Small Talk / Museum

Entertaining Toys of the Eighties

Toys of the eighties

Now Gotta Have It: Iconic Toys of Past Decades moon walks into the 1980s. How many children’s shows from the decade can you name? How about popular 1980s children’s toys? See a trend here?! The answers are the same! Hasbro, Mattel, and Playmates capitalized on the success of popular cartoons or vice versa, drove toy sales by bankrolling new shows. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles introduced us to a new language—“cowabunga and “totally tubular”—while Masters of the Universe gave us the power. Rainbow Brite infused the world with color and Care Bears wore their emotions on their stomachs.

It wasn’t the first time, and it is probably safe to say that it won’t be the last time, a toy took over the nation’s attention; Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage for Christmas 1983. So much so that a series of violent customer outbursts at stores across the United States came to be called the “Cabbage Patch riots.” To avoid the situation, some retailers opted to sell the dolls in a lottery system, while one individual opted to fly to London to get his daughter the coveted doll.

Super Fun Toys of The Seventies

Toys of the Seventies

Tired of cleaning up those little toys that came with your kids’ cheeseburger meal (if you didn’t manage to step on them first)? Or how about that crick in your neck from sitting too close to the television playing video games? Or all that plastic packaging you have to get through before you can play with your new toy? You have the 1970s to thank for all of these things.

Although McDonald’s didn’t originate the concept (that credit goes to Burger Chef’s Fun meal in 1973) the Happy Meal was first test marketed in Kansas City in October 1977. By 1979, the meals were nationwide with toys themed to match a feature film; the first was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Before that, in 1975, three lines and a moving dot became the first commercially successful arcade video game machine; you guessed it, PONG! Following in the footsteps of the first commercial home video game console, 1972’s Magnavox Odyssey, Home PONG for Atari was quickly born and we never looked back. And for that plastic packaging? You’ll just have to come check out Gotta Have It: Iconic Toys of Past Decades to hear that story.

The Silly Side of the Sixties

Toys of the 1960s

If you thought the 1950s in Gotta Have It! Toys from Past Decades was exciting, then hold your horses because here comes toys of the 1960s. The world of toys exploded in this decade. “Playing house” significantly improved with the Easy-Bake Oven and extensive line of Suzy Homemaker appliances. As the nation escalated military involvement in Vietnam and sent men into space, toys like G.I. Joe suited up and Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon explored new galactic frontiers.

And while you have the 1960s to thank for every tiny LEGO piece you have cursed after stepping on (not to mention the thousands of dollars you’ve expended on fancy sets), the decade was also responsible for answering all of your pressing teenage-angst-filled questions. Around since the 1940s, the not so magic Magic 8 Ball flourished in the decade with its floating 20-sided die inside a plastic ball filled with blue liquid. Why is it shaped like a billiard ball? Reply hazy. Try again later.

The Nifty Toys of the Fifties

1950s toys

If you build it, they will come. And what they wanted (yup, that’s you, our visitors), were the toys they played with as a kid. While seeing the toys you played with behind glass may make you feel old, it is pretty awesome to see old friends again. We promise you’ll pick right up where you left off. Gotta Have It! Iconic Toys from Past Decades begins with 1950s toys.

Saturday mornings in front of the television set changed advertising, allowing companies to demonstrate products and directly reach their target market: kids. And the discovery of polypropylene made plastic toys inexpensive and more interactive. Barbie came to town with Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. They were joined by failed-manufacturing-ventures-turned-toys in Silly Putty and Play-Doh. And the decade wouldn’t be complete without Matchbox cars, Erector Sets, and dolls that talked and wet, Chatty Cathy and Betsy Wetsy.

Do You See What I See?

Optical Toys

If you’ve been following along, you’ve noticed by now how essential toys are to our culture’s story. And here it is again, a tale of how science influenced toys, which influenced the creation of moving pictures. In Optical Toys, part of the new permanent exhibits at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, visitors explore the 1820s discovery of persistence of vision. Scientists theorized that the human eye remembers an image for a fraction of a second after it disappears. Thus, if two images are moving rapidly, the mind blends them into one image. Caught on yet?!

While this was only part of how the mind perceives movement, it set in motion (see what we did there?) the exploration of how the mind explores action and depth through optical toys. Think View Masters, stereoscopes, and kaleidoscopes. In the center of it all is a giant zoetrope showing one of our favorite toys taking flight. Through the use of fast moving picture strips viewed through a slot (think of it like a flip book), our now permanently grounded plane is able to soar the skies.

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