Toyland: The High Stakes Game of the Toy Industry

by Julia DeKorte | 01 Jul 2022

Book Reviews

Toyland: The High Stakes Game of the Toy Industry, by Sydney Ladensohn Stern and Ted Schoenhaus, combines storytelling with an informative, in-depth exposition of everything to do with the toys and games industry. The storytelling nature encapsulates the two years of design that went into Tyco’s Dino-Riders: starting with the idea popping into Tyco Toys employee Jim Alley on the morning of December 26, 1985, all the way through the day Dino-Riders was first shown to the public: December 26, 1987, and the subsequent Toy Fair it was first shown at: February 8, 1988. Interspersed between the chapters that detail the design process and obstacles overcome by those on the Dino-Riders journey, Stern and Schoenhaus provide a comprehensive history of what they call Toyland: the world that is toys and games.


What is especially unique about Toyland is that it takes readers through the intricate design process: devising the idea and storyline, creating prototypes, presenting it to higher-ups and managers, production, marketing, and advertising, while also providing broader information about the toy industry as a whole. The big-picture perspective that gives readers information about many well-known toy companies and their products enhances the reader experience of rooting for Tyco’s Dino-Rider team, a sort of underdog in an industry that is controlled by the big names: Hasbro, Mattel, Coleco, and their affiliated toys: G.I. Joe, Barbie, Cabbage Patch Kids, etc.


The history Toyland provides is especially rich, in many instances telling the story of famous toys from their origin as ideas through their peak of success as a product. The people introduced from each company — CEOS, presidents, designers, engineers, marketers, engineers — they’re all described with such detail that they become characters with memorable attributes that complement the storytelling. The history of many companies is established, from their beginnings in a garage through becoming a public company with thousands of employees. The dependable rules of the industry are proven to be true, and then broken, demonstrating the risk that is often tempting to take, the times it paid off and the times it led to financial disarray.


Toyland is an incredible combination of engaging and informative and was a very compelling read. The information was easily understood and enlightening without being heavy, and the storytelling element emotionally invests readers in the world of Toyland.



review toyland mattel hasbro coleco dino-riders dinosaurs tyco cabbage patch kids

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