The Duffer Brothers may have found some inspiration for their hit show Stranger Things from an obscure toy from the late 1960s called Upsy Downsy. The hit Netflix show has been criticized more than once for going above the world of tributes to beloved 80s classics to being accused of making carbon copies of the shows and movies that the Duffer Brothers take inspiration from. There's a fine line between making loving homages and setting up parts of the show that are taken beat for beat and scene for scene from something that was the main inspiration. While many believe that the Upside Down was inspired by the Vale of Shadows from Dungeons and Dragons or Silent Hill's Otherworld, it may have come from a more obscure source.
The Upsy Downsy toys were a brand of toys that were made by Mattel in the late 60s. The bizarre looking toys were psychedelic characters that came in wild colors including hot pink and super bright blues, mixed with plastic bodies and yarn hair and cloth clothing. Each came with a fold-out cardboard Play Land mat, a "Magic Bridge Clip" to link one mat to another, some wild accessories, a mode of transportation, and a name that summed up their character in a few nonsensical words. All of the individual Play Land mats were designed to be placed together using the Bridge Clips to make the "Happidiculous World" of The Upsys and Downsys. And like when the kids flip over that game board in season one, explaining how the upside down works, these Play Land mats did the same thing, with one side the Upsy and the other side the Downsy.
The Upsys were a little over 2" tall and closely resembled hyper-colored humans who lived in the normal world, above the Downsys. The Downsys lived beneath the Upsys in the Upside Down, which is where the Duffer Brothers may have gotten the initial idea for their version of the Upside Down in Stranger Things. The Downsys are taller than their counterparts and resemble goofy cartoon characters as opposed to looking like the human-like Upsys. Downsys' hands are positioned on the tops of their heads, to allow them to stand upside-down in their natural habitat.
The similarities don't end there. The Upsys and Downsys were all originally flowers, much like the way the Demogorgon's face opens like horrific flowers reaching their petals to the sun. The Upsys fell through a rainbow and ended up transforming to psychedelic humanoids living in the normal Upsy land. However, the Downsys fell through a storm cloud and ended up getting stuck in the Upside Down, transformed into weird characters. What differs from Stranger Things is that the Upsys and the Downsys all get along and live in harmony .
The Upsy Downsys revolution included toys, playsets, storybooks, and even coloring books, but Upsy Downsy Land only lasted for a year. Could this short-lived strange psychedelic toy franchise from Mattel have influenced the Duffer Brothers when they were putting together Stranger Things? It isn't clear at this time as the Duffers have never been questioned about whether or not they knew about the Upsy Downsys. It does seem likely. Check out the Upsy Downsys over at Wikipedia and then think about them the next time you throw on Stranger Things.