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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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Blue Skies Smiling At Me: Activision & Autism Speaks Team-Up

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Special edition “Light It Up Blue” Skylanders figures released for Autism Awareness Month.

Sky High…
At SkeletonPete we’ve been fans of Activision’s Skylanders, since Ken Pierce (PiercingMetal.com) and I first experienced a pre-release demo of Spyro’s Adventure at the Toy Industry Association Toy Fair almost six years ago. The combination of video game play with collector figures that “entered” the screen was a stroke of genius. Since then the company has built success upon success, turning the product into a collossal licensing franchise. Along the way the characters have been giant-sized, captured in crystal traps, split into swappable pieces, presented as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, and more recently given supercharged vehicles to traverse land, sea and air. Our first encounter with the Superchargers was at last summer’s Toy Insider Sweet Suite press event. Check the images below.
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The Joy of Toys: Toy Insider “Holiday of Play” 2015

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Jakks Pacific’s 48 inch Darth Vader loomed large at Toy Insider “Holiday of Play” 2015.


Toy Insider’s Got Game…
Between the recent New York City Comic Convention and Halloween approaching, Andy and I have plenty of information and photographs to share with you, and miles to go before we sleep.
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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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Color My World : Crayola’s Diverse Universe

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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.

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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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