Amidst the many toys of the 1950's, Colorforms® was born when two inspired art students, Harry and Patricia Kislevitz, began experimenting with a new medium, a flexible vinyl material. Harry and Patricia had been looking to create large colorful works, but were uncomfortable with the expense of buying so much paint. So, in 1951, they purchased rolls of colorful vinyl, began cutting out colorful shapes and stuck them to the walls of their bathroom. Extra vinyl and scissors were left out for guests to add to their creation. When their friends became entranced with the myriad of colorful shapes, and artistic possibilities, Harry and Patricia knew they were onto something.
The first Colorforms® set was hand-cut: a thimble, a bottle, and a medicine container top were just some of the shapes that would become the foundation of the very first Colorforms® set, designed by Patricia, and now housed in the Museum of Modern Art in its permanent collection.
Colorforms® first launched through FAO Schwarz. Originally targeting other artists and adults, the product quickly became popular with children and the Colorforms® brand took hold. Orders for Colorforms® sets rushed in, and their operation began to quickly outgrow their tiny apartment, moving to a factory in New Jersey. Paul Rand, an American Art Director and Graphic Designer, best known for his work designing corporate logos for IBM, ABC, and UPS, was secured to design the Colorforms® logo, henceforth giving an (adorable) face to match the Colorforms® name.
In 1957, Popeye, with his bulging biceps and iconic can of spinach, became the first licensed character to be featured in his very own Colorforms® cartoon set.
The swinging 1960’s brought about a decade of counter-culture, civil unrest and free love. A new focus was put on nurturing childhood, and toys were now created not just with the goal of entertaining, but also educating. In response to that shift, Colorforms® introduced “Miss Weather,” in 1965, a kit designed to help children dress properly for the weather.
As America’s fascination with space increased, kids of the 60’s played in space, thanks to their “Space Warriors” and “Outer Space Men” Colorforms® kits. In 1966 a live-action version of the Batman cartoon starring Adam West premiered, and became an overnight success. That same year, Colorforms® released its “Batman Cartoon Kit,” allowing kids to drive their Colorforms® Batmobile through Gotham City, on the hunt for the Joker.
In 1964, music fans watched as the Beatles made their first live television appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, and only a few years later, children could play with their favorite mop-top singers using the Beatles Colorforms® set.
The times, they were a ‘changin’... and so were Colorforms®.
The 1970’s ushered a time of political awareness, progressive values, and the first wave of feminism. Space was still the ‘final frontier’ for Americans, TV shows like “Space: 1999” and “Star Trek” soon spawned Colorforms® sets of their own, allowing children to take on the role of space explorer.
“Barbie” was queen, and her multitude of outfits made for the perfect Colorforms® set, allowing children to dress and undress their favorite female fashion plate. Not to be outdone, the David Cassidy Colorforms® set offered his own bevy of wardrobe changes. Kids could hang with the “sweat hogs,” thanks to their “Welcome Back Kotter” set, solve mysteries with “Scooby Doo,” or spend time at their favorite address on “Sesame Street.”
No doubt about it, Colorforms® in the ‘70s had kids ‘Feelin’ Groovy.’
The 1980's were a whirlwind of Day-Glo and punk rock, and Colorforms® brightly colored vinyl pieces fit right in! Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog went on endless Colorforms® “Dream Dates,” “Muppet Babies” encouraged us to play nanny, and “Pound Puppies” play sets indulged our inner rescuer. “Cabbage Patch Kids” made their Colorforms® debut, and “California Raisins” parlayed their curious success into a playset as well.
And who didn’t want to recreate Elliott’s famous bike ride through the sky? With our “ET” Colorforms®, it was possible! The “Gremlins” made mischief, “Pac Man” gobbled up ghosts...and what WERE Wuzzles, anyway?
It didn’t matter, as long as we could play the Colorforms® way!
The 1990's paved the way for acid wash, grunge, and a host of new Colorforms® ideas. In fact, by 1990 Colorforms® had sold over a billion boxed sets, and was looking to toys and television for inspiration. We could make Steve Urkel ask, “Did I do that?” or send the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles out on another mission to defeat the evil shredder.
Re-stickable Colorforms® allowed us to lose... and find Waldo as many times as we wanted, and the Colorforms® Blue’s Clues Kitchen Play Set encouraged us to figure out exactly what Blue wanted for a snack!
We could nurture our inner interior designer while decorating “Vanna’s Villa,” and celebrate our inner tough-guy with the WWF Action Set. The New Kids on the Block set had the “Right Stuff,” and let us live out our superfan dreams, and the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” set let us save the day!
The 2000's were all about new technology and the internet boom. Digital cameras replaced 35mm film, television sets became flat screens, people were using iPods and mp3 players to listen to music, and cell phones were becoming smart phones. And yet, as we said our final goodbyes to VHS tapes and floppy discs, we said hello to the 21st century, and Colorforms® celebrated its 50th anniversary in the toy industry.
With hit licenses like “Harry Potter,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Dora the Explorer, “The Hungry Caterpillar,” and “SUPER WHY!,” along with the return of popular Colorforms® sets of the past - the original Colorforms® and Miss Weather Dress Up - Colorforms® was here to stay.
The 2010's mark an exciting new chapter for Colorforms®. In 2011, TIME Magazine named Colorforms® one of the “Top 100 Toys of All Time.”
In 2014, it was acquired by Colorforms Brand LLC, a subsidiary of Out of the Blue Enterprises LLC, a leader in children’s media and producer of the hit preschool shows “Blue’s Clues,” “SUPER WHY!,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Creative Galaxy.”
And, this fall, an all-new line of Colorforms® vinyl stick-on playsets will hit the shelves. The 2015 Colorforms® toy line will showcase the hottest licenses, most popular characters and innovative features (including glow-in-the dark, glitter, magic reveals and even some with sound effects and record and playback capabilities) for kids today to love.
With over 60 years making toys, the best is yet to come for Colorforms®!