February means a lot of things to me: Valentine’s Day, mini winter break for the children, and endless discount codes for Broadway shows. (Producers realize the demand for their offerings declines in chilly climes, so reduced prices abound!) Yes, for all of these great occurrences, there is one event that stands out the most: Toy Fair!
Held at the Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side, Toy Fair (TF) is a four-day celebration of all things jaunty, juvenile, and jubilant! Despite the absence of real-live kiddies—no children allowed—the spirit of what entertains the tot set and what grabs at the older enthusiast waits around every corner.
I arrived at Javits on Monday, February 11, skipping the opening day because of Winter Storm Nemo. (Since when did meteorologists start naming blizzards?) I entered the great hall and was immediately overwhelmed by the sights and the sounds. Lots of electronic goodies were whirring and buzzing and booming. Amid all the noise I started my path to find what is in store for us doll aficionados in 2013.
Well, it seems like the collectible world is going to be chockfull of zombies and princesses, and, in some cases, princess zombies!
Some of the well-heeled, nicely groomed undead girls that impressed me belonged to WowWee’s Once Upon A Zombie line. Shown around by a very knowledgeable and lively brand manager, Gale Yanofsky, she pointed out how the dolls represent fairy-tale princesses whose legends have never died. In fact, not only have their stories never died, the princesses are now living in a zombie-fied, delicately decaying way. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermaid, Snow White, and Rapunzel are just some of the crowned characters who manage to be ghoulish and girlish. Priced at around $24.99, they have really attractive costuming and their sculpting is spot-on!
Other charismatic corpses are on hand from Mystixx (part of the Playhut exhibition). Megan Boxberger led me through an array of their vampires (currently available) and their upcoming zombies and Grimms (loosely inspired by the NBC-TV show’s conceit). The dolls are priced from $19.99 to $24.99. The Grimms—with the most elaborate costumes and accessories—are the highest priced. What distinguishes the Mystixx dolls from the rest of the monsters and werewolf pack is that they are two-faced. Each of the dolls has two different faces that reveals a face in a different transformative state. It’s clever and very original.
Also on display at the Playhut/Mystixx booth was a tiny, little bundle of goofy fun called Mysfits. The very small characters invite collectors (and children, of course) to “mix ’n play.” Perfect for kiddies and also for adults who want to have eccentric toys decorating their desks and office spaces, the lineup of Mysfits is colorful and quirky. These are ideal for young’uns who have outgrown the confines of the typical toy chest offerings and also for grown-ups who can’t wait to dive back into the fun-filled toy box!
Monster High was in fine form with some new DOA dolls: there is a great-looking genie doll and the daughter of the Boogeyman. These are really pretty, have fantastic accessories, and will be huge hits.
Of course, Mattel doesn’t just unveil dolls from the dark side—they also have many incarnations of Barbie and her always innovative accessories and spin-offs. The Digital Makeover Mirror was a blast to behold. Demonstrated by a fresh-faced Barbie look-alike model, the mirror allows young girls to play at applying cosmetics and changing their appearances without actually touching any makeup at all. All done with digital special effects—accompanied by lights, sound, and magic—the person applying the “faux fabulousness” can store the appearance in an archive on the mirror, swap and share it with friends, and can have hours upon hours of fun. Priced at around $70, it will be a marvelous gift for big special occasions in the life of your little girl.
Some other items that caught my eye at TF were the aggressive, assertive depictions of Hit Girl, the take-no-prisoners character from the movie “Kick-Ass.” This doll is from NECA, the company that has been in the news lately because of the Quentin Tarantino collectible controversy.
That’s the thing about Toy Fair, it’s a collision of the very sweet (the storybook heroine Madeline and delightful fairies) with the very strong and surly (“Breaking Bad” characters, complete with meth labs, and the shower scene from “Psycho”).
One moment you’re invited to cuddle next to a Papa Smurf mascot, and then—snap—you’re being embraced by a seven-foot-tall skeleton, with a leering, permanent rictus grin. It’s that juxtaposition of the saccharine with the skeletal that makes me glad to be always coming back for more.
Whether it’s superheroes that are out to save the world and settle old scores—there are tons of Marvel and DC licensed characters—or dolls that will educate children on how to stand up to bullying, TF is a wonderland of possibilities. The line of My Friend Huggles is designed to spread the message of kindness and compassion. As creator Brenda Katz told me, “This is the start of an important character-building movement: the power of meaningful play.” Their incarnation as childhood superheroes is adorable and inspirational.
I love wandering the aisles of Javits and discovering what might be on my blog’s calendar for the year. My insights and potential topics stretch before me like the miles of convention hall carpet.
What’s not to enjoy about seeing imagination come to life? It’s satisfying to feel like one of Willy Wonka’s winning tourists, and my press badge is the very best Golden Ticket in town!