Title:
Playset having removable drive/audio module
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A playset for use with a play figure includes a base having a receiving area, at least one turntable rotatably mounted to the base, a drive train operatively coupled to the turntable and having a drive input, a module including a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit both arranged for connection to a power source, the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to a sound generator, the second electrical circuit including a drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output, and an actuator arranged to activate both the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit. The module is shiflable between a first position in which the module is separated from the receiving area and a second position in which the module is disposed in the receiving area, the drive output of the module operatively engaging the drive input of the drive train when the module is disposed in the second position.



Inventors:
Spielberger, Lee (Warwick, RI, US)
Application Number:
10/890780
Publication Date:
01/19/2006
Filing Date:
07/14/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H3/52; A63H33/30
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20090130942Multilayer Novelty ItemMay, 2009Post
20080293324Toy doll systemNovember, 2008Friedland
20100056021ORNAMENT WITH MODULAR DESIGN MOTION SYSTEMMarch, 2010Carlson et al.
20090305605EYE FOR TOYDecember, 2009Lin et al.
20100029170Infant accomodation apparatusFebruary, 2010Hall
20080261482METHOD AND KIT FOR PLAYING A GAME USING FIGURINESOctober, 2008Compton et al.
20100075572REMOTE-CONTROL TOY MOTORCYCLEMarch, 2010Chen
20070015434Appendage PuppetsJanuary, 2007Preece
20060128264[STUFFING TOY]June, 2006Tang
20050009443Supra-voice sound-responsive toyJanuary, 2005Martin et al.



Primary Examiner:
RADA, ALEX P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARSHALL, GERSTEIN & BORUN LLP (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A playset for use with a play figure and comprising: a base having a receiving area; at least one turntable rotatably mounted to the base; a drive train operatively coupled to the turntable and having a drive input; a module, the module including a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit, the first and second electrical circuits arranged for connection to a power source, the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to a sound generator, the second electrical circuit including a drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output; an actuator arranged to activate both the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit; and wherein the module is shiftable between a first position in which the module is separated from the receiving area and a second position in which the module is disposed in the receiving area, the drive output of the module operatively engaging the drive input of the drive train when the module is disposed in the second position.

2. The playset of claim 1, wherein the base includes a plurality of turntables, and wherein the drive train operatively connects each of the plurality of turntables to the drive input.

3. The playset of claim 1, wherein the drive input is connected to the turntable by a drive belt.

4. The playset of claim 2, wherein each of the turntables is connected to an adjacent one of the turntables by a drive belt.

5. The playset of claim 1, including a play structure mounted to the base, the play structure including a figure mounted on a pivot and having a leg, the leg sized to engage a lever, the lever positioned on the base to respond to rotation of the turntable, whereby rotation of the turntable causes the figure to rotate on the pivot.

6. The playset of claim 1, wherein the drive output comprises a first driving load, and wherein the drive input, the drivetrain and the turntable comprise a second driving load, the second driving load greater than the first driving load.

7. The playset of claim 6, including a battery power source removably disposed in the module, the battery power source having a first battery life when exposed to the first driving load, the battery source having a second battery life when exposed to the second driving load.

8. The playset of claim 1, wherein the module is secured to the base by a releasable snap fit connection.

9. The playset of claim 5, wherein the play structure is secured to the base by a releasable snap fit connection.

10. The playset of claim 1, including a play structure releasably mounted to the base by a snap fit connection, and including an auxiliary structure releasably attached to both the base and the play structure by snap fit connections.

11. The playset of claim 1, wherein the sound generator is arranged to produce a plurality of sound modes in response to operation of the actuator.

12. The playset of claim 1, wherein the module includes a pair of actuators arranged to activate both the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit, and wherein the base includes a button operatively coupled to a first one of the actuators by a linkage, whereby the first actuator is responsive to actuation of the button.

13. The playset of claim 1, wherein the base includes a link rod and a button, a first end of the link rod engaging the button such that a second end of the link rod activates the actuator of the module in response to movement of the button.

14. A playset for use with a play figure and comprising: a base having a receiving area; at least one turntable rotatably mounted to the base; at least one drive belt operatively coupled to the turntable and having a drive input; a module, the module including a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit, the first and second electrical circuits arranged for connection to a power source, the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to a sound generator, the second electrical circuit including a drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output; an actuator operatively associated with the module and arranged to activate both the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit; wherein the movement of only the drive output comprises a first load, and wherein movement of the drive output, the drive input, the drivetrain and the turntable together comprise a second driving load, the second driving load greater than the first driving load; and the module shiftable between a first position in which the module is separated from the receiving area and a second position in which the module is disposed in the receiving area, the drive output of the module operatively engaging the drive input of the drive train when the module is disposed in the second position.

15. The playset of claim 14, wherein the drive train comprises at least one drive belt operatively coupled to the drive input.

16. The playset of claim 14, including a first play structure removably mountable to the base and securable by a snap fit connection and a second play structure removably mountable to each of the base and the first play structure by a snap fit connection, at least one of the first and second play structures including a figure mounted on a pivot and having a leg positioned to respond to movement of the at least one turntable, whereby rotation of the at least one turntable causes the figure to move.

17. The playset of claim 14, including a battery power source removably disposed in the module, the battery power source having a first battery life when exposed to the first load, the battery source having a second battery life when exposed to the second load, and wherein the base includes a link rod and a button, a first end of the link rod engaging the button such that a second end of the link rod moves in response to movement of the button, and wherein the module includes a recessed actuator positioned for contact by the second end of the link rod when the module is in the receiving area.

18. The playset of claim 14, wherein the sound generator is arranged to produce a plurality of sound modes in response to operation of the actuator.

19. The playset of claim 14, including a second turntable rotatably mounted to the base, and wherein the module includes a rotating turntable, and further including an intermediate drive belt interconnecting the at least one of the turntable of the base with the second turntable of the base.

20. A playset for use with a play figure and comprising: a base having a receiving area; at least one movable component mounted on the base; a drive input operatively coupled to the at least one movable component; a module, the module including a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit, the first and second electrical circuits arranged for connection to a power source, the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to a sound generator, the second electrical circuit including a drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output; an actuator for actuating the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit; the movement of only the drive output in conjunction with activation of the sound generator comprising a first load, and the movement of the drive output, the drive input, and the turntable together with the activation of the sound generator comprising a second load, the second load greater than the first load; and the module shiftable between a first position in which the module is separated from the receiving area and a second position in which the module is disposed in the receiving area, the drive output of the module operatively engaging the drive input when the module is disposed in the second position.

21. The playset of claim 20, wherein the module includes a movable component arranged to receive a play figure when the module is in the first position, and wherein movement of the movable component of the module and the play figure are added to the first drive load.

22. The playset of claim 21, wherein the actuator is accessible when the module is in the first position, and wherein the first position and the first drive mode together comprise a try me mode.

23. A playset comprising: a base; a first movable component mounted to the base; a drive input operatively coupled to the first movable component by a drive system; a module, the module including a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit, the first and second electrical circuits arranged for connection to at least one power source, the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to a sound generator, the second electrical circuit including at least one drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output, the drive output of the module engageable with the drive input; at least one actuator operatively associated with the module and arranged to selectively activate the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit, and the activation of the first electrical circuit comprising a first power load, the activation of the second electrical circuit comprising a second power load greater than the first power load.

24. A playset comprising: a base; a first movable component mounted to the base; a drive input operatively coupled to the first movable component by a drive system; a module, the module including a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit, the first and second electrical circuits arranged for connection to at least one power source, the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to a sound generator, the second electrical circuit including at least one drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output, the drive output of the module engageable with the drive input; at least one actuator mounted to the module and arranged to selectively activate the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit; wherein the activation of the first electrical circuit comprises a first power load, and wherein the activation of the second electrical circuit comprises a second power load greater than the first power load; and the module arranged such that the module is exposed to the second power load in response to actions by an end user.

25. A playset packaged for display and comprising: a box having a window and a first receiving support disposed adjacent the window; a playset having a module, the module including a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit, the first and second electrical circuits arranged for connection to at least one power source, the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to at least one of a sound generator and a drive motor having a drive output, the second electrical circuit including at least one of a drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output and a sound generator, and first and second actuators operatively coupled to the module, the first actuator arranged to activate the first electrical circuit and the second actuator arranged to activate the second electrical circuit, at least one of the first and second actuators accessible though the window.

26. The device of claim 25, wherein the first electrical circuit is arranged to operate for a first run time in the second electrical circuit is arranged to operate for a second run time different than the first run time.

27. The device of claim 25, including a transparent shield sized for placement over at least a portion of the module when the module is disposed on the receiving support inside the box.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a playset and, more particularly, to a playset or other toy having a moveable component driven by a removable drive module having a “try me” audio mode.

Playsets and other toys having audio features are generally known the art. In some applications, for purposes of display, the playset or other toy may include an audio feature commonly referred to as a “try me” mode. Such a “try me” audio feature attracts potential purchasers and/or users to the toy when the toy is on display in a retail environment, thus potentially increasing sales of the toy. Many of these toys are battery powered and therefore, in certain circumstances, battery life may become an issue.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, a playset for use with a play figure includes a base having a receiving area, at least one turntable rotatably mounted to the base, a drive train operatively coupled to the turntable and having a drive input, a module, and an actuator. The module includes a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit, the first and second electrical circuits arranged for connection to a power source, with the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to a sound generator, and with the second electrical circuit including a drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output. The actuator is mounted to the module and is arranged to activate both the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit. The module is shiftable between a first position in which the module is separated from the receiving area and a second position in which the module is disposed in the receiving area, the drive output of the module operatively engaging the drive input of the drive train when the module is disposed in the second position.

In further accordance with a preferred embodiment, the base includes a plurality of turntables, and the drive train operatively connects each of the plurality of turntables to the drive input. The drive input may be connected to the turntable by a drive belt, and each of the turntables may be connected to an adjacent one of the turntables by a drive belt. One or more play structures may be mounted to the base. At least one of the play structures may include a figure mounted on a pivot and having a leg, with the leg sized to engage a lever, and with the lever positioned on the base to respond to rotation of the turntable such that rotation of the turntable causes the figure to rotate on the pivot.

In the disclosed example, rotation or driving of the drive output by itself comprises or presents a first driving load, and rotation or driving of the drive input, the drivetrain and the turntable together comprise a second driving load greater than the first driving load. Preferably, a battery power source is removably disposed in the module and has a first battery life when exposed to the first driving load and has a second battery life when exposed to the second driving load. The module may be secured to the base by a releasable snap fit connection, and the play structure may be secured to the base by a releasable snap fit connection. An auxiliary structure may be provided that is releasably attached to either or both of the base and the play structure by snap fit connections.

The sound generator preferably is arranged to produce a plurality of sound modes in response to operation of the actuator. Further, the module may include a pair of actuators arranged to activate both the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit, and the base may include a button operatively coupled to a first one of the actuators by a linkage, whereby the first actuator is responsive to actuation of the button. The linkage may comprise a link rod and a button, a first end of the link rod engaging the button such that a second end of the link rod activates the actuator of the module in response to movement of the button.

In another aspect, a playset for use with a play figure comprises a base having a receiving area, a plurality of turntables rotatably mounted to the base, at least one drive belt operatively coupled to the turntables and having a drive input, a module including a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit, the first and second electrical circuits arranged for connection to a power source, the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to a sound generator, and with the second electrical circuit including a drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output. An actuator is mounted to the module and is arranged to activate both the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit. Movement of only the drive output comprises a first load, and movement of the drive output, the drive input, the drivetrain and the turntables together comprise a second load, the second load greater than the first driving load. The module is shiftable between a first position in which the module is separated from the receiving area and a second position in which the module is disposed in the receiving area, with the drive output of the module operatively engaging the drive input of the drive train when the module is disposed in the second position.

In still further aspect, a playset for use with a play figure includes a base having a receiving area, first and second turntables rotatably mounted to the base, a drive input, a first drive belt operatively coupling the drive input and the first turntable, a second drive belt operatively coupling the first turntable to the second turntable, a module including a first electrical circuit and a second electrical circuit, the first and second electrical circuits arranged for connection to a power source, with the first electrical circuit operatively coupled to a sound generator, and with the second electrical circuit including a drive motor operatively coupled to a drive output. An actuator is mounted to the module and is arranged to activate both the first electrical circuit and the second electrical circuit. Movement of only the drive output comprises a first load, and the movement of the drive output, the drive input, and the turntables together comprising a second load, the second load greater than the first driving load. The module may be shiftable between a first position in which the module is separated from the receiving area and a second position in which the module is disposed in the receiving area, the drive output of the module operatively engaging the drive input when the module is disposed in the second position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a playset assembled in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a front elevational view thereof;

FIG. 3 is a rear elevational view thereof;

FIG. 4 is an exploded view in perspective taken from the rear side and illustrating the superstructure and the drive/audio module removed from the base;

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of the base;

FIG. 6 is a bottom plan view of the base partly in cutaway;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 6 and illustrating the connection between the base mounted actuator button and the drive/audio module;

FIG. 7A is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view similar to FIG. 7 and illustrating the actuator button of the base depressed so as to actuate the drive/audio module;

FIG. 8 is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along line 8-8 of FIG. 6 and illustrating part of the driving connection between the drive/audio module and the turntables;

FIG. 8A is an enlarged fragmentary cross sectional view of the circumscribed portion of FIG. 8 and illustrating the connection between the output of the drive/audio module and the input of the drivetrain;

FIG. 8B is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view of the circumscribed portion of FIG. 8 and illustrating one of the turntables pivotally mounted within the base;

FIG. 9 is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along line 9-9 of FIG. 6 and illustrating the connection between one of the turntables and another moving component such as a play figure;

FIGS. 9A and 9B are fragmentary schematic views illustrating the operative connection between a pivoting moving figure and one of the rotating components such as a turntable;

FIG. 10 is an enlarged view in perspective of the drive/audio module;

FIG. 11 is an elevational view, partly in section, of the drive/audio module of FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of exemplary packaging permitting the drive/audio module to be viewable;

FIG. 13 is an enlarged fragmentary view in perspective of a transparent packaging shield for placement over the drive/audio module and showing a play figure disposed on the module;

FIG. 14 is another enlarged fragmentary view in perspective similar to FIG. 13;

FIG. 15 is an enlarged fragmentary view in perspective of the module being placed into the packaging; and

FIG. 16 is an enlarged fragmentary view in perspective illustrating one manner by which the drive/audio module may be activated while the playset is disposed in the packaging.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF VARIOUS EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to FIGS. 1 through 4 of the drawings, a playset for use with a play figure and assembled in accordance with the teachings of the disclosed example of the present invention is shown and is generally referred to by the reference numeral 20. The playset 20 includes a base 22, a plurality of rotating turntables 24a, 24b and 24c, a drivetrain 26 (the details of which are more clearly visible in, for example, FIGS. 5-6), a drive/audio module 28, and an actuator 30 (visible in FIG. 4) mounted to the module 28. Additional or fewer rotating turntables may be provided as desired.

As can be seen when viewing FIG. 4, the base 22 includes a receiving area 32, and the module 28 is shiftable between a first position in which the module 28 is spaced away from the receiving area 32, and a second position in which the module 28 is releasably secured to base 22 in the receiving area 32.

The playset 20 preferably includes one or more play structures removably mounted to the base 22. In accordance with the disclosed example, the playset 20 includes a building 34 having an auxiliary slide 36. Additional or fewer play structures may be provided as desired. In further accordance with the disclosed example, the building 34 may take the form of houses or other structures having one or more doors, balconies, windows, etc. The building 34 includes a lower part 34a and an upper part 34b, while the slide 36 includes a lower part 36a and an upper part 36b.

As shown in FIG. 4, the building 34 preferably is secured to the base 22 by a snap fit connection 35. In the disclosed example, the snap fit connection 35 includes one or more tabs 35a provided on the lower part 34a of the building and one or more corresponding slots 35b provided on the base 22. The tabs 35a may be frictionally received in the slots 35b, or the tabs 35a may be provided with a retaining barb. Other connections including other forms of snap fit connections may be provided and, in accordance with the disclosed example, the playset 20 may be shipped, displayed, moved, or stored with the building detached from the base 22 as desired.

Preferably, and referring to FIG. 3, the lower part 36a of the slide 36 may be releasably attached to the base 22 by a snap fit connection 38 having, in the disclosed example, a tab 38a disposed in a slot 38b. Similarly, the upper part 36b of the slide 36 may be releasably attached to upper part 34b of the building 34 by a snap fit connection 40 having, in the disclosed example, a tab 40a disposed in a slot 40b. In the disclosed example, the snap fit connection 38 and the snap fit connection 40 may each take the form of the tab-in-slot structure shown, which may be of the type commonly employed in the assembly of plastic components, and may be similar to the connection 35 described above such that the playset 20 may be shipped, displayed, moved, or stored with the slide detached from the base 22 and/or from the building 34 as desired. Other forms of connection may prove suitable as well.

In the disclosed example, the playset 20 may be used with one or more toy figurines or play FIGS. 42, with three such play FIGS. 42 being shown in each of FIGS. 1-3. Further, the play FIGS. 42 may take the form all of play figures commercially available under the WEEBLES® name. Other play figures may prove suitable for use with the present playset 20. The playset 20 may also be provided with a play FIG. 44 mounted to the building 34 by a pivot 46 and having a leg 48 that extends into the base 22 through an aperture 48a.

Referring again to FIGS. 1 and 4, and it will be noted that, in the disclosed example, the turntables 24a, 24b and 24c rotate in the directions generally indicated by the reference arrows A, B, and C, respectively. Other direction may be chosen for one or more of the turntables depending on the configuration of the drive train 26.

Referring now to FIG. 4, the module 28 is shown removed from the receiving area 32 of the base 22. The module 28 includes a drive output 50 (visible in dotted lines in FIG. 4 which, when the module 28 is positioned in the receiving area 32, will be aligned with a drive input 52 disposed in the receiving area 32. In the disclosed example, the drive output 50 is a hacks shaped staff driven by a drive motor contained within the module 28. The drive input 52 includes a hex-shaped aperture 53 sized to receive the hex-shaped shaft of the drive output 50. Rotation of the drive the input 52 will be transferred to the drive train 26 and hence to the turntables 24a, 24b and 24c as will be explained in greater detail below.

As shown in FIG. 4, the receiving area 32 of the base 22 includes four walls 54a, 54b, 54c, and 54d, which are spaced apart so as to generally correspond to the dimensions of the module 28. The receiving area 32 also includes one or more frictional retaining tabs 56 which served to engage the module 28 so as to retain the module releasably retain the module 28 in the receiving area 32. The tabs 56 may be located on opposite walls, such as the walls 54a and 54c or, for example, on all four walls 54a-54d. The retaining tabs 56 may include a barb 56a sized to engage a corresponding slot 56b on the module 28. Other connections for securing the module 28 in the receiving area 32 may prove suitable. Other forms of connection may prove suitable as well. Accordingly, the playset 20 may be shipped, displayed, moved, or stored with the module 28 detached from the receiving area of the base 22 as desired. Further, the module 28 may be conveniently held in place in suitable packaging (shown in FIGS. 12-16) when the playset 20 is on retail display with the module 28 removed from the receiving area 32.

Referring now to FIGS. 5 and 6, each of the turntables 24a, 24b and 24c is mounted to the base 22 so as to pivot about a pivot point 58a, 58b and 58c, respectively. The turntable 24a includes a pulley 60, while the turntables 24b and 24c each include a pulley 62 and 64, respectively. The drive input 52 includes a drive pulley 66 which is connected to the pulley 64 by a drive belt 68. The pulley 64 is connected to the pulley 62 by a drive belt 70, while the pulley 62 is connected to the pulley 60 by a drive belt 72. The drive belts 68, 70 and 72 are preferably rubber drive belts. It will be understood that, upon rotation of the drive input 52, each of the turntables 24, 24 and 24 will rotate in the directions indicated by the reference arrows A, B, and C, respectively. Thus, in the disclosed example, the drive train 26 includes the drive input 52, the drive belts 68, 70, and 72, and the associated pulleys 60, 62, 64 and 66. It will be appreciated that other mechanisms may prove suitable for transferring movement or rotation of the drive input 52 to the various turntables 24a, 24b and 24c.

As can be seen in FIGS. 6, 9, 9A and 9B, the turntable 24b include an eccentricity 74, which engages a lever 76 mounted to the base 22 by a pivot 78. The lever 76 includes a first end 76a positioned to abut the eccentricity 74, and a second end 76b positioned to abut the leg 48 (of the play FIG. 44) that extends through the aperture 48a. Consequently, repeated contact between the first end 76a of the lever 76 and the eccentricity 74 will cause the lever 76 to pivot back-and-forth about the pivot 78 as the turntable 24b rotates. This movement of the lever 76 in turn causes the play FIG. 44 to pivot back-and-forth about the pivot 46 as illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 9, 9A and 9B, due to contact between the end 76b of the lever and the leg 48 of the play FIG. 44.

As shown in FIG. 9, the pulley 62 of the turntable 24b includes an upper pulley 62a and a lower pulley 62b. The upper pulley 62a is connected to the drive belt 70 that extends to the pulley 64 at the turntable 24c, while the lower puller 62b is connected to the drive belt 72 that extends to the pulley 60 of the turntable 24a.

Referring to FIGS. 8, 8A and 8B, the pulley 64 of the turntable 24c is shown. The pulley 64 includes an upper pulley 64a and a lower pulley 64b. The lower pulley 64b is connected to the drive belt 68 that extends to the pulley 66 at the drive input 52, while the upper pulley 64b is connected to the pulley 62 of the turntable 24b via the drive belt 70. As shown in FIG. 8B, the turntable 24c is shown secured to the pulley 64 by a mounting screw 75 which engages an axle 77. Thus, rotation of the pulley 64 is transferred to the turntable 24c. In the disclosed example, the pulley 64 rests on a support ring 79. The turntables 24a and 24b may be mounted in a similar manner, or all of the turntables 24a-24c may be mounted for rotation to the base 22 in any suitable manner as would be known in the art.

Referring now to FIG. 7 and 7A, the module 28 is shown disposed in the receiving area 32 of the base 22. A button 73 is reciprocally mounted in an aperture 81 of the base 22, and a spring 83 is positioned to bias the button 73 generally upwardly as shown. A lower part 73a of the button 73 includes a camming surface 82. A link rod 84 includes a pair of ends 84a and 84b, and is mounted to the base 22 by a pair of mounting screws 86 disposed in slots 88 defined in the rod 84. The end 84a of the rod 84 is positioned for contact with the camming surface 82, while the end 84b of the rod 84 is positioned to extend into the receiving area 32. It will be noted that the module 28 includes a second actuator 90 in addition to the actuator 30 discussed above. The second actuator 90 is, in the disclosed example, positioned in a slight recess 92 to avoid inadvertent activation. The rod 84 is shiftable back and forth along a generally linear path guided by the slots 88 such that the end 84b of the rod 84 will depress the actuator 90 in response to pressing the button 76 as shown in FIG. 7A when the module 28 is disposed in the receiving area 32. A spring 89 (FIG. 6) may be provided to bias the rod 84 away from the receiving area 32.

Referring now to FIGS. 10 and 11, the module 28 is shown. The module 28 includes a drive motor 92 operatively connected to the drive output 58 and to a first electrical circuit 94. The module 30 also includes a sound your sound generator 96 operatively connected to the actuator 30 by a second electrical circuit 98. The module 28 also includes a power source 100 which, in the disclosed example, is a battery. Other power sources may prove suitable as would be known in the art. The module may include a turntable 99 operatively connected to the drive motor 92 in any suitable manner, such as by direct drive, a drive belt, one or more drive gears, etc.

The sound generator 96 may be any electronic or electro-mechanical device capable of outputting desired sound programmed or stored therein. For example, the sound generator 96 may include a controller implemented on a circuit board and containing the control logic and sound generation data implemented via circuitry contained on a conventional printed circuit board, with the control logic and sound generation data being stored directly on the printed circuit board. It should also be appreciated that although the controller may be implemented on a printed circuit board, more complex implementations of the sound generator 96 may be implemented wherein the controller may comprise, among other components, a program memory, a microcontroller or microprocessor (MP), a random-access memory (RAM), read-only member (ROM), and an input/output (I/O) circuit, all of which may be interconnected. It should further be appreciated that the controller may include multiple microprocessors. Similarly, the memory of the controller may include multiple RAMs and multiple program memories depending on the complexity and requirements of a specific implementation. It should also be appreciated that the I/O circuit may include a number of different types of I/O circuits, such as light-generation circuits, sound-generation circuits, and the like. The RAMs, ROMs and program memories may be implemented as semi-conductor memories, magnetically readable memories, and/or optically readable memories, for example. Moreover, the sound generator 96 may include a speaker or other mechanical, or electromechanical device capable of outputting a desired sound in response to signals received from the sound generator 304. Other configurations of sound generating mechanisms may be used or may prove suitable.

In operation, the playset 20 is preferably shipped, stored, and war displayed in a retail environment for sale with the building 34, the slide 36, and the module 28 separated from the base 22. It will be appreciated that, when the module 28 is separated from the receiving area 32, activation of the actuator 30 will initiate operation of the sound generator and rotation of the drive output 50. In such a mode, the sounds generated by the sound generator may be used to attract purchasers to the playset 20. However, it will be appreciated that, even though the drive output 50 will rotate in response to actuation of the actuator 30, that there is essentially no or very little load on the drive motor and hands on the batteries. Therefore, the battery life will be greatly extended due to the fact that the driving load on the batteries is relatively low.

When the module 28 is placed into the receiving area 32 as described above, with the drive output 50 and engagement with the drive input 52, the drive motor and hence the batteries will be subject to a greater driving load relative to the driving load of the drive output 50 by itself. This is due to the fact that the total driving load experienced by the drive motor now includes rotation of the turntables 24a-c and all of the various interconnecting drive belts described above.

In use, a user (not shown) may place one of the play FIGS. 42 on the turntables 24a-24c in any desired manner, and the play FIGS. 42 may, in some circumstances, automatically be transferred from one turntable to an adjacent turntable. Further, the user may place one of the play FIGS. 42 on the slide 36 such that the play figure is transferred from the upper part of the building 34 on to the turntable 24c. One of the play FIGS. 42 may also be conveniently placed on the turntable of the module 28.

When assembled in accordance with the teachings of disclosed example, the playset 20 includes a “try me” feature when the playset 20 is packaged for retail display. The “try me” feature enables a potential purchaser to actuate the audio circuit and/or the drive circuit for turning the turntable 92 of FIG. 10. However, because the drive/audio module may be packaged for retail display spaced apart from the receiving area of the base, the load on any batteries contained within the module when the playset 20 is on display is lessened due to the fact that the module does not engage the drive train of the turntables. Accordingly, battery life may be increased due to the lessened load. Preferably, the actuator of the module may be accessible to a potential purchaser to activate the “try me” mode even while the balance of the product is secured within appropriate packaging of the type commonly employed in the art. Still further, the module, when separate from the base, may include a play figure disposed on the turntable 92 such that the play figure will move when the “try me” mode is activated, preferably in conjunction with the audio circuit. The play figure disposed on the turntable 92 will preferably be covered with, for example, transparent protective packaging.

Referring now to FIGS. 12-16, in accordance with the disclosed example, the actuator 30 may be accessible when the playset 20 is disposed in packaging 100. The packaging 100 may take the form of a suitably-sized box 102 having a cutout or window 104. By providing an internal support 105 (FIG. 15) inside the box 102, the module 28 may be supported within the interior of the box 102 in a position where the module 28 is visible through the window 104. Preferably, a play FIG. 106 is disposed on the turntable 92, and, still preferably, a transparent shield 108 is provided to protect the play FIG. 106 while the playset 20 is on display. The shield 108 includes a window 110 sized such that the actuator 30 is accessible while the playset is on display, as is shown in greater detail in FIG. 16.

It will also be appreciated that the module may be arranged and/or packaged such that the sound generator may be activated in a “try me” mode when the playset is packaged for retail sale. In such a configuration, the drive output of the module may or may not be activated when the “try me” feature is activated by a potential purchaser. The drive output and the electrical circuit associated with the drive output may then be configured for use by the end user in any one of a number of suitable ways. For example, the drive output may become operable upon placing the module in the receiving area as discussed above with respect to the disclosed example. Alternatively, the electrical circuit and/or the actuator of the module may be arranged to operate in two separate and distinct modes, with one mode operating only the sound generator and with the other mode operating the drive output either alone or in conjunction with the sound generator. Further, the drive output may be mechanically engaged or disengaged by the user to reduce the driving load on the power source, or the drive output may be disengaged to reduce the load in other ways such as, for example, electrically disengaged. Further, the play FIG. 106 may be moved (by virtue of the turntable 92) in the “try me” mode, either alone or in conjunction with the sound generator. Also, the module 28 may be suitably arranged such that when the module is activated using the button actuator 30 it is activated for one designated time period, and may further be arranged such that the module is activated for a longer time period when activated using the button actuator 73. In this fashion, battery life is further preserved when the “try me” mode is activated through the window 104 packaging. Preferably, the module 28 may be provided with a conventional on-off switch as well.

Numerous additional modifications and alternative embodiments of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art in view of the foregoing description. This description is to be construed as illustrative only, and is for the purpose of teaching those skilled in the art the best mode of carrying out the invention. The details of the structure and method may be varied substantially without departing from the spirit of the invention, and the exclusive use of all modifications which come within the scope of the appended claims is reserved.