On Friday night of Chicago Toy and Game Week, we all attend the TAGIE Awards (Toy and Game Innovation Awards) and this year there I really couldn’t tell who was going to win the category of Game Inventor of the year because there were so many great nominees! (And no.. I’m not going to share who got my vote because it was a very tough choice, but I’m happy for the winner!)
The nominees were (links to Amazon if you don’t know what the game is):
Don Ullman and Steve Calhoun for Soggy Doggy
Jim McCafferty and JMP Creative for Catch the Fox
Seven Towns for Who’s the Dude?
FUSE Oliver Morris for Roller Coaster Challenge
KID Group for Ultra Dash
Top Notch Toys for Fantastic Gymnastics
And the winner was… Don Ullman and Steve Calhoun for Soggy Doggy! It’s well deserved too. Don is a really nice guy (I’ve only met Steve for a second and he seems nice too!) and their soggy dog has such a charming movement when you see it in person. Really, I don’t think any commercial will do it justice, it’s adorable. I’ll also mention that the giant Soggy Doggy at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTAG), was a huge hit! The booth area was always packed with kids wanting to play (and likely get wet!)
The other TAGIE winners were:
Toy Inventor of the Year: Shoot the Moon for BB8
Rising Star of the Year: Joyce Sprau for Flower Fairies Secret Garden
Art and Visuals of the Year: Rory O’Connor and Anita Murphy for The Extraordinaires Design Studio
Marketing Team of the Year: Spin Master for Hatchimals
Young Inventor of the Year: Olivia Wasilewski and Brynna Siewers for Ship of Treasures (Target Only)
Fun note about the winners of the Young Inventor of the Year award; they are the winners of last year’s Young Inventor Challenge at the fair, got their game published by Pressman, and then donated HALF of the money they’ve made to the Lurie’s Children’s Hospital to honor a classmate that died of cancer. Amazing right?
Inventor Advocacy Award – Lisa Guili from Educational Insights
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Lisa for several years — meeting her for the first time at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair — and I’ve always been amazed at how excited he’s been to look at inventor products. Additionally, she’s the driving force behind inventors having their pictures and short bios on the boxes of Educational Insights products. (You can find a picture of me holding a wallaby on the back of the Koala Caper’s box!) She felt that sharing stories about the inventors was a “unique way to give consumers a peek into a creative but often mysterious industry.” You can read more about Lisa Guili on the ChiTAG Blog.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Judy Blau
Judy Blau was a toy inventor who was bed-ridden childhood due to rheumatic fever but had a mother who would wheel her daughter outside so she could still experience childhood. Her imagination and creativity helped her overcome this challenge and started her on a path for a lifetime in the Toy Industry. You can read all about it on the ChiTAG Blog.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Adi Golad
Adi’s story is a pretty amazing one! I’m going to give just a few highlights but if you want to read more there’s a great article on the ChiTAG blog. He had a few childhood successes, but the big turning point in his life was when his wife discovered Rummikub in the Sinai Desert. Adi didn’t have much interest in the game, but his mother-in-law loved it and so did her weekly Scrabble Club who started playing mostly Rummikub. They at first brought 40 games to Holland, but sold out right away. Then they sold their car and bought 500 to bring to Amsterdam and while it was a lot of work, it was the start of their business. After Rummikub, they found Tri-Ominos and penned a deal with Jim Pressman (yes… of Pressman Games) on a napkin at a restaurant in New York. Now their line of games includes titles such as Doggie Doo, Catch the Fox, Word Search, and Shark Bite amongst others… and soon one from your’s truly (and it’s such an honor!!) This year they acquired JAX and they acquired Pressman in 2014.
The presentation Adi’s family put together for the awards was AMAZING and if it gets posted I’ll definitely share it and add it to this article. Michael Kohner (an industry legend and previous lifetime achievement winner. We have Pop-O-Matic thanks to him!) spoke about Adi and said some wonderful things at the ceremony and then hosted a dinner on Adi’s behalf attended by more industry legends. (Yes, I was there but I’m not saying I’m a legend… I’m a couple decades and millions and millions of dollars of products shy of that status! ha!) Still it was wonderful to be invited and the camaraderie in the room is why I love this industry. Friends and competitors all raising a glass to Adi; it was lovely and much deserved. My 2 cents? Adi has always gone out of his way to say hi to me from the first time I met him. Not everyone is so kind to younger inventors (I started on my own in my mid-20s) and for that I will always be grateful.