Toy Halls of Fame Gallery Opens at The National Museum of Play

By Heather Hoglund (@HMHoagie)

I’m sitting in my coworker’s office watching a 3D animated Raggedy Ann open a pair of Play Doh containers and start juggling balls of Play Doh. Though the final colors and textures haven’t been added, I swear I can smell that nostalgic Play Doh scent. What’s better than working on a project all about toys? Absolutely nothing. For the last year and a half that’s exactly what a team at Northern Light Productions has been doing: designing media for the recently renovated National Toy Halls of Fame gallery at The Strong, the National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY.

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The National Museum of Play is a collections-based museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. Their National Toy Hall of Fame boasts toys old and new that have inspired creative play throughout the years. All of the exhibits are based on Toy Hall of Fame inductees.

Starting on the first floor, visitors wait for the elevator to the exhibit hall by watching an animation of alphabet blocks dancing in a conga line. Above the elevator, an array of monitors stands fifteen feet tall. Designed to look like a Jack-in-the-Box, the elevator has a large crank mounted on the side. Toy Hall of Fame characters periodically pop out of the Jack-in-the-Box and onto the screen; G.I. Joe hula hoops, Mr. Potato Head tap dances, and Barbie explores outer space in a series of 3D animations.

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When visitors take the stairs to the second floor they’re entertained by a large Harry Potter-style “Hogwarts” wall. A portrait of Raggedy Ann springs to life, waving as you ascend the stairs. G.I. Joe and Barbie play chess while Lego people fly a kite.

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Once on the second floor, visitors can explore a variety of interactive kiosks. Crayon Piano is an enormous box of Crayons that responds to visitors’ movements with musical notes and colorful lights. Create-A-Toy lets users piece together parts of their favorite toys to make their own toy mash-up. Play Moves Challenge invites people of all ages to rapidly complete a series of games using gestures such as throwing, kicking and jumping.

Soaring above all other exhibits is the Bubble Tower- a twenty-six foot high interactive world. Driven by Kinect software, visitors see themselves inside the Bubble Tower and use a variety of gestures to play with animated bubbles falling gently from the sky; popping them, creating new ones and shooting them into the sky, making a bubble whirlpool, even putting their own faces inside the bubble and watching it float up into the clouds. Check out a video of Bubble Tower here.

The Etch A Sketch is celebrated with an oversized, interactive Etch A Sketch that uses facial recognition technology to draw visitors’ portraits with just a single line. And lastly, Wall of Fame and Timeline kiosks provide a history of inducted toys and the people who invented them, easily updated every year to include new inductees.

Learn more about the Strong here, and be sure to check out this exhibit if you’re ever in Rochester, New York!

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