‘Mr and Mrs TreeTot? Here’s the property I was telling you about. It’s a chance for you to own a unique living space... what’s that? Yes, I know it just looks like a large plastic tree at the moment, but if I just press this button right at the top – stand back a moment please – there we have it! You’ll see that the foliage has popped up to reveal a charming family treehouse. Let’s climb the ladder up to the first floor and take a look inside, shall we?
There are three spacious circular rooms for you to live in, all connected by open semi-archways; we’ll begin in the kitchen. You can see that it’s been decorated to a high standard: the black and white square tiled floor is set off beautifully by these matching curtains, which themselves frame a small window over this cupboard. On the other side of the room is the built in cooker and sink. Yes, the bright pink walls are slightly – ahem – garish, aren’t they but they do add to the general cheeriness of the place I think…
We’ll walk through into the bedroom now – a beautiful carpet in green with red flowers, a window framed by black and pink curtains, a matching set of pink drawers, a white wicker chair and a couple of framed flower prints above them. Delightful!
The last room is the living area. A period carpet of orange, white and brown criss-crossing lines compliments the yellow walls. Here you will also find the lift, which takes you down to the lower floor. I know, I know, a lift in the trunk of the tree – amazingly original isn’t it! Let’s hop in and we’ll have a look around the grounds.
OK – as we step out onto the grass you’ll see, to your left, a lovely little swing – perfect for the children to play in, or even for you to relax in. There’s a garage for your car and to your right is a small bush, which also opens up to provide a cosy home for your pet dog, if you have one? Oh you do – that’s perfect then.’
I have to say that if I, as a prospective house buyer, had been shown around the TreeTots Family Treehouse like this then I would have put in an offer there and then – it was incredibly cute.
I was a really lucky child; I had a number of the ‘must have’ toys of the 1970s and 80s, including Sindy and a large family of Weebles (they wobble but they don’t fall down) but I still feel slightly aggrieved that I never had the TreeTots Family Treehouse. It was (and is, for the lucky ones of you that kept yours in your loft or are prepared to pay serious cash for a rare vintage one on eBay) a fantastic toy with lots of opportunities for imaginative play.
As well as the aforementioned decorative features, the TreeTot Treehouse came with free-standing furniture; it was made from chunky plastic designed more to be functional than stylish but that was never a serious concern when there was so much fun to be had.
And of course it contained the TreeTots themselves: Mum, Dad, two children and the dog (a cat was added to later sets).
The dad was called Treemont TreeTot – a well-dressed man with smart shirt and trousers, wide 1970’s tie and sensible haircut and moustache. Mum was the homely Willow TreeTot, adorned in an apron. Honey and Chip were their children: sweet ginger bunches and blue dungarees respectively. Completing the family were Barky the black and white (and quite frighteningly the same size as the four humans) dog and, later, the similarly proportioned monochrome cat, Chestnut.
If the family fancied extending their dream (tree) house then they could easily do so: the playground attachment featured a seesaw, merry-go-round, paddling pool, mini tree-house and um – a bear. Obviously.
Other TreeTots sets included the Sky Coaster (a sort of helter skelter racing track), the Fire Station and the Amusement Park. The TreeTots Lighthouse featured Chip and Honey again. This time they were visiting their friend Cap’n Cork in their sailboat. The lighthouse had a moving searchlight and an exciting fog horn sound. There was also the Mountain Hideaway; just like the treehouse you pushed a button to open up the secret mountain interior. The set of four MountainTots could travel from one level to the other by using either the lift, the stairs or by hurtling down the ramp in a mine cart. That’s a no-brainer really, isn’t it?
Then there were the vehicles: the motorcycle set introduced you to TreeTots Berry, Bobby, Herbie and ‘the Crook’. The fire truck set featured Ashley, Ember and Barky again (although this time he is adorned in a very fetching dog fire hat) and the camper set included Woodrow, Fern and – um – Campy.
The TreeTots range was created in 1975 by Kenner Parker Toys, a company that started life in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1947, as Kenner Toys. Kenner was purchased by US food giant General Mills in 1967 and three years later took in Mills’ own Rainbow Crafts division, meaning that Kenner now had Play-Doh in its stable of products. In 1985 General Mills separated both its Kenner and Parker toy divisions to create the independent Kenner Parker Toys, which was later acquired by Tonka, which itself was purchased by Hasbro. By 2000 Kenner’s products were merged into Hasbro’s and Kenner ceased to be.
During Kenner’s time it had produced some highly successful action figures and play sets, including the Super Powers Collection (which featured the superheroes from DC Comics) and Star Wars as well as the still popular Spirograph.
The TreeTots collection was designed to compete against Fisher Price’s successful Little People community – a set of smiley, no-limbed humans who all looked like giant babies or toddlers, despite many of them being grown-ups with proper jobs (these were discernible only by their hats). The TreeTots were pretty much the same size and shapes as the Little People though, so if you had both you could easily introduce them to each other’s worlds, for double the playing pleasure.
The treehouse was discontinued in 1980; by then the Star Wars phenomenon had kicked in and Kenner cleverly rejigged the basic shape and functionality of it to create Wicket the Ewok’s Family Hut!
There was obviously a lot of love for the treehouse however: there are a huge number of comments on various websites from people who had one as a child and are now desperately wishing their parents hadn’t given it away. Getting your hands on an original treehouse is pretty difficult but in 2009 French company Vuili Toys brought out a new – and near identical – version that went on sale in France, Australia and New Zealand: The Magic Klorofil Treehouse. (Klorofil is the name of the family – and not a nasty chemical as I first thought…)
This treehouse had a slight difference (the family were called Martin, Begonia, Robin, Cherry and dog Basil) and a few added extras: the sound of birds singing and a running river were built into the toy and you can also buy an ‘eco garden’ to go with it, which has been designed to introduce children to the idea of sustainable development. This is slightly higher minded than the original version where I never really got past how much fun it was to put the dog in the lift.
The TreeTots Family Treehouse was an amazing toy. I’d still be really happy now if one turned up under my tree on Christmas Day and I’m nearly 40. (Mind you, I’d also be very happy if Big Trak appeared – I never had one of those either…)