Stanley & The Candy Cane Wormhole: Interview with Inventor Chris Harden
“Stanley & The Snacks Cane Wormhole” is a Christmas themed game that comes with a beautifully illustrated children’s book, a snacks craft, and fifty track cards that help players build a treasure venery virtually their home. Intended for children weather-beaten three and older, the game has STEM elements built into it.
The twin storybook introduces readers to Stanley, a timid snow squirrel who unwittingly triggers wormholes that send seven gifts wideness the planet, when in time to the dinosaurs, and plane to Mars! Stanley must solve seven challenges to get all of the gifts back. Each time he demonstrates a variegated value, like healthiness and gratitude, the wormhole gets stronger. The story features Santa and is designed to be read as a tradition.
A Tasty Snacks Food Kit containing snacks canes, marshmallows, chocolate drops, reindeer pebbles (cookie sprinkles), cookie gel, and snow squirrel fur (cotton candy) is moreover included in the kit withal with a Treasure Venery Game. The game challenges parents to set up track cards leading to an early gift, a chocolate or snacks treat, or a favor. Then, children must solve riddles icon out the next hiding place. The 52-card deck moreover has picture clues for little ones who don’t read yet!
“Stanley & The Snacks Cane Wormhole” was authored by Chris Harden, a toy inventor who is known as the cocreator of TROBO the Storytelling Robot, A Shark Tank hit from season 7 that landed a handshake deal with Robert Herjavec. TROBO read stories well-nigh science and math to kids month 2 to 5. Chris is an engineer as well as a writer of children’s books, graphic novels and merchantry books. He learned the art of storytelling while illustrating self-sustaining comics and inking Marvel, DC and TopCow comics, working in the world’s leading theme parks, developing games at EA sports, and in mucosa school at Florida State University. Chris currently works at Unity technologies, the world’s leading game engine for self-sustaining developers. In wing to his technical skills and his originative skills, Chris has an MBA and is a serial entrepreneur.
Recently, Chris discussed the book, game, and kit via an sectional interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in toys and how did you unravel into the industry?
Chris Harden (CH): I’m a father of two kiddos. My home is covered in toys, hopefully educational, but not always. I tapped in with a “Shark Tank” product I co-created tabbed TROBO a few years ago.
MM: What gave you the idea for this Christmas-themed typesetting and worriedness set?
CH: The idea of wormholes for souvenir wordage occurred to me while working on marketing for TROBO one Christmas, but it didn’t really fit with that character’s folklore. So, I just set the concept whispered until a few years ago, when I got inspiration one night to revisit it. The idea that we could use science theory and Christmas magic to update our holiday with modern aspects was quite appealing. I love stories like “The Grinch,” “Charlie Brown’s Christmas,” and one of my favorites, “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” My family and I scrutinizingly unchangingly watch those and others at Christmas time. So, working on a Christmas story was very inspiring. I widow the worriedness set pieces (the snacks and the game) as a way to make the story increasingly into a tradition than just a story. How could children get involved and interact with Stanley was a cadre suburbanite of the effort. Answering the question of why would they care, and what would excite them is what helped me evolve the pieces. For example, my first idea for the snacks cane wormholes was a printable poster that looked like a wormhole, and you’d fill out the longitude and latitude of your home. That felt ok, but I didn’t like it was exciting. So, I sooner got the idea of shaping a snacks craft kids could build, which is what crush the shape of the wormhole merry go round in book. And the first game mechanic was a archetype “letters to Santa” with riddles sent by Stanley. In the first user trials, this was super boring! I felt it scrutinizingly immediately with my own kiddos, so I scrapped that concept and explored other mechanics that would be engaging. I hit upon the idea of losing a souvenir (because the wormholes are wobbly) and finding it with a treasure hunt. I did a family trial of the treasure venery mechanic over that summer; it was a huge success. So that led to the game mechanic you see now, which was moreover a huge success in this past Christmas’s trial.
MM: Why did you segregate a squirrel as your main character?
CH: I started with loveable notation that would make a unconfined fit. I wanted something small, like children, so the weft could deal with some of the same insecurities we all have as children. I landed on Stanley’s main flaw stuff one of lacking self-confidence and overcoming that in the story. He moreover has others that make him well-behaved and imperfect, like clumsiness. You don’t normally think of squirrels as clumsy, but he falls out of every wormhole he jumps through, and I hope that he unchangingly lands in an worrisome situation. Starting out, I sketched ferrets, cats, squirrels, foxes, and maybe some other critters. I quickly homed in on a squirrel, considering I love their tails. And once I had the idea to highlight his tail by swirling the stripes much like the swirl of strips on the wormhole, it was set. I finger his swirly tail, though perhaps a bit nonflexible to manufacture in the future, will be a signature part of Stanley’s impression on the world. Giving him a pink nose and popping his round ears through the hat just made him so charming. When I tried it with a fox and pointy ears, it just didn’t sing.
MM: The story talks well-nigh wormhole portals, so is it unscratched to seem that you’re a big fan of science fiction?
CH: I’m a fan of fiction in general, but I grew up on “Star Trek,” “Quantum Leap,” “Back to the Future,” “The Time Machine,” and more. At the same time, I love LOTR, Harry Potter, How to Train Your Dragon, etc. And I grew up a huge comic typesetting nerd; Spiderman was my first comic ever, and Stan Lee is my #1 hero. (The similarity in his name and the squirrel’s is no accident.) I’m fascinated by movies like “Inception,” “Interstellar,” “The Matrix,” and nearly all of the Marvel movies. In fact, early versions of Stanley’s story toy with the idea that he can’t get when to the North Pole until he solves a problem, much like the Quantum Leap concept, but it was a bit too much to work into a children’s book. But the idea that there may be a greater presence driving Stanley like that could show up in a future movie, if I am overly so happy to get to make one.
MM: What was the hardest thing well-nigh writing this typesetting and designing the kit?
CH: Trimming the story to fit in a 32-page children’s book. It really has the potential to be a movie, and I wove in so many larger picture subplots and characters, but industry experts momentum you to fit it in 32 pages. I had it at 40 pages for a long time until my readers (parents) and trial users told me it was just too long to alimony the little ones’ attention. So, I cut big plot points, refined, etc. and got it to the 32-page standard. But there are 8 possible stories planted in the book, that I hope to develop as increasingly books, should Stanley take off. The hardest thing well-nigh the kit was getting feedback. You can’t play test this with kids any time of year, so I relied heavily on parental feedback, and then ran user trials each Christmas, which forfeit $1000 each time. Also, I was experimenting with a minion tradition, so getting parents willing to trust that I wouldn’t put them in a bad situation by introducing Stanley and then messing up the sociology was a bit scary. Then finally unquestionably getting trial users to take unrecognized surveys when they are all extremely rented and tired was the hardest part. It’s super nonflexible to get tough, honest feedback, much less from worn out parents.
MM: How did you think up all the activities on the cards?
CH: The activities are driven by the 7 values in the book. So, I brainstormed ways little kiddos could show patience, like sitting quite for 20 seconds, or show bravery by singing for 20seconds in front of everyone, etc. There’s lots increasingly that can be washed-up with these kinds of activities, and I hope to sooner add expansion packs like a set of yoga cards, and education packs teachers can use in classrooms (like math and spelling challenges).
MM: Why are you using Kickstarter to promote it?
CH: I love Kickstarter. It enables you to do so much with so little. The Kickstarter polity cares well-nigh your success, plane when they don’t know you. You can efficiently tell whether you have market fit with your product while ideally generating unbearable investment dollars with early sales to build an inventory you then use in retail. And you can go as little or as big as you think you can or want to go on the platform. It served us well on TROBO, and I’ve backed over 60 projects and reviewed many more. It is an unshut platform where you can literally learn what marketing techniques are successful from some of the weightier launchers in the world, just by getting engaged.
MM: What’s the weightier feedback you’ve gotten well-nigh this set so far?
CH: I’ve had my first-year trial users tell me their children were asking for Stanley then the next year, and I’ve received fan art from kiddos drawing Stanley. The former tells me I may have a market that will protract to make Stanley a part of our Christmas culture; the latter is well-nigh as heartwarming as it gets. Having anyone yank your weft as a souvenir is a show of love. What increasingly could you ask for?
MM: How do you hope this series evolves?
CH: I hope to develop the other 8 books (7 from the places Stanley visits a subconscious one). In each of the locations Stanley visits, he meets a unique friend, like Nina the Nanopus under the sea, overcomes a rencontre like needing to be giving, and builds increasingly of his sociology and adds a bit increasingly science. Early readers of the typesetting have unceasingly told me they want to know increasingly well-nigh those places. Then I hope evolve pieces of all the books into a movie.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
CH: I dream of one day having Stanley be as much a part of Christmas as the Grinch is. It’s a big dream, that I won’t be anywhere near worldly-wise to succeed on my own. But if families out there embrace Stanley unbearable to prefer him into their lives, he may have a chance.