Playmonster CEO Bob Wann has joined a list of esteemed names in the toy industry – including Jim Pressman, former President of Pressman Toy Corporation, and Raggedy Ann and Andy creator, the late Johnny Gruelle – to be inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.
This year’s list of big names is rounded out by the late Lucille King, founder of the Playskool Institute.
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees (Pressman and Wann) were nominated and voted on by Toy Association members in recognition of their significant contributions to the industry and the impact they have had on children’s lives through a lifelong commitment to toys and play. The two will join an impressive roster of 81 toy industry luminaries who have been inducted into the Hall since its inception in 1984, including those who brought it to life. Mickey mouse (Walt disney), Barbie (Ruth and Elliot Handler), The Muppets (Jim henson), Wonder (Stan lee) and more.
“Bob and Jim are icons of today’s toy industry who have created, marketed, licensed and produced innovative toys and games enjoyed by children and families around the world,” said Steve pasierb, President and CEO of the Toy Association.
“Their pioneering spirit, their embrace of the magic of play and their unwavering dedication to providing quality, educational and fun products to children of all ages is a source of inspiration for all. Bob’s countless contributions to the Toy Association as a board member, president and leader of PlayCon add to his lasting positive impact. We look forward to honoring their great accomplishments at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in February 2022. ”
This year’s posthumous inductees, Lucille King and Johnny Gruelle, were first recommended as part of a list of five well-documented candidates proposed by the recently established Hall of Fame Subcommittee on Posthumous Selection, which examined diversity in the company, area of contribution, ethnicity, gender, and lasting impact on the toy industry.
The nominees were then voted on by the Hall of Fame committee and both inductees were approved by the Toy Association’s Board of Directors. The new posthumous inductee selection process helps ensure recognition of any deserving individual who has contributed to the American toy industry since 1800 and who might have been overlooked in previous years.
“Lucille King, a former schoolteacher who has invested most of her life in making toys that stimulated the minds of preschoolers, and Johnny Gruelle, whose Raggedy Ann and Andy stories and dolls have entertained generations of American children, each expertly incorporating learning, creativity and storytelling into their children’s toys and products, ”Pasierb added.
“Their designs have captured the hearts of millions of children and helped pave the way for future toy innovators and entrepreneurs. This recognition is well deserved as we welcome their legacy to the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, and set the tone as we seek to recognize a much larger number of influencers in the years to come.
Jim pressman began his career with Pressman Toy Corporation in 1971, became president in 1979 and led the company for 35 years. Under his leadership, Pressman Toy was one of the first companies to market game shows as board games, including Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Deal or No Deal, and Double Dare. It supplemented these licensed products with classics, becoming a leading supplier of Chinese chess, checkers, backgammon and checkers; he also had an incredible eye for products and marketing, launching hits like Rummikub, Mastermind, Gooey Louie, Hydro Strike, Let’s Go Fishin ‘, Topple and Tri-ominos. Adept at manufacturing in the United States, Pressman has produced high quality products in New Jersey for 30 years and, when moving production to China, was diligent to manufacture products only with factories having the highest quality standards and practices. He was a long-time supporter of the Toy Association, serving on the executive committee and other committees, and supported various charitable causes including the Toy Foundation and Toys for Tots.
With a career in the toy industry spanning over 40 years, Bob wann was praised by his colleagues for his keen sense of the product, his passion for the industry and his exemplary leadership skills. As a salesperson, marketer and innovator, Wann has led the growth and global expansion of well-known brands such as Nerf, Care Bears, Mr. Potato Head, Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Clue and Spirograph, working at Hasbro, Playskool, Milton bradley/Parker Brothers, American Greetings and Fisher-Price. Most recently, Wann led Patch Products’ expansion from a small games company to the award-winning multi-category PlayMonster business, which it continues to grow exponentially in the United States and internationally. He has worked tirelessly for the advancement of the toy industry, serving for over 10 years on the Board of Directors of the Toy Association, eight years on the Executive Committee as President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, and seven years as president and host of PlayCon. Wann has also elevated charitable work within the toy industry, working with the Toy Foundation and in community support initiatives led by his companies.
Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938)
When Johnny Gruelle at 19, he began working as an illustrator and designer for a series of newspapers. In 1915, he applied for a design patent for a cloth doll he called Raggedy Ann, then wisely proceeded to produce enough handmade Raggedy Ann dolls to file for the “Raggedy Ann” logo. . In 1918, Chicago Publisher PF Volland published the first volume of Tales of Raggedy Ann de Gruelle and made the Raggedy Ann doll. In 1920, Raggedy Ann’s brother made his Raggedy Andy Stories debut and joined his sister as a doll on store shelves. Gruelle then wrote and illustrated 25 books on her redhead dolls and made Raggedy Ann and Andy the centerpieces of a well-designed and well-marketed fictional universe with interlocking story books, cloth dolls and a multitude of other toys, as well as branded extensions in household products ranging from furniture to canned goods. Even before the advent of Walt disney’s A marketing juggernaut, Gruelle created a model of media products, toys and dolls that all supported each other and enjoyed dramatic and lasting success with American audiences.
Lucille King (dates of birth and death unknown)
A retired teacher in Wisconsin, Lucille King came up with a design concept for durable wooden block toys for use in classrooms to stimulate young minds and develop coordination. In 1928, while working for the John Schroeder Lumber Company, King and his colleague introduced the idea of these toys to the management of the company; the lumber company agreed to the plan and the Playskool Institute was established as a subdivision with the slogan “Learn by playing”. In two years, they produced 40 unique toys, including a hammering bench, wooden beads and blocks, table-mounted sandbox, pegboard, and more. As early as 1930, Playskool toys were endorsed by experts in child guidance, and the aura of educational enrichment latched onto the brand. King has dedicated most of his life to enriching the lives of American children. Its contributions to the toy industry were compounded when the company was sold to Hasbro, which made it a leading child-focused preschool tactile learning company with an emphasis on learning the development over the past 93 years.
The 2022 Toy Industry Hall of Fame inductees will be honored at the 22sd Annual Toy of the Year Award (TOTY) on Friday, February 18, 2022. The Toy Industry Hall of Fame coexists with the National Toy Hall of Fame in a special exhibition at the Fort at Rochester, New York.