Toy Hall of Fame Inducts Easy-Bake, Lionel Train

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The National Toy Hall of Fame in New York anounces this year's inductees along gender lines: the Easy Bake Oven and Lionel Trains. The Easy Bake Oven has been traditionally targeted to girls; the Lionel Train, to boys.


You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. This week, the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York inducted two classic toys into its collection. They took their places of honor next to Etch A Sketch, Slinky and G.I. Joe. From member station WXXI in Rochester, Brenda Tremblay reports that this year's winners have specific gender appeal.

BRENDA TREMBLAY: Twelve toys made the final list of nominations in the annual competition, and you might recognize them by their sounds.

(Soundbite of squeaking)

TREMBLAY: Rubber ducky made the list. So did a toy that offers kids the chance to play with lights.

(Soundbite of ad)

Unidentified Girls: (Singing) Lite Brite, Lite Brite. Turn on the magic of colored lights.

TREMBLAY: Judges considered the Big Wheel, Pez dispensers, any a device that entranced a generation in the '80s.

(Soundbite of video game)

TREMBLAY: Pac-Man and other Atari games were on the list, and so was the Operation game, which curator Christopher Bench(ph) says comes in a new version requiring kids to extract body parts from the character Shrek.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER BENCH (Curator, National Toy Hall of Fame): Shrek's got a few variations from the standard style. He has toe jam that you need to remove, a frog in his throat that's an actual frog, and of course with his friend the donkey, he has a pain in the butt that needs to be extracted as well.

(Soundbite of honking)

TREMBLAY: After considering the merits of all the finalists, the judges made their choices, and curators announced two winners.

Mr. BENCH: The National Toy Hall of Fame has decided that it's time for the Easy Bake Oven to be in the National Toy Hall of Fame.

(Soundbite of applause)

TREMBLAY: Bench and his colleagues used the tiny plastic ovens to bake for the induction ceremony and said the sugar cookies came out best.

Mr. BENCH: But the Blues Clues muffins, those were pretty dreadful, I have to say, and the color was the color of Tidy Bowl, not a color that you want to have foodstuffs in.

TREMBLAY: Easy Bake Oven has been traditionally targeted to girls, the other winner to boys.

Unidentified Woman: We're all aboard...

(Soundbite of train whistle)

Unidentified Woman: induct Lionel Trains into the National Toy Hall of Fame.

(Soundbite of applause)

TREMBLAY: Lionel Trains have been chugging around Christmas trees since about 1900. There was a time when the company offered pink cars to girls, and when Easy Bake Ovens came as Queasy Bake Ovens for boys. But both efforts to cross gender lines fell flat. Curator Chris Bench says it's not surprising that this year's winners are gender specific. The toy industry has always been segmented.

Mr. BENCH: But you still walk into Toys "R" Us and you have find the boys section and the girls section and they don't mingle very much, and that's true of these toys as well. So we're representing toy history, not necessarily what we wish the world was.

TREMBLAY: As for the future, Bench predicts more and more of today's electronic toys, such as Xbox and Playstation 2, will make the list. And he says we may even someday see the attitudinal Bratz dolls in the National Toy Hall of Fame. If Barbie can get in, he says, so can the Bratz.

For NPR News, I'm Brenda Tremblay.

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