Running through this Thursday at New York City’s massive Javits Center, the 2014 Toy Fair is nothing short of nirvana for anyone who spends their days dreaming of action figures and other wonderful playthings. The annual event is the definitive gathering spot for industry execs, retailers, journalists and bloggers to learn about everything new in the world of toys. On Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit Toy Fair and check out what the major retailers — with the notable exception of Mattel and Lego, who never responded to our press requests, snobs — would be rolling out for the rest of this year and beyond. From the jaw-dropping to the unbelievably goofy, here’s my rundown of the best and worst that this year’s event had to offer.
BEST IN SHOW: Funko/Super7
When Funko and Super7 announced a partnership for the latter’s 3.75” retro-inspired Re-Action Figure toyline, few could guess it would result in such a surprising amount of offerings. This powerhouse team promises to shake up the industry (or, at the very least, the wallets of collectors everywhere) with their sheer volume of licensed properties, including Alien, The Goonies, The Terminator, Escape from New York, Pulp Fiction, Universal Monsters, Back to the Future, Firefly, The Nightmare Before Christmas and a collection of horror film icons that includes a downright adorable version of Sam from Trick ‘r Treat.
Elsewhere at the sprawling Funko booth, attendees could, um, marvel at the company’s new Guardians of the Galaxy Pop! vinyl figures. The Pop! line continues to be a licensor’s dream, with selections dedicated to such diverse offerings as The Flintstones, Ghostbusters, The Big Lebowski, Game of Thrones and many more. Speaking of GOT, Funko displayed some new 6” Legacy Collection figures based on the series that feature uncanny likenesses of the show’s stars. Dinklage fans, take note.
It’s clear with the volume and variety of items on display that Funko/Super 7 are aiming to dominate the collector’s market. The work on the Re-Action Figures alone is enough to send toy maniacs into a frenzy. When you look at their plans as a whole, what emerges is a portrait of confidence – one that will clearly impact the marketplace for years to come.
You know how unoriginal folks like to flex their Internet muscles by referring to this legendary toy institution as “Hasblow” on message boards? Don’t believe their nonsense. With the possible exception of the unstoppable juggernaut that is Lego, Hasbro is the world’s most identifiable toymaker. This year, the company had their own vast showroom a few blocks from the Javits Center on 41st Street. Separating themselves from the cacophony of the main floor was a smart move, as it allowed Hasbro the chance to show off their new wares in a calmer environment that allowed the quality of their product to truly shine.
Hasbro is the home to the Transformers, Star Wars and Marvel toys. As such, they pretty much dominate the boys’ toy market. (They have My Little Pony in their stable as well, but I decided to forego checking out their upcoming releases for fear of having to encounter any Brony bloggers). The most exciting items for me as a Marvel junkie were Hasbro’s Guardian of the Galaxy toys. They had several Marvel Legends figures, the unveiling of a new 2.5” line and a corresponding Milano Starship, as well as role-playing items, highlighted by a gun-toting, talking Rocket Racoon. Also making their Toy Fair debut were some new Marvel Universe figures, including a terrific Whiplash and, best of all, The Wasp.
Over in a galaxy far, far away (really just across the room from the Marvel stuff) was Hasbro’s latest Star Wars toys. While we wait for Episode VII, we must make due with some toys based on the impending Star Wars: Rebels series and the new Star Wars: Command mini-line of imposable versions of your favorite Star Warriors that come with a corresponding Millennium Falcon that can be used to callously run them over. Fun.
Down the hall in Cybertron, the Transformers took over a good chunk of space with their figures from Transformers: Age of Extinction.
In other words DINOBOTS!
There’s been much controversy about the One-Step Changers assortment which transform easier than traditional Transformers. I’ll leave it to you to debate whether or not this is a good move for the line, or just another example of how we are making everything super easy for damn kids these days and before you know it we will all be old and in nursing homes and hospitals and need these youngsters to keep us alive but they’ll be all like “Meh” and looking at the Twitter through their Virtual Reality helmets.
Uh, sorry. Anyway, Hasbro also unleashed a veritable shitload of their Lego-styled Kre-O toys featuring Optimus Prime and pals. These are just as awesome as you would expect. And, unexpectedly enough, they are also making Kre-Os based on Dungeons & Dragons. Insert “saving roll” joke here.
If there’s a complaint to be had it’s this: 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the G.I. Joe toy line. Yet with the exception of some Kre-O figures and playsets there was no Joe merchandise to be found. Hopefully this will change and collectors will get some proper figures to commemorate this event.
So yeah, Hasbro is impressive as always. Nothing too earth-shattering here, but the company doesn’t need to be. They have great licenses and history on their side. Now if they could only focus a bit more on their 3.75” figures they’d be perfect in my eyes again.
BEST RETRO TOY: The Mighty World of Marvel
The item that got the single best response from me at this year’s Toy Fair was Forever Fun’s remake of the old Marvel World playset. This beauty is a cardboard recreation of the Marvel Universe (complete with the Baxter Building, the Daily Bugle building, tiny replicas of characters both major and obscure, vehicles, etc.) created by the now-defunct Amsco Toys in the 70s. It was low-tech fun that featured art seemingly ripped from the pages of Marvel that encouraged kids to make their own adventures and it was amazing. So much so, so it goes for an outrageous amount of money on eBay and the secondary market. Well it’s coming back…with a catch. Forever Fun is releasing the playset in a few assortments, and the actual figures will be packaged individually in blind boxes. So you’ll have to do some footwork if you want to have a completely marvelous time in your home. The upside of this is that this new version of Marvel World is larger so as to be in scale with Hasbro’s 3.75″ Marvel Universe figures. Sigh. The “shut up and take my money” meme has never seemed more appropriate.
MOST JINGOISTIC PRODUCT: This John Wayne collectible truck.
USA! USA! USA! SPORTS! UNDIGESTED RED MEAT! NO FAT CHICKS! ETC!
BEST OPPORTUNITY TO DRINK BOOZE OUT OF TOM BAKER’S HEAD: Underground Toys’ Doctor Who mugs.
The perfect way to wash down all those jelly babies!
BEST BIGFOOT: Bif! Bang! Pow’s Bionic Bigfoot
Given that my Twitter handle is @bionicbigfoot, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this lovely version of The Six Million Dollar Man‘s sasquatch, a creature who was created by aliens to fuck up Steve Austin’s shit. It still bums me out that Bionic Bigfoot wasn’t actually a Sasquatch who was involved in an accident and then patched up by a team of Bigfoot doctors and sent back into the wild, but that’s just me. Cool figure though. (Honorable Mention: NJ Croce’s bendable Gentleman Bigfoot figure).
FIGURE THAT MOST MADE ME SAY “NOOOOPPPPE”: Factory Entertainment’s Archer figure.
The prototype on display looked more like Generic Black-Haired Guy than everyone’s favorite hard-drinking, womanizing super-spy/drug dealer.
BEST GIFT IDEA FOR THE SEXUALLY ADVENTUROUS PERSON/FIFTY SHADES OF GREY FAN IN YOUR LIFE: This game.
Runner-up: The Gimp from Funko/Super 7’s Pulp Fiction Re-Action Figures line.
BEST PHOTO OP: In front of Bandai’s booth.
That’s right folks, you can get your picture taken with the Power Rangers just like I did. Go go awkward fat guy!
And the rest….
MOST UNFORTUNATELY NAMED PRODUCT LINE: Jitz! (A line of shoelace and drawstring connectors for accessories). Oh god, I’m even uncomfortable typing that.
MOST OVERLY LICENSED FRANCHISE: Alien/Robocop/Batman ’66.
EMPTIEST SECTION OF THE JAVITS CENTER DURING TOY FAIR: The educational toys area. If you buy a child anything with the word math in the title he or she will hate you forever. And rightfully so.
MOST UBIQUITOUS GIVEAWAY: Nowstalgia Toy’s Wham-O tote. These things will be sitting in the closets of journalists and franchisers for decades to come.
PRODUCT THAT MOST CONFUSED ME AND/OR MADE ME SAD: A Bozo the Clown bop bag. In the year 2014. Indiana, let it go.
SHITTIEST TOY: A replica of the manure truck from Back to the Future.
WEIRDEST IPHONE ACCESSORY: Underpants for your phone. Apparently you have been diddling Siri every time you touch her button down there, you fucking monster.
MOST ANNOYING TREND: Mustaches. Not on the faces of attendees mind you because they are awesome, but rather trying to make mustaches happen as a fun quirky thing like everyone is suddenly Zoey Dechanel three years ago or some shit. There are a ton of mustache products at this year’s Toy Fair, from mustached pacifiers to cell phone doodads. Please stop it everybody, Portlandia is satire.
Be sure to check out Nerd Bastards 2014 Toy Fair photo gallery for more madness from the show!