For 35 years and counting, once more we prepare for the toy show season.
It begins with the Consumer Electronics Show that just opened in Vegas, then the HK toy show in Hong Kong, followed shortly by the UK Toy Fair in London. After that we head to the German international Toy Fair in Nuremberg, the New York International Toy Fair opening on Valentine's Day in Manhattan, and various and miscellaneous shows here and there, toys and otherwise, through the Licensing Show in June.
Each show is an opportunity to see a sampling of the newest products destined for store shelves this year and to gain useful insight that will guide our work in the coming year.
It is the chance to pitch new concepts, to see our new products for 2015 for the very first time, and for a bit of face-to-face time with our clients.
Again, from a recent Wall Street Journal article by Peter Gray, a Boston College research psychologist and author of the book Free to Learn, and Lenore Skenazy, author of book and blog Free Range Kids: Studies have found that American children ages 9-12 get less than an hour of free play each day, and that is mostly indoors.
This is atrocious and shameful. Let the children go! Let them play, else they will be stunted in their development. Arguably, that which a child learns through play is far more important than that which they learn in a classroom.
In play situations we learn that tantrums and other unbridled bad behaviors will make others shun us. Play will evoke powerful emotions such as anger or fear, and children gain experience in controlling how these emotions are expressed acceptably in the company of others. They learn to control their anger, not to cry too easily when hurt, or tattle on their peers to adults, etc.
Full of hope, we show our new toy creations to people who work for our partner toy companies here in the US, in the UK, Europe, Japan, and all over the world. Then we lovingly box and ship them out to their destinations for review, often under tight deadlines. The samples sometimes arrive just in time to make a last-minute presentation meeting.
All of this shipping of precious material is not without mishap, I might add. The samples can arrive broken. Our clients return the sample to us, and we find that the metal shipping case has been crushed from some heavy impact. We race to do the repair and ship it back out the same day, only to have another problem arise. Not enough time! Crap . . . we won't make our shipping deadline even if we race to the airport to make the last flight out . . .
As we work late into the evening, as we have on many a night and weekend over the years, I am reminded that the work we do is much like that of Geppetto of the story Pinocchio.
Creating toys is still a handwork tradition, as it has been for hundreds of years. Our prototypes are fashioned painstakingly by hand, no longer of wood, but now of plastic with gear boxes, motors, springs, battery boxes and circuit boards, until they come to life.
We did it! Another toyfair completed, friendships renewed and strengthened, and business relationships, too. Products shown, improvements suggested, guidance and insights received, products (fingers crossed) licensed, fine points of outstanding agreements finalized, comiserations shared, advice offered, drinks imbibed, comestables partaken of, humor enjoyed.
New York Toy Fair in all of its many dimensions is done again for a year. Good bye to New York once again.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig. Will we be back again next year? Most likely, I think, though the day will come when it will be our last. Not soon, however, not too soon. Hard work, a labor of love. Sweet New York Toy Fair, adieu.
I have come back from the Toy Shows in the UK and Germany with a renewed appreciation for the power of the in-person meeting. The power of the in-person meeting is even more remarkable when all involved appreciate the considerable effort and expense involved in traveling internationally.
I had great meetings with close industry friends as well as new-to-me toy company execs seeking out working relationships with new companies.