Points of Articulation
What I miss about Toy Fair
The four days of Toy Fair are the high holy days for toy collectors. Every February, our hearts and minds turn toward the Javits Center in New York, desperate to catch a glimpse of our future. To see what toys will drive the hunt in the coming months. To set unrealistic expectations based on professional prototypes, so we can bitch and moan about the production models later.
Toy Fair is not just an event on the toy calendar - it is the event, challenged only by SDCC in the summer. But since SDCC covers comics, tv and movies even more than it does toys, it's a distant second. Toy Fair is to toys what E3 was to videogames: the State of the Union address that speaks to our hobby.
And it's always memorable, too. When a big announcement is made, some new property unveiled, it's huge. I still remember where I was when I first learned, at Toy Fair 2000, that McFarlane
Toys was going to be making an Ash figure. I know where I was sitting, what class I was in, which computer I was using, what site it was on and what time of day it was. I remember that like some people remember Kennedy being shot.
This year's Toy Fair was a success - at least as far as fans go. We got the latest scoop on dozens of lines from dozens of companies, as well as a few things we weren't expecting, which is always nice. Mattel seemed to get the lion's share of the attention, because this was the first reveal of where their ToY Award-winning DC Superheroes line was going in the next few months, the first glimpse of several new characters expertly sculpted by the Four Horsemen. Hasbro's offerings were sparse, as they decided to hold onto Marvel Legends 3 to debut at the New York Comic Con, but they had lots of movie figures to show off. Minimates fans have a lot to look forward to this year, not only from existing properties, but as the Minimate line expands to all sorts of new territory.
But despite all that, there was something missing. Something that we saw a lot of in previous years. What is that mysterious, missing thing?
The lines that will never see the light of day.
I remember covering Toy Fair for my old, pre-OAFE toy site,
and there were tons of things on display that seemed like cool ideas, but also wildly unfeasible. Mike Wieringo's Tellos was an excellent comic, but it only had six issues out by the time its figures were shown at Toy Fair (by Palisades, I believe). Was that ever going to be a tenable property? Sure, the designs are great and when you say "humanoid tiger fantasy warrior" or "shadow-hopping frog ninjas," it's easy to see why you would want toys of the characters, but honestly, it was just too early. What retail buyer was going to care about those?
Similarly, forgotten company D-Boy actually got some of its Warlands toys out the door, but their plans to do figures based on the Nine Rings of Wu-Tang went nowhere. Now, obviously,
Wu-Tang Clan ain't nothing to f#¢k wit; the Wu has tons of fans, but if you can't even get Wal*Mart to sell the cds, what are the odds they're going to sell the toys? Yes, the RZA and Ghostface Killah were redesigned to have a fantasy look (hell, I'd still buy that Ghostface if somebody put it out), and there was an animated film planned, but at the end of the day, you have to realize that no matter how you dress them up, you're trying to sell toys of the Wu-Tang Clan.
You go back through previous years' Toy Fair coverage, and you can find these unfortunately dead-end lines all over the place. This year, however? Most of the stuff that was shown seems pretty likely. Well, yeah, okay, Shocker Toys was there with their vaporware toys, but that doesn't really count. And some of the potential Minimate movie lines seem unlikely (Desperately Seeking Susan? No one is seeking that), but there will still be Minimates in stores.
It's not that I want toy lines to fail. Or companies, either. But the ill-fated offerings of yesteryear said something about the toy industry: they said the industry was healthy enough for people to take risks. A Toy Fair that only exhibits a lot of "safe bet" toys says that times are rough - something we already knew, but it's still depressing. So bring back the kooks. Bring back the failures. Make me want toys that will never be made. That's what I miss about Toy Fair.