There’s an article in The Age today about a pending Pixar film called Up. Apparently toy makers and other merchandising folk are steering clear of this flick because the central character is a cantankerous old man and therefore unappealing to kids.
I’ve got mixed feelings about that. The film looks like great fun to me. And let’s face it, how often do Pixar put out a dud? Even their less than best work (I’ll be howled down for suggesting Wall-E was worthy but dull and Cars was too predictable) is way better than most other film offerings for kids. (I still love The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc. despite repeated viewings at my place.)
Anyway, when we play with a toy I reckon we at least partly imagine ourselves as that character. And sure, my son would never play a game where he took on the role of a crotchety retiree. On the other hand, my daughter adores having elderly figures to play the grandparent roles in her doll house. Indeed, she was playing at being a grandmother, without props, as recently as yesterday.
Besides, if you watch the Up trailer you’d have to say the talking dog and tech-savvy boy scout surely present good opportunities for toy makers.
Incidentally, I took the kids to see Monsters vs Aliens during the Easter Break and we all enjoyed it. And which critter has been the absolute fave with all kids? The dopey, gelatinous blob, B.O.B., hands down.
But let’s turn to books. A good story will be a winner with kids because it hooks them in, irrespective of who the central character is.
This is what scriptwriters, authors and even merchandising folk need to remember. Story is king. If you’re just trying to create a character that looks good on a lunch box – and then joining the dots to make a story – you’re way off the mark. Your characters have to engage kids because of who they are and what they do (like B.O.B.), not because they will sell more toys than Buzz Lightyear.
Thankfully, Pixar and their owners at Disney are acutely aware of this. Disney chief executive Robert Iger is quoted as follows: “A check-the-boxes approach to creativity is more likely to result in blandness and failure.”
So true. So think big. Think different. And vive the feisty and adventurous senior citizens of the world.