6-year-old Vivian Lord prompts production of “plastic army women”

“Why don’t you make girl army men?”

That’s the question 6-year-old Vivian Lord had for manufacturers after playing with her brother’s “green army men,” those inexpensive little toys that became popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Not content to sit and wonder, Vivian wrote to several companies that produce the little figures, including BMC Toys, which is in my home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Since then, BMC launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund an initial run of figures depicting female soldiers, with a goal of $11,400. As of this writing $55,401 has been raised, and BMC says the figures will be available by Christmas, 2020.

Of course, Vivian wasn’t the only one to make this request. As NPR’s story outlines, adult female members of our military have written to manufacturers as well. You can listen to the story and hear Vivian herself via the player above.

Why toys and apps have failed

The Wall Street Journal, on why apps and toys are yet to succeed with kids (subscription required):

“Last year, trying to show how the toy industry could remain relevant in the tablet age, Hasbro Inc. HAS +1.44% unveiled an iPad-enhanced version of its classic Game of Life. Instead of spinning a wheel in the center of the board game to take a turn, players spun a wheel on the iPad.

The idea bombed.

And it wasn’t alone. More than 90% of the so-called app toys that were trotted out last year sold poorly, estimates Jim Silver, editor in chief of timetoplaymag.com, a consumer and trade website. Among the other flops, Mattel Inc. MAT +0.40% outfitted Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars with special conductors to control games on a tablet.”

Two years ago we bought the Disney AppMATes Cars toy for my kids. It’s an iPad app the presents the world of Pixar’s Cars, which players explore by “driving” plastic, conductive cars across the iPad’s screen. My kids discovered almost immediately that the game works with their fingers and stopped using the car pieces entirely. Now it’s just another iPad game.

It felt tacked-on and even a 7-year-old could sense that. If this is going to work (and I’m not convinced it has to), game designers must think of something completely new. Read the full Times article here.

iPhone-controlled Hot Wheels car

CNET:

“Hot Wheel’s iNitro Speeders gives the option of using an iPhone to control its little remote control cars. The iPhone app includes the standard dual stick controller, but also lets you drive the car with the iPhone’s accelerometer, choose a predefined driving pattern, or draw your own pattern.”

Above is a video of the thing in action from Engadget. I can’t imagine how insanely awesome it must be to be nine years old in 2012.

Wildly irresponsible vintage toys

Each weekend, I post the cool things I found during the week. You can follow the Weekend List category here and the RSS feed here.

It was a different time when kids could buy the Gilbert Molten Lead Casting Kit, which let them create their own metallic toys by casting them from molten lead. Cracked.com has listed 8 dangerous vintage toys, including my favorite, the Atomic Energy Lab (ca. 1960), which contained actual samples of uranium (which is radioactive) and radium (even more so).

Did Jr. always have three arms?