It is a pleasure to feature Toy Titan #3: Ann Austen! Ann enjoys the distinction of being the first female in this ongoing article series; predecessors include Christopher Bensch (Strong Museum) and Drew Vernon (Tonies). Ann is a particular delight because 1) She shares the POWER RANGERS roots of yours truly, 2) She is a Barbie content auteur, 3) She is a Hollywood girl-power success story. Thanks for being born, Ann!
Speaking of birth, there is a parallel circle of life theme that runs through today’s Toy Titans installment. Toy Titans’ origin story is tied to the late Richard Gottlieb: GLOBAL TOY NEWS publisher, podcaster, and pal. As of last month, Richard smiles down on the toy and merch-driven entertainment business from that great playground in the sky. His October 26 death is the result of a two-year ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) battle, during which Richard selflessly planted the Toy Titans seeds.
Thank you for sparking this collection, Richard! May your memory motivate the industry to stay playful through every challenge.
And now, ladies and gents, please meet Ann Austen!
Marlene Sharp: How did you start your career in the content/toy/games biz?
Ann Austen: I have been obsessed with kids TV since I was — well — a kid. I loved watching anything and everything. When I went to film school, I specialized in children’s media. Because of the academic slant to my education, I thought I would go more the PBS route, but ended up at Fox Kids as a development exec, right in the heart of the commercial beast, as it were. I loved it and have never looked back. I became the exec on a quirky new show called POWER RANGERS, then left the network to actually produce the show, and that launched my career as a writer and producer.
M.S.: What is your favorite toy-driven franchise and why? (It could be one of your projects, like Barbie, or something else.)