10 Movies Based on Games & Toys

This post led to a lot of debates in the Studio as to what constituted a movie based on a toy or a game similar to the chicken and egg argument. What came first - the movie or the toy?

Eventually we settled on ten movies that we all agreed on, which took a while. So we stress that these are in no order as it would have taken a week for everyone to settle on that!

What are your favourites? Have we left any good ones out?

1. Pinocchio (1940)

Pinocchio is a classic that most of us have seen at one point or another. The plot involves an old wood carver named Gepetto who carves a puppet named Pinocchio. The puppet is brought to life by the Blue Fairy, who informs him that he can become a boy if he proves himself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish.

Pinocchio's efforts to become a real boy involve encounters with a host of unsavory characters and some more savory ones like Jiminy Cricket. And, of course, the one thing about Pinocchio is that when he lies his nose grows!

Cue shouts of "I'm a real boy!" and sing songs of "When You Wish Upon A Star".

2. Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

The Dungeons and Dragons movie is, of course, based on the famous role-playing game of the same name. The Empire of Izmer has long been a divided land. The Mages - an elite group of magic-users - rule whilst the lowly commoners are powerless. Izmer's young Empress, Savina, wants equality and prosperity for all, but the evil Mage Profion is plotting to depose her and establish his own rule. However, the Empress possesses a scepter which controls Izmer's Golden Dragons.

Often lamented as one of the worst movies of all time by online critics, the movie did bring the game to the big screen, and prompted two further straight to DVD follow-ups. There is currently a legal battle ongoing as to whether Warner Bros or Universal have the rights to bring out the next big budget D&D movie. Let's hope this one stays truer to the game!

3. Small Soldiers (1998)

Small Soldiers is a classic for the 90's children amongst us. Frightening and enthralling at the same time - we had always wanted our toys to come alive...but had never thought that our toys would be the bad guys!

The son of a toy store owner tries out some new action figures: The Commando Elite vs The Gorgonites. However, the toy company that created the figures has used military grade microchips to make the little guys talk, it turns out that this was unwise. Shocking!

They've underestimated the power of the chips and this comes to light when the two opposing toy factions start thinking for themselves and engage in real combat. The Commando Elite attempt to wipe out The Gorgonites and don't mind that they might take humans out too.

The Commando Elite were truly scary and you really felt for the Gorgonites! I'm hoping they do eventually find their homeland of Gorgon.

4. Toy Story (1995)

The ultimate toy movie and one we couldn't possibly leave off the list, the first feature length computer animated film from Pixar is a triumph. The toys pretend to be lifeless whenever the humans are around but once Andy and Co. exit the room, that's when the real fun begins. Woody, the talking cowboy doll, and Buzz Lightyear, the spaceman action figure, lead a host of toys through escapades in and out of the house, all unknown to their loving owner Andy.

We've decided to compile the whole Toy Story series into one spot on the list. Each movie brings us our miniature heroes in a new adventure with enough emotion to make us burst out laughing or crying at different points. Definitely one for the DVD collection!

5. The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)

A little boy is given a cupboard and a key for his birthday (I would have thrown a tantrum!). Unaware of the cupboard's magical powers, he locks his toy Indian in it overnight and in the morning discovers that it has come alive and has a name: Little Bear, and they soon form a friendship.

The little boy's best friend brings over his toy cowboy, Boone, to try in the cupboard, which leads to lots of tension and fighting between Boone and Little Bear in typical Cowboys and Indians style.

A classic toy movie, which led to toys being locked in cupboards in homes all over the world. Sadly I haven't heard of any real life cupboards having the same effect!

6. Jumanji (1995)

The line "A game for those who seek to find, a way to leave their world behind" still gives us chills to this day. When two kids find and play a magical board game, they release a man trapped for decades in it and a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game - which isn't as easy as it seems! Cue hordes of screaming monkeys rampaging through traffic and bats chasing little girls from houses.

Intended as a kid's movie, the realistic nature of Jumanji scared the bejeezus out of us, and still is a little creepy now. However, saying that, it stands the test of time and is one to pull out of the collection on a rainy day, though it may make you scared of that dusty board game in the attic!

7. Transformers (2007)

The big budget action film series is based on the Transformers action figure line. The Transformers toy's parts can be shifted about to change it from a vehicle, a device, or an animal, to a robot and back again. The films reflect this but in classic Hollywood style with everything on a bigger scale.

When the father of a teenager gives him an old Camaro, he has a chance to give a ride to his schoolmate love interest and also to participate in an ancient war of robots on Earth. His car is actually the Autobot Bumblebee, led by Optimus Prime, and they are in war against the evil Decepticons, led by Megatron. Both races are seeking the mystical Allspark talisman with opposite intentions: the Autobots intend to protect the human beings, while the Deceptions want to destroy them.

With some pretty spectacular fight scenes, it's exactly how we imagined the skirmishes going when we played with our own Optimus Prime on the living room carpet.

8. Labyrinth (1986)

When I hear "Labyrinth", I always think of the creepy Goblin King David Bowie plays. Sarah goes through the huge, otherworldly maze known as the Labyrinth to rescue her baby brother, who's been captured by goblins. All through the story, she encounters creatures that all bear strange resemblances to the toys she has in her room.

Though not a massive hit in the box office upon release, it has since gained a cult following and is often found by younger generations by rifling through old VHS collections or stumbled upon on the TV on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, and did we mention it has musical numbers?

9. The Lego Movie (2014)

Perhaps one of the biggest releases for the younger generation recently - The Lego Movie. The movie based on the staple playroom toy that is Lego, spawned even more toys based on the movie. Toys based on a movie based on a toy - simple!

Focusing on the Lego line of construction toys, the film tells the story of Emmet, an ordinary Lego minifigure. However, things start to get interesting for Emmet when the wizard Vitruvius predicts that a person called "The Special" will save the world from the tyrannical Lord Business. And "The Special" just happens to be Emmet!

The Lego Movie is enjoyable for all ages with lots of laughs and great animation, with spin offs and sequels planned already. What are the odds it becomes a classic?

10. Wreck It Ralph (2012)

We were struggling to agree on a tenth, with lots of people's suggestions being shot down really quickly - getting to ten was harder than it looks! We were about to post a list of nine, which doesn't have the same ring to it, when Shona, our 8 year old visitor to the studio, piped up with Wreck It Ralph. A lightbulb moment - thank you Shona!

A great concept for a movie, you'll see everyone from PacMan to Sonic The Hedgehog in Wreck It Ralph. When a games arcade closes every night, the various video game characters leave their normal in-game roles and are free to travel through the power cables to other games consoles. Wreck It Ralph is tired of being a villain in his game, so he's convinced that if he can win a medal, he can become a hero. This leads to Ralph trying to win a medal in another game and causing lots of trouble for lots of other characters!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Creativity Hub at SPIEL, Essen

SPIEL, held in the town of Essen each October, is one of Germany's two major game conventions, the other being the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg each February, which we also attend. While Spielwarenmesse is a trade show – and therefore strictly business – Spiel is open to the public. It draws roughly 150,000 people over four days, and believe us it feels exactly like 150,000 when you're trying to navigate the halls quickly! Hundreds of new games were introduced at Spiel 2014, and many more older games were revisited by their fans.

This year we attended and took our very own stand for the first time. We introduced The Extraordinaires Design Studio to an audience that had never seen it before, and also took Rory's Story Cubes to a fan base that was excited to see if we had anything new to offer. As you will see from our timelapse video of Day 2 of the fair, we were rushed off our feet!

The Creativity Hub at Essen from The Creativity Hub on Vimeo.

Our new Rory's Story Cubes Mix titles for 2014 - Intergalactic, Score and Medic were debuted at SPIEL and quickly proved very popular with fans, with many snapping up all three to add to their collection. These will be available in stores at the end of November and on StoryCubes.com very soon. Guaranteed to provide lots of laughter, judging by the response in Essen!

The Extraordinaires Design Studio also proved successful, with a whole wall of inventions being filled up. Some were complex and intricate, others were simple and to the point, with, of course, a lot of concentration and research thrown into each one! Whole families pulled up chairs to see who could design the best solution for their Extraordinaire.

SPIEL has the reputation in The Creativity Hub studio of being the best fun to attend, so each day we all took turns to wander and look at all that the fair had to offer (and make a few purchases...). There's never enough time to view everything! However, we still managed to buy enough games that we had to ship them home as they wouldn't fit in our many suitcases. Nobody tell Amanda that's why the pallet cost was so high!

We can't wait for next year. Were you at Essen? What were your top picks from the fair?

Monday, 03 November 2014

Halloween Fun & Games at The Creativity Hub

At The Creativity Hub, we really need no excuse to play games of any kind. With Halloween upon us, we talked about our favourite games that we associate with Halloween and decided to play our favourites in the studio. Some are common all over the world, while others are a little more obscure (we're looking at you and your Flour Game Rory!). So here are our top picks!

The Barnbrack Cake

The traditional Halloween cake in Ireland is the barnbrack which is a type of fruit bread. Everybody takes a slice. There is a lot of interest taken in what slice you get! Traditionally, there was a piece of a rag, a thimble, a coin and a ring baked into each cake. If you got the rag, then you were in for some financial troubles. If you get the coin then you will have no money worries and the ring signifies an impending romance or luck with your current relationship. The thimble meant you would never marry - a bit harsh in our opinion! Nowadays, it is usually either a ring or a coin that's baked into the cake.

We managed to buy the only Barnbrack in Ireland that didn't have a coin or a ring included, so Rory had to sacrifice his wedding ring, wrap it up to slot into the cake!

Rory also conveniently found the ring... *cough* fix *cough*.

Snap Apple

An apple is suspended from a string from the ceiling and players are blindfolded. The aim is to get a decent bite of the apple. It's harder than it looks!


This was the game we spent the longest on, it is very frustrating but you become determined to grab that apple!

Bobbing for Apples

One we suspect is well known around the world is bobbing for apples! A basin is filled with water and apples are dropped in, then you are challenged to grab the apple using only your mouth and teeth. Other variations include dropping coins in too, which can be hard on the teeth, but far more lucrative than the apple!

It was often thought that if young girls put the apple they bit, while bobbing or snapping, under their pillow that night, they would dream of their future lover.

We had some cheaters here who grabbed the apple by it's stem so we had a few do-overs. Who know bobbing for apples could get so competitive?

The Flour Game

This game is known as The Flour Game, as Rory could't remember a name, so correct us if there's a more technical term for it! You form a pile of flour on a plate and place a grape on top. Everyone takes turns to cut away a slice of the flour. The person that causes the grape to fall has to stick their face in the flour and try to eat the grape. Again, no hands!

This one Rory suggested from his childhood, and we were sceptical at first, but soon we realised that this was a game of skill and nerve. The penalty of sticking your face in the flour probably made us all try a little harder!

So that's how we spent our Halloween afternoon - getting the studio nice and messy. What are your favourite Halloween games and traditions?

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Return to Camp Zeitouna - Every Child Deserves To Play

The Creativity Hub’s journey with the Karam Foundation began last June after coming across an article in The Huffington Post entitled "Every Child Deserves To Play". Karam runs a wellness programme called “Zeitouna” for Syrian children displaced by the war. After initially deciding the cause was worthy of our annual Christmas donation, Rory was asked to take part in Zeitouna as a mentor.

Rory travelled to Al Salam School on the Turkish/Syrian border in December last year, and decided to return again last month for the summer Zeitouna camp in the town of Reyhanli. The school has 420 pupils in grades 1 to 12. The return to the school saw Rory and the other mentors receive a warm welcome from students and staff alike. As this was the second camp at the school, the teachers were better prepared for the craziness that Zeitouna brings and had their classes prepped for the value the week would bring.Upon asking one teacher, Mahmood, what impact the previous visit had left, he replied that the mentors and workers arrived at the coldest point of the year and helped the children and staff get through it with laughter and play. He also added that the children remained upbeat and more engaged after the volunteers left. Mahmood welcomed the return, as he and his fellow teachers were desperate for tips and advice on teaching in their unique environment. For these young students from a war torn environment, the normal teaching methods don’t apply.

Over 30 mentors arrived at the school for a week of various workshops, joined by translators and dental, hygiene and trauma teams. One author, who wrote a book on the experience of a child in Syria, asked the children how it made them feel and could they relate. She found that these children read a lot more into the story than she had previously experienced. One child pointed out an illustration of a boy sitting in a dark corner and said he was in prison, which was what the writer was trying to convey.

The classes and workshops gave students a chance to experience a wide range of activities. The children took part in an architecture class where they drew out floor plans of the homes they left behind in Syria. A quilting workshop produced quilts to be sold back in the US to raise funds for the foundation. Journalling gave the children an opportunity to record their voices and stories, while pinhole photography allowed the children to see output of their efforts after a few hours. Sport was also a major part of the week, with boxercise, soccer and basketball taking place.

Rory delivered 18 sessions of storytelling workshops over his four days at Zeitouna, working closely with translators. He would introduce himself as being from Ireland, asking the class did they know where that was. He pulled out a map and showed them how far away his country was, and how far he had come to tell stories with them. He pointed out that he made games for a living and asked what their favourite games were. There were shouts of Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty in nearly every workshop. It’s important to realise that these children do not come from poor backgrounds, most come from previously middle class homes that they had to leave because of the war.

Rory would explain Rory's Story Cubes and then tell an over the top story so that the children could try to understand without relying on the translator. Splitting up into groups, they were challenged to come up with their own story and tell it to the class. The younger age groups drew their stories. They used Storysheets to record their stories, or take down the icons to make a story at home if the workshop ran out of time. The students were initially embarrassed to tell their story to the class, but it was made a point of in each class. These are children who are not seen or heard often, so within their peer group they were now able to stand up and tell their stories, mostly of good over evil. One boy delivered a particularly poignant story of a man who had lost his ID card and needed to travel back over the border to Syria to get it, but knew he could not because he would be shot.

Along with the positive changes in the children, the school itself had also experienced some changes. Work had begun on the badly needed second floor of the school building, security cameras had been installed and teachers now had the use of projectors in their classrooms.

Even with all the good going on with the school and the children, Rory also experienced some sad conversations. In chatting with a group of grade 12 girls, they revealed that after they finished their final exams there was nowhere else for them to go. To continue their education in a Turkish school, they would have to undergo 2 to 3 months of Turkish language lessons which most families cannot afford. Alternatively, they had the option to travel abroad for school, but again this was even more expensive. It was sad to see that the generation that can rebuild Syria are already falling through the cracks.

In the children’s chaotic environment, the teachers and administration staff try to maintain normality in school. However, it is difficult to achieve this and learn when both the students and teachers are traumatised. One teacher witnessed 20 of his students in Syria die in a chemical weapons attack. These teachers are trying to use their conventional methods to teach in an environment where life is erratic and uncertain. In most of Rory’s morning workshops of five and six year olds, there was someone falling asleep at their desks. Other students have missed one to two years of education due to the war. The staff are striving to find different ways to teach, and so help both teachers and students to become learners.

At the school, the children were a mix between highly engaged and relatively withdrawn. Rory was struck by the willingness of most to engage with strangers and share their limited food. Even though the volunteers were warned not to eat anything, he accepted plums and used them to teach juggling. At one point the water supply went down and Rory and the volunteers shared whatever water they had with the children, as all they had was carried in their small bags.

These children come from a mix of homes. Some lived in houses or apartments, while others lived in old shop fronts with shutters. Most had lost family member, siblings or parents and are still persevering. They are a testament to adaptability, but that is not a justification for this all to keep going. In one conversation with a boy, Rory asked him about his family and his home. He said he had four brothers, one who was fighting in the war. With his home, he can remember it but can’t remember the details like where the living room and kitchen were.

One girl received a set of Rory’s Story Cubes during the winter Zeitouna and had been using them ever since. She used them for drawing and telling stories and they helped her to get ideas and use her imagination. She plans to write a story about her experience that adults will read, so that they can feel and understand what it’s like for Syrians. Rory asked her is she could say anything to children in Ireland what would it be. She replied, “I hate Reyhanli and I want to go home.”

The trip left us with questions on how we can be most useful with the skills we have. Teachers in Al Salam school need more ways to teach with Rory’s Story Cubes and tips on how to get the best use out of the resources they have. Before Rory left for Reyhanli, we posted on social media asking for any advice our followers may have for the teachers. Teachers in the school immediately went home and looked up the links and YouTube videos that came in response.

The purpose of Rory’s volunteering and the Zeitouna camp was to bring a glimmer of hope and joy into the children’s and teacher’s life for that short time. They left them confident in the memory that others around the world care.

Monday, 07 July 2014

10 Year Anniversary of the Idea for Rory's Story Cubes

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It was this week ten years ago that Rory had the idea for the Metacube™. He was using an invention technique called 'Advanced Civilisation' developed by Win Wenger. He began describing it to me in great detail. Our first baby was weeks old at the time and I was suffering from severe baby-brain. I asked him (as politely as a sleep-deprived, first-time mother can) to please prototype it so I could understand how it worked. And he did.

MetaCube

We have many ideas, most remain in our heads. The act of making a simple prototype to explain your idea to someone else can be the difference between an idea remaining just that or it becoming a real 'thing'.

Within a few months the Metacube™ had evolved into Rory's Story Cubes® and we began our first small production run. What a journey it has been.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014