Toy Talk: The Toys That Made Us Creator Brian Volk-Weiss
Nov 17, 2019
This month, we turn our attentions away from industry insiders — the guys who create the Toys, Statues and items we love to collect — and focus on one of our own: collector Brian Volk-Weiss, creator of the hit Netflix series, The Toys That Made Us. Brian turned his love for toys and collecting into the TV series we all love to watch, and in the period leading up to the release of Season 2, he sat down to talk about his inspiration for the series, his favorite toys, and more!
Starting this weekend, Season 3 of The Toys That Made Us is now streaming exclusively on Netflix, featuring episodes covering such beloved toy lines as Power Rangers, Wrestling, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and My Little Pony!
PREVIEWSworld: What was the inspiration behind your documentary series?
Brian Volk-Weiss: From around the age of five, my two huge loves were toys and history. So, starting off with that in my mindset from such an early age, I noticed it was very odd that one could go to a book store and see dozens of high end books about, for example, “The War of 1812”, but close to no, or literally none, books about the origins of Transformers and G.I. Joe, Hello Kitty, and so on. So, my aim was to try to show people what those stories were and do it in a big way.
PREVIEWSworld: How did you convince Netflix to produce a documentary about toys?
Brian Volk-Weiss: It was about a year-long process that came after a 5-or-6-year attempt to get other companies to greenlight it. Long story short, I already knew a lot of people at Netflix because we produce a lot of stand-up comedy for them, so I just started bugging them about what some people at Netflix called “Brian’s Toy Show” for a while. At some point, I was given some great notes on what kind of show Netflix would like to do about toys and we shot a 5 minute tape based on the toys from my personal collection, interviews we did with experts and fans, and backed those shoots into the notes we got from Netflix. We literally turned my living room into a “soundstage” to shoot the toys, and shot all the interviews in my local vintage toy store Blast From The Past.
PREVIEWSworld: Did toys influence your childhood?
Brian Volk-Weiss: Very much so! I was an only child, which meant I had a ton of time on my own, and it was toys that really were my brothers and sisters on long road trips or hotel rooms while visiting the Grand Canyon and such.
PREVIEWSworld: What is your current toy collection like?
Brian Volk-Weiss: Well, before The Toys That Made Us, I would say my collection grew at a rate of 1% a year, or less. Since we started making the show it’s been growing at 2% to 3%, which is not good for my wallet! I’d say it’s over 500 individual pieces, some an inch tall and others 2 feet in diameter.
PREVIEWSworld: What do you collect currently? Any modern lines that you really like?
Brian Volk-Weiss: The main lines that I collect are Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Batman, and many special items that NECA and companies like NECA make (Terminator, Aliens, etc.). I do collect modern lines, but for the most part they are connected to the vintage lines they are a part of. I have a huge Clone Wars collection that’s almost as big as my Star Wars vintage collection!
PREVIEWSworld: Do you have a piece that holds a special sentimental value?
Brian Volk-Weiss: I have very few pieces left from my childhood, sadly. But of the few that I do have. I think the most important is my die cast Millennium Falcon, which I’ve probably had in my possession for at least 38 of my almost 42 years alive.
PREVIEWSworld: Do you have a ‘Holy Grail’ item?
Brian Volk-Weiss: I have a few… I very badly want the Mego bridge playset from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I want a Kenner TIE Bomber die-cast ship. There’s an extremely odd modular U.S.S. Enterprise where the nacelles can be connected to the saucer section and such that I want but have never even seen it in person. It’s not that expensive, but I still don’t have a G.I. Joe Killer W.H.A.L.E. hovercraft. I actually just got one of my ‘Holy Grail’ items this week: an unproduced Gurney figure from the LJN Dune line. Still can’t believe I have one. Less than 10 known to exist, I think!