By Olivia Putnal
We all remember that one toy that we just couldn't seem to let go of when we were kids. Many of those playthings still exist today, but oh how they've changed over the years. For the most part, the companies that create them still have the same concept in mind, but have upgraded the products by embracing new technologies or reworking the branding. From the ever-so-popular Barbie doll to the take-it-wherever-you-want Game Boy, WD has rounded up the toys that will live on in our memories forever, no matter how much they are modified.
This 3D viewing device was created in the 1930s by Williams Gruber and Harold Graves, but it was introduced to consumers at the 1939 World's Fair. Though it was originally designed as an alternative to the postcard souvenir, Walt Disney Studios caught on to the concept in the '50s as a way to promote its characters. The first View-Masters were made of black plastic and then later made from Bakelite, which is more durable. Beginning in 1966, the toy became more kid-centric, with bright colors and disks featuring cartoon characters and toys-completely making the change over in 2009, when current owner Fisher-Price announced it would no longer make tourist attraction photo disks. Photos courtesy of David Bigler via flickr and Amazon.
The Slinky was created during the 1940s by Richard James, an engineer in the Navy. The founding was purely accidental; the idea came to him when he inadvertently knocked a spring to the ground while working on a project. He noticed the way it slinked from a shelf to the floor and the rest is history. The original version of the toy was made from steel wire, but now it comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors because it's made out of plastic. Since its first demonstration at a Philadelphia department store, when 400 units were sold in 90 minutes, over 300 million Slinkys have been purchased by consumers around the world. Photos courtesy of DoNotDestroy and Toys R Us.
Mr. Potato Head
In 1950, renowned inventor George Lerner made the first plastic pieces meant to be stuck in real fruits and vegetables in order to create silly faces. Although the idea was clever, toy companies weren't hopping on the bandwagon as eagerly as Lerner had hoped-partially due to the preserving and rationing of food resources during World War II. Eventually, in 1952, Hasbro introduced the toy with the basic parts, like eyes, ears, noses and mouths, but without the potato body. In 1964, the plastic body was finally added to the kit and since then, Mr. Potato Head's accessories have grown to include crazy-themed costumes, games and pets. Photos courtesy of Wikipedia.org and Amazon.com
The Barbie craze began in 1959 when Ruth Handler-the wife of one of the cofounders of Mattel-realized that most dolls at that time were "babies" and felt there needed to be a more grownup toy for girls to aspire to. So she created her teenage fashion model doll, dressed it in a black-and-white striped swimsuit and named it after her daughter, Barbara. During the '60s, Barbie's outfits were inspired by fashion from the Paris runways, but in later years, the clothes were influenced by trends in popular culture. In 1997, Barbie was redesigned so that her measurements more closely reflect modern standards; before, she was a strikingly svelte 38-18-34. Currently, there are a variety of versions of Barbie on store shelves as well as limited editions and full collections, films and even celebrity-inspired dolls. Photos courtesy of Mattel, Inc.
G.I. Joes have been part of every young boy's childhood for years, and were actually the first ever action figures. The popular 1945s movie Story of G.I. Joe sparked Hasbro to create the 12" doll in 1963 and, later, expand the collection. Each year a new element was added to the figurines, whether it was a different hairstyle or a new high-tech weapon. In 1976, due to the price of petroleum, production of G.I. Joes came to a halt and did not start again until 1982-when the smaller 3-3/4" size debuted. The years that followed included a number of different licensing and brand extensions, including a comic book, cartoon series, feature film and video games, as well as 2-1/2", 5" and 8" figurines. Photos courtesy of Plaidstallion via flickr and Hasbro.
Since 1963, Easy-Bake ovens have been a childhood favorite. Invented by Kenner Products (now part of Hasbro), the first version of the oven was turquoise and had a fake stovetop and carrying handle. Over the next few years, kid's TV dinners, birthday cake sets and Betty Crocker products were available for the Easy-Bake. From green, gold, orange and now pink, every few years the company adds another element or color to the classic model. The most recent ovens are not only able to bake cakes and cookies, but full meals such as macaroni and cheese, pizza and french fries. Photos courtesy of Ellen Eder and Wikipedia
There is some controversy about who actually invented Twister, which was released in 1966 by Milton Bradley. Charles F. Foley and Neil Rabens are both listed on the patent, but it is widely believed that the game was created by toy inventor Reyn Guyer (who later created the Nerf Ball). The first game to ever use human bodies as game pieces, Twister made consumers a bit leery until Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor tested it out on The Tonight Show. Over the years, the packaging has been updated, but the board and game play remain virtually unchanged, though new versions such as Twister Hopscotch, Twister Dodgeball and Twister Moves have been released. Photos courtesy Feelingretro.com and Hasbro.
Lite-Brite hit the market in 1967, letting children place colored pegs through black opaque paper and then, when the light was switched on, see their artwork glow. Over the years, various color-by-letter templates were released with the game, so kids could recreate basic figures, like clowns or wizards, and well-known characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Scooby-Doo. Currently, technology has soared with this trendy toy and it is now available in a flat-screen version, a 3D cube or the FX edition, which spins and changes designs as it plays music. Photos courtesy of Chris Lukasik via flickr and Hasbro.
In 1968, when Mattel launched Hot Wheels, Matchbox was the leading brand for these types of toys. But Mattel introduced many new features-including bright colors and styles based on racing cars-that blew the competition away. Each year, arrays of new cars were made, and in 1981, the faster and fancier Hot Ones were introduced. Over the years, as the automotive industry expanded, the Hot Wheels brand followed suit-since most of the cars were based on real models-and the newest development is a 3D CGI animated TV series, which will premiere on Cartoon Network in August 2009. Photos courtesy of Isabel Nunez and Mattel Inc.
Nintendo's Game Boy appeared on the scene in 1989, as a handheld video game with a basic black-and-white screen. The games available for it at that time were Tetris and Super Mario Brothers. In 1995, black, clear, green, transparent, red and yellow cases were released to give the game system a more up-to-date look. A color screen and sleeker design were introduced in 1998, and in 2001 a horizontal, rather than vertical, setup with a wider screen was released as the Game Boy Advance. The newest incarnation, the Nintendo DS, has dual screens (one of which is a touch-screen), produces 3D images and has wireless capabilities to link up with other players. Photos courtesy of Steve Berry via flickr and Nintendo Inc.
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