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Tag Archive: Lego


The Strong’s National Museum of Play has announced twelve finalists for induction into the 2018 National Toy Hall of Fame.  Only a select few will take their honored places in the Hall this year when they are announced at a ceremony at The Strong in Rochester, New York on Thursday, November 8, 2018.  The National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys “that have engaged and delighted multiple generations, inspiring them to learn, create, and discover through play.”  The Hall of Fame, which began in 1998, is celebrating its 20th year.  Criteria for induction include: 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); and Innovation (the toy profoundly changed play or toy design).  A toy may be inducted on the basis of innovation without necessarily having met all of the first three.  So who are this year’s finalists?  American Girl Dolls, chalk, Chutes and Ladders, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, the Magic 8 Ball, Masters of the Universe, pinball, the sled, Tic-Tac-Toe, Tickle Me Elmo, Tudor Electric Football, and the card game Uno.

Reviewing the 65 previous inductees should provide you with an incredible flashback of nostalgia: alphabet blocks, the Atari 2600 Game System, baby doll, ball, Barbie, bicycle, Big Wheel, blanket, bubbles, Candy Land, cardboard box, checkers, chess, Clue, Crayola Crayons, dollhouse, dominoes, Duncan Yo-Yo, Dungeons & Dragons, Easy-Bake Oven, Erector Set, Etch A Sketch, Fisher-Price Little People, Frisbee, G.I. Joe, The Game of Life, Hot Wheels, Hula Hoop, jack-in-the-box, jacks, jigsaw puzzle, jump rope, kite, LEGO, Lincoln Logs, Lionel Trains, little green army men, marbles, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Nintendo Game Boy, paper airplane, Play-Doh, playing cards, puppet, Radio Flyer Wagon, Raggedy Ann and Andy, rocking horse, roller skates, rubber duck, Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble, Silly Putty, skateboard, Slinky, Star Wars action figures, stick, Super Soaker, swing, teddy bear, Tinkertoy, Tonka Trucks, Twister, View-Master, and Wiffle Ball.

This year’s 12 finalists for the National Toy Hall of Fame.  Which would you choose?

The beauty of all these toys?  We did some of our own research and they are still available for today’s generation of kids.  Just click the toy name and you’ll find it available at Amazon right now.  Want to spoil your kid and get them one of each of the 65 toys in the Hall (or donate a set to your local community center)?  It’ll cost you about $1,390.  That total is skewed a bit by the more expensive toys on the list:  the current equivalent of the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Gameboy, a bicycle, a dollhouse, an Easy Bake Oven, Lincoln Logs, Lionel Trains, and roller skates.  Yet eight toys in the Hall can be purchased for less than $5.00, 24 toys cost less than $10.00, and 50 of the 65 toys in the Hall cost less than $25.00–most of the classics are pretty affordable!  And if you want to save your money, how about getting your kid a cardboard box, a paper airplane, a kite, and a stick for Christmas this year–they’re pretty much free.

What do you think is missing?  How about Spiro-graph?  The Fisher-Price telephone and See ‘n’ Say?  Shrinky Dinks, Colorforms, and the Kaleidoscope?  Finger paints?  The sprinkler?  Playskool cobbler’s bench and mailbox?  Hello Kitty?  Past nominees include Battleship, Care Bears, coloring books, Jenga, Lite Brite, Matchbox cars, My Little Pony, Nerf, Pez, Playmobil, pogo stick, Operation, Pac-Man, pots and pans, Risk, sand, scooter, Slip ‘n’ Slide, stilts, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and the top.

Here are the Hall of Fame’s descriptions of each of this year’s nominees:

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Back for another four episodes, the documentary-style series about toy lines and toy companies of the past The Toys That Made Us is now streaming on Netflix with its Season 2.  As with the first four episodes reviewed here at borg.com in January, the series really isn’t a show for kids, but a behind-the-scenes account of the good and the bad of the history of the toy business.  Because of the toy lines covered in this short Season 2–LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty, and Star Trek–expect a more international flavor to the show’s coverage than of Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Barbie, and Masters of the Universe.  You can’t get around the fact that this is about business and business politics, with the added opportunity for those who just want to spot their very favorite toy of their youth to shout out during at least one of the episodes, “I had one of those!”

Back is the sugar-coated dialogue of the enthusiastic narrator Donald Ian Black.  The series continues to be of value mostly for the gold nuggets nestled within its lighthearted framework.  Excerpts of an interview with former Mego President Marty Abrams tops the list.  Despite the high highs and the low lows of his days leading Mego, Abrams seems to have been in the middle of a great time for the toy biz, seen in the first of the new episodes, where he admits passing up the deal to secure the valuable Star Wars account, supposedly for being out-of-town at the time.  The episode of Transformers is surprisingly emotional, including interviews with Optimus Prime himself, lo-o-o-ong-time animated film voice actor Peter Cullen (who was also the voice of Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore), and the much revered Hideaki Yoke, the Japanese company Takara’s lead designer responsible for the brilliant puzzle-piece designs of the vast Transformers line of characters.  As with Masters of the Universe, comic books were important to the development and success of Transformers, and viewers will learn Hello Kitty originated with comic book artists.  The most unexpected storytelling may come from the Hello Kitty episode.  Hello Kitty, a Japan-originated phenomenon turned international craze not tied to any book, TV series, or film, benefited from the coup of celebrities using the products publicly (without paying endorsement fees).  The discussion of the Japan cultural concept of kawaii and its relationship to the development of the Hello Kitty brand, character, and mythos will come as a surprise to most.

For Star Trek fans the episode featuring the franchise’s toy pursuits might have a few surprises.  Yes, that crazy Spock and Kirk helmet from the 1960s rears its ugly head again.  It’s too bad the show feels the need to explain what each franchise is first (we probably wouldn’t be watching if we didn’t), because fans would probably instead rather hear more about subjects the show creators didn’t leave time for.  We were looking for a discussion of the advance release of a line of Star Trek Generations action figures with costume styles that were changed before the film was released (a rare mishap), coverage of the very extensive (and once popular) line of attractive 12-inch scale action figures, the scope of the segment of Playmates company toys featuring characters from not only the series (discussed) but the movies through Star Trek: First Contact, and a little about the “why” of decisions behind toy releases, like why every NextGen line seemed to have two different Worf figures.  From the LEGO segment viewers learn a comprehensive overview of the company, plus some interesting bits like the fact that the early color scheme was directly inspired by the artist Mondrian, and that the outer space series caused the modern line of toys to really take off.  LEGO goes back some 80 years, and the history of the town that made it famous and impact of the brand is a great piece of history.  As with the rest of the episodes business and marketing trends are a great focus, and the 1958 LEGO patent for the interlocking brick–and loss of the patent–is part of that.

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Netflix is now carrying a new documentary television series that delves into the creators behind some of our favorite toys from the recent, and not so recent past.  The Toys That Made Us features four episodes in its first season of streaming, each focused on a toy line that should bring in a good cross-section of fandom.  The choices for the first shows include Kenner’s vintage Star Wars action figures and playsets, Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, with an emphasis on the 3 3/4″ line of action figures, Mattel’s Barbie, and the Mattel’s Masters of the Universe No doubt Barbie and G.I. Joe should pull in the older crowd, while the latter half of G.I. Joe and Star Wars will pull in the kids of the 1970s and early 1980s, and Masters of the Universe the kids of the 1980s.

Not a show for kids and not another show about toy collectors, the series devotes plenty of each hour to interviews with designers, marketing, other businessmen discussing the nuts and bolts of negotiating deals, like the lawyer for Kenner discussing the greatest toy deal negotiation ever, and the later not-so-great negotiation because of a loose-lipped CEO.  The Barbie episode features a Barbie expert continually bashing the character as a “hooker” as if she has some sort of love-hate relationship with the doll.  But the politics of toymaking is interesting fodder for the right audience.  Should it be a surprise that toymakers have the same ugly corporate politics, the downsizing, the layoffs, and the takeovers, like every other company?  Prepare yourself for several CEOs and designers as they tiptoe, or not, around decisions and employers they wrestled with in the past as toys and brands came and went.  The creators look back both with nostalgia and anger at the former toy companies that eventually terminated their employment.  So look for an unusual take on these toys and these companies.

The next four episodes will be launched on Netflix later this year, and include Hello Kitty, Transformers, Star Trek, and LEGO.  Sometimes what the show chooses to tell is as interesting as how the show tells it.  The eight toy lines chosen no doubt came from the producer’s own focus groups, like the ideas behind some of the toys they discuss.  If The Toys That Made Us really is a one-time thing, someone else should come along and continue the idea with all the other major brands and influences.

We want to see an episode on Marx toys, including little toy soldiers and the 12-inch action figure series.  We also want to see a history of the broad Mego line of figures, Hot Wheels, Stretch Armstrong, and Big Jim.  How about companies like Fisher Price, Playskool, Playmobil, and Radio Flyer?  A series like this needs to cover more “recent” but still classic toy lines, too, like My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, and figure out a way to capture famous classic toys like Spirograph, Tinker Toys, Play-Doh, Etch-A-Sketch, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, and the ultimate multi-license toy, Viewmaster.  How about a tour of the Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers factories of the past?  Who put out more great board games than these companies?  It’s easy to imagine entire episodes on the history of games like Clue/Cluedo and Monopoly.  And how about featuring a current game company that’s been around for decades, like Wizards of the Coast?

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ninjago-movie

Today and this weekend millions of moviegoers will flock to theaters to see what could be the biggest selling Batman movie so far: The LEGO Batman Movie.  A spoof of Batman set in the world of the famous building blocks, it’s the kind of film that will appeal to multiple demographics:  little kids, big kids, and adults young and old.  After the downer that was Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, batfans are ready for fun over dreary.  If you missed the great trailers for The LEGO Batman Movie, check them out now here.

As we learned in the awesomely brilliant, funny, and clever original LEGO film The LEGO Movie: “everything is awesome when you’re part of a team.”  And that motto holds up in the next LEGO movie coming in 2017, The LEGO Ninjago Movie. 

What is LEGO Ninjago?

LEGO Ninjago is a LEGO building block series of more than 100 sets that began in 2010. A tie-in television series began in 2012, with a story centering on four Ninja, each with its own elemental dragon: Kai (Master of Fire), Jay (Master of Lightning), Cole (Master of Earth), and Zane (Master of Ice).  Sounding a bit similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they are brought together as a team by Sensei Wu to defeat the evil Lord Garmadon.

ninjago-flick

Tron: Uprising producer Charlie Bean is directing the The LEGO Ninjago Movie, which is written by Dan and Kevin Hageman, writers of The LEGO Movie and LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu.  The movie stars some well-known genre favorites voicing the roles from the toy backstory: Jackie Chan as Master Wu, Dave Franco as Lloyd, Olivia Munn as Koko, Fred Armisen as Cole, Justin Theroux as Garmadon, Abbi Jacobson as Nya, Kumail Nanjiani as Jay, Zach Woods as Zane, and Michael Peña as Kai.

Here is the first trailer for The LEGO Ninjago Movie:

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Lego Beetle

Everything is awesome when it comes to LEGO building bricks.  When I was a kid the holy grail of toys was the LEGO Technic Expert Builder Chassis set, released in 1980.  If you wanted to understand how cars function, that was the set to learn from.  It sold for more than $125 back then and now on eBay they can fetch more than $1,500.  The best part of the early Technic sets was that they didn’t fudge the basic LEGO pieces for the sake of design.  Which is why the current LEGO Creator line is full of great options.

Probably the most fun is the coming release of the classic Volkswagen Beetle.  Check out the instructions on the LEGO website for the new Volkswagen Beetle here for an idea of the detailed engine design.  And you’ll see that the design is true to the basic LEGO building blocks, meaning you get to learn to hone your creativity by adapting to the basic LEGO building pieces.  You can pre-order the VW Beetle now here from Amazon, expected to ship around the first of the year.

But if you can’t wait that long, don’t fret.  LEGO has already released some other cool car building sets as well as some nifty buildings.  If you’re not in the market for LEGO sets right now, they are still fun to gawk at.  Like this earlier Volkswagen release, the camper van:

Volkswagen camper van

Our band director had one of these and this design is dead on.  You can order the Volkswagen van now here from Amazon.

Or how about this Mini Cooper?

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Billy Butler World Series Oyo KC Royals figure 2014   Buster Posey SF Giants World Series Oyo figure 2014

Thanks to the magic of targeted Internet advertising, these Lego-ish figures streamed across the ad banner of borg.com this week and caught our attention.  (You know how we like finding ways to talk about baseball here).  Although they look at first blush like Lego knock-offs, these figures by Oyo Sports are fully licensed by Major League Baseball.  Turns out, according to the Oyo Sports website, they seem to have been inspired by Legos, but attempt to go further by expanding the articulated movement of the standard building block figure.

And you gotta love how they matched up the goatees with the players.

You can buy individual players or team building sets, and not just for the current American League and National League champs.  You can get current players and retired players like Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, and Bob Feller, or even mascots for pro and college teams, and figures from other sports.  You can buy them on Amazon here.

KC Royals Oyo Gametime set

The playsets for the current World Series teams reminded us of the metal figures some Dungeons & Dragons players use to visualize their role-playing game.  Maybe this could be a new twist on fantasy baseball?

Electric Football

It’s the latest incarnation of sports table top play–remember electric football?

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