Pick of the Day: Ugly Dolls

Ugly Dolls 2010

Ugly Dolls have been around for a while but we thought that they deserved a special shout out this  year. The new cast of 2010 Ugly Dolls arrived on a day this summer when were swamped with toys that we just didn’t think kids would play with for very long. As soon as the Ugly Dolls got unpacked, everyone wanted one.  They appeal to both young and old (and we count ourselves on the older part of that spectrum!).  In fact when we have kids in for testing days–they all want to go home with an Ugly Doll.  I think that says something about the inviting whimsy of these soft, huggable zany creatures. If you’re shopping for a hard to buy for tween or teen, Ugly Dolls are usually a welcomed gift. For a review of this year’s dolls and shopping info, visit www.toyportfolio.com.

Pick of the Day: Plan Toys Planimals

If you have a child into blocks and mini-pretend settings, be sure to check out Plan Toys new line of wooden Planimals. They are beautifully crafted and just right for adding more dimension to your child’s pretend play.  There are three sets (Australia, Africa and Polar).  Read our complete reviews by clicking here for Australia, Africa, and Polar.

Pick of the Day: Hasbro’s Star Wars Imperial AT-AT

May the Force Be with You!

While we do have a general policy against toys that have aggressive themes and those that have projectile parts–each year we do bend the rules a bit for Star Wars. Why? Because I love Star Wars, it’s fantasy play, and at the end of the day good overcomes evil in the universe.  Part of the fun of going to Toy Fair each year is to see the new toys in this category. The best news is that because of the Clone Wars cartoon–there’s a whole new generation of kids that love Star Wars. So much of pop culture is generational – so it’s pretty special when a series is able to span several generations of followers. It also means there will be new Star Wars toys for years to come!

This new AT-AT from Hasbro is over two feet tall.

Star Wars Imperial AT-AT (from Hasbro)

It will provide young Star Wars fans with a pretend setting. It comes with a small vehicle and one storm trooper.  There are sound effects right from the movie–also very pleasing. There are projectiles that you should remove if you have young children at home so that no one aims at a little brother or sister (by accident, of course). For a complete review and shopping info, see our review. To watch our video, click here.

Rubik’s Cube in 10.31 seconds

How fast can you solve a Rubik's Cube?

Wanna feel slow?  Just got word that 15 year old Sergey Ryabko of Russia is now the European Rubik’s European Champion.  He beat out the Netherlands’ Erik Akkersdijk (10.38) and Germany’s relatively slow (just kidding!) Cornelius Dieckmann (10.78 seconds!). The championship was held in Budapest, Hungary with more than 250 cubers from 26 different countries.  The World Record is still held by Scotland’s  Breandan Vallance (8.31 seconds!!)

Erik Akkersdijk, Sergey Ryabko, Cornelius Dieckmann

They also have one handed Rubik Cube winners (Michal Pleskovitz of Poland) and blindfolded specialists (Rafal Guzewicz of Poland).  Who knew?!

I still have my old Rubik’s Cube..and I’m still working on it!


Pick of the Day: Leap Frog Cook & Play Potsy

Leap Frog Cook & Play Potsy

I told Al Roker yesterday that I had a little crush on this toy, to which Al expressed some concern for me – but I really do love this pretend toy! Most concept toys are so boring or they have that same sweet woman’s voice (I think she’s related to the annoyingly perky GPS woman).  The folks at Leap Frog have a male actor saying “open” “shut” or “off” “on” -every time you take the lid off the pot or put it back on. But instead of just saying it the same way…you know the guy has some theater background…the tenor of his voice changes.  It’s just funny and very welcomed.  I do wish that when you put the pieces of food in the pot that the pot recognized them–that would have been very cool, but probably would have made the toy super expensive.  Fill and spill toys are always a hit with sitting up babies and young toddlers–so this toy is right on target without the sound effects.  I’m not in love with the songs it sings…but the open/shut gets me every time. Watch our video. Read our complete review at www.toyportfolio.com.

This morning on the Today Show

It takes a village--right before we went on

I got there at 7:30 even though our segment isn’t until 9:38. There are a few teases that happen before the actual segment, but I like to be there so there’s plenty of time for hair and make-up! This morning was a great day to be in the Green Room.  I assumed that George Clooney and Hillary Swank would be in the upstairs Green Room–but much to the delight of the entire room they were both downstairs. When you hear George speak about humanitarian issues, you just get that he’s more than a great actor. He’s smart and uses his platform and celebrity in a way that should inspire all celebrities.  It’s just real.  Ok, so that’s my take on the thoughts and works of George Clooney …and now I can also say that the man is just incredibly handsome.   To top off the George Clooney experience–he was then hugged by Hillary Swank.  Stunning!  I don’t know either of these people, but they are polite and friendly to everyone that comes through the green room and the hallway.  Sam Rockwell was there as well to promote Conviction (Swank also stars)For trailer, click here. (I’m sure he was nice too–just didn’t get to see him but for a second).  It was a busy Green Room!

Cosmo's Bachelors getting ready to go on

Oh and I almost forget the Cosmo Bachelors! My niece (and assistant extraordinaire) Ali pointed out that they were there last year when we launched our list.  They all look so young to me!

We had so many kids this morning!

Two of my favorite testers (sister Kena & Dehlina) with their Dollie & Me dolls

Matthew and his mom Jessica

Lots of little boys running around the lower concourse before it was time to go up to the studio.  Some of our kids have been on the show before “when they were truly babies” as opposed to just active three and four year olds.

Harper, who did a good part of the my last segment with me, was joined by her little brother  Hannes today!  Alex (pictured with Al and me) was a pro on all things technical and did a great job demonstrating the Tron Zero Gravity RC.  A special thank you to Victor (Matthew’s Dad) for taking all the pictures during the segment!) and to James from Spinmaster –for expertly flying the Air Hogs RC Video Camera Helicopter (something that I would never try in a studio full of high-wattage lighting!).  All in all a good day!

Afterwards: Al Roker, Stephanie Oppenheim and toy tester Alex!

Hannes enjoying the Radio Flyer after we were done

Getting ready for Today Show

Today Show Studio

Just got back from set up. We’re going to have lots of kids on the set–many under three so we’ll see how the segment goes. My little friend Harper, who ran the segment last time is making a return appearance – this time along with her little brother. I’m the opposite of W.C. Fields–I love having kids on the set–it gives new meaning to the concept of “anything goes.”

I’m really happy with the collection of toys we’re showing tomorrow but I always feel terrible about all the other amazing toys on our list that aren’t getting their moment on air.  As usual we’ve packed in as many as we can for four minutes!  Happily this year we have tons of streaming video on almost all of our award winners.

Got uptown this afternoon just in time to catch the last float from the Columbus Day Parade. I’ve lived in NYC for over twenty years and I don’t think I’ve ever really attended this parade so it was fun to see it.

End of the Columbus Day Parade

I know they keep saying the economy is in rough shape–but you’d never know it from the crowds around Rockefeller Center!  The city is full of tourists.  The holidays can’t be too far away when they open the ice skating rink (see below).

Ice Skating Rink at Rockefeller Center

When a hot toy is looking for a second act

A Zhu Zhu Pet ready for Battle

Zhu Zhu pets were so hot last holiday season, that getting them for national television gigs took more negotiations than you can imagine.  Having watched many a hot toy come and go,  it’s always interesting to see how toy companies try to keep the craze going. Cabbage Patch dolls, Furby, Elmo- they’ve all been there with varying degrees of success. So this year, the sweet and furry Zhu Zhu pets have gone into battle, literally.  The new Kung Zhu Battle Arena is the latest in their line.  Here the pets are now ready to enter the battle arena (sold separately) in varying levels of battle armor (sold separately).  Interesting most of our testers that were in on the Zhu Zhu pet craze last year really enjoyed making their own settings for their pets.  Battle toys are a recurring theme in toyland again (there are a whole host of tops and bugs that battle it out) – so we’ll have to see how the Zhu Zhu pets in their current aggressive form stack up.

If this toy is on your child’s list, know that the battle arena does not come with a pet. This seems unfortunate to us.  Also if you want the armor to cover the pets that is different from the tanks that goes over the armor.  In other words, there are many layers of defense that you will need to purchase if you’re going into this battle.

Watch our video demo

Dance Star Mickey – and Donny Osmond (and Michael Jackson)

Dance Star Mickey

Now that Fisher-Price no longer has Elmo, the big push for this season in the novelty doll category will be Dance Star Mickey. He made our Platinum Toy Award List— hey, he’s Mickey, he’s pure novelty and he dances.  We just got a press release indicating that his rollout commercial will be tonight during ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.  Makes sense and to bring more things into cultural sync, he will be in the commercial with Donny Osmond.  The fact that Mickey does Michael Jackson’s moon walk also seems right since if you grew up in the late 60s, you probably watched both the Jacksons and Osmonds at some point (both had their own cartoons).

Watch our video of Mickey from Toy Fair.

Watch our video from our office.

Read our review.