I combed through the deluge of hot holiday toy lists and forecasts that flood my inbox at this time of year, looking for common products and themes that showed up across the lists. Below is a roundup of what retailers and toy experts think will be flying off store shelves this holiday season.
1. All things “Star Wars.”
Even in years when no movie is released in this storied franchise, “Star Wars” consistently ranks among the top-selling licensed toy properties the nation. But with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” slated to hit theaters on Dec. 18, the Star Wars merchandise machine is projected to be a juggernaut. Some analysts predict sales of “Star Wars” toys could surpass those of merchandise tied to Disney’s blockbuster “Frozen,” which totaled about $500 million last year.
While shelves will be packed with everything from Storm Trooper masks to Kylo Ren action figures, there are a several items that stand out from the pack. The BB-8 App-Enabled Droid, made by Sphero, has already proved to be a hot seller: The manufacturer thought it had roughly a month’s supply when these tiny robots first hit store shelves in September. In fact, they sold out in hours. BB-8 can scoot around your house, either on its own in “patrol” mode or with you controlling the robot from an app on your smartphone. (If this character doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because it will make its debut in “Force Awakens.” Disney has said you can think of BB-8 as something of a souped up R2-D2.)
Then there’s Legendary Yoda, made by Spin Master, who can spin around 360 degrees swinging his Lightsaber and answers kids’ questions about how to become a Jedi thanks to voice recognition software. Wal-Mart’s vice president of toys, Anne Marie Kehoe, has said this toy was “one of our most popular pre-orders in toys in a long time.” Kmart and Toys R Us and are also betting on the Bladebuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber to be a big seller this year. You can assemble this Hasbro Lightsaber in about 100 different ways, so little ones will be able to design their own way fight the Dark Side.
We tested some high-tech “Star Wars” toys in the newsroom. Here’s a look at how they work:
2. “Toys-to-life” gear.
This is a type of playset that includes both action figures and a corresponding video game. When kids place an action figure on a console, that character pops into the video game. Skylanders was the pioneer of this genre back in 2011, and will have new offerings this year. Laurie Schact, a publisher of toy-review site Toy Insider Mom, says the brand is back with new offerings this year in which old characters will have “enhanced powers and capabilities” in the video game. Disney has made a big push in this category with Disney Infinity, which allows kids to play with characters from all across the ever-expanding Disney universe, including Yoda and Joy from “Inside Out.” Lego is also trying to get in on the action this year with a new toys-to-life line, Lego Dimensions, which includes characters from Warner Bros. properties such as “Jurassic World,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The Simpsons.” Several hot toy lists have called out the starter pack in each of these lines as a great gift.
3. Items for little foodies.
The Easy-Bake Oven you remember from your childhood has some fresh competition. Wal-Mart, Amazon and toy reviewer Laurie Schact have all named the Girl Scout Cookie Oven from Wicked Cool Toys to their hot lists this year. This oven comes with cookie mix for Thin Mint cookies, and parents can also buy mix for Trefoils and other familiar Girl Scout cookie varieties. Toys R Us is also betting its sister toy, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Pizza Oven, will be a big seller. If you’re shopping for a kid with a sweet tooth, you might also look out for the Candy Craft Chocolate Pen from Skyrocket Toys, which, as its name suggests, allows you to draw in chocolate and eat your creation later.
Experts are betting that kids will want to spend the holidays piloting something around the living room or backyard. Toy review Web site TTPM has called out the Star Wars Remote Control Ultimate Millennium Falcon Quad as a good buy. It’s a small version of Han Solo’s famous starship that’s meant for indoor flying only. Meanwhile, Toys R Us and Target are betting on drones by Sky Viper to be popular with older children (and adults). These outdoor-flying drones capture bird’s-eye-view video of the ground below them. Oh, and if you’ve really got big bucks to spend, Sam’s Club has said it will stock about a dozen drones ranging from $100 to $4,000 this season. (That is not a typo.)
5. Some blasts from holidays past.
What’s that? You still have nightmares about that time in 1996 you got elbowed in the nose trying to get a Tickle Me Elmo for your niece? Well, you may be in for some flashbacks this year. Elmo and a few other hit characters from yesteryear are expected to be in-demand again this holiday season. Some retailers are betting that they’ll score a hit with Play All Day Elmo from Playskool, a version of the furry red critter that talks and responds to both tickles and squeezes of his nose. Princess Elsa of “Frozen,” last year’s queen of Christmas, is expected to ring up big sales again, especially the Sing-Along Elsa doll by Tolly Tots which comes with a microphone that allows kids to duet with her on “Let It Go.” Also hoping for a Christmas comeback this year is Bratz, the line of dolls made by MGA Entertainment that once looked like a serious threat to Barbie until it was pulled from shelves in 2009 amid a legal dispute. The brand relaunched this summer, and now is once again looking to take on Barbie, as well as newer doll properties such as Monster High. The holidays will be a good test of whether little girls are interested.
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