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Old 02-16-2011, 05:52 PM   #1
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Cool TIME: "The 100 Greatest Toys of all Time"

All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys

TIME reporter Allie Townsend picks the 100 most influential toys from 1923 to the present
Wed. - Feb. 16, 2011




1920s:


Radio Flyer Wagon






A 16-year-old Italian boy named Antonio Pasin was one of the millions who immigrated to America from Europe at the start of the 20th century. A skilled carpenter, Pasin headed to Chicago and began building little red wagons out of stamped metal.

By 1923, he had saved enough money to create the Liberty Coaster Company, and he began mass-producing the wagon for just under $3. He named it the Radio Flyer in homage to two of his favorite inventions of the time: the radio and the airplane.









Chemistry Set






A pioneer in educational toys, the A.C. Gilbert Co. released its chemistry set in 1923.

Marketed solely to boys, the kit was designed to teach basic chemistry skills, but by today's standards, it was nothing short of a homeland-security breach. (Experiment No. 1: Explosives.)

Still, it received the highly regarded Good Housekeeping seal of approval, and Gilbert went on to sell millions of sets over the next 30 years.




Eventually, even girls were acknowledged by the manufacturers — but only as aspiring assistants. Gilbert's Lab Technician Set for Girls was released in the 1950s, cloaked in reassuring pink hues.

It would be another 10 years until the gender barrier in kiddie chemistry was brought down and boys and girls were finally allowed to play scientist together.









Joy Buzzer






Beloved by pranksters worldwide, the joy buzzer has been delivering unexpected zaps to its victims since 1928. The device was created by Danish inventor Soren Sorensen Adams, who founded the S.S. Adams Co., the premier novelty producer of the 20th century.

After dreaming up his first gag concoction, Cachoo Sneeze Powder, in 1906, Sorensen went on to create prank product staples like the razzberry cushion, the snake nut can and the exploding cigar.



Officially patented in 1932, the buzzer doesn't actually deliver an electric current but rather a loud vibrating noise, just enough to "shock" the unsuspecting.









Yo-Yo






Though its history can be traced back to nearly 500 B.C., the yo-yo didn't find mainstream success until the late 1920s, when a young U.S. immigrant named Pedro Flores ignited an international craze.

Born in the Philippines, Flores saw the toy's potential in the U.S. after remembering its Filipino popularity. (It had received the name yoyo there hundreds of years before.)



While working as a bellboy, Flores founded the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in 1928. After selling handmade yo-yos to children around Los Angeles, he was able to secure financing to open a factory.

Within a year, the company was producing 300,000 yo-yos a day, and Flores' "Wonder Toy" achieved craze status in the U.S., with yo-yo contests popping up all over the country.









Pop-Up Book






Initially called "movables," the first pop-up books actually predate most print texts. They first appeared in the 14th century, when a Catalan mystic began using revolving disks to illustrate his philosophical theories.

Pop-up books were not created for young audiences until the early 19th century, when lift-the-flap techniques were introduced in children's books. It wasn't until 1929 that readers were introduced to pop-ups as we know them today.




Published by Louis Giraud and Theodore Brown, the Daily Express Children's Annual No. 1 was the first in a series of pop-up books that featured illustrations that leaped off the page, starting one of the longest-lasting literary gimmicks in history.










1930s:


Stuffed Mickey Mouse






In 1928, Mickey Mouse made his film debut in Steamboat Willie, the world's first synchronized-sound cartoon. Created by emerging filmmaker Walt Disney, Mickey would soon become the iconic face of childhood.


In 1930, a woman named Charlotte Clark was commissioned to create the first stuffed Mickey Mouse doll, and much to Disney's delight, it became an instant must-have for children across the U.S.

It was just the beginning for Mickey, who would go on to star in countless animated features and movies as well as Disney's international line of theme parks and video games and toys.









Finger Paint






Now synonymous with tiny handprints adorning bulletin boards around the globe, finger paint was first used in art education in 1931.

American teacher Ruth Faison Shaw was in Italy when she developed a system that not only would teach kids about art but could also act as a technique for child therapy, a cause Shaw devoted her life to.


In her 1934 book Finger Painting, a Perfect Medium for Self-Expression, Shaw wrote that adults should let children be children, even if it meant letting them make a mess.

The theory was embraced by educators, and in 1936, the painting technique reached massive popularity and Shaw finger paints and paper were being produced by the Binney & Smith Co., owned by the inventors of the Crayola crayon.


Finger painting peaked in the 1930s during the progressive education movement and was widely used in education systems until the end of the 1960s.









Sock Monkey






The Nelson Knitting Co. of Rockford, Ill., may not have invented the sock monkey, but it standardized its manufacturing process somewhat.

In 1932, the company added a line of socks whose red heels assured their customers that they were indeed purchasing original "Rockfords." When worn out, the socks were then deployed as playthings by American mothers who made stuffed monkeys out of them, using the red heel as a mouth.



Hearing about these enterprising homemakers and seeing great promotional opportunity, the Nelson Knitting Co. began including a sock-monkey pattern with every pair of socks.









Buck Rogers Rocket Pistol






First sold in 1934, the Buck Rogers rocket pistol was the first ray gun ever produced.

Fashioned after the weapon carried by the fictional Buck Rogers comic-book character, the rocket pistol was straight out of the future.



Buck Rogers was introduced in a 1928 issue of Amazing Stories as a World War I hero who spent nearly 500 years in a state of suspended animation after being exposed to radioactive gas and wakes to become a full-fledged superhero with a futuristic weapon.

Like its fictional counterpart, the toy pistol made a zapping sound; manufacturers went on to produce multiple versions during the decades-long popularity of the character.









Microscope Set






In 1934, science-based toy manufacturer the A.C. Gilbert Co. began marketing a line of toy microscopes to teach children about photographic images.

Surprisingly advanced for a toy, Gilbert's scope included a turret allowing three different levels of magnification, which came in handy while peering at insects.

(The set included bees, flies and fleas, while instructions encouraged children to collect new subjects on their own.)



The set was viewed as reasonably sophisticated and was praised for its coverage of microscope lab-procedure fundamentals, but its lengthy manuals read more as college texts than toy instructions.









Beach Ball






A classic beach toy, the inflatable beach ball is believed to have been invented by Jonathon DeLonge in 1938. The original beach balls are thought to have been about the size of a hand.


Now the inflatable toys are sold in many different sizes, including unbelievably large. They usually feature a set of soft plastic panels, with two circular end panels, one with an inflation valve.

A common design has six panels in six different colors with vertical solid-colored vinyl stripes.









Red Ryder BB Gun






Made famous by the 1983 film A Christmas Story, the Red Ryder BB Gun was introduced in 1938. Produced by Daisy Outdoor Products, the toy gun closely resembles the Winchester rifles featured prominently in popular Hollywood Westerns.



Originally, the gun was named after a fictional character Red Ryder, the star of a popular comic strip that eventually inspired three films.

Though BB and other toy guns have come under fire in recent years over safety concerns, the Red Ryder is still among the most sold BB guns in the country.









Army Men






In 1938, the Bergen Toy and Novelty Co. began selling an inexpensive line of minuscule, monochrome plastic soldiers. The 2-in. American figures were produced in U.S. Army green and molded in a variety of action poses — a little boy's war fantasy come true.

Sold in large plastic bags, demand for the little green men rose in the 1950s thanks to a boom in plastics manufacturing and a lead-poisoning scare that made the metal versions less appealing.




Soon the company was manufacturing enemy forces too: German troops were molded in grey, Japanese forces in yellow.

Though the little warriors have undergone several changes over the years, their most famous identity is as World War II–era soldiers with "pod feet" attached to keep them standing during battle.









View-Master






We owe our love of handheld three-dimensional color slides to a photographer with a wild idea.

In 1938, cameraman William Gruber was taking photographs of the Oregon Caves National Monument through two cameras strapped together. The idea? To produce new 3-D color slides for stereoscopes common in most 19th century drawing rooms.


A chance encounter at the caves with Harold Graves, president of Sawyer's Photographic Services, led the two to strike a deal. Together, they would produce the View-Master, a new way of viewing tourist attractions in America.

The famous red device made its big debut at the 1939 New York World's Fair and was sold through specialty photography stores until Graves and Gruber scored a major licensing agreement with Disney to offer 3-D images of Disney films, TV shows and theme parks.


From that point on , the View-Master became a beloved classic.
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Old 02-16-2011, 05:54 PM   #2
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1940s:


Bubble Solution






Though children had blown soap bubbles over pans of soapy water for many years, it wasn't until a Chicago cleaning-supplies company named Chemtoy began bottling its own bubble solution in 1940 that a true enthusiasm for the activity erupted.

Now with millions of bottles sold each year, bubble solutions, paired with wands of various sizes, have worked their way into our culture even outside their role as a children's toy.



In the 1960s they became a universal symbol of peace as the hippie movement blew bubbles into the air en masse.

More recently they've become a regular feature at weddings — a nice alternative to pelting the bride and groom with rice.









Little Golden Books






Originally published by Simon & Schuster in 1942, Little Golden Books have become a cherished piece of childhood in the U.S.

The first high-quality, low-priced line of children's books ever produced, the series was available to all children, not just the wealthier set.



Initially, just 12 titles were released, including Mother Goose, The Little Red Hen and The Poky Little Puppy. Within five months, 1.5 million copies had already been produced.



Today there are some 1,200 Little Golden Books titles and more than 2 billion copies printed.

And whether you pick up a new copy of The Poky Little Puppy or dust off one from your parents' generation, you'll see the same, classic illustrations.









Slinky






"A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it's Slinky!"

Though its popularity can't be called into question, "everyone" may not know that the Slinky was an accident.



Created by mechanical engineer Richard James in 1943, it was the unintended by-product of a new line of sensitive springs that would help keep fragile equipment steady on ships. After knocking one of his newly created springs from a shelf, James watched as it "walked" down from its spot instead of falling to the ground.

With a machine designed to coil 80 ft. of wire into a 2-in. spiral and a name chosen by his wife Betty, James began producing his novelty Slinky — but at first to little notice.




Slinky got its big break during the Christmas shopping season of 1945, when the Gimbels department store in Philadelphia let James demonstrate his new creation.

Within minutes, he sold 400 Slinkys.

Sixty-six years and 250 million Slinkys later, we're still just as delighted with James' serendipitous toy as we ever were.









Magic 8 Ball






Sometime in the 1940s, Albert Carter created the Syco-Seer, a fortune-dispensing "crystal ball" inspired by a device used by his mother Mary, a professional psychic.

The original product contained two dice and was cylindrical in shape.



Sadly, Carter died before his creation found success. But in 1950, Carter's brother-in-law Abe Bookman was commissioned to turn the Syco-Seer into a black-and-white 8 ball with a floating 20-sided die.

When the ball is shaken, the die floats to the surface, revealing its answer to your question about the future.









Legos






In 1949, Danish carpenter Ole Christiansen created a set of interlocking red and white blocks, the first of what would go on to become Legos.

It wasn't until 1958 that the Lego company (its name derived from the Danish words for "play well") patented the small bricks.



The genius was in the simplicity of the unassuming blocks, which allowed children to create freely without limits and in nearly endless combinations. (Just six blocks could be combined in 102,981,500 different ways.)

Popularity boomed, and to date, Lego has produced more than 320 billion single LEGO bricks — roughly 52 for each person on the planet.
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Old 02-16-2011, 05:56 PM   #3
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1950s


Water Balloon






English inventor Edgar Ellington decided in 1950 to create a waterproof sock using latex and cotton. But after filling his creation with water to test its quality, he noticed a small stream of water gushing from the side.

As he threw the water-filled sock onto the table in anger, it burst — and so a second idea was born. Not long after, Ellington's "water grenades" were the first water balloons to hit the market.









Silly Putty






During World War II, chemists concerned about America's threatened rubber supply began researching synthetic substitutes and stumbled upon one of the greatest materials in toy history.

A "solid liquid," the new, stretchable material was a marvel of science — and of absolutely no use to the American war effort.



Dubbed "Nutty Putty," the new substance was marketed as a novelty toy by entrepreneur Peter Hodgson, who sold it packaged inside colorful plastic eggs, just in time for Easter.

When a write-up appeared in the New Yorker, Hodgson received more than 250,000 orders in three days.



Scientists and toymakers have been refining everyone's favorite nonrubber ever since.

The year 1991 saw the introduction of glow-in-the-dark Silly Putty, while NASA learned the substance could be used to restrain objects in zero gravity, taking it aboard Apollo 8 to hold down tools.









Fisher-Price Little People






In 1950, three Fisher-Price toymakers designed a toy fire truck, fixing three round-headed firefighters on top.

Nine years later, the company produced the Safety School Bus with removable figures — the same stumpy, round characters as before.



The figures became part of the Play Family line and are now the beloved Little People.

They have gone on to populate toy farms, castles and even airports. But it wasn't until the 1970s that a black figure was introduced.









Colorforms






In what became an ingenious use of plastic for kids, a New York couple, Harry and Pat Kislevitz, created brightly colored vinyl shapes that could be stuck and restuck over and over in different combinations on a laminated board.


In 1951, the Colorforms Corp. brought the product to toy stores, and soon box sets were on the market in partnership with already established children's brands like Peanuts, Popeye and Gumby.









Paint-by-Numbers Kit






In the 16th century, the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo began assigning sections of his famous ceilings to his students to paint, prenumbering each one to help curb mistakes.

(Yes, this was the world's first paint-by-numbers.)




Fast-forward to 1949: package designer Dan Robbins applies Michelangelo's color-coded art process on a much smaller scale.

Robbins' boss, Max Klein, owner of the Palmer Paint Co., was hesitant at first but eventually decided to give the idea a try. Robbins and Klein found very little success early on.

"In the beginning we couldn't give our sets away," Robbins said. "It took almost two years to get our paint-by-number business off the ground. When we finally did, it took off like a rocket."




In 1952, Macy's agreed to stock paint-by-numbers kits, and just a few months later, an amateur painter won third place at a San Francisco art competition with one.

The press coverage noted that most people couldn't tell the difference between the kit versions and the original paintings.



Eventually, Craft Master kits were such a hit that paint-by-number works by J. Edgar Hoover and Nelson Rockefeller were hung in the West Wing of the White House.









Mr. Potato Head






Inventor George Learner had an interesting way to get kids to like vegetables: make them into toys. He created a set of plug-in facial features (28 in all) to be distributed in cereal boxes.

The Hassenfeld Brothers company, which would later form Hasbro Inc., loved the idea and decided to market it.



The original Mr. Potato Head — then just a set of pointy-backed features that kids would jab into a real potato — made its debut in 1952. It became the first toy with a dedicated TV commercial and helped Hasbro earn more than $4 million in just a few months.

The plastic potato appeared in 1964, turning the lovable spud into the version we're familiar with today — a toy that can even claim movie-star status, thanks to Disney Pixar's Toy Story franchise, in which it has a featured role voiced by comedian Don Rickles.









Wiffle Ball






In 1953, a father created a baseball substitute for his son to play with.

A semipro pitcher, David Mullany was concerned about the effect pitching a baseball would have on his 12-year-old son's arm, so he set out to find him something easier to throw instead.


Soon Mullany created a ball with eight oblong perforations: the world's first Wiffle ball, so named because the boys in Mullany's Fairfield, Conn., neighborhood referred to strikes as "whiffs."

Mullany's ball proved easier to throw but harder to hit, and once the balls went into mass production later that year, Mullany had a home run on his hands.









Matchbox Car






In 1953, British toy company Lesney Products released a miniature model of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation coach, the company's first best seller.

A few months later, company co-owner Jack Odell created an even smaller version of the coach for his daughter to take with her to school, as she was allowed to bring in only toys that could be tucked inside a matchbox.



An entire series of tiny cars followed.

To keep up with competition from Hot Wheels, Matchbox racing tracks were released in the 1970s, which resulted in the production of more tiny cars revered for their speed; they're now hot collectors' items.









PEZ Dispenser






Created as a peppermint candy in Vienna in 1927, PEZ, derived from the German word Pfefferminz (peppermint), is now a leader in "interactive candy."

After the candy itself caught on, Oscar Uxa invented the famed PEZ dispenser in the 1950s, but he did not receive acclaim for his creation until heads were placed on top of the dispensers in 1955.



Some of the earliest dispensers (Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus) can fetch up to $10,000 at auction.

To date, more than 1,500 different dispensers have been created, and more than 3 billion PEZ candies are consumed each year in the U.S. alone.









Gumby






Veteran animator Art Clokey created Gumby, the lovable green creature made of clay, for his 1953 short film Gumbasia.

Television executives loved the character so much, they granted him his own program, "The Gumby Show". His unusual shape and claymation movements made him a unique character.


Clokey later admitted that the unusual shape of Gumby's head was modeled after one of the few surviving photos of his father, which shows him with a large wave of hair protruding from the right side of his head.

In 1955, Gumby toys hit the market. The bendy action figure has become a prized classic in the toy world and has been a regular at toy stores since its introduction.









Play-Doh






Play-Doh is one of those revolutionary toys with surprisingly mundane roots.

In the early 1950s, Joe McVicker sent some solid, mashable wallpaper cleaner to a classroom after learning that children often found clay too difficult to handle. It was a smash with the kids, and McVicker graciously offered to send shipments to all Cincinnati schools.

It didn't take long to realize that the substance had more potential as a toy than as a cleaning product. (We've since played with more than 700 million lb. of the stuff.)



By 1956, Play-Doh had its oddly spelled name, and stores like Macy's and Marshall Field's took notice.

Colorful versions of it soon followed, with a full eight-color palette by 1980. Later iterations have included glitter and glow-in-the dark Doh — for those who need a little extra oomph in their goo.









Tonka Truck






In the late 1940s, the Mound Metalcraft Co., a small garden-implement business operating out of a Minnesota school basement, began making toy trucks.

It started with steam shovels and cranes, and in just a year, it sold 37,000 units.



Following this initial success, the group concentrated on making toys and changed the company name to Tonka (after Minnesota's Lake Minnetonka).

Tonka released its first pickup truck in 1955, followed by a Jeep in 1962 and the Mighty Dump Truck in 1965 — the latter becoming the company's best-selling toy of the century.



Thirty trucks have followed since Tonka's first one left its tracks in the sandbox, and the company, now owned by Hasbro, is still represented in playgrounds around the world.









Frisbee






The Frisbee's history began in Bridgeport, Conn., where Yale University students played catch with pie plates from the local Frisbie Baking Co.

The story goes that they used to yell, "Frisbie!" to warn others walking nearby to look out for the airborne plates.



Inspired by the UFO obsession that swept through American culture in the late 1940s, two men, Warren Franscioni and Walter Morrison, created a plastic version of the soaring disk, calling it a Flying Saucer.

It was sold under that name until Wham-O purchased the rights in 1955 and renamed it the Frisbee, an ode to the bakery that inspired it.



Since the early 1960s, hundreds of millions of Frisbees have been sold, with leagues and tournaments dedicated to the sport.









Corn Popper






If you learned to walk in the past 50 years, you've probably done so at some point while pushing this noisemaker on a stick.

In 1957, inventor Arthur Holt sold his design for a small plastic dome filled with colorful balls to Fisher-Price for just $50.


Since then, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper has become one of the most beloved (and irritating) toys for young children of all time.

Designed to keep your baby moving, the Corn Popper sends the gumball-size balls inside flying and hitting the plastic dome to create its signature popping noise.









Two-Handed Pogo Stick






The pogo stick itself was created in the late 1800s, but it wasn't until 1957 that the two-handle version — its modern iteration — was invented by George Hansburg.

The original stick had only one vertical handle, which was said to endanger the rider's chin.


The later upgrade not only improved safety for users but also allowed them to jump higher and even perform stunts. The new sport of stunt pogo involves backflips and extreme tricks during competition.

Last edited by JamesG : 02-17-2011 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 02-16-2011, 05:58 PM   #4
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Hula Hoop






Humans have been hula hooping for hundreds of years.

During the first half of the 20th century, the best way to see someone use a hula hoop was to watch Chinese acrobats twirl multiple hoops on their arms, legs and torsos.



Then, in 1958, Wham-O toy company founders Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin saw the potential in the humble hoop and began to mass-market a 40-in. version made of colorful plastic tubing.

Thanks to a savvy marketing campaign, 25 million hoops were sold within a few months of the product's launch; the hula hoop craze was off and looping, with kids all over America spinning hoops around their hips and waists.




Hula hooping teens became an iconic image of the 1950s, and the fad grew when Wham-O began manufacturing a smaller version of the hoop for the younger set.

While the hula hoop never went away, it has had a bit of a revival in the past five years with popular hoop fitness classes. You can even hire a personal hula hoop trainer.









Barbie






Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler created history's most famous teenager after watching her daughter Barbara play with her paper dolls.

In 1959, Handler decided to create a three-dimensional, grownup fashion doll for young girls to play with. She named the doll Barbie after her daughter; sales soared, making Barbie (and her vast collection of accessories) the best-selling fashion doll of all time.



As the 1960s unfolded, criticism mounted of Barbie's unrealistic body shape.

And in recent years, talking Barbies have gotten flak for saying things like, "Math class is tough."


But as of late, Barbie has cleaned up her act, with a more realistic body shape, more modest clothing options and bolder career options, like doctor and computer engineer.









Troll Doll






Invented in 1959 by a Danish woodworker, troll dolls became a North American toy craze in the early '60s and again in the '90s.

Thomas Dam carved his first troll doll as a gift for his daughter; he then began selling the dolls locally after his daughter's friends started asking for them.



They were originally called Dam Dolls and were made of wood, with woolen hair and glass eyes.

Imitations made of plastic were released in North America and became popular. Dam fought this in court — to no avail until 2003, when the U.S. restored copyright privileges to the Dam family.









Plarail Toy Train






The Plarail toy-train-and-track system was created by Tomy in Japan in 1959.

Fit together with an inexpensive network of colorful plastic rails, the set saw a rise in popularity in the 1960s upon its October 1961 expansion into a battery-operated electric system.









Chatty Cathy






This groundbreaking Mattel doll, created in 1959, could speak 11 phrases when its "chatty ring" was activated with a pull of the string on its back.

Inside the doll's stomach was a lo-fi phonograph record activated by a metal coil wound around a pulley. When triggered, Chatty Cathy would say things like "Let's play school" and "I love you" — a revolutionary technology for the toy industry.


The original version of the doll had blue eyes and blond hair; a few years after its release, brunette and African-American versions were released.









Fake Vomit






A gag gift with a serious gross factor, fake vomit made its rise in the 1950s.

Made of flexible plastic, the product was sold under the name Whoops and was designed by novelty manufacturer Marvin Glass, the makers of the chattering teeth.
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Old 02-16-2011, 06:00 PM   #5
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1960s:


Etch A Sketch






Invented by a French mechanic, Arthur Granjean, the Etch A Sketch, originally called L'Ecran Magique, was introduced in 1959 at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany — and it was a total flop.

But Granjean eventually found a company to buy it.



The Ohio Art Co. invested $25,000 more than it had paid for any previous toy and changed its name to Etch A Sketch; voilΰ, a hit was born.

The magical drawing toy became one of the holiday season's most wanted toys in 1960, forcing Ohio Art's factory into production until noon on Christmas Eve.




How it works: Static charges hold a mixture of aluminum powder and tiny plastic beads to the inside of a clear plastic screen. Knobs control the horizontal and vertical rods that move a stylus where the two meet.

The point scores a line across the screen's reverse side. Experts can draw curved and diagonal lines.









Rock-a-Stack






Fisher-Price's Rock-a-Stack is designed to teach children hand-eye coordination as well as the color wheel.

Introduced in 1960, the stackable rings have sat in millions of nurseries over the past five decades.









Ken






The Ken doll was introduced by Mattel in 1961 as Barbie's boyfriend. According to the Barbie story, she and Ken met that year while on the set of a commercial.


Just like Barbie's, Ken's body type was the source of controversy, as studies revealed that his physique was almost anatomically impossible, prompting criticism that the tall doll was an influential representative of the male image for young girls.

In 2004, Ken made headlines yet again as Mattel announced that he and Barbie had officially broken up, but after a series of grand romantic gestures — he even took out billboards across the country begging for reconciliation — Mattel announced in February 2011 that the iconic couple had mended their rift just in time for Valentine's Day.









Slip 'n Slide






The Slip 'n Slide is synonymous with summer.

A simple idea that spawned decades of backyard fun, the toy consists of a long sheet of plastic that is laid over grass and leads into a small wading pool of water. The whole thing is wet down with a hose and often some dish soap, forming a kind of landing strip.



With a running start, children (and even the occasional adult) slide down the strip on their stomachs and splash headfirst into the pool.

Created by Wham-O in 1961, the Slip 'n Slide is still hugely popular — and an economical choice for those who don't have space for a pool.









Chatter Telephone






Pulled along by a string behind an interested toddler, Fisher-Price's Chatter Telephone was the company's best-selling product through much of the 1960s and '70s.

With noisemaking buttons and dials, the telephone inspired young children to mimic their parents' actions on the phone, and most of all, it inspired them to speak.



Introduced in 1962, the original Chatter Telephone was made of wood; today it's made of plastic.

Some modernizations of the old-fashioned-looking phone have been attempted, but at the rate changes in communication technology are going, any relevant iteration today would have your child asking you if there's an app for it.









G.I. Joe






In 1964, during the Cold War, a new kind of "doll" emerged on the toy scene — and this one wasn't sitting still.

Marketed to boys, Hasbro's G.I. Joe was a moving, talking "action figure" that came with a volume of war accoutrements that would make Barbie's shoe collection seem frugal in comparison.


Hasbro established the character as a macho war hero and, more importantly, the anti-Ken. Though they were nearly the same size, Hasbro's marketing campaign couldn't have been clearer: This was a boy's toy.

Depending on your household, G.I. Joe was either carrying out dangerous missions of war or driving Barbie around in her pink convertible, but he never suffered from an identity crisis.



Along with the toy, Hasbro fostered a series of comics, a television series, video games and even a feature-length film.









Easy-Bake Oven






Introduced in 1963, Kenner Inc.'s Easy-Bake Oven was the chemistry set of simple confection.

In a miniature oven, children followed simple recipes to bake cookies, brownies and cakes over the heat of a lightbulb, often yielding soupy results.


Since its release, more than 23 million Easy-Bake Ovens have been sold, and more than 140 treats have been (at least somewhat) baked.









Creepy Crawlers






Also called the Thingmaker, this toy used a series of molds and a small hot-plate device to create rubber-like toys, often in the shape of bugs or other creatures.

It debuted in 1963 and was reintroduced in the 1990s with a safer version of its heating device that was similar to the lightbulb in Kenner's Easy-Bake Oven.









Rock'em Sock'em Robots






A pair of robots locked in an endless battle are controlled by two players.

The Rock'em Sock'em Robots, created by the Marx Toy Co. in 1964, features two towering figures, one red and one blue, set up inside a boxing ring.

Players operate joysticks to make them punch each other until the head of one of the robots pops up, signaling the end of the round.









Johnny Seven O.M.A.






Today it's unlikely that the top-selling toy of the year would be a gun, but in 1964, the Johnny Seven O.M.A. (One-Man Army) gun was the best-selling boy's toy.

The multifunctional gun earned much of its appeal by promising to act as several weapons in one: machine gun, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, tripod-mounted rifle and detachable pistol.

Its popularity stemmed in part from the James Bond craze, and the gun was marketed heavily on TV — something we're unlikely to see today.









See 'n Say






The early 1960s were the heyday of talking toys.

After Mattel's success with the Chatty Cathy doll, the company in 1965 released the See 'n Say, an audio toy with an educational twist.


The original version had a clocklike face that played the sound of a barnyard animal when you rotated the center arrow to a picture of that animal. The toy used the technology developed by Thomas Edison for his gramophone, the first device created to replay sound.



After the original See 'n Say became a hit, Mattel produced several variations on the toy, with audio of everything from the voices of famous characters to the alphabet.









SuperBall






In the early 1960s, chemical engineer Norman Stingley accidentally created a plastic that he couldn't stop from bouncing. Wham-O purchased the product, renaming it the SuperBall, and the world's best-selling bouncy ball was born.

Made from the compound polymer zectron, which gives it that supreme elasticity, more than 20 million SuperBalls were sold in the 1960s.



At the craze's height, Wham-O was producing 170,000 balls per day.

They were so popular that McGeorge Bundy, National Security Adviser to then President Lyndon Johnson, bought them for his staff as stress relievers.









Barrel of Monkeys






Part clichι, part classic game, Barrel of Monkeys does its best to live up to the promise: "More fun than a barrel of monkeys."


Created by Lakeside Toys in 1966, the game was conceptually simple but could take hours to master. Inside each barrel are 12 plastic monkeys with easily hooked, S-shaped arms.

Players try to hook all of the monkeys together, using only that first monkey to form one long chain.









Radio-Controlled Car






Toy cars were initially tethered to their remote by a cord, so these little autonomous autos were a revolution.

Battery-operated "stunt cars," controlled by a joystick, could be steered manically on the sidewalk, allowing kids and adults to play out all their reckless driving fantasies.



Wireless technology made later versions even easier to operate, as the driver could stand in one place as the vehicle zipped around.

Today, radio-controlled cars can still do all the old tricks, but now they're operating at higher speeds. Modern remote-control fanatics claim that the tiny cars can move at up to 85 m.p.h. when they compete in annual remote-control-vehicle races and tournaments.









Lite-Brite






When Hasbro released its new art toy Lite-Brite in 1967, it was hard to imagine that young artists would become so attached to a little light box.

The design was perfectly simple: a grid, backlit by a lightbulb, was covered by black sheets of paper. Kids could poke small, translucent plastic pegs through the paper, causing them to light up in the pattern of their choosing.



Since the creation of Lite-Brite, Hasbro has included prepatterned images of Scooby-Doo, Darth Vader, My Little Pony and even Mr. Potato Head.

Of course, for each masterly plotted creation a child managed to plug in piece by piece, there were at least a few of the pointy little pegs waiting to be stepped on. It was worth every yelp.
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Old 02-16-2011, 06:01 PM   #6
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Hot Wheels






Hot Wheels zoomed onto the die-cast toy-car scene in 1968.

Though the market was already a crowded one, they became a big favorite among both toy collectors and tots. By adding an axle and rotating styrene wheels to the traditional toy car, Hot Wheels became the fastest miniature autos available.



And to toymaker Elliot Handler's credit, they were also the flashiest. Brighter colors and decorated exteriors gave Hot Wheels a sense of drama that kids just couldn't get enough of.

Mattel also offered one of the most wanted toy accessories of all: the Hot Wheels track system. A jumble of track sections, connectors, loops, curves, ramps, launchers and speedometers, the DIY racetrack could be built and rebuilt over and over in different configurations.



As time went on, Mattel threw in advanced add-ons, like spring-loaded launchers and battery-run supercharger power boosters, to really speed up the race.









Playmobil






In 1958, plastics enthusiast Horst Brandstatter began experimenting with new toys made of plastic. At first he tried making hula hoops, but he quickly decided to stay away from "fad toys" and instead cultivate a following of his own.

In 1975, his Playmobil figures were released internationally.


Just 3 in. tall, the figures were modeled after people and places from around the world and became so popular that they were eventually featured in McDonald's Happy Meals — a high honor in the toy world at the time.









Flatsy Doll






Introduced by the Ideal Toy Co. in 1969, Flatsy dolls bridged the gap between two-dimensional paper dolls and their high-fashion 3-D cousin Barbie.

With their long, "real" hair and brightly colored, changeable clothes, Flatsys had different themes, each with clothes and accessories to match.



Since the 1970s, the dolls have become sought-after collectibles, though serious collectors warn of prevalent knockoffs. How do you know if your Flatsy is real? Look at the shoes. They must be plastic, not painted.

Real Flatsys also bear a "©1969 Pat. Pend. Hong Kong" copyright stamp on the back, while fakes will often say just "Hong Kong."









Barbie's Dream House






In 1962, the teen queen finally got a palace. Well, sort of.

The first Barbie's Dream House released by Mattel left a few things to be desired. A cardboard foldout, it was modest yet hip — and absolutely nothing compared with what was to come.


By 1983, Barbie's Dream House had evolved into an elegant three-story mansion, complete with a working elevator, garage and swimming pool.

Later versions of the Barbie Three-Story Dream House came standard with a song-playing intercom, sizzling stove, working doorbell, flush toilet, shower, washer and dryer.
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Old 02-16-2011, 06:03 PM   #7
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1970s


NERF Ball






In 1970, Parker Brothers introduced the world's first indoor ball with its original "non-expanding recreational foam" material, or NERF.

The NERF ball was an instant success, with 4 million sold by the end of the year, meaning kids across the country were able to break their parents' most sacred rule: "No playing ball in the house."



After the quick success, Parker Brothers quickly released the NERF Super Ball and the Nerfoop (an indoor basketball hoop) in 1972.

But it was the NERF football that would go on to outperform its real counterpart, becoming one of the best-selling toys of the 1970s.









Weebles






Released in 1969, Romper Room's Weebles joined Fisher-Price's Little People in the race for best tiny plastic folks.

With cute, egg-shaped bodies and an unshakable sense of balance — "Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down" — the figures were designed as a family: Dad, Mom, brother, sister, baby and, of course, even a dog.

Their bright colors and constant movement attracted younger children, and all that swaying seemed to have a calming, mesmerizing effect. Coincidence? No way.









Paddington Bear






That proper British bear, Paddington Brown, was first seen in the 1958 book A Bear Named Paddington by Michael Bond.

Loved for his blue overcoat, oversize hat and preference for marmalade sandwiches, Paddington didn't make an appearance off the page until 1972, when Gabrielle Designs began manufacturing plush Paddingtons in the U.K.



Paddington's popularity in the U.S. flourished when bears made by Eden Toys went on sale in the mid-1970s. The successes of the toy and the books were entirely congruent, and Paddington had fans all around the world by 1978.









Baby Alive






It was the baby doll so life-like it was almost a little unpleasant.

In 1973, Hasbro introduced its Baby Alive, the doll "that eats, drinks and wets." The doll's mechanical mouth could be spoon fed packets of food mixed with water, which the doll would then chew before it would eventually end up in the doll's diaper.

Sound a little too gross for children? Nope, the messy little doll was in huge demand by the mid-1970s.



Eventually, Hasbro gave her a voice she was able to tell you exactly what bodily function you might be able to look forward to next.









Shrinky Dinks






These thin flexible sheets shrink into hard plastic when baked.

First sold in a Brookfield, Wis. shopping mall in 1973, Shrinky Drinks were almost magical.



After decorating the think piece of plastic and baking it, kids could watch their creation shrink down to one-third its size and become about nine times thicker.

Invented by Betty Morris and Kathryn Bloomberg as a Boy Scouts project with their respective sons, Shrinky Dinks would go on to be manufactured by a few major toy companies before hitting their popularity apex in the mid-1980s.









Magna Doodle






In the mid 1970's, Japanese engineers created the dustless chalkboard — a product they would market as the Magna Doodle.

Much like its cousin, the Etch-A-Sketch, the Magna Doodle used dark magnetic dust behind a slate that was drawn up to the surface of a grey board by a plastic pen.

An erasable arm swept the board clean again, making this a perfect erasable sketching platform for those with a dislike of chalk dust.









Rubik's Cube






Hungarian inventor Ernφ Rubik created his first 3x3x3" color-coded puzzle cube in the mid-1970's, but it wasn't till the following decade that Rubik became a household name.

After Ideal imported the toy to the U.S. in 1980, it skyrocketed in popularity. Millions of kids and adults became obsessed with unscrambling the Rubik's Cube's colored squares.

Because sides could be rotated on any axis, restoring the cube to its correct color separation was incredibly difficult. International competitions are thrown each year for ultimate bragging rights of the quickest hands.









Stretch Armstrong






He might have looked like just another chiseled action toy, but Stretch Armstrong was so much more than a plastic physique. As "the unbreakable toy," he was perfect.

Bending, pulling, twisting — nothing could bust this toy.



But it was his extraordinary stretchiness that really drove fans to the toy, as the action figure's limbs could be pulled out to four times their natural span and still manage to squeeze back to normal size without the smallest stretch mark.









Star Wars Action Figures






The popularity of George Lucas' Star Wars franchise surprised merchandisers who were totally unprepared to supply the fanatic followers of the movie series.

After Star Wars' release in 1977, toymaker Kenner scrambled to throw together a line of toys. Puzzles and games were released to some success, but it was the first four action figures that would really change it all.


Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and R2-D2 were all miniaturized and sold to fans by the buckets. Eventually Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, C-3PO and others joined the group — and the ranks of the hottest toys on the market.









Mattel Classic Football






Simplicity served Mattel well in this ancestor to the handheld games of today.

Released in 1977, Mattel Classic Football ran on a single 9V non-rechargeable battery, but what it lacked in modern technological prowess, it made up for in heart.


In two levels of game play, users could defeat dot-like opponents on the field as you made your way down the field without being digitally tackled. T

hough it was simple, it became a highly sought after gadget, no doubt at the beginnings of what would be a lasting relationship between kids and handheld gaming.









Simon






Released in 1978, the memory game, Simon, was a pivotal part of the 1980s electronic toy craze.

A version of a previous Atari arcade game, Simon was the game with brain. The round device had four different color panels. Players would illuminate a series of colors by touching them in an order of their choosing.

Opponents would have to mimic these patterns exactly or lose.



Milton Bradley unveiled the game at New York's famously cool Studio 54 — ironic considering that only one of the pair would survive the 1980s.









Speak & Spell






One of the first in what would be come a long line of modern electronic educational toys, Texas Instruments' Speak & Spell debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1978.

The gadget had speech synthesizer, a keyboard, an LCD screen and an expansion port for game cartridges, including Hangman.



Unlike its predecessors, this toy didn't use prerecorded speech to help kids learn to spell and pronounce words.

And, the Speak & Spell was available in seven different languages until the 1990's when it was superceded by more advanced electronic reading toys including the LeapPad system which allowed kids to touch letter combinations or words with a special "pen" and hear them pronounced.









Star Trek Electronic Phasers






Another space age cultural juggernaut to leave its sci-fi mark on the toy industry was TV's "Star Trek", a futuristic, gadget heavy series that left toymakers drooling at the possibilities.

Though the TV series first appeared in the 1960s, it wasn't till 1979, the first "working" Star Trek Electronic Phasers were released, along with instructions on how to play a tag-like game by using the red "laser" inside the gun.

Hit a piece of paper taped to your opponent's shirt front with your laser and declare that player out of the game. Sound familiar? Later, it became known as laser tag.
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Old 02-16-2011, 06:05 PM   #8
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1980s:


Cabbage Patch Dolls






Georgia native, Xavier Roberts, was a twenty-one-year-old art school student paying his way through college when he designed a doll with an unusual (and disproportionally shaped) head in 1976.

First called "Little People" dolls, Roberts created the dolls using a traditional German fabric sculpture art and eventually started his very own company.



After a TV appearance on the television show "Real People" in 1980, sales spiked, sending America's kids into a "gimme!" frenzy.

Fearful of disappointing their young ones, America's parents camped outside of toy stores during the Christmas season of 1983, determined to bag one of the coveted dolls.



All the madness eventually inspired the 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Jingle All the Way, and by New Year's Day, more than three million Cabbage Patch Dolls had been sold.









Polly Pocket






In 1989, a line of teeny dolls, less than one inch in height, made their first appearance.

Developed by Chris Wiggs for his daughter Kate, Polly lived in compact-sized worlds that little girls could carry around, mimicking their make-up packing moms.


Inside of these kiddie compacts, though, was an entire universe, a Pollyville.

These tiny scenes housed the petite Polly and friends and though she may have been hard to keep track of, playtime was still as charming ever even on a smaller scale.









Slap Bracelets






Created by a Wisconsin shop teacher, Stuart Anders, Slap Bracelets were as much a 1980's social phenomenon as they were a toy craze.

Experimenting with steel, Anders created something he called the Slap Wrap, basically a piece of a fabric-covered metal that would curl around the wrist of anyone who smacked the bracelet against their arm.



Still, it wasn't until Eugene Murtha, President of Main Street Toy Company, agreed to distribute that they became Slap Bracelets — and a smashing success.









Masters of the Universe Action Figures






Created in 1981, Mattel's Masters of the Universe toys were led by macho superhero He-Man, the "Power Punch" packing fighting machine.

Powered by a rubber-band pull and release body movements, He-Man took on toy enemies while partnering with pals Stratos, Teela and Mat-At-Arms until they all received TV deals.



Their cartoon success only fanned their popularity as action figures and by the 1983 Christmas season, He-Man was atop every little boy's list.









Glo Worm






In 1982, a snuggly light-up worm entered the bedrooms of kids across the U.S.

Known as Glo Worm, this plush larva in pajamas was essentially the world's cuddliest night light.

Followed by the Glo Worm Criblight and the Glo Worm Light and Learn, a worm-themed board game that used a glowing worm pointer to identify player's progress in game play.









Care Bears






Need a hug? Hire a Care Bear.

The empathetic little bears of the 1980s, Care Bears are the chicken soup of kids toys, a dose of nostalgia to beat even the bluest blues.



The bears first made their debut in a line of greeting cards, but soon graduated into a rainbow of 12-in. plush toys.

Each were embellished with a unique symbol on its tummy, an emotional identifier to any potential playmates. Bear feelings ranged from "Funshine" to "Grumpy," and just in case an imposter would sneak into the group, each bear had a hard plastic heart stuck on its tiny toosh.









My Little Pony






Plastic pony purists might be unsettled to learn that My Little Pony wasn't the first vinyl pony in the toy chest.

In 1981, My Pretty Pony came charging out of the stables with its own preening accessories. Animated, the tiny horse made small movements when a trigger was pulled, but it wasn't until 1982 that Hasbro really hit its equestrian stride.



My Little Pony was released into the loving hands of little girls everywhere.

The new equines had names like Minty and Snuzzle and came in a multitude of different colors — complete with individualized emblem marked right on its backside. Yes, they were branded, but little girls just called them cute.









Transformers






It wasn't tough to be excited about Transformers as a kid in the 1980s.

Magical alien machines who could be reassembled to assume the identity of everyday automobiles, Hasbro adapted the toy line from a pair of Japanese toys from Takara: the Diaclones and the New Microman.

With a slight redesign and a new storyline, the Transformers hit the American shores in 1984.









Teddy Ruxpin






As of 1985, your teddy bear could read you a bedtime story in addition to snuggling with you at bedtime.

Teddy Ruxpin, the loveable story time bear used cassette tapes to read to its young companions.



Kids had Disney engineer Ken Forsse to thank for this bit of family friendly technology. Forsse and his team used the same technology deployed in the talking creatures seen at Disneyland attractions to make Teddy Ruxpin come to life and created their own company, Worlds of Wonder, along the way.









Snoopy Sno Cone Machine






In the shape of a doghouse, the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was no doubt an ode to America's most precocious pet dog.

A basic slushie creator in almost every sense, the sno-coner dutifully ground hunks of ice as long as your arms were willing to work the crank. (No batteries or electricity with this toy.)

Instead, hard work was rewarded with a snow-like mixture, which was then mixed with fruit juice (or anything else you were brave enough to add in) and served in cups for anxious customers.









Pound Puppies






After twenty years on an assembly line in Ohio, Mike Bowling knew that to get his plush pet idea off the ground, he needed to produce a variety of animals that were easily manufactured.

Instead of a unique, complicated design for each toy, he opted for standard features that, instead, only varied by color. Pound Puppies were officially created in 1984, and though they were eventually purchased by Tonka,



Bowling's fledgling plush puppies had some appeal problems early on.

Still, once the toys hit store shelves, the puppies were a smash. Eventually a feline counterpart, Pound Pur-r-ries, were introduced and sold, or "adopted" by children whose heartstrings were undoubtedly pulled by the sight these poor creatures, sadly hanging their heads from a cardboard doghouse.

How could any child resist?









Koosh Ball






In the late 1980's, engineer Scott Stillinger was teaching his kids to catch when that advantageous "Ah ha!" moment struck.

The idea? A ball made out of rubber fibers that were easily grabbed by tiny fingers. (An early prototype featured a mass of rubber bands tied together.)

Stillinger named his soft creation "Koosh" because of the sound it made as it landed in his hand and went on to sell them in a rainbow of colors and sizes.
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Old 02-16-2011, 06:06 PM   #9
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles






With the release of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie in 1990, the demand for merchandise hit a palpable extreme.

This early fervor caused by four over-sized reptilian superheroes, was only the beginning, but an original action figure line became instant classics in the toy world, with fringe products like Rock Turtles or Sewer Sports All-

Stars proving that if it had a turtle on it, it would sell — no questions asked.









Skip-It






Released in the 1980s by Tiger Electronics, Skip-It was a small ankle hoop with attached "ball and chain" that kept track of its own rotations.

It achieved success through TV commercials on children's networks and was embraced by parents because it was relatively inexpensive and promoted activity.









Glow Stick






Often used for government or military emergencies after dark, the Glow Stick gained favor among children (and concert-going adults) in the 1980s.

First sold for entertainment purposes at dances or circuses as a novelty item, Glow Sticks were adopted by kids on camping trips or while trick or treating.


Their illuminating effect comes from the chemistry inside. After the separate casings are broken, phenyl oxalate and fluorescent dye solution mix with hydrogen peroxide, causing a glowing effect that lasts for about 24 hours.









Wrestling Buddies






Wrestling Buddies were the cuddly side of professional wrestling, released in 1980s.

Because of wrestling's huge child fan base, the Buddies were a huge relief to parents who could allow violence against what was essentially a pillow in the shape of an elite pro-wrestling personality.

Even superheroes like Spider-Man eventually got into the mix, which meant Spidey and Hulk Hogan could finally join forces.
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Old 02-16-2011, 06:07 PM   #10
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1990s:


Little Tikes Log Cabin






The log cabin is of course an iconic piece of American housing, which makes its playtime miniature something of an institution itself.

The Little Tikes Log Cabin Playhouse has become a regular kiddie retreat in the past 20 years, a staple among backyards across the country with its plastic brown halls and signature green roof.

Though it can easily fit two small children inside simultaneously, adults beware: you may not even fit through the doorway.









Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car






For more than 30 years, the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Car has been wheeling its way up and down the American driveways with highway-minded children inside.

The iconic red and yellow car can be pushed or run on Flintstones-esque foot-to-floor power.

Sounds of moving, clicking ignition switch and an open-and-close gas cap make the drive more realistic for kids who are already well on their way to asking you for the keys.









Super Soaker






Space travel is remarkable, but what about a gun that's able to fire water up to 50 feet? That might just be aerospace engineering's greatest contribution to society so far.

In 1993, engineer Lonnie Johnson introduced the world to the Super Soaker, a high-power water gun that was at least 10 years in the making.



For NASA, Johnson had worked the Voyager, Mars Observer and Galileo probes, but it was his creation of a new water operated pump that would be his legacy.

Johnson's first water gun prototype was named the Pneumatic Water Gun, but high production costs made it tough to perfect without funding from a toy company.


Finally, Johnson struck a deal with the Larami toy company and after a few more attempts, the Super Soaker appeared. The gun would go on to sell more than 250 million units making it essential to any backyard battle.









Beanie Baby






Launched in 1993 by Ty, Inc., Beanie Babies were small-scale stuffed animals filled with tiny plastic beans to give them a sturdy, but flexible feel.

The Babies rose to an obsessive level of popularity in the late 1990s, which had collectors and children alike scrambling for the tiny toys.


Though most were inexpensive, special editions were sold in the height of the franchise's fame and rare items are still going for thousands of dollars in online auctions.









Buzz Lightyear






As the fictional star of Disney Pixar's 1995 film Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear is a futuristic astronaut with an appreciation for gadgets and a zest for intergalactic travel.

His character was openly inspired by real life space hero Buzz Aldrin, an Apollo 11 crewmember and the second man in history to walk on the moon.



Released as an action figure almost identical to the one featured in the film, Lightyear charmed his way into the hearts of Toy Story fans with his tenacity and cheesy tagline, but his cultural impact weighs more than that of your average animated darling.

While still selling out at toy stores in 2008, Lightyear was sent on a real space mission at the request of NASA, and accompanied the space shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station, where he remained until 2009.



Popular "training videos" were shown online as a way to promote interest in aerospace science among kids. Lightyear also logged a journal of his space travels on NASA's web site.









American Girl Dolls






The American Girl franchise has become one of the most beloved in U.S. culture, probably to the credit of its doll's realistic personalities modeled after ordinary girls from American history and modern times.

Thanks to a popular line of fictional biography books, girls got to know their favorite American Girl characters — and then they got to buy them.



Dolls cost about $100 dollars each and are sold in only a few huge dedicated stores sprinkled around the country.

The American Girl Stores have been regular pilgrimage sites to many young girls who are lucky enough to make the trip. For the rest, there's the American Girl magazine.









Tickle Me Elmo






After watching kids playing in a park, toy inventor, Ron Durben decided to create a stuffed animal that would laugh when tickled by its owner.

Soon after, he created a stuffed monkey with an electronic chip in its stomach designed to make the creature giggle. The monkey never saw success, but Dubren's idea did.



When Tyco was licensed to produce a new line of Sesame Street toys in 1996, Dubren was asked to apply his laughing technology to an Elmo doll. Tickle Me Elmo and his laughing fits were an instant success and Elmo became the most desired toy of the 1996 holiday shopping season.

Because of short supplies, retailers were besieged by Elmo-seeking mobs willing to pay anything for the "it" toy.









Furby






To compete in the emerging tech-toy market, toy giant Hasbro acquired Tiger Electronics in 1997, the creators of the popular Giga Pets.

In 1998, the newest electronic plaything to hit the market was Furby — a furry, animatronic creature who spoke "Furbish" but eventually learned English, only to shower you with terms of endearment.



Furby sold 1.8 million units in 1998, and a staggering 14 million units in 1999. Combined, Furby had a vocabulary of nearly 200 Furbish and English words — but he really only needed one phrase — "I love you" — to tackle the hearts of kids and adults all over the U.S.









Neodymium Magnet Toys






Neodymium magnets, spherical magnets also called rare earth magnets (meaning they're very expensive to buy) have since been harnessed by toy companies and used to create a line of Neodymium magnet toys.

Based on the breakthrough discovery of a spherical cage of carbon atoms, or the buckminsterfullerene, for which Robert F. Curl, Harold W. Kroto and Richard E. Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.



Not long after, the ever-captivating Buckyballs were released, a cube-shaped box filled with extremely small magnets about the size of a BB.

With effort, they can be separated and stacked into various shapes, much to the delight of idle hands everywhere.










2000s:



Bratz






With the release of Bratz in 2001, fashion dolls were ushered into the 21st century with a whole new attitude and a revealing wardrobe that critics claimed was far too sexy for tween girls to play with.

These 10-in. dolls, created by Carter Bryant and MGA Entertainment, were dubbed the anti-Barbies. They had modern names like Cloe, Jade, Sasha, and Yasmin and wore lots of glittery makeup on their huge doe-like eyes.

They were more Kim Kardashian than Miss America.




And, much to Barbie's displeasure, the Bratz became a huge hit, selling millions of dolls and related items including movies and CDs.

Still the toy's success hasn't come without problems. MGA Entertainment is still involved in a longterm legal dispute with Mattel. (They claim that Mattel's My Scene dolls copy the big-eyed look of the Bratz.)









Mindflex






Released in 2009, Mattel's Mindflex is nothing short of magic. Using advanced Mindflex technology, a wireless EEG headset reads your brainwave activity and uses your brainwaves to guide the blue Mindflex ball through a series of obstacles.

The scientific community has doubted the toy's ability to actual function on brainwaves, but user tests seem to be a convincing testament to its legitimacy.









Zhu Zhu Pets






These inexpensive robotic hamsters became a recession-era favorite in 2009 when they were named the hottest toy of the holiday season.

Officially priced at an affordable $10 or less, demand for Zhu Zhu Pets was so high, they were selling for thousands online.



Created by Russ Hornsby, nine different Zhu Zhu characters that can be activated into a nurturing mode, where they'll snuggle and coo — just like your average hamster, but without the smelly cage.

The "Zhu-niverse" now includes a line of Zhu Zhu babies, puppies and even ninja-like space fighters.

http://www.time.com/time/specials/pa...048983,00.html
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