Creative Crowdsourcing Site Plays With Mattel Toys

American Girl, Barbie and Hot Wheels Among Fan Favorites Taking To Tongal

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Mattel is working with Tongal, an online community of artists, to create fresh videos featuring classic properties such as American Girl, Barbie, Hot Wheels and Thomas & Friends.

Sid Mathur, senior VP-strategic development at Mattel, oversees the content distribution team at the toymaker. The partnership with Tongal had three goals, he said: to meet the need for short-form content as new platforms emerge; to gain access to the global creative community; and to see what classic properties like "Thomas" mean to people around the world.

Tongal, a "crowdsourced studio" of writers, directors, actors, animators, production companies, editors, cinematographers and others, hands over a company's creative brief to its community of 100,000, and then the pitch process begins. Businesses select a few ideas, then filmmakers work on one of the winning ideas. Finally, the business selects the winning pitches and the creatives involved are awarded for the finished product.

Mattel tested some projects with Tongal in 2010, and a partnership was discussed early this year, Tongal said. Projects include live-action American Girl films, a "Monster High" short film, Hot Wheels videos and Barbie music videos. James DeJulio, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Tongal, said self-selection is an important part of the creative process at Tongal. With the American Girl videos, he said, there was a connection with the brand early on -- the project received 1,134 audition videos and 4,000 public votes during the casting of two new American Girl roles, Maryellen and Julie. The American Girl project is now in production, with the videos due for release later this fall.

Tongal's site
Tongal's site

"You find that person who wants to work on their passion piece, and they do a great job," Mr. DeJulio said. And that passion shows in the creation. In celebration of Thomas & Friends' 70th anniversary, Mattel took to Tongal to produce a 30-minute documentary called "Thomas & Friends: 70 Years of Friendship." It premiered to YouTube on July 14, and now has more than half a million views. "This was a beautiful documentary and as an older fan I found myself getting very sentimental," said one YouTube commenter. Another called the documentary "absolutely heartwarming."

Project pages include a synopsis, background, objectives, details, requirements and assets for prospective creatives. On the Hot Wheels "Epic Race" Tongal page, there are specifications for tone, too: "outrageous action, full-throttle speed, fearless imagination, radical design and irreverent fun."

Tongal has worked with Anhueser-Busch, Procter & Gamble, Lego, General Mills, Bacardi and NASA on over 1,000 projects, and its community has earned more than $20 million.

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