Thursday, December 15, 2011

The 1995 Holiday Gift Guide!


Last year I wrote one of my favorite pieces for the website, the 1994 Holiday Gift Guide. Some genuine pages taken from an old stack of Nickelodeon Magazines that I had laying around. It was a fun piece to write as I absolutely love old toys from the 1990s. Out of a stack of probably around 50 of these old Nick Magazines, only two years had Holiday Gift Guides in them. 1994 and 1995. Last year we ranked everything on a scale of one to five based on how “1990's Awesome” each item is. One meaning the item is Christmas Crap and five being something you absolutely could not live without. This year we I am going to follow suit and continue on with the rankings. Today we are going to once again take a trip down memory lane and take a look at The 1995 Holiday Gift Guide!

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It's that time of year again. This holiday gift guide will tell you about the latest games, toys and software, just in time for you to update your gift wish list. So turn the pages and see what's new!” – This is the opening words as seen on the fantastic opening page of the 1995 Holiday Gift Guide. I am really a big fan of whoever designed this title page, it's simple and minimalistic style really manages to capture the spirit of the holiday season. At least as well as a mid-90s advertisement in a kids magazine possibly could.


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DISCOVERY ZONE FUNCENTERS: The very first thing pictured in the 1995 Holiday Gift Guide is not a toy, it's not a book, it's not a video game, it's not even a piece of music... it's an advertisement for an 800 number from which you can purchase gift certificates for the now defunct Discovery Zone fun facilities. Not a very good start. For those of you who have never head of the Discovery Zone (or DZ for short) it was basically a poor mans Chuck E. Cheese's. It ended up going bankrupt in March of 1996, so if any of you are reading this from a time machine in the year 1995 do not buy stock into the Discovery Zone Funcenters! One out of Five 1990's Points!

NFL MATH: It's math. It's the NFL. It's only $39.95 and it comes on CD-ROM or Floppy Disc Drive. It's a horrible Christmas present for children of all ages. Nobody wants junk like this, not in the year 1995, not now... not ever. One out of Five 1990's Points!

CLUB LISA FRANK MEMBERSHIP: The final item on the first is a membership to Club Lisa Frank, you know the company that made wacky novelty school supply items that were mostly covered in glitter and unicorns. Girls stuff to be precise. I do remember Lisa Frank being crazy popular in the mid 90s so it's no real surprise to see Nickelodeon trying to cash in on her popularity here. To join Lisa's Cult you must first enclose $10.00 plus $3.50 shipping and handling and you get yourself a Lisa Frank club membership certificate, membership card, stationery, an “awesome pen”, official logo stickers, terrific jumbo stickers, and a subscription to her “Clubbin' Magazine” … while I was never into Lisa Frank for obvious reason, I know the stuff was wildly popular and very rooted in 1990's culture. Therefore, I think we have to give this one a Four out of Five 1990's Points! Besides, you get an awesome pen with your subscription! Awesome Pen!

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GIBSON ELECTRIC GUITAR: The last entry might have been for the girls but this one is clearly for the guys! It's a Gibson Electric Guitar! Totally radical. Plus the advertisement gives you an 800 number and pretty much encourages kids to call without parental permission. “Call 1-800-4-GIBSON, extension 288, for a free brochure to give your parents called “How to Buy an Electric Guitar.” See... Nickelodeon is pretty much telling you that it's alright to use the phone to call 800 numbers if its for a free brochure. Go ahead. Do it. Call. You know you want to. Four out of Five 1990's Points!

ARCADE AMERICA: It's the most radical CD-ROM platform game in the country and apparently all hedgehogs, earthworms, and donkeys need to step aside to make room for Arcade America and its 60 outrageous levels. At least that is what the payed advertisement would have us all believe. In actuality, I've never heard of the game and neither anyone on Wikipedia for that matter, for Arcade America is the only thing in existence which lacks it's own Wikipedia page. I did manage to find one person who uploaded some gameplay video over on YouTube but it has such horribly distorted sound that I could not sit through more than a couple minutes of footage. Basically, the game looks like it sucks. A note to the “creators of Battle Beast” if your going to call out classic franchises like Sonic, Donkey Kong, and Eathworm Jim you should at least make sure the game your calling them out with is at least good. One out of Five 1990's Points!

SCHOLASTIC'S THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS CD-ROM INTERACTIVE SCIENCE ADVENTURES: That is one long title for a video game based on the old PBS cartoon show “The Magic School Bus”. And is it just me or has the first couple of pages for the 1995 Holiday Gift Guide kind of sucked compared to last years version? The sucking trend continues with yet another video game which tries to double as a learning device. I have nothing against “The Magic School Bus” but this is supposed to be a Christmas gift guide! No kid wants anything that requires much thinking, let alone learning come XMAS morning. Besides this is 1995, shouldn't we be flooded with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Nickelodeon GACK by this point? One out of Five 1990's Points!

IZZY THE OFFICIAL CHARACTER OF THE 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES, ATLANTA: Once again that is a hell of a name for a product that is a cheap pink or blue child’s watch. But of course these are not just your average run of the mill cheap plastic watches, these ones feature IZZY... probably the must unliked and unloved Olympic mascot ever created. IZZY is this horribly weird creation that is blue in color and kind of looks like a cross between a sneaker, a smurf, and the old 7Up Dot logo. I doubt many kids were making last minute changes to their Christmas Wish List to include officially licensed IZZY watches. Two out of Five 1990's Points! Because it's from the makers of the “Swatch”

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RISE AND SLIME! : We must be nearing the “meat and potatoes” portion of this gift guide because the TimeBlaster: Rise and Slime alarm clock is by far the coolest thing we have seen yet. What your looking at here is an alarm clock, but not just any alarm clock this is an officially licensed Nickelodeon alarm clock so you just know it does all kinds of wacky things. How wacky? Well for starters it has an officially licensed NASA countdown followed by either a bugle, a cuckoo, a boing, or an original “Nick Noise”.  I miss the old days when Nickelodeon used to make all these really crazy stupid products. They just seemed like more of a fun kids company. Maybe they still make products like these, I really don't know. If they do they sure aren't advertised like this anymore. Five out of Five Nick Noises!

NORDSTORM KIDS WEAR QUIKSILVER WALLET / WATCH SET! : Owch. This one hurts quite a bit. There is not a kid alive who wants to shred open a present on Christmas morning and find a wallet and watch set staring back at you. I am a firm believer that when you are a kid you should get kids things for Christmas. Look, there is only so many years that you are allowed to play with Transformers or Ninja Turtles. You can only have alarm clocks that make bugle noises  for so long before your friends start to look at you funny. Christmas time should be about enjoying and embracing your childhood. Don't give your kids things like this. You will have plenty of time to purchase them these things when they are an adult. Zero out of Five Ruined Christmas Mornings!

MILKCAP MAZES! : Hey! You guys remember mazes right? You used to draw them out on paper and such. Well now you can play mazes on your PC with Milkcap Mazes! Apparently the Slammin' Muck Monster has captured Cool Kap's pals and you need to save them! Via a series of mazes! ... yea, what a load of horse shit. Nobody wants to play this crap, not even in 1995. However this game does include free limited edition authentic Pog brand Milkcaps! Now we are on to something, I was a huge collector of Pogs back in the day and I am pretty sure if I look hard enough I could still find a box of them laying around someplace. Chances are half my audience has no idea what the hell a "Pog" even is. I cannot decide if I want to ruin the fun now or save it for a future article. I'm thinking Pogs will make great mid-July fodder for the website, so lets save it for then. As for the stupid maze game, Two out of Five!

NICKELODEON COMPUTER ACCESSORIES by BRAINWORKS! : I am pretty sure we seen this exact same thing last year in the 1994 Holiday Gift Guide. I'm not checking because I hate reading articles that old for fear that I will want to update and change everything I had wrote prior, but I am pretty sure they are there. Anyhow what we have here is a bunch of cheap plastic shit that you stick on your PC monitor and a crappy multicolored neon keyboard that probably doesn't function properly. I hate this junk. Because that's exactly what it is, junk. I know I gushed all over the alarm clock up there but that is different. That clock was functional. It was awesome and it served a purpose at the same time. This is just crap, no kid had there own personal computer in 1995 to decorate like this. And if they did, chances are they are old enough to not want their keyboard to have handles on the side of it. One out of Five Neon Orange Computer Mouses!

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CONNECTSOFT KID WEB! : Well isn't this something. I think, at least if I am interpreting the product description correctly, that this is basically a web browser for your computer. "Discover the Wold Wide Web with Johnny Web and his cyberdog, Browser. Explore sports, music, news fun and games -- whatever you want! Johnny and Browser guide you on your journey into the future." I wonder if you can watch porn with it. Seriously, that is the only question I have for Connectsoft is if Johnny Web and his cyberdog will track down pornography over the internet for me. After-all it does say whatever I want. One out of Five Cyberdogs Named Browser!

 I.M. MEEN DOS CD-ROM! : We have an MS-DOS based game here folks. I repeat an MS-DOS based game. How many of you are old enough to have used DOS? I have plenty of memories, though I am not so sure if I would call them fond, of spending long hours configuring setups and installing drivers via DOS prompts. Using commands like CHKDSK or DIR. It was an entire language of short hand computer speak that you basically had to know in order to get stuff to function properly but nobody ever spent the time to teach you any of the stuff. You kind of learned things on an "as needed" basis and eventually had enough bits and pieces stored up to work your way through most problems. It was a frustrating process to say the least. You should try spending four hours configuring a Soundblaster audio card and still not have it work correctly. As for the game here, it is full of all kinds of great mid-90s marketing terms. Such as the ability to have 3D levels and such. The games probably stupid as hell but since I got to rant about MS-DOS we'll give it Two Broken DOS Commands out of Five!

NICK PUZZLERS AND BRAIN BENDER! : Finally a break from all the educational PC games, we have what appears to be a series of electronic games that come in the form of brain teaser puzzles. Each unit has four different games built in or you can test your knowledge with the trivia games that apparently have hundreds of questions on them. I remember a sudden surge in little electronics like these in the early to mid 90s so it is no real surprise to see them in this catalog. Of course with the advent of smart phones, apps, and the wide spread availability of the internet nobody has a need to carry around devices like this anymore that only provide one single means of distraction. Back in 1995 though, this stuff was a big deal. Everyone always seemed to end up with two or three of these things, each doing something different and everyone always managed to get them taken away in school because we would always play them instead of reading or whatever. These Nick Puzzlers and Brain Benders are probably nothing special on there own but I am giving the concept as a whole a 4 out of 5 No Longer Practical To Own Electronic Devices! Because we all had junk like this laying around in the 1990s.

 YIKES FOR THE HOLIDAYS! : Yikes could not possibly be any more rooted in 1990s pop culture trends than what they are. Or were... as I don't think Yikes is even around as a company anymore. Anyyhow for my younger readers out there allow me to explain something to you. In the 1990s we were utterly obsessed as a culture with being as cool as possible. Now I know what your thinking, every generation thinks they are hip and cool. No, you do not understand we tried really, really, really hard to be ultra hip and mega in your face cool and we did so by attempting to be the most extreme generation as possible. Hence the need for stuff like Yikes school supplies. Yes you read that correctly, school supplies. It was just pens and pencils, notebooks and paper. But it was extreme pens and pencils, with neon paint jobs and multicolored eraser heads. Looking back on Yikes, I don't understand it at all. You don't need a pencil that is seventeen shades of yellow, orange, blue, and pink. But... what the hell it was cool so we bought as much Yikes stuff as we possibly could. Therefore its a Five out of Five Overpriced Neon School Supplies!

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BOOKS FROM BEYOND! : I have a story that I would like to tell. When I was in elementary school there was a certain section of books that could only be rented out once you were in 4th grade. It was a small section of "horror" (though I use that word only in the broadest possible definition, this was elementary school after all) books that mostly consisted of Goosebumps novels and a couple others that I don't exactly remember anymore. Everyone was always ubber jealous of the 4th grade class because they were the only ones allowed to read them. It was some sort of strange right of passage when you graduated from third to fourth grade, finally being able to check out books from this once forbidden section. You just felt older and more mature for being able to do so. In my days elementary school was K-4 and middle school ran 5-8 with high school kicking in at 9-12. There was a certain satisfaction from being the oldest class of kids in school, knowing that you got to check out books like these. I loved it. Everyone loved it. I'm not sure if these Books from Beyond are anything special, they probably aren't. And while we are ranking things on how well they would make Christmas presents my own personal preference has to intervene. If I had gotten these when I was in 3rd grade I would have proudly brought them to school and showed off to all my friends. Saying that I didn't have to rent from the forbidden library shelf, I owned this sit already. It would have been great! Five out of Five "Horror" Related Children's Books!

SUMMERFIELD SUITS HOTELS! : Pardon my language but what the fuck is this doing in here. "Hey kids! Tell mom and dad to book you a vacation..." Uhhh, no. I think I'll pass on that one. One out of Five Confused Marketing Strategies! 

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HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! : The Grinch is one of those defining Christmas movies that I think everyone should see at least half a dozen times in their life. It is one of my many holiday traditions to watch it at least once every XMAS season. What we have here is the audio book version of the... book. Alright yea, I would much rather own the physical book than the narration kind but I am going to have to give this specific one a pass because it is narrated by Boris Karloff! Yes that's right, Frankenstein's Monster is going to be reading you the story of how the Grinch Stole Christmas. If that's not awesome then I don't know what is. Three out of Five Karloff Points!

BIG FUN FOR SMALL FRIES! : Is a really stupid name for a set of magic markets. Let's not beat around the bush here, it is quite dumb. Even if they are some type of McDonalds branded markets and especially because there is a much more interesting name towards the end of the product description. McMarkers! Did you read that one correctly? McMarkers! McMarkers. It does not get much better then that folks. Four out of Five McPoints!


HYPERMAN CD-ROM GAME! : The bottom half of two separate pages are dedicated this Hyperman game. I'm really kind of angry with that decision. It makes me feel cheated out of what should have been four additional products. Instead all we get is Hyperman, a game that I have never heard of and chances are you have never heard of either. It is yet another puzzle solving title. Alright, I get that this is a kids magazine and a certain percentage of this stuff should promotion learning and education but every game in this Holiday Gift Guide has been one. In the 1994 version we had all kinds of Ren and Stimpy titles mixed in with the occasional puzzle title. There is no reason why Hyperman needs a two page spread all to himself. One out of Five Crappy PC Games!

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LEVI'S SHIRTS AND JEANS! : Blah! Speaking of full page advertisements that suck, the entire half of this page is dedicated to Levi's clothing. Brand name, top of the line, K-Mart special clothing. No kid wants clothing for Christmas. No matter how hip or cool Levi's try's to appear, it doesn't matter. Nobody wants them. One out of Five Crappy Christmas Presents!

MATH MUNCHERS DELUXE! : Look, this is 1995. The year of the Sony Playstation. Kids are wanting to play things like Crash Bandicoot or Twisted Metal not Math Munchers Deluxe. It is almost sort of insulting that the games that have been advertised in this magazine have been nothing but pure throw away garbage. One out of Five How Many Shitty PC Games Can We Fit in One Article!

AMERICAN CHILLS! : ... and the final item of the 1995 Holiday Gift Guide is none other than, a novel by Elizabeth Massie. Humph. To say that this catalog has been a disappointment is sort of an understatement. We have a serious lack of interesting, noteworthy items on these pages. I probably should have glanced over everything a little bit better before I committed into writing this full piece. Truth be told once you spend the time to scan in, rotate, crop, and upload all the photos. Write an introduction (which takes longer than you could imagine) and start on the piece... there is no going back.

I lived through the 1995 Holiday Season and I can tell you that the real items we wanted and wished for were much better and far cooler than anything seen in this catalog. I don't know why there was such a severe dip in quality products from 1994 to 1995. If I had to bet there was some bitchy parent out there who got together with some other equally bitchy parents and complained to Nickelodeon about the amount of toys they had in last years guide. Therefore, Nick felt obligated to stick in a bunch of educational software and wrist watches to make up for it the following season.

Yuck. Well, it was still an interesting look at a prior decade. It does give an interesting glimpse into the culture and how things were worded and how magazines were styled. So for that I am glad that I covered the 1995 Holiday Gift Guide. Sadly, there will be no 1996 version as these were the only two I could find. But you never know, I do have almost a full year to prepare for the 2012 Christmas Countdown!

1 comment:

  1. Wow absolutely everything in this sucks. There is nothing here I would have wanted no matter what age I was. The CD-Rom made me chuckle though. What a load of.... ! But still a fun read. Thanks for sharing.

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