|Toy Fair 2012: My fair ladies, lambs, long lines, and laughter.|
Launched on Sunday, February 12, and wrapping up on Wednesday, February 15, it is four days of merchandise, marketing, mohair, and mayhem. Like my guide at the Mattel both told me, âToy Fair is all about blood, sweat, and sequins.â
Walking into the convention hall, my eyes immediately landed upon the Ty booth, with a bunch of frolicking, round ball-like creatures with waving arms and legs. I wondered if street urchinsâsort of like Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodgerâwere encased in the plush costumes, or if it was a cast of little people. The hopping and skipping mascots never broke character, so I have no way of knowing whether it was indeed child members of SAG and Actorsâ Equity, or maybe a future Emmy winner, like HBOâs fan favorite (and mine) Peter Dinklage hidden beneath the furry outfits.
After circumventing the brightest, seemingly happiest place on earth, I wended my way through the thousands of square feet of dolls, bears, games, action figures, video games, and a combination of all of the above.
Thatâs one of the interesting things that I observed at the fair this year: if a company could put a microchip into it, they did!
Animals and animatronics are a great fit. Itâs been tried before (quite successfully with Teddy Ruxpin) and now it is being promoted everywhere. Wild Republic has a flock of birds that are licensed with the Audubon Society, and come with hangtags and information about the birdâs particular species, habitat, migration patterns, and sightings. Besides looking really colorful and real, the birds singâand their songs are the authentic birdcalls of their breed. (Forgive me, ornithologists, if itâs a no-no to call a bird a âbreed.â) The birds are really sweet and soft to the touch. Perfect for the backyard birdwatcher, as well as for the folks who have binoculars and guide books in their trunks.
Another sensational blending of science and softness was the Gund talking critter âLena Lamb.â Reading nursery rhymes and making eye contact, âLenaâ is the bedtime confidante I wish I had had when I was a tot. Her voice was soothing and her demeanor was calming. After being engulfed by throngs of people wielding briefcases and cell phones, spending an interlude with âLenaâ was quite a welcome relief. She really was as gentle as a lamb.
Mattel, of course, has its all-seeing and all-knowing eyes on whatâs fabulous and fierce. One of its electronically conscious offerings this year is a Barbie that has a digital camera (stills only, no videos) embedded in her torso. When Barbieâs âhandlerâ snaps a picture, the image can become the decoration on Barbieâs T-shirt. Photos can be utilized on the dollâs garb or downloaded for creative playing around on both PCs and Macâs. It is a pretty innovative way to have girls become more techno savvyâan accomplishment that will serve them well in the brave new world of cyber content and clouding and Internet alter-realities.
And speaking of âbrave new worlds,â Mattel is keeping its connection to Disney princesses alive and well. However, this time around, its heroine du jour is the lead character from Pixarâs âBrave.â
The Mattel people were mum about the secret that drives the film, but they shared that it is very pro-feminist and portrayed young girls in an independent, heroic stripe. It also celebrates the bonds that can be forged between a daughter and a mom. That is certainly a nice change of pace for a Disney project, which has given us the complicated, strained relationships between Snow White and her evil stepmom, Cinderella and hers, Rapunzel and hers, and the list goes on. At last, a movie that shows how a mother and daughterâs love can be moving and memorable.
Heroism for a girl doll is a commendable step forward. Though strong, silent typesâlike the Hulk, built from thousands of Legos at Javitsâare still par for the course, perhaps Princess Merida will usher in the strong, chatty type. Blending strength with socially conversant abilities, this cartoon character could become the poster girl for texting tweens and preteens everywhere.
Another movie that is getting a lot of buzz for the 2012 toy aisles is âDorothy of Oz.â Alexander has dolls that key into this upcoming flick, which stars the voice of Lea Michele as Dorothy, and Adora has baby/toddler versions of the beloved 1939 characters. There were a lot of Oz oddities sprinkled around the Javits booths and cubicles, and it underscored the whole feeling of Emerald City that pumps beneath the Big Apple enclave.
Just like Dorothy encountered lions, tigers, and bears (oh, my) on her journey, at this West Side hall there are giant kitty cats, felt monsters, and Power Rangers parading at every twist and turn.
One of the memorable sights I beheld at Toy Fair was microwavable line of critters. Weâve all heard about the unspeakable urban myth about the person who plunked her pooch into the microwave, turned it on, and left the room, causing an awful explosion of canine confetti, but this array of microwave-ready bears, dogs, sheep, and more are meant to release warm, toasty, aromatic smells. Featuring pillows, slippers, throws, and other grown-up security boosters, these characters from Aroma Home were actually adorable, and then had the extra benefit of being nurturing too.
I must admit after my ninth hour of walking the miles of aisles, my âdogsâ were barking and I would have loved to grab a pair of the funky soothing hedgehog slippers. I vowed to bring slippers to Toy Fair next year, and to walk the floor in absolute comfort and ease. Who would possibly notice me decked out in bedroom slippers when you have full-grown men and women circling by on tricycles?! Yep, tricycles for grown-ups were being pedaled and peddled! These throwbacks to childhood are coming to the marketplace in the spring of 2012.
And that is very fitting: Toy Fair is a tribute to what we fondly remember from our own childhoods, and what we think our children and/or grandchildren want in theirs. It is a big, giant gamble on what will hold an allure for the young and the young-at-heart.
Meandering through the multi-storied setup, which feels like a maze at times, I have to confess that at times I was zombie-fied, truly disporting myself like a runaway (or at least a limping away) member of âThe Walking Dead.â With senses on overload from echoing sirens, flashing lights, literal bells and whistles, it was a respite when I would pass by a traditional, classic offering. Amid the electronic chatter and video vixens, âRaggedy Ann & Andyâ were front and center in Auroraâs display booth. Quite deliberately, their design team set it up to approximate the look of a bygone neighborhood doll/curio shop. The Raggedy dolls were there in several sizes, and were getting a lot of attention. They were hits with many of the retailers who shop the convention hall for this yearâs orders.
Also, very popular, over at Folkmanis, are the puppets that are powered by oneâs own hands, fingers, and imagination. The very clever and indefatigable marketing team at Folkmanis have developed a relationship with TVâs Craig Ferguson, host of a popular CBS late-night chat show. Ferguson utilizes some of their puppets in lavish production numbersâsome are very family friendly, and other of his showcases are sort of salty and fitting for the over-age-18 crowd. Knowing that Ferguson is good friends with Kristin Bell, the Folkmanis folks have sent over a bunch of their new sloth puppets to him to share with Ms. Bell. (For anyone who is not privy to this bit of viral video, Bell had a meltdown caught on tape when she realized she was getting a visit with a sloth as a birthday gift.) Folkmanis is hoping that Ferguson tries to punk his very frequent guest with a puppet version. Hereâs hoping that does happen, and goes viral as well.
Hobbling past Robert Tonnerâs exhibitâwhich had a large shoe icon as part of his child-centric âCity Girlsâ lineâI was reminded of how my toes were beyond being pinched. I stopped and chatted with Tonner and asked if the girls were versions of the âSex and the Cityâ characters. After all, he had a redhead, a blonde, a brunette! Tonner was quick to say, âNo! There is no sex in this city. This is for kids. It is priced for children, and will attract some of the mature collectors who are watching their wallet.â One of his partners on this new launch said, âRobert, we do have all of the girls hereâexcept for Samantha.â
Tonner laughed aloud. âAnd letâs keep it that way. Samantha is not going to be in OUR city.â
Sharing a chuckle with a doll artist that I have known forâouch, this hurtsâmore than 15 years was a warm moment at the fair. But nothing can top the moment at the Madame Alexander Doll booth when Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, arrived with guitar in hand.Yarrow spoke about the origin of âPuff the Magic Dragon,â which is celebrating its 50th year in 2012. He joked with the crowd about how little Jackie Paper was Jewish and threw in a slew of Yiddish words to prove his point. And then he picked up his guitar and began to strum the song. As he crooned the familiar lyrics, the crowd gathered around him began to sing along. The retailers, the wholesalers, the manufacturers, the artists, the security guards, and this reporter were all transported back to our own innocent days of dreaming and playing, frolicking in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee. And isnât that what Toy Fair is all about?
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The Jones Publishing Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed upon one recipient per year. This award was created in 2002 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the teddy bear, with the first recipient being Steiff, a German-based plush toy company known for its high quality and prices.
The Lifetime Achievement recipient must be or have been involved in some aspect of the doll and/or teddy bear field for a minimum of 25 years. The recipient may be an individual, partnership, corporation, company, author, artist, marketer, historian or any other industry professional. Lifetime Achievement Award nominations may be made by previous recipients or members of the LAA committee.
To qualify as a nominee, entrants must meet the following criteria:
The Lifetime Achievement Award has been presented to the following individuals and companies since its inception:
2003 Hildegard Gunzel
2004 Alexander Doll Company
2005 R. John Wright
2006 Wendy Lawton
2007 Virginia Turner
2008 Toy Shoppe
2009 no award presented
2010 Helen Kish
2011 no award presented
2012 Maggie Iacono
2013 Heidi Plusczok
2014 Jack Johnston
August 8, 2014 - Blackall Associates Inc. is proud to announce the winner of its Summer Heat Photo Contest. The contest drew entries from around the world. Masterpiece Doll collectors sent in a special photo showing how their Masterpiece Dolls were enjoying the summer heat.
You havenât seen a toy show until youâve seen this one. Six buildings! Over six hundred exhibitors! Exclusively toys and dolls and childrenâs playthings on display everywhere! This is the show everyone always says they intend to visit, and now is the time to do just that. Collectors say the Chicago Toy Show really is the largest in the entire world. They are correct. Collectors say they find toys at this show that are never seen anywhere else. Correct again.
19 April 2014 â 5 October 2014
A special exhibition will take place at the Toy Worlds Museum Basle to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Japanese-Swiss diplomacy and friendship.