The 30th anniversary of E.T. was last year, so I’m a little bit late, but I didn’t really think about it until I was walking the aisles of Toys R Us and a new E.T. toy caught my eye. I remember having a few original E.T. toys when I was little. I loved the movie and remember begging my parents to get the “limited edition” VHS when it was released some years after the film came out. I don’t know if E.T. is still seen my kids these days as they have so many films to choose from, but E.T. is a movie that certainly stands the test of time…too bad the toys do not.
The first blockbuster kids movie
One of the first E.T. toys I remember having was a simple wind-up spaceship that had a little E.T. figure inside. It was shiny and made that horrible wind-up noise shared by all similar toys. It wasn’t much but I loved it. And if I looked around my house hard enough, I think I would find my E.T. bedsheets. Some kids had G.I. Joe or He-Man, but I had E.T…and I was okay with that.
So while my bed sheets rocked as did my little spaceship, one thing that didn’t live up to the hype was the E.T. card game. Little did I know at the time, but this E.T. card game was probably my first introduction to what would be a lifelong suffering through cheap, poorly conceived licensed toys and games. After Star Wars, every movie under the sun that had even a hint of child appeal was given t-shirts, toys, games, bubble gum…you name it. These days, if you took all the licensed games & games out of the stores, you’d be left with less than one aisle of goods. Maybe these attempts at a quick buck have gotten better over the past 30 years but even then less than stellar.
The E.T. card game
The E.T. card game in question came with a deck of somewhat oversized cards that had scenes from the movie on them…like the closest scene, flying BMX bikes and E.T.’s Speak-n-Spell. There was also a “Danger” car that was black and depicted the keys of the government guy that was trying to catch E.T….”run, E.T., it’s the government!”
The game was for 2-players and each of you took turns picking a card from the deck and placing it on your forehead, the card facing the person across from you. Your job was to then use your telepathic abilities…not unlike those that E.T. possessed…to guess which card you were holding. If you got it right, you collected the card; if you were wrong, you didn’t. The first person to collect all the cards wins while also claiming bragging rights to some amazing ESP-style superpowers. So in short, the E.T. card game boiled down to little more than “what number am I thinking of?” It’s amazing what a toy license is able to sell.
A wind-up toy and card game isn’t where the E.T. license ended…heck, we all know what happened to the E.T. video game. So now scoot ahead 30-some years and E.T. has return to Earth with what seems to be a whole new host of toys. Of course, this time around they’re aiming at us 80s kids and every “toy” is more or less a collectible and that’s it. It’s not like an 8-year-old kid in 2012 has seen E.T. enough times to warrant demands for a toy.
While walking down the toy figure aisle I saw a few E.T. figures on clearance. They were well-sculpted figures about 6-inches tall portraying some of the most famous scenes in the films. The one that got my attention for a minute was the one with E.T. wearing a flannel shirt that came with the Speak-n-Spell. E.T.’s Speak-n-Spell hacking is one of the coolest things in the film, but the packaging on the toys fails to mention that E.T. wore the flannel while he was drunk when home alone. The figure itself garnered a quick smile as I remembered my own E.T. toy’s but what really made me shake my head was what I saw on the shelf below the pegs.
There, below E.T. in his bachelor drab was what appeared to be a severed E.T. hand. Turns out it was a play on the famous moments when E.T. used his magical light-up finger to amaze young Elliot and heal him. “Ouch.” E.T. is a movie I love and remember fondly but even I couldn’t imagine having an E.T. hand up on my mantle. Some things are just too weird, even for us kids that refuse to let go of our childhood passions. It’s toys like these that just make me wonder if E.T. even needed some new collectible toys. Toys like the hand seem like a blatant cash grab…and it is…and unfortunately, some people probably bought it.