The American International Toy Fair in New York City brought together hundreds of the industry's biggest and smallest players, uniting traditional toys with new technology and displaying the best of both mass and specialty markets. Trend-wise, there was a move toward alternative-energy toys, more multicultural offerings in the dolls category and games that lend themselves to life in the fast lane.
Multiethnic characters that "dolled up" the show floor included Princess Zara (ToyDirectory), of Nubian ancestry, who features dazzling costumes and an animated DVD reflecting her family's royal African heritage. EthiDolls is promoting another African princess, Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, Mixis from YNU Group (ToyShow) celebrate multiracial heritage, and Karito Kids by KidsGive (ToyShow) have facial features that characterize African, Asian, Caucasian, Latin and Mediterranean ethnicities.
This year's developments in science included alternative-energy toys. Solar Robot Kits from OWI (ToyShow) react directly to sunlight — hopping, racing, walking or crawling on their way until they hit the shade, and Uncle Milton has released robots powered by solar cells as well. Thames & Kosmos (ToyShow) introduced hydrogen cars, and Dynatech Action unveiled the H-Bot, which utilizes hydrogen fuel cell technology, and a hydrogen-powered car.
For Babes and More
Introductions in the kidult realm included the Kidizoom digital and video camera and Gadget — a device that acts as a camera, MP3 player, radio and text messaging system — both from VTech. Peapod Toys (ToyShow) unveiled its durable MP3 player for babies, and Fisher-Price introduced the Smart Cycle fixed bike and video game system for little ones.
According to Gary Rudman, president of market research firm GTR Consulting, these types of toys may be indicative of a Mock Maturity trend yielding “products that allow kids, tweens and teens to be adult-like with some of the safety features that adults don’t have.” The PAYjr. Prepaid MasterCard is another example of this phenomenon, he said.
BamZ Interactive Insoles give kids expressive license through a programmed message on the back of their shoe, triggered by pressure on the insoles. Rudman’s research also shows that “this generation has been given the opportunity to customize and create anything they want” — a trend also evident with WallPOPS Wall Art and My Design Paintable Boots. “Tweens want that kind of control; it would be silly not to provide it to them," he added.
The Spyke robot from Nikko features a video camera for a head and can be left at home and controlled by computer while its owners are vacationing. And Fascinations released a floating globe that defies well-known scientific theorem, as it consists of one permanent magnet floating on top of another.
Play It Quickly
Hottest New Toys
In the Game Zone and all over both exhibit halls, it was easy to find games that didn’t take long to demonstrate…or play. The Curse of the Ruby Rhino: A Dastardly Dice Game by Gamewright, for example, only requires 10 minutes as players try to capture the ancient rhino. Sorry! Card Revenge Game from Hasbro is a fast-paced electronic option, and Martinis & Men by Tablestar Games is perfect for 20 minutes of entertainment at a bridal shower or girls’ night gathering.
Among other introductions that caused a media stir at Toy Fair 2007 were Hasbro's Spi-Dog, a web-decorated canine that wags to the music coming from its speakers; Mattel's Chat Diva Barbie dolls, which lip sync and move to music from an iPod; the interactive Rubik's Revolution from Techno-Source; Spin Master Toys' Robo Copter; and a guitar from Fisher-Price that plugs into the television and helps children learn how to play.
Click here to learn about our Toy Fair 2007 Wrap-Up Issue.