In honor of Esther Williams…Barbie Splashes and Spins

Esther Williams passed away this month–but leaves us a wonderful legacy on film. I used to love watching her movies. If you’ve never seen one, take a look – they’re great fun. As a former All-American competitive swimmer and darling of MGM’s movies in the 40s, she made a bathing suit and swim cap look beautiful. imagesAs a kid, I always wondered how she could hold her breath for so long and always come up smiling with a full face of make-up.  Now I appreciate her strength, ability, and her healthy appearance. When Barbie Splash ‘n Spin from Mattel came in–it was hard not to think that this latest version of the iconic doll was inspired by Esther Williams down to the the kitschy spinning dolphins that circle Barbie’s waist.  For shopping details on the Barbie visit, www.toyportfolio.com.  Visit our youtube channel to watch the demo. 61iLh6m63+L._SL1357_

Behind the scenes at The Today Show

At the Today Show talking toys with Willie Geist and Steve Harvey

At the Today Show talking toys with Willie Geist and Steve Harvey

Last night I had odd dreams that were both a combination of Downton Abbey (I still feel so upset about the season’s ending)  and worrying that some of the prototypes (especially the last flying toy) wouldn’t work. By three in the morning I had Maggie Smith commenting on the series of spy toys we had on. Not the best night’s sleep.

Right before the segment with the Hot Wheel Car Maker

Right before the segment with the Hot Wheel Car Maker

This morning seemed very, very quiet. Maybe because it was soooo cold outside–it just seemed more laid back than usual. Since we were showing prototypes, there were no kids scheduled to be on the segment with me. That also made the green room less lively.  (Everyone did perk up when the Jeopardy teen champ came in.)  My mom, fresh back from her adventure through South America, was with me–which is always great. There was a guest there speaking about a 21 day cleanse. The whole idea made me hungry.

The segment was fun. You can watch it here. Willie Geist is fantastic and as a Dad with two young children, he’s totally in the toy zone. Steve Harvey was guest co-hosting today and was a total sport–trying out the Spy Net Lie Detector Toy from Jakks Pacific and flying one of the Atmospheres from Spin Master. Special thanks to Cara from LEGO and Rachel from Spin Master for coming in to make sure that they’re prototypes worked on camera. All the toys we showed today are featured on my blog posts from last week.

Love this picture because Steve is still playing with the toy!!

Love this picture because Steve is still playing with the toy!!

 

 

Barbie’s Ken was a true trendsetter with the facial hair

While this morning’s news is about LEGO’s Peter (from their new Friends line) and his 5 o’clock shadow, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Barbie’s Ken (Mattel)  also went through his “I’m sexy and I don’t feel like shaving” period.

Today Show: Barbie and a “tramp stamp”

On the Today Show this morning there was a segment that  discussed a Barbie doll that had a tattoo on her back.  One expert wondered if she had a tramp stamp (we couldn’t really see if she did).   At first, the panel wondered if the doll was really a Barbie from Mattel.  While the issue has stirred up strong opinions all day on the blogosphere, the use of tattoos in toyland is not really all that new.

Temporary tattoos are common at children’s events and you can buy many kits from reputable companies that offer themed tattoos.  So I was a little surprised by the uproar.

This new Barbie is for real.  She’s called Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Barbie. The set includes a Barbie and 40  temporary tattoos that kids can place on Barbie or themselves.

Would this make our list? No.  We’re not big on tattoos or role-playing wearing one. Some of this is generational and some of it is just a matter of personal taste. Tattoos fall in the realm of grown-up decisions…and much like our opposition to breast-feeding dolls, we don’t think that young children need to role play all aspects of being an adult. On the other hand, there are many young moms with tattoos that may have no problem with this type of role play.

I should note that  Barbie with a tattoo bothers me much less than a  Barbie that has a light-up bustier top (a la Katy Perry) – and I mean literally lights up.  Watch our video of her. Somehow this seems less empowering to me.

Barbie's shirt (stars) light up

 

Is your toddler addicted to your iPad & iPhone?

Today’s toddlers and preschoolers have a new addiction. Forget the boob tube and those pesky videos – now we’re talking about little fingers that are incredibly adept at navigating  APPS  on your pricey iPad and/or  iPhone.

What’s a toy maker to do? How can they compete with such amazing graphics?

Wasn’t it bad enough that video games have rob them of the tween market?

Here’s the industry response to date…

1. The “Can’t beat them, join them” approach.  It seems like everyone has an APP  for your child. Barbie, Leapfrog, Hot Wheels, Thinkfun….everywhere we went at Toy Fair…there was an APP we needed to “let our readers know about.” (Except of course for the dizzying number of embargo dates). And yes, we will have to start taking a closer look at all of these toy related APPs.  I haven’t gotten to play with it yet, but I do have to say that the Barbie Fashionista APP–looked really appealing (this coming from someone who really didn’t play with Barbies).

Barbie's Fashionista APP

2. “This is not your father’s iPad” – really. Toy makers are rolling out there own versions of iPad inspired tablets for your child.  LeapFrog and VTech will  go head to head with their platforms.  Are they cheaper? Yes.  Will your child be satisfied? Maybe.  As with any of these toys, they just don’t have the sizzle of the real thing (which is why toy companies are hedging their bets with approach #1.)  We will have to take a look at each of these products to review the content (remember that?) and whether the interface is pleasing.  I have a sense that if your toddler or preschooler is already schooled in your gadgets, this is going to be a hard transition.  On the other hand, if you start here–you may get to play with your gadget without the constant refrain of  “my turn!”

Vying for attention (all to be released later this year):

LeapFrog Explorer Tablet

LeapPad Explorer Tablet (LeapFrog)- Promises to come with a 5″ screen and leverages the library of games and content from this educational toy company.  It will also come with a built in camera. Suggested retail will be $99.99.

VTECH InnoPad

InnoPad (VTech) -Also features a 5″ touch screen, promises educational games, ebooks,  USB port, a headphone jack.  Suggested retail will be $79.99.

We’ll have to take a look. Sadly, both companies have moved away from partnerships with traditional publishers –leaving the ebook experience to the domain of mostly licensed materials. On this point alone, you may want to invest in a Color Nook–if you don’t want to go the bigger bucks on an iPad.  Technology only goes so far.  The CONTENT is still what should rule the day. We want our kids enjoy reading quality picture books no matter the format.  Disney Princesses and Scooby Doo are fun–but they shouldn’t replace children’s books as part of your child’s daily experience.

3. The “Ok, you can play,  but please don’t break it” approach. Handing  off  your  expensive toys to a toddler or preschooler is a balancing act between achieving calm (at the grocery store, at the restaurant, in the car, etc.) and the possible damage that came come to such gadgets from liquids (those pesky sippy cups) or a plain old “oops” moments. For those parents, Fisher-Price hopes to be of assistance with their new Laugh & Learn I Can Play Case that puts your smart phone into a bigger case with easy-to-grab handles. We look forward to trying this case–will little fingers find the case too intrusive? Of course your 3 year old will find this way too babyish.

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn I Can Play Case

Barbie: Reverts to form…put a ring on it!

There has been a lot of coverage this past month celebrating Barbie’s careers…Anchorwoman and Computer Engineer both scheduled to be her latest professions.  I have enjoyed the memory lane of Barbie’s past professions…Miss Astronaut Barbie who is packaged with a bubble that says “Yes, I am a rocket scientist!”

Miss Astronaut Barbie

Nurse Barbie

Or Nurse Barbie with the bubble “Get new shoes and call me in the morning!” This Barbie is from 1961…so she wasn’t talking about Jimmy Choos.

Jimmy Choo

I can be...Bride Barbie

I was feeling happy for Barbie…until  I discovered in the same box… I Can be a Bride Barbie…complete with a Beyonce-worthy massive rock on her finger.

Barbie wears Beyonce worthy bling!

Yes, marriage is great and yes little girls think about being married and having kids…it just seems like for every step forward, Barbie still takes three giant steps backwards to her 50′s roots.  I don’t think most women or men today think of being married as a profession.   I understand the role play appeal of being a bride…but why include it in the I Can Be series?

Barbie joins the cast of Mad Men

Barbie joins the cast of Mad Men

Somehow Barbie taking on the Wizard of Oz or I Love Lucy doesn’t make you pause…but Barbie joining AMC’s Mad Men? Of course this line is for adult collectors with an adult price $74.95 each. They reportedly will come with padded undergarments…but will they be true to the period and include girdles? You can read Stuart Elliott’s complete article in the NYTs by clicking here.

To see other Barbie collectibles, visit barbiecollector.com.