Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TOYS for TOTS!


Walt kicking off the annual "Toys for Tots" drive
Every year as the Christmas Season approaches, we can find a "Toys for Tots" sign or banner  heralding holiday solicitations to provide gifts for the disadvantaged children of America. When you placed that doll or game in the box, did you know that the Walt Disney Studio had a part in helping bring this worthy cause to fruition? Well it all began back in 1947 when a Major Bill Hendricks along with group of fellow Marines Reservists took it upon themselves to collect and ultimately distribute over 5,000 toys to children in need. Bill's wife Diane actually came up with the original idea when she asked her husband to hand out raggedy ann dolls she had hand crafted. She wanted to give them as gifts to needy children facing a bleak Christmas so soon after the war when many were still attempting to put their lives and financial future back together.

Familiar sign at the parks
Bill couldn't find an agency to help with the cause so he did what he had to do... create one!  So in 1947 "Toys for Tots" was born and became so successful that it spread its magnificent mission across our nation. One of the "perks" Bill had in his favor was that besides being a Marine Reservist, he also held an important post in civilian life as Director of Public Relations for Warner Brothers Studios. In that role he was able to garner support from many of Hollywood's celebrities to help with the campaign.

The celebrities of those days just seem a little different to me than some of the ones we see today on the five o'clock news. Maybe because they had suffered through the great depression and a second "war to end all wars" so they knew what real suffering was all about and were ready to lend a hand to help their fellow Americans.  Bob Hope, John Wayne and Doris Day and many others volunteered their services and vocals were supplied by legends including  Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee. No wonder they are referred to as "the Greatest Generation."
Early Disney Studio design
The second year of the program they all realized something was missing and that what was really needed now was a recognizable logo. Something bright and cheery that would immediately grab the attention of the public and at the same time encourage people to donate without coming off too pushy. That is precisely where Walt Disney stepped in. In 1948 Walt instructed his publicity artists at the Disney Studio to create the memorable design we all know today.

The jolly red choo-choo was inspired by Walt's love of trains and in fact the early drop off points for "Toys for Tots" were set up as large bins attached to one another to resemble the unique Disney railway design. This arrangement kept everything "on track" regarding the creation of a recognizable look the public would respond to and remember. Since its beginning back in 1947, "Toys for Tots" has distributed 450 million toys to 200 million needy children. So please give generously when you see a "Toy's for Tots" sign. That simple gesture on your part will brighten the Christmas season for a child in need of a little hope and little cheer in the shape of a toy from you.  -MP

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