The PopCult Bookshelf
Toybox Time Machine
by Marty Baumann
Byron Howard (Introduction), Jim Steranko (Foreword)
Toybox Time Machine has quickly become of my favorite things in the world. I’ve only had it for a few days, but every time I open this book I get a grin on my face that you couldn’t remove with a sandblaster.
It’s really hard to convey in words how utterly clever and charming this book is. It is dripping with so much affection for the toy and children’s graphics of the Baby Boom era that you almost need a towel to read it.
Marty Baumann has created a work of brilliance that manages to hit every nostalgic button in my head without actually depicting any real toys.
You read that correctly. No…real…toys.
Toybox Time Machine is filled with over 150 ads for vintage toys, from the golden era of crunchy mid-century goodness (1950-1966). The thing is, none of these toys were ever really made. Baumann created them all, refining his memories of classic toys and pop culture into an outstanding homage to an entire era of specialty advertising and graphic design.
This book is filled with specific parodies, vague tributes, original concepts and indescribable delights. Toybox Time Machine is just that, a time machine that lets you travel back to the time when toys were cool as hell, and the advertising made them look even better.
Baumann is an acclaimed illustrator, graphic artist, and production designer. He has contributed to some of the most popular, Oscar-winning animated films of all time, such as Toy Story 3, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Cars 2, Planes, Mater’s Tall Tales, and many others.
He also helped develop theme park installations, toy packaging, and Pixar corporate branding. That’s in addition to his work for toy companies, magazines and newspapers and his work creating corporate logos.
Lately he was the concept artist for the new Mystery Science Theater 3000, and handled visual development of Sir Paul McCartney’s feature film, High in the Clouds. I won’t even mention his career as a successful R&B guitarist and singer.
What’s clear from Toybox Time Machine is that Baumann grew up in the same era as yours truly, and digested the same Wishbooks, comic books, cartoons and toys that I did. This book takes you to a world informed by Jonny Quest, Marx Toys, Aurora model kits, Carnaby Street, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Big Daddy Roth, Groovie Ghoulies, The Banana Splits and way, way more.
This is a book that has a foreward by the legendary Jim Steranko, and in that foreward, Steranko name-checks Johnny West, GI Joe and Major Matt Mason. How freaking cool is that?
The amount of work it took to create Toybox Time Machine must have been astounding. There is a ridiculous amount of detail on every page. Baumann created a different corporate logo, professional as hell, but also specific to the period, for every page in this book. You see just a few of those in the image on the left.
Some of these logos are like specific toy companies’ logos of the day, and some are all-new, but all of them look like the real thing.
Some of these fake ads are so specific that you can immediately identify the inspiration, like Baumann’s riffs on the “Moon Monster” ad or the old DC Comics ads for Palisades Park. Others combine two toys into one, like a combination of Aurora’s Mad Monsters with Ideal’s Boaterrific. Some of the things in this book I can’t place at all, and I don’t know if it’s because Baumann created something new, or I just have a gap in my pop culture knowledge.
The book is also filled with in-jokes, most of which, I’m sure, flew right over my head. I did see Steranko’s face turn up on one page, and there are a few other faces that look familiar in here. That shows how much fun Baumann had to have had creating this work.
Everything in this book looks so genuine that you don’t need to have grown up in the era in order to enjoy it.
Without the historical context Toybox Time Machine is still a super-human feat of mid-century style ad design.
This has been a difficult review to write because every time I pick up the book to double-check a detail, I don’t want to put it back down.
Part of my job here in PopCult is to say, “Hey, This is really cool! You oughtta take a look at it!”
Toybox Time Machine is really cool! You oughtta take a look at it!
You can order Toybox Time Machine from any bookseller by using the ISBN code at the top of this post, or head over to Amazon. Make sure to visit Baumann’s website for more stunning visual treats.
Your PopCulteer was so taken with this book that I have posted more graphics than I usually do with a book review. If I could get away with it, I’d post even more. You just really need to see this book in person.