My name is Kedar, I am one of the past winners of the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (CHITAG for short). At the start of the pandemic, I met Mr. Gene Murtha, a veteran in the toy industry, and a very respected and well-known person within Mattel. Mr. Gene, my mentor, and Ms. Mary Couzin, the director of CHITAG, honored me by selecting me as an Ambassador for young inventors. The toy industry is one of the biggest industries today, with over 30 billion dollars earned in 2021 alone. Whilst there are countless companies and inventors competing for attention in the market, one company has managed to stand out from the rest. Mattel is the largest toy company in the world, and as such, they hold many secrets from the rest of the industry. As an Ambassador, I got the rare and amazing opportunity to be given a tour right in the heart of Mattel Headquarters.
There are two places which together form Headquarters – the main building and the Design Center. The first thing I noticed about the main building was its sheer height, as it towered above all the surroundings! Inside there were various displays of Mattel products. For example, there were two robot figurines fighting at the window, and there was an ice cream truck barbie café. I think the best showcase was their Hot Wheels display - Mattel dedicated an entire wall to displaying all the Hot Wheels car models Mattel has ever made. There were Jets, Cybertrucks, Sports Cars, Tanks, Trucks and so many other unique vehicles!
After marveling at all the displays up close, I boarded a private Mattel bus to reach the “Design Center”. The design center is also a large building, except instead of showcasing unique Mattel products, the design center is the place Mattel makes those products.
The very first thing I saw when I walked in the door was an insanely tall Hot Wheels track. I was told it is not just any ordinary track; rather, it is the largest Hot Wheels track in the whole world! Of course, I was dying to try it. I picked up a few cars and had to climb a flight of stairs to reach the ceiling, because that was where the track started. I could almost feel the excitement the car must have felt as it slid down from the ceiling through a huge loop and zoomed out of the track. Next to the Hot Wheels track was a hallway with Barbie posters plastered along the walls. Mattel calls it the “walk of fame”, because this hallway literally takes you through the history of one of the most famous toys of all time. What I did not anticipate was what came after the hallway. As I went into the hallway from an office, I came out of the hallway in what could only be Santa’s Workshop!
There were hundreds of desks, each one occupied by an accomplished inventor. Since Mattel has to make so many new toys every year, I learned they split up their desks into different groups. There were groups for Jurassic Park, Hot Wheels, Movies, Master of The Universe, and many others. Each desk proudly held dozens of toys, which Mattel says the inventors like because they can see their inventions on their desk go from a small prototype to a finished toy. Can you guess which toy had the most inventors working on it? If you guessed Barbie, you’re right!
Naturally, I learned more about Mattel’s biggest toy and pride, Barbie Dolls. Barbie is a modern symbol of fashion, having even been featured in the front page of the Vogue Magazine. Making Barbie dolls is a very sophisticated process. To start, the face of the doll is made and painted. Next, there is a team which adds hair to the model. At the end of the whole process, each Barbie ends up having hundreds of strands of hair on her head!
So, I just told you about Hot Wheels and Barbie, but what about the technological side of Mattel? To create all their realistic figurines and movie characters, Mattel uses a very expensive and interesting machine. This machine has over 50 cameras and takes hundreds of different angles of a person. There is then a piece of software which takes these pictures and sends them to a computer, which can then 3D Print miniature versions of this model. But that isn’t all Mattel does to make their action figures - they also have a room filled with dozens of fabrication machines! When I entered this magical room, I could hear the flowing of gas, the whirs of saw blades, the blasts of lasers, and the sparkling flames of welding. The head manager of those machines, whose name is Mr. Bobby, showed me a model of a Star Wars Spaceship they made using these machines. I learned that the 3D Printer creates thousands of tiny support beams inside the spaceship to hold it together. This was perhaps the most classified and top-secret place in Mattel yet, and I came out feeling like a special agent!
As I was wrapping up my tour, I went to one of the only places in Mattel that doesn’t focus on making models and toys. This place was so quiet that I could pins drop. In a way, this room isolated me from the background noises we hear in the normal world. I have heard of rooms like this but never experienced one myself, which was a mind-boggling moment. I learned how to strum a guitar, or at least attempted to.
I concluded my tour by going into the Masters of the Universe room. This room, much like all the other rooms at the design center, was no ordinary room. The walls and ceiling looked exactly like He-Man’s castle. I could also see old toys from the 80s and toys from today and observed how Mattel slowly improved their quality. I also met Mr. Ed in this room, who then took me outside of the room. Quite interestingly, I had looped back to the very place I started my tour, at the entrance to the design center. He presented me with an honorary certificate that cemented my position as an ambassador for CHITAG. So cool!
This tour was incredible, and I saw so many cool, wacky, and mind-blowing things. I even had a delicious custom-made lunch from their head chef! Thanks to Mr. Murtha and Ms. Couzins for giving me this amazing opportunity, and for Steve Totke, James Brittain, Stefan Skripak, Heide Waldorf, Bobby Coleman, Kevin Cao, Dan Leahy, Russel Dixon, Romy Erickson Ed Duncan, and Kensie Sanchez for their hospitality in showing me around Mattel Headquarters. From the world’s biggest Hot Wheels track to a perfect audio room, I certainly had a long and amazing journey. I learned from Mattel the importance of not only being proud of your work, but always trying and being passionate. Never give up, keep making new toys every month and some day you will be successful!
Santa’s Workshop is one of the most magical places on earth. After all, billions of amazing toys are produced there, and every elf produces magical and wonderous toys! Sadly, Santa’s Workshop is just a myth told to small children on Christmas. But what if I told you, it is in fact real and has sold over 1 billion toys? JMP Creative is a toy company located in Los Angeles. It was founded by Jim McCafferty and has sold over 1 billion units in the market. While Mattel, the worlds largest toy company, has many interesting displays of their famous toys, JMP takes it to the next level.
My name is Kedar Narayan, and I am a winner of the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (CHITAG). Two years ago, I met Mr. Gene Murtha, a respected member of Mattel. He and the organizer of CHITAG, Ms. Mary Couzin have selected me to be an ambassador for young inventors, and part of this honor is a tour of JMP. In this report, I will be sharing with you all the mind-boggling machines and rooms I saw at JMP headquarters, which is so incredible that I have concluded it must be none other than Santa’s Workshop!
To start with, what kind of entrance would JMP have? Obviously a giant, robotic, talking bear right? Jim said the bear used to work in the circus, but now he greets guests at JMP. He even told me that if I related this to anyone they would not believe me, and I have to agree with him on that. After meeting the talking bear, Jim took me to the main office space of JMP. You see, JMP is a group of inventors who work day and night creating new toys, so naturally JMP is an inventor’s paradise. Right in the middle of the main offices was a huge television screen, it was perhaps 3 times bigger than a standard TV. Jim said this screen is used to make the wall look like anything you want. For example, if someone is working on a game about penguins, then they can make the wall look like Antarctica. JMP also has a meeting room. This room contained one, enormous table which Jim says is where JMP films their commercials and presents their games.
JMP does not only have interesting office spaces though. Jim took me through a secret door which led me into a misty room with a grassy ground. With the flick of a lever, I began to hear the roars of dinosaurs! Then, a UFO model in the ceiling started making a light show by projecting red lasers all over the dark room. It lasted around a minute and ended with a simple clap of the hands by Jim. Jim told me making this incredible room took him and his team over 6 months to put together.
Just when I thought the tour was over, Jim led me to another door within the secret room. I was shocked when I entered, there were projectors on every wall. Jim says this was the imagination room. He pulled out an app on his iPad and turned on a video, which was then projected on every wall. I literally had a 360-degree view of the video, Jim describes it as “shared virtual reality”. We saw elephants, racecars, and even an overhead view of New York City. When I asked Jim how he came up with all these ideas, he revealed to me that he is known as a master illusionist. An illusionist is like a magician, but they do tricks on a grander scale, as Jim demonstrated. He then proceeded to teach me how to do a card trick, which I will certainly practice 50 times, just as he instructed.
Overall, I absolutely loved JMP Creative. With a man as passionate and excitable as Jim McCafferty, it is no wonder JMP is so successful. Jim taught me the importance of always following your passion, and remembering no goal is too crazy or big to achieve. On the outside, JMP looks like any small office building, but on the inside is a level of wonder which can only be Santa’s Workshop.
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