Floppets, the pocket money animal collectables now stocked in The Entertainer, Toys R Us and more, are growing fast.
We sit down with Ilyse Brainin (founder and CEO, pictured middle), Greg Aronowitz (art director and movie veteran, pictured right) and Robert Endo (CTO, pictured left) to get the background story on Floppets and find out what's next for the company.
Where did the idea for Floppets come from?
Ilyse: Floppets were developed in the classroom. They’re a great way to incentivise kids as pets are one of the things kids will freely read and write about. So that’s why we went with pets. They were designed to go onto flip-flops at first and then once we gave them to the kids, we realised they can attach to anything. Kids were doing everything with them.
So that’s how the name came to be Floppets. It’s spelt Flop-Pets, but it’s pronounced Floppets.
We thought of what were worked for kids, in terms of an accessory, that linked with pets. We have kids and so we’ve been the parents that stood in line waiting for the new big toy.
We set up about a year ago, in January 2012, but we had the idea for an attachment system in 2011. We went through a few iterations for it, like surgical-grade Velcro that’s good for kids skin, and Velcro for nappies and that kind of thing. We did a lot of research on things we had no idea about. We tried different pastel colours and the primary colours.
Greg did a custom Floppet for New York Toy Fair where we launched to the trade. Now we are in pretty much every state in the US. Since then we have established distribution in South and North Africa, Australia and New Zealand and here in the UK which is just so exciting.
So how did Greg get involved?
Ilyse: I’ll let him speak about his background, but he’s an old and dear friend of ours – not old in age (laughs), but a very dear friend who’s extremely talented, too. So of course the second we were toying around with this and he happened to be in our house in Chicago, we showed it to him and he said, “yeah this is great!” and we kind of went from there.
Greg: My main thing is the entertainment industry – film, TV and design. But I like to do a lot of product stuff and I just felt that Floppets had the potential to fuse those worlds and bring a higher entertainment value to a toy. So I wanted to try and be a part of it and elevate the whole PVC manufacturing thing, which has been around for a long time but I thought there’s an opportunity to create a new angle on it that would make people more interested in a new type of product.
So did you design all of the characters?
Greg: Not all of them, it’s kind of a group thing, but I handled the final overall art and worked with the different factories and manufacturers to try and push the envelope to get the most colours and most detail.
Ilyse: To bring a Floppet quality to them. So different Floppets might have a certain colour scheme or background.
Greg: The shading and the shapes. We’re just trying to create a uniformed style for the brand.
From what we understand, you have quite the CV Greg… could you give us a brief rundown of what you’ve worked on?
Greg: I’m not sure about brief (laughs). I’ve done over 300 films and TV shows and tons of products. Movies include Terminator 2, Dancing With Wolves, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Saving Private Ryan, Contact. TV shows include X Files, Babylon Five, and right now there’s a couple of shows I’m working on like Happy Endings. Product-wise I’ve worked for all the majors like Hasbro and Mattel.
What sort of things did you work on exactly?
Greg: Every project is different. I’ve done make-up effects, animatronics, set design, prop building, costumes. The most iconic things from films I've worked on are probably Batman weapons, Jodie Foster’s spacesuit from Contact, the lab from Lost World, the hovercopter from Minority Report.
And Robert how did you get involved with Floppets?
Robert: I have a data analytics company in Chicago and I’m working on the next generation of Floppets which will be a little more interactive. But right now we’re focusing on the Floppet itself and getting the web presence out there, so I’m helping with Floptopia and defining how the world works with Floptopia.
What is Floptopia?
Ilyse: It’s where all the Floppets might get lost when falling off your scooter or backpack. It’s a virtual world, a map of where all the different Floppets come from. There are literally hundreds of Floppets that have never been made yet so the characters that take care of the world are called the Woodlets, and they’re not Floppets yet at all. Kids can go online, look at the map and explore it.
Robert: It’s up and coming. We’ll have different generations of the world being developed and will define all the characters and where they are in Floptopia, as well as what factions they’re in. So when you get your characters, it’s not just a Floppet, there’s a story behind it.
So you can tease new Floppets online before launching them at retail, as well as rare Floppets…
What’s the response been like at this year's toy fairs?
Ilyse: It’s been terrific. We have something coming up that I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but it’s very cool and a kids’ accessory. I can say that the deal is done and it will deliver into every school playground in September.
What kind of progress are you making in terms of licensing? We noticed that Disney was on your meeting list back at London Toy Fair…
Ilyse: We’re considering it. We did have some conversations with Disney and Nickelodeon while we were there, so we’ll see how that goes. I think they see the potential, I think it’s another way to put their product out there that doesn’t exist yet. It’s not a plush, it’s not a key chain, it’s not a pin and kids just instantly react to Floppets. [A Nickelodeon deal has since been signed for the UK and Ireland, and a Marvel one for the US].
We have a patent on the Floppet, what we call a mushroom and a Velcro tether. So there’s a cat’s eye opening on the tether, and that’s all patented.
I’m sure London Toy Fair is something we’ll do again and again. Maybe Nuremberg next year.
Call 01444 460406 to stock Floppets or visit the Floppets website for more information