To celebrate Chatter Telephone’s 60th anniversary, Mattel has released a special edition of the iconic toy that includes some grown-up functionality: the ability to make and receive real phone calls.
The Special Edition model has integrated Bluetooth wireless technology, allowing it to pair with IOS and Android devices and use a family’s existing phone plan. Kids can dial out using the working rotary dial and place incoming calls on speakerphone to chat “hands, knees, and toes-free.”
Mattel is playfully touting the Chatter Telephone’s mobility (it’s on wheels) and sleek, bulky face design featuring googly eyes.
First released in 1961 as the Talk Back Phone (and changed to the Chatter Telephone a year later), the first version combined a rotary telephone with a pull toy. It was constructed with a wooden base and wheels and a red plastic handset attached with a fabric cord.
By the mid-1980s, the Chatter Telephone featured the all-plastic construction we recognize today. Collectors can properly zero-in on the production date of the toy thanks to ongoing changes to the side and back lithos.
To reflect changes in technology, Fisher-Price released a short-lived push-button version of the Chatter Phone. It was re-released in its original rotary dial form a short time later.
TOY STORY 3
The Chatter Telephone enjoyed a resurgence in popularity thanks to its cameo appearance in Pixar’s Toy Story 3. Fisher-Price re-released the vintage design of the toy in 2012 as part of its Classic toy line.
Until this recent technology update, the basic function of the phone hasn’t changed. When pulled along by a string, it makes a chattering noise that synchronizes with its blue eyes moving up and down. The rotary dial emitted a ringing sound when it was turned and released, so children could effectively mimic what their parents did when making a phone call in the days of pulse dialing.
Today’s kids can swipe, pinch, and make calls before the age of five, so the Bluetooth Chatter Telephone is designed to meet their modern expectations while letting parents share the old-fashioned function and memories of times past.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.
I have a slide that I use in many talks showing toy telephones from the (circa) 1961 model (my childhood…) through touch-tone, flip phone, iPhone and smart watch. I use it to show how the essentials of child development remain the same, but the context changes. Kids want to imitate their parents talking on the phone, but the device they see parents use to do so keeps updating.
I’d sooner see a Fisher-Price 1961 phone with full functionality aimed at parents – who could use it nostalgically or ironically – than a distraction from the imaginative element aimed at little kids. (We’ll ignore, for now, the potential for kids to make unintended phone calls…)