The Easy-Bake Oven is a working toy oven which Kenner introduced in 1963, and which Hasbro still manufactured as of late April 2016. The original toy used an ordinary incandescent light bulb as a heat source; current versions use a true heating element. Kenner sold 500,000 Easy-Bake Ovens in the first year of production.:8 By 1997, more than 16 million Easy-Bake Ovens (in 11 models) had been sold.
The oven comes with packets of cake mix and small round pans. (Additional mixes can be purchased separately.) After water is added to the mix in the pan, it is pushed into the oven through a slot. After cooking, the cake is pushed out through a slot in the other end.
The Easy-Bake Oven was introduced in 1963 by Kenner Products, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based toy company. The original Kenner Easy-Bake Oven was heated by two 100-watt incandescent light bulbs, came in a pale yellow or turquoise, and was designed to resemble a conventional oven. The design changed many times over the years. An updated "Premier" model, available in avocado green or red, was released in 1969, followed by a "Mod" model in yellow or light green in 1971. A more recent model resembled a microwave oven.
The most collectible model of the Easy-Bake Oven is the one-of-a-kind model presented to the winner of the 5,000,000th Easy-Bake Oven Sweepstakes in 1972. The sweepstakes celebrated the toy oven's achievement of 5 million products sold.:117
Kenner licensed the Easy-Bake Oven to international markets. Japan represented a significant opportunity for Kenner. The toy oven was licensed to Nakajima Corporation who branded their version of the oven Margaret's Cooking Oven.
In 1962, Kenner created the Gooney Bird as part of its marketing efforts. The new corporate mascot was primarily used as part of the company logo, appearing on most product packaging along with the company slogan, “It’s Kenner, It’s Fun!” The bird was also used in trade publications and advertisements with the tagline, “This bird means business!”
In 1968, Kenner approached Muppet creator Jim Henson to create a Muppet version of the Gooney Bird. The bird appeared in Easy-Bake Oven commercials with child actress Barbara Price. The Gooney Bird became so popular that Henson refurbished the character as Little Bird, Big Bird's smaller counterpart, in early seasons of Sesame Street.:114
After Kenner became a division of Hasbro, which then closed it down, Hasbro continued to produce the oven. The Easy-Bake Oven and Snack Center was introduced in 1993.
A decade after the Easy-Bake Oven and Snack Center was introduced, the Real Meal Oven was released. This oven was different from the others in being able to cook larger portions, and two of them at once, using two pans at the same time. It won the 2003 Best Toy Parenting magazine Toy of the Year Award. The neutral colors were more accepted across gender lines, and were favored by parents, particularly in the midst of queries and complaints over versions not being offered for male children. The Real Meal pans were larger than the Easy Bake ones, and it could bake both desserts and main courses. Also, this model featured a heating element and did not require a light bulb.
In 2006, a different version of the Easy-Bake was released, featuring a stove-top warmer and a heating element. But like Hasbro's first version, it had smaller pans, and it could only bake one pan at a time. But the new front-loading Hasbro design, a substantial departure from the traditional push-through arrangement, was apparently ill-conceived, as all (approx. 985,000) such units were recalled over safety concerns and reported injuries.
In 2011, the last version to use a 100-watt incandescent light bulb was replaced by a new version with a dedicated heating element, titled EASY-BAKE Ultimate Oven. The replacement was due to a greener lighting policy by the US Federal Government, which would eliminate incandescent light bulbs that put out sufficient heat to bake goods inside the Easy-Bake Oven. This rendered all models that used light bulbs as their heating elements obsolete, without being able to replace the part once the existing bulbs burned out. However, some critics of the redesign indicated that halogen light bulbs emitted sufficient heat to replace incandescent bulbs.
In 2012, Hasbro announced the premiere of a version of the Easy-Bake Oven in black and silver after meeting with McKenna Pope, a girl from New Jersey, who had started a Change.org petition asking the toy maker to offer the product in gender-neutral packaging. The prototype Easy-Bake Oven was also made available in blue. The redesigned product was slated to be unveiled in February 2013, at the New York Toy Fair.
After a release of a new model in May 2006, Hasbro received reports of 29 children getting their hands or fingers caught in the front-loading door, including 5 reports of burns. In February 2007, Hasbro and the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a voluntary recall of the oven and advised parents to stop using the oven with children under the age of 8 and contact the company for a free retrofit kit. The kit was approved by the CPSC and consisted of a plastic grate that fit over the existing oven door. The grate allowed the oven to function as designed, but it now provided an additional barrier to keep small fingers out.
Despite the retrofit program, unfortunately, the problems persisted. According to data from the CPSC, an additional 249 reported incidents included 77 burns, 16 of which were second- or third-degree in nature. In July 2007, Hasbro re-issued its voluntary recall of the Easy-Bake after learning that part of a 5-year-old girl's finger had had to be amputated because of a severe burn. The recall affected 985,000 ovens that had been sold between May 2006 and July 2007. Ovens sold prior to May 2006 were not part of the recall, leaving more than 25 million side-entry/light bulb models in circulation unaffected.:18–19
In popular culture
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- In 2013, author and toy historian Todd Coopee released the book Light Bulb Baking: A History of the Easy-Bake Oven. This retrospective of the Easy-Bake Oven chronicles its journey from children's toy to pop culture icon.:178
- Fringe: "Brave New World, Part 1", Season 4, Episode 21. (Original air date: May 4, 2012.) In his Easy-Bake Oven, Dr. Walter Bishop bakes a lemon cake mixed with pig brains and cortexiphan to help unravel a mystery.:136
- How I Met Your Mother: "How Lily Stole Christmas", Season 2, Episode 11. (Original air date: December 11, 2006.) Marshall buys Lily an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. Lily is surprised because she always wanted one as a child, but has never told Marshall. Marshall reveals that the suggestion came from Ted, who remembered that she told him about it when they were at college.:139
- MadTV: Season 8, Episode 12. (Original air date: January 25, 2003.) This episode featured a parody ad for a gas-powered toy oven called "Hey It's Ovens for Kids." The ad starts out with a little girl (three girls are used throughout the course of the ad) who wants to use her Easy-Bake Oven, but the light bulb is burnt out, and her mother cuts her hand while attempting to replace the bulb. After destroying the Easy-Bake Oven, the Spishak salesperson then introduces "Hey It's Ovens for Kids." The ad ends when the house blows up as a result of the girl's attempt to light the pilot light.
- Queer as Folk: "Surprise!", Season 1, Episode 11. (Original air date: February 25, 2001.) Brian throws Michael a surprise 30th birthday party, and Emmett buys Michael a vintage Easy-Bake Oven, telling him that "every gay boy wanted an Easy-Bake Oven".:136
- Seinfeld: "The Merv Griffin Show", Season 9, Episode 6. (Original air date: November 6, 1997.) Jerry's new girlfriend, Celia, has inherited a classic toy collection that includes an Easy-Bake Oven.:138
- Friends: "The One with a Chick and a Duck", Season 3, Episode 21. (Original air date: April 17, 1997.) Pete buys a restaurant and offers Monica a job as head chef; she's unsure whether to take it, since she feels no attraction to him. Monica says: "I mean this has been, like, my dream, since I got my first Easy-Bake Oven and opened Easy Monica's Bakery.":137
- "Kenner History". Kenner Collector. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
- Coopee, Todd (September 2013). Light Bulb Baking: A History of the Easy-Bake Oven (First ed.). Canada: Sonderho Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-9917484-0-2.
- "The Easy-Bake Oven, Gourmet Style" (with audio link), National Public Radio Morning Edition, December 8, 2003. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2006.
- US patent 3368063, Kuhn, James O., "Toy oven", published 1968-02-06, issued 1968-02-06, assigned to Kenner Products Company
- "Easy Bake Oven inducted 2006". Retrieved 20 June 2011.
- Coopee, Todd. "Margaret's Cooking Oven from Nakajima Corporation (1976)". ToyTales.ca.
- USA Today, "Easy-Bake loses its bulb, gets a makeover", Associated Press, 14 September 2011
- Associated Press. "Easy-Bake Oven enters Toy Hall of Fame", MSNBC.com. 9 November 2006. retrieved 11 November 2006.
- ABC News, "Easy-Bake Oven Loses Light Bulb, Gets $20 Makeover", Susanna Kim, 14 September 2011
- The Post-Star, "The Easy way out", 4 September 2011
- Cleveland Live."Halogen light bulbs fill spot as old-fashioned incandescent bulbs disappear", John Funk, 10 September 2011
- Hasbro to unveil black and silver Easy-Bake Oven after teen's petition
- Teen’s online campaign convinces Hasbro to make gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven
- "Easy-Bake Ovens Recalled for Repair Due to Entrapment and Burn Hazards", Consumer Products Safety Commission. 6 February 2007. retrieved 14 May 2008.
- “New Easy-Bake Oven Recall Following Partial Finger Amputation; Consumers Urged to Return Toy Ovens”, Hasbro, Inc. Undated. retrieved on 22 April 2009.
- "Nearly 1 million toy ovens recalled", CNN.com. February 6, 2007. Retrieved February 6, 2007.
- MADTv Season 8 - TV.com
- Hey It's Ovens for Kids
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