816 Opinion

Tony Rizzo: Who thinks up these toys?

Do you remember Irwin Mainway?

He was the sleazy, conscienceless purveyor of dangerous toys brought to life by Dan Aykroyd in the early days of “Saturday Night Live.” Among the character’s fictional wares were items such as Doggy Dentist, General Tron’s Secret Police Confession Kit and Pretty Peggy's Ear Piercing Kit.

I couldn’t help thinking of Mainway when I recently came across the annual pre-Christmas list of real-life dangerous toys compiled by the non-profit organization World Against Toys Causing Harm.

Each year since 1973, the Massachusetts-based group known as W.A.T.C.H. has provided the warning list of what it deems are the toys that pose potential hazards to the youngsters they are marketed to.

While not as over-the-top as some of Mainway’s pretend products like teddy chainsaw bear, some of those actual products sound like they had to be concocted by SNL scriptwriters.

Among this year’s Top 10 (and I’m not making these up), are the Catapencil, the True Legends Orcs Battle Hammer and my personal favorite, Bottle Rocket Party.

It struck me as one of those times where fact, while maybe not quite stranger than fiction, sure gives fiction a run for its money.

And you don’t have to know anything else beyond their names to get a quivering sense of parental protectiveness and impending emergency room visits when you read them.

I suspect that if kindly old Aunt Margaret called and said she was getting my adorable little tyke a Catapencil for Christmas, I might gently say something like: Are you nuts! Stay out of the eggnog, woman.

Now I know some of you may be saying you’re not going to let some over-reaching bunch of do-gooders dictate what you’re going to buy your kids for Christmas.

After all, if you want to get little Johnny another toy on this year’s list like an Air Storm Firetek Bow, I suppose that’s your business.

But please, keep little Johnny away from my kid.

Better (or worse depending on your point of view) than the names of some of these toys, are the warnings that come with them.

Take that Firetek Bow, for instance. It is touted as being able to fire its projectiles up to 145 feet, but also comes with this warning: Arrows should not be pulled back at more than half strength.

Huh?

Why, I’m sure no kid is going to try yank that sucker back as far as he can and let it fly at his nearest playmate or younger sibling.

It also warns users to “not aim at eyes or face” and “Do not aim or shoot at people or animals.” Oh, and it is labeled as “not for play in complete darkness.”

That darkness warning brought to mind the fictional Mainway Halloween costume “Invisible Pedestrian.” The all-black costume was labeled with the warning “not for blind kids.”

I hope no one thinks me a grinch, or a hypocrite, for bringing this to your attention.

I say hypocrite because like a lot of people my age, there was no such thing as a dangerous toy warning list in our youths. Air rifles, REAL bows and arrows and all sorts of things containing lead or asbestos were toys we played with.

But just because we didn’t manage to kill or maim ourselves, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least look out for the safety of our own kids when it comes to toy purchases.

We can’t expect manufacturers to do it for us. Like Irwin Mainway said while defending his very popular Bag O’ Glass: “We're just packaging what the kids want!”

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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