Lite-Brite, Lite-Brite, Turn on the Magic of Disappointing Lights

Lite-Brite. I wanted a Lite-Brite so bad when I was a kid but never got one. You could turn on the magic of colored lights with it and my mom didn’t even care. She said she didn’t want to step on all the little lights and then clog the vacuum with them because I wouldn’t clean up after myself. Just because something is true doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get a Lite-Brite.

When we moved when I was 9, our new neighbors had a Lite-Brite. I wouldn’t call the turning on of colored lights “magic,” it was more of a “huh” experience. And, I distinctly remember all of us kids moving on to something else and not cleaning up the Lite Brite.

The Lite-Brite commercials were a miraculous acheivement in advertising:

This commercial is 30 seconds long. The amount of fun you can have with a Lite-Brite is 31 seconds. The euphoria you feel watching the commercial: the lights, “all the things you can do with it,” a birthday party… it all ends right before the crushing realization that this thing, this Lite Brite, is not the end all and be all of everything that is fun and wonderful. And, let’s quickly break down everything they do in this commercial:

– Couple of examples of the template pictures – a clown, a ballerina.
– “Here’s Suzy.” Suzy took the time to make a Lite-Brite sign before she dismembered her family with an ax.
– Two kids, EACH WITH THEIR OWN LITE-BRITE, the little richies, doing more templates
– A little boy makes a good night sign for his absentee father. He has plenty of time to do it because he’s so lonely.
– Someone made a “Happy Birthday” sign with it for some kid’s party. And whomever that poor kid is, they weren’t allowed to blow their own candles out by themselves.

None of these things seem like fun at all when you stop to think about them. It’s the colors and the quick editing. Somehow, they created a commercial that made one of the most boringest things ever (that doesn’t even come with it’s own light bulb and oh-my-god it’s just a fucking light bulb with a shoebox over it) seem like heroin, crack, and candy all rolled into one.

And here’s an older one, I love the lame, generic promise of being able to “make people, animals, things.”

So, my mom never had to vacuum up lite-brite pegs, and I still learned the valuable lesson of something not being as awesome as it seemed. But you know what WAS awesome, that I used over and over again, and loved to no end? Fashion Plates. I may have only worn jeans and t-shirts (still do), but I’ll cobble together an amazing look for a fashion plate. This ad is for versions newer than mine was, and the New Kids on the Block version is hilarious:

Anybody have a Lite-Brite and love it? What other toys crushed your soul after you realized they sucked?

31 thoughts on “Lite-Brite, Lite-Brite, Turn on the Magic of Disappointing Lights”

  1. I actually did have a Lite-Brite that I enjoyed, but I remember it was kind of messy picking up all the little pieces of black paper that were punched out when you put those stupid pegs in there. What I remember most is the box that it came in was torn to shit. I don’t know how that happened, I probably overused it, but whatever. It lit up for awhile.

    I’m trying to think of things that sucked, as I’m sure there were a million, but I can’t remember them now. I do know I was jealous of the bratty neighbor girl’s Mall Madness game, which is ironic, because to this day I abhor the mall.

    1. I abhor the mall, too. It’s just such an awful, awful place. But, I would have been jealous of a Mall Madness-having neighbor, too. My sister had that game Hearththrob, which was a really creepy game and probably had a similar feel to Mall Madness.

  2. I had a lite brite. I remember playing with it for a while. True story: I just bought my son a tiny miniture lite brite at Kohls for xmas, mainly because of the nostalgia factor from my own fond memories from my childhood. And now you go and have to ruin it for me with this scathing review! You just ruined xmas, Carrie. I hope you are proud of yourself.

    (P.S. I can’t see the videos at work, and am so bummed I can’t see NKOTB fashion plates!)

  3. Oh yes. I had a Lite Brite. As a matter of fact, I had several. I would line them up around my room. All lit up with sailboats and cats and horses. I know you hate me now because of your Lite Brite envy. I understand.

    1. I was going to respond about my potential Lite Brite envy when I read Misty and Abby’s responses. Looks like three of y’all so far had and loved your Lite Brites. Now I’m thinking maybe it IS jealousy. Or, I’m just not patient enough to enjoy it. I could see getting very tired of poking in all those little pegs before briefly enjoying a clown face.

  4. Our first Christmas together, 3 years ago, Santy Claus brought Bug and Goose (then 5 & 4) Lite Brites. They played with them for a week. Then, daddy’s feet found EVERY peg to those things and by Easter, they were trashed.

    A few weeks ago when they made their Christmas lists their older sister, Tay, 15, jokingly said “hey you dorks should get more lite brites”.

  5. I had one and loved it. I still sing the jingle in my head sometimes. “Lite Bright, making things with liiiiight… Outtasight makin’ things with Light Bright!”

    I always wanted a ventriloquist doll. Mom refused to get it for me because she already couldn’t shut me up.

  6. Dear Sweet Mama would never buy me an Easy-Bake Oven because, according to her logic, if I was allowed to cook with her on the real stove, why would I want to bake a cake with a lightbulb? BUT I DID WANT TO! Then, when I was about 20, a boyfriend bought me an Easy-Bake Oven so I would shut up about it and you know what? Those cakes SUCK.

    1. I always wanted an easy bake oven and I FINALLY got one… And then my brother broke it cause I melted a bunch of his little green army men in it. (They were flat flat FLAT! when I was done.) My brother and I had issues with the toy box. Our parents were all “nature versus nurture” and big on giving us gender neutral or opposite toys. But our grandparents kept giving us Barbies and Easy Bake Ovens (me) and GI Joe and Little Green Army Men (brother). After the awkward Easter weekend when it was discovered that Barbie was running a seedy bar in the red light district outside of the base where GI Joe was stationed, we got lots of craft stuff. Somehow I think our version of Career Girl Barbie would have really tweaked off Mattel.

      After that, our grandparents gave us lots of craft stuff. And Lego (YAY!) Not so much with the books. Apparently we already had too many “ideas”.

  7. Yeah. . . the litebrite. It was sooo much more time consuming than I thought it would be. Plus the stupid papers were one time use only.

    The ghost gun. When I was 5 or 6 I got a ghost gun. It was a gun that projected a ghost on the wall and you shot it with the gun. I don’t even know how that works, since wherever you point the gun is where the ghost is projected, and therefore it’s physically impossible to miss the ghost. But it was never dark enough to shoot ghosts, and then when it was. . . it was just stupid.

  8. I don’t remember wanting much as a kid….. except a kids sized jeep, but I know I wouldn’t be disappointed if I got one. I kept pretty busy putting my Barbies on trail and playing with my invisible werewolf, minotaur, and monster friends. Or reading.

  9. I loved my lite brite! I would sit in the closet with the door closed and create all kinds of pictures, punching the little pegs through the paper templates. Oh, I guess that’s when I should have figured it out, huh?

  10. I remember sort of liking Light Bright when we were kids. I mean, I know we at least played with them more than once. But holy shit on the Fashion Plates- they were the freaking best things ever! YES!

  11. We did have a lite brite…I remember nothing about it, save the fact that we got yelled at for leaving the little peg thingies on the floor. Your momma was totally right.

    You know what I had when I was a kid that sucked? A gem polishing machine. You know, you put in rocks, spin it around, and something smooth and shiny comes out? Total crap, they were still just rocks.

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