May 1, 1996 |
Jim Wiley has been going through his second childhood for 25 years. That is how long ago Wiley, a retired high school math teacher, started the mechanical toy collection that has made his one-story ranch house one of the borough's more unusual sights. Wiley's living room, like the rest of his house, is a jumble of books and toys. With classical music playing in the background, Wiley explained, in a teacher's lecture tone, how he got "hooked" on collecting. "I used to collect coins, but that wasn't very exciting," said Wiley, 66. Then a fellow teacher at Neshaminy High School gave him a small copper elephant and a few other trinkets.
March 28, 1996 |
In the 1930s, cutting-edge virtual-reality technology was a new attraction called planetariums, where the stars and planets were projected onto a domed ceiling using a fancy light box. In the 1990s, that technology stacks up about a notch above Lite Brite in a market increasingly filled with real-time, explosion-laden, you-are-there video adventures. But Spitz Inc., a Chadds Ford planetarium company that helped spur the boom in planetariums in the late 1940s, hopes that a new virtual-reality video projection system will bring people back into planetariums.
March 12, 1996 |
This hammy little piggy has a beef. If a toy Babe had been on store shelves at Christmastime - the way Pocahontas dolls, Lion King plush toys and Batman action figures were - he, too, might have been taken home. In a world where the characters in a movie are usually in the stores even before the movie opens, this absence of buyable Babes was unusual. "It wasn't that a toy Babe didn't exist last year," says John Dumbacher, vice president of licensing for MCA/Universal.
December 7, 1995 |
In the crowd of excited kids spilling out of Disney's smash hit Toy Story, Art Sill came out with a smile and a look of how'd-they-do that? amazement on his face. But in his well-worn Eagles cap and jacket, the burly, bearded 31-year-old salesman from South Philadelphia looked like a guy you'd expect to find in the R-rated upper tiers of Veterans Stadium, not at a G-rated Disney movie. "I had a great time," said Sill, outside the United Artists RiverView on Columbus Boulevard.
December 7, 1995 |
It's a long coil of steel that winds and wiggles and makes sounds like chink and chunk and even flips and flops and walks down stairs. It's Slinky. A toy that's so low-tech it's timeless. Slinky has wiggled in and out of fashion for the last 50 years, wedging its way firmly into the American fabric. And now, Slinky's gone Hollywood. There's a stunning scene of Slinky on the stairs in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls that rivals Scarlett O'Hara's tumble down Tara's staircase in Gone With the Wind.
December 3, 1995 |
Some kids make it easy. The five Hiller children of Olney had carefully checked the catalogs and the toy supplements. They knew exactly what they wanted before they descended on the Gallery in Center City the day after Thanksgiving. Mother Linda Hiller knew the list by heart: Noel, 16, wanted a video camera; Caitlin, 10, wanted a bike; Dana, 9, a cowboy jacket; Sean, 8, a toy Jeep; and Kevin, 7, wanted Super Nintendo games. Others kids are a little more cagey. "I don't care; I told Santa to pick," said 5-year-old Katelyn Oetzer of Wallingford, as she checked out the possibilities at the Springfield Mall in Delaware County.
November 22, 1995 |
It would much easier to dismiss Disney as the greedy, soulless, evil Death Star of commercial entertainment if it didn't keep cranking out wonderful children's movies like "Toy Story. " It's true that every time you see an ad for a Disney movie, you feel as if somebody is reaching for your wallet. And it's true the holiday release of this toy-laden movie is a merchandising event. On the other hand, it's also true that with "Toy Story," the company has found another way to expand the boundaries of animation art. And another way to tell a charming story that transcends the advanced technology.
November 22, 1995 |
"OK everybody, the coast is clear!" calls Woody, a talking toy cowboy, uprighting his tangle of limbs after his human owner - a 6-year-old named Andy - slams the door. And so it is, in the amazing early minutes of Toy Story, that all the playthings in Andy's room - the plastic tyrannosaurus, the Mr. Potato Head, the Slinky-bodied dachshund - spring miraculously to life. It's just as children, and a few sage adults, have long suspected: Left to their own devices, those haphazard piles of bears and dolls and superhero action-figures really can walk and talk and feel.