CLOSE
Getty
Getty

15 Playful Facts About Fisher-Price

Getty
Getty

If you’ve ever been in the vicinity of a small child, you’ve probably tripped over something made by Fisher-Price. Founded in 1930, the company has specialized in imagination-stirring diversions for tots. Check out 15 facts about things that would make any toddler drool.

1. IT WAS CO-FOUNDED BY A MAYOR.

Herman Fisher was a salesman who wanted to raise the bar for toy quality in the 1930s, but a bid to buy the toy firm he was vice president and general manager of, All Fair Toys in Rochester, failed. While touring the company offices in East Aurora, New York, town mayor Irving Price liked Fisher’s pitch to craft better, more imaginative playthings. He decided to back Fisher’s dream with $100,000 in raised capital.

2. THEY STORED TOYS IN A FUNERAL HOME.

Fisher-Price

While Fisher-Price was not an immediate cash cow—it lost most of that $100,000 investment early on—by the mid-1930s the company was on firmer footing. During the holiday seasons, the surplus of toys made for Christmas demand were stored in a local funeral home that rented out space to the toymaker.  

3. IT PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE BEEN FISHER-PRICE-SCHELLE.

Helen Schelle was a toy store manager and designer in Binghamton, New York who worked for Fisher’s old toy firm. When Fisher-Price was founded, Schelle was named secretary and treasurer, contributing product ideas and helping to conceive of their initial launch of 16 toys. Even more importantly, she had valuable contacts in the industry that helped the start-up get on its feet. On their website, Fisher-Price offers a conciliatory note about her absence in the company name: “Sorry, Helen.”

4. THE SNOOPY SNIFFER WAS AN EARLY HIT.

Fisher-Price had great success with a series of string-pulled wooden toys that would bob their heads or move when tugged, but none had more impact [PDF] than the Snoopy Sniffer, a charming beagle introduced in 1938 that kept his nose to the ground when trailing behind his owner. “Snoopy” was apparently a popular dog name of the era: It pre-dated Charles Schulz's famous Peanuts comic strip by 12 years.

5. THEY MADE MILITARY EQUIPMENT.

World War II brought a change in priorities for many manufacturers, and Fisher-Price was no exception. The company ceased production of nearly all their toys during wartime, instead using their resources to make ammunition crates, medical chests, and parts for combat planes [PDF].

6. THEY PIONEERED THE PLAY LAB.

Fisher-Price

In 1961, Fisher-Price decided to formalize what most toy companies should have already known: Focus group testing should consist of subjects with poop in their pants. Their Play Lab invites kids to interact with new product designs to assess their playability, ease of use, and creative spark. Roughly 1200 ideas are tested every year.

7. THEY ONCE RAN OUT OF WOOD.

Most Depression-era toys were made out of wood or tin. But after World War II, when veterans returned home eager to establish a quiet domestic life, they created the housing boom and wood became scarce. Fisher-Price began experimenting with plastic by making the wings of their Buzzy Bee pull toy out of the material. By the end of the 1950s, half of their toys were made with the easily-sculpted stuff, which would grow to dominate the toy industry.

8. THEIR LITTLE PEOPLE CAME OFF A BUS.

Jose Lulz Rules via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The tiny, stylized plastic population of Fisher-Price’s playsets were originally affixed to toys and not removable. But with the arrival of the Safety Bus in 1959, kids could take out the passengers and imagine all kinds of possible activities with them. (The driver, however, stayed put.) It inspired the company to create an entire line of sets with the mobile, chunky-headed figures, although diversity took a little while to arrive: The first black Little People figure wasn’t introduced until the 1970s.  

9. THE LITTLE PEOPLE FARM ONCE LOST ITS MOO.

For a brief period, the company’s trademark farm playset removed the familiar moo sound that triggered when kids opened the tiny barn doors. According to Fisher-Price, the change led to “udder outrage” by parents; the sound was quickly reinserted.  

10. THEY MADE A CHEAP VIDEO CAMERA TREASURED BY FILMMAKERS.

Fisher-Price’s PXL-2000 camcorder stretched the company’s typical demographic by targeting teenage consumers who wanted an inexpensive ($100) video camera during the camcorder craze of the late 1980s. Recording images on audio cassette tape, the picture captured on a PXL-2000 is a bit of a pixelated mess, and there were so many technical issues that the company quickly discontinued it. While kids weren’t happy, the sketchy image was the kind of avant-garde filter embraced by artists. Dubbed “Pixelvision,” it was used by filmmakers in the fine art world for moody tone pieces. On May 19, you can attend the 25th annual PXL THIS film festival at Los Angeles' Echo Park Film Center.

11. THEY ACQUIRED THE CORN POPPER FOR JUST $50.

Spend any amount of time in a toddler-occupied household and you’ve probably heard the familiar tock-tock-tock of the company’s Corn Popper, a two-wheeled contraption that bounces balls around in a sealed dome at irritating decibels. Fisher-Price acquired the rights from designer Arthur Holt for $50 in 1957.

12. AN EARLY TOY CAN FETCH $9500.

The next time you’re at a yard sale, keep an eye out for Push Cart Pete, one of the company’s earliest pull toys made out of Ponderosa pine. Debuting in 1936, it’s rare enough to command $9500 on the collectible market. If you can find a Donald and Donna Duck pair from 1937—Fisher-Price licensed Disney characters early on—you could score $5000.

13. A FEW OF THEIR TOYS WERE PRONE TO CATCHING FIRE.

According to the Associated Press, Fisher-Price got a serious scolding (and a $1.1 million fine) from the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2001 for failing to report safety issues in its line of Power Wheels ride-on toy bikes. Some of the toys were prone to catching fire owing to faulty electrical wiring. The CPSC asserted the fires caused more than $300,000 in personal property damage to consumers, with nine children receiving minor burns. Fisher-Price refuted their charges but settled to avoid any further legal issues.

14. JONATHAN ADLER IS GIVING THEM A FACELIFT.

Fisher-Price

Owing to sluggish sales, Fisher-Price recently brought on designer Jonathan Adler as its creative director. Adler—whose home furnishings have made him a décor brand name—intends to maintain safety and playability, while giving toys and safety equipment a more aesthetically pleasing look.

15. THEY WANT YOUR BABIES.

Child models have long been a fixture of Fisher-Price’s marketing, but the rise of social media and the need for snapshots for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram has increased demand for photogenic tots. The company recently circulated a solicitation for infants under six months old for photo shoots, as long as you live in the Western New York area. Babies will be compensated for their efforts.

arrow
Smart Shopping
11 Gifts for the Curious Kids in Your Life

No matter their age, you want to find gifts that will keep the kids in your life entertained, stimulated, and give them a sense of accomplishment—even during playtime. Luckily, these 11 gifts will do all of that, and will encourage their curiosity to grow.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we’re only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. RACE ACROSS THE USA; $22

Race Across the USA
Young Explorers

Want to get kids excited about the next big family road trip? Or give them some talking points about their favorite aunt’s home state? This board game helps them understand the geography of the U.S., as well as trivia on each of the 50 states and the major landmarks and capitals.

Find It: Young Explorers

2. ROOT-VUE FARM; $35

Whether they join FFA or not, kids can get a head start on understanding horticulture with this indoor garden system. Plant any root vegetable—carrots, radishes, onions, etc—and watch them obsess over the underground view of their harvest.

Find It: Young Explorers

3. DROID INVENTOR KIT; $100

This is definitely the droid you’re looking for. Recommended for kids in grades 3 to 8, this customizable robot comes with an app that defines more than a dozen missions for kids to send their creations on. And for any Star Wars fans, the Droid makes 20 different sounds, just like from the movies.

Find It: littleBits

4. SPEEDY RACER BILINGUAL LAPTOP; $26

Speedy Racer Bilingual Laptop
Imagine Toys

Kids ages 3 and up can play games, make their own music, and work on language, math, and memory skills with this activity-filled laptop. Plus, the English/Spanish component will help enhance the child’s fluency in both languages.

Find It: Imagine Toys

5. BIKE CHALK TRAIL KIT; $20

Bike Chalk Trail Kit
Uncommon Goods

Think beyond the coloring book. By attaching thick, non-toxic chalk to the back of a bike, kids can work on increased spatial awareness, collaborative drawings with friends, and may perhaps have a greater appreciation for the large-scale, colorful work of a Basquiat or Pollock.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

6. ROCKET SCIENCE DRESS; $30

For little girls who want to shoot for the stars, this Katherine Johnson-inspired dress illustrates her human-calculator abilities as drawn out on a chalkboard. Rocket propulsion simulation, gravity loss equations, etc. You know, the basics.

Find It: Svaha

7. 3DOODLER 3D PRINTING PEN SET; $43

3Doodler 3D Pen Set
Amazon

This wireless pen allows kids to freestyle draw in the air—the eco-plastic filament cools in place quickly, giving kids plenty of practice with spatial reasoning without the costs of a full 3D printer.

Find It: Amazon

8. A COMPREHENSIVE CURTAIN CALL OF BROADWAY COSTUMES; $29

A Comprehensive Curtain Call of Broadway Costumes
Pop Chart Lab

For musical-obsessed kids, this curtain call of famous costumes can serve as a checklist for any Broadway productions they haven't seen (or, more likely, memorized the cast recording and seen the movie version of) yet. Perennial children's favorites like Annie, Grease, and Wicked are included, but you might want to have an answer ready for when your preteen cousin asks to watch Cabaret.

Find It: Pop Chart Lab

9. THE PLAY GYM BY LOVEVERY; $140

The Play Mat by Lovevery
Amazon

Specially designed by experts to stimulate infants for their first year, this play mat grows with your favorite baby. It has five developmental zones in addition to 24 different stage-based activities—like teethers, mirrors, and colorful flash cards. And, when baby becomes a toddler, the mat converts into a tent fort for further imaginative play.

Find It: Amazon

10. STOP MOTION ANIMATION KIT; $60

Stop Motion Animation Kit
Uncommon Goods

Budding animators who need to fine-tune their skills (and patience!) will spend hours moving these silly characters around slowly, photographing their adventures, and editing the film into mini-movies.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

11. PRESCHOOL KIDNOCULARS; $15

Kidnoculars
Young Explorers

Kid-proof and specially designed for tiny hands and faces, these binoculars can help preschoolers get to know the world around them. Play a game like “I Spy” and have them find squirrels in trees, clouds in the sky, or all those Cheerios they spilled behind their bed.

Find It: Amazon

nextArticle.image_alt|e
The Force Field Cloak
arrow
Design
This Glowing Blanket Is Designed to Ease Kids' Fear of the Dark
The Force Field Cloak
The Force Field Cloak

Many kids have a security blanket they bring to bed with them every night, but sometimes, a regular blankie is no match for the monsters that invade their imaginations once the lights are off. Now there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket designed to make children feel safer in bed, no night light required.

Dubbed the Force Field Cloak, the fleece blanket comes in several colorful, glowing patterns that remain invisible during the day. At night, you leave the blanket under a bright light for about 10 minutes, then the shining design will reveal itself in the dark. The glow lasts 8 to 10 hours, just long enough to get a child through the night.

Inventor Terry Sachetti was inspired to create the blanket by his own experiences struggling with scary nighttime thoughts as a kid. "I remember when I was young and afraid of the dark. I would lie in my bed at night, and my imagination would start getting the best of me," he writes on the product's Kickstarter page. "I would start thinking that someone or something was going to grab my foot that was hanging over the side of the bed. When that happened, I would put my foot back under my blanket where I knew I was safe. Nothing could get me under my blanket. No boogiemen, no aliens, no monsters under my bed, nothing. Sound familiar?"

The Force Field Cloak, which has already surpassed its funding goals on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, takes the comfort of a blanket to the next level. The glowing, non-toxic ink decorating the material acts as a gentle night light that kids can wrap around their whole body. The result, the team claims, is a secure feeling that quiets those thoughts about bad guys hiding in the shadows.

To pre-order a Force Field Cloak, you can pledge $36 or more to the product’s Indiegogo campaign. It is expected to start shipping in January 2018.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios