The Strong’s historians, curators, librarians, and other staff offer insights into and anecdotes about the critical role of play in human development and the ways in which toys, dolls, games, and video games reflect cultural history. Learn even more about the museum’s archival materials, books, catalogs, and other ephemera through its Tumblr page.
Play Stuff Blog
In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... the A-Team.
America first heard these words, spoken in a gravelly voice over grainy footage of soldiers disembarking from a helicopter in the jungles of Southeast Asia, after Super Bowl XVII on January 3, 1983. For the next four yea rs, what has been described as a combination of The Dirty Dozen, Mad Max, Hill Street Blues, Rocky III, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, M.A.S.H., and Dallas held the status of must-see-TV for millions of viewers worldwide.
The brainchild of NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff, The A-Team television series came to life through the work of writers Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo. They created comically mismatched outlaws—Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, Captain H. M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, Lieutenant Templeton “Faceman” Peck, and Sergeant B. A. “Bad Attitude” Baracus—who sought justice for the oppressed, righted wrongs, and turned everyday objects into armored tanks with a little welding and some elbow grease (with a funky welding montage soundtrack to boot). The result was absurd, amazing, and the ultimate 1980s pop culture phenomenon.
The show was also a licensing dream. Action figures, vans, helicopters—even comic books, board games, and crossword puzzle books—hit the shelves to quench consumers’ thirst for the loveable con-men with hearts of gold.
The A-Team proved a boon to the toy weapon industry as well. In 2012, The American Rifleman gave The A-Team the top spot on their “Guns on TV: Top 12 Shows” list. Nearly 30 years after the series ended, it still out-guns classics such as The Rifleman and The Lone Ranger, as well as more recent programs such as Miami Vice, NCIS, and 24, in the variety and volume of firearms on display. However, The A-Team’s signature brand of sanitized, cartoon-like violence—extras routinely walked away from car explosions, slightly dusty but very much alive—insured that only one person was killed on-screen throughout the show’s four-year run.
Mr. T, who played B. A., had previously made a name for himself as Clubber Lang opposite Sylvester Stalone in Rocky III with his intense portrayal of a boxer from the streets and his famous line, “I pity the fool.” He quickly became a fan favorite as the A-Team’s prickly driver and strong man.
He coined catchphrases such as, “I ain’t got time for your jibber jabber,” and “I ain't goin' on no airplane!” B.A. was certainly a beloved character in my house, as evidenced by the handmade Mr. T doll that my mother secretly crafted for my father and gave to him on a very memorable Christmas morning.
Some tall tales are so pleasing that you wish they were true. Not the kind that are just mistakes, like believing that John F. Kennedy was a gifted ventriloquist or that Shania Twain is Mark Twain’s great grand-daughter. I’m talking about plausible old yarns like the one about the young George Washington fessing-up to cutting down the cherry tree. The story isn’t true, but generations of Americans thought it should have been because it fit our Founding Father’s virtues so well.
When the National Toy Hall of Fame inducts new toys each year, people notice—tens of millions notice.
Toy and game inventors deserve their time in the spotlight, according to the annual TAGIE (Toy and Game Inventors Expo) Awards. Bestselling books and hit songs earn authors and singers publicity as well as financial rewards. But create a million-selling toy or game and practically no one knows your name. The TAGIE Awards honor the people behind the playthings, celebrating their creations and the fun they’ve brought to our lives.
A recent e-mail inquiry from a researcher in Finland gave me a great opportunity to mine our vast trade catalog collection for information about the prehistory of electronic games. The researcher wanted to know more about the origins of pre-computer electric quiz games of the 1940s and 1950s.
It’s not that I play too much, quite the contrary. The Guitar Hero game I’ve had at home since last Christmas is still wrapped in cellophane. I just can’t bring myself to buy the guitar controller required to play the game. My reluctance is not a reflection of the game, which is by all measures popular, fun, and imaginative.
It’s hard to believe that Sesame Street is turning forty.