The Good, The Bad and the Ugly from Toy Fair 2015

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Toy Fair 2015

This post is not what you think it is.   From the title this may seem like a coherent roundup of the best and worst products at the 2015 International Toy Fair that just took place in New York City.  Sorry, it is actually incoherent therapy for me after the emotional roller coaster of attending Toy Fair.  Please submit your bill for listening to me to my insurance company.

How Spending 4 Days With Thousands of Toys Can Nearly Drive You Insane

I am not expecting a lot of sympathy here.  I spent the last 4 days roaming the halls, booths and private showrooms of the International Toy Fair.  For 4 days I got to see previews and even play with the new toys that will be coming out in 2015. Over 100,000 Toy SKUs, enough toys to fill seven football fields!

Feeling sorry for me yet?  Yeah, didn’t think so.  But here is the thing, while we saw plenty of fun new toys, which we will feature in endless videos over the next few weeks, we also saw tons of crap.  Here is where I would normally say, “oh pardon my language” – but no, we literally saw tons of poop toys.

Recaps, videos, best of – all coming soon, but if you don’t mind listening (and honestly feel free to be totally distracted as you read this – how would I know) please let me unload my initial thoughts on the emotional roller coaster that is Toy Fair 2015…

The Bad

Let’s start with the bad and get it out of the way.  Moms and Dads I ask you, do you have trouble sleeping at night, worrying that you don’t have enough officially licensed Frozen or Star Wars toys?  Will little Bobby need therapy later in life because he didn’t have an Olaf backpack?

Oh my gosh, do we really need thousands of identical toys and products…but just with the latest Disney or Marvel character slapped on it?  These toys are totally uninspiring.  There is no inventor behind these toys.  No Mom or Dad who sprung up in the middle of the night with a great idea for a toy that could bring joy to their kids and just had to make it a reality.

The worst part of it all?  These officially licensed, uninspired toys will do incredibly well.  They will fly off shelves and lead to someone at Toy Fair 2016 saying to me, “The Olaf ball was such a wild success in 2015, for 2016 we have something totally new – an Olaf ball that is 2 inches bigger”.  Give that toy inventor a raise.  Heavy sigh…

By the way, it is 2015 Toy Industry – do we really need to keep reinforcing gender stereotypes? In our post here we covered the winners in the Toy of The Year Awards.  Why is there still a Best Boy Toy Award and a Best Girl Toy Award?  A dino wins for Best Boy Toy and a shopping toy for Best Girl Toy.  Come on, girls can’t play with dinos and boy can’t have fun shopping?  Enough with the Boy/Girl toy divide.

The Ugly…

Look, who doesn’t appreciate a good poop gag from time to time.  Poop, farts, burps…yeah, sure – fun little novelty items.  But riddle me this Batman, how is this “toy” –

The Prank Star Poo Dough, one of the best selling “toys” at Walmart last year? We saw the Fart Piano, the iFart Shuffle, Farting Bubble Blaster and yes Cacamax…a dog from Just Play that actually poops.  What could be sadder than that?  The fact that I took video of Cacamax and will be posting it soon…complete with feeding Cacamax his poop so he can poop again.

I am going to stop writing about poop toys now, not because I have discussed all the poop toys I saw, simply because there must be more to life, right?  Man, I could become a Poop Blogger and have more material than I do as a Dad Blogger.

The Good…

Between the poop and the Minions, I was starting to wonder if any toy companies actually employed inventors.  Was there any good, innovation and inspiration left in the toy industry?  Thankfully, once I waded my way through the poop and Olaf lunch boxes (billion dollar idea – Olaf lunch box that you pack with poop…admit it, I just blew you mind) I found plenty of Good still alive in the toy industry.

At the ThinkFun booth I met the inventors of some of their new games.  Yes, actual game inventors!  I got to talk to Maestro Philip Sheppard, a composer and virtuoso cellist who has created Compose Yourself, a musical construction kit.

Just as kids currently build creations with building blocks, even though they are not architects, they can now build musical compositions…with no knowledge of music.  Oh, did I mention their composition is then performed by a full symphony  orchestra at famed Abbey Road Studios?

It all seems hard to believe, but check out this short video, very inspiring on what a “toy” can be –

Then I learned about the Maker Studio Construction Sets, designed by makers/engineers David Yakos and Parker Thomas.

I casually talked with the inventor (who was there with his 6 year old son) about how he got into making a toy.  He explained he learned by making and how much he learned by making a plane he flew all around the company.  Oh I said, an RC plane that could be flown around the country – that’s pretty cool.  No he said, a real plane, that he built…and flew around the country!  Now he is making toys, to encourage the next generation to build and learn the way he did.  Man, this was so awesome I totally forgot about the Poo Dough I had seen just moments before.

Then there was the excitement from meeting Jun and Vlad – the co-founders of Pinblock.  Two life long friends who are working day and night to try to make a better building construction set, because they love to build and want others to have a better tool to create.  You can check out their Kickstarter and our video review and written review,  but beyond the toy being great, it was just so refreshing to meet two guys who are filled with energy and excitement to share their invention with the world.

A tour of Cloudb and their Super Max Turtle product showed that compassion and social good is also still alive and well in the toy industry.

The compact companion is inspired by the courageous 7-year-old Max Wilford, who has been battling brain cancer for three years and is taking a stand to make a difference in the lives of all children fighting childhood cancers.

My visit to Blue Orange taught me two things.  First, I learned that educational and fun definitely can go together.

The Super Genius line is terrific fun and you can almost feel your brain kicking into a higher gear when you play.  The second thing I learned at Blue Orange?  While I don’t like sushi, I sure like sushi based card games :)

Ah, I Feel Better, There Is Still Good In The Toy Industry

As I write this, I realize there was a decent amount of Good at Toy Fair.  Of course we will have full videos (check out our Toy Fair 2015 Playlist) and write-ups on our favorite toys.  Yes, we still love drones, blasters, robots and all that good stuff, so that is coming as well.

Still, we don’t want to let the toy industry off the hook too easy.  As we and other outlets write up all the fun new toys coming in 2015, you start to get what I call the Casino Effect.  In a casino you just hear the sounds of winners – bells and whistles whenever someone wins.  Of course, most people are losing…but you can’t hear that.

Media outlets will gush about the winners – the 10-50 fun new toys, but there were thousands of new toys on displays…that leaves a lot of losers.  We say to the Hasbros and Mattels of the industry, take a chance, highlight inventors and try something without a license. Stop complaining that kids prefer tablets to toys and give them toys that will blow their minds’.

Who knows, you may even discover that when you make exciting new toys, you don’t even need Olaf to sell them.

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