John Pollak, the president of Electus International, talks to TV Formats about the new competition series The Toy Box, which recently aired on ABC in the U.S.
In the competition series The Toy Box, toy designers present their concepts to experts and a jury of children, with the winner given the chance to see their creation brought to life by Mattel. The show was developed by Electus, Mattel and Michael Rourke’s Hudsun Media. It is sold as a finished tape and format by Electus International.
According to John Pollak, the president of Electus International, The Toy Box gives toy inventors the opportunity of a lifetime to fulfill their dreams. “These toymakers, they’ve kind of tinkered with toys in their garage or they’ve gone to local toy fairs, or maybe it’s just something they made for their kids,” he says. “But really, how are they going to access a brand like Mattel to get their toy out there?”
Pollak points out that The Toy Box is appealing to a wide range of viewers due to its universally relatable subject matter, making it ripe for adaptation. “Every generation has grown up and played with toys,” he says. “Kind of like a great cooking show, everyone’s been around food; or a great singing show, everyone’s been around singing in their life. Everyone has been around toys. And it works for every country, every age demographic, gender; it really doesn’t discriminate in any way because it is a show that everybody can appreciate and enjoy, either watching it by themselves or with their family and friends.”
The first iteration of The Toy Box aired earlier this year on ABC in the U.S., with Modern Family funnyman Eric Stonestreet serving as host. It was also simulcast on Bell Media’s CTV in Canada. Several format option deals have been inked, including with Banijay’s Magnolia in Italy and Spain, and with Znak & Co in the U.K. “Beyond those territories, it’s sold really well,” says Pollak. “We’re in the process of finalizing a total of about 14 territories that have bought the format so far.” Last month, a format option agreement was signed with Lone Eagle Entertainment in Canada. And a number of other countries have picked up the rights for the 8×60-minute American version.
The Toy Box in the U.S. is more business-oriented than it may be elsewhere since it served as a lead-in to Shark Tank, explains Pollak. “ABC wanted to see the business side of the show and understand if this toy is marketable, if it’s mass-producible, is it safe, what does it cost? They really wanted to get into the business a bit more and then move on to the kids, whereas in other territories, maybe Shark Tank or shows like it haven’t done well, so they’d want to do less of that or maybe even eliminate it. We’ve been working with each territory to adapt it to their market.”
While the hosts and types of toys will obviously also differ in international treatments, one aspect that Pollak hopes will remain the same is Mattel’s involvement. “Our goal is to have them be the toymaker in each of the territories,” he says. “If you don’t have that brand and you go in and pitch this great show about toymakers and the winners can have their toy made and the network says, Well, who’s going to make the toy? ‘Oh, we’ll figure that out later.’ It’s never going to get figured out. But when you already have Mattel on board, and they’re willing, able and eager to be involved, it makes the pitching process a lot easier, the production process easier, and of course it just makes the whole execution as seamless as it can be.”
Pollak is confident about the future and longevity of The Toy Box format, especially on the heels of the successful first season in the U.S., where the show has been renewed for a second installment. “We think that there’s a lot of potential for it to keep growing internationally and domestically,” he says. “It is one of those shows that people feel good about. It’s not mean-spirited in any way; it’s really rooted in fun and I think that goes a long way for the show. And so I fully expect—regardless of how it does in the U.S. and if it continues [there] forever or not—that there will be territories internationally where we’ll still be doing the show in ten years.”