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Javits Convention Center
This is where Toy Fair begins and ends for me. I come by here to get my badge, and I stop by one last time before heading out each year. Last year the craziest thing I did was sing Tainted Love at the Tao Music Karaoke booth. This was sober karaoke infront of around 200 people (thousands within ear shot), and they're all in suits. Anyway, the thing I like about Javits is the grazing pace you can take it in, moving from aisle to aisle. You don't need appointments or guestlists like with the private show rooms, everyone here is anxious for your attention, and has something cool to show you. Coolest display area here was Play Visions, maker of the best squishy stuff on earth, more on them in a bit.
Javits is a great huge space filled with companies that have great products and then you have the crap. Granted a lot of the companies do not have toys we are interested in but you still see a lot of bad toys. The key is not to make eye contact because otherwise you get trapped and can't get away. The highlight is always the Playmobil booth. However this year I was not able to be at Javits as long as I would have liked. We did meet up with a lot of people who knew who we were which was great. Most of them have something to do with R Hunter's Subculture show.
Javits was a treasure trove of wonderful toys. Everywhere I turned someone else wanted to tell me about their wares. Who was I to stop them? Sure, I'd love a free Frisbee. What's that? You have developed a new action figure? Tell me about it. Why yes, I'd love one. Thank you. This went on for some time. But the cream of the crop was the folks at Cranium.
The folks at Cranium were great, and they played us in a round of the new game Cranium Turbo. We didn't know this, but the creators of Cranium read every e-mail that comes in. Listening to consumer suggestions and stories, Cranium Turbo is an updated Cranium that we promise will dominate your party. There is only one track in this verion in which to move your game piece. People had complained that the Fast Track in original Cranium could be a little difficult to understand. The original activities (Senso-Sketch, Be-A-Star) are back, but now there are a load of new activities added for even more outrageous fun. Ok, that sounded like the back of the box, but we're serious, this is pretty sweet. (Plus this thing is in prototype stage and they don't write marketing crap like that until the last minute). The thing I like most about Cranium is that they're making new games that are as great as the original. It's not like Oh everyone knows the Cranium name, let's slap our logo on a new "updated" piece of crap, no, they really work hard to come up with something that will really change the way you think of board games.
Another game we got to try was Cranium Hoopla. Like playing Cranium but you don't have 4 players sitting around? Hoopla is built for two but could be played with more. (I was going to work in a deodarant gag there, but it died, sorry). The game is also played in roughly 15 minutes. Hoopla is available at Starbucks now, and is great for couples or small parties.
Then they gave us an Anniversary Tin and an inflatable Brain Hat to put into our swag prize. If you haven't entered, it's worth it for the Brain Hat alone.
The Lord of the Rings statue / busts are great sculpts. Be sure you check out Gandalf on Shadowfax. We were there when the guy from WETA delivered it, freshly painted! The first R rated talking action figure, Xtra Salty R. Lee Emery, threatens to "rip off your head and shit down your neck." How can you not pick that up. C'mon you maggot you know you want it!
Leading the charge with the most realistic statues and busts of the Fair was SideShow. This is one company that takes itself seriously. The Muppets busts were scanned directly from the Muppets themselves and they look dead on. In fact we were told that Sam Eagle had some threads coming undone around his neck and they put it on the bust. The Lord of the Rings pieces were even more stunning. Here's a cool feature they put in their large pieces, like Hellboy and the Universal Monsters: Wire in the edge of long coats and capes. Now you pose that cool wind blown look and it'll stay that way!
The WizKids show space was a bit of a let down in the fact that we can't tell you all the cool stuff we saw. We were only allowed to photograph a few shelves of great Heroclix. Hopefully soon we will be able to talk about all the great future Heroclix that will be available.
I've been playing Heroclix for awhile now and I was very stoked to see the new lines. But like Lando said, we can't talk about a lot of it. But we can make up for it by showing off the cream of the crop. The Galactus Hero-Click looked great. He's about 10 times bigger than your average click. Imagine setting him down at the gaming table. Your friends would wet themselves. He'll be available on the convention circuit this summer. And will boast an "affordable" price tag. The prototypes we saw boasted tight sculpts and my biggie for these guys: paint applications.
WizKids came out of nowhere and completely dominated the collectable figure RPG (is that the right label??) market with Mage Knight, Mech Warrior and ofcourse HeroClix in the last couple of years. A good solid concept, a popular license, and quality execution helped ensure people were collecting and playing. This year will be no different, more and more Marvel figures are coming out, and now there is a baseball game, each piece based on a real baseball player.
By far, the coolest place to hang out was the "indy row." There were four booths in a row each one sporting more art driven toys than anything else in the Fair. Achy Breaky is leading the charge in artist-driven toys with their Mullet Heads. This line can best be described as Mini-mates meet vinyl sensibilities. Really deck designs and the artist-to-company relationship was the strongest I witnessed. Achy Breaky was flanked by Ugly Dolls, Critterbox and Friends with You. I've been a fan of their plush for some time now but their new wooden pieces with interchangeable parts are coming out this year. Last was StrangeCo, a wonderful mix of art and action. Artists are given credit to each piece and the variety of work seen here was really fresh. They showcased my second favorite figure of the show: Mars-1. These companies, and their artist-based toys are featured in R Hunter's gallery exhibit SubCultures: The Art of the Action Figure opening this friday. MPb is the exclusive place for coverage, so stop by to check it out.
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You may have already heard of Geoff Beckett and his Shoulder Action Figures (SAF). Shocker Toys (I can not keep my mind out of the gutter here!) developed their own properties that will come to life as action figures you can wear on your shoulder. We had to stop by and see these things for ourselves. Unfortunately, they didn't have any SAFs to display. Fortunately though, the Shockinis, mini-fig versions of the SAF characters were on display and are looking really good. Seriously, here is a new mini-fig body, with 18 points of articulation, great posability and interchangeable parts. The assortment of Ape-X figures is impressive, but the thing that impressed Jager and I was the customizable Shockini. It comes in a resealable blister card. Open the figure, paint him up, stick him back in the blister and decorate the card with your design. What a great gift or way to showcase your own custom figure. Be on the look out for Shockinis and the elusive SAFs later this year.
Playmobil is my favorite toy. My favorite thing about Playmobil klickys is that little happy face present on every figure. My second favorite thing is the impeccable quality and unique design of each figure. The aspect that keeps me coming back is the virtual universe of figures that continues to come out. Available in US stores this year is the Bank Robbers (review) with working safe. I got this set from Germany earlier in the year, and it's amazing. Also coming out this year is a whole new Zoo (with a brand new monkey!!), Noah's Ark, and a new assortment of leisure time/household chores figures. They're adding on to last year's popular Airport with a Security screening station (with metal detector and X-ray scanner) and a new, more compact airport set. The thing that got my blood racing was the 30th Anniversary Old West Set, this set features cowboys, Native Americans, and horses all in the original 1974 styling. It's like finding the collector's dream set from a flea market without the dried orange juice and missing hair. Also be on the look out for the blister-packed Gold Knight with real gold leaf!
Another new set (new to US and Germany this year) are the strange bunny people. Playmobil bodies with bunny heads. They're having a little woodland jamboree or something. The things kind of freaked me out a bit, but if you or your kids love Playmobil and the fantasy whimsy of bunny-people, be sure to look for this new line of figures and play sets.
Oh, and from their Special line is a new Nun that I will definately be picking up. Also, you fans of the impossible to find Roman Centaurian from a few years back, there is now a Roman Legionary to satisfy your marauding hunger.
Next to Playmobil, I am sure to hit the Play Visions booth every year I've been to Toy Fair. Play Visions makes a lot of squishy stuff. I love squishy stuff. Rubber balls with goo inside, squishy troll dolls, a rubber sack full of eye balls. I love putting these things on my desk and people come from all over to squeeze and stretch. Their booth has bin after bin just full of squishy things. You can find their assortment at specialty shops and places like Spencer Gifts. If you ever visit Toy Fair yourself, be sure to stop by and play. But honestly, the next time you're in Spencers or a specialty toy store, you'll find yourself picking up and squeezing something from their assortment. They look gross (yay) but they're hard to put down.
Plan B Toys
Plan B has been trucking along with their Special Forces line, with Emergency Forces' fire fighters and rescue personnel, and their WWII figures. Both lines are based on the Special Forces articulation and level of detail. This year, Plan B will be releasing figures based on the upcoming movie Ladder 49 starring John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix. And what is this? A new Special Forces body has been designed with 30 points of articulation. They had 2-ups on display, and these things are sweet enough to get you drooling just looking at them. I can't wait to get my hands on them.
Besides mastering insane articulation, the Plan B guys' sculpts are always top notch. We're looking forward to their Dark Crystal mini-busts due out later this year.
Diamond Select/DC Direct
Great sculpts all around. The Hush figures are just the perfect Batman collection. The First Appearance Lois Lane is something to look for. They captured her 1940's look perfectly. Maybe they need to make the black Lois Lane. How sweet would that be? I have a feeling the Buffy stuff will be a big hit. The Willow collection of figures are amazing.
If you're looking for nice looking action figures of iconic DC characters, head on over to DC Direct. What these pieces lacked in articulation they made up for with style. Across the board, from the First Appearance line to the Hush figures, perfect representations of their 2-D counterparts were met. Diamond Select offers up even more Mini-Mates to fuel our addiction and some fine looking sculptures. Captain America with the tattered flag is especially nice.
21st Century Toys
I was the only one able to make it to the 21st Century Toys showroom. This year's line up of planes, copters, tanks, and soldiers are the most realistic looking representations of war machines yet. The dioramic displays in the showroom were most impressive. The highlight for 21st is the new Radio Controlled M5 Stuart Tank. This thing is huge! The turret moves all around with machine gun sound effects and a working missile launcher. If you haven't seen this tank you need to check it out. Next month we are having a give away with 21st Century Toys so check back soon.
The K*Nex showroom is collectively one of our favorites. Bright colors, moving pieces everywhere, it gently reminded of us of our time in college. Ironically, it reminded us of the times in college we have the hardest time remembering. Anyway, I was pleasantly pleased with the stunt tracks coming out. I like how you can change the stunt slope and the vehicle to fit the individual physics of each configuration. For example, and upright, motorcycle type posture would be best for the Evel Knevil style jump, but a reclined, luge-style car is better for the steep incline. I also like how there are sets for kids, but also pretty complex, and entertaining sets for older guys like us. A little more expensive, and a bit more demanding on the schedule, they are appropriately more complex than the sets for kids.
Great showroom. One of the best. K'Nex has differed itself enough from other building block toys. (Attention Mega Bloks!) Their collection of Amusement Park building sets are the most entertaining to build and watch. The new set, the Big Air Ball Tower is one of the biggest moveable construction sets.
Toy Vault continues to change my perception of plush toys. I originally believed that plush was for kids or older girls who refuse to give up on Care Bears cough...Princess of Power...cough... But
what this company had to show us at Toy Fair proved me wrong. They continue to up the quality of their products with multiple fabrics and solid sewing. The Monty Python line keeps expanding to encompass even more of everyone's favorite characters including the Black Knight with removable limbs and the Black Beast of Arrgh! Also on the horizon are more cthulhu plush. There's a puppet and a few of the supporting characters from Lovecraft's tales are represented (like Nyarlethotep). But the most exciting line to me (aside from Monty Python) is the Godzilla line. With the 50th
anniversary of the big guy coming up soon, these monsters are going to be hot!
An interesting idea is the plush multisided dice. These soft dice not only
look nice and are super collectible, they work. I didn't think they would since they are soft, but we tried them out and I vouch for them. Right after these come out, look for the rear view mirror set (just like fuzzy dice of old, but with a RPG twist!). RPG players everywhere will be able to up the cool factor of mom's station wagon! Be on the look out for more from these guys. Again, these aren’t just Pound Puppies here folks, this is quality plush!
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