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Toy Insider Kicks Off 2014 Gifting Season

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Pete & Andy’s Play Date…
On a gorgeous late October afternoon co-editor Adriana “Andy” Melendez (@sylverwhisper) and I joined other members of the press and blogger community on the 44th floor of New York City’s Hearst Building for a grand event to kick off the coming gift giving season presented by the folks at The Big Toy Book.Com, in partnership with The Toy Insider and Woman’s Day Magazine. Dubbed “The HoliDAY of PLAY” the gathering was aimed at affording social media and online reporters a jump on building buzz for the best toy options of late 2014.

Top Toy Tips…
Attendees enjoyed a couple of hours of hands-on experience and information gathering directly from manufacturers with a focus on the annual Toy Insider Hot 20 and Top Tech 12 lists. These lists (broken into age appropriate categories) and the entire 2014 Gift Guide can be found in the November issue of Woman’s Day magazine, as well as at Toy Insider online.

Following an introductory period of play and networking Big Toy Book Founder Laurie Schacht (@toyinsidermom) addressed the group. She delineated emerging trends in the toy industry using onsite vendors’ wares as examples punctuated by a video featuring highlights from last summer’s Sweet Suite event and soundtracked by my favorite EchoSmith tune “Cool Kids.”

HoliDAY of PLAY Attendees Got First Hand Info from Toy Vendors, and Spun Up 16 Million Twitter Impressions.

HoliDAY of PLAY Attendees Got First Hand Info from Toy Vendors, and Spun Up 16 Million Twitter Impressions.


Big Toy Book Founder Laurie Schacht Hoists a Bag-O-Swag for a Lucky Winner.

Big Toy Book Founder Laurie Schacht Hoists a Bag-O-Swag for a Lucky Winner.

Laurie called up several brave volunteers to participate in a couple of only mildly embarrassing competitions, one of which had participants emote their best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle “Cowabunga Dude!” Winners walked away with nicely filled swag bags. She also treated attendees to the first announcement of the 2015 Blogger Bash and Sweet Suite, which will be held on July 16 and 17 at Pier Sixty in New York City. In a little over 3 hours attendees managed to spin up 16 million Twitter impressions for the #HotToys14 hashtag and hundreds of Instagram images.

SkeletonPete & Andy Say…
It’s an anything goes marketplace, with tech and retro play products holding equal footing. We saw choices ranging from the robotics of the constantly expanding HEXBUG line to the return of the much loved 1980’s Pound Puppies from Funrise. LeapFrog offers the movement motivating immersive screenplay of their new console system, while creative stalwart Crayola straddles the classic vs. digital worlds with their Virtual Designer Pro kits.

Those only represent a smattering of the multitude of possibilities which is why the helpful guidance of the annual Woman’s Day/Toy Insider supplement and Toy Insider is so valuable.

Below is a list of the vendors who presented their wares at the event, with live links to their respective websites – you’re welcome. 🙂

Andy and I will be giving you a closer look at some of our favorites in the coming weeks.

Featured Manufacturer’s Sites

Battat
Build-A-Bear
ChizzComm
(representing Tech 4 Kids, Aliquantum International, Bravo Sports Corp. and Zuru Toys)
Cloud b
Crayola
Funrise Toys
Hasbro
HEXBUG
Jakks Pacific
Jazwares
Laser Pegs
LeapFrog
Little Scholar
Makey Makey
Rubie’s Costume Company
Spaghetti Headz
Thames and Kosmos
Toca Boca
Tomy
VTech

Click Any Image to Launch the Gallery

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.

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.

To Infinity 2.0 (and Beyond): Disney Adds Marvel Heroes

Disney Infinity 2.0 Iron Man can change on screen costumes via "power discs."

Disney Infinity 2.0 Iron Man can change on screen costumes via “power discs.”


The Disney Infinity Game line amps up the play action this fall with the addition of Marvel Super Heroes to the mix. The Infinity 2.0 game pieces expand the “Toy Box” of the previously Disney-centric character set to include beautiful three dimensional game pieces based on Marvel’s Avengers and Spiderman universes. Iron Man, Captain America, Spiderman, Nova, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Venom, Iron Fist, and Nick Fury will all be part of the Wave 1 roll out scheduled for September 23, 2014.

Although the new character set will not work with the previous Infinity base or software, all original characters will be recognized and playable on the 2.0 system and may even include power-up “skill tree” enhancements.

There will also be another group of Disney film characters coming to the shelves before the 2014 holiday season. These include Merida, Tinkerbell, a very Angelina looking Maleficent and Stitch, all pictured below. All characters are playable in all worlds so die hard purists will need to bring their sense of fun and an open mind to game play that could ultimately pair the Incredible Hulk with Tinkerbell. I believe kids will not blink and just go for it.

The Mighty Thaw, Um Thor…
I have always been a fan of The Mighty Thor from my earliest off-the-newsstand comic buying days and was thrilled to learn that The Avengers game story will pit them against Loki and the Frost Giants to save New York City from a frozen doom. Disney says the play maps are 4 times the size of the cityscapes offered in the original game.

Power to the People…
Power Discs will add other dimensions to the screenplay and come in two flavors. Placing a character on top of a Circular Power Disc (or 2) can for instance change a character’s uniform, add an on-screen helper character (like Falcon or Winter Soldier for Captain America) for a short “team-up” period, some will add a vehicle like the Spiderman dune buggy, or a motorcycle.

Hexagonal Discs offer “Play Sets,” these are game experiences with hours of story or task based action when placed on the Infinity base. While each starter kit will come with Power Discs, discs will also be sold mystery box style to encourage collecting and trading between gamers. 80 separate discs have been announced.

Building your own worlds inside the “toy box” area will also be enhanced so gamers can more easily create unique experiences. We were told those end-user built worlds could eventually be shared online via Disney to others around the world.

SkeletonPete Says…
It was great to get an up close and personal sneak peak of these temping collectible game pieces at the Blogger Bash’s SweetSuite 2014 Event in NYC this week. Like Activision’s Skylanders they serve not only as game tokens but excellent display items that deserve shelf space.

Thanks to the kind folks at The Big Toy Book for giving co-editor Andy Melendez and I the opportunity to cover this fun event.

I strongly suggest you visit Marvel’s website for detailed info on the deep set of gaming capabilities offered in Infinity on a wide range of platforms.