Little Tikes 50th Anniversary Celebration

Tom Murdough might not be a household name, but his toys certainly are.

A pioneer of the American toy industry, Murdough has led three companies, all of which have produced toys that have brought countless hours of fun and joy to millions of kids over the course of the past 50 years. Little Tikes (founded 1969), The Step2 Company (1991), and Simplay3 (2016) are competitors in the same space, but all three share Murdough as their founder.

On Friday, June 21, Thomas G. Murdough Jr. was back at the Little Tikes plant in Hudson, Ohio to receive a special honor from the company’s current owner — MGA Entertainment founder and CEO Isaac Larian.

Issac Larian and Tom Murdough
MGA Entertainment’s Isaac Larian with Little Tikes founder Tom Murdough.

Larian is openly nominating Murdough for The Toy Association’s Toy Industry Hall of Fame, and he’s calling upon the industry to join him in submitting nominations for the toy industry vet before the call for submissions closes on June 28.

At an anniversary celebration and luncheon, Larian and his family were joined by Murdough and his family, along with Little Tikes associates both past and present, Hudson Mayor David Basil, and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Artifacts from the entire 50-year history of Little Tikes were on display, all accompanied by photos — many of which feature Murdough and his children.

“It really is incredible what Tom has built here. That is why I nominated Tom for the Toy Industry Hall of Fame this year,” Larian says. “If anyone really deserves to be in the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, it is Tom. I and my family and all the employees of MGA Entertainment are forever grateful to Tom for his creativity and boldness in creating Little Tikes.”

MGA Entertainment acquired Little Tikes from its previous owner, Newell-Rubbermaid in 2006.

Among the many timeless innovations that emerged from Little Tikes under Murdough’s leadership are the Cozy Coupe and the Turtle Sandbox — the latter of which opened new doors for summer toy manufacturing, keeping the plant open during months where previous seasonal shutdowns occurred.

The Murdough Family

At a time when talk of tariffs on toys made in China continues to dominate the headlines, Little Tikes continues to manufacture the majority of its products in Ohio (as do Step2 and Simplay3) using rotational molding.

About his longstanding manufacturing philosophy, Murdough says, “We are in an industry that is 98% comprised of products from overseas. I believe in the ingenuity and work ethic of our committed American workers to produce great products and then see them succeed in the marketplace.”

Little Tikes will continue to celebrate its 50th anniversary with more activations in the months ahead. The company recently hosted “The World’s Biggest Play Date,” forged a promotional partnership with Sun-Maid Growers of California, struck a rare licensing deal with Little Baby Bum, and continues to encourage families to “play big.”

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.