Chris Lutchen, Director of Design, TOMY International: G force passion for design

by TOMY | 15 Dec 2022

Biographies and Interviews


You've been in the toy industry for over twenty years. Were you always interested in toy design?  

I've been tinkering with toys since I was a child: I used to de-construct vehicles, action figures, games, VCRs, bikes, etc. to see if I could customize them or get them to perform better. In college, I decided against being a pilot minoring in business, and switched my major to Industrial Design where my professor remarked that I "thought like a toy designer." I started my career with an invention house in Chicago, and then took a job at RC2 designing preschool toys. I’ve had experience in distribution with impulse toys and was a Creative Director at a large-scale immersive experience company. Today at TOMY, my responsibilities continue to challenge my creativity across a wide range of toy, vehicle, game, collectible, baby, and plush categories. 


You have only two design tools you can take to a master challenge? Which two are you choosing?

Keynote and Photoshop.  Utilizing those 2 tools, one can create a vision to be understood by any audience.


How do you stay inspired to create things month after month? How do you inspire your team? '

Stay a kid in your head' is what I encourage my team to do. It's challenging because we can lose touch with playfulness as an adult: It takes practice. Watch kids shows, spend time with children and pursue your creative passions. I have a fantastic team with many talents and am so lucky. I honestly believe that we can achieve anything we dream up.


You are a collector. What do you collect?

Mostly action figures, but I also have a collection of vehicles and games that are beyond the space I have to display them all. Of those, the higher end action figures from Japan are brilliant with the creative ways they approach articulation to achieve natural looking, heroic poses. I am a Marvel guy, and my collection of those figures extends into the unique approach toy companies have taken over the years to add innovation.


You have two teenage sons. Were you the cool dad when they were growing up? Did they share your passion?

Well, I like to think I am STILL the “cool dad”. When my boys were younger, they were very into Pokémon which I was working on at the time. All their friends would come over and see the prototypes I was testing and say “Your dad designs toys?!? That is so cool!” I spared them the boring hard work part, and only shared info that would feed into the glamourous image they had in their mind.


Build-a-Buddy Transformers Optimus Prime

You're a pilot who once flew in a dogfight experience? How did you get interested in flying and what was that dog fight flight like? 

It was an incredible experience that was gifted by my wife and kids for Father’s Day one year. I sat in training for a few hours to understand the acrobatic aircraft and extreme G force I would encounter.  I suited up and then flew against another pilot with simulated weapons and targeting.  When I succeeded in taking down my opponent, there was a huge plume of smoke they programmed to come out of the other aircraft which told everyone on the ground who the winner was. I experienced about 5-6 G’s during the fight, and thankfully didn’t pass out!


Did you have mentors throughout your career? Did they just show up or did you seek them out?

My mentors throughout my career have been leaders from different disciplines. It is important to understand how all the spokes on the wheel turn to move down the road, and I have always sought out different perspectives from all sides of the business.


Best business advice?

Understand your audience and what excites them.


Worst business advice?

Sticking with an idea that isn’t received well by a broader audience.  There may be the ultra-rare occasion where you can rework something to succeed but moving on to the next better idea usually bears sweeter fruit.


Did you learn anything new about yourself during the pandemic?

Time is fleeting.  If you don’t approach projects and initiatives with a sense of urgency, you could miss out on opportunities. Speed is so important in today’s world, so if you want something to happen, you need to drive it with passion.


What are you excited about in TOMY's 2023 line that your team has worked on?

Bebé Fuerte is an exciting new baby line inspired by LatinX culture all about moving. We are teaming up with social fitness influencer and Peloton's VP of Fitness Programming and Head Instrustor Robin Arzόn. YumiAmi is a line of soft dolls focused on empowerment and inclusivity that are just adorable. Peeky Pops are collectible plush fidgets that hit that sweet spot of fun and comfort that is so important right now. We also have some great John Deere preschool items with one being our Build-a-Buddy line targeted for toddlers. AND we will be shipping our crowdsourced U.S.S. Enterprise which is incredibly awesome! So many exciting things happening at TOMY!

What was the best last movie or series you've watched?

I enjoyed House of the Dragon (Game of Thrones). Very well done all around: the characters, costumes, acting, storyline, and cinematography are all top notch.


Three-Four word sentence to describe how you feel about 2023?

Do what excites you.

toy design dogfight industrial design

Tait & Lily, Inventors of Betcha Can't!