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The first in a series of features from The Rock Father™ celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Hot Wheels.

Since the launch of Mattel's Hot Wheels back in 1968, there have been hundreds (perhaps thousands) of playsets released, each providing an environment for generations of children to enjoy countless hours of high-octane imaginative play. At the center of that, the ever-updated range of garages has always been the pinnacle (we love our Ultimate Garage), but those were seldom portable - which is where the Sto & Go collection came in. Launched in 1979, the Hot Wheels Sto & Go Playsets perfectly reflected their name, packing big fun into a set that could quickly be flipped into a briefcase form that's ready to go wherever the family might be headed. Perhaps the most famous of the sets is the one that I had - the Hot Wheels Sto & Go Service Center, but there were several others, including the Sto & Go City, Construction Site, Car Wash & Service Station and lesser-known versions like the "Trucks & Trains" Railroad Freight Yard, Alpine Mountain Adventure military-themed "Action Command" Sto & Go Base. The line ran into the 90s before going dormant for a bit, but in 2016 it returned as part of the Hot Wheels Retro Style Series. Available exclusively at Target, the modern Hot Wheels Sto & Go Playset is not a direct copy of any of the vintage sets, but rather inspired by the best features of what came before it - largely pulling from the Service Center and City Sets. Check out the music video below to see this set in-action!

Published in Rock Father Rides

I've been out in Los Angeles for the past few days, working with The Walt Disney Company on a few things, but most importantly to attend the World Premiere of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War (film reviewed here). Today, however, I had an unexpected detour - a brief meeting with the folks at Disney Consumer Products & Interactive, specifically to check out the latest offerings from Marvel and Lucasfilm ahead of Avengers and Solo: A Star Wars Story. While many of the items have been seen before, there's some additional product in the pipeline, and I'm pleased to reveal a couple of new cars from Mattel's Hot Wheels Star Wars Character Cars Collection. I've been writing about that line for four years (see my checklist here), and with Solo there's new offerings, including Qi'Ra and the Imperial Range Trooper. These were photographed with permission in a private showroom this morning...

Published in Rock Father Rides

For the past few years, Mattel's American Girl subsidiary has been running into problems. Sales have been dropping by the double-digits as habits change (damn the devices!) and other companies' 18" dolls have started to catch up to them in terms of quality but at a lower price. Add in another unfortunate set of moves that were tied to the failing Toys "R" Us (TRU), and those problems have snowballed quickly. The launch of the lower-priced, 15" Wellie Wishers line never took off in the way that everyone hoped, and those dolls and their accessories were shipped heavily to TRU. Pair that with fact that about a year and a half ago (October 2016), American Girl opened store-within-a-store pop-up concepts in 97 Toys "R" Us locations, and that's an issue. Mattel is owed over $135M in the Toys "R" Us bankruptcy that they'll likely never see and the fallout has begun. They recently announced the closing of their New York City office (100 jobs lost), and today comes news that hits close to home - they're shutting down American Girl operations in Wilmot, Wisconsin, and The Mattel Toy Store is going along with it.

The details are light right now, but Mattel and Mills Entertainment have teamed-up to bring American Girl to life as an all-new traveling musical. AMERICAN GIRL LIVE! will feature all-original songs and "unforgettable experiences" based on some of American Girl's most loved characters. The show promises "fun-filled adventure, where exciting tales of bravery and friendship come to life, LIVE and in-person" as families join their "favorite American Girl characters, and some brand-new friends, as they follow their hearts and share their dreams, in a journey across time." Check out a short video teaser below, and look for more details coming soon, including tour dates and cities. I can reveal that tickets will go on-sale on May 18, 2018 for most markets...

As we roll into Toy Fair in New York, news is hitting hard... you could even say that we're slammin' over here. One tidbit of data comes from what's no doubt one of my favorite aisles - the action aisle, with news that The NPD Group reports that WWE had the #1 selling action figure in the U.S. in 2017, surpassing all action figure sales of other major entertainment brands and blockbuster films.* On one hand, that seems a bit surprising, but I have seen quite a few of my daughters' friends with WWE figures on a regular basis, and Mattel's new line of Superstar Dolls has also been a big hit here at home. Check out more from this morning's joint press release from WWE and Mattel...

Mattel163 will be a new home for developing mobile gaming experiences based on iconic Mattel Brands. The toymaker has announced a joint operation with China-based tech firm NetEase to launch the endeavor, which will leverage NetEase's "leading expertise in digital content and gaming." The first title is based on UNO, now available on Facebook Messenger and coming soon as a mobile app to iOS and Android devices. UNO  includes unique features and fresh modes of play, designed to appeal to a worldwide audience. Check out a trailer for the new UNO below...

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