Sunday, September 16, 2018

Hartlands, Again?

By the time I entered the hobby in the late 1970s, Hartlands had already been out of production for several years. They were never formally a part of my childhood, though once I discovered Tinymites and Barkies, those did become as crucial a part of my early hobbyhood as Stablemates did.

Because just like Stablemates they were cute, little, and affordable!

My Hartland collection has expanded and contracted multiple times over the years, almost entirely dependent on incidental flea market and thrift store finds.

I still have all of my Tinymites and Barkies, but the rest of the Hartland collection now takes up about half a shelf in the display collection in the bedroom. Other than a few minor grails – a Blue Roan Polo Pony, the Pearl 11-inch Arabian, a couple of stray Barkies I’m still missing – I doubt it will expand much further.

My opinion on the latest attempt to revive Hartlands? (What is this now, the third, fourth or fifth attempt?)

The past is a nice place to visit, but you don’t want to live there.

This has nothing to do with their style: you all know I’ve never been a stickler for anatomical or conformational fidelity. I’d be all for adding more models in the Hartland style to the hobby world.

If the latest attempt happens to include new molds in the Hartland style – either entirely new sculptures, ones that had been planned in previous revivals, or even older unreleased designs, like these mysterious and tantalizing fellows – I’d be all for it:

(These photos are from Marney’s files, naturally, included in a small group taken during a trip to Hartland Collectables in the 1980s. There were no notations on these photos, so I have no additional information to give about them or their whereabouts.)

But if it’s going to be just another attempt to market older molds, I just don’t foresee it being viable.

Toy companies – like any companies, really – require innovation to thrive. Marketing and nostalgia can only take you so far: new molds, new products, new colors, and new ways of thinking are all necessary components for long-term success and viability.

I think most of us have harbored the fantasy of having a model horse company of our own, running it the way we think it should be run.

Even I had this fantasy for a brief while: I worked at a plastic-injection molding plant for several years, and they were going through a phase where they wanted to create proprietary toy products of their own.

My suggestions were largely for naught, because the owner was in the habit of ignoring the input of people who weren’t also members of his immediate family. (If that. The company is long gone, unsurprisingly.)

I still get twinges of this fantasy, usually when I find myself perusing the toy horse selection at the dollar store. Could you imagine if those companies invested just a few dollars more into development of slightly more horselike molds? And what impact cheap, decent, and widely available bodies for customizing could have on the hobby?


Anonymous said...

Oh wow, I love those molds! Especially the TWH. But all of them are great. I have not heard of the latest attempt to revive Hartland, but I am all for it. Whether I would buy them or not depends on the price and availability (I no longer buy Stones for those reasons).

And gosh, I would give anything if some "cheap" toy companies just produced some nice bodies. I can live with prepping them and all that, just get someone who knows how to sculpt a HORSE! I really think a company could sell a lot of models just unpainted as bodies. That would save a lot of labor on their part and hopefully bring the prices down.

Kirsten Wellman said...

According to Gail Fitch's Hartland book, those unproduced molds were still owned by the family of the artist.