Whose idea was it to have their eyes match their hair on these Treasure Trolls? Really, show yourself. That's probably one of the more frightening things I've ever seen.
When you think troll, what comes to mind? Is it a cute, cuddly, neon-haired pot-bellied figure, or a mythical violent under-bridge dwelling creature a la Three Billy Goats Gruff? If you can't answer it correctly, I'm pretty sure he'll make good on that threat to gobble you up. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Many of us did indeed grow up believing that the word troll was exclusively reserved for these hard plastic Einstein-haired elfin dolls. I didn't know that a troll was supposed to be scary, or mean, or snarly, or a generally unsavory character. I was too busy praying that mine came with a rhinestone belly button.
Troll dolls were originally conceived in the 1960s in Denmark and the first specimens were made of wood, leading us to deduce that the original troll-players were besieged by splinters. This semi-impoverished whittling man unknowingly started a Danish toy craze that quickly spread across the world. Though the general concept and design was based on the Danish woodcarver's prototype, he probably never in his wildest troll-infested dreams foresaw the insane breeds of trolls yet to come.
For instance, I'm willing to bet a fair sum of money that he never, ever had anything in mind even remotely like this when he carved that original little wooden figurine for his daughter:
I'm not embarrassed to admit as a child I longed to be in this commercial. I mean, what's better than singing and dancing in a toy store with a group of my troll-hugging peers? It's 90s cheesiness at its very best. That synthesizer in the background in pretty critical too. This has got to be one of the laziest ad campaigns I've ever seen. I understand the notion of a no-frills, gimmick-free commercial, but repeating "Can't stop hugging the troll kids" over and over is verging on neglectful.
But I digress. Trolls went underground for awhile between the 60s and 90s. Not literally, of course. Well, not the toys. The real things, I've heard they tend to do that kind of thing. Where was I? Oh yes, the Troll doll renaissance. The dolls were resurrected in the 90s with a big marketing push. The original trolls, however, just weren't kicking for these 90s children. The dolls were now battling the forces of video games, computers, and other mind-numbing recreational stimuli.
The 90s toy market was highly segmented, with toy manufacturers eager to market simultaneously to kid demographics across the board. Rather than offering one solid product, most toy producers opted to offer innumerable watered-down variations of the original. Hence was the case with trolls, leaving many consumers scratching their heads at some of these Troll releases. Here's a prime example of the ridiculous manifestations of the original:
Yes, you heard correctly. Troll Barbie. They don't explain why or how she's associated with Trolls or why she insists of wearing tufts of their multi-colored hair on her head. She wears pants with cartoon Trolls on them and has a Troll necklace. If you're thinking this makes no sense at all, congratulations. You've outwitted the 90s Mattel advisory board.
Clearly Trolls were a tad on the girly side, leaving toy companies scratching their heads as to how to effectively market these cuddly critters to boys. After all, that's a pretty significant segment of the market going un-Trolled. This is what they came up with:
I've officially changed my mind. This is the quintessential 90s commercial. I'm not exactly sure why they had to go ahead and kill a rustling meadowful of adorable, girl-friendly Trolls in order to prove their point at the beginning. Clearly subtlety was not on their marketing agenda. Not only do they claim these dolls to be "OUT OF CONTROL!", they also end the commercial with a threat: "Collect them before they collect you!" I'm sorry, what? What? That makes. Absolutely. No. Sense. Not even a sliver. I guess they got so caught up in the frenzied fast-paced excitement of the commercial, they forgot to proofread the script.
There was also this lighter male-directed line called Stone Protectors, who were supposedly equally bad-ass but who appeared as cartoons in the ads. They also conveniently come with an arsenal of accessories sure to lift the bills directly from your pockets.
If that wasn't enough to do it for you as a kid, how about some misleading and unverified claims? Treasure Trolls were a serious craze, differentiated from the original on belly button rhinestone detail alone. The commercial, however, leads us to believe that these trolls have magical powers to make all of our wildest dreams come true.
They really wanted to drive the point home, so they also came out with this winner of an ad, showing just how exciting your life could be if only you incorporated Treasure Trolls into your daily existence. This one definitely plays down the questionable Treasure Trolls Answer Your Prayers part, too.
In the spirit of cross-marketing, they also released Troll video games, computer games, and even straight-to-video VHS releases like this one:
Really, just don't ask questions. You'll only strain your brain. If nothing else, retrospection on Trolls shows us just how much toy manufacturers were able to get away with in the 90s. Their many Troll releases were pretty shameless. It's almost as if they simply sat around the board room table, everyone coughed up one marginally absurd idea, and they called it a day. When a brand is elevated to craze status, you can pretty much release whatever you want. Looking back, they may have been a bit silly, but at the time I'd give anything to add to my troll collection. I won't lie to you, I'm still sort of coveting that Troll Barbie. What? The commercial was pretty persuasive.