If I could sum up the tone of the opening days of Toy Fair 2006, it would be impending dread. Hundreds of people swarming into New York from around the world under the threat of what was being reported as the worst impending blizzard the city had faced in years.
Josh and I, being East Coasters, didn't let it faze us. We only had one event scheduled on Saturday, Hasbro's meet-and-greet for collectors. Imagine about 30 collectors crammed around a tiny alcove with this year's Star Wars figures, completely ignoring any other toys or human beings (even the cute marketing girls).
Artoo-Potatoo got a little bit of attention, though.
Yes, R2-D2 has now gotten the Mr. Potato Head treatment and even includes a little holographic Princess Tater, complete with cinnamon rolls. Hasbro is heavily into the cross-branding thing these days, with products like the Star Wars Transformers, and Transformers vs. Star Wars Attactix tabletop game. Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi where Admiral Ackbar brandished a rocket launcher like Rambo and started wasting bad guys? You don't? Well, now he has one, and can use it on Optimus Prime.
The toys I'm really anticipating are the new Battlestar Galactica Titaniums. Even though the prototypes that were shown to us were obviously not die-cast metal the way the final product will be, they were really gorgeous.
I've lived through a few blizzards, but I've never seen one that had thunder and lightning. We were treated to some of that at about 3AM on Sunday morning. When we were ready to venture out from the hotel over to the fair, we saw snow going sideways.
At the Toy Industry Association building, fire fighters were chopping up a taxi that had accidentally caught fire. Inside, the lobby was filled with the stench of roasted plastic. how appropriate.
We waited at the Toy Fair building for a shuttle bus that never came, so we flagged down a taxi to take us to the Javitz center. After we registered there, we were treated to the sight of a demented Dixieland Jazz band (mov) whose players were a motley crew of misshapen gnomes, seemingly sentient vegetables, and what could have been the internal organs of deep sea fish.
It was like something out of a Terry Gilliam film. We never figured out what they were supposed to be promoting. I asked Josh if he would give me $10 if I threw myself into the midst of the chaos, thrashing around and screaming "I'm a prickly pear!" He didn't bite. I really wasn't asking because I thought it would be funny. I was asking because I was out of cash and could have really used the $10.
Our first appointment at Ugly Dolls was delayed so we skipped ahead to our second one at Strangeco. They were located in a special section of the center this year designated for boutique toys. It definitely seemed like there were fewer companies involved in the designer toy game this year. Strangeco seems to be on track, though, with very few items that match I consider the current cliches: bears, bunnies, and wrestlers and boxers with the physiques of Walt Disney characters.
What sets Strangeco apart is that they're willing to take on stuff like this.
Feast your eyes on Jim Woodring's latest creation, Mr. Bumper. It's sort of a multi-legged frog with a separate cowl that turns it into a street sweeper. I went crazy over Woodring's previous forays into sofubi, Mantra and Dorbel, so I will definitely be grabbing one of these.
As we finished up at Strangeco, we got a call from Ugly Dolls and headed up to meet personally with David Horvath and Sun Min, the parents of these little critters. They were incredibly friendly and down to earth, and somewhat overwhelmed at having just received a Toy of the Year award from the Toy Industry Association.
DKE Toys was on hand to show off some neat stuff, like an upcoming H.R. Giger Bearbrick
They also had these incredible Suckadelic bootleg figures, which are actually manufactured in some guy's kitchen in Chinatown. Check out Antron's head on the Galactic Jerkbag.
After perusing the designer toy aisle one last time, we decided we'd browse a bit before heading back to the Toy Industry Association building for more appointments. Plenty of other displays caught our eye. Product Enterprise Limited was showing off all of their upcoming diecast toys, plus their amazing Space 1999 Eagle prop replica. Eagle fans, this is the only toy you'll ever need to buy.
We stopped by the booth of SS Adams Novelties. You've definitely seen their products before: those little vials of disappearing ink, hand buzzers, the old whoopie cushion. These guys have been selling this stuff for the last 100 years, and their package design probably hasn't changed for the last 50. I was surprised to see that they were based in Neptune, NJ. It's true, we have the best of everything here, including plastic vomit.
Everyone probably did a double take when they came across The Teddy Bear Group in one of the international aisles. Their Jolly Golly dolls, well, let's just say I was surprised to see something like that in New York City.
Since I've been bitten by the translucent toy bug, it's hard to ignore some of the educational toys out there, like Smart Lab's visible shark kit that lets you see all of the innards. Open the thing up and have that little Kitner boy spill out all over your desk.
My Toy Fair weekend concluded with a meeting with Toynami (read my report here). Afterward I did a bit of wandering through the halls and saw more than one toy company showroom with an eviction notice on the door. Rumors were flying around about how the Toy Industry Association was going to let their lease lapse on the building and start scaling back Toy Fair. Will they? Tune in next year, right here.
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Coverage of him at BoingBoing here.