Twister, Super Soaker and puppets join toy Hall of Fame

Participants in Singapore’s first mass Twister competition at Downtown East in 2010.
Participants in Singapore’s first mass Twister competition at Downtown East in 2010.PHOTO: MY PAPER

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Better luck next year, Ninja Turtles. The National Toy Hall of Fame on Thursday added three 2015 inductees - the classic puppet, the Super Soaker water gun and the game Twister - to the ranks of its best beloved American toys and games of all time.

Twelve finalists were announced in September, with the three winners to take a place of honour in the halls of The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, alongside Barbie, Monopoly, the teddy bear, and other toy classics.

The puppet was a clear choice, the Strong Museum said. "The puppet appeared thousands of years ago and in nearly every culture - including across Asia, Europe, and the Americas," it wrote in a press release.

"Playing with puppets helps children develop coordination and manual dexterity. Children use their imaginations to provide voice, plot, and purpose to their puppet characters. Using puppets also allows children to try on new personalities, emotions, and goals," museum curator Patricia Hogan explained.

Twister, the game for the agile and limber-limbed, was invented in 1964 by toy inventor Reyn Guyer, conceived as a game on a coloured mat, with people serving as the playing pieces. Top US retailer Sears, Roebuck and Company at first refused to carry the game, fearing it was too risque, but demand for Twister grew almost overnight after it was featured on the popular Late night television program "The Tonight Show." After host Johnny Carson and Hollywood actress Eva Gabor played the game on the show to the delight of millions of viewers, Twister went on to sell more than three million copies in 1967 - and has remained popular ever since.

Chris Bensch, The Strong Museum's vice president for collections, quipped that the choice of the Super Soaker to enter the hall of fame was a nod to "good, clean fun." The hand-held water cannons - particularly in games where combatants chase down and squirt each other into submission - provide exercise, as well as "brain-training while calculating vectors to moving targets and improvising tactics on the fly," Bensch said.

Nine toys and games that failed to make the cut were American Girl dolls, the combat game Battleship, the humble colouring book, the building block toy Jenga, Playmobil, the scooter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, the classic spinning top, and Wiffle Ball, a plastic bat and ball which serve as an introduction to baseball for millions of American kids.

Anyone can nominate a toy for entry to the hall, but it has to meet a number of requirements, including being widely recognised, respected and remembered, according to the museum.