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Bernard Loomis

Toy marketer

Toy marketer Bernard Loomis, one of the first in the business to turn toys into cartoon series, died of heart disease Friday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 82.

From the late 1950s to the 1990s, Loomis marketed successful toys that were sometimes controversially spun off into entertainment ventures.

Born in the Bronx, Loomis had no toys as a child, but he created a baseball game out of a deck of cards and memorized the Lionel train catalog. After serving with the Army Air Forces during World War II, he joined Mattel when it was still small.

He introduced the Strawberry Shortcakes dolls that were also marketed as greeting cards and a made-for-TV movie. In 1969, when Mattel introduced Hot Wheels miniature cars, Loomis proposed creating a 30-minute program about the toys to appear on Saturday morning TV.

A competitor’s complaint led the FCC to ask stations to log the show as advertising time, which temporarily ruined the idea for other projects. The concept of commercials as entertainment programs returned about a decade later, when the federal regulatory climate had changed.

Loomis became president of General Mills-owned Kenner Toys, which became the first “Star Wars” licensee although the toys weren’t yet ready for the Christmas season after the film opened. He ordered paper certificates sold in colorful boxes for the price of the toy. Kenner promised to deliver the toys by mail eight months later.

With Loomis at the helm, General Mills’ toy group surpassed Mattel as the world’s largest and most profitable toy company. By 1984, he started a joint venture with Hasbro and served as consultant to that firm as it rose to the top of the industry.

He operated his own business consulting group starting in 1988 and with his daughter Merrill launched another successful series, Quints dolls and accessories, with Tyco.

Loomis was the man behind the title of David Owen’s “The Man Who Invented Saturday Morning, and Other Adventures in American Enterprise.”

He is survived by his wife, Lillian; daughters, Merrill and Debra; and two grandchildren.

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