Culture Magazine

A Doll Blogger at Toy Fair

By Ashley Brooke, Kewpie83 @KewpieDoll83

The article below was originally written as a spec article for Dolls Magazine. Spec articles are essentially writing samples that you hope will entice an editor enough to give you a chance at getting an article in their magazine. I gave them a few weeks to get back to me. After receiving no response at all regarding my submission, I decided it was best just to post it here on the blog. Some of what is stated here is repetitive for long time readers, but there may be some fun facts in this article for you to enjoy! (And for those who missed it, be sure to check out my article in the January 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing!)

A Doll Blogger At Toy Fair

The North American International Toy Fair has always been an elusive event for me. Known as Toy Fair to most, this show has been happening annually in New York City since 1903. You read toy histories about your favorite playthings making their debuts during this important industry event — Barbie in 1959, Cabbage Patch Kids in 1983, Furbys in 1998, to name a few. Every line needs to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually Toy Fair.

New York City, Yotel and Toy Fair Craziness

My interest in the show came from my mom, an avid doll collector. Growing up the daughter of a doll collector, it should come as no surprise that I decided to collect, too. My collection includes a variety of things. I started actively collecting Skipper, Barbie’s Little Sister, when I was in my teens and gradually added more dolls of all shapes, sizes and brands to my large, out of box collection.

Skipper, Barbie's Little Sister

Skipper, Barbie’s Little Sister

In 2010, I decided to share my collection with the world through my blog, Confessions of a Doll Collectors Daughter. Shortly after starting the blog, I started my own YouTube channel under my internet pseudonym Kewpie83, as a supplement to my written reviews. Eventually, I started a facebook fan page, in an effort to make my blog even more accessible to collectors. My blogging opened up many doors for me, including crossing off a major bucket list item—to attend Toy Fair.

Many bloggers don’t give themselves enough credit. They think they’re not legitimate enough to apply as press for events like this, just because they don’t write for a print magazine. I was guilty of thinking I wasn’t on par with ‘real’ writers until one day, when I realized thinking like that wasn’t going to get me anywhere. That’s why it took four years for me to apply to attend one of the most important events in the field I write about. In November of 2014, I decided to bite the bullet and applied for a press pass to the New York City show. A few days later, I received a confirmation e-mail and that was the beginning of my Toy Fair adventure!

New York City, Yotel and Toy Fair Craziness

Fast forward two months; It’s February 15th. I have ten booth appointments scheduled and my coveted press pass hangs around my neck. I am standing in the Jacob K Javits Convention Center attending Toy Fair. What can I say? Toy Fair is an amazing event and well worth the endless planning and money spent commuting from Chicago to snowy New York City.

Inside the glass walls of the Javits Center are thousands of toy designers, manufacturers and distributors, from start-ups to big name brands, displaying their wares in nearly every nook and cranny of the gigantic building.

More NYC Fun/Toy Fair Craziness

Walking into the large convention halls that housed exhibitors was much like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. So many different sights and sounds. No one booth was the same as the other. Walking down one aisle, you would see someone sailing down a ramp on a wheel less board, beautiful doll furniture displayed in enchanting scenes, fun and funky vinyl figures and maybe even a brave show attendee lying on a bed of nails! And that would be just one of the 2,000 aisles on Level 3.

Toy Fair 2015- The Bridge Direct (Strawberry Shortcake, etc)

One thing that surprised me about Toy Fair was the idea of making ‘appointments’. Appointments will differ depending on who you’re working with, but in most cases, appointments are one on one booth tours. They’re your chance to have the exhibitors’ undivided attention, which is a great advantage during the show. You don’t need an appointment for every booth you see, but if you really, really want to cover a certain type of toy, in my case dolls, appointments are the best way to go.

While perusing the many aisles of Toy Fair, there were some interesting trends that I spotted in the doll world. One theme I saw a lot of were interactive talking dolls that connected to the world in a whole new way—by bluetooth and wifi.

My Friend Cayla

This new element adds extra dimension to conversational play. With these elements, which in most cases allow the dolls to connect to secure databases, dolls can understand what you’re saying, retain it and respond appropriately. Dolls with this technology will be seen later this year in My Friend Cayla and Hello Barbie.

Toy Fair 2015- Mattel Booth (Barbie, MH, EAH)

I also noticed a huge growth in the 18” doll market. Growing up, there were two 18” lines that I can remember: American Girl and Magic Attic.

Toy Fair 2015- Madame Alexander

Now, there are a whole slew of dolls in this size range. Some of which were designed in that size due to the fact that so many children already have an 18” doll, making clothing changes endless and easy to find.

Toy Fair 2015- Laurent/The Queens Treasure

In the toy world, there were a lot of electronic toys on display, like miniature flying machines and robots. In the same respect, minimalistic, crafty toys and building sets were represented in multiple booths, as well.

There were a few exhibitors that made lasting impressions on me. Tonner brought prototypes of their new 18” My Imagination line. These unique dolls have a great, childlike look to them and a fantastic wardrobe. Girls and boys of all ages will love this line. I know I do!

Toy Fair 2015- Tonner

Paola Reina brought an assortment of dolls. This doll line hails from Spain and has been going strong since 1994. Recently, it was brought over to North America. These dolls have amazingly expressive faces with hand painted features and inset eyes. They’re even infused with a unique vanilla scent. Their beautiful booth made me leave a huge fan.

Toy Fair 2015- Paola Reina

Two other exhibitors that stayed with me were creating fantastic multicultural dolls. Double Dutch Dolls displayed their line for the first time at Toy Fair. It was great being able to see their 18” line of multicultural dolls in person.

Toy Fair 2015- Double Dutch Dolls

The One World Doll Project also had an eye-catching showing of dolls on display; with their 1/6th scale Prettie Girls! and new 16” Prettie Girls! Tween Scene literally on pedestals. Keep an eye on these two brands. I personally think they’ll help create a very positive trend in the doll world.

Toy Fair 2015- One World Doll Project

And, of course, we can’t forget the fang-tastic 17” Monster High releases we’ll be seeing later this year. Not only is Mattel creating a new unique character for their Freak du Chic line, Gooliope Gellington, in this large size, but three of their original Monster High girls, as well—Draculaura, Clawdeen and Frankie. Seeing these four in person at the show made me even more excited about adding them to my collection!

Toy Fair 2015- Mattel Booth (Barbie, MH, EAH)

Also worth mentioning was the surprise of the show for me; the Nutcracker themed ‘My Ballerina Dolls‘. Standing at 23″ tall, these resin, ball jointed dolls were major stand outs at the show.

Toy Fair 2015- My Ballerina Dolls (Nutcracker)

Overall, my first Toy Fair was a huge success. However, it was only a success due to the helpfulness of past attendees who were kind enough to pass along their words of wisdom. So, it’s only right that I leave a few bits of advice for bloggers who may be considering attending, as well.

New York City, Yotel and Toy Fair Craziness

1- Don’t be afraid of applying. The worst that can happen is that you’re not let in. If that happens, just try to bump up your stats for next year and remember, you don’t have to attend Toy Fair to make contacts. You can do that all year round.

2- Before attending, print lots of business cards. You want people to know who you are and where to find you. You’ll also want to make a blogger media kit. My kit consists of a one sheet with my picture, blog links and important stats.

Toy Fair 2015- TOTY Winners

3- The real work begins after getting the registration confirmation. Remember those appointments I mentioned earlier? You’ll want to lock those down before the show. Do you have a relationship with companies already? Shoot them an e-mail and mention you’ll be attending the show. Is there a company you want to work with? Why not shoot them an e-mail, too, explaining who you are and that you’d love to meet with them if they are attending Toy Fair. You may even want to attach your Media Kit to the e-mail. The Toy Fair website is really helpful with this—they’ll usually post who is attending in advance, so you don’t have to contact companies completely blind. Be careful not to over book yourself, though. I found some amazing products while walking the aisles in my free time. (And don’t forget lunch. You’ll want a lunch break, too!)

Toy Fair 2015- Bluefin Distribution

4- Not all the exhibitors will be blogger friendly. Some don’t care about marketing themselves because they are looking for buyers. Some will grill you on all your stats, others will need you to explain what ‘blogging’ is. Not everyone understands what bloggers do or how they affect the toy industry. Don’t take offense if a booth doesn’t quite ‘get’ what you do.

5- In the same respect, not all booths will allow you to take photos and/or video. Ask the exhibitors when you enter if it’s okay for you to shoot. I didn’t have much trouble with booths saying no when I asked about taking photos. Most just asked for a business card in return for permission. Within photo-friendly booths, there may be items that you can’t photograph. Booths will usually mark those with small signs. If you see something at a booth, but can’t show it off to your readers, it’s more than okay to ask if the company could keep you in the loop.

Toy Fair 2015- Arklu's Lottie

6- If you visit a booth and you like what you see, ask for a business card. The key thing for bloggers at Toy Fair is to make relationships with companies. Follow up after the show and thank them for speaking with you. If you’re on a company’s radar, you may be offered samples to review for your blog, which is never a bad thing.

Toy Fair 2015- Lammily

7- Don’t underestimate small independents. If you’re at all shy about talking to people, chatting with independents may be a great way to warm up for your appointments. In most cases, the smaller entrepreneurs will want as much Toy Fair coverage as they can get. Plus, there were some fantastic products coming out of those booths.  And you never know, they could be the next big thing!

Rangers- Ready!

8- Most importantly, have fun! You may be attending for work, but it doesn’t have to feel like work. Take in the vastness of the Javits Center, run across the lobby to catch up with the Power Rangers for a super dorky, but amazing photo opportunity, step inside that Cabbage Patch Kids box, stand in awe across from the insanely large Funko Groot, drool over (metaphorically speaking) the amazing dolls and toys that will be popping up over the next year.

Toy Fair 2015- Funko

I would never have expected ten years ago that I would be in a position to attend Toy Fair, but am so pleased I could finally check this bucket list item off my list! It was an amazing experience and definitely one I hope to repeat in the future.

Toy Fair- Tokidoki

You can find all my coverage here on Confessions of a Doll Collectors Daughter, YouTube and Flickr.  Below is my YouTube Toy Fair playlist.

Tell me, what was your favorite thing shown here from Toy Fair?  I’d love to know!  Leave your thoughts in the comment area.

April 4, 2015. Tags: article, toy, toy fair. Articles and Doll Histories, Toy Fair 2015, Uncategorized.

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