In the world of plush landscapes, Toy Fair truly matters. And, quite honestly, within that rarefied real estate in Manhattan, colors seem to matter a great deal! Inside Javits Center, which is huge, glass-encased, and generally gray, the hues of Toy Fair are bright, brilliant, and bold. If Judy Garland as Dorothy had taken an unintentional detour off the Yellow Brick Road, I think she might have ended up in the Javits plush aisle. (Interesting side note: that actually could have happened! Celebrating its 115th year in 2018, New York’s Toy Fair would have been a youthful 35 years old when “The Wizard of Oz” was being filmed!)
So, colors held center court at 2018’s gathering, and the plush designers threw caution to the wind—or to the cyclone-twister, keeping with the Oz motif. Many of the plush pals and pets were saturated in rich, deep, unexpected tones. There was no nod toward realism and lifelike properties at Javits. Most of the characters were modeled after amazing pop-up books, not procedural anatomy tomes. Color ruled the roost, and it raised my spirits, for sure.
Why do we all respond so happily to certain colors that we label as “cheerful” or “merry” or “uplifting”? What is it about seeing an octopus drenched in a rainbow’s worth of tie-dye hues? Why do we instantly smile and laugh when we see a blue elephant, a red donkey, a pink monkey, or a purple cow? It’s because we love to spot the familiar—the silhouette of a recognizable critter and then it is mated with a truly surprising color swatch. (It’s like stumbling onto the White House and it is suddenly painted green. You’d think you were in Emerald City, not D.C., right?)
Since we were children, we’ve been having a love affair with big, bright, and bold colors. Even before we learn to write, spell, and count, we learn to name and spot colors. You see, colors do indeed matter.
I liked witnessing how the plush portion of Javits was brighter and lighter than all other sections of the building. Nestled beneath fluorescent lighting, or the graying sky overhead seen through the glass ceiling (a blizzard was coming to town), all of the plush manufacturers went all-out with dreaming up zany color schemes and improbable animals to showcase them.
With its corner showroom, Ty was an eye-popping explosion of riotous colors, patterns, stars and stripes. It was akin to a groovy, psychedelic stroll onto the set of “Laugh-In,” a variety show from the 1960s that launched Goldie Hawn’s career. (Plus, many of the Ty characters had huge eyes, which also evoked the onetime heavily fake-eyelashed Hawn.)
Wild Republic, always hailed for its rain-forest and zoological realism, had a field day with conjuring up actual creatures but decking them out in brilliant, bold colors. I’m a fan of Disney’s “Fantasia,” and these critters could have easily flown straight from the screen of that musical Technicolor extravaganza.
The cuddly critters called out to be touched and hugged. Made with such a perky palette, these animals lured viewers to pick them up and examine them more closely. That’s another big selling point at Toy Fair 2018: the colorful characters were super-soft, extra squishy, doubly huggable. They lived up to their nicknames of “plush pals,” because they certainly deserved to be cuddled and carried.
Toy Fair is always a fascinating journey. Held in February, it is covered in snow and ice for all four days or a portion of its running time. The Javits building is a modern construction, so it is heavy on the steel, glass, and concrete. With white flakes falling, soon to turn gray and slushy in the Manhattan evening, the building is almost camouflaged—becoming one with the snowy skies.
Yet, as I arrived and exited, the snowstorm and its attendant murkiness and gloom did not touch or affect me. I was on an emotional and mental high. I had just passed several hours amid star-soaring unicorns, ocean-dwelling neon fish, vibrant reptiles, and gorgeous huggable teddy bears.
Toy Fair 2018 was a toast to the redeeming and restorative powers of positive thinking and uplifting colors. The two go hand in hand. No, that’s not true. The two go hand in paw!