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The holiday season continues to loom large on the horizon, and as the toy wars of 2018 continue, another player has entered the octagon - JCPenney! As the retailer continues their evolution and gets back into categories like baby products, this fall marks the one-year anniversary of their successful toy shops. Like many of my generation, the JCPenney Christmas Catalog was a must-read while growing up, and now a hint of that spirit is coming back as they unwrap their Top 20 Toys list, "inviting shoppers to discover the most popular toys sure to top kid’s wish lists this Christmas." The JCPenney Top 20 Toys will be featured prominently within a dedicated toys book, which will be delivered to customers’ homes in time for the holiday season and will include a sticker sheet enabling kids to mark the items they want from Santa.

The pumpkin spice just started flowing last week and now I'm tempted to break out the peppermint mocha! I've been paying close attention to Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and today comes the final trailer for this new holiday epic. Set for release on November 2, 2018, get a good look at what's yet to come. Is it too early for me to pop on The Brian Setzer Orchestra's GRAMMY-nominated version of "The Nutcracker Suite?" Of course not!

At San Diego Comic-Con this summer, I had the honor of speaking on a panel - Living in a Post-Toys "R" Us World: Navigating the Future of Toy Retail. In that panel and the subsequent recap that I published at The Toy Book, I pointed out that one of the most exciting developments in the toy world is what the folks at Target have been gearing-up for... an expanded assortment of toys in fantastic new toy departments as part of their beautifully-redesigned stores. As the holiday season is about to unfold, you'll see what I was talking about as Target (an affiliate) has unveiled Bullseye's Top Toys of 2018 - this year's guide to the most-coveted toys includes something for every age and budget – from an even bigger L.O.L. Surprise! and a plush take on the Fingerling craze to the latest tech gear and more. Will a few items from Bullseye's list also appear on The Rock Father™'s Annual Holiday Wish Guide™ as well? Perhaps, but in the meantime, check it out below!

Some of my favorite Funko Pop! Vinyl figures and bobbleheads are those with a holiday spin. In fact, their Christmas-themed Baby Groot did really well a couple of years back... to the point where it's getting an update for 2018, being issued alongside a whole new batch of Marvel Holiday Pops and Pint Size Heroes. Hulk, Spider-Man and Deadpool are among those in on the action, and my friends and affiliates at Entertainment Earth have all of them up for pre-order. Check 'em out...

I do believe that the toy wars have begun... and that's a great thing for kids, parents and everyone who loves play! Following the sudden and spectacular collapse of Toys "R" Us earlier this year, a huge void was left and that means that other retailers have been ramping up to serve their customers while capturing a part of that business (fact: TRU still sold $11 billion in toys in 2016). Walmart (an affiliate) is one of the first out of the gate, rebranding their toy departments as "America's Best Toy Shop," promising an expanded assortment that includes 30 percent new toys in stores and 40 percent more toys online. That means new brands that kids may not have seen before, and they're adding some fun new experiences and special in-store events to get families excited. Along with this news comes the unveiling of Walmart's annual hot toy list, their 2018 "Top Rated By Kids" - 40 must-have items for this holiday season - and layaway is back! Check it out...

It's officially that time of year again... I'm sipping a Pumpkin Spice Latte while beginning to write an awful lot about Christmas. Truth is, I've been working on Holiday Wish Guide™ off-and-on since May, and one of my favorite additions to that is when we get to start announcing new holiday music for the year. While my definitive list of new titles is just taking shape, today we have an announcement from Mr. Engelbert Humperdinck. As he continues the year-long celebration of his 50th showbiz anniversary, he's now decided to launch the next chapter of his career on October 12, 2018 with Warmest Christmas Wishes, a brand-new Christmas album – his first in almost forty years. Set for release by OK! Good Records, the new album is a mix of the classic and the new, and this morning the first gift premiered over at Billboard. Check out "Please Come Home for Christmas" and see the full tracklisting below...

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