Unboxing is a huge trend right now — and there’s no surprise there. Browse through YouTube or Instagram Stories, and you’ll see video after video of consumers unboxing anything and everything, from celebrities opening PR packages brimming with beauty products to young kids tearing through blind bags loaded with toys.
Toy companies are taking the surprise component of the big reveal and bringing it to the doll aisle in unique ways this year. Dolls are becoming more multidimensional as manufacturers add new, surprise elements to the packaging and more hidden gems inside for kids to uncover. In some cases, even the doll itself is a surprise, remaining a mystery until the moment kids unbox it.
WHEN ONE BOX CLOSES, ANOTHER ONE OPENS
Jay@Play takes the unboxing theme to heart with Boxy Girls. The dolls have backstories and personas that revolve around their love for online shopping. Each Boxy Girl comes with five mini shipping boxes, made to look like actual brown boxes with labels as if they came in the mail, filled with fashionable accessories that are delicately wrapped with colorful tissue paper and packing material, making the unboxing process as reminiscent of online shopping as possible, but in doll form.
“The inspiration came from so much shopping being done by consumers. Well, how about dolls doing the shopping? And thus the Boxy Girls brand was created,” says Jay@Play owner Joseph Sutton. “The Boxy Girl boxes give kids the ability to unbox all the fun stuff that Boxy Girls purchased online.”
Different retailers are participating in the Boxy Girls program in different ways, with different elements of unboxing incorporated into the packaging.
“Walmart has [exclusive] window boxes, so kids can see the Boxy Girls they can collect. Target has the UnboxMe Girls version, and kids will be able to get 36 Boxy Girls exclusive to Target,” Sutton says.
UnboxMe Girls are a blind-box version of the dolls, so kids won’t know which Boxy Girl is inside until they unbox them.
SO MUCH MORE THAN A PACKAGE
You can’t read a book by its cover, but you can read a toy by its packaging. Some companies are turning the act of opening the toy into part of the play experience.
Blume, from Skyrocket, turns the unboxing process into an interactive experience with the dolls’ innovative blooming effect. The Blume dolls come packaged inside a plastic flower pot, and kids use the included watering can to water the “seeds.” After a few seconds, the Blume dolls emerge right out of the flower pot, hair first, like flowers blooming from the soil. The flower pot doubles as a play set, which kids can open to reveal more items concealed inside of the compartments, such as outfits, accessories, mini friends, stickers, and more.
Kids get so excited about the unboxing itself that they are turning to social media to share their own experiences on camera.
“We are seeing kids all across social media clamoring to get their hands on product so they can Blume their doll on video and share it with the world,” says Lindsey Scheftic, vice president of marketing at Skyrocket. “Girls are surprised every time with what doll they get and the magical unboxing experience. Between the watering of the pot, all of the extra surprises, and discovering you can mix and match hair and accessories, we have seen some great content out there already.”
There’s another bonus of making the packaging more integral to the toy itself: It’s more environmentally friendly. “We think kids are just as conscious as parents today about generating excess trash. With Blume, everything is part of the fun, from the pot that can be individually customized and used as a mini play set or display down to the pot cover that can be used to hold water for the watering can,” Scheftic says. “We are also encouraging kids to [create] DIY artwork [with] their pots and create something that is long-lasting for their rooms.”
Moose Toys is launching a new line of dolls called Capsule Chix that kids can construct themselves. Each collectible doll comes packaged inside a capsule machine. Kids can turn the style dial to release five surprise capsules in each pack. The packs contain different doll parts, such as hair and faces; clothing, such as tops, bottoms, and shoes; and accessories. Kids won’t know which pieces are inside, but each pack contains enough pieces to build a full doll.
“We are always brainstorming new ways to make the unboxing experience unique and different, as well as part of play,” says Garrett Sander, Moose Toys’ girls’ principle designer. “With Capsule Chix, the capsule machine allowed us to split the doll apart so kids could build their very own doll with head-to-toe end customization.”
Similar to Skyrocket’s Blume, Capsule Chix also has a fully reusable package that is part of the play experience. Kids can even store their Capsule Chix pieces inside.
Hairdooz, from Headstart, have a dynamic unboxing process that includes spinning the shampoo-shaped bottle to reveal the doll, removing the hair cover to reveal the doll’s hairdo, removing the cape to reveal the doll’s outfit and pose, and smelling the doll to discover the fruity scent. The bottle’s interior is decorated with a salon design so it can double as a play set, and the chair and doll fit perfectly inside for storage.
ON TOP OF THE TRENDS
Why hone in on just one trend when you can have them all? Some companies are embracing a “the more the merrier” mindset, riffing off trends in both the toy aisle and the real world to give their toys a modern update.
Wicked Cool Toys adds to the classic Cabbage Patch Kids line with the Lil’ Surprise Reveal, touching on the current trend of gender reveal parties. Kids can find out if they’re adopting a boy or girl Cabbage Patch Kid by searching for the pink or blue Xavier Roberts signature and a matching mystery bottle they can use to feed the doll.
“The element of surprise is always a fun aspect in a toy,” says Maria Jordan, senior brand manager for Cabbage Patch Kids at Wicked Cool Toys. “Not knowing if you are adopting a boy or girl is very exciting for any little kid. A surprise feature also helps promote collectibility as kids love to find full sets.”
MGA Entertainment knows that it pays to combine dolls with collectibles, as we’ve all seen with the success of L.O.L. Surprise! The company is now adding slime into the mix, too, with the launch of Poopsie Rainbow Surprise. The dolls come with slime powder, shimmer, and glitter so kids can make DIY slime, which they can add to the dolls’ transparent fashions and accessories to create customized looks.
THAT’S WHY HER HAIR IS SO BIG: IT’S FULL OF SECRETS
Candylocks, from Spin Master, are dolls that come cocooned inside cotton candy cones, which kids can unravel to reveal the doll underneath. The cotton candy-like fluff is actually the dolls’ hair, which is long enough for kids to fashion into different hairstyles using the accessories hidden inside.
Just Play is taking advantage of the importance of a good hair day with Hairdorables. The tagline of the Hairdorables line is even “Big Hair, Don’t Care.” Kids don’t know what dolls they are getting until they peel back the plastic film and find a variety of accessories inside. The new Hairdorables Series 3 dolls include a surprise hair tool that kids can use to color, crimp, or curl the doll’s colorful hair.
HairDUDEables are new boy versions of Hairdorables, which come in two-packs containing a visible Hairdorable doll and a mystery HairDUDEable. This is the first time that the Hairdorables doll is visible in the packaging, but the HairDUDEable will still remain a mystery until opened.
The doll category is becoming more multifaceted as toy companies add new features to spark kids’ interests. Companies are putting the focus on the act of unboxing, incorporating the packaging into playtime, and tapping into different trends to up the ante with new surprises around every corner.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of the Toy Book.