Archive for the ‘Toys’ Category
This is an awesome world record! Lego has built a full-size Lego X-Wing Starfighter.
It’s made of 5.3 million legos. And it’s a model of a lego model. Got that?
Weighing 46,000 pounds, it took 32 people over 17,000 hours to build and it’s on display for the next few days in Times Square. After that it will be moving to California.
How big is it? It’s 11 feet high, 43 feet long, and has a wingspan of 44 feet.
It was built to promote the miniseries The Yoda Chronicles on The Cartoon Network, premiering May 29.
This is a guest post from Mike Hawks
A toy is an object used by kids to play. Toys have helped kids in developing different mental capacities. Some use tactical toys which improve their thinking and planning. Some use toys for role playing; this helps them improve their character and allows them to prepare for different situations. Dressing up dolls helps a child develop a sense of style. The success and popularity of these toys are often determined using the sales statistics of these toys. Given below are the top five most popular toys in history.
The original Teddy Bear
The favorite and most probably the first toy most of us ever received, is the “Teddy Bear”. It is a toy bear which is stuffed with amazingly soft high quality cotton and covered with fur-like outer layer to make it more attractive. Over the decades, these toys have won the hearts of both genders. In 2006, there was a $1.3 billion sale of these toys. The older teddy bears, of the 1920s, would cost a fortune these days. They can fetch up to $131,380 per piece. Other than that, every year there are exhibitions of teddy bears which generate millions of dollars. This toy is not a copyright of any particular organization; there are thousands of manufacturers that make these toys. This is the reason why the revenue generated by the sales of teddy bears cannot be calculated, but it is estimated to be in high thousands of billions of dollars.
Next in the big names comes LEGO. These are plastic building blocks used to form buildings, weapons, vehicles and several other structures. These blocks have helped millions of children develop a high creativity level over its sixty year existence. Launched in 1949, these blocks really showed companies how to build-up. Today LEGO is the 4th largest manufacturer of toys in the world. It has an estimated worth of about $4.7 billion. It has several theme parks named after it.
Another name that comes up while talking about popular toys is Barbie. Launched in 1959, the name of the toy comes from the name of the founder’s daughter, Barbara. A Barbie is the dream of every little girl, their princess type appearance being the main attraction. During its first year of production approximately 350,000 dolls were sold all over the world. Mattel claims that Barbie is the best selling toy of the century. From $23 million dollar sales in 1963, the dolls helped bring in over a hundred million dollars in 1965. By 1968, the Barbie fan club had over 1.5 million members.
Mr. Potato Head
Launched in 1952, Mr. Potato head came out at a cost of $0.98. It was a great hit with kids as it was the only toy at that time that had a moveable face. It became the first toy to be advertised on TV, giving a rise to its demand. It made more than $4 million in its first year and grossed up a staggering $30 million in 2005.
Last but not least is Play-Doh. It is a clay-like substance but softer and cleaner. Play-Doh was launched in the mid 50s. It is used for modeling figures or building anything you want, and allows you to let your imagination run wild. It is used in educational institutions to help kids with arts and crafts. In 1958, almost two years after it came into existence, Play-Doh brought in around $3 million. They are sold worldwide and produced sales of more than 2 billion pieces/cans from its existence till the year 2005. Today Play-Doh sells around 90 million cans a year on average.
“Escaped” tiger lounging in a field
Police in Hampshire, England were mobilized when a member of the public spotted a tiger in a field through a his camera’s telephoto lens. The tiger didn’t seem too upset. He was just lying in a field.
Police investigated and contacted a local zoo for advice on how to handle the situation. After advising the officers, the zoo prepared a team of staff members trained for just such a situation, armed them with tranquilizer darts, and got ready to travel to the scene.
The nearby Country Golf Club was cleared of golfers and a local cricket game was suspended while police boarded a helicopter and flew to the scene to assess the situation.
But when they flew over the area, the tiger was blown over by the helicopter downdraft.
Hanging with police after the incident
It turns out it was just a plush toy. Police are now treating the incident as missing property and are investigating whether it was a hoax or just a lost toy.
The tiger looks to me to be the Melissa & Doug White Tiger Plush, which lists for $79.99. In fact, it’s almost a perfect match, down to the stripes on his tail. Not the kind of thing most people would accidentally leave lying around, which would lead me to believe it was probably a hoax.
I suppose it’s a testament to the realism of the plush tiger. It fooled police for about 1/2 hour.
The Shock Tazer Toy on my desk
In my previous post about the shock toy Tazer, I made a point that I thought a toy that you could go around shocking people with was inaproppriate. It seemed from the description on Gozmodo and other sites that you pressed it against someone and they received a shock.
Well, I decided to order the Shock Tazer and it arrived yesterday.
I was in for a shock. Literally.
The shock toy tazer does not shock people at the tips of the toy as a real Tazer does. Instead it’s a trick. The person that pushes the button is the one that gets the shock. Just like dozens of other shock toys on the market.
Yes, I found this out the hard way. I opened it up and my first though was "I wonder if there are batteries in it already". There were. I pressed the button thinking I might tap the contacts to see if I got a quick shock. But pressing the button is what gives you the shock. I got zapped.
Last evening I left the Shock Tazer toy on the kitchen table and my 18 year old son apparently tried it too. He didn’t tell me about it until much later.
Now, the next question I have about the shocking toy tazer is "How on earth do they sell this thing for $3.50, ship it free from China, and even include batteries?"
Incidentally, Tazers don’t work this way. They shoot out darts with wire leads on them. The better term would be "stun gun".
The shock toy is available at Focalprice for $3.40 with free shipping.
with some of his nieces & nephews
Milton Levine, better known as Uncle Milton, passed away January 16, 2011 at the age of 97. He died of natural causes at an assisted living facility.
Uncle Milton was the co-inventor of the Ant Farm and a legendary contributor to the toy industry and pop culture. He was the co-founder of the company that would become Uncle Milton Industries.
He founded the company in 1946 selling novelties and introduced the ant farm in 1956. The company has sold more than 20 million farms and it’s been recognized as one of the top 100 Toys of the Century by the Toy Industry Association.
Uncle Milton was at a Fourth of July picnic in 1956 and was watching some ants. He started thinking about collecting ants in a jar as a child and announced "We should make an antarium."
He and his brother-in-law, E. J. Cossman then invented the iconic plastic habitat with the little barnyard that everybody is familiar with. They hired collectors to obtain red harvester ants from the Mojave Desert and paid them a penny apiece. One supplier showed up at Milton’s office with a jar of ants and when he couldn’t get paid the amount he wanted, he opened the jar onto his desk, releasing ants all over the office.
They were faced with some unique challenges when they began their business. The first was setting up the two-stage sale process so that customers could receive their live ants. They also needed to get permission from each state to ship live ants. You still can’t get them in Hawaii, where they are considered an infestation danger (you have to find your own).
The ant farm hasn’t changed much over the years. They had to use a different glue when they discovered that it was toxic to some ants. And in recent years they have replaced the sand that they used to use with volcanic ash, which makes it easier to watch the ants.
Uncle Milton has said that he thought the ant farm would sell for about two years and he sometimes joked that the ants’ most amazing feat was putting his three children through college. Two of those children, Steve and Ellen have been actively involved in Uncle Milton Industries since Milton’s retirement. The company now sells a wide range of products.
Goodbye Uncle Milton, we’ll miss you.
Edison Talking Doll with mechanism
As Christmas draws near and we’re all shopping for the newest electronic devices, I thought we’d step back a few years to one of the earliest technology-driven toys.
In 1890 Thomas Edison began selling the very first talking doll. It was quite a technological achievement at the time. Aside from being the first of a long line of talking toys, it was also the very first phonograph marketed for home entertainment with a pre-recorded cylinder.
The Edison Talking Doll stood 22 inches high and weighed four pounds. It was constructed with a metal body and articulated wooden arms and legs. There were two versions of bisque heads, one from Simon & Halbig and one from Bahr & Proschild. The price was $10 with a simple chemise, or $20-25 with full dress.
The dolls came with a mechanism inside that would play a short nursery rhyme when the handle was turned. There were 12 available titles such as Little Jack Horner or Mary Had a Little Lamb and the disks were not interchangeable. There was no motor mechanism, so children were expected to crank the motor at a steady rate in order to hear the recording properly.
The very first doll was sent to the Emperor of Germany and a few others were sent to various other important people. They first went on sale at the Lenox Lyceum in New York on April 7, 1890. The price of the doll was fairly steep at the time, equal to about two weeks salary for the average person. Apparently it got a lot of attention in the press. The Oroville Mercury stated "Toydom will be revolutionized". They may have been right about that, but they were not accurate on the success of the Edison Talking Doll.
Edison Talking Doll cylinder reproduction
Unfortunately the dolls were only marketed for a few weeks. Although they had shipped 2,500 dolls, only about 500 were ever sold, and many of those were returned by unhappy customers. Production ended the beginning of May, 1890 and the dolls were withdrawn from the market.
There were many problems with the dolls. The biggest being that the recordings were not terribly good. There was no way to mass-produce the cylinders, so each one had to be recorded individually in wax on the disk. Edison himself commented that “the voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear.” You can hear them yourself at this website.
Because the disks were recorded in wax, they soon wore out. The disks were also not stable and eventually cracked. For this reason, there are none of the originals available today.
Recording the dolls voice
There were also legal problems that may have led to the end of production. Edison had an arrangement with Bell for the wax recording method used in the dolls, but it only applied to dictating machines. He apparently decided to stretch that agreement to cover the dolls, but Bell did not agree and apparently took legal action, possibly stopping the sale of the dolls.
All the returned dolls, along with all the remaining stock had their phonographs removed and were then sold off cheaply. For this reason, most dolls that survive today have no mechanism, or are fitted with a reproduction mechanism. Reproduction disks are also available which incorporate wire mesh in them to eliminate the cracking problem. They sell for about $100.00.
There were other legal problems as well. William W. Jacques actually developed the first prototype for the doll based on Edison’s original tinfoil recording method. Jacques and his partner Lowell Briggs licensed the Edison name and began the Edison Phonography Toy Manufacturing Company in order to produce the dolls. However, Edison soon took over the company even before the dolls were manufactured and demoted the founder, which led to years of lawsuits.
Obviously, for all their faults, it was a milestone in the toy industry. Talking dolls became a standard item and are certainly still popular in various levels of complexity today. A quick search on Amazon for "talking doll" returned 1,650 results. One curious search result is a CD from L. Gonze titled "Ghost Solos" which features the Edison Talking Doll recording of Little Jack Horner".
Continue below for some additional photos!
Closeup of the talking mechanism
Edison’s Talking Doll unclothed
Engraving showing operation
This ad shows the list of verses available.
Toys exposed by x-ray
Have you ever wondered what mysterious mechanisms might inhabit the depths of your favorite toy? If you recall my earlier post about the book Bears with simple images of teddy bears turned inside out to reveal their inner workings you’ll know that I have.
Modern toys often have lots of electronics, batteries, gears, and motors to discover. But even older toys had hidden mechanical workings such as dolls who’s eyes close when they lie down. I must admit I’ve always wondered how those actually work.
Scan Toys is an exhibition of x-rays taken of toys at the Centro Cultural Recoleta in Buenos Aires. But it’s far more than just a collection of x-rays. It transforms common toys and their inner workings into art.
I don’t recognize some of the toys and I haven’t been able to find much explanation of each individual image. Some of the images also have non-toy items in them as well. But each one is beautiful and fascinating.
Don’t think you’ll be getting to Buenos Aires anytime soon? No problem. There is a wonderful Flickr set of at least some of the images.
Jame’s May’s Lego House
What would you build if you had an unlimited supply of Lego? How about a house?
James May, one of the hosts of Top Gear, has done just that.
It’s part of his show, James May’s Toy Stories, which examines some iconic toys and "embarks on some ludicrously ambition adventures and feats of engineering" with them.
One of the goals of the show is to motivate children to put down their Wii remotes and get out and play again (an idea that Dave’s Cool Toys can get behind).
James May’s Toy Stories is a British series, so some of the terms used were unfamiliar to me, but the toy guide on the BBC America website made it more clear. For example, Airfix was a term I wasn’t familiar with, but they are plastic model kits.
A Lego house is quite ambition, but so is creating a real bridge out of Erector Sets, recreating an actual train route with model trains, or building the world’s largest model plane (life size!).
For one episode, they have created an entire garden out of 2.5 tons of plasticine in 24 colors at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea show. The garden drew attention, both good and bad. Many critics felt the garden shouldn’t be at the show because it had no actual living plants. But people from all over England contributed to the garden and it eventually won a "gold" medal. The medal was made of plasticine. The judges were in a spot because his garden broke the rules of the show by not including any real plants, but they liked it enough to reward it anyway.
And that’s not the only accolade the show has earned. They created a "Scalextric" slot car track at the original circuit at Brooklands, the birthplace of British motorsport, using 20,000 sections of track, stretching 2.75 miles. Guinness World Record
Unfortunately, their attempt at a world record scale train track failed because vandals placed pennies on the track, shorting it out and stopping the trains.
James May’s Toy Stories premiers on BBC America on June 28 at 10:00 p.m. Don’t miss it!
The show aired last year in Britain.
There is also a book, James May’s Toy Stories, available. The only DVD I could find was coded for Britain.
Banned Wendy’s Kids Meal CD
Wendy’s has been distributing several different CDs in their kids meals, but they’ve quietly pulled one from distribution afte they received complaints about racy lyrics.
The CD is the "Karaoke Disco Fever" version that was distributed with the meals. There are other CDs such as "Karaoke Motown for Kids". The song in question is Donna Summer’s "Last Dance". Apparently the song has been recorded with two versions of the lyrics. One version includes the words "I’m so so bad", which is what is written in the printed lyrics that come with the CD. But the song that was included on the CD had Donna singing "I’m so so horny". The CD was marked as being safe for children 3 years old and up (they offered an alternative Raggedy Ann & Andy book for kids under 3).
Wendy’s website currently has the statement "We are no longer offering this Karaoke Disco Fever CD. We’re sorry and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you.
Obviously, if you have one of these CDs, you might wish to refrain from playing it on car trips with the kids. A better place for it at this point might be eBay.