Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Bernard Loomis R.I.P.

Most of you have not heard of Bernard Loomis, but chances are if you are a member of Generation X or Generation Y he had an impact on your life. Bernard Loomis was a toy marketer, possibly the best in the business. In a career spanning over fifty years, he marketed Mattel's Hot Wheels line and licensed toys for a movie then simply called Star Wars. Loomis died on June 2 at the age of 82 from heart disease.

Loomis was born in the Bronx, New York on July 4, 1923. During World War II he served in the Army Air Corps. He entered the toy business in 1958 and by 1960 he had joined Mattel. Among his first major projects was the marketing Chatty Cathy, the first talking doll. When Mattel introduced the Hot Wheels miniature car line, Loomis made the then revolutionary proposal that the line could be promoted with a half hour, Saturday morning cartoon. The cartoon Hot Wheels debuted on ABC in the fall of 1969 and would run for two years. It was cancelled because of complaints to the FCC that it was essentially a half hour commercial for the Hot Wheels toys. Regardless, a precedent had been set and Hot Wheels would be the forerunner of such toy based cartoons as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Transformers in the Eighties.

Loomis would move from Mattel to General Mills, who owned the toy company Kenner. There he became a vice president at General Mills and president of Kenner. There he saw to it that Kenner became the first company to license Star Wars, feeling that the various characters and vehicles would make for a great toy line. He was also pivotal in the marketing of the Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears lines. In 1992 he was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

When it came to toy marketing, Bernard Loomis was a true pioneer. As mentioned above, he conceived of marketing lines of toys with half hour cartoons based on those toys. Loomis was revolutionary in that rather than focusing on the sale of individual toys, he instead focused on the marketing of entire toy lines. If not for Loomis, many of us as children may not have been able to enjoy the never ending number of toys from a single line. Had he simply obtained the Star Wars licence for Kenner, he would have had a place in the history books. As it is, he did so much more.

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