Last Thursday I went to see a screening of the documentary Toyland and I’m pretty sure the audience was completely aware until the end that the theatre was packed with notable inventors and industry executives! The movie was being shown as part of the Naperville Film Festival and because the Chicagoland area is a huge hub for toy and game invention a bunch of the stars of the movie attended including: Burt Meyer (the inventor of Lite Brite and much more), John Spinello (inventor of Operation), Mike Hirtle (Head of Product Acquisition at Hasbro), Peggy Brown (inventor of Q-Bitz and Backseat Drawing) and Toyland‘s main character and narrator, Tim Walsh (inventor of Blurt! and TriBond). The movie went on to win Best Documentary and I HIGHLY recommend you get a copy and watch it. The movie follows Tim Walsh through the process of trying to license his invention “Crazy Chins” while also interviewing some of the industry’s super-star inventors. Now it’s my turn to interview the star of the show, Tim Walsh:
1. What made you take on this project?
The director, Ken Sons, bought my book Timeless Toys and thought that a film based on toy inventors could be a compelling documentary film. I, of course, jumped at the chance to sit down with Betty James, Eddy Goldfarb, Reyn Guyer, Burt Meyer and other legendary toy and game developers. They are so unknown and unappreciated. I also thought it would be really fun to pull back the curtain on a really fun segment of our industry and show people the struggles, triumphs and history behind toy inventing.
Above right is Tim Walsh signing a copy of his book Timeless Toys for John Spinello after the movie.
2. Which was your favorite or most memorable interview?
It’s impossible to pick just one. Hanging out with Betty James for a day was amazing. I am thankful for that time because she passed away before the film was completed. We dedicated Toyland to her. Burt Meyer took us up in his plane. John Spinello’s wife made us the best dinner any of us had ever tasted. Filming inside Big Monster Toys was a thrill. All the shoots were just awesome. It was a real privilege.
Above right is Tim Walsh, Betty James (developer of Slinky), and Ken Sons
3. Was there anything you wanted to include in the movie but got left on the cutting room floor?
Yes, we went to the Wiffle Ball factory in Shelton, CT and interviewed David A. Mullany and his sons, who now run the business. David was 13 years old in 1954 when he inspired his dad (David N. Mullany) to create the iconic ball. I personally LOVED Wiffle ball as a kid and it was a real thrill to talk with them and see Wiffle Balls being made, but Ken (the director) really thought that the film needed to come in at under 70 minutes and so we cut that entire segment. We plan to produce a deluxe DVD in the future with that deleted scene and some other goodies included.
4. What was your favorite childhood toy or game?
Wiffle Ball was right up there. I was a big Nerf football fan too, so talking with Reyn Guyer was cool. My earliest toy memory was playing with Play-Doh, so hanging out with Kay and Bob Zufall, who named that toy and inspired its creation, was awesome.
My favorite part of the evening (beyond the movie itself) was hearing Tim Walsh call Mike Hirtle “trailer trash” because he’s in the movie’s trailer. See below. Mike really does have the best line in the whole movie when he says “I love this business.” I couldn’t agree more!
To Buy Toyland: CLICK HERE
To Visit the Toyland Website: CLICK HERE
To Visit the Toyland Facebook Page: CLICK HERE