Points of Articulation
Toy of the Year
The ToY Awards started back in 1998, when I was just doing reviews on my own. Yes, there were other end-of-year awards around at the time, but most of them focussed primarily on "child safe" toys, handing out praise for educational content, safety in manufacturing, and encouraging non-violent play patterns.
I wanted to honor the toys that older toy fans actually liked. ToyFare magazine had a similar year-ender, but when I started, they were nothing but whores to Star Wars. Then they went out of their way to ignore McFarlane. Plus, they had a tendency to include toys to which they as a news outlet had access,
but normal collectors did not; things that they had received as samples, but weren't due on the shelf for a few months.
Thus, the ToYs were born. The ToYs are the voice of the real fan community, covering what's really the best of the best. What started out as one "best of" award has grown and expanded to include a few more categories, but still: they're all the best of the best. We've even inspired a few imitators, but when you want the real toy of the year, you head for the Toy of the Year.
- Master Weng
- For a line that started as "third party Ninja Turtles," FuRay Planet had finally moved into being its own thing. Blade Master Weng is a giant, armored, kung fu tiger, and while the toy does cost nearly $100, it's also more than 8½" tall, highly poseable, excellently painted, and has very detailed accessories.
Other nominees included Scraphook, a new character and a lot of fun to play with
• Final Faction Crawlers, two for a buck and a quarter
• Warduke, updating an obscure 80s icon
• the cartoon-accurate Leo Prime
• Avengers 60th Anniversary Hawkeye and Sky-Cycle
• Classifed Rock 'n Roll, who proved this line doesn't need to be a slave to nostalgia
- Best Line
- MotU Masterverse
- This line continues to blend a few Netflix designs with the "New Eternia" stuff, which is basically a second crack at doing "Classics," but available at mass retail instead of only being online. The toys are better than MotU Classics were (though the scale is even larger) and even with corporate "greedflation" being allowed to run free, they cost less than those online figures, too. They're not above putting some wildly obscure character choices right into the main line alongside the big, recognizable names, and they're honoring all the eras of the brand. Plus, we had to pick them now, since this is our last chance due to Mattel not being able to continue them next year! /s
Other nominees included the Four Horsemen branching their Mythic Legions out into space with the Cosmic Legions
• Jada Toys' Street Fighter line may be small so far, but the toys are quality and the packaging is clever
• the variety and quality of Transformers Legacy Evolution
• Bandai's Game Dimensions, which started with Tekken and features 6" scale figures with cool accessories for a not-terrible price
• Saurozoic Warriors is a fun new concept from Boss Fight, but feels straight from the '90s
- Best Accessory
- Title Graphics
- You know it's a good accessory when it makes you want to use it with more than just its own intended toyline. Consider the way Chuckles' lei can turn any figure into a Tropical Party variant. This year's ultimate "give it to anybody" piece has to be the "Ready" and "Round 1" signs included with Bandai's Game Dimensions Tekken figures. Even if Kazuya and Heihachi don't look quite as good as you might like, getting hovering signs you can put in front of literally any other toys to create a scene helps push them into the "buy" column. Optimus Prime and Megatron? Hulk and Wolverine? Optimus Prime and Wolverine? Anybody at all can fight it out now at your whim.
Other nominees included Robocop's chair, making a double-dip feel better
• the Inner Demons' extra heads make buying multiple sets a must
• Hawkeye's Sky Cycle is a classic piece of equipment
• the clock that mattered so much to the Masque of the Red Death
• Princess Peach's blue shell
• the Darkhold justifying a Scarlet Witch repaint
• JP12's shaving cream canister
• a seasonal Halloween camtono and candy
• no one would want Walter Donovan without his zombie head
• Mythic Legions Duban's bird, Vedrfolnir
• Presto's magic hat
• the mystery and appeal of a giant egg
• a can of leaking mutagen to mutate some turtles
• MAFEX Terminator 2's thumbs up hand, a piece that is a no-brainer in hindsight, but no one thought of before.
- Best Packaging
- Transformers x Stranger Things Code Red
- Not only is this the easiest-to-get TF Collaborative project yet (being crazy plentiful at every Target in the land), the packaging is designed to look like a pizza box from the show. But not just on the outside, the inside has an actual pizza printed on it, and the interior top and bottom of the box have printed grease stains to make it look even more realistic. There are a pair of glasses, straight from the show, that you can punch out and wear, and the toy itself is wrapped in paper that looks like a crumpled napkin someone's been doodling on. If Code Red himself were any less impressive, he'd be totally overshadowed by this box.
Other nominees included NECA's Archie TMNT boxes
• the 3¾" Indiana Jones retro cards and Adventure Series boxes
• the artful Street Fighter Rangers
• new colors on the AEW Street Fighters
• NECA's Gargoyles art
• more partygoers in the Masque of the Red Death
• Jacob Marley's wraparound including a Scrooge for him to yell at
• the joined art on the sides of the D&D Cartoon Classics
• a rainy hill for Dilophocon and JP12
• the insert creating an ethereal glow for Ghost Jaga
• Jada Toys' Street Fighter arcade cabinets
• Hasbro including fun visual Easter eggs on the GI Joe Classified artwork
- Best Build-A-Figure
- Like that review says, Khonshu was the first BAF of 2023, and he set a high mark that some others came close to, but none surpassed. There were Build-A-Figures that convinced you to buy a bunch of figures all wearing the same uniform, there were Build-A-Figures that got you to rebuy older molds you might already own with new stylized paint, there were even Build-A-Figures that got you to slog through full series of disappointing figures in order to dig them up and put them in your personal museum; but Khonshu has value beyond himself, beyond his own toyline; he could be an MCU figure, a 616 figure, a Mythic Legions or Gothitropolis figure, a general mythological figure... lots of fun options for the big mummy-bird.
- Worst of the Year
- Oof, what a year. Hasbro put out a ton of great toys in a bunch of different brands, but they also had some gigantic, gigantic mistakes - so many, that no single one of them could surpass the others to claim this category alone. Letting Fortnite and Power Rangers die on the vine, releasing so many dud Marvel series that Walmart and Target declined to carry the newest ones, trying to sneak the price of Legends up while still dropping BAF pieces and extra pieces (continuing a trend from last year), walking back their plastic-free packaging, over-reliance on themed "anniversary" sublines, releasing five series' worth of GI Joe Classified figures basically all at once, overproducing unwanted Transformers exclusives to the point where no new product can get to shelves, crappy production on the Dungeons & Dragons figures, cocking up the Indiana Jones line, the whole "Open Game License" fiasco, brand managers content to let toys advertise themselves, and most of all, having two giant rounds of layoffs while the CEOs and CFO got $21 million in bonuses on top of their already-multi-million-dollar salaries. Bonuses. Extra money. Hasbro stole your money, fired the people who made the things you like, and handed the money to people who don't do any work. And that's something Capitalism says deserves to be rewarded.
Other nominees included McFarlane's DC Multiverse's awful aesthetics and poorly designed articulation
• Molecule Man, oversized and poorly constructed
• NECA using a 15-year-old mold for Shredder and painting him the wrong colors
• Jakks Pacific coming out as aggressively pro-Israel while the country's government and military commits genocide
• the Super Mario Bros. movie toys being a different scale than the game line
• the barely changed Ultron you still had to buy to finish a BAF
• the rebooted Movie Maniacs were the wrong size, had bad sculpts, and the license choices made no sense
• NECA's unreliable Haulathons, where figures would show up early, late, or (very often) not at all; or wake up early and try to get them online before they sell out
• Super7's quality control, paired with a bunch of figures going on big discounts after fans were urged to buy them now or miss them forever
- Best Exclusive
- The character has a certain popularity, but not enough to warrant putting him on a store shelf. Hasbro used the fact he was going to be more expensive than average to really load him down with appropriate new accessories and extra parts, and the packaging contributed to Classifed's Best of the Year win up above, thanks to its artsy comic and the way it interacts with the Crimson Strike Team's box.
The "Best Exclusive" category is open to every exclusive (convention, store, online, anything) released this year.
Other top finishers included:
• Turtles in Disguise (Playmates/Walmart)
• Gobbledy Gooker (Mattel/Amazon)
• Spider-Man Retro Lizard (Hasbro/Walmart)
• Buzzworthy Bumblebee Troop Builder Set (Hasbro/Target)
• Ghost Jaga (Super7)
• 60th Anniversary Black Widow (Hasbro/Target)
Now that you know what's won this year, you can head on over to see our past winners. The Class of 2023 joined some illustrious ranks, and they're all archived here.