Coming from a background in design and with a team that boasts experience at firms including Apple and Pixar, Marissa Louie (pictured right) is now breaking into the toy industry with an innovative idea that could change the way we think about soft toys. Talking to ToyNews, Louie explains the design process behind the new toy and what has made this product a breakthrough success.
What are the Animoodles?
Marissa Louie: Animoodles combine best of stuffed animals and building toys together in a wildly fun system of magnetic plush toys with fully interchangeable and rotatable parts. Kids can mix and make whatever they imagine – hundreds of combinations! Animoodles enable kids to see themselves as little makers and to understand the value of our differences-how our unique parts can come together to make something amazing!
Can you tell us a little about the Animoodles team and their backgrounds in design?
Louie: We are a design-led company, with a customer-first philosophy that is echoed throughout everything we do.
Our broader team has experience across industries – toys, entertainment, technology, consumer packaged goods – because we believe creativity can really come from anywhere and we’re striving to disrupt and innovate in the plush toy space. I’ve been a design leader, in user experience design and art direction, at technology companies like Apple and Yahoo! My co-creator, Dan Holland, has more than a decade of experience across character design at the world’s leading animation studio. Together we’re now aiming to design the highest quality story, characters, and plush toys.
How did you come up with the idea?
Louie: When I was a kid, stuffed animals were my favourite toys. They’re still my favourite to this day! I remember when I was little, I’d to play at my friends’ houses and be saddened to see all their discarded stuffed animals collecting dust. I saw my friends lose interest in their once best friends quickly, and wondered if I could make stuffed animals better. Since I was little I’ve wondered “How can I unleash the potential of stuffed animals?”
Then one day I asked myself "What if their parts could be interchanged (like Legos) and posed (like action figures)?" We explored lots of options: buttons, snaps, velcro, plastic, and more. All of these were awful! One day, I was watching my niece play with the magnets on the fridge and I had that “ah hah” moment! With hidden magnets, we knew we’d found the magic!
What was the design process like?
Louie: Like leading animation studios, we start with developing the story and characters before jumping into sketching and prototyping. The story and characters behind of the Animoodles are what give them heart and guides their physical design. We’re proud that much of the design of Animoodles has actually been driven by kids. We’ve tested everything from which types of animals, which type of fur, to what colours appeal to kids most. The fun of Animoodles is powered by the imagination of kids, but the development of the actual product is kid-powered too.
Why did you choose to crowdfund the product?
Louie: For our launch collection, we wanted to reach out to an existing community of people who love supporting new, innovative projects to bring Animoodles to life. We’re using funds raised to place our 1st big factory order! We aspire to build our own strong community of fans so we can co-create Animoodles and the story of Animoodles together in the future.
Can you share any plans for the future of the brand, beyond the initial launch?
Louie: We’re already thinking about what collection comes next after our Wild Jungle launch collection! The world of Animoodles is full of new characters to meet, lands to explore, and stories to tell. We’re looking forward to inviting our early Animoodles supporters into that journey of creating what’s next. In the near term, we’re planning to continue our pre-order phase on TheAnimoodles.com after our Kickstarter campaign.
Anything to add?
Louie: Our mission is to help inspire the next generation of compassionate little makers. We believe there’s power in both building and bonding, creating and caring, making and relating. Stuffed animals have always played an important role in child development of social, emotional, and relational skills. But, until now, building sets have traditionally been better at developing spatial and problem-solving skills in kids. Animoodles combine the best of both worlds because we believe in the power of creation and compassion.