Fisher-Price Celebrates Its 90th Birthday With Virtual Toy Museum
Online museums are all the rage in Covid times, as pandemic-weary humans seek escape from the grind and find solace in reliving a simpler, happier long-ago.
This dynamic informs the Fisher-Price Toy Museum, a celebration of the brand's 90-year history, developed with Wieden + Kennedy and hosted on Instagram.
"The museum was inspired by the idea that, whether you were born in the 1950s, 1980s or 2000s, everyone has a memory of their favorite toy, and many of those are from Fisher-Price," says Chuck Scothon, the brand's svp and general manager, as well as global head of infant and preschool products for parent company Mattel. "The items reflect top sellers, first-of-its-kind innovation, or just iconic items that remain in the line today."
The campaign draws inspiration from a museum for employees on the Fisher-Price campus in East Aurora, New York. "Whenever people visit, they share stories about the Fisher-Price toys from their youth," Scothon says. "We wanted to bring that experience to life for a broader audience."
The virtual venue, which launched Thursday, hosts more than 90 exhibits, arranged by decade, lovingly presented by artist, set designer and photographer Leila Fakouri. No messy toy boxes here! Whimsy is the watchword—with this wooden Snoopy Sniffer from 1938 providing a prime example:
Title: Snoopy Sniffer / Medium: Wooden Hound; Personalized Snoopy Collar; and a Little Bit of Sit, Stay, Good Dog! / Date: 1938 Smell something? Snoopy Sniffer is on the case! Designed in 1938, Snoopy Sniffer not only had a great sniffer, he also had oilcloth ears, a spring-and-ball tail, and four rubber feet. Well-known and well-loved, Snoopy Sniffer was the complete package of action and personality, which is why he continued to be produced over the next 40 years. Not only was he a very good boy, he was also a very good toy.
Copy reads: "Well-known and well-loved, Snoopy Sniffer was the complete package of action and personality, which is why he continued to be produced over the next 40 years. Not only was he a very good boy, he was also a very good toy."
"Snoopy" was a popular dog name in the '30s, and the Sniffer predated Charles Schulz's world-famous comic-strip beagle by 12 years, selling more than 5 million units all told.
Scothon cites the The Play Family Farm below as his own "favorite toy growing up, and I still smile every time I think about the barn door that mooed."
Title: Play Family Farm / Medium: Big Red Barn, Doors that Moo When You Open Them, Assorted Play Family Members/Animals / Date: 1968 Running the Play Family Farm would have kept you BUSY. Between taking care of the horse, cow, sheep, pig, dog, and two chickens, it’d be easy to forget that this farm was the #1 toy in America in 1968! And that several versions of it were created over the next 50 years. Whoo-ee! But you couldn’t dwell on that long because you’d need to get that big red barn and silo in order with your Play Family Kids. This Play Family Farm couldn’t run on imagination alone. Or maybe it could!
Fakouri's dioramas show off the toys to awesome effect. Note the Farm's paisley trees, lawn and sky, with fluffy cut-out clouds. Simplistic yet sophisticated, such details convey a magical, childlike quality. It's the stuff of retro dreams.
And what better place to admire '80s roller skates than a bold rink decorated with shapes and colors seemingly plucked from the design palettes of early-MTV and Miami Vice?
Title: Roller Skates / Medium: Your First Blue and Yellow Skates, Adjustable to Your First and Only Feet / Date: 1983 Remember how cool it felt to put on a pair of 1980s shoes? And remember how cool it felt to put on an even cooler pair of Fisher-Price adjustable roller skates over those 1980s shoes? And then skate around your neighborhood? Or the roller rink? Or maybe even the house if your mom let you? Yeah, those were the days.
As for your humble author, well, skating was never my thing, but I boogied (badly) back in the day to platters spun on this funky number:
Title: Fisher-Price Phonograph / Medium: Portable Electric-powered Record Player and a Deep Devotion to Disco / Date: 1979 If you had disco fever back in the ’70s, it was best to consult your nearest portable, electric-powered Fisher-Price Phonograph. Because while the Fisher-Price Phonograph couldn’t nurse you back to health or anything, it could definitely play your favorite records.
The museum will live online through at least year's end, and includes a digital gift shop offering apparel and nicknacks emblazoned with classic-toy images.
Though conceived pre-virus, the project gains added power and resonance in context, satisfying a heightened need for harmless indulgence amid 2020's freakish hellscape.
"We want to take visitors back to their unique childhood experiences, and give them the opportunity to relive their youth, even if just for a few moments," Scothon says.
Mission accomplished. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to hit the dance floor!
See a gallery of pics below.