Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Hall of Famers: the 2014 Inductees (Toy Edition)

Well, yesterday, I took on this year’s lousy toys. Today, we’re in kinder, gentler territory, with the classics that were inducted last month into the Toy Hall of Fame.

First, the non-winners, the toys and games that made it onto the finalist list:

American Girl dolls, Fisher-Price Little People, Hess Toy Trucks, My Little Pony, Operation Skill Game, paper airplanes, pots and pans, Slip‘N Slide, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Source: Museum of Play)

I’m a big fan of American Girl dolls.

Sure, they’re a major ka-ching factory, but they’re also wholesome, age appropriate, and extremely well-made.

Not that anything this ka-ching would have made it into our house, but I would have given my eye-teeth, not to mention the eye-teeth of each and every one of my siblings, to have one of these dolls as a kid.

Which one would I have craved the most?

Kit because she looked like me, and was an aspiring writer? Molly, the little girl of World War II, much my favorite era? (That is, if an era when tens of millions of people were wiped out could actually be anyone’s favorite era. Sorry about that. It’s just a time when I would have liked to have lived. Maybe in a past life I was killed by a buzz bomb. ) Or would I have gone for Kirsten, the pioneer girl from another era I fantasized about as a kid? The big attraction of Kirsten was that she had a nifty Saint Lucia outfit, crowned with a wreath and candles. (I’m sure I would have lit the candles and burned Kirsten’s wig off.)

But much as I would have loved an American Girl doll (and as much money as I’ve spent on outfits for my nieces’ AG dolls over the years), I’m actually not that disappointed that they’re not in the Hall of Fame. They’re great, but maybe when they’ve been around as long as Barbie…

Of the other finalists, my two favorites are the paper airplane (inexpensive, skill-based, class disrupting), and pots and pans.

My Little Pony?

Just say no, neigh, never!

But I can’t quibble with the winners:

Magical, iridescent bubbles; monotone, miniature little green army men; and the colorful, puzzling Rubik’s Cube became the latest inductees to The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame.

Last year, Pink Slip was quite disappointed that bubbles had been dissed.

Bubbles! What a perfect toy! Inexpensive, “fun for all ages,” portable, and requires no ability whatsoever to make work and enjoy.

When I was a kid, fancy-dancy bubble pipes were the rage. This was the one and only image I could find of the type of bubble pipe I’m talking about, and you can tell from the b&w and the outfit on the kiddo that we’re talking ‘bout myBubble pipe of my childhoodgeneration here. In fact, this little guy looks a lot like my brother Rick.

While this was the preferred pipe of my era, I will admit that, as an adult, I have grown fonder of the simple and perfectly functional wand that comes inside the bubble bottle.

So, congratulations to Bubbles! Way to blow!

And blow they do:

Today, retailers sell more than 200 million bottles of this inexpensive and clean toy annually. 

Little green army men are also a pretty good pick. Like bubbles, they’re inexpensive. If they get dirty, they’re easy enough to clean. And you can gnaw on their heads.

We may not have had American Girl dolls Chez Rogers, but we absolutely had little green army men.

The only downside: if you stepped on one while barefoot, it hurt.

Anyway, in case you wanted to know, they were introduced in 1938, just as the US – admit it or not – was ramping up to war. Wildly popular through the early 1960’s:

 Little green army men suffered a decline in popularity during the Vietnam War, but their sales increased in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1995, they hit the big screen in Pixar’s Toy Story—and they appeared in two more Toy Story films. Today, multiple manufacturers produce millions of little green army men annually, and they continue to prompt narratives of heroism and daring in children’s imaginations.

When I see ads for a lot of today’s toys, my reaction is that many of them do too darned much for the kids. Everything’s scripted or mechanized, making any prompting of a kid’s own narrative optional.

But little green army men don’t do a darned thing on their own. Alpha. Bravo. Charlie.

This year’s third inductee is the Rubik’s Cube.

The colorful cubes can be arranged 43 quintillion (a number with six commas) ways and have inspired organized competitions in more than 50 countries. The current speed champ, Mats Valk of The Netherlands, solved the cube in 5.55 seconds. There are also official trials for solving it blindfolded, one-handed, underwater with one breath, and with one’s feet.

Although I was barely able to line up two of the same color squares in a row – other than by accident – I love the colors, the Mondrian look, and the fact that this toy is a nerd kid’s dream. (Maybe a nerd kid can tell me how this works when you’re blindfolded. Surely you must get to take a peek before you start twirling away?)

That’s it as far as Toys ‘R Us week at Pink Slip goes.

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