Events: Toy Fair 1999 - A Retrospective
Toy Fair 1999: A Retrospective
Toy Fair is an annual toy industry event where toy companies large and small show off their upcoming products for the year. For the past several years, Hasbro has held its "Fan Media Day" at various venues in New York City, most notably the Times Center. This event allows venues such as Ben's World of Transformers photograph product, speak to product designers and see product demos. It's a very energetic and fast paced event that I am happy to cover every year.
However, once upon a time there was no "Fan Media Day". In order to get into Toy Fair back then you had to be part of a published news organization (such as The New York Times or a toy retailer to get into the convention. However, starting around 1997-98 I was fortunate enough to have been invited into the Hasbro showroom to see Transformers product. At first I was going along with a friend who ran a retail shop at the time. Later Hasbro would invite me directly, but I didn't go during any media event. Instead I was invited the last day of the event when they were beginning to take displays apart and most of the staff was gone.
The late 90's were a different time in the United States. The economy was still roaring along thanks to the internet revolution and real estate boom and Hasbro was on the rise having acquired other companies including Kenner (much of "Beast Wars" was released under the Kenner banner). Back then Hasbro owned a large building on 23rd Street in Manhattan (now a Home Depot). Instead of renting a venue, they used the huge amount of floor space in this building to hold their part of Toy Fair. I remember walking through not just "Transformers", but every brand Hasbro had to offer. The tour itself could easily last two hours or more depending on how many questions your group had. It was always an impressive sight, and whenever I walk by that building I look at it rather wistfully, remembering those grand days.
Impressions from the Past
Toy Fair 1999 was the year Hasbro introduced the "Transmetal 2" line up and "Animorphs". "Beast Wars" was winding down at that point. The show as in its third season and was making way for "Beast Machines". This The photos below show off some of the displays featuring the Transmetal 2 and Animorphs figures. Unfortunately at the time all I had to take these photos was a single use, disposable camera so the quality is pretty bad. Two shots really stand out to me. One is the front of the building, still adorned with Hasbro's flags. The other is the Optimal Optimus "carving" (for lack of a better term) hanging alongside other Hasbro brand logos. I'm sure that's either in storage or long destroyed but boy it would've been cool to have that in a collection! I recall when I saw the Transmetal 2's I found them very dynamic in terms of design, but I missed the third modes that the first year of Transmetals had.
I feel very lucky to have been part of the "early days" of fan reporting on Toy Fair. When I see what the event is now, I am very grateful that Hasbro recognizes the power of fan sites to promote their brands and invests so much time, money and effort into putting on a good show for us. I may miss the "old days", but back then I would have never dreamed of what we have now.