Every Year in September, The Strong National Museum of Play releases its 12 finalists for the National Toy Hall of Fame. Since 1998, the The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame “recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period.” Selections to the hall are made on the advice of “historians, educators, and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity and discovery through their lives and careers.” I think that last part should read, “adults who still plays with toys,” which covers most of us here at Funkhouser.
These “historians” have inducted 59 toys to the Hall of fame since 1998, including the Atari 2600, Crayola Crayons, Lincoln Logs, LEGO, Mr. Potato Head, Play-Doh, roller skates, and most recently in 2015, Puppet, Super Soaker & Twister. Also, three times in the history of The Hall, an item that wasn’t a “finalist” earned admittance into the Hall of Fame: Cardboard Box (2005), Blanket (2011), and Stick (2008).
Recently, The Strong put out the list of 12 finalists for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2014: Bubble Wrap, Care Bears, Clue, Coloring Book, Dungeons and Dragons, Fisher-Price Little People, Nerf, Pinball, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Swing, Transformers, Uno. The expert committee will help select just “two or three” of the 12 toys to enter the hall on the following criteria:
- Icon-status: The toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered
- Longevity: The toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations
- Discovery: The toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play
- Innovation: The toy profoundly changed play or toy design. A toy may be inducted on the basis of this criterion without necessarily having met all of the first three.
While the newest inductees won’t be added to the hall until November 10th, we at Funkhouser thought we’d go ahead and make our vote for who we thought should get in. Our “expert committee” included the entire Funkhouser staff along with Drew Franklin, Shannon The Dude, Tyler Thompson, Maria and Ryan Lemond. Votes were tabulated on a 3-2-1 points system to find our definitive inductees.
#12 Care Bears (0 Points)
It can be definitively be said that no one involved in our panel of experts cares about the Care Bears, receiving nary a single vote from our panel. The Care Bears began as a greeting card line in the early 1980s, but became a phenomenon in the mid-1980s. The bears (brand) went on to have success in TV, Movies, Games and literally everything you could possibly license. However, in the Funkhouser Toy Rankings of 2016, the Care Bears find little to no success… that includes you Share Bear!
#10 Fisher-Price Little People (1 Point – Tie)
Name one kid you knew growing up that didn’t have this Fisher-Price Little People farm in their house. Fisher-Price started the Little People in 1959 with the Safety School Bus. Originally made of wood, then later plastic, these toys have been a staple in homes around the country, and have covered schools, airports, zoos and the farm above. This has a decent shot to get in the Hall of Fame (after also having been a finalist seven times since 2003), but it doesn’t make the Funkhouser Hall of Fame. You’ll get your year sometime, Little People.
#10 Dungeons and Dragons (1 Point – Tie)
D&D received just one third place vote in our poll, but the tabletop roleplaying game is having a bit of a resurgence in this decade. Thanks to the world of YouTube and Podcasting, content creators have started their own D&D campaigns for others to listen to or watch. HarmonQuest (Dan Harmon), Nerd Poker (Brian Posehn), Board with Life, Critical Role (Geek and Sundry), are all popular D&D programming online currently. Many celebrities have a penchant for rolling the d20, especially Vin Diesel. But in a modern age, especially in this poll, DM now has a different meaning, thanks to Twitter, and D&D takes a critical hit with a 10th place finish.
#9 Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots (2 Points)
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots just celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2015. In this game, two players control opposing robots, who box by using a pair of buttons. The left controls the left hand, and the right button controls the right hand. The goal is to punch your opponent’s robot so the head pops off its shoulders. The mechanic isn’t perfect, as you could conceivably punch your opponent 30 times in the face, but they get one weird shot on you and your head pops off. The ultimate button masher before video-games arrived on the scene. You could argue that Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots inspired the movie Real Steel, a movie Matt & Shannon never saw because they couldn’t say the title to purchase their tickets.
#8 Bubble Wrap (3 Points – 1 First Place Vote)
Just the sight of the above image makes you go into some sort of nervous fit, either in a good or bad way. Bubble Wrap falls under the category of unconventional toys, ones that weren’t necessarily meant to be toys, but oh how fun they were. Any time someone got a package with bubble wrap, it was a fight to see who got to pop every single bubble, before a parent took it away out of sheer insanity. Bubble Wrap was accidentally invented in 1957 by two guys trying to make wallpaper. No matter what age you are, you know when you get Bubble Wrap in the mail, you still have to pop at least one. It’s impossible not to.
#6 Coloring Book (5 Points – 1 First Place Vote – Tie)
Talk about a toy that has had a resurgence. Coloring Books are one of the hottest things going right now at book stores. Seriously. The “Adult Coloring Book” craze swept the nation last year with book and craft stores having to dedicate whole sections to the books and color pencils. It is marketed right now as a way to relax by coloring intricate designs. To be fair, there are also Adult Coloring Books for Sherlock, Doctor Who and Fill Bill, a Bill Murray coloring book. When we were kids, they were a good way to get us to be quiet in the back seat, and cover the fridge with things we didn’t draw, but colored (mostly) within the lines.
#6 Pinball (5 Points – 1 First Place Vote – Tie)
Pinball dates back to the 18th-century as a parlor table game. Over time however, pinball has become a very fast pace, whizzing sound and light show, along with a game of skill. In the last 60 years, pinball has not only been an arcade game, it has been a unique way for brands to put their characters and programs in a unique arcade experience. Pinball machines are finding their way back into bars and restaurants thanks to the nostalgic feel of the arcade machines, including 16-bit, an arcade bar in Cincinnati, OH which has a bank of pinball machines in the back of the bar. Pinball has even found mobile popularity, with Zen Pinball, brands are able to create their own tables for properties such as Marvel, South Park and more.
#5 Transformers (6 Points – 2 First Place Votes)
One would say that Transformers are ‘More Than Meets The Eye’. The toys debuted in the 1980s as robots that could change their shape into other objects. As many a toy property in the 80s, Transformers were greeted with a back-story which was supported by cartoons, movies, video games, cereals, you name it. The Autobots rolled out to be one of the most popular toys of their decade, and as almost everything today, were rebooted with a blockbuster movie franchise, with another movie slated to appear next year.
#4 Swing (7 Points – 1 First Place Vote)
(The above image is clearly after some kid has jumped off said swing). The swing has been around for quite some time. According to the Toy Hall of Fame announcement: “Ancient cave drawings in Europe, carved figures from Crete, and ceramic vases from Greece depict humans on swings.” So there. Swings take a certain amount of coordination which is perfect for children who are around the right age to be on a swing set. Pumping your legs so you can get as high in the air as possible, so high that the chains buckle a little bit and jerk you back to earth. However, when you’re an adult, you have the coordination to make a swing work, you just have to make sure you don’t jam you legs into the ground on each pass of the downswing.
#3 Uno (8 Points – 1 First Place Vote)
Uno hit the scene in 1971 as a game where players try to get every card out of their hand before the other players are able to do so. Play cards to the stack that either match the number or color to rid cards from your hand. The game also saw itself as a way to make children angry at one another, as a game that taught the “Take That” mechanic of board and card games. How many times have you played UNO when the same person hit you with four “Draw Four” cards in a row. Also, the key component to the game was that when you were down to one card, you had to say UNO, and if someone said it before you could, you had to draw five cards. Sometimes you can’t get UNO out fast enough before someone jumps all over you. Despite all the bickering this game causes, it is an easy game to learn and teach to kids, and a game they will want to play over and over again. Congrats to UNO, for making it into the Funkhouser Toy Hall of Fame.
#2 Clue (10 Points – 1 First Place Vote)
According to the Toy Hall of Fame, a retired solicitor’s clerk developed Clue during World War II, patenting it under the name ‘Cluedo’ in 1947. In Europe, the game still goes by the name Cluedo. In Clue, players are trying to deduce who murdered Mr. Boddy, based on three cards (person, location, weapon) that are secretly placed in an envelope in the middle of the board. Players must then traverse the mansion to make accusations on who they think did it. If someone is holding a card of something or someone they accused, that person can secretly show the accuser that card, and they’re one step closer to solving the mystery. Clue is an outstanding game of deduction and conjecture, and spawned a cult-classic movie featuring a fantastic cast. One note, Mrs. White was recently replaced in 2016 by the games first character of color (skin) by Dr. Orchid. So goodbye to you Mrs. White, but hello to Clue in the Funkhouser Toy Hall of Fame
#1 Nerf (12 Points – 2 First Place Votes)
Nerf was produced in the 1960s as “The World’s First Indoor Ball”. Over time, the Nerf ball was transformed into indoor balls for almost every sport. There are many a kid who will be in Commonwealth Stadium parking lot this Saturday tossing around a Nerf football I’m sure. With the Nerf basketball goals, kids recreated their favorite UK Basketball moments, including Tayshaun Prince three pointers from down the hall three rooms away. The Nerf brand in 2016 is overwhelmed with the nerf blasters, which shoot foam darts at one another, but at the heart of Nerf, which I think this panel grasped on to, are the Nerf Footballs, Basketballs and sports toys that made us relive some of our favorite moments by our favorite athletes. Oh, and don’t forget about the Nerf Vortex Football. Jared Lorenzen isn’t the only person who can throw 70 yards from one knee once you get that into a kid’s hands. I mean, John Elway threw it out of the stadium. For all of those reasons, Nerf is the top choice by KSR for the 2016 Toy Hall of Fame!
What would your vote be of these 12 to be named to the National Toy Hall of Fame?