The 109th American International Toy Fair
Wow, a year has already gone by since Kenny Pierce and I first reported on the magical realm of The American International Toy Fair. If you’re old enough to remember the Sears “Wish Book” catalog that arrived at your house right after Thanksgiving, offering a mind-blowing plethora of choices for your Christmas list, then think of Toy Fair as a living breathing representation of what was on those pages.
Covering this industry conference is like participating in a media-skewed Olympic event but we’re prepared with energy bars, comfy shoes and a dogged determination to give you an inside look at the great things coming your way in the next year.
If you missed the 2011 postings or just want a re-view, follow these links.
Wow, I’m still wading through the massive amount of amazing collectibles encountered at the 2011 Toy Fair. While snooping for fantasy character tie-ins I got pretty much stopped dead in my tracks by the Tonner Doll Company’s display of “DC Stars”. The new line includes comic book super heroines Catwoman, Dove, Raven, Black Canary and a stunning Teen Titans Starfire in sizes from 13 to 17 inches. In addition there is a jaw dropping 22 inch version of Wonder Woman to compliment 2010’s 13 inch model.
Tonner is renown for their beautifully rendered limited edition figures. Their licenses include the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises and my favorite Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” characters. The company also has their own “Sinister Circus” characters with a nice creep factor for the gothically inclined.
Kenny P. and I agreed that we’d love to see Ms. Emilie Autumn and her Bloody Crumpets get the collector doll treatment. Think of the cool accessories – tea cups, rats and candelabra, stilts and some pirate gear for Maggot.
Another really awesome experience at Toy Fair 2011 was getting a sneak peak at Activision’s new “Skylanders, Spyro’s Adventure” video game. Their booth was totally dedicated to debuting the game and featured giant replicas of the game pieces, including the familiar Spyro the flying purple dragon. Developed by Toys for Bob, the game is an imaginative and immersive adventure with puzzle, treasure hunt and battle components. What sets it apart from other games are it’s collectible figures each representing a character from the virtual world. These beautifully rendered miniatures can be “put into play” by placing them on the circular “portal of power”. Each has a unique set of abilities which can unlock different worlds or accomplish different tasks. Most importantly every toy figure has embedded tech which “remembers” its achievements inside the game and those level-ups and experiences travel with the toy.
Players can place a maximum of two characters at a time on the portal and play cooperatively or in battle mode. Characters exit and enter the game simply by placing or removing them from the portal base giving the player an opportunity to call in creatures as needed for their special masteries. It this manner game play varies endlessly based on which characters are in play, what tasks attempted and the level of each game pieces’ achievements. For instance, a friend who owns a character you do not, may be invited over to help unlock a new level or complete a task.
There will be over 30 characters to collect and use in gameplay, including Terrafin, Chop Chop, Gill Grunt, Trigger Happy and Stealth Elf. The game is set for release in fall of this year and will ship with Spyro, 3 other characters and the portal base, which resembles a castle turret. The game is scored by movie composer Hans Zimmer but Activision opted for AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” as the soundtrack to the promo video. While aimed at a younger audience is not hard to believe older siblings and even parents will be charmed by the chance to pop a figure on the portal and take a trip to Skyland.
Continuing our hunt for fantastical creatures at the February 2011 Toy Fair in New York City, PiercingMetal.com’s Ken Pierce and I found ourselves surrounded by a menagerie of dragons, monsters, and even a pirate peering at us through the canopy of a magical forest. As it turned out they were all the exquisitely crafted puppets created by Folkmanis.
You may already know some of the company’s characters from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. “CraigyFerg” often opens his show with hilariously unorthodox monologues delivered by several of Folkmanis’ creatures. My particular favorite is the cuddly white bunny (“Sid”) who drives the CBS censors wild with his foul language. Back in December 2009 the puppets took over the show entirely in celebration of the 1000th episode. Here’s a look at some of them in their own habitat.
New Yorkers may have already had enough of creepy crawlers this season, hosting our own convention of Bedbugs, but I think even the antsiest of city dwellers would make an exception for Innovation First’s phenomenally fun line of micro robotic arthropods.
The company, known for it’s educational Vex Robotics Systems used in upper grade classrooms recently expanded into the toy market with a series of ant, spider and crab replicates called Hexbugs. Each has a unique perambulation. Some are “free-ranging” little buggers guided solely by chance contact with their antennae, others can be controlled with a wireless mini remote, some react to sound and others to light. All are well built, run on watch batteries, and are mesmerizing in action.
The newest – smallest – addition to the product line are called Hexbug Nanos and they are my favorites. While you could allow them to skitter aimlessly and crazily along, adding the modular track system to the picture gives these little jitterbugs a more purposeful existence. Track configurations can be endlessly revised and added to, and there are many kits to select from. Choices include race tracks (“Gentlemen, start your thoraxes”), habitats and elevation spirals for building multilevel bug-scapes. Best of all is the “Bridge Battle” set where multiple Hexbugs compete to push each other over the side of a concave platform. Just introduced is the “glow in the dark” track series in matte black for you heavy metal fans.
The bugs themselves can be individually purchased, come in a variety of colors and finishes, and sport their own constellation based “ink”. I could definitely see the more artistic minded going at these puppies with a paintbrush and some stickers to really customize their creature crew.
Thanks to the gang at the Innovation First’s Toy Fair 2011 booth for giving PiercingMetal.com’s Kenny Pierce and I an informative insider tour. We suggested a product demo on HSN or QVC around holiday time would make for blow out sales. Hexbugs top my gift list for my godson’s up-coming birthday – ’cause I wanna play with them too.