How many of these toys were part of your world?
For anyone that grew up in the 90s, you’ll remember tragic Princess Diana stories, unapologetic pop music, Pokémon, grunge, the Fresh Prince theme song, Friends and the peak of what I like to call 'mermaid mania'. You couldn’t walk past a shop or school playground without seeing a finned piece of plastic, we were literally drowning in them. Truly our halcyon days, 2017 kids could never.
For the history buffs or younglings: our collective mermaid obsession kicked off in the 1980s with the live action movie Splash, followed by queen of the waves and merchandise Ariel, a.k.a. The Little Mermaid herself. This fascination with mermaids continued well into and beyond the mid 90s with The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventures; an animated television series which acted as a serialised prequel to the titular movie - plus a bunch of other adaptions of the Hans Christian Anderson story (aka knockoffs and cash-ins).
Most little boys were happy to play with an Action Man or Hot Wheels car. I preferred to let my imagination take me below the blue ocean waves to a world like nowhere I could visit on land.
Below are some of my personal favourite nautical toys and merchandise from my childhood, how many of these do you remember? Let’s dive into my top picks.
1 Polly Pocket Sparkling Mermaid Adventure
This was peak Polly Pocket, before she got all resized so you couldn't swallow her or her friends as easily. It was a portable clamshell design that was shaped like a book, it lit up and it looks the same as the inside of my head. It's my number one 90s mermaid toy.
2 Giga Pet / Tamagotchi Little Mermaid
If you thought that regular Tamagotchis (a staple of the 1990s) were a little too pedestrian, opt instead for a baby Ariel or sea creature to raise, then go through the cycle of enragement by the needy beeping and eventually taking the batteries out / leaving it to die on silent mode, then later finding it in a draw and excitedly starting the process all over again. Poor little beepy babies.
3 Little Mermaid Handheld by Tiger Electronics
... and speaking of outdated noisy electronics, were you lucky enough to have your own handheld Gameboy-that-only-played-one-game? It was infuriating and wonderful, the Nintendo Switch of its time (I'm joking, it wasn't even good then, but nostalgia).
4 Li’l Miss Mermaid
Disclaimer: I never actually had this one myself, but I always wanted one. I'd see girls on the playground swinging their Li'l Miss Merms around by the hair and go seaweed green with envy. She would sing, change colour and could also be submerged in water. The wonderful baths I've been deprived of, thanks a bunch mom.
5 Tyco Ariel Singing Doll
This is a doll I did have, and there's embarrassing childhood photos to prove it. Ariel was massive but couldn't be dunked in water (despite the misleading advert above) and she had a weirdly flat-shaped plastic battery case in her soft tail, resembling a mannequin drag queen with questionable padding. But she sang tinny-sounding songs from the movie and had red hair and that was all I cared about at age six.
Some others that almost made it to the top of the nostalgia pile were Magic Diaper Merbabies (when you put them in cold water they change colour), Street Sharks toys (did you know Andrew Rannells from HBO’s Girls was a voice actor in it?) Bubbling Mermaid Barbie (her tail was SO COOL) My Little Sea Ponies, etc etc.
There’s TOO MANY to list here, I'll most likely create a sequel blog one day. Don’t let me forget your favourite mermaid toys, splash into the comments below and let me know what you couldn't ride in the car without.