What were you doing when you were 13?

Stephanie Oppenheim, Natalie Morales, Deidra Shores, Al Roker

Can you imagine winning a contest as the reporter for the Today Show? Flying to NYC to cover Toy Fair? Interviewing the head of Fisher-Price and Hasbro–and then appearing on the Today Show with Al and Natalie?  That’s exactly what happened to Deidra Shore- a lovely 13 year old from Tennessee.

We meet in the green room this morning…talked about which toys she would demo. Which toys she really loved from toy fair–her favorite, the updated 50th anniversary edition of the Mega Play-Doh Fun Factory.

Stephanie Oppenheim and Deidra Shores before the segment

She did a great job with the remote control Millenium Falcon — which was a huge relief since my track record with flying things in the studio isn’t great.   She handled not only the taped piece–but reading the teleprompter and the live interview like a pro!  Congrats Deidra!!

During the segment

Meeting the Olympians!

After my hair was placed in big curlers, I stood up and saw the Gold Medal Winning Bobsledding Team.  I was so engrossed by all things bobsledding from the Olympics I rushed over -curlers and all.

Olympic Gold Medalists Steve Mesler & Curt Tomasevicz with Stephanie Oppenheim

They were extremely friendly to everyone–even letting us hold their medals (they’re heavy in case you were wondering).  I had my picture taken with two members, one was upstairs, and unfortunately I completely offended one of them by having my picture taken with them in curlers.  Sorry…really.  I’ve met lots of people in the green room over the years, but I was really excited to meet these guys.  We live in such an age of false celebrity–that meeting people who work incredibly hard and achieve their dream- it’s hard to be jaded about such an accomplishment.

I had so many questions for them – questions no one seemed to answer during the Olympic coverage.  Althought I do have to say that I had my eyes covered for most of the bobsledding, luge and skeleton events–so maybe I wasn’t listening very well either but here are a sampling of my questions.

For example–how do you decide the order in the bobsled.  (I get the driver’s skill, but I was really curious about the two in the middle). They explained that it has to do with where you can push off the best and provide the most speed to the team.   Did they feel the original track was too fast before it was adjusted?  Yes…and they thought the adjustments were very good, allowing them to focus on the race rather than survival!  Spandex…it makes them go faster. How do they train in the summer? They do other types of training to keep them in shape. My mother also asked about how many tracks there are around the world? 12.  How did they get the bobsled around — usually in a crate in a truck.

These guys were incredibly gracious and while it may sound completely corny…it made me feel really happy as an American that we were so well represented.

Here’s my picture with two of the members of the team (my hair sans curlers!)….my mother insisted I take another one to post!

Today Show at 9:16am Friday

Right before set up this afternoon

Just got back from set up at the studio. Always happy when the crew likes the toys we’ve selected.  Segment is full of prototypes–of things we hope will be great toys for 2010.  Hoping that everything that’s supposed to fly, flies and that everything that’s supposed to spin, spins.  I’ll be on with Al, Natalie and Deidra- she won the Today Show Kid Reporter Contest.

A rose by any other name…

Old Names, But New Games. One of the trends for the fall is familiar names (Monopoly, Scrabble, Twister, etc.) being used with all new game play.

U Build Monopoly

The new U-Build Monopoly (Parker Brothers $19.99) looks like an interesting concept, you build the board – allowing you to control how long your game will take. But the traditional game board is completely gone.

Scrabble Flash Cubes

Scrabble Flash Cubes (Hasbro $29.99), one of the coolest games we saw at Toy Fair, has electronic cubes that you use to build words, again no board, no little tiles…no double or triple word points. If you’re a purist about Twister and love the smell and feel of that mat, you may feel sad about Twister Hoopla (Hasbro $19.99) -where your body becomes the mat. We’ll have to see how these test with kids and their parents.  All Available Fall 2010.

Brand new. We did find some new innovative games. Konexi (ZimZala Games $24.99) brings the fun of Jenga and word play together. Here you stack letters to create words-but watch out you don’t want the letters to come falling down. We loved the design and feel of this game – can’t wait to test with kids.

Konexi by ZimZala Games

We suggested that they could make one of games younger so that the age range of 10 plus could come down considerably.  Available Fall 2010.

An anti-technology theme. Appealing to parents that would like the playroom to be more “real” – we found even more organic and recycled products than last year.  A new approach  – classic toys that now require no batteries – saving money, another bonus.   We all grew up with Spin Art – one of my all time personal favorites!   Innovative for this year, Crayola will roll out  Crayola Color Twister Spin Art (Crayola $14.99) which uses an air pump to make the platform spin.  Watch our video.

Crayola Color Twister Spin Art

We only got to to see the prototype–but look forward to testing the real toy later this season. Available July 2010.

LEGO RACER with Air Pump

The same “air” technology is now being used to propel certain LEGO RACERS ($12.99/ Available now).

Pure Whimsy.


Sing-a-ma-jigs (Mattel $12.99 each) may turn out to be one of the hottest toys of the season if the real things work as well as the prototypes.  Be sure to watch my video. Each of the dolls will chatter, sing and even harmonize together. To me they look like claymation characters come to life. We look forward to testing these as soon as they are ready.  First collection available May 2010/ more to come for the holidays.

Hexbug Nanos. You either loves these little bugs that come in test tubes…or they’ll  creep you out. I love them. Rolling out right now are habitats that you can put them in.  Our testers enjoyed the portability of these little bugs that go like crazy!  The bugs are each $9.99, the habitat starter set is $19.99. 

Hexbug Nanos in their Habitat

They are to me the tech answer to Zhu Zhu Hamsters. If you’re shopping for that hard to buy for tween, these will be an interesting novelty. Available Now.

May the Force be with you. As a complete Star Wars fan, it makes me so happy that there is a whole new generation falling in love with the saga– thanks to the Clone Wars cartoon.  For my LEGO builders, the Star Wars sets are always the number one request.

LEGO TIE Defender

LEGO has responded with many new models including the TIE Defender ($49.99). This is the Empire’s most advanced fighter, it comes with 304 pieces and includes two action figures. Available Now.

Star Wars Millenium Falcon

We also can’t wait to test, the Star Wars R/C Millennium Falcon (Hasbro $49.99/ Available Fall 2010) – watch our video; the Star Wars AT-AT (Hasbro $99.99/Available August 2010)- a pretty impressive play setting for your own battles against the Empire.

Star Wars AT-AT

It’s more than 2′ tall and 28″  long, comes with LED lights, sounds and phrases from the movie; the Star Wars General Grievous Lightsaber (Hasbro $34.99/Available August 2010) is fun to spin–with double lightsabers that come apart. The lights and sound effects will appeal to Star Wars fans young and old.  Watch our video.

All of these toys will be tested and full reviews will appear on www.toyportfolio.com

Related videos:

Our video of Sing-a-ma-jigs

Our video of General Grevious Lightsaber

Our video of the Crayola Color Twist Spin Art

Our video of the Star Wars Millenium Falcon