My mom always kept me well-stocked in the toy department growing up — and my wife puts up with the vintage G.I. Joe figures littering our place — but my 8-year-old self would have seriously freaked out if he had ever gone to Toy Fair. Held annually in New York City, the American International Toy Fair invites toymakers big and small from all over the world to showcase their wares for buyers, inventors, storeowners and members of the media. Thus how I was able to get in to witness the best and brightest of this year’s toy fare today, the first day of the four-day event. Here’s one good thing for parents watching their money: The price points on toys are down this year for the most part, according to many companies. The only bad thing: There was so much cool stuff, and none of it I could buy! (This Star Wars Lego set, pictured at right, featuring a brick Wampa is soooo going to be mine one day.) I’ll have more info and video from Toy Fair later, but read below for some highlights of today.
Photos by Brian Truitt
Something for everyone: That seems to be Mattel’s unofficial motto. More than just Barbie (although everyone’s favorite doll is adding to her occupation list this year, with computer engineer and news anchor Barbies), the company is taking care of the little ones with its Fisher-Price toys. Every kid is going to want a charismatic Bigfoot the Monster for Christmas, the kid-friendly PDA iXL (with apps you can buy in your favorite toy store), or Puppy Tweets, a device you can place on your dog collar that “share” their social-networking thoughts via their very own Twitter feed. But they’re also looking out for us older toy nuts, too, with collector’s edition Ghostbusters, DC Comics and Master of the Universe figures for adults.
Blocks to love: Lego’s been a staple in kids’ toy chests for decades, but this year might be their most aggressive yet. A recent pact with Disney means Lego sets featuring Toy Story characters and scenes from the summer flick Prince of Persia. (The preschool-skewed Duplo line will have Toy Story and Cars toys this year.) In addition, Lego will add to their Star Wars and Harry Potter franchise sets as well as original themes such as Atlantis and Space Police; are getting into the board game race with the Harry Potter Hogwarts and a neat little guessing game called Creationary; and expanding their “constraction” lineup — their word for constructed action figures — from Bionicle to the newer Ben 10 and Hero Factory.
Putting a price on cute: Who didn’t have one of those very cute and soft Gund bears when they were growing up? He has a name, Snuffles, and he’s celebrating his 30th birthday this year. (Yes, a bear has officially made me feel old.) So Gund is releasing commemorative bears in caramel and chocolate colors, and a one-of-a-kind Snuffles that will retail at $10,000 that features alpaca fur, eyes made from Tahitian pearls and 10 carats’ worth of diamonds on a white gold necklace.
Rubik’s back: Another iconic toy turning 30 this year is the Rubik’s Cube. I for one could never solve it, and just left that goal to geniuses. Now, there’s one for all of us. The Rubik’s Slide is a neat electronic version of the puzzle game that allows people of all skill levels to be successful and get better the more they play.
Ugly is the new cool: The kooky-eyed Uglydolls were popular with kids even before Sasha Obama was seen hugging on one in the White House. The posse of characters grows this year with a whole slew more, from the blue and big-eared Ket to the pink and pointy-eared Wippy. And if you like those, and have little ones, you’ll want to check out ScareMeNots, a group of six colorful and odd little dudes designed to help lessen children’s fears of bedtime monsters.