Mickey Mouse’s Roller Coaster and Other Junk Peddled to Kids by
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Note: No children were warped by their exposure to this junk.

Note: No children were warped by their exposure to this junk.

When my children were young, they used to watch Saturday morning cartoons. In between the toons were commercials for sugary breakfast cereals and tons of toys. While I held out against demands for Froot Loops, Kaboom, and Lucky Charms, I must confess to occasionally having Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes) or Cocoa Krispies grace our breakfast table. But the demand for junky toys was a greater challenge to address.

When my daughter in the pictured image was three, she wanted it all. That doll that blew up a balloon when she squeezed its tummy likely lost that power relatively quickly, but at least she was left with a doll to entertain her. What she really wanted for that birthday was Mickey Mouse’s Roller Coaster. I tried to warn her it would not be as exciting as it looked in the ad, but she had her heart set on it, so we bought it. What a hunk of junk. We assembled it and she quickly lost interest, shocked that hers didn’t come with a jingle and laughing kids. It was boring, and in short order it broke.

She soon became disillusioned with all television ads aimed at kids. “It’s another Micky Mouse’s Roller Coaster,” became her mantra. By allowing her to have this toy despite our misgivings about its value, she learned an important lifelong lesson. Don’t believe that everything you see on television ads is real or fun. They are trying to sell you things. After that, she checked out her toy desires by seeing them in person, either at a friend’s house or in a store.

The consumerism gene in our family skipped a generation to our grandson who, at that same tender age of three, proclaimed, “I want that. I need that,” after every commercial during the kiddie shows he watched. As a huge fan of Power Rangers, he was exposed to a constant barrage of transformer-type robot commercials. Often, these toys transformed pretty easily and had no purpose beyond that special effect.

While I thought they were junk, they spurred something in his imagination that led to his programming his own robot and then to (pre-pandemic) being on his school’s robotics team. Perhaps, like his aunt (and fellow middle child), he had to be disappointed by the advertised products to become a skeptic. He learned that if he wanted something that truly held his interest, he would have to build it himself.

He programmed this robot himself. Much more fun!

Robotics Team

I guess I could have said no to these toys being pushed on my kids and grandkids, and sometimes I did. But here’s the thing. I think my children’s generation, and certainly my grandchildren’s, have become less susceptible to advertising than mine was. The products being sold to me via television and print ads used to extol the virtues of things like cigarettes. Now, they push drugs that will make me smarter because they are made from jellyfish. DVRs have made these ads easier to ignore. I have become especially jaded to the ads that pop up online.

Now, it’s social media that exposes kids to things to covet. Images and influencers hold more sway these days. I’m not sure that jingles and advertising slogans have the same power to shape consumer desire now that they did in my era.

The world’s most annoying toy that he had to have. Can you see what it is?

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Interesting take on this prompt, Laurie. You’ve allowed the next generations of your family to learn that “truth” and “advertising” do not go hand in hand. I agree, today the ads aren’t about fun jingles that stick in our minds (no more “Where’s the beef”, or “I ate too much, I ate too fast”. And yes, most of us skip right over the ads, if we even discern what the ad is about. Now it is targeted to social media, which is much creepier, invasive and pervasive.

    You give us food for thought, not junk food. Thank you.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    I really appreciate your focus on consumerism in this story, Laurie. It is a reminder that these are not simply happy memories, but also reminders that a good deal of this was about sucking people — and especially impressionable kids — into buying crappy stuff they didn’t need. And, sadly, that underlying concept has not changed over the many years and the many products. Barnum was right, no?

    As Betsy so well said, you have given us food for thought, not junk food.

  3. Suzy says:

    In your inimitable fashion, you use the prompt to teach us a lesson. That roller coaster toy was a good example of something that looked exciting on TV but turned out to be boring in real life. I love that it became your daugher’s mantra when she saw other toy commercials.

    So what about you as a child? Did you ever beg your parents to buy some product because of the commercial?

  4. Marian says:

    I think kids are much more cynical now, Laurie. It’s good that they don’t swallow the advertising whole, but there is less innocence as well. I’m sure I must have begged my parents to buy me something I’d seen on TV, but I have no recollection of it. Interesting in itself …

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    Those pictures reminded me of all the plastic that goes into toys too. Consumerism–definitely a learning experience. I loved the way the Mickey Mouse roller coaster came to symbolize hype.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      In those days, as a parent/consumer I wasn’t sensitive to the plastic. I’m trying to do better in gifting my grandkids. Sadly, the best gift is sharing a special experience together, something I haven’t been able to do with any of them for over a year.

  6. Good for your daughter who learned a lesson Laurie.

    More than once I’ve bought something online that disappointed big time , so you’d think I would have learned – but the ads make it look so good and Amazon makes it so easy!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      So true, Dana. And we are so deprived of retail therapy. Online shopping doesn’t do the trick for me. I try not to buy anything from an Amazon ad — they are making a killing during this pandemic.

  7. Laurie, your thoughtful story and all the comments make me think about how, unless we’ve spent our lives under a rock, we’ve all been influenced by what’s being sold to us in the media, whatever that media might be. Is there just something about human nature that makes us want what we don’t have, or is it just the way it’s presented?

    Oddly enough, your story made me remember making a little photo montage for someone and choosing and cutting up the photos so it looked like it was such a fun day when in reality it was pretty boring. I guess I was in essence “selling” the day!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Yes, Barb, that’s what Facebook does to us. We sell our lives, trying to make them seem much better than they are. I find it easy to resist buying the stuff that pops up online, but hard to resist looking.

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    Most ads promote one value; greed. Hard to raise moral kids in the blare of that megaphone screaming BUYBUYBUY!!!

  9. Khati Hendry says:

    So true about sharing experiences together, the most precious gift, so difficult these days. May you have opportunities yet.

  10. Your story reminded me of how our son, at age three, was sucked in not by a jingle but by the advertising of the infamous SWIVEL SWEEPER. As with your daughter, I decided to go ahead and buy it. What a disappointment to all of us (even though we knew enough to be skeptical), especially to him. It sat in our garage till he went away to college and we finally tossed it last year.
    Your stories brought us to a deeper level in our perceptions of how advertising and promotion play a role in our desires and aspirations, almost all in a negative way.

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