If you have the privilege of being in New York City in February of any year, chances are you’ll find yourself smack dab in the middle of Toy Fair, the toy industry’s annual conference that takes over lower Manhattan each year. It’s at Toy Fair that decisions are made on what you’ll be seeing in the stores starting next September. Janice, a paralegal with one of the major toy companies, has been to Toy Fair every year and likens it to opening presents at Christmas time. “I love Toy Fair. Every day I get to play with toys, but Toy Fair is where you see all the new ideas. It’s like being in a candy store every day.”
While all the biggest toys for the next toy-buying season will make their debut at Toy Fair, millions of dollars have been spent on developing and manufacturing toys that won’t ever see the light of day, probably more than will be in the stores. Janice tells of a now-defunct toy manufacturer who built a whole line of sci-fi creatures: Flying bugs as big as horses ridden by men who now had super powers. The back story was that the huge bugs were the result of a nuclear attack. Janice says, “The bugs were made of plastic but their legs were made of a glove where your hand would go. The wings flapped and made noise, while the hand in glove would move the bug along.” Part of her job was to test prototypes to make sure they did what they were supposed to; she did that by teasing her dog with this flying bug. It never made it past Toy Fair.
What’s going to be a big hit in the coming year? Here’s what Janice and other industry experts say:
Oldies are new again
No, you haven’t stepped into a time machine; toys that were big sellers in past decades are making a return, but with a twist – technology. Be on the lookout for new Star Wars toys featuring characters from the new movies, as well as a new and improved Barbie house. What kind of tech will you see?
- Barbie Hello Dream House now interacts with your child using your home’s WiFi signal to listen and respond to the child. Oh – and a drone.
- Star Wars BB-8 is one of the coolest toys this year, especially the one manufactured by Spin Masters. It works almost the same as the BB-8 in the movie and responds to commands, again using your home’s WiFi network.
- Monopoly comes in so many versions, it’s hard to think that there’s another way to improve on the age-old game, but the Ultimate Banking Edition certainly changes the game. Cheating is no longer an issue because the bank is no longer a factor; each player is given an ATM card they use to buy property and pick up awards, like getting your $200 for passing “Go.”
- Simon Air, brings the old memory game originally from Milton Bradley into the 21st Century. Instead of having to follow the pattern of notes by pressing the same buttons, the Simon Air has motion sensors that track where you put your hands. It hasn’t taken away any of the frustration you feel as you get further into the game, but at least now, you’re not worrying about what illness you’ve picked up from the kid who played with it before you.
Toy Fair 2016 wasn’t just about older toys being upgraded; there were showrooms full of newer entries; come back next time for a look at some of the toys that’ll hopefully pass muster and end up on your list next December.