The series began with this little creepy number in 1959 — the Safety School Bus. And I say creepy because OMG LOOK AT THE FACE ON THAT BUS IT IS TERRIFYING. Plus, the glass roof and lack of windows? That can't be safe. I know I wouldn't want to be riding to school on this number, namely because it'd give me horrifying nightmares. And hey, it's still less horrifying than the new Little People.
Eventually, the little people grew up and expanded their world into other areas, like Ferris wheels, schoolhouses, barns and airports. They also added in things like snowmobiles which really didn't make a lot of sense, as the snowmobiles were like ten times the size of their little wooden and plastic riders, but I guess the Little People target audience wouldn't really care too much.
The plane was a frequent favorite of mine as a young boy, though mine was orange instead of green. It also spent a lot of time in the bottom of pools and half-buried in piles of dirt because like all young boys, I liked to crash things. Still, it not only survived, but never showed signs of wear and tear, perhaps a testament to the quality the Little People were built to. It also for some reason made a clicking noise when it rolled, which I don't think is a good thing for real airplanes to do.
But there's one thing no one mentioned that was a huge part of my childhood: the Little People Main Street set. This was (besides the airport) the biggest Little People playset my parents had ever bought for us. Not only was it portable, but Main Street came with a ton of stuff: cars, letters, Little People, a traffic light and other city signs ... this was the biggest and best set I could ever remember there being. There were plenty of hidden little things, too: the circular ramp had a parking garage behind it, for instance, and the back panels of the shops pulled up to reveal a pet shop and barber shop. Or well, it was at least the facades of both those shops. My favorite part was the little ice cream shop which, when the seats were pressed inward into the building, had a "Closed" sign that would come down and literally close off the shop. Like some of my other toys, I don't know if my parents kept them, but I suspect they have them somewhere in their basement, collecting dust.
Little People have stood the test of time as popular toys, bringing many people into the world of toys at a young age and sometimes becoming the canvas themselves. Heck, they've even been used to do a parody of Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" (NSFW). But it's clear that what was started 50 years ago endures today because of their simplicity in addition to being a part of our childhoods. It's just a little peg that goes into a hole in a car or a seat, but somehow, those little pegs became real people to each and every one of us. And that is perhaps the greatest thing about Little People of all: they helped build the imagination we all still have and use today.
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Brian Szabelski is Tomopop's Editor-in-Chief, stuck with an ever-growing collection of figures and toys. When he's not posting on Tomopop, he can usually be found working on any number of project... more | staff directory
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