What Would Geppetto Do? The Life and Times of a Toy Inventor

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As we work late into the evening, as we have on many a night and weekend over the years, I am reminded that the work we do is much like that of Geppetto of the story Pinocchio.

Creating toys is still a handwork tradition, as it has been for hundreds of years. Our prototypes are fashioned painstakingly by hand, no longer of wood, but now of plastic with gear boxes, motors, springs, battery boxes and circuit boards, until they come to life.

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Full of hope, we show our new toy creations to people who work for our partner toy companies here in the US, in the UK, Europe, Japan, and all over the world. Then we lovingly box and ship them out to their destinations for review, often under tight deadlines. The samples sometimes arrive just in time to make a last-minute presentation meeting.

All of this shipping of precious material is not without mishap, I might add. The samples can arrive broken. Our clients return the sample to us, and we find that the metal shipping case has been crushed from some heavy impact. We race to do the repair and ship it back out the same day, only to have another problem arise. Not enough time! Crap . . . we won't make our shipping deadline even if we race to the airport to make the last flight out . . .

Decisions, decisions! What gearbox should we use as a replacement that will be 100% guaranteed not to fail again? Do we put in a clutch to allow slippage or not? Is the gearbox so strong that it will damage the rest of the mechanism, is it too fast or too slow . . . ?

What would Geppetto do? Did he ever work under such tight constraints? Clients think our prototypes cost too much, and say they can't pay. Inventor royalties are too high and they can't afford them . . . oy vey!

Still we work on, again, no dinner, stomach rumbling, only doing what we can do, that which is our habit, to do the very best that we are capable of.

We press on to create another great toy, another single-motor mechanical marvel, to deliver on time what we have promised no matter what it takes. We endeavor to deliver a great toy that will delight those we work for and ultimately the kids who will one day play with it.

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The office is dark, most everyone else has gone home. Failure is not an option and success is far from guaranteed. 

In the work of creating the new and novel, fashioning new toys and playthings out of nothing by hand, we wrestle with the laws of physics and nature all day every day. If we are lucky, our products will get to battle it out in the marketplace once more – in this particular project's case, in 2015. Fingers crossed.

Makes me wish I made wooden puppets sometimes.

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