“I’m sorry, kids, but ‘Die and Let Live II’ won’t be out this year. Here, have a wooden duck instead!” Malcolm threw his hands up in exasperation and rolled his eyes. “What were they thinking? Cancel all our electronic releases and make… what are these things, anyway?”
“Classic toys, one and all, from the 1800s and earlier,” Megan murmured. She continued hunting through the box. “Doesn’t matter if we think it’s the dumbest idea since the peanut butter and squid sandwich. We’re their PR. We find a way to sell it.”
Malcolm fell into a deskchair and let its rotation turn him to face Megan. “Right. I say this is where we quit.” He massaged his hairless temples.
Gloria marched into the room, hefting another box. “This is the last of it. Prototypes for the rest of what they’re making this year.”
Megan and Malcolm fell on the box with hunger, hunting for anything that would be easy to market. Gloria stood back, letting her cohorts do the dirty work. Out of the box came metal soldiers – metal! – and wooden blocks and simple stuffed dolls and a wooden checker set and countless other “classic” toys. Not a single disk for playing in an electronic system. Not a single piece of plastic.
Malcolm nodded while contemplating a stuffed bear. “Yep. Hopeless.”
Gloria stepped in, her fingers browsing the discarded toys. “They certainly changed their philosophy of production, that’s for sure. Here we were gearing up for next season’s releases, and they send us…. This must be some kind of joke. I don’t think it’s even legal to sell metal toy soldiers to children anymore. Do you see this gun? That would poke out someone’s eye for sure. Apparently our clients want to get sued. Again.”
Megan shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. We’re their firm, we do the dirty work of selling it.”
Malcolm looked up at her. “And how much time do you actually spend with kids?”
Megan shrugged. “None. I do my market research the same way everyone else does, through surveys. I don’t need to know any brats to know how to sell them toys.”
Malcolm nodded. “My kid would never play with this junk. It takes too much imagination. You want to see a kid throw a tantrum? Take a kid with no kind of imagination and leave him with no kind of entertainment. He’ll turn into a complete terror. Total destruction. Trust me, I’ve tried it.” He tossed the stuffed bear back onto the table. “And these toys require imagination.”
Gloria thought a moment. “What if we market it that way? You know the old axiom, ‘Turn the product’s weakness into its greatest selling point.’”
Malcolm raised an eyebrow. “‘These toys will send your kids on a rampage! Order yours today?’”
Gloria shook her head. “No. ‘The toys that bring imagination back into the world.’ I think that would do nicely, don’t you?”
Megan pursed her lips. “Maybe. But that means we really need to play up how these things will help build up the imagination, and what good that does. And we need some actors for the commercials that can make us imagine with them. We can use the standard animations and such, but if we can find an actor that can light up the room, make us believe in something isn’t there – and that kind of child actor is a little difficult to find. There’s a reason most commercials don’t use child actors anymore.”
Gloria shrugged. “We’ll find someone.”
Malcolm put his hands on his hips, shaking his head at the mass of toys. “Whoever thought this idea up was a real nutjob. They’re sacrificing the company by changing their entire lineup like this. I only hope it’s either a delaying tactic while they get the next releases ready or some sort of prep work for a classic-toy related game release. Be nice if they told us about it.”
The TV blared, “The only limiting factor is you! Totally immersive environments you construct! Limitless potential! Let the war begin! These are the toys that bring imagination back into the world!” Images of metal toy soldiers marched across the screen in countless environments.
Hans smiled. He liked it better this way. Back to the way it used to be, the way it should be. He was sick of making toys that required more imagination from him and less from the children. But now, they would begin to remember. They would explore and learn and create. They would remember how to truly play. And that’s what being The Toymaker was all about.
This story was written in response to the prompt The Toymaker is Crazy.