I'm sitting in the lounge at the Hotel Chandler in New York City enjoying my last Stella Artois in New York City. for this trip at least. Not unlike everyone else who participated in this year's Toy Fair, I'm exhausted. It's not anything new, since this is a tough event not only to cover but also to attend period. For print and Internet media it is a battle to see as many companies as possible and gather as much information and photography as your memory and/ or flash card can hold. It is not unusual for a photographer to have to call it quits for a few hours to recharge their batteries, but fortunately for me, the battery in my camera could win a race against the Energizer Bunny. A blessing truly, considering how expensive NYC is. Really. Everything here is costly, and unless you have an unlimited expense account, you walk a very fine line, and you'll probably have to go home out of pocket.
I sure hope I don't come off as sounding negative about the experience, because nothing could be farther from the truth. Fact of the matter is I'm in my element at events like Toy Fair. Granted trying to keep up with the city that doesn't sleep will never get you a gold medal, but that's neither here nor there. I don't mind saying it, even if the rest of the world is all about America bashing, I'm very, very fond of the US of A. In fact, I'm positively in love with Manhattan and the people who live here. If the American government wants to improve its international image it need do nothing more than send the naysayers to NYC. You'll never find a better example of the melting pot society, just don't ask anyone for directions. You've been warned.
A conscious effort was made not to ramble on about New York City, but to truly appreciate Toy Fair you must first appreciate NYC. This is a city that can chew you up and spit you out. It's very, very real and distinctive. Unlike Los Angeles and its pretentiousness, the New York you see in the movies is pretty close to the real place. While a lot of people would love to see Toy Fair move to some place with more spectacle, like Las Vegas, it would destroy what the experience is. As is, 2006 marks the last time Toy Fair will exist in Midtown Manhattan, and that marks an end of an era.
The Toy Center at the junction of 5th Ave and Broadway has been sold to developers who clearly lack an appreciation for Toy Fair history. There's that word again. I suppose appreciation is key to surviving Toy Fair. Sadly --and yes, I do mean sadly-- the sale of the Toy Center means that 2007's Toy Fair will be exclusively in the Javitz Center in Chelsea. Don't get me wrong, for the media and buyers this change will make the event a lot easier to deal with, but it will lose a bit of its charm, so the convenience we'll all feel next year will be bittersweet at best.
All of this is irrelevant of course, because this is the beginning of 2006 and from what Dan Curto and I saw, we'll all be far too busy buying cool Star Wars collectibles to care. Speaking of Star Wars collectibles, it is really incredible to see what the license holders have to offer us for the first year after the Saga ended. The passion these companies have illustrates that as long as we're still all interested in buying high quality collectibles, that Star Wars is forever. Well, all license holders save one.
I'm absolutely amazed how poorly Hasbro continues to treat the Star Wars Internet media and how they all but disregard the collectors interested in their products. Just as years past, instead of appreciating (there it is again) the coverage they receive from the online news sites, Hasbro shoves us all in one large herd. What does that mean? Well, quite frankly it shows first and foremost an absolute complete lack of respect for an entire community of customers. First off, the photography that comes out of the Hasbro showroom is almost always crap because we all have to squeeze in next to each other to cover everything. I don't think there's a single reporter amongst the online community that enjoys being treated like cattle, but that's clearly the way Hasbro sees us all. Considering the free press they get, it is quite sad, but what can you do? Well, I suppose replacing the shortsighted individuals at Hasbro that claim to 'want to work with the online media' with people who can see the advantage of truly working with the news sites can have would be a good first step, but let's not hold our breath. If that wasn't enough, the guides they pushed us all through with knew nothing of the product they are promoting. I wish that was an exaggeration, but it isn't. For the love of Pete, when asked about the Titanium line, our host actually said "Well, I Know that there is a Titanium line." Good job Hasbro. Way to go.
Sometimes it takes someone to say "Hey, the Emperor is naked" before he'll put something on, and help us all, maybe Hasbro's brass will finally listen now that it is being publicly addressed. I doubt it, but one can't give up all hope of a miracle. So yeah, this is me publicly calling them out.
Whatever the case is, Hasbro is offering us little more than rehashes and retooled toys for 2006. Which sucks of course, but at least it answers the question of how the Star Wars generation will afford all the amazing stuff Sideshow Collectibles, Gentle Giant, Code 3, and Master Replicas are offering us this year. Seems to me that Hasbro might even be aware of this fact, and find it a reasonable loss, considering they've got a lot of questionable choices in terms of new products. Granted, they do make mass produced children's toys geared for a child audience. From that point of view, Hasbro is actually creating some good products. Let's face it, most of us adult collectors have no use for a Darth Vader on a motorcycle, but to a seven-year-old kid, that would be a sweet toy. It's important to keep that in mind when looking at Hasbro's 2006 collection of toys. They want to make money, and this is how they'll do it.
As mentioned above, the other Star Wars players came to Toy Fair with their playbooks in hand. The contrast is incredible. Whether it was Audrey at Code 3, Amanda and Kyle at Gentle Giant, Travis and the gang at Master Replicas, or Brant, and the tattooed fiends at Sideshow Collectibles, we were well received. It certainly isn't difficult to cover a company when they greet you with smiles and handshakes. Nothing beats people with passion for their products representing their companies. especially when they don't need to look at our nametags to know who we are by name. Think about that for a second. On an average year company reps and Internet reporters are in the same room once or twice a year, yet they know us. For that matter, some of them even use Rebelscum as their home page. That's right true believers, we're dealing with Star Wars fans first and foremost. Is it any wonder their products are so much better? What's more is these companies really do appreciate what the Internet media does and they understand that we're all fans working to get news of their products to other fans, and we in return appreciate them for their efforts.
When all is said and done Star Wars collectors will still empty their wallets in 2006, but it will be interesting to see how many will be willing to part with their hard-earned dollars for 3-3/4" rehashes. I think it's a very good bet that Code 3's Die-cast Vehicles and Sculpted Posters, Sideshow Collectibles' 1/1 Busts, 1/4 Premium Format, and 1/6 scale figures, Gentle Giant's Busts, Statues, & Bust Ups, and Master Replicas' Prop and Vehicle replicas will win the hearts of the Star Wars Generation. while Hasbro gets the chance to alienate the next generation of Star Wars fans.
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