Digital Reference Library
Baby Boomer Family
Kids Television Shows
The Wonderful World of Board Game
Many television characters morphed into board games like The Flintstones, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Top Cat, Mighty Mouse, Davy Crockett, Superman,Annie Oakley,Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Zorro, Roy Rogers, The Mickey Mouse Club,and Dick Tracy to name a few. I don’t think you could name one show you watched that didn’t come out on a comic book somewhere along the line.
Before we had the ability to buy make copies of our favorite television shows or movies, we were able to experience the feeling of those programs at home through the purchase of the related toys that would tie into the program.
In 1948 when television exploded on the American scene it would be a has-been actor named the William Boyd who would revolutionize the toy business with his on-screen cowboy character called Hopalong Cassidy.
In 1935, Boyd wasn't getting the lead roles he was used to being offered and was about to take the supporting role of Red Connors, the villain in a new B- Western serial gearing up called Hop-Along Cassidy, but luck would have it the films producers took the gamble instead and cast this one time D.W. Griffith silent film star the title role.
Hopalong TOY Cassidy
The Hopalong Cassidy series ended in 1947 after 66 films, with Boyd producing the last 12. Anticipating television's rise, Boyd spent $350,000 to purchase the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy character, books and films. In 1949, he released the films to television, where they became extremely popular and began the long-running genre of Westerns on television. (See Confessions of a Baby-Boomer for the history of lunchbox licensing)
The first of the licensed products were lunch boxes, and that success spawned Hopalong Cassidy watches, trash cans, cups, dishes, Topps’ trading cards, a comic strip, comic books, radio shows and cowboy outfits. The actor identified with his character, often dressing as a cowboy in public.
Although Boyd's portrayal of Hopalong made him very wealthy, he believed that it was his duty to help strengthen his "friends" -- America's youth. The actor refused to license his name for products he viewed as unsuitable or dangerous, and turned down personal appearances at which his "friends" would be charged admission.
In 1949 the president of the Milton Bradley Company named James J. Shea saw through the success of Hopalong Cassidy, a means of expanding his board game market. While William Boyd was in New York to promote his show, he arranged a meeting with Boyd and got permission to create a Hopalong Cassidy game. The success caused a trend to market television celebrities throughout the gaming and toy industry.
Through out the sixties with the popular of war films on television, and the build up of the Vietnam War board games reflected the times marketing such games as 12 O’Clock High 1964-67, Combat 1962-67, Rat Patrol 1966-68, Garrisons Gorillas 1967-68, The Gallant Men 1962, and Hogan’s Heroes 1965-71 among others.
During the thirties with the success of Flash Gordon both in print and movies you could find a board game or toy related to the film. But with the success of the Soviet’s launch of the first real satellite to orbit the earth in 1957 called Sputnik that the public, and especially kids saw that space exploration was no longer a fantasy, but the real thing.
As early as 1950, there was a Captain Video board game, named after the success live sci-fi kids show by Milton Bradley. The president of Transogram created Steve Scott Space Scout in 1951, named after his grandson Steven Scott Fadem. We all remember and owned a Milton Bradley Lost in Space Game in 1965, and of course Ideal toys Star Trek game in 1966.