If you look up the senior leadership for Mattel, you’ll find a handful of aging white men in glasses. The describes the leadership of most businesses, of course, but the difference at Mattel is the company has a secret. The enterprise actually is led by seven-year-olds sketching their impulses on a whiteboard with their jammy hands. Or maybe by a group of snakes.

Think we’re crazy? Behold the Bug Racer, which Mattel, without irony, calls “The first vehicle that puts real crickets behind the wheel.”

Cricket2 ELECrickety

At first, this seems like one of those things that hasn’t happened before now because there’s no good reason for it to ever happen, like bears on skates. Sure, some uses for crickets involve feeding them to snakes and turning them into suicidal hosts for parasitic worms, but that’s nature, not some weird insect exploitation plot. Fortunately, getting into the “literature” about it makes the whole thing less unsettling, if not more logical.

The $35 Bug Racer, “for kids who love science and vehicle play,” is a battery-powered car controlled by crickets (not included). Mattel says the car’s “control room” is “an ideal space for two crickets”, with room for as many as five (hey, it’s not as crowded as one of those protein bars). The control room is filled with motion sensors: Whichever way the cricket moves, so moves the Bug Racer. If the car runs into something (because, you know, crickets don’t know how to drive) it automatically reverses away from the obstruction.

Cricket1 ELECrickety

There are four driving modes. “Cricket In Charge” means you let the crickets take the wheel and watch the car spaz out. “Drag Racing” sets the speeders on a straight-line course so you can stage a 10-second palp-to-palp race. “Autodrive” lets the car drive cricket-free. The weirdest mode of all is option four: “Light Show.” This lets kids “use the lights and music to better observe your cricket,” in case you want to see it … dance?

The redeeming part of this is the instructions seem to provide thoughtful tips for caring of your drivers. It explains how to feed and clean up after the bugs, advises against poking or over-handling them, and recommends adult supervision when cricket transport is involved. If looked after properly, the crickets could actually have some adventure added to their brief lives, instead of just suffering daily humiliations at the hands of children.

On to glory, cricket racers!


Um So the Bug Racer Is an Actual Toy Car Driven by Crickets