Toons in Toyland: The Story of
Cartoon Character Merchandise focuses on the post-World War II circa 1946-1980, when the last baby boomers were in high school. During those years, the mass merchandising of cartoon characters peaked. However, the concept of licensing cartoon characters for toys, trinkets, and other merchandise dates back to the very first newspaper comics character, the Yellow Kid, who debuted in 1896 and was soon appearing on a variety of items.
Eventually, cartoon producers and comic strip artists counted on merchandising as a major part of their revenue stream. It still plays a tremendous role in the success of the Walt Disney Company and many others today.
Individual chapters in the book examine storybooks (such as Little Golden Books), comic books, records, board games, jigsaw puzzles, optical toys (including View-Master and Kenner’s Give-a-Show Projector), and holiday merchandise (Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and birthday partyware).
Extending even beyond toys, we see how characters were licensed for food products – remember the Peanuts characters plugging bread and Dolly Madison snacks? – and even the world of roadside Americana, with attractions, amusement parks, and restaurants all hoping to lure tourists off the highways with a bit of cartoon magic.
Toons in Toyland is now available from UPM.
TIM HOLLIS has published twenty-four books on pop culture history. For more than thirty years he has maintained a museum of cartoon-related merchandise in Dora, Alabama. He is the author of Dixie Before Disney: 100 Years of Roadside Fun; Florida's Miracle Strip: From Redneck Riviera to Emerald Coast; Hi There, Boys and Girls! America's Local Children's TV Programs; Ain't That a Knee-Slapper: Rural Comedy in the Twentieth Century; and, with Greg Ehrbar, Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records, all published by University Press of Mississippi.