After a surprise announcement and months of hype, Nintendo Labo has finally arrived. This new system links the physical and digital realms of the Nintendo Switch in ways that most would've never imagined, allowing players to "make, play and discover." It's such a unique experience, it's somewhat hard to describe without actually playing it, and I had a chance to do just that during an hour-and-a-half session behind closed doors with Nintendo at the 115th North American International Toy Fair back in February. But there's also a lot to be gained by watching others and seeing what their creations are all about, and for launch Nintendo has teamed-up with a guy that knows a bit about labs... Bill Nye. Check out the video below to see what The Science Guy whips up, then get creative and start sharing your own ideas.
The Toys "R" Us saga continues, and while this week hasn't been as explosive as some in recent months, there has been some activity worth noting. Earlier this week it was reported that the bid for pieces of Toys "R" Us operations in the U.S. and Canada by MGA Entertainment's Isaac Larian has been rejected for "not meeting the threshold" - a statement that left many to question what exactly that threshold would be. For Canada, we now have a number, and it came via a filing of notice for a stalking horse bidder. Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited has entered into an agreement to buy the Canadian operations for $300M in Canadian dollars - equivalent to about $237M US. Larian's bid for Canadian stores was $215M.
For the past few years, Mattel's American Girl subsidiary has been running into problems. Sales have been dropping by the double-digits as habits change (damn the devices!) and other companies' 18" dolls have started to catch up to them in terms of quality but at a lower price. Add in another unfortunate set of moves that were tied to the failing Toys "R" Us (TRU), and those problems have snowballed quickly. The launch of the lower-priced, 15" Wellie Wishers line never took off in the way that everyone hoped, and those dolls and their accessories were shipped heavily to TRU. Pair that with fact that about a year and a half ago (October 2016), American Girl opened store-within-a-store pop-up concepts in 97 Toys "R" Us locations, and that's an issue. Mattel is owed over $135M in the Toys "R" Us bankruptcy that they'll likely never see and the fallout has begun. They recently announced the closing of their New York City office (100 jobs lost), and today comes news that hits close to home - they're shutting down American Girl operations in Wilmot, Wisconsin, and The Mattel Toy Store is going along with it.
If I were to spin back the clock a few decades and point my lens to a specific neighborhood and a specific house somewhere in the south suburbs of Chicago, I would be able to see a little boy that was dreaming of bigger things. Sometimes that child would be tuned into WFLD-TV Channel 32, watching Reb Brown and Nicholas Hammond as Captain America and Spider-Man in re-runs on the UHF band. During those shows there might even be a commercial for the incredible stories being told in the pages of Marvel Comics. It was a simpler time, and one where no one could've ever predicted how prevalent those characters would one day be around the world. Now, as the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to be released, that little boy is now a man - and one invited to walk the red carpet at the World Premiere of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War! As a guest of The Walt Disney Company and Marvel, I will be back in Los Angeles as part of a group of 25 writers, bloggers and online personalities as we experience the debut of the biggest superhero film in history as part of the #InfinityWarEvent - April 22-24, 2018! What's unique about this it that the World Premiere will mark the first time that the cast as seen the film... and like last year when the cast assembled at the D23 Expo in Anaheim to share in watching the first footage from the film together, somehow this kid from Illinois will be there with them.
If you don't want to terrify your children, don't mention the prospect of recycling toys. Not long ago, I happened to be watching a video about a company that recycles broken plastic toys into children's furniture. My girls came into the office while I was watching it, and within minutes they'd created an entire story about "the toy stealers who come at night," subsequently starting to hide their own toys for fear of recycling. In reality, it's not a bad idea, and while I don't really know the data on it, I can only imagine the massive amount of toys and games that wind up in landfills each year. Now, ahead of Earth Day, Hasbro announced earlier this week that they're launching a toy and game recycling pilot program with TerraCycle. During the pilot program, consumers can collect and send their well-loved Hasbro toys and games to TerraCycle, who will recycle them into materials that can be used in the construction of play spaces, flower pots, park benches, and other innovative uses. In 2018, Hasbro is piloting the program in the contiguous U.S.
As of this writing, we're closer to May than April and it's currently snowing where I sit here in Illinois. From what I've heard, it's not much better for my friends on the east coast, like my colleagues at The Toy Insider who've just launched their 2018 Spring & Summer Gift Guide. Technically, it's spring, and here at Rock Father™ HQ we have some of the items featured in The Toy Insider Gift Guide... we just haven't had the proper weather to use them just yet. Never separated by gender, the Toy Insider’s gift guide is broken down by age group and play category - with each category featuring a variety of products across a wide range of price points. Check out the links and details below!