Do 7-Year-Olds Want to be a Geriatric College Professor?

This is a guest article submitted by a reader named John Charles. We've never run guest pieces before, but this seems like an interesting and unique perspective.

I attended Toy Fair last week in NY. That's where all the toy manufacturers, big and small, reveal their new toylines to retailers. It's closed to the public so it doesn't get as much press as say the Consumer Electronics Show, but some press is allowed to attend and the public gets a glance at new items being offered.

After Toy Fair, a leading research company held a symposium to discuss toy trends and what would be "hot" in 2008. When it came time to discuss what are known as "boy toys" (action figures and the like) one expert took an authoritative tone and proclaimed 2008 would be the year of Indiana Jones. "Every little boy will want to be Indy," the industry soothsayer announced. I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my chair.

I'm in my early 40s, so I'm hardly the demographic for children's toys, but I do remember what it was like to play and I do have two young nephews. The day after I heard the predictions about Professor Jones, I went over my sister's house and corralled my nephews and two of their friends. The age range was from 6 to 8-years-old. We went to YouTube and watched trailers for the following films:

Afterwards I asked them what movie they wanted to see when it came out. Two of them said Iron Man and one of them said Hellboy. Technically the 6-year-old said "The flying robot guy!" then adopted a palms pointing downward stance similar to Iron Man and zoomed out of the room with all the sound effects he could muster. The remaining three boys told me they had the Hellboy DVDs and they all agreed the first Hellboy had been a good film and they had also watched the cartoons on Cartoon Network. Then the conversation turned into a heated debate over who would win in a fight, Hellboy or Iron Man.

It was at this point that I asked about Indiana Jones. All three gave similar answers. "He's old!", "He's even older than you Uncle John!" (while I was pleased they realized that Harrison Ford at 66 is indeed older than me by more than two decades, it did sting a bit that they were in awe that it was actually possible to be older than me). All the boys had seen the previous Jones films. Again most of them gave similar answers "I watched them with Dad." Immediately following this, the 6-year-old returned wearing one red mitten, proclaimed that he was Hellboy, and challenged the others to battle. When I heard my sister yell "What are you boys doing in there?" I chose to make my exit before being accused of getting my nephews and their friends "all riled up."

As I drove home I wondered what could cause such a disconnect between what I had seen and what the toy expert predicted, and then it came to me: like myself, the toy expert was "old." He was remembering how much he enjoyed the Indiana Jones films, how he felt his blood surge when the theme music played. For people in their 20s and older, Indiana Jones is an iconic hero. But to the under-12 crowd he's just an old man in a hat. He can't fly like Iron Man. He isn't super strong and fighting monsters like Hellboy. He doesn't look cool or have a sweet hideout like Batman. He's a college professor. I pretended to be lots of things when I was a kid - a fireman, a police officer, an astronaut, a vampire - but I can say without reservation that I never pretended to be a college professor.

So in the end I'm sure the new Indiana Jones film will make a ton of money, and I'm sure adult collectors are excited about the related toys, but if I had to bet on what children will want to play with in 2008 I'd put my money on Iron Man and Hellboy.

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