Toy Fair Doesn’t Mean Playtime

It all sounds like a day filled with fun. The New York Javits Convention Center packed with toy companies from around the world. And truth be told, it should be fun. But it never is… maybe the Javits is built on an old Indian burial ground or something, and has cursed the world of toys.

More likely it is the fact that toys are big business, and the late middle age men hawking their products are burnt out, cynical and just looking to get a few deals. The freezing temperatures, crowded halls and abundance of products that a bored orphan wouldn’t want to play with don’t help matters.

The North American Toy Fair has been running for more than 100 years, and since kids will always love toys it isn’t going anywhere. This year’s show is a little smaller, with fewer companies showcasing their products in the “toy district.” And yes Virginia… New York has a toy district. But don’t come here expecting to find smiling elves in happy workshops, because the few buildings of small showrooms are actually just blocks south of the sweatshops of Little Korea. That right there pretty much sums up the toy industry. But that said there were plenty of highlights at this year’s Toy Fair for those of us that just never grow up:

Doctor, Doctor
On TV there have now been 10 different Time Lords in the guise of The Doctor (plus a movie version from the 1960s), and now there are two companies introducing Doctor Who toys. Product Enterprise LTD has released a number of “classic” toys from the long running BBC series, and favorite of sci-fi geeks worldwide, including an inflatable Dalek that was released last year. Alas, while there are still no plans to release any inflatable female assistants (sorry guys), the company will be introducing new toys based on the toy movies starring Peter Cushing, as well as new artistic Daleks, including an Anarchy in the UK model. The company also has a variety of other sci-fi figures and playsets, including those for Lost in Space, The Avengers and Space 1999.

Underground Toys meanwhile handles all of the toys for the current Doctor Who series, and this year will see the arrival of remote control Daleks, and a ¼ scale version of the Doctor’s robotic dog K9. There will even be a vinyl Police Box playset, but alas it won’t be larger on the inside… despite the dreams of those of use with crowded apartments.

Walk of Stars
All the geeky stuff was limited to Doctor Who either. The “stars” were out in full force, and we’re talking about Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactic and even Star Gate. Corgi models has introduced highly detailed limited edition versions of the Enterprise and Millennium Falcon. There are also highly detailed model lightsabers, clone troopers’ and Boba Fett’s helmet, Han Solo’s gun, as well as plenty of other detailed – and expensive – miniatures.

Throughout the convention center there were what seemed to be dozens of other companies producing sculpted Star Wars figures, playsets and other toys in all shapes and sizes, including super oversized Pez dispensers that play the movie’s theme song! Wasn’t Hasbro supposed to have the exclusive license? It seems like everyone is making money on this cash crow, and when we say “everyone” we really mean George Lucas.

The infamous 501st Legion was also supposed to be on hand during Toy Fair, to showcase the offerings of SideShow Toys. This is the group of Stromtrooper re-enactors (what they re-enact we don’t know) who have marched in parades and are regulars on the convention circuit. However, despite a truly classy poster (that was written by hand) in the pressroom repeated visits to the booth found it devoid of Stromtroopers. It must be just like the original Star Wars where Luke always seems to show up just after they’ve left!

The Sideshow booth was worth a visit to see a lifesize bust of the alien invader from the Predator movies, because everyone needs one of those. Nothing brings out class, and keeps the ladies away, like a lifesize bust from a sci-fi movie. Of course if that’s not your thing, the company had their ½ sized versions of the Chucky doll on display. For $50 you can worry that the foul-mouthed doll will come to life. Yeah, I’d have to lock this thing up at night!

It Figures
Two big questions were answered by Fishermen, Inc. The first: what would Toy Fair be without some really strange action figures? And two, what would Jesus do? Apparently Jesus would show up at Toy Fair in a variety of poses including running with a catching a wave on a surfboard and riding a rail on a skateboard. He’s also available running for a touchdown with a football, but honestly I thought this was the “King” from those surreal Burger King commercials at first. Maybe a day on the show floor made me hungry.

A variety of war toys from all ages were on display, and one thing remains true about the show. There are no peaceniks in action figure form. New figures from John Wayne were on hand, as well as other military greats including Napoleon. While toy guns have been all but banned on the show floor, there is no shortage of scale soldiers and vehicles.

Industry leader McFarlane also unveiled a few new offerings, including several baseball displays to arrive in time for the spring openers, as well as second series of LOST figures and a Simpsons Movie series for this summer. D’oh!

Not to leave out the young girls, there were plenty of dolls in all shapes and sizes, and old favorites like Barbie probably had something interesting to offer. We missed it however, and instead headed over to see Bleeding Edge and their line of Begoths figures. These goth girls have been going strong for three years and a new series will include more figures dressed all in black.

Video game inspired figures are also an annual favorite, and this year has seen the introduction of World of Warcraft miniatures, along with numerous import only offerings, such as 12” tall Mario. (Nintendo fans please take note that we included Mario. Please no posts that this article is terribly biased towards Sony!)

Fitness Toys
While fitness is never a major focus of the show, there were a few notable introductions including Flow Lab’s Snowskate Railz. This product basically replaces the wheels of a skateboard with miniature skis, allowing you to put the same tricks that you would on cement, but maybe without such a hard landing.

For those who want the absolute best for their kids, the price is never too high. That must be the thinking behind Turbo and Colnago’s introduction of a line of Ferrari themed bikes for kids. These are available in a variety of sizes and even include the famous Ferrari red finish.

Game Time
Every year games are a big part of the show, with the traditional board games and variations on a theme. USAopoly has dozens of games that build on the Monopoly theme, but the company is also branching out with their own take on the popular bar dice game “Liar.” This one includes faux Duff Beer cans and Simpson’s.

Another recurring theme is chess, where battles on the board include Civil War, pirates, Star Wars and just about any other conflict. This year the must-see set featured DJs vs. MCs in a gangsta rap styled feud that was anything but old school.

Toy Fair Photo Gallery