Businessweek reported November 20 that Zhu Zhu Pets are one of the hot Christmas toys. These Zhu Zhu Pets are electronic toys that look and act like real hamsters. Yet Zhu Zhu Pets have some things in common with a set of electronic toys from my childhood made by Mattel Electronics. If a toy can stir the imagination, it can become legendary.
Zhu Zhu Pets Fad: “There’s Nothing New Under The Sun”
I used to live across the street from a man, quite a character, who wasn’t afraid to be candid with me with his opinions, God rest his soul. I would tell him about something going on that seemed to be happening for the first time, and he would often quip that it’s not so unique, commenting, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Those words come from Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV). While the outward appearances may change, the inner workings are often similar to the past.
There were certain electronic toys from my childhood of the late 1970s and early 1980s that were especially popular: Mattel Electronics hand held sports games including football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer as discussed here at ILOVETHE80S. I couldn’t wait until Christmastime to see which of those games I’d get. Like Zhu Zhu Pets, the thrill came from being able to have a toy to play with that was compact, made noises, and stirred the imagination, while easily carried around, able to entertain at a moment’s notice. The Zhu Zhu Pets can entertain solo and/or with a just a surf board, a car, and a ball in addition to its extensive floor layout.
During class time, I can recall more than one instance where the noises coming from using those Mattel Electronics games would cause the teacher to stop lecturing and tell the male students (mostly) to put the game away or it would be taken away. Between classes, we guys would hover around those lucky enough to have one of those games and take turns playing. How many of these Zhu Zhu Pets have already caused some class time interruption via their cooing and squeaking and/or have distracted students from learning their lessons much like those Mattel Electronic toys did in another generation?
Zhu Zhu Pets Fad: No Vet Bills or Poop
It’s the simple toys that allow us to imagine we’re doing something real which achieve a fad status like Zhu Zhu Pets. While those Mattel Electronics games were simple in that the players and the game balls were just red blips, playing them created images in my mind that I was actually playing the real sports as I attempted to hit a fastball or elude the defense without suffering any pain. I watched these imitation hamsters do their things on YouTube and conclude that children can imagine they have a real pet, without the poop.