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Sea-Monkeys documentary explores toy creator's dark side

Watch this mini-documentary on the history of the pop culture pet sensation Sea-Monkeys and how they swam into the imaginations of kids worldwide.

Many of us fell for the idea of Sea-Monkeys. As kids, we hoped to own royal underwater creatures who wore golden crowns and sat on thrones. The package promised a kind of "Planet of the Apes"-meets-Atlantis inside cheap plastic mini-aquariums.

Sadly, Sea-Monkeys were nothing more than brine shrimp (Artemia salina) whose eggs could be brought to life by adding them to water.

As exciting as seeing the eggs hatch and turn into tiny translucent shrimp was, the only other trick Sea-Monkeys performed was swimming toward light. Not exactly what was advertised on the toys' packaging.

In the video "Just Add Water" by Great Big Story and CNN Films, posted Wednesday, we learn the bizarre history of Sea-Monkeys and their creator, an eccentric inventor named Harold von Braunhut who marketed the creatures to gullible kids since their debut in 1960.

It wasn't the brine shrimp themselves that captured kids' imaginations, but the marketing behind them. After all, who could resist the ads in the back of comic books of cartoon-style underwater creatures (that look nothing like monkeys at all) doing circus tricks? Of course, none of us read that very small print that said, "Caricatures shown are not intended to depict Artemia salina."

Harold von Braunhut went so far to file a Sea-Monkeys patent to breed a hybridized version of the brine shrimp to insure they would live longer.

Sea-Monkeys weren't the only kids toys invented by Harold von Braunhut. He also created X-Ray Spex, Crazy Crabs and something called Invisible Goldfish. But according to the video, he also had a dark past that might involve supporting Nazis.