A Weekend at Toy Fair 2016: Dolls, Puzzles, Animated Videos and MoreClaude Harrington 02.16.2016
Over the long (and cold!) weekend, we kept warm by visiting the Jacobs Javits Center and attending the 113th annual Toy Fair. As in years past, the biggest names in the toy business were on hand with a strong presence, but this year’s show had a particular emphasis on introducing and highlighting new exhibitors. Of the 1,237 exhibitors who displayed at this year’s Toy Fair, over 300 of them were newcomers to the show (up from under 200 the year before).
While that increase may seem odd to an industry that has historically been dominated by blue bloods like Mattel and Hasbro, the significant increase in first-time exhibitors fits with what felt like the unofficial theme of the show: innovation. From the corporate giants to the smallest of startups, it felt like just about every brand was embracing technology in a big way.
We’ll talk more below about the tectonic shift towards technology, as well as highlight some of our favorite toys and most interesting observations from the show…
One of the hottest toys at Mattel was their Hello Barbie Dreamhouse, which is essentially a high-tech, 21st century take on Barbie’s signature home. Unlike Dream Houses in the past, this abode is Wi-Fi enabled and features voice-recognition software so that kids can actually speak directly to the home.
Speaking of Barbie, a new home wasn’t the only innovation was saw for the iconic doll. To accompany the release of some upcoming animated videos starring Barbie in space, Mattel is providing their flagship character with her very own hoverboard (that kids can actually fly)
Another highlight from Mattel, which also touches on one of the biggest trends this year at Toy Fair was the Thingmaker: a $300 3D Printer that enables children to print their own toys at home by using a 3D printing app. Kids can make an entire doll or action figure (which takes about 11 hours to create) or smaller items like a bracelet or helmet (which takes about 30 minutes).
3D printers and the idea of do-it-yourself toy making (albeit some pretty expensive DIY toy making at this point in time) was a recurring topic amongst many exhibitors. Personally, I think the price point (and wait time) is too high, not to mention that the 3D printed toys are noticeably inferior to store-bought dolls and action figures, but it’s definitely intriguing as a higher-end product and could definitely become more mainstream as the price drops in the next few years.
There was, however, one 3D print-based toy company that did catch my attention: PieceMaker. Unlike high-end, consumer products such as the Thingmaker, PieceMaker has an entirely different business model.
Similar to mall kiosks, they are looking to partner with retail locations so that kids can pay, plug-in and personalize what they want while in a store (and get their creation by the time they leave). What do the creations look like, you might be wondering? Like this…
If 3D Printers aren’t techie enough, can I interest you in a pet robot? Because there were plenty of those on display. Our favorite of the bunch was CHiP, billed as “the world’s first lovable robot dog.”
The CHiP photos didn’t come out too great (sorry!), but luckily WowWee who makes the mechanical pup has an explainer video that introduces him to the world in HD quality:
Whether live-action (like the CHiP clip above) or in the form of an animated video, one delightful surprise at this year’s Toy Fair was the significant number of exhibitors who used explainer videos to help show off their wares.
Which brings us to the final product we wanted to mention: Stik Bots by Zing Toys. At first glance, these mischievous little critters may seem like nothing new, but if kids download a free mobile app (Stikbot Studios for iOS or Android), they can shoot their very own stop motion animated videos.
An easy way for kids to make animated videos? Count us in, very much so…
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