7 Sweet Facts About Candy Land

Allevinatis/iStock via Getty Images
Allevinatis/iStock via Getty Images

Easy to play and incredibly colorful, the Candy Land board game has been a household staple for 70 years. Players draw a card—or, in more recent editions, use a spinner—to advance on a board in pursuit of King Kandy, ruler of a delicious utopia with locations like Molasses Swamp and Gumdrop Mountain. The child-friendly gameplay has made it a perennial hit for Hasbro, which still sells 1 million copies of the game each year. For more on Candy Land, including its strange connection with the polio virus, keep reading.

1. Candy Land was invented in the polio wing of a hospital.

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In the late 1940s, polio was still a looming threat to the population. While convalescing in the polio wing of a San Diego hospital in 1948, a retired schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbott decided to create a board game that could become a distraction for patients. The result was Candy Land, a fanciful and easy-to-understand diversion that saw players advancing game pieces through a sweetened landscape based on a color system—so no reading was required. The game proved to be so popular that Abbott decided to submit it to Milton Bradley (which was purchased by Hasbro in 1984). The company examined the layout, which Abbott had drawn on butcher paper, and decided to publish it in 1949.

2. Candy Land helped put Milton Bradley on the map.

Before Candy Land was released, Milton Bradley was still primarily known as a maker of school supplies. Their other big game acquisition, Clue, had just been released, but it had yet to fully take off. Candy Land distinguished itself because, unlike most board games, kids could play it by themselves—an important feature in a country still concerned with the spread of polio. As parents kept their children indoors, distractions like Candy Land became a way to keep them occupied. The game’s success leveled the playing field against game rival Parker Brothers, and the royalties it earned for Abbott paid off in another way: She reportedly donated most of her earnings from the game to be used for the purchase of supplies and equipment for area schools.

3. Candy Land didn’t get populated until 1984.

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For decades, an anonymous boy and girl were the antagonists of Candy Land. In 1984, Hasbro contracted with Landmark Entertainment to create characters for the game, including King Kandy, Lord Licorice, and Princess Lolly of Lollypop Woods.

4. Candy Land was the subject of a trademark dispute involving an adult website.

In 1996, presumably with some consternation, Hasbro discovered that an adult website had registered the phrase "candy land" for its URL. In one of the first major domain name disputes, Hasbro argued that the website diluted the value of the board game. An injunction was granted in the U.S. District Court of Washington.

5. Candy Land carried a mistake on the board for years.

Notice anything unusual about the boy and girl setting off for their Candy Land adventure? They’re holding left hands, an awkward posture that would make skipping through the game difficult. The board’s updated artwork in 2010 added two more kids and eliminated this curious artistic choice.

6. Candy Land almost became a movie starring Adam Sandler.

In 2012, Adam Sander was announced as being the star of a Candy Land feature film. The hold-up? Landmark Entertainment, the company that created the characters for the game in 1984, argued that Hasbro had no right to enter into an agreement to license those characters out for a feature film; Hasbro contested the characters were part of a work-for-hire agreement. To date, the only adaptation of the game has been a 2005 direct-to-video animated feature, Candy Land: The Great Lollipop Adventure.

7. Candy Land came in an edible version.

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Normally, the game pieces in Candy Land are not edible. In 2014, a company named Gamesformotion issued a Belgian chocolate version of the game that had chocolate cards wrapped in paper. Once they were played, they could be eaten. The company also released digestible versions of Battleship, Scrabble, and Monopoly. You can still find the edition for sale, but be warned: It's hard to play a second time once you've eaten most of the contents.

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

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As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

10 Surprising Facts About Wham!’s 'Last Christmas'

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Over the course of his illustrious career, George Michael gave the world many gifts. One that keeps on giving is “Last Christmas,” the 1984 holiday classic by Wham!, Michael's pop duo with Andrew Ridgeley. “Last Christmas” is such a uniquely beloved song that it inspired a 2019 film of the same name. That’s just one interesting part of the “Last Christmas” story. Read on for 10 fascinating facts about this seasonal synth-pop favorite.

1. George Michael wrote "Last Christmas" in his childhood bedroom.

“Last Christmas” was born one day in 1984 when George Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley were visiting Michael’s parents. While they were sitting around watching TV, Michael suddenly dashed upstairs to his childhood bedroom and composed the modern Xmas classic in about an hour. “George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music,” Ridgeley said. “Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts."

2. “Last Christmas” isn’t really a Christmas song.

There’s nothing in “Last Christmas” about Santa, reindeer, trees, snow, or anything we typically associate with the holiday. Rather, the song is about a failed romance that just happens to have begun on December 25, when Michael gave someone his heart, and ended on December 26, when this ungrateful person “gave it away.”

3. George Michael wrote and produced the song—but that’s not all.

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By the time Wham! recorded “Last Christmas” in August (yes, August) 1984, Michael had taken full control of the group. In addition to writing and producing the song, Michael insisted on playing the Roland Juno-60 synth in the studio. “George wasn’t a musician,” engineer Chris Porter said. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers.” Michael even jangled those sweet sleigh bells himself.

4. “Last Christmas” didn’t reach #1 on the UK charts.

As the movie Love Actually reminds us, scoring a Christmas #1 in the UK is a really big deal. Unfortunately, “Last Christmas” didn’t give Wham! that honor. It stalled at #2, and to this day it has the distinction of being the highest-selling UK single of all time to not reach #1.

5. George Michael sang on the song that kept “Last Christmas” at #2.

“Last Christmas” was bested on the UK charts by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an all-star charity single benefiting Ethiopian famine relief. Michael sang on “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” and was so committed to the cause that he donated his profits from “Last Christmas” to helping the African nation.

6. George Michael was sued for plagiarism over “Last Christmas.”

In the mid-1980s, the publishing company Dick James Music sued George Michael on behalf of the writers of “Can’t Smile Without You,” a schmaltzy love song recorded by The Carpenters and Barry Manilow, among others. According to Chris Porter, the recording engineer on “Last Christmas,” the suit was dismissed after a musicologist presented 60-plus songs that have a similar chord progression and melody.

7. "Last Christmas" has been covered by a lot of other artists.

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Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Good Charlotte, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, and Taylor Swift are just a few of the artists who’ve covered “Last Christmas” over the years. The strangest rendition may be the 2006 dance version by the Swedish CGI character Crazy Frog, which reached #16 on the UK charts.

8. Some people make a concerted effort to avoid hearing “Last Christmas.”

While millions of people delight in hearing “Last Christmas” every year, an internet game called Whamageddon encourages players to avoid the song from December 1 to 24. The rules are simple: Once you hear the original Wham! version of “Last Christmas” (remixes and covers don’t count), you’re out. You then admit defeat on social media with the hashtag #Whamageddon and wait for your friends to suffer the same fate. Note: The rules prohibit you from “deliberately sending your friends to Whamhalla.”

9. “Last Christmas” finally charted in America following George Michael’s death in 2016.

Back in 1984, “Last Christmas” wasn’t released as a commercial single in the United States, and therefore it wasn’t eligible for the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Billboard changed its rules in 1998, and in the wake of George Michael’s unexpected death on Christmas Day 2016, the song finally made its Hot 100 debut. In December 2018, it reentered the charts and peaked at #25.

10. George Michael was involved in 2019's Last Christmas movie.

November 2019 saw the release of Paul Feig's Last Christmas, a romantic comedy inspired by the song starring Game of Thrones's Emilia Clarke. Producer David Livingstone came up with the idea while George Michael was still alive, and when he pitched the pop star on the project, he was given the greenlight—with one condition: Michael stipulated that actress and author Emma Thompson write the movie. Thompson co-authored the story and the screenplay, and she even wound up playing a supporting role.