What’s in a Toy Company Name?
October 3, 2013

Recently I was staring at the cool packaging of the Super7 ALIEN ReAction line. As I noted how the ReAction logo pays homage to the original Kenner logo I started to wonder what “Kenner” originally meant. Then it occurred to me that I had no idea where many toy company names came from. Hence, my latest wormhole…

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Founded as The Wallace Berrie Company in 1966 by Wallace Berrie. In 1979 the company obtained worldwide rights to The Smurfs and released figurines which became one of the best-selling toys of 1982. That year, the company acquired the Applause division from Knickerbocker Toys. In 1986, the company changed its name to Applause Inc.

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Started by Digger Mesch and Donna Soldano in 1996, Art Asylum was initially just a work-for-hire sculpting studio but eventually decided to enter the market as a full toy company. The company dissolved in 2007, and some assets (including the Art Asylum name) were acquired by Diamond Select.

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In 1947 Naoharu Yamashina began distributing toys in Tokyo for his brother-in-law. In 1950 Yamashina took over the business and renamed it Bandai. It is the world’s third-largest producer of toys (after Mattel and Hasbro). A quick Japanese translation search tells me that bandai means: all ages / eternity.

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Bif Bang Pow! was founded in 2005 by Jason Labowitz and Jason Lenzi. And if Mr. Lenzi is reading this, perhaps he could comment below and tell us about the process he went about choosing the name! Couldn’t have anything to do with this, now could it?

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Coleco is an American company founded in 1932 by Maurice Greenberg as “Connecticut Leather Company”. It became a highly successful toy company in the 1980s.

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The name ‘Corgi Toys’ was chosen in honour of the company’s new home (Fforestfach in Swansea,South Wales), taken from the Welsh breed of dog, the Corgi, and the iconic Corgi dog logo branded the new range. The name was short and easy to remember, further aligning the range with their rival Dinky Toys.

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Diamond Select Toys was founded in 1999 by sister company Diamond Comics Distributors (founded in 1982 by Baltimore-based comics retailer Steve Geppi) to create collectibles for children and adults, and has since licensed a variety of pop culture properties. Geppi named his new company ‘Diamond’ “after the imprint Marvel Comics used on non-returnable comics,” and although the publisher discontinued the symbol months later, the name remained.

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The Ertl Company is founded by Fred Ertl, Sr., in 1945. In 1999 Ertl was purchased by Racing Champions.

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Founded in 1930 by Herman Fisher, Irving Price, Price’s illustrator-artist wife Margaret Evans Price, and Helen Schelle, the name Fisher-Price was established by combining two of the three names.

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After working for Mcfarlane Toys between 1993 and 1999, Chris Dahlberg, Eric Mayse, Eric Treadaway, and Jim Preziosi left to form Four Horsemen Studios. In 2005, Four Horsemen Studios began creating their own properties and designing and manufacturing the toys to support them.

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Founded in 1998 by Mike Becker, the company was originally conceived as a small project that would bring back low-tech toys in the now high-tech world. Sold in 2005, Funko LLC is now headed by Brian Mariotti.

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Beginning in 1894 John E. Hubley manufactured electric toy train equipment and parts under the name Lancaster Brand Iron Toys. The name was later changed to Gabriel Industries and still existed as a division of CBS as of 1978.

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Galoob was founded by Barbara Frankel and Lewis Galoob in 1954 as an import business. Before it was purchased by Hasbro in 1999, it was the third largest toymaker in the United States.

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In 1923, three brothers, Henry, Hilal, and Herman Hassenfeld, founded Hassenfeld Brothers, a company selling textile remnants, in Providence, Rhode Island. Having previously sold toys under the Hasbro trade name, the company shortened its name to Hasbro Industries in 1968.

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Established in 2000, the company initially focused on producing 1:6 scale U.S. military special forces action figures before transitioning to production of high-end figures based on media properties.

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Ideal Toy Company was founded as Ideal Novelty and Toy Company in New York in 1907 byMorris and Rose Michtom after they had invented the Teddy bear in 1903. Now, brace yourselves:
The company changed its name from “Ideal Novelty and Toy Company” to Ideal Toy Company in 1938. In 1982, the company was sold to CBS Toy Company, which in turn sold Ideal to Viewmaster International in 1987, which renamed itself View-Master Ideal in the process. View-Master Ideal was later bought by Tyco Toys, Inc. The Ideal line remained part of Tyco until Tyco’s merger with Mattel, in 1997. The UK assets were sold to Hasbro which has released Mouse Trap and KerPlunk under its MB Games brand. Whew!

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Jakks Pacific is named after its founder, Jack Friedman, who also presided over the company until his death in May 2010. Headquarters Malibu, California.

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Kenner Products founded in 1947 by brothers, Albert, Phillip, and Joseph L. Steiner, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was named after the street where the original corporate offices were located, which is just north of Cincinnati’s Union Terminal.

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Knickerbocker Toy Company was founded by a family of Dutch immigrants named Van Whye in 1869. The company name was derived from the nickname “Knickerbocker” given to the Dutch settlers who populated New York State. The company was originally known for their lithographed paper on wooden puzzles and educational toys.

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The Lego Group began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen (born 7 April 1891), a carpenter from Billund, Denmark, who began making wooden toys in 1932. In 1934, his company came to be called “Lego”, from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”.

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The original Lionel Corporation was founded in 1900 by Joshua Lionel Cowen and Harry C. Grant in New York City. Initially, the company specialized in electrical novelties, such as fans and lighting devices.

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LJN Toys Ltd. was founded in 1970 by Jack Friedman, who later founded other toy companies, notably THQ and Jakks Pacific. The name LJN came from the initials of Lewis J. Norman, the reverse of Norman J. Lewis, whose toy company had employed Friedman as a sales representative in the 1960s.

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Founded in 1919 in New York City by Louis Marx and his brother David, the company’s basic aim was to “give the customer more toy for less money,” and stressed that “quality is not negotiable” – two values that made the company highly successful.

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Mattel is derived from Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler, who founded the company in 1945.

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McFarlane Toys was founded in 1994 by Todd McFarlane Founded. The company was originally dubbed “Todd Toys,” but the name was changed in 1995 following pressure from Mattel (who feared the new company’s name would be confused with that of Barbie’s younger brother).

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The Mego (pronounced Mee-Go) Corporation was founded in the early 1950s by David Abrams. David’s son, Martin, became president of the company in 1971. Martin’s younger brother, Howard, is credited with coining the name Mego by saying “me go, too” as a child every time his father traveled.

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Mezco Toyz was established in 2000 by Michael Markowitz (Mez) from the ashes of the short-lived toy production company: Aztech Toyz.

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In 1860, Milton Bradley moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, and set up the state’s first color lithography shop. Struggling to find a new way to use his lithography machine, Bradley conceived the idea of making a purely American game. He created The Checkered Game of Life, which had players move along a track from Infancy to Happy Old Age, in which the point was to avoid Ruin and reach Happy Old Age.

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The National Entertainment Collectibles Association or NECA was founded in 1996. In 2002, NECA’s Reel Toys was formed as a division to produce action figures and dolls.

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Established in 1994, Palisades Toys, was a manufacturing and distributing toy & collectibles company geared toward the adult collector market.

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Parker Brothers was founded by George S. Parker and Frederick Huntington “Fred” Parker. Parker created his first game, called Banking, in 1883 at the age of 16.

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Playmates Toys is a Costa Mesa, California toy manufacturer and a subsidiary ofHong Kong-based Playmates Holdings Ltd which was founded in 1966.

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The Playskool Institute was established by Lucille King in 1901 as a division of the John Schroeder Lumber Company. King developed wooden toys to use as teaching aids for children in the classroom. In 1943, Playskool bought the J.L. Wright Company, the manufacturer of Lincoln Logs. In 1968, Playskool became a subsidiary of Milton Bradley; both companies were acquired by Hasbro in 1984.

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Remco was founded in the 1940’s by two cousins: Ike Heller and Saul Robbins. Armand Daddis soon joined the two taking the company from simple ‘walkie-talkies’ to remote controlled toys. The name Remco comes from the two words “Remote Control”.

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Sideshow Collectibles started out in 1994 creating prototypes for companies such as Mattel, Galoob and Wild Planet. In 1999, Sideshow began marketing its own line of collectible and specialty products under the Sideshow brand. The company then began creating items in the sixth scale format that sold through specialty markets, at which time Sideshow switched their name from “toys” to “collectibles”.

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Since the year 2000, SOTA Toys, or State Of The Art Toys, have created and manufactured numerous licensed products based on the characters from popular movies, TV shows, hit video games, and literary works, as well as legendary musicians and pop stars.

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Spin Master Ltd. partnered with Cartoon Network Enterprises in 2008 to create “multi-category consumer products programs for Spin Master’s portfolio of brands.”

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The name Spy Monkey Creations is an amalgam of the online monickers of company founders Jeremy Sung (SpyMagician) and Bill Murphy (Fresh Monkey).

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In 1946, Mound Metalcraft was to manufacture garden implements. Their building’s former occupant, the Streater Company, had made and patented several toys. Streater was not interested in the toy business so he approached Mound Metalcraft. Mound Metalcraft thought they might make a good side line to their other products. After the addition of a new logo with the Dakota Sioux word “Tanka” or Tonka, which means “Great” or “Big”, the company began selling metal toys.

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ToyBiz originated in Montreal, Quebec as Charan Industries’s (founded in the late 1800’s) American brand. In the late 1980s, Charan Industries sold their toy subsidiary. Becoming an American-owned company, Charan Toys was renamed Toy Biz in ’88.

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Mantua Metal Products was a metalworks business founded in 1926. In the 1930s Mantua began to manufacture HO scale model trainsof die-cast metal. In the 1950s, Mantua pioneered “ready-to-run” HO-scale model railroad kits under the TYCO (for Tyler Company) brand.

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Founded in 1948, WHAM-O’s first product was the Wham-O slingshot. The name “Wham-O” was based on the sound of the slingshot’s shot hitting the target.

No doubt, some of the information I’ve present here is inaccurate or incomplete. I did my best. If you are “in the know,” please school me in the comments below!

Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.

 

 

 

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