By Stephanie Finnegan
At this year’s outing of Toy Fair, it certainly was clear: It’s a plush universe and we just live in it. Fiesta had an array of galaxy-inspired creations that approximated the constellations and the stars that swirl above us. Of course, living and working outside the Metropolitan New York region, my view of the heavenly bodies is more in tune with what Guess model or Victoria’s Secret angel is plastered across a Times Square billboard! Heavenly bodies are more like the Sports Illustrated swimsuit sweethearts than any astronomical creation!
But that’s why I like Toy Fair. It opens my eyes up to seeing things in a whole new and different way. For instance, when you think of a four-legged best friend, what first springs to your mind? I suspect a dog (if you’re a red-blooded American who’s viewed the returning-vet videos on YouTube) or a cat (if you’re a glutton for aloofness and ennui, if you’ve seen the returning-vet parody videos on YouTube). I plead guilty to being a feline fancier, but even I had to find myself leaning toward the cuteness and cuddliness of the dogs that dominated so many of the booths.
The aptly named Westminster company — the Westminster Kennel Club is the top of the heap when it comes to dogdom, after all — had an array of yipping and yapping, fetching and frolicking, canine creations. They also had an adorable lineup of kittens. Sure, these kitty cats will watch you curiously as you try to get them to run after a ball and fetch it. Maybe they’ll reward you with a slow saunter to said ball and a single sniff, but most likely they’ll just plot to attack your ribbon supplies when you sit down to wrap birthday gifts. It’s not that cats aren’t playful; they just choose when to play and what games to choose.
The dogs from Douglas Toy Company were definitely precious pooches. The ones that were contoured to be floppy — sort of boneless and sagging, but determined to be picked up and petted — had a real animal magnetism about them. I loved their soft texture and their pleading eyes. If the Douglas pups and poodles that seemed to be melting into puddles of cuteness aren’t your cup of tea, if you prefer more realistic renderings, then Hansa was the manufacturer to visit.
Hansa is celebrated for its spot-on depictions of wildlife, and their mammoth-size animals have been chronicled by me in past blogs and in Teddy Bear & Friends magazine. I also like how they are able to bring this passion for realism in smaller-scale creations. Their black-and-white cat and golden-colored pup remind me of critters that actually exist in my own life. The pup is reminiscent of my niece’s dog, Chip, and let me give a shout-out here to my own tuxedo cat, Annie, whom I am proudly showing off below. (Yes, I admit it. If there were a crash course in learning how to be a stage mother for pets, I’d enroll tomorrow. Call me, “Mama Cat Rose”!)
I suppose all of us animal parents think our furry kids are the most special and most engaging critters in the world. Deep down, we all believe if given the chance, our pet could grab headlines and give Grumpy Cat a run for her money. GUND had a lot of Grumpy Cat paraphernalia on hand — Grumpy as a disinterested sheriff, a miscast court jester, and a blasé unicorn.
While GUND’s Grumpy Cat franchise might be surly and caustic about playing make-believe, you can’t say that about Douglas’s mighty array of dragons. I felt like I had wandered onto the set of “Game of Thrones” and was caught up in a fever dream of Khaleesi’s. Though I’m NOT like the Mother of Dragons in many ways — I wish I had her long, flowing white hair and equally flowing gossamer gowns — I do share her high regard for a good-looking, fire-breathing reptile! I really liked the Douglas dragons!
My heart was caught up in the wonder of the fantasy elements, and it is no wonder that I fell under the spell of the whimsy and the magic. Why, I was at Toy Fair, after all, where unbelievable things happen right under your nose and right around every nook and cranny.
It’s a place where you can chat and laugh with a pair of human-size, walking-and-talking dog detectives, like I did with the Paw Patrol. (They were really sweet and welcoming. They even offered me a chance to go on one of their crime-solving missions!) And it’s a place where a casual stroll ends with the spotting of a collie-size pink flying unicorn, like the one Ty made. It makes your heart dance and smile to see such a surprising and sunny beast. I made a silent wish that I could have a dozen of these pastel beauties surprising me every day! Maybe there is more than a little bit of the Khaleesi in me. I think I’m going to start growing my hair tomorrow!
If you want to see what else I discovered at Toy Fair, check out the Doll Chronicles at the DOLLS magazine site. I’ve blogged about the doll angle of Toy Fair 2016, and it’s a super-size, super-strength edition!