“Oink, oink, ZooPals! Buzz, buzz, ZooPals! Quack, Quack, ZooPals! ZooPals make eating fun!”
You’re lying if you don’t have this ad ingrained somewhere in your brain. Have I ever had ZooPals? No. Did I even see them in stores? Sometimes. Did I randomly remember it at 11am while walking to class? Yes. I think we should bring these back, but make them the standard at the dining halls. You’re much more likely to eat that sketchy-looking burger if a smiling frog is staring at you. Probably, at least.
2) Papa’s Resturaunteria Games
Papa’s Pizzeria, Burgeria, Taco Mia, Freezeria, Pancakeria, Wingeria, Hot Doggeria, Cupcakeria, Pastaria, Donuteria, Cheeseria, Bakeria, Sushiria, Scooperia, Mocharia, and Cluckeria. There’s 16 installments in the Papa’s Restauranteria franchise, and chances are you’ve played at least one. Personally, Freezeria was my favorite, but I enjoyed a good Cupcakeria or Pancakeria now and then. You’d be lying if you said you’ve never gone through a Papa game without causing chaos. With unlimited ice cream comes an abuse of power.
This trend hit at the end of elementary school/beginning of middle school and I don’t know about you, but it hit me pretty hard. Sunglasses with an attached mustache, mustache packing tape, mustache shirts, mustache band aids, mustache erasers…you get the point. I fear we may never know why a strange fascination with facial hair swept the tweens of America, but at least we have the video of Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez lip-synching to “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen to prove it happened.
4) Pillow Pets
“It’s a pillow! It’s a pet! It’s a Pillow Pet!”
Nick and Disney kids alike will recognize this ad. The idea of having a stuffed animal that was also a pillow? That was awesome. Looking at them now though, Pillow Pets were freaking expensive, and still are. $35 for a stuffed animal pillow? A college student could never. But, you’ll be glad to hear that Pillow Pets are still alive and thriving; with designs such as Freddy Fazbear, a rainbow axolotl, a fairy cow and the capybara from Encanto, to name a few.
5) PBS Kids
PBS Kids is legendary in terms of children’s show stations. With hits like Dragon Tales, Magic School Bus, WordWorld, Cyberchase, Kipper, and Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman that hit you right in the nostalgia, PBS Kids was a huge part of many of our founding years. I think people can relate to memories of watching Sid the Science Kid and Super Why! before going to school and coming home to eat some Goldfish and watch an episode of WordGirl, Make Way for Noddy, Sesame Street, or Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Especially for those of us who didn’t have cable television growing up, PBS Kids holds a special place in our memories, and our hearts.
6) Disney Channel
Sticking with the theme of nostalgic TV shows, you can’t make a list of Gen Z nostalgia without mentioning Disney Channel. Whether you were more of a Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers or Wizards of Waverly Place kid, I think we can all agree that Disney channel shows from our time are arguably the best. Then of course there’s Shake it Up!, Austin & Ally, Jessie, and A.N.T. Farm, and who could forget Good Luck Charlie? Not only did these shows introduce us to the hottest tween idols of the time (I’m looking at you, Ross Lynch), but they had theme songs thats’ lyrics are still engrained into my brain, and will likely remain there until the day I die.
7) Reeses Puff ad
“Reeses Puffs, Reeses Puffs!
Eat ‘em up, eat ‘em up, eat ‘em up, eat ‘em up!”
No other explanation needed.
8) Cool Math Games/Hooda Math
The flash game sites that included the word “math” in their name so teachers were okay with students playing them in technology class. The legends of the elementary school flash websites. The sites holding games so iconic that just their names brings back that feeling of childhood: Fireboy & Watergirl, Bloxorz, Sugar Sugar, and Run 3. While I learned these sites do still exist, their never ending pop-up ads really ruin the nostalgia.
9) The Scholastic Book Fair
The season of utter joy, chaos and disappointment within elementary school. The week where any money you had saved up went to scented erasers, books that you only bought for the cool toy that came with them, posters of lightsaber wielding squirrels with the title “Paw Wars” (speaking from personal experience) and, of course, books. I doubt we’ll ever feel such joy as that of heading into the library during book fair week again, and such disappointment as finding something you really wanted, but not having the money to get it.
10) Silly Bandz
Did your school ever ban Silly Bandz? Because mine did. The literal day after I traded away my pink Beanie Babies platypus Silly Band (this is a regret that still haunts me). Silly Bandz were so much more than just rubber bands, they were shaped rubber bands that you wear. Ever wanted a saxophone shaped rubber band? One shaped like Angry Birds? Of a vaguely animal looking shape? Of some undefined shape that you could never figure out? Yes. Silly Bandz had all of those and more.
11) Barbie Movies & Games
This one’s for all my Barbie girls out there. The ones who grew up with The Princess and the Pauper, Swan Lake, Fairytopia, The Magic of Pegasus, 12 Dancing Princesses and The Island Princess. For the ones who have “To Be a Princess” memorized, who always wish they had a pair of magic dancing shoes, and who have a special place in their heart for Bibble. In all seriousness though, the soundtrack from The Princess and the Pauper is still a banger and brings back such nostalgia. There’s also the games we used to play on the Barbie website. For me, I loved “Barbie Snip and Style Salon” the best, but honestly, they were all fun. (I also have to credit Barbie for being the first video game that I’ve fully completed not only once, but twice. If anyone out there also played “Barbie Horse Adventures” for the Playstation 2, please let me know because I’ve yet to meet anyone else who understands the hold that game had on me).
“Welcome to the Curio Shop. Hope you find what you’re looking for.”
Webkinz gave us a chance to have a pet horse, monkey, lemur, lion, penguin, pegasus…you get the idea. And not only take care of it, but dress it up, build it rooms, play in the arcade with it and explore Webkinz World. The daily gem hunts, spinning the Wheel of Wow, always hoping to but never getting the grand prize at the Wishing Well and visiting Ms. Birdy to adopt a new pet. Webkinz had a grasp on our generation, and I think I speak for many people when I say, bring back Webkinz plush!
The fact that school computers didn’t block Poptropica, mixed with the ability to quickly make an account (without an email!) meant that it was a cultural icon in schools. It was challenging, but not to the point that it became too frustrating. There were so many different islands (my favorite was always 24 Carrot) and you could find random people and steal their clothes (in a PG way of course). If Webkinz was the more sheltered goodie-two shoes, Poptopica was their weird and energetic younger sibling; you never really knew exactly what was going on, but it was entertaining so you just kept going with it.
14) Club Penguin
Ah yes, the game we all loved, but also hated, because we could never convince our parents to get us a membership. Club Penguin had quests, places to explore, freaking cute little Puffles, and a paywall keeping people from being able to dress their penguins. I remember when they had special events with Disney Channel–things like Shake it Up! and Teen Beach Movie and the absolute scramble of trying to get into the room before the “show” started. Also, who can forget when Club Penguin went out with a bang and actually let people tip the iceberg?
15) The Chuck E. Cheese Ticket Machine
Charles Entertainment Cheese had a great establishment, but what’s the one thing that people consistently remember from it? The Ticket Machine. It crunching, munching and counting our hard-earned tickets as we watched the numbers go up, hoping that we’d have enough points to get that one prize we wanted badly on the wall. In the end though, most of us just left with a handful of probably old candy and a toy that would break on the ride home. Did we care? No. It was Chuck E. Cheese.
16) Early YouTube
Remember the old days of YouTube? Before YouTuber “apology” videos, Fortnight livestreams and an endless stream of Mr. Beast giveaway videos? The days of Nyan Cat, Friday, Fred, and The Annoying Orange. Where we got gems such as “I’m a Banana,”“The Duck Song,”and “Gangnam Style.” Is YouTube perfect now? No. Would it be better if we went back to these days of YouTube? Probably not.
17) Early 2010’s Trends
The number of weird trends we’ve been a part of is a lot higher than you’d imagine. Think of the early 2010’s. You’ve got mustaches, like I said earlier, but we’ve also experienced: feather hair extensions, that one specific Instagram filter that everyone applied to every photo, hipster glasses, ombre dip-dyed hair, and flower crowns.
18) Bill Nye
Bill Nye the Science Guy! Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill! Bill Nye the Science Guy!
You’re lying if you said you didn’t start singing that. Despite being a show of the 90’s, Bill Nye the Science Guy was alive and thriving in our elementary school years. The excitement of seeing the big tube TV with the VCR/DVD player being wheeled into class is a feeling hard to put into words, but one so universally experienced by our generation.
The cornerstone of watching movies as we grew up. Walking down the aisles of different genres and then getting distracted by the different candies by the register. I remember they used to have these really good Disney Princess gummies. Man, I miss those.
Who could forget the Mii Channel. Its unforgettable music, the hours spent making Miis of your friends and family, and watching YouTube videos on how to make Mickey Mouse or a hamburger Mii. And, on top of that, we could play as, or against, those Miis in games like Wii Sports. With a baseball team full of Disney characters or a tennis match against the hottest celebrities, Miis brought a new sense of creation to the video game world, and its legacy will forever live on in the 10 hour Mii Channel loops on YouTube.
Emily Imanishi is a Junior Writing for Film, TV and Emerging Media major who longs for the days of Backyardigans, Go-Gurts, and Littlest Pet Shop. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.