Toy Fair kicked off Sunday in Manhattan with the usual pomp and circumstance one would expect from an industry that makes its living by getting in touch with its inner child. There were live bands, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and even a parade of costumed characters. It was like a modernized take on The Banana Splits Show.
Don’t be fooled by the playful PR, though. This is serious business, approximately $21 billion worth. That’s roughly the revenue the toy industry took in last year. About a quarter of that revenue comes from licensed toys, based on movies, television, cartoon and comic book characters. So it’s no surprise those toys made the biggest first impressions at Toy Fair.No one made a bigger entrance than Transformers. The robots in disguise made their way to New York City in style, with a full-size Optimus Prime semi parked outside Hasbro’s showroom. We’re almost positive Hasbro didn’t drive down their stacks of Transformers toys and props in the truck, but it’s a cool visual, isn’t it?
The newest member of the billion-dollar franchise was revealed – Sentinel Prime, who actually debuted in the teaser trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. He’s part of the new MechTech line of Transformers toys (According to EW.com, Sentinel Prime is Optimus Prime’s predecessor, who’s been missing for untold eons).
We also saw the latest variation on the ever-popular Bumble Bee, Megatron’s new look, and a new vehicle, the Ark spacecraft. It’s the sprawling vessel seen in the Transformers 3 trailer where the astronauts stumble upon Sentinel Prime. Hasbro also showed off its new 3-D (actually RealD) Transformers masks. The $9.99 masks allow you to see the new film in 3D when it debuts this summer.
The toy lines for Marvel’s two big summer superhero movies, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, were also front and center.The 12-inch figures for Cap and Thor were particularly impressive, especially with the resemblance to actors Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, respectively. The 3-¾ inch figures had tremendous character detail, although they must have used a body sculpt of Anthony Hopkins from 1988. The Oscar winner, who plays Odin in the film, hasn’t been that thin in decades.
It seems each year a Marvel movie has a toy tie-in that becomes a novelty hit, like the Hulk hands, Iron Man helmet or the Spider-Man webshooter. This year, Cap’s shield and Thor’s hammer Mjolnir will battle it out to see which one wins the hearts of kids (and their parents’ cash) this year.
Following in the gargantuan footsteps of Galactus comes the Sentinel, the latest 16-inch monster of an action figure from Hasbro’s Marvel line. The intricately detailed figure comes with a bonus 3-¾ inch Wolverine figure and is packaged inside a gorgeous window box that is wrapped by some incredible artwork. Expect a variant Sentinel Figure at Comic Con International: San Diego this July.
Fans interested in getting action figures of classic Marvel characters can expect a giant wave of them in the coming months. A few on display at Toy Fair included Imperial Guardsmen Gladiator, Yellowjacket and even Constrictor (but sadly, no Wonder Man or Dazzler). These will be released in various formats, single packs and 2-packs.
Not to be outdone by their Marvelous rivals, DC and parent company Warner Bros. revealed a massive haul of toys. Not surprisingly, many are tied to the June release of Green Lantern. The requisite action figures are supplemented by a number of top-notch entries aimed at collectors, including several statues based on characters from the movie, and rings and props based on the GL mythos. But wait, there’s more! Like Green Lantern Halloween costumes and board games.
Warners also showed off another license they have high hopes for – Thundercats. Fans have high hopes for the upcoming Cartoon Network series, and they’ll have plenty of merchandise to buy.
Speaking of popular 80s cartoons, The Smurfs are also in demand. Everything from collectible figurines to board games and plush dolls will be available for the 3-Apples-High characters. The majority of the products we saw are using the design from The Smurfs in 3-D, which is due out in August.
Fans of fellow 80s icon G.I. Joe are getting a special treat this year.Just in time for its 30th anniversary, the Sky Striker jet will be available again. The Striker had been off toy shelves for more than 20 years. According to a Hasbro spokesperson, the original schematics for the Striker were lost some time ago. Eagle-eyed Joe collectors will notice the new version has a few differences from the original.
Wondering about Star Wars?
The toy property by which all others are measured continues to strike a balance between offerings that look ahead and also tip their stormtrooper helmet to the glorious past. Coming soon are a new set of vintage figures from Return of the Jedi, complete with old-school cardbacks. We also saw the SDCC SW exclusive: a set of action figures with Revenge of the Jedi packaging inside a toy case shaped like the Death Star. The figures will include two exclusive figures – a mini Salacious Crumb and Mouse Droid.
For younger fans of the Force, The Clone Wars Republic Attack Shuttle is going to be a popular holiday request. So will the new FX Lightsabers. Now sporting a lighter plastic handle and shorter blade, the $35 lightsaber is aimed at younger fans. The metal-handled lightsabers, targeting the collectors, will still be available.
Fans of The Walking Dead comic and television series will have two sets of figures to choose from. McFarlane Toys is producing a set of deluxe 6-inch figures based on characters from Robert Kirkman’s bestselling series, and a separate set of figures based on characters from AMC’s acclaimed TV adaptation.
Some people may not know this, but even though it came out in 2006, Disney/Pixar’s Cars remains one of the five most popular licensed toy properties. With Cars 2 on its way, Disney is gassing up its money wagon for another profitable ride. More than 300 toys tied to the sequel will be released.
Disney is also betting there is still fortunes to be plundered with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. They unveiled various toys tied to Pirates 4, including 12-inch figures that bear striking resemblance to Depp and co-star Penelope Cruz.
So much to see, we barely had a chance to check out all the incredible collectibles targeting sci-fi and comic book fans. Giant-sized Modok and Thanos statues, R2-D2 sculpts, not to mention the incredible Predator statues.
So which toy line has you most hot and bothered?
Let us know which toy you can’t wait to get your hands on!
(Michael Avila is a writer based in New York City who is partial to the classic Mego figures. Follow him on Twitter for more pop culture musings)Click here for a gallery of images from the floor of Toy Fair 2011