“[Being an inventor] is a tough world,” says Gary Swisher, who, as the senior vice president of design at Mattel, has licensed a number of BMT toys. “You live and die by the work other people are doing with your idea. I have tremendous respect and care for inventors; they keep our industry fresh.”
Clients like Swisher are among the select few who get buzzed in past the Big Monster bouncer to BMT’s sunny, 18,000-square-foot studio (everyone else can visit the cartoon version at www.bmttoys.com). Palm trees and shade umbrellas create a Caribbean-beach-bar vibe. A towering stuffed giraffe hangs out near a caboose that houses a kitchen. Overhead, a toy train chugs along a suspended track, making its rounds past the “comfy chair room” and play lounge.
“Collaboration is important to us, and the train is a symbol of that,” Rosenwinkel says. “Everyone works together here; everyone is part of the train. So each person gets a flatbed train car, and you design something about yourself on the car.” He points out his contribution: A figure in a Chicago Cubs shirt hovers in a yoga stance above a sports car.
Now You Know: BMT originally stood for Breslow, Morrison and Terzian — three of the original partners. The name was changed to Big Monster Toys in 2003.
The train’s-eye view provides the best vantage point of the work floor and the key to BMT’s success: vertical integration. Every function required to make and promote a prototype is performed in-house, from plastic molding to painting, sound engineering to sewing, computer-aided design to animation. “We control everything,” Rosenwinkel says. “We don’t go outside to hire anyone; we don’t have to get on waiting lists to get work done. We are very nimble. We can immediately say, ‘We like this idea. Let’s pull a team together and work on this.’ ”