Forget Santa and his elves. This business of making toys is serious stuff.
Take the folks at Bang Zoom! toy design firm in Eden Park, who've turned a cottage industry into a thriving industrial concern.

Their latest entrepreneurial endeavor? A Dance 'N Shout Elmo doll that jumps into air, legs and arms moving to an "Animal House" theme"”all manufactured at price points that meet toy industry needs and standards. Glance under the fur and you'll find Elmo is a symphony of complex wiring and contact-hinge points that you'd need an industrial engineering degree to understand.

Which brings us to the firm's Mike Hoeting, a University of Cincinnati industrial design grad who began his playful career by developing a patent for a stabilized radio-controlled motorcyle. Now he and his Bang Zoom! cohorts develop ever more enterprising toy concepts for the Tonkas, Tycos, Mattels and Fisher Prices of the world. From Barbies to Bratz Cats, they've had their hand in some of the hottest toys to amuse toddlers in the past 10 years.

Most of the company's expertise is in radio-controlled toys. "It's high risk, taking a concept to final production," says Hoeting. "We assume all R&D costs, but the payoff is greater because if you have a big hit, you get royalties."

Glance around this crazed workshop and you begin to get the picture: outside, the Bang Zoom! pig from the Big Pig Gig stands sentry. Inside, the walls are lined with shelving, all stocked with every sort of colorful, wacky creation"”some in their commercial packaging, some not.

Still, this is a serious manufacturing plant. The machine and carpentry shops at Bang Zoom! are outfitted with the latest in milling machines, devices to create plastic sculptures, and more.
"The best way I've always been able to describe the toy industry is it's like live magic. You have popular toys and you have classical, timeless toys. An example would be blocks or a ball," observes Hoeting.

"We're more unique because we're independent. We come up with our own inventions, then try to find the appropriate toy manufacturer" to adopt and produce the toy.
"Now we're looking into games. Games can last 20 years. They have staying power."