You know how we feel about games and toys. It’s important that life include play, no matter what your age. It exercises the mind and body while providing opportunities to bond with family members.
We’ve been involved in the industry for many years and have been able to get up close and personal with toy designers at Chicago Toy and Game Fair and game designers at Origins Game Fair and Gen Con. Some designs are beautifully crafted with quality and style in mind. Others are brought to life to fill a void recognized by the inventor. An inventions goes from concept to design and along the way undergoes play-testing to make sure it’s as awesome as the creator imagines in his/her own mind. It’s not a short process, nor an inexpensive one. Some designs take years before they make it to market. Many never make it at all.
When I heard about a new reality show focused around the toy and game industry, I was absolutely thrilled. I love watching reality shows but prefer ones that are grounded in reality as opposed to ones that thrive on controversy and drama.
The Toy Box can best be described as Shark Tank for toys where the consultants are industry professionals and the judges are down to earth. Literally. They’re small… as in kids! Yes, the judges are children! They include Noah, Aalyrah, Sophia Grace and Toby Grey – four small people with big personalities!
During my trip to San Francisco, I had an opportunity to interview Pixar Creative Director of Consumer Products, Jen Tan, who serves as one of the mentors for The Toy Box. She’s been with Pixar Animation Studios since 2013 and has helped bring toys to market for Pixar’s major motion pictures such as Toy Story 3, Inside Out and the upcoming Cars 3. She was asked what she looks for in a toy and I loved her response. “It’s hard because, as an adult, sometimes you forget what it’s like being a kid and how to play… which is why I love this show,” she said referencing the young, hands-on judges. Tan went on to explain that she always looks for “something that is not a one-trick pony, so you can play with it multiple times and there’s various ways to play with it.” Referencing her personal experience with her 2 year old daughter, Tan shared that she looks for toys that inspire creativity and imagination and often finds that in classic, simpler toys.
The mentors spent about 30 minutes with each contestant, discussing their inventions but only a portion of that is shown in the episode to accommodate the five applicants each week. When asked if the mentors all agreed each time, Tan laughed and said, “You’ll have to see.” She did share that they didn’t always see eye to eye so it will be interesting to hear their different reactions to what moves forward to The Toy Box and what doesn’t… and why.
The participants in the show are presenting a variety of ideas including dolls, cars, physical activities, board games and even products with candy as a focus. When asked whether the kids were provided advice to ensure the finale didn’t include 7 candy-centric toys, Jen Tan said that she wasn’t involved in their filming but confirmed the kids were allowed to discuss among themselves and vote on what they liked best after playing with the toys. With that said, I’ve seen a few episodes and have been surprised by their intuitive selections and very mature assessments of the entrants.
The show is hosted by Eric Stonestreet, most recently know for his work in Modern Family. He infuses each episode with candid comments and comical interaction with the contestants as well as with the judges.
The Toy Box premieres tonight on ABC and will air Fridays at 8/7 Central. There will be 7 weeks of preliminary competition wrapping up in the finale that pits the 7 finalists against each other for the ultimate play date with the judges. The winning toy will be produced by Mattel and available at Toys “R” Us following the announcement.
If you’re wondering if I know who won, I don’t and neither does Jen Tan. Want to know who wins? You’ll have to watch! You can catch the first episode tonight and find additional information on The Toy Box Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels.
What type of game or toy do you think will be crowned the victor of this playful reality show?