Toy Canon is a project I devised to document all the deep lore about the toys I used to play with when I was a kid. Many of the details are already fading, and I don’t have all of these physical objects anymore between moving out of state for college, my parents moving out of my childhood home, and various rounds of donation or packing things into storage.
So here’s to the memories: all the hours lying on the carpet spinning elaborate family trees, erecting massive towns, roping my siblings into play sessions that went on for hours and hours.
Due to the limitations of my brain, and what I can confirm with my younger brother, this page will only be updated sporadically.
Last updated: 1 August 2022
The majority of my toy collection as a child were thrifted by mom over the course of a decade or so. I cannot stress enough that these were secondhand toys. Many had frizzy unkept hair that I avoided brushing as much as my own. Some were given haircuts by salon owners who felt a buzzed mohawk might suit them better. Since they weren’t purchased on card, I didn’t know most of their names so I made them up based on a combination of what sounded familiar from the TV shows (particularly My Little Pony Tales) and context clues from their color palette or cutie mark.
While I could catalogue all of the ponies I owned, most of them didn’t have meaningful names or personalities. Plus, I had two giant tubs filled to the brim with them. That was just too much for me especially since I had a strong preference for the smaller child or baby ponies.
For now, I am going to focus on six core families that were like “series regulars” whenever I played. I’m hazy on some of the specific details, but I know enough about them that I have assembled little collages as visual aids and can describe their general personalities and history.
All pony photo credits go to the amazing work done by MLP Merch.
Glory and Rainbow were my favorite of all of the kid ponies I owned. Their designs were visually appealing to me and I liked the smallness of the kid molds. Naturally, I decided they were siblings: Rainbow was just a touch older than her fraternal twin brother and the two had a competitive rivalry, especially at school where they were often vying for the top spot in their grade.
I recall Rainbow being quite bossy (not unlike myself at that age) and not necessarily popular with the other ponies at school due in part to her laser focus on academics. Glory, on the other hand, had quite a few friends who I will introduce later on. I recall very, very little about their mother, except that she was a princess.
Did I mention they lived in the She-Ra Crystal Castle and were fabulously wealthy? Despite this, the ponies attending public school alongside everyone else, but only Glory befriended the “less fortunate.”
I know they had various extended family members (aunts, cousins), and one talking green dog who moonlighted as a secret agent (it’s a story for another day!) Few play sessions lacked this duo and I know they are packed up in my parents garage somewhere.
Tex was the first adult male pony my mom bought me and he is the aforementioned toy with buzzed down hair. But since he was supposed to be a cowboy, I wasn’t really fussed over it. In my town, Tex was a single father to three boys. The eldest was Whirly who at some point only had one wing. His tail was in a tight braid and he was boasting a cropped hair style that was more of a bob than a buzz. Little Flitter was the middle child - a year or so younger - who was missing his wings and had very frizzy white hair. The youngest wasn’t a Hasbro pony at all but this pink vinyl pony with a star design on it that I named Starburst. He was a wimpy little thing, a tagalong brother. They had different friend groups as a result of their age, which I’ll get into later.
Unlike the unicorns, Tex wasn’t exactly wealthy. He lived on the outskirts of town in an imaginary trailer. In retrospect, he gives me Greg Universe vibes. He lives near his hometown and hangs out with his buds every now and then a la King of the Hill (minus the alcohol and smoking,) but he’s hardworking at whatever his job was and cares a lot about his boys.
For his part, Whirly was also one of the smart kids at school, though not necessarily a “nerd.” He was a bit more athletic and aloof. And despite his home life, he was Glory’s best friend through thick and thin. He was over at his house so often that he might as well have been a third child to the Princess, though he was occasionally self-conscious about not belonging.
Eventually, a couple of Whirly’s cousins moved in and one of them, Cloudpuff, became a close confidant. Lily and her sisters, however, were a pain in his small blue behind. I think another cousin moved in much later, a darker blue flutter pony who still had both of his wings, but I don’t remember as much about him off the top of my head.
Little Flitter was a yellow-bellied worrywart. Very caring, but a little hesitant to go on adventures with the other kids in his friend group. If I’m being honest, I’m not 100% certain he was in this family unit, but it sounds right to me.
Starburst is a shining example of how I would mix toys in my play sessions. It really didn’t matter that he was ridiculously small compared to the others or had no rooted hair and an entirely smooth body. He was a pony so that meant he made total sense in ponyville.
Technically, Munchy is a “girl” pony, but do you really think my canon was bound to any gender norms after hearing about all these flutter pony boys? Anyway, Munchy was childhood friends with Ted and the two still hang out with Papa Applejack regularly.
Keeping with the sibling rivalry themes, Munchy grew up constantly compared to his older brother Scoops — the successful golden child who runs the ice cream parlor with his wife. He felt like nothing in his life was going to stack up against him until he bumped into his childhood sweetheart: Cherries Jubilee, a gorgeous redhead who taught at the schoolhouse.
There was this epic, awkward family dinner episode I did with their mother coming in town to visit and big confrontations lol but eventually, Munchy and Scoops were on much better terms and their kids were often in one another’s company.
Cherries’s personality evades me. I recall her being fairly even tempered but protective of her children. She was best friends with her sister-in-law, but very frustrated by her mother-in-law, especially her treatment of Munchy.
Anyway, the couple lived in the Strawberry Shortcake Berry Baking Playset (sans all the accoutrements, because thrifted):
Valentine was the oldest child and clearly took after her mother (literally in terms of aesthetics - look at that hair color match!) At school, she tried hard to pretend that she didn’t even have younger siblings and tried focusing on leadership instead. Her mission was to make something of herself to get out of Ponyville come what may.
??? - I'm sorry to admit that I have no idea what the middle-child's name was and I can't help fixating on just how much he looks like Tex. Was he actually Tex's son and I have the family structures mixed up? But for now this is where I am placing him in my memory because he's an earth pony, because he looks right standing near Tappy and Munchy. Idk! I do know that he would have been in the same age category as some of his cousins (Stockings, Bubbles, the Applejacks) rather than the slightly older elementary kids (Glory, Rainbow, Whirly) and that if his sister took after Cherries, then he certainly took after Munchy - maybe even to a degree that he didn't look and was frustrated by.
Tappy was the baby brother. He was very short with ringlet curls and a piggy snout. He was best friends with Little Flitter and Starburst and would often hang out with them when Tex and Munchy would meet up. Despite being quieter than his sister, Tabby also had lofty ideas and a big imagination, especially when left alone to express himself however he wished. Don’t get me wrong though, he was a “loser”-type character, often the butt of jokes. But that didn’t stop him!
So what was the golden boy actually like? Fairly responsible, actually. Pretty well adjusted. He was often the voice of reason, attempting to reign in the schemes of his cousin Salty (I’m getting there! This is a huge cast.) While Munchy was a little down-on-his-luck in terms of career paths, Scoops ran a successful parlor with his wife. They had a pretty good relationship, too, as I recall.
Unlike Cherries Jubilee, Lickety Split was somewhat feisty - an opinionated auntie who was certainly not afraid to give her mother-in-law a piece of her mind whenever she was in town. She also did her best to rein in the girls when they would go off-the-rails with giggling and procrastination.
Shady felt like she was the center of the universe. She wanted to stand out in a crowd (not hard with her fuchsia body and neon green hair), was constantly chatty during classes, an actrice at heart. Not the brightest kid, Shady couldn’t really relate to the nerds since she was constantly falling behind in class. She was also determined to fall in love — a totally boy-crazy pony. Not that I can recall the object of her affection off the top of my head, but I’m pretty sure it was not reciprocated.
Snowflake was Scoops younger daughter: a highly impressionable airhead who was very, very close to her older sister sometimes in ways that blew up in her face. Although her own dreams for life were just as large, Snowflake was much more of a follower than a leader. Sometimes she would go along with the silliest of plans just because Shady said so.
I can't recall with certainty if this was the full size of this household. I think they might have had a younger son named Cuddles (using the Baby Cuddles model), but I'll hold off on that until something more concrete jogs my memory.
After a lot of thought, I'm pretty sure that Salty is Tex’s brother (due to the similar pony moulds - because that was logical to me as a kid) and Merry Treat might have been Cherry’s best friend in high school. They were often at gatherings with Munchy and Scoops as a result, which led to huge holiday parties and all kinds of shenanigans.
If there’s one thing I need to impress upon you it’s that Salty was a massive dork. He’s the kind of pony who totally thought he was one of the cool kids back in high school, and still looks fondly on those days, but even back then people thought he was actually a goofball. He's the first one to crack dad jokes and show up at parent-teacher conferences to embarass his kids. Also, he was secretly Santa Claus.
You know because Merry Treat is a Christmas pony? Seriously that was my rationale haha So it’s no wonder that I assigned Stockings as the son of this household.
Merry Treat was actually one of the most popular ponies when this generation was in high school. Very pretty, compassionate, and imaginative. She helps Salty run the family business, though they can never reveal to their kids just what they do. Sometimes, work kept her away from home, especially during the off-season, and her oldest son was SUCH a mama’s boy that he always missed her terribly.
Stockings was a pony who had bad luck. He was always getting into trouble at school, tripping over his own hooves, getting picked on by the local bullies, especially when secrets about his baby blanket leaked (scandalous!) But at the end of the day, he had something that some of his cousin’s didn’t: a brother he genuinely got along with not only at home but at school. They shared all the same friends (Applejack and Bouncy come to mind immediately) and that made the worst moments of his life somehow more tolerable.
Bubbles was a little more adventurous than stockings. He didn’t want to stay cooped up at home all the time and was often what pushed the two of them to go outside, meet up with their friends, get into a little trouble every now and then (though it sometimes escalated beyond their means.) They were nerds in a truer sense of the word: not booksmart, but interested in fantasy and video games and comic books.
Did I mention that I am really not all that creative with naming ponies? Well, here’s a classic example. I had the original Applejack pony, so I named him Applejack. As noted earlier, he was best friend’s with Munchy in a nerdy clique alongside Bouncy, Firefly, and a few others (not to be confused with the friend group with Tex, Salty, and Scoops who were in the "cooler" kid group - at least comparatively speaking.)
To be honest, I have no idea who Applejack’s wife was, if he ever had one, but he had three kids to look after: Applejack, AJ, and Starflower.
Here’s how we got here: my mom thrifted me a translucent earth pony that had this galactic cutie mark pattern. Since the pony was orange and had short-clipped blonde hair, I named him Applejack. Only… later on, my mom thrifted me Baby Applejack. That wouldn’t do. Suddenly, I had TWO kids named Applejack? And then my mom thrifted me a second copy of the same galaxy pony, only this one had full-length hair. So clearly she was a girl and needed to be Applejack’s sister, but what was I to do with this family structure?
Here’s my best guess: Applejack, the um, the one that looks like Applejack became AJ — an athletic kid who was loved to play soccer with the other ponies. He wanted to be a cool kid who could skateboard, but he wasn’t really on that level. In a lot of ways, that made him kind of like his dad haha But he thought of himself as much cooler than that!
Applejack (AKA short-haired Starflower) was constantly getting into trouble at school even though it wasn’t his fault! He resembled Todd from Wayside School in this regard. Starflower, in comparison, was a straight-A student who was vying for the top seat right up there with Glory, Rainbow, and Whirly (remember them? It’s been a while so scroll up if you need a refresher.) She was running for student council and had a rivalry with Rainbow.
There are definitely parallels between Applejack/Starburst and Munchy/Scoops, but the key difference is that Papa Applejack loved all three of his kids and didn’t treat them any different. If anything, Starburst was the black sheep for succeeding in ways that were foreign to people in their part of the neighborhood.
Earlier, I included a few of the random playsets that I used when playing with ponies, but I somehow neglected to include the massive structure that was the Barbie Dream House. I had the orange and yellow model that was missing the plant boxes and a good number of balcony railings, but had most of the windows. I usually had it set up so that the side parts were facing forward so that I could reach in to arrange everything as desired. Barbies rarely set foot in this home: it was almost exclusively overrun by ponies. Sometimes it would be a big party house for slumber party adventures. Other times, it would be a haunted mansion that they had to escape from before the ghosts or monstrous lion (aka She-Ra's lion, Clawdeen) could sink her teeth and paws into them. Sometimes their escape would be done with the assistance of Dash Rendar, Princess Leia (in her Boussh disguise), Luke Skywalker (in his stormtrooper disguise.)
Honestly, I'm not even scratching the surface with the Ponyville population. I had dozens of extra school kids who had their own cliques, extended family members, randon townies, and "box fodder" - the ponies who spent most of their lives in my big bins so I could pull them out when I needed extra citizens to work with during bigger episodes. I might make a separate page cataloguing and organizing these different groups.
Unlike the MLP Canon, I had a much looser attachment to individually Polly Pocket dolls. This meant that they didn’t really have super formed personalities, though I did have a few routine scenarios that I would motion through based on some of my favorite compacts—and I had a lot of them. By my count, I had around 31 compacts, two rings, and a board game. I’ll publish that full list later, but first let’s dive into the narrative framework of polly playtime.
My oldest one in terms of release dates! This was pretty standard playfair. One polly would be designated the ticket seller while the others would make their way around the fair grounds, scooting around in the roller coaster seat, being whizzed around like mad in the bunny-go-round, or having tame fun down the slide. I'm positive that I ended up losing those coaster seats, which meant the track ended up being a ~fancier~ slide. Given her age, Balloon Polly was one of the dolls who became very worn out.
This is one of the sets I have the most vivid memories of playing with! I loved to open and close the doors to the chapel. The Bride would get frustrated with the process, especially since all of the guests on the other side would start singing or cheering, but she wasn't ready for the event to begin! One day, I took this with me to preschool and lost the Groom. Or thought I did. I might have found him later somewhere in the recesses of my bedroom, but I was convinced he was gone forever and cried. That was my lesson not to take beloved toys to school with me.
This one takes me back! I honestly didn't remember that these two pollies came from this set, because they just succombed to the bag of dolls I had. This usually let to Seinfeld-like episodes where Pollies were trying to be seated in an overcrowded restaurant, or would be a date-spot between two dolls (usually on the upper-floor in front of the King and Queen portraits where they could cozily share secrets.)
This was a heavily used playset! I never liked playing house, store, or doctor, but school? That was my shit. It let me determine which dolls were what kind of student: who was the art kid, smearing paint on canvas? Who was the student excelling at math and the one in the back who was failing? Who complained about the cafeteria food every day and who was the athlete swimming laps in the pool? I don't remember this boy doll whatsoever (95% sure I lost him), but hat girl has such a pretty design and I know I played with her a lot, though not necessarily in this set lol She looked too fancy to be at school given the uniforms at my brother's elementary were just t-shirts and pants/skirts.
To be honest, I had no idea what Polly Pocket packaging looked like until beginning this project because I have no cognizant memory of unboxing these toys - just owning and playing with them. But after stumbling upon this Gift Set, I know someone bought this for me one year because I had that throne, necklace, and all of these pollies! Midge's Flower Shop is a pretty uninspiring setting. I know I would sit dolls on the shell throne at the top, make the parrot say random things, go down the slide, and that's kind of it... my main reason for featuring this in my Toy Canon is because the pink and blue doll with the overalls was my favorite Polly. I don't even know why! I just claimed her as the best and featured her in most of my stories.
This was one of the sets that I used to use to tell stories to my younger brother to make him laugh. Midge (never knew her name tbh - I don't remember ever naming Pollies!) would either be writing a story on a dark and stormy night, sneaking out of bed to read, or trying to fall asleep while being repeatedly and humorously interrupted. Over time, she lost one of her hands, the hinge was entirely compromised, and the ring component of the bed was thoroughly chewed up (courtesy of said brother.) Despite this, I'm super fond of this toy and I know it's one that I saved in my parents' garage.
This thing was massive, impossible to store, and one of my greatest treasures. It had two compartments where you could store pollies, which was a huge help for coralling all of the dolls given how many sets I had been gifted. There were all kinds of adventures to go on: picnics on the beach, hunting for buried treasure, tending to the horses at their stables, or lounging in the mansion. Even though the physical design is very clunky, it encouraged telling stories with multiple characters. And the animals! As someone who adored collecting tiny animals, this set really did it for me - especially the tiny cats and bunny.
It's confusing to me that this is marketed as a nursery, when it's a doctor set, but regardless of its name, I played with this one a lot. Baby pollies made me laugh because they are so tiny and their faces are so silly. These two would get into all kinds of mischief, crawling out of their cribs when Dr. Polly was upstairs at her desk, or trying to catch a quick nap after changing and bathing the kids. I remember liking the tactile feel of how the white door would open close and the bright colors were so much fun. I'm sure I held these baby sets near to my heart at least a little because of Rugrats.
I don't remember this swan at all, but boy do I remember the rest of the set! This was ideal for Cinderella storytelling with the castle, carriage, and the royal couple. The doors opened to a throne and canopy bed. I think there was a suit of armor with a secret passage behind it. This compact was incredibly chunky because it required batteries to light up the stars and gazebo, which I thought was SO cool as a kid. That's already pretty cool, but not nearly as cool as...
Even though I loved Disney as much as the next kid, I didn't aspire to be a princess by any means (though I WAS obsessed with Belle for a long time.) But these fairies? That was a world I wanted to disappear into. The clear glittery hot hair balloons with petal-shaped baskets, the heart-shaped seats on the fountain, the little dance turn-style where pollies could get their jam on. I played with this giant hunk of plastic almost as much as Polly's World, especially because the two fairies who actually had wings were the prettiest things I ever saw. They acted as fairy godmothers to the pollies granting them wishes beyond their wildest dreams. Blonde Polly looks very Tinkerbell, but the one with short, orange hair was one of my faves and it showed in her hinges. Surprisingly, these wings lasted through the ages, though!
I only owned the first two in this set, but as with the older nursery they were frequently in my play rotation. Since these babies were in sitting positions, they looked even funnier than the older ones. If I had to choose between the two, I liked the pink one more - the play area downstairs lent itself to my favorite story: escape of the toddlers! This poor babysitter could never catch a break.
There are plenty of other sets that I owned, the majority of which were thrifted by my mom, but I don't have as many vivid memories of playing with them so much as owning them. While MLP playtime was consistently character-driven, I engaged with my pollies on a more situational-basis, which makes sense since you're given realized environments for them to interact with and the dolls themselves are so small! I know some of the dolls could be sorted into categories like "snobby one," "peppy one," "anxious one," but I can't conjure a single name or broad-reaching story arc.
Let me start first by saying that my mom was a Barbie Girl as in the first Barbie with the iconic black and white swimsuit and cherry-red lips was released the year after she was born leading to many birthdays with dolls and accessories. She owned the original cardboard Barbie Dreamhouse, which she stored in the garage when I was little. In general, my love of toys is 100% due to my mom’s own joyous memories playing on the floor with her dolls. We even went to Barbie Conventions in the 90s so that she could scour tables to buy outfits for her Francie and Skipper dolls filled with new determination to rekindle her joy of collecting after her parents had to sell off her entire collection during a bad financial spot.
Despite my mom’s best hopes that she could share this nostalgic adoration of Barbie with her children, I was not a Barbie kid. The tall plastic-y bodies and long swoosh-y hair didn’t inspire me to play. That’s not to say that I didn’t own or play with Barbie dolls. In fact, taking on this project reminded me of just how many of them I did own throughout my childhood (and these are only the ones I can easily remember from combing through catalogues!) But what I remember enthusiastically enjoying in my Toy Canon was the material objects of Barbie world: the playlets, the little food, the little shoes, the little accessories, little, little, little. Any time I could swipe a Barbie object and use it during playtime with ponies, littlest pet shop (which I’ll get to soon, I swear!) or the hodge podge of McDonald’s toys that I owned, I would. Poor Barbie. Always being robbed by animals and other strange creatures.
Another thing that surprised me while doing research for this article is just how many of these toys were given to me brand new. There were apparently just as many birthdays and Christmases featuring Barbie as there were Polly Pockets. There’s also just as steep a drop-off point. It didn’t take my mom long to realize that I had fully outgrown any interest in Barbie even as the thrifted ponies kept on coming.
Without further ado, welcome to Barbie Canon: 90s edition.
Wow, this was such a throwback when I saw this one! My parents must have bought it at a Mattel Warehouse sale (which you’ll hear more about when I get around to writing about Littlest Pet Shop!) I'm pretty sure that I did not own that pool or floaty, but I do recall the bright yellow rattan chairs and the table with fruit. The pineapple half especially sticks out in my memory.
Ah yes, Caboodles Barbie. I already wrote a little about my experience owning this doll in the deco section. I don’t have a lot of memory or attachment to the doll itself, but she definitely has those classic 90s hallmarks: the very stiff , those round candy-like earrings, a very stiff hem to a glittery hot pink dress. I don’t remember playing this doll, but I remember owning her and that’s a very common trend for me this time around. While I can recall specific plot lines for pollies and way too many details for ponies, these dolls are more elusive to me in part because they were never that all inspiring to me to begin with. When I watch collection videos by A Thousand Splendid Dolls and they’re able to recall in vivid detail the personalities and stories of dolls they’ve owned for decades, it makes me a little jealous! Lol
This might be a false memory, but I swear I can remember going to the Salvation Army with my mom and getting this doll in one of their plastic-wrapped grab bags. At the very least, I know that I didn’t get this doll brand new and she might not have even had these funky earrings on - I vaguely remember something simpler, plainer stuck into her head holes. Midge stood out in my line up of very blonde dolls so I played with her a little more often. Sometimes she was the voice of reason character, reigning in Barbie’s desire to cruise around in her jeep or convertible. Other times, especially as her crimped hair began to frizz over time, she was the more impulsive, wild friend. Occasionally, she made appearances in Pony stories maybe as another teacher or figure of authority since she was tall.
I’m not 100% whether this was thrifted alongside Midge or if I was given this doll brand new. I’m leaning toward new because those gold earrings and ring look very familiar and finding thrifted dolls with their accessories was no easy feat! Anywho, I remember this jumpsuit and jacket vividly. She was definitely paired up as friends with Midge. They look like a matching pair going out together for a night on the town. She’s not nearly as fake tan as Caboodles Barbie, but I don’t have any fond attachment to her.
Under the Pony section, I already wrote about the Barbie Dream House that I primarily recall from my childhood. But I also have hazy memories of this folding house that my parents picked up at a swap meet. It might have even had most of the furniture and accessories since I definitely remember the picnic table and bench, the plastic flowers, Barbie’s framed selfie, and that candelabra. I imagine that folding and putting away all of these pieces was a pain in the butt and this was likely before The Playroom where I was able to store all of my elaborate toys.
Mattel sure loved their hair toys, huh? For this one, I don’t remember the doll as much as the outfit. These neon colors and those palm tree earrings are seared into my memory. I wouldn’t be surprised if I gave her outfit to another doll at some point. Not much to say about this doll, but it was a trip to find another one that was in the doll bins!
Ah, yes, Whitney… we have finally come upon the first toy in the Barbie lineup that I genuinely loved and played with often. First of all, I still really love this design: her warm, wavy brown hair, the plastic scrunchie ponytail, the big heart-shaped purple glasses, the dress polkadot frills, the lunch plate that clips onto her wrist. The illustration in the corner is also really adorable! In general, I loved the Chelsea line in the 90s. They were the perfect age and size: not a toddler (like Kelly) and not as tall as Skipper where she felt like an older teenager. Now the Chelsea dolls are somewhere between this type and Kelly in terms of size, but generally their designs aren’t as interesting to me. Their faces look super uncanny valley to me lol Kudos to my mom for also choosing the brunette doll over Chelsea because I think that also contributed to why I was so much more attached to this character.
I thought this playset was so dang cool when I was a kid. As a chicken nugget fiend, I was so happy that my toys could also go to McDonalds. The standout was the menu board that people could drive or walk up to to place their orders. This might have been the first set that I ever owned, come to mind, so that’s probably another reason why it stood out even though it didn’t come with all that many accessories. Also you can rest assured that the ponies got a lot of playtime here as well haha
I’m pretty sure that I owned these Kelly accessories, but I’m not entirely sure that I owned this doll and the crib set. It’s possible that I found the dress and food items in a thrift store bundle. It’s really funny to me that the box advertises that the doll smells “baby powder fresh!” If you’ve read my previous Toy Canon articles then it should come as no surprise that Kelly was my favorite from the Barbie line because she was so small. Her stature meant that I could readily include her in sessions with much smaller figures. But I also distinctly remember playing with her on her own and not even necessarily with Barbie babysitters to watch after her.
Speaking of which, this toy is a classic from the 90s lines. The color palette of her sweater and pants are so delightfully of the time. I don’t remember dissolving the bag for the baby name reveal if I even received this toy brand new lol I definitely had several of these babies floating around in my toy bins though because they were easy to find in thrift bags when trying to get other accessories.
Now.. technically, I don’t remember exactly what version of this doll that I owned since they released a couple versions of her. But I do remember my grandmother giving this to me as a present one year, especially that oversized toothbrush. I liked that the doll had soft body because that I meant I could play with her more readily in bed and I was obsessed with plush toys as a kid (there were always several with me each night.) The eye gimmick wasn’t very good though and she never made an appearance with my other dolls during actual play time.
This doll has a very different body and face mold! Her arms aren’t in that weird 90-degree angle pose and instead are stuck straight at her sides for easy pool diving (or, in my case, bubbly bathtub!) If I ever had fragrance this came with then my mom assuredly threw it away since she always claimed every whiff of perfume gave her a migraine. This was one of my most played with Barbie-Barbie’s if for no other reason than I got to take her into water with me and I adored playing in water as a kid even though I didn’t know how to swim lol She’s definitely a simple, bargain doll, but I can remember her much more vividly than the Hollywood Hair one.
If there’s one doll in this entire post that brings me the most joy, it’s Janet. How could it not be? She came with TWO polly dolls and a cool vinyl backpack. I love the colors on her dress and she has the most precious face. Does she have the same basic face mold as Whitney and Stacey? Sure… and I do wish that Mattel had more diverse doll representation when I was a kid, but I also think that Janet is still so beautiful. You can bet that I played with Whitney and Janet quite a bit as a kid, especially compared to the older characters.
This might have been a thrifted purchase or something my mom scooped up in a damaged box at the Mattel Warehouse. I don’t remember having the two kids in my set, but I do vividly remember the doll, chalkboard, pencil sharpener (which had sound effects for immersion) and maybe the two chairs? Next to Tropical Splash, this was far and away my most played with doll. I loved that she was a teacher since playing school was my favorite thing to do and plenty of other toys could reasonably fit in those chairs. Not to mention the playset was perfect for Ponyville hi-jinks.
This was the Kelly doll that I owned brand new, because I remember having al of these accessories, the outfits (especially the duck robe!) and I played with this bathtub all of the time at the sink. The commercial for this doll is seared in my memory along with Shoppin’ Fun Barbie and Kelly (which I never owned but always kind of wanted.) It’s kind of weird how Kelly has a wide opening at her mouth. I know it’s for her bottle, but it’s just weird to look at now.
This is the last doll that I recognized as owning with crystal clarity from my research. It was a birthday gift from my grandmother. As alluded to with Janet earlier, Mattel’s attempts at diversity were quite poor in the 90s (and, arguably, remained that way until recently.) Despite this, I remember thinking that this doll was too beautiful to play with. I loved her long, shiny black hair and the her tan complexion. While I did unbox her, I didn’t really play with her so much as keep her on display or occasionally brush her hair. I’m also grateful that my grandmother chose this doll out of all the others she could have picked since my family has such a complicated history with assimilation into white American culture. As a first-generation American herself, I often wonder what kind of relationship my grandmother has to her Mexican heritage. What would a doll representing women from Guanajuato look like?
I wasn't sure where to include these last two since I don't know the exact year or model for the ones that I own. I think that I might have been given this carriage as a gift at one of my dad's Christmas parties at work? It was so huge that I could fit just about any of my toys inside of it. The plastic was pretty flimsy so this wasn't one of my heavily used toys, but the horse was basically a princess in the Toy Canon. I think she might have even secretly been Whirly's mother??
My mom kept a large white shopping bag in our entryroom where she stashed some of her Barbie memorabilia including a reproduction intage doll that I used to take out an admire all of the time. At some point, I think I must have seen this car in there and asked if I could play with it and uh she just never got it back haha I'm sure a different collector would have been scandalized by such a prized object actually being played with but I'd like to think my mom was happy watching my siblings and I having fun with it. No toy had a cooler car in our household. Except the Ninja Turtles. But I'll save that for if I ever interview my younger brother for his Toy Canon...
If I remember anything else, I’ll be sure to update this post, but I wanted to kick-off my return to Toy Canon with something short and sweet. While I never had the same relationship to Barbie as my mom, I still have some good memories of these toys. There have been plenty of books written about the problematic history of Barbie in general, but toys are such an important part of all of our childhoods that I don’t want to knock her back to hard on her semi-articulated rubbery legs.
Right up there with My Little Pony and Polly Pockets, Littlest Pet Shop was THE toy line that consistently ignited my imagination as a kid. If there was one thing I would not shut up about when I was a tiny tot was how much I loved animals, wanted dozens of pets, and maybe even wanted a career in that field (which I let go of quickly because writing about animals was infinitely easier to me lol) The majority of texts I borrowed from the library heavily featured animals: Zoo Books, Beatrix Potter’s entire canon, fables, the Animal Ark series (keep an eye out for a project suturing that gem in the future..) I think the only shocking thing about my adoration of animals is that I completely missed out on the whole Steve Irwin phase, but we didn’t always have access to Animal Planet/Discovery Channel when I was growing up.
Since these toys were small, I was able to mix and match playtime with them with lots of other figures that I owned including the plethora of Pokemon that I owned (which… that needs to be its own entry in this series, doesn’t it? Added to the list!) Usually when I would play with them, I would build my own towns and pair certain critters up in family units. Compared to my ponies, a lot of this lore is unfortunately lost to time but I will do my best to recover it for these archives.
In previous Toy Canon updates, I alluded to the infamous Mattel Warehouse that was near my childhood home. My parents would go there semi-regularly to scope out potential presents for birthdays and Christmases. What made this appealing to them was that items were often on discount because the boxes might have been dinged up, some pieces might have fallen out of the box, etc. But they stoked such a wide variety of coveted toys such as Ninja Turtles, Hot Wheels, Barbie, and Littlest Pet Shop. Aside from when my mom started putting Pokemon toys on layaway at Walmart, the Warehouse and thrift stores was where the majority of our massive toy collection originated.
The most significant play session was pretty late into my childhood; in fact, I’m almost certain that I must have been in middle school at the time. I assembled almost every little figure that I owned into a massive post-apocalyptic scavenger town that sprawled across the entire center of my room. The structure stayed up for days and many, many hours of play until it became far too unwieldy given that I shared a room with someone and needed to respect their need for space lol
This wasn’t a super gritty narrative either, because that wasn’t my bag.. but I since I only had so many accessories, the idea was that the families had to barter and trade for what they needed, to find new roles for themselves in this post-Whatever Ominous Thing Happened world.
This will likely be covered in a future post, but I was obsessed with One Hundred and One Dalmatians as a kid and struck gold at thrift stores after the two live action movies came out because there were so many cute toys, including dozens from McDonalds alone. This is all to say that I very much loved this little puppy. I don’t recall owning the playset so he must have come on his own at a thrift store. According to the Kenner packaging, he would wag his tail when you brushed him so it’s possible he had an inner magnet? But I do remember his tail having the ability to go up and down, though I did it manually.
Aside from these memories, I’m assuming that he was a Good Boy. Someone who wanted to help out, was maybe a little hyper. He might have been a helper around the camps. But this my impression of looking at him as an adult rather than a clear memory of playing with him.
I messaged my younger brother to confirm that I owned this entire playset, which was a rarity! One thing LPS was infamous for was doing color palette swaps for “new” releases. I had two of these bunnies and I imagine they were probably related to each other… maybe sisters? This one was likely the sweet one - always lending a hand. When you pressed her tail down, her ears would wiggle.
Looking at her, I remember even less than I do about the Dalmatian. She was just a cute little figure who I liked to pretend to feed with the carrots and then tuck into her basket looking pretty.
This set, however, sparks a lot of joy and memories. I didn’t have the mailbox, but everything else looks familiar. I think my poodle was gray rather than white, though. She was a high-maintenance type character — bossy and beautiful. I think I mentally modeled her after Georgette from Oliver and Company haha The collie was a friendly type. He was very good friends with the spaniel, or maybe they were dating? I’m not positive on that. He might have been friends with the Dalmatian, but quieter than him, a little more patient, a little less active. And for her part, the spaniel was one of my favorites. There’s something about her appearance that read “protagonist” to me. She was someone I wanted to root for in my stories.
I’m pretty sure this was an open-box one that was missing the mommy and the sitting kitten. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure I had all of the other pieces! Remember how I was a sucker for Polly Pocket babysitting sets? I wish I had way more baby LPS sets because I loved their teeny tiny paws and small round eyes. I had the White Kitten 1 (an adventurous, playful type), Gray Kitten 2 (a sleepy, lazy boy who always wanted to play), Kitten 4, and Kitten 5. They were all boys I think except for kitten 4 who was the twin sister of 5. Sibling stories always appealed to me and having two that looked alike actually made them even more interesting to me for storytelling. Will they help each other or get annoyed? I think they must have had some degree or Marie and Toulouse to them, but at the end of the day they would still help each other out.
The set itself was fine. The sticker looks pretty goofy, but a scratcher toy and magnetic ball of yarn had their uses and charm. The basket has an important storytelling component for more background on this family so I’ll get to that later!
This is another set that stands out in my memory. The gray cat could scratch the post when you pressed her tail and the other cat’s head… bobbed? For some reason? Anyway, I played with this pair often though not necessarily together. Gray cat was definitely the sassy, best friend type. A little more acerbic than you can deal with sometimes, but she came from a good place. I imagine she was friends with the poodle since I was never a Cats vs Dogs kind of person. The other kitty was the protagonist cat equivalent to the spaniel dog. She was a go-getter, unsure but determined. I think those large blue-green eyes won me over.
I’m sure I must have seen these movies, but I have zero recollection of them lol I think this was a thrifted set rather than one purchased at full-price since pieces were missing, such as Missy, Chubby, and the piano. I mainly recall playing with Tchaikovsky (who was absolutely not named that in my canon) and Dolly, which, shocker, must be because I love brother-sister duos. Tchaikovsky was also a rambunctious scamp always getting into mischief, teaming up with the more adventurous of the kittens. Dolly was a little more hesitant, preferring to stay home and with a bit of a tattle-tale streak. I don’t remember playing with Moe lol He was probably one of those toys that I let my brother play with on the rare occasion that he joined me since LPS wasn’t really his thing.
The only piece I had from this set was Dolly and she was such a cutie! Unlike the previous Dolly, she’s in such a dynamic position with her pigtail ears flying behind her, tongue flopping out of her mouth. She was the tomboy of the child generation of LPS toys, often leading the way with Tchaikovsky.
I actually have a vivid of memory of my parents buying this at the Mattel Warehouse! It was such a big score because it had almost all of the pieces and certainly all of the figures. This bathtub got a lot of play, as you can probably imagine from waxing poetic on that Kelly toy set. Also, now that I see this quad of pooches, this must be the gray poodle I was remembering earlier, which means the other two dogs from that set were very likely thrifted or from an damaged box.
The Golden Retriever and White Dog were married in a Pongo and Perdita-like relationship and they were caretakers of all those kittens. Since I didn’t have a momma kitty, and this dog just looked like such a kind and maternal character, that basket became hers and she took those cats in as though they were her own.
Perdita and Pongo were also the main characters in the Big Apocalypse play session. They were trying to make ends meet to ensure that their kittens would be fed and safe. I distinctly remember amassing resources around the basket, which was their home base. The little orange kitten would tagalong with Pongo as they traipsed around the market to barter.
Since I didn’t like the pug, which looks a lot more like a Sharpei IMO, I also designated that as a toy my brother could play with when he joined me.
As mentioned earlier, I know I had this individually bunny but I don’t think I had the full set. Compared to the more prim and proper white bunny, I think the one was a little more easy going. I don’t remember any specifics about how I would play with her though. Given that was I was REALLY into bunnies as a kid, I’m surprised I don’t have strong attachment memories to the pair.
The ring perch has serious Polly Pocket vibes to it, which is quite delightful. I definitely owned this full set and remember playing with the bird cage and pressing the Toucan’s head down to make its wings flap. Because they couldn’t really stand on their own, I don’t recall playing with them as often with the other animals. True to the Jolly name, I imagine this one to be quite hyper, chatty, and upbeat. They always looked more to me like a parrot than a toucan, despite the beak-length.
One of the thrifted sets and I had most of the pieces to it (minus the Seal and fishing items)! Penguins always remind me of my younger brother. They have a metal ball underneath them so that they have a gliding effect on the ice cave. They had a personality kind of similar to the gulls in Finding Nemo — repetitive speech, not much going on except a one track mind for food. The polar bear has a very sweet face, but I don’t remember much about her in terms of play.
Another great birthday find from the warehouse! My parents really nailed it with the Zoo line because I adored this tiger. Since she had a special set, I used to play with her on her own quite often, which is rare compared to the others that I usually grouped up in order to have fun. She wasn’t a baby in my head canon either; more like a kid my age who wanted to break free from the locked gate to scamper off on adventures. When I was doing one of my bigger crossover play sessions, she would be grouped together with the other beige kitty.
This was also a brand new purchase :) I even remember opening this one!! You could feed the monkey with a little bottle that would be suction filled with water and then they would pee their cloth diapers lol These kind of toys always weirded my older brother out and they weren’t really my cup of tea either. I had much more fun having the chimp hang out in the hammock or hang off of the bars. Unlike the tiger who I would play with independently in addition to the bigger group, I think I exclusively played with the baby chimp with this set or with the tiger since the zoos looked good side by side. Those feet just made it so much harder to incorporate into play with the others!
Another one I remember opening from the box! This is such a simple set but I adore it. The honey bear has that same sweet face as the polar bear, but comes with a little honey pot?? And I remember there being glitter sprayed onto the cave lol Despite how intimidating wild bears can look, this one looks sweet as pie and that’s how I played with her. Just a warm and caring lady. Now that I think about it, there’s a character in a TTRPG campaign/short story series that I was working on set in a Beatrix Potter-like fantasy world. Maybe I was subconsciously thinking about this cutie.
This one is the last thrifted pet that stands out to me as I was able to find both the carrier and kitty. I adored her too. She looks to regal and that’s a fun contrast when you’re in this dystopian setting. How is this proper lady going to adjust to essentially a street life? Unlike some of the other prissy characters who would gag at getting their claws dirty, this Persian cat wanted to pitch in and help.
I was ready to wrap up my article when this set caught my eye and I was transported backwards in time. I’m pretty sure that this was a thrifted set because I didn’t have the dog, bird, or hair accessories, but I did have the yellow pony (jury is out on whether I had the pink one..), building, and carriage. Oh my goodness! I definitely played with this a lot because for some reason I was drawn to vehicle sets lol This carriage would have lost its opulent flair in the dystopian world, but would have made for either a useful form of transportation or shelter. I can’t say with confidence how I actually used it though as nothing immediately comes to mind. And despite my gushing of MLP, I wasn’t a horse girl and remember little about this pony aside from loving the color scheme.