Tonka is an American producer of toy trucks. 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.
Joint venture (1998–present)
|Industry||Toys and games|
|Founded||June 22, 1946, Mound, Minnesota, U.S.|
|Russell L. Wenkstern|
Tonka began as Mound Metalcraft, a gardening tools company, in the fall of 1946 in Mound, Minnesota. Lynn Everett Baker (1898–1964), Avery F. Crounse, and Alvin F. Tesch created the company in an old schoolhouse. Their building's former occupant, the Streater Company, had made and patented several toys, including toy trucks. 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.
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".
In November 1955, Mound Metalcraft changed its name to Tonka Toys Incorporated. 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.
From 1958 to 1961, the logo no longer included seagulls and the colors were changed to white, grey, and red. 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.
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. In 1998, Hasbro began a licensing deal with Funrise Toys to manufacture and distribute Tonka trucks. The deal began with versions of the trucks fitted with electronics for lights and sounds, but grew to encompass the entire brand. 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.
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), and others aimed at boys (such as Gobots, Supernaturals, Rock Lords, Spiral Zone, Legions of Power and Steel Monsters). It was the original manufacturer of the Pound Puppies 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.
In 2001, Tonka trucks were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York. The Winifred Museum in Winifred, Montana, has a collection of more than 3,000 Tonka toys.
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.
|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 |
|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|
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|
|#||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. 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).
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.
- "Russell L. Wenkstern, 87, Toy Chief and Dump Truck Co-Developer". The New York Times. January 22, 2000. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
- ANTHONY RAMIREZ (February 1, 1991). "Tonka Accepts Offer from Hasbro". The New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- Miller, Aaron (September 3, 2015). "12 Things You Didn't Know About Tonka". Thrillist. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
- 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.
- "Tonka's Troubles Nothing To Toy With As Ghostbusters Line Fades". Chicago Tribune. August 19, 1990. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- David, Dennis; Laumann, Lloyd (2004). Tonka. MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7603-1868-9.
- Hauer, Tom (November 4, 2019). "Tough trucks with a strong Midwest history". The Old Times. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
- "History of Tonka Toys". YouTube. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
- Ramirez, Anthony (February 1, 1991). "Tonka Accepts Offer From Hasbro". The New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- Muller, Joann. "Can Wal-Mart Help Bring Tonka Trucks Back To The U.S.?". Forbes. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
- Hirsch, Jerry (May 10, 2015). "For Arnie Rubin, selling toys has been all fun and games". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
- "Basic Fun! Secures Rights to License Tonka Brand". Basic Fun!. June 14, 2020. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
- Debter, Lauren. "Why 160,000 Tonka Toy Trucks Won't Make It Home For The Holidays". Forbes. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
- "Hasbro Reacquires Digital Gaming Rights From Infogrames for $66 Million". hasbro.com (Press release). Hasbro. June 8, 2005.
- "Tonka Trucks". toyhalloffame.org. National Toy Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- "Winifred Museum - Russell Country Montana". russell.visitmt.com. Archived from the original on April 17, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
- "TDK Mediactive Gets Tonka License". May 21, 2002.
- Fleming, Mike (June 11, 2012). "Sony To Make Tonka Trucks Animated Pic". Deadline. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
- McKinney, Jessica (February 28, 2022). "Everything You Need to Know About Yeat". Complex. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
- 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.
- Duber, Vinnie (February 22, 2021). "What Lance Lynn — aka 'Tonka Truck' — brings to Sox staff". NBC Sports. Retrieved May 11, 2022.