Author: Deanna Atkins

COMMENTARY: The Avengers’ Black Widow Is the Odd “Man” Out

Avengers: Age of Ultron debuted in theaters on May 1, earning $187.7 million during its first weekend. Yet the only superhero anyone seems to be talking about is the Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff, played by the beautiful Scarlett Johansson. Between Mark Ruffalo, the actor who played The Hulk, taking to Twitter to ask why there aren’t more Black Widow toys available for his nieces, and Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner making tasteless comments about Black Widow being a “slut” and a “whore,” this female super hero, an Avenger herself (#recognize), cannot seem to catch a break. .@Marvel we need more #BlackWidow merchandise for my daughters and nieces. Pretty please. — Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) April 29, 2015 Fans are expressing their concerns all over the Interwebs, and are directly reaching out to Marvel, Hasbro, Disney, and even retailers such as Target via Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #WheresNatasha. They want to know why toy aisles are stocked with Avengers products, but there’s not a single Black Widow toy in sight. Another major problem consumers are encountering is not that Target or Marvel are unresponsive to fans’ concerns, but that they’re telling fans to look online for the toys. @LizGmaz Thanks for telling us you’d like Black Widow in stores. We’ll make sure our buyers look into this. Please check online for her. — AskTarget (@AskTarget) April 29, 2015...

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COMMENTARY: These Toys Are Full of All-American Goodness

Shopping consciously is a lot easier when there are toy companies out there dedicated to manufacturing products in the U.S. While made-in-the-U.S. toys may not have been one the biggest trends at Toy Fair this year, we still wanted to round up some of the fantastic products we saw, that you all should keep an eye out for this year! Cozy Comforts Kitchen (American Plastic Toys) With more than a 50-year history of made-in-America products, American Plastic Toys offers quality play at an affordable option for American families. Its new-for-fall Cozy Comforts Kitchen features an ultra modern design and a realistic feel. Accessories include everything kids need from plates, cups, forks, knives, and spoons to a muffin tin and a strainer. The Kitchen stands at more than 3 feet tall, and even has a single-cup coffee machine, a raised “gas” burner that makes a boiling water sound when pots and pans are placed on it, a microwave, a refrigerator, an oven, a toaster, and more. Thomas & Friends Track PlayTape (Bachmann Trains) Manufactured exclusively for Bachmann Trains by InRoad Toys, Bachmann’s new Thomas & Friends™ Track PlayTape makes playtime so easy for kids ages 3 and up (and for parents). Not only is this tape the same exact track kids see on the show, but it’s made in the U.S. The tape sticks to any flat surface, is easy-to-tear, repositionable, can be peeled away...

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COMMENTARY: Bathtime Toys Clean Up at Toy Fair 2015

This year, bathtime and playtime will become one and the same. Kids will no longer take pride in going days without bathing or purposely “forgetting” to wash behind their ears. In fact, judging from all of the amazing bath toys seen at the North American International Toy Fair, I’m betting that kids everywhere will be cleaner than ever and the dreaded bathtime battle between kids and parents will be a thing of the past. So, check out these babies and get ready for them to hit store shelves throughout the year! (Thought you should know, they’re listed in no...

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North American International Toy Fair Still Largest Toy Show in Western Hemisphere

Last week’s 112th North American International Toy Fair—the largest toy marketplace held in the Western Hemisphere—opened its doors to nearly 25,000 global play professionals. Owned and operated by the U.S. Toy Industry Association (TIA) in partnership with the Canadian Toy Association (CTA), Toy Fair 2015 grew in size and scope over the previous year, with a record-breaking 421,300 net square feet of exhibit space filled with 1,064 exhibitors, importers, distributors, and sales agents, and hundreds of thousands of brand-new toys and games. Buyers, exhibitors, entertainment executives, members of the press, and trade guests from across the U.S. and 91...

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COMMENTARY: The Toy Industry Celebrates Valentine’s Day

Oh, Valentine’s Day—the holiday people love, and the holiday people love to hate. Whichever way you see it, Valentine’s Day is at least a good enough excuse to eat a lot of chocolate, binge-watch romcoms, snuggle up with your favorite plush, and play with Valentine’s Day-themed toys. According to a Valentine’s Day consumer survey conducted by Daymon Worldwide, 43 percent of consumers plan on spending more than $50 on gifts this year, while 44 percent of consumers surveyed are planning on giving products as gifts. As the Toy Industry gears up for the most romantic day of the year, here’s what some companies are doing to get in on some of that V-Day love from consumers: Activision: For its Skylanders franchise, Activision will introduce Skyland’s newest stud, Love Potion Pop Fizz (pictured at the top). This husky, pink guy is available just in time for Valentine’s Day, but only for a limited time! In addition, Skylanders fans can show their love for friends and family members with signature Valentine cards. They’re available at major retailers. Cloud B: A super-soft plush companion for little ones is always a great alternative to candy and chocolate. With Cloud B’s Glow Cuddles Bear, just a little hug makes this sweet bear give off a soothing heart-shaped glow to help ease kids’ fears of the dark. The bear also subdues sleepers with the calming...

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COMMENTARY: What We Talk About When We Talk About Why Boys Don’t Play with Dolls on TV

In a perfect world, toys would be toys and there would be no grand toy judge to pound his or her gavel and declare which ones are for boys and which are for girls–okay, that doesn’t actually happen, but rarely do kids get to decide which toys they want to play with before it’s already been preconceived as a boy or girl toy. There have been many strides made towards creating toys that intend to promote gender equality—just check out this commentary, New Toys Inspire Girls to Cross Sterotypical Boundaries, from Alexi Velasquez, or, Dolls for Boys Are a Sign of the Times, from our own Phil Guie. Yet it seems that toy companies continually miss the mark. Pinkifying “boy” toys doesn’t close a gender gap, and marketing toys that have previously been deemed “boyish” in a way that will appeal to girls may be smart for sales, but it’s important that we look beyond the toys themselves, and at the advertising campaigns that drive them. That’s where we really see the effect that it has on the way kids play. I recently saw a petition on Change.org urging the president of the International Council of Toy Industries to change the way toys are advertised on TV by featuring both genders playing with the same toys. Unless this is the first time this argument has surfaced (which it’s not),...

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Build-A-Bear Workshop Opens Pop-Up Shop in Times Square

Just in time for the holidays, Build-A-Bear Workshop has opened a new pop-up workshop in Times Square, New York. Primly located at 1619 Broadway, this new shop is officially open to the public after a ceremonious ribbon cutting by Build-A-Bear CEO Sharon John Tuesday morning. The new store celebrates the arrival of Olaf, Elsa Bear, and Anna Bear, merchandise that is exclusively available at Build-A-Bear Workshops. The first 200 guests to arrive were invited to build a “Stuffed with Hugs” bear that will be donated to a local...

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COMMENTARY: Comics’ Timeless Heroes (and Villains) Are Still Loved by Today’s Kids

Kids these days may not know that Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman (among many, many others) hailed from glorious comic books first published in the 1930s, costing someone 10 cents an issue on the stands. They also may not realize how well some have held their value, being that the very first Superman comic, Action Comics No. 1, supposedly goes for $3.2 million dollars—but let’s not get too sidetracked. The real point here is that today, September 25, is National Comic Book Day, and it’s hard to imagine the toy aisles without the superheroes and villains who once upon a time, were neither action figures nor stars on the silver screen played by big-league actors and actresses; but instead, started out as hand-illustrated drawings on a comic strip. So, being that this is a toy column, I’m going to use the rest of this article to highlight some of the very best (and my personal favorite) licensed toys and video games based on characters who may be bigger than big now, but had their very first debut in comics: 11-Inch Interactive Talking Turtles (Playmates Toys): With these monster-sized Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello turtle figures, kids can role play as their favorite characters and fight crime in the sewers of New York City. Watch as the gang is able to communicate back and fourth with one another, exchanging turt-ally awesome phrases...

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COMMENTARY: Even More Smart Devices Are Available for Kids

Toy companies creating kid-friendly and parent-approved technology has been a trend for some time, with no signs of slowing down in sight. In the recent past, tablets such as the Kurio 7s and LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra dominated the kiddie-tech market with durable rubber casings, safe settings, and easy-to-set parental controls. Now, however, manufacturers are focusing on putting different devices in the hands and on the wrists of kids. Kids know the difference between a toy phone and their parent’s smartphone, and they want the real deal, with a touchscreen, cool apps, and a camera as musts. Companies such as...

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COMMENTARY: Celebrating Canada Day—Toy Style!

In case you didn’t know, this past Tuesday was the national day of Canada! Here at The Toy Book, we’re lucky enough to work with tons of awesome Canadian toy companies, and to show both our support and Canada pride, here are some of our favorite toys from great Canadian toy manufacturers: WowWee From WowWee, we always know to expect something innovative and hi-tech, such as last year’s 32-inch-long Roboraptor. In keeping up with the robo-trend, WowWee recently rolled out MiP, a unique, dual-wheel balancing interactive robot that utilizes GestureSense technology. With MiP, kids can control the robot through a Bluetooth link to any smart device using a free app. There are fun games to play with MiP, and kids can even make it dance to songs from their iTunes library. Coming this fall, Noomie (aka a toy about to become every girl’s new best friend) is an adorable R/C creature that comes to life with exciting personality traits, motion, and sound. Noomie loves to play, and girls can put fun accessories on her, such as bows, a cowboy hat, and more. Mega Bloks Known for its array of construction toys for preschoolers and older kids, Mega Bloks also makes build-able toys for top brands, including Barbie, Skylanders Swap Force, and Hello Kitty. Although there are so many toys to choose from, the Mega Bloks Skylanders Swap Force Skylands...

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