Attending Toy Fair as a “cub reporter” for Teddy Bear & Friends means that I’m already receptive to a healthy dose of make-believe. While members of the press who cover NASA are, hopefully, in tune with the swirling cosmos and twinkling galaxy, I’m a gal who likes to pretend, imagine, and really, truly believe in fantasy possibilities.
At Toy Fair 2017, there was an abundance of make-believe mohair and pretend plush. The gamut of critters that hailed from “over the rainbow” was quite huge, and I really liked the chance to see the brand-new figures and get a peek at old favorites that were re-tooled. One of the groupings I got a kick out of was the Manhattan Toy’s Alley Cat Club.
With these anthropomorphic critters, collectors have a chance to acquire characters that look like two-legged tweens and teens. The assortment on hand reminded me of this year’s Oscar-winning Best Animated Movie, “Zootopia.” (I’m a big fan of that flick, and had the chance to blog about it in an earlier Plush Life post.)
The story behind the lineup is that these mischievous, clever, charming, and cool cats and dogs bond together to help brave the unknown terrors and challenges of alley living. Designed to be “doll surrogates” for young ones who prefer pets to people in their playtime, the creatures are so cute — and adorably costumed — that even adults will fall under their spell. These are figures that blend fantasy and picture book credibility. I loved them!
As in past Toy Fair outings, the number of unicorns continues to expand and expand and . . . expand! The sighting of a unicorn used to be a cause of celebration and good luck. (Yes, I know they’re mythological — indulge me!) At the Cloisters Museum in New York, tapestries that honor the meeting of maiden and beast hang high on the walls and are sold as souvenirs at the gift shop. The Javits Center gave the Cloisters a “run for its money” this year.
Unicorns were popping up everywhere. In some instances, the horned animals were accompanying plush little-girl friends, and in others they were hanging from the rafters, appearing to fly and soar. (I think some manufacturers have Pegasus and Unicorn confused. C’est la vie!)
Unicorns abounded, and so did their real-life counterpart: the narwhal. Lots of folks didn’t realize that such an animal really existed. The narwhal is a medium-sized whale, and it is distinguished by its large tusk/horn.
That’s a really big canine tooth that is protruding from its face. Its dental “deformity” has given it a look of a sea-based unicorn or an oceanic mythological beast. The narwhal became a part of our consciousness from the movie “Elf.” That’s right. We can all thank Will Ferrell and Buddy the Elf for making our natural-life knowledge that much broader. Thank you, fantasy Hollywood, for teaching us a wild-kingdom truth.
Since so many collectors do enjoy fantasy films, books, TV shows, and graphic novels, it’s quite logical that the chance to become a unicorn, mermaid, butterfly princess, etc., is a tangible possibility.
Douglas had a really first-rate display of horned hats that can be worn on top of one’s head or across one’s forehead. It’s up to the wearer to decide if she’s mimicking a unicorn, Pegasus (I know it doesn’t have a horn), or a narwhal. Toy Fair is educational!
Like a jolly and jubilant Jacques Cousteau, I came across a lot of colorful, vibrant sealife. At the Aurora booth, they had a stunning Sea Sparkles vignette, complete with mermaids and their fish friends. (A tip of my sailor’s cap to Ariel and Flounder and Sebastian.)
When paired with the mermaid princesses, the fish have an otherworldly underwater charm. When they are isolated from their female-finned friends, they look like a well-maintained aquarium! It’s a beautiful plush possibility for fantasy fans and marine-life mavens.
Wrapping up my stroll through the supernatural and the mythological, I found lovely unicorns at the Gund showroom, and I also had a lesson in why certain pop-culture fantasy figures (the DC superhero leagues, Star Trek, Ninja Turtles) get made as particular animals.
It’s not a coincidence or a matter of happenstance. No, this is really intriguing. The Gund design-and-merchandising team brings a great degree of discussion, rational points, and deep thinking into deciding if Captain Kirk should be a monkey, bear, dog, or cat. He’s actually a lion — because of the courage and bravery that animal exhibits. Mr. Spock is a cat — aloof and considered intelligent and cerebral. Uhura is a teddy bear — bright, huggable, classic, and elegant. Dr. McCoy is a dog — gruff, barking, and sometimes quick to anger.
The same level of thoughtfulness goes on with the DC crimefighters. Batman is a bear. Why? He is smart — bears are curious and intelligent in the wild — and he “hibernates” in his cave. Yep, you can’t think of Bruce Wayne, aka Batman or Dark Knight, without envisioning his all-important Batcave.
For Wonder Woman, Gund has always portrayed her as a bunny. Now, bunnies are cute, and many people think of them as female (a head shake and finger wag to Hugh Hefner), but Gund has a basis beyond that. Bunnies are known to be agile, can leap, can run, and can hop with athletic ease and grace. When the creative team decided to match Wonder Woman with her creature counterpart, they all decided on the bunny parallels.
Wow! I learned something new at Toy Fair. I can’t wait to share more with you in my next exciting posting!