Blockaroo throws protesters out with the bathwater at Toy Fair

Jordan M. Willing confronting protesters at Toy Fair Today’s political climate being what it is, a protest demonstration came to this week’s Toy Fair trade show at New York’s Javits Center. Three angry rubber duckies picketed the Blue Marble, Inc. booth showcasing Blockaroo magnetic foam builders--where CEO and founder/creator Jordan M. Willing was beating back charges that his new product will take away the bathtub jobs of rubber duckies everywhere. Billed as “STEM for early learners,” Blockaroos are soft magnetic foam construction toys for toddlers. They employ a patented magnetic connection system such that they always attract, thereby permitting easy connection for young children. Blocka

KHS America introduces Luminote line at Toy Fair for kids of all ages

Tim Henry models Luminote product at Toy Fair KHS America, the U.S. distributor of the venerable Hohner music instrument line among other music product entities, annually showcases its Green Tones kids instruments at Toy Fair. This week it brought along its new Luminote set of instruments for kids, which are geared to the upper elementary/middle school student, but according to marketing manager Dawn Niven can also graduate with them to professional use. The Luminote line comprises durable tambourine, shaker, maracas, egg shakers, guiro (notched Latin American percussion instrument), agogo (West African double bell) and vibra shaker (vibrating ball and resonating chamber), all available sing

Steve Spangler invokes Dr. Seuss via Oobleck! at Toy Fair

Steve Spangler and Steve Spangler Science's lead graphic designer Emily Davis play with Oobleck! at Toy Fair If baby boomers are your target buyer, you couldn’t ask for a product name better than Oobleck!. “Imagine if Dr. Seuss saw this product!” enthused Steve Spangler, the popular science teacher/television personality, at the Steve Spangler Science exhibitor’s booth this week at the Toy Fair trade show at New York’s Javits Center. He was in fact demonstrating the company’s mysterious Oobleck! product to a curious baby boomer. Oobleck, of course, is the sticky green substance that rains down on the Kingdom of Didd in Dr. Seuss’s 1949 children’s book classic Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Ste

Perisphere & Trylon courts 'Old Maid' at Toy Fair

Dodd Harris with "Jumbo Old Maid" at his Perisphere & Trylon Toy Fair booth Retro toy supplier Perisphere & Trylon (P&T) showcased an old children’s card game chestnut this week at the annual Toy Fair trade show at New York’s Javits Center. As the back of the box of its new Jumbo Old Maid declares, it’s “an irreverent, outdated--thankfully--and over-sized version of the beloved classic.” Indeed, the box of 43 big “easy to handle” 8-in. x 5-in. color cards are as fun to look at as play, though there are a couple changes. “It’s a 1940s iteration of the game, which had a couple illustrations that might be politically incorrect today,” noted P&T owner Dodd Harris, who “updated” the questionable

A night at the Madison Roller Derby

Madison Roller Derby's Reservoir Dolls and Quad Squad in action, Feb. 15. There was a fat guy with an “If you want carrots” t-shirt, but there was also a gal wearing a Brandi Carlile, and plenty of fans sporting Reservoir Dolls, Quad Squad, Vaudeville Vixens and Unholy Rollers team tops. Meanwhile, the DJ was playing Madonna and Blondie, “Disco Inferno,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” and The Runaways’ “Dead End Justice”--all fitting for a women’s roller derby event. “It’s different today,” explained Saucy McBossy of the Vaudeville Vixens—and public relations/media manager for Madison, Wisconsin’s Madison Roller Derby (MRD) league. “It’s not your parents’ ro

Schleich USA celebrates 85th year with 'Power of Imagination' campaign kickoff at Toy Fair

Mitchel Wu at Schleich's Toy Fair event Schleich USA celebrated its 85th year Sunday morning (Feb. 23) at Toy Fair with a press event kicking off a “Power of Imagination” campaign at its lobby exhibit at New York’s Javits Center. The campaign features a collaboration with top toy photographer Mitchel Wu, who is creating a series of his signature action toy photographs suggesting the open-ended play potential of Schleich’s renowned animal figurines. Wu was on hand to demonstrate his live photography technique, and his initial set of images were on display at the company’s lobby exhibit. “While adults might only see kids moving figurines around a play space, we know that the realism of our pro

Paul Williams to receive top Songwriters Hall of Fame Award

Paul Williams (Songwriters Hall of Fame) Songwriter Paul Williams will receive the coveted Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) Johnny Mercer Award at the 51st Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Dinner, to be held June 11th at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the SHOF and is exclusively reserved for a songwriter (or songwriting team) who has already been inducted into the hall, and whose body of work is of such high quality and impact that it upholds the gold standard set by legendary songwriter and SHOF co-founder Johnny Mercer. Williams was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. “Paul Williams is a songwri

Melissa & Doug's 'Classic Toy' sets at NY NOW finding non-traditional markets

At first it might seem incongruous, selling children’t toys at a hardware store. But for major toy manufacturer Melissa & Doug it makes perfect sense. “We have tool-related toys,” said M&D’s trade show merchandiser Kyle Oberly at the recent winter 2020 NY NOW home/lifestyle/handmade/gift market trade show at New York’s Javits Center, where his company had a sizable and varied selection—including the “Deluxe Tool Belt” and “Take-Along Tool Kit”--on the exhibitors’ floor. “Ace Hardware in particular carries our product,” Oberly added. “A lot of stores carry a shelf or two, and you often see it in window displays.” Melissa & Doug product has been in hardware stores with its tool and constructio

Le Patin Libre demonstrates its APAP pitch at Bryant Park

Le Patin Libre's "Grande Forme" at Bryant Park The Association of Performing Arts Professionals’ (APAP) UP NEXT! pitch sessions last month at the trade group’s annual conference at New York’s Hilton Hotel Midtown gave presenters and producers a chance to check out new works, currently in development or recently completed, in a high-speed format where artists, agents and/or managers had only five minutes to pitch a performance piece, including taking questions from the audience. One of the standouts was the Montreal-based contemporary ice skating collective Le Patin Libre (“Free Skate”), which was promoting Grande Forme (“Great Shape”)—its first larger ensemble work, which it showcased in a p

Texicana Mamas (Patricia Vonne, Tish Hinojosa and Stephanie Urbina Jones) find work at APAP

Texicana Mamas at APAP, from left, Patricia Vonne, Tish Hinojosa and Stephanie Urbina Jones. Fans of Tex-Mex music were surprised to behold Tish Hinojosa, Stephanie Urbina Jones and Patricia Vonne gracing their Texicana Mamas exhibitor’s booth last month at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) trade conference headquartered at New York’s Hilton Hotel Midtown. The threesome, each with her own lengthy list of influences and credits in Tex-Mex rock ’n’ roll, Texas singer-songwriter and country-rock, folk, flamenco, Americana and numerous border music styles, showcased at the hotel and hustled gigs under their new group name, and seemed to be off to a good start: Upcoming conc

Oak trees and avocado plants grow in Ilex Studio vases at NY NOW

Ilex Studio's exhibition booth at NY NOW London’s Ilex Studio was founded in 2018 with a “grow it, don’t throw it” philosophy in creating products that highlight the beauty of nature and inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate plants and trees. At last week’s winter 2020 NY NOW home/lifestyle/handmade/gift market trade show at New York’s Javits Center, then, Ilex brought a pair of vases geared to sprouting avocado seeds and acorns into respective plants and trees. “We want people to grow a seed from what they have around them,” said the company’s Amy Hall, explaining that “what you find under trees at the park can grow into a small oak tree.” Designed for urban dwellers, tree lovers,

New puzzle maker Jiggy displays 'curated art' by female artists at NY NOW

Jiggy's Kaylin Marcotte at NY NOW “Puzzles worth framing” is the motto at Jiggy, a new jigsaw puzzle maker that strutted its stuff at last week’s winter 2020 NY NOW home/lifestyle/handmade/gift market trade show at New York’s Javits Center. And sure enough, the Brooklyn-based female-founded company’s initial six-puzzle release of art by emerging female artists offers everything needed for framing the finished puzzle but the frame itself--and founder Kaylin Marcotte said she’s working on delivering that as well. Meanwhile, she’s already hit on a novel means of merchandising her wares-- “sustainable and elevated packaging,” she calls it. Indeed, her puzzles come in glass cannisters, packaged t

Richard Thompson dives deep in 'All Requests Live!' concert

Richard Thompson performs "When the Spell is Broken" “You’re clapping now…,” said Richard Thompson Friday night (Feb. 7) after taking the Symphony Space stage to thunderous applause from a full house (the first of two nights at the Upper West Side Manhattan venue), all in suspense for the latest manifestation of his All Requests Live! solo concert program. Thompson boldly does these things periodically, in between straight solo and band shows, and while it’s an entirely different format, it’s no less enthralling. The deal here is that he gets audience requests, written out on thin strips of paper and dumped into a basket, before he begins. He grabs a handful at a time, culls through them sil

D.C.'s Card Bureau upbeat at NSS despite card industry downturn

At NSS from left, Card Bureau's Alyssa Stanzione and Janie Velencia, and Lockwood Paper's Brian Kress. Washington, D.C.-based The Card Bureau, which is inspired by D.C. politics, pop culture, current events and common daily struggles that “speak to the times, provoke thoughtful discussion and make people laugh,” showed plenty of appropriate new product at last week’s National Stationery Show (NSS) at New York’s Javits Center. Its new 2020 Candidates line featured card entries celebrating Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and there were new offerings in its notepad category, most notably an Ruth Bader Ginsburg pad packaged with a gavel pencil. But

Pico Pao presents 'balanced' game line at NY NOW

Marina D. Ramos, left, and Ana Mirella Gonzalez at Pico Pao's NY NOW exhibitor's booth Among the more fun exhibitors at this week’s winter 2020 NY NOW home/lifestyle/handmade/gift market trade show at New York’s Javits Center was Pico Pao, the contemporary and antique game supplier from Zamora in northwestern Spain. The company’s name means “woodpecker” in a Spanish dialect spoken in the small region between Spain and Portugal. Sure enough, one of its games on display was the Pajaro Carpintero Arco, made up of a wooden vertical arch with a string dropping down from top to bottom, on which a little woodpecker pecks a a tiny wooden block as it descends. It’s part of the Ludus Ludi (“to play” i

Reggae artist Louis Atlas learned from Bob Marley

Louis Atlas feature on Voice of America Yesterday was a milestone for roots reggae fans in that it would have been Bob Marley’s 75th birthday. Brooklyn-based reggae artist Louis Atlas was especially reverent in considering his hero’s personal impact. “I can’t say enough about his influence on me—in my music, of course, and my overview of the world,” said Atlas, whose Coconut Dream album from last year earned him first-round Grammy nominations for Album of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Reggae Album and Best Engineered Album. “His music made an incredible impression on me and sunk very deeply into my soul,” continued Atlas, citing one Bob Marley song in particular for “igniting my intense fe

Luck of the Eilish for BrownTrout Publishers at NSS

BrownTrout's forthcoming Billie Eilish product on display at NSS “When it comes to licensing, it’s all about timing,” observed Gray Peterson, sales/marketing VP at BrownTrout Publishers, and in terms of timing for licensing, BrownTrout definitely hit the jackpot. “Sixty days ago we signed Billie Eilish--and then she swept the Grammys!” Peterson said, gazing down at the counter display of forthcoming Eilish product at the BrownTrout exhibitor’s booth at this week’s National Stationery Show (NSS) at New York’s Javits Center. “We went to print a week ago and will be in the marketplace in another 60 days.” Eilish joins BTS and Blackpink in BrownTrout’s late-breaking licensed pop star product, ad

Lingo Cards brings new languages to NY NOW

Lingo Cards Keaton White at his NY NOW booth Lingo Cards owner Keaton White brought three new catalog entries to this week’s winter 2020 NY NOW home/lifestyle/handmade/gift market trade show at New York’s Javits Center. Russian and Greek are the latest additions to Lingo’s “Play cards—pick up a language” playing cards line (joining French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, German, Mandarin and Indonesian), with a new American Slang deck added to British, Aussie, Kiwi and Millennial slang sets. Each of the 54-card decks (52 standard cards and two Jokers) combine traditional game playing cards with educational flashcards. Geared toward beginners and intermediate language learners/speakers, the premi

SOZY twins introduce 'Annotator' pencil/highlighter combo at NSS

SOZY's Sophie, left, and Izzy at NSS The youngest exhibitors at this week’s National Stationery Show (NSS) at New York’s Javits Center have to be 11-year-old identical twin sisters and Sophie and Izzy, whose shortened names together make SOZY—the name of their new company manufacturing their Annotator highlighter/pencil product. The Los Angeles-based twins debuted their invention at the Emerging Designers section of the NSS exhibition hall, where they were busy looking for licensing, contests and giveaways, product collaborations and social media campaigns for the novel writing instruments, which are geared to kids their age. “It’s a #2 pencil, liquid highlighter and extra-strong eraser in o

'Hee Haw Honey' Misty Rowe returns to APAP, this time with 'Happy Days' co-star Donn

Misty Rowe and Donny Most Last year, “Hee Haw Honey” Misty Rowe showcased at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) annual conference, not at the New York Hilton Midtown headquarters, but at nearby watering hole Funky Joe’s, with fellow Hee Haw cast legends Lulu Roman, Jana Jae and Buck Trent--collectively billed as the Kornfield Friends, after the show’s much-loved Kornfield Kounty cornfield pop-out segments. This year, however, Rowe shucked her ditzy Hee Haw persona for a glamorous duet singing role with Donny Most, reuniting the pair after starring together long ago in Happy Days. Most had played girl-chasing jokester Ralph Malph, while Rowe played carhop Wendy. “I hadn’t