Hungry Hippos (or Hungry Hippos in some UK editions) is a tabletop
game made for 24 players, produced by Hasbro, under the brand
of its subsidiary, Milton Bradley. The idea for the game was
published in 1967 by toy inventor Fred Kroll and it was introduced in
1978. As a boy, Kroll knew he wanted to be in the toy business. His
father manufactured cardboard games that Kroll would peddle in and
around New York City. After a stint in the U.S. Army during World War
II, Kroll went to work as a salesman for the Pressman Toy
Corporation. He later discovered Hungry Hungry Hippos in Japan. Kroll
(who is also known for creating the game Trouble) licensed the
international rights to the game from the Agatsuma company in Tokyo.
After selling those rights to Hasbro, Kroll, who died in 2003,
maintained that the games royalties were enough to live on.
The objective of the game is for each
player to collect as many marbles as possible with their 'hippo' (a
toy hippo model). The game is marketed under the "Elefun and
Friends" banner, along with Elefun, Mouse Trap and Gator Golf.
The game has been referenced in The Simpsons, Mystery Science Theater
3000, the 2010 Disney/Pixar movie Toy Story 3, the 2017 movie My
Little Pony: The Movie, the 2001 cult film Donnie Darko, and the 2020
Netflix series Space Force. There is also a battle level based on the
game in the 2016 Micro Machines game. The game board is surrounded by
four mechanical, colorful, plastic hippopotamuses operated by levers
on their backs.
When the lever is pressed, the hippo opens
its mouth and extends its head forwards on a telescopic neck. When
the lever is released, the head comes down and retracts. Colored
plastic marbles are dispensed into the board by each player, and the
players repeatedly press the lever on their hippo in order to have it
"eat" the marbles, which travel down from under the hippo
into a small scoring area for each player. Once all marbles have been
captured, the player who has collected the most is the winner.
There were four hippopotamuses in the
original version of the game: Lizzie Hippo (purple), Henry Hippo
(orange), Homer Hippo (green), and Harry Hippo (yellow). A later
edition of the game replaces the purple hippo, Lizzie, with a pink
one named Happy. Although this passage states there was a purple
Hippo named Lizzie, games that are stamped with a 1978 copyright have
a Pink Hippo named Happy. In some versions of Hungry Hungry Hippos,
Henry is replaced by a blue hippo of the same name. The fall 2009
North American edition of the game has a lighter blue base with
pastel-colored versions of the Hippos: Sweetie Potamus (pink),
Bottomless Potamus (yellow), Veggie Potamus (green), and Picky
Potamus (orange). The 2012 re-release has a slightly darker blue base
and goes back to regular-colored versions of the Hippos: Sweetie
Potamus (blue), Bottomless Potamus (yellow), Veggie Potamus (green),
and Hungry Hippo (orange).
In 1991, ICE (Innovative Concepts in
Entertainment) created a redemption arcade version of the game, a
supersized resemblance of the board game version. The amount of
marbles consumed was displayed at the top of the dome for each
player. The more marbles a hippo consumed, the more tickets that
hippo's player received.
The previous year, Sinclair User published
a game called "Piggy Punks", written by Hellenic Software
for the ZX Spectrum, which was inspired by the board game. The game
showed an overhead view of a board with four pigs, each controlled by
a separate player, in place of the four hippos.
In 2012, film studio Emmett/Furla Films
announced that they were working on an animated film adaptation of
Hungry Hungry Hippos, along with Monopoly and Action Man. The movie's
plot and other details were being kept secret (for obvious reasons).
Production was originally scheduled to start in early 2016.
Rogue Judges, a volunteer judging group at
Gen Con, ran a "1st Annual Hungry Hungry Hippos World
Championship" in August of 2015 and have continued to hold one
every year since at the Indiana Convention Center, with players aged
6 and over allowed to compete. In 2016, more than 100 players vied
for the title of hungriest hippo. The winner received a hippo mounted
on a plaque. A Hungry Hungry Hippos Tournament was also hosted at
Smash the Record 2017.
In 2018, Manchester United
soccer player Axel Tuanzebe set the Guinness World Record for the
fastest game of Hungry Hungry Hippos ever completed. Tuanzebe gobbled
up all 20 marbles in an official time of 17.37 seconds.
Hasbro is a syllabic abbreviation of its
original name, Hassenfeld Brothers, an American multinational
conglomerate with toy, board game, and media assets, headquartered in
Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Hasbro owns the trademarks and products of
Kenner, Parker Brothers, and Milton Bradley, among others. Among its
products are Transformers, G.I. Joe, Power Rangers, Rom, Micronauts,
M.A.S.K., Monopoly, Furby, Nerf, Twister, and My Little Pony.
Polish-Jewish brothers, Herman, Hillel, and Henry Hassenfeld founded
Hassenfeld Brothers in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1923, a company
selling textile remnants. Over the next two decades, the company
expanded to produce pencil cases and school supplies. In 1926,
Hassenfeld Brothers was incorporated; Hillel left for another textile
business while Henry took charge of the corporation. They began
making their own pencils when their pencil supplier began making
pencil cases as well.
Hassenfeld Brothers produced modeling clay
and then doctor and nurse kits as their first toys, and they became
primarily a toy company by 1942. Hillel died in 1943 and Henry
Hassenfeld became CEO, while his son Merrill became president. The
company entered the plastic fields during World War II to support its
toy line. Hassenfeld Brothers' first toy hit was Mr. Potato Head,
which the company purchased from George Lerner in 1952. The original
Mr. Potato Head was merely a handful of plastic pieces that were
meant to be stuck inside a real potato, but government regulations
ended that. In 1954, the company became a Disney major licensee.
1960, Henry died and Merrill took over the parent company, and his
older brother Harold ran the pencil-making business of Empire Pencil.
Hassenfeld Brothers expanded to Canada with Hassenfeld Brothers
(Canada) Ltd. in 1961. The company was approached in 1963 to license
a toy based on The Lieutenant, which they turned down because they
did not want to be tied to a possibly short-lived television series.
Instead, Hassenfeld Brothers produced the G.I. Joe toy in 1964 which
they termed an "action figure" in order to market it to
boys who wouldn't want to play with dolls. In 1964 and 1965, G.I. Joe
accounted for two-thirds of Hassenfeld's sales.
G.I. Joe, one of the most popular toys of
all time, was often credited to two creators: Stanley Weston, an Army
veteran and licensing agent who pitched the concept to Donald Levine,
Hasbros chief of research and development who shepherded it to
production by Christmas 1964. The original price was $4 a figure.
The company had previously sold toys under
the Hasbro trade name, and it shortened its name to Hasbro Industries
in 1968 and sold a minor stake in the corporation to the public. The
unpopular Vietnam War was at its height in 1969, so Hasbro redesigned
GI Joe to be less militaristic and more adventure oriented. Its
promotional efforts included the catchphrase "Boy Oh Boy! It's A
Hasbro Toy!" in television commercials and print ads. Also in
1969, Hasbro bought Burt Claster Enterprises which produced
"Romper Room" and had just begun a Romper Room toy line. In
1970, Hasbro began a plan of diversification and opened the Romper
Room Nursery School franchise chain to cash in on President Richard
M. Nixon's Family Assistance Plan which subsidized day care for
working mothers. By 1975, the company had ended the nursery chain.
Hasbro also entered the cookware field with the Galloping Gourmet
line based on a television cooking show.
new 1970s toys were public relations disasters. One of the toys was
named Javelin Darts which were similar to the ancient Roman plumbata
(what could possibly go wrong?). On December 19th, 1988, the Consumer
Product Safety Commission banned lawn darts from sale in the United
States due to their hazards as a flying projectile with a sharp metal
point causing multiple deaths.
The other toy was named The Hypo-Squirt, a
hypodermic needle-shaped water gun tagged by the press as a
"junior junkie" kit. Both were recalled. Romper Room and
its toy line had continued success, although Action for Children's
Television citizens group considered the program to be an advertising
channel for toys.
Merrill Hassenfeld took over as CEO in
1974, and his son Stephen D. Hassenfeld became president. The company
became profitable once again but had mixed results due to cash flow
problems from increasing the number of toys in the line to offset
G.I. Joe's declining sales. Hasbro ended the G.I. Joe line in 1975
because of the rising prices of plastic and crude oil. In 1977,
Hasbro's losses were $2.5 million, and the company held a large debt
load. That same year, Hasbro acquired licensing rights to Peanuts
cartoon characters. With the financial situation poor, Hasbro's
bankers made the company temporarily stop dividend payments in early
1979. The toy division's losses increased Harold Hassenfeld's
resentment regarding the company's treatment of the Empire Pencil
subsidiary as Empire received lower levels of capital spending
relative to profits than did the toy division.
Merrill's death in 1979, Harold did not recognize Stephen's
authority as the successor to the chairman and CEO position. As a
solution, Hasbro spun off Empire Pencil in 1980, which was the
nation's largest pencil maker, with Harold trading his Hasbro shares
for those of Empire. Stephen then became both the CEO and chairman of
the board. Between 1978 and 1981, Stephen reduced the Hasbro product
line by one-third and its new products by one-half. Hasbro focused on
simple, low cost, longer life-cycle toys like Mr. Potato Head. Hasbro
thus stayed out of the electronic games field which went bust in the
In 1982, Hasbro revived its G.I. Joe line
with the help of Marvel Comics, as an anti-terrorist commando based
on current events. The company launched the successful Transformers
toy line along with a children's animated TV series two years later.
With the toys and TV series being popular, Stephen Hassenfeld posed
with the toys for a People magazine cover photo.
1982, Hasbro produced the successful toy franchise My Little Pony.
In 1983, they purchased GLENCO, a manufacturer of infant products and
the world's largest bib producer, and Knickerbocker Toy Company, a
struggling Warner Communications subsidiary. In 1984, Alan G.
Hassenfeld took over as president from his brother Stephen, who
continued as CEO and chairman. That same year, the company was the
nation's sixth best-selling toymaker, and then acquired the Milton
Bradley Company, which was the nation's fifth best-selling toymaker.
This brought The Game of Life, Twister, Easy Money, and Playskool
into the Hasbro fold and transformed Hasbro into Hasbro Bradley.
Stephen Hassenfeld became the merged company's president and CEO,
with Milton Bradley chief James Shea Jr. taking the chairman
position. However, the executives clashed and Shea left after a few
months, and Stephen and Alan returned to their previous positions.
In 1985, the company changed its name
again to just Hasbro, Inc. The Jumpstarters toys were the subject of
a lawsuit in 1985 when Hasbro sued a toy manufacturer for selling
toys based on their Transformers design. Hasbro won the suit. By the
mid-1980s, Hasbro moved past Mattel to become the world's largest toy
company. Hasbro then moved to outsell Mattel's Barbie in the fashion
doll market with the 1986 introduction of Jem, a record producer/rock
musician dual identity fashion doll. Jem initially posted strong
sales but plummeted and was withdrawn from the market in 1987. Hasbro
followed up in 1988 with Maxie, a Barbie-sized blonde doll, so that
Barbie clothing and accessories would fit. Maxie lasted until 1990.
Under Alan Hassenfeld's initiative in the
late 1980s, Hasbro moved to increase international sales by taking
toys overseas that had failed in the US market and selling them for
as much as four times the original price. This increased
international sales from $268 million in 1985 to $433 million in 1988.
In 1988, Hasbro purchased part of Coleco
Industries' and in 1989, acquired bankrupt Coleco for $85 million.
Stephen Hassenfeld died later that year with the company having gone
from sales of $104 million in the year he took control to 1989 sales
of over $1.4 billion.
Hassenfeld succeeded Stephen as chairman and CEO, and continued to
grow purchasing Tonka Corp. in 1991 for $486 million, along with its
units Parker Brothers, the maker of Monopoly, and Kenner Products.
Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers were merged into one division.
Hasbro expand overseas with new units in Greece, Hungary, Mexico and Japan.
In the US, Hasbro's growth since 1980 were
from acquisitions and the leveraging of the new assets. New product
development was not as successful except for movie and TV tie-in
product lines with Jurassic Park and Barney. Thus, US sales were
stagnant in the early 1990s, falling from 1993 to 1995. To turn
domestic performance around in 1994, Hasbro merged the Hasbro Toy,
Playskool, Playskool Baby, Kenner, and Kid Dimension units into the
Hasbro Toy Group. Meanwhile, Mattel purchased Fisher-Price and retook
the top spot in the toy industry.
Hasbro Interactive was started in 1995 and
released the Monopoly game on CD-ROM. Mattel also proposed a merger
that year, but was turned down by the Hasbro board in 1996 due to
antitrust issues and Justice Department investigation into
exclusionary policies between toy manufacturers and toy retailers.
In 1998, Hasbro bought Avalon Hill for $6
million and Galoob for $220 million. In 1999 Wizards of the Coast was
bought in a deal worth $325 million. In 2001 money-losing Hasbro
Interactive was sold to Infogrames, a French software concern, for
$100 million. Hasbro entered the building block toy market with its
Built to Rule line in 2003, which did not hold together well or were
too hard for the targeted age group. The line ended in 2005.
2008, Hasbro acquired game maker Cranium, Inc. for $77.5 million,
and Brian Goldner was named CEO. Goldner became the first person not
from the founding Hassenfeld family to hold the position. Goldner
served as executive producer on the successful 2007 Transformers film
adaptation, which was credited for broadening Hasbro into a
character-based multimedia company. He continued this role on the
2009 films Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise
In 2009, Hasbro Studios was formed for TV
development, production and distribution. Hasbro collaborated with
Discovery on The Hub, a cable network targeting young children and
families, which launched on October 10th, 2010. The venture found
unexpected success with the television revival of the My Little Pony
franchise, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which became the
network's highest-rated program and attracted a significant cult
following among teens and adults. The Hub Network was rebranded as
Discovery Family on October 13th, 2014.
In 2011, Greenpeace accused Hasbro of
purchasing paper for its packaging from ancient forests in Indonesia.
Hasbro changed its paper purchasing policy, earning the company
praise from Greenpeace executive director Phil Radford, who said:
"The new Hasbro policy will also increase the recycled and
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper in its toy
packaging. Hasbro's new commitments are great news for Indonesian
rainforests and the people and wildlife that depend on them."
been absent from the building block market since the failure of the
Built to Rule line, Hasbro re-entered the market with the Kre-O line
in late 2011, starting with some Transformers-based sets.
As a corporation Hasbro continued to grow.
In 2014 they tried and failed to buy DreamWorks Animation. In
September 2014, Disney announced that Hasbro would be the doll
licensee for the Disney Princess line formally held by Mattel. In
2017, Hasbro made a takeover offer for rival Mattel. Mattel rejected
the offer. In 2018, Hasbro came close to buying the Lionsgate film
company. They were more successful with Saban Brands, purchasing the
Power Rangers and other entertainment assets for US$522 million in
cash and stock. The sale, which also included My Pet Monster,
Popples, Julius Jr., Luna Petunia, Treehouse Detectives and
2018 saw Hasbro sign a number of licensing
agreements for hospitality deals based on Hasbro brands including a
Monopoly themed hotel and NERF family entertainment centers.
THE BATTLE FOR THE
In 2012 Mattel's Barbie sales began to
slip and they began paying more attention to Barbie and less on their
Disney Princess line. In 2013 the Mattel Toy Company launched the
fair and fantasy store-based Ever After High line. It was a line of
princess dolls unrelated to the Disney Princess dolls they were also
making at the time, and Disney wasn't happy with this move. Feeling
negelected by Mattel, with these competing princess doll lines and an
expiration of the brand license at the end of 2015, Disney gave
Hasbro a chance to gain the license given their work on Star Wars,
which led to a Descendants license. Disney Consumer Products also
made an attempt to evolve the brand from "damsels" to
"heroines." Their shared vision will have each Princess
seem more like an individual character, with slightly different
heights and waist sizes and features modelled on their animated
versions, rather than identical Barbie-ish figurine with painted-on
faces and different color dresses. In September 2014, Disney
announced Hasbro would be the licensed doll maker for the Disney
Princess line starting on January 1st, 2016.
IT'S NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES
has also been criticized for focusing some of its products on
specific demographic groups. Guess Who? had received complaints over
gender and ethnic bias in its choice of 24 images. A petition was
started calling on the company to create a "boy-friendly"
version of the popular Easy-Bake Oven and to feature boys on their
packaging and materials. Hasbro was criticized for "sexist"
product design when its 2015 Star Wars Monopoly board game failed to
feature Rey, the female protagonist in Star Wars: The Force Awakens,
while including all of the supporting male characters. Hasbro
explained that Rey was left out of the Monopoly game to avoid
spoilers, because the game was released months before the movies. On
January 5th, 2016, Hasbro announced that Rey would be included in
future versions. Hasbro later stated that it struggled to distribute
the updated Monopoly game that includes the Rey piece, because
retailers (especially in the United States) showed "insufficient
interest" after having already purchased stock of the first release.
This wasn't the only Rey related pop
culture controversy, Rey's lack of representation in Force Awakens
merchandise was the subject of an ever-growing hashtag campaign
called #WheresRey. It first took hold a month before The Force
Awakens opened, when the Star Wars fan site Legion of Leia noticed a
box set of action figures on sale at Target that included just about
everyone but Rey. Gwendoline Christie's super-Stormtrooper character,
Captain Phasma, was also absent from the box set. This same kind
exclusion also happened with Target's box set for Star Wars Rebels,
an animated Lucasfilm show that stars two integral female characters;
the box set omitted them in favor of a Stormtrooper and a clone
Hasbro has courted this kind of
controversy before, with tie-in merchandise for the Avengers films as
well as Guardians of the Galaxy. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and
Zoe Saldana's Gamora were also not part of the movies' respective
action figure box sets for Target, causing fan outrage. Hasbro made a
toy set to let kids mimic an Avengers: Age of Ultron scene in which
Black Widow dropped out of an aircraft while riding a motorcycle, but
for some reason replaced her with Captain America.
of Hasbro box sets, Marvel has often come under fire for excluding
female characters. In 2014, Gamora was left off boys' T-shirts, as
though she's not an integral Guardian of the Galaxy. A thorough and
thoroughly depressing Tumblr called "But Not Black Widow"
collects instances of merchandise that features Avengers heroes yet
excludes its sole heroine.
It's a problem that only got worse with
the 2015 release of Age of Ultron, when the outrage not only
resurfaced but also expanded to include Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlett
Witch, who was similarly absent. Clark Gregg, who played Agent
Coulson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and on the TV series Agents
of S.H.I.E.L.D., tweeted support for a "Where's Natasha?"
campaign. Even Mark Ruffalo, the Hulk himself, protested the absence
of Black Widow on behalf of his daughters.
In early August 2020, Hasbro produced a
DreamWorks Animation 12-inch Troll doll aimed at children 4 years and
older that "giggled 3 different ways when tickled." It
sings a version of the song "Trolls Just Want to Have Fun"
from the movie "Trolls World Tour." The doll can also say
"How about a hug?" and "Um, cupcake!"
Unfortunately the dolls sound activator was placed near it's
"naught bits" and the internet got upset. Especially one
person on the internet who imagined the Troll "giggles"
were sexual in nature and posted such on Facebook (because that's
what we do now). The poster put on her foil hat and cried conspiracy,
questioning whether the intent was to groom children for depravity.
Needless to say Hasbro said the placement of the activator was not
intentional and the company removed the device from the marketplace.
Score one point for the internet mob. Of course all this fuss may
make that doll very collectable in the future so, thanks internet mob.