Tonka is an American producer of toy trucks.[2] The company is known for making steel toy models of construction type trucks and machinery. Maisto International, which makes diecast vehicles, acquired the rights to use the Tonka name in a line of 1:64 scale, featuring mostly trucks.

TypePrivate (1946–91)
Subsidiary (1991–present)
Joint venture (1998–present)
IndustryToys and games
FoundedJune 22, 1946, Mound, Minnesota, U.S.
  • Lynn Everett Baker,
  • Avery F. Crounse,
  • Alvin F. Tesch
Key people
Russell L. Wenkstern[1]

History edit

1960s Tonka truck

Tonka began as Mound Metalcraft, a gardening tools company, in the fall of 1946 in Mound, Minnesota.[3] Lynn Everett Baker (1898–1964), Avery F. Crounse, and Alvin F. Tesch created the company in an old schoolhouse.[3] Their building's former occupant, the Streater Company, had made and patented several toys, including toy trucks.[4] E. C. Streater was not interested in the toy business so they approached Mound Metalcraft. The three men at Mound Metalcraft thought they might make a good sideline to their other products.[5]

After some modifications to the design by Alvin Tesch and the addition of a new logo created by Erling Eklof, the company began selling metal toys, which soon became the primary business. The logo was based on a University of Minnesota drafting student's sketch by Donald B. Olson, who later became the company's Chief Industrial Engineer. The logo used the Dakota Sioux word tanka, which means "great" or "big".[6]

In November 1955, Mound Metalcraft changed its name to Tonka Toys Incorporated.[7] From 1947 to 1957, their logo was an oval, showing the Tonka Toys name in red above blue ocean waves with seagulls overhead, honoring nearby Lake Minnetonka.[8][4]

From 1958 to 1961, the logo no longer included seagulls and the colors were changed to white, grey, and red.[4] The colors changed to red and gold in 1963. In 1978, the oval was removed and the company began using only the name Tonka on their toys.[4]

In 1964, Tonka acquired the Mell Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Illinois, allowing it to produce barbecue grills, eventually under the Tonka Firebowl label.[6]: 85–86 

Late 1970s Tonka Car Carrier

In 1987, Tonka purchased Kenner Parker, including UK toy giant Palitoy, for $555 million, borrowing extensively to fund the acquisition. However, the cost of servicing the debt meant Tonka itself had to find a buyer and it was eventually acquired by Hasbro in 1991, its headquarters moved out of Minnesota, and relocated its manufacturing operations to Hasbro's facilities in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.[9] In 1998, Hasbro began a licensing deal with Funrise Toys to manufacture and distribute Tonka trucks.[10] The deal began with versions of the trucks fitted with electronics for lights and sounds, but grew to encompass the entire brand.[11] This agreement ended in 2020, with the license being transferred to Basic Fun!, who produces other brands such as Care Bears, My Little Pony, and Lincoln Logs.[12][13]

1978 model Tonka bottom dump truck

Tonka has produced a variety of toys, including dolls (Star Fairies, Bathing Beauties, Maple Town, and Hollywoods). They have produced other toys, some aimed at girls (such as Keypers),[4] and others aimed at boys (such as Gobots,[4] Supernaturals, Rock Lords, Spiral Zone, Legions of Power and Steel Monsters). It was the original manufacturer of the Pound Puppies[4] toy line, and in the late 1980s licensed products inspired by Maple Town.

Tonka produced video games as Tonka Video Games, including Tonka Raceway, and purchased the rights to distribute and market the Master System after Sega of America stopped competing against the Nintendo Entertainment System in the US. However, the Master System's market share declined, since Tonka did not have experience with video games or how to market them. Hasbro sold the digital gaming rights for various properties (including My Little Pony, Magic: The Gathering, Tonka, Playskool, and Transformers) to Infogrames (later known and currently operating as Atari SA) for US$100 million in 2000, buying back the rights for US$66 million in June 2005.[14]

In 2001, Tonka trucks were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York.[15] The Winifred Museum in Winifred, Montana, has a collection of more than 3,000 Tonka toys.[16]

In other media edit

Video games edit

Thirteen video games based on the toys were released between 1996 and 2006. A majority of these titles were released by Hasbro Interactive and it's later rebrandings as Infogrames Interactive and Atari Interactive, although a small number of titles for Nintendo platforms were released by TDK Mediactive under a sub-licensing agreement from Infogrames.[17]

Game Title Release Date Developer Publisher
Tonka Construction August 20, 1996 Vortex Media Arts Hasbro Interactive
Tonka Search & Rescue October 15, 1997 Media Station
Tonka Garage April 7, 1998
Tonka Construction 2 October 2, 1999 ImaginEngine
Magellan Interactive
Tonka Raceway December 6, 1999 Media Station
Tonka Space Station November 6, 2000 Data Design Interactive
Tonka Monster Trucks September 25, 2001 Data Design Interactive Infogrames Interactive
Tonka Search & Rescue 2 November 15, 2002 Artech Studios
Tonka Construction Site May 30, 2002 Cosmigo TDK Mediactive[a]
Tonka Town Late 2003 ImaginEngine Atari Interactive
Tonka: Rescue Patrol November 18, 2003 Lucky Chicken Games TDK Mediactive[b]
Tonka Firefighter February 27, 2004 Boston Animation, Inc. Atari Interactive
Tonka: On the Job November 15, 2006 Webfoot Technologies THQ

Filmography edit

TV series edit

Title Premiere date End date Network Note
Challenge of the GoBots September 8, 1984 1985 First-run syndication co-production with Hanna-Barbera Productions
Pound Puppies September 13, 1986 December 19, 1987 ABC

TV movies and specials edit

Title Premiere date Network Co-production with
Star Fairies October 26, 1985 Syndication Hanna-Barbera Productions
Pound Puppies ABC

Films edit

# Title Release date Co-production with
1 GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords March 21, 1986 Hanna-Barbera Productions and Clubhouse Pictures
2 Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw March 18, 1988 Tristar Pictures, Carolco Pictures, Atlantic/Kushner-Locke, The Maltese Companies, Cuckoo's Nest Studio, and Wang Film Productions
3 Tonka Tough Truck Adventures: The Biggest Show on Wheels! (Direct-to-Video; CGI) September 28, 2004 Hasbro Studios, SD Entertainment, and Paramount Home Entertainment

In 2012, an animated film based on the trucks toy line was in development. It was to be produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Hasbro Studios, and Happy Madison Productions, and to be distributed by Columbia Pictures.[18] A script was written by Happy Madison alumnus Fred Wolf, and was to be produced by Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo, Brian Goldner (CEO and president of Hasbro) and Bennett Schneir (Hasbro's senior vice president and managing director of motion pictures).[18]

Music edit

On April 2, 2021, American rapper Yeat released the song "Tonka". The song's sequel, titled "Tonka 2", was released on August 5, 2021. Another track titled "Big Tonka" featuring Lil Uzi Vert was released on April 1, 2022. Yeat has also referenced Tonka throughout his lyrics.[19]

Sports edit

Lance Lynn, an MLB baseball pitcher for the Chicago White Sox is nicknamed "Tonka Truck".[20][21]

References edit

  1. ^ Under license from Infogrames Interactive
  2. ^ Under license from Atari Interactive
  1. ^ "Russell L. Wenkstern, 87, Toy Chief and Dump Truck Co-Developer". The New York Times. January 22, 2000. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  2. ^ ANTHONY RAMIREZ (February 1, 1991). "Tonka Accepts Offer from Hasbro". The New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Miller, Aaron (September 3, 2015). "12 Things You Didn't Know About Tonka". Thrillist. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Hopkins, Charlotte (August 22, 2021). HowExpert Guide to Toy Collecting: 101 Tips on How to Find, Buy, Collect, and Sell Collectible Toys for Toy Collectors. HowExpert. ISBN 978-1-64891-734-9.
  5. ^ "Tonka's Troubles Nothing To Toy With As Ghostbusters Line Fades". Chicago Tribune. August 19, 1990. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
  6. ^ a b David, Dennis; Laumann, Lloyd (2004). Tonka. MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7603-1868-9.
  7. ^ Hauer, Tom (November 4, 2019). "Tough trucks with a strong Midwest history". The Old Times. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  8. ^ "History of Tonka Toys". YouTube. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  9. ^ Ramirez, Anthony (February 1, 1991). "Tonka Accepts Offer From Hasbro". The New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
  10. ^ Muller, Joann. "Can Wal-Mart Help Bring Tonka Trucks Back To The U.S.?". Forbes. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  11. ^ Hirsch, Jerry (May 10, 2015). "For Arnie Rubin, selling toys has been all fun and games". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  12. ^ "Basic Fun! Secures Rights to License Tonka Brand". Basic Fun!. June 14, 2020. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  13. ^ Debter, Lauren. "Why 160,000 Tonka Toy Trucks Won't Make It Home For The Holidays". Forbes. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  14. ^ "Hasbro Reacquires Digital Gaming Rights From Infogrames for $66 Million". (Press release). Hasbro. June 8, 2005.
  15. ^ "Tonka Trucks". National Toy Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  16. ^ "Winifred Museum - Russell Country Montana". Archived from the original on April 17, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  17. ^ "TDK Mediactive Gets Tonka License". May 21, 2002.
  18. ^ a b Fleming, Mike (June 11, 2012). "Sony To Make Tonka Trucks Animated Pic". Deadline. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  19. ^ McKinney, Jessica (February 28, 2022). "Everything You Need to Know About Yeat". Complex. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
  20. ^ Pope, LaMond (February 21, 2021). "Lance Lynn — the 'Tonka Truck' of the Chicago White Sox rotation — brings another reliable veteran arm to the World Series hopefuls". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  21. ^ Duber, Vinnie (February 22, 2021). "What Lance Lynn — aka 'Tonka Truck' — brings to Sox staff". NBC Sports. Retrieved May 11, 2022.

External links edit