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The holiday shopping season is officially upon us, and as promised, the #ToyWars are in full-effect with retailers stepping up to serve families who may be saddened by the loss of Toys "R" Us this year. While the big guns have been getting much of the press, there's quite a few smaller, regional retailers who are upping their game, and one is an old favorite of mine - Blain's Farm & Fleet. Family-owned and with just 39 locations across Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan, they might not be a familiar name, but they're a store that I've always enjoyed stopping at, particularly as a kid. In fact, while the closest store to us is over 20 miles away, my mom still does occasionally check out the location near her for their annual Toyland tradition, and as of today it's open for 2018 - promised to be bigger and better than ever. For over 60 years, customers have lined-up in the darkness prior to the 7am store opening, but this year there's even more fun to be had.

Friday, October 19 2018 02:44

Will You Adopt a Horrible Fuggler for the Holidays?

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You know those stories about the "overnight success?" As is usually the case, for Fugglers, "overnight" is actually more like eight years - a fantastic story about how a random purchase of a bag of fake plastic teeth led to a series of handmade dolls sold on Etsy that eventually wound-up being picked up by one of the world's leading toymakers. Fugglers - short for "funny ugly monsters" - spent years being produced as one-offs, each crafted with care by their maker, Louise McGettrick. Their viral success led to celebrity fans like Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn (currently prepping a new Suicide Squad for DC) as images spread that erroneously pushed the idea that these creatures had mouths full of real, human baby teeth. Of course, they did not, but the rumors only helped the legend to grow, and eventually the Fugglers would land a new ally in Spin Master, the team behind PAW Patrol, Cool Maker, Air Hogs and other hot toys. The creatures would be refined and readied for the masses, officially infesting retailers including Target and GameStop this summer, and currently landing as one of just a few new toys to secure spots on both my 31 Days of Halloween and Holiday Wish Guide™ here at The Rock Father™ Magazine. Will you adopt one of these horrible, life-ruining creatures?

Zuru Toys is a curious outfit. On one hand, they have fantastic, original lines like their global hit Bunch O Balloons, this year's successful Smashers (now in Series Two) and one of my current Holiday Wish Guide™ picks - Rainbocorns Sequin Surprise (my girls LOVE theirs). But then they tread really close to other popular brands, releasing toys that there's no denying are at least inspired-by some heavy-hitters, perhaps stopping just short of being called something more unsavory... knockoffs. There's 5 Surprise, which as the name implies places five toys inside a round orb, no doubt taking some cues from MGA Entertainment's L.O.L. Surprise line, but packing-in toys akin to what you'd find in a 50¢ vending machine. Then you've got X-Shot, which is a straight-up competitor to Hasbro's NERF line; METAL MACHINES which is a value-priced diecast line that's clearly inspired by Mattel's Hot Wheels; Oosh which is essentially Educational Insights' Floam; you get the idea. Now they're chasing LEGO with MAX BUILD MORE, a new collection of "compatible" building bricks that's just launched as a Walmart exclusive (yes, that's an affiliate link because if you absolutely have to have them, I'll gladly make a few pennies on the deal - but you could also just shop the fantastic LEGO selection instead). In a press release, Zuru touts them as "a premium quality, value-priced toy brick line -- compatible with all major toy brick brands and offering unbeatable value for budget with hundreds of high-quality bricks in each set for a fraction of the current price."

The legend of the Calico Critters is getting bigger. Having checked out a small preview during Toy Fair this year and then going hands-on during The Toy Insider's Sweet Suite back in July, I can tell you that the new Calico Critters Town Series is a lot of fun. The detailed playsets and figures of the new Town Series mark the biggest launch in the past 10 years for their maker, Epoch Everlasting Play. According to the toymaker,  "the new collection takes girls to the next level as they move beyond preschool play to the early school years. It features a more elegant, sophisticated styling, and a focus on the lives of more grown-up characters, who have fun jobs that children can dream of having when they grow up." Following a special pop-up experience to celebrate the launch in New York City, little fans everywhere will be excited to know that the world of Calico Critters is coming to Netflix as an all-new animated series this fall!

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise, and as part of a year-long celebration, many products have been released that throw things back to where it all began... the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. The camp charm of the original series brought forth a host of memorable characters, but no villain has been more suited for the Halloween season than the big bad of the Power Rangers' 1994 "Trick or Treat" episode - the Pumpkin Rapper. While it was The Nightmare Before Christmas that really drove home the title of "Pumpkin King" for Jack Skellington, there's been many Jack-O-Lantern-headed creatures that have terrorizing (or amusing) the masses for years and the Pumpkin Rapper is one of the best! For 2018, Funko brought the character into the Pop! Vinyl range for an exclusive figure available Only at GameStop. I recently bought one at our local GameStop store, and it only seemed right that we took the Pumpkin Rapper with us to the pumpkin patch...

At the inaugural HasCon back in 2017, Hasbro hosted a special My Little Pony VIP fan dinner which included raffle prizes for attendees. The grand prize raffle winners were given a once in a lifetime opportunity – their very own My Little Pony characters that would actually appear in an episode of Friendship is Magic! At the dinner, two winners were chosen - Natalya and Thomas - and this weekend, their Ponies will appear in the Season 8 finale, School Raze. Earlier today, Hasbro sent over a new batch of photos showing off these new Ponies, and you can catch them in action when the new episode premieres on October 13, 2018 on Discovery Family.

Wednesday, October 10 2018 13:28

LEGO Overwatch Launches with Exclusive Bastion...

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Word started circulating earlier this year that LEGO and Blizzard were collaborating on some new sets based on Overwatch, and within the past few weeks the real teasing began. Now comes word that the first LEGO Overwatch set will launch as a Blizzard Store Exclusive. The LEGO® Overwatch Omnic Bastion Building Kit (75987) is a 182-piece entry into a blocky new video game-inspired world. Check this out...

Wednesday, October 10 2018 07:59

Toy Review: PJ Masks Super Moon Adventure HQ Rocket

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When I paid a visit to the Just Play showroom at the 115th North American Toy Fair back in February, one of the most exciting offerings was the expansion of their PJ Masks collection. Over the past few years, eOne's animated superhero adventure series has been a big hit on Disney Junior, and likewise the toys have done well for Just Play. The new season has brought forth some new adventures, new villains - and an all-new location: space. In fact, from the moment the first teaser arrived, our youngest daughter was asking when "the PJ Masks spaceship" would be a toy. Featured in my 2018 Holiday Wish Guide, the PJ Masks Super Moon Adventure HQ Rocket answers the call, setting kids up for an out-of-this-world adventure packed with fun features.

It's been an incredible (and unusual) year for toys, and as I happened to come across a small selection of FAO Schwarz-branded toys at Kohl's this past weekend, I was reminded that one piece of news that many have been waiting for is the full details on the opening of the new FAO Schwarz flagship store in New York City. Today, we know that November 16, 2018 will be the official opening date of the NYC store located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The new store will feature over 20,000 square feet of FAO Schwarz signature toys and items from partners such as Melissa & Doug, Marvin's Magic and Build-A-Bear as well as FAO Schweetz in partnership with IT'SUGAR. But that's not all...

In the midst of the always-unfolding saga of Toys "R" Us here in the U.S., this little bit of awesome flew under my radar until this morning. In a beautiful, 12-minute video that was published just as news was coming in that Geoffrey, LLC was cancelling the IP auction for Toys "R" Us and plotting some sort of return, Sculpture_Geek (Chris Vierra) pays tribute to Charles Lazarus' iconic mascot, Geoffrey Giraffe by sculpting him in Chavant, oil-based clay. After 70 years, was the story really over, or was it just beginning? Check out Chris' impressive work in the video below!

Tuesday, October 09 2018 09:06

BAKUGAN is Back: Will You Answer the Call to Brawl?

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"Imagine if you can, that you are a proud and powerful Gargonoid..."

The 10th anniversary of the original BAKUGAN series is approaching, and now there's news that it's primed for a relaunch. Spin Master, TMS Entertainment Co., Ltd., and Nelvana Ltd., have announced a coordinated project to bring BAKUGAN Battle Planet to the masses. Originally launched in 2008, BAKUGAN was an immediate hit and named "Toy of the Year" and "License Property of the Year" in 2009. Now, a new animated series and all the toys fans could want are on the way...

It's a sad statistic, but research from studies conducted at New York University, the University of Illinois and Princeton University has identified that girls as young as age five start to lose confidence in themselves, and even more disheartening than the research is that I've seen elements of that here at home. Despite the opportunities that my wife and I are tirelessly working to provide for our girls, the questions of self-confidence and self-worth have begun, and we see it often, particularly in our nine-year-old. There's many factors at play, and today a familiar name is taking a big step toward addressing them as Barbie announces the Dream Gap Project: a multi-year global initiative to raise awareness around limiting factors that prevent girls from reaching their full potential.

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