Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hot Off The Presses!

LOS ANGELES - Call it magic or marketting mayhem but either way, Warner Bros., announcement that this summer's Harry Potter movie will open two days earlier is great news for fans. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth movie based on the best-selling books by J.K. Rowling, will open in U.S. theaters July 11, two days earlier than previously announced.

Warner gave no explanation for the new date of the David Yates directed film's premier, which was originally scheduled to be released July 13. The world premiere of the movie will be held June 28 in Tokyo, followed by a London premiere July 3.

Fisher-Price Recalls Rainforest Infant Swings

Fisher-Price, in cooperation with The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, announced a voluntary recall of the Rainforest Open Top Take-Along Swings.

This recall involves Portable Rainforest Take Along Swings with a palm tree mobile and two hanging plush toys. The swings are approximately 23-inches-high and have two carry handles on the left and right sides. Model numbers K7203, K7192 and K7195 are included in the recall. Model numbers are located under the right handle on the swing. No other collection of Rainforest swings or products are included in this recall. The recalled items were sold at discount department stores and toy stores nationwide from November 2006 to May 2007 for about $65.

Consumers should immediately stop using the swing and contact Fisher-Price for instructions on how to return it to receive a voucher for a replacement product. For additional information, call Fisher-Price toll-free at (888) 303-5631 anytime, or visit the firm’s Web site at

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

This is one of those weeks when I'm praying for a rainy weekend so that I won't feel bad about spending it indoors playing games. With Mortal Kombat debuting on the Wii, I know there will be plenty of flawless victories to strive for. It's also no secret that I am a huge Mario Party fan. If you have been with us for a while, you may recall my disappointment back in March, when I discovered the game had been pushed back to this week. Well, as soon as I publish this entry, I'll be heading up to Nintendo World to finally secure my party!

Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm/PS2
Forza Motorsport 2/Xbox360
Halo 2/PC
Legend of the Dragon/PSP
Mario Party 8/Wii
Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia/Xbox360, PC
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon/Wii
Pony Friends/DS
Shadowrun/Xbox360, PC
Surf's Up/PS3, PSP, Xbox360, GC, Wii, DS, GBA, PS2, PC
Tamagotchi Party On!/Wii
Tank Beat/DS

-J. McKinney

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hot Off The Presses!

New Line Cinema unveiled the highly anticipated holiday film, The Golden Compass, this week at the Cannes Film Festival by screening an exclusive sneak peek to audiences. This viewing marks the debut of the upcoming movie and sets the stage for a whirlwind campaign leading to the worldwide premiere of the theatrical release.

SEGA and New Line Cinema have partnered to create a one-of-kind interactive experience brimming with all the locations, characters and story threads that fans of the book have come to cherish. The partnership between New Line Cinema and SEGA created a flow of costumes, scripts, special effects and more to ensure the most authentic and dynamic videogame possible. Longtime fans will finally see the mysterious world of The Golden Compass come to life on the silver screen and on television sets across the globe.

In the videogame, players will assume the role of Lyra, the rebellious protagonist, or Iorek, the ferocious armoured-bear, as they embark on a perilous journey to rescue her best friend and Uncle. Joining Lyra on her travels through the frozen North is Pan, her animal-shaped spirit daemon, and the mysterious truth-telling device known as the Golden Compass.

The Golden Compass originates from the successful book trilogy called His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. More than 14 million copies of the books were sold worldwide and each book held position on the prestigious New York Times best-seller list. The upcoming film is directed by Chris Weitz (About a Boy) and boasts an all-star cast including Academy Award Winner Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Eva Green. The film also introduces newcomer Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra.

Click here for more information about The Golden Compass videogame. You can also view the newly released The Golden Compass movie teaser trailer here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Playful Perspectives: Age Appropriate Play

Playful Perspectives is our co-blog with Ty's Toybox. Today, we're taking on the issue of what's age appropriate. It's an important issue as we head into the summer, so read on. And be sure to read what Ty's Toy Box Mommy has to say. The link is at the end of this document.

Ah, little Throckmorton! Talking at 7 months, reading at just over a year, quoting Shakespeare at 18 months. So why is he playing with the box of of the Little Giant Cold Fusion Machine you bought him and not slicing atoms on the play room floor?

Probably because it wasn't appropriate for his age. Don't be mad at us for saying that!

Of course, we're being silly to make a point. However, if there's one thing we find that's consistent with parents around the nation, and the world for that matter, it's that for the most part they think their kids are the smartest who've ever been born. And, for all we know, they could be right.

But just because a child is a budding genius, that doesn't necessarily mean that at 3 or 4 he or she is going to be able to handle toys that are graded for kids 6 or 7. Why? Biology.

Kids develop at different speeds and different times. The child who walks early or talks early may not be more advanced than the child who talks a little later when it comes to things like fine motor coordination. That's why a lot of companies invest a lot of time and money doing research and studying child development to ensure that when they put an age grading on a package it's developmentally sound as well as graded for safety.

In recent years, we've found a lot of confusion among parents about this. And that's not surprising because there are two ways that companies put age grading on packages. The first, and most important for preschoolers, is for safety. Anything that has a small part has to be clearly marked that it is not for children under 3 years old. Moreover, parents should take care that in homes with multiple children that toys with small parts are never within reach of children under 3.

The second reason is based on ability to use the toy. Companies like Playskool, Fisher-Price, LeapFrog, VTECH and most others try to mark their packages very clearly to see what age a toy is best suited for. Here's a good idea: Listen to them. They've invested a ton of money in making sure all this stuff works and is satisfying for children, delivering a full play experience. Playskool has some helpful information about this on their web site.

Now, it's not that a child can't play with a toy that stretches him or her a little, but as with so many things, it's a good idea to take your cue from the child. We've seen children who were accomplished readers at a young age but whose physical abilities were not as developed as some of their peers. So, while they were reading well above their grade level, they might have had trouble and been frustrated by things with small pieces like models.

So why do kids play with the box? Well, especially with infants, it's because the toy appears too complex, and they can make the box work. When you watch a child playing with something--stacking rings for example--if their fine motor skills aren't developed sufficiently, they aren't going to be able to work the toy and will sit and chomp on the rings. Or they'll manipulate the flap of the box. That is actually a satisfying play experience at that age because the child is making something happen, observing the results and then doing it again. What may look like repetitive activity to an untrained adult is actually anything but. With each repetition, the child is learning and discovering something new. And, just like adults, when they stop learning something new, they'll stop being engaged. By that point they may be ready to pick up the toy.

Physical play is something that parents should be espeically watchful about. For example, children may all be in first grade, but depending on the cut off date for your school, there may be kids who have just turned 7 and some who are about to turn 8. There is a world of difference between these kids when it comes to things like Little League. Over and above natural ability, which will vary from child to child, there is the biological fact that children develop a lot in a year, and what was impossible at one point is suddenly possible not because the kid has learned but because he or she has grown into the ability.

The important thing is to watch your child and see what he or she is ready for. Allow them to naturally pick things up and always be supportive. A child who moves quickly and acquires skills will take the lead, and then you can provide all the help and materials you can. On the other hand, a child who becomes frustrated may give up on something and resist trying again.

We'll grant that your kid is special. (We'll grant that all kids are special.) Help him or her become even more so by making sure they're ready for the play experiences you offer. Learning mastery is one of the key elements of play and sets the stage for so many other accomplishments. Being supportive, rather than directive and taking the advice of people who do this for a living may serve you well in the long run...even if you still secretly think that Throckmorton could pilot the Space Shuttle at 5. (We'll wholeheartedly support you in thinking your kids are the best!)

That's what we're thinking on the topic. Check out the perpsective from Ty's Toy Box Mommy. And, hey, we'd always love to hear what you have to say on this, or any subject!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Looking over this week's major game releases it is apparent that there is something for everyone... as long as you have a system other than the PS3. This week's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the game based on the upcoming sure-to-be-a-hit movie, is an enjoyable action title that immerses the player in some of the films most memorable settings and locations. The hit Cartoon Network series, Naruto, makes its DS premier with Naruto: Ninja Council 3 - a fighting game that follows the storyline of the animated series.

Brooktown High: Senior Year/PSP
Chicken Shoot/DS
Dawn of Mana/PS2
Death, Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom/DS
Diner Dash/DS, PSP
Dreamfall: Game of the Year Edition/PC
Halo 2/PC
Legend of the Dragon/PSP
Major League Baseball 2K7/GBA
Marvel Trading Card Game/DS
Naruto: Ninja Council 3/DS
The New York Times Crosswords/DS
Odin Sphere/PS2
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End/X360, PC, PS2, WII, PS3, DS, PSP
Rush 'N Attack/Xbox360
Surf's Up/GameCube, GBA
UFO: Extraterrestrials/PC
WarTech: Senko no Ronde/Xbox360

-J. McKinney

Monday, May 21, 2007

All Hail King Shrek

Who would have guessed that an animated ogre would have the power to topple the web slinger? That's exactly what happened at the box office this past weekend as Shrek the Third, opened to a record breaking $122 million.

The third film in the wildly popular and successful CGI series, Shrek the Third posted the biggest animated opening of all time and the third-biggest opening weekend of all time according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. Shrek the Third, which finds Shrek scrambling to find the next king or be forced into the job himself, also bested the opening figures for the previous two Shrek movies, Shrek and Shrek 2, which took in $42.3 million and $108 million (respectively).

Here's a rundown of the top 10 films based on Friday-Sunday estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Shrek the Third, $122 million
2. Spider-Man 3, $28.5 million
3. 28 Weeks Later, $5.2 million
4. Disturbia, $3.7 million
5. Georgia Rule, $3.5 million
6. Fracture, $2.4 million
7. Delta Farce, $1.8 million
8. The Invisible, $1.3 million
9. Hot Fuzz, $1.26 million
10. Waitress, $1.135 million

Friday, May 18, 2007

American Idol Update

Apparently possessing an incredible voice just isn't enough to be chosen American Idol. Melinda Doolittle was eliminated from the contest Wednesday night and shut out of next week's finale despite the constant praise from all three judges. According to host, Ryan Seacrest, close to 60 million people voted in this week's contest.

That leaves 17-year-old Jordin Sparks going up against 25-year-old Blake Lewis for the title of the next American Idol. Who do you think deserves that title? Vote now in our poll located on the top right side of the page.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Halo 3 Release Announced

With the release of Spider-Man 3 earlier this month, blockbuster season is officially open. This summer is packed with big budget Hollywood films including the Transformers movie, the third installment in the tremendously successful Pirates of the Caribbean series, the next Harry Potter, the first Simpsons movie, The Fantastic Four sequel etcetera, etcetera. So it may come as a surprise to hear that many people in the industry are estimating that the highest grossing entertainment vehicle of 2007 won't even be a movie.

If past performance is any indication, Halo 3, the final chapter in the groundbreaking Halo trilogy, is poised to shatter any records set over the next few months for first day sales. Developed by Bungie Studios and exclusive to the Xbox 360, Halo 3 will set a new standard for gaming and entertainment by engaging consumers in an epic battle to save humankind when it is released on September 25.

Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled the multiplayer beta at a star-studded event in Hollywood. Beginning today (May 16), Microsoft Game Studios will kick off the Halo 3 multiplayer beta, which provides audiences around the world with an exclusive, early look at some of the multiplayer elements of Halo 3 on Xbox Live. Gamers who are interested in experiencing the multiplayer beta of Halo 3 can still participate until the Beta ends on June 6, by purchasing specially marked copies of the Xbox 360-exclusive title, Crackdown.

Halo 2 changed the way the world looked at video games when it was released in November of 2004, and generated a record-setting $125 million in sales within the first 24 hours. Three years later, it remains the most-played game on Microsoft’s Xbox Live online gaming and entertainment network, with nearly 1 billion hours of online gaming logged to date. Today, the Halo franchise has expanded beyond video games into The New York Times’ best-selling books, graphic novels, collectible merchandise and now a new, special edition Zune digital media player.

-J. McKinney

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

It's Shrek week with 'Shrek the Third', the video game in stores today and the movie arriving in theaters this Friday. If wasting zombies is a little more your speed, you might want to check out Resident Evil 4 for the PC. Although the main creatures are no longer zombies, they are now parasite-afflicted humans, the action is still top notch. Baseball fans have two new titles to root for this week with Major League Baseball 2K7 for the DS and MLB 07: The Show now playing on the PS3.

Aegis Wing/Xbox360
Code Lyoko/DS
Etrian Odyssey/DS
FreeStyle Street Basketball /PC
Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon/PSP
Major League Baseball 2K7/GBA
MLB 07: The Show/PS3
Nanny Mania/PC
Resident Evil 4/PC
Shrek the Third/PS2, Xbox360, Wii
SpellForce 2: Dragon Storm/PC
Soltrio Solitare/Xbox360
Taito Legends 2/PS2
Touch the Dead/DS

Thursday, May 10, 2007

American Idol Update

And then there were three!

It was Lakisha Jones' time to go last night as America voted and collectively agreed that Lakisha does not have what it takes to be the next American Idol. Once again, here on the ToyGuy blog we ran our own poll and asked you to vote. The results are in and you sent Lakisha packing. Proving once again, that our readers have their fingers on the pulse of what's happening.

The new poll is up so vote now!

Darth Vader on Line 1

The Darth Vader phone has got to be the coolest/geekiest of the Star Wars licensed products I have seen yet to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first film. Of course I want one!

Don't expect the Ewok celebration to play when this phone rings. Instead, you will be treated to the infamous Imperial March, while Vader turns his head seeking you out. The Darth Vader phone also features three different sound effects including a Lightsaber swing noise and Vader's mechanical breathing.

The Darth Vader phone is currently available in the UK and retails for approximately $36.00 (US).

-J. McKinney

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Battat Recalls Parents Magazine Toy Cell Phones

Battat Inc., of Plattsburgh, N.Y., announced a voluntary recall of the Parents Magazine Record-A-Voice Toy Cell Phones (pictured below).

Sold at Target stores nationwide from September 2006 to January 2007 for about $8, the toy cell phone plays different songs, sound effects and user recorded messages. They were sold in polka dot, swirl, floral and stripe patterns, and the Parents logo is visible inside the flip-top and on the battery compartment cover. Only items bearing date codes 090106 through 101206 are involved in this recall. The date code can be located on the bottom of the product packaging and in the battery compartment.

Consumers should take these toy cell phones away from young children immediately and contact Battat to receive a replacement product or refund. For additional information, call Battat, Inc. at (800) 247-6144 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or e-mail the firm at

Monday, May 07, 2007

Game Preview: The Bigs

Last week I met with 2K Sports for a preview of The Bigs, the larger-than-life Major League Baseball licensed title due next month.

In The Bigs, MLB players, stadiums, backgrounds and the action are raised to exaggerated proportions allowing players of the game to play a fantasy-like game of baseball. Each MLB player has been individualized to emphasize their athletic attributes while great attention to detail has been used to portray a player’s face and physical characteristics. Real life stadium landmarks and elements of the surrounding cities have been stylized to highlight the unique architecture of each MLB ballpark.

In game features such as button combination moves, the Big Player Meter and Turbo abilities introduce min-game elements to the traditional play pattern. There are also additional modes including Homerun Pinball, which places you in New York's Times Square where you use the surrounding lights and signs for pinball style targets in a homerun derby.

The Bigs, due in stores June 25, 2007, will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PS2, PSP and the Wii.

-J. McKinney

Thursday, May 03, 2007

American Idol Update

After last week's charity themed episode, American Idol returned to the usual elimination format but with a twist - two wannabe superstars were given the boot. Last week's votes were combined with those from Tuesday night's show and when the smoke settled, Chris Richardson, and bottom-three veteran Phil Stacey were sent packing.

We've been holding our own American Idol vote here on the ToyGuy blog (see poll in right hand column) and our results jive with those of the show. We asked you, who do you want to win American Idol? And, as of last night, Chris Richardson and Phil Stacey were tied for last place with both receiving just 6% of your votes.

Our poll has been updated and we are now down to the final four. So make you selection and feel free to come back and vote again tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Target Recalls Anima Bamboo Collection Games

Target announced a voluntary recall of Anima – Bamboo Collection Games manufactured by HaPe International Ltd., of Ningbo, China.

This recall involves the games that contain 38 bamboo pads, four ghosts, and one dice. The product’s packaging is an orange box with the words “Anima” and “BAMBOO Collection Games” printed on each side (pictured below). The recalled games were sold at Target stores nationwide from December 2006 through April 2007 for $10.

Consumers should immediately take the game away from children and return them to the nearest Target store for full refund, including applicable sales tax. For additional information, call Target at (800) 440-0680 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at