Jim Silver has one tough job: He plays with new toys. Editor-in-chief of TimetoPlayMag.com, Silver is one of the top experts in the toy, licensing and family entertainment industries. We spoke last week, about green toys, digital toys and toys that look like guns.
Every industry seems to be going green in some way. Are kids toys going there? Using less plastic?
It’s so hard to do, because the toys kids want are plastic. So the manufacturers are trying to go green in many different ways. They’re trying to print instructions on recycled paper and reduce packaging. Uncle Milton is making solar-powered cars, and Owi makes a large number of solar-based robotic toys for the specialty market. They have been around for 20 years.
Is there a trend of parents wanting toys from natural materials, like wood?
Some, but it’s less than 1 percent. There are some toys now that teach about recycling. Mega Bloks has a Play ‘n Go Recycle truck that has recycling bins with the logos, and it transforms into a recycle station. They were the first, and now you see other companies following suit.
What are the hot digital toys this year?
One of the big introductions this year that we’re seeing in terms of smart toys is the VTech FliP book reader–a Kindle for kids. It will hit the shelves in the fall. It’s an animated reading system for children—who always want what their parents have. It has a qwerty keyboard, color touch screen technology, and you can download books like Shrek, Disney Books, Dora the Explorer. It teaches words as the stories play. You can watch, read, listen or play interactive games. It’s the next generation.
Is there any pressure among manufacturers to make fewer toy guns or games with guns?
No. We’re a country of 50 different states and different beliefs. You’ll go to one city, and the majority of people are against guns, and in another city, they’re all for guns. Last year we showed some toys at a demonstration. One was Big Buck Hunter from Jakks Pacific. You plug it into a TV and go deer-hunting. You only get a certain number of shots, and you have to shoot them in the head or heart to kill them. If you shoot them elsewhere they are injured. This game was sold out before the holidays. Then there was Duck Hunter from Interactive Toy Concepts. You have a duck that flies and an infrared gun. The first time you hit the gun with the light, it stuns the duck. By the third time it falls to the ground. This also sold quite well. When we showed these products, people either loved them or were totally offended. We’re not a country of one size fits all.
One of the most important things with these loose gun toys is that for more than 20 years, it’s been the law that they can’t look anything like a real gun. That’s why you see most blasters in bright orange or yellow.