well, not all at once. Sequentially. You know what I mean.

Thanks to Saban Brands for opening my eyes to new possibilities and old television. One of those will probably work out okay.

Contact the author at fahey@kotaku.com or follow him on Twitter at @bunnyspatial. Try to do it before he goes insane.

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