TODAY Show Toy Test with toyportfolio.com winners

Today Show Toy Test "Elves" with Natalie Morales and Stephanie Oppenheim

Today Show Toy Test “Elves” with Natalie Morales and Stephanie Oppenheim

We had a blast yesterday at the Today Show. The show asked that we put many of our Platinum Award winners of 2013 to the test with “elves” on the plaza. With huge candy canes and the Rockefeller Christmas Tree in the background (not to mention the North Pole like temperature!), it was the perfect backdrop for this holiday tradition.P1010476To read about all the toys featured, click here. To see all of our award winners in all categories visit www.toyportfolio.com.

To see the segment, click here.

 

 

 

Hot Toys on Today Show – Behind the Scenes

This morning we headed back up to the studio to take another shot at talking about Hot Toys of the season. The segment had been bumped on Tuesday.  This time we got into the right car. On Tuesday we had gotten into a car that was headed to the airport -which should have been a signal to us that the rest of the morning was probably not going to go smoothly.

With Joanne (the best biz partner and mother!) outside the studio

We arrive at the Today Show. All was unusually quiet in the green room.   The Duggars had been there on Tuesday–making for a very crowded room!  This time Robert Pattinson was upstairs

Robert Pattinson visits Today Show

…we never got to see him but he certainly draws a crowd outside the studio. I always wonder about the fans that wait overnight to catch a glimpse.  I thought it was fitting that we were there with Mattel’s Monster High Dolls that are really part of the Twilightization of America. Our tween testers, many of whom have not read the books or seen the movies really still love these dolls.

Mattel's Monster High Doll Collection

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about them. They’re so over the top–but I’ve come around. Their focus is on character traits of each monster and how they navigate high school.  It’s less about their body image. I also like that there are boys in the line, and that Mattel participated in an anti-bullying campaign this year with the collection.   I certainly wouldn’t characterize them as beautiful dolls–but they do have a sense of humor that appeals to the 7 & up crowd.

Getting to know Let's Rock Elmo

Many of the kids who were scheduled to be on the segment on Tuesday came back today. We were very grateful to their parents!  We were also joined by some other families who quickly got into the swing of the segment.   I’d always rather do a segment with kids there–it just adds more energy and I think it’s useful to see kids actually playing with the toys we’re talking about.

Right before the segment

For complete reviews of the toys we showed on the segment, visit www.toyportfolio.com. You can also watch the segment on the Today Show by clicking here.

Natalie Morales, Stephanie Oppenheim and toy testers at the Today Show

One of our favorite testing families!

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

 

Oppenheim Toy Porfolio Awards Announced Tomorrow!

Can’t wait to share our list from another year of testing! I’ll be on the Today Show tomorrow to show just a few of our winners. It’s always hard to select the first of our favorites to share.  Our list of Platinum Award winning toys this year is almost 125 products (depending on how you count) – so many outstanding choices for kids.  The list is a mix of classics, many with interesting new twists – and new innovative toys – all of which entertained and engaged our testers.  Tomorrow we also announce this year’s Gold Award winners, Blue Chip winners and SNAP Awards (toys for kids with special needs).  You’ll find a wonderful collection of books, audios and videos to consider as well.

Why is the sky blue?

Remember asking this question as a kid?  Or hearing it from the backseat of your car now that you’re a parent?  Wonderopolis.org is a wonderful new site that poses such questions (and answers) every day.  The site (the brainchild of the National Center for Family Literacy)  is geared for parents and kids to explore together.  Educator and Today Show Correspondent Jenna Bush Hager is  getting  the word out about the site and their programs for the summer. Read my interview with Jenna at www.toyportfolio.com.

Behind the scenes at the Today Show

A quiet moment before the segment...

So I have to say that I didn’t realize I was in the Green Room with the stars of the Boston Bruins when we first arrived. They had a separate camera crew shadowing them as well–so in fairness I was trying to stay out of the way. It’s a very small room. I’m pretty up-to-speed with most sports…just not hockey, sorry.

It wasn’t until I was coming up the stairs from getting my hair and make-up done and saw the Stanley Cup (it’s kind of hard to miss)…that I got it.   When I went back to the Green Room and asked my son Adam if he knew they had been in the same room with the Bruins…I realized almost immediately that I had set myself up for one of those “really, Mom?” looks.

While we were waiting outside the Green Room (to avoid the above-mentioned Bruins and crew), Ann Curry was great to stop, give me a hug.  I will miss doing segments with her but so happy that she is now co-anchor! People always ask me if she is as nice as she appears on tv. I think the answer is really more so.   She has that special gift of connecting with people and has done such an important job to spotlight the less fortunate all over the globe.

Everyone at play!

This is the first segment I did with Tamron Hall.  I love Tamron…I watch her all the time on MSNBC. I think she was a little daunted by the ten kids running around the set–but we got through the segment without incident!  To read the article about the toys featured, visit our site, www.toyportfolio.com.

You can also watch the segment below.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

TODAY show tomorrow…

Tomorrow I’ll be talking about Active Play- just in time for having the kids home for the summer.  It’s been great to get back to work. I’ve gotten many emails from our incredible core of toy testers…”so, what’s going on?”

Well, it’s been one of those times that you just keep moving. We have had two graduations, a prom,  a wedding and a stroke.  When you’re in a family business the good and bad that hits your family also colors your work day.  I’m happy to report (now collectively knock on a HUGE piece of wood) that my dad is doing very well. We have been going through the toys that always arrive by the cartons this time of year…but quietly.

The emotional roller coaster of graduating children getting ready for the next big chapters of their lives, seeing the family’s first grandchild get married  – all against the precarious backdrop of having a sick family member–it’s part of life. Sitting at LaGuardia Airport – getting ready to board and bursting into tears because my parents were unable to attend my son’s graduation….life. Filling up with happy tears the next day when my son received his diploma…life.  Watching the young woman I knew as a baby take her vows…life. Being the mom asking for one more “picture” to capture yet another moment you know is going all too quickly…life. My younger son’s outdoor graduation from high school was interrupted by a thunder and lightening storm…pretty much summed up how this month just didn’t go as I had planned.  But of course, that’s life too. You have to roll (or run) with what is — and not miss the joy of that moment because it’s not exactly how you envisioned it.  I thought I had already learned that lesson…but I certainly got a refresher course!

I’m proud of my family that we got through all of the scary and joyful moments with good grace and good humor.  We cleaned up well. Seeing my dad in his tux at my niece’s wedding surrounded by his grandchildren reminded me of how grateful I am to be a member of my family. Everyone stepped up.

So that’s where I’ve been.  Now back to work…

 

behind the scenes at the Today Show

Stephanie practicing her bird calling technique

So I was preoccupied this morning with demonstrating the bird calling whistles for Backyard Safari. One requires filling it with water–it makes the BEST noise, but it does drip and if you don’t have the right amount of water in it–it just doesn’t do its thing. Ali took video of me practicing. Click here.

If you missed the segment this morning you can watch it by clicking here. I did the segment with Ann–we got through a lot of products…but I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to about all of them..so read the article and the reviews of the products featured  – it’s all on our website: www.toyportfolio.com.

 

Move over bugs, the rodents are taking over toyland.

Last year, I’ll admit– I was pretty bug crazy. Spiders, little bugs, remote controlled bugs…couldn’t get enough of them. They’re all over our Platinum List.

During one of my segments with Al Roker on the Today Show–I was showing a remote controlled spider…he said he would like a rat.  Well Al, watch out what you wish for!  Right after I finished the segment, I heard from the company, Fantasma Toys, that they were indeed working on a RAT.  I really thought they were kidding until I got to Toy Fair this week…and sure enough…a remote controlled RAT.

Fantasma Toys new Remote Controlled RAT

Now,  if RATS aren’t your thing, not to worry.  Could I interest you in a mouse? Less creepy?  New from Wild Creations.

Wild Creations New Remote Controlled Mouse

Ok, now as much as I LOVE bugs…I really, really hate rats and mice!

Happily, there is a new bug, one that makes me smile. New from Wild Creations.

A much less creepy alternative, the ladybug!

What draws grown-ups to toys?

For me it was clearly a combo of  hating practicing asbestos litigation and my mother having a really great time writing about toys and play.  I left her after a segment she did at the Today Show to go back to my office and thought–that just seems like a better way to spend the day.  I’m always curious how other people find their way to the toy industry. It is a business — and not all warm and fuzzy as you might think–but still it is different.

So I started a series called Meet the Toymakers.  This gave me an opportunity to find out how other people joined the ranks of toy industry insiders.  And since most people seem to have a desire to also be in toys, I thought it would be interesting to hear how other people fulfilled their dreams.

This week- we have an interview with Robert Pasin of Radio Flyer.  Unlike most of the people I’ve  interviewed, Robert is third generation in his family’s toy business. That’s hard core and brings it’s own set of challenges even when you are in charge of an established and iconic American brand.

I also interview Chris and Will Haughey of TEGU.  These brothers both left their Wall Street jobs to start TEGU.  Besides making a lovely product (wooden blocks with built in magnets) they are also finding a way for their business to give back to the people of Honduras by creating jobs.

Both interviews are posted on our website at www.toyportfolio.com