1959: the first troll doll was formed into creation by by Danish fisherman and woodcutter Thomas Dam in Denmark. He soon forms the DAM company to make high quality, mass-marketed trolls that find their way across the Atlantic in the 60s.
1960s-1970s: DAM Troll Dolls warm the hearts of men, women, and children across America with their creepy glass eyes, soft sheep-wool hair, and “cute cuddle” bodies.
1980s: The E.F.S. Marketing Associates, Inc. is granted permission to import and market the Thomas DAM trolls for re-sale in the United States under the trade name of ‘Norfin (R) Trolls’, with the Adopt A Norfin Troll logo on the tags.
Late 1980s through 1990s: A slew of hideous troll imitators flood the market including Uneeda‘s Wishnik Trolls, and Treasure Trolls, all of which feature the signature Troll tall hair, lovable face, and pot belly. There is total Troll chaos, going as far as Troll Warriors, Battle Trolls, Stone Protectors, and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Trolls, and The Trollies Radio Show. This fad capitalization even saw a 1994 re-release of Dudes with Attitude simply modified into Trolls on Treasure Island.
2003: A Congressional law allows the Dam family of Denmark to restore their original U.S. copyright and become the only official manufacturer once again. Peace and order are once again established in the realm of the Troll.
“Play has a basic role in the drama of a child’s development. It is a serious business for the child, his true means of learning and growing…Every child should have a wide variety of play materials to evoke in him a spirit of inquiry; to develop physical manipulation to the fullest; to stimulate creative expression. He requires not only the miniatures of real objects in the adult world, but also building blocks, clay, finger paints, et cetera, that he can adapt to his particular needs.”
-Frank Caplan, 1949, Founder of Creative Playthings
Creative Playthings was founded in NYC by Frank and Theresa Caplan in 1945. Their goal was to create educational toys and materials that were simple but beautiful, the sorts of playthings that would promote a child’s creativity and imagination.
Caplan believed that providing unpainted abstract forms that emphasized shape, color and texture, as opposed to life-like details, would stimulate a child’s imagination. So he began to make his own forms, right in the store on 95th street, that could be manipulated and rearranged into all sorts of different combinations and and structures.
Beginning in 1949, Creative Playthings embarked on a series of collaborations with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. In 1949, the children’s room and playroom of Marcel Breuer’s “House in the Museum Garden” was composed almost entirely of Creative Playthings objects and designs, including their “Hollow Blocks.” After that Caplan worked with such notable artists, architects, and designers as Isamu Noguchi, Louis Kahn, Henry Moore, and Robert Winston on comprehensive playground designs (although some of these designs were not fully realized). He also collaborated with numerous international artists to design playground equipment, such as the Swedish sculptor, Egon Möller-Nielsen’s fiberglass helical slide
Later followed a close collaboration with Swiss toymaker Antonio Vitali to design a series of “Playforms” – smooth sculpted animals, vehicles, and figures in wood that fit neatly into a child’s hands. Each object is more beautiful than the next!
In 1966 the company was bought by, and then later sold again in the 80s, and it was never really the same again. But they had a pretty spectacular run there for nearly two decades! Why can’t children’s toys still look this good?!
Founded in 1951, Colorforms is one of the oldest and most familiar brands in the toy industry (and one of the first to advertise on TV). It was the first plastic-based creative toy, and remains one of the most imaginative to date.
The original Colorforms were created by Harry and Pat Kislevitz in their New York City apartment. Boxed sets began appearing in the 1950s and featured basic geometric shapes and bright primary colors thus creating a modernist toy for kids in many ways. The company’s slogan – “It’s More Fun To Play The Colorforms Way!”
What makes the Colorforms sets unique is their signature plastic ‘Stick-Ons™’that can be placed and repositioned on top of graphic backgrounds to create endless scenes at a child’s whim. The result is a toy that can be used by children of all ages and all abilities; a tool to easily create a masterpiece with ready-made colorful shapes (and an excellent tool for learning about colors and geometry as well!)
At some point, when thinking up a new product, some Japanese toy executive said: “I know! Russian Roulette for kids! That’ll be great!” And so Kaba Kick was created.
The “game” goes like this … you sit down with a bunch of your friends in a circle. One by one you each put the toy gun (made to look like a cute little hippo) to your head and you pull the trigger. You have to load eight rounds of candy colored ammo into your weapon, and one of them is live; if you are the lucky winner you get a swift kick to the head! If you “survive” the round you win and earn points, but if you are kicked (killed) you obviously lose. Gee, sounds like fun, right?!
“But mom, I want to pick up the dog’s poop just like you and daddy do!” How many times have you heard a little girl say that?! Well the execs over at Mattel seemed to think it was a pretty common thing when they came out with Barbie and her Dog Tanner in 1986. With this toy, Barbie comes with a dog named Tanner, a poop scoop, and… well… dog poop.
The poop (a small, brown magnetic pellet) is fed to the dog by inserting it into his mouth (yes, the dog eats poop, though since it comes from the treat box I guess it is supposed to be a cookie at this point). Then Tanner poops it out when you push down on his tail. Barbie (you) can then use the poop scoop (also magnetic) to pick it up and dispose of it in an included trash can. This toy is just as much fun as the real thing!
Truly anatomically correct dolls are a rare thing, and thank god because they really look pretty creepy. Case in point is the Baby Pee Pee Doll made by Spanish company Formosa. This “fun” doll will drink from a bottle, then waddle around on his own as it shouts, “Mummy, wee wee!”, after that the doll will wave its hand over its crotch as pressure mounts in its plastic bladder, then you can pull down the doll’s pants and let it doll pee into a toy potty, sitting down… or standing up. So weird …
There wasn’t much to Aqua Dots, just a bunch of plastic bubbles that weakly bonded when you sprayed a little water on them. The idea was to put them into exciting patterns to create figures so crude they make a Lite Brite look like hi-def. Something so pointless must be harmless, right? Sure, unless you do the one thing most natural thing to a child and ingest one. That’s because Aqua Dots, when exposed to water, form the same chemical as found in date rape drugs. Good one.
Lots of lucky kids get to grow up on a farm, but what about those poor city kids whose urban existence didn’t expose them to such organic experiences? Luckily, in 1977 Kenner Toys was around to ensure that children from all walks of life could get down and dirty with the barnyard beasts, and pretend they were the proprietors of their very own dairy with the one, the only, the amazing – Milky, the Marvelous Milking Cow! Milky will drink water through her see through trough, and then when she’s had enough she will moo to let you know it’s time to milk her. And then, well, that’s it, that’s all! Oh yeah, and there’s a tarp so you don’t make a mess.
Martí Guixé is a Spanish-born designer (who now lives between Barcelona and Berlin). His creations aren’t so much about what he wants you to see, but more about what the owner/creator wants to make for themselves – a toy with seeds for eyes that you can keep and cherish, or plant to create life; a blank clock that allows you to keep time however you want; tape that allows you to create a road across any terrain, or a picture frame around any masterpiece. Guixé used a similar theory in the creation of his coloring books below…
Whereas they were once taboo, now tattoos are just about everywhere – from the arms of the toughest guys, to the ankles of the daintiest girls – every hipster/jock/bad boy/intellectual seems to have one. But if you aren’t ready to commit to the real thing, or your parents won’t let you, you can fantasize about the ink you might one day get with the Tattoo Book. Use shapes and colours to create your own personal paper body you and you can have another blank one anytime you wish!
No matter if you love traditional or exotic cuisine, cheap fast food or the most carefully prepared 10-course meal, Food Book is a banquet on paper with your all your favorite dishes. And paper provides just the right way to improvise a meal without the risk of offending taste!
It was 1969, and all across the country a counterculture revolution was in full swing; hippie culture had gone mainstream, the East Coast had Woodstock and the West Coast the Altamont Free Concert, and it seemed that people everywhere were heeding the words of Timothy Leary – “turn on, tune in, drop out” – even the people at the Mattel toy company.
This was the year of Upsy Downsy, one of the more bizarre toy concepts I have ever heard of. Upsys and Downsys were races of strange beings that lived in harmony together, only the former lived rightstide-up, and the latter upside-down. A few weird references there, but just wait …
… let’s look a little deeper into this one. According to Welcome to Upsy Downsy Land, the book that explains the “Happidiculous World” of these two races, the Upsys and Downsys were once just flowers living in a fuzzy dandelions world. But one day a sentient wind called The Great Huff passed by. When his nose was tickled by all of the pesky flowers he blew them away in a fit of annoyance. However, as the dandelions fell back to earth, some of them fell through a rainbow which magically transformed them into rightside-up beings known as Upsys; others passed through a storm cloud, and became upside-down creatures called Downsys. Luckily, though, despite each race being the others’ polar opposite, they all got along famously and developed their own little civilization, “Upsy Downsy Land.” While there were many inhabitants of the great land, some of my favorite are Pudgy Fudgy, the Upsy eat-too-mucher with her Piggybus, and Tickle Pinkle, the Upsy beauty who drove a Bugabout Car was her Upsy neighbor; and also Mother What Now, the Downsy frazzled mom with her Go-Getter Car, and Miss Information, the Downsy opposite directions teller and her Miss Information Booth. Hmmmmmm … doesn’t seem quite right, does it?!