Retro Commercials: I’m a Toys R Us Kid

I don’t know about you, but commercials can often take me back to my formative years as quickly as any song or movie can. That is why we will continue this semi-regular feature on ’80s commercials that I consider particularly memorable, noteworthy, or forgotten. Television commercials were much more influential back when we were forced to watch them without the luxury to fast-forward through and/or stream shows with limited or no interruptions. This issue will cover some Toys R Us commercials featuring the “I’m a Toys R Us Kid” jingle from the ’80s.

Toys were certainly a key component of Christmas as a kid in the ’80s and Toys R Us was certainly one of the toy headquarters during that decade. Any kid who grew up in the ’80s is sure to recognize the jingle, “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid” and you probably just sang that as you read it. That jingle actually dates back to 1982, when bestselling novelist James Patterson co-created it with Linda Kaplan Thaler when they were both working at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.

Thaler was a junior copywriter and 31 at the time while Patterson, who started as a junior copywriter, was 34 and had worked his way up to creative director. Neither thought they were coming up with an iconic jingle that would be the basis of an advertising campaign that would last decades, but that is exactly what they did. Here are the lyrics for the song (again, you can sing them instead of reading them if you’re so inclined):

I don’t wanna grow up
I’m a Toys R Us kid
They’ve got a million toys at Toys R Us that I can play with.

I don’t wanna grow up
I’m a Toys R Us kid
They’ve got the best for so much less
You’ll really flip your lid.

From bikes to trains to video games,
It's the biggest toy store there is (gee whiz!)

I don’t wanna grow up
'Cause, baby if I did,
I couldn’t be a Toys R Us kid.

Thaler went on to create a jingle for Kodak and the former Northwest Airlines. She also helped create advertising campaigns including the Aflac duck and the “Yes, Yes, Yes” campaign for Clairol Herbal Essence among others. In 2015, Kaplan Thaler was inducted into the American Advertising Hall of Fame and, in 2016, was the recipient of the Clio Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1997, she started her own ad agency, The Kaplan Thaler Group, and has co-authored four books.

Patterson, who sold his first book while working at J. Walter Thompson, really didn’t begin focusing on his writing career after he retired from advertising in 1996. Since then, he has only been the world’s best-selling author since 2001, holds The New York Times record for most #1 New York Times bestsellers by a single author, and is currently the world’s richest author (with a reported net worth of over $700 million). Not too shabby for either of them, but I might still be most impressed with that little Toys R Us jingle the two came up with back in 1982.

The very first commercial using the new song aired in 1982 and featured a few kids who went on to bigger things. It starts with Jenny Lewis who is the adorable redhead who went on to appear in the films Troop Beverly Hills (1989) and The Wizard (1989) as well as the television series Brooklyn Bridge (1991–93) before pursuing a music career first as part of the band Rilo Kiley and then as a solo artist. Then you have cutie Lindsay Price riding a toy train who went on to appear on the daytime soap operas All My Children (1991-93) and The Bold and the Beautiful (1995-97) before joining the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 in January 1998 as “Janet Sosna” for the final 73 episodes among many other television roles. Then later we see Jaleel White swinging on a swing who is best known as “Steve Urkel” on Family Matters (1989-97). All three of them are shown together riding big wheels together about halfway through the commercial. Just thought it was interesting that three notable child actors were featured in this very first commercial as Toys R Us kids. Here is that very first commercial from 1982…

This memorable version from 1984 re-uses some of the original footage of those child stars along with some adults…

Here is a version they started using in 1985 as they march through a magical land of giant toys…

Then in 1986, they used this new commercial but it still focused on giant toys…

This one used in 1987 for the Christmas season features a little girl wanting a new bike…

Then this one was used in 1989 to finish up the decade…

There you go, another trip down memory lane in the form of TV commercials. I remember each of those commercials vividly because I probably saw them each dozens of times (probably more) especially while watching cartoons. The first Toys R Us store dedicated exclusively to toys was opened in 1957 and the chain went on to have over 1,400 locations at one point. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and 2018, eventually closing all of its locations with the last U.S. stores closing in 2021. But when I was a kid growing up in the ’80s, there weren’t too many places more magical than Toys R Us and these commercials sure remind us of that. “I don’t wanna grow up ’cause, baby if I did, I couldn’t be a Toys R Us kid.”

More Retro Commercial Features on TRN

About OldSchool80s 87 Articles
Old School Tim has an adoring devotion to the awesome '80s decade. He loves to relive and share that nostalgia on a regular basis. The Kickin' it Old School blog site has been retired, but you can still get daily doses of '80s goodness on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and anywhere else they let him.

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