Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 14 News List

Toy soldiers, Rubik’s Cube, bubbles enter hall of fame

By Carolyn Thompson  /  AP, ROCHESTER, New YorK

A girl selling bubble toys blows bubbles to attract buyers in Mumbai, India, on Sept. 28, 2009.

Photo: Reuters

The small, green plastic soldiers that have been popular for generations were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame on Thursday, along with the 1980s stumper Rubik’s Cube and bubbles.

The trio of toys takes its place alongside other classics, such as Barbie, GI Joe, Scrabble and the hula hoop, after beating out nine other finalists, including Fisher-Price Little People, American Girl dolls and My Little Pony.

The unbendable, monotone army men have been around since 1938, with ups and downs along the way. Their popularity waned during the Vietnam War, but they became big-screen stars with the 1995 Pixar movie Toy Story and several manufacturers continue to produce millions of them every year.

The army men were finalists two other years before making the cut this time around, offering hope to this year’s also-rans, which also included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Slip ’N Slide, the skill game Operation, paper airplanes, pots and pans, and the toy trucks sold annually since 1964 by the Hess gas station chain.

The brain-teasing Rubik’s Cube was invented by Hungarian architect Erno Rubik in the 1970s, but took off in the US in 1980 after being imported by Ideal Toy Corp.

More than 100 million of the six-color cubes were sold between 1980 and 1982, dividing an obsessively twisting populace between those who could solve it and those who could not.

The cubes, with nine colored squares on each side, can be arranged 43 quintillion ways, according to the Toy Hall of Fame, and have inspired organized competitions in more than 50 countries, along with contests to solve it blindfolded, one-handed and under water.

Mats Valk of the Netherlands holds the speed record for realigning the colors in 5.55 seconds.

Children have played with soap bubbles since at least the 17th century, according to the toy organization, when paintings depicting kids blowing bubbles appeared in what is now modern-day Belgium. More than 200 million bottles of bubble liquid are sold annually.

Bubbles got the nod as a toy of the imagination, spokesman Shane Rhinewald said, listing it alongside similar previous inductees including the stick and blanket.

A national selection committee made up of 24 experts, including toy collectors, designers and psychologists, vote the winners into the hall each year.

Anyone can nominate a toy, but to make it through the preliminary selection process and become a finalist a toy must have achieved icon status, survived through generations, foster learning, creativity or discovery and have profoundly changed play or toy design.

The hall of fame is located inside the National Museum of Play, part of The Strong museum in Rochester, New York.

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