It's early November, which is practically last minute if you're a parent hoping to track down one or more of the holiday season's most popular toys. To help, Toys"R"Us just released its Fabulous 15, a list of this year's most prized kiddie goodies. Let's take a look at the ads for the most coveted of the coveted, also known as the quickest ways to reach "cool parent" status:
- Air Swimmers
Air Swimmers are remote controlled, helium-filled flying balloons that come in two models: shark and clown fish. They look awesome, especially when they were flying around the Toys"R"Us that I went into the other day. However, this poorly shot video is its actual marketing video. It takes center stage on the website (tagline: "Air Swimmers swim through the air!"). I thought it was a fan-created spot that some Air Swimmers enthusiast had uploaded to YouTube—unnecessarily epic music and all. I was wrong.
- My Keepon
This interactive dancing robot was actually designed in Japan to study social development by interacting with children. Since 2003, it's been used in research, but a 2007 YouTube video by a Carnegie Mellon student who programed the thing to dance to Spoon sent this little bot to Internet stardom and the made it obvious that it had toy potential. A real Keepon costs $30,000, but the My Keepon toy, which looks the same and still dances, is only $39.99. It also has far worse advertising than the original single-shot YouTube video that made it popular.
- Power Wheels Dune Racer
Fisher-Price hasn't put out an official commercial for the Power Wheels Dune Racer yet, but that hasn't stopped Toys"R"Us from picking it for the list. Bonus: According to the one review on the Fisher-Price site, the Dune Racer stops operating if you attempt to drive it in sand. Oops.
- LeapPad Explorer
Love watching your kid wipe snot all over your iPad, but don't want them to find your porn folder? Give 'em a LeapPad! It's like an iPad, but with no access to the Internet and none of your stuff on it. The only fun they can have with it is educational. Credit to the hyper-excited voiceover and reminder to order today "to avoid disappointment."
- Trash Pack Trashies' Garbage Truck
Do you miss the Garbage Pail Kids? Well, worry not. Children now have a suitably trashy alternative with the Trash Pack: little icky figurines packed in tiny, toxic-looking trash cans. With hundreds to collect, trade and play with, they're the gross gang that lives in your garbage. Above is the spot for the whole Trash Pack, not the Garbage Truck specifically. Catchy jingle? Check. CGI? Check. Annoying rhyming V.O.? Double check.
- Air Hogs Hyper Actives
Air Hogs are fast, little, remote-controlled cars that are designed to smash into things and keep going. New Hyper Actives have a roll bar on top that lets you hit even more things! Nice high-speed camera work and monster-truck style V.O.
- Moshi Monsters
Adopt a monster, play along online, and collect them all. One recent trend in kids toys is crazy, cute monsters. Moshi Monsters have stampeded to the forefront of kids collectable MMO (mass marketing orgasm) games, sliding in comfortably after Pokémon, Digimon, and Tamagotchis. But the way they differ from those Japanese collector/caretaker games is that Moshi, despite its Japanese name ("Moshi Moshi" means hello in Japanese), is British and doubles as a social networking site. Big in the U.K., it's now exploding in the U.S., and the many games, figurines, and other purchasable stuff has been given a bucket slot on the Toys"R"Us list.
- Poppin' Park Elefun Busy Ball Popper
There's no stoppin' the fun with the Elefun Busy Ball Popper! Less creepy and more stationary than Mr. Bucket, the Elefun might be your toddler's ball-chasing dream come true. Points to Playskool for knowing when to employ a catchy jingle. Now say, "Poppin' Park Elefun Busy Ball Popper" five times fast to the tired Toys"R"Us employee while 30 kids nearby are screaming.
- Let's Rock Elmo
Banking on many previous Elmo successes, the Sesame Street Let's Rock Elmo comes with a microphone, tambourine and drum set. The monster of rock takes it to the street with six unobjectionable rock songs and the ability to recognize which instrument is in his hand. Play with a cool online version of him at redfurryrocker.com.
- Nerf Votex Vigilon Disc Blaster
Nerf Darts are so last year. The latest Vortex guns now shoot long-range discs. Check their rockin' new spot, clearly aimed at teens and probably also at all those college students buying up Nerf guns to play Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ). After all, it's Nerf or nothing. So, break out the foam katanas and the Parkour, and log in to Nerf Nation, because this changes everything. Tactical rail accessories sold separately.
- Figit Friends
Pop-tastic, these colorful little robots are like hairless Furbies. They dance and respond to voice commands with a simplistic AI. Their tagline is "Powered by friendship," but I assure you that five AA batteries are required.
- Skylanders Spyro's Adventure Start Pack for Wii
Frozen in our world but alive in theirs, kids stick these figurines on the "Portal of Power" and then control their characters in the video game. The figures actually save the games, so you better not lose any. And of course, each one has unique powers, so you have to collect them all. Then, collect the trading cards. A great reboot of the Spyro franchise, this game might even be what your big kid needs.
- Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Doll
Lalaloopsy is a popular, adorable, surprisingly unslutty doll franchise. Their latest line is the silly-hair dolls, whose curls can be twisted and pulled into any number of styles. There are also matching pets! What the ad's jingle lacks in originality it makes up for in annoying catchiness. Lalaloopsy also has a blinged-out YouTube channel and website full of original cartoon content, games and yes, an adorable rag-doll-come-to-life origin story.
- Lego Ninjago Lightning Dragon Battle
Lego, the king of costly blocks and the master of must-have limited editions, is back on the list with its Lightning Dragon Battle set. It's been pimping the Ninjago line with long 3-D animated cartoons starring its fabulous mini-figs. The dragons in particular protect the magical elemental weapons the Ninjas seek. There are four elements, four spinjitzu ninjas, four dragons, and four chances to buy. It's some of the most engaging advertising for a toy this season, and of course, it sells all the sets. It also demonstrates a great idea: If you don't have a show to pimp your toys, just make one.
- Monster High Fearleading Three Pack
Monster High, the popular Mattel-created online cartoon show, was also a big Halloween hit this year. Monstrous, cute and only vaguely slutty, the ladies of Monster High have bumped the Bratz off the top-toy list, probably thanks to a much better cartoon (though the Bratz cartoon has a bigger platform), and well—a concept. And maybe, just maybe, a little help from Gaga bringing back monsters. Check the jingle's Gaga edge, as the dolls march forward in their heels and sing, "Chains, fur, creature couture/What a fantastic sight!" Plus, there's the Gaga-like tagline, "Be yourself. Be unique. Be a monster." Thing is, these little monsters weren't born that way. They were brought to life by Mattel's engineers. Though Monster High is just starting its third "season" of webisodes, there's a live-action movie in the works, a game, and oh so much more planned. It's frankly an impressive feat of reverse advertising engineering. Of course, Mattel does know a thing or two about turning dolls into a phenomenon.