All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
Nodding head figures, traditionally known as “Nodders” have been around for well over a hundred years, as evidenced by this stunning candy container of Foxy Grandpa that dates from the turn of the last century, circa 1905. Over the years, nodders managed to survive. They lived a sort of half-life, bobbing up occasionally from the vast ocean of cheap novelties that, throughout the two World Wars, populated what were known as "novelty shops."
Beginning in the late 1950s, Nodders became popular again. Their resurgence is perhaps best illustrated by this classic set of Peanuts Nodders. Anyone who ever searched the aisles of flea markets, throughout those early years, would, most likely, be familiar with these. One might even go so far as to say they led the way to the popularity of Nodders today. Relatively recently, the name Nodders was replaced by a term that is currently more up to date. Thus, it came to be that Nodders are called “Bobble Heads” today.
Another Peanuts classic is this iconic walking Snoopy windup toy. It most likely dates from the mid-60s, although, the copyright date is 1958. Peanuts merchandise tended to bear the date the character was first introduced, rather than the year the toy was made. Noddlers were a desperate attempt to save Baby Lil’s. When they simply disappeared into the thankless black hole of the Original San Francisco Toymakers, I realized that the simple idea of combining windup toys with bobble heads was just too good to throw away. It seemed like a natural to me. And the fact that nobody had done it up to that time was some kind of a Miracle.
It happened that at the time, we had sold a series of Peanuts windups to Basic Fun. If I remember correctly, they also manufactured bobble heads. So it was something of a no-brainer to draw them up, and offer them to Basic Fun. And so it was that two classic items met, windup toys and bobble heads, and they combined to become Noddlers.
The first sketch illustrated the basic concept. It shows three classic Peanuts characters as bobble headed windups.
The second drawing harkens back to the original Peanuts nodders, and replicates the bases. Thus, Noddlers would become both toys and collectibles with snap on presentation bases. The bases served both to keep them safe and to facilitate display. Then, the figures could jump off and walk away.
In these days, it was unlikely that I would come up with a concept that didn’t include Mickey Mouse and Minnie.
Last of all, here is a variation, in which the bobble headed dolls ride windup vehicles. These are called “Noddlemobiles.” Elliptical wheels cause each vehicle to rock when it rolls, encouraging the bobble head to wobble as it goes.
I really can’t understand how we managed not to sell these. They seemed like such a natural, I would also have assumed that someone would come up with the same idea, eventually. As far as I know, nobody did.