I was invited by Disney to attend this event. All of my expenses were paid, but I promise all opinions are my own.
While in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I had the awesome opportunity to preview ABC’s new show, The Toy Box and sit down with Mentor Jen Tan to chat about the show and what we can expect this season. The Toy Box is the ultimate toy-competition series, providing talented designers with the chance of a lifetime: an opportunity to bring their toy concept to life. Hosted by Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), the toys – and their inventors – are put through a series of trials and tests before facing the ultimate judges – a panel of no-nonsense, toy-loving kids. The Toy Box will premiere on ABC Friday, April 7th at 8/7c. Be sure to tune in.
As a mentor on the show, Jen looks for specific things in a toy before sending it to The Toy Box where the judges will determine if the toy goes on to the finals or not. She shares that there are a lot of different things in a really good toy and it is hard for her and the other mentors because they’re adults and sometimes they can forget what its like being a kid and how to play. She is looking for toys that are not a one trick pony so you can play with it multiple times and there’s various ways to play with it. She has a 2 year old so it is important to her that she gives her daughter toys that she can play with multiple times. She also thinks about whether a toy gives the children an opportunity to be creative or allows them to have a lot of fun. She loves that this show showcases toys that are not tech related and are more classic toys, too!
In each show, there are numerous toys presented and only a few make it to The Toy Box and then only one makes it to the finals. There are eight episodes total in the season. 7 of which are where the toy inventors present their ideas and then a few make it to The Toy Box and then one gets picked for the finale. Then, the last episode is the finale where the ultimate winner will be picked to have their toy made by Mattel. The night that the finale airs, the winning toy will be available online and then in Toys R Us stores the next day.
What happens to those toys that are presented but either not sent to The Toy Box or not sent to the finale? Jen Tan wasn’t sure but we are hopeful that there are other toymakers out there that will pick up some of these ideas and share ways to make it better and/or manufacture it. We also learned that the Mentors and the Kids (judges) get no sort of input from each other. The kids make the decision on their own. The only guidance that the kids receive is from Eric Stonestreet to assist in the conversations that the kids have with the toy inventors and each other.
How did Jen get involved? ABC reached out to Pixar and asked if there was anyone who could possibly be a mentor on a show about toys. She’s in every episode and is really enjoying her time with this show. Jen also shared that we see all of the toys that are presented to the mentors and kids but we don’t see the entire time that is spent with each toy inventor. They spend about 30 minutes with each toy inventor but we see a small snippet of that.
Jen got involved in toy design early in her life and career. She went to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) for a two-year toy design program and then started off as a toy designer. She then went on to work with Disney Consumer Products and then Spin Master before coming to Pixar. She had also never been on TV before this and said that it was very nerve-wracking. She said that there is a lot of make-up on her and wardrobe so that was pretty cool. She said that she doesn’t normally get up that early to get ready — too funny. It was very enlightening to be a part of the show because she loved talking with the inventors for an extended amount of time. She said that there is so much that she didn’t realize that goes into a TV show and the entire time was hard working.
I loved hearing that Jen’s favorite toy as a kid was Texas Instrument’s Speak and Spell which they don’t make anymore. English was not her first language and she attributes learning English and spelling to that toy because she was obsessed with it. She says that there is a lot of gaps in toys that she doesn’t know how to fill. She hopes that this show will bring some innovation and help fill those gaps. In the toy industry, they’re always looking for newness and innovative products.
Episode 101 Information
The first episode will be on ABC tonight and features a variety of toy creations like a multicultural singing doll, Wacky Worm, Party Cannon, and more! These toy makers compete to be the winning Toy to be made by Mattel and sold exclusively at Toys“R”Us® after series finale. The host of this show is Eric Stonestreet from ‘Modern Family.’
“Episode 101” – The premiere of the ultimate toy-competition series, “The Toy Box,” airing on FRIDAY, APRIL 7 (8:00–9:00 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network, features five passionate amateur inventors who have put their hearts, souls and a lot of money into their unique toy concepts with hopes of impressing the mentors and making it to The Toy Box where young, no-nonsense judges determine if they will earn the chance to compete for the grand prize.
This week’s toy inventions include:
Arya Ball – a reimagining of the soccer ball with special surprises inside
Inventor: Babak from Carlsbad, California
Wacky Worm Racing Game – a racing game where players dressed in a worm costume race to cross the finish line
Inventor: Cedric from Orlando, Florida
Niya Doll – a multicultural doll collection who sings and speaks in multiple languages
Inventor: Darla from Columbia, South Carolina
Swurfer – a backyard swing inspired by a surfboard
Inventor: Rob from Charleston, South Carolina
Party Cannon – a party game that launches toys, prizes and candy
Inventor: Rick from Miami Springs, Florida
In each episode of “The Toy Box,” inventors present their toy concepts to a group of mentors that include Dylan’s Candy Bar owner Dylan Lauren, toy guru Jim Silver and Pixar creative director of Consumer Products, Jen Tan. If the toy maker gets past the mentors, they will move on to The Toy Box where a panel of young, no-holds-barred judges that include 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”) decide which toy moves on to the finals and eventually crowned the winner. That winning toy will be sold exclusively at Toys“R”Us® after the series finale.
“The Toy Box” is from Mattel, Hudsun Media and Electus. Michael Rourke, Chris Grant, Drew Buckley, Richard Dickson, Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, Julia Pistor, Susan House and Hamilton South are executive producers.