Tuesday, 24 January 2012

59th International Toy Fair at Olympia London Starts Today

The 59th International Toy opens to the trade on Tuesday 24th January 2012 in the Olympia Exhibition Centre in West Kensington, London. The event continues until Thursday and, as for the most of the past decade, The Toy Detective will be there in the flesh.

In previous years, I've attended as a buyer for an audacious (but now defunct) children's department store and, of course, on behalf of the world's only Toy Detective Agency.

Alas, in my more recent capacity I've elected to visit the show incognito; or in other words: hatless.

To-day I shall egregiously break the convention that makes a gentleman remove his hat whilst indoors. Yes, no detective work required, you'll be able to find an identify The Toy Detective by witnessing an I.C. [whatever] male wearing navy trilby (and all the other garments I feel necessary to keep me decent).

Some of you, with a more modern sense of dress and (dare I say: fashion) may only see an almost black fedora upon my head; but never-the-less do say hello.

For the public at large, the international Toy Fair is a trade only event, that is mainly attended by buyers (decision-makers within chains of stores that choose which products a shop is going to sell), press and other industry insiders. However, you needn't miss out because The Toy Detectives (and many others) will report the highlights from the show so that you'll have a few clues as to what children want and what you might be spending your money on in 2012 - the year of the dragon.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Lego Christmas Tree at St Pancras International Train Station

Big smiles and lots of flash photography are often witnessed at St Pancras International train station. Most typically brought about by happy homecomings, bon voyages [sic] and by the occasional trainspotter. However, this week the arrival of a Christmas tree brought delight to the many thousands of people that pass through this unique portal to the continent.

Why would this particular Christmas tree rouse the interest of The Toy Detective? It's made of 600,000 LEGO bricks.

The 40 foot tall tree (comprising of 172 branches), all 1,200 baubles and even the star were made entirely of LEGO by a one-of-kind British construction company: Bright Bricks, with skilled labour also provided by the children of Edith Neville Primay School (Camden), Copenhagen Primary School (Islington) and the Harpenden Explorer Scouts.

Like scores of others, I stopped to take some pictures:

You'll find the LEGO Christmas tree on the shopping parade (which has a small Hamley's toy shop) beneath the Eurostar platforms, until the 3rd of January 2012.

Informer: Toy News Online

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Not the Official Top Toy List for Christmas 2011

Many toy industry organisations, retailers and manufacturers publish top Christmas toys lists. Rather than adding to the marketing hype and speculation, I usually keep my own Most Wanted predictions under my hat (usually a trilby).

However, in the last days of September I was asked for what I thought would be the top toys of 2011 by someone within the the industry. I hastily pick a few notable products that had been keeping The Toy Detective Agency busy in recent weeks. Below is an edited version of my email reply, which is no way our final verdict but merely a list suspects that parents may wish to apprehend as quickly as possibly if they are among their children's most wanted:

Octonauts Octopod Playset (£34.99)

Mattel brought this toy (based on both a series of books and BBC TV shows) to market in the UK a month earlier than planned, due an "unprecedented" level of demand expressed by parents. It's good to see Mattel respond, hopefully they will be brave enough to produce a large volume of units so that Santa does not disappoint. Otherwise this will be toy creating early morning queues outside toy shops. Australian parents have been buying Octonauts toys from private UK individuals at high prices.

LeapPad Explorer (£79.99)

LeapFrog vs. VTech is a lot more exciting than Apple iPad vs. every-other tablet computer to yours truly. I think LeapPad will be the number once choice among parents due to its makers good reputation with making reading-based electronic learning aids, its ability to encourage handwriting practise and also because existing Leapster Explorer software cartridges are compatible with this new device.

InnoTab (£79.99)

However, VTech's rival offering has its own advantages. An SD memory slot will make adding content extremely easy. With the built MP3 play, audiobooks could be loaded on the InnoTab for long journeys, or even homemade content by a parent could be added.

Moshi Monsters Tree House Playset (£20)

While Moshi Monsters soft toys will be high on Christmas wish lists, lots of pocket money will have all ready been spent on collecting the little plastic figurines; this is the perfect toy to extend their play.

VTech Kiddizoom Twist (£49.99)

Digital cameras continue to be popular with children too young to given a mobile telephone handset. VTech will continue to do well with this type of device.

Cars 2 Siddeley Spy Jet (£19.99)

Mattel and retailers want us to believe that Fully Loaded Finn McMissile is the most wanted Cars 2 toy. However, the die-cast cars are already in children's collections, so this plastic plane will immediately help re-create an exciting movie scene. Siddeley Spy Jet will be one o the individual products from the array of Cars 2 toys that will quickly sell this Christmas.

Emotion Pets Toffee the Pony (£59.99)

We all want to join the pony set and this battery-operated soft toy will make that dream a little closer to reality. UK store-buyers will probably order more of its rabbit stablemate Milky the Bunny as it a more attractive piece of plush, however, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Doggie Doo (£22.99)

There nearly always an action board game for young children that becomes a run-away success. Doggie Doo seems to be an instant funny bone tickler for its target audience. Not fickle humour, rather faecal-humour; apologies if you're looking forward to a meal.

Bop It XT (£26.99)

A frequent visitor to top toy lists over the years. Mainly because it's nice to give a toy to someone who thinks they have outgrown playing with them.

Zoobles Mama & Zoobling Nurturing Play Set (£24.99)

The Zoobles range has proved to be a popular new collectible among girls, so a desirable residence that is out of reach for most children's pocket money is bound to be mentioned in letters to Father Christmas.

LEGO Ninjago Turbo Shredder (£28.99)

All LEGO has play value and will sell to someone, however, I've picked the Ninjago line based on the number of queries I receive at my Toy Detective Agency. The Turbo Shredder is a vehicle with caterpillar tracks and includes ninja minifigures; need I explain more?

Lalaloopsy Large Dolls (26.99)

I adored the original incarnation of these dolls which are the perfect antidote to decades of over-the-top made-up and adorned to perfection fashion dolls. A favourite doll amongst this range would be cherished and the inclusion of a pet means a lot of play will come from just one box.

Nerf Vortex Praxis (£24.99)

Nerf guns continue to appeal to a menacing side of both children and adults alike. Praxis is my choice because, with a removable shoulder stack, it can be used like a sniper's rifle or a hand gun; there's also no need for batteries and it is pump-powered. The Vortex range has all ready enjoyed a holiday season in the USA.

Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Starter Set (£24.99)

A few seconds of video footage in a TV commercial will instantly make this a must have among young petrol heads. Parent will also be relieved that won't have to tread too carefully in attempt to avoid stepping on speedway in miniature.

Everything's Rosie Ring 'O' Rosie (£23)

Everything's Rosie has been a rather popular CBeebies TV show and parents have been frequently asking The Toy Detectives where they might be able to buy spin-off merchandise. During my many visits to a variety of toy shops and department stores, I notice that this range is often poorly stocked. Ring 'O' Rosie is my favourite soft toy doll from the range and seems to sell-out quickly.

Toys, such as, Let's Rock Elmo and other hyped toys will do well, however, I feel my own little musings are a better reflection of what real 3 to 5 year olds will be crossing their fingers for.

The Toy Retailers Association unveiled its own Dream Toys Dream Dozen at a press event in London last week. To view the full list visit our website: TheToyDetectives.com

Monday, 30 May 2011

Team Hot Wheels Set New World Record at the Indy 500

332 ft was the new world record jump distance set at this year's Indianapolis 500 by a mystery yellow-clad driver, later revealed as Tanner Foust. The driver, who has collected three X Games Gold Medals took the Four-Wheeled Vehicle Distance Jump Record in an event promoted by Hot Wheels, the famous vehicle toy brand from the Mattel stable.

The new world record beats the previous by 31 feet, while the main event at the Brickyard, the Indianapolis 500, celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Spectators watched as a masked driver sped down a 90 ft. ramp, suspended on an enormous 100 feet tall door and then across the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A design that mimicked the Hot Wheels V-Drop track set boys have played with on their bedroom doors for years. Many of the now grown-up and previously would-be stunt co-ordinators will have suffered an increased level of anxiety, having through childhood witnessed much failure in the set-up of their own Hot Wheels stunt tracks.

"As a kid playing with Hot Wheels I could only dream of experiencing something as outrageous as a life-sized V-Drop track set, and today it became reality," said Tanner Foust. "There's a lot that goes into being on Team Hot Wheels and the training and testing leading up to the jump gave me the confidence needed to push the mechanical and mental limits of the challenge and land the world-record title."

Foust is a professional stunt driver and has also been a three-time X Games gold medalist and two-time Formula Drift champion. His professional stunt driving credits include Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, Dukes of Hazzard, Bourne Ultimatum, Iron Man 2, and the remake of Red Dawn.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Sighting of Toy Tiger is Responded with Armed Police in Southampton

Members of the public in county Hampshire in the south of England thought they witnessed a white tiger lying comfortably (sphinx-style) in field near Hedge End, Southampton. Of course they called the police to alert them of a potentially dangerous animal on the loose.

The local constabulary duly scrambled the force's helicopter and dispatched their armed officers. Alas, it turns out that the tiger was a rather realistic soft toy; that only moved slightly when in range of the police helicopter's rotor-blade draught.

More and video footage via: The Daily Telegraph.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Colour-In: Mr Tickle

Hats off to Roger Hargreaves, the illustrator that created the modern children's classic that is the Mr Men and Little Miss series of book.

Mr Tickle was Hargreaves' first published book and became an instant success in 1971. He penned 46 Mr Men books and 33 Little Miss titles.

Born 9th May 1935, Hargreaves died of a stroke at the age of 53 on 11th September 1988. On what would have been his 76th birthday, Google has marked the date with a special set of 16 Doodles.

My personal tribute is a little doodle of my own: Mr Tickle, for you (or anyone else) to colour-in.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Colouring-In: Here Comes the Bride

As with tradition, this little sketch for colouring-in is rather late for a recent topical wedding.