Playmonster’s CEO, Bob Wann has joined a line-up of esteemed toy industry names – including Jim Pressman, the former president of Pressman Toy Corporation, and the creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy, the late Johnny Gruelle – to be inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.
This year’s list of big name inductees is made complete by the late Lucille King, the founder of the Playskool Institute.
This year’s living Hall of Fame inductees (Pressman and Wann) were nominated and voted on by members of The Toy Association in recognition of their significant contributions to the industry and the impact they have had on the lives of children through a lifelong commitment to toys and play. The two will join an impressive roster of 81 toy industry luminaries who have been inducted into the Hall since it was established in 1984, including those who brought to life Mickey Mouse (Walt Disney), Barbie (Ruth and Elliot Handler), The Muppets (Jim Henson), Marvel (Stan Lee) and more.
“Bob and Jim are modern-day toy industry icons who have created, marketed, licensed, and produced innovative toys and games beloved by children and families around the world,” said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Toy Association.
“Their pioneering spirits, embrace of the magic of play, and steadfast dedication to delivering quality, educational, and fun-filled products to kids of all ages is an inspiration to all. Bob’s countless contributions to The Toy Association as board member, chairperson, and leader of PlayCon add further to his lasting positive impact. We look forward to honoring their great achievements at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in February 2022.”
This year’s posthumous inductees, Lucille King and Johnny Gruelle, were first recommended as part of a slate of five well-researched candidates brought forth by the recently established Hall of Fame Subcommittee on Posthumous Selection, which considered diversity in company, area of contribution, ethnicity, gender, and lasting impact on the toy industry.
The nominees were then voted on by the Hall of Fame Committee and the two inductees were approved by The Toy Association Board of Directors. The new process for selecting posthumous inductees helps to ensure the recognition of any deserving person who has contributed to the U.S. toy industry since 1800 who might have been overlooked in previous years.
“Lucille King, a former schoolteacher who invested the majority of her life into making toys that stimulated the minds of preschoolers, and Johnny Gruelle, whose Raggedy Ann and Andy stories and dolls entertained generations of American children, each skillfully wove learning, creativity, and storytelling into their toys and children’s products,” added Pasierb.
“Their creations captured the hearts of millions of children and helped pave the way for future toy innovators and entrepreneurs. This recognition is richly deserved as we welcome their legacies into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, and sets a forward tone as we seek to recognize a significantly greater number of influential individuals in the coming years.”
Jim Pressman began his career at Pressman Toy Corporation in 1971, became president in 1979, and ran the company for 35 years. Under his direction, Pressman Toy was among the first companies to bring TV gameshows to market as board games, including Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Deal or No Deal, and Double Dare. He supplemented these licensed products with classics, becoming a leading supplier of chess, checkers, backgammon, and Chinese checkers; he also had an incredible eye for product and marketing, launching hits like Rummikub, Mastermind, Gooey Louie, Hydro Strike, Let’s Go Fishin’, Topple, and Tri-ominos. A believer in U.S. manufacturing, Pressman made high quality products in New Jersey for 30 years and, upon moving production to China, was diligent about making products only with factories that had the highest standards of quality and practices. He was a longtime supporter of The Toy Association, serving on the executive committee and other committees, and supported various charitable causes, including The Toy Foundation and Toys for Tots.
With a career in the toy industry spanning 40+ years, Bob Wann has been praised by colleagues for possessing a strong instinct for product, a passion for the industry, and exemplary leadership skills. As a salesman, marketer, and innovator, Wann has led the growth and global expansion of well-known brands including Nerf, Care Bears, Mr. Potato Head, Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Clue, and Spirograph, working at Hasbro, Playskool, Milton Bradley/Parker Brothers, American Greetings, and Fisher-Price. More recently, Wann led the expansion of Patch Products from a small games company to the award-winning, multi-category PlayMonster business, which he continues to grow exponentially in the U.S. and internationally. He has worked tirelessly for the advancement of the toy industry, serving for more than 10 years on The Toy Association Board of Directors, eight years on the executive committee as chairman, vice chairman, secretary, and treasurer, and seven years as the chair and host of PlayCon. Wann has also elevated charitable work within the toy industry, working with The Toy Foundation and in community support initiatives led by his companies.
Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938)
When Johnny Gruelle was 19, he began work as an illustrator and cartoonist for a series of newspapers. In 1915, he applied for a design patent for a cloth doll he called Raggedy Ann, then wisely proceeded to produce enough handmade Raggedy Ann dolls to trademark the logo “Raggedy Ann.” In 1918, Chicago publisher P. F. Volland released the first volume of Raggedy Ann tales by Gruelle and manufactured the Raggedy Ann doll. In 1920, Raggedy Ann’s brother made his debut in the Raggedy Andy Stories and joined his sister as a doll on store shelves. Gruelle went on to write and illustrate 25 books about his red-headed dolls and turned Raggedy Ann and Andy into the centerpieces of a well-crafted and well-marketed fictional universe with interlocking storybooks, cloth dolls, and a multitude of other toys—as well as brand extensions into household products that ranged from furniture to canned goods. Even before the advent of Walt Disney’s marketing juggernaut, Gruelle created a model of media products, toys, and dolls that all supported one another and enjoyed dramatic and prolonged success with the American public.
Lucille King (dates of birth and death unknown)
A retired schoolteacher in Wisconsin, Lucille King came up with a design concept for durable wooden block toys to be used in classrooms to stimulate young minds and develop coordination. In 1928 while working for the John Schroeder Lumber Company, King and her colleague brought forward the idea for these toys to company management; the lumber company agreed to the plan and the Playskool Institute was created as a subdivision, bearing the slogan “Learning While Playing.” Within two years they were producing 40 unique toys including a pounding bench, wooden beads and blocks, a table-mounted sandbox, a pegboard, and more. As early as 1930, Playskool’s toys were endorsed by child guidance experts, and the aura of educational enrichment clung to the brand. King invested most of her life into enriching the lives of American children. Her contributions to the toy industry were compounded when the company was sold to Hasbro, which built it into a leading preschool tactile learning company that has been child-focused with an emphasis on developmental learning for the past 93 years.
The 2022 Toy Industry Hall of Fame inductees will be honored during the 22nd annual Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) on Friday, February 18, 2022. The Toy Industry Hall of Fame lives alongside the National Toy Hall of Fame in a special exhibit at The Strong in Rochester, NY.