The key to toy industry success is to invent as much as you can, according to the esteemed panel of inventors at the first Toy and Game Inventors Workshop.
Spreading your bets and keeping your options open is critical when trying to break the toy industry.
This was the message being passed on to an audience of over 70 toy and game inventors at ToyNews’ first inaugural event held in partnership with Wow! Stuff’s Britain’s Next Hot Toy on September 22nd.
“The best idea is to have lots of ideas,” Dougal Grimes, director of global gaming acquisition and inventor relations at Hasbro and chair of the panel, told an eager crowd of innovators.
Grimes was joined on stage by a collection of some of the industry’s most successful inventors, including Sir Torquil Norman, founder of Blue Bird Toys and creator of The Big Yellow Teapot, Richard Heayes of Heayes Design, Rena Nathanson, creator of Bananagrams and Dr. Jim Wyatt, creative director of Wow! Labs.
In the session entitled ‘How we made it’, the panel offered expert advice on cracking the industry, the nature of inventing and how to handle rejection.
“You have to think of your ideas as fond acquaintances, and you want to have lots of them,” added Heayes.
“Rejection is something you have to get used to, and you want to develop your ideas without falling in love with them too much because that’s the nature of inventing.”
When it comes to spreading ideas across the board, Wow! Stuff’s Wyatt recalled first hand the importance of looking further afield than the time-old routes to manufacture.
“The toy industry is changing, it is spreading out more and people are playing more and going back to their childhood,” he explained.
“So, now days, we are putting feelers out in to all other areas of toy industry.”
And it was a lesson Wyatt himself learned the harder way.
“Back in 2003, I had an idea for a figure that you stuck on a digital port,” he told the audience.
“I took it to every toy company. I never thought of taking it to a videogame company. So the message is: broaden your horizons and think of other places to approach.”
Hasbro’s Grimes went on to ask the panel what was the best way to approach companies with all these new ideas, the answer to which was: prototypes. And lots of them.
“Be prepared to send out a lot of prototypes,” Bananagrams’ Nathanson advised.
“Set aside a portion of funding just for these giveaways.”
However, the board was quick to note that developing a prototype doesn’t have to be a costly practice, citing the local toy shop as an inventors greatest resource.
“Real FX was something we initially found difficult to communicate through sketches, so we decided to build it,” said Wyatt.
“And building it doesn’t have to be an expensive process, in fact you should make it as cost effective as possible.
“In the toy industry, you’re working with the cheapest available products, and you will find all of those in toys that are already on the shelves. If you want to have the basic prototype made, get yourself down to Toys R Us and start hacking a Furby apart.
“You might end up with one of those horror toy from Toy Story, but it's fun.”
And there lay the crux of the discussion, that toy invention should be as fun as the toy itself, as the discussion was brought to a close with the wise words of Sir Torquil Norman.
“It is vital that you grab the child’s attention immediately and engage children instantly. And buyers are the same,” he said.
“They get bored with drawings, so use the technology available to your advantage when pitching. Use 3D printing to create models and then video will follow from that.”
Check out the full Toy and Game Inventors Workshop Inventor Roundtable discussion below: