Little People

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Play Family)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Fisher Price Little People logo used beginning in mid-2007. From left to right: Eddie, Sonya Lee, Michael.

Little People is a toy brand for children ages 6–36 months and to ages 3 and up, originally produced by Fisher-Price, Inc. in the 1960s as the Play Family People. The current product line consists of playsets, mini-sets and accessories, books, CDs, and DVDs focusing on various configurations of 5 characters named Eddie, Tessa, Mia, Koby, and Sofie. Mattel reports that since the brand's launch, over 2-billion Little People figures have been sold in over 60 countries.[1] In 2016, Little People was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.[2]

The "Little People" name, registered and trademarked by Mattel and Fisher-Price in 1985, came from Mattel following the lead of consumers who referred to the early Play Family playsets as "those little people".[3]


Original Little People[edit]

"Safety School Bus" 1959

Little People started in 1950 with the "Looky Fire Truck" and three round-headed fire men (attached permanently to the toy). Following the success of this toy, in 1952 and 1953 Fisher-Price developed the "Super-Jet" and "Racing Rowboat".

Another early Little People precursor, the #959 "Safety School Bus", was introduced in 1959.[4] The set included a school bus together with six independent figures made out of tall skinny pegs of cardboard tubes wrapped in lithographs simulating clothes. The toy gained instant popularity and other sets soon came out.

"Snorky the Fire Engine" 1960

Little People Play Family[edit]

In 1960, Fisher-Price introduced two additional toys with removable figures; "Snorky the Fire Engine" and the "Nifty Station Wagon". The Nifty Station Wagon came with two adult figures and one child figure, thus the first "Play Family" was born. In 1985, Fisher-Price trademarked "Little People" and formally changed the name of the brand.[5] Today, Little People are known and sold throughout the world. A Nifty Station Wagon in mint condition, in the box, could command up to $1,000,000 among toy collectors.

"Original Little People" figures

Body style variations[edit]

The original Little People went through six major styles of body (base) configurations, and even within each major classification there may be one or more minor style variations. By 1961, the figures were produced with wood; plastic was used for their vehicles and buildings. A few years later, the typical happy face of the traditional Little People debuted in a "straight-body" format. All of the people had a basic cylinder body with the female figures only identifiable by the addition of slanted, oval eyes and eyelashes. By 1965, the Little People consisted of a small cylindrical base and a wider cylinder shape for boys and men and a conical upper shape for the girls. Adult women had a kind of hourglass-shaped upper body. The bottom portions of the bodies were indented slightly (allowing for placement in the corresponding holes in various furniture, cars and other vehicles, in which the figures were able to "sit").

Little People playsets[edit]

In 1968, Fisher-Price introduced the first Little People playset, the famous Play Family Barn with barn doors that made a "moo" sound when opened. Also at this time, the figures were made with plastic bodies instead of wood. The Play Family dollhouse was introduced in 1969, with other playsets to follow, including a firehouse, an airport and a service station. Eventually, the toys encompassed a wide range of playsets, furniture packs, and accessory packs.

In the middle 1970s, Fisher-Price produced the Sesame Street town, with various Sesame Street stores, a bridge with stop lights and Sesame Street characters such as Bert, Ernie, and the only Little People toys that have been modeled after celebrities -- Loretta Long (Susan), Roscoe Orman (Gordon), and Will Lee (Mr. Hooper). Soon after, the Little People Discovery Airport, a hospital, and a school would also be released. Little People characters had by then been also produced with plastic products exclusively.

Chunky Little People[edit]

In 1988, Marvel Productions made an animated series of 6 Little People videos such as Favorite Songs, 3 Favorite Stories, A Visit to the Farm, Fun With Words, Jokes Riddles and Rhymes, and Christmas Fun, which were released by New World Video. This video series centered around two children named Timmy and Penny and their Baby Sister, their parents, and their dog Lucky. In 1991, the Original Little People figures were redesigned for children. They were made "chunkier", were more bright and colorful, and were designed so that they could activate motion within the play sets. Most people believe that these figures were developed as a replacement for the original Little People due to the increasing concerns and pressures from parents and consumer-advocacy groups for safer toy designs. A book published in 1986 by Edward Swartz titled Toys That Kill prominently featured a trio of original Little People figures on the cover. After Fisher-Price was bought by Mattel in the 1990s, Little People reappeared on the markets, their figure significantly larger in size from the original Little People characters due to revised toy safety guidelines. These figures are called "chunky" by collectors.

Articulated Little People[edit]

In 1997, the figures underwent a drastic redesign, from simple lathe-turned shapes to sculpted bodies. Little People became much more detailed and smaller in overall size – in fact, closer in size to the original Little People. For the first time, the Little People figures had arms, hands, more detailed clothing, molded hair, and facial features.

In 1999, Little People celebrated their 40th birthday with the reintroduction of the first Little People toy ever: Little People School Bus and characters. The play sets include the school bus, circus train, construction vehicles, and other play sets.

In 2000, the Little People line introduced electronic sounds and movement. The Little People characters were given distinct personalities and voices in a stop motion, animated 1999 video and DVD series with Aaron Neville singing the theme song. The series was produced by Cuppa Coffee Studios and Egmont Imagination between 1999 and 2002, Wreckless Abandon Studios and Mattel between 2004 and 2005, and Cinegroup and Fisher Price in 2008.

Episodes and videos[edit]

Since 1999, 138 individual episodes (135 stop motion episodes and 3 CGI episodes) and six music videos have been produced for the Little People franchise. They have been grouped into around thirty volumes and released for home media on over fifteen DVDs. In addition, the animated series have been transmitted in Spanish on the children's channel Discovery Kids since 2005.

Volume DVD Episodes
1 (1999) Big Discoveries Animals and Friends "Michael and the Corn Field", "Sarah Lynn Gets A Big Lift", "Sonya Lee's Day at the Zoo", "Maggie's Friends Pitch In", "Eddie Saves the Circus"
2 (1999) Christmas Discoveries Christmas Discoveries "Michael and the Bears", "Sonya Lee Makes New Friends", "Eddie's Christmas Surprise", "Sarah Lynn Saves Christmas", "Maggie's Gift of Music"
3 (2000) Discovering Animals Animals and Friends "Trading Places", "Happy Birthday To Zoo", "Faster Than A Speeding Frog", "Sarah Lynn at the Circus", "Michael's Magical Night"
4 (2001) Discovering Things That Go Neighborhood Adventures "Eddie's Big Race", "Sonya Lee and the Super Sundae", "Maggie Brings the Mail", "The Wheels On the Boat", "The Parade of Wheels"
5 (2002) Discovering Music Creativity Collection "Sarah Lynn Shares A Song", "Eddie Finds the Beat", "Sonya Lee Sings", "Michael Helps the Harmony", "Maggie's Musical Masterpiece"
6 (2002) Discovering Seasons Fun To Learn Collection "Sonya Lee and the Season of Spring", "Water, Water Everywhere", "The Big Blue Ribbon", "Eddie and the Super Skates", "The Season of Friendship"
7 (2002) Discovering Creativity Creativity Collection "One, Two, Three, Draw!", "Big, Bigger, Biggest", "The Musical Mobile", "When Flowers Fly", "Picture Perfect"
8 (2002) Discovering Friendship Friendship Collection "The Big Bike", "Friends Forever", "Smile, Smiley, Smile", "Michael's Mystery", "Sarah Lynn's Best Friends"
9 (2002) Discovering Storytime Storytime Collection "Eddie and the Cornstalk", "The Frogly Duckling", "Hansel Eddie and Sarah Gretel", "The Monkey Who Cried Elephant", "Sonya Had A Little Lamb"
10 (2002) Discovering Numbers Fun To Learn Collection "Sarah Lynn's Counting Song", "Freddie's Froggy Family", "How Much Is Too Much?", "All Sorts of Flavors", "Follow That Sheep"
11 (2003) Discovering Your Neighborhood Neighborhood Adventures "All Washed Up", "Patrick's Busy Day", "Up, Up and Away", "Where There's Smokey", "The Junk's Not Trash"
12 (2003) Movie Night at Farmer Jed's Storytime Collection "Friends Helping Friends", "The Fast and the Froggy", "Feathered and Furry Friends", "Sarah Lynn's Sing-Along", "Before Your Very Eyes"
13 (2003) How They Became Friends Friendship Collection "When Eddie Met Freddie", "Maggie Moves In", "The Mystery of Sonya Lee", "Michael's Amazing Gift", "The Legend of Farmer Jed"
14 (2004) Discovering More Music Musical Stories "Bang, Boom, Bonk", "The String's the Thing", "Come Blow Your Horn", "Sweet Tweet", "Strike Up the Band"
15 (2004) Discovering Happy Memories Musical Stories "A Boy and His Frog", "Sonya Lee's Nice Nature", "Sarah Lynn's Sweetest Friend", "Michael's Happy Go Round", "Maggie's Helping Hands"
16 (2004) Discovering the ABC's ABC Stories "Sing A Song of Letters", "P Is For Parrot", "Michael's Capital Idea", "I.O.U. A Vowel", "Time For A Rhyme"
17 (2004) Discovering Our Five Senses ABC Stories "Do You See What I See", "The Nose Knows", "A Crunch In Every Bunch", "Sarah Lynn's Soft Touch", "I Hear A Memory"
18 (2004) Discovering Good Manners Good Manners "Me First", "No Thanks", "The Last Laugh", "Promises Promise's", "Favor For A Friend"
19 (2004) Discovering Helping Others Good Manners "Up A Tree", "Zoo For You", "The Big Jam", "A Grand Helping Hand", "Treats For the Town"
20 (2005) Discovering More Animals Animal Stories "The Big Bounce", "The New Zoo Switcheroo", "Brother Goose", "Lighter Than Air", "Carnival For the Animals"
21 (2005) Discovering Our Environment Animal Stories "The Great Indoors", "The Litter Bug", "Every Little Drop", "The Big Box of Make-Believe", "How Does Your Garden Grow"
22 (2005) Discovering Shapes and Colors Creative Ideas "Where Oh Where Have My Circles Gone", "The Long and Short of It [also known as Room To Grow]", "Try Triangle Again", "All the Colors of the Rainbow", "Sarah Lynn's Shape Song"
23 (2006) Discovering More Creativity Creative Ideas "Don't Rain On Maggie's Parade", "Up A Tree House", "That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles", "Michael's Big Show", "Sarah Lynn's Hit Parade"
24 (2006) Discovering Lil' Kingdom Castle The Lil' Kingdom "All the King's Horses", "Queen For the Day", "Eddie and the Dragon", "Once Upon A Pumpkin", "Mirror, Mirror On the Wall"
25 (2006) Discovering Lil' Kingdom Fair The Lil' Kingdom "Follow the Bouncing Ball", "Do, Re, Mi Makes Three", "What Goes Up", "Easy As Pie", "Fit For A King"
26 (2007) Discovering More About Your Neighborhood Adventures In Discovery City "Dough On the Go", "The Big Building", "Maggie's Merry Mix-Up", "Doctor, Doctor", "More Trees Please"
27 (2007) Discovering More Things That Go Adventures In Discovery City "Hi Diddley Hay", "The Grand Sand Castle", "My Mess Is Your Mess", "Raising the Roof", "Every Little Voice"
(2010) CGI Wheelies "Eddie and the Mystery Driver", "Zig's Big Adventure"
(2011) CGI Zoo Talkers "See Who's At The Zoo"
(2014) New Animated Series Meet the Little People Friends "If You're Shy", "Silly All Day", "Art Makes Me Smart", "You Don't Have to Be a Girl to Twirl", "Zoom, Boing, Boom!", "Flower Power", "Farm Feet"

Little People A to Z Learning Zoo[edit]

In 2007, Little People produced the A to Z learning zoo. This production introduced animals to the Little People family. The A to Z learning zoo includes 26 animals that each begin with a different letter of the alphabet. This interactive play mat allows children to learn the alphabet, recognize letters, and learn facts about animals. This was a significant step for the company, as education is now infused in their product.

Television series[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The Robot Chicken episode Midnight Snack aired a sketch with Little People by using stop motion animation and dubbed voices.


  • This Old Toy's Original "Little People History"
  • Behold the Little People - The Life and Death of America's Favorite Play Family by Mark Simple, in X magazine #7, July 1991
  • History of Mattel
  • "Mattel History". Mattel. Mattel, Inc. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  • Fisher-Price Little People at Retroland


  1. ^ Coopee, Todd. "Fisher Price Little People".
  2. ^ Chappell, Bill. "Toy Hall Of Fame: Dungeons & Dragons, Little People Honored; So Are Swings". the Two-Way. NPR.
  3. ^ Tricia Cruz (2009-03-27). "Celebrating 50 years of "Little People"".
  4. ^ Coopee, Todd. "Little People from Fisher-Price (1959)".
  5. ^ Coopee, Todd. "Little People from Fisher-Price (1959)".

External links[edit]