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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Welcome To Candy Land!

Have you ever seen the music video for Katy Perry’s song “California Gurls” featuring Snoop Dogg?  If not, you can watch it below.

The song was a massive hit for Perry in the summer of 2010, and was the first of several #1 hits for her from her album “Teenage Dream”.  It also happens to have a loose connection to today’s blog subject.

As you can see from the video, the setting is one gigantic board game.  In the game, Snoop Dogg and his army of evil, gangster gummy bears have total control, and have imprisoned Katy’s friends in prisons made of bubble gum, lime Jell-O, and plastic wrappers.  It’s up to Katy to navigate her way through the jungle of baked goods, tasty treats, and gingerbread men guards to save the day.  It was an interesting concept for a video, and its bright colours, vibrant imagery, and Katy’s bra that shoots out deadly dollops of whipped cream helped make it one of the most requested videos of 2010.

I have my doubts that you’d be able to find a version of Katy’s game in any toy store.  But, today’s blog entry is the next best thing.  Set in a magical land filled with candy and chocolate, it was a board game that many young children played with.  Although I never owned the game myself, I remember playing it at other people’s houses, and finding it incredibly easy, but enjoyable enough.

Today, we’re going to take a look back at the classic board game, “Candy Land”.  The third entry in our special “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This Week”.

“Candy Land” was designed by Eleanor Abbott.  In 1945, while she was recovering from polio in San Diego, California, Abbott designed the game, and sold the rights to Milton Bradley.  The first version of the game was made available commercially in 1949.

“Candy Land” was designed for a younger demographic.  In many ways, “Candy Land” was touted as a “starter game” for toddlers and young children, much like “Memory” and “Perfection”.  The object of the game was to find the King of Candy Land by making it to the King’s hiding spot first (the final square of the game).  Along the way, players will have to pass through locations such as Candy Cane Forest, Gum Drop Mountain, and Molasses Swamp. 

But the way that players moved around the board was quite unique.  There were no dice, no spinners, not even a plastic bubble in the middle of the game board like the one used in “Trouble”.

The only thing players needed to know to play the game was colours.

The game board of “Candy Land” is divided up into 134 different coloured squares.  The vast majority of these squares can be found in six different colours; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  The game also comes with an assortment of cards, with the vast majority of them containing coloured squares of the same colour.

When it was time for a player to move, all they had to do was pick a card from the top of the deck, and move to the next corresponding coloured square.  For instance, if the player were to draw a blue square, they would then move to the next blue coloured space in their path on the board.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

It was meant to be.  By using coloured cards, players not only got the chance to learn all about the different colours in the world, but it also eliminated the need to count squares or read game cards.  In short, it was the perfect game for parents to play with children between the ages of two and five.

(Come to think of it, I think my kindergarten classroom had “Candy Land” inside the toy room.  I might be mistaken though.)

In addition to the rainbow squares, there are also pink squares.  These squares act as location squares for Candy Land landmarks, as well as squares where you can meet Candy Land citizens such as Queen Frostina or Princess Lolly.  The pink location squares can also be found in the card deck, and if a player picks one, they have to move to that location, regardless of whether it takes you further ahead, or further back (although prior to the 2004 re-release of the game, there was a rule that stated that younger players did not have to go back in the game).

So there you have it.  The winner is determined by how well the cards are shuffled. 

However, the game isn’t quite so easy.  Somewhere along the Candy Land path are spaces that have dots on them (in the 2004 game, they were changed to licorice spaces).  The spaces with holes on them were coloured just like the other squares, but if a player happened to land on one of these squares, they automatically lost a turn, which meant that other players trailing behind could pass.  I looked up game boards online, and it seems that players who draw one of the primary colours (red, yellow, blue) should tread with caution, as holes are usually found in those colours of squares.

There are also cards with double colours on them.  Those cards allow players to move their marker to the second-next space of the corresponding colour.

The game board has changed a total of four times since it was first sold in stores.  When it first hit store shelves in 1949, the board only contained locations, no characters.  The track was modified slightly in the game’s second edition, in the 1960’s.  Character squares were added in the 1980s version of the game.

2004 was the year that the game made a lot of significant changes.  Some characters were renamed or eliminated.  Some locations were also modified (most notably the Molasses Swamp was turned into the Chocolate Swamp).  And, the final space in the game was changed from purple to rainbow, to allow players to win the game.

(Though in my opinion, the 2004 revamp dumbed the game down even further.)

There have since been several different versions of “Candy Land” made.  A Winnie-the Pooh version of “Candy Land” was commissioned, as well as a version starring Dora the Explorer.  In 1986, a version of the game was made that came with a VHS tape, which players were encouraged to watch as they played along.  I vaguely remember the VCR game, as one of the kids in my first grade class brought it in for us to watch, but I’m unable to find any clips of it on YouTube.  A separate DVD version was also released just a few years ago.

At any rate, “Candy Land” is widely considered to be one of the most successful board games ever created.  In the December 2005 issue of Forbes magazine, the game ranked at the top of the list of Best Toys of the 1940s.  That same year, the game was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.  Until 2006, the Toys R Us location in Times Square, New York City, incorporated a “Candy Land” theme for their candy and chocolate section.  And, it has been reported as recently as January 2012 that a “Candy Land” feature film is in the works...though I have to admit that I have no idea how such a movie could possibly be made.

But if a Katy Perry video, a section of a popular toy store, and a possible motion picture idea can be inspired by a simple board game, it had to have made its mark on pop culture in a big way.

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