Ding-a-Lings from Topper Toys (1971)

Company: Topper Toys | Release date: 1971 | Where to purchase: eBay

“Goony, Lovable, Loony Little Robots”

In 1971, Topper Toys launched Ding-a-Lings, a line of robots from an imaginary universe. The tiny, 6-inch machines came in 16 different models, each with a distinct personality, colourful design, and fixed vocation.

Topper developed an interchangeable power pack that could be used with any one of the Ding-A-Lings. Powered by two AA-batteries, these backpacks allowed the robot to move forward and backward on a hard surface and even walk upside-down.

The line of available robots included Answerman, Bank, Boxes, Chef, Claw, Cowboy, Detector, Fireman, Flying Saucer, Gofer, Jack-in-the-Box, Policeman, Rocky, Shoeshine, Spy, and Worker. Each performed a single function that was typically related to their name. For example, Fireman spouted water from his hose when a child pushed on his hat, Answer-Man had bouncing “brain marbles” that revealed the answer to any question in a Magic 8-ball-esque fashion, and Claw could grab things thanks to a pair of giant pinchers.

While Ding-a-Lings were sold individually (along with power packs), Topper also developed a number of play sets that allowed children to build out their own robot worlds. The sets typically came with one or more Ding-A-Lings, were based on a theme, and often included of a series of tracks called Space Skyways.

Sets such as Super Return Space Skyway and Super Pyramid allowed children to build a series of interconnected pathways that Ding-A-Lings could use to travel back and forth, up and down, and even upside-down, depending on the setup.

The leader of Ding-a-Lings was King Ding, a 14-inch tall robot powered by 4 D-batteries. The King contained a special Ding-a-Ling called Brain that served as his controller. Brain ascended and descended into King Ding’s  cockpit using an elevator built into the toy. A “closed circuit tv screen” at the back of the robot provided a rolling filmstrip of Brain’s activities.

Topper Toys declared bankruptcy in 1973, effectively short-circuiting the Ding-a-Ling universe before it found an audience. The line remains popular with vintage toy collectors on third-party auction sites.

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