Mattel CEO Bob Eckert picks his favorite toy

February 16, 2010

Mattel CEO Bob Eckert

I thought this was an interesting press event. The CEO of Mattel, Bob Eckert,  would announce his favorite pick of the newly rolled out toys at Toy Fair.  Seemed almost like being asked to pick a favorite child.  How do you decide such a thing? A gut instinct? A favorite brand team? The size of the marketing budget?

I gave this some thought after we were told of the event yesterday (it happened today). Mind you, we don’t have any budgets on the line when we pick our top winners of the year. Yet both Joanne and I have personal favorites – we quietly root for them as we send them off to our family testers.  Even though we don’t make or sell any of the toys we review, we do get very attached.  Each year we have a few that truly stand out, but one?  Almost impossible.

So what did I think Mr. Eckert would select? My money would have been on the harmonizing Singamajigs, the Dancing Mickey Mouse or the big Ape that flips –both had the most “sizzle” in the showroom.  (Mickey also has Donny Osmond associated with him.)  Or maybe the Barbie that is a video camera – she wins for having the most creatively placed use of technology in toyland (the camera is in her chest).

I was wrong. Mr. Eckert’s personal favorite is their new preschool electronic toy called iXL.  The hand-held toy promises to have six-in-one smart devices designed to both be educational and entertaining (including a Story Book, Game Player, Note book, Art Studio, Music Player and Photo Album). It will retail for $79.99/ licensed software sold separately for $24.99.

We’ll be interested to see how our testers react to the iXL.  It will be available in July.  The thing with these types of toys –  it’s hard to tell from the prototypes how they’re going to work in the hands of kids.  Will the screen be engaging enough? Will the games be age appropriate? Can kids manipulate the toy independently and happily? If you give your child this $79 toy, will they leave your iPhone alone? These are the types of things we’ll look at when reviewing the  iXL.

Not to be cynical as to the driving force of his pick,  but Mr. Eckert did mention in his release that  “[they] have invested more research and development dollars into iXL than any other product in our 2010 Fisher-Price product line and it definitely shows.”

Stay tuned.

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My favorite toy…so far/ sing-a-majigs

February 14, 2010

Fisher-Price's Sing-a-majigs!

We saw the Sing-a-majigs at toy fair preview last month and we weren’t allowed to talk about them. It’s like being told what your best friend is getting for their birthday — and not being able to tell for weeks.  So we were really excited today to see them again.

I thought maybe we had romanticized them…yes, at this point you can say–it’s a toy, get over it. But hey, this is what we do for a living. So when a really fun and innovative toy comes along–we get excited.

I’m happy to report that these cute little dolls (that will retail for a reasonable $12.99 each) are just about the best thing going. They babble to each other, they sing together and perhaps most remarkably they harmonize!  AND they’re easy to make work.

Watch the video.


Pre-toy fair season begins!

January 21, 2010

Just got back from Mattel and Fisher-Price’s pre Toy Fair preview….lots of fun things to report –but I’m waiting for the list about which toys/pictures can be shared now. Most of the showroom was under embargo until Toy Fair starts.


ELMO…feeling a little left out

December 1, 2009

In seasons past, ELMO is the toy we get all the calls for -someone in desperate need for the latest version of the original Tickle Me Elmo Doll.  We have particular fondness for the original – Joanne brought Elmo on the TODAY Show – Bryant Gumbel loved it–and played with it for the entire show.

This season, ELMO is being completely ignored.  A smaller, perhaps cuter critter has grabbed the imagination of children and media outlets everywhere -even though ELMO  tells jokes this year as well as any Borscht Belt comedian. Oh and yes,  he’s  still throwing kisses…it could break your heart.  Watch our video.


Heavily Promoted: Fisher-Price’s Trio Building Set

November 30, 2009

I got to catch a lot of tv this holiday weekend–and started to see the waves of toy tv commercials. Some reminded me of toys that did not win awards from us…and that we needed to post more reviews!!

When we first saw TRIO at toy fair we were all excited.  We love open-ended building sets and really get psyched when a large toy company gets behind a new system–making the access to it more affordable.  Unfortunately TRIO did not fare well with our testers.  The product is marked for kids 3 and up – so we enlisted one of our hard core DUPLO builders–thinking this would be the most likely audience.  He had the same trouble we did manipulating the pieces. Unlike DUPLO, it’s hard to pull the pieces apart.  We then tried them with a four year old builder–and had the same reaction.  We hope the folks at Fisher-Price work on the “pull” factor.  The pieces are pleasing–but too frustrating for the intended audience. Our recommendation is to stick with a basic DUPLO bucket at this age.


Five Perfect Toys for Toddlers

November 2, 2009

Finding toys for toddlers can be super challenging! They’ve outgrown their baby toys–but not quite ready yet for more complex toys geared to preschoolers.  The toys need to match their new found mobility and desire to do things again and again!

Here are just five of my favorites:

Little People Load ‘n Go Wagon (Fisher-Price)

Step 2 Basic Rhythms Piano (Step 2)

Playskool Clipo Creativity Table (Playskool)

Schylling Color Roller (Schylling)

Rollipop Toddler Starter and Advanced Sets (Edushape)

The full reviews are on our site, www.toyportfolio.com.


Toyportfolio.com: Top Ten Toys for Babies and Toddlers Under $20

October 27, 2009
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Sassy Crib & Floor Mirror

With budgets tight, it’s important to bring home things that really count – and there is no reason to break the bank!  Here are some of our top picks for 2009 — all under $20.  Read the full reviews on our site.

Sassy Crib & Floor Mirror (Sassy)

Infantino Wall Mounted  Mobile Mirror (Step 2)

Stack ‘n Surprise Blocks Blockity-Pop Caterpillar (Fisher-Price)

Baby Deglingos Dog, Rabbit, Hedgehog or Cow (All New Materials)

Satin Ears Bear Security Cozy (North American Bear Co.)

Infantino Spiral Spin Top (Step 2)

Kids Preferred Nutbrown Hare or Peter Rabbit Hand Puppet (Kids Preferred)

Bright Starts Bees & Blooms Balls (Kids II)

Earlyears Zippy Zoomer (International Playthings)

Leapfrog Counting Candles (Leapfrog)