Sunday, February 20, 2011

Toy Fair 2011 - more fun than you can shake your stick it!

One event I look forward to each year is the 108th New York International Toy Fair. It is, by far, the biggest event of the year for the American toy industry. It's a huge event, which includes award dinners, events & a HUGE building filled to the rim with toy vendors booths. 

Now, when I say 'booths,' you might picture 4x8 tables with toys on them. It's such a wide range of people exhibiting. You have independent entrepreneurs who go out on a limb and are trying to sell their ideas to the toy buyers of the world. You also have tried and true toy companies displaying toys they've sold for years. You also have the mammoths of the toy world - Mattel, Melissa & Doug, etc that have massive booths that could qualify as events within themselves.

Take the Melissa & Doug booth. When I first started going to Toy Fair, they had a small booth downstairs at the Javits Center. (The Javits Center has two massive floors, the top floor generally have the bigger, more established toy companies while the downstairs has the 'up and coming' as well as the 'low and going' toy companies. Now, Melissa & Doug have the biggest booth at Toy Fair. They have a popular coat check (checking your coat at Javits costs $3 an article, M&D do it for free - even eschewing tips!). They also serve food through the day - pretzels, ice cream, beer, wine, etc. They used to serve breakfast and lunch until they determined many of the people enjoying the meals were competing toy companies! Their booth is guaranteed to be mobbed during the day as they roll out their new toys. One thing that sets Melissa & Doug apart from many other companies is their employees inhuman ability to stay chipper and friendly at all times...

Perhaps one of my, er, 'favorite' booths at Toy Fair was 'Ring Toss.' Here's a photo of the booth in all it's glory
Yup, that's it. A dude in a booth with an exercise machine, Snapple bottles and rings made of paper that he tossed onto the Snapple bottles. He was directly across the aisle from my friends at the YoYo Factory booth and YoYo Factory's Ben McPhee snapped that shot. Keep in mind these booths are wildly expensive. Later our hero reclined on his machine and did some pedaling:
We speculated where there was some kind of hidden camera there, that they were recording people for some tv show, but Googling 'Ring Toss' and 'Toy Fair' doesn't hit

Full-sized LEGO Lightning McQueen. 325,000 bricks! 
Splish, splash, I was taking a bath in Diet Coke
We spent lots of time at the Lego booth on the first day - one of the incredible displays they featured was a full-size Lego version of Lightning McQueen - it has 325,000 pieces in it and weighs 3 tons! Cars 2 is coming out this year and promises to be a massive hit, so there were lots and lots of Cars 2 toys at Toy Fair.Another booth that had lots of attention was the 'Be Amazing Toys' booth. Several years ago, they came out with a kit that included a sleeve to affix on your Diet Coke bottle and also a pack of Mentos. The sleeve allows the Mentos to slide into the Diet Coke and create the insane fountain spraying out of the top of the Diet Coke bottle. You probably remember the viral video that was out a couple years ago. Anyhow, they've turned it on it's side this year (literally) and allowed you to turn the bottle and place wheels on it to create a 'Geyser Rocket Car.'
Now, when they came out with the Mentos/Diet Coke fountain kit several years ago, they created a cool display which had a 20 foot plastic tower that let them shoot off the Diet Coke in the building without creating an insane mess. It was always a popular display. This year, to showcase the new car, they created a enclosed track that let the car shoot along. In the fountain display, the displayer put the coke bottle inside the plexiglass tower and pulled a string that allowed the Mentos to fall into the Diet Coke bottle. This year, they decided to forego all that neatness and simply place a sucker, er...employee, inside a plexiglass room. Their demonstration always drew a crowd. The guy doing the demo called upon someone from the audience to remotely pull the string and let the Mentos into the Diet Coke....with our hero in the room. So...the audience member pulls the string and the poor guy gets drenched in Diet Coke. He's absolutely drenched from head to toe and standing barefoot in a couple inches of Diet Coke at the bottom of the room. Then the poor guy loads up the car and sends it careening down the track - all the while Diet Coke spraying him as it goes.
The Diet Coke and Mentos powered car shoots away from our hero. 
I took these pics at their booth - that's Emily, my wife, pulling the trigger on the poor sap. I tweeted from Toy Fair that this guy had the worst job at Toy Fair and got a response from Be Amazing Toys offering to allow me in the booth. I tweeted back that I'd do it, but never got a response. Probably for the best.

Ravensburger showed off the 'World's Largest Puzzle' which has more than 32,000 pieces and weighs a hefty 42 lbs!

And, finally, I always try to pick my 'Worst Toy at Toy Fair' and this year, it was an easy choice. Past 'winners' include the Carmen Electra stripper pole and the Fart Game. This year, it was a no-brainer. Who doesn't have a daughter that wants to dress up and pretend to be the fabulous 'Snooki' from 'The Jersey Shore?' Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

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