Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nation of Bettys – Funco displayed their impressive line-up of Betty Boop bobble heads at this year's Toy Fair

Toy Fair 2009 Part One

I've been going to Toy Fair, the international trade show in New York City, for at least five or six years now as the toy industry is a significant one in Western Massachusetts. The daily paper used to make quite a big deal about it, then abandoned the story and resumed covering it after a fashion after they saw what I was doing.

Unlike my competition, I actually go there and talk with as many local companies as I can find as well as attempt to "take the temperature" of the trends in the industry.

This year, I visited Janlynn of Chicopee, a crafting company; Fantazia of Chicopee, makers of over-sized plastic items, banks and lamps; Omniglow of Springfield, which produces glow products and party goods; and LEGO, whose American headquarters are just across the border in Connecticut. I subsequently tried to reach Hasbro, which has its games unit in East Longmeadow, as the company had already shut down its showroom on the last day of the show.

It's always an interesting day, but grueling as I hike up and down the aisles of the Javits Center, not only looking for local companies, but this year also shooting video. I was also looking at the show with this blog in mind as well.

In a nutshell – I'll post my newspaper piece tomorrow – people were happy with the response they received at the fair from buyers and seemed cautiously optimistic.

The Toy Fair always fascinates me with its selection of tiems I can't really imagine anyone buying. For instance, a Canadian company manufactures a some pop culture sculptures such as this one:

but they also produce this damn near life-sized – what would you call it ?

Toy companies in many instances have ceased being just about toys. They are entertainment companies. Hasbro is certainly positioning itself in that way with two movies coming out this summer – a G.I. Joe live action film and the Transformer sequel. Here is Ban Dai's area, much of its shrouded by walls to insure privacy in making deals.

Licensing still seems on the wane among manufacturers. I expected to see "Wall E" or "Bolt" toys at the show, but I spotted only one "Wall E." It's clear that companies have been burnt in the past and are unwilling to invest the money unless they see it as a sure thing.

The biggest licensing trend at the show was the one property no one had to pay for – toys based on our new president.

This is a bank.

This something for people who don't like him.

Naturally there was more licensing among the specialty collectibles folks. Dark Horse Toys has some great stuff and Diamond was offering what I would say is an ultimate "Star Trek" item: a reproduction of Capt. Kirk's chair you would have in your viewing room or bridge.

There were no toys I could find that tie-in into the new "Star Trek" film or the new "Wolverine" film, despite both properties' status as having established audiences.

Being a Springfield partisan I always look for Dr. Seuss stuff and found this wonderful "Horton" sculpture.

More tomorrow.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


SRBissette said...

Great report, Mike, and eager to read Part 2. How the business has changed -- thanks for keeping us up to date.

dogboy443 said...

Great video Mike. Nice when you're not being jostled by 400 of your best friends. Looking forward to seeing what we did in Episode 2: Return of the Toilet Monster!!!!!