Modarri, a Different Kind of Toy Car, Arrives at Retail

ModarriModarri, from Thoughtfull Toys, launched at American International Toy Fair in February, and now the car line is hitting retail stores.

Modarri is a kind of miniature car that’s driven with the fingers using realistic steering and suspension. Recommended for ages 8 and up (though not for ages 0 to 3 due to small parts), users can design their own unique cars by swapping parts from one vehicle to another using the included Hex Tool.

Each modular car includes a chassis, hood/windshield, seat pan, seat, fenders and frame, hex tool, four wheels, front suspension, and rear suspension. The line is launching with a Street Car S1, Dirt Car X1, and Track Car T1. In addition, the DIY model allows users to make custom vehicles with their own paint jobs.

Thoughtfull Toys had created a Kickstarter project for Modarri, which finished at more than $69,000, or more than 300 percent of its funding goal. The group successfully raised a second round of financing from accredited investors, with a focus on website development to make the car line interactive and digital as well as physical.

NFL Players Inc. Wants to Turn Toymakers into Playmakers

NFLPlayersAssociationNFL Players Inc. (NFLPI), the marketing and licensing arm of the NFL Players Association, introduces Playmaker Challenge, an exciting new competition for toy developers. To be considered, new toy ideas must feature the unique intellectual property assets licensed only by NFLPI, including names, uniform numbers, signatures, nicknames, images, and likenesses for more than 1,800 active NFL players.

The competition, announced at Fall Toy Preview in Dallas, runs through December 19, and NFLPI is accepting applications for concepts through the Playmaker Challenge microsite. The grand prize winner will receive an NFLPI-issued license, an NFL player promotional appearance at their Toy Fair booth, and $10,000 towards player marketing, which can be used on retail partnerships, social media activation, and/or player appearances. Additionally, NFLPI will work with the winner and retail launch partner to donate a quantity of the newly licensed toy to a pre-determined children’s charity.

A committee will review submissions and invite three finalists to present their concepts to the NFLPI committee from January 4 to February 13. The winner will be announced at the American International Toy Fair in New York City.

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...]