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Masters of the Universe joining Lite-Brite, spinning top in National Toy Hall of Fame

The ancient top, cultural phenomenon Masters of the Universe, and beloved Lite-Brite have been inducted today into the National Toy Hall of Fame. The honorees, unveiled during a special ceremony at The Strong National Museum of Play, were chosen from a field of 12 finalists that also included bingo, Breyer Horses, Catan, Nerf, piñata, Phase 10, Pound Puppies, Rack-O, and Spirograph.

About Top: Since ancient times, the spinning top has been a childhood staple of cultures in Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Australia. The toy form has entertained adults, too. (Ancient Greek pottery shows women playing with tops more than 2,000 years ago!) Special eight-sided tops called teetotums supply the element of chance in board games and similar pastimes. Modern kids play with this classic toy still, calculating the placement, centrifugal force, and velocity needed to execute the longest spin or to capture their competitors’ prized tops.

Says Chief Curator Christopher Bensch, “The top is one of the oldest toys and an integral part of many cultures, where it developed independently as a plaything. With more than 5,000 years of history behind it, it’s about time that the top spun its way into the National Toy Hall of Fame!”

About Masters of the Universe: The Master of the Universe line of action figures, which includes the iconic He-Man and She-Ra, traces its popularity to maker Mattel’s use of comic books, television, and the big screen. The cartoon series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which ran from 1983 to 1985,created a cohesive, fantasy world that allowed Mattel to introduce new characters and new toys to the line. Over the years, Mattel has paired the brand with everything from toothbrushes to sleeping bags. In 2021, a new Netflix series based on Masters of the Universe proved the toy’s staying power.

Says Curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer, “Part of the appeal of Masters of the Universe toys grew out of their being well-suited to the way kids play. The team at Mattel understood that kids spend lots of time in fantasy play and like the opportunity to project themselves into the role of the hero. Masters of the Universe characters had the strength, weapons, and power to defeat the villain—and give kids confidence. He-Man, after-all, regularly asserted ‘I have the power!’”

About Lite-Brite: Created in 1966, Lite-Brite uses the same concept as stained-glass windows, allowing children to create glowing images against a black background, either following manufactured designs or creating their own picture. Through the years, Lite-Brite has gradually changed its format and technology but the potential for open-ended creativity has kept Lite-Brite popular for more than 50 years.

Curator Nicolas Ricketts says, “Whatever their shape or size, Lite-Brite play sets have encouraged kids to color and draw with light, applying 20th-century technology to ancient mosaic techniques. In 1968 promotional materials, Hasbro declared Lite-Brite a ‘magic light box,’ and that magic continues more than 50 years later.”

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