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.

Massive LEGO MAN on the beach

Why does the concept of something  little becoming really big always fascinate?  Check out the video of an 8′ tall LEGO MAN wash up on the beach in Florida. You can read more about local reaction here from Baynews9.

We reached out to the folks at LEGO – they said: “That activity is not sponsored or endorsed by The LEGO Group or its affiliates.”  Turns out it is the work of a Dutch artist.

Either way, it’s great fun.

The Alien Mothership has arrived…

LEGO Alien Conquest Mothership

LEGO Systems has a brand new Alien Mothership that offers builders a really unusual build. The addition of a new gear at the middle allows the center of the spaceship to spin. LEGO has also added an alien sound piece to the mix. Great fun! Watch our video.

LEGO and DC COMICS join forces

As the gang from LEGO heads out to Comic Con, they released BIG news. Starting in January 2012, there will be new LEGO DC Universe SUPER HEROES.  The collection will include 13 of their iconic characters: Batman™, Robin™, Catwoman™, The Joker, The Riddler™, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn™, Bane, Bruce Wayne, Superman™, Lex Luthor™ and Wonder Woman™. Buildable characters will include Batman, The Joker and Green Lantern.

But wait, there’s more…a really fun contest (intended to drive you to the website–you know you’ll look anyway).

According to the LEGO press release…

At San Diego Comic-Con, 3,000 exclusive Batman and Green Lantern LEGO minifigures will be distributed to kick off a promotion that will take place from August to December in advance of the launch. Fans are encouraged to use their collectible minifigures and existing LEGO collections to create original LEGO DC Universe SUPER HEROES adventures through video, photography or illustration, then share their submissions on www.LEGOSUPERHEROES.com. Entrants have a chance to win monthly prizes or a grand prize trip to California for exclusive tours of Warner Bros. Studios, WB Animation and LEGOLAND® California.
I hope they send us one of  the miniatures…2012 is a long time to wait! I especially can’t wait to see how Wonder Woman translates to LEGO.

Disney Pixar TOY STORY 3 – Toy Reviews

Even though Disney PIxar  Toy Story 3 does not open until June 18th, if you watch any type of TV you know the full court press has already begun.  And we know from our testers, that they want their Toy Story 3 toys!  So we have been super busy this week taking a look at a range of toys–with more promised to arrive next week.

Here’s what we’ve found so far:

1. Crayola Toy Story 3D Chalk – this is a deluxe set with stencils of the characters. Fun, but if you’re a four year old boy, this isn’t the toy you want. Read our full reviewI wrote about this product before as a great product for outside play.

Woody and Buzz from the LEGO DUPLO set

2. LEGO DUPLO Toy Story 3 The Great Train Chaise Duplo Play Set – Love this set. The pieces are big and chunky and there’s something very satisfying about having small versions of your favorite characters–great for on the go play or to incorporate into your block play. This set comes with a train, blocks and four characters. Marked 2 & up–this set will most appeal to 3s and 4s. Your preschooler will need help putting the train together–making this a parent/child toy–but once put together this can be used for independent playtime as well.  This would be a fun addition to a basic bucket set of DUPLO.  Sometimes bringing home a new novelty set can renew your child’s interest in building– something you definitely want to encourage.

Comparison of LEGO and LEGO DUPLO train sets

LEGO Toy Story 3 Western Train Chase Set

3. LEGO Toy Story 3 Western Train Chase-  Super set. This set is designed for kids 8 and up…the pieces in it are not for kids under 3–so even if you think it’s cooler, it really is meant for older kids.  Take a look at the size difference in the characters.

Size difference between DUPLO and LEGO Buzz Lightyears


Toy Story 3 Action Links Buzz Saves the Train Stunt Set

4. Toy Story 3 Action Links Buzz Saves the Train Stunt Set - Really a one trick pony–actually there are a couple of ways to set this tracks up but the toy is still pretty limited.  Not a lot to do here passed the first three minutes. Your child will probably play with the Buzz figure that comes with the set longer than the train and tracks. Watch our demo.

Buzz's motorized wings in the open position

5. Toy Story Basic Buzz Wing Pack- Here’s a really neat toy that makes us send out a big warning.  The toy itself is super cool–you strap on the wings to your back and then there’s a control panel that makes the wings go up and down AND you can also hear Buzz  say his favorite lines.  All fun and the toy itself does work really well.  BUT here’s our serious concern–the toy is design for kids 4 & up – at this stage children are working out the difference between fantasy and reality. While you may poo poo our warning-remember these are the same kids that take the Tooth Fairy as a real magical reality.   If you can’t resist this toy–we would high recommend you have many a conversation about this toy with your child. The toy itself has a safety warning on the packaging–not really a deterrent to your preschooler.  I also have a sense that this toy will be purchased for even younger kids.  Ok, you get our point. Watch our video demo.

6. Fisher-Price Toy Story 3 Character Flash Lights.    Pure novelty and great fun for kids that like noise. There’s Rex, Bullseye and Dr. Evil Porkchop. When you squeeze their tails–the flashlight comes on (their mouths open) and you’ll hear a sound or a phrase (they each say one thing and make one sound). Watch our video.

Toy Story 3 Rex Light

Fisher-Price Spiral Speedway

7. Fisher Price Toy Story 3 Spiral Speedway Perfect toy for your two year old.  Older toddlers LOVE making something happen over and over again–and this easy to activate spiral raceway gets it right. This toy has been in the Fisher-Price line before, but now it has Toy Story 3 characters racing (Buzz vs. Lotso)…and sound effects (it is a little noisy).  This toy will have a limited time frame–but it will be a true hit when your child is in the zone of “again, again!”  Watch our video demo.

New DUPLO sets: Horse Stables and Preschool Building Set

We just got two new DUPLO sets which are lovely for preschoolers. There is the new Horse Stable that comes with two horses, a stable you build, two vehicles (one is a horse trailer), two play figures.  There’s a lot of opportunities here for pretend play and a great introduction to building. This should be a parent/child toy to begin with as you put the set together and talk about the horses and what they need (hay, walking, taking a ride, etc.)

The other set is a basic building set called LEGO DUPLO Learning that includes big pieces that also have numbers on them.  Again a great chance to talk about numbers, colors  and other concepts right on target for preschoolers.  How high can you stack the pieces, how many can you fit on the vehicle?

Here’s the continuing problem we have with these otherwise great sets.  The age range is marked 2 & up and while all of the pieces fit current federal guidelines for small parts–many of the pieces are very, very close.  And if you use a toilet paper roll as the CPSC suggests consumers use if they do not have a choke tube, many of the pieces go straight through.  We discussed this issue last year and LEGO stands by their age range, see my earlier post and LEGO’s response.

Our point remains…since there is no educational or developmental advantage to  giving toddlers such small pieces–and the downside is so much greater, why take a chance?

So while we would highly recommend these sets for 3 & up, sadly we can not give them an award with the current age labels on the box.  And we will continue to lobby that LEGO either up the age label  to 3 & up or up the size of the pieces so that they are a better choice for 2′s.  Last year we were delighted when  Step 2 up sized their toy hot dogs for much the same reason. We hope LEGO will do the same.

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

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

Toy Fair 2010: Star Wars LEGO: So good!

Star Wars LEGO: Hans Solo being placed in carbonite

If you are a big Star Wars LEGO fan, you’ll be really excited to see the new sets scheduled for 2010.  We asked LEGO’s Julie Stern to take us through the new sets so that you could take a look.   Watch the video.  You’ll hear both my mother Joanne and brother James (noted Tech expert and founder of jamesgames.com) on this video. We’re a noisy bunch.

Oh no! Hans! We'll save you!

On this  second video you can see James’ reenactment of Hans Solo being taken away after being frozen in carbonite.    It’s this attention to detail that we really appreciate.  If you watch this video, you will have a glimpse into my childhood!  You can also hear my mother in the background laughing.