ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It’s official! The ancient top, cultural phenomenon Masters of the Universe and the beloved Lite-Brite have been inductedw into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play. The honorees were chosen from a field of twelve finalists that also included bingo, Breyer Horses, Catan, Nerf, piñata, Phase 10, Pound Puppies, Rack-O and Spirograph.
Since ancient times, the spinning top has been a childhood staple of cultures in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Australia. The toy form has entertained adults, too. (Ancient Greek pottery shows women playing with tops more than 2,000 years ago!) Special eight-sided tops called teetotums supply the element of chance in board games and similar pastimes. Modern kids play with this classic toy still, calculating the placement, centrifugal force, and velocity needed to execute the longest spin or to capture their competitors’ prized tops.
The Masters of the Universe line of action figures, which includes He-Man and She-Ra, traces its popularity to maker Mattel’s use of comic books, television and the big screen. The cartoon series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which ran from 1983 to 1985, created a cohesive, fantasy world that allowed Mattel to introduce new characters and new toys to the line. Over the years, Mattel has paired the brand with everything from toothbrushes to sleeping bags. In 2021, a Netflix series based on Masters of the Universe proved the toy’s staying power.
“Part of the appeal of Masters of the Universe toys grew out of their being well-suited to the way kids play,” Hall of Fame Curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer said. “Mattel understood that kids spend lots of time in fantasy play and like the opportunity to project themselves into the role of the hero.
Created in 1966, Lite-Brite uses the same concept as stained-glass windows, allowing children to create glowing images against a black background, either following manufactured designs or creating their own picture. Through the years, Lite-Brite has gradually changed its format and technology but the potential for open-ended creativity has kept Lite-Brite popular for more than fifty years.
“Whatever their shape or size, Lite-Brite play sets have encouraged kids to color and draw with light, applying 20th-century technology to ancient mosaic techniques,” Curator Nicolas Ricketts said. “In 1968 promotional materials, Hasbro declared Lite-Brite a ‘magic light box,’ and that magic continues more than fifty years later.”