Local documentary embraces nostalgia for vintage toys
Whatever it is – Cabbage Patch Kid, Major Matt Mason action figure, Hot Wheels GranToros Match Race set.
As long as it meant something to you as a child, it will fuel your adult neurons, activate your memory synapses, and send you back in time.
“They gave us back the wonder of our childhood and our sense of innocence,” notes Sara Geidlinger, whose Waterloo Region documentary, “Playtime: The Movie,” documents the power of vintage toys. to spark childhood memories.
“When you’re confronted with it in this way, as a toy, you have no choice. It stops you in your tracks and sets you back.
Geidlinger is 46, a child of the 80s, like most of the nine collectors – an enthusiastic horde on the perpetual search for a lost Transformer or She-Ra figure – featured in his 40-minute “passion project”.
With a personal interest in vintage vinyl, guitars and cameras, she understands the motivations that set people back.
“Everybody’s a collector,” notes the likeable filmmaker, who hosts the popular Bonn Park Podcast with local bon vivant Marshall Ward.
“They’re trying to recreate this collection that they didn’t have, but now they can afford to buy with their adult money.”
Take the man who has dedicated an entire room in his home to memorabilia from “Ghostbusters II,” the lackluster sequel to the 1984 classic.
Seriously, “Ghostbusters II”?
“He lived it with his parents,” notes Geidlinger, whose film was narrated by local artist Vincent Marcone and funded by the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund.
“He looks for ‘Ghostbusters II’ toys at garage sales because they got divorced and it sucked and he keeps trying to recreate that feeling of happiness.”
Then there’s the guy whose whole apartment is filled with action figures from ’80s toy phenomenon, My Little Pony.
“He wasn’t allowed to have them as a child,” notes Geidlinger, who had about 1,000 in his collection. “And now that he’s an adult, he said, ‘I’m responsible! I will spend my money on what I want! ”
The question of “Why?” – and the notions of existential loss that accompany it – is the common thread of the film.
“Part of it was personal difficulties,” Geidlinger notes. “Some were just the reality of growing up, taking responsibility and facing reality.
“They collect these toys because before that things were happy: ‘I had innocence, or joy. And then I grew up, or my parents divorced.
“They all have a story of that pivotal moment in their lives when everything changed, and they found a way to retain some joy.”
Make no mistake: Their quest isn’t to stock up at all costs, or to obsessively search every toy for the perfect set.
“It’s the anti-goal,” she says. “This is the childhood dream and thrill of hunting these treasures ‘in the wild’ – at toy stores and yard sales – without shopping on eBay and spending $400 on that latest figure to complete their set. Strawberry Shortcake.
“It’s not like you found him. … He found you!”
There are, of course, many portals to the past: music, food, physical parameters.
But there’s something about toys, in particular, that turns the trickle of memories into a torrential flood.
“Collecting toys from our past appeals to all of our senses,” notes Robbie Da Silva, whose St. Jacobs store, 3D Vintage Toys, Stuff and Things, is the centerpiece of the doc.
“There is always a familiar trait that stands out. Whether it’s the feel of the dials on an Etch-a-Sketch or the fragrant smell of a Strawberry Shortcake doll, there’s something magical about the way our memories react.
It’s not just the elderly, he points out. It’s anyone old enough to look back fondly on their childhood, and sometimes that of others.
“With YouTube, Netflix, Disney, the WWE Network and streaming services, there’s been a huge resurgence of retro and old-school properties,” notes Da Silva, who has seen kids as young as five looking of action Hulk Hogan or He-Man. The figures.
“These days, properties from the late 90s and early 2000s are in demand as 20-30 year olds relive their childhood. Pokemon and video game related products are very popular, as well as vintage clothing and vinyl.
If it were a corporate documentary made for, say, the Lifetime channel, the focus would be on dysfunctional oddities reveling in their obsessions while viewers chuckle derisively from the sidelines.
Geidlinger, a humanist at heart, takes a less judgmental approach.
“I’m a digital storyteller,” she says. “Whether in podcast, photo or film form, my goal is to allow people to tell their own stories without adding my agenda or my opinion. I think it would get boring very quickly.
As a seeker of truth and an attentive observer of human nature, he is a glass-half-full person.
“I think these collectors have understood that,” she insists. “They know what brings them happiness.
“It’s the last summer before everything changed and you lost your innocence. My story is a cautionary tale about not growing up.
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“Playtime: The Movie” premieres at the Princess Twin Cinema in Waterloo on November 10 and 12. For tickets, go to www.princesscinemas.com/event/playtime-the-movie or www.playtimethemovie.com