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Stephen Kroninger
Face Fun in History
posted:
Seeing Hanoch Piven's post of his upcoming phone app reminded me of my own Face Fun done several years earlier. That brought to mind a number of these mix and match books and toys that I'd seen and been influenced by over the years. If any of you have more to add or images to share they'd be most welcome.
Perhaps the Granddaddy of them all. Great Granddaddy? Ole' Million Face.
"Originally created by Carey Orr, who was an editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, and first produced in 1925 by the Face Corporation of Philadelphia (corporations had a sense of humor back then, don't you think?). And now reproduced by your friendly neighborhood optical toy company. It's not an optical toy per se, but I thought it was very cool when I first found a very beat up old original. It was taken into the intensive care ward of Photoshop and reconstructed to look as good as new. It was this original toy, and these images, on which was based the "Changeable Charlie" toy of the 1940's, 50's, and 60's. There are 11 different blocks, each with 4 different images on each face: a head/hat block, right & left eyebrows, left ear, left eye, right eye, right ear... etc etc. You can turn any block and each combination fits in with all the rest to create a brand new face. The resulting combination is 4 to the 11th power (4x4x4x4x4x4x4x4x4x4x4) or 4,194,304 different face combinations. Working at the rate of one change per minute, eight hours per day, six days per week, and fifty-two weeks per year, you can see every combination in exactly 28 years, 8 hours, 58 minutes and 48 seconds. A true heirloom toy. 6 x 7.5 inches; full color images on wood blocks.
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 I have no idea what this one is called. I bought one in a shoebox at a flea market some years ago. It used to hang on my studio wall where it got bumped a lot and the pieces fell to the floor and scattered. The head shape has small magnets embedded into where the eyes, nose, mouth and ears are to go. It came with sever variations of each, much like the later Mr. Potato Head. If anyone has any more information on this I'd love to hear it.
 Here are two views of an ear from the above toy. Notice the metal piece embedded into the ear so that it sticks to the magnet on the head.
 I don't have any information on this one either. Perhaps all the info we'll ever need is right on the package.
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 Of course, some wonderful examples of mix and match are to be found in books.
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Facetasm: Creepy Mix-And-Match Book of Face Mutations, A more recent take on the form by two of comics' greatest contemporary artists, Gary Panter and Charles Burns.
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Carin Berger's terrific ALL MIXED UP (thanks to Marty Blake for reminding me about this one and for providing the scans)
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ALL MIXED UP. Ms. Berger's website where you can flip the pages and create 13,000 characters online.
Funny Face: An Amusing History of Potato Heads, Block Heads, and Magic Whiskers. I haven't read this book but I assume it goes into greater depth about some of the toys depicted in this post.
Special thanks to Steve Wacksman, Deadlicious and Hanoch Piven for their inspiration and assistance in this post.



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