They say that history repeats itself, and likewise so do trends. One trend in play that's back with some serious bite this year is everything jurassic. Yes, the dinosaurs are back, and at the forefront of popular culture that's being driven by the release of Universal Pictures' Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. While they might own the rights to certain stories, names and places, Universal can't lay claim to dinosaurs, and that keeps the gates wide-open for other toymakers to ride the wave of renewed excitement for the long-extinct (or are they?) giants that have been captivating imaginations for millions of years. For Playmobil, The Explorers are their new line of archaeological adventurers who are making their way into stores and playrooms with tales of a mysterious island called Roca, where dinosaurs continue to live peacefully thanks to a magical fruit. At the 115th North American International Toy Fair in New York, I had a chance to see the new collection first-hand, and the folks at Playmobil recently sent us the new Hidden Temple with T-Rex Playset for a hands-on review.
At the 115th North American International Toy Fair this year, I happened to come across the Imperial Toy booth and some of their latest offerings on the bubble front. For years Imperial's bubbles have been a staple of outdoor play, but one new spin on the classic is something that's been kicking around since 2015, gradually being improved and readied for its major public push. Created by a pediatrician and allergist,Lick-A-Bubble is a special solution that allows kids to create flavored bubbles from just about any drink (just stay away from dairy, pulps, and steer non-carbonated). And for the grownups, yes - you can use this with your favorite "adult beverage" - and that's exactly how I first tried them.
Last month, while browsing the massive Funko booth at the 115th North American International Toy Fair in New York City, one of my favorite finds was the new line of SNL POP! Vinyl Figures. The first wave will bring forth characters from some classic sketches - from Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg doing "Dick in a Box" to Will Ferrell breaking out some "more cowbell" as Gene Frenkle, there's even Tom Hanks' recent cult icon, David S. Pumpkins. But out of all the characters being brought into plastic for the POP! series, there isn't one that's scene more airtime than Bill Hader's Stefon. Since Hader recently made his return to Saturday Night Live to host for the first time, Stefon returned with him, and that makes this the right time to let you know that if you're a fan, you probably need his POP! These are available for pre-order now via my affiliates at Entertainment Earth, and will be up soon on the official Funko Shop.
Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War recently got a bump, moving into an April 27 release date for the much-anticipated film... the biggest comic book movie ever. With that, the toys started hitting retail a little earlier as well, and Hasbro has been leading the charge as the master licensee, bringing forth new ways to play as the Marvel #UniverseUnites. In celebration of the new toy launch, Hasbro sent over a special delivery to Rock Father HQ - a box packed with a sampling of new items from across their product lines - a little of everything that will excite families from kids to collectors. While I'll be sharing formal reviews in the days and weeks ahead, here's a quick edition of UNBOXED in which I crack open the case to find new Titan Hero Power FX figures, Nerf Assembler Gear, Marvel Legends 6' action figures, characters from the basic figure assortment and the new Iron Man Hero Vision - an AR experience that was really being touted at the recent 115th North American International Toy Fair in New York City. Check this out...
I'm a bit belated on writing about this one, largely because it's taken me a little while to really distill all of my feelings about it. On February 17, when I was in New York City for the 115th North American Toy Fair, I was an invited guest at Hasbro's "Fan Media" event at the New York Times building. This was a time, when amid all the new toys being unveiled for the year ahead, Hasbro welcomed a group of writers that serve some specific niches of pop culture and fandom. While the showroom was open for viewing of all toys, the big focus was on sites that cater to fans of the big franchises that Hasbro handles - Marvel, My Little Pony, Transformers, Power Rangers, and my personal favorite: Star Wars. As that franchise enters its 41st year, there's a lot going on, but the toy front is an interesting space in which there's a lot of debate about the type of merchandise available, and exactly who it's really for. This is something being discussed constantly within the offices of toymakers and retailers in addition to public forums geared toward passionate collectors. It was on that February afternoon that Hasbro unveiled a bold new initiative called HasLab, but just two weeks later it seems to be stalling. They have an absolutely incredible toy that could become reality, but is it arriving more than three decades too late?
Last year, PLAYMOBIL surprised audiences by getting into the realm of pop culture licenses for the first time. Now in their 44th year, PLAYMOBIL is entering their second year of licensed product by expanding upon the first to launch - PLAYMOBIL Ghostbusters. That line was a huge hit right out of the gate, and we were lucky enough to have received the Ecto-1 for review last year, along with the iconic Firehouse Playset as a gift from The Toy Insider. My girls and I were so into it that we eventually purchased all of the other sets. So with a collection based largely on 1984's Ghostbusters, it's only logical that the next step would be 1989's Ghostbusters II and the folks at PLAYMOBIL have done just that... but they're also looking for inspiration in a more unexpected place: The Real Ghostbusters.