Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Population boom on the Island of Misfit Toys

Jack has a great imagination, it is boosted by a desire to believe in the imaginary, but bounded by his knowledge of reality. It is in this dichotomy that Jack told me that there are only two cartoon stories that are real: Santa Claus is Comin' to Town and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. I asked him if Frosty the Snowman is real.

"No, a hat can't make a snowman come to life."

"How do you know that?"

"Daddy, next time it snows, I'm going to build a snowman and put a hat on his head. Then, you'll see that it doesn't come to life."

On Rudolf's adventure, he is diverted to the Island of Misfit Toys. These are toys that have minor or major flaws that diminish their appeal to children. One is a Charlie-in-the-Box, another is a train with square wheels, and a third is piggy bank without a slot. Jack is keen to note that most of these flaws can easily be remedied: nothing's wrong with Charlie's name, square wheels can be replaced, and someone can cut a slot in the piggy bank.

Jack's #1 Toy He Had was a two feet tall Transformer named Starscream. The kids' commercials have been relentlessly hawking Strarscream and his two colleagues since Halloween. (Here's the ad--don't click unless you have broadband.) It sure looks cool in its two feet of plastic and hype.

Something that the commercials don't tell you is that the Transformers come from a planet that is not bound by the rules of gravity. The advertisers have you believe that Starscream can fly and fight in ways seen only in Jackie Chan movies.

Jack was ecstatic when he unwrapped Starscream--the toy he always wanted. The One Toy he told Santa he wanted. "Quick, Mom! Open it up!"

Pulling Starscream out of the box, Jack set him standing up on the coffee table. Like tree felled by Paul Bunyan, Starscream fell backwards on the table. After repeated attempts, Jack concluded that Starscream couldn't stand up on his own!

Dad to the Rescue!

Surely the toy engineers at Hasbro wouldn't design a $50 toy that couldn't stand up. I swooped in and declared that I can fix Starscream.

I bent this leg this way, that leg that way, and tilted his torso in ways only my physical therapist has seen before. Gently lifting my hands away, Starscream was standing. Success!

"Dad? He's not looking straight ahead."

Normally, I would chalk this up to Jack's fastidiousness, but he was right. Starscream was looking up like a rapturous pilgrim on St. Peter's looking for the Pope's blessing.

At that point, Meegan told Jack that Santa spent a lot of money on Starscream and that Target would lets us exchange it for something else and send it to the Island of Misfit Toys. So, I packed up Starscream for his ignominious trip to the Island.

PS: As a contrast, Max got a $10 Cool Toys robot from Target that walks, spins, fires a gun, and makes enough noise to drive any adult crazy. We opened the box, set it on the ground (he stands!), pushed a button, and it did its stuff. Now, that's value for money!