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Family Life: Rise of the retro toys.

Byline: Louise Gray

PlayStations and Harry Potter games are the must-haves for today's children, but it seems there is still room for toy classics. My Little Pony is now back in stores around the county and Basil Brush is also making a comeback. Louise Gray analyses their ongoing appeal and finds out what other toys from a generation ago are available

Some people never grow up. While today's children play with PlayStations and Harry Potter games, many parents fondly recall their own childhood playing with old favourites such as My Little Pony and Basil Brush.

Now some of the best known toys of nearly 20 years ago have been rereleased for a new generation.

Childhood memories are dominated by toys. From Mr Potato Head, who turns 50 this year to the latest computer animated character, each generation is defined by their chosen plaything.

In the 1970s and 80s there were Rubik's Cubes, Etcha Sketches, GI Joe, Girl Talk, Cabbage Patch Kids, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Guess Who? - to name a few.

Twenty and thirtysomethings will no doubt remember My Little Pony - the brightly coloured plastic horses with flowing manes and sugary names - as well as listening for the sound of Boom! Boom! on the Basil Brush show. They are in for a sense of deja-vu as both of these old friends are back.

As Basil Brush prepares to make a comeback after 20 years absence from the nation's TV screens, BBC image makers have got their hands on the wily old fox. And soon fans will be able to get their hands on the toys.

Entertainment Rights, a merchandising group which bought the Basil Brush rights in 1999, is to produce 26 halfhour Basil Brush shows in conjunction with Children's BBC.

They're also backing a major merchandising and publishing programme to tie in with the show and a licensing deal has been signed with toy-maker Hasbro.

A singing Basil Brush is currently available in Woolworths for pounds 19.99.

Julie King of Entertainment Rights says: 'The toys have been very popular with adults because Basil's quirky English gentleman humour still makes them laugh.

'Basil is the official mascot of the National Union of Students, he appeals to their sense of irony.

'It has even been reported that Robbie Williams bought a talking Basil Brush toy.'

Another character from the 1970s who has survived is Bagpuss. The pink and yellow somnambulant one yawned his way into our hearts in 1974 and has never been forgotten. Atalking Bagpuss toy is currently available for pounds 19.99 from BBCshop.com Nostalgia programmes like I Love the 80s on BBC2 has revived an interest in childhood television programmes and classic toys.

Liz Butler of Woolworths says: 'Toys reflect what is happening elsewhere and there has been a huge renaissance for anything 80s.'

With the current surge in nostalgia, the store expects the new range of My Little Pony, starting at pounds 4.99, to be a success as well.

'The range sold more than 50 million toys in its ten year history from 1984-94, making it one of the most collectable concepts of all time.

Butler says: 'Girls who played with My Little Pony are now mothers and buying toys for their own children, although the range has been updated with new names and funky new accessories to keep up with modern trends.'

Eighties boy's toy Transformers are also available at Woolworths, from pounds 4.99 for the standard model to pounds 24.99 for Megatron.

For the serious collector retro toys are available over the internet at www.timewarp-toys.com and www.yesterdayland.com.

Both sites have an extensive range of classic toys from the 1950s onwards.

But expect to pay more than in the old days. For example, a Battle Armour He-man will cost approximately pounds 12, not including shipping. Harry Potter may be the latest fad but it seems originals are still the best and traditional role-play models like Action Men and Barbie remain favourites across the generations.

Butler says: 'Old fashioned toys are as popular as the new technologies. Original favourites like Barbie dolls and Action Men will always sell.'

Clinical Child psychologist, John Rocher, has studied children's relationships with toys and why parents choose a toy. Often it comes down to the fact that adults like their children to have the same toys they played with as children.

'Toys are about encouraging children to play and it is positive if parents can connect with the toys and play with the children,' says Rocher.

As most toys are picked by adults, this can affect how they are marketed.

'Toys are something that parents give to children, therefore the toys have to appeal to adults and their ideal of what children like.

'Toys like My Little Pony are chosen for their cute, cuddly factor and their girlishness. He-man-like toys are chosen for his huge muscles, power and supposed manliness.'

He adds: 'Toys have changed dramatically over the years as the toy industry grows but how people play does not change. Play is practising for the future and all of us remain playful to a certain extent.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 23, 2002
Words:855
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