Wackiest Toy of the Day: SplatBack!

splatback!

Just as I was leaving Javits today, there was a crowd at one booth.  I was really ready to go and had very little battery left in my iphone, but I had to know what the buzz was all about.

Here’s what I found…people throwing down splat balls that would completely flatten and then over the course of a few seconds reform into their original shape.  I’ve never seen them before. I just visited their website www.splatback. com and apparently they sell these toys in vending machines–so maybe you’ve all seen them already–but in any case, they were pretty cool. There is a woman in the video asking about safety-and she is assured by the vendor that they meet all safety requirements.  Note, we haven’t tested these yet or gone through our safety verification process, but I think they’re pretty neat.  Watch the video, it’s really short..but you’ll get the idea.

Trying to remember which Star Trek series had a shape shifter…

Toy Fair 2010 Preview: Playmobil – get ready to build!

Playmobil's Dragon

We stopped by Playmobil today and visited with  Michelle Winfrey.  Last year you’ll remember we gave the Playmobil Egyptian setting our Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award.  Each year we wonder what will be the big new theme. This year, there were several new sets that I think will be a hit with our testers.  The two biggest sets are the Dragons - complete with Castles that can connect by a bridge. It made me think of that portion of the original Shrek movie.  (Of course here the dragons are not  trying to court Eddie Murphy, but hey it’s pretend so I guess anything’s possible!). You can take a closer look by watching our video with Michelle.

Playmobil's Fire Fighter Sets

The next set that really caught our attention was the Fire Fighters. What we love about Playmobil is the attention to detail in planning a series. As you’ll notice in our video of the Fire Fighters series, there’s not only a really cool looking fire station (complete with pole), there are two different fire trucks, a fire chief’s truck and a fire boat.

Face of the Day: From Steiff

A bear to love from Steiff

Needed to share this face with you right away! So cute and amazingly soft. More to follow on this  classic handmade line of huggables from Steiff.

Mattel CEO Bob Eckert picks his favorite toy

Mattel CEO Bob Eckert

I thought this was an interesting press event. The CEO of Mattel, Bob Eckert,  would announce his favorite pick of the newly rolled out toys at Toy Fair.  Seemed almost like being asked to pick a favorite child.  How do you decide such a thing? A gut instinct? A favorite brand team? The size of the marketing budget?

I gave this some thought after we were told of the event yesterday (it happened today). Mind you, we don’t have any budgets on the line when we pick our top winners of the year. Yet both Joanne and I have personal favorites – we quietly root for them as we send them off to our family testers.  Even though we don’t make or sell any of the toys we review, we do get very attached.  Each year we have a few that truly stand out, but one?  Almost impossible.

So what did I think Mr. Eckert would select? My money would have been on the harmonizing Singamajigs, the Dancing Mickey Mouse or the big Ape that flips –both had the most “sizzle” in the showroom.  (Mickey also has Donny Osmond associated with him.)  Or maybe the Barbie that is a video camera – she wins for having the most creatively placed use of technology in toyland (the camera is in her chest).

I was wrong. Mr. Eckert’s personal favorite is their new preschool electronic toy called iXL.  The hand-held toy promises to have six-in-one smart devices designed to both be educational and entertaining (including a Story Book, Game Player, Note book, Art Studio, Music Player and Photo Album). It will retail for $79.99/ licensed software sold separately for $24.99.

We’ll be interested to see how our testers react to the iXL.  It will be available in July.  The thing with these types of toys -  it’s hard to tell from the prototypes how they’re going to work in the hands of kids.  Will the screen be engaging enough? Will the games be age appropriate? Can kids manipulate the toy independently and happily? If you give your child this $79 toy, will they leave your iPhone alone? These are the types of things we’ll look at when reviewing the  iXL.

Not to be cynical as to the driving force of his pick,  but Mr. Eckert did mention in his release that  “[they] have invested more research and development dollars into iXL than any other product in our 2010 Fisher-Price product line and it definitely shows.”

Stay tuned.

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.

Toy Fair 2010: LEGO DUPLO

We started the day at LEGO – always fun.  LEGO Duplo is the line designed as an entry point for older toddlers and preschoolers.  New for 2010:  a bigger  bucket–we consider this basic gear for preschoolers.

DUPLO BUCKET

The big new theme is a farm…

LEGO DUPLO FARM

There’s also a new set that includes numbers as an added feature.

LEGO’s  Julie Stern, always a pleasure to work with– took us through the showroom. Watch the video.

Another cool day at toy fair 2010!

We had another big day at Javits today. I went in a dress (since I thought I was doing tv) and carrying tv shoes (there’s no way you can do Javits in tv shoes!)

We started at LEGO…always one of our favorites stops, visited with STEP 2 to see lots of fun new outdoor toys, International Playthings (super cute new toys from Calico Critters), Spin Master (lots of flying toys) and at Creativity for Kids we met the inventor of Shrinky Dinks!

My iPhone died right as we got to Spin Master–which was too bad since there were lots of fun things to tape there.  Oh well. I did bring my charger–but alas the one that plugs into my computer, not an outlet. Pretty lame on my part.  Below is a picture of Kate from International Playthings trying to find an adaptor so that we can charge my phone using the crank radio from their Ecotronics link. Unfortunately there wasn’t one that worked with my phone, but I was really so grateful to Kate for the effort!

Kate from International Playthings

Barbie Video Girl: Barbie is the Video Camera

Barbie Video Girl

When they first brought us around the corner at the Mattel showroom to look at Barbie Video Camera, I looked around thinking perhaps we were being punked.  No, it’s real.  Barbie is a Video Camera.

Barbie’s video camera is in her chest.  Maybe this was inspired by Ironman?

Barbie Video Camera: Camera in her Chest

Now you don’t have to be a teenage boy to see the humor of this placement. While we had just been taken through all of Barbie’s careers-it seemed to be balanced by the location of this camera. While we tell men to look at a woman’s eyes, not her chest…here you really do want to look at the chest to get the best video.

Barbie has a LCD screen in her back and will plug into both PCs and MACs. I do think watching the world from Barbie’s point of view could be fun and kids will probably enjoy the $50 video camera interacting with their other dolls. I just wish I could have been a fly on the wall when they came up with this one and the Glitterizer.  It does almost seem as if it’s an episode of Seinfeld…where one of them would suggest an outrageous idea – and some unsuspecting executive would say “yes!!”

Strong Multi-Cultural Choices at Barbie

Barbie Basic

Happily there are more multi-cultural choices in the world of Barbie. I have a sense that the Barbie Basic line is more for adult collectors (all shown in a little black dress) than for kids…but there are a whole range of dolls available in this line. The dolls were part of a fun ebay auction when real designers came up with their own version’s of LBD for Barbie.

Here’s another grouping…

One of favorite collections from last year, So In Style Barbie,  is also continuing. Created by Mattel designer, Stacey McBride, these dolls celebrate our diversity by featuring dolls of color. You can see Ms. McBride talk about the series on this video. I love that she also made mentoring part of the line. The first sets all included a big doll and a little doll (big sister/little sister).  Bravo to Ms. McBride!  Below, some of this year’s new collection. I’ve been trying to interview Ms. McBride about the collection–I hope we get a chance to talk soon.

New So in Style Dolls from Mattel