1996 was the year that Charles and Di divorced, Mad Cow Disease had hit Britain, eBay was born and Ask Jeeves had officially hit the internet. 1996 also marked the first-ever cloning of a mammal (remember Dolly the sheep?)
But more importantly, Christmas in 1996 (that’s a whole 20 years ago!) marked one of the best years for children everywhere as toy companies cranked out some of the most memorable toys of all time.
Do you remember these?
Premiering in 1996 with a price of $199 (roughly $300 – adjusted for inflation) and two launch titles (“Pilotwings 64” and a little game called “Super Mario 64”), this was a new generation of gaming for Nintendo. That’s right. Cartridge games. Bulky controllers. 3D scenes. It was pretty glorious. Best of all, the console supported up to four controllers at once – that’s right, four people playing at one time.
Renowned for causing tears at school when kids couldn’t get to their bags in time to feed their new friend, Tamagotchi’s popularity soared after its launch in 1996. The Tamagotchi, a keychain-sized virtual pet simulation game became one of the most popular toy fads of the 1990s. Children frequently took their Tamagotchi pet to school, because in the first two releases (Gen 1 and Gen 2), their character could die in less than half a day without adequate care. Many schools were forced to ban the product due to the disruption it caused classes.
Tickle Me Elmo
One of the most iconic (see: irritating) toys of all time, Tickle Me Elmo was another hit on the toy scene in 1996. Launched by Tyco Preschool, Tickle Me Elmo was in short supply and high demand. This toy interacted and laughed with kids (and parents alike) when he was tickled. Kids were the envy of other less fortunate children, who didn’t find the interactive, giggly red fuzzball under the tree that year.
Foam ‘n Colour Barbie
Is there anything cooler than having pink hair? Definitely not! Mattel had the perfect answer for an era devoid of hair chalk. “Foam ‘n Color Barbie” came in three different colours: blue, yellow and well, pink. Each doll had platinum blonde hair and a bottle of coloured foam to paint Barbie’s hair – as well as their own!
Miniature beanie babies
1996 was a big year for the miniature form of beanie babies from Ty. Beanie babies themselves had been around since 1993 and were rocketing in popularity, so when McDonald’s happy meals started including these little guys they were a hit. Avid fans might remember Stripes the tiger, Congo the gorilla, Bongo the monkey, Patti the platypus and Righty the elephant.
A toy that possessed the magic of flight. It was little wonder that the Sky Dancer was a hit when it launched in 1996. Of course, toys like this tend to lose a little of their magic when they leap out of nowhere and hit someone in the eye. Nonetheless, it held the balance of a pretty, girly Barbie Doll and a magic whirly bird. You controlled the Sky Dancer by putting her on a mechanical base, pull the cord and watch her propeller pull her into the sky. It was only a few years later that Hasbro found itself ordering a fairly massive recall when it learned these magical fairies would fly in any direction at top speed and hit children and their parents. Nothing drops the fun level like whirring propellers of death, right?
Cabbage Pach Snacktime Kids
We know, Cabbage Patch kids have been around since the ’80s, but Mattel’s new doll was serving up a dose of interaction like never beforee. These pudgy-faced kids had a motorised mouth (creepy, no?) and you could feed it a pretzel stick, a french fry and a range of fun snacks. The doll would realistically chew when kids inserted food into its mouth and before the food fell into its backpack… and the cycle began again. Unsurprisingly this toy was ALSO recalled after the holiday season when kids started finding their hair, skin and fingers stuck in the doll’s mouth…
What was your memory of 1996? Which toys were you playing with? Any we missed? Let us know in the comments below…