COMMENTARY: Manufacturers Are Shifting Gender Roles in the Toy Space

The blurring of gender roles is a trend that I’ve been noticing more and more, and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I think it’s silly to try and reinvent the wheel—let’s be honest, toys that are pink, sparkly, or doll-related attract girls, while Super Heroes, cars, and trucks attract boys (this is, of course, generally speaking)—and what’s wrong with that? On the other hand, there are some toys that are shifting to neutral territory that I think are not only appropriate, but smart on the part of the manufacturers.

neutral easy bake ovenHasbro’s Easy Bake Oven is a great example of this. Introduced in the 1960s, the Easy Bake Oven has always been seen as a girls’ toy. Recently, a young girl contacted the company and asked for a gender-neutral version of the toy. Her younger brother had an interest in cooking, but Easy Bake Ovens were only available in “girly” colors, such as purple and pink. Hasbro agreed and has created a black and silver oven that looks more realistic and appeals to all young chefs. Male chefs are certainly not a revolutionary concept, especially with the range of current TV shows featuring men in the kitchen—think Top Chef, Chopped, Cake Boss, America’s Test Kitchen. I expect that this new look will attract a lot of boys when it becomes available this fall. [Read more...]

King Tut and Discovery’s Holiday Product Preview

Discovery invited media and other personnel to its 2010 Holiday Product Preview today at the Discovery Times Square Exposition in New York. Being only a figment of the prescribed guest, I was lucky enough to be bestowed an invitation by The Toy Book, a perk of being an editorial intern. The event featured new products set to release just in time for the holidays and a complimentary refreshment bar.

One of the products I liked was the “Wild Eyes” collection based off Discovery’s Animal Planet channel. The collection includes dinosaurs, snakes, and animal plush toys that roar, hiss, and growl, respectively. The snakes, for example, came in four different colors, stood around 1-foot tall, and could be activated by sound, sending them into a frenzy of hissing and glowing eyes. These products will retail for $19.99 at Toys “R” Us, with smaller versions that make noise sans-lit eyeballs selling for approximately $6.

Another product that showed promise was a video game based on Bear Grylls’ Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild. Players take control of Bear as he treks through the wilderness, with the ability to level up skills similar to a role-playing game. The build I saw was the early-alpha release shown at E3 last week, so the graphics and animation weren’t as polished as the final product hopefully will be, although the frame rate was constant. Dynamic weather effects and the ability to fashion crude weapons and tools out of animal products and the environment should make this game stand apart when it’s released later this year. Developed by Crave Games and F84 Games, Man vs. Wild hits the Wii for around $40 and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for $50. [Read more...]