“It’s Kenner! It’s fun!”
Kenner Products was a toy company founded in 1947 by three brothers, Albert, Phillip, and Joseph L. Steiner, in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States, and was named after the street where the original corporate offices were located.
Kenner introduced its popular Girder and Panel building sets construction toy in 1957, the Give-a-Show projector in 1959, the Easy-Bake Oven in 1963, the Spirograph drawing toy in 1966, and the Starting Lineup sports action figure collectible line in 1988. It was a pioneer in the use of television as a medium for advertising toys across the United States, beginning in 1958.
In the early 1960s, Kenner introduced its corporate mascot, The Kenner Gooney Bird, which would be used in both its company logo (“It’s Kenner! It’s fun!”) and TV ads, in both animated form and puppetry. (One commercial was produced by Muppets creator Jim Henson) The Bird was phased out by 1974.
The company was purchased by General Mills in 1967.
In 1970, General Mills merged its Rainbow Crafts division into Kenner Products, bringing Play-Doh into the Kenner product line.
Kenner Products obtained the rights to produce Star Wars action figures and playsets for the Star Wars trilogy from 1977 through 1985. After Kenner acquired the license to produce Star Wars toys when the Mego Corporation rejected it in 1976, Kenner popularized the 3.75 inch action figure that became an industry standard that continues to dominate the action figure toy market. Kenner also produced toys related to the popular 1970s TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. In 1981, Kenner belatedly entered the diecast toy car market, with a short-lived range called Fast 111’s.
One of Kenner’s most highly acclaimed lines was the Super Powers Collection. These action figures were based on the famed superheroes of DC Comics. What made the line so successful was that the characters were modeled almost exactly from the style guide of the company; and also, each character performed some “action.” For example, if Superman’s legs are squeezed, he would throw a punch.
This set was produced from 1984 to 1986. In 1990, the company unleashed the Dark Knight Collection which was the first of their many lines based on the Batman character. This initial set was created to capitalize on the phenomenal success of the cinematic version of the character.
In 1985, General Mills spun off its Kenner and Parker toy divisions to form Kenner Parker Toys, Inc. Kenner Parker was acquired by Tonka in 1987. Under Tonka management, Kenner Products was reconstituted as a division.
Tonka (including Kenner) was purchased by the toy company Hasbro in mid-1991. Hasbro closed the Cincinnati offices of Kenner in 2000, and Kenner’s product lines were merged into Hasbro’s. *