Our Trip To Hasbro: A Place Where Dreams Are Born

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

It started with a simple game during an unassuming family drive and a wife smart enough to capture it for posterity.  What followed is still too close and too fresh for any of us to truly appreciate; this crazy and joyful adventure that my family has experienced over these past several months.  I knew when I watched the video that my wife had captured something special; a tangible display of how brilliant and dynamic my sweet little girl is.  What I didn’t know, nor could have expected, was all the wonderful things that would come of it.  I wouldn’t have believed you then if you’d have told me then about the adventures we would take, all as a result of this one video.  Perhaps the most surreal, inspiring and wondrous of all of these adventures was a trip that we took just the other day.

Early in the morning before the good people of the world were beginning their dreadful daily commutes Mia awoke.  I heard her beckon “Daddy” quietly from her bed.  It was much earlier than either of us were supposed to be awake yet we were both so excited that sleep was nigh impossible.  I walked into her room and knelt down next to her.  In a voice that seemed not quite ready to meet the day yet still full of excitement she said to me “Happy Hasbro-Day Daddy.”  I returned the sentiment, kissed her forehead and told her it’s time to get up.  We got ourselves ready, gave our kisses and said our goodbyes to Mommy and Jack and got on the road for a three hour ride to a place where dreams are born.  We were going to Hasbro.

Sometime in October I had been invited to a Cocktail Party thrown by Hasbro in Manhattan.  The party, on the eve of NYC ComicCon, celebrated the new line of Hasbro toys across various brands.  I spent the evening  enjoying cocktails from the open bar and sampling far too many of the haute hors d’ oeuvres off the plates of nattily dressed servers.  The first hour or so was slightly uncomfortable; here I was a stay at home dad on a rare night off at a swanky Manhattan shindig in a room full of strangers.  But after a brief internal conversation I decided to put my best foot forward and seek conversation instead of letting it find me.  Before long I engaged in some great conversations with some very interesting people.  Having just returned from California, a lot of talk centered on my daughter’s recent appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.  We talked about her love of Super Heroes and discussed some of the Marvel toys on display that night.  Someone asked me if my daughter, being a cute 4 year old girl, enjoyed “My Little Pony”.  The answer was, of course a resounding yes.  We exchanged cards and spoke through e-mails in the following days.  Shortly thereafter we were extended an invitation to come and visit their offices in Rhode Island.

And now here we were… pulling into the parking lot of Hasbro on a cold December morning.  The first thing that caught her eye was a giant statue of Mr. Potato Head in front of one of the buildings.  She insisted that we go see it.  Being that it was about 20 degrees outside and that we were running late because of traffic, I did what any responsible dad would do and I took her over to get her picture with it before heading inside.

 

Once inside we were met by some of the Hasbro reps who I had been e-mailing with.  They were very excited and anxious to meet Mia and she, understandably, was very shy.  We began a tour and walked through a hall that serves as a museum of sorts with beautiful displays chronicling the vast history of some of Hasbro’s most beloved and famous brands.  One of our guides would stop us to point out a display and discuss the history of that particular toy.  Mia started to come out of her shell a bit, as she’s inclined to do, bolstered by the ecstatic joy that follows seemingly endless displays of toys. I couldn’t help but to feel in awe of the history of this place and these toys; wondering how many lives they enriched, the childhood imaginations they fostered and ultimately my own personal experiences with them.

As we progressed beyond the hall we moved into the heart of the facility.  To be honest, the feelings I experienced were undeniably reminiscent of watching “Willy Wonka” as a child.  As I looked at Mia I understood that while she was living in the midst of the innocence and wonder of her childhood, and while mine had long ago become but a memory, our eyes and faces were telling the same story; we shared a kind of wide eyed look, our faces painted with emotions of wonder and joy, brought upon by the moment of realization that dreams have come to life.

They took us everywhere and showed us everything.  I wished that I had taken more pictures to document the day but the truth is that on days like this, days where dreams come true, I find I neglect to take pictures at every turn as I am too wrapped up in actually living in the experience and savoring the moment at hand.  It is also important to note that I was asked not to photograph, or discuss, a great deal of that which we witnessed. A reasonable request, given that we were privy to lots of things that have not yet seen the light of day beyond the confines of these offices.

But what of the things that I can discuss?  The things we saw and the things we experienced?  I will say this: at every turn we saw a new toy or brand or product.  Those that anyone would recognize and those that had yet to be introduced to the world.  We met the people who were responsible for every aspect of a toy’s life; from the people who conceptualized and gave it it’s birth to the people who designed the packages which would ultimately be it’s home. We saw paints of every color imaginable and fabrics of every texture.  We walked through the offices of a so many talented people and learned about their interesting jobs;  designers, engineers, marketers, painters, crafters, editors, directors, animators, artists and more.  Every desk and every office, it seemed, was a valentine to inspiration and creativity.  This was a place where imagination has a life, has a purpose and has a value.  In that way it is much like our own home.  We went the studio where commercials are made.  There Mia played with a new toy, a prototype of sorts, and her experience was filmed as if she were the star of her own private commercial.  As I looked on the realization struck me that my child, who reminds me so much of the limitless creativity of my youth, was the first child in the world to play with this toy.  What a remarkable thing for her to be able to look back upon I thought with both pride and admiration.   We heard of the robot who delivers the mail and followed his trail hoping to catch a glimpse.  We followed him all the way to a waiting boardroom where our trip would ultimately end.

In the boardroom we enjoyed a beautifully catered lunch complete with peanut-allergy safe pancakes and strawberries prepared just for Mia.  There we met by more people, those responsible for the “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” and “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls” as well as others.  We sat around the table alternating between eating and talking.  We shared our experiences as parents.  I beamed with pride when talking about Mia’s unique knowledge.  As a former Director of Marketing who’s traded corporate strategy sessions for nap times and fishsticks, it was also a welcome chance to talk shop. I relished being able to discuss and exchange ideas on marketing concepts, viral publicity techniques and branding strategies with these accomplished and distinguished ladies.   As we finished our lunch and began to make our way, Mia and I expressed our gratitude for the invitation as they expressed their’s for our company.  Mia, who had started the day as shy and reserved, had become this little ball of energy.  She had taking a liking to one of our guides and was playing hide and seek with her, hiding under the table.  I could tell that she wasn’t ready to leave and truth be told, neither was I.  In the end though, we took our leave (along with a couple of amazing bags of gifts) and made our way.

On the long and silent return home, as Mia drifted into a deep and content sleep in the back, It occurred to me that I had been focusing this as a day where another of Mia’s dreams would come true; the dream of peeking behind the curtain of the Great and Powerful Oz. What I hadn’t realized was that this was my dream also.  This was the dream I had as a little boy lost in thought wondering what kind of magic happened at a place like Hasbro.  It seems to me that most of the adults I know have long forgotten the dreams of their childhood.  An inevitable side effect of the process of growing up I suppose.  For me though, I have found, those dreams still exist deep within.  While they may take a backseat to the daily perils of adulthood, they are there nonetheless.  They are there when I turn our living room floor into the magical land of Equestria with and play My Little Pony Wedding with Mia.  They are there when it occurs that, even as a father in his mid thirties, the toy isles at the store are still my favorite.

My daughter and I were invited on an adventure to a place of magic.  We were the guests of Hasbro.  A little girl was given the gift of a memory, one that she has in her back pocket for all of her life.  A tangible reminder of the wonder and awe of her childhood.  Her father was given something different.  A remembrance of the long forgotten dreams of a boy and their improbable and grateful fulfillment.  It was with a gracious generosity that we were given these gifts and for that we say…

Thank you Hasbro.

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