Happy 50th Birthday, Fisher-Price Little People

LP Safety School Bus - original.jpg

It’s the golden jubilee of Fisher-Price’s Little People toys, even though they’ve been around in some form since 1950. They didn’t become the little peg-bodied Little People we know today until 1959, however, with the launch of the “Safety School Bus”, which included six figures that could removed from the bus, although the driver stayed inside. (His head was attached to a mechanism that caused it to move back and forth as the bus was pulled. Despite being a child of the ’80s, I recall playing with this bus. I had no idea it was so old!)

LP_FarmPlayset_1968.jpg

The two Little People sets I recall playing with the most as a kid, the “Play Family Farm” and the “Play Family House” were introduced in the late ’60s. I’d always presumed mine were new—and perhaps they were, as the line wasn’t redesigned until 1991 (and again in ’97), with the Farm in production until ’85—but it’s possible that I could have inherited them. Looking at the little chickens and dogs and farmers now in Fisher-Price’s faux vintage photographs makes me wistful; I remember the personality I had imbued in every one of those little pegs.

After the jump, some vintage commercials for Little People, as well as some trivia about the line that I cut-and-pasted from a Word doc.

Video: Play Family Farm commercial (1960s)

Video: Play Family Farm System commercial (1971)

Q: Of what material were the first Little People figures made?
A: Wood. The first plastic figures were introduced in 1968 – they had plastic bodies, with wooden heads.

Q: How many different types of Little People animals have there been?
A: Since 1959, Little People has created over 80 different animals, from alligators to zebras!

Q: What was the first playset for Little People?
A: The Little People Farm in 1968. It was one of the hottest toys in the industry that year.

Q: For how much did the first Little People playset retail?
A: $9.99.

Q: In what year did a Little People playset feature its first licensed characters? What were they?
A: 1975. Sesame Street.

Q: How many Little People products have been sold between 1959 and today?
A: More than 1.5 billion.

Q: When were Little People figures redesigned with more real-life features?
A: 1997.

Q: What are the names of the most popular Little People figures?
A: Sara Lynn and Eddie.

Q: What Little People figures were the first to be based on fairy tales?
A: Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.

Q: When was the first Little People seasonal toy introduced? What was it?
A: 1997. Santa & His Sleigh.

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29 Responses to Happy 50th Birthday, Fisher-Price Little People

  1. Brad S. says:

    EVERY time I fly, I find myself wishing that every plane was a Fisher Price Plane, so that when we reached our final destination, the sides would fold down and each aisle would all walk down its own staircase off the side of the plane. I have found that as you’re waiting in the massive crush of people trying to disembark, the mere mention of the Fisher Price Plane to other passengers will elicit laughter and lighten the mood. :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Here we just had a discussion about the mechanics and noises of these sets, and realized we still don’t really know how the barn door mooed!

    spooooooooky

  3. Joe Wool says:

    I am trying to find parts for an old little people set. It consists of a firehouse, red door or right, white city hall tower in middle with telephone, raise blue ramp in front, black turntable on lower level for fire truck when it comes out of the firehouse, see saw , garden in center of turntable. I need the 3 rubber belts that drive the turntable from the elec. motor. The dia. of the belts are small, about the size of the lead in a pencil. Any help would be greatly appreciated….Thanks, Joe

  4. celia says:

    Chris S–Was that a parking garage with an elevator in it? I seem to remember taking Matchboxes up the elevator and then down the ramp.

    We got all our best toys from yard sales, so I remember most of that farm, but not the tractor. (Maybe we got the Amish version.) And I totally remember the little sheep with the ears that stick out to side.

  5. Anonymous says:

    On a recent Target jaunt I spied some ‘anniversary sets’ of the FP Farm and School. They’re still a little different than the ones I recall playing with in the early 70s, but the cow and sheep in the farm set were close enough to make me happy. They’re smaller sets – no mooing doors – and they’re designed to be carry-along toys. One of Targets’ red shirts found me with a blissed out grin in front of the display, and asked if I was alright.

  6. strider_mt2k says:

    …and one little person in the middle screaming, “Nooooooo!” at the sky…

    Sorry.

  7. gracchus says:

    Thanks for posting this … when I was a kid, my sister and I referred to the Little People as “The Mens” (plural for men, of course). We spent many happy hours with them, including the Farm. So Happy birthday, mens!

  8. skrewgun says:

    1975, I’m four years old, my brother is nine. He is telling me a great tale of a family having a wonderful day at sea in their awesome Fisher-Price House Boat, a great day until they can’t find little Billy.
    “Billy! Billlllly!” they call, but their cries go unanswered, for little Billy (the mean-faced, blue body, red baseball cap little person) had decided it would be a good idea to go off in the dinghy by himself for a little while. He gets caught up in a current and swept away, never to be seen again…(clever slight of hand hides him under the rug from me)

    The sad family let’s out one final “Biiiiilllll-llleeeeeeeeee…”

    I flip my shit, cry for the death of Billy and tell our parents that my brother killed him.

    Thirty years later for my thirty-fourth birthday I get a box in the mail from my brother. I open it to find little Billy, with a little shark bite from his cap, has finally made it home.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I grew up in the next town over from Fisher-Price headquarters; Little People were everywhere. I participated in the test groups for toys like the PXL-2000.

    I had an industrial design teacher in college who had worked for Fisher-Price – he told stories about whole rooms full of leftover Little People parts, and he wished that before he left, he had just walked in and filled his pockets.

    Fisher-Price has a “Bits & Pieces” catalog that you can order by phone which carries individual parts out of all their current toys. Excellent for replacing that one broken part, or getting that neat little figure…

  10. strider_mt2k says:

    Thanks Stephan.

    You’ve made that thing into Blain the Mono.

    (shivers)

  11. semiotix says:

    The door on that barn had a little doohickey attached to it that made a mooing sound when you opened it. It scared the crap out of me, and I think it still does.

  12. napstimpy says:

    Evan Dorkin’s wonderful Fisher Price Theatre:

    http://cardhouse.com/x10/lottery.htm
    http://cardhouse.com/x12/mice.htm

    There’s Catcher in the Rye too, but you know how to work the internets.

  13. sharon kucher says:

    I have 4 children. When they were small I bought all the little people play set i could find at garage sales. If there was a free box i search it to the bottom for loose little people. My children loved all the sets. The little people were my hildren biggest loss after our house fire. One of my daughters recently at age 17 bought (at a garage sale) a bus with 8 little people. She was so proud and plans to save it for future family children. I found her and her sister age 16 playing with it the next day. te he true and funny – Memories!!!!!!

  14. El Stinko says:

    Sadly, the Little People are no longer peg and hole anymore. They have been replaced by pudgy, Cabbage Patch figures of molded plastic. They have names like Michael(TM) and Danielle(TM) and the trade mark accompanies their name pretty much every time it’s used, even in stories. They also don’t fit everywhere, as the feet are sculpted. You can only put them (comfortably) where they are intended to go. You cannot make the chicken drive the tractor. The chicken only fits in the chicken shaped slot. Most of the toys also “require” batteries now. I put that in quotes because I find them totally optional, but the fact that it asks for them it all I find obnoxious.

    I didn’t care for them, but I thought I was just being sentimental until I watched my daughter, who routinely ignored the contemporary Little People, obsess over the older versions at her Grandmother’s house. So now, whenever I see them at yard sales or whatnot, I try to pick them up and clean them up for her.

  15. strider_mt2k says:

    Oh man you guys always find a way to open my heart.

    You start out loving them, then disdain them as an “older kid” then love them again for the memories as you watch the latest generation fall in love with them.

    Great stuff. (Including the moo-ing barn door!)

    The airplane was my favorite. :D

  16. dove says:

    Whenever I played at my grandma’s house, they’d bring out this great town set ( http://myvintagetoybox.ecrater.com/product.php?pid=4025719 ). It’s probably the toy I remember most vividly from their house, along with the giant tray of interlocking gears. After they passed, we took it home and I tried to interest my sister in it, but she wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was by the mail truck and the siren and everything else. I love toys like this. I think we still have this somewhere at home. I want to give it to my children when I have them.

  17. arkizzle says:

    Aeroplane and Garage!!

    YAY!

  18. HeatherB says:

    I loved these toys growing up. So much so that when my sister had my youngest niece I searched for ages to find the farm and school house for her. Toys that we both enjoyed as child.

  19. napstimpy says:

    The barn door moos by an arm attached to the door that manipulates a small accordion bellows/reed hidden under the roof (which you can’t see unless you take the whole thing apart). I know this because I bought the barn set at a yard sale for my kid, and in the process of cleaning it, took it apart to solve the moo mystery.

    And there’s no Easter Bunny either. Sorry.

  20. Now ths is a blog after my own heart! I found it as my Vintage Fisher Price Village link was mentioned above. I LOVE the old Fisher Price. I think my most vivid memory is of the Blue and Yellow Play Family House (952)and my two lapdolls Elizabeth & Natalie (pronounced “Paddalee” by me too cute!) Yes, I’m that much of a junky that I know the model #’s!

    My husband and I grew to love them so much we started collecting and selling!

    Love to have people visit our store~ even if just to reminisce… just added another favorite of mine ~ the Sesame Street 938 Brownstone from ’74.

    Stop by please and hagle if you like!!
    http://www.myvintagetoybox.com

  21. STEVE P says:

    I am 45 and still have many of the old structures. My two girls play with them in front of the house with all the neighborhood kids who think they are the greatest toys ever…they are. I always felt sorry for the wooden kid who had to turn the ferris wheel and the merry go round (same kid) He is not happy, but the music is pleasant. We take our people down to the beach where we live and play with them. You should see all the middle aged eople gather around and smile…its priceless

  22. Chris S says:

    Wow.

    1970 – “Play Family Action Garage”. Not only did I have that, I think my mom *still* has that.

    That down ramp worked for great for the included Little People cars, but it was pretty darn cool for the Hot Wheels as well!

    Getting misty-eyed here….

  23. Bevatron Repairman says:

    For my fifth birthday (1975), I got the castle — a dragon, a trap-door to toss folks into a dungeon, a couple of secret passages — great stuff.

  24. misscrochet says:

    Bonjour! I am soooo happy that I found this blog…I am a fine painter that uses Vintage Fisher Price Little People as subject matter in my paintings. You can view them at my blog…
    http://poppypenny.blogspot.com/

    I collect as many as I can of these little guys…I just purchased the vintage learning how to count clock and it will be in my new painting…great job party people!

    Muah! (insert kiss noise)

    Samantha ;)

  25. pupdog says:

    I loved my Little People (I think the airplane may have been my favorite too), but I’ve always been curious about a story I heard in college. Sitting around one night talking about the stupid things we’d done growing up, one guy related how he and his friends had discovered that (old-school round-peg) Little People could be wedged into an old shotgun they had access to. As reckless kids, competitions emerged (who could launch one the farthest, most accurately, etc.) leading to a patch of woods littered with Little People embedded into tree trunks, splintered bodies strewn across the landscape. I’ve often imagined someone stumbling onto that and trying to figure out exactly what had happened…

  26. Jack says:

    My two faves were the dog and the boy with the pot on his head.

    So does Fisher-Price still sell classic “Little People”? Because the ones I’ve seen nowadays are just… Blah… No style….

  27. Jack says:

    Never mind. Just saw some 50th anniversary sets on the Fisher-Price site… Bleagh… The figures seem twice as large. I bet the old figures couldn’t pass the choking test standards nowadays.

    I’m all for safe toys for kids, but you know what? These toys nowadays stink and are over-designed with “safety” in mind.

  28. snej says:

    Oh god, does that bring back memories of my little sister’s room. Looking at the photos, I can remember intimately the feel of those little plastic collars, the mooing of the barn door, the way the plastic top came off the silo, the motion of the bus driver’s head, the nodding heads of the little animals…

  29. Stefan Jones says:

    The face on that bus is terrifying.

    You get the idea that he’s really enthusiastic about his job. And will never be un-enthusiastic about it, even when he’s old fashioned and wearing out and assigned to a route through a really crappy part of town. And that he’ll still have that deranged grin and fixed stare even when he’s been told to report to the junk yard.

    God, I’ve gone and gotten myself thoroughly depressed.

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