Despite the fact that most American homes have toys in them (even those that are sans-kids), the general public still seems to know fairly little about the toy industry and how it works. Each year, thousands of toys hit the market, and for every one that makes it from development to production, there's dozens more that have been pitched and failed. While most toymakers have in-house development teams, a good portion of new toys are developed by independent inventors or design studios who turn around and either sell or license their creations to one of the major companies. As a toy reviewer myself, I see a ton of toys come into The Toy Testing Facility at Rock Father HQ™ each year, and I'm always on the lookout for current and upcoming trends in play (I'm also on the Parent Advisory Panel for The Toy Insider and have served as a Play Influencer for the Chicago Toy & Game Fair). That said, when ABC invited me to take an early look at their new competition series, THE TOY BOX (premiering TONIGHT, FRIDAY, APRIL 7 from 8:00–9:00 p.m. EDT on ABC), I was intrigued - especially since I was able to see it in the screening room at Pixar Animation Studios with Jen Tan, Creative Director of Consumer Products for Pixar - a mentor on the show. The premise: Toy inventors present their concepts to a group of mentors and a panel of judges (kids!) with an ultimate goal of making it to the finals, where the winning toy will be produced by Mattel and sold exclusively at Toys "R" Us immediately following the season finale.
The Rock Father™ is collaborating with Disney Pixar for the #Cars3Event
Over the course of four decades, I've had some adventures. In fact, some have been so unique, that I fully expect to one day become that white-haired old grandpa, who sits and spins tales so elaborate that younger generations don't know whether to believe them or not. As a grown-up, I've explored many career paths, my interests casting a wide net, quite possibly inspired by my own lineage. Even as a child, there were some uncommon experiences, and those adventures helped shape who I am today, though certain interests have gone dormant at times, only to be reignited somewhere later down the road. A love of cars and racing is a prime example, something once fueled by my dad's 70's/80's gig as a track announcer for UARA and World of Outlaw Midgets, and later doing NASCAR at the legendary (and sadly, closed) Santa Fe Speedway. As my adult life veered me toward exploits in music, television, film and writing, it was the birth of our daughters that brought all-things automotive back to the forefront. What we think really did it was Disney•Pixar's Cars... specifically, 2011's Cars 2. Addie was absolutely enamored by Lightning McQueen and Holley Shiftwell, and that ignited an octane-obsession that led to an impressive collection of Hot Wheels. I thought she loved cars... but her little sister has a passion that's even bigger. Those girls are responsible for "Rock Father Rides" even existing, and it's completely exciting how everything has all come together. Next week, I'll be at Pixar Animation Studios, stepping into the world of Cars 3! Indeed, The Rock Daughters™ are bummed that they can't come with for this one.
We have a tradition here at Rock Father HQ that every Spring, the Easter Bunny leaves the girls the new collection of Easter Hot Wheels - a set available in super-limited quantities at Walmart every year. While the Bunny has yet to find the 2017 set (I've spoken to him, and he's actively hunting), this year there's something else that Mattel has for the season, and it comes from the ever-growing world of Disney•Pixar's Cars. Available for a limited time, the Easter Cars assortment features vehicles and coordinating baskets that are based on the 2012 book, Mater and the Easter Buggy. Easter Lightning McQueen, Easter Mater, Easter Ramone, and yes, The Easter Buggy are all hopping into town... but the real trick is gonna be finding them.
If you watch the news, it's easy to feel down about a lot of things, and that's why I like to highlight some good news - like the occasions when an organization that I respect is making waves by doing good. The folks at Mattel are in the business of making children happy, and that extends well beyond simply making toys. One such initiative has been the UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital, and this week, Mattel announced a $50 million gift to UCLA Health that will fund an expansion of the facility, and "help establish a world-class pediatric care center and research hub focused on improving children's health."
One of the hottest new toys of 2017 here at Rock Father HQ is the latest American Girl - Girl of the Year (GOTY), Gabriella McBride. For the first time ever, the folks at Mattel revealed that their GOTY would remain available for the foreseeable future, and that change in routine was just the first move in what's shaping up to be a very big year. Ahead of Toy Fair getting started in New York this weekend, news has come down that American Girl will be introducing "a new series of contemporary characters and stories designed to speak to even more girls' interests, backgrounds, and experiences." It begins very soon - February 16 with the release of Tenney Grant, "a rising star in the Nashville music scene," and her drummer - American Girl's first-ever boy character, Logan Everett.
It was probably 1983 or '84, and at some point my parents bought me a set of Fisher-Price Construx. The cool new building set used grey beams with colorful accent pieces, connectors and plates that allowed kids like myself to create some interesting structures and vehicles. I distinctly remember creating "Doozer" towers at one point. While the line didn't really last long, the name has been used off-and-on, but not for awhile. Now, Mattel has resurrected the name as a new sub-brand to help better distinguish between the two main divisions of the MEGA Brands umbrella - now known as Mega Bloks and Mega Construx. The launch is in-progress, and I'm digging the new campaign - particularly, "The Beyonders."