Expensive Toys for Wealthy Boys (or Girls)

Leave a comment

Ridiculously Expensive Toys

for the Rich

(Not me)

When money isn’t an issue, one can indulge in some very cool and very expensive toys. These include gadgets, vehicles, and toys that are similar to things people with average wealth own, just taken to the extreme. There are also some toys that rich people own that most of us have only seen in movies about the future. Then there are other toys for the rich that are just downright bizarre, but no less expensive. But these toys are all very real and for sale, if you can afford their hefty prices. We’d say that with Christmas coming up you could just ask Santa but let’s be real here, no one has been this good this year.

Expensive Toys for

Wealthy Boys

A MONOPOLY on Board Games

Leave a comment

Interesting Facts

About the Board Game

Monopoly

Monopoly was first produced in 1935 by Parker Brothers, and has been ruining friendships and tearing families apart ever since. Despite how frustrating the game is, it’s considered the world’s most popular and, as of 2009, over 250 million copies have been sold.

 While the game is meant to be played by people of all ages, it is meant to show the dangers of a small group of people accumulating all the wealth. If you’re playing the game, and someone builds hotels all over the board, and you have a house on Baltic Avenue? You have to borrow money before ultimately going bankrupt and losing. It’s annoying in the game, but it would be tragic in real life.

10. Are You Playing the Game Correctly?

Have you ever taken the time to read the rules of Monopoly? Probably not, because an overwhelming amount of people don’t follow the official rules while playing.

One rule that many people didn’t know existed is that if you land on a property and choose not to buy it, the property goes up for auction. The opening bid can start at any price and the highest bidder pays the bank. This speeds up the game and when playing with these rules, it lasts about an hour to 90 minutes. (Another hint if you really want to speed up the game, but isn’t in the official rule book, is to deal out all the properties at the beginning of the game.)

One reason that so many of us play Monopoly the same way, which is different from the official rules, is because Monopoly is so popular, and many people are taught how to play as children. So for generations, no one read the rules, and older generations just taught younger generations to play the way that they were taught. Think about it – do you even remember learning how to play Monopoly? If you can, did you read the instructions, or were you taught to play by someone who already knew?

As for why no one plays the game according to the official rules, it could be because the game is often played by children, and the auctions may have led to fights, so parents omitted the rule and it simply got phased out as the rules of the game were handed down generation-to-generation.

Another common house rule, which isn’t an official rule, is that when fines and taxes are collected, they go into the center of the board and whoever lands on Free Parking wins the jackpot. However, in the official rules, nothing happens when you land on the Free Parking space.

Finally, some people play that you can’t get money while you are in prison, but there is no official rule against that.

Since the house rules and official rules are so different, Hasbro did a study and ended up releasing official House Rules of the game.

9. Three Most Landed on Spots include Illinois Avenue, GO, and B&O Railroad

One thing that might be helpful to winning the game is getting the square that is landed on the most. According to computer scientist Truman Collins, who built a simulation of the game, the square most likely to be landed on is In Jail. This is for several reasons. The first is that if you land on the Go to Jail square, technically you go straight to jail (duh). Secondly, people roll to get out of prison. All of this in addition to landing on the prison square, and you’re just visiting.

The second most landed on square is Illinois Avenue. This is followed by Go, New York Avenue, and rounding out the top five is B&O Railroad. As for the least likely squares to get visits? Those would be the three Chance squares, the Community Chest Square, and Mediterranean Avenue.

When it comes to the most expensive property, Boardwalk, it’s the 18th most likely square to be landed on.

8. The Characters

In Monopoly, there are several different characters and all of them have their own name. The first one is Mr. Monopoly. He is the iconic character who has a three piece suit, a top hat, and white hair. Also, a lot of people seem to remember him having a monocle, but he has never worn one.

It’s unclear who the inspiration for Mr. Monopoly is. Some people think it is famed American banker and financier J.P. Morgan. It certainly would make sense because they look and dress similar, and both are businessmen.

Others believe that it is based on a salesman at Parker Brothers who had business cards with over-the-top caricatures of himself printed on them. Often times he would be wearing a top hat, or riding a train. Finally, it could be based on Little Esky, which is a former mascot of Esquire magazine.

The character wasn’t given a name until 1946, and even then, it wasn’t announced via Monopoly. Instead, he appeared as the mascot on a different game called Rich Uncle. In the game, the Daily Bugle identifies him as Rich Uncle Pennybags, and he is the man who runs the town.

However, in 1999, Hasbro conducted a study and found that many people didn’t know that Rich Uncle Pennybags was his name, so they changed it to Mr. Monopoly.

Of course, there are other characters in the game. On the Community Chest and Chance cards, there is Mr. Monopoly’s wife, Maude, and his three nephews – Randy, Sandy, and Andy. Finally, there is Officer Mallory, who sends people to jail, and Jake, the Jailbird.

7. People Have Killed Each Other Over the Game

If you’ve even been near a group of people playing Monopoly, you know that players can easily get frustrated. All it takes is one flip of the board to end a friendship.

While most adults don’t resort to violence when it comes to their frustrations over Monopoly, some games have spiraled violently out of control. One such game happened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 25, 2011. 60-year-old Laura Chavez and 48-year-old Clyde “Butch” Smith were playing the game with their 10-year-old grandson. At some point, Chavez caught Smith cheating. A fight ensued and the grandson was sent into a bedroom, and that’s when the grandparents got violent.

Smith hit Chavez with a wine bottle, and then she went at him with a knife. He was stabbed and slashed around the chest, neck, and face. Luckily, he survived.

Another tragic fight that stemmed from the game happened on July 19, 1991, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Two best friends, 25-year-old Marc Cienkowski and 31-year-old Michael J. Klucznik, were playing Monopoly when a fight broke out. It got physical and several punches were thrown. Cienkowski grabbed his compound bow and an arrow, and told Kluvznik to leave. Kluvznik left, and when he was seated in his car, his best friend fired an arrow into his chest. Kluvznik ended up dying and Cienkowski was sentenced to nine-to-25 years in prison. We like to think the judge told him to go directly to jail, to not pass GO, and to not collect $200 at his sentencing.

6. You Can Win a Game with 2-players in 21 seconds

Games of Monopoly are notoriously long, and can drag on for hours, or even days. On the other end of the scale, Daniel J. Myers, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame, and his son have figured out the quickest way to end a game of Monopoly. It’s just four turns and nine rolls, and the game lasts 21 seconds.

How it would have to work is that player one rolls double sixes and lands on Community Chest, where they receive $200 because of the “Bank error in your favor” card. Next, player two has to land on the Income Tax square. The next turn involves player one getting double twos and landing on Park Place, where they purchase it, and then double ones to land on Boardwalk, which they need to purchase as well. Since they got doubles, then they roll again and pass GO, collecting $200. Once they are past GO, they need to purchase three houses for Park Place and two for Boardwalk. Player two would then land on a Chance square and pick up the “go directly to Boardwalk” card. When they do, they won’t have enough money, and the game is over.

Of course, the chances of this game happening in real life aren’t exactly good. According to a Columbia professor, it would happen once every 253,899,891,671,040 games. So he’s saying there’s a chance.

 5. Best Way to Win

As we’ve already mentioned previously, and will probably continue to mention throughout the article, playing Monopoly can be downright frustrating. However, if you really want to ratchet up the frustration level among your opponents, and win in the process, you should follow this strategy to win, which comes from a Reddit user named Elfie.

Basically, the diabolical plan revolves around the houses. There are 32 in the box, and once the houses are sold out, then no one else can buy one. So the plan is simply to buy up as many houses as you can.

Early in the game, buy a set of properties and build all houses on it (not a hotel). It can also be any set of properties. Later in the game, get a second monopoly and build up houses on each of those properties. If you get two monopolies containing three properties, then that only leaves 8 other houses out there among the rest of the players.

Limiting the number of houses is important because houses are needed to build hotels. By monopolizing the houses, it makes it harder for people to progress, and then you simply outlast them.

Evil, right?

4. The Real Creator was a Woman Who Didn’t Get Credit For Her Invention

The person credited with inventing Monopoly is Charles Darrow, an unemployed heater salesman from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While Darrow created the Monopoly we know today, he ripped off the idea. The real inventor was a stenographer named Elizabeth Magie, who lived in Washington D.C.

Magie worked at night trying to teach people about the evils of monopolies. She was concerned with the accumulation of wealth and power by a small group of families during the Gilded age. She thought that this type of control by a small group of people could lead to monopolies, which could have devastating effects on everyday Americans. The problem was that her message was hard to spread because many people simply weren’t interested in listening.

Looking to spread her message faster, Magie developed The Landlord’s Game in 1903, and got a patent on it in 1904. The game was never mass produced, and instead, the game spread through word-of-mouth. Usually someone would learn the game, and then they would make their own copy of the board and the pieces. In turn, they would teach it to someone else.

One of those people who learned to play the game was Charles Darrow. He pitched the game to Parker Brothers and they eventually bought the rights to it, and gave Darrow a royalty. However, Parker Brothers knew that Magie actually owned the patent on the game. So they contacted Magie and bought the rights to The Landlord’s Game and another game that she developed for $500. But in a massive jerk move, Parker Brothers never intended to mass produce The Landlord’s Game. Instead, they released a few hundred copies of it, but mass produced Monopoly, which became a massive hit. Beyond the $500, Magie didn’t get any other payment or credit for the game. She died in 1948 and her contributions to the game weren’t publicized until the 1970s. Darrow died a millionaire in 1978.

3. The Unusual Story of Marvin Gardens

 There are localized versions of Monopoly, but the original game, and one that most people in North America are familiar with, has all of the properties named after streets or areas in Atlantic City, New Jersey. With one exception, that is: Marvin Gardens, which is supposed to be Marven Gardens.

While it’s a small mistake, it actually shows the interesting history behind Monopoly. When asked why he chose Atlantic City, instead of Philadelphia, where he was born and lived, Charles Darrow said it was because it was his favorite vacation spot.

However, what we know from the last entry is that Darrow didn’t invent the game, he just signed a deal with Parker Brothers to sell it. Before Monopoly’s publication, when people made their boards for The Landlord’s Game, they would localize the street names. Darrow was taught to play The Landlord’s Game by a couple from Atlantic City and when Darrow was given a copy of the board by the couple, it contained the wrong spelling of Marven Gardens. In turn, Parker Brothers copied Darrow’s incorrect board. Making Darrow not only a thief, but a lazy one at that.

In 1995, Parker Brothers apologized to the people of Marven Gardens for the misspelling. However, they have never credited Magie’s contributions to the game. Just wanted to really emphasize that part again.

2. Monopoly was Rejected by Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers

After Magie developed the game, she didn’t get it mass produced because she didn’t want to. She took it to Parker Brothers, twice. Once in 1910, and again in 1924, and both times it was turned down. The reason they gave was that it was too political.

Jump ahead to 1934, and Darrow pitched his version of the game to both Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers. Both of them sent back rejection letters. Part of the creation myth is that Parker Brothers rejected it for 52 fundamental reasons. However, there is no real evidence of that and it definitely does not say it in the rejection letter. The game was rejected unanimously by the executives of Parker Brothers because they thought it took too long to play and was too complex to be popular.

Instead, Darrow used his own money to make 7,500 copies, which sold well in stores in Philadelphia, and Parker Brothers changed their mind and struck a deal with Darrow. From there, the game grew to be the biggest board game in history.

1. Escape Maps Were Smuggled to British POWs during WWII

When it comes to making maps for war, paper is a terrible material for many reasons. For example, it can’t get wet, it rips, it crumples, and so on. A better material for maps is silk, and it has been used for hundreds of years.

During World War II, a printing company that had mastered printing on silk was John Waddington Ltd. The company was used by the British secret service unit MI9, which was the secret service unit for escape and evasion, to print silk maps. Waddington was also the printer of Monopoly for the United Kingdom. An MI9 agent named Christopher Clayton Hutton came up with the idea to put maps and other materials into board games that would be sent to POW camps. Games were often brought into POW camps by humanitarian and charity groups, and the games wouldn’t have drawn too much attention from the enemy.

Inside the Monopoly boxes were hidden compartments that contained compasses, tools, maps, and under the money were real bank notes. There were six different maps created for areas around German POW camps, and other maps for Italy.

They marked the special Monopoly boxes by putting a red dot on the Free Parking space. Also, to figure out where the maps should go, periods were added to the end of specific properties. For example, if it was going to Germany, there was a period after Mayfair, and if it was going to Italy, there would be a period after Marylebone Station (since the game was the UK version, the properties were named after streets in London, not Atlantic City).

Some historians believe that thousands of POWs used the Monopoly games to escape. Since the war, all of the Monopoly escape kits were destroyed.


A MONOPOLY

on Board Games


 

Ancient Tools and Toys – Real Old

Leave a comment

Oldest Known Objects

Made by Man

(and his Ancestors)

Whenever something incredibly ancient and incredibly cool turns up, there’s always someone on hand to shout that it’s evidence of aliens. Awesome as it would be to know ET was hanging out here in 10,000 B.C. (or whenever), the truth is both much simpler and much more interesting. See, you don’t need aliens to explain away intricate ancient objects. We humans have been capable of creating incredible stuff since before there were even humans.

 The following objects are all man made in the sense that ‘a proto-human intelligence was responsible for their creation’. But not all of them came from the mind of homo sapiens. Instead, some come courtesy of our distant ancestors, the thinking apes who preceded us and helped us on our journey. Think the prehistoric world is dull? Think again.

10. Ice Age “Batons” (Approx. 28,000 years old)

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. Something along the lines of: “Gee, these ice age batons sure look like a certain part of the male anatomy.” So before we go any further, let us just categorically state that, yes, these batons do indeed look like a bunch of comedy-sized wangs. And there’s a good reason for that. Wanna guess what it is? That’s right, far from being immature, you’ve hit on what these probably were. You’re looking at an image of a stone age sex toy.

Known euphemistically as ‘batons’, these proto-Ann Summers toys have been found in a number of Ice Age sites, no doubt leading to many awkward conversations among archeologists. The oldest of all is from Germany, specifically a place known as Hohle Fels Cave. Now, pay attention, because you’re gonna be hearing that name again and again in this article. Hohle Fels contains one of our best-preserved collections of Ice Age artifacts anywhere in the world. In 2003, it also turned out to contain the oldest baton yet found. The one you see above dates from around 28,000-30,000 B.C.

Just think about that, for a second. This ancient – ahem – toy is older than Stonehenge, Machu Picchu and yo momma combined. Not that it was all dirty. According to those who found it, the tool was also used for “knapping flints” (whatever the heck that is).

9. Animal Figurines (30,000-40,000 years old)

Sometimes, the world just likes to drop something incredible in our laps, presumably just for the fun of watching us collectively freak out. The ancient figurines found at Hohle Fels (that place again) are one of those somethings. Among the oldest sculptures ever found, they depict miniture birds, horses’ heads, and half-animal humans in jaw-dropping detail. Did we mention the detail? When they were made public, in late 2003, archeology expert Dr Anthony Sinclair declared: “They are as good as anything you will see thousands of years later – from 3-4,000 BC.” Suck it, Ancient Greece.

But even these works of genius have nothing on the oldest figurine we’ve yet found. Discovered in the same cave of wonders as the figurines was the Venus of Hohle Fels. A tiny carving of a woman, the Venus may also be the earliest extant work of erotica. The carving has improbably large breasts, a big backside, and exaggerated genitals. She’s also a lot fatter than we’re guessing any Ice Age human ever was, unless there’s a prehistoric McDonalds waiting to be found in Hohle Fels somewhere. This suggests she may have been a fantasy, an example of Ice Age man’s longing for a well-stacked, fleshy woman. Nice to see some things never change.

8. Neanderthal Cave Art (40,800 years ago)

Yeah, Neanderthals aren’t human. Well, get used to it. We’re gonna be leaving homo sapiens for good in a little while to go gallivanting around the world of Homo erectus and all his extinct pals. But first, let’s just pause and take a breather, and admire the view of one of the oldest expressions of abstract art ever found. Discovered in a Spanish cave in 2012, this image dates back a staggering 40,800 years in time.

Imagine the incredible amount of time that exists between you and Julius Caesar or Jesus Christ. Now times that unimaginable distance by ten. Now double it, and then give up and throw the whole concept of picturing this away, because you’re never gonna be able to really grasp just how stupidly long ago this was. Back then, ‘popping out for a bite’ meant stepping outside and being swallowed by a sabretooth tiger. It was a world so unimaginably different from ours as to be… well, unimaginable. Yet the not-quite-humans who inhabited this space still felt moved to do something uniquely human. They created art, using the only things they had: their hands and some plant pigment. And we think that’s just swell.

7. Ancient Flutes (42,000 years old)

The Aurignacian culture is the coolest thing you’ve probably never heard of. A bunch of early humans who started doing their thing in the Upper Paleolithic era, the Aurignacians mark the point where art and music and specialized tools began to emerge. So, yeah, pretty much everything you take for granted today started here. At one point, scientists thought this period of intense change started no earlier than 40,000 years ago. Then someone stumbled across a 42,000 year old bone flute in yetanother German cave and the dates had to be revised upwards.

 If the thought of an ancient flute doesn’t send a chill down your spine, you may want to quickly double check and make sure you’re not in traction. These finds mean the earliest European humans were creating music from almost the moment they arrived on the continent. Just imagine. It’s dark. You’ve just come back from a long day’s woolly mammoth punching, or whatever the heck Stone Age man used to do. The only light in your cave is from the flickering of the fire. You sit around, staring into its shifting flames. And then, slowly, someone pulls out a flute and starts to play…

See what we mean? Magical. This is the dawn of human emotion we’re witnessing here, and we’ve still got well over a million years of history left to go.

6. Aterian Beads (110,000 years old)

Grotte des Pigeons is a cave in Eastern Morocco that for ages wanted nothing more than for people to forget it had such a stupid name. Then, sometime in the mid-20thCentury, some archeology guys came along and decided, hey, this looks like a pretty good spot to dig. So they dug and they dug and they dug until suddenly everyone was too busy exclaiming over all the crazy awesomeness in Grotte des Pigeons to concentrate on its stupid name. There were ashes and tools and carved rocks and all sorts of treasures. But the biggest treasure of all may have been the beads.

 Made of shells with perforated holes, some still with traces of red ochre on them, the beads were likely the earliest examples of jewelry we have. The researchers dated them to an impossibly-distant 110,000 years ago, a time when the wheel was a far-off dream, and the concept of agriculture was like witchcraft. Yet our ancestors were still making jewelry. Even in a world of unrelenting danger, bear attacks and lifespans of under 30 years, we still just wanted to look good. We can’t tell if that’s shameful or the coolest thing ever.

5. Bone Awls (200,000-400,000 years old)

OK, from here on in, the dates get vague and the periods of time involved become utterly incomprehensible. If you’re cool with that then stick with us, because this is also where we’re gonna find the coolest stuff. For this entry, that means bone awls. A feature of the Middle Stone Age (MSA), bone awls were little sharpened bits of bone, probably used for piercing holes in hide and making clothes. As such, they show our ancestors moving on from just wrapping themselves in the skin of a dead zebra to actually creating their own garments.

Like most of the stuff in the MSA, bone awls were likely invented in Africa and then taken to Europe along with the first early humans. Good job, too, as Europe back then was likely freezing. Honestly, we complain if we get stuck without heating for half a day during a mild winter. Imagine having to huddle round a fire in a cave for warmth AND design your own clothes using only sharpened bits of bone and the flesh of whatever you’d killed. There are residents of Jersey Shore who live more-fulfilling lives than that (kidding. No they don’t).

4. Projectile Points (200,000-400,000 years old)

This is where the MSA really hit its stride. Before early humans perfected projectile points, killing an animal meant charging at it with a kamikaze yell, waving an axe above your head and hoping it didn’t eat you (it frequently did). With the advent of sharpenedprojectile points, the equation changed dramatically. Now you didn’t have to get within eating-distance to kill your dinner. Humanity’s time at the top of the food chain had survived.

Stop and think about this for a second, about all the stuff we take for granted. Before projectile points were invented, the only time you got to eat a fast moving animal like a bird was when it dropped dead of kidney failure right in front of you. Suddenly having spears and arrows allowed humans to expand their diets. It allowed them to create small stockpiles of food and defend themselves from a distance. Some have even suggested formulating complicated hunting plans using these tools helped us develop modern human intelligence.

Of course, our ancestors did plenty of hunting before the invention of spears and arrows. But, still. Their coming was a gamechanger that reorganized our entire species.

3. Hand Axe (1.76m years old)

Long before the Aurignacian came along with their music and painting and liberal hippy art stuff, the hottest culture in human history was the Acheulian. Occurring sometime around 1.76 million years ago, this stone age revolution saw our ancestors discard the simplistic tools they’d been using up until then, and start crafting complex weapons unlike anything ever seen before. Stones with specially-sharpened ends that were wielded by hand, these ‘hand axes’ saw early humans able to easily kill other animals for the first time in history.

For a long time, scientists thought the Acheulian revolution started around 1.4 million years ago, the period a number of hand axes found in Ethiopia dated from. Then 2011 came along and turned all that on its head. That was the year that archeologists digging on the muddy banks of Lake Turkana in Kenya uncovered hand axes dating from 1.76 million years ago. That’s a difference of 360,000 years; equivalent to the distance in time between you reading this on your tablet and our ancestors’ creation of stone projectile points.

Those who created and used these hand axes, by the way, definitely weren’t human. They were probably Homo Erectus, the guys who decided walking on two legs was the way to go.

2. Oldowan Tools (Around 2.5m years ago)

Unlike the hand axes of the Acheulian revolution, no non-experts today would be able to recognize Oldowan Tools as even being tools. They were pebbles and rocks that had been crudely chipped to give one serrated edge, likely for cutting, chopping and scraping. We’re talking the absolute most basic of basic implements, here. This was the dawn of the Paleolithic era, the point in time when hominids realized you could get more done with implements than you could with your teeth. It sounds simple to us now, but back then no-one had ever even thought of it. How could they? They were little more than apes at this point.

Despite the mind-blowing chasms of time between us and the first Oldowan tools, they’ve been found all over the world. At least, all over the world as it would have been back then, which basically means ‘Africa’. At this point, Europe and Asia were as alien to these tool makers as planet Weezigg-Cloop is to you (we’re gonna discover it in about 4,000 years. It’s gonna be awesome).

Interestingly, some scholars think those using these tools may have been vegetarian, hence their being content with not developing better tools for like 700,000 years. Who needs an animal-killing hand axe when you don’t eat animals?

1. Contents of the Lake Turkana Toolbox (3.3m years old)

And then we have the Lake Turkana Toolbox.

To be clear, the Lake Turkana Toolbox shouldn’t exist. Digging it up and dating it to 3.3m years ago is like opening Tutankhamun’s Tomb to find a Boeing 747 inside. In fact, scratch that. The distance of time is so vast that it would be like opening Tutankhamun’s Tomb to find a Sci-fi device that won’t be invented for another 796,000 years. One that does stuff we in backward old 2017 can’t even imagine. 3.3m years ago is meant to be a time when no species existed that was capable of making tools. And yet, in 2015, scientists discovered that this was exactly what the apes hanging around Lake Turkanahad been doing.

 To be sure, they don’t look like tools. They look like sharp rocks. But, like the Oldowan Tools above, the point is that someone – or something – made them sharp. Whatever that pre-human creature was, it was starting Earth’s sentient species down a path that would eventually lead to hand axes, then projectile points, then beads, then art, then music, then sculpture… and so-on right the way up to the tablets and spacecraft and 3D printers of today. When you look at it like that, you gotta admit these dull old rocks are secretly kinda cool.

Ancient Tools and Toys

– Real Old

Charming Cartoons – WIF Family Entertainment

Leave a comment

Charming Cartoons

Cartoons to Charm You

YouTube is stuffed with “edgy” cartoons where the joke is that a famous character from pop culture is profane, sexualized, or some other “twist”. That’s fine, but it’s also good to have something that’s a different flavor for variety. Something to act as a little bit of sugar over a break, or to show the kids before their attention can wander.

10. Once Upon a Starfish

For the reader who’s still a little hesitant to open up to embracing adorable cartoons, we’ll start with one that’s got a little bit of an edge to it. This 2015 cartoon from Red Kite Studios manages a balance of being extremely sweet and precious but not being cloying by having the adorable character obliviously cause harm while trying to do good. It’s a great formula.

The story is that a girl, just after her birthday, sees a shooting star that looks like it’s fallen into the ocean. She goes down to the coast and sees a starfishhas just washed up. She comes to the only logical conclusion: the starfish is a fallen star that she has to return to the sky. When throwing it into the air doesn’t work, she tries tying a bunch of helium balloons to it. Fortunately those burst while the starfish is still fairly low to the ground. Then the girl notices another starfish wash ashore and then return to the waters, and realizes the fish’s proper place is back in the sea. It’s such a nice story that it more than makes up for the unpolished texture work and the rather odd way the starfish looks.

onceuponastarfish

9. Sapling

The graphics for this 2015 film by Kat Seale may look a little primitive to someone used to only seeing Pixar and Dreamworks films, but the character animation and heart in this video will never get dated. It’s especially impressive considering it was a student film for Bournemouth Arts University.

A young griffon in a world of miniscule flying islands is taking a bag of seeds to a particular patch of soil. The griffon spills the seeds and most of them fall into cracks between the bricks. One is still within reach, and the griffon plants that one in a pot in the middle of the island. It gets some water from a nearby fountain, but the bucket is not in good shape and leaks all the contents on the way over. When it tries again, this time it knows it has to rush, so it both ends up causing part of the fountain to collapse so that water starts leaking everywhere, and breaks the bucket before it can get a drop to the seed. Just as it’s about to lose heart, it notices that the water leaking from the fountain is draining into the cracks where most of the seeds fell and a beautiful grove of trees sprouts around the delighted griffon.

griffon

8. Hi Score

What Mary Elizabeth Whiting’s 2015 cartoon lacks in story logic and tension it more than makes up for in fun and energy. A girl is walking through the woods playing on her portable gaming device (it looks a lot like an old-fashioned gameboy) when she trips over a root and drops it. Somehow the gaming device touching a tree causes the tree to morph into something rendered more like an old-fashioned video game, and its now animated branches take the game away from her so that she has to go on a small adventure to retrieve it.

The camera angles and platforms are clearly meant to bring to mind a retro platformer game. When she reaches the end and has the option “Continue?” flashing on her video game screen, she looks past it to see how bright and fantastical the world beyond is. So she tosses the game over her shoulder and goes to seek an adventure beyond the small computer screen.

game

7. Of Mice and Moon

Some commenters found the voice acting in this film made for the Ringling College of Art and Design to be dodgy and unnecessary, but even with it David Brancato has created a wonderful animated video. A young mouse is drawing something when his father stops by and offers him a piece of cheese. The child says he wants cheese from the moon, showing that he was drawing him and his father riding in a rocket.

The father decides to indulge his son, and sets up an elaborate tableau (not easy considering he’s only a couple inches tall) involving building a toy rocket for them to ride in on a string pulley and putting a colander over a lightbulb to create a planetarium-style starfield. He and his son then land on a “moon” made of a wheel of cheese. A shot of the young mouse’s point of view of the cheese and stars is especially gorgeous.

miceandmoon

6. Stellar Moves: The Story of Pluto

Millivette Gonzalez, Tabia Lees and Valerie Sattazahn’s cartoon has maybe the weirdest premise ever conceived for a short film that still manages to be very endearing. Basically it’s set in a universe where the solar bodies like Jupiter and Neptune are somehow pop entertainers with a TV show, and they have bodies like Mike Sully from Monsters Inc., but it’s played as if this were the most natural premise in the world. It helps that it’s gorgeous and fast-paced.

Pluto and his friend are watching a talent show hosted by the Sun, which has a contest coming up with the prize being membership in a boy band called the Planets. At his friend’s urging after he becomes jealous of the crush she has on pretty boy Earth, he practices a dance routine for the show. During the show, he impresses the judges and wins, but since it means he’ll have to abandon his friend (and it turns out Earth is kind of a jerk in real life) he decides to turn the job down.

planets

5. Shark Tag

This toon from Moondog Studios is the shortest of all the films on this list. It also has the most manic energy of any of these which gives it an authentically childlike quality, for better or worse. A kid named Miles has a flying shark friend named Bob, and they’ve just been told it’s time to go to the seaquarium. Miles and Bob jump onto his bed and land in a fantasy ocean. They mess about with a variety of sea creatures such as a pair of crabs, an octopus, and a puffer fish that helps fire Miles out of a cannon.

Then we snap back to reality and see that in truth Miles brought his shark doll with him to the aquarium. We see him petting a real shark, and of course it’s completely disinterested in him as most animals would be. But the cartoon ends with a little wink from the Bob doll to remind us that there actually is magic in the world of this cartoon.

shark

4. Adorable Couple

One of the most common complaints about Disney’s Mickey Mouse is that he became kind of boring. He’s so nice that these days he’s just bland, lacking either Donald Duck’s fury or Goofy’s boneheaded personality. This recent short cartoon addresses that by taking the character’s decency so far that it becomes ludicrous, and contrasts it with Donald’s grumpiness.

One day Mickey and Minnie are going about the town on a date, singing about how wonderful everything is, particularly their relationship. Then they see Donald and Daisy Duck sulking on a bench and literally singing “bicker bicker” at each other. Mickey and Minnie nose their way into the situation and basically try to force Donald and Daisy to cheer up. Inevitably all the attempts backfire because of course the Ducks don’t want to be forced into anything. So Mickey and Minnie decide to try to and meet them halfway by arguing in front of the Ducks and even that doesn’t work because the Mouses can’t pretend to be angry with each other very well. They come to an understanding when the two couples start arguing, and the Mouses finally seem to get that some people just enjoy being grumpy over always being overtly pleasant to each other.

mickey

3. Day of the Dead

This 2013 short film by a group of students called Whoo Kazoo brings to mind the Guillermo del Toro-produced cartoon Book of Life but it actually came out a year earlier. A little girl in Mexico is out mourning at the grave of her mother or another adult woman in her life. Then a magical blue flower instantly blooms. It takes her into a dark void except for a spotlight beam that she’s standing in.

Skeletons enter the beam too, but it turns out that one of them is the same person she was mourning. She takes the girl on a tour of the afterlife, revealing that it’s actually more like a big fiesta than anything you should pity someone for being sent to. The girl wakes up back in our world at the end, still with the blue flower and her spirits are greatly brightened by knowing that she has nothing to fear in the afterlife.

skeleton

2.  On the Same Page

Although the opening shots of this 2015 Ringling College of Art & Design student film bring to mind the 2010 Disney short Paperman, it goes in a completely different direction. A nerdy male journalist type is working in the news section of a newspaper, which is portrayed as a city where different portions of a newspaper are different areas with corresponding attributes, such as the weather area having buildings that represent the weather forecast for different days of the week (it’s raining in the Monday building, bright and sunny in the Tuesday building, etc.).

A woman from the comic section tries to get his attention to cheer him up, and to see what she wants he opens his window and out blows his latest report, which is that there is no news to report. In the process of recovering it, he loosens up a bit, eventually realizing that his report is less important than appreciating the beauty of the newspaper world that he was too busy writing about to notice.

newspaper

1. Lily and the Snowman

Hornet Films is a very small company to be producing human characters on roughly the same level as Pixar and Dreamworks, but that’s precisely what this New York City studio did for this two minute 2015 film. A girl builds a snowman that comes to life in the light from her house. Using its very flexible stick hands, it projects shadow puppets on a fence well enough to captivate the girl until morning. Then it starts to melt. But instead of just letting it melt, the resourceful girl hides it in a barely used garage freezer to revisit it every year.

Every year, that is, until the distractions that come with growing up put the snowman out of mind. Decades later, Lily is at work one night when the light of a projector shines through a snow globe, bringing back to mind her frozen friend when she sees a silhouette on the wall. She goes to her old home, sees that the snowman is still in the freezer, and then has another shadow puppet show, this time sharing it with her own daughter. Some might get a sour taste in their mouth to learn that the movie is actually an ad for the Cineplex theater chain, but the skill with which it’s pulled off will make that the furthest thing from your mind while you watch it.

snowman


Charming Cartoons

– WIF Family Entertainment

Top Ten Toys of All Time

Leave a comment

Toys Top 10-001

Top 10 Hot Christmas Toys

from contributor Tanya Bennett

This list encompasses the top 10 hot Christmas toys of all time. When I say ‘hot,’ I mean the ones flying off the shelves, that every kid just HAS to have, the kind of toy that brings out the best in everyone. Kids (and some adults) spend their time feverishly begging and pleading for the item, while normally calm and level-headed people become hot-headed shopping maniacs.

I could have easily made a list of the top 50 hottest Christmas toys in history. It was hard to leave out the famous Spirograph, Star Wars, Slime and the Slinky, among others. I also came across some hot Christmas toys that I hadn’t heard of before, like the one million plastic bubble topped cars that sold in 1946 (made by Wannatoy).

In an effort to narrow the list down, I tried to focus on crazes that seem well, crazy, today or that have crazy stories related to their popularity. Toys got extra hot points if they were influential on the future of the toy industry (both developments and marketing).

Time to ride the crazy train through the last 60 years of Christmas toy history! Here is my top 10 list of hot Christmas toys of all time, placed in order of their release –

10. Mr. Potato Head

1952
1 million sold
Hasbro

The Christmas Story
Originally George Lerner’s idea for this famous toy spud seemed like it might be a dud. At first, no one seemed interested in his idea, but eventually a small family-run toy company called Hasbro began production. Mr. Potato Head became so popular that a Mrs. Potato Head was introduced the next year.

The Craziness
Mr. Potato Head was the very first toy advertisement on TV. Thank you Hasbro for starting the never-ending chorus of ‘Can I have that?! I want that!” that started in living rooms in 1952 and hasn’t died down to this day. I think Tylenol probably owes Mr. Potato Head a kickback for a jump in profits, particularly around Christmas.

In more recent news, a six foot tall 150 pound Mr. Potato Head statue went missing from the entrance of a private estate on Rhode Island in 2003. It showed up in a field a few days later. Sgt. James Quinn stated that Mr. Potato Head was “mashed a little bit” during the incident (boston.com). No one knows how what happened, but there is some speculation that Mr. Potato Head had relocated to the field in an effort to get back to his roots.

9. Pet Rock

1975
over 5 million sold in 6 months
Rock Bottom Productions

pet rock hot christmas toys

The Christmas Story
In his own words, Ad executive Larry Dahl “ hit on the idea while boozing with pals” (people.com). Next, he sent a press release out to “virtually every major media outlet” leading to articles in several local newspapers, Newsweek, and an appearance on The Tonight Show.

The fad peaked during the 1975 Christmas season and it is estimated that Dahl earned over 15 million dollars during the six months that Pet Rocks were popular.

The Craziness
Um, hellooooooooo – every day during the 1975 Christmas season 100,000 people were paying money for a pet rock. What is even more crazy? As I write this, Pet Rock USB buddies are sold out atthinkgeek.com and actual Pet Rocks are still selling on eBay for up to $15.00.

In other news, I’m sorry to report that you missed this year’s Pet Rock Festival. The festival is held in Worcester, Massachusetts and promotes kindness to all animals. Instead, you can sit down and listen to Teenage Fanclub’s song “Pet Rock” (Bandwagonesque, Spin’s Album of the Year, 1991) while you enjoy a glass of Pet Rock Wine.

8. PONG

1975
150,000 sold
Atari

The Christmas Story
“Pong was an adaptation of the company’s popular arcade game of the same name, and it became the most popular game of the 1975 holiday season, with sales of $40,000,000 for the year” (ideafinder.com).

The Craziness
When it comes to home video games, Pong really started the ball rolling. When you see it in action now, it’s hard to believe that a few lines on a TV screen could cause such a ruckus, but Pong was 1975’s version of a Wii. “People were waiting two hours in line to sign up on a list just to get an Atari home version of Pong” (atarimuseum.com).

Frank Black may have asked “Whatever Happened to Pong?” on his album Teenager of the Year, but Pong’s legacy lives on in science and the arts. There are over 119 works of fan fiction about Pong at fanction.com. Also crazy (as in so cool, it’s crazy) ScienceDaily.com reported that students “have adapted an open source game called ‘Pong’… enabl[ing] the player to move the bat using their eye.” This innovation “could allow people with severe physical disabilities to become ‘gamers’ for the first time.”

7. Atari

1979
1 million sold
Warner Communications

The Christmas Story
Atari again? Yes, Atari gets two spots on this list of hottest toys because their products were crazy popular during two Christmas seasons.

The Atari Video Computer System (VCS) originally came out in 1977, it came with one game (Combat) and about half a dozen other games were available. That year “was not a good time for video game systems as the market experienced a crash after it had been previously oversaturated with Pong clones” (consoledatabase.com). While the Atari VCS is considered the first successful console with interchangeable cartridges, its sales were disappointing during its first two years.

However, by 1979 there were 32 titles in their library, including the very first video game with an Easter Egg (Adventure) and the first game licensed from a movie franchise (Superman)… and the first generation of gamers had been born. That year the Atari CVS, renamed the Atari 2600, “was the bestselling Christmas present… and a million were sold that year”, while game cartridge sales were estimated at $100 million (wordiq.com).

The Craziness
Atari was the beginning of a new pastime (in some cases, passion). In fact, many of today’s gamers actually played games on the Atari 2600 since the average video game player in the U.S. today is 35 years old (itfacts.biz).

The cartridge format for games was used in many future systems until this was replaced with the CD format. The last system to use cartridges was Nintendo 64 (discontinued in 2001).

While I couldn’t find any evidence of Atari-related riots, there is a band called Atari Teenage Riot whose performances have allegedly incited violence, and even a riot with police in 1997. There is also a song called “Atari Baby” by Sigue Sigue Sputnick. Although I’m pretty sure it’s about the arcade version it’s such a good song, I’m mentioning it anyways.

6. Cabbage Patch Dolls

1983
almost 3 million sold
Coleco

The Christmas Story
According to cabbagepatchkids.com, the dolls “go on record as the most successful new doll introduction in the history of the toy industry”. In 2000, they were featured in a U.S. stamp series highlighting the 1980’s (as far as I can see, the only other modern toy to ever be featured on a stamp is the Slinky).

It all started when celebrities were spotted toting them around, even President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy had one. Then, “Coleco began aggressively pushing the Cabbage Patch dolls–it sent them directly to reporters, a relatively new technique” (time.com). Over 2 million dolls were “adopted” in the first six months. By December of 1983, Cabbage Patch Dolls were on the cover of Newsweek and they were in short supply and high demand.

The Craziness
The shopping frenzy surrounding the dolls is well documented (check out the video above). According to, awesome80s.com dolls were being delivered to stores by armored car and Coleco pulled the TV commercials in an attempt to tame the madness; one desperate and doting Kansas City dad even flew to London to get his daughter a doll. Check out awesome80s.com for more crazy stories from the Cabbage Patch, which also says the dolls are “the first instance of a fad toy causing the phenomena now known as Christmas Gift Buying Rage.”

I also had to include two of the Cabbage Patch urban myths listed at Snopes.com (there are several, so check out the site for more). First, did you know the dolls were designed to get the masses comfortable with the mutated appearance of survivors of a thermonuclear war? Also, there were reports that children wouldn’t get their dolls back from the factory if they sent them in for repairs- they would receive a death certificate instead.

The questionably cute dolls even spawned a dance called The Cabbage Patch, made famous when it became San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice’s end zone dance. There is also the Cabbage Patch biker bar of Daytona Beach, famous for it’s annual coleslaw wrestling event, but I’m pretty sure it is not named after the doll.

5. Game Boy

1991
over 1 million sold in the US during its first Christmas Season
Nintendo

The Christmas Story
A year after its release in Japan, the Game Boy came to the U.S.A. and conquered the Christmas shopping season. Contributing to its popularity: the Game Boy gave you 35 hours of play on one set of batteries, in contrast to its competitors at the time. Also, it came with Tetris- a game that appealed to all ages.

“Game Boy and Game Boy Color’s combined lifetime sales reached 118.7 million worldwide” (businessweek.com). Game Boy is “the longest running dynasty in the video game business” according to arstechnica.com.

The Craziness
The Game Boy console’s design is instantly recognizable and has become a pop culture icon. There are Game Boy condoms, wallets, handmade dresses, fully-functional Halloween costumes, and tattoos. Artists like NullSleep use the Game Boy to create music and Game Boys have been repurposed into external hard drives, while the game cartridges have been turned into USB drives.

4. Tickle Me Elmo

1996
10 million and counting
Tyco

The Christmas Story
It’s a case of Christmas in July, or at least that’s when this Christmas story begins. Rosie O’Donnell introduces Tickle Me Elmo to her viewers (mostly moms) and 200 Elmos are given out to her studio audience. By some accounts, Tyco had already sold 400,000 Tickle Me Elmos before he made his appearance on the Rosie O’Donnell show; by other accounts Tyco was not expecting the rather expensive doll to do well, and it was a slow seller. Similar to the Cabbage Patch craze, the low supply of dolls made it even more desirable, so that “in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Tickle Me Elmo dolls were in such scarce supply that ads cropped up in newspapers asking for as much as $2000 per doll” (media-awareness.ca).

The Craziness
One department store employee describes what happened to him on December 14, 1996:

“I was pulled under, trampled—the crotch was yanked out of my brand-new jeans…” says Waller, who suffered a pulled hamstring, injuries to his back, jaw and knee, a broken rib and a concussion. “I was kicked with a white Adidas before I became unconscious.” (Jan 13 1997, Just Tickled, people.com)

Other Tickle Me Elmo trauma can be found at customerssuck.com. You can buy the original dolls online for less than $20.00 U.S.

3. Furby

1998
1.8 million sold
Tiger Electronics

The Christmas Story
Like most of the other toys appearing later on this list, the Furby was introduced at the Toy Industry Association’s annual Toy Fair. This introduction of the Furby took place in February, months before it’s planned release in October. Premature media coverage caught the attention of toy stores and Tiger had sold all of them before the factory had even started production. Parents were just as intrigued, because the toys sold out at the stores immediately.

Over 14 million Furbies sold in 1999, but the Christmas of 1998 was the height of the Furby fervor because of it’s lack of availability. Furbies were re-selling for hundreds of dollars (their original ticket price was $35 U.S.). For the first time in toy history, parents turned to the Internet to satisfy their Christmas toy cravings. To put this into context, eBay was only 4 years old in 1998 and only 26.2 percent of U.S. households had internet access. One eBay seller made at least $2600 selling Furbies to 33 Buyers. Unfortunately, most of them were buying Furbies of the imaginary variety because the eBay Seller was a scammer cashing in on the Furby frenzy (‘Burned eBay Furby Buyers Get Payback’, Jan 22 2009, news.cnet.com).

The Craziness
“Sometimes the hot toy is not such a good toy,” said one toy expert during the Furby craze (time.com). Apparently, the Furby was not only annoying – it also creeped quite a few kids (and adults) out. Only a few weeks ago my nieces (now in their 20’s) were describing how scary their Furby was to have in their rooms because it would suddenly start talking. A visit to a forum at tamatalk.com is full of similar stories of Furby owners who make their Furbies face the wall at night so their scary face isn’t visible, of Furbies that call out in the middle of the night, and family dogs who won’t go near them.

The main character of Bret Easton Ellis’ 2005 book Lunar Park is tormented by his step-daughter’s Terby toy – not just similar in name, the doll has a beak, is furry, and ‘comes to life’ (although in Ellis’ case the Terby flits around and, from what I can recall, tries to kill him).

The Pet Rock was (hopefully) obviously just a rock, so was not likely to be disappointing; the Cabbage Patch Kid was actually a popular and enduring toy (personally, I don’t understand it, but perhaps that’s just the bitter, doll-less little girl in me speaking); but the Furby just… sucked?

Not every agrees, because adoptafurby.com seems to be completely sold out of Furbies. They believe in “giving every Furby a chance at a new life, regardless of their past” and 851 Furbies have already been adopted through their site.

Furbies also enjoy new lives at the hands of hackers and circuit benders. Well, perhaps enjoy isn’t the right word… Hacking involves “getting sliced open, their guts torn out, and their insides replaced with odds and ends you can find at the local hobby store” (hackfurby.com). Circuit bending, “an electronic art which implements creative audio short-circuiting,” sounds friendlier but involves a similar operation (anti-theory.com).

Possibly more disturbing than hacking a Furby apart, the Adult Lovers of Furbys group (ALOF) on Yahoo had 18 new messages and 18 new photos posted just this week…

2. Playstation 3

2006
Sales Unavailable
Sony

The Christmas Story
The PS3 had several features that set it apart. It’s ‘unified online gaming service’ encouraged online play, it had functionality for multimedia storage and play (photos, music and movies) and it primarily used Blu-Ray disks for storage.

The Play Station 3 was unveiled at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo (May) and shown again at the Tokyo Game Show (September) but there wasn’t an operating version of the game system to demonstrate at either of these shows. The international release date was originally set for November, but the PAL version (Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Western Europe) was delayed until Spring 2007). Over 81,000 PS3’s sold within the first 24 hours of the Japan release.

The Craziness
All of these factors contributed to a tense environment surrounding the U.S. release. PS3’s pre-sold for thousands of dollars online and, more than ever, people were camping outside stores. The long build up of anticipation resulted in numerous reports of gun violence in the news (armed robbery, shootings, drive-bys) and brawls (in one case, 60 shoppers were involved).

Don’t forget the story of the customer who “treated people ahead of him in line to coffee spiked with laxatives” when he found out there wasn’t enough PS 3’s to go around. Talk about playing dirty(Esquire).

1. Zhu Zhu Pets

2009
10 million
Cepia

The Christmas Story
Russell Hornsby, the man who came up with the idea for theserobotic hamsters, was inspired by the popularity of hamster footage on YouTube. The toy was tested out at  a few stores in Arizona and sold out in a few weeks. “Following in the footsteps of must-haves of seasons past — the Furby, Tickle-me Elmo, Cabbage Patch dolls, Beanie Babies — supply seems to grow short just when demand is high, and Zhu Zhu Pets are flying off store shelves” (abcnews). Another reason for its success: you could buy a hamster for under $10. Also, “Unlike actual hamsters, they don’t bite, they don’t smell, and they don’t poop” (pennlive.com).

Yes, they’re cute – but are they really robots? Terese Polletti at Market Watch argues that they are not and quotes Jimmy Kimmel, who described Zhu Zhu’s as “Matchbox cars with hair on them.”

Yet, they seem to have appeared at the right place at the right time: created by a small St. Louis toy company (but manufactured in China) and selling for a reasonable ticket price. Finally, a genuinely cute and fun toy, whose popularity hasn’t been spurred on by an innovative or expensive marketing campaign or celebrity endorsements.

The Craziness
Yet, by the end of November Zhu Zhu pets were selling for $250 on eBay and several Target employees were fired for purchasing Zhu Zhu pets earlier than the company policy allowed (consumerist.com). ‘Tis the Season! Now stop reading, it’s time to rush down to the store and wrestle some other desperate shopper for this year’s toy!


 

Top Ten Toys

of All Tme