They say everything old is new again, and in the case of Lite Brite, it seems to be true. This retro toy is back, although with a few changes. Nowadays, you can create a custom digital template at the Hasbro web site and print it at home. The new device is also slimmer now and available in different colors, as well as a cube version with four sides of play surface. They even include a little tray to hold the colored pegs. If you prefer to use it with the lights on or away from home, Lite Brite also has an app. None of these new versions require paper!
When I was little and my daycare center got a Lite Brite, it seemed like half the fun was jamming random pegs through pieces of black construction paper, then flipping on the light inside the big, boxy device to see what, if any, design emerged. It was also fun using the templates Hasbro provided, which might result in something bizarre like a pink and orange rooster, or trying to make words and the names of friends. When we got a template refill pack, there were always fights amongst the girls over who got to do the My Little Pony one. You could also pick up replacement packs of colored pegs. The old-school Lite Brite looked like it made LED pictures, but today’s model actually uses LED lights. It seems like something magical was lost when we lost that sometimes-flickery 25-watt glow.
There also used to be a TV commercial with a catchy little jingle. “Lite-Brite, Lite Brite, turn on the magic of colored light!" I remember it as one of the better toy jingles of the 80’s. Though there are earlier ads as far back as the Lite Brite’s early days in the late 1960’s, to a certain generation of light artists, there is only one true Lite Brite jingle.
The resurgence of Lite Brite fits right in with a number of vintage toy comebacks spotted at the 2014 Toy Fair, held in New York in February 2014. Observant attendees spotted new versions of Spirograph and Toss Across alongside the new tablet-like Lite Brites. Despite the changes to this classic toy, the pegs are still a choking hazard for children under three years of age, so be mindful of very young children whether you’re enjoying the vintage charm of my beloved 1981 model or a souped-up paperless version.
If we’re really lucky, they’ll find a way to make Lite Brite the next big toy movie to follow up Battleship (which you can watch on Netflix or Directv’s website) and the amazing Lego Movie (in theaters now). Who knows what the plot of a potential Lite Brite movie would be, but I’m sure they could think of something!
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