Was He-Man Originally Intended as a Toy Tie-In for Film, Conan the Barbarian?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far! It is also really a Movie Legends Revealed, too, so it’ll be listed under both categories.

TOY/MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: He-Man began life as a toy tie-in for the Conan the Barbarian film.

One of the great movie toy tie-in legends involves He-Man and Conan the Barbarian. Namely, did He-Man originate as a tie-in to the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Conan the Barbarian, and then Mattel decided, “Eh, let’s just keep this one for ourselves” and then took their Conan prototypes and turn them into the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toy line.

The supporting evidence for this being the case is the fact that Mattel did, in fact, have a licensing agreement with Conan Properties International (CPI) to make Conan toys and then Mattel backed out. When He-Man came out, CPI sued Mattel for general copyright infringement claims (that He-Man was too similar to Conan as a toy) and, more specifically, that Mattel breached their contract with CPI to make the He-Man toys.

So is it true?
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Did Mattel Really Make a Barbie Friend Named “Wheelchair Becky”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: Mattel initially produced a friend of Barbie’s called “Wheelchair Becky.”

Mattel certainly is no stranger to awkward moments over the decades that they’ve produced Barbie dolls. After all, they’ve done so many versions of the doll that they are almost bound to screw up now and again. I’ve even covered one of these instances in the past, when Sleepover Barbie came with a diet book that advised girls simply “don’t eat.”

This brings us to the case of Barbie’s friend, Becky, who is in a wheelchair.

The website “Climbing Every Mountain” (but really, this information has popped up a number of places”) discussed the doll…

In 1997, Mattel ignored even the basic “People First” language with Wheelchair Becky. When a little girl with cerebral palsy complained, they renamed the doll Share-a-Smile Becky. Most advocates would say, “Becky” would have been enough.

Is that true?
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Was Furby a Spy?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false.

TOY URBAN LEGEND: The National Security Agency banned furbies from their offices for fear of the toys recording confidential information.

Back in 2015, Samsung’s Smart TV caused a bit of a stir when it was revealed that the voice activation feature, which allowed users to control the television through their voice (you know, like, “raise the volume,” “put on AMC,” etc.). The issue was that the company itself gave users the following warning:

“Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

It really wasn’t much of a big deal, as it wasn’t like the television was just listening in. It was more a case of Samsung just being overly cautious with their warnings.

However, this reminds me of a hilarious piece of information from the late 1990s, when the National Security Agency (NSA) banned Furbies from their offices for similar fears of being secretly recorded!

Read on to see whether furbies were really spies…
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Why Did G.I. Joe Have a Scar on his Face?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: The original G.I. Joe had a scar on his face so that Hasbro could trademark the figure’s design.

In 1964, Hasbro launched their G.I. Joe: America’s Movable Fighting Man, the first poseable doll targeted specifically to boys as an “action figure.”

The toy was a smash success and is still being produced to this day, albeit in a different form.

An interesting facet of the toy is that “Joe” had a scar on his face? What was the somewhat surprisingly practical reason for it being there?
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Did Barbie Once Come With a Weight Loss Advice Book That Simply Read “Don’t Eat”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: Barbie was once sold with a diet book that simply read “don’t eat”?

Something that anyone telling jokes has to keep in mind is that context is often king. Something that is clearly meant as a joke in one context could be read as something else entirely in another context. I believe that this is at the heart of the infamous story of the weight loss advice book that came with Slumber Party Barbie.
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Did the U.S. Military Buy A Hundred Thousand Viewmasters During World War II?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: The United States military purchased millions of View Master reels for training purposes during World War II.

Sawyers’ Photo Services was founded in 1911. In 1926, Harold Graves was brought into the company and was put in charge of photographs for postcards and collectible albums.

In the early 20th Century, postcards of famous places were often the only way people could ever see some of the world’s wonders like the Grand Canyon. In 1939, Graves formed a partnership with a man named Wilhelm Gruber to produce “stereo photographs.” These stereo photographs would be on film that would be put into discs (or “slides”) that you could then slide into a viewing device similar to a camera and then, well, view them. This viewing device was called the Viewmaster.

Here’s an early 1940’s Viewmaster (made out of metal)…

Viewmasters were used as replacements for scenic postcards. They allowed viewers to see all sorts of wonderful landscapes (the Grand Canyon was one of their most popular series of slides).

When World War II broke out, the United States military soon appreciated the utility of these devices for training purposes.
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Were Lincoln Logs Not Actually Named After Abraham Lincoln?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: Lincoln Logs were named after the middle name of the father of the inventor of Lincoln Logs.

Lincoln Logs are a famous children’s toy that consists of miniature logs with notches on them that can be connected and used to build forts and whatever other type of building your heart desires (perhaps a log cabin, even!). They were first designed in 1916 by John Lloyd Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, first marketed in 1918, patented in 1920 and first sold a few years later.

Wright claimed at the time that he was inspired by his father’s design for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan (Wright was in Japan with his father at the time of the design and construction of the Imperial Hotel). I can’t speak to the veracity of that statement, especially since there were a goodly amount of similar block-building toys in the 19th Century.

However, one point that I believe I can speak to is the slight confusion brought about by the great website Mental Floss. The site had a feature on Lincoln Logs awhile back that has caused a bit of confusion with regards to the origins of the name “Lincoln Logs.” In an article about the secrets behind famous toys, writer Tim Moodie wrote in regards to Lincoln Logs:

But here’s the strangest part: the naming of the toy might not have been a tribute to Honest Abe. Here’s the scoop: Frank Lloyd Wright was born Frank Lincoln Wright, but he legally changed his name when his parents split. So, Lloyd Jones was his mother’s maiden name and Frank’s name change was to honor her. In any case, whichever Lincoln the toy was honoring, we’re pretty sure Honest Abe would have gotten a kick out of the little logs.

To Moodie’s credit, all he does here is point out that Wright’s original middle name was Lincoln. He does not explicitly state that the younger Wright did use that as the impetus for the name of his toy. It is just that Moodie’s “hey, did you know?” piece has since been translated, Telephone Game-style, into a definitive “Lincoln Logs were not named after Abraham Lincoln” statement, which does not appear to be Moodie’s intent at all.

Anyhow, is it true?
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Did the 1970s Gas Crisis Cause the Demise of the Original G.I. Joe?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: The original line of G.I. Joe toys ended because of the 1970s gas crisis.

G.I. Joe was a popular children’s doll (or “action figure”) who debuted in 1964.

G.I. Joe was a twelve inch plastic doll that had vinyl outfits. As the character became more and more popular, the maker of the toy (Hasbro) began developing different varieties of the toy. In the late 1960s, with the Vietnam War at his peak, the “soldier” aspect of the toy was downplayed and G.I. Joe became more of an “adventurer” than a “soldier.”

By the late 1970s, the toy had gone through a number of changes and sales had slowed a bit. However, the biggest cause in the demise of the original G.I. Joe came in a surprising place – Iran.
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Can Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe Never Be Depicted as Being a New York Yankees Fan?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: G.I. Joe‘s Snake Eyes cannot be depicted as being a fan of the New York Yankees.

If you grew up in the United States during the mid-to-late 1980s it is unlikely that you do not have at least a passing familiarity with the animated series G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, which was based on the Hasbro toy line of the same name about a special mission force who combats a terrorist group known as Cobra.

One of the most famous (or perhaps infamous) parts of the show was how each episode would end with a public service piece where a member of the G.I. Joe team would give pretty common sense advice to young people. Stuff like “don’t pet strange dogs” or “don’t play with downed power wires.” The kid would invariably comment about how now they know what to do, and the G.I. Joe member would retort that “knowing is half the battle.”

In keeping with that theme of “knowing is half the battle” (as well as Major League Baseball’s Opening Day last week) a reader wrote in to ask:

There’s a crazy rumor that Hasbro does not allow Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe to be portrayed as a Yankees fan in any form of media. True or False?

Let’s find out!
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Was Mr. Potato Head Nearly Just a Cereal Giveaway?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: Mr. Potato Head quite nearly was “doomed” to simply being a cereal giveaway.

In 1949, a toy developer named George Lerner came up with an idea that would go on to become one of the most popular toys of all-time. But in 1949, Lerner’s idea for a “funny face” kit where children could dress up potatoes or other vegetables with eyes, ears, a mouth, hats, etc. was not a particularly popular one.

Lerner was turned down by every toy company out there, even a company that Lerner had worked for during the war! The prevailing theory is that in the post-World War II environment, rationing was still fresh in everyone’s minds, so “wasting” vegetables and potatoes like that was almost blasphemous.

What happened next nearly de-railed one of the most popular toys of the 20th Century…

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