Ken Sons, a filmmaker from Sarasota, Florida, read a copy of game designer and historian Tim Walsh’s book Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them and realized the topic would make a compelling documentary. Sons proposed a partnership between them to explore the history behind toy inventing and give a behind-the-scenes look at the $22 billion toy and game business. From 2007 through 2010, Sons and Walsh worked together to interview game inventors and industry professionals.
Toyland presented the story of Walsh’s attempt to put a new product, Crazy Chins, on the market. Sons followed Walsh as he advanced his toy’s development from paper to prototype, culminating in a meeting with a Mattel executive. Along the way, Toyland featured case studies of classic toys and games with interesting back stories, such as Slinky, Twister, Lite Brite, Play-Doh, and more. Sons and Walsh also met with aspiring toy design students at Otis College of Art and Design and hopeful sellers at the annual American International Toy Fair (commonly referred to as the New York Toy Fair).
Featured interviewees included: inventor and author Steve Casino; Richard Gill, developer of Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit; Eddy Goldfarb, inventor of Yakity Yak Talking Teeth, Kerplunk, and Battling Tops; Reyn Guyer, inventor of Twister and Nerf; Mike Hirtle from Hasbro; Betty James, developer of Slinky; Milt Levine, inventor of Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm; Burt Meyer, inventor of Lite Brite, Inchworm, Mouse Trap, and Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots; Robert Pasin, president of Radio Flyer, Inc.; Don Rosenwinkel, president of Big Monster Toys; John Spinello, developer of Operation; Richie Weintraub of Mattel; Dave Yearick, co-creator of TriBond and designer of Djubi; Kay Zufall, developer of Play-Doh; and more.
Toyland has won several documentary film awards and highlights some of the most classic and enduring toys and games in recent history.