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'Star Wars' Figures, Dominoes Enter Toy Hall of Fame

Ben Popken, TODAY Contributor
Thursday, 15 Nov 2012 | 2:54 PM ET

The latest toy legends to ascend into the vaunted Toy Hall of Fame are... duhn duhn duhn.... "Star Wars" action figures and Dominoes!

Source: Toy Hall of Fame

From a field of twelve finalists, a national selection committee picked the final two, beating out the Fisher-Price orn popper, Lite-Brite, Clue, the Magic 8 Ball, Simon, the tea set, and Twister. Each committee member was asked to pick two and then write a brief essay passionately advocating their choice.

The toys will now become part of the collection at the national Toy Hall of Fame, a real place in Rochester, N.Y., which you can visit.

"Star Wars" action figures hit the market in 1978 after the big blockbuster movie came out in 1977. Dominoes have been around since the 1300s in China.

Anyone can nominate a toy for entry into the hall of fame, and then a museum committee narrows that list down based on toys that are real superstars. They must have remained popular for generations, and stimulate child development.

Dominoes and "Star Wars" action figures certainly meet those criteria, selection committee member Jeff Gomez told "Today."

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"Dominoes are an iconic form of play," he said. "Particularly among Latinos." Gomez, the CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, recalled his Puerto Rican upbringing where family friends and neighbors would gather to play the centuries-old matching game with a mix of swagger to shuffling the tiles, a little trash talk, and a lot of fun. When the set of Dominoes came out, it meant "peace in the family, a break in the chaos," he said.

"Dominoes are an iconic form of play," said election committee member Jeff Gomez. "Particularly among Latinos."

Likewise, the fun force is strong with the "Star Wars" action figures. The epicness of its story was in some ways surpassed by its universe of mass-market merchandise tie-ins. Which helped because back then if you wanted to experience the tale again, you had to buy another movie ticket. "Star Wars" action figures "offered a level of richness that was additive to the mythology."

While for centuries children have played with dolls, which is what action figures essentially are (sorry boys), the popularity of the movie meant that when the kids played, everyone knew the story.

A lot of the early Toy Hall of Fame winners, Gomez said, showed an "archetypal innocence. But as you move up through the sixties and seventies, it starts reflecting the technological development."

"What we play with," said Gomez, "provides context to the society in which we grew up."

Hm, I wonder what it says about our society that this year's hot toys are the Furby and the Nerf N-Strike Elite Hail-Fire Blaster?

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