Just announced are The Toy Industry Association‘s finalists for the coveted 2017 Toy of the Year. 14 categories of finalists have been chosen from over 700 nominees by a pool of 25 judges including toy and play experts, retailers, academics and journalists.
The winners will be revealed at a special industry event on February 17, 2017, to be held on the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in NYC. The winning line-up is traditionally displayed at the annual New York Toy Fair also held in February. See links to our past coverage below.
In the meantime Adrianna and I are thrilled to see so many of our personal favorites on the list. We’re also very happy to see an Action Figure of the Year category has been added to the mix. We congratulate all the creators and companies honored.
You can cast your own vote in the “People’s Choice” award via this Toy Awards link. This is a consumer only component and is attached to a Toy of the Year Sweepstakes. Voting is open until January 15, 2017.
(listed below in alphabetical order by category)
ACTION FIGURE OF THE YEAR
Toys that include action figures and their play sets/accessories
* DC Super Hero Girls™ Action Figure Assortment by Mattel, Inc.
* Fossil Hunter Lottie by Arklu, Ltd.
* IAmElemental Series 1/Courage Lunch Box Carrying Case With Complete Set of Action Figures by IAmElemental
* PJ Masks Headquarters Playset by Just Play
* Pokémon Throw ‘n’ Pop Poké Ball Duel Set by TOMY
* Stikbot by ZING
* Transformers Generations Titans Return Fortress Maximus Action Figure by Hasbro, Inc.
ACTIVE/OUTDOOR TOY OF THE YEAR
Toys that are designed for active/outdoor play
* 3-in-1 EZ Fold Wagon by Radio Flyer
* Air Hogs Helix Sentinel Drone by Spin Master Ltd.
* Bunch O Balloons by Zuru
* Hot Wheels® Sky Shock™ RC Vehicle by Mattel, Inc.
* Nerf N-Strike Modulus Tri-Strike Blaster by Hasbro, Inc.
* Sky Viper v2400FPV HD Streaming Drone with FPV Headset by SkyRocket Toys
* VEX Robotics Zip Flyer by HEXBUG
* Xtreme Cycle Moto-Cam by WickedCoolToys
ACTIVITY TOY OF THE YEAR
Arts and crafts, construction and other indoor toys that inspire creative play through various forms of activity
* Circuit Scribe Maker Kit by CircuitScribe
* Crayola Air Maker Sprayer by Crayola, LLC
* K’NEX 3-in-1 Classic Amusement Park Building Set by K’NEX Brands
* Lionel Mega Tracks Corkscrew Chaos Master Set by Lionel
* Mighty Makers Directors Cut Building Set by K’NEX Brands
* Mover Kit by Tech Will Save Us
* My Fairy Garden Magical Cottage by Play Monster
COLLECTIBLE OF THE YEAR
Toys that compose a set; can include novelty playthings, miniature versions of existing lines, licensed collectibles, etc.
* Dorbz by Funko, LLC
* Gift ’ems™ by JAKKS Pacific
* LEGO Minifigures – The Disney Edition by LEGO Systems, Inc.
* Num Noms by MGA Entertainment
* Pop! By Funko, LLC
* Shopkins Season 6: Chef Club by Moose Toys Pty Ltd
* Tonka Tinys by Funrise
CONSTRUCTION TOY OF THE YEAR
Toys that include building and engineering sets
* Arckit Go Colours by ARCKIT Div. of MBM Building Systems
* Grippies® Builders by Guidecraft USA Inc.
* LEGO Friends Amusement Park Roller Coaster by LEGO Systems, Inc.
* Marine Rescue Center by Build & Imagine
* Meccano Micronoid by Spin Master Ltd.
* Tinkerbots by Tinkerbots
* Walking Robot 45PC Set by Magformers, LLC
DOLL OF THE YEAR
Toys that include plush, baby, toddler, and fashion dolls, and their play sets/accessories
* Barbie® Fashionista™ Doll by Mattel, Inc.
* Disney Frozen Northern Lights Elsa by JAKKS Pacific
* Elena of Avalor Adventure Dress Doll by Hasbro, Inc.
* Project Mc2 Experiments with Doll Sets by MGA Entertainment
* Shopkins Core Shoppies by Moose Toys Pty Ltd
* Stargazer Lottie Doll by Arklu, Ltd
* WellieWishers™ by Mattel, Inc.
GAME OF THE YEAR
Children’s board, card, electronic, or other physical game formats or puzzles (does not include video games or apps)
* Bloxels™ by Mattel, Inc.
* Circuit Maze by ThinkFun Inc.
* Escape Room the Game by Spin Master Ltd.
* Imhotep by Thames & Kosmos
* Maze Racers by FoxMind Games
* Simon Air Game by Hasbro, Inc.
* Speak Out by Hasbro, Inc.
* Yeti in My Spaghetti by PlayMonster!
INFANT/PRESCHOOL TOY OF THE YEAR
Toys that are developed for infants/preschoolers (up to 5 years)
* Doc McStuffins Toy Hospital Care Cart by Just Play
* Go! Go! Smart Friends® Enchanted Princess Palace™ by Vtech
* IO Blocks® Vehicles by Guidecraft USA Inc.
* Razor Jr. T3 Scooter by Razor USA LLC
* Robot Engineer by Thames & Kosmos
* Wash ‘N Go Wooden Car Garage by KidKraft
* Zoomer Marshall by Spin Master Ltd.
INNOVATIVE TOY OF THE YEAR
Toys that utilize innovative design, technology, or manufacturing processes to enhance play value
* CHiP by WowWee USA, Inc.
* Cozmo by Anki
* Fisher Price® Think & Learn Code-a-pillar™ by Mattel, Inc.
* Hatchimals by Spin Master Ltd.
* Mebo by SkyRocket Toys
* Project Mc2 H2O Car by MGA Entertainment
* Special Edition Battle-Worn BB-8 with Force Band™ by Sphero
LICENSE OF THE YEAR
Character or property that has had success spreading its brand throughout the industry
* DC Super Hero Girls
* Disney’s Elena of Avalor
* Paw Patrol™
* Star Wars
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
A new company (created within the last 2 years) that has brought to market an outstanding toy
* 3DoodlerStart Essentials Pen Set by WobbleWorks
* Acids, Bases and pH Chemistry Kit by Yellow Scope
* CogniToys Dino by CogniToys
* Geometry Strategy by Games by Bright of Sweden
* IAmElemental Series 1/Courage Lunch Box Carrying Case With Complete Set of Action Figures by IAmElemental
* Malia’s House by Build & Imagine
* Superhero Will by Wonder Crew
SPECIALTY OF THE YEAR
Toys primarily distributed through specialty retailers
* Automoblox C9 Sportscar by PlayMonster!
* Design & Drill® BrightWorks™ by Educational Insights
* Flappy Animated Elephants by Gund a Division of Enesco LLC
* LEGO Disney Castle by LEGO Systems, Inc.
* Melody™ Doll and Book by Mattel, Inc.
* Nano Nitro Slingshot by HEXBUG
* Perplexus Q-bot by PlayMonster!
TECH TOY OF THE YEAR
Physical toys that are electronic or interact with a smart-phone, tablet or gaming device
* Air Hogs Connect: Mission Drone by Spin Master Ltd.
* CodeGamer by Thames & Kosmos
* LUMI by WowWee USA, Inc.
* MOTA JETJAT Ultra Streaming Nano Drone by MOTA
* Sky Viper Hover Racer by SkyRocket Toys
* Wonder Workshop’s Dash & Dot by Wonder Workshop
* Zoomer Chimp by Spin Master Ltd.
VEHICLE OF THE YEAR
Toys that are powered or non-powered vehicles, and their play sets/accessories
* Air Hogs – Star Wars X-wing vs. Death Star, Rebel Assault – RC Drones by Disney Consumer Products
* Disney Princess Carriage by Dynacraft
* Go! Go! Smart Wheels® Treasure Mountain Train Adventure™ by Vtech
* Hot Wheels® A.I. Intelligent Race System by Mattel, Inc.
* LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3RS by LEGO Systems, Inc.
* Telsa Model S for Kids by Radio Flyer
* XPV® RC Skateboarding Mikey by JAKKS Pacific
Thanks to Kristina (Speakeasy) and Ruth (Silver Screenings) for initiating and administering the “Things I Learned from the Movies” Blog-a-thon. As in the past their “assignment” has sent me on a more introspective and autobiographical journey than I might normally attempt or share.
Please be sure to see the blogathon nightly round-ups at their websites for the wealth of interesting features this virtual gathering will surely generate. Send some comment love to the ones you really like, and consider following them.
Gimme a Second…
Stop Motion. It’s what I’ve done most of my life, from behind a camera and usually at 1/60th or 1/125th of a second. Film’s light sensitivity, as in ASA/ISO ratings, in pre-digital days offered limited choices.
Stop Motion, the animation technique, was an obsession throughout my pre to mid-teens, until the first two Led Zeppelin albums and The Who’s Live At Leeds caught my ear and I had to learn how to make that sound.
During those years I spent hours methodically clicking off one frame of film at a time through the Keystone 8mm camera my father gave me. Dad was pragmatic. It was already clear that I wasn’t going to be the fastest left handed pitcher in the history of National League Baseball, but I did share another skill set with him and that was photography and a seemingly natural understanding of visual composition.
Most of my films centered around the adventures of a clay “everyman” I called Glip. In retrospect Glip was a Gumby analog who ran around my home, raiding the refrigerator, climbing ladders, literally swinging from the chandelier. In other films Glip took on the personas of Ebenezer Scrooge, Long John Silver and Mr. Hyde, in (purportedly) comedic spins on classic literary works.
When more majestic scenarios were required my articulated 12 inch tall G.I. Joe’s became helpless subjects and were buried under plasticine to emulate my favorite fantastic film creatures. Ray Harryhausen’s mighty Cyclops was rendered – as best possible – with green clay, a faux pearl eyeball, and a toothpick horn.
Thinking In Stills…
When not producing these meisterwerks an inordinate amount of time was spent staring into a consumer grade moviola screen pouring over Castle Films’ ruthlessly edited collector’s reels. Seventh Voyage of Sinbad was my favorite. I scrubbed that film back and forth intently absorbing the specific movements applied to the Dragon versus Cyclops battle, and I was particularly obsessed with the exact frame in Jason and the Argonauts where actor Todd Armstrong drops his real sword and it is replaced by Harryhausen’s miniature blade which plunges into the heart of the seven headed hydra model.
Simultaneously I was introduced to the work of photojournalist Arthur Fellig by my Father. Fellig became popularly known as WeeGee (think Ouija board) because of his ability to divine the right spot to be in and capture the action. As my Dad pointed out, the goal is not only to produce a technically efficient photograph but to capture an image that encapsulates the event if only a single photo goes to print. In fact, with WeeGee’s rig of a 4X5 Speed Graphic camera, and single flash bulb illumination, there was no room for error. It was a “bring ‘em back alive” style of street photography and a high contrast graphic look that I began to emulate.
Looking back, these were clearly the formative seeds of my fixation with “the instant.” I watch a motion picture but recall it in primary still images. I see a still image and envision the action.
Fractions of Actions…
Eventually I came to see stop motion, the animation technique, as a misnomer. Whereas a still photographer freezes a split second of action, the animator is not stopping motion at all. The subject is static, it “moves” by virtue of a fault of human visual perception. Persistence of vision. All those incremental movements rushing by our eyes can’t be processed as single images and blur into an illusion of life. It works, from the simplest flip book to the most epic mega film.
Even so, the inverse appears to apply. As “move-y” as movies get they are still ultimately built as series of frames with some being more potent or dominant than others. Those key frames appear to be what impact on our brains when we remember a scene. I applied this perception to my animation work with a method of capturing the peak of action with additional frames, thereby boosting it’s visual imprint.
I Scream, You Scream…
Thinking in stills is not a cinematic aberration. Director Sergei Eisenstein knew it. Every film 101 student has been introduced to The Battleship Potemkin (1925) and his triptych of stone lions juxtaposed to seemingly rise to the battle call. It is a hallmark of film editing for effect called montage. Director James Whale seems to have cribbed its timing in the treble of jump cuts to close-up that underscore the first entrance of the monster in Frankenstein (1931).
Eisenstein’s then experimental editing technique is most obvious in the famous Odessa Steps sequence. The scene is filled with examples of “stills in motion,” from the careening baby carriage to the shock and horror on the faces of the victims. Often emulated, I believe never equaled, the sequence also owes part of its origin to the iconic instant of horror portrayed by artist Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893).
Munch’s painting is one of the most familiar and widely appropriated images of this and the previous century. It represents a second in time when artist perceived “the shriek of nature” as he watched a blood red sunset over the Oslo fjord in Norway. It is a single image but it is also a movie. It contains all the information required to allow us to extrapolate a story, perceive an emotion, even if we know nothing about it before our first viewing. It conveys its peak psychological power and elicits a palpable reaction that appears to be universally, and non-verbally, understood. It’s a proto-emoji.
Impactful visuals don’t die, they get reinterpreted. Eisenstein clearly understood the psychological power of this image and utilized it to great effect in several shots during his famed sequence. Later on, influenced by the Eisenstein scene, artist Francis Bacon rendered the screaming amorphous thing that inhabits the right section of his triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1950).
Munch’s distressing vision, one which he revisited in different media several times between 1893 and 1910, appears to tap into the collective human unconscious theorized by Professor Carl Jung. Art historian Robert Rosenbaum’s postulation that Munch may have found his initial inspiration in the gape mouthed pose of a Peruvian mummy exhibited at the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris deepens the possibly of ancient archetypal connections. We only need to view the “Captain Howdy” stingers of The Exorcist series or the photo of an immolated Iraqi soldier from the first gulf war to find modern correlations.
While Eisenstein’s work presents a prime example of the frozen moment technique, other staples abound. Carl Theodor Dryer’s restriction of characters to extreme close-ups throughout The Passion of Joan of Arc reduces them to nearly static icons. There’s also Luis Bunuel’s use of freeze frames in Viridiana that transmute his beggar’s banquet tableau into an irreverent “snap shot” of Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper.
Historically, freeze frames and framed friezes relate. The Roman Catholic “stations of the cross,” are essentially a 14 panel storyboard of the passion of Jesus Christ and present everything a mostly illiterate medieval congregation would have required to understand the narrative. Director Chris Marker took this concept to its filmic extreme with La Jetée, (1962). Its 28 minute runtime is composed almost entirely of black and white still images. The outcome has the feel of reading a fumetti, the pulpy “photo novellas” popular in Europe during the 1950s and 60s.
In fact, movie storyboards so closely resemble comic strips that it is no surprise that early animator Windsor McCay was also a preeminent cartoonist of his time. His Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend and Little Nemo in Slumberland are still revered as blueprints for outsider work on the printed page. As his characters’ exploits often broke through the walls of their outlined panels, McCay also broke the “fourth wall” of the cinema screen when he toured his animated featurette Gertie the Dinosaur (1919). During the showing McCay would engage the projected cartoon creature to do his bidding, much like a trained circus elephant.
The Frame Game…
So what have I learned from the movies? Although I did not continue to pursue three dimensional animation, even as an avocation, I did take away an appreciation for the peak moment of action.
As a photojournalist I’ve aspired to catch those key moments that make images memorable. It’s not just about freezing the height of action. On candid shoots, I’ve learned to watch for the “a-ha” or eureka moments in people’s faces, the body language that reveals their personalities, and the eye contact between subjects that conveys to the viewer something special has just transpired.
Solely as a personal challenge, I often try to capture that instant by attempting to “read” the subject without resorting to rapid frame mode. It’s very hard not to succumb to the temptation of over shooting that digital photography allows. I try to honor the methods of my film days when I had to reduce an entire story to a maximum of 72 exposures. On a current photo shoot, with a DSLR and unlimited digital film resources, it appears to be anathema.
I know it’s old school, but I’m an old guy now. Utilizing the skills I’ve polished over 50 years is not just a comfort zone but offers a real sense of satisfaction. Recently I’ve been using the camera in my iPhone and Instagram, it seems the perfect platform to keep refining single image as story skills. It may even lead to doing some simple animation again.
Soon even the best sports and event photographers will begin to supplant their still imaging methods with 4K and 5K video captures that facilitate grabbing that peak moment from the overall action effortlessly. Does it feel like a cheat? Sure, but maybe the wheel felt like a cheat to the guy who was used to pushing a square boulder up the hill. I’m no luddite, and I look forward to working with these new technologies with the knowledge that a great image will continue to evoke authentic response no matter its creative vehicle.
I had a wonderful time putting this piece but finding the flow to complete it wasn’t easy. Writing about visual communication leaves much in the synapses that (for me at least) cannot be expressed accurately with words. The thought belatedly crossed my mind to present the post as a storyboard, but deadlines (and meager skills) precluded that.
Finding Dr. Temple Grandin’s Thinking In Pictures during my research was a revelation, and an affirmation of my own previsualization techniques. I highly recommend you take a look as well.
If you’ve read our “About Us” section, you’ll note in addition to sharing the “stuff we like,” Andy and I are clear that another part of our mission is to bring attention to the talented group of people we’ve been lucky enough to call friends over the years.
So it’s with great pleasure that I can once again make good on that promise and announce the upcoming gallery show of artist Eliezer Parrilla. Eliezer has been a friend and colleague for the last 30 plus years. He’s a knowledgeable and open conversationalist, enthusiastically discussing everything from Carl Jung’s archetypes to details of the newest analog to digital audio streamers. He’s also been a welcome “partner in crime” collector of books and music. My groaning library shelves attest to the many enlightening texts he has suggested.
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Andy and Pete Say…
Once again it was our pleasure to join The Toy Insider team for the annual reveal of their choices for best toys for the holiday season lists. The HoliDAY of Play event highlights products in three categories, Hot 20 Toys, 12 Best Tech Toys, and 10 Best S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Toys.
You probably know “Toy Insider Mom” Laurie Schacht from her numerous television appearances demonstrating the operation of those products. The Toy Insider 2016 Catalog can be found nested inside the current issue of Family Circle Magazine, and you can get comprehensive details on each item at the Toy Insider Website link above.
Things to Make and Do….
There is probably no greater satisfaction for youngsters, really for anyone, than building something that works. That appeared to be the major theme this year at The HoliDAY of Play event. As we’ve seen in the past, from Lincoln Logs to LEGOS, the honing of dexterity skills, deciphering of instructions, assimilation of concepts, peaking of imagination and recovering from missteps, all make the final product a very personal thrill. The accomplishment makes the object all the more valuable to the builder.
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