A Rumpus On The Net

by Lee Dannacher

Larry is even at the center of the wild and crazy Rumpus home page. ©
Larry Schwartz, creator of Rumpus, sees the world a little different than the rest of us.

Meet Larry Schwarz: grade-school movie director, successful child actor, young stand-up comedian. Fast-forward to some years later, you will now find Schwarz nestled comfortably in his burgeoning New York studio, driving the locomotive of a uniquely modeled, on-line entertainment hub he's called "The dictionary defines Rumpus as a wild noisy disturbance," he says, "and that's what we are doing in the children's entertainment industry. We're shaking things up and making a difference." With a flair for uncovering all things that tweak a child's curiosity and imagination, Schwarz has fashioned this rompish destination site around his award winning line of original characters and toys. Since its launch just 10 short months ago, the boisterous dot-com has expanded rapidly with an ever-widening array of weekly animated and live-action series. Incorporated in the site, as well, are all the bells, whistles and surprises children flock to: a kids' club, character based e-mails, games, puzzles, interactivity, downloadable art and more. Along the way, Rumpus Toys and its burgeoning on-line network have met with rave reviews, with Schwarz appearing on a variety of shows such as CNBC's The Edge, Regis and Kathy Lee, ABC News, the Tonight Showand the U.K.'s BBC. With less than a year under its Internet 'belt,' has been voted best new children's Web site by NetGuide and awarded the National Parenting Center's Seal of Approval. Whaddaya think -- they having fun yet?

Monster in my Closet is one of the first character creations from Rumpus. ©

Head Of The Line
Growing up in New York, Schwarz later enriched his early entertainment background with political science studies at the University of Pennsylvania, during which time he founded a seasonal lifestyle magazine for the Hampton resort area. Upon graduation, he ventured over to Ho Chi Minh City to found Vietnam's first Yellow Pages and the now influential Vietnamese Business Journal.He then took a short break from all this 'founding' and enrolled in Cardozo Law School where he "ended up spending more time doodling wacky toy ideas than listening to tort lectures." The day after he took the bar exam -- happily armed with 26 notebooks full of playful ideas -- he somersaulted again into the 'founding' business with his wildly successful launch of Rumpus Toys. The company's flagship line of three adorable and active characters (Gus Gutz, Monster In My Closet and Benny Blanket)premiered to industry acclaim at the New York Toy Fair in February of 1997.

Eggels and Puppies and Freaks, Oh My
The roller coaster ride to the Internet began soon thereafter when Schwarz put up an e-commerce site as a sales adjunct to their burgeoning international toy distribution. In early 1999, however, Schwarz made the bold Internet move to a more 'pure play' by announcing that Rumpus toys would only be available from that point forward through the company Web site. Schwarz explains, "We just wanted to really pull it back in to ourselves. Because, first of all, we think that we know our brand better than anyone else and we care about it better than anyone else... and we also wanted to kind of fuse it with the whole entertainment experience and be the first ones to really do that."

Dr. Freakenstein with the rest of the science freaks make experiments fun. © Space Puppies!They can't hear you bark in space! ©

The first Rumpus program to go on-line in September of last year was the Flash animated Science Freaksstarring Duey, Digby and Foothead as the colorful, chaotic mutations from 'Dr. Freakenstein's Laboratory.' This adventure series mixes goofy entertainment with true learning experiences, and includes an intermission that enables kids to participate in virtual science experiments. Space Puppiescame next with popular storylines focusing on the animated exploration of the cold war's Space Race. A novel idea!

Kids can follow the adventures of hunting down the elusive golden eggel. ©

Then, appealing to the youngest demographic, came a series, The Eggels, based on amagical community of quirky, pint-sized creatures. Their rulers, the five Golden Eggels, suddenly and mysteriously disappear, which sets the stage for highly interactive programs where kids across the globe log on, become members of the Rumpus Kids' Club and join together in search of the Golden Eggels. Premiering soon, the fourth episode will give the audience its first glimpse of the missing rulers -- and we've been pre-warned to think 'The Rat Pack' (e.g. a Frank Sinatra Eggle, Sammy, etc... where else but from artists in New York?). Using Flash 4's expanded technology, the animation team is also excitedly experimenting with new ways to broaden the audience's participation in the next installments of the on-going hunt.

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