Far beyond the physical act itself, skateboarding has a glorified consumer culture and associated lifestyle. It’s so much bigger than the sum of our collective efforts…
Gone are the days of skate shops carrying a strictly ‘core skate inventory. If shop owners are remotely market-oriented businesspeople–as any good capitalist would be–then they’ll be more than willing (if they aren’t already) to carry a range of toys and accessories not directly but somehow related to skateboarding.
A trip to your local big-box department store or local Toys “R” Us will present you with an insurmountable range of novelty skateboard-related toy options. From eXXtreme JoXX fingerboards to Tech Decks, Tech Deck skateparks, and Hand Boards (also by Tech Deck), and battery-operated remote-controlled skateboarding Bart Simpsons. Or better yet, a remote-control Tony Hawk doll (made by Tyco). One can also purchase complete toy skateboards, ranging in price from $9.99 to $39.99. Most of these boards feature popular children’s graphics, encompassing everything from Pokemon and Digimon to The Simpsons, and yes, even Star Wars. A Star Wars skateboard, complete with “ABEC 1 bearings” and featuring an Anikin Skywalker board graphic will run you a solid $29.99 at Toys “R” Us.
But skateboard toys aren’t all bad–I mean, we’ve all played with them. And in fact some proper skateboard companies are currently making ‘core toys, available only through ‘legit’ skate retailers. Now, fans of Ed Templeton and/or Toy Machine Skateboards have the option of purchasing a Toy Machine Turtle Boy Collector’s Figure, or Pez-style dispenser bearings if they aren’t down for the mass-marketed Toy Machine Tech-Deck or Hand Board. And soon, one will even be able to purchase Toy Machine figures through X-Concepts (makers of Tech Deck products). Tod Swank is the CEO of San Diego, California-based Tum Yeto Inc., distributors of Toy Machine, Foundation, Hollywood, Pig, and Ruckus goods. Swank explains: “They are like little figures on little skateboards. They have magnets on their feet. You can push them around. You can make them fight.” All of these “‘core” toys are at the skate-shop level.
Mike Page is the promotions director at Tum Yeto. Page says Toy Machine collectors’ figures are carried mainly by skate shops as well as some of the skateboard mail-order companies, such as CCS, Active, and skateboard.com: “I think a couple of toy stores are allowed to carry them–the smaller, collector-type toy stores.”
The concept–Ed Templeton’s brilliance–says Page, has been hugely successful: “It was Ed’s idea. He came up with it a while ago. He saw all the blood that the toy companies were sucking (out of skateboarding) and decided to get in on this new hot market. It’s actually a cool progression to see his characters (TM Collectors’ characters) in three-D.”
Apparently, the toys are something that Ed had been wanting to do for quite some time. Ideas were shared, samples were made, and Tum Yeto started carrying and distributing the product about two years ago, starting with the Transistor Sect character, then Robot, then Turtle Boy. Asked what character he’d like to see made, Page is quick to respond, “I’d like to see Poo Poo Head next.”
To promote the collectors’ figures, Templeton’s run a couple of Toy Machine ads featuring them urging kids to destroy their other toys. “Other than that, it was just natural that fans of Ed’s work would want to collect them,” says Page.
Not simply a novelty item manufactured for the throngs of industry-types as trade-show giveaways, the figures are the product of a celebrated creative–if not tweaked–mind. Templeton, a visionary in the world of skateboarding and the art community it’s spawned, has a very strong fan base and support for his art. In addition to the figures, the Toy Machine Pez-style dispenser bearings are also noteworthy, though after storing bearings, one might think twice about putting candy iin it.
Surely anyone who’s attended a trade show since skateboarding’s boom in the late 90s has noticed that most companies offer a cornucopia of tradeshow giveaways–often toys of some sort. Such as the Chocolate Rubik’s-style cube, Independent dice, the Dwindle Distribution fly swatter, the SLAP magazine Frisbee, even sets of dominoes by Globe shoes. The list is endless.
That said, it’s understood: skateboarding is huge, and toys are fun. Consequently, skateboard toys are cool and fun’and not just to skateboarders.
The days of G.I. Joe versus your little sister’s Barbies are almost yesterday’s thing. Now, you can stage a battle between Turtle Boy and Flameboy, or try to spin a 900 on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. But video games are another can of worms.
In fact, let’s not even go there.