November 2005 | Vol. IV - No. 11
So You Think You Know Toys?
Secrets of the Toy Makers
The #1 reason people get into the toy business? Their kids.
Lew Rudzki, partner of Design Your Own, had young children who were active kids, and he saw a need for getting kids to do crafts in an active manner ? combining two disparate categories into one.
Front Porch Classics (ToyShow) was founded by three dads who were tired of all the disposable toys and games out there. As Steve Hart, project manager, tells it: ?We thought high tech tended to be isolating, we wanted stuff we could play with our kids that would make the connections between adults and kids and gender.?
Missy Cohen-Fyffe, president of Babe Ease LLC, was a public relations representative. She didn?t develop Clean Shoppers for a business, just for her son. ?But I was approached by countless women who wanted one, so I considered starting a company.?
Don Stewart, president of Baby Chatterbox (Gift Guide), had a daughter. ?I watched her speech development, how she interacted. Then I went out and got data and found there were things that had never been done before in a video concept.?
Michel Alvarez, founder of WonderChess, LLC, learned chess when he was 4, and after befriending a Mexican chess master, eventually became nationally ranked at a young age. But when he started to teach his own son, he realized times had changed ? video games and television had become the new focus. He created WonderChess to compete with them, so his son, and other children like him, could be introduced to chess and the vast benefits it provides.
Some are driven by a creative need:
Juleen Murray Shaw, founder of Nursery Tap (ToyShow), has been a professional actress for 25 years, with a background in the theatre, television and movies. ?When I became a mom, I wasn?t doing a show, I wasn?t auditioning, nothing. I used all that theatre energy when reading to my daughter, just to keep my chops up. I found out, she loved the crazy dialect and acting out of the books, so I wanted to do something with that.?
Juliette Brindak, co-founder of the Miss O and Friends Company, was only 15 when she started the website, but she needed a creative outlet. Craig Wolfe, owner of Celebriducks (ToyDirectory), was an English/Religion major who was running an extremely successful company that published and sold art from TV commercials, but ?I wanted to make my own things.?
Sam Reich-Dagnen, co-founder of BrainCandy, was a director/producer, and her husband an award-winning film editor. They wanted to do things ?away from the Big Boys, and see what the market could bear.?
Goldi Miller was (and still is) a fashion designer with a string of self-titled boutiques, known for $75 T-shirts and cutting edge, avant-garde style. But when her landlords asked if she would do jewelry kiosks during their mall?s busy season and she saw how fast her ideas sold, suddenly, she began funneling all her vast design sense into The Bead Shop (ToyShow) full swing.
There is often a love for toys and a need to improve on a particular type of toy, or invent something that wasn?t there before:
Kris Schantz, co-owner of Happy Worker Inc. (ToyDirectory), had no formal toy background. He broke with the IT industry. ?I just love toys.?
David Wedzik, founder of Alivan?s (ToyShow), loved Harry Potter, but the merchandise was mostly ?plastic replica wands. Neat, but they weren?t packaged right. I really wanted to do a collectible/role-playing piece, really catch the fantasy.?
Jonathan Zimlin, head of Baby Bumblebee (ToyShow), was an elementary school teacher who realized there weren?t any real educational videos for language.
Esther Novis? oldest son was 5, and she was disappointed with what they did at schools in the way of science. And all the science books were merely ?cute.? She wanted something better, so she started Science Camps, and The Young Scientists Club.
Len Bajork, head of Heroes & Legends, The Good Knight Company (ToyDirectory), was concerned about society?s view of today?s heroes ? entertainment and athletic celebrities, often with terrible personal values. So he created a colorful knight?s horse or CHARGER Đ 2005, a hippity-hop pretend play toy, as a symbol to children for learning and practicing knightly virtues that begin with respect and care for others.
For some, it?s simply destiny:
Shawn MacGregor, ?The Cat?s Meow? of ParlorGamez, was a designer, mostly for the computer industry. A neighbor asked him to help design a game. He said ?no, that?s stupid. I pass.? Now he?s designing games full time.
Laurie Mirman?s husband passed away after a six-month battle with cancer. She was there at the nursing home every day, and was struck by the number of patients who were alone: no visitors, no family. She set up a foundation in her husband?s name and honor, and has recently launched a program with the American Cancer Society to help those patients who have no one. And from there, Oh La-Laa was born.
Rich Chille, the man behind Chille?s Enterprise, had his life turned around after getting a DUI. He?s now created a hilarious board game based on his experiences, Don?t Drink & Drive. ?If it saves even just one life, itīs worth it.?
Donn Bryant, founder of Evolution Effects (Gift Guide), was a construction worker ?destined for something more.?
There are ?recovering attorneys? like Matt Brown, co-CEO of Big Boing (Right Brain) (ToyShow). A jet engine designer: Courtney Tudor, CEO of Mr. BigShot Inc. Art Schoendorff, co-owner of Applied Physics, LLC (ToyShow), was an engineer for General Motors. Dennis Sucilsky, co-owner of Tucker-Jones House Inc., started as an apprentice blacksmith doing village restoration. Dennis Klein, president and CEO of Karmel Games (ToyShow), degreed in physics at the Imperial College, London, and was into computers since the 1960s. Jamie Greenberg, Imaginologist of Imagine IF, had toys in his blood (his family was Shelcore Toys), but he had spent 20 years touring with his own children?s theatre that featured life-sized body puppets and lots of fun. And Barbara Jerome, ?the mom who invented NAMiTS,? was a real-life full-time mom ? with seven kids.
It takes all kinds to make the toy industry. No one knows where the lightning will strike next. But a love of toys, children and play seems to be at the core. Many people come to the point where they ask, as Dennis Klein did, ?What am I going to do for the rest of my life?? When the answer is toys, it?s good for them and it?s good for the industry.
There is no limit to what the imagination can conceive and zany novelty concepts come from wild imaginations. Craig Wolfe, president of Celebriducks decided to create rubber ducks as celebrities. ?The wilder it is the more we like it,? said Wolfe. The company maintains that it can make anyone or anything into a duck. And they?ve nearly done so. Professional basketball star Allen Iverson was one of the first to be made into a duck, complete with tattoos. Snoop Dog, Moses, Elvis and other historical or pop icons have followed.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 1680 (added 12/7/2004)
"Don't Drink & Drive" is a board game that breaks all the rules of a traditional board game by combining gut-wrenching laughter, a challenge and a valuable lesson to be learned all in one game. There are two versions of the game , one is a party/drinking game for adults, which simulates an actual night of drinking and driving (to be played in the comfort and safety of one's home) and the other version is not a drinking game but a thinking game for young adults. The thinking game does not involve drinking and was created to educate young adults on drinking and driving, stressing the idea of calling a cab if you are out with friends and alcohol and driving is involved. This new version is full of laughs and very entertaining and educational to teach young adults about the dangers of drinking and driving. This version comes with a no-drinking-and-driving contract for life that is signed by the young adult and their loved ones or parents. The hope is that this agreement will help fight drunk driving and keep down the teenage death toll from drunk driving.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5199 (added 10/26/2005)
Part of the sport craft kit line, the Design Your Own Basketball Kit is a unique and incredibly fun item, combining sports and crafts in an innovative way. The kit includes a clear, real feel and weight basketball, specialized non-toxic paint that adheres to the inside of the basketball, paint injector, pump with needle and instructions. The paint is injected into the basketball (through the air valve) and when swirled around (or better yet, dribbled!) creates a tie-dyed or a starburst pattern of colors. It´s great for both boys and girls. If the ABA had had this, they never would have folded. Nicole Shum of Design Your Own stressed the multi-market value and distinctive appeal of the DYO Real Basketball Kit. She told TDmonthly, “Our kits cross multiple product categories: arts and crafts, creative activities, sporting goods, and outdoor play. Ours are the only arts and craft kits that feature real sports equipment.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5005 (added 10/12/2005)
Evolution Effects Bracelets are the fun, colorful, new fashion accessory. The magnetic clasps on Evolution Effects Bracelets keep them securely on your wrist.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4994 (added 10/11/2005)
These cards can serve as a useful learning tool for young children, helping them to understand basic colors, shapes and patterns through recognition and comprehension.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4573 (added 9/13/2005)
Desert islands, treasure, hungry sharks, treacherous seas and, of course, pirate battles all await you in Dread Pirate. This beautiful coffee table game comes packaged in an authentic wooden treasure chest and is played upon a wonderfully illustrated cloth treasure map. Choose a ship and a port of call, and set sail in search of treasure. Trade in a foreign port or sail broadside to another captain and take your best shot. Be the first pirate to collect all types of jewels and land on Dread Island to become the most feared and powerful captain on the high seas. Journey back with your family for a high seas treasure hunting, pirate adventure! Perfect for four players.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4523 (added 9/9/2005)
Ebony is obviously striking with its pure black color. It represents strength and generates unsurpassed magical energy. The Holly in the handle is the symbol of life, vitality and immortality and is perfect for use in spoken spells. Every Alivanīs wand comes complete with a blue Collectorīs Box, satin lined Velvet Wand Satchel and a numbered Certificate of Authenticity for your collection.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 481 (added 9/1/2004)
This fitted padding is designed to be inserted into the seating area of a shopping cart, protecting babies and toddlers from exposure to germs that are often found on carts. The Clean Shopper is machine washable and can also double as seating for a restaurant high chair. (See Review)
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4667 (added 9/16/2005)
"Braincandy, My 5 Senses" is the first DVD in a series of six, whose content focuses on young children learning about themselves as they learn about the world. The Braincandy recipe encourages active experimentation rather than passive drills and repetition. Braincandy uses a creative combination of engaging puppet characters representing the five senses introducing the host, Bruce Brain, “real” kids engaged in captivating, sensory oriented activities, and innovative animations that show how the senses work. A variety of multi-genre, "kidified" music forms a textured backdrop that gets young children up and moving! Ideal for children ages 6 months to 4 years old, the DVD/video lays the foundation for independent thinking as well as social and emotional development. Winner of 10 toy industry awards and endorsements, including Dr Toy's "100 Best Toys for 2005" and the "Top 10 Audio/Video Products" for 2005. (Read Review)
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4162 (added 8/15/2005)
A fun superhero for the work world, BossMan lets you know what mood he´s in with three interchangeable faces and five weapons of management might. Complete with a bunch of bossy superpowers and vulnerabilities, he´s ready to rule over your workday! Happy Worker´s Everyday Superheroes line of action figures also includes GeekMan and MoneyMan.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 2018 (added 12/22/2004)
Bones and Muscle Kit by THE YOUNG SCIENTISTS CLUB
Other products from THE YOUNG SCIENTISTS CLUB
In this kit, students learn about the mechanics, importance, and make-up of bones and muscles. Kids can study and recreate X-rays, make hinge and ball-and-socket joints, and make a model leg complete with bones and muscle. There are 36 different kits available, including Fossils, Flight, and Planets.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5045 (added 10/12/2005)
Knightīs Charger by HEROES & LEGENDS, THE GOOD KNIGHT COMPANY
Other products from HEROES & LEGENDS, THE GOOD KNIGHT COMPANY
The Knight´s horse or Charger is made from lightweight inflatable plastic and, with a brightly colored battle skirt, is worn around the child´s waist, secured with adjustable Velcro straps. While the child´s legs are hidden beneath the skirt, a knight´s leg in shining armor is printed on each side, making it look like the child is riding a Charger as in, "Once upon a time ..."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5200 (added 10/26/2005)
NAMiTS Travel is a modern-day version of the game of spotting items while traveling in the car, on long or short trips. Players spot the items on the cards, and score points. The colorful, waterproof, tear-proof cards are gathered on a ring, for portable fun.
— “Kids can take the cards in the car and instead of pointing out signs and obvious things in their surroundings, they need to find cute things — like a ‘flagger’ is a flag on a car, a ‘dumper’ is a dumptruck, ... it gives them different things to look for,” said Roberta Edwards, owner of Wishes Toys & Gifts in La Quinta, Calif., who said this was a top seller at her store.
— These travel cards “do pretty well” for Margie Nuzum, store manager of Wayland Toy & Stationery in Providence, R.I.
— Dr. Toy chose NAMiTS Travel as one of the Best Vacation Products for 2005.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4240 (added 8/22/2005)
Based on actual stock market information compiled over the past 35 years, Mr. Bigshot plunges you into the world of Wall Street and challenges you to come out ahead of your competitors. Beginning in 1965, players advance through the years, trading their way up the financial ladder. For 2-6 players, this package includes both the board game and the CD-ROM version.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4630 (added 9/16/2005)
The world?s first gravity-powered car uses gravity to overcome ? gravity! Without batteries, motors or fuel, the car still manages to climb hills from a standing start. Kids can change weights, rear-end ratio, payload, etc. to optimize distance, speed and acceleration while learning about the basic laws of physics that govern the carīs mobility.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3702 (added 5/26/2005)
Girls first choose the type and color of the band for their bracelet. Up to 5 letters are included. Letter styles range from clear rhinestone letters in silver tone, clear rhinestone heart in silver tone, red rhinestone heart in silver tone, faux pearl letters in gold tone and faux pearl heart in gold tone.
? ?Girls come in and buy a bracelet with their friend?s name on it,? said Daniel Janoska, manager of Talbot?s Toyland in San Mateo, Calif.
? Kids can buy extra letters for $2.49 each.
? The Bead Shop sells some of the most popular craft kits for tweens mentioned by surveyed retailers.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5142 (added 10/21/2005)
This collection portrays a variety of positive character traits and skills in a whimsical way. Nutritious Nettie sports an oversized carrot, Patient Pat waits for dinner with her plate and spoon, Responsible Roger is reading from a TO DO list, while Dignified David is dressed in a suit. The collection features 21 mini-plush dolls, with three characters also available as 18" Biggies. The singly wrapped mini dolls, sized between 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 inches, come with a tiny pamphlet of "insider information" on the dolls in Series II.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3411 (added 4/22/2005)
Keen listening, sharp arithmetic and quick reflexes are all valuable traits in this highly competitive game where one person is a cat and the rest are mice. The cat calls out a number and rolls the dice. If the cat’s number comes up, the mice must move away before the cat can trap them. If the mice move when they’re not supposed to, the cat gets them. It´s easy to learn yet endlessly amusing.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 1503 (added 12/3/2004)
Tavern Puzzles evolved from reproductions of hand-forged artifacts that run from basic all the way to Complex (with intermediate and difficult between). Basic designs are often traditional and familiar and have fewer steps. They can look easy, but looking easy is not the same as being easy. The complex designs are characterized by a large number of moves in the solution. Additionally, these designs can also have many "false" moves that do not have anything to do with the solution. False moves must be undone before the correct solution can be followed. Concepts learned at other levels are combined in the complex level.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5157 (added 10/25/2005)
One-of-a-kind creative gift packages. Great for someone in the hospital, or just to cheer a blue day. Handmade and each one unique, they are a good memory in a bad moment.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5201 (added 10/26/2005)
Baby Chatterbox is an entirely new line of videos designed to help teach young children, infants to 3 years old, how to speak. Volume One: Developing Early Speech combines eye-catching color, movement and, for the first time, extreme close-ups of a narratorīs mouth as she forms words. Baby Chatterbox is the only DVD that provides this up-close experience. Baby Chatterbox grabs the viewers at the beginning of the DVD and keeps them entertained throughout. The close-ups of the narratorīs mouth and use of repetition are key elements in this DVD. Babies responded well to the characters and the visuals, and stayed seated for repeated viewings. Baby Chatterbox DVD Vol. 1 won a National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, Spring 2005.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3833 (added 6/28/2005)
Directed and produced by award-winning actress and writer Juleen Murray Shaw, this DVD/CD set features 30 nursery rhymes set to tap, hip-hop and ballet. Each is choreographed, costumed and filmed against colorful sets to give the young child a complete sensory experience, and all are shot from the waist down, allowing viewers of all ages to imagine themselves in the rhymes. It received a George Foster Peabody Award, a 2005 Parentsī Choice "Recommended" Award, a 2005 Telly Award, a 2005 KIDS FIRST! Endorsement and the Dove Foundation Seal of Approval.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4232 (added 8/22/2005)
Kids love discovering small prizes inside the chess pieces — that´s the magic of this award-winning kit, which includes everything needed to learn and play chess. It features 32 prize-fillable chess pieces and a 3D-illustrated, 54-page book providing 10 easy lessons for kids and their caregivers. Incentive charts, WonderFiller sticker prizes and a 15" chessboard round out the fun and effectiveness. WonderFiller prizes are customizable to best meet the values of a particular family and they allow both players to experience winning. WonderChess received the 2007 Mr. Dad Seal of Approval as well as three awards in 2005: NAPPA Gold, Dr. Toy's Best Children's Vacation Products and Creative Child Magazine's Preferred Choice Award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4167 (added 8/15/2005)
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