Movie-based toys, Collectibles, STEM/Coding, Tech Toys, and Gender/Ethnicity Inclusive were key themes at this year’s New York Toy Fair, February 17-21, 2017.
Every year, movie blockbusters are huge contributors to the toy industry’s success, and this year should be no different. Between Lego launching two movies, Lego Batman and Lego Ninjago, Marvel and DC Comics superhero movies (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, Justice League), Transformers: The Last Knight, Despicable Me 3 and of course Star Wars: The Last Jedi, retailer shelves will be once again stocked with licensed product from action figures and collectibles to building sets and fashion dolls.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) toys that often include skills like learning how to code, continued to makes its mark and one of the most promising came from Lego, the Lego Boost. Lego Boost is a 5 in 1 build that interacts with players through a mobile app; kids code how they want the toy to move. Kids can build a Robot to a Kitten to a Guitar and each will interact with the child differently. Hasbro’s Disney Princess Learn to Code Belle allows kids to decide how they want their doll to dance through coding the app that comes with the doll. Spin Master has partnered with Rube Goldberg, popular cartoonist and founder of an organization that promotes STEM learning, to launch a line of a modular toys that create fun inventions and teach the fundamental principles behind STEM.
Tech Toys like Spin Master’s M.A.X. robot, a personalized smart robot that learns about you, moves/interacts with you and remembers things like birthdays and events that you teach him. Teddy Ruxpin is back from the ‘80’s with new tech upgrades; not only does he interact with kids but there is also a mobile app to allow kids to read along with him. And to fulfill girls dreams of having their own personal assistant, Hologram Barbie will offer girls the ability to personalize how this virtual Barbie looks and have her remind girls of important events like parties or every day occurrences like brushing her teeth. Of course there will be new versions of interactive toys from the Spin Master Zoomer brand like Show Pony and Tiny Pups, as well as a Minion MiP Turbo Dave and Chippies by Wow Wee. VTech’s DX2 Smart Watch has been redesigned to look more like parent versions and features a swivel camera for selfies. Even traditional toy brands like Play-Doh are getting a tech upgrade; in Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio, kids can scan in their creations and interact through an app on a mobile device.
Given that Collectibles were one of the fastest growth categories this past year, it is no surprise to see many new lines showcased at Toy Fair. Take BrickHeadz by Lego, a larger chunkier version of mini-figures with many more pieces to assemble featuring favourite superhero and Disney characters. Mattel featured two new collectible lines Enchantimals (supported by webisodes) & Kuu Kuu Harijuku (Gwen Stefani’s animated TV show on Nickelodeon), while Hasbro also has a new collectible girls line, Hanazuki: Full of Treasures, centered around a new You Tube series and a toy line including a mood bracelet and charm like treasures to collect. For boys comes a line of collectibles from Jazwares based on the successful online game Roblox, featuring user generated content. From the successful launch of Spin Master’s Hatchimals this past fall comes a lower price point line of Colleggtibles; tiny plush that hatch from an egg when the child interacts with the toy. Finally, I would be remiss not to mention a few line extensions from Shopkins, the collectible brand that rose to success this past year. Cutie Cars are die-cast vehicles that kids can collect which come with a mini-Shopkin that fits right into the car. There will also be additional Shoppie dolls to collect as well as Shopkins collectibles featuring the Disney Princess and Minnie licenses.
Finally, it was clear this year more than ever that toy companies are recognizing the demand from millennial parents for toys that are gender neutral and that also are inclusive when it comes to ethnicity. Take Hasbro’s Baby Alive brand; this year for the first time it will feature a baby doll that says both ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’, as well as an assortment of dolls featuring different ethnicities. Additionally, Mattel’s American Girl brand launched a new doll featuring a boy named Logan to add to the collection, and of course their Barbie Fashionistas line has been incredibly successful this past year with the addition of not only multiple ethnicities to choose from but also different body types and sizes.
The competition is definitely heating up and will once again it will be an interesting year to see which manufacturers and brands end up on top!