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Most toys are fads that last a few years, or even months, before they get replaced by the next craze. However, the Slinky – the pre-compressed coil of wire, or plastic, which can “walk” on its own – has been entertaining children and nostalgic adults for over 70 years! It is therefore not surprising to hear that every August 30, fans across the U.S. celebrate this iconic toy with a National Slinky Day!
This year, the folks at Disney have made the event extra special by unveiling the new Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster at the Hollywood Studios theme park at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort. The family ride is themed as though Andy Davis, one of the main characters in the Toy Story movies, created it in his backyard using his Mega Coaster Play Kit. Set to open in Summer 2018, the attraction draws inspiration from the film’s namesake dachshund, who has a metal Slinky for a body. It is designed to take full advantage of the coils, assuring riders an exciting journey, complete with sharp drops and sudden turns. Slinky Dog Dash will be one of two new rides park visitors can look forward to in the newly expanded Toy Story Land. The second attraction is inspired by the Alien Swirling Saucers play set Andy received from Pizza Planet, in the first Toy Story film.
Like many great inventions, the Slinky was invented accidentally. In 1943, Richard James, a naval mechanical engineer was trying to create a spring that would keep delicate ship equipment steady at sea. One day, he unwittingly dropped some samples off a shelf and watched in astonishment as they landed gracefully, with a “spring” in their steps, instead of crashing on the ground.
Believing the springs would make a great toy, he and his wife Betty, who came up with the name, borrowed $500 USD to manufacture the first Slinkys. In 1945, the inventors were allowed to demonstrate the toy at Gimbels department store in Philadelphia. To their delight, the entire inventory of 400 was sold within 90 minutes, and the rest, as they say, is history. An estimated 250 million units of the classic toy, which was inducted into the “National Toy Hall of Fame” in 2000, have been sold since, and the numbers continue to grow. While James made the Slinky by coiling 80-feet of wire into a 2-inch spiral, the toy now comes in many different sizes, colors, and materials. Some light up, others make sounds, and one lucky Slinky even gets to go on adventures with his Toy Story friends!
Happy National Slinky Day!