The next pick in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is one of my favorite books of the year. Toybox Time Machine is one of the most wonderful books about classic toys that I’ve ever encountered…and there’s not a single real toy in 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.
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.
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. I don’t think I had a single pop culture button left unpunched.
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.
Everything in this book looks so genuine that you don’t need to have grown up in the era in order to enjoy it. Even without the historical context Toybox Time Machine is a super-human feat of mid-century style ad design.
This is the perfect gift for anyone who loves vintage toys, or mid-century design, or just has a fondness for the extremely clever.
You can order Toybox Time Machine from any bookseller by using the ISBN code at the top of this post.