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Toons in Toyland - The Story of Cartoon Character Merchandise

Toons in Toyland

The Story of Cartoon Character Merchandise

By Tim Hollis
Hardcover : 9781628461992, 306 pages, 400 color illustrations, March 2015

A look at the way cartoons dominated the magic of merchandising


Every living American adult likely prized one childhood toy that featured the happy image of an animated cartoon or comic strip character. There is an ever-growing market for these collectibles, and stacks of books pose as pricing guides. Yet Tim Hollis is the first to examine the entire story of character licensing and merchandising from a historical view.

Toons in Toyland focuses mainly on the post-World War II years, circa 1946-1980, when the last baby boomers were in high school. During those years, the mass merchandising of cartoon characters peaked. However, the concept of licensing cartoon characters for toys, trinkets, and other merchandise dates back to the very first newspaper comics character, the Yellow Kid, who debuted in 1896 and was soon appearing on a variety of items. Eventually, cartoon producers and comic strip artists counted on merchandising as a major part of their revenue stream. It still plays a tremendous role in the success of the Walt Disney Company and many others today.

Chapters examine storybooks (such as Little Golden Books), comic books, records, board games, jigsaw puzzles, optical toys (including View-Master and Kenner's Give-a-Show Projector), and holiday paraphernalia. Extending even beyond toys, food companies licensed characters galore--remember the Peanuts characters plugging bread and Dolly Madison snacks? And roadside attractions, amusement parks, campgrounds, and restaurants--think Yogi Bear and Jellystone Park Campgrounds--all bought a bit of cartoon magic to lure the green waves of tourists' dollars.


"Toons in Toyland takes a quirky historical look at the merchandising of cartoon characters, and it proves to be a fun read for boys and girls of all ages. . . . It is [also] amusingly written and filled with wonderful photographs of mid-century products. "

- Patrick Cooke, The Wall Street Journal

"This highly entertaining book evokes a time, just a few decades ago, that must seem very strange to most of today's children. It was a time when kids could see cartoons only in theaters or on TV, in shows that could not yet be recorded. Cartoon-themed merchandise was thus a way to stay connected with beloved characters who were otherwise just as inaccessible as flesh-and-blood movie stars. Thanks to Tim Hollis and his richly illustrated book, readers who remember those days can revisit them with a smile—a lot of cartoon merchandise was hilariously awful—and younger readers can enjoy peeking through a window into what life was like before cartoons became ubiquitous on videotape and DVD. "

- Michael Barrier, author of Funnybooks: The Improbable Glories of the Best American Comic Books and The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney