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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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Color My World : Crayola’s Diverse Universe

crayola, sketch wizard, ny toy fair 2015, 3d figures, 3d systems

Crayola Classic 64 Box flanked by new 3D printed figures.

During a recent walk through a local Staples office supply store my wife and I happened upon a colorful surprise. A section of a merchandise isle dedicated solely to products from the Crayola Company. I had already been somewhat aware of the diversity of Crayola items seen at a pre-holiday event held by The Big Toy Book, but didn’t fully grasp just how expansive the selection was. Needless to say Crayola’s Toy Fair 2015 booth was one of my main objectives while covering the Toy Industry Association (TIA) event and the tour of goodies did not disappoint.

Starting as the Binney & Smith Company, selling industrial pigments, Crayola has been in business for well over 100 years putting art supplies in the hands of one generation after another. The current product line perfectly embraces a two fold vision. There is a tried and true allegiance to standard crayon-in-hand creativity that blossoms in connection with technology both old and new.

crayola, sketch wizard, ny toy fair 2015

Crayola’s Sketch Wizard offers ancient art technology in a kid friendly package.


Drawing on History…
For instance, the Sketch Wizard is a colorful spin on the camera obscura, an ancient optical device that essentially allows you to trace your subject via it’s projected image. It is widely posited that many artists throughout history used this method to properly render perspective and foreshortening on the 2 dimensional page or canvas. My niece, whose parents were fascinated by Tim’s Vermeer, the recent film documenting the recreation of a Johannes Vermeer style painting by a non-artist using this method, found this one was under the Xmas tree last December.

Also in old school tech mode is the hand pumped Crayola Air Brush, which turns your markers into spray brushes, giving you a perfect way to create delicate stenciled art or misty backgrounds for your characters to inhabit.

Dimension Extension…
The Color Alive products, what Crayola calls a “4D” experience, feature traditional looking coloring books and crayons that allow image capture into your tablet environment. Once visually pulled into the downloadable app your character comes to life in the colors you chose, and against a selection of backgrounds, including the real world image of whatever you point your device’s camera at. I was treated to a fire-breathing dragon dancing on my head with nary a tipple, I swear. The product range currently includes some very popular licenses from Mattel’s Barbie to the Activision’s Skylanders universe. Specialty crayon colors in each package add active nuances like flames and sparkles to the on screen art.

Additionally, 3D Systems in partnership with Crayola can print up a unique collector statue from your 2D Color Alive art. That option should arrive in April 2015.

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Caryola’s Animation Studio software will capture mannequin moves and translate them to your tablet screen character.

‘Tweening for ‘Tweens…
As someone who dabbled in stop-motion animation during my pre and early teens I found the most impressive demo to be the Color Alive Easy Animation Studio. In my day I enlisted my full size Hasbro G.I. Joe’s to be the stars of my films, often covering them in clay to resemble the creatures in my favorite Ray Harryhausen epics like Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. My “G. I. Cyclops” got a lot of screen time.

Set for July 2015 release, Crayola’s stop motion animation package includes an articulated figure, book with 10 characters to customize and a software application. You simply move the figure into the main positions you prefer, photograph each with your device and the motion capture app does the “tweening,” giving you smooth transitions between the moves. I was pretty amazed by the finished look based on a few simple moves.

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Crayola’s Crayon Carver allows you to personalize those favorite colors.


I Am Curious (UnMellow Yellow)…
Several newly announced Crayola kits including the Cling Creator to make gummy window and mirror adornments and The Crayon Carver, an engraver that let’s kids personalize their colors of choice, will be worth your attention. Each would make an interesting “activity station” at a birthday party or family gathering, with something self created to go home with. Others like the Paint Maker and Marker Maker kits give kids a hands-on experience creating their own artist’s tools and colors. Paint Maker was TIA’s Activity Toy of the Year Winner for 2015.

SkeletonPete Says…
As a professional photographer with a fascination for stop motion animation, the Sketch Wizard and Animation Studio are my two favorites. They hit my historical and technological sweet spots for those two disciplines.

I suggest you make the Crayola kiosk a destination next time you’re shopping to get the full experience. The company has kept the price range very moderate, with kits running from approximately $17.00 – $30.00 USD and expansion and refill packages not prohibitive.

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Sugar, Spice and Rockin’ Good Times: The Beatrix Girls Are More Than Meets the Eye

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When I was growing up, the message I heard over and over again (and hear all too often, even now) was, “Girls can’t rock!” It was all too clear. It was OK for boys to be bass players, drummers, lead guitarists and frontmen, but my aspirations to become the next Ann Wilson, Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, or Freddie Mercury were frowned upon. After all, you can’t play rock and roll and still be a lady, right? Wrong… so very wrong. Ultimately, it didn’t stop me from joining a band when I was in college (playing with both male and female musicians), but I wonder how much sooner I might have pursued my dreams had I been encouraged, rather than completely disregarded.

What They Are…

Media executive and cartoon veteran Sherry Gunther Shugerman (SimpsonsFamily Guy) must have wondered the same thing when she came up with The Beatrix Girls.  The Beatrix Girls are 12 inch fashion dolls, with brightly colored hair and cool outfits. These adorable dolls are definitely made to appeal to young children, and while still feminine, they’re not too adult (suitable for ages 5 and up).

Why They’re Cool…

What sets this line apart is the fact that it is driven by original music (featuring the writing talents of some of today’s top pop stars), which kids can collect. Each doll is a member of a rock band. The Beatrix Girls band members are Brayden (Guitar), Ainsley (Drums), Lark (Bass) and Chantal (Keys). Each Beatrix Girl has a unique personality and look, as befitting a budding rock star. The Beatrix Girls even have their own fan club and webisodes.

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The idea behind The Beatrix Girls line is to empower young girls to be so much more than just pretty faces. Though fashion-conscious, The Beatrix Girls were created to encourage girls to discover the joy of music and to inspire them to create their own as well. Through friendship, collaboration, hard work and determination, The Beatrix Girls gig, work and play together. Pretty ideal if you ask me.

As if that weren’t enough, the line has partnered with Peavey Electronics to create a customized Peavey-branded guitar geared toward smaller frames (reminiscent of the Daisy Rock line of guitars).

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The Beatrix Girls collection initially hit stores in the Fall of 2013. This Fall 2014, we’ll be seeing The Beatrix Girls London Collection, inspired by the British subculture Mod Movement of the 1960s.

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Andy Says…

I love this concept and hope to see more variety as the line continues to grow. I can only imagine, since the girls have their own webisodes, soon they’ll be starring in their own cartoon. If you liked Jem and The Holograms, or Josie and The Pussycats, why not The Adventures of the Beatrix Girls?

I truly enjoyed getting a closer look at these beauties, and others, at my first Blogger Bash, SweetSuite 2014 Toy Event in NYC last week. Thanks to The Big Toy Book and SkeletonPete for inviting me to the event. Hopefully, it won’t be my last.

The Beatrix Girls are available at Toys R Us and Amazon.com and their songs can be found on Pandora, iTunes and Spotify.