Streetwise for Sunday, December 17, 2017
It was the wee hours of the morning and I was considering calling it quits when a familiar voice rang out, “Still carrying on the old family tradition by writing all night I see, he chuckled.”
Startled, I turned around. You would think by now I would have learned. “Nice to see you, I was getting worried,” I said, with a sideways glance at the calendar. “And how come there is never quite a clatter when you arrive.”
“Dry run,” he chuckled. “Get your notepad,” he said settling back at my desk, “and I will tell you about what is happening in the land of make-believe.” Yet, there was a bit of a saddened tone in his voice.
“Wait as second,” I said, “No ‘bowl full of jelly’ thing again this year?”
“The holiday season is not what it used to be,” he said sadly, “What with Toys-R-Us declaring bankruptcy and the declining fortunes at Mattel.”
He went on to say that for generations Monopoly money was stacked up in piles of pink, green and gold, while Hot Wheels raced across floors and Barbie, introduced in 1959, was just a doll. Not anymore. Classic toys are now aimed at entertaining technology-obsessed children.
To its credit and to keep Monopoly relevant, Hasbro has combined the game with a tablet or smartphone that counts everyone’s money. When a player lands on Chance or Community Chest, it starts a short digital game, which replaces the cards. Not to be outdone, Mattel now offers Hot Wheels cars that can zoom across iPad screens.
Joyfully, there is a cute new contender in toy land, the Fingerling. It is a five-inch robotic monkey that grips your finger with its legs and arms as it babbles, blows kisses and blinks its eyes. Cradle a Fingerling in your hand and it drifts off to sleep. Press its head and it passes gas.
Created by the Canadian company WowWee, the Fingerling is without a doubt one of this year’s hottest toys, a designation denoting a toy that is hoped for by many but where supply is likely to be insufficient to meet demand. While the monkeys are the core of the Fingerlings brand, WowWee also sells sloth and unicorn versions.
For years there has been a must-have holiday toy, such as the Cabbage Patch Kids, Beanie Babies, or a Tickle Me Elmo doll. And it is not unusual for parents to drive long distances only to find that their quarry is out of stock. At stake are tears of joy or misery of the children whose wishes are fulfilled, or dashed, depending on their parents’ success in achieving the near impossible.
“So, do you have any suggestions should parents find that Fingerling success evades them,” I asked.
“Certainly”, he said. And he went on to describe the Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, another one of the most requested toys this year. It comes with everything needed to build a complete Droid, and once completed you can download the app and teach it to go on special missions.
With the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, just out, and the increased interest in Star Wars toys, another possibility might be the LEGO Star Wars First Order Heavy Assault Walker Building Kit.
For the serious Star Wars fan this toy would be hard to beat as it builds into a Heavy Assault Walker that stands an impressive 13 inches tall when complete. It has fully positional legs and head, and is complete with 5 mini-figures and weapons.
Of course, there are still some updated classics, such as the combination Barbie doll and Dream Horse. Barbie’s horse is interactive, with more than 30 actions and reactions, including neighing, dancing, nodding and nuzzling. Just clip her in and Barbie is ready to ride off into the sunset looking as chic as ever in her pink riding hat and molded pants.
And what children would not like a remote-controlled robot. The Air Hogs All-Terrain RC Tank with Robot Transformation is a remote-controlled tank/robot! The thick treads mean that nowhere is out of bounds for this Air Hogs hybrid.
“Fascinating,” I said as I scribbled furiously. Then, just as I was about to ask a few questions, he just smiled and with a quick nod of his head he was gone. However, I am sure I heard him say, “Seasons greetings to all and to all a good night.”
Lauren Rudd is a financial writer and columnist. You can write to him at LVERudd@aol.com. Phone calls accepted between 9 AM and 3 PM at (941) 706-3449. For back columns please go to www.RuddReport.com.