There are no one-trick ponies on BMT’s staff. Everyone, partners included, can and must move easily from one workstation to another. The designer and lifelong tinkerer in Rosenwinkel emerge as he walks the work floor. He runs his fingers along a sheet of white plastic and murmurs, “Delrin — it’s beautiful stuff.” It’s one of his favorite materials: easy to machine, very slippery and extremely hard.
Nearby, a 200-drawer tool chest takes up an entire wall. Bins of deconstructed toys — a headless Buzz Lightyear, cars without tires — stand beside 40 drawers of different fabrics: shiny, sheer, silk, plush and more. The mold room has a Frankenstein feel, with paint splatters and tubes spiraling everywhere. “Creativity and cleanliness don’t always go hand in hand,” Rosenwinkel admits.
The company receives unsolicited packages regularly from eager, would-be inventors, but they’re all returned, unopened. All ideas originate in-house, just not usually within these four walls. “Most ideas have their inspiration while we’re walking through a hardware store or tripping on a curb or taking a shower,” Rosenwinkel says. “Something happens, and you say, ‘What if we did that?’ ” The idea for Uno Attack! came to Rosenwinkel as he watched a street performer shoot a pack of cards out of his hands in a rapid-fire card trick.
Unfortunately, smashing successes like Uno Attack! are rare. In 2012, BMT came up with 300 “legitimate” ideas that were assigned job numbers. The staff built something for 161 of those, most of which were shown in some form to one or more clients. BMT went to contract on 14 toys. Of those, two or three might be hits; the jury is still out. That’s a success rate of 1 percent. “It’s a fairly typical number,” Rosenwinkel says. “You have to have a very thick skin to do what we do. We fail most of the time.”