Justin Pinchot is the world expert on vintage ray guns, space toys, and tin robots. Today, Collectors Weekly posted an interview with Pinchot about the history of Japanese toy robots, and their post-WWII boom as an export item. From Collectors Weekly:
After the war, the small battery-operated motor was devised, and the Japanese were the first to put them in toys. Most toy makers in other countries were still producing clockwork toys, but the Japanese embraced batteries and small motors. They were the only game in town as far as that was concerned. They innovated that type of toy, and it became very popular. From the early 1950s all the way to the late ’60s, they dominated the market because of this innovation, and because the toys were very inexpensive."Attack of the Vintage Toy Robots! Justin Pinchot on Japan’s Coolest Postwar Export"
In many ways, the Japanese toys of the 1950s were updates of automatons from the 1920s, which were windup toys. They could walk, but they were also very detailed. Take a mechanical fortune teller, for instance–her eyes would open and close, her head would nod, and her hands would move. The problem was these toys were horrendously expensive.
The Japanese were able to affect that same motion much more cheaply with battery-operated motors. So they were producing something that previously had been very expensive but all of a sudden was very affordable.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.