Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: 'Toybox Time Machine: A Catalog of the Coolest Toys Never Made'



Advertising is an eyesore and brainsore of bland compositions, slick computer graphics, and lazy irony. It wasn’t always this way. The mad men of the mid-twentieth century often created marvelous art pieces with striking graphics and gonzo promises (see: sea monkeys). These ads were at their most marvelously striking when hawking junk for kids. Marty Baumann, a multi-faceted artist who helped create the looks of Disney’s Toy Story 3 and Cars and played guitar with Bobby “Blue” Band and Jr. Walker & the All Stars, was steeped in that enchanting style, which bursts forth in his own retro creations collected in a new book called Toybox Time Machine: A Catalog of the Coolest Toys Never Made.

Each of the book’s pieces is presented as a faux mid-century ad for toys but and other kid-centric products like candy, Halloween costumes, and sugary breakfast cereals. Each piece is conceived in its own particular style, sometimes recalling the work of such period icons as Jack Davis, Ed Roth, Hanna-Barbera, and James Bama, while the faux products are often based on existing ones:  View Master, Aurora Model Kits, Ben Cooper costumes, Silly Putty, Barbi dolls,  Beatles guitars, etc. The bogus TV shows with which many of the products tie-in are sly twists on properties like The Groovie Goolies, Yogi Bear (reborn as a beatnik!), Batman, Dark Shadows, Honey West, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., George of the Jungle, and others that will get the nostalgia glands salivating. Spotting the references is part of the fun of soaking in all these dreamy mid-century- style graphics and fetishes (expect plenty of tikis, monsters, robots, rockets, and spies). And some groovy co. really needs to make Baumann’s battery-operated Creepy Clutching Hand crawler a toy-box reality.
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