I started this piece with the intention of talking about Tenggren's toy paintings and I somehow digressed into a rant about Legos. I really should have split the piece into two separate articles, but I'm too sleepy to do a rewrite now. I hope you'll forgive me for allowing the post to remain the rambling platypus that it is.
So...about Tenggren...he painted the beautiful picture above from "Pinocchio." I'm guessing that he, or a layout man, referenced toy sketches by Horvath. Anyway, whoever designed them would have had a great run as a toy designer in the 19th century. They're first rate!
I know what you're thinking...that Tenggren's toys were generic for their time (maybe 150 years ago), but were they? For comparison, here's (above) another Pinnochio picture painted by Claude Coates. Take a look at the toys. Now that's generic!
Back to Tenggren again. Most of these toys (above) are designed, they're not generic at all. When you look at it close, even the rocking horse in the foreground seems a little like a caricature of generic toy horses rather than the real thing.
A lot of 19th century toys were sculptural and not very realistic. To us they seem like objects of art more than toys. They were so beautiful that I imagine parents were tempted to hold onto them long after the kids grew up and moved out.
Horvath was a terrific designer of buildings. His version of Stromboli's Puppet Theater would have made a wonderful toy. It still would. If it was available in the toyshops when my kids were young, I'd have bought it for them.
Some of the best toys we have today are by Lego (above). How do you like the Lego pirate ship, "Queen Anne's Revenge?"
Or this Lego castle?
Or the "Imperial Flagship" Above)?
The problem with Lego toys is that they're pricey and are made out of little blocks. Dads probably build the toys then kids take them apart, and once taken apart the essential pieces get lost forever. Another problem is that the big, impressive sets are geared toward older kids, who are no longer the age that plays with toys. These sets are never in sync with the developmental stages of real children.
One more gripe: what's with the cute little human characters? Pirates weren't cute. This is a concession made to hippie parents who foolishly wouldn't otherwise buy war toys for their kids. The little figures are nice and artistic, but they're not useful for kid fantasies. In fact, they were designed with the specific intention of thwarting kids war fantasies. What kind of toy is that?
I still like Legos. The best of them are miniature works of art. I just wish molded plastic pirate ships et al were also available. There aren't many parts to lose in toys made that way, they're more inviting to fantasy, and they can be sold cheaper.