Chuffed – a new Aussie word for me (thanks, Dan). I had the pleasure of meeting Dan last November when he spoke at our Inventor and Innovation Conferences. You can’t help but smile when you are talking to or even just corresponding with Dan. His big heart and love of life, people and industry comes through with Thor-like thunder (like his name). His experience runs deep and wide in our industry from comic book editor to apps for Shopkins and more. And, speaking as the food-centric person that I am, how can you not love a guy who compares his day to a very tall club sandwich that is tasty with lots of ingredients!
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I had a sideways path to the toy business. Prior to my current career in mobile games, I had worked as a comic book editor, commissioning and managing the comics for characters like Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern.
In the early 90’s, I was editing an Aliens series based on the films, and Kenner approached me to do a set of little mini comics that were bundled with Colonial Marines action figures. It was my first interaction with a toy project, and I learned a lot about how the market worked, and was amazed they were doing a toy line on an R-rated film franchise. It was an interesting experience.
Later, I wrote a set of R2-D2 and C-3PO stories that were sold at Toys R Us, and one of the characters (C-3PX) ended up as a Kenner toy! I was chuffed.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
I’m equally excited and worried about the impact of social gaming on mobile. Watching my 10-year old sit with her friends and not look at each other while they play Minecraft is eerie. The way they collaborate and communicate with each other within games like Minecraft and Animal Jam, however, is very exciting. At Mighty Kingdom, our big ideas are all around bridging digital and physical product experience, so kids are playing with each other as much as a tablet.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
I’m actively looking for a toy with a world behind it. I’m a storyteller. I want to build a world around a toy and give inventors a platform to connect kids to the story of their toy.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Micronauts! Marvel Comics had a great series based on the toys by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden, and I loved the figures. My first taste of a Japanese toy line, which led to many other forays into that arena.
What does your typical day look like?
My day looks like a very tall club sandwich. Tasty, lots of ingredients.
What inspires you?
Currently, a young man named Ethan with severe cerebral palsy. He’s asked me to teach him how to make games, and his creativity and determination are mind boggling.
Where were you born?
Tuxedo, New York.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
I’ve learned more from what my Dad and Grandpa said 30 years ago than I learn from anything today. Shoulda paid attention back then!
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
My entire life is in Dropbox.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
Talk to my amazing colleagues at Mighty Kingdom. Every one of them has dozens of ideas every day. Failing that, ask my daughter. Kids have no fear when it comes to creativity.
Are you named after anyone?
The God of Thunder himself. Thorsland = The Land of Thor
Do you have any kiddos?
My daughter Pippi (named after Ms Longstocking). She’s absurdly great, so I stopped there.
Do you have any pets?
Two cats, and an occasional Koala in my back yard. He’s a lovely fella.
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
Are they curious? Prefer people who are genuinely interested how things change, rather than being terrified of it.
Summer of Winter?
Hugs or Kisses?
Both of course!
Favorite movie of all time?
That’s simply impossible to say. Like lovers, wine and food, the experience of a great film changes depending on age, mood, etc.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
I call Australia home now, so either Adelaide or New York depending on which way I’m going!
What are your hobbies?
Motorcycles. Live amongst winding roads and vineyards. Weekend motoring is a delight.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Trick question. We all know none of us grow up!