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Couzin Chicago Toy and Game Group

What’s missing in the toy

industry? Toy and game inventors are the only major members of the entertainment industry that do not have spokespeople. This hurts our ability to compete effectively for the entertainment dollar. Even housewares, formerly a commodity item, has entered the entertainment industry and is ‘eating up’ dollars that could go to toys and games. Have you been to a housewares show recently? It’s all about celebrity. A huge buzz, big excitement and a big change from what it was not long ago. We desperately need this type of engagement in our industry. The personalities of our industry most analogous to chefs, musicians, actors, authors, etc, are our inventors and designers. They are a very cool and creative group of renaissance people – many of whom are also chefs, musicians, actors and authors simply by means of their curiosity and creative spirits. Can’t you just picture many of them on the cover of Rolling Stone? Seriously. From personal experience, I can tell you that when

I talk about my friends who have invented things like Jenga, BopIt!, The Game of Life and others, people want to hear more. Call me a name-dropper, but I love talking about inventor friends to anyone, industry colleagues or not; it never fails, faces light up and they ask for the backstory. The public stands in line to meet them at our Chicago Toy & Game Fair (ChiTAG), and members of the public have started paying $250 a plate to attend our Toy & Game Inventor of the Year Awards (TAGIEs). And when we pitch inventors to the press, the press is always interested. One of my favourite moments at the TAGIEs happened a couple of years ago. We were honouring Eddie Goldfarb for Lifetime Achievement (he invented Shark Attack, Chattering Teeth, Kerplunk, and more), and John Ratzenberger (who starred in every Pixar film, played Cliff on Cheers, hosts Made in America, and participated in Dancing with the Stars) ran over with Sharpie in hand to get Eddie’s autograph on a set of Chattering Teeth. He literally ran over. He said that Eddie was a star and he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet him. Last year it took one call to Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and they were making the TAGIEs, and all the inventors, the theme of an entire show.

This year at the TAGIEs the M’s have it. M as in magic, music, McCafferty and Morrison: Magic. The theme this year is The Magic of Play. Many of our industry inventors are magicians and you should be prepared to be amazed! Music. The music of Janet Planet with lyrics written by

Peggy Brown (a TAGIE winner herself) and performed just for the TAGIEs. McCafferty, Jim, the keynote speaker for this year. Morrison, as in Howard. Howard is being honoured with the TAGIE Award for Lifetime Achievement, and

in the biggest reunion news since The Beatles, the B and the T of BMT will be also there, Jeffrey and Rouben (BMT formerly Breslow, Morrison and Terzian, is now Big Monster Toy). And, the TAGIEs have a director this year. His name

is Tom Quinn, he is from the movie industry and he is helping move us closer to our goal of getting the TAGIEs on TV (Cupcake Wars last year was just a step). Tom is also the inventor of the Game of Things. We had a lot of media last year and it continues to build. And, don’t miss your opportunity to vote for an inventor while you are visiting, voting closes on October 31st. It would be remiss of me not to call out Hasbro. They have helped build this event from the beginning and have been the presenting sponsor for all six years. We welcome involvement from more companies and inventors. The TAGIEs focus on people; they’re emotional, they

have stories. And when you put a face or a story to a product, it helps sell it. Educational Insights will tell you telling the inventor story sells more toys and games. makes a big deal out of their inventors and they sell a lot of product. The TAGIEs have glamour; the models in their designer looks from playCHIC, our toy-inspired fashion show, are on stage. We have celebrity; this year the gorgeous actress/model Joan Severance will be host of playCHIC and a presenter at the TAGIEs, she’s also a game inventor. Does this sound like the Academy Awards? Well that’s

where we are heading. There is no better time to have inventors promote your products for the fourth quarter than now. They don’t have to be up for a TAGIE. They always make a good story for the press. Let’s put the magic back in our industry...give it celebrity.


Gottlieb Global Toy Experts

A Community of Play; thoughts on the World Congress of Play

From September 9-11 2013, my partner Charlie Albert of Creativity Inc. and I put money and reputations on the line to stage the First World Congress of Play in San Francisco. For the first time, we brought all of the play industries - including traditional toys and games, video games, digital play, play grounds and entertainment - together in one place at one time. I am very pleased to report that the conference actually exceeded our expectations. Outstanding industry leaders from all these play platforms stepped forward to speak, and the conference sold out. Attendees were inspired, informed and often moved by 40-plus speakers over two days during brain- rocking 20-30-minute-long talks and panels that changed how many saw not just the business of play, but play itself.

A discourse on augmented reality might lead next to a passionate call for playtime in schools; another speaker would call out for speedier product development via “agile manufacturing”; all while a

demonstrator with a 3D printer strapped to his chest manufactured an action figure as he walked around the room during breaks and cocktail parties. Above all, we learned about the many ways that play is both essential and effective in cognitive development, socialisation, mental health and happiness, as well as the many ways play innovators are working to enhance kids’ lives and, in fact, all our of lives through play.

As Larry Marder, noted graphic novelist and author

of Beanworld, put it after the conference: “Heading for home, mind totally blown…I’ll be thinking for WEEKS.” Or, as Lisa Ormand, president of Kidstuff PR, put it during one of the breaks: “I think my brain is going to explode.” What next? Yes, there will be a Second World

Congress of Play next year in September – but will our separate play industries come together once a year, or are we a community of people passionate about play in its diversity and importance year round and every day?

Charlie and I, plus many who attended feel that we

are a community. We intend to work with anyone who joins us in creating a voice for those who see a greater play industry as essential in providing a home for those who see beyond the current silos that separate us; who seek to tie together the various elements of how we play into a greater way to play; who advocate for a more robust way to do business and ultimately for a way for play to remain relevant in a world that refuses to stand still.

What I found most compelling at the conference was an urgent warning from a number of our

speakers that play itself is under assault. Partly as a result of well intended overly protective parenting and societal expectations, children no longer get the unorganised kind of play that allowed them to learn how to engage each other without the presence of adults. Because so many schools are pressured to meet third party standards, recess has been reduced to as little as 15 minutes a day. Over-scheduled children spend so much time at school, doing homework and going to organised activities that they are not playing. One speaker reflected on a survey of kids that found the number one reason children want more play was not to have fun - but to relieve stress! The urgency of the situation was ultimately

captured by Darrell Hammond, the founder and CEO of KaBoom!, an organisation that has built thousands of playgrounds. Darrel, named by Forbes to its list of Top 30 Social Entrepreneurs, let us know that there are simply too few playgrounds in the United States. Children, particularly in low-income areas, have in many cases to go miles to get to the nearest one. Larry wants to build more playgrounds, small community ones, so that children are not miles but blocks away from a safe place to play. Darrel called upon the Play Community, in his

words, to help. I sensed at that moment that the World Congress of Play had become a Community of Play and found a greater purpose. If you would like to be a part of the Community of

Play, please contact me at and/or join our Linked-In group: The World Congress of Play. It’s going to be quite a ride.

Toyworld 49

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