Toys and games of every size, shape, color and design imaginable stretched for as far at the eye could see. There pretty much was something for everyone: from wooden treasures crafted by hand to machine-produced gizmos fitted with space-age microprocessors; from plastic construction bricks to the vitamin-enriched drink whose bottle could be tossed football-like 100 feet or more; from centuries-old board games like Chess to modern video games like Skylanders…
And while there was a lot of playing going on, there wasn’t a child to be seen.
There were just adults – thousands of them, in fact – wandering the 375,000-square-feet of exhibit space at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan examining, handling, testing, discussing, photographing and ordering the newest and hottest toys available anywhere in the world.
That, you see, is the point of the Toy Industry Association’s annual New York Toy Fair. Now in its 110th year, the fair is the largest toy and youth product marketplace in the Western Hemisphere and gives toy manufacturers a place to showcase their products and retailers an opportunity to get their hands on the next best-seller.
With over 1,000 exhibitors and 150,000 products on display, Toy Fair 2013 began Sunday and continues through Wednesday (Feb. 13). No one under the age of 18 is allowed and admission is strictly limited to toy industry professionals and the media.
Patch was among the media outlets in attendance for the first day of the fair on Sunday. The 230 photos available for viewing above offer a glimpse of just some of the sights from among the rows of exhibitor booths on the various levels of the Javits Center.
A common sight were collectible figures and other replicas from the worlds of comic book heroes like Batman and popular television shows and movies like “Doctor Who,” “Star Wars,” "Game of Thrones," “Battlestar Galactica,” “Dexter,” and “The Hobbit.” All manner of athletic equipment was also on display, along with infant and preschool toys, dolls, stuffed animals and puzzles.
All the major manufacturers were on hand offering previews of new toys that won’t hit store shelves until later this year. The most popular brands, such a Lego and Mattel, gave tours of their products by appointment only.
Inside Lego’s exhibit space, visitors were treated to glimpses of new construction sets based on Disney’s “Lone Ranger” film starring Johnny Depp that hits theaters in July, as well as the “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” films. New sets for Lego’s “Legends of Chima,” “City” and girl-targeted “Friends” themes were also on display, as well as Lego Duplo sets built around the “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” children’s TV show on Disney Junior.
As can be seen in the gallery above, visitors were encouraged to take photos of many of Lego’s new products. But some new sets there were on display – like those based on the upcoming Disney film “Planes” and new Iron Man and Superman films – were off limits to cameras to prevent plot-elements from those movies getting out too early.
Other construction toys were well represented at the fair. Among them was New Jersey-based Soft Blocks. Larger and “squishier” than Lego bricks, Soft Blocks were created by Damian and Kristen Monteleone of Glen Ridge.
“We created them because of our three sons [ages 8, 6 and 1] and their love of building. Sometimes their little fingers would get stuck in the little plastic pieces. They needed something with a more substantial feel,” Kristen Monteleone said, adding that stepping on hard plastic bricks left out by their sons also served as motivation for the couple to create something less painful. “You can step on [Soft Blocks]; they can go in the bath; they can go in the pool. They’re soft, squishy, BPA-free.”
Using her 18 years of experience in product development in the cosmetics industry to her benefit, she secured the financial backing while he husband came up with the actual product design. They launched Soft Blocks at Toy Fair 2012 and at this year’s fair unveiled three new sets in honor of their one-year anniversary, she said.
Playmobil, the German-based toy manufacturer whose U.S. distribution facility is located just off Exit 8A of the New Jersey Turnpike in South Brunswick, designed its exhibit space to replicate the Fort Brave from its “Western” theme of toys. Among the new Playmobil products on display was “Pop Star,” a line that hits stores in August that features a stage with working lights and sounds and allows children to connect an mp3 device to play music through the stage’s speakers as if the toys themselves were performing.
“This is a North America exclusive. It’s only being carried in the U.S. and Canada. It’s never been sold anywhere else. We’re very excited about it,” said Playmobil’s Sarah Blair-Miller. “It’s classic Playmobil. It’s got all the figures, all the accessories, all the detail that kids love. But it incorporates technology.
“Our main focus with Playmobil is we want creative, imaginative play. We want you to take our toys and run wild and do whatever you want with them. So we try to give you a product that will spark your imagination, give you a jumping-off point,” she continued. “Yes, we’ll give you two [preloaded] songs. But why ask a child to conform to the music that you provide? Why not tell them to be an individual and do whatever music they want? So if you’re going to act out a pop concert, you should be performing the music of the concert that you’d want to attend. So that’s why we’re really excited to make it so the kids can incorporate their own personal music styles and choices.”