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February 13, 2012

Fair Play 2012: Muppet Merch at Toy Fair

Filed under: Feature,Reports — Tags: , — Joe Hennes @ 11:14 am

We’ve been going to Toy Fair every year for the past five Februarys on the hunt for the latest Muppet, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock  merchandise for the upcoming year.  Sometimes we uncover some exciting stuff, sometimes we find something that never makes it to the shelf, and sometimes we don’t see much of anything at all.  Last year, for example, we saw a lot of cool Sesame Street toys, but next to nothing from the Muppets.  Sadly, this year is only a slight improvement.

Basically, someone needs to tell Disney that there’s a hit Muppet movie that was just in theaters, just about to come out on DVD, and there’s probably some way they can manage to get all those new and old Muppet fans to give them a whole lot more of their money from their wallets.  Getting more Muppet stuff in toy stores seems like an obvious move to me, and I’m not very smart at all!

Sesame Street, on the other hand, continues to do a bang-up job on their merchandise.  Like last year, most of the Sesame stuff on display was at the off-site Hasbro showroom.  We had the opportunity to check out everything they had to offer, including…

…the “Come ‘N’ Play” toy line!  I’m a sucker for interactivity in toys, especially when they’re done in a clever way.  Elmo’s Cash Register teaches kids about consumerism math with a place to sign for your purchase, which erases when you slide your credit card.  Abby Cadabby’s Tea Party teaches color by simulating different colored tea being poured via a cleverly-used light from the teapot.  Cookie Monster’s Kitchen Cafe includes healthy food being cooked up and served to whoever’s in the window (Elmo, Abby, or a window for your own face).  All three feature the characters’ voices, songs, and multiple educational targets.  And if 3-year-old me owned them, I’d love the heck out of them.

Abby’s Flying Fairy School is finally getting the action figure treatment, complete with a mini Abby and Blogg.  (Where’s Gonigan???  He’s gone again.)  But what makes this set really cool is that there’s a handle on the top of the roof.  When it’s pulled, the roof flaps like wings, just like in the intro to Abby’s Flying Fairy School.  That alone is worth the cost of admission.

This is Cushie Cookie Monster and Cushie Elmo, super-soft dolls that can either be stretched out like pillows or folded up (like in the pictures, thanks to the use of some strategically-placed Velcro) for the sitting effect.  Unfortunately, the side effect is that they look like they’re, um, showing off.  But hey, it’s totally worth it for the cuddliness of the dolls.  Yeah?

You know that feeling when you’d go into a toy store and see an oversized doll that you need to have but don’t have the space for, and couldn’t possibly afford?  Well, there’s two more this year for you to covet: Abby Cadabby and Super Grover 2.0, both of whom were flying over the Sesame Street display.  I’m excited to see Super Grover 2.0 segue into the world of merchandise, which is why I was so excited to see the next item.

You’re looking at the Flying Super Grover 2.0, the highlight of the Sesame Street display.  When you make this little guy fly through the air, his head turns and his arms raise depending on what angle and direction he’s pointed in.  And Grover will let you know if he’s flying up or down and when he makes one of his patented crash landings.  This toy is going to be the next must-have for any Grover-loving kid, which is pretty much all of us, isn’t it?  He’ll be all yours for just $29.99.

Meanwhile, outside the world of Sesame Street, Manhattan Toys was displaying the Fraggle Rock puppets and dolls.  The very same ones as last year, which is not much of a surprise.  I’m aching for some new Fraggle stuff, and with the new Red Fraggle and Traveling Matt builds we saw recently, I’m hoping there’s a new mini Fraggle Renaissance around the corner.  But until then, I’m pretty happy with the stuff in this display.  Especially the adowwable Junior Gorg doll.

In the forgotten corner of the World of Jim Henson, the Pajanimals are still running strong.  I have to admit, I’ve never actually seen the show.  But I’ll be damned if these dolls from Lamaze don’t look exactly like the real characters.  I guess that’s a testament to the designs of the puppets, but I’m gonna go ahead and assume there’s some sort of witchcraft at work.  If I ever do get around to watching the DVD, I’ll keep an eye out for pentagrams.

I know, I know.  You want to hear about the Muppet merchandise.  Well, fair warning, the pickings are slim.  The first batch we found was of the keychains, key covers, lanyard, and pins seen above.  All cheap stuff (in price, not quality), but nothing worth reporting on.  Except that I just did.  So there’s pretty much no reason to ever listen to what I have to say.

The Madame Alexander doll company has a long history of Muppet-related toys.  Or more specifically, their own dolls with a tiny Kermit, Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster, Elmo, or whoever standing next to them.  The latest example of this is “Maggie and Kermit Take Hollywood”, which includes the Madame Alexander Maggie doll with Kermit and his camera.  What really makes it special is that Maggie is dressed as Mary, Amy Adams’ character from The Muppets.  And if you happen to be seven inches tall, her clothes can double as your next Halloween costume!

Not to be outdone by Cookie Monster and Elmo, Kermit is also getting the pillow-treatment, thanks to the folks at My Pillow Pets.  He’s soft and cuddly and available now on My Pillow Pets’ website and in retail stores.  And yes, I can confirm that he has the correct number of points on his collar.  You can sleep easy now (for more than one reason).

Our final two entries come from Funko POP.  The first is a better look at the designs for the vinyl figures which we announced last week.  To our surprise and delight, Mahna Mahna and a Snowth (or, Snowths plural, since it’ll be impossible to buy just one) are included in the first wave.  It’s also nice to see that all of the characters have much friendlier eyes than the original designs we saw.  If you’ve never seen a Funko vinyl toy in person, they’re pretty adorable, affordable, and collectable.  And these 4″-tall guys will be on shelves this April, begging to join your collection.

Also at Funko Pop is this new line of Muppet Wacky Wobblers, once again bringing Dr. Teeth into the A-list with Kermit and Piggy and Fozzie.  Gonzo is nowhere to be seen, so maybe it’s safe to assume that his nose isn’t aerodynamically shaped to counterbalance a bobblehead.  Each of these figures are about 7″ tall and will be in stores this July.  Perhaps with a “come hither” head nod.

So while the Muppet pickings were indeed slim, as promised, there’s still hope for more Muppet stuff to hit shelves this year.  None of the Disney Store exclusive toys were on display, and Toy Fair is a pretty big convention, so it’s possible I could’ve missed something (however unlikely, thanks to my Sixth Sense).  Sesame continues to go strong, and the Jim Henson Company is mostly absent, so it kinda seems like we’re right back where we started.  And if that’s not good enough for you, you can always buy more Palisades toys on eBay.  Which is really not the worst idea in the world…

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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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