Events: Toy Fair 2012
I've been going to Toy Fair long before there was a "Fan Media Day" in the days when Toy Fair was mainly for investors and retailers. I remember being shoved into the end of the event long after the display demonstrators had left and I only had one Hasbro rep guiding me through the showroom. It was magical in its own way, and every year the team at Hasbro manages to reproduce this magic despite the crowds and logistical nightmare that is involved in shipping hundreds of toys, displaying them, building small sets and corraling dozens of employees and security. It's a mammoth task but what amazes me is that throughout the event every Hasbro representative and demonstrator is so incredibly super friendly it practically knocks me off my feet every time. The security guards on the other hand are no joke. I think they actively resist smiling, but hey, they keep the toy safe so no complaints here.
Special thanks ahead of time to my friend Steven Kushnir who was good enough to help me with photography this year. After this post goes up I'll be hard at work on photos he and I took. It made my job tons easier this year and he got to have a good time, which made me happy. Also special thanks to Phil Zeman of ASM Zine for Tweeting some of my thoughts from the Hasbro presentation after I (literally) ran out of Tweets for the day to post (who knew there was a limit?).
This Toy Fair write up will differ from past ones, I'm not going to report on every single bloody item lest I put you all to sleep. Instead, I'm going to give overall impressions on the stuff that struck me the most. Before that however, here's the Top Ten List of Hasbro showroom items and experiences that made my day:
- The Demonstrators put up with me as I asked them to transform figures, turn packages around and generally just made a nuisance of myself. You guys all rock!
- Optimus Maximus has made the Micromaster Base lover in me smiling from ear to ear.
- Talking to Yoke-San, one of the Gods of Transformers. Do I need to explain this one?
- Call them Flip 'n whatever you want, freaking MARVEL JUMPSTARTERS!
- We're getting a Death's Head figure. I repeat, we're getting a Death's Head figure.
- The SDCC G.I. Joe Hiss Tank/Shockwave = Pure Love (mini cassettes!!!)
- Getting to talk to some of the Hasbro folks about something other than toys now and then is so refreshing. I consider many of them friends and I'm always happy to chat with them at events like this.
- Bruticus truly is an amazing Dudicus! It was so awesome seeing the fully assembled Combiner in person.
- Bruticus game play in "Fall of Cybertron" was awe inspiring and hilarious at the same time. I can't wait!
- Tons of Freebies! Bot Shots! Nerf Guns! An iPad cover! Whoo!
So let's get to some thoughts on the various lines that mattered most to this Transformers fan. First up, the various Transformers "sub-lines"!
I have to start out by really giving Hasbro a lot of credit for admitting the "First Edition" issue with the "Transformers Prime" figures was their snafu and not something to blame retailers. I had retailers firmly blamed for this, and sometimes that is the case but in this instance I was wrong and you know what? Kudos to them for trying to find a way to get those figures out in the U.S. Granted it's no guarantee, but at least they're going to give it an honest shot.
That said, I am totally loving the "Robots in Disguise" stuff. You can already see some of my reviews here but they look great, have good detailing/sculpting and the intuitive transformations seem hella fun. From what I can tell, Arcee can use First Edition Arcee's weapons! She has the same posts on the sides of the vehicle that First Edition Arcee does, but her weapons are different. Veeeerrry interesting! The Voyager Class figures also look great and I'm really digging the Leader Class "Weaponizers" with flip out weapons. I'm a big fan of Transformers having "life like" features without sacrificing the quality of the transformations or designs and these appear to do just that.
I'm also totally geeking out over the expansion of the Cyberverse beyond "Dark of the Moon". The individual figures look fantastic and the Commander Class guys rock. I love the look of the translucent parts on the figure, playing up the "Dark Energon" aspect of the story. And the best part? Vehicles and playsets! This was something I had thought long abandoned in the realm of Transformers play. However, here they are again! As I mentioned above, Optimus Maximus rocks. Looking at him in person reminded me of the first time I saw Star Convoy as a kid, and for someone like me who's been at this for years to say that? It's something special.
The announcement that this line is expanding into 40 plus figures is mind blowing. From what I've seen if they're all the quality of the Jazz and Shockwave figures shown today (oh yeah, and that Bruticus guy) then I'm super stoked. Prime was bit...meh to me, but it's only a hand painted prototype and he might wind up looking better in the final product. The level of detail on these figures was fantastic and their fidelity to the core designs of their G1 counterparts made the Old Skool fan in me smile. Bruticus was just a beautiful site to behold, though I was prevented from hugging him by good sense (and a security guard). For those curious, the colors of the prototype are apparently going to be changed to better align with the game, so don't take any photos you see as the final product, he's still a work in progress. And thank you Hasbro for putting all the Combaticons in the same wave. I was very worried they'd be split up and we'd wind up with Bruticuses...(Brutici?) everywhere missing a limb or two. I can't wait to see what other figures are going to come out of this line! *Cough* Grimlock *Cough*
You know, I'm not into the Bakugan/Pokemon/Digimon etc. etc. craze of smaller figures and card games wrapped into one. However, for a fun different expression of the Transformers brand these are really cool. I really dig the super deformed/cutesy designs on these figures. They all seem to have such personality! I'm also very appreciative of the way many G1 aspects of the characters are being honored in the proces. Bless the demonstrator at the Bot Shots table for taking down each and every Bot Shot I wanted a photo of. This guy deserves a gold star! The Bot Shots with trailers and the multi-packs excite me the most since they take the play a little beyond just smashing vehicles together and introduce some "playset" elements into the line. I'm looking forward to'em!
The Rescue Bots have already caught my heart thanks to their simple game play but cheerful designs. I've given them to several kids and they've loved them (and parents are thankful they don't have to spend 15 minutes transforming something for their kid). The new playset based around Chase looks super cute and fun (a jail cell, a safe? too fun!). I love the new fire truck and I again reiterate my absolute love for playsets, even if they are in a cutesy kid's line. Truth be told, the fire engine playset looks almost good enough in base mode for Cyberverse figures from "Prime". No joke.
What else is there? Oh yes. Despite having tons of offerings in the individual lines, the influence of Transformers can be felt in other toy lines as well. The two biggest ones? G.I. Joe and Marvel!
The San Diego Comic-Con exclusive Shockwave HISS tank was already awesome by itself. I mean, just the concept of a tank painted up to look like Shockwave had me giddy. But wait, a retooled part that slides over the cannon that looks just like Shockwave's gun barrel?! "Holy crap" doesn't begin to cover it. Hang on now, a Destro with a Decepticon symbol? A B.A.T. in Constructicon colors and accessories including a Soundwave with tiny tiny cassette, Energon Cubes and a briefcase of cash? It's like someone reached into my childhood brain and said "We think Ben will love this!" and you know what? They would have been right if they had done just that! Thank you G.I. Joe team for keeping up the "crossover" alive for these two iconic Hasbro brands.
So right outside the Times Center in the morning I was moaning about the death of the "Marvel Crossovers" line. I didn't think we'd see any robotic, transforming incarnations of super heroes this year but boy was I wrong! The instant the Captain America "flip n' change" figure was shown in the Marvel presentation something inside of me just lit up. Let no one tell you otherwise, these are essentially Transformers G1 style Jumpstarters reborn complete with the pull back and transform action feature. They're a bit smaller than the G1 Jumpstarters but the spirit of those figures comes shining through. I was amazed at how many there were! Spider-Man in three forms! Hulk! Captain America! Iron Man! They may not be "official" Transformers (due to some issues with the various studios involved in the Marvel franchise) but rest assure dfans these guys have earned a review spot on BWTF in 2012!
The only thing that made me sad overall was the lack of "Star Wars Transformers" product. It's pretty much assured the line will continue. As this past week went by a whole new wave of the basic figures was released and some older figures were just refreshed in new packaging. I hope this doesn't mean the line is dead. I want that basic sized Darth Maul I saw last year!
In closing, I want to thank Hasbro for walking the precarious tight rope hanging between hardcore fandom and the kids who are their primary audience. It's not an easy job but everything I saw this year told me this is a balance they want to achieve and do well. Also thank you so much for the Hasbro staff's kind invitation every year to this wondrous event. Like Botcon and Comic-Con, such events truly help re-ignite the fire of the "Transformers" fan inside of me and I am deeply appreciative. 2012 is going to be an amazing year for Transformers fans and prove that the franchise has a long life ahead of it.