Have you ever dreamed of creating a hit children’s toy? With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s hard not to ponder what toys will be huge hits this year. Whether it’s Cabbage Patch Kids or the latest Nintendo Game, there’s a “gotta-have” children’s product each season. And I think Russell Hornsby’s “Zhu Zhu Pets” will be that toy in 2009. Hornsby is a seasoned veteran of the toy’s industry, having worked for Mattel and several other smaller toy companies. Why are kids so wild about the pets?
“Kids love pets – there’s a very rich pattern of children’s play with rodents. And many children’s toys allow them to create fantastic universes. We combined these two elements into one toy; Zhu Zhu pets look incredibly realistic and have been programmed to act at random. And we’ve also designed this magic world for them to inhabit, with cars and ramps, boats and planes, wheels and balls,” explained Hornsby.
Hornsby knew he didn’t want to create another “watch me” toy. Children can design the Zhu Zhu environment and take delight in the hamster’s random actions. As Hornsby put it, “We wanted kids to ask, ‘What will they do next?’”
“We wanted kids to explore new play patterns, which we felt had been missing from the industry for a while. The product is a mix of that Stuart Little factor and the type of play-building products like Legos has. We mixed them into one and dropped in little magical elements,” Hornsby explained.
I certainly see what he means. The pets are dynamic and entertaining; kids aren’t just building a world from imagination and they aren’t just watching a robotic animal. The idea for Zhu Zhu Pets arose last October and the first tests were conducted in May.
“The product has had a series of hurdles, but we’re so excited about the future. I’ve been in the toy industry for many years, but I’ve never experienced the fervor of what might be a hit toy. We can’t produce them fast enough. As a parent, I know how frustrating and annoying it is to wait in lines and to search for a product that immediately runs out. We’re trying to avoid doing that to our customers as best we can!”
For those that are interested in working in the toy industry, Hornsby recommends getting your feet wet working for a small company first.
“At a smaller company, you’re more likely to get individual attention from a mentor or boss. You’ll gain a better idea of what actually works and what doesn’t. And it’s also about finding the right group of people to work with; the toy industry is about stamina!” Visit Zhu Zhu Pets Website.
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed
over 20 products in the past 30 years. Along with business partner
Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight,
a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas
and the skills needed to succeed. You can listen to the weekly radio show on inventing. Get In The News, list your invention to have media outlets find you for news stories.