While Hasbro may be the most well known New England-based toy company, toy store owners across the country may instead think of the Schylling brand. Rowley-MA based Schylling Toys specializes in classic, timeless toys with modern appeal. You won’t see any fly-by-night tech gadgets coming out of their catalogue.
That’s precisely what makes this company so cool. Through the 30 plus years they have been in business, Schylling has been putting out a line of playthings with appeal to both kids and adults. Here are just a few off the more interesting items coming off the Schylling production line.
Sock Monkey Mania
Who doesn’t love a kitschy sock monkey toy? For those of us who aren’t talented enough to create our own, or too thrifty to splurge on an Etsy creation, Schylling has its own model. In addition, you can also celebrate your child’s love for all things Sock Monkey with a yo-yo, playground ball, alarm clock, jack in the boxes or tin tea set, all featuring the stuffed simian.
Retro Tin Collector Toys
Adult Schylling fans know them as much for their extensive collection of retro tin toys as for their classic playthings. For collectors of offbeat and collectible toys, this company is a great go-to. Visitors to their the site will find original tin toy creations like the irreverent wind-up Duck On Bike, the amusement park-themed Rocket Ride Carousel, a mini car Rocket Racer, a Cowboy with a tin lasso, or the ray gun-toting Tin Wind Up Spaceman.
Attack of the Robots!
Speaking of retro, it is impossible not to call out their collection of robots. Parents can get their geek on, while inspiring future sci-fi lovers. My personal favorite is the Planet Robot model (with sparking eyes!), and for those too young to go the tin-toy route just yet, a very cool robot-inspired kickball.
I’m With the Band
For the young musician in your house, Schylling has a wide selection of authentic, but down-aged, musical instruments. Items like their wooden accordion, mini baby grand piano, 6 string acoustic guitar and cowboy guitar are more than just toys, but, instead, functioning instruments to introduce kids into the world of music.
For those who have accepted the fact that your child has somehow been programmed to love all things pink and princessy, Schylling has options. Further, for those who prefer their princess toys license-free, Schylling can fulfill that as well: dresses, accessories, and mini-castle included!
The Magic Lives On
When I was a kid, everyone on the block had a magic kit. Whether it was a card tricks, ball tricks or magic wands, we were all trying to be little Houdinis. How refreshing that Schylling is keeping the classic magic kit alive with over a dozen products in their Fantasma line, including the deluxe Lengths of Magic kit that includes an instructional DVD.
Other cool and classic products coming out of the Schylling house include Erector sets, Jack in the Box toys, dress up clothes, diecasts, science sets, and Sea Monkeys.
It is in our nature to want our kids to like the same things we do, whether it be a sport, album, videogame, film or TV show. Since I am less of a sports guy, and more of a pop culture geek, I tend to force my entertainment choices on Maia. More accurately said, place them in front of her and see how she reacts. While some haven’t exactly stuck (sorry Fraggles), a few have carried over quite well. One which she took to early on and continues to love is “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”
- Pee-wee waves hello from the house
Yeah, yeah, I know. The real-life Pee-wee had some scandalous arrest, but that is irrelevant when it comes to the show. I think this show translates so well to her, and other modern viewers, because of its detail, talent, artistry, and originality. And, I am not the first to compare it to a certain current-day preschool series, which, like ‘Pee-wee’ did in its time, captures the attention of parents, hipsters, and children alike.
For those who don’t know, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” was a Saturday morning series starring Paul Reubens. Based off a not-so-kid-friendly stage show, Pee-wee was a child in an adult body who lived in a parent-free fantasy house filled with talking furniture, amazing gadgets (even for today), quirky friends and out-of-this world creatures and animals.
As a creator and producer of this show, Reubens certainly knew how to bring talent and an artistic vision to the series. His live-action friends include ex-Groundling members and up-and-coming talent like Phil Hartman, Lawrence Fishburne, and S. Epatha Merkerson. Pee-wee Herman’s house was also filled with stylized, animated vintage toys and pop-art of the time. The “Penny” claymation segments were put together by “Wallace & Gromit” creators Peter Lord and Nick Park. The soundtrack included compositions from Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo) and Todd Rundgren as well as a title song from Cyndi Lauper.
In an age of Pixar films filled with jokes for parents and kids, Pee-wee’s humor stays relevant today and will still get the whole fam giggling. The fast-paced segments are sure to hold the attention of today’s audience, too. Pee-wee also mixes media, something any Sesame or “Yo Gabba Gabba” viewer is used to, putting in pieces of classic animation and the aforementioned claymation segments. And what kid doesn’t love puppetry? Pee-wee’s housemates include beloved puppet characters like Chairy the Chair, Pterry the pterodactyl, and the trouble-making Randy.
- Some of that Pee-wee art deco
Yes, there are some moments that don’t carry over so well. For example, frequent Playhouse visitor Miss Yvonne shows off lots of cleavage and swoons over shirtless men like the Tito the hotpants-wearing poolboy. And I would have preferred it if Pee-wee hadn’t shown Maia how to make underwear into a turban. Or invited the giant alien eyeball into his Playhouse. But all of this can be skipped thanks to modern DVD technology.
“Pee-wee’s Playhouse” is sold as two separate box sets containing all seasons. Also available is a separate Christmas special. The Christmas special is a camp classic that has to be seen to be believed, with guests like Grace Jones, Dinah Shore , Joan Rivers, Charo, Oprah Winfrey, Little Richard and k.d. lang.
As for Pee-wee’s mega-successful spinoff effort, Tim Burton’s “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” we have deemed this a bit scary for a child who is still getting comfortable with “The Little Mermaid.” In the meantime, Maia has started to collect vintage merchandise from friends including View Master slides, pull-string dolls, movie tie-in books and a bobble-head doll.
So, while I am happy to celebrate all the interesting, new preschool entertainment out there, it is fun to find some retro entertainment that Maia enjoys with her Dad. And for those who think I am being too self-serving, to quote Pee-wee, “I know you are, but what am I?”
More information on Pee-Wee (via Wikipedia)