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The 2002 Kay Kamen Award for The Ugliest Muppet Toy We Could Find

Before we present the Ugliest Toy award, let me say a few words about Kay Kamen, the founding father of character licensing and a hero of toy collectors everywhere.

In 1932, Walt Disney hired Herman “Kay” Kamen, a former hat salesman and promoter of Our Gang products, as the merchandise licensing representative for Walt Disney Enterprises. Mickey Mouse was a smash hit when his first cartoons debuted in 1928, but the initial efforts to merchandise the mouse weren’t nearly as successful. The first Mickey Mouse dolls made in 1930 so dissatisfied Walt and Roy Disney that the studio released patterns of the dolls through McCall’s so that people could make their own dolls.

At the time, character licensing was seen as promotion for the movies. Kamen changed all that, proving that movies and cartoons could earn studios extra revenue at the toy store. He signed a deal with Disney Enterprises in 1932, giving him half the profits from the licensing agreements he made. He immediately licensed Mickey Mouse to candy, cookies, toothpaste, and ad campaigns for bread, milk, ice cream and breakfast cereal.

In 1933, Kamen came up with the idea for the famous Mickey Mouse wristwatch. More than two million of these watches sold between 1933 and 1935. By the mid-30’s, Mickey Mouse merchandising was reportedly bringing in 35 million dollars a year in sales.

Kay Kamen died in 1949 in a plane crash, having essentially single-handedly created the modern licensed-character toy industry. And so, The Ugliest Muppet Toy Award is dedicated to Kay Kamen — hat salesman, multi-millionaire, marketing genius.

Mr. Kamen, toy collectors around the world tip our hats in respect.

We who are about to die broke salute you.

The 2002 Kay Kamen Award for The Ugliest Muppet Toy We Could Find

presented by
The Cookie Monster
with Saggy Diapers That Leak


The Second Runner Up…


Piggy flocked figure
(UK, late 70’s)
entered by Michael Dixon & Mar Quinn

with 19% of the vote

The First Runner Up…


Bendy Piggy
(Bendy Toys UK, late 70’s)
entered by Captain Cully

with 23% of the vote

and the winner is…

uglykermit2
Kermit beanbag
(Walt Disney World, mid 90’s)

with 27% of the vote

The ultimate tribute to this deeply ugly toy comes from Bill Kastak, the Muppet fan who recently paid $1800 for the Miss Piggy shadow box at Muppetfest.

Bill wrote:
“Not even I bought that.”

Thank you to everybody who entered and voted in this goofy contest! We’ll be back next April Fool’s Day with the 2003 Ugly Toy Contest… Frog knows, there are enough ugly Muppet toys!

Information on Kay Kamen taken from Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out by Sean Griffin, New York University Press (2000)

and

The Mickey Mouse Watch: From the Beginning of Time by Robert Heide and John Gilman, Hyperion (1997)

by Danny Horn

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