US Toy Fair 2016 review: Frosty weather, hot products and even a bit of yoga

Billy Langsworthy

By Billy Langsworthy

March 3rd 2016 at 10:26AM
UPDATED March 4th 2016 at 12:14PM
US Toy Fair 2016 review: Frosty weather, hot products and even a bit of yoga

It’s a case of last but certainly not least when it comes to US Toy Fair’s position on the show calendar. Here Billy Langsworthy reports back from a chilly New York brimming with a raft of hot new launches.

It was a record-breaking year for the TIA’s US Toy Fair this year, and that’s not just because it played host to New York’s coldest Valentine’s Day ever.

The show welcomed over 34,000 attendees across the four days, as well as 1,250 exhibitors, 300 of which were companies new to the fair; a factor that TIA president Steve Pasierb claimed was part of the organisation’s on-going commitment to making sure smaller firms remain well represented at the show.

And if the sub-zero temperatures ensured my nipples entered the Javits Centre a solid three minutes before the rest of me did, things soon warmed up once inside.

Before you’d even entered the main hall, you were met with a giant inflatable of Yo-Kai Watch’s Jibanyan and a Banana-car (that actually drives) celebrating Bananagrams’ tenth anniversary.

Once inside, it was great to see so many fresh products and new companies that hadn’t already showed off certain lines at Hong Kong, London, Nuremberg or Birmingham.

In terms of the big hitters, Mattel continued its theme of bringing back classic toy properties (I’m looking at you View Master) with the revelation that it is reviving the ThingMaker, now hitting shelves in the form of a 3D printer.

Elsewhere, Hasbro unveiled the line-up of new Pie Face titles: an official Minions Pie Face, a festive themed Pie Face Holiday and the great new two player title, Pie Face Showdown (personally I think they may have missed a trick swerving the name Pie Face/Off. Think of the Travolta/Cage marketing potential).

Elsewhere, I got a soaking trying out Wet Head, while Wicked Cool Toys teased more on the return of Teddy Ruxpin and showed off its new tech-enhanced Cabbage Patch Doll, called Baby So Real.

On the game front, North Star Games’ Happy Salmon was a stand out. The ‘high-fivin, fin-flappin’ card game’ sees players frantically bump fists, swap seats and slap each other’s arms while screaming commands at each other. North Star usually distributes its titles in the UK through Esdevium, so watch out for that one.

Finally, a stop on the ThinkFun stand resulted in me popping my yoga cherry thanks to the firm’s new line of yoga games.

It was also great to meet with so many inventors over the show. Just as our own London Toy Fair celebrates start ups and inventors with the Greenhouse area, the student seminars and of course, the Inventors Dinner, the TIA has its Creative Factor programme, and the show floor was awash with inventors, including the creators of the 3Doodler and the man behind Eighties toy hit, Pound Puppies.

This year was also a landmark show thanks to the introduction of the consumer show, Play Fair. Deemed a success by the TIA, Pasierb told the press that moving forward, Play Fair wouldn’t take place alongside US Toy Fair, instead occupying its own space in a new autumn slot.

TIA also hinted at taking Play Fair across the US, touring different cities (although Pasierb was keen to point out that it would dodge Chicago as to avoid clashing with ChiTAG).

Outside of the main fair, there was the Toy of the Year Awards held at the American Museum of Natural History, which saw Doc McStuffins Pet Vet Checkup Centre from Just Play named as toy of the year. The choice of venue also resulted in the bizarre sight of an awards ceremony being held underneath a spectacular blue whale. Brilliant.

This year’s US Toy was also a special one as it saw the TIA celebrate its 100th anniversary. With plans underway to expand the Javits by a further 1m square feet, the future looks bright for both the organisation and the US Toy Fair, even if the weather doesn’t.