Toy Fair ’20 has come and gone and with it the portents of what’s to come not only in the toy industry but the entire field of entertainment and pop culture.
No question, Baby Yoda was the official winner of Toy Fair 2020. Much like Baby Groot at Toy Fair 2017, you couldn’t walk the floor without seeing the licensed product in the works coming later this year. The fact that online pre-orders have already sold out in less than a day is a true testament to the fiduciary power of Baby Yoda. I would imagine that fervor will once again be on the rise once The Mandalorian Season 2 drops just time for the holiday shopping season.
As the Toy Association noted in the Toy Trends of 2020, it’s a big year for entertainment and the potential for giving a second life for nostalgia properties. After Hasbro acquired the Ghostbusters license in August 2019, it unveiled its tie-in products for the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife film at Toy Fair 2020 as well as its retro Real Ghostbusters action figures.
Someone online griped about too many Batman products from Spin Master and McFarlane Toys. Considering that the Dark Knight is the flagship character of DC Comics and without question is the biggest money maker, is it really that much of a surprise? However, I can understand the complaint similar to Marvel’s Wolverine that resulted in taking him off the board in the comics for a few years before his eventual return.
As someone else pointed out during a tour of the McFarlane Toys booth, there was a noticeable lack of Game of Thrones products on display. In general, there was a considerable dearth of new Game of Thrones merchandise compared to previous years when the HBO show was at its zenith. While I’m sure a series finale certainly contributes to a scale back, that hasn’t prevented Funko and other companies from mining franchise properties that have also ended such as Star Wars or various Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Between this and last year’s infamous SDCC panel that saw showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss bow out last minute rather than face the wrath of scorned fans, it’s beginning to look like Thrones is a tainted brand at least for the time being. Time will tell if the Thrones fandom will ever return to its heyday.
On the subject of beloved properties that have lost fan goodwill, I realized after the fact that no Star Trek merchandise was showcased either at McFarlane Toys. Trekkies may recall that back in 2017, McFarlane inked a licensing deal that covered the entire Star Trek franchise. If you’ve seen the Star Trek episode of the delightful Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, you’re fully aware that this has been the norm for Star Trek toys, i.e. not investing in Star Trek toys for the right project at the right time.
The current Star Trek: Discovery original CBS All Access streaming series hasn’t exactly been the resounding success critics and fans hoped for, and that’s not even taking into the account the numerous production problems that have plagued the show. Apparently, as Hector Navarro recounted on an episode of the DC Daily podcast, while chatting with Todd McFarlane, he revealed that the sales for the Star Trek McFarlane Toys weren’t as high as they were expecting.
The current Rise of the TMNT cartoon on Nickelodeon has taken the franchise into a more comedic direction than the previous iteration. While it hasn’t been to everyone’s liking, there’s no denying it has a devoted fanbase, particularly among the younger demographic. Surprisingly, there were no new products unveiled at the Playmates Toys booth. In fact, the publicity team at Playmates seemed to hint that a new TMNT cartoon was set to be announced for later this year. With Rise of the TMNT currently on hiatus for quite some time, perhaps the writing was already on the wall.
Some more Toy Fair ’20 photo goodness: