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2023 Toy & Game Innovation Excellence Awards - the TAGIEs®

Celebrating Excellence in Innovation Worldwide! The Must Attend Event of the Year! 

Move over Oscars, Emmys, CMA, the 16th Annual TAGIE® Awards are taking center stage!

Friday, November 3rd

6:00-7:00pm Cocktails and Hors d' oeuvres (open bar)

7:00pm-8pm Seated Dinner 

8:00pm-9:30pm Awards

Black tie optional, Cocktail Attire

Enjoy photos from last year HERE.

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Thank You to Our Esteemed 2023 Sponsors! 
Be a Sponsor and Join Companies Celebrating Innovation in 2024! 
~ 2023 Welcome ~
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JoAnn McLaughlin

EVP Merchandising - Hard lines at Marvel Entertainment

JoAnn is responsible for delivering product innovation and development for Disney and Marvel-branded Toys and other products, and leading a team of pioneering designers and creatives. 


Prior to joining Disney Consumer Products, JoAnn held various executive-level positions at Marvel Entertainment, most recently Executive Vice President of Merchandising and Promotional Partner Services. Her career highlights also include key roles at Toy Biz, Matchbox Toys and Child Guidance, a division of CBS Toys.

~ Keynote of the Evening ~
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Tim Kilpin

President, Toys, Licensing & Entertainment at Hasbro

Tim Kilpin has extensive experience in the consumer products industry. Currently he oversees Hasbro’s iconic, multi-billion-dollar Toy business, which boasts some of the world’s leading IP and beloved brands. Tim joined Hasbro from PlayMonster Group LLC where he most recently served as Executive Chairman since January 2023 and as CEO from January 2022. In addition to his leadership experience at PlayMonster, his background includes serving as leader of Activision Blizzard’s Consumer Products business, Chief Commercial Officer for Mattel, Inc., and as Executive Vice-President, Franchise Management at The Walt Disney Company, where he oversaw the creation and development of global cross-category franchise plans for Disney’s stable of content and characters. In his new role, Tim will report to CEO Chris Cocks and will oversee Hasbro’s Consumer Products Group, with a focus on optimizing the value, relevance, and performance of the Company’s strategic franchise brands and IP.

Tim is also a contributing columnist for The Bloom Report.

~ Our Evening Host ~
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Karri Bean

Senior Licensing Manager, Disney Parks Experiences & Products

Located in Glendale, CA, for the past five years where she is responsible for managing Disney’s global construction category across key brands such as Star Wars, Marvel and Frozen. Karri comes with more than 10 years of experience in the toy industry, previously in global brand management creating unique and exciting products in the games category at Hasbro and Spin Master.

Full POP Profile HERE

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~ Lifetime Achievement Honorees ~
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Jill Barad

Consultant, Prior: CEO & Chairman of Mattel

Jill started as a brand manager in the novelty section at Mattel and rose through the ranks over the span of seventeen years. She was quickly promoted to director of the Barbie brand, which she grew to nearly $2 billion worldwide at the time. 

Known for her talent in spotting great products and marketing campaigns, Jill rapidly climbed the Mattel corporate ladder, holding the positions of EVP of marketing and product development, the president and CEO. She was appointed chairman and chief executive officer in the late 1990's.  

Through mergers, acquisitions, and the use of high-level marketing skills, Jill ushered in a period of growth and prosperity for Mattel. The "American Girl" business, which she acquired in 1998, has grown to be one of the major brands of Mattel and within the industry. She is credited with re-establishing Barbie as America's most enduring toy franchise.

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Rouben Terzian

Founder at Terzian Enterprises: Prior: Co-Founder of BMT - Big Monster Toy

Rouben Terzian was born and raised in Lebanon and came to America in 1958.  He pursued design and engineering, attending the Art Institute of Chicago and the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  In 1967, Rouben was hired to be a toy inventor at Marvin Glass & Associates.  His specialization was dolls, specifically, adding mechanical features to dolls including, in the words of Mattel CEO Jill Barad, “Bringing Barbie to life!”  Rouben went on to become the world’s preeminent doll inventor and a partner at Marvin Glass.  In 1988, Rouben, Jeff Breslow and Howard Morrison founded BMT — Breslow, Morrison & Terzian, which was soon renowned as one of the most prolific and successful toy invention firms in the world.  Now in his 80s, Rouben continues to create new toys.  Pursuing his passion for invention, and spending time with his daughter, Kristy, and his three grandchildren, keeps him young, sharp and loving life!

~ Game Changers - Unsung Heroes of 2023 ~
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Tara McGrath

Creative Director, Inventor Relations and Innovations, Mattel

Tara McGrath is Mattel's Creative Director for Inventor Relations/Innovation Hub. For over 20 years with Mattel, she has worked on various product lines such as Barbie, Polly Pocket, Disney Princess, Uno Games, and Disney Cars. Before Mattel and directly after graduating from the FIT Toy Program, Tara worked at Pace Development Group in NYC. At Pace, she focused on toy inventing, dolls, games, and preschool toys, ultimately placed products at companies such as Mattel, Parker Brothers, and Tyco.

Full POP Profile HERE

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Michael Gramelspacher, Jon Harter, & SG Labs for Club Organizers for St Clare School Innovator Club Michael Gramelspacher is a toy inventor who co-founded SG Labs in 2008. As an electrical engineer with no prior toy experience, Michael was drawn to the toy and game industry through the love of inventing and manufacturers' openness to outside innovation. Jon Harter is a software engineer for Collectors working in the TCG and collectible market. Jon is also an amateur board game designer who loves to create games for friend and family enjoyment. Jon and Michael met, and discovered their mutual interest in games and that their children attend the same school. Inspired by the school's STEAM focus, with resources from SG Labs and strong support from Principal Monica Ybarra, Michael and Jon established the St. Clare Innovators Club (SCIC). SCIC is an after school club focused around game creation from concept to prototype pitch, culminating in the PoP Young Inventor Challenge. Starting with 16 participants, several of whom went on to win awards at the YIC, the club has grown to 20 students. The SCIC hopes to continue to bring awareness and excitement of the toy industry to the next generation of innovators!

~ Presenters - More to be Featured! ~

Jeffrey Breslow

Toy And Game Inventor, Sculptor And AuthorArtist Jeffrey Breslow, born in 1943, got his start in toy and game inventing with Marvin Glass and Associates and eventually was name a partner. In 1967, he along with Howard Morrison and Rouben Terzian founded Big Monster Toy (originally Breslow, Morrisson and Terzian) and began a 31-year collaboration that has led to the creation and design of some of successful toy and game products such as Ants in the Pants. All three were inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 1988. Jeffrey was honored for Lifetime Achievement at the TAGIE Awards in 2008 when he retired from BMT.

Full POP Profile HERE

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Tim Walsh

Co-Founder, Roo Games; Filmmaker, Author, Designer, Creative Consultant, The Playmakers

Fearless Leader at The Playmakers and co-founder of Roo Games, a company specializing in games for the entire family. Tim designed or co-designed TriBond, Blurt, Mad Gab, You’ve Been Framed, Bull’s Eye, Cheese Stack, N'Sync Backstage Pass, TMNT Foot Clan Street Fight, and many others. These games have collectively sold over 7 million copies.
He was Creative Consultant and co-editor on Toyland, a documentary on toy and game inventors from director, Ken Sons. The film won Best Documentary awards at three US film festivals. In 2016, Tim co-produced and co-directed OPERATION: Operation The Power of Play with Peggy Brown. The film won the top prize for Best Film at the 2017 Naperville Independent Film Festival as well as Best Documentary.
As a speaker and lecturer, Tim aims to prove that PLAY is a means through which we can super-charge creativity and connect with others. He has spoken on this topic and others to teams as diverse as the USC’s Physical Sciences in Oncology Center, the State Bar of Arizona, Otis College of Art & Design and other creative organizations. Full POP Profile HERE

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Michael Kohner

President of The Michael Kohner Corporation
Michael, formerly of Kohner Bros., which was started by his father Paul and Paul's brother, Frank, is a prominent Licensing Agent in the game industry. The entire Kohner Family were recipients of the 2014 Lifetime Achievement at the TAGIES. Kohner Bros were industry pioneers famous for such classics as POP-O-MATIC TROUBLE and The BUSY BOX crib toy.  Michael Kohner formed The Michael Kohner Corporation in 1975 working closely together with many inventors to bring their products to marketplaces worldwide. Some of the many games Michael has helped bring to the market are LOOPIN' LOUIE, MR. BUCKET, GIGGLE WIGGLE and DON'T PANIC.

Full POP Profile HERE


Sue Warfield

President of ASTRA (the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association).

Sue has been working in the toy industry for over 40 years including working in retail, as a sales rep and for a manufacturer.  She has been an ASTRA member since 2002, serving on the board of directors as well as serving as chair of the board.  Her passion for the industry and supporting the importance of play from day one and throughout our lives is what energizes her to continue to work on elevating, engaging and promoting the success of the ASTRA members and the industry as a whole

Full POP Profile HERE

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Angus Walker

Head of Inventor Relations & External Innovation at Hasbro

Accomplished business and creative leader with uniquely diverse background in both strategy and design. Extensive experience in branding, portfolio management, strategic marketing, and product development. Proven manager and team leader, particularly adept in gaining consensus and delivering meaningful results. Able to fuse corporate acumen with entrepreneurial spirit.

Full POP Profile HERE

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Naomi Brugnatelli

Inventor Relations Manager at Hasbro

I have the privilege of being the Inventor Relations Manager at Hasbro. I’m constantly on the hunt for new innovative game ideas. I like to think that first and foremost, I am an inventor advocate.

Full POP Profile HERE

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Matt Nuccio

Matt Nuccio is the president of Design Edge, Inc., a toy and game development company and licensing agency whose clients include Mattel, Hasbro, Spin Master and Fisher-Price to name only a few. For 4 years, Matt co-chaired the Toy Association (TA), on their associate panel, representing all designers and inventors within the toy industry. Currently, Matt sits on the board of directors of the United Inventors Association of America (UIA), a non-profit organization working to educate and advocate for all types of inventors. He also sits on the the People of Play (POP) advisory board 

Full POP Profile HERE

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Azhelle Wade

The Toy Coach

Azhelle's been having way too much fun in the toy industry since 2010 working for companies like Toys R Us, Party City, and Madame Alexander, just to name a few! She's climbed up and across the ladder in the toy world, starting out as a designer, later gaining 3 toy patents, and eventually becoming a VP at a toy company. But, after building and mentoring a diverse and talented team toward success, she had the vision to do the same with newcomers to the toy industry. With that thought, Azhelle combined her industry knowledge, inspirational mantras, and extra passionate toy talks to create the now highly rated toy podcast, Making It In The Toy Industry. Today Azhelle is known industry-wide as The Toy Coach. She joyfully works as a consultant for popular IP’s and toy companies of all sizes. Her online course, Toy Creators Academy empowers newbies in the toy industry with step-by-step guidance, downloadable worksheets, and group coaching.

Full POP Profile HERE

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Christopher Byrne

The Toy Guy

Chris is a 35-year-plus veteran of the toy industry. He has held major marketing and creative positions for toy companies. Since 1988, he has run Byrne Communications, Inc., a consultancy for product development, strategic planning, licensing, and marketing. He has written seven books on the industry and speaks extensively on the role of child development in play and toy design and consults to the investment community in the U.S. and internationally about the business of toys. He appears regularly on Live with Kelly and Ryan and is the creator and co-host of The Playground Podcast, now in its fifth season.

Full POP Profile HERE

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Richard Derr

The Toy Man

Richard Derr wears several hats including owning a local toy shop (Learning Express Lake Zurich) for 28 years in the same exact location. He has also franchised Learning Express stores in the Midwest as Regional Developer for the Learning Express Toys national franchise. He also has been named the President of the LE Franchise Advisory Council for the last six years representing all franchisees (92) to the corporation. He is also on the ASTRA Toy Association Marketing Committee and is a leader in the specialty toy industry. You will see pertinent information posted on LinkedIn and shared to help the industry including his membership in the Toymaster (UK) organization.  Before opening his own business, he had a 20-year career at A. C. Nielsen/Dun & Bradstreet Corpora􀆟on rising to President of the US information division and 3 years as Sr. VP of Worldwide Software Development for the IMS/Nielsen division of D&B.  Richard’s philosophy of business is to help and mentor others just as he had great role models. His current toy store strategy includes making memories for all children young and old, big and small. He believes in a strong educated team, curated product selection of the toy’s kids want and displayed in a clean, safe store with a WOW feel.

Full POP Profile HERE

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James Zahn

AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report.

As a toy industry and pop culture expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC), Wizard World Chicago, and ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for outlets such as Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, History Channel, and more.

Full POP Profile HERE


Rich Mazel

VP of Innovation And Inventor Relations At Spin Master

Rich's post-Notre Dame (M.B.A.) career began in Chicago as a wide-eyed financial consultant for Deloitte, all while frantically sketching and pitching new product ideas to anyone who would listen, and to many that wouldn't :) In 2005, Rich moved to Los Angeles & enticed by the warm weather, green golf courses and creative spirit. Eventually his passion for everything fun and innovative led him into the wild and wonderful world of Toy Invention. Rich swapped coasts in 2013 and joined Hasbro's Global Product Acquisition team and now heads up the group, taking on the iconic toy brands of Nerf, Transformers, My Little Pony, Playdoh, Star Wars, etc. He is now the Vice President of Innovation and Inventor Relations at Spin Master.

Full POP Profile HERE

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Gene Murtha

Gene has over 40 years in general management, marketing, sales and product development within the toy, games and gift industries. Gene’s corporate background includes 16 yrs at Mattel in various executive roles, both in the US and abroad. He served as GM of Mattel UK and Ireland, ran the Toys-R-Us Customer Business Team for Mattel, opened markets in China, Japan, India and Eastern Europe. Gene is a patent-holding inventor who has experience as an entrepreneur, having started and run Main Street Toy co. the 1990’s. There he developed and marketed many successful products including Slap Wraps, one of the hottest fads of the ‘90’s. In one capacity or another, Gene estimates he has brought over 7,000 concepts to market, managing many mega-hit properties such as Star Wars, Cabbage Patch Kids, Trivial Pursuit, Barbie and Tickle Me Elmo, He joined SCORE in 2011, has served as a District Director and as a Regional VP for the Mid-Atlantic States. As a volunteer mentor for small businesses, Gene has served hundreds of aspiring start-up, counseling existing business owners on sales growth in a variety of industries. In addition to serving on the POP Executive Committee, Gene is a member of various Corporate and Not-for-profit Boards, including ASTRA.

Full POP Profile HERE

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Jerry Cleary

President, In-Sync Consulting LLC

Jerry’s history in the business world began in 1970 working as a sales representative at Marx toys and later as National Field Sales Manager. He joined Mattel in 1979 as Field Sales director and then moved on to Tonka Corporation in 1983 as VP of Sales. Jerry was promoted to President of Tonka US and served in that position until the company was acquired by Hasbro in 1991. In his last corporate position in the industry Jerry served in various executive and General Management positions with Mattel including EVP Sales Fisher Price, EVP and General Manager Mattel Latin America and EVP Sales Mattel US. Since his retirement from Mattel Jerry has formed In-Sync Consulting LLC. A product and intellectual property development and services provider for companies focused on the sales and marketing of children’s products.

Full POP Profile HERE


Donna Moore

Vice President At And TTPM Influencer Talent Management

Donna Moore is the Senior Vice President at aNb Media/ and VP for FamFluence Talent Management. In these positions she handles accounts for clients across the company’s multiple divisions: toys, baby, pets, and influencers! Working closely with almost every toy company in the industry, as they rely on Donna to offer smart marketing solutions to help meet their business goals. 

When she is not traveling, you can find her producing wine at her vineyard in Connecticut.

Full POP Profile HERE

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Rachel Griffin

Co-Founder at PlayWise Partners, QVC Host

​An Advisory Board member for POP, two-time Women In Toys: Wonder Woman of the Year Finalist, and PRSA member, Rachel is a dynamic and best practice driven public relations leader with over 19 years of award-winning excellence.  She has successfully launched numerous toy brands and franchises for top ten toy companies, including multiple Toy of the Year nominees and winners.  She excels at implementing and negotiating strategic marketing & promotions, while deepening brand awareness year over year through comprehensive media coverage, events, digital and social media. And, she's a good poker player if you are looking for a game!

Full POP Profile HERE

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Robert Fuhrer

Owner of Nextoy LLC

Robert Fuhrer is the Founder and Owner of Nextoy LLC. His company connects great, original ideas with toy/game companies, such as Hasbro, Mattel, Spin Master, Goliath, The New York Times, PlayMonster, AndrewsMcMeel, Gakken, Kawada and many others, that turn the idea into product. Classic Nextoy products include Crocodile Dentist, Gator Golf, KenKen, Spirograph Animator, Will Shortz Games and iTop. On a business trip to Japan to 2007, Robert became fascinated with an unknown math-and-logic puzzle. So he set up KenKen Puzzles LLC and markets the popular KenKen puzzle worldwide with a popular website, mobile apps, books, and syndicated publications. AWARDS - Recipient of the I.D.I.O.T. (International Designer & Inventor of Toys) award. - TIME Magazine’s “Most Amazing Inventions” selection. - TOTY (Toy of the Year) 3x nominee for Most Innovative Toy of the Year. - Toy Industry of America, Caring For Children Award - Mojo Nation “Top 100 most Influential Figures Working In Toy and Game Design” BOARD MEMBER: - Chitag -Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Hudson Valley -Evan's Team -Ping Pong Parkinson

Full POP Profile HERE

~ Evening Entertainment ~
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Mark Setteducati will be performing magic during cocktails! 

Mark is a magician and inventor of magic, illusions, games and puzzles. He is also an author, known for the book, The Magic Show and featured on PBS Inventors. Recently Mark co-founded He'ron Elite a lighting company, and MeMuseum a company producing magic exhibits. And... he is super interesting to chat with - ask him about his pen collection!   Full POP Profile HERE

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Barry & Jason Games and Entertainment is the official scriptwriter and stunt provider of the 2023 TAGIEs.  To know them is to love them...

Bary: "I’ve made hundreds of short films, created advertising campaigns for Hot Wheels, and played a boy who got his tongue stuck to the freezer on William Shatner’s Rescue 911. It didn’t happen to me, I was just the actor. And they happened to have another 11-year-old boy on Standby if I didn’t do a good enough job. That young Standby was Zachary Quinto."

Jason: "I started Barry & Jason Games and Entertainment because I liked the name and Barry was available. Only a few years in and this is, by far, the best job I’ve ever had—yes, even better than waiting tables and doing Customer Service for AT&T! In five years I see myself on a catamaran with Kenny Loggins."


Barry & Jason Games & Entertainment is a game invention studio run by Barry McLaughlin, Jason Lautenschleger, and VP Cassie Slane Guglielmo. They recently licensed Game Night in a Can to Goliath, and are currently working with PlayMonster and Big Potato.

Music provided by Skip Towne and the Greyhounds, Chicago's #1 Blues Band and our band at the TAGIEs for over 10 years! 

Chicago’s Skip Towne and the Greyhounds personify hard-driving, heartfelt, classic blues, jazz, swing, ballads, and downright good time Rockin’ Blues that you can’t refuse!  The band has been regularly performing in various configurations acoustically as a 3 PIECE up to an electric 10 PIECE BAND all around the Midwest and frequently in Chicago area clubs such as The House of Blues, The Hard Rock, The Park West, Buddy Guy’s Legends, Famous Dave’s, Beale Street Blues Cafe, Frankie’s Blue Room, Penny Road Pub, The Brat Stop, Cubby Bear North, Port of Blarney, Blarney’s Island, Pete Miller’s, Las Palmas and The Firkin. 

~ New for 2023 - Joe's LIVE Concert Venue ~

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Thank You to our TAGIE® Awards Event Committee
(not the same as the Nomination Committee)

Chair: Karri Bean - Senior Manager, Licensing at Disney Consumer Products,  Experiences and Consumer Products

Peggy Brown - Inventor, Playwright, Designer, Author, Filmmaker, Funmaker

Danielle Reinhardt - Senior Brand Manager, Ultra PRO International 

Robert Fuhrer - Owner at Nextoy LLC and KenKen Puzzle

Brent Rolland - Event Producer/DJ at Fig Media, Musician, Host/Producer: FANPOWER Game Shows

Tim Walsh - Co-Founder, Roo Games; Filmmaker, Author, Designer, Creative Consultant, The Playmakers

Kaye White - President of Visual Playthings

Sari Wiaz - President of Baby Paper

Mary Couzin - President, Chicago Toy & Game Group

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