Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Breyer's Davy Crockett, Part I

I had a monstrous migraine today, so I’m going to have to split the Davy Crockett piece into two parts, since I didn’t have the time or energy to edit it down to one.

There’s never been any doubt that the Davy Crockett was a Breyer release, but outside of the box the occasional set turns up in, there’s no official company document that specifically says so. The set appears in mail-order catalogs in 1955, but no mention of the manufacturer is made in the catalog description.

We have a 1956 sheet that mentions the Kit Carson - basically the same mold, with a new paint job and accessories - and Kit is also shown in the 1958 materials (Dealer Catalog, and Pricelist.) But poor old Davy is conspicuously absent. It’s almost as if he didn’t exist - except for the fact that he rather obviously does.

I finally found the "evidence:" the original announcement, in the "New Toys on Parade" section of the August 1955 issue of Toys and Novelties:

The August 1955 date is interesting. Most of the announcements I’ve found for Breyer’s new releases have been in the January through March range - right around Toy Fair time. Now it’s possible that the magazine might have had a backlog of pieces to run in the "New Toys on Parade" section, but I rather doubt there was a five or six month delay in this case. I think Davy really was a Mid-year release, and a rushed one, at that!

It had been long assumed - but not proven, until now - that Breyer’s Davy Crockett was a part of the onslaught of merchandise marketed during the infamous Davy Crockett fad of 1955. Here’s a pretty good summary of this brief, intense mania that caught everyone - even Disney, himself! - by surprise:

(Warning: it’s gray text against a black background, and may be a bit hard on the eyes.)

Seeing the huge profits the "first responders" were making, just about every toy manufacturer rushed their own Davy Crockett-themed merchandise to the market. Licensing wasn’t really an issue - as an historical figure, Davy was essentially in the public domain. As long as you didn’t use anything specific to the Disney show itself - like the theme song, or Fess Parker’s likeness - you were free to make whatever Davy Crockett merchandise you saw fit. Such as this rather creepy vinyl doll, from the same page the Breyer Davy appeared:

The fad was well underway by February, when the third episode of Davy Crockett aired on ABC’s Disneyland. If Breyer’s announcement was printed in August, it had to have been sent in by July, and photographed by June - which means that it took them four months, five months tops, to get their Davy Crockett from concept to execution. Impressive!

If you needed anymore proof of the awesomeness of Breyer’s primary sculptor and moldmaker Chris Hess, there it is.

The Davy Crockett fad was pretty much dead by Christmas 1955. And so was, I believe, the production of Breyer’s Davy Crockett. I’ll discuss that, and a whole lot more, in my next post.

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