Interview with Gerd Hahn, creator of the Worry Eaters
This UKMums.tv got the chance to interview Gerd Hahn, the creator of Worry Eaters.
Where did the idea originate, when it came to creating Worry Eaters,?
At the beginning of 2008, my life was in a turmoil. I had major cash flow problems in my company, my left knee was excruciatingly painful and to make matters worse my girlfriend was threatening to leave me because she thinks I am a major workaholic. In a sleepless night, tossing and turning, I imagined how cool it would be to have a pet who in a jiffy, could just gobble up all my worries! Unfortunately my cat refused point blank to even try – but the idea was born: if it is impossible to find a pet to EAT WORRIES, maybe a plush would suffice, a SORGENFRESSER (German for WORRY EATER).
How did you decide on the design for Worry Eaters - they are very quirky characters?
By the next morning, I had come up with the idea of an entire family of WORRY EATERS. At that time my graphics team was working under great time pressure on the TV series MIA AND ME. Nevertheless, I put a few of them to work on sketching the WORRY EATERS but the first drafts went in the wrong direction: too smooth, too pretty... I wanted them to look unique and so we persevered and eureka! That’s exactly how I had imagined them!
Has the feedback from parents been positive?
Not only from parents. We also receive letters from psychologists and teachers. They tell us how much easier it is for children to divulge their worries or wishes to their favourite WORRY EATER. For example, the plushes with the zipper-mouth are being used for the traditional “morning circle” at kindergarten and primary school, where kids can anonymously put a note into a WORRY EATER’S mouth. The teacher has the opportunity to read what’s really bothering the kids about school, home, their schoolmates or their teachers. We’ve been told that because of the WORRY EATERS, children who previously never said a word now actively take part in this activity.
WORRY EATERS are also becoming more and more popular among adults. In Berlin, they’re sold in a trendy comic store and I even once saw a punk buy one and put a chocolate in its mouth as present for his girlfriend to apologise for having hurt her feelings. We’ve even heard about WORRY EATERS being given as an alternative wedding gift, ‘just in case’…!
Do you think children have many worries and what do they worry about most?
I believe that everyone has a worry once in a while, no matter what age. But when it comes to our children, it’s crucial to be aware of what is worrying them and do everything in our power to support them. The feedback we get confirms that kids do have worries but also that they regard the WORRY EATERS as a supportive friend. The worries we’ve heard about vary: from school topics to visits to the doctor or dentist and even fears of “creepy-crawlies”. It’s also a pleasure to learn that many children simply love the WORRY EATERS for their cool look and absolute cuteness.
The Worry Eater’s brand is obviously being further developed with the introduction of stationery and accessories; where do you see the brand going over the next few years?
Well, we were quite surprised about how quickly the concept of zipping away your worries spilled over from Germany to our neighbouring countries in Europe. And now we are selling worldwide in the USA, Japan, South America and numerous other countries. Last year, we won more than 10 awards alone in the USA and were nominated as a finalist for the “Toy Of The Year” award, which we regard as a tremendous honour. We also won the INDEPENDENT TOY AWARD and the LOVED BY PARENTS AWARD in the UK, as well as the ETOIL du JOUET in France. For the WORRY EATERS, 2014 started off with a bang, having won the reputable TOY FAIR LONDON award. The introduction of additional products that we embarked on with our license and distribution partners has proved to be a step in the right direction and we have some other quite cool ideas for the future culminating in hitting TV screens in 2017. Our boldest dream of having the WORRY EATERS move into children’s bedrooms all over the world is increasingly coming true.