The holiday season is over and a new year has begun, which means that by now you’re probably back at work, college, or school and the thoughts of this year’s festivities couldn’t be further from your mind.
That may be the reality for most, but for toy and collectibles companies around the world this is actually one of the most important times of the year. Over six weeks they will take their new products around the world — the Toy Fair in Hong Kong took place January 6-9, followed by the Japanese Toy Fair which takes place this week, from January 12-15. Next week, from January 21-23, Toy Fair arrives in the UK, followed by Germany from January 29-February 3, and then to North America for the International Toy Fair in New York from February 16-19.
Toy Fair is the first time that retailers, as well as accredited media such as us, get to see new products — the products that will form the basis of many wish lists for the 2014 holiday season. Products take an average of 18 months to develop and whilst some products are shown in their final form, sometimes we only see prototypes of which toy companies will want to sell a minimum quantity before they put them into production. This means that some never see the light of day, making these prototypes highly sought after as the only examples of a product ever made — like the original Kenner Star Tots from the ’70s.
Most of the companies that produce toys and collectibles for Star Wars hold off their reveals for New York and whilst those products may be on display at some of the other shows around the world, photography is normally prohibited at all but the New York show; in the past we’ve tried Jedi mind tricks but these seem to have no effect. This can be quite frustrating for some attending these earlier shows and occasionally some companies also ask that you don’t report what you see and as you’d expect, leaks are frowned upon.
This year is another big year for Star Wars and we should see the first toys and collectibles revealed from the new animated TV show Star Wars Rebels by the likes of Hasbro, LEGO, and others, plus the usual round up of products from both the prequel and original trilogies as well as The Clone Wars and Expanded Universe.
In recent years, Hasbro and LEGO have put on special invitation-only events for the collector centric media like us. Normally the day before the New York Toy Fair starts (a Saturday), Hasbro invites us to their New York based showroom (just off Times Square) to reveal all the collector-based lines including Star Wars. It’s at this event that we get to see a presentation of the products coming for at least the first half of the year along with a reveal of that year’s San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) exclusive, and then it’s at SDCC where we all gather again to see the remaining products for the rest of year. After the presentation we’re invited into their main showroom where we’re free to take pictures and ask questions of the brand manager(s) — it’s normally a frantic few hours of blogging and photograph-taking, but well worth it.
At 7 a.m. on the first day of Toy Fair (Sunday), LEGO normally invites us to their stand for a special breakfast and first look at their whole range for the year — this includes LEGO Star Wars and all other lines. We’re allowed to take as many pictures as we want as well as being given the opportunity to ask questions of some of the product demonstrators present. It’s a great way to get to see the new products up close but we have to keep a close eye on the time, because at 9 a.m., Toy Fair opens for all and the LEGO stand is returned to a stand for retailers only.
It’s not only Hasbro and LEGO exhibiting; we hope to see new Star Wars products from Cartamundi, Character Options, Comic Images, Diamond, Funko, Gear4Games, Hornby, Jazwares, Kotobukiya, Neat-Oh, PBX, Re:creation, Revell, Rubies, Together Plus, Uncle Milton, Underground Toys, Winning Moves, Zeon, and others, too.
You may have noticed that Gentle Giant and Sideshow Collectibles are not listed above, as they’ve not exhibited at Toy Fair for the last few years (although we did get to see a couple of new Gentle Giant products on the Diamond/PBX stands in the last couple of years).
Toy Fair is not open to the public; only accredited media, retailers, and other approved personnel can attend. This year, we’ll be reporting from the UK Toy Fair, as well as the International Toy Fair in New York in February (weather permitting), and you can keep track of exciting toy reveals here at StarWars.com.
James Burns co-owns and runs Jedi News (with Mark Newbold), the largest English speaking Star Wars fan site in Europe, is the co-host of the UK-centric Radio 1138 podcast and is a regular contributor to Star Wars Insider. You can also listen to James as part of the monthly Curto Burns Collectors Cast, discussing all the latest Star Wars collecting news with co-host Dan Curto and fellow StarWars.com blogger Steve Sansweet.