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Star Wars action figures, dominoes enter Toy Hall of Fame

By Ben Dobbin

ROCHESTER, NY (Reuters) - Darth Vader has taken up residence at the National Toy Hall of Fame.

The intergalactic action figure and other characters from the "Star Wars" movies, as well as the game of dominoes were chosen on Thursday to be included in the Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong, a children's and cultural history museum in western New York.

The winners muscled out 10 other nominees including the board game Clue and little green army men to take their place alongside Barbie, Mr. Potato Head and the teddy bear in the Toy Hall of Fame.

"Darth Vader is in the house," Patricia Hogan, the museum's curator of toys and dolls, said in an interview. "The characters from Star Wars tie into a story that is as ancient as Greek or Roman mythology. They are a force to be reckoned with."

Dominoes, the other winner, emerged in China in the late 1200s and became the rage in Europe in the 18th century.

"I like to think that what links dominoes and the action figures this year is they're both small but powerful products that create play opportunities," said Christopher Bensch, the museum's chief curator.

"We hold those up against our three big criteria: longevity, recognition, and creative learning-engagement play, not just pushing a button and letting something do its trick."

The winners were chosen from more than 300 toys that are nominated each year. The list is whittled down to 12 by the museum's curators and a national committee of a dozen educators, academics, collectors and toy experts from around the country select the two or three winners.

Toys included in the Hall of Fame are widely recognized, foster learning, creativity or discovery through play, and have been popular for decades or longer.

The "Star Wars" films have spawned a set of action figures such as Han Solo, R2-D2 and Chewbacca, along with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and their lost father from the "dark side."

Their popularity started a toy industry phenomenon in which toys tied to movies and TV series were churned out by the millions.

The Strong, a private museum, is the second-largest devoted to children in the United States. It bought the National Toy Hall of Fame from the A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village in Salem, Oregon in 2002.

In recent years the museum has also recognized simpler objects that have fascinated children such as the blanket, the cardboard box and the stick. Each has been praised for its ability to serve either as recreational raw material or as an accessory transformed in myriad ways by a child's daydreams.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney)

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