If you ever combated the boredom of a rainy day or a long car ride by sticking little pieces of thin vinyl to a colorful background based on your favorite cartoon, TV show or movie, then you are likely familiar with Colorforms, one of the most beloved and best-selling toys throughout the 1970s decade.
Colorforms were the creation of husband and wife, Harry and Patricia Kislevitz. One day, they happened to realize that vinyl stuck to the semi-gloss paint in their bathroom. Feeling creative, they cut out a bunch of little shapes and started creating art on the walls that could be easily removed or rearranged. When their friends came over, they had fun playing with the little shapes too. An idea was born.
The couple formed the Colorforms company in 1951 and released their first version, which consisted of a collection of pre-cut, multicolored geometric shapes and a black background for which to affix them.
No artistic talent was necessary, only an active imagination. Not only did kids love them, but so did their parents, since the toy was inexpensive, safe and didn’t make a mess. When it comes to parenting, that’s called a trifecta. The Kislevitz couple still didn’t realize it yet, but they had a gold mine on their hands.
The original Colorforms were so popular, the company decided to release a new set in 1957, this time based on the cartoon character Popeye (thereby offering a glimpse into the future of Colorforms). It sold moderately well, but the real breakthrough came in 1962, when they released the Miss Weather set.
The background featured a young girl standing in her bedroom in front of a window. You decided the meteorological details and dressed Miss Weather appropriately, all via two sheets of vinyl decals. You could put clouds in the sky, dress her in a raincoat, etc. Suffice to say, Miss Weather was so popular that the set is still manufactured today.
The success of Miss Weather opened up the floodgates, Colorforms began releasing hundreds of news sets based on just about every popular movie, TV show or cartoon character in existence. Barbie, Happy Days, KISS, Sesame Street, Scooby Doo… that was just the tip of the Colorforms iceberg. All told, there have been more than one billion (yes, you read that right) sets of Colorforms sold over the years.
Here’s a few of the classic sets from the 70s:
So did you own any of the sets pictured here, or did you have a beloved set that wasn’t mentioned? I hope you’ll share all of your Colorforms memories with our readers in our comments section below, as I pay humble tribute to this iconic toy that entertained so many of us for so many hours.