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Automoblox have been around for nearly 15 years (the original idea goes back to the early 90s), but it wasn't until PlayMonster picked them up a couple of years back that they really started picking up steam. Touted as "A Real Car Brand For Kids," these rides are a modern reinvention of the classic wooden car - but with some stellar upgrades and construction that's built to last. The precision design of each vehicle is broken into sections that become mix-and-match pieces (with hidden connectors), allowing kids to enjoy them right out of the box - or to use their imagination to create fresh new vehicles. You can swap bodies, wheels, tires, windows and more, and the vehicles have some real weight to them. While the original Automoblox are fantastic, I think the Mini range is the stand-out element of the whole collection.

Spring unofficially marks the start of cleaning season as people across the country will tidy up their nests and celebrate the incoming warm weather. Though it’s late, it appears that spring has finally arrived in the Midwest, so we need to be sure that our vehicles are prepared to adjust to the changing weather and conditions.

I've been out in Los Angeles for the past few days, working with The Walt Disney Company on a few things, but most importantly to attend the World Premiere of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War (film reviewed here). Today, however, I had an unexpected detour - a brief meeting with the folks at Disney Consumer Products & Interactive, specifically to check out the latest offerings from Marvel and Lucasfilm ahead of Avengers and Solo: A Star Wars Story. While many of the items have been seen before, there's some additional product in the pipeline, and I'm pleased to reveal a couple of new cars from Mattel's Hot Wheels Star Wars Character Cars Collection. I've been writing about that line for four years (see my checklist here), and with Solo there's new offerings, including Qi'Ra and the Imperial Range Trooper. These were photographed with permission in a private showroom this morning...

The Hess Toy Truck is a tradition that I've written about many times over the years, and after last year saw the return of the summer Mini Collection (pictured top), news has arrived that the lineup for 2018 will be even bigger! Hess Corporation has announced plans to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the company's founding with three separate toy releases this year, each available exclusively at www.hesstoytruck.com. Of course the annual holiday Hess is always the big one, but this year there's something really special. Take a look...

I write about KNIGHT RIDER a lot. It's 100% true that in my office you will find a small collection of Knight Rider memorabilia, plus an autographed photo of David Hasselhoff that that my friends at Disney were kind enough to send me when he was making the rounds for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last year. It should be no surprise that the The Greatest Television Series of All-Time™ still has a massive following, and at the center of that is the Knight Industries Two Thousand, K.I.T.T. - KITT if you prefer. Over the years, KITT replicas have become a big thing, and I've seen a ton of them from absolutely beautiful to completely disappointing garbage. What you don't see very often is an actual, screen-used car that was involved in the series production from 1982-1986. They're rare, but a few exist, including one owned by the Knight Rider Historians - a group dedicated to sharing and preserving the history of the series. Earlier this month their car was featured in an episode of Jay Leno's Garage on YouTube and today I'm sharing that with you. In fairness, it's not even the best-looking K.I.T.T. out there (KITT Blasius may have that title right now), but because this car has history both during and after the series, this is a well-worth a watch. Check it out!

Thursday, April 12 2018 08:25

Toy Review: The Simplay3 Carry & Go Track Table

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One of my favorite toys of 2018 thus far is one that's perfect largely because of just how simple it is. The Simplay3 Carry & Go Track Table is a one-piece, 2-in-1 play space for cars, trucks and trains. The first side is an off-road race course that's filled with hills, valleys, curves, ramps and straightaways. Flip it over and you have a train table with built-in universal tracks, a figure-8 layout and a lake and quarry in the middle. With its lightweight plastic construction and molded-in handle, kids can easily carry this themselves, and because it's only 4" tall, the design is truly space-saving - easily stored underneath a bed or in a closet. I caught this on-display at the 115th North American International Toy Fair in NYC back in February, after which we received one for review in The Toy Testing Facility at Rock Father HQ. Check out the video below to see this in-action!

Renault is an auto brand that most younger Americans won't be familiar with. I am, and when I was a little kid I was even known to rock a little Renault Racing Suit (photographic evidence below). They've been out of the U.S. market for nearly three decades, but they're still huge elsewhere, and like their strategic partner, Nissan - they've been known to make some trips to a galaxy far, far away. The Renault KADJAR (a "cousin" of sorts to the Nissan Rogue) is currently appearing in a new television spot that's airing in Europe in support of Lucasfilm's Solo: A Star Wars Story. Part of Renault's "Alternative Road" promotion, the Star Wars-themed commercial features Chewbacca helping to protect a mother and son from what appears to be Enfys Nest and her gang of Cloud Riders. Take a look...

Milestone's GRAVEL is all about bringing the thrill of off-road racing into your home, but what's the fun of racing if you can't challenge your friends? Following the recent release of their Ice & Fire DLC, the GRAVEL (get it from my affiliate, GameStop) team is now showing off their multiplayer modes in a new trailer that shows some of the new modes that players can take part in with up to seven friends. Going beyond single race and championship, Capture the Flag and King Run bring some new dynamics into the game. Check it out...

Tony Stewart has long been known as “Smoke” on the track - a nickname earned for his ability to smoke the competition and burn up a set of tires when celebrating a victor. Now that name is coming to life as a car - specifically a one-of-a-kind pony. Stewart has teamed with Smithfield and car builder RTR Vehicles and the man behind it, drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr., to build a one-of-a-kind 2018 Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3 that will be given away to one lucky fan. This 700-horsepower beast finds Ford’s 5.0-liter V-8 engine receiving 12 pounds of boost from Ford Performance’s new supercharger. In the end, Tony Stewart’s Smithfield Smoke Machine will have the sound and feel of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion Stewart-Haas Racing campaigns in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with driver Aric Almirola. 

Aside from the fact that it featured a bit in Disney•Pixar's Cars 3 last year, dirt track racing doesn't tend to get much attention on the big screen. I've written a bit about it before - the fact that I grew up with it, spending many nights at Santa Fe Speedway outside of Chicago, and traveling to countless ovals around the Midwest as a kid, my dad being a track announcer at the time. Now comes Shifting Gears - a little movie with family at its core, and one set against the backdrop of dirt track action. The logline: "It's WE BOUGHT A ZOO meets DAYS OF THUNDER on dirt!" Check out the trailer and details below...

It's never fun to do a reveal that doesn't genuinely show the goods, but sometimes things just aren't quite ready yet. At Toy Fair there's always a lot of in-development product that's "pending licensor approval," and for some companies that means showing it privately, but not allowing pictures to get out there. The folks at Jada Toys have some fantastic offerings on the way, serving up new toys for kids and collectors alike, but unfortunately most of them are not ready to be seen. From new additions to their growing Nano Metalfigs line to all-new collections like a diecast line for girls (complete with licenses like Nickelodeon's Sunny Day) and expansion of their long-running Fast & Furious and supercar/tuners assortments, I'll be sharing much more very soon. For right now, though - there's one line in particular that really hit the sweet spot for me, and one property that really pushed it over the top. Hollywood Rides + KNIGHT RIDER? I'm in! Check out the video below...

Preschoolers will soon have some new rides to play with as Funrise and Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) are teaming-up for a new toy line called HERODRIVE. Making their debut at the 2018 edition of the North American International Toy Fair in New York City,  HERODRIVE is being touted as "an innovative, one-of-a-kind line that combines kids' favorite entertainment characters with fun and innovative play features to deliver the coolest vehicles for preschoolers." Racing from the starting line, the HERODRIVE DC Super Friends Collection will launch with vehicles inspired by iconic DC Comics characters such as Batman, Superman, The Flash, and more.

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