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.

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

toyportfolio: Toy Trends 2010

With the pre-toy fair events behind us, we start the hunt for the best toys of 2010 tomorrow in earnest. Thousands of exhibitors, both large and small, present their new toys at the International Toy Fair in NYC. When I started covering toy fair, the big guys were all at the Toy Building at 23rd Street and Broadway.  We would try to schedule our appointments so that we could walk our way down the building. The elevators – always a scary event were full of buyers, toy makers and reps…and when I first started, they all seemed to smoke. It was really gross.  Of course, this was also the era of showbiz at toy fair. There were life size women that became Malibu Barbie…complete with pink shag rugs, moving stages and spotlights. If Hasbro was introducing a new pirates toy, you could count on  pirates carrying on a sword fight in the showroom.  There was plenty of sizzle!  Now it’s just a trade show–all of the actors are gone. The toy building is being converted into condos. Even Matchbox has stopped giving out special toy fair editions (very sad). In any case…here’s what we see as the emerging trends.

Retro is In

Strawberry Shortcake, Alfie, Monopoly, Life, Twister–are all major players at toy fair this season. Monopoly now comes with a board you build yourself or here’s  a break through, a round play board (see below) as part of Monopoly Revolution. Pretty revolutionary–it takes two million dollars to pass go!  The new versions of Twister no longer have that wonderfully smelly plastic mat.  Many of these versions look like fun.  And let’s face it with the Twister brand, you’re probably more likely to try it than if it had a whole new name!

Life Celebrates its 50th Anniversary!

Monopoly Revolution

Licenses Prevail

If there’s a successful franchise, you’ll see it everywhere. Ironman is back  full force and Star Wars has captured the hearts of a whole new generation thanks to the Clone Wars. But we wonder whether Weebles really needed to incorporate the Hulk and Spiderman?

Weebles now with the Hulk and Spiderman

Battle of the Battling

There will be a battle for your child’s battle dollars between Spinmaster’s Bakugan and Hasbro’s Beyblade. This will be determined by the nearest 8 and 9 year old near you!

Hasbro's Beyblade

Zhu Zhu Pets are Challenged- Last year’s run away hit is being challenged by Hasbro who wants part of that rodent action and is introducing a competing line of motion activated pets called Furry Frenzies.

Furry Frenzy to Compete with Zhu Zhu Pets

Sushi and Microwavable Easy Bake food

Food is big in toyland. Last year we got at least a dozen different food related kits including a motion activated birthday cake (Leapfrog). This year the trend continues with Sushi Ottomans (sushistyle.com) and perhaps one of the biggest sign of the times, Easy Bake Kits for the microwave. It’s as if maybe enough kids mentioned in a focus group that they could make the same food in 2 minutes in their microwave!

Retro Dolls

Barbie is all about looking back at her past careers and Strawberry Shortcake, now 30 is a little big taller!

Barbie Student Teacher 1964

Toy Fair 2010: Hasbro Preview/ STAR WARS

If you’ve followed our reviews over the years, you know I have a soft spot for everything Star Wars. It is the one exception to our rule of no toys with aggressive or violent themes (hey,  it’s fantasy).

One of the coolest toys we saw at Hasbro’s preview is from the Star Wars line…but we can’t talk about it until the 12th.  In the meantime, there is a new lightsaber that is pretty cool.  The General Grievous Lightsaber will retail for $34.99 and will be available in August.  Take a look at both videos…one explains how it comes apart and the other demos the movement.  I’m getting used to using my iphone video for giving you sneak peaks.  Thinking maybe I should get a FLIP for toy fair.

Two quick videos to look at:

How it works video.

Demo of movement.

Pick of the Day: LEGO Star Wars Collection

starwarsbackThe Lego Star Wars collection was hot with our builders this year.  What’s nice about the line is that there is something for everyone in terms of building level and budget.  Remember if you have a new builder, resist the temptation to buy the BIG set. Start small.   LEGO has gotten really much better about making the big kits  more manageable — each “build” comes in its own bag..pre-sorted.  Now for many of us, that may seem pretty wimpy –but it does make things much easier!

Read our reviews.We gave the whole collection an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio  Platinum Award.

One of our advanced builders just put together the more elaborate (and very cool) Tantive IV.  Comes with 1408 pieces. At $149.99, this is a big ticket item for sure–and to their credit, the box is marked for ages 14 & up.

LEGO Tantive IV

LEGO Tantive IV

I’m waiting for one of our LEGO builders to ask for the Death Star ($399.99)…with 3803 pieces. May the force be with you when you try building this one!

Lego Death Star

Lego Death Star

Really? …Star Wars Death Star for Babies

I love Star Wars…and if you’ve noticed, Star Wars toys often find their way to our award list even though technically they violate our “no violent or aggressive toy” rules.  It’s fantasy after all.

IMG_0882

However, I have to draw the line at a board book  – marketed to babies and toddlers – STAR WARS Spaceships (Scholastic).  What could this possibly mean to children under the age of two?  Is knowing and naming the different parts of the Imperial fleet important?  How about more basic knowing and naming concepts like cup or banana?IMG_0883

Most outrageous really is the last page…here’s one you certainly will want to share with your baby on your lap….Let’s all say it together…

“Death Star ….This spaceship has a dangerous laser. BOOM!” IMG_0884

I certainly get mass merchandising as a concept…but this one goes too far.

Star Wars: Republic Attack Shuttle

We are now in full test mode here–and the number one request for boys in that 6-9 range are Star Wars sets.  So here’s some initial feedback. The large and showy LEGO Star Wars Republic Attack Shuttle with 636 pieces got mixed reviews.  One of our eight year old testers and his Dad had trouble with getting some pieces to connect. I loved that this tester could show me exactly which step (#25 on page 22 of the 1st model book) posed a problem.  We then had a teen builder take a look.  He did not have a problem but noted that this was a more advanced build.

Let us know if you’ve tried this one. It is a really neat build once you’re done! I would suggest that if you’re starting with LEGO (in any theme…start with the smaller sets and build up to the larger models).  There will be a lot less frustration in your house.

"Let the Force be With you!" – LEGO Star War's 10th Anniversary

8019-0000-xx-12-1I haven’t been blogging much today because I’ve been busy requesting new toys to test!  There’s alot of excitement with our Lego builders for the new sets based on Star Wars.  With the roll out of the Clone Wars, there’s a new generation of SW fans–much to my delight!  So we have many a young Jedi getting ready to test the new sets as they roll out throught the season.

Top Trends from ToyFair 2009: Jakks Pacific Star Wars 3D Kites

I have to confess–we’re huge Star Wars fans here so we were really psyched to see Jakks Pacific’s new line of 3D kites that feature Luke’s X-Wing, Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter and Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon.  So cool!  We can’t wait to test them–each include a 15′ tail.   Suggested retail wil be $24.00.  And if you can think warm weather (the temp is dropping rapidly here in nyc)…there also promises to be Star Wars inflatables for the pool. If you’re a SW fan, these will have great appeal ($39.99).  Jakks Pacific also has a new line of collectable marbles (they’re making a come back…apparently)…they look neat. They come with little stands–at $3.99 each, not sure how these will appeal to parents.  They may find a great audience in the SW’s collectors – of course they’ll never never take them out their packaging.