Fisher Price has been creating some of the most memorable and fun children's toys for years. The Little People are one of Fisher Price's most recognizable brands. These tiny families have been developing as a product since the 1950's. Toy designers created a small fire truck and had small, round-headed firemen permanently affixed to the truck. These little, brave firefighters would come to be known as the first Little People.
In 1959, Fisher Price created its first toy with removable figurines: The Safety School Bus.Credit: Joel Johnson, boingboing.net
This bus was originally made with a wood body and a clear plastic top. The bus driver was not able to be removed but his head did turn from left to right as the wheels turned. Each Safety School Bus was sold with six different Little People that could be removed. In spite of their simple construction, each figure had very different facial characteristics.
In the 60s, Fisher Price began to brand the Little People as a family. It's Lacing Shoe with Play Family was sold with a mom, four kids and a dog figurine. (Dad must have been at work.) It was also during the 60s that the figurines were sold without a play set in seven piece sets. Each of the figurines were given names: Daddy, Mommy, Fido, Butch, Patty, Penny and Pee Wee. The Play Family Farm and the Play Family House were also released in the 60s. The farm included a variety of animals and the house included removable furniture.
During the seventies, the Little People really took off. The family of toys was given an Action Garage, a school, an airport and even a castle. One of the biggest releases of the seventies was the Fisher Price Sesame Street play set. As you can see from the picture it included a lot of different Little People from Sesame Street as well as a replica of the street from the TV show.
Throughout the 80s and 90s Fisher Price continued to introduce new play sets and slightly different versions of the actual figurines. Some of the play sets developed during this time were the Fire Station, the Change-a-Tune Carousel (A Little People 'record' player), The Wild West, Main Street and more.
In 1991 the Little People were made 'chunkier'; for safety reasons and to accommodate tiny hands. By the late 90s, these figurines had feet, hair and moveable arms. The Little People figurines of today bear little resemblance to older models but still offer children hours of fun.