There’s the old saying, “Go big or stay home.” Well, at the recent Sweet Suite event that was part of this year’s Blogger Bash, a lot of toy companies gathered in New York City to show off their wares, and many of them brought big toys. And by big, I mean that if placed side-by-side the average action figure, doll, ride-on, etc., these toys easily dwarfed the competition.
While big toys are far from a new trend, I am surprised to see multiple companies moving in this direction. To some degree, it seems counter-intuitive: From the toymaker’s point of view, it means manufacturing a product that requires more material, and therefore carries a higher price tag. Sure, parents are always going to buy toys for their kids—and $50 to a few hundred isn’t a lot to spend on a child’s birthday or a holiday—but it might seem steep for just one item.
Meanwhile, big toys take up extra shelf space, which is always at a premium for retailers. And from a big city parent’s perspective—and admittedly, I am biased on this last point, since every parent I know that’s in my peer group lives in the city—there’s barely enough space in the average apartment bedroom/kid’s room for a bed, much less a collection of towering toys.
On the other hand, what makes the strategy less risky is many of these toys are established brands: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Hasbro’s Transformers are just two of the properties that had oversized toys at Sweet Suite. At this point in time, both brands are present everywhere from TV series to summer blockbuster films, comic books, and all manner of toy and non-toy products. Kids clearly like the brands and their respective characters, so it makes sense to create toys that bring some of their outsized personalities into the real world—such as huge character-based toys, some of which are as big as kids themselves.
This fall, Hasbro will introduce its Transformers: Robots in Disguise Super Bumblebee, which comes with features such as lights, sounds, and an app. However, given its height of 19 inches, it would also seems to have value as a buddy-type toy that kids can develop social interaction skills with. The same goes for Playmates Toys‘ 15-inch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Giant Ninja Control Leonardo, and especially the enormous, 48.5-inch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo, coming this fall from Jakks Pacific. Either would seemingly invite role-play fun thanks to their size and friendly-looking demeanor (Though careful how close you get; they are carrying toy katana).
(Editor’s note: When this op-ed was first published, we mistakenly referred to Jakks Pacific’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo as R/C. We regret the error.)
Other oversized toys of late are taking on familiar play pattern. Such is the case with the Tonka Mighty Dump Electric Ride-On, from Dynacraft and available exclusively at Toys “R” Us. It was described to me as quite possibly the largest electric ride-on ever made, big enough to seat two kids in the front, and one more in the rear bed. The advantage of making a ride-on toy into a behemoth like this one is it brings kids ever closer to the dream of driving a real car (And to be fair, when I got into the Tonka Mighty Dump at Sweet Suite, I had the almost opposite reaction, in which I was ready to trade in my Zipcar membership for the chance to drive it home).
I also got to check out the Gigantic Step and Play Piano, from Alex Brands. It’s a giant piano you can put on the floor and play with your hands, feet, etc. I would say more, but if you’ve ever seen the movie, Big, you already know there are few things more immersive and inspiring than a piano that you can play by walking on it.
For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!