Hi there, I have touched on the timeline of toys and how Transformers came about but I thought we would take another look in an easier format and give you just the most important changes to the world of toy that brought about innovations that effected how children play. These play patterns are very important to sell toys and have left a mark on history and pulp culture..
1938 – Green Army Men:
- Creator: Bergen Toy & Novelty Co.
- Description: Small (5 cm or 2 inches high) realistic traditional US styled army men molded in green with a variety of weapons and were made and sold cheaply in multiples. They also could be sold with play sets. They had no points of articulation and were frozen in one pose on bases.
- Was this seen before: It Started in 1893 with painted metal figures but were more expensive to make and were not this easily obtained. This time kids could get more for less across all incomes. So basically poor children could play with lots of figures where it was confined to more richer children in the past.
- Play patterns: Boys would recreate historic battles or ones of their own. This was a big change in play patterns for kids who now were more involved in story telling and adding more complexity to the simple act of playing.
1959 – Barbie:
- Creator: Mattel Inc.
- Description: (11.5 inches or 29.21 cm tall) Fashion adult style doll with removable and interchangeable clothing, shoes and realistic hair. She had 5 points of articulation (one piece arms at the shoulder, legs at the hip and the base of the head.)
- Was this seen before: Inspired directly from a 1955 German doll called Bild Lili who was of similar style and found on a trip to Germany by the wife of one of the co-founders of Mattell.
- Play patterns: Girls would recreate everyday life or aspects of a more glamorous life of being a model or celebrity. This was a big change in play patterns since dolls to this point were normally more of the baby doll variety and where feeding and diaper changes were normal play patterns.
1961 – Ken:
- Creator: Mattel Inc.
- Description: (11.5 inches or 29.21 cm tall) Male adult style doll with removable and interchangeable clothing, shoes and plastic molded hair. He had 5 points of articulation (one piece arms at the shoulder, legs at the hip and the base of the head.)
- Was this seen before: Created as a boyfriend for Barbie, we can safely say he was inspired from Barbie.
- Play patterns: Girls could now recreate more aspects of everyday life / more glamorous life as now there was a male to complete scenes. Although this was not a huge change in play patterns but it did allow boys to get involved (if their Sister’s allowed it) even though dolls were still not a boy thing.
1964 – G.I.Joe (original):
- Creator: Hasbro.
- Description: (11.5 inches or 29.21 cm tall) Male adult style Action Figures (this was the first to use this name since boys would not want to play with dolls) with removable and interchangeable clothing, boots and plastic molded hair. There was also a host of accessories such as vehicles. He had 19 points of articulation something never seen before. (just about every joint moved)
- Was this seen before: Although thought of sometimes as inspired by Ken, they are more inspired by a mixture of him and the Green Army men. This was pretty much a response by a company to get in on the selling action.
- Play patterns: Boys could now have larger scale battles or adventures outside of army scenes. (Although many a Joe would go on dates with or have to take out the trash for Barbie before going into battle if a sister got her hands on him) This was a big change in play patterns for boys who before mostly played with trucks and cars or the before mentioned army men.
1970 – Adventure team:
- Creator: Hasbro.
- Description: (11.5 inches or 29.21 cm tall) Male adult style Action Figures (this was the first to use this name since boys would not want to play with dolls) with removable and interchangeable clothing, boots, realistic flocked hair and beard, . 19 points of articulation, a fung-fu grip (in 1974 made of softer plastic it could grip objects) Eagle eye vsiion (in 1976 movable eyes using a level in his back)
- Was this seen before: More of an evolution of the G.I.Joe figure, he increasingly moved away from Military themes after the results of the Vietnam War.
- Play patterns: Boys now had a team of hero types to fend of the evil bad guys, helping in this was a comic (this was a new a crucial step forward in propelling the action figure forward) that was included with the figures that featured the characters going up against “The Intruders – Strongmen from Another World”
1972 – “The World’s Greatest Super Heroes”:
- Creator: Mega Corp.
- Description: (8-inch or 200 mm) Super hero Action Figures licensed from Comic book companies DC and Marvel with non-removable fabric clothing and 12 points of articulation.
- Was this seen before: Seen as the next step in evolution in the figure line and not a new concept it brought the concept in a smaller form.
- Play patterns: Boys now had superheroes to play with and save the day in all manner of adventures. Having major comic book tie-ins helped action figures to explode.
1977 – Star Wars:
- Creator: Kenner.
- Description: (4 inches or 10 cm tall) Male/Female/Alien adult style Action Figures with molded plastic clothing, boots and hair. (although some figures had cloth or plastic robes) they had 5 points of articulation. (one piece arms at the shoulder, legs at the hip and the head.) Had a variety of weapons, vehicles and playsets.
- Was this seen before: Japanese toy company Takara created figures in a similar size ( 3.75-inch-tall or 9.5 cm). That had more articulation and were hailed as cyborgs called Micromen. The line brought the action figure scale down more.
- Play patterns: Boys could now could recreate scenes from an exciting Sci/Fi movie or have adventures all their own making. The detail for such a small size was fantastic for the time and price was attainable for just about any budget.
1982 – G.I.Joe (A Real American Hero):
- Creator: Hasbro.
- Description: (3.75-inch or 9.5 cm) Male and Female Military adult style Action Figures (this was the first to use this name since boys would not want to play with dolls) with removable and interchangeable clothing, boots and plastic molded hair. There was also a host of accessories such as weapons, animal companions, vehicles and bases. He had 12 points of articulation
- Was this seen before: Of course this was nothing really new, needing to keep up Hasbro mixed their once popular larger figures with the new smaller size figures to go along with comics and a cartoon.
- Play patterns: Boys could now safely return to a military battle scene but instead of a foreign invader the bad guys were pretend over the top weirdos wanting to cause trouble with out really killing anyone. The prices were affordable, the detail was getting better along with more articulation for such a small size.
1984 – Transformers:
- Creator: Hasbro.
- Description: A wide range of sizes, articulation and quality, Action figures could transform into all manner of vehicles, spacecraft, dinosaurs and other objects. some came with weapons.
- Was this seen before: Another line by Tonka was brought out slightly before called Gobots but ever reached the levels this line did. Initially drawing from two different toy line that Japanese Toy make Takara had released in Japan known as Microchange and Diaclone lines. They learned from the success of their G.I.Joe figures and went with a similar them of coupling the figures with a cartoon, comic strip and a backstory
- Play patterns: Boys could play with robotic heroes that came to earth to protect us from evil robots bent on destruction of our planet. They could recreate scenes from the cartoon or comics. The biggest change was the transformation that melded together action figures, toy cars, guns, planes, and even toy dinosaurs and insects altogether into a toy kids never seen before. Later Hasbro introduced a wide range of animals to robots in their beast Wars line that reinvigorated the action figure field again. This changed everything and toys were never the same since.
Well there you go, this is a very simplistic timeline, there of course are more toys that changed play patterns along the way but I felt they were more of smaller steps along the way. Anyways I hope you enjoyed this.