2016 Advent Calendar: Day 1! (A New Beginning)

IMG_1066December is here! Every December for the past six(!) years I’ve opened a Lego Advent Calendar — a big box that spits out tiny toys of varying degrees of fun every day until Christmas. But not this year.

This year, things are different.

If you’re new to the Advent Calendar experience, spend an afternoon reading the old posts.

Year One
Year Two
Year Three – The year everything went wrong.
Year Four
Year Five
Year Six

I fully intended to open the Lego City Advent Calendar this year, but fate was not on my side. In past years, it was relatively easy to buy a Lego Advent Calendar — even if the stores didn’t carry them, the calendar was available online for about $30. For reasons best described as “2016, suckah!” the calendar was either sold out or the price was inflated to upwards of $50.

As much as I love opening the Lego calendar, $50 is too expensive. Hell, $30 is probably too much for what you get, but in my brain I’m paying $15 for the bits of plastic and $15 for the experience. But $50? Nope. Can’t do it. If it were a special Lego Calendar (Marvel, Harry Potter, Gilmore Girls), then I may be able to justify it, but a regular Lego calendar should cost $30, no more.

I could have gone with another Star Wars Calendar, but I’ve done that for two years in a row. How many weapon racks does a grown man need? Four. I need four. And I have four. So I’m good.

The Lego Friends Calendar isn’t even an option since I’m still feeling pretty raw about it.

So if Lego is out, what calendar is left? There are quite a few, actually. From Tsum Tsums to Hot Wheels, more and more toy companies are pushing over-priced Advent calendars. But I didn’t pick those. Instead, I went with Playmobil!

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Playmobil — the toy we all had but never remember getting. These figures would just show up in your toy box. Most of them came from a well-meaning friend of your parents who didn’t know better and assumed a Playmobil farmer was just as good as Battle Damage He-Man. (It wasn’t.)

My toy tastes growing up leaned heavily towards those associated with mass-media: He-Man, Transformers, Star Wars…things based on TV shows or movies that helped my young, mushy imagination figure out what, exactly, an Autobot sounds like when it transforms. (If I had to type the sound it would be, “Chk-chk-woop-wrrr-chk-cllllrk-wooh, chk.”)

Playmobil didn’t have a TV show. What does a Playmobil man sound like when it talks? I don’t know…German-ish? Which figures were the good guys? The smiley ones, I guess? Which character was part of an intergalactic crime syndicate hidden behind the curtain of a cult-like organization based on worshiping frogs? The farmer, probably.

Playmobil toys were more open-ended, something I appreciate more as an adult than as a kid. Young Dan wanted well-defined stories for his toys. Old Dan abandons all rules and unshackles all labels: Darth Vader can be a girl, Skeletor is a pop-star, Optimus Prime might sound like soft rain hitting a rose petal when he transforms — anything is possible.

Playmobil toys were more abstract, more European, more…suspiciously peaceful? There’s an eerie calm about these toys. I like that.

If Lego is U2, Playmobil is Radiohead.

Playmobil releases a new Advent calendar every year, but older calendars are still readily available. That means if you shop on Amazon for “Playmobil Advent Calendar,” you’ll likely see six or more options, all of them reasonably priced.

This year, I went with Pirates! (Actually, my awesome girlfriend picked the pirate calendar after I was bummed out about experiencing a non-Lego December. She’s been a fan of the Playmobil calendars for a few years now, and so I trust her and her decision.)

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Pirates!

Like always, my girlfriend spent an hour wrapping the calendar box so that I wouldn’t see any potential spoilers on the box. Playmobil boxes are even worse than Lego, often showing EVERYTHING you get in the calendar right on the front. They also include a booklet showing EVERY item in the calendar with instructions on how to assemble certain items. I guess this booklet is meant more for parents of young children, but it still seems too spoilery. Luckily, my girlfriend took the booklet before I could see anything because I have the willpower of a cartoon dog outside a butcher shop window.

img_1340Before we open the first door, please look at the included playmat. This 3D cardboard landscape is wonderful. It’s bright, it’s big and…my God, there’s a SKULL CAVE!

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Skull Cave!

Look at that skull. Look at it hard! I have. It’s all I’ve thought about for the past seven minutes since assembling the paper backdrop. Look at it.

And what’s that in the water? Is that a reflection? A ghost skull? I’ll tell you what it is: Perfect.

img_1348I’ve got a good feeling about this calendar.

img_1349And the very first item of my very first Playmobil Calendar is…

img_1352A boat!

Look, let’s all lower our expectations a bit. There isn’t going to be an awesome pirate or Mrs. Claus behind every door. Some of these items might be a bit iffy, but remember: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Don’t look at the tree, look at the forest! You have to give to get. And any other random saying about appreciating things.

I love this boat. It’s larger than anything in the Lego calendars, so just in amount of petroleum needed to make the plastic boat, this is technically greater than Lego.

img_1351And besides, what’s a pirate without a boat? Answer: Sad.

Welcome to my world, Boat. Of all the boats I’ve received in toy-filled calendars, you are the best.

Tune in tomorrow for Day 2!

Day 1 Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Points added because it’s green, like Christmas.)

img_1355The 2016 Advent Calendar is brought to you by PowerPencils.com! Magic pencils and funny signs are the perfect gift for all the wonderful weirdos on your shopping list. Order by December 19th to ensure Christmas delivery.