Ideal toy commercials from 1963

People are often nostalgic for toys of their childhood, but after watching these commercials for toys from 1963, it's clear that the toys were awful. With the exception of Mousetrap, I would have lost interest in all of them after a day or two. Clancy the Skating Monkey would have amused me for about three minutes. After that Clancy would have gathered dust in my closet or under my bed.

Compare these toys to the Wii, the computer, the iPhone, and the Nintendo DS, which keep my own kids interested for hours on end, day after day. In fact, they will play with them to the exclusion of almost everything else, so my wife and I have to set time limits. (Via Cool-Mo-Dee)


  1. The Dick Tracey Copmobile has to be the most awesomely crappy toy I have ever seen. Horrible name and they actually try to make a stick sound cool. Awesome.

    1. “they actually try to make a stick sound cool.”… uh, dude, that’s a FINGLONGER!!! they’re awesome!

  2. Well, except it’s not about the toys, it’s about the imagination. I don’t think any kid has ever felt the toys available to them were boring… They pick up what they can get, and they play.

    Gaming consoles have a lot of good about them, but what they don’t offer is a simple template for kids to project their playtime fantasies. And I think herein lies the true value of ‘boring’ toys.

  3. These were a big step up from the rocks and dirt we were accustomed to playing with back in the 60s. We had to actually use our imagination back then and we went outside even! I’m not convinced the WII is an improvement over anything actually. We made things with our hands too. And we played real sports – not computer simulations of sports.

  4. What Anon said at 13:26. Modern toys create most of the experience for kids, which makes them more passive. Older toys got kids actually using our imaginations and investing something of ourselves into the experience, which is a major part of healthy play.

  5. “Compare these toys to the Wii, the computer, the iPhone, and the Nintendo DS, which keep my own kids interested for hours on end, day after day.”

    I used my army men and a shoebox to recreate the Rolling Stones playing Altamont.

    you got an app for that? zzzzzzz…

  6. Compared to many toys today, these were about free play. Toys didn’t used to be so single-use as so many toys are today. With your Star Wars lego set, you can make one thing instead of having a big bucket of a variety of blocks with which a kid can use to make anything the mind can imagine.

    Toys like the plane, doll, and car require a kid to use his or her head, create scenarios, and has almost limitless potential. With the instant feedback (make the right decision or your character dies) of video games the creativity really isn’t there.

    Give me and my boy a set of blocks, some versatile toys that could be used for many things, and a small patch of woods to explore and make up games in, and we’ll be happy.

  7. Letting your kids play video games all day is a disservice to them in the long run. Let them go outside and teach them to make stuff!

    1. i’m with se7a7n7 — my jaw literally dropped. not since mickey rooney in breakfast at tiffany’s have i seen something like that.

  8. Clancy is kind of lame, as it is single-purpose but not particularly interactive.

    Which begs the question, was the monkey banging cymbals ever fun in a non-ironic way?

    OTOH that Globemaster? I’d have killed for that.

  9. What a three foot Asian and Latino guy in only two of their commercials? You stay classy 1963.

  10. Bah. Bunch of curmudgeons, you are.

    Lemme tell you, if you’re just making Star Wars scenarios with a Star Wars Lego set, _you’re_ the one with a limited imagination.

    Likewise, my kid and his friends will play something on the Wii — like a Zelda game — for about 30 min. Then, they’ll spend the next hour or so playing at being Link… with improvised swords and shields, no less. If you encourage and let kids play, they will _play_. If you just give them an electronic doo-dad and say, “Have at it, kids. Just stay here and don’t bother me,” then they’ll become waddling meatbags.

  11. Well, I’m retroactively horrified by childhood. Maybe it’s just me, but this whole video seems disquietingly eeeeeeeeerie. Like a clown in a dark alley that just stares at you.

  12. Why are so many of you assuming that you either play with modern (interactive) toys or you play with more passive toys? It’s a false dichotomy of sorts. Most kids I know (mostly 6-8 year olds) do a great mix of both.

    This is a great time to be a kid. There are a lot of fantastic toys out there. I would have killed for something like Lego Mindstorms when I was a kid.

  13. Mousetrap isn’t really that fun a game. I had fun assembling the contraption but skipped the board game part.

    I notice the original package title was “Mouse Trap Game”, I guess to re-assure customers that they weren’t getting a box full of mousetraps.

  14. I had Mousetrap and, yes, imagination was important. The darned thing never actually worked properly and you had to imagine it did.

    1. I had a mousetrap game when I was a kid we had it out Christmas day and a cousin stood on it and it never worked properly after that, happy times

  15. I’m too young for most of the nostalgia, (18), but Mouse Trap was an important part of my child hood, that game ras great. It worked fairly reliaby. Probably more reliable than the windows 95 me and my brother first got when my parents got a 98 free with a peice of software.
    Oh nostalgia, why are you my friend already?

  16. Pfft. Mark, you obviously don’t remember being a kid. Sure the monkey was awful, but the dick tracy toys were gold, and the army men too. The baby doll is a lasting toy, considering they still make them.

    I used to play for freaking HOURS with triangle shaped pieces of wood intended for use as geometry-education toys. The single triangles were fighters, the two-triangles-put-together were bombers. The six-triangles-hexagon was a death star. The twelve-triangles-put-together-dodecagon was I forget what but it was vicious. I basically played flatland star wars, going “wshooo” “pyew”

    A childs imagination is a function of money and time(). With less money (ergo, less toys), and more time(Both time(free) and time(elapsed)), it grows.

  17. I think we can all agree the Dick Tracy CopMobile with pokey-stick.. um, I mean, control wand, is dreadful. Seriously terrible. I’d rather just have a regular car.

  18. Mousetrap was an awesome toy. Like other posters have said, I never bothered playing the “game”, I just spent hours building and rebuilding the device itself, until I got good at building it quickly and carefully, so that it would actually work. The current version of Mousetrap you can buy now is a pale shadow, with much fewer parts and almost no moving parts.

  19. Poke the piggy cop-car, with a steek, si signor! I was reminded today how much time I spent when I was young pretending those helicopter seeds off of trees were space-ships.

  20. The Mexican and Chinese stereotype characters were from a CARTOON that ran when I was a kid. As I recall, there was a talking dog too . . . but I could be confabulating in details from another cartoon, like Deputy Dog.

    These guys were Dick Tracy’s detective helpers. Dick hardly ever showed up. I found that frustrating; my Dad used to tell me about Dick Tracy’s comic strip adventures and inventions, but he and they never figured into the stories.

    * * *

    Notice how LONG these commercials were?

  21. of course, but with al lof the things kids have nowadays they’re a LOT more bored than we were at that age.

    1. thatroom, you’re wrong. It may be true in your family, but in general it’s simply false.

  22. Remember, Boys and Girls, when dubbing a vintage piece of film onto video or digital formats, always remember to CLEAN THE PROJECTION GATE to avoid unsightly, unwanted crap along the edges of the frame!

  23. I’m surprised that there’s been only a few comments on the blatant racism in the commercials for the Dick Tracy toys and on “The Dick Tracy Show” itself. Being of Japanese ancestry I remember feeling bad as a kid about the “Joe Jitsu” character. Notice that he and “Go-Go Gomez” were about half the height of Dick Tracy.

    Also, these toys didn’t encourage imagination. I was a kid when these toys came out and these toys were interesting for about fifteen minutes. Army men were cool. So were empty boxes, sticks, and dirt clods.

  24. Damn, I’m going to be having Baby Thumbalina nightmares now.

    Also, besides the little racist characters, does anyone actually think toy advertising has changed that much? I feel like I could turn on certain channels and see pretty much the same exact thing right now.

  25. Interesting: my reaction was the exact opposite of Mark Frauenfelder’s. That skating monkey, mouse trap, crime stopper – they were all single-use no-scope-for-play toys, so I wouldn’t have liked them much.

    On the other hand, a carrier-bag of toy soldiers sucked up great swathes of my time as a child. The globemaster would have been cool. Well, the plane looked pants, but the stuff inside would have been a great addition to my army.

    The dick tracey car… I really *like* that very primitive “remote control” they have going, there. The siren-whistle woulda been suitably parent-annoying, too.

    The moving doll is very uncanny valley, yeah :)

  26. You need to remember that this stuff was state of the art in 1963. Cars didn’t move before the anntenna controlled car. It was the prototype for radio controlled cars. Baby dolls didn’t move either, before that. All this was high tech back then. I was 10 in 1963. The Dick Tracy show was very popular. There was such a huge proportion of children to adults back then, that you could come out with any toy and it would sell. Television was the primary means of advertising, and everyone watched the same two or three stations.

  27. @1: agree.
    “control stick” = “stick” !

    why didnt they keep going with the hyperbole
    and just call it a “remote control stick” or
    “super remote control stick” ?

    1. I grew up in the 70’s and I painfully remember “remote control” cars. There’s a big difference between remote control and radio control.

  28. Hey, that transport plane with all the army gear was right up my alley back then. I wish I had gotten that. Think how many scenarios a kid could come up with (maybe after a few episodes of “Combat”)

  29. did i see a really early form of moon walking around 00:30-00:34?

    i kind of agree that kids today have no need to have imaginations of their own because of the toys available… on the other hand things like video games/higher tech toys do have their advantages. all in moderation, though. i think a healthy balance of sticks and mud vs. wii and computer is what it’s all about.

  30. Toys are a reflection of the times and the society they’re from. You can pick any era and find lame ideas, un-enlightened wiffs of racist/sexist/violence, etc., bad and unsafe design and poor value for the money. Lead paint on preschool toys? Crass licensed movie souvenir “action figures?” Pink, Pink Princesses? There’s plenty not to like with today’s toys, too.

    That said, these old Ideal toys were lame! Ideal even eventually spoiled Moustrap, as clever as it was, by following up with two additional Rube Goldberg inspired “games”: Fish Bait game and Crazy Clock game. Flops.

    But there’s always some really good toys, too. My favorite toy from 1963 has to be the VacuFormer. Making fun stuff out of melted plastic was really “hot!”

    One really BIG difference between then and now is TIME. Yesteryear’s kids had plenty of unplanned leisure time to explore and play, or just read comic books. Even the toy tv ads were slow paced and much l-o-g-e-r. By comparison today’s kids are hyper-scheduled and have ZERO unplanned, free time..and they grow older younger. By the time kids are 8 years old, they are pretty much done with the toy store—they’re off to the Apple store or the mall for a Xbox or DS.

  31. My sister had a Thumbelina doll. The baby bottle had some white liquid in it, that when you tilted it, nipple side down, would slowly ’empty’ as if the baby was drinking.

    I took the bottle apart to see how it worked. It was a two concentric cylinders with the liquid between them. That small amount of liquid then fit in the cap of the bottle. It would have been a happy discovery; -IF- I could have put the damn thing back together again.

    I had a friend who had the Globetrotter set. This was when you could order 300+ soldiers from the back of comic books. I’m sure we were impressed then, but now it looks like they put wings on a box that a few crappy soldiers come in. IIRC the beacon part of the search-light shown in the ad was actually a foil covered round piece of cardboard. Batteries (and fun) not included.

  32. Yeah – even in the 80s I was getting “remote control” cars that had a wire between the car and controller, and only two directions: forwards, and backwards-and-left.

    I still found them entertaining.

  33. My sister had Tiny Thumbelina and I had Clancy the Skating Monkey. We loved them both. I still have Clancy. He spent some time in the attic, of course. But he’s in my living room right now. Our toys were so much fun. I had Gaylord too, a large walking dog. You’d pull on his leash and he’d walk. We also had Big Lou, a large robot who could shoot rockets from his feet and talk. He would say, “My name is Big Glou.” We used the rockets to shoot Christmas balls off the Christmas tree on Christmas morning before my parents were up and could stop us. Let’s just say the parents didn’t appreciate that. We had a large lion that reared up and roared and a dinosaur that shot pellets out of it’s mouth. Life was great!

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