5, 4, 3, 2 1 Things About toy inventor and Make writer Bob Knetzger

I'm sure you know Bob or the toys he's invented. What you might not know is that he recently released a book he authored with MakerMedia titled Make: Fun – Create Your Own Toys, Games, and Amusements. In addition to an interesting chapter on the history of toy inventing, there are 40 projects listed that are great ideas to keep kids busy and a few I want to do this summer such as Footstep Sand Stampers! 

One project you’re particularly proud of.

Doctor Dreadful, my kid’s mad scientist food making toy line has been a perennial project for me and my NeoToy partner Rick Gurolnick. I think it’s so cool that people today fondly remember the “looks gross, tastes great” fun they had with it when they were younger-- and now can enjoy making creepy treats with their own kids. The latest version of this classic toy is on my workbench right now: look for it at toy stores in the future!

Two past mistakes you’ve learned the most from.

Two? More like two thousand. Being an independent toy inventor is a lifetime full of making mistakes. R&D is “doing everything the wrong way first.”  You never know what will make for the latest trend—or be a flop! Early on I passed on getting in on making toys for a kid’s TV show that featured a goofy purple dinosaur. That turned out to be PBS’s Barney—oops! Lesson learned: no one knows!

Three new ideas that have excited you most lately.

  1. 1Bay Area Maker Faire—I was just blissed out to see and be among 100,000 people all coming together to celebrate making stuff!  Come by on May 20 and 21st,  2016 in San Mateo, CA. I’ll be speaking about “Science in Your Cereal Bowl” and handing out FREE TOYS in support of my new book “Make:FUN!” More at: makerFUNbook.com
  2. Playing music—Improving live music with a group is about the most creative and spontaneous fun you can have together. Even with an old song, it’s always new.
  3. There’s never been a better time to be a creator!  Computers and the interwebs give everyone access to new tools, access to new markets, and even access to new funding. Do it!

Four tools you can’t live without.

  1. Nichols ThermoVac—my go-to vacuum-former that helps me knock out custom molded plastic parts, fast!
  2. Verithin non-photo blue pencils and black Flair pens—perfect for doing drawings, sketches and cartooning.
  3. Adobe Premiere.  I use it to make demo videos and animatics to present new toy concepts. Been using it for so long I remember having to leave the 8100av Mac rendering overnight—or longer--just to make a 60-second video with multiple layers of composited video, titles, and graphics.
  4. Emco lathe and mill. Its tiny size is perfect for cranking out machined parts, old school.

Five people/things that have inspired your work

  1. This is really 1 & 2. Charles and Ray Eames—Seeing their IBM exhibit at the 1964 NY World’s Fair blew my young mind.  Their clever (Charles) and artful (Ray) approach to design inspires me today.
  2. Ed “Big Daddy” Roth – The Baron of Low Brow. He and his team created a whole weird world of surrealistic cars and kooky characters worthy of Dali and Brueghel that I still find irresistible.
  3. Walt Disney- Comics, characters, TV shows, amusement parks, music, toys—all just magic!
  4. Eddie Goldfarb – the ultimate toy invention pioneer.  Created toys like the Mattel Vac•U•Form that inspired me as a kid and today as an adult.

All of these personal heroes could consistently come up with original, exciting, and FUN ideas that became hugely popular commercial and artistic successes! (and all made their mark while in California…hmmmm, maybe I should move back?)