Small Talk Tag: Toy

Oh, You Beautiful Bricks

Beautiful LEGO

There seems to be no limit to what you can build with LEGO bricks. In recent years, a major traveling exhibition of fantastical LEGO sculptures has graced museums nationwide. Additionally, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers popping up across the world allow fans to unleash their inner architect. In 2013, master builders at LEGO even built a life-sized Star Wars X-Wing entirely out of the inches-long plastic bricks!

LEGO’s versatility inspired graphic designer Mike Doyle to spend hours creating his fantastical and artistic designs. One of his major works was inspired by the housing crisis in 2009: dilapidated Victorian houses built entirely in grayscale colored bricks (without paint or glue!). Doyle decided to combine his two passions in a new book entitled, Beautiful LEGO.  The book features everything from fantastical science fiction scenes to life-like food sculptures. In addition to featuring his own work Doyle solicited images from aspiring LEGO artists around the world.

Photo: Mike Doyle, Courtesy of No Starch Press.

A Pistol from the (Past) Future

Buck Rogers Space Pistol

In 1928, the world was introduced to Buck Rogers, a World War I hero who spent 500 years in a suspended state after exposure to radioactive gas. Rogers awoke as a full-fledged superhero equipped with a futuristic weapon. As his popularity grew, Rogers’s adventures were chronicled in comic books and a radio show.

First sold in 1934, the Buck Rogers XZ-31Rocket Pistol by Daisy Manufacturing Company was one of the first “space guns” ever produced. Its futuristic shape and distinctive lines made it the grandfather of rayguns. The gun had a distinctive “zap” sound and retailed for 50 cents. When it was first offered in Macy’s Department Store, over 2,000 people stood in line to get one!

Lovely Lilli

Bild Lilli Doll

You might recognize this blonde bombshell from somewhere … could it be one of Barbie’s distant relatives (remember Francie?) or maybe one of her many friends? Well, sort of. This 11 ½ inch tall beauty is (unofficially) the inspiration for the first Barbie doll, released in 1959.

Bild Lilli doll is based on a 1950s comic strip character that appeared in the Hamburg, Germany tabloid Bild-Zeitung. In the comic, Lilli is a sassy secretary who uses her … uh … charm to get what she wants. In 1955, Lilli’s creator, cartoonist Reinhard Beuthien decided to market Lilli as a doll. She was sold in a few toy stores and cigar shops in Europe, but was likely more of a novelty. Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, stumbled across Bild Lilli on a trip to Germany in 1956, and brought a few dolls back with her. After Barbie’s huge success in the early 1960s, Mattel purchased the rights to Bild Lilli and the rest is history!

A Storied Past

dolls' houses from the V&A Museum of Childhood

If the residents of the V&A Museum of Childhood’s dollhouses could talk, can you imagine the stories they’d tell? That’s exactly the focus of the special exhibit Small Stories: At Home in a Doll’s House. Fictional family dramas, posh parties, and even spooky mysteries told from the viewpoints of dolls speak to the time period of their home.

Twelve dolls’ houses spanning 300 years of history are displayed, including an 18th century London townhome, a 1930s modern villa with a swimming pool, and a swinging ‘60s high-rise flat. Not just lovely on the outside, the contents of the houses also reflect the everyday lives of residents, guests and employees who would have inhabited the full-sized homes of their day. The exhibit includes a special art installation Dream House in which designers have created miniature fantasy rooms that reflect the imagination, technology and art of today.

Photo: Whiteladies House, 1935, Moray Thomas, England. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Through Thick and Tin

Mechanical Tin Toys

Who doesn’t love fresh frog legs?! This chicken and goose that make up this pull toy sure can’t seem to share! From the mid-19th century until World War I, cheaply mass produced tin toys known as “penny toys” were very popular. In the years following the Great War, however, competition in the market increased and toys became larger and more technologically complex in order to keep children’s attention.

T/m’s circa 1930 Gebruder Einfalt Chicken and Goose Pull Toy is an example of one such company’s transition to larger tin toys. Nuremburg’s Gebruder Einfalt (later Technofix) was founded in 1922 by two brothers, Georg and Johann. While many of Gebruder Einfalt’s early toys were erratic wind-up toys and wheeled pull toys, they eventually found their niche making racecars, trains and other transportation toys that reflected changing technology.

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