Apprentice
Toying With Disaster

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Welcome back, suck-ups

Apex walks into the area where they'll watch a bunch of kids through some glass while the kids either play or don't play with their toy. As the kids settle into the beanbag chairs, George looks on with a wide grin. Jennifer C. interviews that it was very intimidating being in that room with George and the design guy, watching the kids pass judgment. The demonstrator introduces the four boys in the focus group to the "Metamorphor," which is what Apex is calling its car. The boys react with a lot of enthusiasm to the idea of customizing their cars. They dig it, although that's mostly because it's a remote-controlled car. Baldford talks about how great they were when they got the toy, blah blah blah. He thinks it reminds him of how he probably would have acted, so apparently, the kids were kind of controlling assholes about it. One of them gets a wheel to come off the car, so that's going to be a plus. Elizabeth interviews that they will win or lose, "dependent on the kids." Thank you, Elizabeth.

At Mosaic, we learn that one of their "crustaceans" is an "undersea cheetah" that is "half-fish, half-cheetah." Because you know what's big with kids today? Centaurs. John recaps yet again that they had to go to a focus group, blah blah blah. "That was going to be where this task was won or lost," he says. The demonstrator brings the kids up to look at Crustacean Nation, which really is what they're calling it. One kid, whom Pamela laughingly refers to as "surly" in a voice-over, sits back in his beanbag chair all, "Carnation what?" He looks bored, and she agrees, saying that he just wasn't having any of it. And you can tell from the way that the honking bassoon in the background is going, "Honk, honk, honk, honk, he, hates, this, toy." "He was kind of wise to the whole thing," she says, and you can tell from that comment that it isn't that Pamela hates kids, because I think she sort of respected that kid for being onto the whole deal and not being impressed. I think Pamela was secretly thinking, "Now that is my kind of child." None of the kids are actually very impressed, and one of them even comments on the logistics, saying, "They fall apart too easily." For one thing, these toys require kids to do a lot more playing themselves -- for this to work as planned, kids would play with them like superheroes, which really requires the kids to be with friends and have some time to plan, so I don't think this idea is as hopeless as it looks from this display of junior ennui.

As Mosaic watches the kids, Pamela remarks about one of them, "Who cut that child's hair?" And...it's unkind to pick on ugly children or -- in this case -- attractive children with ugly hair, but...she's right, too. What she isn't displaying, however, is very good judgment, especially when she repeats, "My God, what happened?" And then even more when she adds, "He looks like a mini-Dumb and Dumber." Which...again, bad judgment, and again, kind of true. Carolyn looks on with obvious surprise and dismay. It's not so much that you can't insult children in front of Mattel executives, to me, as it is that you have to have a sense of appropriateness, and while a stray remark would probably be chuckled at by everyone, you can't pile on to a child without risking really pissing somebody off, and I think it's that failure to read the room that Carolyn is concerned about. Chris interviews that he was surprised by Pamela's behavior when they were "trying to make an impression." And presumably the impression they were trying to make was not, "Ugh, children." See, in the toy business, you have to be nice to all kids, because even the ugly ones have birthdays. John interviews that once they got out of the focus group, it was "out of [their] hands" and into the hands of Mattel executives.

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Apprentice

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