by Bill Sencio
Every February, Toy Fair comes to New York City. This trade show allows all the toy companies from around the world to show off their newest products, and every toymaker from Lego to Mattel to Hasbro are there with previews of the year’s hottest new toys. As a dyed-in-the-wool “big kid,” I jumped at the chance to check out Toy Fair first hand. Here’s what I saw.
Anyone with kids in their lives knows toys can be a BIG DEAL, and Toy Fair proves that. Spanning the entire floor of the Javits Center in Manhattan, this show is four days filled with toy designers and sales people and potential buyers from all kinds of retailers, huge, eye-catching displays, bright colors and sounds, and, of course, lots and lots of toys.
The floor is a sight to behold, stretching the equivalent of five city blocks with row upon row of booths filled with new products from all over the globe… and that doesn’t even count some bigger companies like Hasbro– makers of Transformers, My Little Pony and Star Wars toys– whose showcase was off site.
Getting down to brass tacks, let’s talk toys– there were lots of really great new items for kids of all ages, based on new movies coming this summer like Planet of the Apes, collectibles based on hit TV shows like Big Bang Theory, and lots of adorable internet animals– like my personal favorite Grumpy Cat– being immortalized in toy form.
Lego was one of the most fun displays to check out, with a huge showing of all their great building toys. From the simple Duplo sets for the little-little ones, to their popular series like Ninjago, Chima and Lego Friends, there’s something for everyone coming this year from Lego. In addition to their own brands, the Enfield-based company will release new building toys based on Star Wars, movies like The Amazing Spider-Man, Ninja Turtles and Guardians of the Galaxy, and a huge lineup of figures, vehicles and playsets from the smash hit The Lego Movie.
Among the coolest sets on display were the Sea Cow– the massive Pirate Ship of The Lego Movie‘s Metalbeard– and a super cool Lego version of The Simpson’s house, complete with the family in minifigure form.
I was also charmed by the Mixels, a new toy line of buildable creatures in various color-themed tribes (red guys for fire, blue for water, that sort of thing). They’re getting their own series of shorts on Cartoon Network, and they were all slightly strange and totally cute. I think I have enough room on my desk for a few of them?…
Hasbro had another very impressive showcase, with lots of cool toys for girls and boys coming in 2014. The year will see lots of new toys from My Little Pony, the Equestria Girls, Mr. Potato Head, the Littlest Pet Shop and more. The big focus, though, was toys to support soon-to-be blockbuster movies such as Transformers: Age of Extinction, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Each property will see a whole lot of toys, and there were some really cool items coming soon to toy shelves.
A new series of Transformers toys will feature easy-to-use transformations, allowing kids to switch their favorite character from robot to vehicle and back with a flick of the wrist. And the new movie will feature more than just vehicles… a series of Dinobots is also coming, with all new robots that transform into dinosaurs! The Marvel movies’ toy lines will range from play action gear, like Captain America’s shield and Spider-Man’s web shooters which kids can wear, as well as a wide variety of action figures and more. I was particularly impressed by a new toy called Mashers, which feature cartoony figurines of Marvel heroes and Transformers, each featuring interchangeable arms, legs and heads, allowing kids to create their own custom character.
Star Wars is a perennial favorite for kids and adults alike, and this year will be big, with toys based on the new Star Wars Rebels cartoon, play action lightsabers and blasters, and a line of highly detailed action figures geared for adult collectors called The Black Series, which feature painstakingly detailed toy versions of classic Star Wars heroes, villains… and even a massive toy version of Jabba the Hutt!
Mattel was another major company with an exciting display, with lots of new toys based on DC Comics, WWE and Hot Wheels ready for the new year. Their lineup of products had something for kids of every age, and some of their newest items– especially the red hot Monster High dolls– are sure to wind up on many Christmas wish lists this year.
Playmates Toys struck gold with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and 2014 will see lots of exciting new toys based on the hit Nickelodeon TV show. In addition to plush dolls, talking action figures and kid-sized ninja weapons and turtle shells, the company will continue their action figure line with plenty of new characters, playsets which allow kids to send their toys sailing across the room on ziplines, and a very cool Turtle blimp which looked just like the one I had as a kid (okay, I’ll admit it– I still have it today).
The heroes on the half shell will also get their own new movie this summer, and Playmates is ready with an additional lineup of products based on the new live action film. While there was no photography allowed for the new movie items, all the new toys looked very cool, based on a much more realistic take on the mutant heroes. All of the TMNT movie products will hit retail along with the movie this summer.
There’s a lot of cool stuff coming this year for anyone who loves toys, and I was truly impressed by the amount of fun products and playable new items in store for 2014. While a geek like me had a particularly great time spending an entire day playing with toys in New York City, the amount of cool stuff on display and the interesting people behind this merchandise would certainly awaken the kid in anyone.