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Fraser Paterson, VP – Head of Design & Development at Moose Toys, discusses keeping open-ended play at the heart of the firm’s Bluey range.
Main photo credit: Matt Deere
Fraser, it’s always great to catch up. Now, I’m a card-carrying Bluey fan – and my one-year-old daughter also loves it – but before we talk about Moose’s toy range, why do you think the show has taken off in the way that it has?
First off, it is good to hear you and your daughter are fans – you know where to buy great Bluey toys from! It is not an unusual story that you and your child are both fans. Sometimes in this industry we develop toys based on TV shows that kids love but parents can’t stand, but Bluey is different. A lot of people don’t see it as a kids’ TV show and more of a sitcom, it just happens to be a cartoon. That’s why it’s resonated with so many people, you can really see yourself in the show. This is also why it works well on the toy front because the whole show is rooted in imaginative play. We all see something familiar and relatable in that.
On imaginative play being at the heart of Bluey, how did you approach translating that aspect into your toys?
Ludo and BBC Studios Kids & Family are keen that things aren’t too prescriptive; and that’s echoed in the show. Every episode has a beautiful moment of magic centred on the family’s interactions and that’s what we’ve looked at bringing into the toys. We’ve gone for recognisable environments and characters from the show, as opposed to realising Bluey’s imagined worlds in toys. If we’d launched a castle play-set that sees Bluey dressed as a princess, that’s not really what the show is about. Whereas play-sets like our Bluey’s Tree Playset allow children to create their own stories or recreate moments from the show. They’re real story-starters.
If you also look at something like our Dance and Play Bluey, that’s such an iconic moment from the start of the show so it’s been great to capture that in a toy. It also encourages kids to dance and make dances up, which is also in keeping with the show. It keeps the play open-ended.
On Dance and Play Bluey, that came from renowned invention group Bang Zoom. For any inventors reading, are there opportunities to pitch Moose concepts for the brand?
Absolutely. We had a great time working with Bang Zoom on that item and we have a great relationship with the wider inventor community. We’re always open, but I would say that with Bluey, inventor concepts need to be true to the property. It needs to be a great fit, but if you have something, we’d love to hear from inventors.
Great stuff. And there’s a video of Dance and Play Bluey in action! Now, were there any challenges in bringing the 2D world of the show to life as 3D toys?
It’s a great question because there’s a lot of properties depicted in 2D, that look great in 2D, however they just do not work when you bring them into 3D. That said, there were no challenges in bringing Bluey and her family to life in three dimensions. It’s a testament to Ludo that the show, its locations and the characters all have a real sense of depth to them on screen, so it’s been a seamless process.
Photo credit: Matt Deere
On the games front, you have items centred around episodes like ‘Keepy Uppy’ and ‘Shadowlands’. How have you approached bringing games from the show to the tabletop?
Some of the games could have been very prescriptive, or even a bit of a label slap, but it comes back to the imaginative qualities of the show and how they create games within it. Shadowlands is a great example that lends itself to a classic path game play pattern. It means it can be recreated in a fun board game and doesn’t feel like a forced fit. Ludo have made our job much easier because there’s so much content in the show that is simply great for games!
You mentioned Keepy Uppy, we actually went back and forth a number of times trying to come up with a fun solve to make Keepy Uppy a tabletop game. We really wanted to get it right because it’s an iconic moment from the show. We worked closely with our Moose Games team here who have a wealth of experience in the category and came up with a number of concepts. The end result is a really creative and different interpretation of how to play that game rather than a literal version, and we couldn’t be happier than what has been created.
Looking across toys and games, how do you decide which parts of the show to create product around?
We are also super fans of the show, so it’s both about having the deep knowledge of the show and what will work, as well as us being able to pull back the curtain and work with Ludo and BBC Studios Kids & Family on identifying key moments. This also covers future seasons and overarching themes – for example, this fall is all about going to the beach. We’ll have a lot of Bluey products centred around that, including the Bluey Beach Cabin, which is a fun item. So it’s a mixture of identifying great moments and knowing what could make for great toys.
The garbage truck is another example that stands out. It appears in the Bin Night episode for about 30 seconds, but even though it doesn’t get much screen time, it’s a cool moment and we know that vehicles make for great products. BBC Studios Kids & Family team thought it was a great idea and it’s been a really successful item for us. It’s a really collaborative process, as opposed to ‘Here’s a style guide – go!’
Yes, they get a lot of story out of that moment in the show, so makes perfect sense to get the toy treatment. I’ll also make the case for some ‘Fruit Bat’ related product – that’s the episode I’m currently watching on repeat every morning!
Great to hear you’re enjoying the ‘Fruit Bat’ episode! I can’t reveal what we’ve got in development and whether or not we’ll be releasing a toy related to that episode in the future, but watch this space!
I don’t want you removed from the building off the back of a ‘Fruit Bat’ leak, so we’ll move swiftly on! You mentioned the collaborative process between Moose, Ludo and BBC Studios Kids & Family. What’s the key to successful licensor/licensee partnerships?
Well, it has to be a partnership. It has been a really close collaboration and we have to let them know that we understand their property. In turn, they have to trust us to protect that too. In this industry it’s very easy to exploit a licence and commercialise brands very quickly, however with Bluey, we’ve all been very careful to walk this path together and stay true to Bluey’s DNA. It shines through in the product.
“Ludo and BBC Studios Kids & Family are keen that things aren’t too prescriptive; and that’s echoed in the show.”
Looking back to when Moose became master toy partner for Bluey, did the cultural connection with Moose being an Australian company play a role?
It really did. The Australian connection meant that the company and employees understood the show from the outset. Now, we all see the numbers and that it’s a phenomenon, but at that earlier stage, the nuances of the humour and the cultural touchpoints in the show truly resonated with all at Moose. There are little things in the show – the style of the buildings, some of the language – that would only resonate if you live in or have travelled to Brisbane, so Moose being an Australian company certainly gave us another level of understanding of that Bluey DNA. Additionally because it blew up in Australia immediately, it was never really a case of selling Bluey into the Moose Melbourne team – everyone was already a huge fan!
Fraser, before we wrap up, we’ve mentioned a few items so far but is there one that jumps out as being a great example of how Moose has captured the magic of Bluey in toys?
The line is vast but a few jump out. I’ve always loved how the playsets allow you to build out the world. The Bluey Ultimate Lights & Sounds Playhouse from last year was great.
This year, we have an incredible Bluey Hammerbarn Shopping Playset coming out that’s nearly two feet tall. It’s a shopping centre with multiple levels and interactive features and of course when Bluey and Bingo get there, it becomes an adventure!
Looks fantastic! Fraser, it’s always great to catch up. Congrats again on all you’re doing with Bluey.
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