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Fab Gear: Toy Insider Names Best in Play for 2016

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Adventure Publication’s Laurie Schacht and the Toy Insider team gave Holiday of Play attendees the lowdown on the latest & greatest modes of play.

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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How Suite It Is: 2015 Toy Insider Event Grows in Scope

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New York City’s Chelsea Pier complex was the site for the 2015 Sweet Suite event designed to alert traditional press outlets and the exponentially expanding blogger community to the play industry’s newest goodies. This season’s gathering, mounted by the folks at Adventure Publishing Group (APG) (Toy Insider, The Toy Book, The Licensing Book) was the biggest ever, encompassing the wares of almost 100 vendor/sponsors. See the link loaded list of participants on the Sweet Suite Sponsor List.

Sweet Suite 15 was a sensory riot with so many wonderful items vying for deserved attention. To document the afternoon APG president and Toy Insider Mom Laurie Schacht conducted on-site interviews with the industry sponsors and attendees were banging out Tweets, Instagram pictures and videos posts by the hundreds (thousands?) It was especially cool to find The Verve Pipe’s Brian Vander Ark providing the live soundtrack performing songs from the group’s Are We There Yet album.

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Toy Insider’s Laurie Schacht meets a brace of WowWee Rev’s gesture controlled MiPosaurs.


As an information gathering excursion co-editor Adriana “Andy” Melendez and I have found the invitation-only opportunity to be invaluable, often leading to months worth of pre-holiday roll-out features about the newest toys.

It’s also a perfect platform to explore new products and have an easy-going tet a tet with their creators. Heck, I got so “toy-tipsy” I was even cajoled into donning an “Amy Poehler” wig for the gals at the Goldie Blox booth. Do blondes have more fun? I can’t say for sure but it likely beats being a balding 60 year old guy in a baseball cap.

What caught our collective eye? I know Andy was particularly taken with the I Am Elemental action figures and their empowering message for young ladies. I zoned in on Crayola’s “Color Alive” Easy Animation Studio and Hexbugs’ newest Vex Robotics kits (including an operational Zoetrope). Both were still in early development when first spied at the New York International Toy Association Fair last February.

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Just a few of the new items Andy and Pete will be reporting on in depth. I Am Elemental Action Figures (left,) HexBugs’ Zoetrope (top right,) Crayola’s Easy Animation Studio (bottom right.)


I also enjoyed a thorough demo and up close look at the eye-popping next-gen graphics of Activision’s Skylanders SuperChargers multi-platform game. Anki Overdrive’s track hugging robotic race cars promise to be an exciting experience, and Madame Alexander Doll’s mirthful Muppets will be available just in time for ABC’s Muppet TV relaunch.

Also ready to launch in the vanguard of inevitable Stars Wars mania is Build-A-Bear Workshop‘s Darth Vader and Chewbaca bears.

Expect us to be reporting on those items and many other products in depth as they reach their release dates in the coming weeks. In the meantime enjoy this teaser gallery of pictures from the event.

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Pop, Pop, Fizz, Fizz: Activision Skylanders In Love

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New Skylander, Love Potion Pop Fizz, is in the pink for Valentine’s Day.


Lovey Dovey, All the Time…
“The love bug will get you if you don’t watch out”, or so says the song. This Saint Valentine’s Day the Activision Skylanders Team wants to make sure you feel the love so they’ve designed a special edition character to spread some much needed amour in the ether of Skylands.

The punky pink Love Potion Pop Fizz joins the ranks of game piece collectibles that form the core of the Skylanders experience. His hypnotic eyes and heart shaped tongue will surely make him the game’s premiere Valentino.

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Pop Fizz in action on his home turf

Gonna Mix It Up, Right Here in the Sink…
The Activision folks reveal his origin, “When his latest attempt to concoct the ultimate raspberry soda totally backfired, Pop Fizz was caught in a blast that turned him pink and gave him an alluring aroma.  At least that’s how he tells it. But with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, the Skylanders are all wondering if Pop Fizz is telling the truth – or if there is a special someone that he’s trying to impress!” Hmmm… seems like he took some lessons from Leiber and Stoller’s Madame Rue.

Love Potion Pop Fizz is a non-exclusive, all retailers, item but limited to a short availability time frame. A neat rarity to add to your collection at $14.99. Seek him out.

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Just a few of the Skylanders themed Valentine’s Day Cards available this season.

Stuck On You…
Outside of game play, a line of Skylanders themed Stickers and Valentine’s Day cards will keep your kids busy – and off your iPad for a while – writing real script on real cards. What a concept.

SkeletonPete Says…
I had to chuckle when I read Pop Fizz’s backstory and saw his psychedelic pink continence. It immediately reminded of the day-glo colors of Fizzies, a do-it-yourself soda pop tablet that was extremely popular when I was a kid. Essentially flavored, sugared up, Bromo-Seltzer for youngsters. “In seven great flavors,” grape was my fave. The whole process definitely fueled my “monster kid” Dr Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde play scenarios. Had’a love the 1950’s.

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.

Big Game Hunting: Activision Skylanders Adds Traps & Tablets

Capturing Villains in the New Portal is Key to Skylanders Trap Team Game Play.

Capturing Villains in the New Portal is Key to Skylanders Trap Team Game Play.

Better Late Than Never(land)…
Excuse this late #ToyTuesday edition. Just as I was about to post my feature about the newest update to super the popular Skylanders toy based video game I received an email with important news I know you’ll be excited to hear. Activision has announced its development of fully powered gaming on your TABLET! That’s right Skylanders will soon be available to experience on your mobile tablet device for super convenient take-along game play. Keep reading…

Lion Hearted Wildfire on New Prison Portal with Crystal Trap.

Lion Hearted Wildfire on New Prison Portal with Crystal Trap.

Shut Your Trap…
At the recent Sweet Suite Toy Event, held in conjunction with Blogger Bash in NYC, Activision gave us a look at The Trap Team, their next Skylanders iteration along with the character toys that will inhabit its virtual gamescape. The game heralds the The Trap Masters, heroes returning to Skyland after Kaos’ destruction of CloudCracker Prison frees his contemptible cohorts. As a result of the explosion multi-colored hunks of Traptanium now litter the landscape and can be used to power up for battle with the escapees.

Characters Wildfire, Gear Shift, Snap Shot, Chopper, Torch, Wallop, Food Fight, Krypt King, many armed with awesome translucent weapons, will join the already over 175 figures available for the Skylanders game experience. As before, older game characters move forward into the new environment.

Snap Shot is Ready for Battle with Escaped Baddies.

Snap Shot is Ready for Battle with Escaped Baddies.

Crystal Blue Persuasion…
Totem like sparkling crystal icons of Traptanium are the media into which the digital villains are pulled and stored, like flys in amber. Freshly captured baddies can be heard squawking in protest of their confinement in the new portal’s cellblock. They can then be brought back into the screen game reversing their powers for heroic deeds. Traps, like the toy characters, have various elemental designations (Water, Fire, Life) and can be collected separately, swapped as needed to achieve various goals. Traps can also be transported to a friend’s house, bringing with you the powerful players you’ve subdued.

Tablet Starter Pack Contents Revealed (Photo Courtesy of Activision)

Tablet Starter Pack Contents Revealed (Photo Courtesy of Activision)

Keeping Tabs…
In addition to the expanded game play of the Trap Team, Activision has just announced a major move into the world of tablet apps. Offering all the power of its console versions Skylanders Trap Team will be available to tablet users through a hardware starter kit and downloadable app.

Supported Tablets are:
Apple iPad 3rd Generation, iPad 4th Generation, iPad Mini Retina, iPad Air
Kindle Fire HDX (7” & 8.9”)
Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro (8.4”, 10.1”, 12.2”)
Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8.4”, 10.5”)
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014), Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Activision Says…
“The Skylanders Trap Team Tablet Starter Pack gives fans everything they need for a rich gameplay experience wherever and whenever they want to play. Tablet players will experience the Skylanders Trap Team innovation through a Bluetooth© version of the Traptanium Portal and Bluetooth© controller. They can also play the full game on their tablets using touch controls and two digital Skylanders characters and two digital Traps.”

SkeletonPete Says…
Developing the Skylanders gaming platform for portable tablet was an Activision stroke of genius. Giving us access on such a wide range of iOS and Android devices, along with same date as console launch (Oct 5, 2014) availability, will surely keep Skylanders a top of the heap gift for the upcoming holiday season.