Thursday, July 28, 2011


I've always considered Play-Doh compound to be one of toys' greatest innovations.  It has been a perennial favorite for kids and parents since the late 1950s when it was tailored and packaged for kid play.  For me it's largely the simplicity of it. It's safe, easy to work with, cheap to buy, and the play is limited only by the imagination.  But I also like the fact that it was one of those accidental discoveries, like the Slinky.  The compound itself was invented by a Cincinnati-based soap manufacturer to clean wall paper. When it was found that the local nursery schools were also using it to sculpt Christmas ornaments, they tweaked the formula and; voila!  Toy-making history. 
The Play-Doh formula has changed little since then, and Fun Factories still fly off the store shelves.  What has changed significantly is the variety of new compounds introduced over the past few decades;  Sculpey, Floam, Bubber, Moon Dough, ..stuff you can bake hard, stuff you can eat, stuff that never dries or stiffens, stuff that glows in the dark, ..whatever you want.
The fun is limited only by the bio-chemistry.

Over the years, I've had the pleasure to work with a handful of toy companies in bringing some new spins to the dough category.  Playskool has been the modern purveyor of Play-Doh products (along with Mr. Potatohead, another old favorite I've worked with). Other toymakers often have their own brand of similar modeling compound, and I've handled those as well.  Spin Master is yet another, exploring the play found in their unique Moon Sand and Moon Dough compounds.

Here are just a couple of items I worked on.   This first one should ring a bell;

I've mentioned before that there are always tweaks along the way when realizing a product.  Play pattern is a consideration, but often times cost is a large part of what features stay or go.  Toys need to be reasonably priced for the parents (if not their kids).   The Play-Doh: Taco Bell set ended up pretty close to my initial rendering.

Then there's a 'Barnyard' themed set I developed for Spin Master's; Moon Dough line a while back.
Here is the initial sketch that got things going;

Once they chose it from a few other different themed sets I had sketched up, it became a matter of fleshing out the play pattern to get the most fun out of it;

Insets added show the stamp-casting play feature.

Aside from finding a way to use virtually everything in the package to mold or manipulate the compound, there was an emphasis on moving the sculpted pieces through the playset in a fun way.
Whether hay-bail or chicken, it would make its way up the silo, down a conveyor ramp, then back down into the molding tray.

Again, the final product is a little different than the concept, but a fun and popular addition to the Moon Dough line nonetheless;

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