Gaming tends to take over things. We get video games molding movies, video games infesting Facebook. At Toy Fair 2010, I expected to see gaming infecting and influencing toys. I did. But I also saw so many other delightful things.
See, you go to a Toy Fair in New York City's cavernous Jacob Javits center, where big and small toy companies are showing their hot next things, and you expect to see LEGO sculptures, maybe promoting an upcoming sequel to a famous movie.
You get to see the next Atlantis Lego set, the final Bionicle set and one of the first Lego board games.
Elsewhere you've got your people making purple sand. They're near the people shilling for the next Rubik's Slide, an electronic toy vaguely related to the Rubik's Cube in that you hold it with two hands and shift chunky pieces of plastic to line up squares. Trust me — or see our pals' impressions — vaguely R. Cube-related.
Maybe an electronic Rubik's toy is a sign of gaming's creep into the toy world. Maybe all those Halo toys and Prince of Persia toys I saw are too. I think I know what spurred many of the makers in the row of booths showcasing electronic toy guitar instruments. But wander over into the Gund area, and you're in a zone free of video game influence. All you can see are bears.
Or ride up the right/wrong escalator to Toy Fair's top floor and see a wall of little girls' ballerina dresses...
A perfect accompaniment to a haul of toy rifles.
The big gaming trade show E3 used to have a basement space called Kentia Hall where gorillas Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo would never exhibit but the people with the goofy and maybe just brilliant ideas hatched in their dreams and hustled into programming code, would hang out.
Toy Fair's got its share of Kentia, which, really is the best stuff. You can have your stash of Pokemon plushies at the Pokemon booth, located below a giant inflatable Pikachu.
My head is turned by the people from Uncle Skunkle Toys making a crazy, destructive multiplayer wooden blocks game:
Who but the cold-hearted wouldn't cheer for the nice lady on the other side of this show from the Mattells and LEGOs (Hasbro was in a whole other building!) who wanted to tell me all about Pancake Pupppies, which are plush dogs that have stacks of pancakes for bodies?
Down some aisles of Toy Fair, you have people selling the staples of toy stores: The paper airplane kits, the tricycles, and those little tent houses you can set up in the family room for the child who wants to get away from it all without getting away from the house. You have people selling purple sand, which apparently is an old idea.
DC Comics has a $300 Joker statue to sell. The Razor people have scooters and some little vehicle that a girl almost ran me over in. It is common, I learned, to create products that re-invent how people play catch, usually involving some new form of paddle connected to nylon and/or Velcro.
The people who make the iPong show up at Toy Fair, introducing people like me to the entire field of devices that will automatically serve you Ping-Pong balls. (I don't know if the iPong is the only one that looks kind of like an Xbox 360 Elite).
There are, of course, the toys that are hard to get, but interesting to be shown, like this one, which is explained with the aid of an impressive stack of paper.
Video games may have their Spore to teach a version of evolution. Toy Fair 2010 had Evolvems, "evolutionary transforming plush." Watch this video and you'll learn something, I promise:
Was there a trend at Toy Fair 2010, a trend other than people making inflatable dreadlocks or people making marshmallow guns? (Neither was a trend, actually, because each was done by only one exhibitor, I believe).
Well, maybe this was a trend, or at least my favorite concept of the show: Toys made from garbage. I found two companies, among the many showing off that they were eco-friendly (hey, that's the trend!) that were showing toys that were improved with garbage. Near the Lego booth, there was the Uberstix people, whose linked toys are designed to connect to cups and bottles and other stuff that might make the boats float or the planes drift in the sky.
Even cooler was Makedo, a company that sells you joints and pins and other connectors and gives you tips how to use them to bolt some cardboard boxes together and wind up with a robot or a house or a dog. (Click the thumbnails to see these bigger.)
Maybe these are the kind of toys that only work well at trade shows, not unlike all those toys I saw on TV when I was a kid that seemed so much more fun in commercials than they were when I played with them. They seem like a noble effort, at least, which I guess is the sales pitch.
Toys from junk... why not?
I can report to you that there were many entertaining things at this Toy Fair 2010. Video gaming's got its spot in the show, but it hasn't taken over the designs of most of what I saw.
Then again, how could games compete with the toys like the ones in possibly the best video I've ever shot in my years as a reporter?
Oh, and let's hear it for fun mirrors.
That's what I'll leave you with. My toy expedition is complete.