Imaginative play is ageless
Nora is talking about the toy business with the leaders of two iconic and very different brands. Richard Dickson, CEO of Mattel, and Chris Cocks, CEO of Hasbro, stopped by to each give their behind-the-play look into the state of the industry and their different strategic visions for the future. For more info on our presenting sponsor, check out https://purple.com.
Host: Nora Ali
Producer: Raymond Luu
Video Editors: Sebastian Vega and Evan Frolov
Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus & Nick Torres
Fact Checker: Kate Brandt
Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop
Full transcripts for all Business Casual episodes available at https://businesscasual.fm
Nora Ali: For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, bringing you convos with people you know and some you may not know yet, to make business less intimidating. Because money talks, but it does not have to be dull. I'm your host, Nora Ali. Now let's get down to business.
When you're a kid, there's really nothing quite like wandering around a toy store. Toys"R"Us was the playground of my dreams. Nostalgia hits real hard when I reminisce about my childhood toys and games of choice. Bop It, Skip-It, Nerf guns, Furbys, Sky Dancers, the classic Clue board game, all staples in the Ali household. And what better time to reminisce about toys and learn about the business of toys than around the holidays? So today we're going to hear two different toy stories. Richard Dickson, CEO of Mattel, and Chris Cocks, CEO of Hasbro, stop by to each give their behind-the-play look into the state of the industry and their different strategic visions for the future. These two toy titans are embracing the digital landscape and also leaning into nostalgia, catering to adults with boozy cafes, product customization, and rare collectibles. As Chris Cocks said, "Play is not just for kids anymore. Play is ageless." All that and more after the break.
I'm going to start with a very broad question, Richard. How would you describe the state of the toy industry right now, in your own words?
Richard Dickson: Well, first off, the toy industry is one really fun industry, that's for sure. Especially when you look at all the other sectors of business, toys, obviously even just the name—it sounds fun. That being said, it is not all play. It's tough work on many fronts. But ultimately the toy industry is a really resilient industry, particularly during challenging times, which we're all experiencing with inflation and macroeconomics. Toys is actually a proven category to be successful during difficult times. It's an important category for retailers. It drives traffic, both kids and families. It is an important category in relation to families. While times may be tough, people will not compromise making sure their kids are happy. It's a good industry to be in.
Nora Ali: You mentioned it's resilient, but sales have slowed down in the last year. According to market research company NPD Group, US toy industry sales increased by just 2% in the first half of 2022. And that's after record-breaking sales in 2021 and 2020. What gives you confidence that the growth is going to re-accelerate and bring us out of this, according to you, probably this temporary slowdown?
Richard Dickson: Well, it is important to note that the industry has had record-breaking growth the last several years and we are still experiencing growth. According to Euromonitor, there's projections for growth between 4% and 6% for the industry over the next four to five years. The industry's really driven by innovation; innovative marketing drives demand for our brands. We also see, while digital play is a growth sector in what we'll call the larger playground, there is also an appreciation for physical play, even more so than there was several years ago. As parents and caregivers recognize, while digital and screen time is enticing and valid, getting off your computer, getting off those screens, experiencing tactile toys that unlock imaginative play is really an important part of the play experience and I think gaining even more attention and traction.
Nora Ali: You mentioned innovation and marketing is a key component. I remember when I was a kid, the main way I'd find out about new toys is literally commercials on Nickelodeon. And I'd ask my parents, "Can I have this toy?" But now you have these YouTuber kids who are paid millions of dollars to unbox toys, play with toys. My nieces will discover toys on YouTube. What do you find has been the most successful, maybe newer marketing channels that have worked the best to get to your target demos?
Richard Dickson: Today, our consumer is everywhere. They're consuming content in different forms of media in multiple parts. And it's our job to be in those spaces in a relevant way. Whether that's TikTok or Instagram or Facebook or a variety of other new media, if you will, it's our job to put our assets and creative in those spaces in a relevant way that connects to consumers.
Nora Ali: Maybe as a specific example, could you walk through how you might work with a particular brand or a franchise to market products? For example, the Barbie movie is coming out—obviously one of your storied brands at Mattel. What does that relationship look like? We have this very big cultural moment coming up from one of your brands. You have to decide what toys you're going to make, how you're going to market it, when you're going to market it. What does that whole partnership process look like?
Richard Dickson: It's complicated. Hopefully it looks easy from the outside, and that's the beauty of it. But it is complicated. Not only the development of content, but also to coordinate that with merchandising across multiple categories. Of course, toy is the center, if you will, but toy product development can take anywhere from a year to 18 months, and you're coordinating the look and the feel and the aesthetics of that toy line while you're building in parallel construct, content and the narrative, and in this case the Barbie movie, which we could not be more excited about. But to your point, coordinating that aesthetic, that narrative with merchandising is art as much as it is a science.
Nora Ali: Can you just walk me through how more broadly licensing works with brands and franchises? If you have like a DC or WWE, how do you get the rights? How did these partnerships come up in the first place? Because we're all very aware that these exist, but I don't think anyone really understands the mechanics of how they come to fruition.
Richard Dickson: There is what we'll call property owners, right? So as you mentioned, DC is owned by Warner Bros. And of course Disney owns incredible franchises: Disney Princess and Frozen and Cars and Toy Story and a variety of other amazing brands. Mattel owns amazing brands as well. As the brand owner, you essentially look to other partners that create product, or in some cases storytelling, outside of your core competency. So for instance, Mattel makes toys, and we make toys better than anyone in the world. But Barbie is a brand that has a lifestyle and can be in apparel and accessories. Backpacks, sporting goods, fashion, beauty. What we do is we look for partners in those different industries, in those different categories, and we work very closely with finding the best-in-class partners. We then give them the rights, or in this case the license, to create specific Barbie-branded product in those categories. That licensee would work very closely with our team to ensure that they get the right brand assets, that they execute with the right creative, that they get the benefit of the marketing power that's happening on Barbie, and that we become partners.
Nora Ali: So what would get a Disney or a Warner Bros. to choose Mattel over another competitor? What is it about your vision where they would say, you're the ones?
Richard Dickson: Our safety standards are above industry standards, our aesthetics, our attention to detail. We really believe that the toys that we create matter; they're important parts of child development. We put a lot of research and development and insights into the toys themselves. And then a partner chooses us not only because of the amazing quality and product that we create, but we also have an incredible distribution arm. We market and sell our brands in over 450,000 doors around the world. And that, by virtue of going global very quickly for partners, is a real asset.
Nora Ali: That all makes sense. It might not be as obvious to your everyday consumer, the big differences between these large toymakers. So when you're in the room with the brand, what is the pitch? Is it the distribution? "Our distribution's better? Our marketing is better. We're just more efficient, we work faster at the core." Why would Disney choose you, besides the storied history and all of the nice things you said?
Richard Dickson: To your point, I don't think it's a silver bullet. Mattel really prides itself on driving each one of our brands with our playbook. It's a really proprietary way of thinking at Mattel that we share with our partners. Our team spends a lot of time making sure that we zero in on the brand's DNA, its purpose, its reason for being. And then we design and innovate based on that idea. We fit to culture through brand partnerships and collaborations. I mean, Barbie's a great example of that. And then we execute around the world with excellence, and it is a methodology that differentiates Mattel from every other toy company in the world. And we take a lot of pride in those presentations that we make with partners around the assets that we have and how we think. And it works incredibly well.
Nora Ali: Let's talk about all the grownups that love playing with toys. So The Wall Street Journal reported people aged 18 and up accounted for 14% of US toy industry sales from last June to June of this year. And that's up from 9% in 2019, so that number's growing pretty quickly. They also addressed how toy companies are catering to adults, where you have alcohol served at the American Girl cafes, you have after-dark Build-A-Bears. What is your take on this growing trend of adults getting more and more into toys?
Richard Dickson: It's one of the fastest-growing segments in the toy industry. I don't think it's a surprise, actually. When you look at what's happening today in the world, I think we as adults are looking for places for products, for brands that have more joy, more fun, a bit more lightheartedness and a return to your own youth, and a return to a place that was maybe more simple and more fun. So if you go to Mattel Creations, which is our e-commerce content platform for adult collector, Mattel Creations was really created to offer our toys as a canvas for collaboration with designers, artists, entertainers, musicians that grew up with our toy, and then offer them a unique moment to design, with our designers, their version of that toy. Selfishly, I collect them all. I have a toy box that is overflowing with collector product.
Nora Ali: How do you revitalize old brands? Let's say something was popular in the '70s and there seems to be some kind of pop culture interest in it again. What does that look like, bringing it back into the mainstream?
Richard Dickson: That's actually a methodology that Mattel does extraordinarily well. But to keep these brands relevant is both art and science. There's no better brand to look at than Barbie in the context of a brand that has certainly had peaks and valleys. The methodology is going back to the original purpose of the brand. It always starts with brand purpose. And the brand purpose of Barbie was to inspire the limitless potential of girls. And that is essentially the center of everything that we think about when we market and we manage Barbie. And what we like to say is, look, evolution makes a brand relevant, but purpose makes a brand immortal. The world is full of products that, you know, it peaks quickly and they flame out. But purposeful brands, brands that are based on an idea that's actually bigger than the product, can have staying power for generations. But again, you have to go back to the beginning of every brand that successfully somehow broke through and figure out how to create that brand to be a relevant brand for today.
Nora Ali: Richard, we've talked about all the fun stuff. You've made your job sound super fun. Obviously, it's a less than ideal economic situation right now. There have been supply chain issues for many, many retailers. What is your outlook for this upcoming holiday season, and how are you dealing with some of these macro issues?
Richard Dickson: Well, we always say, Christmas comes every year. Holidays come every year. Santa has never let us down. Despite the fact that there's trials and tribulations and macroeconomic factors that we're all dealing with, there will be gifts under the trees and under the various different holiday ornaments this year. We believe that Mattel is actually in a very strong position because there is a return to nostalgia. We also have an incredible marketing plan that touches every aspect of where our consumers are. We have great design, innovation, and value that really does count, especially during these particular times. So look, it is a challenging year. But again, toys as a category has been particularly resilient during inflationary times. The history shows us that. We're lined up to have a successful execution. And of course as we look forward to 2023 with the Barbie movie and all the other aspects of our pop culture conversation, we couldn't be more excited to see where this nets out and start the new year.
Nora Ali: Richard, you are bullish on toys until the end of time.
Richard Dickson: We gotta have fun. Toys are it.
Nora Ali: Awesome. Well, Richard, we will leave things there. Thank you so much for joining us on Business Casual.
Richard Dickson: Thank you so much. Great conversation. Appreciate the time.
Nora Ali: That was Richard Dickson, CEO of Mattel. Despite the looming recession, Richard is optimistic about growth in the toy industry. And next we'll hear from another toy giant with a different strategic vision for the future, Hasbro's CEO, Chris Cocks. Hasbro was recently in the news regarding the value of one of the company's best-selling brands: Magic: The Gathering, and we'll hear Chris's take on that and more, after a quick break.
Hasbro named Chris Cocks CEO last February. And prior to that, he led Wizards of the Coast and Digital Gaming. That's the Hasbro division best known for Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. I asked Chris whether he believes the toy industry is recession-resistant.
Chris Cocks: Traditionally, toys and games have been very recession-resilient. In the last major downturn back in like 2008, 2009, the industry gets affected a bit, but nowhere near what a lot of other discretionary items do. I think the reality there is there's a couple truisms in life: People enjoy getting together and having fun with each other, which is kind of the core of what a toy and a game is. No matter what the economic circumstances are, parents love their children and they want to deliver for them a great birthday and a great Christmas or holiday.
Nora Ali: They'll probably skimp on spending for themselves if their budgets are getting tighter, but buy those kids their new D&D packs. You gotta do it.
Chris Cocks: Totally. Yeah, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle.
Nora Ali: Exactly. So there's obviously changing trends as to what is interesting to both kids and adults as far as toys. The Toy Association released a report of the latest trends in the industry, and one of the themes is experiences and creating memories. So obviously, you've got a lot of technology out there; folks are buying their kids iPads and phones sooner than in the past. But how does a company like Hasbro compete with those kinds of gadgets, whether it's a tablet or a VR headset, even?
Chris Cocks: I think in the age of digitization, people are looking for authentic connection. They're looking for opportunities to actually gather around a table together, gather around a game board together and connect as families, friends. Even in the case of some of our bigger games like Magic: The Gathering, strangers who just have a common passion. There's a lot of power in that human connectivity. I think it's been driving the games industry, and particularly the tabletop games industry and the collectibles industry, for the last decade. I don't think it's a coincidence that as people have been using more and more social media and relying more and more on devices, that there's a corresponding hunger to actually get together with people and have some fun face to face.
Nora Ali: A lot more loneliness in this world. So I think games is even more important now. My older sister and her husband are very much into D&D and they make new friends by just playing with people online. It's actually incredible. And they become real-life friends...
Chris Cocks: Oh, yeah.
Nora Ali: ...which I didn't realize happens that much. It translates from online to in-person friends. It's great.
Chris Cocks: Yeah, I mean I've probably made more new best friends in the last five years—I've been at Hasbro for about six and a half years—over the last five years or so playing D&D than I have at any time since maybe college, which is saying something, because I'm a...
Nora Ali: Wow. Yeah.
Chris Cocks: I'm a 49-year-old dude; I'm not supposed to be making a bunch of new friends at this age.
Nora Ali: I mean, at any age as an adult it's hard to make new friends, so I think that's a really great way to meet new people. So Hasbro has a lot of amazing franchises and different brands that you work with, including a longtime partnership with Disney, and that's continuing to grow. How has that partnership evolved over the years, and what is it about Hasbro that got Disney to choose Hasbro?
Chris Cocks: Well, gosh, that's a long story that goes back to Lucasfilm before there even was Lucas as part of Disney. George Lucas came out with this pioneering movie in the late '70s called Star Wars. He shopped it to a bunch of different toy companies. A bunch of toy companies thought, "Nah, that sci-fi on the big screen, that's never going to work."
Nora Ali: Oh my gosh.
Chris Cocks: And Kenner Products, which Hasbro later required about five, six years later, they had the great foresight to create a fantastic relationship with Lucasfilm. And that relationship has grown over time. We did the original Star Wars toys; we've been doing them ever since. We started up our relationship with Disney several decades ago. We strengthened that with bringing on Marvel. It's been a very lucrative and very two-way relationship of value creation. I think Disney is some of the best storytellers on the planet, and we're some of the best playmakers on the planet. I think when you combine great franchises like Marvel and Star Wars with fantastic toys and collectibles, a lot of magic happens.
Nora Ali: I agree. I'm a huge fan of both Star Wars and Marvel. You said Hasbro's one of the best playmakers. What does that mean, exactly? For people who aren't in the business of making toys, why are you better at it than others?
Chris Cocks: I suppose it maybe makes sense to take a step back and say "What is Hasbro?" just in case people don't know. Because chances are, you probably have a bunch of our products. So Hasbro makes toys, games, and entertainment for fans of all ages. We've been doing it for, starting in 2023, a hundred years, if you can believe it.
Nora Ali: Wow.
Chris Cocks: And we make everything from icons like the Potato Head or Mr. Potato Head to new classics like Wordle the Party Game, Hollywood blockbusters like Transformers, to gaming OGs like Dungeon & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering. We do it for people of all ages. We start our relationship with our fans as early as two or three when kids are in preschool. And we extend that through well into adulthood. I think what's really kind of powered us as a company is this concept of multigenerational play, where fans grow up, they grow up playing Transformers, they grow up playing GI Joe or My Little Pony, and then they want to pass that baton to the next generation, whether it's their kids or kids of friends. And that's what I think really makes Hasbro special and makes Hasbro different.
Nora Ali: What does the testing process look like, and how do you know when it's time to greenlight a new game?
Chris Cocks: Yeah, well it depends on the game. So we'll make everything from board games like Monopoly or Hungry Hungry Hippos. Those tend to have a little bit lighter testing because they tend to be a little bit lighter games, to we'll spend multi-hundred-million dollars on video games that we have in development, and those will have a very rigorous set of phase gates associated with them.
You know, I think the first thing it starts with is, who's the audience for the game? Is it a game for preschoolers, or is it a game for really savvy adults who are really into complicated rules and really want a lot of rich depth and texture to it? Once we have that audience identified, we find the kernel of fun, and then it takes multiple months, in some cases years, to put together what the actual concept is, put it into preproduction, play-test it with actual people, play-test it again and again and again and again and again, and then ultimately ship it. The final stage of review is, I get to play it. So yeah...
Nora Ali: Really? Do you play every single game that gets launched?
Chris Cocks: Well, I'm new. I've only been CEO now for about 10 months, but I do a series of lunches with our game teams and they take me through different games. So yesterday I got to play a new version of Monopoly that we have in development that should be coming out later next year, which is a lot of fun.
Nora Ali: That's cool. To what would you attribute the longevity of certain games like Clue, like Monopoly? What makes these things last for so many decades?
Chris Cocks: Well, I think at the core they have a really simple and compelling idea. They really hit a really strong archetype. Clue, at the end of the day, is about solving a mystery and kind of living out that fantasy of a detective movie or a police show procedural. Monopoly, I'm sad to say, but I think the real key to Monopoly is how much cheating can you get away with. We actually did a...
Nora Ali: What? Really?
Chris Cocks: Yeah, I mean we actually had a cheater's edition of the game, which is one of the best-selling versions of the game, where by design you were actually supposed to cheat. I know maybe this is just sharing too much information about my family, but my two kids and my wife and I, one of our favorite games is Monopoly. My wife is an absolute rules follower, and the kids and I just have so much fun figuring out how much cheating we can actually get away with before she'll do the board flip and we'll end the evening.
Nora Ali: That's amazing. And how much can you guys get away with? Is she discerning, or can you trick her?
Chris Cocks: Well, a shocking amount, especially if she has to go to the kitchen.
Nora Ali: Yeah? That is incredible. All right, we're going to take a very quick break. More with Chris when we come back.
So we had referenced that adults are buying more toys these days, and we talk about nostalgia all the time on this podcast. How do you determine which of the older product lines, let's say from the '70s, the '80s, the '90s, are brought back and given a new life at Hasbro? How does that process work?
Chris Cocks: Yeah, I listened to your collector's episode. I had no idea Pez dispensers were going for so much money.
Nora Ali: Yeah. Crazy, right?
Chris Cocks: I really should have done a better job keeping my collection from when I was a kid.
Nora Ali: Same. It's nuts, yeah.
Chris Cocks: Yeah. Yeah, it's amazing. That was a very entertaining episode. Like so many collectibles, what was popular when you were a kid will tend to be popular again when you're adult. Because when you're a kid, you get a toy, and a toy typically is $10 or $20 and you love it, that's fantastic and it's one of the best presents you've ever gotten. When you're an adult, you have a lot more spending capacity. I think what we tend to find is people want to bring to life what they had in their imaginations when they were a little kid into the actual toy, like, "I want to see that toy at a higher scale or a greater level of fidelity," or "I want to see that laser blaster actually do something. I want it to actually fire a laser bolt out. Wouldn't that be amazing?"
And I'll give you a couple examples. One of our best-selling collectibles of the last year is the Optimus Prime by a company called Robosen that we've been partnering with. I was a kid in the '80s. I loved Transformers; I watched the show religiously. I was super bummed when Optimus died in the movie back in 1985 and super psyched when he came back a season later. But Optimus Prime was just about the coolest toy out there when I was a little kid. Today I can go on Hasbro Pulse, which is our direct site, and I can buy an Optimus Prime that not only responds to my voice commands, but actually transforms with me doing nothing.
Nora Ali: Whoa.
Chris Cocks: It's a full robot. It's super cool. It's an amazing experience. We have a bunch of those. We do those as products that our designers dream up and we just launch. And we also do those as products that we call HasLabs. And those are kind of maker markets where we're like, "Hey, we don't know if this is a great idea or not," and we kind of put it out there and we say, "Hey, do 5,000 people want this?" And if they do, we fund it and we make it and we deliver it for them. So for us, it's all about bringing your childhood imaginations to life and really delighting collectors with products that they only could have dreamed of maybe 20 or 30 years ago.
Nora Ali: It's funny you mentioned that, because I recently as an adult paid more than $200 for a lightsaber at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge that I forged at the theme park. And as a kid, obviously my parents would never spend that kind of money for me on a toy. But here I am: I have money now, so I spend hundreds of dollars on a toy that I probably won't use, but it's cool to have it.
Chris Cocks: Yeah, yeah. I think there's an insight there. Play is not just for kids anymore. Play has become ageless. When I was growing up in the '80s, I give a lot of credit to Marvel and DC Comics for starting to light the fuse of pop culture being cool forever. There were a couple creators like Frank Miller in the comics kind of industry, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas in Hollywood and entertainment who made it such that, "Hey, pop culture is cool and pop culture is for every age." I think that flame has only gotten brighter over time, such that now you don't stop playing with Transformers at the age of 10 or 11. You keep playing with Transformers, you keep collecting Transformers your entire life, and you identify as a fan.
Nora Ali: Well, I have a good sense of the life cycle of a product, how you get new ideas, how you create things based on sort of what's trending. I do want to get a sense of the decisions around supply of existing games and brands. Magic: The Gathering has been in the news recently. According to reporting from CNBC, a Bank of America analyst told clients there were sort of concerns that Hasbro has been perhaps overproducing Magic cards, which has propped up Hasbro's results, destroying long-term value of the brand. That's according to Jason Haas of Bank of America. To what extent is that an accurate assessment of the situation? What exactly is going on there?
Chris Cocks: Well, I think we take any and all feedback seriously, whether it's from fans in a local game store or whether it's an analyst that we work with on Wall Street. The contents of that report was no exception. We investigate it; we understand, like, you know, we try to look for any kind of potential issues. We really are brand stewards and take seriously the longevity and the health of our brands, because Magic's been a brand that's been around for 30 years, Monopoly's been a brand that's been around for 70, 80 years, D&D is going to be celebrating its 50th anniversary soon. So we don't just think about what the near-term results are for our businesses. We think about how we can sustain them over the long haul.
One of the core tenets of Magic, one of the core principles we follow in building the game, is this value that we call "It takes a multiverse" and we recognize the brand and the game is bigger than us. My perspective is the game is healthier than it's ever been. It's continuing to grow. We continue to see it having great growth prospects in the future. We'll continue to take feedback from all sides. We'll continue to take it seriously, but know that we take our role as brand stewards very seriously.
Nora Ali: So let's talk about Hasbro stock a little bit. It's down 40% year to date as of this recording, but you are quite optimistic about the holidays. You mentioned most of the supply chain issues are not as prominent as they once were. What gives you this optimism going into the holidays, given performance so far this year?
Chris Cocks: Well, supply chain is one thing. I feel pretty good about where we are with supply chain, both from Hasbro and across the industry. You can go into a Target or a Walmart or go shopping online on Amazon. From a macroeconomic perspective, we went into this year with a pretty cautious outlook to 2022. We knew that inflation was becoming a bigger and bigger concern for consumers. In Q3 in our earnings, we lowered our outlook for the full year, recognizing that economic headwinds were building. And we continue to maintain that cautious outlook. All that said, parents are coming out and shopping for their kids for Christmas. There's supply. There's plenty of great gifts out there. And we continue to remain optimistic that the toy industry over the long haul will be a vibrant category that will remain resilient in good times and bad.
Nora Ali: What does that mean, exactly? It's going to be a vibrant category over time. I'm looking at your long-term vision for the future of the toy industry. What does it look like 10 years from now, 20 years from now?
Chris Cocks: I mean, for us, we just had an Investor Day back in early October where we outlined what our strategic vision was for the industry. And for us, it was about fewer, bigger, more powerful, and better brands. We've got this amazing portfolio of over 1,500 IP inside of our stable. We're choosing to really vector in on about seven to 10 of them that we think can be the best in their categories. Those categories are vibrant categories that are growing. That's really kind of what our focus is on the near term. Over the long term, I think play and entertainment is an exciting category to be in.
Gaming is a long-term secular trend of value creation. All you have to do is look at Gen Y and millennials' favorite brands. They tend to be gaming brands. I think the collectors' market is a big long-term secular tailwind for us. I don't see that going away anytime soon. And in fact, we see that as the fastest-growing aspect of our business. And then I think there's some transformative technologies that are afoot that I also think are going to be really cool and transform the way that we can do business. Probably first and foremost to me is this kind of concept of mass customization. This idea of being able to print on demand with high-scale 4K printers and being able to deliver high-fidelity collectibles, toys and games that are bespoke to the individual. I think that'll happen over the next five years. And I think that will supercharge the collectors' industry and really be a competitive differentiation for Hasbro that we're taking an early leadership position in.
Nora Ali: That's awesome. Mass customization is the future of toys. I love that. Okay, finally, Chris, we have a game. It's called Guess Who: Dungeons & Dragons edition. So as we know, you've made some of your best friends through D&D. There have also been many celebrities who have openly expressed their love for D&D and still play to this day. So this is the game. I'm going to describe a few details about each of these celebrities who are D&D fans and you have to guess who it is. And this is all according to inverse.com. Okay. So how well do you know your fellow D&D fans? First one, a couple clues. Few clues. "My maternal grandparents were part of the famous Vanderbilt family since 20..."
Chris Cocks: Oh, Anderson Cooper, yeah.
Nora Ali: You only needed the one clue.
Chris Cocks: Yeah, yeah.
Nora Ali: That's amazing. Did you know he was a huge fan?
Chris Cocks: I did know that he was a big fan, yeah.
Nora Ali: I guess he went into mourning when one of his characters died; he said this on TV once. Yeah, I get it, you feel really attached to these characters. Okay, great job, one for one. Second one: "I am part of two highly successful movie franchises that center around an ensemble cast, one on the road and one in space."
Chris Cocks: Vin Diesel. Hey, I was worried I wouldn't get this, yeah.
Nora Ali: This is so easy for you. I'm just going to...I'm gonna read the second clue just for our listeners. So Vin Diesel has been a fan of D&D for over 37 years and even wrote the foreword for the commemorative book, 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons. So he is obsessed. And I love it. Last one. Let's see if you can go three for three. "I started my career in Chicago joining the famous Second City..."
Chris Cocks: Stephen Colbert.
Nora Ali: It's like you just have the list memorized of anyone who cares about D&D. That is amazing. So not only is he a fan of D&D, but he is also a scholar of all things Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. So he is a proper nerd, and I am here for it. Well, Chris, I'm going to give you bonus points. You get 10 points out of three because you did that so quickly and so easily.
Chris Cocks: Nice. Thank you.
Nora Ali: You win the game. You win this interview. We're going to leave things there. Chris, it was such a pleasure to have you on Business Casual. Thank you.
Chris Cocks: Thank you so much, Nora, and hope you have a happy holiday.
Nora Ali: This is Business Casual and I'm Nora Ali. You can follow me on Twitter @NoraKAli and I would love to hear from you. If you have ideas for episodes, comments, thoughts on episodes you loved, fun segment ideas, feel free to shoot me a DM and I will do my very best to respond. You can also reach the BC team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us. That number is 862-295-1135. And if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. And if you like this show, please leave us a rating and a review. It really helps. Business Casual is produced by Katherine Milsop and Raymond Luu. Additional production, sound design, and mixing by Daniel Markus, Rosemary Minkler, and Nick Torres. Kate Brandt is our fact checker, and AB Silver is our senior booking producer. Sebastian Vega and Evan Frolov edit our videos. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali. Keep it business, and keep it casual.