First, thanks to all of you who voted for me – it just wasn’t my year. I will say, I’m okay losing to Susan McKinley Ross; she’s a great inventor and her game Qwirkle won the Spiel des Jahres, so it only seems fitting that she took home the trophy! Congratulations Susan!
Despite my loss, the evening was quite a success! Again it was held at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and this year the museum is hosting a Dr. Seuss exhibit which was quite cool! Dinner even had a Seuss theme to it – Roast Beast and Thing 1, Thing 2 desserts! I got pretty lucky and sat with fellow nominee Rory O’Conner who was nominated for the Rising Star award for his invention Rory’s Story Cubes. We also sat with some new inventors and the always-funny Jason Schneider from Gamewright. Even more impressive (sorry Rory & Jason!) during the ceremony I sat by Alan Hassenfeld, retired chairman of Hasbro and grandson of Harry Hassenfeld, who began Hasbro with his brother Helal. Actually it started as “Hassenfeld Brothers” which got shortened to Hasbro in the 1960s – but seriously, could you imagine what it would be like to grow up in such a prominent toy family?! I’d love to pick his brain for an hour!
Onto the ceremony, Tim Walsh was an AMAZING host (again)! Tim’s the inventor of Blurt! and co-inventor of TriBond and did a little film called TOYLAND but I really think his calling is hosting awards shows! The keynote of the evening was given by Richard Levy (at left), who has been an inventor in the toy and game industry for more than 35 years and is the co-developer of Furby and the game he’s probably best known for is Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. He also co-wrote “The Toy and Game Inventor’s Handbook” (which I have on my bookshelf) with Ron Weingartner, who I saw during cocktail hour. Seriously, with ~400 guests this year it really was a HUGE industry event packed with some amazing people! During the keynote Richard shared stories from his life as an inventor and talked about the earlier days in the industry. He had a long list of advice for the newbie inventors – and as I’m writing this now, I wish I would have been taking notes but truthfully I was too nervous to think about it.
After Richard’s legnthy keynote, the awards began and the winners are as follows:
Excellence in Toy Design • Marty Abrams & Joel Rosenzweig, Fyr Flyz
Excellence in Game Design • Susan McKinley Ross, Qwirkle
Rising Star Inventor • Blake English, The Air Swimmers
Young Inventor of the Year • Greyson MacLean, BrickStix (and if you didn’t see him on Conan, you must watch! HERE)
Excellence in Electronic Adaptation of an Existing Toy or Game • Tom Liddell, Top Trumps
Hassenfeld Family Initiatives Humanitarian Award • Sir Torquil Norman (who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2007 and is best known for Polly Pocket)
In Memoriam Recognitions:
Elliot Handler (founder of Mattel)
James Becker (developer of Gumby & Pokey, Barrel of Monkeys, and Othello)
Lifetime Achievement Award • Burt Meyer
Burt started his career at Marvin Glass and Associates in the mid 1950s and retired after founding Meyer/Glass Design (where I started my career). He is responsible for some pretty classic inventions: Lite Brite, Mouse Trap, Toss Across, Rock’Em Sock’Em and many others. Great story about Lite Brite is that it was licensed to Merrill Hassenfeld (the president of Hasbro at the time and Alan Hassenfeld’s father) the day it was shown. Burt demonstrated the prototype to Merrill; he tried it and said “That’s my Item!” Marvin Glass and Merrill got the deal done the same day.
Amazing! — which also pretty much sums up the whole evening!