Held annually in New York City, the American International Toy Fair attracts thousands of inventors and designers hoping to find corporate backing for their fanciful, often far-fetched prototypes. This mammoth trade show is crucial for the creative entrepreneur who dreams of producing a successful toy or game—but it’s only one in a long line of hoops to jump through, as inventor Tim Walsh discovers while pitching and developing his Crazy Chins novelty concept over several months.
Viewers follow Walsh on a frustrating yet ultimately rewarding journey, from a fruitless early meeting with Hasbro to seeing packaged versions ready for store shelves—although they’re far different than his original idea. Combined with Walsh’s story are numerous interviews with toy industry legends: Betty James, developer of the Slinky; Burt Meyer, inventor of Lite-Brite and Mouse Trap; Reyn Guyer, inventor of Twister and Nerf; and many more. A must-see set of case studies for any artist, entrepreneur, or business student struggling to sell a creative concept.
1. Preparing for Toy Fair (02:03)
Game inventor Tim Walsh works on a card game and a play set featuring upside down chin characters. He aims to have the prototypes ready for Toy Fair.
2. Networking at Toy Fair (03:16)
The industry's annual convention in New York City is attended by everyone in the business—from corporate giants to new inventors. Developers promote their products; catchy names are important.
3. Following the American Dream (02:18)
Most iconic toys have debuted at Toy Fair—from teddy bears to Barbie. Radio Flyer's CEO shares how his grandfather developed the signature wagons. The product maintains its popularity by evoking pleasant childhood memories.
4. Upside Down Chins (02:16)
Toy inventor Tim Walsh shares how he came up with the idea for his newest product—inspired by childhood memories.
5. Twister (02:01)
Toy inventor Reyn Guyer relays the story of developing the revolutionary game. Milton Bradley was hesitant to market it at first because it crossed personal space boundaries—but it became enormously popular.
6. Nerf Ball (01:12)
The spongy toy allowed children to safely throw balls indoors. We learn how the line evolved from a sports product to a play weapon.
7. Concept Evolution (01:55)
Toy inventor Tim Walsh works on his new idea—a play set of painted upside down chins. He changes the name from RAID to a more catchy "Crazy Chins". Original game titles are rarely kept for the final product.
8. Slinky (01:48)
Toy developer Betty James consulted a dictionary for inspiration in naming her iconic product. She recalls how sales suddenly took off in a Chicago department store.
9. Taking Over Operations (01:44)
The original Slinky assembly machine is still used to make the product today. Developer Betty James recalls her husband leaving the family to join a cult in Bolivia; she decided to run the company rather than sell.
10. American Made (01:52)
Slinky developer Betty James discusses her product's longevity; it was recently used in Disney's Toy Story.
11. Getting Ready for Product Pitch (01:13)
Toy inventor Mike Walsh works on his upside down chin idea, experimenting with backdrops for a photo shoot. Hasbro representative Mike Hirtle sees 1,600 ideas a year; he wants to be wowed by a product.
12. Selling a Dream (04:31)
Toy inventor Mike Walsh pitches his upside down chin game to Hasbro's Mike Hirtle; the company gets 3,000 ideas pitched to them annually. Hirtle recommends trying a smaller company.
13. Undeterred by Rejection (00:40)
Toy inventor Mike Walsh looks for a smaller company to pitch his upside down chin game to after Hasbro passed. The industry has become more competitive since he began inventing card games in college.
14. Toy Design School (02:50)
Companies such as Mattel sponsor certain classes at Otis College of Art and Design in exchange for the right of first refusal of student work. An instructor discusses toy design's digital future.
15. Big Monster Toys (02:18)
We tour the state of the art studio of a company designing motorized toys. It licenses inventions to other game companies such as Mattel and Hasbro.
16. Collaborative Design (00:53)
Toy inventor Mike Walsh draws on creative input from a face painter and an art director to improve his product idea. Group brainstorming is a common game creation technique.
17. Eddy Goldfarb (03:35)
We learn about the legendary toy and game designer's long career. He created numerous products for Ideal, including Battling Tops, Kerplunk and plastic animals with bodily "functions".
18. Interactive Media Toy Concept (02:06)
Toy inventor Mike Walsh hires professional comedians to film his upside down chin transformation kits. He envisions kids creating their own characters and making movies.
19. Mouse Trap (01:32)
Marvin Glass popularized kits allowing children to build or create their own toys. Designer Burt Meyer recalls coming up with a revolutionary interactive board game.
20. Marvin Glass (02:56)
Toy industry players fondly recall the inventor as an brilliant eccentric who loved celebrities and showmanship. Operation designer John Spinello shares pitching his game to Glass.
21. Operation (01:22)
John Spinello discusses designing the children’s game. He didn't get royalties from Marvin Glass but he is proud of its longevity and popularity.
22. Inchworm and Lite Brite (02:44)
Marvin Glass & Associates owe their toy industry success to creative interaction among game designers. We hear from an inventor who used his airplane engineering skills in the workplace.
23. Play-Doh (04:19)
Inventor Mike Walsh fashions a clay prototype for his upside down chin game idea. Play-Doh developer Kay Zufall was inspired by a daycare activity using wallpaper cleaner. She never got royalties for her product.
24. Old and New Toy Products (01:15)
At the International Toy Fair a Play-Doh representative presents a new "burger builder" play set and an inventor demonstrates his ball-and-racket game. He has realistic expectations about his chances of success.
25. Ant Farm (01:41)
Product inventor Milton Levine was inspired by his insect collection as a boy. He never thought it would still be selling 50 years later.
26. Sababa Toys (04:33)
After finding out Mattel is dropping two of his designs, inventor Tim Walsh focuses on pitching his Crazy Chins idea. The meeting goes well; all three Sababa representatives are enthusiastic about his concept.
27. Perseverance (01:11)
Sababa Toys passes on inventor Tim Walsh's Crazy Chins idea; he continues pitching to game companies. It's common in the toy industry to have a good product interview with disappointing results.
28. Crazy Chins: Success at Last (02:01)
Toy inventor Tim Walsh realized he was overwhelming companies with too much product detail. He reduced his idea to a basic face painting kit and finally got support—an experience reflecting the toy industry's unpredictability.
29. Credits: Toyland: Case Studies in Creative Entrepreneurship (02:39)
Credits: Toyland: Case Studies in Creative Entrepreneurship
Toyland: Case Studies in Creative Entrepreneurship (DVD)
Time: 66 Minutes