The Triumph of the Crayolatariat: Thoughts on the Crayola Factory Tour, Nostalgia, and Simulacra

The Triumph of the Crayolatariat
is a pretty great breakdown of The Crayola Factory: A Hands-on Discovery Center in downtown Easton, Pennsylvania.

The thing of it is – it’s not a factory. In fact, when we hear the phrase “crayon factory,” many of us think back to those awesomely 80’s videos of how crayons were made – originally aired on Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street.

The video clips (aired in 1981 and 1988 respectively) generated so much demand for factory tours… the waitlist was sometimes 2 years long. But for as neat as the production process was, it was grossly inefficient. It wasn’t until 1990 that Crayola revamped their whole manufacturing process with new machines, workflows, etc. The result of this change was that the actual crayon production differed from the crayon production people imagined and remembered.

At the Crayola Factory, there is now a single production line, made from the original machinery, which demonstrates the older crayon making process a few times an hour. The article author, Greg Allen, offers up this David Foster Wallace-esque description:

Try to imagine how wide the splatter pattern would be when Karl Marx’s head explodes at the idea of a privately held corporate marketing theme park that performed a simulacrum of the labor-alienating process of industrialized manufacturing; in order to approximate a distant childhood experience of watching a television show which romanticized the original, actual alienating manufacturing process

And just in case you’re itching to see it again, here’s a segment from Sesame Street (the original Mr. Rogers version is available here

[via MetaFilter, CC photo via haydnseek]

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. That’s a hell of a paragraph. :)It is incredibly bizarre to think about those clips as generationally shared nostalgic touchpoints. I certainly remember them (at least the one embedded above), and the intense desire to go to the Crayola factory that resulted. Crayolas in general are nostalgic, though! The obvious association to childhood, but also the specific, often sensory elements: a spectrum of colors with evocative names, the simple pleasure of wearing down the tip of a new crayon, the object of desire factor (I know I wanted the biggest mega set there was because who could live with out a puce or nutria colored crayon), and of course that great waxy smell that pervaded a million art classrooms… the list GOES ON!

    Allison Reply

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