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- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

VIEW-MASTER

View-Master is the trademark name of a line of special-format stereoscopes and corresponding View-Master "reels", which are thin cardboard disks containing seven stereoscopic 3-D pairs of small transparent color photographs on film. It was originally manufactured and sold by Sawyer's.

The View-Master system was introduced in 1939, four years after the advent of Kodachrome color film made the use of small high-quality photographic color images practical. Tourist attraction and travel views predominated in View-Master's early lists of reels, most of which were meant to be interesting to users of all ages. Most current View-Master reels are intended for children.

A View-Master reel holds 14 film transparencies in seven pairs, making up the seven stereoscopic images. The components of each pair are viewed simultaneously, one by each eye, thus simulating binocular depth perception.

There have been some 25 viewer models, thousands of titles, and 1.5 billion copies of reels. Despite its long history and many changes in models and materials, the basic design of the viewer remained intact for reels and internal mechanisms, ensuring that every reel will work in every model.

View-Master is part of the National Toy Hall of Fame of the United States.

Edwin Eugene Mayer (right) worked as a pharmacist at Owl Drug store in downtown Portland, Oregon, after serving in the U.S. Army in World War I. He built up a photo-finishing business there, and bought into Sawyer's Photo Finishing Service in 1919 with the help of his father August Mayer (borrowed $3,500), his fiancee Eva McAnulty ($1,600 from an insurance policy she got from her later father), and her sister Vi McAnulty ($1,600 borrowed). The borrowed money was paid back within a few years.

As the business grew, Ed Mayer incorporated in about 1926, taking on partners Harold and Beulth F. Graves, Thomas and Pauline Meyer, and Augusta and Raymond F. Kelly, renaming the business Sawyer Service, Inc. The company relocated to a large two-story building at 181 Ella St., near Morrison Street in Portland, Oregon.

The company was producing photographic postcards and album sets as souvenirs by 1926, when Harold Graves joined Sawyer's. Graves handled marketing for the products while Mayer ran the business. Later, photographic greeting cards were added to the Sawyer's product line, marketed to major department stores. Sawyer's was the nation's largest producer of scenic postcards in the 1920s and the future View-Master viewer eventually became an extension of the two-dimensional cards.

Stereoscopic photography was not new and was very popular as far back as the late 1800s where people would take two nearly identical photographs of the same subject using a dual lens stereo camera (above) in which the lenses were roughly the same distance apart as the eyes on a human face. By capturing the same image twice at slightly different angles, a 3D effect could be achieved by looking at the two images using a stereoscopic viewer such as the one to the left. Of course, these early stereo viewers could only display a single image at the time, but the concept was very popular. Mayer had developed a device for viewing stereo images, but the View-Master as we know it came to be when Mayer and Graves met with William Gruber, an organ maker of German origin trained by Welte & Sons and an avid photographer living in Portland.

William (Wilhelm) Gruber was born in Munich, Germany in 1903, the youngest of three boys. The Gruber family was involved in the blacksmith business. An average middle-class family they were not considered wealthy, but young Wilhelm was lucky enough to get piano lessons and to have a camera.

Gruber’s family expected him to follow in his father’s trade as a blacksmith but his interests lay elsewhere.

At age 10 he became interested in photography and won several photo contests in Germany. He thought he would like to become a photographer and, at age 13, he started working for a photography studio but didn't like being in the darkroom all of the time. He worked on typewriters for a while and then found a job with a Piano builder and became a piano tuner.

As he grew older and perfected his trade, he came to know various people in and around Munich including a retired American colonel who had retired to Germany after World War I. Colonel Kunderatt, had a Welty player piano that had become one of Gruber's specialties. Impressed with his his ability to repair these complex instruments, the colonel arranged for William to get a job in Los Angeles and immigrate to America.

Food shortages and inflation plagued Germany after WWI. Gruber joined the National Socialist party, as many others did at the time, because he believed that Hitler would fix Germany’s problems.

In 1924, at the age 21, he arrived in New York, several men came to Ellis Island selling the new emigrants railroad tickets to other destinations throughout the country. Gruber bought a ticket to Los Angeles, only to find out later that the ticket was fake. He had just enough money to get to Portland, Oregon where he knew some-one else from Munich. He repaired pianos in Portland to raise money to make it to Los Angeles but the L.A. job was only offering $25 a week rather than the promised $35. He returned to Portland, preferring the Pacific Northwest area because it reminded him of so much of his native Germany. There, Gruber pursued American citizenship and explored his passion for photography in the scenic west coast environment. Despite the distance, he remained in close contact with his familiy in Germany. Gruber made no secret about his belief that Hitler would pull Germany out of the hole it landed in after WWI, and bring it back to greatness. Pro-German groups in Portland counted him among their members; he espoused pro-Hitler views to customers while tuning their pianos. These feelings would change over time&ldots; but they would come back to haunt him.

Norma Lenz grew up in Eastern Oregon. Her father died when she was only two years old and her mother and stepfather raised her. They were not very well off and, in order to have enough money to attend high school, Norma worked as a housemaid. She worked for the Collins family who owned the Collins & Erwin Piano Company. A bookkeeping job opened up at the piano company. Norma had the necessary skills to do the job because of her education at a commercial high school, and although she originally planned to be a nurse, she accepted the position at Collins & Erwin. It was there at Collins & Erwin where she met William in 1935.

Gruber asked Norma out but she refused, although impressed with his neat appearance, she felt he was too short. Undaunted, Gruber asked her out every day for six months till she finally said yes. They had so much fun that she decided that his height didn't make any difference. They were married in 1938.

Gruber traveled to Medford, Oregon, to work on a few pianos in the area, on a routine basis, several times a year. That summer Norma had vacation time coming so she traveled with him. They stayed at a honeymoon lodge and while they were there, visited Oregon Caves. While toting around his dual-camera tripod to snap stereoscopic images, Gruber ran into another photographer, Harold Graves, who had been dispatched to take photos of deer for Sawyer’s.

Graves was intrigued by the curious set-up. Gruber explained how he thought of the idea of using movie film to make stereo pictures for use in a hand-held viewing device. He felt that his idea would make it inexpensive to have stereo pictures available to people in all walks of life. This viewer could display 3D images in color, preferably for educational purposes. In addition to national parks and famous cities, the slides could provide identification of plants and animals; a wheel of images could be rotated with a manual lever.

Intrigued, Graves believed the images could act as a postcard alternative, sold in photo and gift shops as souvenirs. Gruber, who had long wished to strike gold with one business idea or another, he once tried to grow mushrooms for a living. Graves and Gruber had a lengthy two hour meeting where Gruber told him all about his idea. Creating a viewer that would use a flat circular disc with Kodachrome film transparencies mounted all around the margin in such a way that two matching stereo pairs are always opposite one another. Graves liked the idea and promised William that he would look him up upon his return to Portland. It wasn't until several hours later that Gruber wondered if he had told that fellow TOO much. His idea had not been patented yet.

Graves took the idea to Edwin Mayer at Sawyer's. But Sawyer's was in financial trouble at the time and could not afford to buy William's idea because of a recent lawsuit over a billboard that had fallen down injuring a woman. The court had awarded her a $10,000 judgment and since Sawyers had no corporate insurance, both Graves and Mayer had to mortgage their homes to pay this amount.

Later Norma said that William would have probably sold his idea for $5,000 or so had Sawyer's offered it to him. His invention would have then belonged to them and that would have been the end of William's involvement. But because Sawyer's lacked the available funds Mayer offered Gruber a commission instead. A percentage amount based upon the number of items sold. Due to this arrangement with the company, Gruber remained an important part of their operation until his death in 1965.

The plan was to have the View-Master ready for a 1939 debut at the World’s Fair, but there was a stumbling block. The lenses for the viewer were proving hard to source. Gruber recommended Sawyer’s use a German optical firm, which could produce the number needed at a reasonable 7.5 cents per lens. But by the time the deal was completed, trade embargoes had made doing business with Germany impossible. The firm refunded payment directly to Gruber, who then cut a check to Sawyer’s.

Needless to say, a German-born citizen being sent funds from Nazi-occupied Germany raised a flag with the FBI. When confronted, Gruber had an explanation, and it was legitimate, but there was also no denying that Gruber was a Nazi sympathizer who had voiced his support of Hitler ever since he had arrived in Portland in 1924. Shortly after the View-Master debuted at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, Gruber was remanded to Idaho, where his assets were frozen and he faced charges of espionage. While awaiting trial in Idaho, Gruber kept up a written correspondence with Sawyer’s employees developing the final product, and, occasionally, was granted permission to return to Oregon to solve production problems.

Ed Mayer and people within the Sawyer's organization were uncertain what to call their new product, but they eventually came up with the name "View-Master". The View-Master brand name eventually came to be recognized by 65 percent of the world's population, but William Gruber disliked the name, thinking that it sounded too much like Toast-Master, Mix-Master, or some other kitchen appliance. The actual viewing device was patented in 1940. It later became know as the Model "A" viewer. Earliest versions bear the words "Patent Applied For" and were sold at National Parks and gift stores throughout the Pacific Northwest.

While View-Master got a welcome reception from the general public in 1940, the rationing of film and paper made it an expendable product. Sawyer’s feared that it would never regain that momentum. But, the U.S. military saw an opportunity: The View-Master was a perfect vehicle to show soldiers slides of aircraft and ammunition for easy identification and the armed forces purchased more than 10,000 View-Masters and 6 million reels. (Amid the educational slides, a few risqué pin-up images of Bettie Page found their way into circulation.)

It was word-of-mouth advertising Sawyer’s could never have dreamed of buying. All the GIs who were impressed by View-Master while deployed came home and told their families about it. Instead of packing the household in a car for a trip, they could spend $1 for a viewer with seven slides that transported them anywhere they wanted to go. View-Master was an album of vacation photos that didn’t require a vacation.

The View-Master was intended as an alternative to the scenic postcard, and was originally sold at photography shops, stationery stores, and scenic-attraction gift shops. The patent on the viewing device was issued in 1940, on what came to be called the Model A viewer. Within a very short time, the View-Master took over the postcard business at Sawyer's.

Three years after their first meeting, a formal agreement was entered into on February 24th, 1942, between Gruber and Sawyer partners, doing business as Sawyer's (View-Master, model E pictured above). Gruber later returned to Portland and to his normal life. Despite his Nazi advocacy, a federal judge had found that he was not a spy or working for German forces and ordered that his case be dropped. Gruber became a rehabilitated Nazi sympathizer, realizing he had been mistaken about the Fuhrer’s leadership qualities, he no longer made his politics public business.

Gruber never had much to do with business of the View-Master, his passion remained photography. He continued his photography work by training his lens on mushrooms and other eclectic science subjects. Gruber had never intended View-Master to be a toy. To him, it was like a pair of binoculars that could peer deeply into images with amazing clarity and detail. Coin and stamp collectors could keep a library of samples; rare birds could be photographed and studied for distinctive traits.

After returning to Portland, Gruber struck up a friendship with Dr. David Bassett, who was then teaching at the University of Washington before moving on to Stanford. With Bassett’s assistance, Gruber wanted to use the potent visual stimulus of the View-Master to record the human anatomy in exacting detail.

The project, A Stereoscopic Atlas of the Human Anatomy, used dissected cadaver tissue to highlight intricate maps of nerves, muscle, and tendons. Bassett and Gruber sliced open brains and spinal cords, logging an unprecedented tour of the body. Work on the Atlas consumed the remaining 14 years of his life until his death in 1965, and to this day, the Atlas and its 1500 images are considered to be one of the finest dissection projects ever captured on film.

Gruber may not have thought of the View-Master as a toy but, Sawyer’s took note of how much appeal View-Master held for children. Beginning in 1944, the company hired a sculptor, Florence Thomas, to craft customized scenes from fairy tales and children’s stories that could be placed in a diorama and photographed. Thomas produced a series of images from A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland, and the Bible. The reels were popular sellers and essentially doubled View-Master’s demographic.

Florence Thomas was the first and probably the greatest 3D artist in the View- Master studios. She was certainly the most prolific. She originated many of the techniques for making stunningly beautiful 3D reels between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. She started work at Sawyers in 1944 and retired in 1971, with some of her work not released until 1975.

Florence was a master sculptor and made the miniature figurines out of clay. She painted them with appropriate colors and fabric patterns. She also created the dioramas and arranged the lighting. Originally she reputedly also did the photography, but later it was done by others. From the photo evidence she first photographed the left then the right eye view, shifting the camera in between exposures. Between the two exposures she would also shift and rotate some items to enhance the 3D effect.

Her artistry changed with time. The six earliest reels had a slightly funky primitive look with great vitality and strongly expressed emotions. All of her 1946 and 1948 dioramas have a beautifully painted background and great depth. Florence created all kinds of stories from fairy tales, classic stories, bible stories to Disney movie stories.

After the development of the View-Master, Sawyer's, Inc. moved into a new building at 735 S.W. 20th Place in downtown Portland (later leased to KPTV, Channel 12). The company also occupied a building next door at 740 S.W. 21st Avenue. Years later, Edwin Mayer and his Sawyer's partners purchased land in Washington County near Progress, Oregon, west of Beaverton, and built a large plant there in about 1951.

It would take decades, but the Beaverton plant was found to have concentrations of the degreaser trichloroethylene (TCE) more than 320 times the legal limit, much of it seeping into the well water that employees drank. Several fell ill; many self-reported diagnoses of cancer. It was closed permanently in 2001. The plant has since been removed and developed into a shopping center.

In 1951, Sawyer's purchased Tru-Vue, the main competitor of View-Master. The takeover eliminated the main rival and also gained Tru-Vue's licensing rights to Walt Disney Studios. Sawyer's capitalized on the opportunity and produced numerous reels featuring Disney characters like Davy Crockett, Bambi and Donald Duck. The takeover paid off further in 1955 with reels of the newly opened Disneyland. This was a time when color television was scarce and there was no such thing as a home video market, a child being able to revisit familiar characters, in Kodachrome color, was a big deal. Though there was always an appetite for human subjects: the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II sold 1.5 million reels in just nine months.

Tru-Vue, was a subsidiary of Rock Island Bridge and Iron Works, a manufacturer of stereoscopic filmstrips and corresponding stereoscope viewers, based in Rock Island, Illinois, from 1932–1951 and in Beaverton, Oregon, from 1951 until the late 1960s. The film strips, or film cards, were fed through a slide viewer similar to a View-Master, which was art deco or streamlined in style. The viewers were made of bakelite and available in multiple colors. When held up to light the images appeared in 3D. The films were based on attractive scenery, children's stories, travel, night life, and current events. After Sawyer purchased Tru-Vue it was a subsidiary company but eventually, it became only a brand name. Both View-Master and Tru-Vue products were manufactured into the 1960s by Sawyer's.

Tru-Vue is historically significant as a bridge between the stereoscopic cards of the 19th century and the View-Master reels of the mid-20th. Competitors of Tru-Vue included the American company Novelview from the 1930s and the British manufacturer Sightseer from the 1950s. Forgeries of Tru-Vue are also known, including the British True-View from the 1950s that copied the style of viewers, filmstrips, and film boxes, and a True-View viewer made in Hong Kong during the 1950s that copied the shape of a Tru-Vue viewer but accepted opaque cards instead of films.

In 1952, Sawyer's began its View-Master Personal line, which included the View-Master Personal Stereo Camera for users to make their own View-Master reels. It was successful at first, but the line was discontinued in ten years. This line spawned the Model D viewer, View-Master's highest-quality viewer, which was available until the early 1970s, and the Stereomatic 500, View-Master's only 3D projector. The other projectors were 2D and used only one of the images.

The Model E was introduced in 1955 with a more modern design, big ivory buttons on the picture changer levers, and a large "V" slot on top for easier reel insertion. It was released in brown and black in the United States, and some other colors elsewhere. It was about 4 inches high, 5 inches wide, and 4 inches deep.

The Model F was introduced in 1958. It used C-cell batteries to power an internal lighting source. Industrial designer Charles "Chuck" Harrison led the team designing the Model F View-Master. Fifty years later in 2008, Harrison won the Cooper-Hewitt Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 1962, the Bakelite models were replaced with lighter plastic versions, the first of which was the Model G. This change was driven by Sawyer's new president, Bob Brost, who took over in 1959. The View-Master had been constructed originally from Kodak Tenite plastic and then Bakelite, a hard, sturdy, somewhat heavy plastic. The lightweight thermoplastic became the material of choice under Brost.

In 1966, Sawyer's was acquired by the General Aniline & Film (GAF) Corporation, and became a wholly owned subsidiary. Under GAF's ownership, View-Master reels began to feature fewer scenic and more child-friendly subjects, such as toys and cartoons. Television series were featured on View-Master reels, such as Doctor Who, (sold only in the UK) Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Star Trek, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Family Affair, Here's Lucy, and The Beverly Hillbillies. Actor Henry Fonda appeared in a series of TV commercials for the GAF View-Master.

From 1970 to around 1997, there were versions of "Talking View-Masters", which included audio technology with the reels with three major designs with increasing sophistication. In the early 1970s, GAF introduced the View-Master Rear Screen projector, a table-top projector that displayed images from picture wheels.

In 1980, View-Master released the Show Beam Projector, a toy that combined the stereoscopic images and flashlight technology to produce a portable hand-held projector. The Show Beam used small film cartridges that were plugged into the side of the toy. Each cartridge contained 30 full-color 2D images.

In 1981, GAF sold View-Master to a group of investors headed by Arnold Thaler, and the company was reconstituted as the View-Master International Group. They acquired the Ideal Toy Company in 1984 and became known as the View-Master Ideal Group, and were purchased by Tyco Toys in 1989.

Tyco, including the View-Master Ideal Group, merged with Mattel Inc. in 1997. View-Master was placed organizationally in Mattel's pre-school division and is now marketed under the Fisher-Price imprint, who continues emphasis on juvenile content.

In March 2009, the Fisher-Price division of toy maker Mattel announced that they had stopped production in December 2008 of the scenic reels depicting tourist attractions. These reels of picturesque scenes and landscape scenery were descendants of the first View-Master reels sold in 1939. Fisher-Price announced they would continue to produce reels of animated characters. In late 2009, Alpha-cine announced it would take up scenic reel production under an agreement with Fisher-Price.

In February 2015, Mattel announced a collaboration with Google to produce a new version of View-Master called the View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer, based on virtual reality using smartphones. The new View-Master is an implementation of the Google Cardboard VR platform, and is accompanied by a mobile app that was built using its SDK. Content is displayed on a smartphone screen; the phone itself is inserted into the back of the unit. Instead of being inserted directly into the View-Master, reels are scanned using an augmented reality interface which enables access to content from the reel, such as 360-degree panoramas, 3D models, and minigames. In 2016, an updated iteration known as the DLX was released; it features improvements to its compatibility with smaller phones, a more secure latch for the phone compartment, and also adds focal adjustment and a headphone port.

Both editions of the View-Master VR were discontinued in November 2019, and the Experience packs can no longer be installed by new users.

In 2019, Mattel partnered with MGM to announce an upcoming feature film based on the View-Master. The project will be co-piloted by Robbie Brenner of Mattel's Films division and MGM's Cassidy Lange.

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A View-Master reel holds 14 film transparencies in seven pairs, making up the seven stereoscopic images. The components of each pair are viewed simultaneously, one by each eye, thus simulating binocular depth perception.

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HASBRO

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.

Three 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.

In 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, Hasbro’s 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.

Two 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.

With 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 early 1980s.

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.

In 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.

Alan 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.

In 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 of Cobra.

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."

Having 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 additional properties.

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 DISNEY PRINCESSES

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

Hasbro 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 trooper captain.

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.

Outside 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.

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