ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Twister, the parlour game once too hot for the Sears catalogue but cool enough for Johnny Carson, was inducted Thursday into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
The class of 2015 also includes the old-as-time puppet and Super Soaker — think squirt gun on steroids.
A panel of experts picked the inductees from a field of 12 finalists that also included the spinning top, coloring book, Wiffle Ball, American Girl dolls, Battleship, Jenga, PLAYMOBIL, scooter and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
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Twister inventor Reyn Guyer made the players the game pieces that intertwine as they try to reach hands and feet to colored dots without landing in a heap on a plastic mat.
The game is still made today but almost didn’t make it past the 1960s, when it was invented. Sears Roebuck deemed it too racy for its 1966 catalogue, so Milton Bradley Co. cancelled production, according to The Strong museum. But it was already in the lineup for “The Tonight Show” and a game between Carson and Eva Gabor sent sales soaring. More than 3 million copies were sold in 1967.
Nicolas Ricketts, a curator at The Strong museum where the hall of fame is housed, has his own thoughts on how the game became as big as it is.
“Some saw Twister as a passing fad. But large-scale Twister matches, popular on college campuses in the 1980s, boosted sales.”
More than 27 million $10 Super Soakers were sold in the first three years after Larami Corp. began producing them in 1990. The high-powered water blaster was the invention of Dr. Lonnie Johnson, a nuclear engineer who got the idea from a pressurized heat pump he was designing for NASA’s Galileo Mission to Jupiter, according to The Strong.
He made the first one from PVC pipe and an empty soda bottle.
Anyone can nominate a toy for hall inclusion. But to be inducted, they must have survived the test of time, be widely recognized and foster learning, creativity or discovery through play.
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The puppet has been around for thousands of years and throughout the world. The Strong cited written references to puppets by Plato and Aristotle and said ancient puppeteers presented “The Iliad” and “Odyssey” using clay and ivory figures. In modern times, puppets have appeared in street theatres and vaudeville houses and propped on the hands of countless children.
“Hand puppets have been a popular toy form for more than a century,” curator Patricia Hogan said. “Playing with puppets helps children develop co-ordination and manual dexterity. Children use their imaginations to provide voice, plot and purpose to their puppet characters.”
Finalists for the hall are chosen by historians and curators at The Strong. From there, a national panel of judges made up of inventors, educators, psychologists and others choose the winners.
The inductees join last year’s class of little green Army men, the Rubik’s Cube and bubbles, along with 53 other old favourites, including Barbie, Easy-Bake Oven, G.I. Joe, the Frisbee and View-Master.