Into The Woods: Folkmanis Hand Puppets

Wanna Talk Turkey? You can with this Folkmanis hand puppet.

Wanna Talk Turkey? You can with this Folkmanis hand puppet.

This past weekend CBS2 Sunday Morning News in New York featured Toy Insider Mom and Founder Laurie Schacht’s presentation of playthings of note for the 2014 holiday season. To keep Black Friday commandoes fore-warned and fore-armed with information Laurie spotlighted a cross-section of goodies from the electronic and ergonomic to the eco-friendly and economic.

Along with the ubiquitous singing Queen Elsa from Disney’s Frozen there were fun entries from Crayola, Dora The Explora, the new Flick-n-Stick Bungees game, Paw Patrol, the Nintendo Amiibo toy-based video game and the Kurio Xtreme Tablet especially curated for kids. I was especially happy to see she included some examples from one of my favorite toy producers Folkmanis Puppets.
Lend A Hand…
Puppets are a wonderful method to give the young entertainer in your house a voice for their imagination. Think of them as non-digital avatars. From behind the theater curtains, or more likely the living room couch, your kids can stage any number of creative scenarios.

Just a small sampling of the menagerie of friendly faced Folkmanis puppets.

Just a small sampling of the menagerie of friendly faced Folkmanis puppets.

Folkmanis has an expansive line of puppets that range from finger to dual hand styles with hyper-realistic to fantastic designs. The baby owl puppet featured on the CBS segment reminded me of how much fun it was to peruse the beautiful Folkmanis display booth at Toy Fair, with its cornucopia of engaging creatures peering out from every nook and knothole in their fantasy forest setting. I’m always tempting to bring a sleeping bag and just move in. Take a peak at the images below and I think you’ll agree.

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‘Nuff Said: Guardians Team-Up #1 Announced

Marvel's "Guardians Team-Up" #1. Bound to have universal appeal.

Marvel’s “Guardians Team-Up” #1. Bound to have universal appeal.

OMG – Oh My Guardians…
OK, I admit it. From the first “ooga chaka” in the teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy I was hooked. It just seemed like the film would deliver a fun romp with the totally left of center – even for Marvel – ragtag group of deep space adventurers. As we now know it delivered and then some, making the unlikely duo of a snarky raccoon and a monosyllable arborial giant big screen stars.

Hot on the heals of that latest franchise film the Marvel comic book gang has announced a new title pulling together the company’s two biggest movie franchises, The Avengers and The Guardians and beyond.

Guardians Team-Up #1 pairs two Eisner Award winners. Brian Michael Bendis (New Avengers, Ultimate Spiderman, Secret Invasion) will write the series with interior and cover illustration handled by Art Adams. In addition to work for DC and Marvel, Adams brought the much loved series Monkey Man and O’Brien to fruition via the Dark Horse Comics creator-owned imprint Legend.

Guardians Team-Up Editor Katie Kubert says, “By taking the most fun toys in the sandbox and pairing them together, be prepared to see something completely different, told by some of the best and brightest writers and artists in the business. And, like the nature of the team-ups themselves, both old and new creative faces to Marvel.”

Guardians Rocket and Groot in their beautiful Disney Infinity 2.0  toy incarnations.

Guardians Rocket and Groot in their beautiful Disney Infinity 2.0 toy incarnations.

SkeletonPete Says…
Issue #1 is due to hit comic shops and newsstands in February 2015. Want to get a jump on the team-up? Grab yourself one of Toy Insider’s 2014 “Hot Top 20 Toys” Disney Infinity’s 2.0 Marvel Superheroes toy-based video game, and put those heroes into action with adventures of your own making using the Toy Box 2.0 software.

Thanks to Ken, Editor of the PiercingMetal website, for passing along the original Marvel press release.

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You Got Me Floatin’: Skylanders Join Macy’s 2014 Parade

The Biggest Balloons Ever will fly in the Macy's 88th Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Biggest Balloons Ever will fly in the Macy’s 88th Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Activision Skylanders fans will be looking skyward for real this coming Thanksgiving Day as one of their favorite characters from the interactive toy and screen based game world will invade the 88th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Reach for the Sky…
Eruptor, the always ready-to-blow-his-top ball of lava, will fly high over the streets of New York City as one of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. He’ll join a new fleet of largest-ever helium inflatables with massive dimensions of 50′ long, 36′ wide and 36′ high. Macy’s notes, “…artists used more than 40 gallons of florescent paint and five barrels of glitter!,” to get Eruptor’s smoldering countenance just right. The balloons got a successful test run on November 9th 2014 in the parking lot of New York’s CitiField sports arena. The parade kicks of Thanksgiving morning (Thursday November 27th, 2014) at 9:00 AM. If you can’t be there in person you can catch it broadcast on the NBC network.

Artist's Concept for Skylanders Eruptor Balloon.

Artist’s Concept for Skylanders Eruptor Balloon.

The Skylands native son will join several other new additions to the cherished Macy’s parade line-up. Heres’ the complete lowdown from their press release:

“Six new giant characters will take to the sky including The Weinstein Company’s loveable Peruvian bear Paddington; the always electrifying Pikachu; the warm giggling Pillsbury Doughboy; the vanquisher of evil the Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger; the lava spewing Skylanders Eruptor; and the friendly locomotive Thomas the Tank Engine.

Rounding out the ballooning line-up are returning favorites including Adventure Time with Finn & Jake, Diary of A Wimpy Kid, The Elf on the Shelf, Hello Kitty, Papa Smurf, Ronald McDonald, Snoopy and Woodstock, Spider-Man, SpongeBob SquarePants and Toothless of How to Train Your Dragon. In addition, the balloon cast includes new balloonicles (a Macy’s Parade hybrid of cold-air balloon and vehicle) of the famed-spokesduck the Aflac Duck and Cloe the Holiday Clown, as well as the return of the KOOL-AID Man. In celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the film classic, balloonheads of The Wizard of OZ characters will also make a special appearance.”

Going Mobile: Skylanders Trap Team Kit for tablet devices.

Going Mobile: Skylanders Trap Team Kit for tablet devices.

Shut Your Trap…
Activision has just launched the newest iteration of the world wide Skylanders franchise called Trap Team. Their tablet based mobile version was featured in Toy Insider’s “Hot Top 20″ Toys for the 2014 holiday season. A closer look at Trap Team game play can be read in our previous coverage.

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It's Clobbering Time: On Thanksgiving Day 2014 this guy will be dwarfed by his Macy's Parade balloon big brother.

It’s Clobbering Time: On Thanksgiving Day 2014 this guy will be dwarfed by his Macy’s Parade balloon big brother.

Flick of the Wrist: Hasbro’s One-Step Dinobot Transformer

A Single Movement Activates Grimlock's Transformation

A Single Movement Activates Grimlock’s Transformation

Really Big Bots…
The Hasbro Toy Company expands their trademarked, tried and true, Transformers line this season with a hefty battle contender, The “Stomp and Chomp” Grimlock. As envisioned in the most recent Transformers film Age of Extinction, Grimlock is the leader of the DinoBots and one sweet ride for Autobot Optimus Prime.

I encountered this behemoth at the recent Big Toy Book event HoliDAY of PLAY and was immediately impressed by its sturdy build and massive size.

The included Optimus Prime figure does not convert but when placed on Grimlock’s back serves to activate a specific set of actions, like lights, sounds and weapon releases. Grimlock is aware of whether an Autobot or Decepticon is on board and reveals different actions in response.
Hasbro_Transformer_ 1
Hasbro_Transformer_ 8
One Small Step…
I’ve always loved the ingenuity of Transformers designs, but being pretty old school I was expecting the usual puzzlement of realigning this the toy’s components into any sensible shape after initial disassembly. Much to my surprise Grimlock’s T-Rex mode was instantly converted into a robot standing 20” tall with one pull of its back handle. Wow! Once he’s upright check the tail for a disguised samurai sword to arm your bot.

Additional figures can be purchased separately, there are several other one step changer transformers in the company’s movie related line.

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Ghosts and Empty Sockets: Dark Horse Explores Pop Skullture

Popular Skullture: The Skull Motif in Pulps, Paperbacks and Comics
Monte Beauchamp, Editor and Designer
Forward by Steven Heller
Release Date: November 05, 2014
Format: Full Color, 176 pages; Hard Cover, 5 3/8″ x 7 3/4″
Price: $19.99

It’s a clear no-brainer (ahem!) for SkeletonPete to LOVE Popular Skullture a new book from Dark Horse Comics’ Kitchen Sink imprint. Set for release on November 5, 2014 – just a smidgen past Halloween and Dia De Los Muertes – this compendium packs scads of illustrations of creepy crania between its covers.

Steven Heller’s introduction tracks the historical context of skull imagery and Editor Monte Beauchamp’s preface recounts the genesis of the project. Beauchamp also gives readers a study of each style of book (comics, pulps and paperbacks) the images are derived from. He lists publishers, publication dates, and artists where they are known.

A Personal Favorite Image

A Personal Favorite Image

The book is a fun visual roller-coaster with dozens of artists works from 1930’s-1950’s represented. The cover styles run from the subtle to gobsmacking.

It’s particularly interesting to see covers from early 1950’s EC comics competitors like Farrell Publications, Superior,AGC and others. One can imagine newsstands filled with these lurid enticements as the catalyst for government pressure and the ultimate formation the comics industry’s self regulatory code. We encounter a skull faced Cleopatra on the cover of VooDoo #8 (April 1953), Haunted Thrills #6 sports a top hat wearing skull tossing “snake-eyes” on a pair of dice (right up my alley), while another favorite, Superior’s Strange Mysteries #12 (July 1953), features pallbearer skeletons dragging a coffin from the mouth of a gigantic skull.

On the classier side, the skull and rose art for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel Goldfinger (1959,) female skull and orchid motif on the 1944 Avon paperback edition of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and George Rosen’s painting of a nattily clad cadaver fronting the July 1942 issue of The Shadow are beautifully rendered revelations.
SkeletonPete Says..
If boney brain boxes are your thing or you’re looking for inspiration for that next tattoo or band logo, collect pulp illustration, this full color title will suit you just fine. $19.99 puts this hardcover on your bookshelf.

If you are looking for even more skull-tural edification I suggest Dover Publications recent A Century of Skeletons. Published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passing of José Guadalupe Posada, Mexico’s preeminant artist of the calavera, it makes a great visual companion to Popular Skullture.