If you don't want to terrify your children, don't mention the prospect of recycling toys. Not long ago, I happened to be watching a video about a company that recycles broken plastic toys into children's furniture. My girls came into the office while I was watching it, and within minutes they'd created an entire story about "the toy stealers who come at night," subsequently starting to hide their own toys for fear of recycling. In reality, it's not a bad idea, and while I don't really know the data on it, I can only imagine the massive amount of toys and games that wind up in landfills each year. Now, ahead of Earth Day, Hasbro announced earlier this week that they're launching a toy and game recycling pilot program with TerraCycle. During the pilot program, consumers can collect and send their well-loved Hasbro toys and games to TerraCycle, who will recycle them into materials that can be used in the construction of play spaces, flower pots, park benches, and other innovative uses. In 2018, Hasbro is piloting the program in the contiguous U.S.
As of this writing, we're closer to May than April and it's currently snowing where I sit here in Illinois. From what I've heard, it's not much better for my friends on the east coast, like my colleagues at The Toy Insider who've just launched their 2018 Spring & Summer Gift Guide. Technically, it's spring, and here at Rock Father™ HQ we have some of the items featured in The Toy Insider Gift Guide... we just haven't had the proper weather to use them just yet. Never separated by gender, the Toy Insider’s gift guide is broken down by age group and play category - with each category featuring a variety of products across a wide range of price points. Check out the links and details below!
It's Official: Isaac Larian Has Submitted His Bid to Purchase Toys "R" Us, plus other updates from Geoffrey's House...Written by James Zahn
As the ongoing saga of Toys "R" Us continues, there is some news to report. The biggest piece is one I'm a day late on sharing, but an important one nonetheless. After word hit yesterday that Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment, Inc. had placed his formal bid for a piece of Toys "R" Us, many reported the news - some with conflicting numbers. This morning I received an official statement from Larian's team confirming and detailing the bid and what it entails. The formal bid of $675 million has been placed to buy the U.S stores, while $215 million has been offered to buy the Toys"R"Us stores in Canada. The funds to purchase both the U.S. and Canadian stores will come from Larian's own coffers, additional investors and bank financing. Bid amounts were determined after careful due diligence by Larian, speaking with multiple investors and 3rd party experts.
As modern Star Wars fans, we're pretty spoiled in that since 2015 we've been getting new films every year. We've seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and this year we've got Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). And, as J.J. Abrams preps to shoot the Untitled Episode IX (2019), there's a new series of films from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, a new Trilogy from Rian Johnson and a live-action television series from Jon Favreau all starting to take shape on the horizon. With each new film comes a new range of toys and collectibles, and in recent years we've seen that skew largely toward grownups - the "big kids" who were once little kids when the Original Trilogy (1977-1983) was released, or even stranger to me - the kids who grew up on the Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005). Along the way, I think that sometimes what gets lost is the fact that while many Star Wars toys are being purchased by collectors, there's always new generations who are just experiencing the Saga for the very first time. With that in mind, Hasbro is peppering the release of their new toys from Solo: A Star Wars Story with some new offerings from their Galactic Heroes line geared toward the youngest fans - ages 3-7. And like all the new product launches, there's not only characters from the latest film, but also those from the the past... or "a long time ago... in a galaxy far, far away." My friends at Entertainment Earth sent over one of those new toys - the Star Wars Galactic Heroes 2-in-1 Millennium Falcon, and we're going hands-on in The Toy Testing Facility at Rock Father™ HQ!
Preview - Star Wars Pinball: The Last Jedi's Ahch-To Island Table, plus my Twitch Stream 66M Multiball!Written by James Zahn
On April 17, Zen Studios' Pinball FX3 takes another trip to a galaxy far, far away with the release of Star Wars Pinball: The Last Jedi Pack. This new DLC brings to all-new tables to the platform, and the first is Ahch-To Island - the secluded hideaway where Luke Skywalker has been living for some years before Rey caught up with him. This week, a new trailer for that table has been released, but also I had a chance to go hands-on thanks to the folks at Zen Studios providing me with an early copy of the game for Xbox One (it's also available for PlayStation 4, Windows 10 and Steam, as well as for Zen Pinball on iOS, Mac and Android.) I fired up my Twitch Stream last night for a first run, and the most fun I had was when R2-D2 helped to activate the multi-ball, leading to a 66,214,354 high score on only my second round. See the new trailer and highlights from my Twitch Stream below!
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...
With the full trailer for Lucasfilm's Solo: A Star Wars Story now online, it's only fitting that the toys are close behind. I had a chance to check out quite a few of Hasbro's new offerings at the North American International Toy Fair back in February, and on Friday the 13th of April, 2018 - they will be available for purchase! As of now, my friends at Entertainment Earth (an affiliate of the site) have launched pre-orders on a few items from Solo, with the promise that more will become available later this week (stay tuned as I'll be reviewing one of them). Check out the Entertainment Earth Solo: A Star Wars Story toy page, and see below for a sneak-preview of what's on the way.
Toys "R" Us CEO David Brandon Responds to Critics; Some Store Employees Get Bonuses; More Allege "Sabotage"Written by James Zahn
Imagine this... you're the embattled CEO of an iconic American company that is nearing the end of its 70-year history just under three years after you took the top job. You were placed into that position after a much-discussed and controversial run as the Athletic Director of a Big Ten University, during which time you were labeled "villainous", jacked ticket prices for students and families and allegedly retaliated against criticism from fans on a regular basis by attacking them via email - something that led Keith Olbermann to once deem you the "Worst Person in the World." Despite public rallies calling for you to be fired, your resignation and a subsequent book that detailed your epic failure at the college, you left with a $3M severance and were able to find work in 2015 thanks to the generosity of someone you worked for once before... Bain Capital. You see, they were running this toy store that they really wanted to be rid of, so you'd go on to tell the Wall St. Journal just that, and by 2018 you'd be giving your private equity buddies exactly what they wished for all while the public was starting to ask how someone with your experience and reputation could wind up running a toy store.
Last month, MGA Entertainment's Isaac Larian made headlines when he and "various investor associates" launched a GoFundMe campaign asking the public to help save Toys "R" Us. The lofty $1B goal was primed with $200M in the hopper, and while it's only pulled in $56K from the public thus far - that's still an impressive number. The reality is that Larian never really intended to save the company via crowdfunding, a fact that he noted on Twitter last week and backed-up in an interview with the L.A. Times. The real goal is to involve the public in helping to save Toys "R" Us and the American jobs that it supports by getting the cause in front of those with deep enough pockets to pull it off. It's no secret that I believe that the company could live on, and now the movement to #SaveToysRUs has a video. Shot at the Woodland Hills, California Toys "R" Us location, the clip features customers, store associates and even Isaac himself as they show the importance of America's last big toy store. Take a look...
Last year, Sesame Street broke new ground with the addition of Julia, a new Muppet with Autism. An old friend of Elmo's, Julia made her debut during World Autism Month/National Autism Awareness Month bringing with her a message - that we can "see amazing in all children." Now, as Julia celebrates one year on Sesame Street, the folks at Hasbro are bringing her into the toy aisle as a new neighbor in their Playskool mini plush line. Available now from Hasbro Toy Shop (an affiliate) and major retailers nationwide, Julia is a cuddly friend for children ages 12 months and up! See her below...
One of my favorite games from the past year has been Zen Studios' Pinball FX3. I have it for both Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, but it's cross-platform and available for PS4, PC, and even mobile. While it captures the pinball experience perfectly, one big draw is that they have access to some pretty stellar licenses, which means tables based upon some major players in the pop culture landscape. They've done The Walking Dead, Marvel, Universal Studios (ET, JAWS, Back to the Future) along with Jurassic World and a host of Star Wars-based sets. Now the latter is expanding with the announcement of Star Wars Pinball: The Last Jedi - coming to Pinball FX3 on April 17. Check out a trailer below, and if you're on Twitch, be sure to follow The Rock Father™! I've recently started streaming there and one of the games I showcase often is Pinball FX3.
I love hearing stories about how others are doing good, and when it comes to the world of play, there's little better than hearing about the creative ways that toymakers are giving back. I wrote a little bit about that in one of my recent columns over at The Toy Insider, and today I've got another story to share - this one from a true American icon: Radio Flyer. Their iconic little red wagon has brought joy to millions of children over the last 100 years, and as they point out, those "wagons have been used to carry stuffed animals, toys, books, friends and more for countless hours of playtime" But they've also been used by children and adults alike to lift the spirits of others – and Radio Flyer is celebrating these acts of kindness in honor of National Little Red Wagon Day. With their new "Wagons for Good" sweepstakes, you could even receive a donation of 100 wagons to be given to the organization of your choice!