• Tina Benitez-Eves

Direct from Market: Toy Fair

Toy Fair 2013Opening Day at Toy Fair 2013
NEW YORK - A massive winter storm dubbed Nemo swooped into the East Coast the Friday before the 110th American International Toy Fair in New York, leaving some exhibitors uncertain if they would ever make their way in. Fortunately, on opening day more than 1,000 exhibitors were in place inside the Jacob K. Javits Center by the time the ribbon was officially cut, welcoming attendees to this year's fair.

Dancing Power Rangers, Pac-Man and other animated characters danced around opening morning on Sunday, Feb. 10 as attendees and exhibitors eagerly waited to enter the halls. After a brief introduction, TIA president, Carter Keithley welcomed Sadie Sink from Annie on

Toy Fair Ribbon CuttingThe official Toy Fair ribbon cutting
Broadway, who sang the theme song to the Broadway hit before helping cut the ribbon and officially open the show.

Traditional play was taken to new levels at this year's fair——everything from multi-dimensional playthings, augmented reality games, do-it-yourself (DIY) kits and more.


More preschool toys are reflecting parents' busy schedules taking more play on the road, in the bath and beyond. More washable toys for bath were also sprinkled throughout the fair, including Charisma Brands new Bathtime Babies collection of soft plush dolls that can be enjoyed in or out of the bath. Small World Toys expanded its individual bath toys collection, while Blue Box Toys added new bath toys to its B Kids line, including its Splash N Slide Waterpark Wonder. Madame Alexander also debuted its Pinkalicious line of soft, fast-drying dolls that can go from bedtime to bathtime. The company, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, also introduced a Puff the Magic Dragon plush, and to celebrate, Peter Yarrow, who wrote the music for the poem of the same name penned by Leonard Lipton, appeared in the Madame Alexander booth and performed the song for a rapt audience. BeginAgain has expanded its top selling Dunk N' Dive collection of bath toys to include a pink diver. Playmobil's 123 line for toddlers expands with the addition of the Take-Along Barn. Innovative Kids debuted its jigsaw puzzle boxes that come in a wooden storage box.

Imagine I CanPart of the Imagine I Can collection of DIY play sets by Manhattan Toy

Do-it-yourself (DIY) play sets were also big at this year's fair. Griddly Games is launching its Rainbows and Storms board, which comes with stickers, a game board and suggestions to build your own game.The Imagine I Am collection from Manhattan Toy features 28 different themes, everything from pet rocks, knitting sets, craft your own princess and a spy kit. Hasbro even has something for little comic fans with its Marvel Build a Figure sets. Box Creations launched its Lemonade Stand and a three-piece dinosaur set of DIY cardboard figures. Faber-Castell has also added some new block printing, color-by-number and watercolor kits to its collection, in addition to Creativity Cans. The company is offering the crafts kits to select retailers across the country to offer free of charge to customers. Kids can make their creations and share it online with the help of a parent. Crayola is big on customization this year with its Marker Maker that lets kids mix colors and create up to 16 markers of their design, as well as the Melt ‘n Mold Factory where broken crayons can be repurposed (or regular crayons put to new use) by reshaping them into multicolor creations. Catering to crafty boys is the Create 2 Destroy line, with special dough for shaping and using in a variety of action-packed mini cannons and catapults. Light design is another hot area for creativity, one that Crayola embraces in four new items: Mini Light Designer, See-Thru Light Designer, Dome Light Designer and Widescreen Light Designer.

Fashion Pops

Fashion and pop music took center stage with some collections. Wooky Entertainment's Style Me Up! collection features fashion sketch books and Tattoorific, a DIY tattoo kit. Klutz also showcased its tattoo kits, and little fashionistas can sketch their designs with new fashion journals. Also new to Klutz is the Toolbox Jewelry set, which takes the nuts and bolts they'd find in dad's toolbox to make jewelry, in addition to new Fashion journals and Clay Charms in the Dot Jewelry collection. Playmobil is even launching its Pop Stars! this August, complete with band members, instruments and a stage that comes with an MP3 player. Coming this summer is The Beatrix Girls, a line of pop star fashion dolls, each with their own personality.

After successfully melding girls' fashion and plush with its Christine Clark collection of Sassy Pet Saks, Sillo Purses and Wristlets, etc., Douglas Toys has further ventured into the dress-up/role play category with Dreamy Dress Ups, a line of fanciful and colorful fabric wings, ranging from butterflies and fairies to birds and dragons.

Puppet TheaterDragon and princess make an appearance inside Haba's new Puppet Theater, which reverses into a market.
Fantasy and Exploratory

Dinosaurs and dragons continue to be big in toys. Kids are fascinated by them; they stir the imagination. Douglas also introduced a collection of plush dinosaurs and tested the interest in a licensed Dinosaur Train line that it is pursuing. Aurora introduced Marshmallow, a new YooHoo & Friends character. The company ran a "Design a YooHoo & Friends Contest" from which Marshmallow, a rainbow colorful dragon designed by Janessa Chong Yeun Teng of Malaysia, was chosen as the winner. Geoworld is also expanding its dino replicas collection and Dino Dan-licensed playthings with the Jurassik Edubooks collection, which includes a chisel and play figure. The In My Room brand of illuminated room décor from Uncle Milton now includes T-Rex in My Room, complete with lights and sounds, and Mars in My Room, which shines red lights throughout the red planet. Illumination is also key for the Wall Friends line of interactive Disney characters that light up and talk to kids; Fireworks Lightshow brand featuring Shoe Fireworks (illuminating footwear) and the Cyclone Pinwheel Light Show for a dazzling handheld lights display. The company also enhanced its Nat Geo Wild line with Go Wild Sunglasses, with three pop-out lens sets that let kids try out different animal personalities, and Bugs Eye Vision Goggles with side mirrors that let you see what's behind you. Oregon Scientific showcased its three SmartGlobe interactive learning toys for ages 5 and up. In addition to the signature product with updatable geography and other factual content that is refreshed online every two weeks, the SmartGlobe Horizon has educational apps that can be loaded onto a tablet, while the SmartGlobe Star features constellations that glow.

Augmented PuzzlesRavensburger
Augmented Reality

Holograms and space entered Goliath Games' new HoloGrafx board game. Designed by Hollywood special effects artist, Andre Armenante, the game takes pieces on board and brings them to life in hologram form. Activision's Skylanders took on new form with its upcoming Swap Force game, which allows players to mix and match character game pieces (or figures) like Wash Buckler and Octopus by switching out the tops and bottoms by magnet. Once the figures are placed on the game console, the game automatically changes on screen to reflect the new character. The game has also extended its licensing to 135 licenses, including board games from Pressman Toys and toys from Hasbro, trading cards with Topps and more. German puzzle makers, Ravensburger also entered the augmented world with its new augmented reality puzzle series, featuring Colorful Activity at Times Square and Satellite World Map. Times Square players must put together the 1,000-piece puzzle to unlock a 360 view of the famous New York City square and other interesting facts. Mattel will also release its Imaginext Fortress, which lets player combat creatures transfixed into the player's room.

Planes, Trains...and Rockets!

Kids like cars but just as many trains and planes were taking over across most categories from LEGO's cargo station, complete with aircraft, and Coast Guard set. Playmobil's cargo theme takes flight in August with a cargo airplane whose top comes off so "passengers" can be placed inside. Manhattan Toy also debuted its' Motorworks play set, complete with a car lift and ramps for fun play. The Motorworks line by Manhattan Toy features an entire car parking lot, featuring a car lift and tune up area. Green Toys will be rounding out its eco-friendly wooden toys with the release of a shape sorter, rocket, tractor and ferry boat, while Silverlit Toys will surely attract big kids with its interactive Mercedes remote-control car that can be operated via a Bluetooth-enabled iPhone or iPad and also play music through the car's speakers.

Blue Orange Games isn't just about board games anymore. The company was proud to showcase its foray into the construction toy

Busy BuddyThe Busy Buddy by Patch Products
s category with the Engenius line. Designed for ages 4 and up, these building toys are made entirely of wood-including the screws-and feature interchangeable pieces. The first items in the line include an airplane, helicopter and spaceship.

Little Ones

Over in the baby toy realm is Apple Park's Organic Farm Buddies, a $15-and-under organic plush, rattle and blanket combination. A new line of eco-friendly lunch packs and backpacks in whimsical bat, penguin and purple owl designs also took center stage. Also big on babies is Tiny Love, whose Next Generation Gym transforms from an infant gym to a toddler play mat and will be in stores by next holiday season. Available this summer is the Take Along Bouncer, a compact model that folds flat and fits into an included tote bag. A new take on the crib mobile is Magical Night, which features a soothing light projector that can convert into a nursery lamp.

Folkmanis is expanding its animal puppet kingdom with a menagerie of new plush friends. Feeling right at home in the company's show booth were a fluffy alpaca, a two-handed goose, grizzly bear cub, long-legged frog and Maltese puppy. Also on hand (literally) was a screech owl with rotating head, a sky dragon with tons of movement and a playful monkey in a barrel. According to Folkmanis marketing

DunecraftGrant Cleveland shows off his original, "Pervasive Plants," which is the cover of the Dunecraft's 2013 catalog.
director Elaine Kollias, the monkey, dragon and alpaca were getting the most attention from buyers.

My Real Toy debuted at Toy Fair. Through a local retailer, the company offers kids the opportunity to have a unique plush toy they design themselves. Kids use their imaginations to draw their design, which the retailer submits to My Real Toy; in-house designers and tailors then create the plush and return to the customer for a one-of-a-kind special gift.

Hape was buzzing with the news of its just-announced acquisition of Kathe Kruse, the German collectible soft doll makers. While the company currently distributes product in the U.S. market, the entire brand is expected to be absorbed by Hape with the year. Other new products in Hape's core lines include an eye-catching wooden chocolate fondue set and stackable ice cream set due out in June, a chunky piano and two new ukuleles, push and pull wooden mobile animals for 12 months and up.

Patch Products has expanded its preschool line to 6 months to 1½ years with several traditional play items that help develop early color, shape and number recognition with in its Mirari collection. Available this fall to specialty, the line includes a Pop Pop Piano, Busy Buddy shape sorting set, Drum-Dee-Dum, Zig Zag Zylophone and My Pad, an electronic iPad-designed device to help introduce little ones to new sounds.

Melissa & DougMelissa Bernstein of Melissa & Doug

In addition to Madame Alexander's 90th, Mary Meyer is celebrating 80 years in 2013, and Hasbro's My Little Pony turns 30 this year. USAopoly was ready for several anniversaries with its 20th anniversary The Nightmare Before Christmas versions of Operation and Monopoly, the 75th anniversary of Wizard of Oz in 2014 with a pop-up Monopoly board game and A Jenga honoring the 35th anniversary of Space Invaders.

Melissa Bernstein of Melissa & Doug took time out to tour attendees around the company's more than 2,000 products and new lines in celebration of the company's 25th anniversary this year. Helping to kick off the celebration is the debut of K's Kids, a developmental toy collection for babies and toddlers available this summer. Core products in the line include Croc Bloc, featuring interlocking blocks that test dexterity and hand/eye coordination, and the Very Hungry Pelican, a plush bird with a voracious appetite. This spring, the company's Craft & Create line will feature plenty of self-contained kits, like Felt Friends Stickers and Secret Decoder, to keep kids occupied. The company's classic toys category continues to grow and is being lead this year by a wooden cash register, complete with play coins that fit in corresponding-sized slots, and a traditional hourglass. The role-play category has also expanded with several new dress-up ensembles, such as cowboy, cowgirl, mailman, astronaut and mermaid. In Q3, Melissa & Doug will introduce its Let's Play House line, which include a wooden vacuum that picks up wooden pieces and a pretend can opener and canned goods set. On top of its extensive new inventory, the company was excited to point out its personalization program for both retailers and consumers. Available online, products can be customized via laser or embroidery for a flat fee of $1.99. Melissa & Doug plans to create customized display to help retailers showcase these new offerings.

The next American International Toy Fair will take place in New York, Feb. 16-19, 2014.

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