The Friday Five: Blake Wright

The Friday Five: Blake Wright

There are some toys that are just too expensive, strange, or complicated to produce. These toys never had the chance to earn Cabbage Patch Doll status because they never saw the light of day. The bumpy road of toy development is littered with toys that consumers never had a chance to see. Journalist Blake Wright is changing that. Blake is producing Toys That Time Forgot, an art book showcasing toys that never were. In this edition of The Friday Five, Blake talks about the book (currently being funded through Kickstarter) and what it’s like to talk to people about their failures.

What inspired you to write Toys That Time Forgot?

I’m writing Toys That Time Forgot because this is a book I want to read but hasn’t been done before.

The Friday Five

How has littleplasticmen informed Toys That Time Forgot?

When I was publishing my online magazine littleplasticmen in 2014, I included a column called Prototypically Unproductive. The column featured toys that had a short shelf-life or weren’t released at all. The stories are fascinating so I wanted to expand on them. The magazine was the genesis of the idea and I think a beautiful art book is the perfect vehicle for the subject matter.

The Friday Five

What is one of the more absurd toys covered in Toys That Time Forgot?

I don’t know that there’s anything absurd in the book but one of my favourite stories revolves around Krull, a sci-fi movie from 1983.

The now-defunct Knickerbocker Toys (famous for producing Holly Hobby and Raggedy Ann toys) had a licensing agreement to produce action figures based on the movie. Kenner Products made a lot of money from Star Wars merchandise and other toy manufacturers wanted to find similar success. Knickerbocker was developing toys while the movie was being filmed. They planned action figures and a couple of playsets. Word got back to them that Krull was not going to be the next Star Wars and was, in fact, not a very good movie at all. Knickerbocker scrapped the entire line. It didn’t help that the company was about to be bought by Hasbro. No one wanted to take that kind of risk.

I met with one of the artists that worked on that line along with a Knickerbocker VP. They saved items from the project so I captured those in the book. This type of toy history is at risk of being lost. The guys from Knickerbocker were in their 30s when they worked there. They are now in their 70s. It’s really important to me to document this history while I still can.

The Friday Five

What has surprised you the most during the process of writing the book?

Toys That Time Forgot is an art book; I’m surprised that a book on this topic hasn’t been done before.  I’m also surprised by the enthusiasm other’s have for the project. Two years ago I took a 20-page sample of the book to New York Toy Fair. My goal of the trip was to have people talk me out of writing the book. But no one did! I took the pages to my industry contacts at the show and they all loved it. In fact, they offered to help me in any way they could. I got back on the plane to return home excited to write the book.

The Friday Five

You live in a 25-ft Airstream trailer. What does that mean for your toy collection?

Life in an Airstream means that I have a very small toy collection at the moment.

My wife and I decided to radically simplify our lives a few years ago. We wanted to get rid of all the things we had accumulated over the years and travel. That meant downsizing my toy collection. I have kept a small collection of prototypes and I do pick up action figures now and again. I’m more of a catch-and-release collector. I love the hunt but I don’t keep most things for very long. My nephews are the beneficiaries. That makes them happy.

We’ve set-up the trailer near Houston, Texas for a couple of months. I’m working on the layout of the book and want to focus on that before we pick up and travel again in the spring.

The Friday Five

You can help Blake make this book happen. Donate to Toys That Time Forgot on Kickstarter.

Look into the minds of movers and shakers in the play industry – five questions, one fascinating person.