James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance. Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.
As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.
He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, has contributed to The Toy Book and regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.
Learn more here.
After a surprise announcement and months of hype, Nintendo Labo has finally arrived. This new system links the physical and digital realms of the Nintendo Switch in ways that most would've never imagined, allowing players to "make, play and discover." It's such a unique experience, it's somewhat hard to describe without actually playing it, and I had a chance to do just that during an hour-and-a-half session behind closed doors with Nintendo at the 115th North American International Toy Fair back in February. But there's also a lot to be gained by watching others and seeing what their creations are all about, and for launch Nintendo has teamed-up with a guy that knows a bit about labs... Bill Nye. Check out the video below to see what The Science Guy whips up, then get creative and start sharing your own ideas.
The Toys "R" Us saga continues, and while this week hasn't been as explosive as some in recent months, there has been some activity worth noting. Earlier this week it was reported that the bid for pieces of Toys "R" Us operations in the U.S. and Canada by MGA Entertainment's Isaac Larian has been rejected for "not meeting the threshold" - a statement that left many to question what exactly that threshold would be. For Canada, we now have a number, and it came via a filing of notice for a stalking horse bidder. Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited has entered into an agreement to buy the Canadian operations for $300M in Canadian dollars - equivalent to about $237M US. Larian's bid for Canadian stores was $215M.
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 promotional activities for Lucasfilm's Solo: A Star Wars Story is now in full-effect, and that means quite a few new posters. I've enjoyed the western vibe of the U.S. posters, but now there's one out of the UK that is hands-down my absolute favorite. It's vibrant and I did it - plus Lando's bright yellow outfit really pops (see it below). Speaking of Calrissian, if you're like me, you've probably always enjoyed the idea of wearing a short cape like he does. Now, thanks to ThinkGeek (an affiliate of this site), you can have your own Lando Cape, and this slice of intergalactic fashion will only set you back around $70. Now, perhaps you want something a little less flashy - something more subdued that flips the switch between smuggler and scoundrel. In that case, you can pick up a Han Solo jacket very similar to the one worn by Alden Ehrenreich in the new film. Check 'em out...
If I were to spin back the clock a few decades and point my lens to a specific neighborhood and a specific house somewhere in the south suburbs of Chicago, I would be able to see a little boy that was dreaming of bigger things. Sometimes that child would be tuned into WFLD-TV Channel 32, watching Reb Brown and Nicholas Hammond as Captain America and Spider-Man in re-runs on the UHF band. During those shows there might even be a commercial for the incredible stories being told in the pages of Marvel Comics. It was a simpler time, and one where no one could've ever predicted how prevalent those characters would one day be around the world. Now, as the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to be released, that little boy is now a man - and one invited to walk the red carpet at the World Premiere of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War! As a guest of The Walt Disney Company and Marvel, I will be back in Los Angeles as part of a group of 25 writers, bloggers and online personalities as we experience the debut of the biggest superhero film in history as part of the #InfinityWarEvent - April 22-24, 2018! What's unique about this it that the World Premiere will mark the first time that the cast as seen the film... and like last year when the cast assembled at the D23 Expo in Anaheim to share in watching the first footage from the film together, somehow this kid from Illinois will be there with them.
The Hess Toy Truck is a tradition that I've written about many times over the years, and after last year saw the return of the summer Mini Collection (pictured top), news has arrived that the lineup for 2018 will be even bigger! Hess Corporation has announced plans to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the company's founding with three separate toy releases this year, each available exclusively at www.hesstoytruck.com. Of course the annual holiday Hess is always the big one, but this year there's something really special. Take a look...