The Strong in Rochester, the children’s museum, today announced 12 finalists for its Toy Hall of Fame.
They are: bubbles, chess, Clue, Fisher-Price Little People, little green army men, Magic 8 Ball, My Little Pony, Nerf toys, Pac-Man, rubber duck, scooter, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Only two of the 12 finalists will make it into the Hall of Fame. There are 51 toys already in, including Barbie, Mr. Potato Head, Star Wars action figures and Monopoly.
The origin of soap bubbles is anything but transparent. We know that people in Europe manufactured high quality soaps by the 16th century, but no documentation exists of the first use of soap bubbles for fun. However, 100 years later, the earliest paintings of children playing with bubbles appeared in the country of Flanders. A Chicago company called Chemtoy began selling bubble solution in the 1940s and bubbles have been popular with children ever since.
Chess is an ancient two-player game that evolved in England during the 15th century, based on an earlier Indian game called chaturanga. A complex combination of strategy and tactics, chess remains one of the world’s most popular games. Chess is a recognized sport of the International Olympic Committee and is led by the FIDE (French acronym of the World Chess Federation). Today the game is played at home, in clubs, by correspondence, and in tournaments.
Clue has remained a top-selling board game since 1947 thanks to the witty way it invites players to deduce, from available evidence, a solution on the murder of the luckless Mr. Boddy, which occurs under different circumstances in each game. Clue was developed by a retired solicitor’s clerk during the air raids of World War II and originally introduced under the name “Cluedo.”
Fisher-Price Little People
Fisher-Price first offered its wooden Little People in the 1959 Safety School Bus. Made of brightly painted wood and fashioned for little hands, the figures helped small children imagine big adventures at the Little People school, airport, service station, amusement park, zoo, and farm.
Little Green Army Men
Ever since the 1930s, little green army men have occupied territories, lands, and entire make-believe nations. Molded with incredible detail and manufactured by the millions, the plastic toy soldiers have fueled kids’ imaginations, prompted their narratives, and encouraged their stories of daring and heroism.
Magic 8 Ball
For more than 60 years, Magic 8 Ball has entertained millions by letting them flirt harmlessly with fortune telling. The billiard-ball novelty made its debut in 1946 and has continued offering its standard 20 responses to a wide range of questions. Do people still love playing with Magic 8 Ball? Without a doubt.
My Little Pony
Introduced in the 1980s and reintroduced in 2003, the My Little Pony line of mini horses encourages children in traditional forms of doll play—fantasy, storytelling, hair grooming, and collecting. The small pastel ponies also reflect the modern strategies of toy production and marketing first applied by the maker of Star Wars action figures and copied by legions of toy companies for the past 30 years.
From its initial production in the 1960s as a foam ball safe enough to throw indoors, Nerf toys quickly multiplied into balls for every possible sport. With the 1989 debut of Blast a Ball, Nerf continued its evolution, resulting in a hugely successful line of blasters that shoot harmless foam darts for outdoor fun that encourages physical exertion, social interactions, and strategic thinking.
According to legend, Namco programmer Toru Iwatani conceived of his Pac-Man (or Puck Man as it was known in Japan) video game after removing a slice of pizza from a full pie. Whether or not an Italian pie inspired Iwatani, his game featuring a little yellow character and four colorful ghosts racing around a maze captured the imaginations of millions of people during the 1980s. As the first video game icon and the face of a mass cultural phenomenon that transcended video game culture, Pac-Man introduced video games to millions of people and set the stage for other iconic video game characters such as Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Lara Croft.
Although rubber squeak toys have been around since the 1800s, no evidence exists of exactly who hatched the idea of the rubber duck. Kids have enjoyed playing with molded yellow rubber duck toys since at least the 1940s. Most often identified as bath playthings for babies and toddlers, their image as the quintessential tub toy was sealed in 1970 when Sesame Street’s Ernie sang the ditty, “Rubber Duckie.”
First appearing as a homemade vehicle of two wheels, a wooden deck, and handlebars, the scooter began cruising American streets and sidewalks around the turn of the 20th century. Scooters continued to provide kids with easy, low-tech transportation for generations. Modern scooters made of lightweight materials and innovative technologies have transformed the mild-mannered two-wheeler into a vehicle of speed, dexterity, and durability suited for a variety of sporting events and competitions.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book was originally self-published by two struggling artists to satirize comic book heroes and action figures in the early 1980s. However the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles found themselves transformed into comic book and play icons, transmedia pioneers, and an enduring popular cultural sensation known as “Turtlemania”—generating toys, television shows, movies, video games, and merchandise over the past 25 years.