×

Movies, coding and animatronic animals: 6 trends from NY Toy Fair

Attendees take a selfie with life-size LEGO models of Lloyd, star of The LEGO NINJAGO Movie, and box-office hero Batman at the North American International Toy Fair, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, in New York.
Diane Bondareff | AP
Attendees take a selfie with life-size LEGO models of Lloyd, star of The LEGO NINJAGO Movie, and box-office hero Batman at the North American International Toy Fair, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, in New York.

The annual New York Toy Fair offers a preview of the hottest trends in the toy industry, touting big names like Hasbro, Mattel, Lego and Crayola, and revealing up-and-coming toymakers.

Last year, the toy industry grew 5 percent, reaching $20.4 billion, according to the NPD Group. This growth was buoyed by strong sales for collectibles, games and puzzles and outdoor and sports toys.

From beloved brands like Marvel and Star Wars to break-out hits like Pie Face, the show gives a preview of what kids will be putting on their wish lists during the holidays.

The ultimate collector

Collectibles remain one of the strongest drivers of growth in the toy industry and that trend isn't slowing anytime soon.

In 2016, sales of collectibles grew 33 percent, or $332 million, to reach $1.8 billion, according to NPD data. Sales of blind packs alone grew 60 percent.

Tsum Tsum plush toys.
Source: Tsum Tsum Central
Tsum Tsum plush toys.

Hot collectibles at Toy Fair this year included Spin Master's "Colleggtibles," miniature versions of its fast-selling Hatchimal toys; Disney's Tsum Tsums, sold through retailers like Jakks Pacific; Funko's line of Pop! figures and Lego's traditional figures and buildable Brickhead characters.

Social gaming

More and more shoppers are reaching for games in the toy aisle, especially games that have a shareable quality.

Fueled by interest in games like Hasbro's Speak Out and Pie Face Showdown as well as more adult games, including X-rated versions of longstanding favorites — think Trivial Pursuit and Taboo — the game segment has seen sales soar 20 percent this year, according to the NPD Group.

The segment, which includes card games, board games, puzzles, dice and strategy games, caters to toddlers, teens and adults and has been gaining speed in recent years. In 2015, game sales rose 14 percent from the prior year, when sales climbed 6 percent year over year, Juli Lennett, an NPD Group toys industry analyst, told CNBC.

This year, Hasbro has once again reformated its hot Pie Face game. Pie Face Sky High is reminiscent of the strongman carnival game. In this version, one player hits the lever with a mallet hoping to trigger the mechanism to give their opponent a face full of whipped cream.

(Source: T.J. Fabian. The tested game above is not to scale)

Other shareable games include Egged On, an egg roulette game where rubber eggs are filled with water and "cracked" over players' heads. If the player gets a faceful of water, they lose. If they come away dry, they move on to the next round.

Likely the next hit card game, Happy Salmon by North Star Games gets players moving. The fast-paced game requires players to perform actions like high-fives and fist bumps in order to discard their cards. Players shout out the actions on their cards and if they match with another player they complete the action and ditch the card. Games last about a minute and folks get pretty competitive.

Entertainment

Fans of "Star Wars," "Marvel" and "DC" will have no shortage of new toys and collectibles this year.

Toys that feature elements and characters from popular blockbusters and television shows are not new to the industry, but they are abundant.

(Source: T.J. Fabian)

Here's a quick look at some of the major motion pictures coming out this year that are associated with toy lines:

  • "Beauty and the Beast"
  • "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"
  • "Spider-Man: Homecoming"
  • "The Lego Batman Movie"
  • "Power Rangers"
  • "The Fate of the Furious"
  • "Thor: Ragnorak"
  • "Wonder Woman"
  • "Justice League"
  • "Cars 3"
  • "My Little Pony: The Movie"
  • "Despicable Me 3"
  • "Logan"
  • "Transformers: The Last Knight"
  • "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"
  • "The Lego Ninjago Movie"
  • "Jumanji"

Toys from many of these films were on display in New York, among numerous other movies and television shows. In the same vein as collectibles, these movie- and TV-inspired toys, gadgets and costumes conjure up imaginative, open-ended play and feature characters that are familiar to kids.

Remote-controlled toys

The "R.C" category is as strong as ever in 2017. Toy companies have amped up these traditional electronic toys with video cameras, virtual reality and smart technology to make them cooler than ever.

From Jakks Pacific's Spider-Man Web Striker, which launches a web attack when it brakes or spins, to Mattel's Lightning McQueen car with a programmable touchscreen, remote-controlled toys will definitely be on children's wish lists this year.

For older, more experienced drivers, Mattel is launching an intricately designed Batmobile that can be controlled using your iOS or Android device. The R.C. growls when you pull the throttle and even spits out a steady stream of exhaust from the back as if you are burning rubber with every turn.

Animatronic animals

In 2017, consumers looking for interactive robots with personality will have plenty of animatronic options.

Last year, kids fell in love with Torch My Blazin' Dragon. This year, they'll have a few more choices of animatronic pets.

Roarin' Tyler is a fluffy, plush tiger that responds to touch and reacts realistically to outside stimulus. Roar at Tyler and he'll roar right back. Tyler is part of Hasbro's FurReal Friends line and has more than 100 motions and sounds.

(Source: T.J. Fabian)

As part of its My Little Pony line, Hasbro is also launching Magic Twilight Sparkle, another interactive animatronic toy. The giant pink horse has more than 90 unique phrases and also responds to touch.

Animatronic horses are popular this year. Spin Master's Zoomer line is releasing a robotic horse toy, as is Hasbro's rival, Mattel, which is slated to debut a battery-operated Barbie's Dream Horse.


Physical meets digital

So-called STEM and STEAM toys make up a rising trend in the industry. STEM products focus on teaching science, technology, engineering and math — often through coding. STEAM toys seek to teach STEM-related ideas by using art.


(Source: T.J. Fabian)

Hasbro has launched a Dance and Code Belle doll that can be coded to perform different maneuvers and dances using an app. The company also has the FurReal Proto Max, an animatronic dog that users can code to move and make various facial expressions and sounds.

Crayola's Fashion Superstar allows users to create their own masterpieces on paper and then transfer those designs into an app that places them on digital models. Users can then share their creations in-app like they would on Instagram.

Similarly, Lego's Life app lets users construct digitally and take photos of their builds to share on a safe, digital platform.