China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Endangered Species Toys Can Help Raise Environmental Awareness

CuipoGund

Endangered species stuffed animals, from Gund and Cuipo

Animal-themed toys are nothing new, but in recent months, I’ve been noticing a focus on endangered species. Shortly after Toy Fair 2014, BeginAgain released its Balance Boat: Endangered Animal Edition, a stacking toy featuring rubberwood versions of the panda, rhinoceros, tortoise, and more. Meanwhile, Green Tones by Hohner put out Endangered Animal Shakers, beautifully carved rubberwood musical toys that depict an owl, leopard, and turtle.

And on the plush front, Wild Republic has added vulnerable species such as the Siberian Tiger to its Cuddlekins line. Last but not least, Gund and Cuipo have collaborated on stuffed animals based on the endangered sun bear, emperor monkey, and three-toed sloth, among others. [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: 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...]

Toy Fair Named One of New York’s Top Events

From advertising and technology to fashion, entertainment, sports, and more, the event planning news site BizBash has curated its 2014 list of New York’s Top 100 Events—and has named American International Toy Fair to this exclusive list. To choose and rank the Top 100 list, BizBash considers several factors including economic impact, buzz, innovation, and the event’s prominence within the communities it intends to serve. The largest toy trade show in the Western Hemisphere, Toy Fair takes place each February at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

Toy Fair and the rest of New York’s Top 100 Events 2014 can be found at www.bizbash.com/top-100.

TIA Elects New Leadership at 2014 Annual Business Meeting

March5.TIAThe Toy Industry Association (TIA) has elected three new members to its Board of Directors and a new chairman of the organization during its Annual Business Meeting in February. John Gessert of American Plastic Toys will assume the position as chairman for a year, replacing retiring Board Chairman Soren Torp Laursen of The Lego Group

The new members of the TIA Board are Drew Brazer, vice president of sales in North America for Lego Systems Inc.; D. Hugo Malan, senior vice president and president of sporting goods at Sears Holding Corp.; and William To, president of VTech Electronics in North America. Each elected member will serve for two-year terms, expiring at the 2016 TIA Annual Business Meeting. Laursen will become an advisor to the governance body.

The 2014 TIA Annual Business Meeting was held in conjunction with the 111th American International Toy Fair in New York City. The meeting also included accomplishment highlights from the first year of TIA’s 2013-2015 Strategic Plan and an announcement that the TIA had grown its financial reserves last year.

COMMENTARY: Marble Runs Are on a Roll!

During Toy Fair last month, I saw quite a few marble runs on display, which is not at all surprising. This particular toy has been around since my own childhood and never seemed to go away for any prolonged span of time. Meanwhile, one of the vendors I spoke to said marble runs have actually increased in popularity over the past year, thanks to the growth of the construction toy category. He also said that many customers opt for larger sets—or else buy multiple small ones of the same brand—and that the ability to combine sets to build ever-larger runs makes for exceptional toy value in their eyes.

Personally, I think marble runs are a thing of beauty: You drop in your fateful spheroid and watch as it winds its way toward its ultimate destiny, guided only by physics and skilled engineering. For young builders, they are a terrific means of developing an understanding of cause and effect, not to mention patience–as any seasoned vet can tell you, it can take repeated tries and multiple setbacks before a marble run is put together perfectly. But it’s worth it: A well-built run can have a downright pacifying effect, as watching the marble traveling along can put the mind in a focused, relaxed state.

Despite what they may have in common collectively, marble runs come in a range of different shapes, materials, and styles. Here are a few of my favorite companies currently producing them, but by no means should it be considered a definitive list. The breadth and scope of these toys is certainly worthy of a longer discussion; I’m just here to get the proverbial ball–or marble–rolling:

Phil.2.28.Pic2Hape is known [Read more...]

Lum Lums Circle of Friendship Sighting!

Lums Lums from Imperial ToyLum Lums‘ Valerina, from Imperial Toy, holds hands with her friends at the recent American International Toy Fair. Valerina and her fellow dolls encourage positive social play for girls. Their goal is a world of inclusion in which kids can experience the treasure of friendship.

Aryaball Kickstarts Into Motion

AryaBall HeadshotWith kids today constantly craning their necks down toward their iPhones and tablets, sometimes the perfect pick-me-up is a day at the park. But what parent wants to resemble a gym teacher or clutter up the car with a ton of sporting equipment just to keep their kids busy? Thanks to Babak Forutanpour, they don’t have to.

Forutanpour, owner and head coach of Aryaball, encourages active play through his new toy invention. The Aryaball and Aryabat are foam products made for kids ages 3 to 10. It allows kids to play five sports at once—with just one ball and one bat. The outer shell of the product is a full sized, regulation 5 soccer ball. The ball then opens up to reveal a football and flying disc. The football also twists and opens to uncover a soft baseball with the dimples of a golf ball. Kids can play baseball with the Aryabat or swing the tip out 90 degrees to turn it into a golf putter.

Forutanpour was inspired to create the product one afternoon when he was at the park with his son Arya. The two were throwing a football around when Arya, who the business is named after, asked to play soccer instead. Foruntapour did not have any other sports equipment with him, but after his son insisted, the pair ended up kicking the football to try to use it as a soccer ball.

AryaBall Product“That’s when it dawned on me that I’m not the only dad who forgot to bring all the balls to the park,” Forutanpour said. “I didn’t want to carry a bag with the soccer ball, baseball, football, and golf. I could reinvent the football and soccer ball. It’s about solving a problem I saw.” [Read more...]

Toy Fair 2014 Shows Increase in Attendees, Double-Digit Rise in International Visitors

Last week’s American International Toy Fair in New York City drew nearly 26,500 toy professionals from 94 countries, and boasted a record-breaking 414,060 net square feet of exhibit space. According to the Toy Industry Association (TIA), Toy Fair 2014 also welcomed an 11 percent surge in international buyers, an 8 percent rise in exhibitors, and a 5 percent spike in overall attendees, bringing the total attendance to 26,493.

There was an estimated 1,153 exhibiting manufacturers, distributors, importers, and sales agents, and nearly 10,000 buyers from more than 5,000 retail outlets, including delegations from Amazon, Target, and Toys “R” Us. Members of top press outlets including Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and The New York Times scouted top toy trends.

Next year’s Toy Fair has been scheduled for February 14 to 17, and will once again take place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Show information will be available in the coming months at www.ToyFairNY.com.

COMMENTARY: It’s All About the Robots

Earlier this week, Senior Editor Marissa DiBartolo wrote about how the floor of the American International Toy Fair 2014 was lacking in the realm of appcessories, and that many companies were heading back to the classic play patterns, especially in the activities category. I also noticed an emerging trend that does not heavily rely on app technology, but does not veer from the idea of incorporating tech into playtime: robots.

As I walked the floor, I saw a bunch of different robotic products that really displayed where the category is heading—and a lot of that was not app-reliant. Of course, most of these robots can be controlled with or used with smart devices, but gone are the days where “and it has an app!” was a suitable enough novelty to convince consumers to purchase the toy.

Ali.Feb27First, let me introduce you to MiP. MiP, which is short for Mobile Inverted Pendulum, is WowWee’s latest innovation in association with the University of California at San Diego’s Coordinated Robots Lab. MiP has unique dual wheel balancing (thanks to that inverted pendulum science!) and is a fully interactive robot. MiP is able to navigate his surroundings while being controlled by hand gestures or through a Bluetooth link to a smart device. MiP also has a personality that is communicated through motion, sounds, and his LED eyes. [Read more...]