Who is the Oldest Character in the Toy Aisle?

1978
Lego “Man” Minifigure

IMG_7974
Represented by: Lego Creator Beach Hut

Obviously, you can’t have a proper toy section without a cascading wall of original and licensed Lego stuff, but I wanted to give a quick historical shoutout to the Danish brick dysnasty’s first original character. Lego began manufacturing the little blocks you know back in 1949, but it wasn’t until 1978 that a male human figure was made for sale. One year later a female counterpart would emerge, and today Lego Minifigs are a sought-after collector’s item with or without the brick components.

1977
Star Wars

IMG_7978
Represented byHot Wheels Star Wars R2-D2 and C-3PO Car 2-Pack, Poe Dameron: Black Series figure

It should go without saying that Star Wars is still incredibly well represented on the toy shelf, but I wanted to throw Hot Wheels a little love since it’s a toy line that dates back to 1968 and unfortunately lacks a specific character for our express purposes here. One could credit Star Wars with the character-based phenomenon entirely, and as a testament to its plastic legacy, the Star Wars section in this particular target was as vast as it was ravaged and picked clean. As far as Force Awakens-specific toys go, only a single sad Poe Dameron remained.

IMG_7981

1962
Spider-Man

IMG_7979
Represented by: Marvel Legends Scarlet Spider

I AM AWARE THIS IS SCARLET SPIDER. But as a lifelong Spidey fan, I wanted to make sure Peter Parker was represented in this article… even if he wasn’t available specifically in this Target toy isle. This picture alone indicates that “Spider-man” is a line of toys unto itself (note the fucking Kraven figure on the left), and Spider-Man’s unavailability on this visit was likely due to his longevity and popularity.

1959
Barbie

IMG_7986
Represented by: Barbie Mix ‘N Color

Undoubtedly Mattel’s most famous creation, Barbie might very be the world’s most famous toy. The brainchild of Ruth Handler (the wife of Mattel’s co-founder), Barbie was essentially America’s first adult female toy and her success is largely due to her simplicity. On the surface she’s just a human lady, but she can have every hobby, go anywhere, hold any job, and wear just about anything. Barbie revolutionized the “accesorization” of toys, although it should go without saying her stem-cel “every gal” stature has increasingly become the target of controversy as her fans become more diverse in size, shape and ethnicity. Ironically, the original Barbie did come in blonde and brunette varieties (both!), however, it was more than a little shocking for this 30-something straight male to find that “Barbie” is no longer exclusively white, blond, or even slim.

IMG_7985These are all “Barbie”

1949
Ric Flair

IMG_7956
Represented byWWE Wrestlemania 32, Ric Flair and The Rock 2-Pack

I honestly don’t care if you like wrestling, nor do I give a rat’s tit how you’d prefer I distinguish between Ric Flair, The Nature Boy and Richard Fliehr, The Person. Sure, even though his wrestling career began in 1972, that is technically his real name and he’s… he’s a real guy! You want to argue that the persona represented by this action figure is only 40+ years old? Fine, but unlike everything else on this list Flair’s not a cartoon, he’s miraculously still alive and touring with the WWE, and nobody else has ever played him. Because nobody else can. Flair is a cultural institution whether you like it or not, and that he’s still on a toy shelf today is beyond impressive. Woo, mother fucker!

1941
Captain America

IMG_7955
Represented by: Captain America Titan Hero Series

Apologies to Namor and Human Torch fans, but Captain America is the oldest Marvel character you currently care about. How old is Cap? He predates the name “Marvel” entirely, debuting within the pages of Timely Comics in 1941, just in time to give the Nazis what for! Speaking of World War II, I believe Captain America is the only toy currently in the Target toy isle to have punched Hitler in the face. Prove me wrong, comic nerds.

1939
Batman (and Robin)

IMG_7967
Represented by: Batman Unlimited 12″ Figure

It’s fortuitous that Batman is appearing with the Boy Wonder here. No matter how much you love or hate Robin, he debuted less than a year after Batman in 1940. Either way, Batman is easily the most well-represented superhero on the toy shelf, and that’s probably not surprising to any of you. What is mildly alarming is the equally well represented rouges gallery of villains on modern toy shelves. Chibi versions of Solomon Grundy and Scarecrow would seem to suggest whomever stocks Targets toy shelves haven’t read an actual comic book in years, and I was pretty taken aback to see the Joker marketed at toddlers a few years back at the same store. Whatever you do, never Google your toys, Skyler!

“I will destroy The Bat… OFF THE LINE! AHHAHAAAAH!”

A photo posted by Chris Antista (@seeantista) on

1939
Wizard of Oz

IMG_7997
Represented by: Lego Dimensions: Wizard of Oz Wicked Witch Fun Pack

This is such a cheat, I have to apologize. On this piece’s accompanying podcast, I called this Lego Dimensions set oldest toy representation I could find. While technically that is true, as these are based on characters created by L. Frank Baum back in 1900, this is very clearly a license from the 1939 MGM movie. It’s trademarked and everything! Plus shit’s gonna get rocky when it comes to public domain characters, as you’ll see below.

1938
Superman

IMG_7963
Represented by: Some Target Exclusive

Rather bizarrely, my local target has ZERO merch related Batman v Superman. Which is perfectly fine with me, I hated that movie. As a lifelong Superman fan, the toy shelf is actually a ray of sunshine compared to the dark and dreadful Snyder-verse version of Superman dominating the zeitgeist. At least here you can see a Superman who embodies hope, and is a true hero not loathed by the world around him… Again, I apologize! I really hated that fucking movie. But seriously, any comic fan should’ve seen this coming. You should’ve known that Superman is basically the first comic book superhero ever. Therefore you should also know he’s the final superhero on this list.

1937
Snow White

IMG_7987
Represented by: My Sweet Princess Snow White

Okay, like with the Wicked Witch of the West, here’s were things get tricky. The story of Snow White was first published as a chapter within Grimms’ Fairy Tales back in 1812. But c’mon! This is definitely the blue-and-red-dressed version based on Disney’s first-ever theatrical film. Obviously, Snow White is a much older character, but that’s the thing about characters based on ancient books/characters in the public domain. Bratz has a horror line based on old literary characters like Frankenstein and Dracula. The Little Mermaid on the lower right up there is based on a character from 1872, but her name wasn’t Ariel and she died at the end of the story, therefore she couldn’t be the same character who starred in two straight-to-video sequels, could she? We’re gonna have to play it by the copyright and this is Disney’s Snow White and that’s that. Speaking of which, you ready to move onto your surprising finale?!

AND THE OLDEST TOY IN THE TARGET TOY ISLE IS……

1928
Minnie Mouse

20ad4be8-e308-4614-bfe7-9fa6fd69e342
Represented by: Minnie Mouse Disney Infinity Figure

Ever heard the phrase “history is written by the winners?” Well, while many of you think of  the cartoon “Steamboat Willie” as the first appearance of Mickey Mouse, that’s technically not true. While we can all agree that it’s an amazing venue for music-based animal torture, “Steamboat Willie” was actually Disney’s first sound cartoon (though even that distinction is debated) released in November 18th 1928. However, “Plane Crazy,” debuted earlier that May in a few silent movie houses, but failed to pick up a bigger distribution deal.

Following the success of “Steamboat Willie,” “Plane Crazy” was converted for sound and saw wide distribution in 1929. So “Plane Crazy” is not only the actual public debut of Mickey Mouse, it’s also the debut of Minnie Mouse. Even though you’ll never see it in print or the news, “Plane Crazy” came first and that means Mickey and Minnie actually share a birthday. So how does that translate to Minnie being represented as our oldest character in the modern toy shelf?

IMG_7975
Mickey Mouse: Never Alone

That’s because Mickey Mouse is lame, and I couldn’t find one instance of Mickey Mouse being available as a standalone toy. You either get him as a package deal with Donald, Goofy, etc., or not at all. Minnie, on the other hand, is represented in much higher abundance, solo, and even on a bevy of toys aimed at young girls. Not to mention that beautiful Disney Infinity figure you see above, which Mickey absolutely has too, but not in stock at this particular store on my specific trip. And this is my article, after all, and I’ve always like Minnie better anyway. MINNIE WINS!

11 thoughts on “Who is the Oldest Character in the Toy Aisle?

  1. Great article Chris!
    Made for a great read while listening to Podcast, also that brilliant Ric Flair Woo! made me laugh at my desk

    More!

  2. Technically, I think the humble Teddy Bear or as it was originally, “Teddy’s Bear” is the probably the longest running character in the toy aisle. (It’s like Cliff’s Notes in that everybody says “Cliff Notes” not “Cliff’s Notes” and the Teddy Bear was originally “Teddy’s Bear”. Though who really cares whether people say things like Demon’s Souls or Demon Souls.

    It was 1902 when Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot that bear cub, so I’m guessing that bear cub was born 1902. But it could have been a second year cub and pushing Teddy’s actual bear back to 1901.

    1. Edit – Oops, forgot to close the parentheses brackets over my Cliff’s Notes/Demon’s Souls/ Teddy’s Bear aside.

  3. I don’t know why seeing the Ric Flair toy made me laugh, It’s just the most random wrestler to have in the section.
    I sometimes visit Smyths which is a big enough toy store over here and I get quite jealous when I see some of the new stuff kids got now, Man, if I was 6 again I would totally get those TMNT Shell and weapon’s kit!

  4. OMG DID YOU GUYS HEAR THAT LASERTIME DIDN’T LIKE BVS? I HOPE THEY MENTION IT IN EVERY ARTICLE, PODCAST, AND VIDEO!

    1. Now that that’s out of my system, good article/podcast. I like hearing about this old stuff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *