Elliot Rudell, Inventor of Upwords, WetHead, Geo Trax and More, Talks about the Journey

by Elliot Rudell | 09 Feb 2022

Biographies and Interviews

Elliot has been in the toy industry more than 50 years, beginning his career at Mattel Toys and then (crazily and without much of a clue) early-deciding to launch out on his own as an independent product designer and then inventor. Rudell Design LLC has been in business since 1975.



What exactly do you do in the industry?

I’m a toy and game inventor, a salesman (to our clients, although it took me years to admit that), an in-and-out-of-closet seat-of-my-pants attorney (as I’ve written and negotiated most of our license agreements and most of our 167 patents), and a professional pest (to our clients) when I believe in something.


Do you have a mantra that you live by?

Calling it a mantra is minimizing its radioactive, eternal truth, but I get the question.

Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”


Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

Senior year at Pratt Institute my excessively-too-insane lifestyle exhausted my more than sufficient college scholarships and drove me to the college career placement office, where the very next day a job notice came in seeking “an industrial designer with a whimsical graphic flair”.


What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?

Creativity is spiritual and therefore invigorating and constantly lit up and alive with energy and with challenges. Also earning a living helps keep me pounding away.


(Elliot and Robyn Rudell)

What was your favorite project(s) to date?

1. UPWORDS® – the word game I invented 200 years ago and to which I am happily addicted, and

  1. WETHEAD® - our insane get-wet project and property, which – along with UPWORDS - to this day manage to remain active and progressing and happily happening – evolving from plastic to successful apps and internet presence, and, in the case of WETHEAD, all the way even into AR and VR gaming potential, and
  2. GEO TRAX and all of my company’s many other tracksets and track systems (PLAYSKOOL EXPRESS, SESAME STREET ROADWAYS AND RAILWAYS, etc, etc,) that launched our industry into preschool wireless-control vehicle track systems. It’s not every day a multi-hundred million dollar category gets birthed AFTER you have sat in a meeting hearing execs say: “there’s no such thing as preschool radio or IR controlled tracksets” - and then you get to make that happen. THAT is exhilarating. BTW – PLAYSKOOL EXPRESS was NOT wireless control, but that project was the birth-point for the rest of the multi-brand, multi-company adventure that included Mattel, FP, Hasbro, Tyco Playtime, RC2, San Francisco Toymakers, and others.



What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?

Kids loving FUN excites me.

They want a FUN experience (now including social media post-ability, etc.) – meanwhile and happily - branding and property-license association plays second fiddle to the non-negotiable truth that kids wanna have fun.

Buyers who last month bought shower curtains or flat screens and then position themselves as toy experts worries me.

Although it’s nothing new, the unstoppable and understandable morph to big box and huge mega merchandise stores sometimes causes the FUN FACTOR (a kid’s priority) to slip into lower regard, and that leads to property license prioritizing, which can result in less-fun products. Thankfully some of our toy clients continue to look for the FUN stuff, even as they also address the advantages of property licensing.


What kind of people have worked with you over the years, contributing to your success and your toy industry experience?

From the very get-go, I was surrounded by a bunch of hard-working and brilliantly talented (crazy) folks who brought and still bring to the Rudell Design party all sorts of talents and skills that I either did/do not personally possess, or did not have the bandwidth to myself put forth as I was busy with all the other necessary business-stuff. It takes a team, and I’ve had a great team and I am thankful for and to them all.


What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?

  1. Since you asked, I would be remiss to not state this first:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6  - whether or not someone chooses to believe and observe that truth, it remains intact and real.

  1. Find something you love to do and do it with all your heart, understanding that sometimes the path to finding your final career destination has twists and turns and a couple of walls into which you will surely bump. But the journey is priceless. Enjoy the journey.
  2. Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. You’ll do best there.

(Elliot and Robyn - early years)

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