March 31, 2009
So-Hi Marble game cutout from back of Post Cereal. Uploaded by Neato Coolville.
Nowadays toys get packaged with things (think Cracker Jack, McDonald's Happy Meals), but I really like the idea of packaging being turned into (packaged as?) a toy. It strikes me both as a retro form of upcycling and a lot more eco-friendly than manufacturing a bunch of little plastic doodads that inevitably get thrown away.
The designs for toys on packaging could be really resourceful sometimes. Most of them utilized only the small surface area of tagboard to design a whole spectrum of different types of toys and games, from simple masks to complex flying saucers.
I think the most common packaging toy came on the backs of cereal boxes. I remember reading the backs of cereal boxes religiously (mostly because my mom wouldn't let us bring books to the table), but apparently there was a lot of creativity in how cereal boxes could be turned into toys:
Note: I found most of these browsing through the delectable and incredibly thorough archives of The Imaginary World. Unless otherwise noted, I owe these images to their site.
Wampum mask on back of Wampum Corn Chips, King Leonardo Mask uploaded by Flickr user Grickily.
Uncle Toby's variety pack of cereals, with toolybox on back, uploaded by Flickr user Astronit. Zoo-it-yourself Kangaroo, uploaded by Grickily. Tiger paw on back of Cookie Crisps, uploaded by Greg Koenig. "Pops" pencil holder on back of sugar corn pops, uploaded by Neato Coolville.
Maybe I'm just easily amused, but I love the idea of making something 3-D out of a 2-D piece of cardboard. That 'toolybird' one combines two activities: assembling the toolybox, and then collecting the toolybirds in it.
American Airlines plane on the back of Cheerios box, uploaded by Neato Coolville. Quisp's flying tosser on the back of Quisp.
Some pretty complex flying vehicle constructions. I question whether cereal-box tagboard would actually hold up to all the folding involved in that Quisp flying saucer, but it's pretty awesome to see a circular folding design on something so mundane as a cereal box.
Lucky charms disguises, uploaded by Neato Coolville.
A more 'masculine' version of paper dolls?
Ranger Joe's Rice Honnies box with Honeyville airfield hangar on back.
I think this one is funny for two reasons: Ranger Joe appears to be a cowboy, in which case – why an air hangar? Secondly, the marketing ploy involves both the free plastic plane inside the box, and the airplane hangar that is the box, providing the kid with both a protaganist and a setting for his/her playing.
Lion and Monkey on the back of Great Zeeth's Mighty White Toothpaste, Pinocchio mask on the back of a 3 Musketeers box, and Batman mask on the back of Batman Grape Drink carton.
The fun doesn't end in cereal packaging though. You could get all sorts of fun out of toothpaste boxes, candy boxes, even a juice carton (although I wonder about the stickiness factor of using a mask cut out from a grape drink carton). Also, I wonder how the manufacturer imagined that a child would play with a standup cutout of a monkey or lion holding a toothbrush. Which is not to say that I do not find those two cutouts hilarious and adorable (they also have little rhymes next to them, about oral hygiene. How very wholesome!).
Minuteman vitamin packaging with Minuteman and dog Spirit cutouts on back.
Even vitamin packaging could be fun.
So Hi Marble games on backs of Post Cereal. So Hi Flip uploaded by Slade1955.
These toys, which are assembled and then combined with marbles, are my favorite. I think they're really creative, incorporating only the box and (what one assumes to be) common household objects. They also have a lot of movement and a diversity of movement, something which the other designs don't really have.
Alas, the days of creative toys via packaging seem to have passed, with cereal box backs now seemingly devoted to advertising and promotion. I found these two examples of more modern cereal box back games, but as you can see, they're strictly 2-D. Mayhaps in today's world kids don't have the patience to cut out and assemble a 3-D toy from their cereal box packaging? With readymade little plastic toys (and TV, and the internet), I expect not. Which makes me appreciate even more the inventiveness of the cereal box backs of yore.
Really wants cereal now