Bionicles battle amid massive Lego offering
Enfield, Connecticut-based Lego Systems is debuting more than 170 new products at Toy Fair-the largest one-time offering in the toyco’s history-and upping the collectibility factor along the way. One of the more interesting lines is Bionicles, a set of Lego Technic action figures targeting kids seven and up. The line is a departure for Lego, boasting an extensive backstory and varied price points to garner more collectibility.
The Bionicles saga is set on an island called Matanui that is enveloped by the evil Makuta, a dark shadow threatening to destroy the tropical paradise. Ranging from US$14.99 to US$89.99, the evil Makuta Henchman are larger and more expensive than their good-guy counterparts, six heroes called Toa. Each Toa (SRP US$6.99) is packaged with a CD-ROM providing action-adventure details and ultimately pointing to a secure website that tells the complete comic book-like saga in detailed installments. The Teraga characters-small, impulse-oriented items with an SRP of US$2.99-round out the line. All the Bionicles will be available in late summer and early fall.
For the younger crowd, the Lego Duplo line is introducing five new character- and vehicle-based Bob the Builder sets following last September’s inking of a three-year licensing deal with U.K.-based HIT Entertainment. The sets will target two- to four-year-olds and debut in June for US$7.99 to US$24.99.
Toy Biz magics up Rings merch
In anticipation of the December 2001 release of The Fellowship of the Ring (New Line Cinema’s first theatrical installment of Tolkien’s classic trilogy), New York-based master toy licensee Toy Biz will debut a plethora of action-packed product at this year’s Toy Fair. Lord of the Rings action figure offerings include Assortments I and II (US$14.99 each), the Twin Pack Assortment I (US$5.99) and the Deluxe Horse Assortment (US$14.99). Each targets kids four and up, with all products shipping in July.
The figures feature central characters from the movies, and to trigger collectibility, each comes with a portion of a map of Middle Earth-kids have to buy the whole set to get the whole map.
The Deluxe Horse Assortment features characters such as Ring Wraiths with Horse and Arwen with Asfaloth, the latter being accompanied by a frail-looking Frodo who changes color when he’s poisoned. The Ring Wraith’s horse features snarling sounds, light-up eyes and front-leg galloping action.
Toy Biz will also continue to build its X-Men line with part two of the Evolution Assortment (inspired by the Kids’ WB! series). Available in April, the six-inch poseable action figures come with their accessory of choice and feature three different battle modes (US$12.99, for four and up).
New Bandai anime spawns instant merch
Bandai’s betting the ranch on new anime imports Outlaw Star, Big O and Pilot Candidate, with action figures hitting shelves before the latter shows even hit airwaves. Outlaw Star debuted on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block January 15, and Big O and Pilot Candidate probably won’t light up screens until this fall, but new anime collector sets from Bandai America will include figures from all three shows, along with characters from Gundam Wing, Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne and Blue Submarine No. 6. Each of the sets is tentatively priced at US$14.99 and will include one seven-inch and two four-and-a-half-inch figures when they ship later this spring.
Bandai is also planning to pour lots of cash into building the successful Gundam franchise this year via a Gundam Wing Interactive Tour. The promo, currently being developed with Wal-Mart and Pioneer, will aim for 15- to 28-year-old guys and run between March and October 2001. The multimillion-dollar U.S. project will aim to build on Gundam’s cult following through model-making workshops and presentations on the history of Gundam and anime in general.
Irwin reboots Reboot at retail
Mainframe’s ‘classic’ 3-D CGI series Reboot is finally jumping back to store shelves this spring, thanks to collector’s edition action figures for kids ages six to 12 from Toronto-based Irwin Toy. A five-inch line includes five action figures in three assortments. A deluxe set features a voice-playback function. One button records your voice, the second replays it, and the third distorts it. Both have an SRP of US$7.99. Irwin is also coming out with nine-inch collectible figures with an SRP of US$14.99 each.
Five- to eight-year-olds can also get creative (or destructive) with the Bucket o’ Bynomes (US$7.99). The set comes with four Bynomes-robotic-looking zeros and ones that make up the majority of Mainframe’s population and keep the system running-with detachable body parts and accessories that can be refitted to create your own Bynome characters.
Fisher-Price answers 911 for rescue toys
Fisher-Price, Mattel’s New York-based preschool division, is dispatching a new line of Rescue Heroes. The Voice Tech Figures Mission Command Team (US$12.99) will hit shelves for kids three and up this spring. Each comes with a Mission Command Card that fits into its pack, enabling the figure to receive and respond to over 100 different rescue phrases.
Fans of the scooter phenomenon will be happy to hear that Fisher-Price is also coming out with a line of wrist-breakers for the younger set. The Roll 2 Pro Scooter (US$44.99) comes complete with removable training wheels, an extra-wide board, a sure-grip adjustable handle bar and wrist guards. It hits stores this spring for kids five and up.
New friends for Thomas from Learning Curve
Chicago-based Learning Curve is upping the transport options in Sodor with new additions to The Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway System. Kids three and up can fly out of Sodor Airfield Playset come June 2001 for US$49.99 (no frequent-flyer points though). The set comes with a propeller plane called Tiger Moth that magnetically attaches to the airport tower arm. Learning Curve is also introducing the Abbey Repair Shop to help keep Thomas in top form (US$34.99, available June 2001).
A yo-yo fit to be. . . untied
Ohio-based Duncan Toys is one of the pioneers and leaders in yo-yo. . . research? The toyco has announced a new line of yo-yos for Toy Fair called Duncan’s FreeHand yo-yo. Invented by Duncan professional Steve Brown (professional what? Yo-yo-er!), this new yo-yo is developed with freestyle in mind. It’s designed to never actually be tied to your hand. No, really. It has a special ‘Duncan Die’ at the end of the string so you can hold onto it, instead of tying it to your finger, facilitating the ability to let go of the yo-yo for combo and aerial tricks. The 3580XP FreeHand retails for US$14.99 and will be available in stores across North America this spring.