But once they did commit to this idea that Ryan could become the breadwinner for their family, they actually took steps that made him even more successful.
One particularly important one: Rather than just playing with toys made by other companies, they should create some of their own, inspired by Ryan’s own personality. And rather than making the toys the star, focus on the kid everyone’s watching playing with them.
As writer Jay Caspian King puts it:
Which is all to say, these aren’t your stereotypical parents of a child star, who, frustrated with their own crashed Hollywood dreams, put their kid through singing and dancing lessons in the living room of a bungalow in Van Nuys. But neither are they just an adorable couple who stumbled into fame and fortune. They’re much cannier than that.
To me, that’s the real story about Ryan’s World
, the media and product-marketing empire that emerged from a kid actually telling us what he wanted, rather than a bunch of adults in a boardroom simply guessing. I don’t think you could, by any means, call what Ryan Kaji’s life is anything in the ballpark of normal.
But the fact that his parents, each from families that are first-generation immigrants to the United States, have apparently proven so savvy about their 10-year-old son’s success is interesting, too. The success of the YouTube show and its many offshoots (including for the cable channel Nickelodeon) also creates a very ironic situation, as King puts it:
“The Kaji empire and its thousands of imitators, oddly enough, have created perhaps the only world in which children do not stare at screens,” he writes. “It’s a nice dream, I admit, but not to the extent of persuading me to allow my daughter to keep watching videos. The limits we set as parents may be arbitrary, but they are all we’ve got.”