The 113th North American International Toy Fair, produced by the Toy Industry Association, Inc. opened its doors February 13 – 16. More than 30,600 global play professionals atended (a 16% increase over 2015). The show offered nearly 415,000 net square feet of exhibit space filled with hundreds of thousands of toys, game and youth-entertainment products. Project Partners Network, one of the country’s foremost licensing-consulting specialists, attended this important show. Their trend roundup, provided for The Trend Curve‘s readers, is below.
- No End to Emojis
Emoji graphics were noticeable at last year’s show. This year, they expanded significantly. Emojis touched categories, including audio and karaoke products from Sakar, memory and fantasy card games from Twizmo, My Moji collectible vinyl figures from Funko, and bags and backpacks from Top Trenz, plus puzzles, keychains, pillows, jewelry, magnets, stress balls and more. Morphmallow’s Spaghetti Headz hair twists were paired with Care-Moji, an emojified version of American Greetings’ Care Bears.
Adult coloring books met DIY as all sorts of products integrated coloring behaviors. Detailed, yet age-appropriate products such as coloring rolls were tailored to children. Adult-coloring puzzles and posters came from the likes of Buffalo Games (which has a license with bestselling adult coloring book author Johanna Basford) and Karmin. Non-paper products such as color-in socks from Living Royal, produced under license from Crayola, were also on display at the show.
Toy lines for girls and boys and all ages featured items that can be collected, both physically and digitally. Licensed lines such as Jazwares’ girl-skewing Animal Jam, Spin Master’s preschool Teletubbies and Playmates’ boy-focused Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys, as well as proprietary brands such as Mattel’s MyMini Mixie Qs, proved to be customizable, interchangeable, fun to play with, and—above all—collectible. Meanwhile, collectible brands such as Disney Tsum Tsum and Moose Toys’ Shopkins extended into other products, from board games to home décor.
- Sewing Plus Science
Two trends were prominent at Toy Fair: sewing crafts, illustrated by Klutz’s felted-plushie activity kits, and many others, and science kits (especially for girls), of which Educational Insights’ Nancy B’s Science Club was one example. The two trends came together in a number of products. SmartLab’s Sew Science brand, for instance, encompassed fiber-craft kits designed to interest girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (S.T.E.A.M.) by allowing them to create glowing fabric robots and light-up plush dolls.
- Social Celebs
Social media is slowly growing as a source of celebrities that are extending their brands into toy lines. Jazwares showed Tube Heroes collectible figures, featuring the likeness of YouTube-famous gamers, while Hasbro created a line of Nerf yard toys co-branded with DudePerfect, a group of guys known for creating videos of trick sports shots, sometimes using Nerf products. And, from the realm of animal celebrities, Princess of Beverly Hills was featured on plush, toys and accessories at the Demdaco booth. Meanwhile, Gund added the mini pigs Prissy and Pop to their line of plush, which already features the likes of Grumpy Cat and Boo: The World’s Cutest Dog.
- Silver Screen
In terms of sheer number of licensed properties, movies were having a strong year. Original films like The Secret Life of Pets and Zootopia, and films based on existing franchises—Trolls, Ghostbusters, Batman v. Superman, and Angry Birds: The Movie—all inspired toy lines. Star Wars licensees rolled out new products featuring characters from the December release, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The diverse array of Star Wars product at the show included a Star Wars edition of the classic Operation game at Hasbro, wind-up and tin toys at Schylling, a crochet kit at Thunder Bay Books and an ant farm, inspired by the desert planet Jakku, at Uncle Milton.
- Projection Perfection
Product lines for all ages and both genders included light projection to extend play or learning, or to encourage relaxation, in a dark room. A few examples:
- Uncle Milton’s science kits including star and constellation projectors
- SCS Direct’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar musical travel soother and star projector
- Hasbro’s licensed watch tied to the Japanese property Yo-Kai Watch, which plays music and projects a dancing character onto flat surfaces
- Bringin’ the Tin
Collectible tins used as packaging have finally come to the toy industry in a big way. Parragon debuted its Happy Tin brand, a craft kit that has sold more than 1 million pieces in the U.K., into the U.S. market with licenses such as Disney. Bendon, which introduced its tinned activities last year with Minions, expanded its line to include several other licenses. Books, playing cards, games, and collectibles were also spotted in collectible tin-packaged versions.
- Making Scents
Scented products, particularly made of fabric, were more prevalent than in the past. New products ranged from Pillow Pets’ Sweet Scented Pets and Whiffer Sniffers’ bacon and chocolate soft toys to Wicked Cool’s licensed Girl Scouts plush with a fragrance of cookies.
- Tech and More Tech
More and more toys are connected. That means they allow both digital and physical play and content sharing. 3D printing also made itself known. Mattel’s $300 Thingmaker (a re-positioning of the old toy brand in which goop was used to make Creepy Crawlers) and Piecemaker’s in-store 3D printing kiosks that enable shoppers to order personalized plastic toys in less than half an hour were both standouts. Drones were abundant, with many featuring cameras for aerial photography.