Monday, November 12, 2007

Time Flies 

We are already a month and a day into "Beyond Ultraman." Not content to sit on our collective laurels, we are madly seeking other venues for the show because we can't stand the thought of the beautiful result of all our hard work ending in January! If you have any suggestions or insider connections to PS 1, the Cooper- Hewitt, or the Oakland Museum please let us know!

While we look around for another location for "Beyond Ultraman," we also ponder our next show. There are so many ideas in our files that it is difficult to focus sometimes, but we will probably let the opportunity of a venue guide us to our next project. We are considering an exploration of the "D" part of our acronym - but you can bet it won't be your grandmother's doll show... or maybe it will? Stay tuned.

Toy Catalogs Redux

The holidays have been sneaking up on us while we've been pre-occupied with the show opening and incumbent activity of promoting same. I have accumulated a stack of toy catalogs (they arrived early this year and almost bypassed me into the recycle bin). I thought it would be interesting to compare them to last year's selection to see what trends could be gleaned from the cover art and toy selections. (For last year's lineup look at the 11/13/06 blog entry - wow, exactly a year ago) Here is this year's report:

Young Explorers – Creative Educational Products
Page Count: 56
Cover Image: Two kids (boy and girl), both Caucasian (same as last year). The girl is hugging (hey, hey) Uglydolls, while the boy is playing with a magic set. Caption says, "Imagine, Create, Explore...Play!"
Inside cover: Highest priced toy - $99.95 for a slot car set; lowest priced toy - $21.95 each for Uglydolls and a sticker machine.
Back cover: Highest priced toy - $136.95 for a pirate ship and accessories; lowest priced toy - $29.95 for an alphabet to go play set. There is also an inset with a picture of a little girl (Caucasian, again). Interesting item for $34.95 - a bank called a "Money Hungry Monster" that eats money and says "Keep away from my money" when you try to remove money.

Met Kids - The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store
Page Count: 31
Cover Image: One kid (Caucasian girl) holding a paint palette.
Inside cover: Highest priced toy - $48.00 for a wooden block set; lowest priced toy - $4.95 for Met Twist Crayons.
Back cover: Highest priced toy - $75.00 for a...wall clock? Watches make up the rest of the product selection. No models on the back cover. (BTW - one Asian child and two African American kids appear within the catalog (out of 14 models total).

Hearth Song
Page Count: 88
Cover Image: No book illustration on the cover this year. A toy dominates the cover, but there is a blurry Caucasian child in the background.
Inside cover: Highest priced toy - $32.98 for a Hokey Pokey Musical Skirt (it plays the song while you dance...); lowest priced toy - $9.98 for a chocolate advent calendar and a planting toy.
Back cover: Highest priced toy - $49.98 for an exclusive musical tower made of wood and operated by marbles. One boy of unspecific cultural background on the back cover. For some strange reason they offer a real flower basket/arrangement on the back cover too.

etoys.com – Childhood Dreams Delivered
Page Count: 124
Cover Image: One Caucasian child sitting in front of a pristine fireplace (sans fire or any trace of soot).
Inside cover: Highest priced toy - $99.99 (on sale from $159.99) Little Tikes Talking Train with Track. lowest priced toy - $14.99 for stuffed animals. Of note: $79.99 for Brian the Brain who acts as "an integrated speaker phone, personal assistant, motion sensor, interactive friend, dictionary, encyclopedia and much more." and $69.99 for Zillions Touch Screen ATM bank. (I need one of those Brians...)
Back cover: Highest priced toy - $69.99 for a Cheetah Girls Rockin' Tour Bus; lowest priced toy - $19.99 for a Hannah Montana doll or any one of four Cheetah girls. One Caucasian boy on the back cover.

Target Toys
Page Count: 51
Cover Image: One Caucasian girl holding a Caucasian baby doll.
Inside cover: Highest priced toy (the only toy on the inside cover)- $54.99 A programmable talking Macaw.
Back cover: Highest priced toy - $49.99 for a Driving Force Land Rover; lowest priced toy - $19.99 for a Sing Along Spider-Man. One African American child on the back cover.

Toys R Us
Page Count: 72
Cover Image: Multicultural illustration of two girls (one African American one Caucasian) and one boy (could be Hispanic...)
Inside cover: Highest priced toy - $189.99 (on sale from $229.99!) A Razor Electric Powered motor scooter; lowest priced toy - $29.99 Monopoly Pink Boutique Edition game.
Back cover: Only toy - $7.99 for a Jumbo Lounging Elmo (that price with any $50 purchase) One Caucasian girl on the back cover.

Archie McPhee still gets my vote for fun.
Page Count: 48
Cover Image: Zombies of indeterminate race.
Inside cover: Highest priced toy - $15.95 World's Largest Underpants; lowest priced toy - $4.95 will buy you two sets of plastic ants, a giant wooden pencil, or a squirt cigarette pack.
Back cover: Ads for Yodeling Pickle, switchblade comb, crime scene bandages, sky-diving Sigmund Freud, glow-in-the-dark-skeleton pirates, and, of course, zombies.

Overall Comments:

Copy: Lots of information, but who cares. The layouts are so awful that it's hard to focus on copy. Models: Less attention to political correctness than ever. Maybe only white families can afford toys this year. Content: The main thing I noticed is that price points are much lower and the toys more modest this year, no doubt a reflection of the economy. Hence the toy ATM banks too.

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