If you get the movie reference, then chances are you probably remember the original learning toy, Alfie. For a generation that grew up with the Robot on Lost in Space, it was a pretty cool concept for a toy. Hasbro is reintroducing Alfie at this year’s International Toy Fair in New York, and his reappearance I’m afraid pretty much sums up the feeling of an industry that faces a shrinking audience, a global recession and, oh yes, and still recovering from a little pr problem over safety issues.
I don’t know why but as soon as I saw Alfie, I kept thinking of the Godfather quote “go to the mattresses”… In addition to Alfie, there were lots of other familiar faces at both Hasbro and Mattel. Strawberry Shortcake, now a sophisticated 30 years old, has been up-sized, and is positioned to appeal to moms who played with the original. Monopoly, Battleship, Twister, Sorry, Life have all been reworked (often cleverly–sometimes tortured) into new variations–once again to appeal to that sentimental place in our toy-buying hearts.
If technology worked last year, chances are you’ll see it again with a slightly new look. Talking trucks, motion-activated rodents, RC cars that flip, virtual pets…they’re all back.
So while this may not be a breakthrough year of innovation (do you blame anyone for not betting the farm this past year on something untried?) — you will find lots of solid choices that may give you a strong sense of deja vu.