Video: Behind the scenes with Tic Tac Toy
Courtney Pedroza, Nashville Tennessean
How business savvy, creative couple Lucy and Jason Maxwell turned their young daughters’ love of toys into a multi-million-dollar operation — in their basement
- Tic Tac Toy videos — starring Maya, 6, Addy, 9, and their mom — have scored more than 1.8 billion views in three years
- The Maxwells and Blip Toys have just released a Tic Tac Toy products line in Walmart and Target stores nationwide
- Major toy manufacturers sponsor about half of the weekly videos the family makes in the basement of their Nashville area home
That’s exactly what Jason and Lucy Maxwell thought when their two little girls, Addy and Maya, became obsessed with YouTube videos of toy unboxings — kids and adults opening boxes of toys and then talking about and playing with what’s inside.
“Maya was really into it, and we were like, ‘What is this?’” said Jason Maxwell, who at the time was a financial analyst with a side business of selling toys.
“I’m seeing dozens of these videos getting tens of millions of views. And I did more research, and people get paid for clicks,” he said.
Lucy Maxwell, Addy, 9, and Maya, 6, film for their YouTube channel Tic Tac Toy at their home Monday, July 15, 2019, in Brentwood, Tenn. (Photo: Courtney Pedroza / The Tennessean )
“I turned to Lucy and said, ‘We’re in the wrong business. I think we can do this.’”
The Maxwells launched family brand Tic Tac Toy, and in three years, it has morphed into a massively successful, low-budget, scripted weekly family show. Tic Tac Toy now has two YouTube channels with a combined four million subscribers.
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For young families, Lucy, Addy and Maya Maxwell are superstars.
Their videos have gotten more than 1.8 billion views. Mattel and Hasbro are among the major toy companies paying Tic Tac Toy to feature their products.
And last month, a small company named Blip Toys launched Tic Tac Toy products — including Maya and Addy figurines — in Walmart and Target stores nationwide, a deal potentially worth millions of dollars.
“We never could have imagined that our home-made videos would be so popular with so many children,” Jason Maxwell said.
Funny thing is, the girls — Addy is 9, Maya’s 6 — don’t really know they’re famous.
“Every time we go out and there are kids around their age, people come up and ask for pictures and autographs,” Lucy Maxwell said.
“They get excited about that. I don’t think they fully grasp how well known they are.”
And that’s a good thing as far as their parents are concerned.
Lucy and Jason Maxwell — who moved to Middle Tennessee a year ago — try to keep things as normal as possible for their daughters. They go to public school, for now, anyway.
Addy and Maya play with other kids in their neighborhood, and they have friends at school and church, like other children. (But the Maxwells have a few more toys than most.)
Jason and Lucy Maxwell, and daughters, Addy, 9, and Maya, 6, film for their YouTube channel Tic Tac Toy at their home Monday, July 15, 2019, in Brentwood, Tenn. (Photo: Courtney Pedroza / The Tennessean )
The parents work full time on Tic Tac Toy, writing scripts, making deals with toy companies, interfacing with YouTube, shooting the episodes themselves, setting up appearances. Their daughters only do video shoots one day a week.
Even on production days, Addy and Maya Maxwell seems like most any other sassy sisters.
While her dad adjusted lighting during a recent shoot, Addy Maxwell grabbed a toy — a finger on a stick — and started playing with it.
“This is a nice back scratcher!” she sang out.
Her little sister grabbed a toy plastic gardening shovel and rubbed it across her cheek.
“This is a great face scratcher!” Maya Maxwell said, smiling and looking to her big sister for approval.
Monthly checks went from $150 to $800 to $1,600
Three years ago, at age 3, it was Maya Maxwell who really got into the toy unboxing videos.
Her dad was selling toys through Amazon at the time, and he quickly convinced his wife to try to make their own videos.
“We already had a gazillion toys in the garage, and we figured we had a cell phone and toys, so let’s shoot video,” Lucy Maxwell said.
They applied for a YouTube channel in December 2015. Lucy Maxwell did the toy unboxings herself in the family’s master bedroom closet.
Her charm and kid-friendly voice drew more and more viewers. The Maxwells started seeing monthly checks, first $150, climbing to about $800 the second month, which Jason Maxwell considered a great supplement to the couple’s income.
Lucy Maxwell decided to concentrate on Finding Dory toys the next month because the movie was coming out. Smart move. The next check was for $1,600.
“That’s when I realized this could be full time,” Jason Maxwell said.
Their girls, meanwhile, were dying to get into the videos, and when their parents agreed, that was the game changer. Views went from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, growing exponentially each month from there.
Right now, Tic Tac Toy videos get between 60 to 115 million views each month, monster numbers that make the Maxwell family one of the country’s biggest toy influencers.
That’s drawn attention from toy manufacturers, and several approached the Maxwells about making a Tic Tac Toy toys line. The winner: Blip Toys, a smaller Minnesota-based company that produced micro collectible Squinkies a few years back.
Blip Toys executive Jenna Harlander said Tic Tac Toy stands out among toy influencers because they use skits and scripted content, going beyond video testimonials or videos of girls playing with toys.
Also, Harlander added, “they have a very dedicated audience. And they have very authentic videos.”
In the first few weeks, Tic Tac Toy toys have been “disappearing off shelves,” Harlander said.
Visiting sick children
The Maxwells also are looking to the future. In a few years, their daughters will be too old to play with toys, which leaves the family with questions.
“Our objective is get to a place where they can do whatever they want. If they tell us tomorrow we’re done, so be it,” he said.
For now, as success skyrockets, Jason and Lucy Maxwell become more and more concerned about their daughters’ privacy. They’ve taken several steps to try to keep the girls safe.
And the parents want the family’s work to have a community service piece to it.
The Maxwells have visited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, a non-profit treating sick children regardless of the family’s ability to pay.
Most patients there immediately recognize Addy and Maya Maxwell, their parents said, and the girls connect with those patients.
“Our nine-year-old looks them in the eye, asks how old they are and thanks them for watching,” Lucy Maxwell said.
Jason Maxwell said the family’s mission goes beyond making money.
“We strive to use our channel’s popularity to bring positive, family friendly messages and entertainment into people’s homes,” he said.
“The success is nice, but our greatest joy will continue to be the smiles we put on our fans’ faces.”
Reach Brad Schmitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-259-8384 or on Twitter @bradschmitt.
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