After creating his toy Tobbles, toy inventor Anthony A. Morley (BFA ’78) of Stillwater, Minn., didn’t think there was anything special about the stacking toy. “It just felt like a normal toy that would be rejected like most toy ideas,” he says. In fact, the award-nominated Tobbles was rejected twice before it got picked up by Fat Brain Toy Co.
Made of colorful concave spheres that balance on top of each other, Tobbles was one of seven finalists for the Toy Industry Association’s 2012 Toy of the Year Award for specialty toys. Tobbles Neo, a variation of Tobbles with scalloped edges, won the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s 2012 Best Toys for Kids award in the Early Play category.
Even with the success of Tobbles and Morley’s past toys, life as a full-time freelance toy inventor isn’t always easy, says Morley. He and his wife, Taia, an illustrator who also designs toys, have beaten the odds in making a living off of toys. “I would not recommend anybody plan on becoming a toy inventor because it’s so unpredictable, [with] high risk and high rejection,” he says. “But it can be very rewarding, and it’s been very rewarding for us.”