Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
My entry into the Toy and Game industry comprised a multi-stage transition. While I was performing magic acts and escapes throughout the world, I continually invented new illusions and unique FX for my shows. Those inventions led me to consult for advertising agencies and entertainment studios to inject illusionary elements into their marketing stunts and promotions. Subsequently, I began working with the agencies that pitched kids’ meal toys to the quick-serve restaurant chains such as Burger King, McDonald’s, etc. This presentation work then led our team to create kids’ meal toy concepts and become regarded as one of the world’s leading design companies in that field. We soon asked ourselves, “How much more gratifying would it be to invent toys that cost more than 30 cents to produce?” The answer simple: we loved it! Since that critical crossroads, we have continued to grow and haven’t stopped inventing!
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
I cringe when I think of the major toy companies’ heavy reliance on entertainment licenses and their respective legacy/core brands. Licensing is certainly an important part of their business, but it is risky to over-invest in properties and under-invest in the creation of new controlled brands. I don’t say this to demean the power of licensing in generating sales for product lines but, to me, it’s merely one wheel on the wagon.
What advice can you give to inventors?
No single idea should be too precious. Create lots and lots of ideas, don’t count the money that has not yet been paid! Assume you will miss far more often than you will hit. In addition, inventors should anticipate a comprehensive process: 1) create a cool idea; 2) expand the idea; 3) explore the reasons and try to find the answers for why your audience may reject the idea; 4) pitch to secure positive or negative feedback; 5) pitch, pitch and pitch again; 6) exhilaration, frustration, exhilaration, frustration; 7) get paid or start over at the first step!
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I loved to draw and take toys apart when I was a kid, but I suppose I will always have a fondness in my heart for the first magic set I ever received. It had the Chinese sticks and nickels-and-dimes trick inside. Such simple items put me on a path to learning how to present an idea. With a trick, you must sell the idea that something amazing is happening (much like a toy pitch).
What does your typical day look like?
I’m up early and arrive at our offices by 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. to prep and create seed concepts. I also do my calls and Skype sessions with European clients and partners in the morning. Next, I review our team’s work from the previous day before diving into the day’s key tasks. To end the day, I do my calls and Skype sessions with clients and partners in Australia and Asia.
What inspires you?
Everything! Travel, Google searches, brainstorming books, field trips, our team, my friends, retail walk-throughs, zoos, theme parks and so much more. I find inspiration in most everything I do.
Where were you born?
Madrid, Spain. My dad served in the Air Force, and was stationed in Spain until I was three years of age.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up in the Sacramento and Roseville area of Northern California. I was a “big fish” as a performer in a small pond, and I believe that helped me to learn and gain confidence before I moved into a bigger pond and became a little fish.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
In the early years of running my company, I lacked management experience. I believed that leading by example would do the trick. I soon learned it is only part of the management equation. Over the years I have made it a priority to utilize a mix of tried-and-true management techniques as well as emerging techniques.
What do you read every day, and why?
On a daily basis, I read articles pertaining to cultural trends. Once a trend is in motion, there isn’t much opportunity to pin it to a toy idea due to the development and production window. So I read about trends in an effort to forecast future trends.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I love my interactive video wall! It’s a 20-foot, touch-controlled screen that keeps me organized. I’m a visual person, and I use it to brainstorm with the team and conduct my own ideations.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
When I or our collective team is creatively stalled on a project, I quickly switch the context and perspective. If the trail we’re blazing is leading to a dead end, I pull back and create new paths. In doing so, I seek unique and random stimuli, and try to force-associate the new idea with the random element. When nothing seems to work, I will temporarily forget the project, do some type of physical activity and restart with a fresh perspective.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
We laugh every day as we watch our team’s daily concept videos: the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes, even the silliest of ideas can turn out to be creative gold.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have a beagle named Gracie. We feature her in some of our clients’ social media videos. Her stage name is “Bow Wow the Magic Dog.”
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I’m not sure if this is a guilty pleasure, but it’s very rewarding to watch people enjoy a product that I have invented. It’s an absolute thrill!
What’s your favorite cereal?
Cinnamon Life. Is there any other cereal in the aisle?
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
I notice how people carry themselves. I believe you can learn much about a person before ever speaking to them.
What is your eye color?
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
I love any movie in which the underdog prevails in the end. Films such as Rocky and The Shawshank Redemption are great analogies for the invention business. The little guy is up against the tough world and, if he or she never gives up, ultimately wins!
Summer or Winter?
A little bit of both. I like summer nights and winter days.
Hugs or Kisses?
This depends on the hugger or kisser!
What’s your favorite TV show?
My favorite is America’s Got Talent. I love to see people push themselves to make their dreams come true. And I’m a sucker for variety acts!
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
As a performer and member of the toy industry, I have been fortunate to have traveled all over the world! I use these experiences to inspire new ways of thinking and plenty of crazy ideas.
Do you have any special talents?
I perform magic tricks, and I can also draw.
What are your hobbies?
My work actually serves as a hobby. Beyond that, I love photography.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I was young, I proclaimed to anyone who would listen that I wanted to be a “cartoonist/magician/toy inventor.” So far, so good!
Our company is now getting heavily involved in the production of entertainment content. We have several new shows in different phases of production. Of course, each of these shows will have amazing toys!