China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Digital Properties and Toys Are a Match Made in Heaven

Today’s culture of apps and Internet memes has spawned a new category for licensees. These new digital brands have inspired toys that carry the excitement, reference, or joke of a digital property beyond its original state and into the physical world. Smartphones, apps, and the Internet have allowed people of all ages to swap images, play games, and contribute to digital communities faster than ever before. The appeal of a licensed toy can largely be attributed to an emotional connection—such as victory, challenge, or humor—to the property by a consumer. When I see a toy (or any other type of product) that I identify with a funny meme or a favorite app, I’m instantly drawn to it, almost like being in on an inside joke.

For the past few years, many a birthday card that I’ve given and received has featured cringeworthy images of a person (or several) in an array of ridiculous outfits, making odd facial expressions, in questionable poses, and more. Since 2009, Awkward Family Photos (AFP) has accrued nearly 2 million Facebook fans and currently offers plenty of products for fans to enjoy. AFP has also expanded its brand to include Awkward Family Pet Photos, adding a whole new hilarious dimension to the theme. Fans can purchase the AFP puzzle in either the pets or siblings versions, which feature 999 puzzle pieces and come together to create a collage of several awkward images.

afpboardgame

Fans can also enjoy a rousing game of ridiculous photos, questions, and answers with the AFP Board Game, from All Things Equal. A player flips over a card featuring an Awkward Family Photo and reads an open-ended question aloud. The other players must come up with their own answers; the player with the best answer wins the round. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Can’t Get Enough Bubbles

I don’t know of anything more universally loved than bubbles. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was create bubbles—whether it was blowing into a straw while drinking something, blowing the water with my mouth in the pool, or using gel to make a bubble bath.

Since my early days, bubbles have evolved from the traditional solution and wand method, and the following new bubble blastin’ toys are definitely a modern way to enjoy something so simple.

Gazillion BubblesThe Gazillion Bubbles Typhoon 2.0 is true to its name. This product, from Funrise, creates a storm of bubbles with the push of a button. The magic is in the battery-powered machine, which produces over 5,000 bubbles per minute. The product comes with non-toxic Gazillion Bubbles solution and an auto feed cap to place onto the bottle, which can then be inserted into the machine to release the solution. Once you press the button to turn the machine on, you won’t be able to keep up with all of the bubbles being made! [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: These New Japanese Toys and Games Aren’t Just for Kids, Part 2

So Japan has toys that are compelling enough for grown-ups to enjoy? Figures. No, I mean action figures. As I mentioned in part one of this commentary last week, Japan has some of the coolest action figures on the planet, and much of why has to do with that country’s toy-buying market, which skews older than, say, in the U.S.

However, a lot of that sophistication is now making its way over to this country, in the form of toys that are either imported from Japan, or have their roots there. Some are kids’ items that have double appeal among older audiences, while others are purposefully aimed at grown-ups. That’s a bit of a blanket statement, of course, as any toy can appeal to lots of different demographics for varying reasons. However, we have a feeling adults will want to get their hands on these particular figures once they’ve cleared customs–probably even more so than kids will.

Phil.April23.HikariTMNTThis spring, Funko will introduce its new line of Hikari Japanese Vinyl figures, which are inspired by the vinyl “kaiju” figures that have developed a considerable following among collectors in Japan. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Pool Time Is the Best Time

Some of my fondest childhood memories were conceived on sunny days spent splashing around in the pool. Back in the day, it was tradition for my family to fight over the one noodle that wasn’t chewed up by my dog, or to constantly cheat during a riveting round of Marco Polo (The thing was, we were kind of bored and thoroughly enjoyed torturing each other). Today, lazily floating around on the water is my most anticipated summer activity, but the pool is still a prime spot for play.

As companies gear up for swimming season, here are some of the latest toys that keep kids engaged at the pool and earning those pruned fingers:

TMNT Water WeaponsLicensed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Sewer Spewer Water Weapons, by Playmates, combine classic ninja moves with an impressive soaking effect. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: These New Japanese Toys and Games Aren’t Just for Kids, Part 1

Phil.April18.2014.1I may not be the biggest aficionado of Japanese pop culture, but I do consider myself a fan, having devoured lots of manga and anime over the years. What I also appreciate are the toys: Japan has some of the most exquisitely-made action figures and giant robots ever made, and in their native land, these items are generally aimed at adults.

Now when it comes to toys and games, Japan has long enjoyed a healthy foothold in North America—think of all the Pokémon, Hello Kitty, and Power Rangers products that have made their way over. So far in 2014, that trend has continued, with several new properties either just launching or expected to launch soon. But these are Japanese imports, meaning they’re sophisticated enough for grown-ups, even if they look like they’re for kids. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Easter Is the Other Big Holiday

I don’t know about you, but in my family, Easter is the “other” big holiday. It gets as much attention as Christmas and Thanksgiving, complete with family from near and far, a feast, candy, and, of course, Easter baskets. My sister and I are both in our 20s, but who says grown-ups can’t still get excited to open their Easter baskets and see what goodies await? While Easter isn’t the time for lots of presents, our baskets usually contain some candy, a few small trinkets, and one bigger gift. This Sunday, when kids across the country open their Easter baskets, some may be lucky enough to receive any of the following fun spring toys.

airhogsskywinder

Spin Master Air Hogs Skywinder is an awesome choice for a kid’s “big” basket gift. Kids toss the R/C stunt rocket into the air and squeeze the trigger on the remote. The rocket flies, dives, hovers, and loops, and is lightweight enough that it can be used indoors. It flies high, though, so kids will enjoy it most outside—a perfect reason to go outdoors and celebrate spring! [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Kids Can Safely Get Behind the Wheel with New Ride-Ons

It’s difficult to recall when I first began dreaming about getting my driver’s license. Sure, there was that one time I accidentally shifted my parents’ car into neutral and rolled it out of the driveway (sorry again, Mom), but even at a young age, I had a desire to drive.Barbie Jeep

The first ride-on I instantly became obsessed with was my friend’s Power Wheels Barbie Jeep, circa 1990-something. It was love at first sight and I just had to have it. It was battery-operated, so I could just push down the pedal and go. It even had a roomy passenger seat, which was perfect for driving around my younger brothers and sister–and I probably tried to get my cat in it with me, too. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Prepare for Upcoming Summer Blockbusters with These Toys

The beach, barbecues, and time off from school are some of the most beloved parts of summer vacation. However, we can’t forget about summer blockbusters. While we are still getting over winter weather here in New York City, I can’t help but get into the summer mood hearing all about the movies that are fast approaching. And to make it even better, this summer’s movies have inspired some awesome products. I was happily surprised to see some versatile items that both kids and adults can enjoy, and have compiled some of my favorites below:

Apr2.SpidermanThe Amazing Spider-Man 2 Mega Blaster Web Shooter with Glove by Hasbro can make a kid feel like his or her favorite superhero. The product comes with a glove just like Spider-Man’s and a wrist-mounted shooter that blasts either water from the refillable water cartridge or the Spidey Shot Web Fluid. Both units are included in the package and are triggered by the push of a small lever with two middle fingers. The Spidey Shot Web Fluid is essentially a type of aerosol string, like Silly String, that comes out in a continuous line that feels like foam. After a few minutes, the fluid dries out and is easily removable from any surface. Although I prefer the web fluid over the water, both methods of simulating Spider-Man make a great way for kids to spend time outside. Kids can definitely enjoy this toy all spring before the movie comes out in May. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Now Every Kid Can Be Captain America

Phil.04.03.Cap6inchLegendsThis weekend, everyone’s favorite re-animated World War II super-soldier returns in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, from Marvel Studios. (PLEASE NOTE: THIS OPENING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.) Having seen a preview of the movie, I won’t give too much away, but suffice it to say, it’s a good time, precisely because the captain faces conflicts that aren’t just fisticuffs. At a certain point, both he—and the other Marvel Comics-based heroes who appear—must decide whether to turn on their own government. Admittedly, it’s not that difficult a choice, since saying no means a terrorist organization descended from the Nazis gets the power to kill millions with the push of a button. But a moral quandary is, nevertheless, a moral quandary, and gives the movie a kind of complexity that isn’t always found in summer blockbusters. (END SPOILERS.)

It also results in a character that kids of all ages can—and should—aspire to become more like. (Did I mention that Captain America also learns to trust his friends? This film’s full of valuable lessons for young ones!) To that end, Hasbro has released an impressive line of Captain America: The Winter Soldier toys and accessories that allow for all kinds of pretend play. Since not every movie protagonist is a fit role model for kids, having found one with product support from the toy industry, I feel it is this column’s responsibility to highlight said product as much as possible. Cap, you’re welcome. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Taking Plush to the Next Level

Gone are the days when plush was simply a category of stagnant stuffed toys. Kids today can enjoy plush items that sing, dance, play music, light up, talk, and more. With technology moving ever forward, the plush category is seeing new ways to integrate interactive elements into soft products. While mechanized toys aren’t a brand new concept, many companies are producing new items that utilize today’s technologies in ways never seen before.

I’ll be honest—I wasn’t much for animated plush when I was a kid. Maybe it was the fact that interactive items didn’t really do anything cool enough to warrant sacrificing the softness and squeezability of a traditional stuffed animal. Or maybe I didn’t like the fact that you have to change the batteries. Whatever my reasons, I think I would have felt differently about interactive plush if I’d had some of the toys available today.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.50.19 PMPeek-A-Boo Elmo, a licensed Sesame Street item from Gund, holds a cozy blue blanket to play peek-a-boo with kids ages 18 months and up. When kids press Elmo’s foot, he lifts his blanket over his face while saying phrases such as, “Where are you?” and “There you are!” One of the nicest things about Peek-A-Boo Elmo for parents is that by pressing his foot again, he turns off. I also love that he moves his arms up and down fairly quickly, enhancing the surprise factor for little ones. Elmo’s mouth also moves consistently with what he’s saying. Peek-A-Boo Elmo is programmed to say 13 phrases. [Read more...]