Toy Fair Shows Off “Imaginative and Fun Playthings”

toy fair.jpgOn this holiday weekend, when the nation pauses to celebrate presidents on the lucky Monday proximal George Washington‘s birthday (this year he would be 276!), Manhattan is overrun with an estimated 35,000 toy enthusiasts in town for the 105th American International Toy Fair, which runs through Wednesday at the Javits Center. This year, everyone’s buzzing about safety (ix-nay on the ead-lay!), sustainability, and the disturbingly lifelike new talking Elmo doll. We combed the thousands of exhibitors at Toy Fair (such a serious industry gathering that it has long dispensed with the definite article) in search of some newsy design highlights.

air hogs havoc heli.jpgThings kicked off with a gala to announce the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards, the results of which were leaked online Saturday morning (oops). This year’s Best Toy is Air Hogs Havoc Heli Laser Battle, manufactured by Spin Master. Sadly, this toy has nothing to do with actual hogs. It’s a pair of remote-controlled helicopters “with infrared targeting and authentic battle sounds,” allowing children to destroy both low-hanging light fixtures and the enemy ‘copter. Watch out for those ceiling fans! Taking home the TOTY in the Most Innovative and Most Educational categories is the Fisher Price Smart Cycle, a triple-threat stationary bike/learning center/arcade game system.

my beating heart pillow.gif.jpgBut the most exciting things at Toy Fair are all the new products, many of which have yet to be tested by the fickle market. A company called KIDdesigns offers an educational robot named “Botley,” which is the best name for an educational robot that we’ve ever heard. Growing Smart Laugh With Me Botley helps teach language skills, translates words from English to Spanish, and improves math and logic reasoning through mini-games. From Banana Design Lab comes the slightly spooky My Beating Heart, “a huggable heart with a physical heartbeat inside.” Florida-based Scruncalli Dunchie offers up Twisted History Samurai Sengoku, historically accurate vinyl action figures of warriors from feudal Japan.

And no Toy Fair would be complete without some Barbie product extensions. This year sees the vinyl gal-about-town deepen her enduring interests in shopping and beverages with the debut of the Barbie “Shopping Time” Cash Register (complete with working credit card scanner!) and the Barbie “Take A Break” Cafe, which includes “special magic cups that fill as you brew, realistic aroma, brewing sound effects and a fun memory game.” Surely Barista Barbie can’t be far behind.