On Campus with the Little People
by Scott Berk
The announcement that the Fisher-Price Little People have been discontinued, and that a line of re-designed play pieces will take their place, has come as a shock to us here at X Magazine. But who else remembers these playful pieces of wood and plastic? We took to the corridors of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology to find out. Based on a non-scientific survey of 50 American students, ranging in ages from 18 to 25, the answer to that question is a resounding "Just About Everyone!"
Each person surveyed was asked if they could recognize any of four Little People figures. The figures used in the survey were the Mom, the Daughter, the Clown, and the Dog. Those who were able to recognize the figures were asked further questions concerning the company who made the figures, and the specific figures which they remember owning (or still own). The results indicate that the Little People hold a special place in the hearts and minds of college students today.
A full 80% of those responding could recognize the figures as a toy which they had played with at some point in their lives. Of these 40 people, 24 (60%) were able to recall that Fisher-Price was the company that produced the Little People. As for the ownership questions, 27 (68%) remembered owning the Mom (and she was always referred to as 'Mom,' never 'Woman' or any other description). Twenty-eight people out of 40 (70%) owned the daughter, or 'kid,' as some referred to her. Indeed, she is a rather androgynous figure. The least-known figure was the clown, with only one person (2.5%) recognizing it. Why? Perhaps it was part of a set which came out later than the others. Perhaps people have blocked out owning the clown. I, for one, was very scared of clowns as a child, and might be simply forgetting an early childhood trauma. Surprisingly, only 18 people (45%) remembered owning the dog. I say "surprisingly" because, of all the Little People, the dog is the one I hold most dear. At least one respondent shared my views. To quote: "I had a very intimate relationship with the dog. His ears were made of soft plastic, and I used to chew on them constantly."
The most interesting part about doing this survey was the reactions that people had upon seeing the figures. If they did not recognize them, they were asked about the toys they played with in general. Most of these people either grew up in an isolated area or played with the toys of older siblings, who were children before the Little People hit the market. Of the people who did recognize the figures, some merely responded positively and went on their way. The overwhelming majority, however, were instantly caught up in what I can only term "Little People Magic." With a twinkle in their eyes, they would tell me how they used to put the figures in a car, or a house, a plane, a barn, a school. The people would assume a state of quasi-euphoria as they spoke of their childhood. "We probably have these in my house right now!" said one respondent. "I wonder what happened to all of my toys," another reminisced. "I bet my brother broke them all. He always broke everything!"
So, while the Little-People may be gone today, they will continue to live on in the memories of the millions of children who grew up with them. For future generations, one can only hope that a toy will come along that will have the same impact. Will the New Little People fill this toy vacuum? The answer remains to be seen ...
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