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Zuru Toys is a curious outfit. On one hand, they have fantastic, original lines like their global hit Bunch O Balloons, this year's successful Smashers (now in Series Two) and one of my current Holiday Wish Guide™ picks - Rainbocorns Sequin Surprise (my girls LOVE theirs). But then they tread really close to other popular brands, releasing toys that there's no denying are at least inspired-by some heavy-hitters, perhaps stopping just short of being called something more unsavory... knockoffs. There's 5 Surprise, which as the name implies places five toys inside a round orb, no doubt taking some cues from MGA Entertainment's L.O.L. Surprise line, but packing-in toys akin to what you'd find in a 50¢ vending machine. Then you've got X-Shot, which is a straight-up competitor to Hasbro's NERF line; METAL MACHINES which is a value-priced diecast line that's clearly inspired by Mattel's Hot Wheels; Oosh which is essentially Educational Insights' Floam; you get the idea. Now they're chasing LEGO with MAX BUILD MORE, a new collection of "compatible" building bricks that's just launched as a Walmart exclusive (yes, that's an affiliate link because if you absolutely have to have them, I'll gladly make a few pennies on the deal - but you could also just shop the fantastic LEGO selection instead). In a press release, Zuru touts them as "a premium quality, value-priced toy brick line -- compatible with all major toy brick brands and offering unbeatable value for budget with hundreds of high-quality bricks in each set for a fraction of the current price."

The legend of the Calico Critters is getting bigger. Having checked out a small preview during Toy Fair this year and then going hands-on during The Toy Insider's Sweet Suite back in July, I can tell you that the new Calico Critters Town Series is a lot of fun. The detailed playsets and figures of the new Town Series mark the biggest launch in the past 10 years for their maker, Epoch Everlasting Play. According to the toymaker,  "the new collection takes girls to the next level as they move beyond preschool play to the early school years. It features a more elegant, sophisticated styling, and a focus on the lives of more grown-up characters, who have fun jobs that children can dream of having when they grow up." Following a special pop-up experience to celebrate the launch in New York City, little fans everywhere will be excited to know that the world of Calico Critters is coming to Netflix as an all-new animated series this fall!

"Imagine if you can, that you are a proud and powerful Gargonoid..."

The 10th anniversary of the original BAKUGAN series is approaching, and now there's news that it's primed for a relaunch. Spin Master, TMS Entertainment Co., Ltd., and Nelvana Ltd., have announced a coordinated project to bring BAKUGAN Battle Planet to the masses. Originally launched in 2008, BAKUGAN was an immediate hit and named "Toy of the Year" and "License Property of the Year" in 2009. Now, a new animated series and all the toys fans could want are on the way...

I feel bad for the small crew that's stayed on at Toys "R" Us (though not as bad as I do for the folks who weren't as fortunate) through the course of their spectacular collapse and extraordinarily unusual bankruptcy proceedings this past year. While the last of their stores closed on June 29th in the U.S., on June 20th the company registered a new trademark for Geoffrey's Toy Box - news that I broke right here on The Rock Father™ Magazine last week. All this time, there has been a crew working on what would emerge as Geoffrey, LLC, and before I go any further, I think it should be made clear that no one should be made to feel at fault for holding onto a job during times of crisis. Though the former Global Resource Center for Toys "R" Us in Wayne, NJ has been stripped-down and largely liquidated itself, there's been a small crew at work, and those folks were placed into a really hard spot - supporting their families while friends and colleagues were let go, and also tasked with trying to reimagine and perhaps revive a brand that they loved. That said, the news of Geoffrey, LLC living on as Geoffrey's Toy Box (branded merch, licensing, perhaps new stores... eventually) has been met with polarizing reaction from those within the toy industry, but tonight it became apparent that whoever decided to pull the trigger on re-activating the Toys "R" Us social networks wasn't counting on public backlash. 

It's been a massive week for the toy industry as the annual Fall Toy Preview has come to a close in Dallas. While the big news has been with Toys "R" Us lenders restructuring assets under Geoffrey, LLC and prepping to launch their Geoffrey's Toy Box initiative, a new opponent has entered the battlefield as retailers position themselves to grab market share left up for grabs following the closure of Toys "R" Us in the U.S. as we head into the holiday season. Go! Retail Group has announced a nationwide expansion of their toy business, and as part of that they're opening a new concept: TOYS EXPRESS. The new stores will open in 13 locations previously occupied by Toys "R" Us Express stores. 

While you won't find me at New York Comic-Con (NYCC) this weekend, you can certainly find some awesome toys and collectibles being offered by my friends at Funko and Entertainment Earth. One very much-anticipated item is the Funko / Entertainment Earth Convention Exclusive Classic Spider-Woman Pop! Vinyl Figure. First announced on the official Funko blog last month, Spider-Woman joins the Funko family TODAY and is available in super-limited quantities only at Funko's booth at New York Comic-Con or online through Entertainment Earth! These are in the EE warehouse and ready to ship next week, and although I'm not at NYCC, somehow Spider-Woman made her way to me. Check out this first hands-on look!

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