COMMENTARY: Dough Play: Letting Kids Be Gross

Spending time with my niece (age 8) and nephew (age 4) has taught me many things: patience, kindness, compassion, etc. However, one particular lesson has stood out to me as of late: kids are gross. They are adorable and awesome and hilariously uninhibited, which, in turn, often makes them gross. They just want to stomp in the mud, pick their noses, and enjoy all the luxuries of gooey, mushy substances. However, this grossness can easily be turned into something productive, cute, and brightly colored through dough play.

Play-Doh PlusPlay-Doh, from Hasbro, has been around for decades. I loved molding the clay-like substance when I was young, spending hours at the kitchen table with multiple containers worth spilling out onto sheets of wax paper. I loved squishing a big ball of Play-Doh in my hands and feeling the smushy compound ooze between my fingers. It was gross, awesome, and most importantly, wildly entertaining. In addition to Play-Doh and the new Play-Doh Plus compound, which is a fluffier version that allows for easier molding, there are other great new options on the shelves that allow kids to be creative while channeling their passion for mush and grossness.

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COMMENTARY: Comic-Con Exclusives Bring the Fantasy Home

Comic-Con: A once-in-a-lifetime (annual) experience. Fans come from all over to get autographs, take photos, and experience the thrill of oversized Lego structures and men-in-costume. A place full of Hobbits, heroes, and happiness, Comic-Con allows consumers to share their love of all things fantasy. Best of all, the licensed merchandise and exclusive product offerings are abundant. These products allow consumers to get a little bit closer to the franchises they love, bridging the gap between fictional worlds and reality. From classic brands like The Power Rangers, to new favorites like Game of Thrones, the product arrays are seemingly endless, and everyone comes eager to take home their piece of Comic-Con history. Here are some of the limited edition and exclusive products we were most excited about in our office:

LEgacy Power MorpherThe Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was by far my favorite show growing up. Though the brand has expanded to include multiple modern versions, the classic series is still my favorite. For other nostalgic Power Ranger lovers, Bandai America released the retro-style, limited-edition Legacy Power Morpher in a Green Ranger/White Ranger Edition. The 24-karat gold-plated Morpher comes with two die-cast coins. With only 1,000 available, each Morpher is individually numbered.

Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, oh my! Though Marvel superhero merchandise is never in short supply at Comic-Con, the limited-edition Marvel exclusives are always something to look forward to. In preparation for the upcoming film, The Wolverine, hitting theaters this Friday, Diamond Select, in partnership with Marvel, has unveiled the Marvel Minimates Wolverine Saga Box Set. This four-pack features 2-inch versions of Symbiote Wolverine, Spacesuit Wolverine, Ultimate Wolverine, and Logan-san in Japanese robes with a variety of interchangeable parts. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Despicable Me 2: An Instant Feel-Good Favorite

DM2 LogoDespicable Me 2 explores all kinds of love: Father-daughter love, admiration for a co-worker, new love, puppy love, motherly love, male camaraderie, and, of course, Minion love. A fun flick for the whole family, the sequel to the 2010 hit is a heart-warming 98 minutes full of life lessons, slapstick, and downright adorableness.

Former super-villian Gru (Steve Carell) has given up the good (bad) life for his three little girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher). Moving on from his evil days, he decides to explore the wonders of jam and jelly making and small business. However, his evil roots catch up to him soon enough and he is enlisted by the Anti Villian League (AVL). Together with his AVL partner, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), Gru goes undercover to apprehend a dangerous transmutation formula, which the AVL fears has fallen into the wrong hands. With a few likely suspects easily identified, Gru and Lucy embark on their mission to save the world.

Growing from the first film, Gru is now faced with all of the joys of fatherhood, including dressing up like a Fairy Princess, aiding in performance rehearsals, and steering love-sick boys away from his daughter’s direction. Though, he may appear to have become a bit love-sick himself. No longer orphans, the girls have clearly acclimated to their life with Gru as their dad, but they are eager for Gru to find love, and simultaneously, a mother figure. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Spanning Generations: Modern Takes on Classic Brands

Nostalgia is a growing trend in the toy and licensing industry, but recently many classic brands have been given a modern reboot. The modernized take on classic brands offer fun for consumers both young and old, spanning generations and providing licensees with multiple new opportunities. Today, some modernized takes on old favorites live along side their predecessors.

PlaymatesToys.BasicMutagenOozeTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), for example, launched in the 1980s. A huge, revolutionary boys’ property, the brand was given a reboot last year when a new TMNT animated series launched in September on Nickelodeon. The brand has seen massive success in the toy industry, with partners including Playmates Toys with a full line of figures and play sets, bubbles and water toys from Little Kids, and awesome electronics from Sakar International, including adorable TMNT earbuds. In addition to producing toys based on the new animated series, Playmates Toys also offers a classic collection including all four turtles, which reflects the look of the characters in the original series. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Fun in a Flash: Quick Games for Families

Flash_Pack_3DOn rainy days, classic favorites such as Scrabble and Monopoly are perfect to entertain kids. But some busy families might not have hours to devote to board games. There are great new games on the market that take only a few minutes to play, but will keep kids entertained when they are in the mood for a game or two.

In Flash!, from Blue Orange Games, players race to complete eight challenges of dice combinations as they try to rack up the most points. Combinations include six of a kind, a straight, all odd numbers, all even numbers, and two sets of three. The first player to complete the challenge picks up the chip worth the most points. Players continue rolling until all players earn a chip. Straight-forward and easy to learn, game play only takes about 10 minutes. There are enough sets of brightly-colored dice for up to six players ages 7 and up. [Read more...]

Sega, Nintendo Partner for New Sonic Installment

SonicLostWorldLogoSonic Lost World is the next Sonic the Hedgehog franchise title to be published on Nintendo platforms as part of an exclusive partnership between Sega of America Inc. and Nintendo. In the new game, Sonic must conquer six of the most powerful enemies to date. Sonic Lost World will be available exclusively for Wii U andNintendo 3DS platforms later this year.

Dr. Eggman has harnessed the power of six menacing creatures collectively known as the Deadly Six, but when the Deadly Six rise up against their master, Sonic has to unite with his arch nemesis in order to take on the new enemies. Using his dynamic new Parkour moves and improved Color Powers, Sonic must run, jump, and race through a variety of ever-changing terrains in order to defeat the Deadly Six.

SonicLostWorldSSAlongside a single player adventure, the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS versions of Sonic Lost World will feature a range of competitive multiplayer modes. In addition, each platform will also contain distinctive features that take advantage of the consoles’ unique capabilities. Exclusive Wii U Color Powers can be controlled with the Wii U GamePad by tilting, touching, and aiming. The full game can also be played using only the GamePad screen and will feature a two-player support mode.

Sonic Lost World for Nintendo 3DS is the first handheld Sonic game ever to feature fully realized 3-D levels, which include exclusive Special Stages and Color Powers unique to Nintendo 3DS.

The game will be distributed by Sega of America Inc. throughout the U.S., Canada and South America, with Nintendo of Europe GmbH handling distribution throughout Europe and Australia.

COMMENTARY: Moby Dick, or, The Card Game Brings an American Classic to Life

MobyDickBox

Moby Dick is considered one of the greatest American novels ever written. But more than just a classic tale, Herman Melville’s masterpiece leaves quite an impression on its readers, examining existentialism and obsession in a truly captivating way. Literary lovers of the classic tale can venture on the high seas in search of the White Whale in a new way.

King Post has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Moby Dick, or, The Card Game, a dynamic, action-packed adventure for two to four players ages 12 and up. The game is adapted from Melville’s classic novel, and is brought to life with three decks of unique cards featuring original compositions, period portraits, and classic illustrations.

The strategy-based game lets players live out the voyage of the Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. The Sea Deck contains adventures, creatures, and chapters adapted directly from the novel, including whales, giant squid, foreign ports-of-call, and pirate attacks. The Sailor Deck features characters including Ishmael, Starbuck, Queequeg, and Captain Ahab. The Whale Deck contains actions, defenses, and attacks of the hunted whales. In addition to the iconic imagery featured on each card, a quote from the novel ties the action of the game directly to the classic tale. The game also includes two dice and 40 oil markers. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Make ‘n Break Party Induces Fits of Laughter

A simple concept: Use 10 blocks to assemble a structure depicted on a card. Sounds simple enough, right? There’s one small catch: you can’t see the card. Instead, your partner must describe the structure to you as you attempt to build it. OK, still not so hard. Now, here’s a blindfold. Oh, and by the way, sometimes your partner can’t say specific key words, and other times you’ll have to build a structure with no description at all.

Make ’n Break Party, from Ravensburger, is an ice-breaking, laugh-inducing, 60-minutes of team-play fun. I’ve never valued words including, “thingy,” “belly-up,” and “NO- THE OTHER ONE,” so much in my life. The game is designed for three to nine players ages 10 and up, and will be sure to pull your guests away from the chips and dip and get them bonding after the first few turns.

MakenBreakPartyHilarity ensues as a player works to assemble a structure depicted on a card in one of four game variations: building according to team members’ descriptions, building while avoiding “taboo” words, building blindly, and creating objects such as truck, elephant, clock, and middle finger. Teams work together and race against the timer, and the more structures you build in one round, the farther along the game board you move and the closer you come to victory.

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Alexander Doll Co. Celebrates 90 Years with New Offices, a Limited Edition Anniversary Collection, New Licensed Products, and a New Product Category

The Alexander Doll Co. unveiled its new mid-town location, new doll lines, and new licensed products yesterday in celebration of the company’s 90th anniversary. Since 1923, the company has grown to include collectibles, play dolls, and baby dolls for girls of all ages. For this 90th anniversary, the company has developed an assortment of six dolls to commemorate the company’s history. Re-introductions of classic sculpts and characters included in this collection are a 21-inch Cissy in a beaded dress, inspired by a photograph of Madame Alexander from 1923; an 8-inch Wendy with a Tony Sarg inspired marionette theater; a classic McGuffey Ana; and an 8-inch Wendy and a 10-inch Cissy both dressed to commemorate the anniversary. Each doll comes with a commemorative hang tag and Certificate of Authenticity.

DorothyInThePoppyField

Also on the anniversary front, Madame Alexander has marked the 75th anniversary of two iconic movies, The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, which were among the company’s first and longest continuous licenses. Each and every year since 1938, new designs have been added to these special collections, and this year is no exception. The three doll sets for Wizard of Oz collectors include a 10-inch Wicked Witch of the West with three 5-inch Winged Monkeys, a 10-inch Glinda the Good Witch withthree 5-inch girls of the Lullaby League, and a 10-inch Dorothy with three 5-inch Poppy dolls. For Gone With the Wind anniversary, the company has created a 21-inch Scarlett O’Hara resplendent in her white ruffled Prayer Dress.

SwanLakeOn the plush side, Alexander Doll Co. has responded to the concerns of modern parents relating to toy hygiene by developing a new washable dolls category. Machine washable and dryable, this collection includes the Wizard of Oz gang, Fancy Nancy, Pinkalicious, and Angelina Ballerina. Alexander Doll’s 18-inch soft cloth play dolls include several new additions, such as Bedtime Angelina, Fancy Nancy, Marabelle, and Swan Lake Angelina.

Alexander Doll will introduce a new facial sculpt on their Favorite Friends line of 18-inch vinyl play dolls this year. Favorite Friends feature rooted hair, sleep eyes, a soft cloth body, five-way jointing, and stylish outfits. Separate outfits are sold and fit most 18-inch play dolls in the market. In addition, the Dollie & Me brand of 18-inch dolls complements an apparel collection of little girl dresses sold with matching doll dresses.

Hearts&RosesBaby dolls have been an integral part of the Alexander Doll Company since the 1930s. Doll ranges include My First Baby with painted eyes and hair, and Newborn Nursery, which are lifelike baby dolls with rooted hair, sleep eyes, and a selection of accessories and outfits.

The history of the Alexander Doll Co. is a tale of growth from a small doll company to one of today’s exclusive brands in the girls’ sector. Kahn Lucas Lancaster Inc., a global designer and wholesaler of branded girls’ dresses and fashion collections, now owns the company.

COMMENTARY: Storytime and Playtime Collide

Storytime Toys Fuses Play Houses with Classic Fairy Tales

It can be really difficult to get kids enthusiastic about reading at a young age. When I was young, my mom gave me an enormous, leather-bound book full of fairy tales. Each page was laden with beautiful graphics and trimmed with gold. After having the stories read to me over and over again, I would use the tales and characters as inspiration for playtime, making my Barbie dolls act as Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel.

New specialty toy company Storytime Toys, is making it even easier for kids to incorporate reading into playtime. Kara Dyer and Sara Argue have created a line of toy houses and storybooks based on classic fairy tales. Now, kids can read along to fairy tales including Goldilocks & the Three Bears, Hansel & Gretel, and The Three Little Pigs, while they build a house (or three, in the pigs’ case) that corresponds to each story.

Storytime.H&G

Each house features stunning, hand-painted imagery and comes with furniture and dolls for extended creative play. The pieces of the house can be assembled easily by kids ages 3 to 6. The stories are age-appropriate and will allow kids to associate playtime fun with the concept of reading. [Read more...]