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As someone who writes about toys often (both here at The Rock Father™ Magazine and also over at The Toy Insider), I see a lot of new stuff. With that, I've been digging ABC's THE TOY BOX, in which independent toy creators find themselves vying for the attention of the judges in hopes of being crowned champion. At the end of the 8-week series, the winning toy will be produced by Mattel and sold exclusively at Toys "R" Us. Check out a preview of the week four toys below...

You may have already seen the headlines - an unusually large boom in ticks throughout the Midwest this year, all due in large part thanks to a relatively mild winter. The lack of a solid deep-freeze kept the tick population from dying off during their dormant state, and warm, wet conditions this spring are bringing them back en masse. We've lived in this house for seven years, and while I'd found the occasional tick while doing yard work (never bitten), we've never had an issue until now - and we've got kids and dogs. Two weeks, two daughters, two different species of tick - and last night we had an ER visit.

Thursday, April 27 2017 09:04

Cars 3: A Visit to Pixar Animation Studios

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Over the past few years, I've had the good fortune to have been invited to some fairly magical places that most of the general public will never have the chance to experience first-hand. Thanks to my friends at The Walt Disney Company, I've been able to go beyond the gates of several legendary facilities, including the famous lot of The Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios and ABC. While I've spent a decent amount of time at all of those places in Southern California (even dropping by the Animation Research Library and the former Imagineering center), there's a couple spots further up the coast that I've always wanted to visit, and I finally crossed one of those off the list with my recent adventure inside Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. As part of the promotional ramp-up to the theatrical release of Disney•Pixar's Cars 3, I was able to get a look at the campus where some of the most iconic animated films of the past few decades have been created.

If you're into Mattel's Hot Wheels, you may have seen the recent Forza Motorsport assortment of the Replica Entertainment Series that's been hitting stores, and now you could say that was just a little bit of foreshadowing. Hot Wheels has partnered with Microsoft’s popular racing game to create one of the coolest expansion packs – Forza Horizon 3 Hot Wheels – arriving on May 9 exclusively on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs (Xbox Play Anywhere) as part of the Forza Horizon 3 Expansion Pass or as a standalone purchase for $19.99.  A trailer just hit my inbox, and I'm sharing it below. Check it out, along with all the details on the new expansion. Something tells me that the recent addition of an Xbox One to my office is going to be commanding some more attention...

Updated with the Official Announcement and game details....

As teased last week, the Call of Duty franchise is returning to its roots this November with the release of CALL OF DUTY: WWII. At today's Worldwide Reveal Livestream (still happening as of this writing), Activision has unleashed the official reveal trailer for Sledgehammer Games' highly-detailed step back into the era of World War II. The team did extensive research for a war that they note still touches families (my own Grandfather served in the 82nd Airborne), and our first taste of that labor can be seen below. Check this out...

Having seen a big chunk of Disney•Pixar's Cars 3 during the early press days at Pixar Animation Studios and Sonoma Raceway last month, I can tell you one thing without giving anything away: Fans of Cars (and race fans in general) are in for an incredible treat come June. While I'll have more exclusive coverage and features rolling out in the weeks ahead, today comes something that we've all been waiting for - the official theatrical trailer. Sure, we've had a couple of "Extended Looks," some clips and TV spots, but this is the official trailer, just-posted by Disney•Pixar this morning. Take a look!

It seems that every day is [INSERT NAME HERE] DAY, and today is a day that I can get behind... #AlienDay! Indeed, today is a global celebration of the franchise launched with the 1979 release of Ridley Scott's Alien, and continuing on May 19 with the release of his latest film, Alien: Covenant. Now comes some news from my friends at PPW Toys that they're bringing the famed Xenomorph into an all-new form... that of Mr. Potato Head. But the Alien won't be alone, as Predator (or is that, Pred-tater?) will be in the PopTater mix as well, allowing toy fans of all ages to have a mighty Alien vs. Predator battle to see who ends up fried. Additionally, Ripley and the crew are also getting a set of Wooden Nesting Dolls as well! Check these out...

PJ Masks AmbassadorAs of this writing, National Superhero Day (April 28, 2017) is fast-approaching, and that makes for a great time to have a SUPER party. Parties don't need to be reserved just for birthdays, and sometimes it's fun to get the little ones and their friends together for an unexpected gathering. In fact, sometimes we even have parties here at Rock Father HQ that are family-only, but still a fun way to turn an ordinary day or night into something extraordinary... or super. One of our favorite themes here is PJ Masks, and after being requested by parents for over a year, official PJ Masks party supplies are now available at Party City! Paired with PJ Masks free printables from the official site and toys from Just Play, you can easily create a memorable PJ Masks Party for National Superhero Day, birthdays or any day!

For my annual Holiday Wish Guide last year, one of the hottest items featured came from Dynacraft in collaboration with The Toy Insider. Months later, the Dynacraft 24V Disney Princess Carriage (featured here) is still a hot item - and it's a head-turning ride whenever The Rock Daughters™ take it out for a spin. Available now as a Walmart exclusive (order here), the folks at Dynacraft are now asking kids - "What Does it Mean to Be a Princess?" In honor of National Princess Week 2017, kids (with the help of their parents) can create a 15-second video answering that question to be entered for a chance to win a Disney Princess Carriage of their own! Check this out...

The "toys-to-life" category has seen some ups-and-downs over the past few years, but the reality is that it's still an evolving thing - and probably always will be. Until now, it's been dominated by a mix of console video games paired with real-life figures, with Skylanders, LEGO Dimensions and the late Disney Infinity being the biggest players in the realm. This year, there's starting to be a shift toward mobile, with titles like TOMY's Lightseekers ramping up, but then out-of-nowhere comes Hasbro with a totally different spin on things. The Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio bridges traditional, hands-on imaginative and creative play with the digital world, allowing kids to craft real Play-Doh creations, and then scan them into the accompanying app. The folks at Hasbro (via Family Video Network) recently sent us one for review here in the Toy Testing Facility at Rock Father HQ, and you can see our hands-on video below...

It's been rumored for a little while, and today it's official - Call of Duty will return to its World War II roots this fall with Call of Duty: WWII, developed by Sledgehammer Games. Little is known about the game right now, but more intel will be coming during the game’s Worldwide Reveal livestream on Wednesday, April 26 featuring Sledgehammer Games co-studio heads and founders Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield.  Fans will be able to tune in to get a first look at Call of Duty: WWII and get intel on the studio’s vision for the game. Personally, I'm two years behind on my Call of Duty playing, but since I finally have an Xbox One, I'm really looking forward to a return to "Call of Duty Season!"

As someone who writes about toys often (both here at The Rock Father™ Magazine and also over at The Toy Insider), I see a lot of new stuff. It's also very common for toymakers to send me pitches either for feedback, or in hopes that I will review them or cover their crowdfunding efforts. Tonight marks the second time that something once pitched to me shows up on ABC's THE TOY BOX, with Emotiplush (emailed to me during a crowdfunding run in 2014) vying for the attention of the judges in hopes of being crowned champion. At the end of the 8-week series, the winning toy will be produced by Mattel and sold exclusively at Toys "R" Us. Check out all of the week three toys below...

As some of you might know, I recently visited Pixar Animation Studios for an early look at Disney•Pixar's Cars 3, after which I got to hit the track at Sonoma Raceway. As the June 16 release of the latest Cars film fast-approaches, back here in Illinois, families will be able to "meet" life-size, character look-alikes of five-time Piston-Cup champion Lightning McQueen, tech-savvy Cruz Ramirez and the sleek next-gen racer Jackson Storm THIS WEEKEND. The crew will be rolling into town to celebrate Cars 3 with local fans as the Cars 3: Road to the Races Tour hits the Chicagoland area for a stop at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, April 21-23, 2017.

Autobot or Decepticon? For years my wife and I have had both sitting in our driveway - each of our cars displaying separate factions of Cybertronian allegiance. Which faction would you choose? That's what Hasbro wants to know, as that've just announced “REVEAL YOUR SHIELD,” a TRANSFORMERS celebration that will offer fans five days of TRANSFORMERS content and product reveals, beginning on April 24th with the release of Hasbro’s first wave of toys and consumer products inspired by the TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT film. Throughout the week fans will be encouraged to “reveal their shield,” using social media, TRANSFORMERS.COM or the official TRANSFORMERS mobile app to declare their allegiance to the Autobots or Decepticons.

For the first time, I will be attending C2E2 in Chicago this year, and one booth on my must-visit list is that of Dark Horse. Some news came in tonight that following the success of 2016’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Adult Coloring Book and Star Trek: The Original Series Adult Coloring Book, Dark Horse will be launching two more volumes for Star Trek fans to enjoy: Star Trek: The Original Series Adult Coloring Book—Where No Man Has Gone Before and Star Trek: The Next Generation Adult Coloring Book—Continuing Missions. Personally, I may have to get the latter, as the phrase "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" is now in my head once more...

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