Tonka is an American producer of toy trucks. The company is known for making steel toy models of construction type trucks and machinery. Maisto International, which makes diecast vehicles, acquired the rights to use the Tonka name in a line of 1:64 scale, featuring mostly trucks.
Mound Metalcraft was created in 1946 in Mound, Minnesota, by Lynn Everett Baker (1898–1964), Avery F. Crounse, and Alvin F. Tesch. Their original intent was to manufacture garden implements. Their building's former occupant, the Streater Company, had made and patented several toys. E. C. Streater was not interested in the toy business so they approached Mound Metalcraft. The three men at Mound Metalcraft thought they might make a good sideline to their other products.
After some modifications to the design by Alvin Tesch and the addition of a new logo created by Erling Eklof, the company began selling metal toys, which soon became the primary business. The logo was based on a University of Minnesota drafting student's sketch by Donald B. Olson, who later became the company's chief industrial engineer. The logo used the Dakota Sioux word tanka, which means "great" or "big".:14 In November, 1955, Mound Metalcraft changed its name to Tonka Toys Incorporated. The logo at this time was an oval, showing the Tonka Toys name in red above waves, honoring nearby Lake Minnetonka. In 1964, Tonka acquired the Mell Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Illinois, allowing it to produce barbecue grills, eventually under the Tonka Firebowl label.:85–86
In 1987, Tonka purchased Kenner Parker, including UK toy giant Palitoy, for $555 million, borrowing extensively to fund the acquisition. However, the cost of servicing the debt meant Tonka itself had to find a buyer and it was eventually acquired by Hasbro in 1991. In 1998, Hasbro began a licensing deal with Funrise Toys to manufacture and distribute Tonka trucks. The deal began with versions of the trucks fitted with electronics for lights and sounds, but grew to encompass the entire brand.
Tonka has produced a variety of toys, including dolls (Star Fairies, Bathing Beauties, Maple Town, and Hollywoods) and other toys aimed at girls, such as Keypers, and aimed at boys, such as Gobots, Rock Lords, Spiral Zone, Legions of Power and Steel Monsters. It was the original manufacturer of the Pound Puppies toy line, and in the late 1980s licensed products inspired by Maple Town.
Tonka produced video games as Tonka Video Games, including Tonka Raceway, and purchased the rights to distribute and market the Sega Master System after Sega of America stopped competing against the Nintendo Entertainment System in the US. However, the Master System's market share declined, since Tonka did not have experience with video games or how to market them. Hasbro sold the digital gaming rights for various properties (including My Little Pony, Magic: The Gathering, Tonka, Playskool, and Transformers) to Infogrames for US$100 million in 2000, buying back the rights for US$66 million in June 2005.
In 2001, Tonka trucks were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York. The Winifred Museum in Winifred, Montana, has a collection of more than 3,000 Tonka toys.
In other media
Thirteen video games based on the toys were released between 1996 and 2006.
|Game Title||Release Date||Developer||Publisher|
|Tonka Construction||August 20, 1996||Vortex Media Arts||Hasbro Interactive|
|Tonka Search & Rescue||October 15, 1997||Media Station|
|Tonka Garage||April 7, 1998|
|Tonka Construction 2||October 2, 1999|| ImaginEngine |
|Tonka Raceway||December 6, 1999||Media Station|
|Tonka Space Station||November 6, 2000|| Data Design Interactive |
|Tonka Monster Trucks||September 25, 2001||Data Design Interactive||Infogrames|
|Tonka Search & Rescue 2||November 15, 2002||Artech Studios|
|Tonka Construction Site||2002||TDK Mediactive|
|Tonka Town||Late 2003||ImaginEngine||Atari|
|Tonka: Rescue Patrol||November 18, 2003||Lucky Chicken Games|| TDK Mediactive |
|Tonka Firefighter||February 27, 2004||Unknown||Atari|
|Tonka: On the Job||November 15, 2006||Webfoot Technologies||THQ|
|Title||Premiere date||End date||Network||Note|
|Challenge of the GoBots||September 8, 1984||1985||First-run syndication||co-production with Hanna-Barbera Productions|
|Pound Puppies||September 13, 1986||December 19, 1987||ABC|
TV movies and specials
|Title||Premiere date||Network||Co-production with|
|Star Fairies||October 26, 1985||Syndication||Hanna-Barbera Productions|
|#||Title||Release date||Co-production with|
|1||GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords||March 21, 1986||Hanna-Barbera Productions and Clubhouse Pictures|
|2||Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw||March 18, 1988||Tristar Pictures, Carolco Pictures, Atlantic/Kushner-Locke, The Maltese Companies, Cuckoo's Nest Studio, and Wang Film Productions|
|3||Tonka Tough Truck Adventures: The Biggest Show on Wheels! (Direct-to-Video; CGI)||September 28, 2004||Hasbro Studios, SD Entertainment, and Paramount Home Entertainment|
In 2012, an animated film based on the trucks toy line was in development. It was to be produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Hasbro Studios, and Happy Madison Productions, and to be distributed by Columbia Pictures. A script was written by Happy Madison alumnus Fred Wolf, and was to be produced by Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo, Brian Goldner (CEO and president of Hasbro) and Bennett Schneir (Hasbro’s senior vice president and managing director of motion pictures).
- Published: January 22, 2000 (January 22, 2000). "Russell L. Wenkstern, 87, Toy Chief and Dump Truck Co-Developer". The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/01/22/business/russell-l-wenkstern-87-toy-chief-and-dump-truck-co-developer.html.
- ANTHONY RAMIREZPublished: February 1, 1991 (February 1, 1991). "Tonka Accepts Offer from Hasbro". The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/01/business/tonka-accepts-offer-from-hasbro.html.
- "Tonka's Troubles Nothing To Toy With As Ghostbusters Line Fades". Chicago Tribune. August 19, 1990. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-08-19/business/9003090435_1_tonka-toy-company-stocks-new-toys.
- David, Dennis; Laumann, Lloyd (2004). Tonka. MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7603-1868-9.
- "History of Tonka Toys". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkMMm9zylI4.
- Ramirez, Anthony (February 1, 1991). "Tonka Accepts Offer From Hasbro". The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/01/business/tonka-accepts-offer-from-hasbro.html.
- Hirsch, Jerry (May 10, 2015). "For Arnie Rubin, selling toys has been all fun and games". Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-himi-rubin-20150510-story.html.
- "Hasbro Reacquires Digital Gaming Rights From Infogrames for $66 Million" (Press release). Hasbro. June 8, 2005. http://www.hasbro.com/media/pl/page.release/dn/default.cfm?release=372.
- "Tonka Trucks". National Toy Hall of Fame. http://www.toyhalloffame.org/toys/tonka-trucks.
- "Winifred Museum - Russell Country Montana". http://www.russell.visitmt.com/listings/16968.htm.
- Game Search: "Tonka". GameFAQs.
- Fleming, Mike (June 11, 2012). "Sony To Make Tonka Trucks Animated Pic". Deadline. https://www.deadline.com/2012/06/sony-to-make-tonka-trucks-animated-movie/.
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