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The Toy Association to induct industry-defining trio into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame

The founder and CEO of Playmates, Thomas Chan, the man responsible for founding Little Tikes, Thomas G Murdoph, and the late Harry Kislevitz, founder of Colorforms Corporation, are each to be inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame this year.

The individuals were nominated for induction and voted on by members of The Toy Association in recognition of their contributions to the industry and the impact they have had on the lives of children through a commitment to toys and play. 

The trio will join an impressive roster of 79 toy industry luminaries, such as Milton Bradley, Walt Disney, Ruth Handler, Jim Henson, and Stan Lee, who have been inducted into the Hall since it was established in 1984.

“Thomas Chan, Thomas G. Murdough, Jr., and Harry Kislevitz have made a lasting impact on the global toy community, inspiring generations of creative, imaginative, and physical play. They have introduced products that challenged play norms and evolved them into evergreen brands that continue to be loved by kids young and old,” said Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association.

“A clear commitment to innovative design and marketing is a career-long hallmark among all three inductees and serves as inspiration to future toy and play makers. For 2020, our members once again offered an impressive array of potential nominees and from that cadre three worthy giants have emerged.”

Thomas Chan

Chan (pictured left), the founder and CEO of Playmates Toys Inc., is the name behind one of the industry’s first global distribution networks. He transformed Playmates into a branded, promotional toy development and marketing company that set the stage for its long-term growth and entry into the US market.

Chan also led the company’s efforts to launch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) toy line and fund production of the original TMNT TV mini-series, which lead to the single biggest year of sales (1990) ever achieved by an action figure line.

His product and brand legacy include such industry- and category-leading successes as TMNT, Star Trek, The Simpsons, and Space Jam action figures; Cricket interactive dolls; Waterbabies; Baby So Beautiful dolls; Nano Virtual Pets; and more.

Thomas G. Murdough, Jr.

With a career spanning more than 50 years that includes the launch of three separate companies, Murdough, Jr. (top middle) has transformed the world of outdoor play and kids’ ride-ons as the founder of Little Tikes, Step2, and Simplay3.

After founding Little Tikes in 1970, Mr. Murdough bucked the trend toward injection moulding, instead building the company into the world’s largest rotational moulder—a move that earned him the title of “the godfather of rotational moulding” and allowed the company to increase its speed to market and hire more employees.

He has brought innovation to the toy aisle, for example, the Turtle Sandbox transformed outdoor play into a year-round category, and his dedication extends to his employees and the communities surrounding company plants and offices.

He has served on The Toy Association board of directors as well as several Northeastern Ohio boards including the Akron Children’s Hospital and Cleveland’s University Hospitals.

Harry Kislevitz

The late Harry Kislevitz (1927-2009) founded Colorforms in 1951 along with Patricia, his wife and fellow art student, after experimenting with a low-cost alternative to paint. They discovered that the vinyl material stuck to the semi-gloss paint in their bathroom, and Colorforms was born.

Outside of bringing innovation to the arts and crafts category, Kislevitz (top right) was also one of the first in the industry to recognise and prove the power of licensing. He transformed the company into one of the first license-based toy companies, with early licenses including Mickey Mouse, Holly Hobbie, and Popeye in the 1950s.

Kislevitz also understood the importance of brand building, tapping Paul Rand to create Colorforms’ now-iconic logo design, and of promoting STEAM/STEM learning in an era in which toys and education did not overlap.

Colorforms products taught the alphabet, counting, art, and spatial learning in ways that had never been done before.

The Toy Industry Hall of Fame lives alongside the National Toy Hall of Fame in a special exhibit at The Strong museum in Rochester, NY.

The latest inductees will be honoured during the 20th annual Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) gala on Friday evening, February 21, 2020 at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City. The ceremony kicks off the 117th North American International Toy Fair.

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