This week The Toy Industry Association, Inc. (TIA) celebrated it’s 113th annual trade event, once again bringing together creators, vendors, buyers and press outlets to North American International Toy Fair.
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.”
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.
(representing Tech 4 Kids, Aliquantum International, Bravo Sports Corp. and Zuru Toys)
Rubie’s Costume Company
Thames and Kosmos
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Black Friday is here, officially marking holiday shopping season 2013. I’ll be posting info about some of my favorite goodies during the next couple of weeks. I hope I can turn you on to some fun gifts, or something for your own wish-list.
Innovation First continues to refresh their popular Hexbugs Nano series with new skills and environments. Hexbug Nano V2 follows last year’s Hexbug Nano Warriors, which offered multi-bug battle action. This newest species of skittering scarabs has evolved to include three rubbery spikes on their spines which allow them to shimmy vertically up and down habitat tubes. As with prior generations, the modular nature of individual track and tubes pieces ensures that sets can be configured with imagination nearly your only limitation.
Over, Under, Sideways, Down…
Specialty constructs have been added to the line to maximize the fun of the Nano V2’s abilities. The Twist Tube adds a 360 degree spiral to the hexbugs’ bag of tricks, the V2 Black Hole Funnel offers a destination for Nano freefall with a variable exit routine at the bottom, and the flat panel Observatory creates an ultimate height destination for the V2 models to explore before they descend again. Tube width allows adventuring buglettes to pass each other en route or share a trip with frenetic fraternity.
Santa’s Littlest Helpers…
Hexbug Nanos can also be found in special Christmas editions, sporting reindeer antlers, snow flake design motifs and neatly packaged in tree trimmer ornaments.
For a gift on a more restive note, Innovation First offers the amazing AquaBot, a robotic fish activated when – you guessed it – placed in water. Aquabot comes in an assortment of colors and emulates all the soothing movements of your favorite aquarium dweller but requires no feeding, no tank filter, no clean-up, just the occasional battery.
This is only a smattering of the gear in the Innovation First line which includes full and XL size Hexbug creatures, the bobble head Moshi Monsters and Tagamoto Auto track sets. Check the related posts below for more details.
These images are of Toy Fair 2013 pre-launch displays, but all of items are currently available at your retail toy store as well as online.
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What the Hex…
Anyone who has read this blog in the past knows I’m a fan of Innovation First Labs Inc. and their line of robotic toys. My favorites are the arthropod inspired Hexbug Nanos. I just love to watch the meanderings of these self propelled creatures along the modular tracks you can design and expand yourself. After a while they seem to take on individual personalities. Needless to say a selection of Hexbugs, tracks, platforms and corrals (as well as the “Battle Bridge” kit) made a great gift for my Godson – and for me as well.
At Toy Fair 2012 Innovation First Labs gave a sneak-peek at their newest spin on the product. They’re called Hexbug Warriors Battling Robots. It was clear from the prototypes and their accoutrements that this was going to be a grand addition to an already fun franchise.
Taking a page from Harry Potter and X-Men, as well as real life school robotics competitions Innovation First supplies parts for, the Warriors are back-storied to be the creations of four fictional student “academies” in the year 2087. They are color coded to note each academy. Caldera Prep (Red), Viridia Prep (Green), Bionika Cyborg (Blue), Tronikon Tech (Yellow.) Each of the Warriors can be outfitted for battle with a range of armor and weapons. Saw blades, pinchers, scoop wings, borer cones, side plates and other pieces can be mixed and matched to your desired effect.
When Push Comes to Shove…
Whereas the earlier Bridge Battle kit pitted Hexbugs against each other in push and shove matches – with losers being knocked off an elevated concave arena – Warriors ups the ante with a “last man standing” motif. This is driven by sensor tech inside the robots. Each Hexbug Warrior has an LED light that signals its current health state in Green, Yellow or Red as it wages battle. Eventually the shock sensor will shut a Warrior down after its maximum number of hits. The ultimate victor is the one still running.
This first installment of my review gives you a look at the packaging variations. It will be followed next week by up close images of the individual Warriors, their battle armor and weaponry. The third report will enlist some family members a real world view of game play. My previous coverage of the Hexbugs line can be read here.
Click Any Image to Launch the Gallery
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VooDoo Bugs, Slight Reprise…
Toy Fair 2012 was a great opportunity to become familiar with lots of new products scheduled for roll-out over the next year but it was also fun to visit with the representatives of some of last year’s favorites and see their newest product spins. That was certainly the case with the folks at Innovation First who welcomed Ken Pierce and I into their booth for a peak at the latest updates to the Hexbugs universe.
Updates include more modular base plates, allowing for Hexbugs exit/entrance from varied positions of your choice. The plates also have a series of slides and whirly-gigs that make watching the jittery robotic insects even more fun. Clip an optional hook to the back of your Hexbug and watch it slide down guide wire equipped elevations.
Pack Up Your Hexbugs in Your Old Kitbag…
I was really happy to see Innovation First Labs take top honors with a Specialty Toy of the Year Award for their Hexbugs Hive Habitat Set. This portable version of the Habitat product neatly folds up into a molded handle carrying case to easily tote your Nanos wherever you go. Like the rest of the line everything is expandable once you reach your destination.
This Means War…
On the horizon are Hexbug Warriors, an extrapolation of last year’s “battle bridge” concept. Warriors can be outfitted with snap on weaponry ranging from buzz-saw blades to drill noses. Open sided concave platforms make for the arena ground and the toys push and nudge each other until one falls to the level below.
For younger gamers and Mom’s who just can’t stand the sight of bug-like crawlers skittering around the living room floor First Innovations has introduced a series of tiny Bobble Bots. These shaky noggin creatures are based on online “virtual pets” Moshi Monsters, each with their own cool personality. Like Hexbug Nanos, they have a modular environment to traverse with little houses and shops, trees, shrubs, and lamp posts that can be turned into a complete village. Swing away doors allow the critters to bop in and out of the buildings, and their erratic perambulations are mesmerizing.
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