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Etch A Sketch sold to Canadian firm after nearly 50 years of US production

(NEW YORK)  The Ohio Art Company, makers of the Etch A Sketch toy, has been sold to a Canadian firm after more than half a century of continuous production in the US.

The terms of the sale to Toronto-based Spin Master, have not been disclosed but executives at the Ohio-based metal lithography firm said the Canadian firm remains committed to production of Etch A Sketch and its smaller model, Doodle Sketch.

“We are very happy that children around the world will continue to be able to enjoy Etch A Sketch, one of the world’s most iconic toys,” Elena West, the CEO of Ohio Art, said in a statement.

Anton Rabie, co-CEO of Spin Master, said his firm wanted to hear from inventors, creators and designers who love the device designed by the French electrical technician André Cassagnes. Cassagnes first introduced Etch A Sketch as the L’Ecran Magique at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1959.

Toymakers were initially unimpressed by the design. After the Ohio Art Co paid $25,000 to license production and renamed it Etch A Sketch, its popularity took off.

The sale of the firm comes just days after Ohio Art announced a new executive leadership team, only its fifth in the last 107 years. The outgoing company CEO, Bill Killgallon, a veteran of almost 50 years’ experience making and marketing the doodling device, had earlier worried about the difficulty of selling low-tech products like Etch A Sketch in the age of computer games.

“One of the big issues facing the toy industry these days is kids are getting older younger … moving from traditional toys to electronics,” Killgallon said.

Ultimately, the new management concluded production of Etch A Sketch was no longer feasible at a firm established more than a century ago to manufacture toy windmills and climbing monkey toys, and later expanding to tea sets and drums.

But the red-framed, double-spindle device has never quite exited public imagination. During the last presidential election cycle, in 2012, Mitt Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom made an error when he described his boss’s ability to adapt his views as akin to an Etch A Sketch.

The remark seemed to reinforce perceptions that the candidate held no core principles, or that his views could be easily erased and redrawn – and not that he was simply adaptable.

Spin Master, the buyers of the firm, which currently employs 100 people on the Etch A Sketch line, is best known for toys like Bakugan, Air Hogs and Spin Master Games. Rabie said his firm planned to continue production. “These toys have been popular for more than 50 years and we look forward to building on this foundation of fun and creativity,” he said.

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