What Happened To Bop-It?

Bop-It (stylized by Hasbro as "Bop-It!") has been barking urgent commands at children since 1996. But while the brand's wacky shape and fluorescent colors may seem quintessentially '90s, Bop-It is still around today. In fact, it's seen more than a dozen revisions and spin-offs since its original release.

Bop-It launched as a relatively simple toy — and, at first, it was as straightforward as a television remote (via AdWeek). In 1993, San Francisco-based inventor Dan Klitsner imagined Bop-It as the "Channel Bopper": a more interactive remote control that would encourage kids to get physical when they wanted to watch TV. His original design for the "Channel Bopper" resembled a hammer, and the toy would change the channels or adjust the volume on the TV in response to three now-iconic actions — bop it, twist it, and pull it.

But the "Channel Bopper" prototype wasn't bopping any buyers. Klitsner went back to the drawing board to redesign his smashing remote into a wand that, instead of commanding a TV set, commanded kids. Hasbro loved it, and Bop-It was born. But the toy company didn't stop there — and it's helped them sell more than 30 million units around the world.

A Bop-It prototype featured Homer Simpson

The most famous version of Bop-It resembles a wand, of sorts, with a twistable cone on one end, a pullable paddle on another, and a large round bop-able button in between. The aim of the game is to keep up with an announcer who issues commands — Bop it! Twist it! Pull it! — which correspond to the different parts of the wand. But as the game goes on, the announcer speaks faster and faster, until the player reaches the max score or misses a command.

When a player messes up, the announcer will sound disappointed. But the effect was once the iconic "D'oh!" exclamation of Homer Simpson, at least in the demo that inventor Dan Klitsner showed to Hasbro. Obviously, that was changed before release (via AdWeek).

The Bop-It line of toys has a rhythmic gameplay that has inspired comparisons to a much older toy: Simon (also owned by Hasbro). Nic Ricketts, curator of the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY, sees similarities in the patterns and motion-based gameplay of both toys. He remarked to AdWeek that if Simon led to Bop-It, Bop-It pointed to later devices like the Nintendo Wii.

Bop-It gets extreme

Few brands were safe from the "extreme" marketing of the 1990s, and Bop-It was too hot of a toy to not get the same treatment. In 1998, Hasbro launched the Bop-It Extreme, which added "flick it" and "spin it" to its commands for a total of five actions. Designed in the shape of a steering wheel, with the "bop it" button in the center like a car horn, its two new actions took shape as a green zigzag protrusion and a red wheel. 

Bop-It Extreme was again the invention of Dan Klitsner. In an interview with The Guardian, he said that after Hasbro saw the second year of rising sales for the original Bop-It, the company asked him what other ideas he might have for a successor. Klitsner wanted a new Bop-It to be even larger, which is how the more elaborate Extreme was born. "I was told [Bop-It] would probably die out in three years," he said, but the Extreme sequel "outsold the original by 50%." A second Extreme, Bop-It Extreme 2, launched shortly after.

Bopping into the 21st century

BoardGameGeek lists nine individual Bop-It releases — including Bop-It XT, Bop-It Smash, and Bop-It Beats. One of the more innovative versions was Bop-It Download, which allowed players to connect the game to their home PC and download alternative sounds, music, and announcer voices to switch things up whenever they play. They could even use the embedded microphone to record their own commands. In a Stuff review, the site lauded Download for letting users plug the Bop-It into external audio devices for party games.

While Bop-It continues to evolve to keep up with modern expectations for electronic toys, fans have found ways to make Bop-It toys do more than just bop, twist and pull (and spin, and flick ... ). In 2021, American engineering student Seth Altobelli reworked a Bop-It XT into a video game controller, NME reported. He even rigged up an accelerometer inside to track the user's movement. Altobelli designed the unique Bop-It controller for YouTuber Technoblade, who had previously beaten "Minecraft" with a racing wheel.

Licensed out

Bop-It inventor Dan Klitsner makes his money off of Bop-It chiefly through licensing, which has led to some truly bizarre variations on the talking wand. Bop-It met the classic puzzle game Tetris with Bop-It Tetris. This version of the game takes the form of a cylinder, with two gridded LCD screens that light up in the shapes of different Tetris pieces (via TTPM Toy Reviews). Players hold the Bop-It with both hands on either end, and turn and squeeze (or "twist and slam") the screens to fit tetriminos into one another. Of course, this being a Bop-It toy, players are timed with an ever-increasing rhythm of blocks to drop.

Bop-It has also seen variations based on film franchises and even other toys. Bop-It enthusiasts can find tie-ins with Bratz dolls, Minions, and Star Wars (with an R2-D2-shaped variant). And though Klitsner had to remove Homer's "D'oh!" from the original retail release, in 2009 the Simpsons featured their own fictional version of the toy with a parody called "Bonk It."

Bop-It for a new generation

In 2016, Hasbro released an edition with motion-controlled gameplay that included "sing it," "comb it," and "selfie it" commands (via TTPM Toy Reviews). Each command asks players to mime the announced action, like extending their arm outward and holding the device up for a selfie.

All the while, the voice of Bop-It has been provided by actor Buddy Rubino, who has been the one barking commands since 2008. In an interview with The Guardian, Rubino recalls not even knowing what the toy was before getting the audition. His only direction with the script was to "just say it really excited."

"So that's what I did," said Rubino. "There's nothing put-on with the Bop-It voice: it's just me, or maybe me on 10 energy drinks."

Rubino said that his favorite lines to say are the "razzes" — the jabs the announcer makes after you get a game over. And each of his commands needs to be read in multiple variations, to match the speed and intensity of the gameplay. Even today, Rubino's iconic performance has led him to fans who request he make prank calls as the voice of Bop-It.