The toy company Mattel began in 1945 with a line of doll furniture. By the 1960s, the brand was synonymous with realistic dolls, action toys, talking toys, and a dizzying array of electronic toys. Mattel also had two of the decade's leading brands with Barbie and Hot Wheels. It also saw the birth of Ken. He was two years younger than his longtime girlfriend, Barbie.
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After the first Ken doll appeared in 1961, Mattel introduced many different styles of Barbie, including Miss Astronaut Barbie in 1965. Barbie's sister Skipper appeared in 1964. Before the decade ended, she would be joined by more than a dozen "friends." Mattel also made celebrity and media-inspired dolls including Buffy and Mrs. Beasley from "Family Affair," Mr. Ed, Bugs Bunny and Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. Other talking stuffed animals included Larry the Lion, a Mattel original.
Inspired by the success of Chatty Cathy, which spoke through a pull cord and small interior recording, Mattel introduced the See 'N Say as an educational toy for toddlers in 1965. The See 'N Say was a circular object covered with pictures of items like animals. When the child pointed an arrow at one of the items, then pulled a lever, that item made a sound. Mattel also produced space and spy-themed toys. Major Matt Mason, Mattel's Man in Space toys, including models, action toys and cards, were introduced in 1966. The Agent Zero line of spy toys includes the Radio Rifle (1964), which converted from a transistor radio to a cap gun.
Early electronic toys included the Mattel Vac-U-Form from 1962. It made plastic models with a heated vacuum mould and thin plastic sheets. In 1964, the Thingmaker and Creepy Crawler used "Plastigoop" in its mould sets to produce crawly creatures. Some other machines, including the Tootsweet Candy Whistle Maker from 1968, could produce real candy. The Strange Change Machine Featuring the Lost World and the Time Machine came along in the late 1960s. Both used heating units and plastic to uncover weird creatures hidden in plastic cubes. The Injector line enabled kids to make their own complex plastic models.
The "Lie Detector Game" and "High Gear" were introduced early in the decade. "Lie Detector" featured a mechanical lie detector, while "High Gear" had 10 meshed gears and more than 35,000 possible gear positions. The "Flea Circus Game" from 1965 was a magnetic game featuring metal fleas and 10 circus performance combinations. The Cold War-inspired "Sonar Sub Hunt" from 1961 was one of the first, if not the first, electronic "Battleship" style games. It featured tiny working periscopes.
The first 16 Hot Wheels rolled off the assembly line in 1968. By 1969, Mattel was making more toy cars than the top five worldwide automakers combined. The first Hot Wheels "redline" cars included production autos like the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, a Corvette and a '36 Ford Coupe. Mattel also created "California Style" cars which included the Splittin' Image, Sand Crab, Light-My-Firebird and Power Pad. Hot Wheels plastic tracks with speedometers, ramps and loops were also introduced in 1968.
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