Tomy Company Ltd (toy manufacturer)
Tomy Company Ltd. is Japan's second largest toy manufacturer and the fifth largest toy company in the world.
It today exists as Takara Tomy Co., Ltd after merging with fellow prominent toy company, Tomy, on 1st March 2006.
The company is the producer of the hugely popular Pocket Monsters, Microtecs toy line and holds the exclusive license for toys and other characters based on Disney characters for the Japanese market.
The company has a number of other licenses as well, including those for the Teletubbies, Star Wars, and Thomas the Tank Engine in the United Kingdom.
Tomy also operates a distribution partnership with Hasbro in the United States and Japan.
Founder Eiichiro Tomiyama began producing toys in 1924. His original designs were tin-based, favoured by the company back in the 1950s. In the beginning, Tomiyama’s company was one of many producing cheap-to-manufacture products. Yet Tomiyama was alone in recognising Japan’s potential in the worldwide toy market.
In 1929, Tomiyama brought together a group of small-scale toymakers, founding the so-called “Omacha no machi” (or Toytown) association. The association became the heart of the Japanese toy industry.
World War Two cut short the company’s development as its materials were needed for the Japan’s war effort. Yet the company benefitted from Japan’s post-war economic boom when toy production recommenced.
In 1953, the company was formally incorporated as Tomy.
During the 1950s, Tomy became one of the world’s major toy brands. Key to this shift was the company’s use of a new toy material: plastic. This was met with excitement and demand for the material among consumers.
Tomy’s early plastic toy hits was a model of the B-29 Bomber, released in 1951. This was followed with a B-50 model in 1953. These toys marked Tomy’s first exploration in the worldwide toys market.
Also successful around this time was a figure of an elephant capable of blowing soap bubbles. This marriage of cuteness and mechanical innovation – today a hallmark of Japanese design – proved successful in captivating children around the world.
The elephant broke Tomy’s previous sales records, with 600,000 copies sold.
In 1959, Tomy’s “sky ping pong” set rode the wave of popularity for Ping Pong in Japan. Its features included basket-like, spring loaded cups for catching and launching the ping pong ball. It became one of the world’s most ubiquitous toys. It was also the first Tomy toy to be made almost entirely from plastic.
‘Defining’ the 1960s
The company’s innovations in the 1960s included a new electromotive train set in 1961 and, in 1964, a talking doll powered by electronics.
Tomy became one of the first companies to investigate the potential of electronics in toy manufacturing.
By then, the company had begun developing its first robots, a class of toy which would become key to its development and legacy. Tomy’s first “mecha-tronics”-based robot appeared in 1962, resulting in international success.
This era saw Tomy venture into producing skill-based games, and also become a pioneer of the hand-held console market. This resulted in such favourites as Hit and Missile, Blip and Digital Derby. The company won a license to produce handheld version of global arcade games including Pacman in 1980.
These successes saw Tomy make a foray into the home computer and console market, launching its own Pyuuta (literal translation: computer dude) in 1982. The toy was known as the Tomy Tutor on the international markets.
Unable to compete with video game manufacturers like Atari and Commodore, Tomy returned to focusing on its core toy development.
In 1970, Tomy released a new series of model cars which reproduced in detail popular automobiles of the day. The success of the cars lead Tomy to step up its production.
By 1976, the Tomica line had expanded to include more than 180 models. That year it turned to the international market and, by the 1980s, the Tomica line had grown to more than 280 models.
Tomica inspired the creation of similar products such as track, building and other fixtures. It became known as Tomica world.
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