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Fisher Price's Little People: Armless, Legless Wonder Toys Of The '60s

Fads | June 5, 2021

Source: (Pinterest).

Fisher Price, the company with the logo “Our Work is Child’s Play,” started in 1959, although some would say that they started before that date, as toys from the time period prior had the style and design elements of the human figures that would eventually become the Little People. Sometimes these early figures are called the “Pre-Little People.” The “Original Little People” would be produced until about 1991, when their appearance would change, becoming larger, about twice the width of the original to make them safer for children, in that they couldn’t be easily swallowed. Despite their increased girth, they didn’t really increase in height. These new Little People also have more facial details and features. Many refer to them as the “Chunky” People. The “Chunky” line lasted about five years, when because it was not very popular, it too was redesigned. In 1985, Fisher Price finally trademarked their name, so they were officially the Little People.

Before they were Little People. Source: (This Old Toy).

Back Before They Were Little People

In 1932, the concept of the Little People began with the #600 Woodsey Cart toys. The Woodsey Cart came in six different versions, although each one was essentially a wooden hay-cart harnessed to a wooden circus figure (an elephant, a bear, a pony, a lion, a dog, or a clown). The cart was “driven” by a wooden figure, which was the figure which seemed to evolve into the Little Figure. This toy was only made for a year. For the next 18 years, Fisher Price did not make any forms that looked like the Little People. 

Source: (Pinterest).

   They Were Originally Trapped In Their Vehicle

In 1950, the company started to build on the first design, creating the #7 Looky Fire Truck; the Little People really started to make their appearance at that point. With the popularity of the Little People, Fisher Price started to make a number of others including the #415 Super-Jet, and the #730 Racing Rowboat in 1953, and the #983 Safety School Bus in 1959. With the bus, for the first time, the figures could be removed from their vehicles, thus adding the potential for a greater variety of play; prior to this, they were attached to the vehicle, making the vehicle the center of the imagination.

The firemen. Source: (Worthpoint).

Changes To The Form

Over the years, the Original Little People experienced six major changes to their base (body) styles. From 1959-1961, the figure, which would only appear on the bus, had an all wood or rolled cardboard base, and was tall. From 1960-1962, the #168 and #169 Snorky Fire Engine firemen had wood bodies and heads, with plastic hats and arms. Also from 1960-1962, the people used in the #234 Nifty Station Wagon and the #984 Safety School Bus (from 1961-62) had a wide base and were tall. 

Little People from the Goldilocks set. Source: (Pinterest).

Evolving To A Form That Lasted Many Years

From 1963-1972, the people were made from wood, had straight sides, and did not have a narrow peg on the bottom. They were also making dogs with the same basic form. They first appeared on the #932 Amusement Park. From 1967-75, they had geometric bases, and were included with the #151 Goldilocks & Three Bears, #136 Lacing Shoe, and #146 Pull-A-Long Lacing Shoe. The last of these original forms, and the one that most people think of when they talk about Little People, was the form that was made starting in 1965 with the #192 School Bus and was used until 1990. These forms, which were the most prevalent had a wide body and a narrow peg base.

Many of these Little People have names, with the seven main ones that comprised the Play Family named Mom, Dad, Pee Wee and Butch (the boys) and Patty and Penny (the girls). The dog also had a name, Lucky. Most kids did not use these names but came up with their own.

The Moo-ooing Farm. Source: (Pinterest).

So Many Ways To Play

The Little People came with quite a variety of playsets. The first “Play and Carry” set which allowed children to store all of the pieces in the building, was the Play Family Farm, which was introduced in 1968, and featured the “Moo-ooo Door,” and remains the most successful playset. Others included the Action Garage (which had a real working car elevator) a Western Town, and the Airport. Sesame Street was released in 1975, and Sesame Street Clubhouse came out in 1977; it featured moving sidewalks and trap doors. A McDonald’s set followed. 

Source: (Escape to the Seventies).

Changes To Make Them Safer

During the 1980’s, watchdog groups were formed to evaluate the dangers of children choking on small toys, and they informed the parents of these dangers. A book written in 1986 by Edward Swartz was called Toys that Kill had a picture of three Original Little People on the cover. Despite the fact that there had been reports of children choking on Little People, it had happened when the toy came apart, which required some sort of tampering. The picture on the cover seemed to doom the Original Little People, as out of this era, the Chunkies were born to replace the Originals, although the Chunkies, with their redesign, seemed a bit too babyish and sales dropped, sparking a redesign. The current Little People are smaller than the Chunkies and made with hard-rubber rather than wood. 

Tags: 1960s | Toys Of The 1960s

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Linda Speckhals

Writer

When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.