February 16, 2011

Fair Play 2011

Filed under: Feature,Reports — Tags: , — Joe Hennes @ 3:41 pm

Be sure to read all the way to the end of the article for an exclusive video featuring the real Elmo and Cookie Monster!

toyfair11-10For the third year not-quite-in-a-row (see: 2008, 2010), I’ve had the awesome honor of having the opportunity to attend Toy Fair, the one day when all of the toy companies display the merchandise to come out in the next year (unless you count Comic Con, Licensing Show, the other Comic Con, and a dozen other trade shows).

This year, two things were fundamentally different. First, Hasbro became the master toy licensee for Sesame Street, which means that 99% of the Sesame merch was only on display in the invitation-only Hasbro showroom. Lucky for us, we managed to sneak in the back door, so we’ve got a report from everything we saw at Hasbro (or rather, everything we think you might care about).

The other big change is that for some reason, there was almost no Muppet merchandise to be seen. My theory (and this is only a theory) is that Disney wants to wait until buzz for the new movie is at its peak before signing new licensees in order to get them to pay the maximum amount for the privilege to produce Muppet merch. But where that’s going to bite us in the ass is if Disney waits too long, which could result in rushed-to-market toys that could be cheaply-made or not on the shelves at all. In any case, it was disheartening to see the lack of Kermit at Toy Fair, although we did manage to spot him a couple times, as you’ll soon see.

So let’s get started with a look at Hasbro’s Sesame Street showroom. A corner of the space was dedicated to Elmo and his pals, and they built a facade of 123 Sesame Street, including Elmo and Cookie Monster photo puppets and a robot Oscar that popped in and out of his trash can. If you got close enough, you’d be able to hear Oscar spouting a few complaints through the metal can.

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Below are more pictures from the booth. There are almost too many things to mention, including board games, plush toys, PVC figures, an awesome 123 Sesame playset, toy cell phones, magic wands, and Play-Doh sets.

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The most exciting new Sesame Street toy is “Let’s Rock Elmo”, which is totally interactive and hilarious. But don’t take my word for it (not that you ever do…), check out this super-enthusiastic guy give his presentation on the toy:

Over at the main showroom, Manhattan Toys was displaying their Fraggle Rock plush and puppets. Although we saw these last year, this was the first time I saw the Junior Gorg, Traveling Matt, and Sprocket toys. I was glad to see the Sprocket stuffed animal, which (as I’ve previously declared) is damn adorable. New to us were the Fraggle bobblehead dolls, including Gobo, Wembley, and Red. This was the first time I’d seen a bobblehead made out of a plush material, and I thought it was goofy fun. They’re not exactly “cuddleable”, but they’re a lot easier to play with than the ceramic ones. There are no plans at the moment for the other Fraggles (sorry, Mokey), but Manhattan Toys has been good about making these available, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Boober bobblehead (Booblehead?? Nevermind…) is in our future.

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The folks at Tonner were also in attendance, along with their latest Muppet offerings: “Hog Wild Miss Piggy” and “Wild Frogs Kermit”. Although a bit out of my price range, these dolls are really impressive close-up. Piggy is as beautiful as ever, and Kermit looks pretty rugged, despite the fact that he isn’t wearing pants. And now that’s all you can see when you look at this picture: A pantless amphibian motorcycle enthusiast.

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While we were passing by the USAopoly booth, my Toy Fair companion Cathy used her Sixth Sense and spotted the Swedish Chef in a video montage. So of course, we had to find out what that was all about. It turned out that there weren’t any new offerings, just the Monopoly and Yahtzee games released last year, but it was still a thrill to see the Muppets represented somewhere in the building.

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The only other Muppet merchandise we saw besides the above games and Tonner figures was a set of key covers (with the heads of Kermit, Piggy, and Fozzie). Let’s just say I’m a little irked with Disney’s licensing department at the moment. And you should be too.

While not strictly Muppet-related, Puppet Heap had a booth this year, with a collection of their own puppets and playsets. Puppet Heap, as you may know, currently builds the Muppets, and we fully support whatever they’re working on, if only so they can afford to splurge buy the good fur for Fozzie’s hide.

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And now the moment you’ve all been reading for! To help with Hasbro’s presentation, Elmo and Cookie Monster made a surprise appearance to rile up the crowd. And we got the whole thing on tape! Check out the video right here:

Click here to rock out with Elmo on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com



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