A Stranger Look at today’s big market toy aisle

Throughout the years, toy production has produced many varieties and options for young consumers. Aisles upon aisles greet the welcoming children, providing choices that have not always been there. Through this wide variety, children can find what suits their imagination best. From 0.99 cent Hot Wheels, princess dress up gowns, to a myriad of Star Wars toys, there is something for every child (and adult).

Throughout the years, toy production has produced many varieties and options for young consumers. Aisles upon aisles greet the welcoming children, providing choices that have not always been there. Through this wide variety, children can find what suits their imagination best. From 0.99 cent Hot Wheels, princess dress up gowns, to a myriad of Star Wars toys, there is something for every child (and adult).

A Young Adult’s Analysis of a Child’s Domain:

While the toy market is always changing, some things will never disappear. Among the shelves, one can find familiar faces, some more welcoming than others. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remains unscathed, the toys only changing to match the animation style. Likewise, Transformers have changed through color differences between the old and new. Following each franchise, extra parts are included with some new toys out there, where such additions play into more imaginative play and scene recreation.

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Following the revamping trend from a nostalgic past, some toys have released with fresh, modern aspects to them. Furbys are now more digitalized, complete with pixellated eyes and antenna on their head to accent the fuzzy exteriors. Introduced in mid-2016, Furby Connect provides more modern aspects to the original Furby of 1998. With features including a Bluetooth connection, an accessible Furby app uses a soundboard enabling speech and playable games using the antenna as a joystick. Another notable feature is the off-switch; a welcoming adaptation. Due to the technological upgrade, the price has subsequently risen to a staggering $100 before tax. In the end, I believe that it is worthwhile to have a more friendly, welcoming face, plush exterior, and that much-needed off switch. 

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For more of a surprising twist, Popples have reentered the market, attempting to resell the idea of a stuffed animal turning into a ball for a new generation. While they do still form a plush ball by dragging the butt over the head and turning the toy inside out, the modern-day Popples are noticeably smaller compared to the older versions. Alongside the size change, the appearance has strayed from that of a Care Bear knock-off, and more towards a stylized rodent. Following typical Popples style, a new show has premiered on the movie streaming site Netflix; creating an ultimate homage to the 1980’s original.

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Also notable and of interest, are the new line of ‘Fashionistas’ Barbie dolls. Released throughout 2016, these fashion dolls come in different shapes and sizes; straying from the typical one model of years past. Sporting characteristics such as tall, petite, short, and curvy, these stylized additions work to promote body inclusion toward a more cookie cutter market. No other lines, doll and action figure included, seem to go out of their way to create different sized and proportioned models; one body shape and type being enough for production purposes.

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Noticeable Differences:

Now, it seems like every marketable movie now has its own toy line. Characters and aspects of the plot that can be remotely marketed, are. From the tiny snowmen that appear in a Disney’s Frozen short, to an homage to the two-minute appearance of Mr. Ray in Finding Dory; nothing seems sacred when in toy production. With each new movie out, a notable section of the toy wall is overrun, often before the film even premieres. Through this, fewer original toys are seen.

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Similarly to the film industry taking over  production, certain toys seem to be taking to the big or small screen. While strolling through the aisle, certain packages are adorn with white and red stickers, reading ‘A Netflix Original Series’ or ‘Watch on YouTube’. Even brands as old as Bratz have bought into the idea of expansion through other forms of media. While this makes sense in a rapidly expanding market, it almost feels like a stab in the back to the old toy industry.

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Despite the vast variety of types of toys, some are becoming more regressive than others. Instead of the individualism and creative aspects promoted by Legos and Play-Doh, more modern packages are sold as sets. These kits aim at the idea of building and creating a specific model, and not allowing children to let their imaginations run wild. Creation is a very large aspect of imaginative play, and structure takes away part of that fun and overall satisfaction with the finalized product.  

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With the holiday season coming up, the shelves will no doubt become overflowing with restocked items. New toys will arrive into the market and saturate advertisements, pressuring parents into finding a gift for their child. With the wide variety, parents have plenty of options, but will have a harder time finding the perfect toy that their kid will enjoy. Oftentimes, adults will have an inkling of what interests their little one, but not a specific notion of what they would prefer. I find that in the end, this leads to frustrated parents and displeased children.

Personal Thoughts:

I do not see any inherent harm additions and changes have to the industry as a whole. Like all other aspects of life, there is room to grow as a collective and individual; providing framework, but not set rules. While the disappearance of original toys without a separate source of media to piggyback off of is noticeable, I have hope for a future with new ideas.  Toys have been successfully marketed in the past, and will be again. These new additions, however, do not necessarily need to be from an entirely new source. Throughout the companies, new additions are being made every day, adding new ideas to existing franchises; ultimately providing something never seen before. While it would be nice to see an entirely original and independent idea enter the market, I would prefer new, creative spin any day.

Katherine A

Growing up in the early 2000’s, I am no stranger to toys and the marketing campaigns used to sell them. As a child, I had plenty littering my floor at all times. With my upbringing, I was given nothing but stereotypical girl toys: Barbies, Bratz, Betty Spaghetti, if it was marketed towards girls, I most likely had it at one point. Despite what I was given, I was always envious of my friends whose parents were less gender specific with their toys, having Hot Wheels, Nerf guns, and Legos. My dream toy was the Lego Hogwarts Castle; a gift my cousin has received. Growing up and gaining my own independence, I have been allowed to find my own interests, doing now what my parents had never allowed me to do. Through this, I was able to explore forms of media such as cartoons, comics, and the genre of sci-fi as a whole. In a way, I am trying to take back my childhood and remake it in a way that was never allowed.

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