Toys are serious business at Fisher-Price in East Aurora, where the teams have designed and tested thousands of iconic products over the years.
The whole business is a lot of fun, too, though, especially the parts that involve local children.
Fisher-Price relies on Western New York families to play-test hundreds of products each year, in one of several play labs on the East Aurora campus.
The At Home Play Lab, for example, is designed specifically to mimic an actual home environment so things like toys, booster seats, and baby baths can be tried out in the kind of setting in which they’d actually be used.
“It has a lot of design elements in it that are intentional. So you’ll see there’s three different types of flooring; there are different thresholds, so we can test out our walkers and ride-ons. There are also two different types of sinks so we can test out baby bathtubs,” said Lisa Lohiser, Associate Manager of Early Childhood Development Research for Fisher-Price.
“There is nothing like a slippery baby,” she added.
Lohiser says the experience for designers and engineers watching children and parents use their products is invaluable, as they tweak their projects to prepare them for sale worldwide. “Children are really the heart of what we are doing,” Lohiser said. “They need to be able to play with the toys that we’re creating, or it needs to be easy for moms to use with their new babies.”
MORE | If you’d like to sign your child up to be a play tester for Fisher-Price, email “Toy Testing-Local Family” to PlayLab1@mattel.com
Every year, thousands of children play-test hundreds of toys. That has added up to a huge number of toys coming out of Western New York since Fisher-Price got its start nearly 90 years ago.
“Fisher-Price was founded right here in East Aurora in 1930 by Herb Fisher, Irving Price and Helen Schelle,” explained PR Manager Amber Pietrobono. “They started off with just 16 toys – we call them the ’16 Hopefuls’ – and they were made by 15 employees.”
Now, more than 750 people work on Fisher-Price’s East Aurora campus alone, and the toys have come a long way over the years, too.
STEM toys are really big right now, including the Code-a-piller set and Scientist Barbie.
And, there are entire lines inspired by smart phones and social media, like Enchantimals, featuring faces that resemble popular Snapchat filters.
Classic toys, like the chatter telephone and the corn popper, remain very popular sellers, too.
Many of the family favorites from Fisher-Price were developed by the team in East Aurora, taking advantage of spaces like the Gearbox in the design center to brainstorm and refine ideas for a global market.
News 4’s Katie Alexander had the chance to check out the Gearbox and other spaces on the Fisher-Price campus as part of our Buffalo Behind The Scenes series Monday morning. Watch the videos below to see our full coverage.
Wherever Fisher-Price toys are sold around the world, you’ll see local kids featured on the packaging. “While the language is different, it’s still a child from Western New York,” said Visual Brand Assets manager Nancy Van Huystee.
Fisher-Price is always looking for more local children to go through the modeling experience, from getting outfitted in the perfect clothing in one of the wardrobe rooms to posing for the perfect picture on one of several photo studio sets on-site.
“Each year we photograph about 4,000 local kids for any of packages, social media shoots, marketing materials, anything like that,” explained Photo Specialist Nathan Holme.
MORE | To sign up for the Fisher-Price Photo and Video Studios, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your child’s photo, name, and date of birth, as well as your name, phone number, and your mailing address.
“Everyone has a great time. It’s so much fun,” Holme said.
Holme says the biggest demand currently is for local children under six months old to be photographed, but the photography program uses local children up to five years old.