This week, Toy Fair season is in full swing, brimming with new innovation and forward thinking as well as some very familar faces. Robert Hutchins explains...
Five days in to the annual industry Mardis Gras that is Toy Fair season and this week’s Inventors Bulletin finds its way to you from a hotel room overlooking the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.
Like the platter of sausages and cold Kartoffelnsalat the night before, the early morning view of the Frauenkirche piercing a sky lit by the glow of a bustling Dunkin’ Donuts is one that repeats on me.
Having only arrived a matter of 12 hours ago and with my local knowledge limited to the hotel bar, a traditional Bavarian tavern and a shop packed to the rafters with wigs, I feel as well placed as any to make a sweeping first conclusion of this ‘city of toys’.
The contrast of the old and the new sat side by side throughout the city makes for an interesting cocktail of culture, and – as Toy Fair goers this season can only be too aware of – it’s a familiar flavour that runs through Nuremberg city and into this year’s big toy offering.
2016 is a year of the comeback for some of the children’s entertainment industry’s biggest properties, including the likes of Stretch Armstrong from Character Options, Danger Mouse from Jazwares and of course, the iconic View Master, that thanks to a new partnership between Mattel and Google has taken a futuristic leap forward to bring virtual reality technology to kids, and all without the psychosis inducing nausea of the 80s or the hefty price points.
So strong is the sense of reviving the classics this year, ToyNews itself even considered launching a campaign to bring back some of its best-loved toys, from the Atmosfear board game to the Boglins puppet craze. Perhaps thankfully these ideas never made it past the week.
But alongside the return of these classics, the toy industry is also seeing some big changes in both innovation and culture shifts.
Virtual reality and augmented reality appear to have never been so close to cracking the toy industry in a big way as they are now, and it’s encouraging to see a number of companies making some giant strides towards optimising the technology in very impactful ways this year.
Meanwhile, more and more we are hearing of major toy firms getting behind some ground breaking campaigns, too – including the ToyLikeMe initiative launched by journalist Rebecca Atkinson to bring more disability representation to the toy market.
Atkinson ended 2015 having managed to get some big names on board with the campaign, including Orchard Toys, Makie and Playmobil. She kicks off 2016 on a similar high, as only this week LEGO revealed it will be launching a figure of a man using a wheelchair accompanied by an assistance dog, as part of its LEGO City line.
The announcement has been called a ‘massive moment’ by Atkinson that will “speak volumes to children, disabled or otherwise, the world over.”
Long may the campaign reign.