by Paul Fish | 12 Apr 2021
Industry Commentary, Op-Ed
I am posting some anecdotes about a number of my favorite toys I've worked on in my career.
Toy Stories Chapter 4: Hot Wheels Track System
The More You Get, the Bigger Your Set! We thought it was high time to bring construction play back into the Hot Wheels Track experience, like when we were kids. Fortunately, we had the ultimate track-master in Eric Ostendorff, who created a system of track parts, stunts and Power Chargers so kids could create their own sets. An early challenge was that we felt that it was essential for the brand to have powered play in the initial purchase, and it was nearly impossible to create a powered set for under $20 retail, but retailers wanted a $12.99 price point for the spring. So, I sat in my cubicle assembling parts from our Power Loop TV set to create a simple oval. I used folded cardboard to make parts fit together, which is obvious to a designer, but I was a marketing guy. Still, it was too big to fit in the target size package. The breakthrough came by cutting down the track pieces in half, making the set’s oval smaller, so not only would it fit the package, but the cars went faster! Win-win! Still, the packaging engineer said there was no way all the parts would fit. However, I had mapped it out already, so I asked him to build the box anyway. Sure enough, it fit with not a bit of room to spare. No inserts, just product!
Eric took it from there, making everything a real product with real design elements. Best yet, he created the amazing Toy Fair Track Room, with a continuous circuit of track for cars to run on, performing tricks for the delight of our buyers. One Toy Fair, I put together a Home Improvement shtick, and hired twin actresses to be my “Track Girls” for “Track Time” in the Track Room, with the hidden agenda to gradually get out of presenting. Instead, the Track Girls were such bad actors that I didn’t get a break the whole week. Served me right!