Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sportcraft Bounce Houses Recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that Sportcraft has voluntarily recalled several models of their Bounce Houses due to a defect in the fan.

The recall includes the following models: “Castle Kingdom,” “Jump ‘N’ Kingdom,” and “Bounce ‘N’ Playhouse.” The bounce houses are inflated by a yellow, horizontal fan with model number, FJ4-330C or FJ4-330C2, printed on a silver sticker on the fan’s housing. Bounce houses with an “N” at the end of either model number on the fan are not included in this recall.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bounce houses and contact Sportcraft to receive a free replacement fan.

For additional information, contact Sportcraft at (800) 511-0675 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dark Knight Watch

Harvey Dent A.K.A. Two-Face will make an appearance in the next Batman film, "The Dark Night," Christopher Nolan's sequel to 2005's "Batman Begins." Last year, the film's creators announced that the Joker would play an integral part, which makes Two-Face the second announced villain for the 2008 sequel.

"Batman Begins" launched a new era for the Batman franchise and turned in the best Batman movie since the 1989 Tim Burton directed film starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker (no offense to fans of the 1960s movie, it's just a little before my time).

Hopefully this latest announcement of a second villain more than a year before "The Dark Night" arrives is not a sign that the latest Batman movies are going to follow the mold that ruined the previous batch by cramming too many villains into one movie. If we hear that Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy have also been added, I'll skip "The Dark Night" completely, stay home and rent the campy, 1960s Adam West film.
- J. McKinney

Monday, February 26, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Title (Platform)

300: March to Glory (PSP)
Chili Con Carnage (PSP)
Dance Dance Revolution Universe (Xbox360)
Formula One Championship Edition (PS3)
Jade Empire: Special Edition (PC)
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Wii Virtual Console)
Major League Baseball 2K7 (Xbox360, PS3, PS2, PSP)
MLB 07: The Show (PS2, PSP)
Samurai Warriors 2 Empires (Xbox360, PS2)
The Sims 2 Seasons (PC)
SSX Blur (Wii)

This Week's Poll

Barbie Vs. Bratz! Which is your favorite fashion doll?
Free polls from

Live With Regis & Kelly Update

Thank you to everyone who tuned in to watch Chris Byrne on Live With Regis & Kelly last Friday. We hope you enjoyed watching the show as much as we enjoyed being part of it.

If you are interested in more information on the toys Chris had with him, you can find a full list (in the order that they were shown) on our website,, by clicking here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Of Delta Zeta, Barbie and "South Pacific"

I've been reading with dismay, but not a lot of surprise, about the eviction of 23 Delta Zeta sorority members at DePauw University because a university survey said the general perception of the organization on campus was that its members were "socially awkward." (The New York "Times" article is linked from here.)

Apparently, the slashing of membership had to do with image and an external ideal of attractiveness. All the girls who were purportedly overweight (by our current anorexic, unehalthy standards?), and didn't conform to some stereotypical ideal of beauty, bluntly defined as an ability to appeal to frat boys. In reading all the PR from the national organization, I can't find anything to counter this perception, and the idea that the girls themselves did not sufficiently recruit for the organization is hollow. These women didn't sign up for a beauty pageant in which their one goal must be to appeal to a well-defined and proscribed ideal. (As much as the beauty pageants have tried to get away from being so hidebound in that matter, it still doesn't play.) They looked to form a sisterhood around the often stressful and sometimes isolating challenges of university life. The only plausible explanation is that the national organization of Delta Zeta feels that its membership goals and long-term financial stability are jeopardized by being perceived in a specific way--a way that devalues individuality and commoditizes women. And all of this is the result of one survey. As a researcher, that's just irresponsible. As a human being, it is upsetting in the extreme.

How has this happened in our supposedly advanced, educated and enlightened culture? Probably because it so clearly reflects some of our cultural values right now. And don't you dare go blaming Barbie, as always happens when people look for a scapegoat for outrageous actions based on appearance. Barbie had nothing to do with this.

How can I be so sure? Over the years, we've watched literally hundreds of girls play with Barbie and other fashion dolls. And while to the adult eye, Barbie looks pretty, cold and perhaps a little Stepford wife-ish, that's not the reality of little girls. It is her very nature that allows her to be the canvas on which girls paint their imaginations. It is plasticity in the very nature of the word because each Barbie becomes individual to the child who plays with her. In years of observing play and listening to children talk about their Barbies, we do not see them enacting, and thus reinforcing, social stereotypes about body image or appearance. Certainly not at ages 4-6, core Barbie years, when these issues are alien to them. Yes, we see them taking about "being pretty," but that largely has to do with the clothes. We have seen Barbies with their hair cut off, stripped and drawn on with a marker that take center stage in princess play. "Pretty" is an element of Barbie, but it is by no means the sum total of her appeal or longevity. Any Barbie player knows that if it's only about being pretty, there's absolutely no sustainable fun in the play. It's no wonder little girls naturally, and blessedly, resist keeping the doll in a package to look at and not touch. (Parents who insist on that are in actuality setting the stage for a belief that beauty is distant and untouchable and communicating that being--and staying--beautiful is the trump value over imaginative play.)

Barbie is first, foremost and always a springboard for the imagination, and we've watched as girls naturally progress from fantasy play, to real world play. Today's Barbie lines reflect that in a way they never have before with sub-brands like Fairytopia celebrating the magical world of a young child's imagination, and the wonderful Barbie movies that have, for the first time in the doll's history, provided narrative to the dolls and their world. For older kids, though, Barbie is about fantasizing about the future, and while Barbie is, of course, a bride, she has also been everything from a paleontologist, to a dentist, to a teacher and heaven only knows how many careers. (Mattel actually does. If they tell us, we'll spill.) (Oh, and speaking of brides, what little girls imagine largely is not being the bride herself, but being a flower girl, which is a much more achievable fantasy when you're 5.)

No, what has brought about the disturbing and offensive situation at DePauw is far more insidious and ingrained in our culture than any toy. (Toys and our perceptions of toys can only reflect our personal points of view anyway. The idea of a toy controlling behavior belongs in the realm of Sci-Fi and Chucky.) This situation reflects our clear culture values that value women's appearances and appeal to men over and above their intellectual talents and gifts.

Don't believe me? It's in the reality shows that reinforce the idea that "you're it or you're shit." It is in shows like "My Super Sweet 16," in which we watch girls getting attention for being spoiled brats. It is in the media circuses surrounding Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith who are famous for being beautiful. We lose our time in paying attention to these tragic freak shows when we should be paying attention to more pressing and important matters--like declining reading scores, the re-emergence of Al Qaeda and the health care crisis. (I know: Not as much fun. But how much fun can we take? We are anesthetizing ourselves 24/7/365 with entertainment in this country.)

So before you displace blame onto a piece of vinyl, call yourself powerless and absolve yourself of responsibility in this, think of the messages you are giving the children in your life. Time and time again it has been shown that the influence of the immediate family is what shapes our kids' perceptions. If you're complacent in the face of negative stereotypes being reinforced in the world, don't be surprised if your kids adapt them.

It is not and never has been Barbie or any toy that shapes perceptions or behavior. I was a little kid in the era of Civil Rights, and grew up in the emergence of the Women's movement. We were always taught to be accepting of others, to look beneath the surface. I can remember my mother playing "South Pacific" for us and explaining that the song "Carefully Taught" was really an angry protest against conventional practice.

Some of the lyrics go: "You have to be taught before it's too late./Before you are six, or seven or eight./To hate all the people your relatives hate./You've got to be carefully taught." I can still remember my mother sitting with us and talking about how every person is individual and every person has value. My father insisted that we treat everyone we encoutnered with repsect, no matter who they were. It has been a tremendous gift. I've met incredible people everywhere I've gone, developed friendships I would never have expected and just feel lucky to have met the people I've met.

Actions like those of Delta Zeta show how little we've evolved as a culture. The belief that value rests in physical attractiveness is promoted by everything from Hollywood to diet books to watercooler conversation. Sure, there are ideals, and we can enjoy them and revel in them and use them for entertainment. But when a university-sponsored organization buys into them, what are we telling people? Can we really devalue an individual on the basis of his or her genetic code? Evidently yes, and it is pernicious and depressing. Shouldn't we more feel Lieutenant Cable's bitterness in "South Pacific" at being disuaded from loving the Pacific Islander he has fallen for because his culture has been carefully "taught to be afraid./Of people whose eyes are oddly made./Or people whose skin is a different shade." In that one song, we one of the greatest stumbling blocks to advancement our culture faces. And, tragically, it's still shaping our world today, and it diminishes us.

When I read about the young women 86ed from the sorority they loved and how many of them suffered, not surprisingly, from depression for being summarily dumped for not matching an arbitrary ideal, my heart sinks. But when I look at the picture of them, I see bright eyes and faces and very attractive young people. So I just don't get it.

I expect they'll be all right once this passes. We can hope that Delta Zeta thinks twice about its decision despite the fact that the damage is done. They do, however, do us a service to point out that their shallow judgment can't really keep good women down, and how distasteful and potentially harmful it is to try to force people to expend their energies fitting an arbitrary standard and not imagining--and then becoming--everything they might be. That's the real message of Barbie, and the value of play at any age. Not to overly anthropromorphize a piece of plastic, but as Barbie would say, "You girls can do anything."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Chris Byrne on Live With Regis & Kelly Tomorrow

Our own Chris Byrne will be on Live With Regis & Kelly tomorrow (Friday) showing off some of the coolest toys from last week's Toy Fair show.

I'll let you in on a little secret, the show was taped today rather than the usual live format. The reason, is that the entire show is heading to LA for the next week. Chris would be telling you all this himself but he is still trying to untangle himself from Spider-Man's web. You will have to watch the show tomorrow to see what I am talking about.
-J. McKinney

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ahoy Matey! Don't Burn Me Toast

With the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, "At World's End," on the horizon (in theatres this May) we can expect lots of pirate booty at stores. Of all the pirate-themed items I've seen so far, the Skull & Cross Bones Toaster is by far my favorite. Not only does this stylish kitchen appliance have the familiar pirate icon tattooed across the side but it also burns the same image onto your toast. How great is that?!
-J. McKinney

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Title (Platform)

Backyard Basketball 2007 (PC)
Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich (PC)
Crackdown (Xbox360)
Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja (DS)
Maelstrom (PC)
Metal Slug Anthology (PSP)
Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner (PSP)
NBA Street Homecourt (Xbox360)
Q*bert (PS3)
Sonic and the Secret Rings (Wii)
Supreme Commander (PC)
Virtual Fighter 5 (PS3)
War Front: Turning Point (PC)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

An Early Transformers Treat

If July is way too long for you to wait for the Transformers Movie then you'll be happy to hear about a new comic book premiering this week, "The Transformers: The Movie Prequel". In this four-issue story, co-writers Chris Ryall and Simon Furman (The Transformers: Escalation) team up with Transformers artist Don Figueroa (The Transformers: Stormbringer) to create a story that will tie-in and lead up to the movie.

Look for the first of four books in this series on shelves February 21.
-J. McKinney

Friday, February 16, 2007

What's a Cubit?

Does anyone remember that old Bill Cosby bit, where God is talking to Noah? God is giving directions, and Noah, who's a little overwhelmed by the entire process suddenly stops and asks, "What's a cubit?" Seems like he isn't up on God's measurement system. It's pretty old, but still funny.

Even older than that bit are Noah's Ark toys. They have appeared in the U.S. since the 18th Century. Dickens writes about them. And, in fact, Noah's Ark was probably the most common form of hand-carved toys in Colonial America, after dolls.

While Noah's Ark toys have been around forever, they more or less dropped out of sight in the 70s and 80s, limited to specialty and religious stores. But that's all change in recent years. Fisher-Price, Melissa & Doug and many smaller manufacturers as well.

One line we found at Toy Fair truly blew us away. It's called Noah's Pals, and they're made by a company here in New York. What makes this company distinct is that it's not just allowing kids to act out the Biblical legend of Noah, the company has married kids' fascination with animals, their love of factual information and a passion for collecting.

The result is an initial group of 40 pairs of animals, a beautiful ark and human characters. Each of the animals comes with information about them--how common they are, whether they're endangered and their habitats. The sculpting on the animals is absolutely gorgeous, and (We love this.) the male and female animals are different in scale and structure. Plus, the more endangered the animal is, the more limited the edition, which adds to collectibility. This is smart, fun stuff.

Of course, we were taken with the Caribou because it's named Christopher, but that happened long before they met me, and it's a popular name again. (Wish it had been when I was a kid; I got teased for my name all the time.)

The other unique thing that this company is doing is offering special prizes and collectibles when you register on their Web site. Follow the link in the title.

The toy industry can be pretty rough, but we're guessing that this young company is really on to something, and we're expecting big things of them. We also want to know them if it starts to rain alot.

-C. Byrne

Thursday, February 15, 2007

“Laugh and Learn” Learning Bunny Toys Recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that Fisher-Price has voluntarily recalled the Laugh and Learn Learning Bunny.

This recall involves the Laugh and Learn Learning Bunny that measures about 10-inches tall. The yellow bunny with one green and one orange ear has musical and counting sound effects and the words, “Laugh and Learn” are printed on the bunny’s shirt. Product numbers involved in the recall are: K0468, K2960, K2961, K2962, K2963, K2964, K2965, K3440, K6898, K7884, L0327, and K5862. The product numbers are located on the fabric tag sewn to the body of the bunny. Only bunnies with three dimensional pompom noses are included in this recall. Bunnies with flat or embroidered noses are not subject to this recall.

Consumers should immediately take these recalled toys away from children and contact Fisher-Price to arrange for the return of the bunny to receive a voucher for a replacement toy of the customer’s choice. For additional information, contact Fisher-Price at (866) 447-5003 anytime, or visit the firm’s Web site at

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

30 Years Ago, in a Galaxy Called Hollywood . . .

George Lucas created a little movie that would change the entertainment and toy industries forever. Hasbro will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars film that started it all with a collection of 60 new 3-3/4-inch action figures from the entire Star Wars saga.

Figures will be released in waves throughout the year. Wave 1, which is available now, includes Galactic Marine (pictured), R2-D2, Obi-Wan with Grievous’ Blaster, Mace Windu, Mustafar Lava Miner, Airborne Trooper, Super Battle Droid, and the fan favorite, McQuarrie Stormtrooper. Each figure comes with a bonus collectible coin, which can be displayed in a full-color commemorative coin album (pictured).

-J. McKinney

More Than Meets the Eye

Last night I was one of a small group of people to attend the Hasbro Transformers event, where we were treated to nearly 30 minutes of footage from the movie. After watching several scenes in varying degrees of completion, I can report that the movie, due in theatres July 4, looks incredible!

Like most Transformers fans that grew up with the toys, cartoons and comic books, this is the movie I have been waiting for. Fellow fans will be happy to know, the classic transforming sound from the early cartoons is clearly audible in the movie.

Earlier in the day, I had a chance to view part of Hasbro's Transformer toy line. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee seem to be leading the line with a majority of the products dedicated to them. Products include basic and deluxe figures, such as Ultimate Bumblebee, which stands 14-inches tall and will feature animatronics action in both car and robot modes. Other figures will feature “Automorph Technology," which allows some parts to “automatically” move.

Look for most products in stores this June plus two "Protoform" figures of Optimus and Starscream (pictured) scheduled for release in May.

-J. McKinney

Zen and the Art of Toy Fair

Last year, Uncle Milton launched the Farm Fresh division to house their electronic and entertainment products under one brand. The first product, the Lightcast, is an interactive music light show that syncs to the beat of most external music players including MP3s, home stereo systems or personal computers.
This week at Toy Fair, Uncle Milton introduced a new Farm Fresh product that is just as cool and far-out as the Lightcast. Zen Dolphin is an illuminated dolphin sculpture that undulates along its base to the rhythmic sounds of the sea and songs of dolphins. The cool blue light and tranquil sounds will make the Zen Dolphin the perfect piece of decor for all sorts of rooms from nurseries to dorms to yoga studios.

After hearing the news earlier this week that napping is good for your heart, I plan to put a Zen Dolphin in my cubicle and schedule regular nap sessions.

-J. McKinney

Blow Up!

Coolest thing yet--and only $4.99!

We've been doing this for a couple of years...and now it's a toy.

As you probably know, Mentos and Diet Coke can create an explosive cocktail that can shoot an effervescent geyser up to 18 feet in the air. Cool.

We love doing this...outside. And we've tried all different kinds of sodas and find that Diet Coke works best, with Diet Pepsi second.

You may have seen the videos on YouTube. Heck, if you're young enough, your science teacher may have done this in class. This started as a science experiment that was designed to teach kids about catalysts and the reactions of the carbon dioxide in the soda. (I hope I got that right. Write in and tell me if I botched it.) Anyway, for years, science teachers did this "experiment" with Wintergreen Lifesavers, and then they changed the size so they don't fit in the bottle. The search was on for another catalyst. As any good science teacher knows, dramatic and messy is a great way to teach. (My 8th grade science teacher lit the gas jets so we would get it "out of our systems" and not have to try it ourselves. That was pretty cool and inspired my lifelong search for a personal flame thrower, which I have yet to realize.)

So, Science Teacher and Denver TV personality Steve Spangler has taken this to the next level. See, the problem with getting the geyser to work right is that you have to get the Mentos into the soda bottle and get out of the way quickly enough. Spangler has invented a patented (which means don't even think about trying this at home or in your little toy company because his lawyers will be all over you like a sticky soda pop mess) mechanism called the Geyser Tube.

The device is a tube that holds the candy and fits on the bottle top. Insert the Mentos in the tube, screw down on top of a soda bottle and pull the string. Blam. Now, the even cooler thing is that the top of the tube has a smaller opening, which increases the pressure and sends the geyser up about 30 feet--nearly twice the previous record. Spangler also has an exclusive deal with Mentos. (He's not just a cool science teacher; he's a smart businessman.)

The product is coming out this spring from Be Amazing toys, and it will come with your first roll of Mentos free. (The first one is ALWAYS free. Hee hee.) You're on your own with the soda.

We love this because it's totally cool, a complete mess and it works every time.

Plus, kids can say they're learning something. And, of course, as any scientist knows, you have to repeate the experiment many times to confirm the results. I wish I'd had someone like Spangler making toys when I was a kid. The "experiment" line only worked so much for me. My mother would be much more likely to believe that this soda thing was a science experiment than when we set off all those cherry bombs and scorched her azaleas.

- C. Byrne

Getting Desperate

We started the week thinking that Barbie v. Bratz was the doll news of this Toy Fair. As in: "who's the alpha doll." You know, something like Jasmin saying:
"Don't make me take off these earrings, girl."
While Malibu Barbie straight from a workout at the Santa Monica dojo goes all "Crouching Tiger" on us. And out.

Hasn't happened. Instead, it's the war of the press releases as Mattel and MGA send out numbers that "don't lie" claiming top status around the globe. True, numbers don't lie. But the interpretation of numbers can be flexible. As anyone knows, context is everything. So, while the kids decide what they want (and both lines look pretty awesome we have to say, though never more different in point of view and product), these two teen (albeit plastic) titans are headed for their ultimate smackdown in trademark court. (Kudos to Mattel for always taking the high road in this argument, BTW.)

Instead, the Toy Fair You-Go-Girl Award, Doll Category, goes to Madame Alexander. For the sassiest line of dolls we've seen yet.



Madame Alexander? The woman who in the 1930s gave the Sonja Henie doll the romanticized nose she thought the world famous skater "should have," according to Madame? The company that made a mint licensing the Dionne Quints? The company that has made every character from Jo March to the Wicked Witch of the West look almost exactly the same with the so-called "Madame" face?

Believe it, kids.

This is not your Great Aunt Tessie's Madame Alexander. The company has done a full line of dolls based on ABC's mega hit, Desperate Housewives. Now, for you folks who really care about the ins and outs of the toy industry, they've licensed the characters and NOT the actresses likenesses. This takes away a whole layer of approvals, but it also keeps the focus on what the true collector wants--realistic representations of the show in doll form. According to the designers, they searched high and low for the actual fabrics that were used, recreated specific outfits from specific episodes. And the result?

Wow! Totally amazing. Some of the most beautiful collector dolls we've seen in years. We don't think we're going anywhere near a limb when we say that for collectors, these will be one of the hottest scores of this year. What the Madame A. company has done that's so smart is focus on the beautiful clothes and hair, and given the "attitude" a pass.

Why does this matter? Well, for collectors it's all about the relationship between the owner and the doll. Collectors will see in these dolls what they want to see. They don't need the characters spoon fed to them. The designers have focused on the details and let the results speak for themselves.

I met Beatrice Alexander late in her life, many many years ago. She had very specific ideas of what girls and dolls should be. She started her company at her kitchen table and never wavered from her vision. And millions of dolls--and treasured memories for their owners--later, the company is still going strong. Better than ever, even. While lots of collector doll companies seem to be pushing the same depressed babies in god awful frills they've been pushing for years, Madame Alexander's entire line looks great. Really, something for everyone as a new generation of collectors emerges.

I only wish Madame were still around. I'd love to hear her take on girls today when the romanticized vision is not quite what it was--if it ever was. Madame was a practical woman, and a sound business person. I like to think she'd get a kick out of the Desperate Housewives dolls. She knew that the doll business was a lot like show business...and the only way to be successful is to give em what they want.

-C. Byrne

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Best Swag Yet

So, most of the major showrooms have lots of giveaways, things that are supposed to make you remember the product, or inspire all kinds of excitement about a given product. Most of it's so-so. We have no need, for instance, for another miniature Tangle puzzle, a stress ball in the shape of Heaven knows what and so forth.

It's rare that anyone gives away anything really cool.

So, generally, when we're being chased around by people who are pressing keychains of characters we've never heard of, we try to escape, but Hasbro and Mattel (natch, they're the hotshots at this stuff) have definitely come up with the coolest giveaway stuff.

...If you're lucky enough to get into the showroom.

Note to potential crashers: Don't even try to show up at these showrooms without an appointment. You are so wasting your time. And while many people try to come up with fake media credentials, many of these are by invitation only.

Okay--So over at Mattel, the super hot gimme is the bag of Mac Cosmetics that go along with Mac Barbie. Probably one of the coolest collectibles they have ever done. (That is to those of us who appreciate the dolls and do not devote our hobby lives to collecting.) It's an amazing marriage of all-things Barbie: fashion, aspirational, amazing design and style galore. The giveaway bag has full-size samples of the Barbie line of cosmetics. You can see them at any Mac stores right now. Click the title of this column to go directly to the M.A.C. site and find out more.

Hasbro has the hot boy swag locked up with a 30th Anniversary Star Wars Coin. (Lousy picture attached.) Hasbro says they had their best third quarter ever with the Star Wars line in 2006, and the line looks completely great. The collectible coin book celebrates all the moments in the movie, and we got our collection started Friday afternoon, with the exclusive Toy Fair coin. How cool is that? We wouldn't dream of putting this on eBay (Not that we'd ever put any of the rare collectibles we get up there.), but we're betting you'll be able to find a few up there.

What we can't understand is where are our Toy Fair Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars????? Free gold eyeshadow and Malibu Barbie lipstick will only get us so far!

Friday, February 09, 2007

News From Toy Fair

Toy Fair 2007 is off to a great start. Chris and I began our day with the Cheetah Girls who were promoting their new line of dolls from Jakks Pacific. The girls were full of energy and "Cheetah-licious", even at the crack of dawn. The girls took a few minutes to talk with Chris for our first podcast so check back here later for the interview.

Later, I toured the Mattel showroom, where I got an early look at some exciting new toys for 07 including a new Tyco R/C monster, TriClops, this year's Matchbox Mega Rig, Shark Ship, plus a new line of DC Superfriends action figures for preschoolers.

Keep an eye out later this year for The Batman Shadowtech, a line of gadget and tech-inspired figures, vehicles, and weapons plus Battleague, a new collectible battle figure game with miniature figures sculpted by the Four Horseman.

Radica has two very cool products from their GirlTech line, Video Journal and IM Me. Video Journal includes a digital camera and software that allows you to record and customize video journal entries. IM Me is a working wireless messaging device that works with a home internet connection.

Back at Jakks, I got a look at their latest Plug 'N Play device, the Eye-Clops. This digital camera magnifies objects up to 200 times and displays the super close-up image on your TV. You can use the Eye-Clops to closely examine any of the 75 new Pokemon basic figures coming out in 2007.
-J. McKinney

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Simmons Pedals as Mattel Peddles Active Play

OMG, it's Richard Simmons! Yes, it was, right down to the White-Boy afro, nylon shorts and tank top. The uber fitness guru, known for "Deal A Meal," "Sweatin' to the Oldies" and getting your grandma to kick box around her Hummel figures in paroxysms of fitness was the first celebrity sighting as Toy Fair opened unofficially this morning.

Simmons was in the ultra glam Mattel digs on 23rd Street in Manhattan to promote a knock out new toy from Fisher-Price--the Smart Cycle. It's a stationary bike that connects to the TV and lets kids play all kinds of games as they peddle along.

It's an amazing item that's perfectly designed for little kids physically and games are appropriate for the cognitive skills of a preschooler. Coming out later this fall, this is the perfect accessory for the family room where mom and dad keep their exercise equipment in front of the TV. Kudos to Fisher-Price. Kids can race, play by pedaling and interact with adorable onscreen games.

The bike is part of a whole initiative of active play that's being seen throughout the whole Mattel line-up. (More on that later this week!)

But Richard Simmons? Well, as it turns out, Simmons is advocating for the return of P.E. to schools and getting kids active, so it makes a lot of sense. Simmons is a passionate, outspoken proponent of getting kids off their butts. And the F-P product does just that--turning what might be passive TV gaming into an active, engaging adventure.

Maybe tomorrow we'll run into Bea Arthur in the Barbie room, or "gallery" as they call it.

Just kidding!

- C. Byrne

Star Wars PocketModel Trading Card Game

WhizKids has announced that they will create a constructible strategy game based on the Star Wars movies. The Star Wars PocketModel TCG combines a classic Trading Card Game (TCG) with a constructible strategy game (CSG), which gives players the ability to construct mini Star Wars ships.

The Star Wars PocketModel TCG is expected to be released at retail in June 2007, with a preview and samples available at Star Wars Celebration IV, May 24–28 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Mac Gamers Rejoice!

If you are anything like us here at theToyGuy (God help you) then chances are good that you use a Mac rather than a PC. If you also like to play video games, as we do, then you know how frustrating it is watching PC people get all the best video games way before (if ever) they become available for Macs.

Well boy-howdy do I have good news for you!

Software developer, TransGaming Inc., announced a collaboration with NVIDIA Corporation to develop a new system that would allow games to be played on Intel-based Macs. No word yet on when this will actually be available but it will probably be out way before SOE creates Star Wars Galaxies for Mac.
-J. McKinney

Toy Fair 2007

We're off to Toy Fair! Fortunately for us here at theToyGuy, that isn't very far as our offices are just a few blocks from the Javits Center.

Starting tomorrow, we will update you regularly with an inside look at what's happening at Toy Fair 2007.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Play Ball!

With spring training around the corner it's time to start thinking about baseball! We met with 2K Sports for a preview of Major League Baseball 2K7 and it's a definite homerun!

MLB 2K7 is a streamlined version of last year's game and relies on features that truly enhance game-play, while eschewing the more superfluous. Although 2K7 will be available on all systems, except Wii, it's the next generation console versions that will really knock your socks off. On the PS3 and 360, realistic animations are based on actual player's styles and real-time environments cause shadows to move as a game progresses.

Look for MLB 2K7 in stores early next month.
-J. McKinney

Easy-Bake Ovens Recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that Hasbro has voluntary recalled Easy-Bake Ovens, model number 65805. You will find the model number stamped into the plastic on the back of the oven

If you have purchased this model, contact Easy-Bake between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET 7 days a week to receive a free retrofit kit with consumer warning. Caregivers should keep the Easy Bake Oven away from children under eight years of age.

For additional information, contact Easy-Bake at (800) 601-8418, or visit the firm’s Web site at

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Star Wars MP3 Lightsaber

This image of a Star Wars MP3 Lightsaber has been traveling at hyper-speed through the Internet. If the details are correct, the MP3 player will feature 8GB of memory plus both USB and Bluetooth connectivity for wireless downloads. No word yet on price or when/if it will be available but you don't have to be a Jedi to foretell the success of this item.
-J. McKinney

New Games Due Out This Week:


Alien Shooter: Vengeance/PC
Capcom Puzzle World/PSP
Diddy Kong Racing DS/DS
Final Fantasy VI Advance/GBA
Lunar Knights/DS
MVP 07 NCAA Baseball/PS2
The Sims Life Stories/PC
SnoCross 2/PS2, Xbox
UFO: Afterlight/PC
Winning Eleven/X360, PS2, PSP, DS
War Rock/PC

Monday, February 05, 2007

Raiders of The Lost Whip

According to, there is a bit of trouble on the set of the new Indiana Jones movie. Apparently, new safety standards on sets will prohibit Indiana actor, Harrison Ford, from using a real whip, which will now be digitally rendered. Ford called the new rule "ridiculous", and said he would pull out of the film if he couldn't use a real whip.

We're not sure how accurate this report is but we will definitely be watching for more information.
-J. McKinney

Friday, February 02, 2007

An Afternoon at the Theater

February 2 -- On Wednesday afternoon, I took my 10-year-old niece Sara to see Les Miserables on Broadway. It was her first Broadway show, and we were in the fourth row on the aisle--almost right in the center of the action.

For months, Sara has been intrigued by this show--not necessarily fodder for 10-year-olds, but they always surprise us, don't they? She had listened to the score over and over and had asked her father, my brother, to tell her the story. She was ready to see the show.

For me, it was incredibly exciting to introduce her to the world of Broadway. I remember going to the theater a lot as a kid, and I remember how excited I was and how the theater has always excited me more than movies. (There's a whole discussion of learning/experiential styles that could go in here, but we'll save that for another time.)

As I watched Sara taking in the show from the corner of my eye, I was reminded why live theater is so important to kids--and I'm not talking about the big arena shows that feature oversized costumed characters, often on ice skates. (Heaven preserve us!)

There is something about the visceral emotion and the fact that live theater takes away the distance of movies and TV that affects and communicates with us in ways no other entertainment can. Sara became completely absorbed in the story, and connected to the characters in a very real, very feeling way. I'm not sure, happily enough, that she really understood the life Fantine was reduced to to survive on the streets of 19th Century Paris, but Sara certainly felt for the (admittedly nearly unending) trials of Eponine and Cosette, and she fully got the big, emotional moments of the story. There are plenty of those in Les Miz.

What was remarkable in talking to her afterwards was how her imagination had been engaged--and how it had kept her attention for three hours. Of course, the theater can never replicate the literal accuracy we see in movies, and so the imaginative mind needs to supply the missing elements that bring the story fully to life. Watching a live show, then, becomes an active process, one that demands the leap of imagination that allows the audience to interpret the abstractions and symbols and to understand and become immersed in the world of the show.

In the prologue to "Henry V," Shakespeare writes: "Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts. Into a thousand parts divide one man, and create imaginary puissance." ... "Think, when we talk of horses that you see them, 'printing their proud hooves i' the receiving earth." He knew the limitations of the physical stage even as he trusted in the limitless power of the imagination.

We highly recommend adding live theater into your child's experiences. It doesn't have to be Broadway. There are community theaters, touring companies, even high school productions can be compelling for younger children. Today's professional (and even some high school) productions are certainly more sophisticated than in Shakespeare's time, and there are more machines and marvels on the Broadway stage--and stages around the country for that matter--than ever before. But it still can't come completely to life without the individual's imagination. That's one reason it's called a play, right?

-C. Byrne

Disney Downloads Drum-up the Dollars

In an interview with the Financial Times, Bob Iger, Disney CEO, said the company has sold 1.3 million movies in its first three months via iTunes. According to Iger, Pirates of the Caribbean and Cars quickly pushed the number of movies sold over the 1 million mark.

Big Brother Returns This Summer

Variety is reporting that CBS has ok'd an 8th season of the summer hit, Big Brother.

The reality game show places contestants in a house where every move is captured on camera. Last summer's BB7 All-Stars, featured a group of housemates from earlier seasons, while BB8 will return to the normal, "real" people format.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Welcome to theToyGuy® Blog

All of us should feel this good when we're playing! This is me on Easter Sunday many, many years ago, but it captures a lot of the spirit that still informs the work we do today.

The sense of joy and wonder at the world, the desire to experience, explore and express through play is something that every child--heck, every person--should experience on a daily basis.

The purpose of this blog is to bring you news about toys, share information and points of view about different factors affecting the toy business and your life, give you insights into some new hot things on the market and share some of the wonderful--and often goofy--things we get to do.

But we're hoping that this blog has a serious side as well. There are many issues that we intend to share our views on, from raising kids in the current environment, to helping them to be conscious, careful and happy consumers. Our perspective is realistic. Our approach will be direct. We believe that there is never one right or wrong answer in any situation and that families need to make the choices that are right for them in the context of their values and family structure. Our mission is never to tell you what to do; we'd never presume that. Instead, we want to add another voice that you'll consider as you make your choices. We also know that the sources of information coming at you can be overwhelming at times, but we hope you'll find useful stuff here, and that we can be a kind of e-partner for you as you make choices, by products and help your family and your kids get ready for this rapdly changing world.

We're also here to support you, so let us know what's on your mind by emailing us at

Most of all, have fun, and keep playing!

Welcome to our Blog!

Wii Going To Party!

The popular Nintendo party game, Mario Party, is making it's Wii debut this March. The early buzz on MP8 is that the game will take full advantage of the Wii-remote's unique motion sensing capabilities and built-in speaker. You can also expect plenty of mini-games and more crazy Nintendo characters.

Look for Mario Party 8 in stores March 5. - J. McKinney

Our First Reader Poll!

Microsoft launched it's highly anticipated new OS, Vista, this week. We'd like to know what you think about purchasing this new

Create polls and vote for free.

I'll Take A Grande Dolce Latte and An MP3 Please

Last week, Starbucks announced potential plans to offer MP3 downloads in retail locations. Starbucks Chairman, Howard Schultz, gave a vague statement in which he said that the coffee chain will probably start offering some sort of downloading options sometime over the next 18 months.

theToyGuy® will probably give you some kind of update on this story sometime between now and 2012. - J. McKinney