It takes a lot of imagination to make a trip to New York’s dark and cavernous Javits Center any fun. Fortunately, Toy Fair has just enough of it. The gargantuan trade show (now in its 111th year) isn’t just a peek at the goods that this $22 billion industry will soon be peddling to the youngsters—it's a snapshot of the cultural zeitgeist, too. There’s a good bet that anything popular on YouTube or in the movies will wind up here. Plus, a good portion of the “kids” that toy brands are marketing to just so happen to have kids of their own. Adweek dispatched reporters Sam Thielman and Robert Klara to go trend hunting amid the 760,000 square feet of industrial carpeting. To follow are some of the more notable sightings.
Grumpy Cat Everything
With 3.7 million Facebook fans, social-media sensation Grumpy Cat wasted no time creeping into merchandising. Canadian toy brand Ganz holds a license to put the sullen feline’s face on mugs, key chains, throw pillows and (of course) plush toys. “Grumpy Cat himself was here yesterday,” said regional sales manager Steve Rappel. “The lines were unbelievable.”
Ursula the Sea Witch
Finally, everybody complaining about Barbie and body image can relax a little: Disney's full-figured villainess Ursula is getting released by Barbie-maker Mattel alongside other, trimmer evil ladies including Snow White's wicked queen and, of course, Maleficent (in time for the upcoming Angelina Jolie live-action flick).
Razor’s Crazy Cart
Try to imagine a skateboard mating with an all-terrain vehicle. The result: Razor’s Crazy Cart, a diminutive demon that pulls donuts and even goes off-road (all for only $399.) “It’s a sweet ride,” said one grown man who tried it out—and there’s hope for him: Razor will be introducing an adult model by year’s end.
Nerf Combat Creature
Yes, folks, Hasbro's Nerf line, long a staple of children's munitions, has finally gone the full Darpa and gotten into the robot drone business. This arachnid, gun-faced critter is the perfect plaything for kids who want to reenact their favorite stories of extraordinary rendition from the evening news using only harmless foam rubber.
I Heart Guts Plush Testicle
Most toy makers have to worry about others knocking off their ideas. Wendy Lazar probably does not. Her company, I Heart Guts, makes plush toys of the human body’s major organs—including this dashing blue testicle complete with what she calls an epididymal comb-over. The awful puns on the sales tags offer an added kick. But where’s the market for a toy like this? “Urologists like it,” Lazar offered.
Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Lego Set
Lego's Cusoo line of fan-designed products is basically Kickstarter for building toys—a crowdsourced collection from hardcore fans (winning designer gets a 1 percent royalty.) Ghostbusters Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore are the second set of retro characters to get the Lego treatment in the last few months, but probably not the last. There's a Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine gathering steam on the creator page.
The New Lite-Brite
Introduced by Hasbro in 1967, Lite-Brite is one of those rare low-tech toys (a light box with varicolored pegs) to hold onto its cool quotient. For a new generation of enlightened children, however, toy brand The Bridge Direct will introduce an updated model this fall featuring new peg shapes and a “Memory Membrane” with resealing holes.
Breaking Bad Pink Teddy Bear
The ultimate symbol of the harm Walter White has wreaked on innocent people is now available as a fluffy, pink harbinger of your very own coming doom from Mezco Toyz. “It was a very hard toy to make. It’s individually jointed,” said CEO Mike Drake. A Gund bear it ain’t. “The studio didn’t want it to be a recognizable brand,” Drake added. “Because of the potential association.” Indeed.
Peavy Superman Electronic Guitar
Famed for its fearsome amplifiers, Peavey also makes guitars and, thanks to a recent deal with DC Entertainment, has whacked some heroic faces just above the pickups. (Superman and his ilk list for $200.) Not surprisingly, Peavey has older “kids” in mind with gear like this. “Guys who collect the comic books will buy the guitar, too,” said sales manager Trevor Gibson.
The Simpsons James Brown Action Figure
The Godfather of Soul is the standout in NECA's new line of Greatest Guest Stars from the longest-running TV series in U.S. history. Between the flared white suit and the microphone stand, this figure is measurably funkier than Disco Stu.
Ingenious art toy company Kidrobot has licensed Marvel's various superhero properties for Frank Kozik's line of wayward bunnies, the Labbits. There are quite a few good ones, but this one stood out—the Wolverine Labbit, with claws sticking out of its fuzzy widdle mouth.
The Man Puzzle
Among the many toys one is likely to find in the average man cave, jigsaw puzzles historically aren’t one of them. But that may change in the next month when TDC introduces its “Man Puzzles” featuring artist Greg Hildebrand’s famous 1950s pinups. The sets ($14.99 each) have 1,000 pieces—some of them rather cheeky.