When I was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, there was one basic rule in the toy world: Star Wars was king, so if your toy line had to have a chance of success, it had to be in the same basic scale as the Star Wars figures. Things aren’t quite so unified in the modern toy-making or toy-buying world, but it’s neat when it does happen – mixing and matching characters and vehicles and whatnot kinda flexes a kid’s mental storytelling muscles (or at least it did mine). There was some justification for the smaller-scale G.I. Joe guys and the Micronauts and the crew from The Black Hole hanging out on the Death Star. You just had to use your imagination to figure out what that justification was.
So generally speaking, when buying toys for Evan, I keep half an eye open on “compatibility.” It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s kinda neat when stuff fits/works together. Right after Christmas, I was delighted to see that Evan discovered that the engineer, the monkey and/or the elephant from his little train set could also sit in the driver’s seat of the little jeep and the little truck that he got. Which is cool, you know – you can’t get everywhere by train. The Wonder Pets and their “Fly Boat” are vaguely compatible with all of the above too, though they’re slightly larger than everyone/everything else.
When one of my wife’s cousins sent a big belated Christmas package for Evan in January, I was pretty jazzed to see that the big wrapped gift inside was a big Fisher-Price Noah’s Ark set. All right! More critters! And they can sit on the train or in the driver’s seat too. Well, maybe not the train – it makes noise, and has no volume or mute switch, so mom kinda disappeared the batteries that kept the train running. It can still make its rounds manually via Evan power, though. But without the noises, the train seems to have lost some of its appeal for him.
But that’s okay! The engineer, the monkey, and the little elephant quickly joined the motley crew of Noah’s Ark. Or is it Noah’s? I’ve caught no end of grief for the fact that, as we untangled all of the critters and characters from the ocean of twist-ties that held them in place and handed the critters off to Evan, I told him “Here’s Moses!” Wait, what? Well, he looked a little more like a Moses than a Noah when I first saw him in my perpetually sleep-deprived state. I was quickly corrected on that account, but when Evan eagerly added the train characters to Noah’s Ark, it certainly raised some other questions: why are there suddenly three elephants and only one monkey? And who the heck is this engineer? (Well hello, doesn’t someone have to keep the boat running smoothly? I mean, if all the animal species on the planet are riding this thing…yeah, I want an engineer. Dare I say…a miracle worker.)
And of course Noah (Moses? Moses!?) and his buds can drive the little jeep or truck. Evan has already decided that since the pickup truck is the same color as Noah’s Ark, it’s Noah’s Truck. Well, he got the animals to the boat somehow…wait, I’ve got it. While we’re rewriting the entire Old Testament to include the combustion engine and the Wonder Pets, Moses can be the driver of the truck. Um…and the engineer…whoever he is…drives the jeep. With the monkey. And as for the Wonder Pets? This whole boat gig is all about saving animals. Well, if you’ve watched Wonder Pets at all, somebody’s gotta save the baby animals. See? Daddy’s got this whole thing worked out about how to mix and match the backstories of all of one’s toys.
Well, okay. Maybe this is one case where toy compatibility has caused a few more problems than it’s helped along. (Moses!!??!) In the meantime, Evan’s having a blast, and that’s all that counts.