COMMENTARY: Big Rewards for a Little Bit of Cash

Sometimes kids deserve a special little treat—whether they refrain from crying at the dentist, got an extra star on their homework assignment, or behaved well on a long shopping trip, it’s nice to reward them for good behavior. Candy is a cheap, instant, and enjoyable treat, but we all know kids can do with a little less sugar (and, in turn, fewer painful dentist visits!).  There are some great inexpensive toys with lots of play value that will help reward kids for good behavior without breaking the bank or causing cavities.

ABSW Telepods Jedi vs Sith Multi-PacksAngry Birds Star Wars Telepods, from Hasbro, are sold in two-figure packs for less than $10. Kids can teleport the collectible figures right into the Angry Birds Star Wars II app, from Rovio Entertainment, on iOS and Android devices. Each figure has a unique QR code on the bottom, so kids can distinguish their characters from their friends’, even if they have the same ones. With more than 30 figures to collect, Hasbro also has compatible play sets at higher price points. With both virtual and physical play, Telepods is a great choice for a quick treat that will keep kids engaged for a long time. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Kids Getting Older Younger—Or Younger Older?

Everyone always talks about how kids are getting older younger. Kids as young as 8 years old are swapping their Barbie dolls and Transformers for iPods and tablets—but this isn’t the case for everyone. There are big kids everywhere, and toys have a funny little habit of bringing an adult’s inner-child giggling wildly to the surface.

Nostalgia is a huge trend in toys today—classic properties such as The Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Pac-Man have resurfaced and are engaging a whole new generation. Traditional toys, such as Hasbro’s Easy Bake Oven, Kahootz’s Spirograph, and POOF-Slinky’s Slinky, all still appeal to young kids the same way they did decades ago. However, adults and older kids will find just as much fun in new products primarily targeted toward youngsters, too.

RainbowLoom.Butterfly Blossom braceletThis weekend, I was loomed. A family friend’s daughter, Karli, had her wrist covered in the colorful rubber bracelets that are a product of Rainbow Loom, from Choon’s Designs. A huge craze among kids, I was enamored by the bracelets and begged her to teach me how to make one. She did, and of course, hers came out better. I’ve been staring at it on my wrist every day since she made it for me, and I was extremely tempted to purchase my own loom when I went into a Michael’s craft store and saw the enormous display (but I thought to myself: “You’re 23 years old, Marissa! Taking home product samples is one thing, but you cannot justify BUYING a toy!”).

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Brush Buddies Launches Smurf-Themed Toothbrushes

BRUSH BUDDIES SMURFSIn anticipation of Sony Pictures Animation’s release of The Smurfs 2, in theaters July 31, Brush Buddies announces a partnership with Sony Pictures Consumer Products for the launch of Brush Buddies Smurfs Poppin’ toothbrushes, Brush Buddies Smurfs Talking Toothbrushes, and Brush Buddies Smurfs manual toothbrushes. This collection will be the newest addition to the Brush Buddies licensed toothbrush collection.

The Poppin’ and Talking line is designed with safety features in mind for kids ages 2 to 11 years old. The products are BPA free with soft DuPont Tynex Bristles and designed with an ergonomic handle that easily fits a child’s hands.

To order your own Smurfs Poppin’ or Talking Toothbrushes, visit www.brushbuddies.com/thesmurfs.  The products are also available at Toys “R” Us and Walmart.

COMMENTARY: Spanning Generations: Modern Takes on Classic Brands

Nostalgia is a growing trend in the toy and licensing industry, but recently many classic brands have been given a modern reboot. The modernized take on classic brands offer fun for consumers both young and old, spanning generations and providing licensees with multiple new opportunities. Today, some modernized takes on old favorites live along side their predecessors.

PlaymatesToys.BasicMutagenOozeTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), for example, launched in the 1980s. A huge, revolutionary boys’ property, the brand was given a reboot last year when a new TMNT animated series launched in September on Nickelodeon. The brand has seen massive success in the toy industry, with partners including Playmates Toys with a full line of figures and play sets, bubbles and water toys from Little Kids, and awesome electronics from Sakar International, including adorable TMNT earbuds. In addition to producing toys based on the new animated series, Playmates Toys also offers a classic collection including all four turtles, which reflects the look of the characters in the original series. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Construction Toys Capitalize on Upcoming Blockbusters

Lego Metropolis Showdown, based on Man of Steel film

Lego Metropolis Showdown, based on the upcoming Man of Steel film

I’m a huge sucker for blockbuster films. I also love construction toys. So you can image my excitement at the American International Toy Fair last month when I discovered that many of this year’s big films will also make their way to the construction toy aisle.

Construction is one of the healthiest categories in the toy industry right now. According to the NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, building sets saw a 23 percent increase in sales from 2011 to 2012. The next closest category of growth (and it’s not even that close) was arts and crafts with 8 percent. A lot of this, of course, had to do with the success of Lego Friends last year. I think it’s safe to say we can expect Lego’s competitors—Mega Brands and Hasbro—to attempt to capitalize on this new boon.

Here are a few of the construction toys I’m excited about that are based on or capitalizing on upcoming films:

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Kre-O G.I. Joe Ninja Temple Battle Construction Set

Kre-O G.I. Joe Ninja Temple Battle

In theaters tomorrow, G.I. Joe: Retaliation finds the G.I. Joes framed as enemy traitors and fighting for their survival against a shadow U.S. President. Channing Tatum (Duke) and Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow) are reprising their roles from the first film, while new cast members such as Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson (Roadblock) and Bruce Willis (Gen. Colton) will add some extra star power. Hasbro’s Kre-O brand last month launched a whole line of G.I. Joe construction sets and micro-figures based on Hasbro’s own G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero property. While not based on the new film, it’s particularly well-timed. The Kre-O G.I. Joe Cobra Armored Assault Construction Set features a buildable tank and a 4×4 vehicle along with three Cobra figures. I’m a big Storm Shadow fan, so I’m also stoked about the Kre-O G.I. Joe Ninja Temple Battle Construction Set.

The Smurfs 2

Smurfette's House

Smurfette’s House

Set for release this summer, The Smurfs 2 will introduce several new characters including some not-so-nice Smurf-like creatures known as the Naughties. The little blue guys find Smurfette has been kidnapped in a plot to turn the evil Naughties into real Smurfs. Christina Ricci lends her voice as Vexy, one of the Naughties. And Katy Perry (yes, that Katy Perry) reprises her role as Smurfette. Mega Brands will release building sets and adorable figures based on the classic The Smurfs property this spring. While not based on the film, these toys seem well-timed. Smurfette’s House is a fully buildable mushroom house playset. The pink and violet two-story mushroom house includes a buildable bed, a makeup table with mirror, and a living room set. I’m stoked on the Racin’ Smurfs set, which includes two buildable racing cars, two Smurfs, obstacles, and a winner’s podium.

The Lone Ranger

Lego Lone Ranger Stagecoach Escape

Lego Lone Ranger Stagecoach Escape

While Lego has some great DC Universe building sets just in time for the upcoming Man of Steel film, I’m more excited about Lego’s The Lone Ranger sets tied to the new Disney film, The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp will play the Native American warrior Tonto, and Lego nails it with its Tonto micro-figure—it has Johnny Depp smeared all over it. The Lego Lone Ranger Stagecoach Escape features a buildable Western stagecoach with horses and micro-figures (yes, Tonto is included). Word among the Lego folks at Toy Fair was that Disney loved the Lego stagecoach designs so much that they wrote a stagecoach chase into the film just so the item could be part of the line. It’s that awesome.

For more commentary from Loren, check back each Wednesday afternoon. 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!

Ubisoft Releases “The Smurfs Dance Party” Video Game

Ubisoft recently released The Smurfs Dance Party for Wii, based on this summer’s 3-D family movie. In the video game, characters from the film, including Smurfette, Papa Smurf, Clumsy, Brainy, Gutsy, and Gargamel, as well as up to four players, dance along to a wide selection of popular songs.

Featured tracks include “Just The Way You Are,” Katy Perry’s “One of the Boys,” and original songs from The Smurfs, including “Smurfberry-licious” and “Gargamel.” Toys “R” Us is carrying an exclusive edition that includes a bonus track, “Walking on Sunshine.”

Other new Smurfs-themed games include The Smurfs for Nintendo DS and The Smurfs & Co. for Facebook.

McDonald’s Teams Up With The Smurfs to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits

McDonald’s is encouraging children worldwide to “Smurf the Earth” this summer with a 28-day Happy Meal campaign featuring 16 iconic Smurf designs. Smurf-themed packaging on healthy Happy Meal offerings, such as Apple Dippers and milk, will promote healthy eating decisions for children.

Within the U.S., McDonald’s has partnered with The Smurfs and Keep America Beautiful (K.A.B.) to put digital codes on the back of Apple Dippers packages that can be entered online at happymeal.com. For every code that is entered on the website, McDonald’s and K.A.B. will plant a tree (up to 100,000) in national forests across the country. Similar environmentally friendly promotions will take place at McDonald’s global locations.

FAO Celebrates The Smurfs with Activities and “Blue-Tique”

The Smurfs opened in theaters nationwide today, and viewers will see the legendary FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue store prominently featured in a chase scene in which the Smurfs encounter the evil wizard Gargamel. To celebrate the store’s role in the movie, FAO Schwarz hosted daily themed activities during a special Smurf Week (July 25 to July 29), highlighted by an appearance by Hank Azaria, who plays Gargamel in the film.

In store, customers can bring The Smurfs home with FAO’s assortment of toys, games, and more items in the store’s “blue-tique.”  The main attraction of the “blue-tique” is the Smurfalator, a machine used by Gargamel to extract the Smurfs’ magical essence. Also featured are images from the movie, toys from Jakks Pacific, a classic assortment of Smurfs from Schleich, collector dolls from Madame Alexander, and apparel from Junk Food Clothing.

FAO.com is also receiving a “Smurfy” makeover and Facebook.com/FAO will join in the celebration.

The World of Smurfs: A Celebration of Tiny Blue Proportions

On July 29, The Smurfs, in 3-D, will hit movie screens nationwide, but now it is also swarming book stands. The World of Smurfs: A Celebration of Tiny Blue Proportions gives an exclusive, intimate look at the process of creating the cartoon and CGI versions of The Smurfs, as told by author and Smurfologist Matt Murray.

Murray chronicles the process of creating the cartoon and CGI versions of the characters. The book also includes character bios for the most loved residents of Smurf Village, and sidebars that discuss the Nazi occupation of Belgium, the voice behind Jokey, and the origin of the word “schtroumpf” or smurf. The 128-page book also includes pullouts such as a sticker set, a mini-comic, and a Smurf Village poster.

The Smurfs started out as “Les Schtroumpfs,” a Belgian comic strip from 1958. They were brought to America in 1981 as part of NBC’s Saturday morning lineup.

Fall Toy Preview: Pressman Prepares for The Smurfs

In anticipation of next summer’s release of the Columbia Pictures’/Sony Pictures Animation’s 3-D movie The Smurfs, in theaters August 3, Pressman Toy Corporation has signed a deal to create games and puzzles based on the movie. In this big-screen release, the Smurfs are chased out of their village by the evil Gargamel and wind up in New York City’s Central Park. The little blue creatures must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.

Pressman Toy’s preschool games and puzzles are all priced under $20 with many options under $10. Games based on the movie will include Race to Smurfs Village, Don’t Drop Clumsy Board Game, Smurfs Follow Your Nose Dominoes, as well as Smurfs Pop ‘N Race, Make a Match, Big Roll Bingo, and a special spinning card game starring Clumsy Smurf. The products will be available at mass market and specialty stores nationwide in July 2011. Additionally, Pressman Toy will introduce a line of 24-piece puzzles featuring real movie scenes.

For more Fall Toy Preview coverage, pick up The Toy Book’s September/October issue!