Lit­tle Peo­ple, Dun­geons & Dragons top Toy Hall of Fame class

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES - By Carolyn Thomp­son

At long last, a big honor for the Lit­tle Peo­ple.

Af­ter seven times as fi­nal­ists for the Na­tional Toy Hall of Fame, the tiny ten­ants of Fisher-Price’s house, barn and school bus were en­shrined on Thurs­day.

They were joined by the swing and Dun­geons & Dragons in the hall’s class of 2016.

“Peo­ple have called us the Su­san Lucci of the toy world,” Fisher-Price spokes­woman Brenda An­dolina said. The East Aurora-based toy maker sent a bus­load of em­ploy­ees to the cer­e­mony, al­beit a lower key one than when the much-nom­i­nated soap ac­tress got her Emmy.

“One of their chal­lenges has been, frankly, that they’ve been kind of lit­tle and they’ve been eas­ier to over­look or post­pone for our na­tional se­lec­tion ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee,” said Chris Ben­sch, The Strong’s vice pres­i­dent for col­lec­tions. He said their rel­a­tively lim­ited au­di­ence of 1- to 5-year-olds has been an­other hur­dle.

Since be­ing in­tro­duced in 1959, more than 2 bil­lion Lit­tle Peo­ple have been sold. The ear­li­est tubu­lar wooden ver­sions evolved over the years to the plas­tic fig­ures with arms, legs and di­men­sional faces of to­day.

“Moms have al­ways loved Lit­tle Peo­ple be­cause it’s re­ally whole­some . ... It’s all about shar­ing, car­ing, nur­tur­ing,” An­dolina said.

The com­pany works to pre­serve that af­fec­tion, she said, even chang­ing the au­dio chip in the Lit­tle Peo­ple SUV re­cently af­ter a work­ing mother com­plained that one of the toy mom’s phrases — “Time for yoga and a smoothie” — missed the mark.

“Some­body called us out that that wasn’t the best por­trayal, it didn’t res­onate, so we re­con­sid­ered it and it was an easy change for us to make,” An­dolina said.

Fel­low in­ductee Dun­geons & Dragons is, in some ways, the adult ver­sion of Fish­erPrice Lit­tle Peo­ple, Ben­sch said.

“It es­sen­tially is a ve­hi­cle for em­pow­er­ing them to make up sto­ries,” he said of the 1974 role-play­ing game cre­ated by Gary Gy­gax and Dave Ar­ne­son. It has a well­known celebrity fan in ac­tor Vin Diesel, who has called it the “train­ing ground for imag­i­na­tion” and said it helped him em­brace the mythol­ogy of the “Rid­dick” movies.

Cu­ra­tor Nic Rick­etts said the game’s me­chan­ics have lent them­selves to com­puter ap­pli­ca­tions, and that has had an im­pact on elec­tronic games such as “World of War­craft.”

The swing was rec­og­nized for its longevity over cen­turies. Ver­sions of the sta­ple of mod­ern play­grounds and back­yards are de­picted in an­cient cave draw­ings in Europe, carved fig­ures from Crete and ce­ramic vases from early Greece, the hall of fame said.

“Though the equip­ment has evolved with the cen­turies, the plea­sure chil­dren and adults find in swing­ing has hardly changed at all,” cu­ra­tor Pa­tri­cia Ho­gan said.

Any­one can nom­i­nate a toy but to be­come a fi­nal­ist, it must have lasted across gen­er­a­tions, in­flu­enced the way toys are de­signed or played with and fos­tered learn­ing or cre­ativ­ity through play. The fi­nal­ists are cho­sen by his­to­ri­ans and cu­ra­tors at The Strong and sent to a panel of ex­pert judges who de­cide the win­ners.

This year’s honorees were cho­sen over nine other fi­nal­ists: Care Bears, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Ro­bots, Trans­form­ers, Nerf foam balls, Clue, Uno, pin­ball, col­or­ing books and bub­ble wrap.

Af­ter Thurs­day’s in­duc­tion, Fisher-Price em­ploy­ees who work on the Lit­tle Peo­ple line snapped photos of the new dis­play of the fig­ures un­der glass and lights.

“It’s awe­some. It’s very re­ward­ing,” said engineer Rebecca Bar­clay, who helps bring the de­sign­ers’ vi­sion to re­al­ity.

“I grew up with Lit­tle Peo­ple. My mom played with it,” mar­ket­ing man­ager Sarah Leone said. “Now I have a 1-year-old daugh­ter, and she’s play­ing with it right now.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A photo pro­vided by the The Strong mu­seum shows, from left, Fisher-Price Lit­tle Peo­ple, Dun­geons & Dragons and the swing.

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