Taking a look at Toy Fair 2008

I haven’t said anything about Toy Fair yet this week, and it’s not because I don’t care—it’s mostly because I was grumpy that I don’t get to go. I mean, come on, don’t you think that Toy Fair should be considered required research for a Toy Box Mommy? I certainly do. But there’s that whole matter of living a thousand miles away and my kids needing me and all of that. Hmph.

(Yes, it’s true. Sometimes your mom just wants to run away and go play with toys. Don’t worry; it’s just a fantasy.)

Anyway, yesterday I finally sat down to look over some of the coverage online. As usual, the buzz is coming along fast and furious, but I like to look at just a few trusted sources to get an overall feel for what happened this week in New York City. If you want the scoop, well, select from the following choices:

Want just the facts, ma’am? Msnbc has a slideshow of projected hot toys for 2008. It starts out with the most terrifying Elmo yet (his mouth is hanging open and he appears to be either dancing or writhing in agony) and goes from there. I felt better once I got to “Taters of the Lost Ark” (the Indiana Jones-themed Mr. Potato Head), though.

Want the TDmonthly perspective? They’ve been covering everything Toy Fair in a special section that includes daily exhibitor and retailer tips. That would’ve been more useful while the show was still going on, I guess, but they have some nice photos from the show floor, as well as some commentary.

And finally—you know how I like to save the best for last—friend of Ty’s Toy Box Chris Byrne, a.k.a. The Toy Guy, has been doing some awesome Toy Fair coverage on his blog. The jewel-encrusted Hot Wheels car pictured above was auctioned off for charity, he reported as part of a Mattel recap. In the Hasbro recap we learn of an upcoming wiimote-based Nerf blaster for use with the Nintendo wii (awesome). The Jakks Pacific post has news from Nickelodeon Slime to Hannah Montana—clearly, all the based were covered!

I do love checking out all the new toys, even if I didn’t get to go see them on the showroom floor….

The world has changed, but WHAM-O stays the same

You remember WHAM-O, don’t you? Oh, heck—you don’t even have to remember them, because their products are still around. What I mean when I ask if you remember is whether or not you remember the commercials on TV, when we were growing up.

Oh, how I wanted a Slip ‘N Slide. (From WHAM-O!) I never did get one, as a child. Of course as soon as my own children were old enough, I went right out and bought them one, then busted it out on a hot Summer afternoon as if I’d just personally transported Heaven here to our backyard. They played on it for about five minutes before complaining that the grass was sticking to them. I tried not to cry.

Anyway, WHAM-O holds the trademark to many of the toys we grew up loving. Hacky sacks! Frisbees! Hula Hoops! The infamous Slip ‘N Slide! And each and every one allowed you to intone “… from WHAM-O!” back when we were kids. Nowadays children will just look at you funny if you do that. Trust me.

And now—finally—it seems that WHAM-O has run out of ideas. Oh, just kidding. I’m sure they have plenty of ideas, but they also want some more. So they’re having a Kid Inventor Contest wherein your child can attempt to come up with the next big thing for WHAM-O. Details, including rules and submission forms, can be found on the site. Entries are due by March 31st, and WHAM-O recommends allowing two weeks for mailing, so apparently the term “snail mail” is more than a charming exaggeration, to them.

The winning kid gets $2,000! Nice, huh? But then I started thinking about how many hula hoops and frisbees and stuff WHAM-O has sold over the years, and then I went and read the fine print on the site. It appears to say that you only get the prize money if you sign a licensing contract which gives you 3% of sales in a particular territory (huh?) and then my head started to hurt and, also, I remembered that someone already invented the yo-yo.

Nevertheless, if you have a budding young inventor on your hands, you might want to check out the contest.

New Pokémon game to be the death of me

My son just had a birthday. I know, that’s so lucky, because it’s not like we just did a bunch of celebrating and had presents or anything.

Oh, wait….

Anyway, my son is still deeply in love with all things Pokémon. He thinks Pokémon thoughts and plays Pokémon games and tells me to call him Ash and insists that his stuffed Pikachu is real and threatens to stuff his sister into a Pokeball until she can behave.

It was really endearing. For the first two years. Now I am sort of beginning to wonder when this particular obsession starts to die down a little bit.

Anyway, my parents asked what my son would like for his birthday, and I said, “Socks. He loves socks! They are nice and soft and quiet and boring. Plus, they come in either black or white. Perfect!” Well, no. That’s what I wish I had said. Instead, because I am the world’s greatest mother (stop laughing), I said, “Well, he’s still really into Pokémon. You might want to look and see if there are any new games. Or even just a pack of cards would probably thrill him.”

Guess what came in the mail? That’s right! The new Pokémon Champion Island game! It’s a board game! It’s a DVD game! It’s a board game that you play along with a DVD, and it’s very! exciting!

Even my daughter was excited.

I have to admit, it’s pretty cool. It takes the whole board game thing to another level and it’s fun to play more than just once (which many games nowadays are not), which is a good thing because my son wants to play it all the time.

Would he like to play with some of his Christmas presents? No, he would like to play Pokémon Champion Island. Would he like to have a nice snack? Maybe some candy? No, he would like to play Pokémon Champion Island. How about a pony? Would he like me to buy him a pretty pony? No, he wants to play Pokémon Champion Island again and Mama, please, Mama, come play with us one more time, please?

School doesn’t start again here until tomorrow. So, um, if you need me before then? I’ll be having my butt handed to me in Pokémon Champion Island….

All that was missing was his two front teeth

Happy day-after-Christmas! I hope that if your family celebrated the holiday, you had a good one. My children went positively out of their minds with the overwhelming glee of a day spent wearing matching pajamas and playing with new toys.

We tried to get my son to tell anyone who asked, this year, to respond that all he wanted for Christmas was his two front teeth (they are still MIA). He—being rather a bit too literal for his own good—was game enough to play along, but not to lie. So if you asked, he would tell you “Well, I would really like my two front teeth, but I am also hoping to get maybe some other things, like maybe some Legos or a video game or something!”

That kid just doesn’t understand the importance of holding back a little bit for comedic effect.

I had the opportunity to play with a wii for the very first time (not ours) this week, and I finally understand what all the fuss is about. (It’s true, it’s a lot of fun.) But I’m still (grudgingly) glad that we don’t have one at home. Maybe I’m just an old curmudgeon (ya think?), but I always prefer to watch my kids using their imaginations with a toy rather than just plugging into a video game. Even a really, really, really cool video game.

My son’s non-teeth wishes were granted, and he busied himself building things and vrooming some vehicles around. My daughter is reaching the age where she’ll soon have outgrown dolls altogether, but this year, Santa brought her a special new doll and she was thrilled. Oh sure, later on in the day she was back to being a normal kid (translation: whining about something), but for a few magical hours, all really was calm and bright.

The best toys go in the “box of glory”

I just love the stuff they come up with over at RetroCrush, because—even though it makes me feel old, to read over there and laugh my butt off at the memories—I just mind being old less when I’m laughing about it. And there’s some very funny stuff over there.

So yesterday when I saw the RetroCrush Box of Glory Inaugural Inductees title, I was eager to read on, even though I wasn’t sure what I would find. But it turns out to just be a great compilation of greatest childhood toys (phew!) along with some hilarious commentary.

At first glance I thought the list contained all of the usual suspects—the Etch-a-Sketch, the Slinky, cap guns, Barbies, Legos, the Magic 8 Ball… it’s a long list, and most of the entries caused me to nod along in agreement. Some of them reminded me of things I hadn’t thought of in years; for example, I used to own the cloth Holly Hobby doll they show. (I wonder what happened to her.)

The list’s author, Robert Berry, claims at the end that you can write in with anything he’s missed, though it’s not clear whether he’ll add them to the list. And this, of course, got me thinking about what I, personally, would’ve added that I didn’t see there. (Several of the toys he did list either predate my childhood or I was just raised in a bubble. That milking cow looked like something I would’ve begged for as a kid, so I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen it before.)

Berry’s list tops over 60 entries; nevertheless, I submit that he overlooked the following:

  • Barbie Fashion Head. These come in about a million varieties, nowadays, and I’ve even seen one with hands (which, frankly, frighten me) so that you can do their nails. But back in my day, there was but one Barbie Fashion Head. You could do her hair and make-up. And then when you got a little older, you and your brother could give her a mohawk.
  • Jacks. Dude. You include jump ropes and the lemon twist but leave out jacks? Clearly you were never a girl at summer camp on a rainy day. Which I suppose is a good thing, seeing as how you’re a guy. Still. Jacks! They’re a classic.
  • Sea monkeys. No room in the box of glory for brine shrimp? C’mon. Every kid I know had a coming-of-age moment when they realized that those little buggers did not, in fact, wear little pink crowns the way the ad in the back of the comic books always depicted them. It’s a sad right of passage, that.
  • Walkie-talkies. I have a set of two-way radios that my kids sometimes play with, but they get bored with them easily… possibly because they work. The set that I grew up with sometimes worked, and sometimes just made a lot of static. That was part of the challenge. It made our Secret Agent games more exciting.
  • Topps baseball cards. I didn’t even like baseball, and I collected these along with everyone else. Because that’s just what you did.
  • Merlin. Yeah, I know he’s got Simon on there. Merlin was different, and equally (or more) popular. I always wanted a Merlin. I never got one, and had to keep using the one my best friend (who got everything she ever wanted) had. I’m still bitter.

What would go into your toy box of glory?