Now this is a serious HOT WHEELS Track

Mattel, marketing its Hot Wheels brand to “older boys”,  is pulling out all the stops this year. Take a look at the planned Hot Wheels track at the Indianapolis 500. (Someone is actually going to jump the 90 foot ramp).  I thought they were kidding at toy fair- but it turns out to be for real.

Having spent a good number of hours running Hot Wheels tracks down our staircase as a kid (technically they were my brother Tony’s track), I know there are many of us out there that can truly appreciate this stunt. The door will be ten stories high. Yikes. Of course my adult-self wonders what happens to the brand if someone gets injured. Is all pr good?

Cleverly, you’ll be able to buy a smaller version of this track for your door at home. The idea is to bring men back to the brand – so this type of real world event (with IZOD as a partner)  is meant not only to wow current Hot Wheel fans but to entice their dads as well.  I guess you’re supposed to play with your Hot Wheels  while wearing your Izod shirt.

With pre-event coverage already on espn.com, I’d say they’re on the right track. Sorry.

If you want to engage with Team Hot Wheels, you can follow them on their site or on Facebook (they already have over a quarter of a million fans).  I wonder what the average age is on this page.

 

 

 

So embarrassing….

So every year we kick off Toy Fair with a sneak preview at Mattel and Hasbro.  The fair officially starts on Sunday at the Javits Center in NYC.  So we’re all good…we’re catching up with the pr folks for Mattel.  We were discussing how big our kids are (how did that happen?) …all is going very well.  There is  press event with Jeremy Piven for a new Hot Wheels launch. We are told to be quiet since there were lots of crews filming the event.  We opted not to watch the event, but get straight to the toys!

So we start on our tour and then I for some unknown reason BASH into an easel with a sign on it. The sign falls.  Yes, it was one of those moments that you wish you could take back…but you’re there…you just have to laugh it off.  I know my brother has a photo of me –probably looking horrified and laughing. Oh well.

Toy Fair Previews: Now That’s What I Call a Puzzle!

Tomorrow we begin Toy Fair with visits to both Mattel and Hasbro.  This week our mail boxes are FULL of new toys vying for attention at this year’s fair.

This one got my attention:  Ravensburger’s largest commercially available puzzle (according to the Guinness Book of World Records). Complete with 32, 256 pieces. It will measure 17′ x 6′ –so the family dining room table will be out of the question!

The puzzle features the artwork of the late Keith Haring. It weighs 42 pounds and comes with it’s own hand truck!

The puzzle will retail for $299.

For more info, visit Ravensburger.com

Grave Digger for Kids…Why?

Grave Digger Truck from Hot Wheels

We are adding this one to our list of “what were they thinking toys”? I can’t really see an argument that supports making a toy truck for young children with the name Grave Digger.  And even if you were to say, hey many of them aren’t even old enough to read the name (it’s on the truck as well as the box)…how about that artwork?  Really? This seems more like a design school final project – intended as a spoof on a classic toy rather than an offering from the nation’s largest toy company intended for the six and under crowd. A major disappointment from the design department at Hot Wheels. 

Toys that make me wonder…

Ever wonder how certain things get made whether it’s something to wear (in a hideous shade or impossible to wear shape) or a kitchen appliance you can’t imagine you’d ever use more than once-a la the Chickenborg Egg Cuber.

I often find myself asking this question in toyland.  It would be fun to sit in the design meetings (that perhaps were held during happy hour).  Now take that ridiculous design concept and imagine it’s been sold to the brand manager, the sales force, etc.   And then there are the retailers who also drink the kool aid and fill their  shelves with these products.  I then wonder if the design team that had a silly idea or I- can’t-believe- they’ll-go- for -it concept – has a good laugh.

Now one of these toys made our top Platinum Award list this year – I don’t necessarily mean they’re terrible products…I just wonder how they came to be. (Ok, for some, I do think they’re pretty dreadful.)

1. Cuponk – This wins as the ugliest designed toy we received. Much like playing quarters, the aim here is to get the eyeball into the container. 

Is it just me or does this just seem like great training for drinking games? And take a look at the images.  They’re not just ghoulish, they’re unpleasant and certainly not visuals that are important to the 8 and up set.

2. Fish with Removable Bone- I’m all for pretend play but this one just struck me as going a bit too far. I think our kids can pretend to fillet the fish. Of course this is a refreshing and healthier choice than the countless number of plastic hot dogs and french fries we receive every year.

3. Barbie Video Girl- This product is on our Platinum List…but we still would have loved to have been in the meeting where they decided to place the camera in the middle of Barbie’s chest. I’m just saying.  In fact, I’ve spent way too long discussing where they could have placed it instead.

Barbie Video Girl

A possible solution that won the most votes–Barbie could have been holding a video camera rather than being the video camera.  I see it–but I also appreciate the design elegance of having it where it is (on her “necklace”).  If you want to talk pure silliness, the Barbie Glitterizer, where Barbie is put into a chamber and sprayed with glitter, wins hands down in my book.

4. Detainee Kit- If your child is saying “Mommy when I grow up I want to be a TSA employee”, then I guess this set makes sense!  Complete with a body scanner and handcuffs…you’re child is ready for post 9/11 cops and robbers. The set also comes with a lie detector and evidence kit. Now that I’ve pointed out the obvious “wow, really” factor of this kit- I should point out that some kids will really love this kind of role playing…and enjoy the realistic props. For others role playing with the security wand may make the real life airport security experience a little less scary. It just makes me sad.

5.WWE Accessories. On the other hand if your child aspires to be a WWE champion, why not strap on the championship belt now, right? Complete with sounds effects (to me it sounds like Charo!).

6.Flatsy- Here’s how this meeting probably went. “What if it looks like you drove over your child’s doll with the mini-van?” “Yeah!”  “Cool!”   Truth be told, I kind of like the absolute silliness of the design-although I can already hear well-meaning body image advocates raising issues about what kind of dangerous role model these dolls present to young girls.

7.Learn & Groove Musical Wand.   Really? No comment.

Mattel’s response to Prop 65 postings on Amazon

One of our readers pointed out that there were California Prop 65 warnings on several Mattel track sets on Amazon.  Prop 65 requires companies to provide notice that their product may contain certain chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects.  Two of our current award winners were posted with such a warning. So we asked Mattel for a statement.

From Mattel:

Recently several of our Hot Wheels products: Hot Wheels Color Shifter Blaster, Hot Wheels Color Shifters Stunt Set and the Hot Wheels Tub Racers Playset were incorrectly listed on Amazon.com as requiring a California Proposition 65 warning. These warnings were posted in error and Amazon.com is working to correct this information immediately. Mattel is committed to providing safe, engaging play experiences for kids of all ages.

Thanks to our reader for pointing this out! If you’d like to read more about the history and current requirements of Prop 65, click here.

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.