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Simpsons trivia games brainchild of LIC firm

Bart Simpson gets famous from saying, “Don’t have a cow, man” on Krusty’s show.

The answer (False — He gets famous for saying, “I didn’t do it”) is one of 1,000 obscure pieces of Simpsons trivia captured in a game that puts the dedication...

By Dustin Brown

True or False?

Bart Simpson gets famous from saying, “Don’t have a cow, man” on Krusty’s show.

The answer (False — He gets famous for saying, “I didn’t do it”) is one of 1,000 obscure pieces of Simpsons trivia captured in a game that puts the dedication of the cartoon’s most die-hard fans to the test.

Produced by Cardinal Industries, a 55-year-old game manufacturer based in Long Island City, the television-inspired trivia challenge is just one sign of how the family-owned company has kept up with the evolving tastes of the game-playing public.

The company actually sells five varieties of Simpsons trivia games, including two packaged in head-shaped tins — one is Bart, the other Homer—as well as a travel-size version.

“When you have 10 years of history from the Simpsons, trivia is perfect,” said Bonnie Canner, the company’s vice president and daughter of its founder and president, Les Berger.

Early in the show’s run Cardinal also produced a Simpsons board game, which captured the cartoon’s irreverence with some unseemly tasks, like a burping contest, atypical of the medium that also brought us Monopoly and Parcheesi.

The Simpsons merchandise is only one facet of an extensive game-making business with a strong foundation in the still-popular basics (checkers, anyone?) that also produces such innovative titles as Crayola - Opoly, Who Took the Cookie from the Cookie Jar? and a Mad Libs word game.

“This is kind of different from what my father started with,” Canner said.

Berger, who has lived for many years in Rego Park, founded the company in the late 1940s because he was interested in that newly created material called plastic and simply liked playing games, as a chess player himself.

Although it started out “very small, very slowly,” the company grew gradually over the course of 50 years, moving from Brooklyn to a larger factory in Long Island City about 25 years ago.

“It’s basic merchandise. It’s sold forever,” Berger said. “It’s always on the market.”

But for Canner, the family game business brings to mind an adage about the shoemaker’s daughter going without shoes — only her daughter went without board games, finally having to ask her mom for a checker set.

“I never thought of bringing one home for her,” she said.

Indeed, while the idea of making games for a living may conjure images from the movie “Big,” in which a kid trapped in an adult’s body turns into a toy company’s best asset, the business is more than just child’s play.

“Most people think it’s fascinating,” Canner said, but “obviously there’s still the bottom line of having to get things out on time.”

To produce games based on television programs like the Simpsons, Cardinal has to pitch its ideas and get a license, which gives the company the right to use the property. The family usually comes up with the basic game concepts, then relies on free-lance employees like artists and writers to do much of the design work, like writing the questions.

After that comes a basic plastics manufacturing process —”fabricating, molding, finishing, painting,” Berger said.

Cardinal Industries is already a family affair, having attracted not only Canner but also Berger’s son and son-in-law.

It bridged yet another generation on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, observed around the nation the last Thursday in April, when Canner brought her own 9-year-old daughter to the factory. But instead of spending the day playing games, the budding business woman had a chance to earn some pocket change in exchange for doing some office work.

Her friends have their own ambitions of getting involved with the family business.

“They want to be on the boxes,” she said.

They probably wouldn’t mind checking out the stuff inside them, either.

Like that question from the Simpsons game: “On his inspection visit, what does Superintendent Chalmers test the playground sandbox for?”

Answer: “Urine content.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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