Starting with a preview post in which I took an early look at the series alongside Mentor and Pixar Consumer Products Creative Director Jen Tan (read it here), each week for the past two months, I’ve been following ABC’s THE TOY BOX. Last night, the eight-episode competition series wrapped it’s first season, with hopeful toy inventors vying to have their creations produced by Mattel, and the winning toy to be sold exclusively at Toys “R” Us. If you pay attention to details like episode production numbering, you may have noticed that THE TOY BOX aired out of order, which is something easy to do with series’ that don’t carry a narrative. In this case, THE TOY BOX played with audience anticipation by introducing two important entries in episode 106 – which actually aired as episode 7, the final episode before the grand finale. Now, the judges – Sophia Grace Brownlee (“The Ellen Degeneres Show”), Aalyrah Caldwell (“Uncle Buck”), Toby Grey (“The Unexpected John Cena Prank”) and Noah Ritter (“The Ellen Degeneres Show”) – have spoken, and a winner has been crowned. As of today, the winner is available at Toys “R” Us, but that’s not the only toy from THE TOY BOX that’s hitting shelves this year. In fact, one popular finalist has a link to the past… specifically, Mattel’s past, and now it’s coming back.
In many of the marketing materials (and the series intro), there was a clip of Jen Tan saying “I’ve never seen anything like this.” That was in reference to what was ultimately crowned the winner last night, Artsplash 3D Liquid Art. So how did this simple idea get refined into a saleable toy, produced and packaged to be purchased and played with by the masses in a drastically condensed timeframe? The folks at Toys “R” Us and Mattel created a video to take you inside the process. Usually, a toy takes at least 18 months to bring to market. In this case, it was all done in around 8. Check this out…
The official product description: “Artsplash™ lets you create colorful, 3D art with WATER! Use the color dyes to mix any combination of colors you want, then use the Aquapen to place the colored water onto any of the 6 different Artsheet designs – the only limit is your imagination! And when you’re finished, just wipe the Artsheet clean and start again!”
Perhaps the biggest surprise for visitors to the Toys “R” Us website this weekend is that two other toys will be available beginning June 1, 2017 – the Sweet Shaper (formerly called the Candy Krusher) and Noisy Persons. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of card games, but I can get behind Noisy Persons for a simple reason – I absolutely LOVE making voices and noises. With that, I’m looking forward to playing.
Sweet Shaper is unique in that it’s actually not unique at all. In fact, Mattel essentially made the former “Candy Krusher” back in 1968 (the same year they rolled out Hot Wheels!) – a fact that’s subtly acknowledged in the product description from Toys “R” Us: “The Sweet Shaper™ lets you take ordinary candy and shape it into extraordinary designs! There are 8 candy molds to choose from, including a unicorn, a butterfly and even a working whistle. Toot sweet!”
“Toot sweet!” you say? Indeed, “Toot Sweets” was a song from the 1968 musical film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and that movie spawned TOOT SWEET TASTITOY MACHINE by Mattel. Kids could use Tootsie Rolls to make real whistles, smashing them into molds with a simple, lever-based machine. Look familiar?
I’m actually quite interested in hearing more about how Candy Krusher Sweet Shaper came to be – especially since the resemblance between the 2016 “prototype” (which failed on Kickstarter) and the 1968 TOOT SWEET is uncanny… if not identical. Right down to the look of the molds. You can see a video of the 1968 toy in-action here, but check out these pictures of the molds. The one on the left was found on Worthpoint, while the one on the right is from the Kickstarter last year.
I write about and review toys often, both here at The Rock Father™ Magazine and also over at The Toy Insider, and with that, two toys from THE TOY BOX first crossed my path here at Rock Father HQ back in 2014. Now that the show is wrapped, I can tell you which ones. Araya Ball and EmotiPlush both hit my radar back in 2014, and both of which were being crowdfunded – something I’m very cautious about when covering here on the site (since asking for money veers more “advertorial” and less “news”). While neither made it into my virtual pages three years ago, I’m telling you about them now, and you can order each directly from their makers.
So what’s next for THE TOY BOX? A second season is currently in-development, with the initial open casting call having just-wrapped. Rumor has it they’re eyeing a summer shoot, which would put season two on-track for a spring 2018 debut – though nothing firm has been announced. I have some ideas for how they can really take the show to the next level, but I’m going to keep those cards close to my chest. In the meantime, check out Toys “R” Us to get your hands on Artsplash 3D Liquid Art, Sweet Shaper and Noisy Persons!