Friday, August 7, 2020

1930s Toys: Comic Types and Characters

I asked toy collector Mel BirnkrantAs you get into the 1930s, was there a difference in the imagery, the sorts of characters, and the "attitude" of the comic types? 

Today, it’s hard to visualize how small the toy industry really was for the first half of the 20th Century.  What in those days would be considered a bestselling toy would qualify as a flop today. Most toy designs tended to be generic. Then, starting in the 1920s, comic character toys began to appear. For the most part, these images were derived from the Funny Papers. Thanks to which whole families of popular personalities appeared on America’s doorsteps every day.  

Here is the complete set of bisque figurines based on 1920s comic strip characters. They were referred to  as “nodders,” and were made in Germany, in 1928.  

1920s Comic Characters also generated a growing repertoire of tin windup toys., colorful and always sculptural.

With the introduction of sound movies in the 1930s, a great explosion of creativity took place. With it, came the Great God Mickey. His image dominated the toy industry for the next 10 years.  Compared to him, the Funny Paper personalities of the 1920s seemed tame. They were politely whispering, while Mickey Mouse and a growing number of his animated friends were shouting at us from the silver screen.

Throughout the 1930s, Mickey was the undisputed King of Toys. This 1937 cover of Playthings Magazine celebrates The Eighth Year Of His Reign.


Read more at Mel Birnkrant's website

This series

Part 1: Materials and Workmanship of 1930s Toys

Part 2: 1930s Toys, Comic Types and Characters

Part 3: Why Did Animation Flourish in the 1930s?

Part 4: What They Cut from King Kong

Part 5: How Betty Boop Changed in the 1930s


scottT said...

I recognized "Pete" from Our Gang, but it must be Tige with Buster Brown from the comic strip. I found out the same dog played both, at least briefly, in the silent movies. Anyway, what a wonderful collection. I have been watching the old Disney cartoons, and he certainly was cheeky and raucous to begin with! In fact, there are now disclaimers for sensitive viewers who could be disturbed by racial portrayals and cruelty! The early days of animation were wild! No wonder Mickey made the strips look tame by comparison.

Mel Birnkrant said...

Hi scoffT , you are absolutely right. That is Pete. Buster Brown was long gone by the time the nodders came along. Here is “Our Gang”, as it was in the days before Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat. These were added to the Nodder series in 1930. They are the only figures that are not officially Comic Characters. Starting on the left are, Pete the Dog, Wheezer, Jackie Cooper, Chubby Chaney, Mary Ann Jackson and Farina. You can see the entire series of nodders here: