Saturday, April 2, 2011

"Not Your Little Sister's Beanies!"

(Editor's Note: I'd like to introduce you all to the newest Team Member of The Haunted Drive-in. Alright, the only Team Member. Richard Rodriguez, also known as Daffy, is my first writing partner in this project and will be contributing to the site regularly. This is his first post. Enjoy, and comment! -Rabbi)

Do you remember the 90s? Remember a certain fad that was sweeping the nation involving small plushy teddy bears that were basically the same bear painted different colors over and over and sold by the hundreds? What you're remembering, along with the soul crushing realization that none of those hundreds that you bought will be worth any money in your lifetime, are the Beanie Babies. They were little, soft toys that came as many different animals, but mostly bears, and they were based entirely around the marketing idea that little girls will buy anything cute. Well, I'm not talking about those today. The toys I'm talking about are based on the marketing idea "What if Beanie Babies were butch, gross, juvenile, and hilarious?" Meet the Meanies:

When I was in the sixth grade, my dad surprised me after school with about five of these guys in a bag. See, my father was one of those people that thought every "next best fad" was the one that would eventually make us rich. So, my sis had Beanies and a few other collections. I had these... And Pokemon cards, but that's besides the point. What my dad failed to realize is, being a kid, I didn't treat these as "mint condition, do not touch" type toys. I played with them a lot because I thought they looked cool. And it's no wonder with some of the premises these guys had.

Meanies started off with Series 1 in 1997. I think the manufacturers were going for something that looked like a Beanie Baby was brought to life, then turned back to inanimate just when they looked the stupidest. There were also some pop culture references and parody images of world views. As the product evolved, the subject matter matured, giving us more plushies that were aimed at shock value with limbs or heads cut off, looking dead, burnt, or sick, or just generally being rude for Series 2. Series 3, however, was meant more for visual humor and puns, even going so far as to make a Meanie that looked like a Beanie Bear that's been bound and gagged.

There were also side collections for the Holidays, including the Shocking Stuffers (which involved Christmas related Meanies, such as an insane Santa), Valentine Meanies, and Grisly Grizzlies (which were bears made up to look like classic monsters). There was also a series that was meant exclusively to parody popular figures of the time, Infamous Meanies. Just a few examples of the ones in this line: Moo-donna (a cow with a pointy udder), Jerry Stinger (a bee with a human head and glasses), Mike Bison (with a torn off ear in its mouth), and Quack Nicholson (a duck with sunglasses and a bloody axe). Finally, there was a short series that mocked other fads of the time, such as Furby, Teletubbies, and Pokemon, called Twisted Toys.

Attached to each Meanie, right on the tag, were funny little poems which explained why the Meanie looks the way it does. This is best illustrated through example, really. So, here are my three favorites.

Floaty the Fish:
Floaty is dead as can be,
on his back he bobs constantly.
His eyes are all puffed.
Should Floaty be stuffed,
or flushed and buried at sea?!

Matt the Fat Bat:
Matt The Fat Bat couldn't fly.
His big belly kept him out of the sky.
He hides on the ground,
like a blood thirsty hound,
Bites your toe, and sucks you bone dry.

Lucky the Rabbit:
Lucky's so mad he's insane
He has every right to complain
He'd like to kick rump
but he can't with a stump
'cause his foot is someone's key chain!

The Meanies were definitely a series that revolved around humor. But I'm positive they were made based on shock factor. They looked too weird NOT to pick up off the shelf and take a better look. That's why I think they're in the same league with Madballs and the Garbage Pail Kids cards. Kids, especially boys, liked things that looked weird.

What's sad is this series seems to have been forgotten for the most part. There is the odd collector around the net and a few Meanies you can buy on eBay. But the official website is pretty much destroyed, as almost all links to merchandise and the like have been deleted. Not to mention its list of Meanies is woefully out of date, even back when the site was newer. Even the developers have forgotten.

But I am one who won't forget. I won't forget the trauma of seeing a Meanie with a bloody stump where its head should be. I won't forget throwing the Chicken Pox (a sick chicken) Meanie around when I actually HAD the chickenpox. I won't forget countless hours of searching until finally, FINALLY finding the Codfather in a rundown, shifty looking store 12 miles away from Disney World. I won't forget you, gross, weird, hilarious Meanies. No matter how hard I try.

1 comment:

  1. I remember when these were THE toy. I never owned any myself, mostly because my mom thought a plush duck with its head missing was... odd. Maybe I can find Donnie, Didn't Duck on ebay now.

    Great write-up Daffy!