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James Zahn

James Zahn

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 writes a regular Star Wars column - Transmissions from a Galaxy Far, Far Away for The Pop Insider. He also 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.

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If there's kids in your home, there's a solid chance that you've found them tethered to a device at some point, and if that device led them to YouTube, there's also a good chance that they've discovered Ryan Toys Review. Despite the awkward phrasing (shouldn't it be "Ryan's Toy Reviews?"), the six-year-old toy reviewer is a global phenomenon, and with the guidance of his parents, his channel has become a benchmark that has spawned thousands of imitators, eager to pump-out colorful, kid-focused videos for the masses. Now things are getting really meta as Ryan himself has become a toy thanks to some crafty dealings by pocket.watch and the folks at Bonkers Toys. Previewed in New York City back in July during The Toy Insider's annual Sweet Suite, The Rock Daughters™ and I got an early, albeit brief look at the first wave of Ryan's World toys. Unfortunately, they were under embargo (not a fan) at the time and couldn't be shown officially, but now the toys are out there in the wild, having launched exclusively at Walmart (an affiliate) with more retailers set to jump on-board this October. So the big question... do the new Ryan's World toys live up to the hype? 

Sure, it's mid-August, but that means we're about to enter my favorite season of them all... Fall. With that comes Halloween, and for the past few years the folks at Disney Parks have served-up some stellar seasonal offerings, including a tradition in which a spooktacular new Droid from their ever-growing Droid Factory line would hit the streets. For 2018, R4-BOO18 is the latest Astromech to represent the Halloween season, inspired by candy corn and looking to spread some sweets to Cloud City or your city. Problem is, ShopDisney sold out almost immediately. While my fingers are crossed that they'll restock their supply, your best bet on this one might be to visit a Disney Park in hopes of grabbing one of these in-person!

It's not often that I get fully behind a Kickstarter project, but there's one going right now that I really believe in and they could use your help! One of our favorite toys of the past year came from a small company in California that most people have never heard of: ReadySetz. Their Urban Playset (reviewed here) quickly became a favorite with my girls for imaginative play, and for me as an environment for action figure and toy photography. For their next endeavor, they're going out-of-this-world with a much-requested Space Base Playset. I mentioned it recently in my Star Wars column over at The Pop Insider, and since then I've been brought on-board to photograph one of the handmade prototype playsets. As with the Urban Playset, the girls and I were blown away - so I can't wait to get our hands on an actual, fully-realized production model down the line. As of this writing, the clock is ticking and they're just shy of the halfway mark with just 10 days to go. Similar to when Hasbro crowdfunded their massive Jabba's Sail Barge earlier this year, the ReadySetz Space Base is seeing a slowdown in backers, so my fingers are crossed that we'll see an uptick here in the final days. By my math, they'll need to see another 250 pre-orders of the $65 large playset to meet their all-or-nothing funding goal. These sets are MADE IN THE USA and offer a durable, eco-friendly, easily-stored fold-flat design that's a perfect play space for all of your space-themed figures and vehicles! Will you back the base?

"Still absorbing." Those were the first two words that I shared on Twitter upon exiting the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood back in April, having just experienced Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War at the World Premiere. In my formal review, I would declare the film to be a "non-stop barrage of action that pushes the boundaries between Earth, space and the unknown." I desperately wanted to see it again, calling it "an experience that managed to excite and upset, captivate and frustrate, all while eliciting a range of emotional response from its audience that runs the gamut from celebration to sadness... often trying to find balance, much like that which Thanos seeks." Now, four months later, I've seen it again and have even greater appreciation for the massive undertaking of crafting the biggest movie of all time... right on top of what could claim that title next year - 2019's Avengers 4. With Infinity War now available on Digital and Blu-ray, there's a treasure trove of bonus features that will answer many questions about the production, while dropping subtle crumbs for what's yet to come from the Marvel Cinematic Universe...

Back in 2016, ThreeSixty Group announced the acquisition of the FAO Schwarz brand from the pre-bankruptcy Toys "R" Us, quickly making plans to resurrect it into retail. 2017 presented an unfortunate almost-misstep, with FAO launching pop-ups in Bon-Ton Stores (including Carson Pirie Scott and Younkers, among others) just ahead of that company's collapse. A minor hiccup in the grand scheme, FAO Schwarz put on an impressive show at the 115th North American International Toy Fair in New York City back in February, having announced plans for a new flagship location in NYC, along with a partnership with Hudson Group to bring stores into airports across the country. Now we know where the first location will be, and appropriately - it's in New York's LaGuardia airport in the redesigned Terminal B.

The multi-platform Marvel Rising is set to begin rolling out this month on Disney XD, and tonight comes a brand-new Marvel Rising: Initiation featurette. In the latest clip, Kathreen Khavari takes us behind-the-scenes of her recording process and answers the question – Who is Ms. Marvel? Watch her interview below and look for the premiere of Marvel Rising: Initiation on Monday, August 13th at 7:30PM ET/PT on Disney XD.

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