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ISSUE NO. 2

FEATURES 31 | TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019 A Sneak Peek at the Hottest New Collectibles Coming This Year

44 | BEYOND THE HUNT

Sometimes it’s not the price of a collectible that matters, but the story that comes with it.

46 | DON’T OPEN THAT PACKAGE! Why Leaving Collectibles in Original Packaging Actually Matters

86 | LEVEL UP

The Most-Anticipated Video Games of 2019

76 | MAKING THE TOYS THAT MADE US The creator behind the hit Netflix series gives a BTS look at producing the show.

92 | FLAUNT YOUR FANDOM

Fashionable Must-Haves to Rep Your Favorite Fandoms

80 | WINTER IS HERE

Game of Thrones comes to an end, but the consumer products live on.

96 | FROM BOOK TO BIG SCREEN These literary works will inspire film and TV adaptations in 2019 and 2020.

DEPARTMENTS 6 | EDITOR’S LETTER

20 | POP INTO THE PAST

Toys rule our world, and we’re here to play.

Toys That Changed Pop Culture

8 | NERDY NEWS

Walmart’s new collectibles section appeals to fans.

22 | ONE-STOP POP SHOP

She-Ra, Resident Evil, and—wait for it—a Blockbuster party game?

12

88 | COSPLAY CORNER:

10 | STAT SHOT

COSPLAYERS GETTING COFFEE

The Top-Performing Comic Books of 2018

»

INTRODUCING CAPTAIN MARVEL

Inside the YouTube Series Bringing Cosplayers Together

16 | CONQUERING COLLECTIBLES

90 | COSPLAY CORNER: THE

AND EMPLOYING FANS

KING OF PRINCESS COSPLAY

GameStop finds its niche in today’s video game marketplace.

Meet Chris Calfa, the gender-bend Disney Princess of NYC.

18 | MUST-HAVE MERCH

94 | ARTISTS ALLEY

The Hottest Merch on the Planet

DC Collectibles taps indie artists for limited-edition collectibles.

Get to know the MCU’s newest hero.

INTRODUCING

»

52 | NERDY NEWS

The Lego Movie World, a Hot Wheels Live-Action Movie, and More

54 | BABY SHARK DIVES INTO RETAIL

What’s next for the YouTube video with more than 2.2 billion views?

60 | TOY FAIR NEW YORK: KIDS’ SHOWCASE

The Hottest Toys of the Year Based on Kids’ Favorite Fandoms

72 | INTO THE NIGHT

How the PJ Masks Rocked Preschool TV

4 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

56 | HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD The third film in the trilogy inspires dragon merch that slays.

74 | HASBRO POWERS UP

Power Rangers gets a new home, episodes, and products.


FROM THE EDITORS

TOYS RULE OUR WORLD And We Came to Play Aaaaaaaaand we’re back! The Pop Insider is back for, as DJ Khaled would say, “another one!” Welcome to our extra special winter issue of the Pop Insider. Lucky for you, you CAN sit with us. (We recommend sitting in a comfy chair snuggled up with a warm blanket and a cup of tea, since it’s freezing here in New York, but we won’t tell you how to live your lives.) In this issue, we bring you lots and lots of toys—and for good reason. It’s Toy Fair season! Toy Fair New York is the largest North American toy trade show. It’s a very special time when grown adults in full business attire pack into a convention center to play with thousands of toys, and we are #blessed to be a part of it. And of course, it’s v exclusive. Most of these toys will be available on store shelves later this year, and we’re giving you a sneak peek of the hottest collectibles, party games, and more that will knock your socks off. Turn to page 31, then brag to all your friends about how you know, like, waaaaay more about toys than they do. But alas, life is not all fun and games. Sometimes aliens try to ruin Earth. Luckily, there are some pretty badass superheroes to help out when things get tough. We’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our #girlsquad, Carol Danvers. With Captain Marvel hitting theaters next month, we break down what this new fierce female superhero means for the next phase of the MCU, plus give you a behind-the-scenes look at a day on set. Oh, and of course, plenty of merch. Check it all out starting on page 12. And winter is (f.i.n.a.l.l.y.) here! Dust off your cloaks, call your bannermen, and fill up your goblets—it’s almost time for the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. On page 80, we take a look at the iconic series, and preview a whole slew of products that will help you show off your House loyalty and claim the throne. Plus, we’ve got an extra special Pop Junior section, starting on page 49. In this section, you can peruse all you need to know about popular fandoms for the youngest 6 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

fanatics—kids. We take a look at mega-hits like eOne’s PJ Masks, Hasbro’s Power Rangers, and Pinkfong’s Baby Shark (doo doo doo doo doo doo). We also have even more Toy Fair coverage there—can you believe?! 2019 will be an epic year for entertainment and collectibles, and we are absolutely giddy over all the awesomeness to come. We love to chat and hear what you think, so @ us on Twitter, Insta, wherever @thepopinsider. Love you. Mean it.

THE

JACKIE BREYER Publisher jbreyer@adventurepub.com MARISSA DIBARTOLO Co-Editor-in-Chief marissa@popinsider.com ALI MIERZEJEWSKI Co-Editor-in-Chief ali@popinsider.com MADDIE MICHALIK Senior Editor maddie@popinsider.com JAMES ZAHN Senior Editor james@popinsider.com JACQUELINE CUCCO Associate Editor jc@popinsider.com MADELEINE BUCKLEY Editorial Assistant mbuckley@popinsider.com VICTORIA ROSENTHAL Editorial Assistant victoria@popinsider.com MIRANDA SIWAK Editorial Assistant miranda@popinsider.com JOE IBRAHAM Art Director joe@popinsider.com BILL REESE Production Director bill@popinsider.com ANAKIN Office Pupper @anakin_thechosenpup U.S. Corporate Headquarters LAURIE SCHACHT CEO laurie@popinsider.com Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® 307 7th Avenue, #1601, New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510

FOLLOW US!

@thepopinsider SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER! popinsider.com/subscribe ABOUT THE EDITORS: Marissa DiBartolo and Ali Mierzejewski are editors-in-chief of the Pop Insider and the Toy Insider. They report on trends and hot topics affecting the toy and pop culture industries, keeping up to date with the latest in TV, movies, video games, collectibles, and more. Top toy experts, they have been featured on ABC World News Now, Good Morning America, The TODAY Show, The Steve Harvey Show, MSNBC, Fox Business, and dozens more. Follow them on Twitter @thattoygirl and @ohsotrendy.

THE POP INSIDER, Winter 2019 — “THE POP INSIDER” (ISSN-2641-5496) is published quarterly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.®, 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, New York, 10001. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY 10001 and additional mailing offices. © 2019 Adventure Publishing Group, Inc®. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. Subscription rates: $48 per year. THE POP INSIDER is a trademark and service mark of Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® registered in the United States Patent & Trademark Office Postmaster: Send address changes to THE POP INSIDER, c/o Adventure Publishing Group, 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, New York, 10001 or e-mail bill@popinsider.com.


»

NERDY NEWS

NETFLIX CONFIRMS SHE-RA SEASON 2 PREMIERE Netflix renewed its original series She-Ra and The Princesses of Power for a second season. Showrunner and creator Noelle Stevenson announced that the critically acclaimed animated series will return on April 26. The original voice cast, which includes Aimee Carrero (Adora/She-Ra), Karen Fukuhara (Glimmer), AJ Michalka (Catra), and Marcus Scribner (Bow), will return to continue defending the land of Etheria. Stevenson created the Netflix series with executive producer Chuck Austen, who was also producer and director for Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe. DreamWorks Animations’ She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a reboot of the 1985 series She-Ra: Princess of Power, a spin-off of the 1980s animated TV series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The creators kept She-Ra’s famous twin brother He-Man out of the reboot, which debuted last November, so that Adora’s origin story could stand on its own. The orphan Adora, who is a member of the evil Horde, finds a sword that turns her into the warrior princess She-Ra. She gathers and leads a resistance group of magical princesses called the Rebellion to fight the Horde and protect Etheria. The show, which leans more progressive and inclusive than the original, also features LGBTQ characters and gender-bending scenes. ✪

RESIDENT EVIL TV SERIES COMING SOON TO NETFLIX Resident Evil, the horror video game turned-movie-franchise, is coming to Netflix with a scripted series. The studio behind the new series is German production and distribution company Constantin Film, the same company that developed the six Resident Evil films. The Resident Evil film franchise earned $1.2 billion worldwide to date, ranking it as the highest-grossing film series based on a video game. The first movie debuted in theaters in 2002 and the last in 2016, both starring Milla Jovovich and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. The Netflix original series will expand on the original premise, exposing the sinister inner-workings of the Umbrella Corp. and the new world order caused by the outbreak of the T-virus. ✪

BLOCKBUSTER GAME COMES TO TARGET THIS SPRING This spring, Big Potato Games heads back to the golden age of video rentals with 8 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

The Blockbuster Game. It’s a simple party game for anyone who’s ever seen a movie. First shown at the recent London Toy Fair, The Blockbuster Game will be available as a Target exclusive in the U.S. this March, with a UK release set for June. To start, players split up into two teams. In round one, each team chooses one of their members to go head-to-head in a quickfire buzzer battle. From categories such as famous trilogies to movies with a zombie, the two players must think quick, shout out a movie, and slap the buzzer to put the pressure on their opponent. The first player to run out of ideas loses the round (and gives their opponents a serious advantage in round two). Round two is movie charades with a twist. The player that wins the buzzer battle picks up six movie cards, gives the hardest

three to their opponent, and keeps the rest for themselves. When ready, the player will have 30 seconds to get their team to shout out the movies by using three tricky techniques—acting out the film, making up a quote, and describing it with just one word. Get them right quick enough and the team will have a chance to steal from their opponents. Go too slowly and the other team might get a chance to steal from you. It’s an all-out race to collect a film from every genre and be crowned the new Blockbuster big shots. The Blockbuster Game features 200 classic movies, 60 category cards, and a replica of a Blockbuster parking lot and sign packaged inside a classic VHS-style clamshell case. ✪

NPD REPORTS DECEMBER VIDEO GAME SALES, RECORD-BREAKING 2018 The U.S. video game industry grew 18 percent last year, according to a new report from the Entertainment Software Association with data provided by the NPD Group.


December video game sales were up to a record-breaking $43.4 billion year-end total. The Nintendo Switch passed Sony’s Playstation 4 to become the top-selling console, with Red Dead Redemption 2, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, NBA 2K19, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Mario Kart 8, and Marvel’s Spider-Man among the titles doing big business to lure gamers. December tracked spending* across video game hardware, software, game cards, and accessories, totalling $3.4 billion, up 2 percent compared to last year. Gains in accessories and game card spending offset declines in hardware and software spending. This is the highest December tracked consumer spend since 2015. Annual spending across tracked video game hardware, software, accessories, and game cards increased 13 percent compared with $16.7 billion in 2017. This is the highest annual consumer spend total since the $17.4 billion generated in 2011. *Tracked spending is not meant to cover total market/total consumer spend. ✪

POKÉMON REVEALS DETECTIVE PIKACHU CONSUMER PRODUCTS The Pokémon Co. International unveiled an extensive consumer products line inspired by the upcoming film Pokémon Detective Pikachu. The new movie from Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Entertainment, and The Pokémon Co. arrives in theaters on May 10. The initial merchandise line for the film

includes new Pokémon Trading Card Game collections; Pokémon Center exclusives, including apparel; action figures and plush from master toy licensee Wicked Cool Toys; and new construction sets from Mattel’s Mega Construx. Additionally, The Pokémon Co. teamed up with a variety of licensing partners to expand the brand across publishing and lifestyle merchandise that will become available at mass retailers throughout the year. Products will begin to debut in late March. ✪

raised $1.3 million for St. Jude’s Research Hospital through various live streaming events, breaking fundraising records during St. Jude Play Live. Last year, State Farm became the first non-endemic sponsor in North America of the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), the first NBA partner to sign a separate deal to sponsor the NBA 2K League, and a major sponsor of the Rocket League Championship Series. ✪

FORTNITE STREAMER DRLUPO SCORES STATE FARM SPONSORSHIP Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there for DrLupo. One of the best and most-followed Fortnite players in the world, Nebraska’s Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo is a top Twitch streamer and captain of Rogue’s Fortnite Team. He recently became the first-ever individual eSports athlete to be sponsored by State Farm, a move that signals further expansion by the insurance giant into the support of eSports. The State Farm deal with DrLupo includes State Farm support of DrLupo’s livestreams with branded replays, live in-stream stunts, product integrations, event-based remote streams, sponsored giveaways, and social content. Harnessing his audience of more than 2.9 million followers on Twitch and 7 million followers across all social platforms, DrLupo uses his influence to support charitable causes. Last year, DrLupo

DIAMOND SELECT RELEASES KINGDOM HEARTS III TOY COLLECTION

»

After the release of Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts III last month, a host of new offerings from Diamond Select Toys (DST) will accompany the long-awaited video game. Disney collectors can look for new Kingdom Hearts action figures, resin busts, PVC dioramas, Vinimates, Minimates, and more launching between now and this summer. Most items are available to purchase or pre-order at comic shops and specialty retailers, with some exclusives headed to GameStop and Walgreens. The robust lineup from DST includes Kingdom Hearts Select action figures (available now), Kingdom Hearts III Select action figures (coming this spring), Kingdom Hearts Gallery PVC Dioramas (available now, exclusive to GameStop), Kingdom Hearts III Vinimates vinyl figures (available now), Kingdom Hearts Minimates (available now), Kingdom Hearts Minimates Series Three (coming this summer), and the Legends in 3D Sora half-scale resin bust (coming this spring). All of the toys reflect the cross-genre Disney mashup that finds characters visiting locations from Tron, Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more. ✪

THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 9


STAT SHOT

TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS 2018 PUBLISHER

DOLLAR SHARE

UNIT SHARE

MARVEL COMICS

38.24%

40.40%

DC ENTERTAINMENT

30.04%

33.82%

IMAGE COMICS

9.93%

9.90%

IDW PUBLISHING

3.83%

3.30%

DARK HORSE COMICS

2.92%

2.10%

BOOM! STUDIOS

2.24%

1.90%

DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT

1.86%

1.73%

VIZ MEDIA

1.22%

0.46%

TITAN COMICS

0.87%

0.61%

ONI PRESS

0.83%

0.54%

OTHER NON-TOP 10

8.01%

5.25%

TOP 10 COMIC BOOKS 2018

QTY RANK

DOLLAR RANK

DESCRIPTION

PRICE

VENDOR

1

1

ACTION COMICS No. 1000

$7.99

DC ENTERTAINMENT

2

2

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 800

$9.99

MARVEL COMICS

3

3

BATMAN No. 50

$4.99

DC ENTERTAINMENT

4

4

FANTASTIC FOUR No. 1

$5.99

MARVEL COMICS

5

5

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 1

$5.99

MARVEL COMICS

6

6

RETURN OF WOLVERINE No. 1

$4.99

MARVEL COMICS

7

9

VENOM No. 1

$4.99

MARVEL COMICS

8

10

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 798

$3.99

MARVEL COMICS

9

8

BATMAN WHO LAUGHS No. 1

$4.99

DC ENTERTAINMENT

10

13

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 799

$3.99

MARVEL COMICS

QTY RANK

TOP 10 GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS 2018 DOLLAR RANK

DESCRIPTION

PRICE

VENDOR

1

1

INFINITY GAUNTLET TP

$24.99

MARVEL COMICS

2

4

SAGA TP VOL 09 (MR)

$14.99

IMAGE COMICS

3

19

SAGA TP VOL 01 (MR)

$9.99

IMAGE COMICS

4

6

SAGA TP VOL 08 (MR)

$14.99

IMAGE COMICS

5

2

ACTION COMICS 80 YEARS OF SUPERMAN HC

$29.99

DC ENTERTAINMENT

6

8

WALKING DEAD TP VOL 29 LINES WE CROSS

$16.99

IMAGE COMICS

7

38

PAPER GIRLS TP VOL 01

$9.99

IMAGE COMICS

8

7

BATMAN WHITE KNIGHT TP

$19.99

DC ENTERTAINMENT

9

3

DARK NIGHTS METAL DELUXE ED HC

$29.99

DC ENTERTAINMENT

10

33

MONSTRESS TP VOL 01 (MR)

$9.99

IMAGE COMICS

Source: Diamond Comic Distributors Inc.

10 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER


FANDOM FEATURE

INTRODUCING CAROL DANVERS Going Higher, Further, Faster for Earth’s Mightiest Hero by James Zahn, senior editor

O

riginally appearing in the pages of Marvel Comics back in 1968, Carol Danvers is a character with a long, rich history. As with most comic book heroes, her story changed through the years, and the new Captain Marvel movie reinvents her for a new generation—and positions her to carry the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) into its next phase. Launching a new franchise is never easy. With Captain Marvel, the stakes are high as Marvel Studios introduces a new character who fans expect to be an integral part of The Avengers going forward. The Academy Award-nominated Black Panther was the most recent solo launch for the MCU—a massive global success that was met with a shortage of product in some regions. Captain Marvel is the first film in the series with a female star, and there’s huge opportunity to reach a diverse audience by planting the seeds for Danvers to be just as evergreen as Iron Man or Captain America. “We took a thoughtful approach to creating a long-term, cross-category assortment for Captain Marvel that will resonate with fans and live up to the inspiring creativity and story surrounding Carol Danvers,” says Josh Silverman, executive vice president, global product commercialization, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. Much of that story is a heavily guarded secret, on-par with something that S.H.I.E.L.D. would keep tucked away in a desert bunker somewhere—information they selectively release on a need-to-know basis. A part of the mystery is that Carol was—and still is—so many things to so many people, and we just don’t know which pieces of her legend made their way into the film just yet. She is a warrior, a leader, and somehow a member of the Kree, an alien race with 12 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

incredible powers. She knows that in another life she was a pilot, a friend—a human. Those around her play vital roles in shaping the woman that Danvers will ultimately become. “We see this as an important expansion of the Avengers franchise with a diverse set of characters, headlined by one of our most powerful heroes to date,” Silverman adds. That diverse set includes hints at where the MCU could end up as we look to the past for visions of the future.

“We see this as an important expansion of the Avengers franchise with a diverse set of characters, headlined by one of our most powerful heroes to date.” In the film, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) is a fellow fighter pilot, one of Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) closest friends, and single mother to daughter Monica—a youngster that in some tellings grows up to adopt the moniker of Captain Marvel for herself. Jude Law plays a Starforce Commander, likely Yon-Rogg, who traditionally maintains an adversarial relationship with Captain Marvel. Rounding out the Starforce team on which Danvers (as “Vers”) serves are Minn-Erva, Att-Lass, Bron-Char, and Korath. The latter, along with Ronan the Accuser, represents an even bigger connection to the Cosmic side of the MCU, previously appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy. The presence of Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his army of shape-shifting Skrulls open new realms for storytelling beyond the KreeSkrull War, and could potentially unseat the entire MCU should it introduce elements of

the famed “Secret Invasion” storyline from the comics, in which Skrull imposters replaced many of Earth’s heroes over the years. Younger and less-jaded versions of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) lend to the freshness of exploring an era that wasn’t all that long ago, but one for which audiences are already nostalgic. The ‘90s setting of the film throws it back to the days of Blockbuster Video, pay phones, and pagers, providing some creative opportunity to do product tie-ins with fun and fresh design elements. Styled by Marvel grew into a fashion and lifestyle movement that retailers and fans readily embrace, and for this rodeo they’re going grunge. Standout designs tap into the era, such as a Nirvana-inspired, yellowon-black swirl T-shirt, and the very KISS-esque“swirl” design—which itself just might actually be a nod to The Melvins. Beanie hats and bomber jackets complete the retro look. Reaching back to the source material, Marvel Comics relaunched Captain Marvel as an ongoing series last month, just as Marvel Press aims to reach readers of all ages. Select titles include What Makes a Hero? (grade school), Starforce on the Rise (middle school), and Higher, Further, Faster (young adult). Marvel’s Powers of a Girl showcases 65 women who changed the universe, while The Life of Captain Marvel collects the recent five-issue “definitive origin story” from the comics in a square-bound trade paperback. That makes a perfect starting point for new fans. Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel blasts into theaters on March 8, with new products set for release throughout the year. For more stories and exclusive photos from the Captain Marvel set visit, go to thepopinsider.com. ✪


CAPTAIN MARVEL: SECRET [SET] INVASION A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Marvel’s Next Solo Franchise by James Zahn, senior editor It’s a typical warm and sunny April morning in Los Angeles. Amid the hustle and bustle, Hollywood Boulevard is closed off, with final preparations underway for what will be the biggest premiere yet for Marvel Studios—Avengers: Infinity War. The culmination of a story that spans 19 films over the first 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Infinity War will prove to be massive, and the premiere event— held across three theaters and featuring a block-long, museum-quality display of MCU artifacts—reflects that. The grandeur of the premiere aside, for most people this is just another unremarkable Monday in Hollywood, but some are creating remarkable things. Across town, I roll up to Sony Studios in Culver City, my group passes quickly through security and onto the lot. John M. Pisani, longtime unit publicist who has been with Marvel since 2008’s Iron Man, is there to greet us. “I believe you’re the first group from outside the production to see any of this,” he says as he leads the way. While the signs on the production vehicles say “Open World,” we’re actually on the set of the 21st film in the growing MCU—Captain Marvel. Production has only been underway for a few weeks, and many sets are still under construction. In fact, it is just under a month since Marvel officially announced the start of production and released the first authorized Captain Marvel photo—a behind-the-scenes shot of Academy Award-winner Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel) standing atop a fighter jet at Nellis Air Force Base with Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, at her side. It is fitting that she should research the role of a fighter pilot by flying higher, further, faster in real life. Inside one of several soundstages used for filming, we slip into the darkness behind the writing/directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck as they prep to film a scene involving Carol Danvers and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the cockpit of a vaguely familiar vehicle. Maybe it’s a Quinjet, maybe it’s not. What’s certain is that we saw pieces

L-R: Director Anna Boden, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Director Ryan Fleck. Photo: Chuck Zlotnick ©Marvel Studios

of it before, but not exactly in this same form. After all, Captain Marvel is a film that takes place in the 1990s, more than a decade before most of the MCU thus far. I’m digging the functional ramp at the back of the ship. Goose the cat is here, too. “A lot of this stuff is modular, and it gets used again and again,” Fleck says. “Marvel is great about saving things that can be repurposed later. Pieces of this jet have been seen in a couple of different films. We’re using a front from one and a rear from another.” Larson jogs onto set with a smile. She’s wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D ball cap, a leather jacket, and a vintage-style Nine Inch Nails (NIN) T-shirt, all now a famous part of her look thanks to early marketing for the film. “We actually had to ask Trent’s permission for her to wear that,” Fleck says, with Boden noting that all was well once Reznor, the enigmatic NIN mastermind, knew what they were up to. Whether an intentional connection or not, it’s worth noting that NIN’s 1999 single “We’re In This Together” plays in the first trailer for 2012’s The Avengers. Fury delivers his famous speech about “an idea to bring together an extraordinary group of people” on top of it. Moments later, I find myself standing next to Jackson—Fury himself—his face covered in tiny white tracking dots that they will

later use to de-age him by more than two decades—the same technology that gave us a young Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) in Ant-Man and a youthful Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Captain America: Civil War. Hours later, many of us will sit together inside the Dolby Theatre to experience Infinity War for the first time. At the end, in stunned silence, we all witness the first official signal that Captain Marvel is coming—a signal sent on a mysterious (and dated) device just as Fury is reduced to dust. Following Ant-Man & The Wasp, it’s Captain Marvel that provides the final connecting thread to this year’s Avengers: Endgame, as a necessary prequel to the current events of the MCU and a setup for what will become known as “Phase Four” of the MCU. Captain Marvel is a mighty hero brought to Earth as part of a war between the Skrulls and the Kree, and one whose recent absence we hope this movie explains. ✪

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Zahn, best-known as The Rock Father, is senior editor of the Pop Insider and the Toy Book. He is a media personality, commentator, director, actor, adventurer, raconteur, and overall pop culture and toy enthusiast.

THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 13


FANDOM FEATURE

MARVELOUS MERCH

With a new superhero comes new toys, apparel, books, and more. Captain Marvel will bring epic amounts of girl power to the big screen and to store shelves this year, and we're ready for it. Here are some of the hottest new products inspired by Captain Marvel.

HOT WHEELS CHARACTER CARS CAPTAIN MARVEL | MATTEL Carol Danvers races onto the orange track with her first Hot Wheels Character Car. The sleek sports car features smooth lines in red, blue, and gold, with a hood emblazoned with Captain Marvel’s iconic star. MSRP: $3.99 | Available: Mass retail

CAPTAIN MARVEL BOOKS & COMICS | MARVEL PRESS From a Little Golden Book to The Art of the Movie, longtime fans and new readers will all find something to enjoy through a variety of new books from Marvel Press. MSRP: $4.99-$50 | Available: Mass retail, bookstores, comic shops, specialty retailers

CAPTAIN MARVEL 6-INCH MARVEL LEGENDS SERIES | HASBRO With premium articulation, the Marvel Legends Series action figures are a collector favorite. The Captain Marvel wave includes Captain Marvel (with swappable heads), Captain Marvel with Bomber Jacket, Nick Fury, Star Commander, and Talos— each packed with pieces for a Build-a-Figure Kree Sentry. Plus, a special Captain Marvel (Starforce) is available exclusively at Target, and a Captain Marvel (Binary form) is available exclusively at Walmart. MSRP: $19.99 | Available: Mass retail

CAPTAIN MARVEL FAUX LEATHER JACKET | HER UNIVERSE Live like one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Carol Danvers, in this red, navy, and gold collarless faux leather jacket. Based on the cinematic Captain Marvel costume, the jacket features a slanted chest pocket and two slanted hip pockets with zipper pulls that match the main starburst zipper pull. MSRP: $79.90 | Available: Hot Topic, heruniverse.com 14 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER


CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE S.H.I.E.L.D. LOGO CAP | NEW ERA “Does announcing your identity on clothing help with the covert part of your job?” That’s a question posited by Carol Danvers to Nick Fury in Captain Marvel.. Since most people aren’t actual agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it should be OK to safely rock the official logo of the legendary government agency with this snap-back cap from New Era. MSRP: $32.00 | Available: Specialty retail, March 6

FUNKO POP! CAPTAIN MARVEL COLLECTION | FUNKO Collect Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, Vers, Nick Fury, Goose the Cat, Maria Rembeau, Talos, Star Commander, and more. The edition of Captain Marvel (#425) is also available as a limited-edition Chase piece, complete with mohawk and helmet. Between standards and exclusives available only at BoxLunch, FYE, Hot Topic, and more, there are more than 15 figures to collect in the first wave. MSRP: $9.99 | Available: Mass retail, specialty stores

CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE DOLLS | HASBRO Hasbro has something for everyone in its 11.5-inch doll range. Kids and collectors can choose from offerings that range from simple (the 5-POA Cosmic Captain) to deluxe (Photon Power FX Captain with lights and sounds). Super-poseable offerings include Starforce Captain Marvel (with mohawk helmet) and Captain Marvel & Goose. Both dolls feature real rooted hair, a variety of accessories, and 15 points of articulation. MSRP: $12.99-$29.99 | Available: Mass retail

CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE MINIMATES BOX SET | DIAMOND SELECT TOYS Collect Captain Marvel, Kree soldiers Att-Lass and Minn-Erva, and the Skrull Nuro. Each 2-inch Minimates mini-figure features 14 points of articulation and fully interchangeable parts. Designed by Barry Bradfield, the set comes packaged in a window display box. MSRP: $24.99 | Available: Entertainment Earth, comic shops, specialty retailers

CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE PHOTON POWER FX GLOVE | HASBRO A Skrull can’t perform a photon blast, but kids can pretend with Hasbro’s electronic light-up Photon Power FX Glove. Simply press the star button on the gauntlet and pretend you’re blasting villains just like Captain Marvel. MSRP: $15.99 | Available: Mass retail

THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 15


RETAIL RUNDOWN

CONQUERING COLLECTIBLES AND EMPLOYING FANS GameStop finds its niche in today’s video game marketplace.

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by Madeleine Buckley, editorial assistant When GameStop first opened its doors in the early 2000s, the store became a shopping destination where gamers could pick up the newest video games, consoles, and gaming magazines. With the dawn of online shopping, the popularity of mobile games, and the rise of fandom culture, GameStop is evolving. While physical video game sales were down in the first and second quarters, the company’s sales reports show that one specific category is thriving—collectibles. Sales in collectibles—including figures, clothing, board games, and other non-game merchandise—grew year-over-year during GameStop’s first three quarters last year, as well as during the holiday season. (The company is expected to release fourthquarter sales results in March.) In its quarterly press releases, GameStop attributed collectibles’ growth to “continued expansion of licensed merchandise offerings

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Fallout Pip-Boy Kit from Bethesda, one of GameStop’s bestselling collectibles last year.

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and unique product offerings,” “new and improved product offerings,” and “notable growth in apparel.” Kristina Ventura, vice president of collectibles for GameStop, says the company tried a variety of programs with collectibles before developing its five-year product assortment portfolio roadmap. So far, she says, the category grew incrementally over the past few years. “Whether they play games or watch a show or movie, like any true fan, our customers love to collect items to express their interests,” Ventura says. “A collectible— such as a statue, action figure, or Pop! Vinyl; or a fashion item, such as a T-shirt, a lanyard, or socks—is a way for them to express their fandom and their individuality.” Ventura says introducing collectibles also provides opportunities for GameStop to host launch events and pique interest for specific brands, even without a new game or system release. She says the company works closely with suppliers to provide items that GameStop customers will want. “Our merchants are fans, and they love to bring exclusive ‘in-world’ items to the market that speak to the fans,” she says. Ventura says the most successful collectibles tend to relate to video games, stemming from the store’s roots. And pop culture fandom collectibles are successful, too. In fact, the popularity of Fortnite and the opportunities to sell select toys based on the game surprised GameStop. In addition to increasing its focus on collectibles, GameStop is re-evaluating its role in the marketplace to evolve and expand its consumer base beyond the traditional 20-something gamers. Now, the company leans into its employees and their collective video game expertise. “Having a knowledgeable staff that are fans themselves has facilitated our reputation as a place for everyone from gamers to

X parents to get personalized advice and informed answers,” Ventura says. “This engagement is hard to get at a big-box retailer or via online shopping.” The shift away from physical video games and toward digital downloads further solidifies GameStop’s role as an information resource, where an in-store team can provide in-depth video game knowledge. Looking ahead to this year, Ventura says GameStop is in the process of improving its in-store shopping experience and product assortments to better serve its customers. This year includes a variety of new intellectual property launches, and GameStop plans to continue growing the collectibles aspect of its business. “Our team has worked diligently to provide compelling assortments,” Ventura says. “Our merchants are collaborating with Funko, as well as many other suppliers, to provide unique products and create an inspiring lineup of statues, action figures, and apparel for fans of all ages. So, start saving your money now, as Q4 will have must-have collectibles to inspire the creativity of our customers.” ✪ ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Madeleine Buckley is an editorial assistant at Adventure Publishing Group, where she contributes to the Pop Insider, the Toy Insider, and the Toy Book. An avid movie theater-goer and a movie score enthusiast, she enjoys covering the latest news and trends in pop culture and the toy industry.


MUST-HAVE MERCH

NEW YEAR, NEW MERCH Get a little geekier with all the latest and greatest toys, games, collectibles, and more featuring your favorite characters, movies, TV series, and more. While you’re patiently waiting for Pokémon Detective Pikachu to hit theaters on May 10 and checking Netflix religiously for season five of Black Mirror, in the meantime you can peep this must-have merch and thank us later.

POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU MOVIE FEATURE PLUSH H WICKED COOL TOYS

YUMMY WORLD BACKPACKS I KIDROBOT

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: JOURNEYS IN MIDDLE-EARTH FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES

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Get ready for Pokémon Detective Pikachu with a live-action Pikachu of your own. This plush features two voice modes—Detective Pikachu and Pikachu—with more than 14 responses, motorized ears, and a fancy detective’s hat. MSRP: $34.99 Available: mass retail, April

Board game geeks, listen up! Journey across J.R.R. Tolkien’s world with this fully cooperative, app-supported board game based on The Lord of the Rings, designed for one to five players. Battle enemies and build your own Fellowship with six LOTR characters. Guided by the app, there’s a new adventure every time you play. MSRP: $99.95 Available: fantasyflightgames.com

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Sandy the Ice Cream Sandwich and the original Yummy the Pink Donut are now available in backpack form. Each vegan leather bag has removable and adjustable backpack straps, a handle on top, and interior pockets. Only 300 of each style are available. MSRP: $75 | Available: kidrobot.com

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HARRY POTTER BLUETOOTH SMART TRACKERS I FOUNDMI

These 6-inch-scale Series figures Lost your keys? Sure, you could use Black the Alohomora are carefully detailed to look like the charcharm, or you can get yourself the new Harry Potter collection acters from Solo: A Star Wars Story. Each from foundmi. Attach the Bluetooth trackers to anything you accessories don’t want to lose,figure pressincludes “Find It”two in the foundmi and app,nine and listen for the alert.points of articulation. Characters include Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Range Trooper, MSRP: $25, sold separately Qi’ra, and more. Available: foundmi.com MSRP: $19.99, sold separately Available: now, major retailers, hasbrotoyshop.com

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ALITA BERSERKER QUARTER-SCALE » STATUE I PRIME 1 STUDIO With this month’s release of Alita: Battle Angel comes Alita the cyborg collectibles. The prototype of this Prime 1 Studio statue was unveiled at last year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego, and now both a regular and deluxe version of the statue will be available in coming weeks. The deluxe version comes with multiple interchangeable arms and the ability to change Alita’s expressions. Each version of the statue features a 25-inch tall base featuring an LED-light up feature. MSRP: TBD Available: Pre-order, prime1studio.com

DC COMICS EEKEEZ FIGURE I FOCO

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Why so serious? FOCO gives the Joker a tropical makeover with this 4-inch Eekeez Figurine, handcrafted and hand painted to depict a realistic wood-carving effect that will brighten any room. MSRP: $15 | Available: foco.com

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In the mood for fried chicken? Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) partnered with Funko for a limited-edition Colonel Sanders Pop! Vinyl line with two versions of the famed fried chicken salesman in his crisp white suit. MSRP: $10.99 (sold separately) Available: funko-shop.com, entertainmentearth.com

DISNEY PRINCE PIN SET I OH MY DISNEY

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Oh My Disney dropped the Dashing Collection, a new line of clothing, accessories, stationery, and home décor featuring the men of Disney. There are two Disney Prince Pin Sets with the likes of Aladdin, Prince Eric, Hercules, Flynn Rider, and even Abu the monkey. MSRP: $14.95 | Available: shopdisney.com

BLACK MIRROR: NOSEDIVE I ASMODEE

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FUNKO POP! COLONEL SANDERS VINYL FIGURES I FUNKO

It’s like Black Mirror IRL with this three- to six-player game modeled after the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive,” starring Bryce Dallas Howard. Collect lifestyle cards to attempt to create the perfect life, while avoiding any “dings” to your social score. Use the free Nosedive app to access more than 1,000 experiences to risk your reputation in an attempt to improve your social standings. At least your priorities are in order. MSRP: $19.99 | Available: Target THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 19


POP

INTO THE

PAST

Toys That Changed Pop Culture compiled by Miranda Siwak, editorial assistant

FROM VEHICLES AND DOLLS TO INNOVATIVE TECH-ENHANCED TOYS, several playthings throughout the decades changed the marketplace. As these iconic toys launched and created excessive consumer demand, they sold out in stores and were top of mind with kids and parents alike. Hop into the time machine and relive the hottest toys that changed our world and popular culture.

1963

1968 HOT WHEELS MATTEL “The original design team was challenged to concept toy cars that out-performed other vehicles in the market and tasked to deliver on the ‘cool quotient’ to appeal to both kids and adult car fans. These miniature vehicles were created to deliver on speed and performance, as well as to feature an incredible attention to the authentic details of the individual car models.” –Reyne Rice, CEO and founder, ToyTrends

1974

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THE REWIND

1983

CABBAGE PATCH KIDS COLECO

Artist Xavier Roberts found acclaim in the late 1970s for his handmade Little People Originals fabric sculptures. The following decade, he created these dolls straight from the Cabbage Patch, and they became an in-demand toy as millions of kids began adopting the yarn-haired friends.

1984

RUBIK’S CUBE RUBIK’S BRAND LTD. EASY BAKE OVEN KENNER PRODUCTS Kids could bake real desserts with the working toy miniature oven, which used a light bulb as its main heating source. The first iteration also featured a tiny stovetop, in which kids could bake sweet treats. Updated models through the decades featured developing technology and on-trend designs.

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In 1974, Hungarian professor Erno Rubik sought a way to teach his students about three-dimensional problems in ways they could comprehend. He invented a cube that twisted and turned, creating a new type of puzzle. The iconic puzzle cube found its signature look using 54 colored stickers. By the early 1980s, the cube appeared at toy fairs and the puzzle gained global popularity. More than 400 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold since 1980.

TRANSFORMERS HASBRO Hasbro launched the first Transformers line in 1984, a collection of figures with a good-versus-evil backstory. The figures, based on the TV series of the same name, transformed into a different object by unfolding and twisting in a specific order.


1993

2000

BEANIE BABIES TY

RAZOR SCOOTERS JD CORP.

“Beanie Babies was the biggest toy craze I’ve ever seen. Ty created incredible demand that had consumers lining up for adorable plush that would sell out the second it hit store shelves. As a teenaged Hallmark store clerk, I was amazed to see our quiet store with a line out the door and customers trying to sneak into the stock room to get Beanie Babies as they were unpacked from fresh shipments.” -Jackie Breyer, publisher, the Toy Book

“Razor scooters were totally revolutionary. The colored wheels, the sleek design, the metal frame, and the folding capability made it stand out from everything else on the market. It was easy to ride and light enough to take anywhere. Razor created a toy that made scootering around town cool. It truly gave kids, teens, and adult alike a whole new mode of transportation.”–Laurie Schacht, chief toy officer, the Toy Insider

1998 FURBY TIGER ELECTRONICS “The creature’s cutting-edge technology was invisible. There was no on/ off switch; Furby was programmed to simulate a life form. It was not a ‘watch me’ toy. It was reactive to myriad stimuli such as light, sound, and touch. It had two vocabularies, Furbish and English, [and they] communicated with each other. Furby was the perfect friend, loyal and unconditionally loving.”–Richard Levy, Furby co-inventor

2001

2006 NINTENDO WII NINTENDO Following the success of other gaming systems, such as Xbox and PlayStation, the innovative Nintendo Wii launched in 2006. The sleek gaming console featured multiplayer games, modern display graphics, and wireless controllers. The new Wii Remote Controllers allowed users to control gameplay with physical gestures, thanks to built-in accelerometers and infrared detection.

2014

BRATZ DOLLS MGA ENTERTAINMENT “They were very three-dimensional and the colors were just so different than anything else in the marketplace. There weren’t a lot of choices in the fashion doll aisle. At the time, the Disney Channel was really taking off, Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan—there was this pop culture movement for tween girls just starting to happen. It gave a sense of empowerment, and it was definitely the right time for a fashion doll to come on the scene that reflected that.” –Dave Malacrida, former VP, public and media relations, MGA Entertainment

SHOPKINS MOOSE TOYS Moose started the collectibles craze in the early 2010s with its line of Shopkins—a range of tiny toys that kids can collect and trade. The cute collectibles came in grocery themes, made with intense attention to detail. With a surprise blind pack reveal, kids were on the hunt for rare figures to add to their collections.

THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 21


RETAIL RUNDOWN

ONE-STOP POP SHOP Walmart’s New Collectibles Section Appeals to Fans by Madeleine Buckley, editorial assistant

Imagine picking up your frozen veggies, cotton balls, shampoo, and the latest Funko Pop! Vinyl figure, all in one trip to the store. That’s the idea behind Walmart’s new collectibles section, which the retailer calls a “onestop shop for pop culture merchandise.” Walmart added the section to more than 3,500 of its brick-and-mortar stores in time for the last holiday season, featuring fandom-based products from companies including Funko, CultureFly, and McFarlane Toys. The retailer also became the first brickand-mortar store to sell Loot Crate products. “Pop culture fans are passionate about their fandoms and look for ways to incorporate it into all aspects of their life,” Walmart senior buying manager Brent Duwe says in a press release to announce the section. “Our new collectibles section will be a destination for our customers to find exclusive merchandise at the best prices for all fandoms, with more to come!” Many of the partnering companies provide exclusive merchandise for Walmart. In its first month, Funko offered a chrome Thanos figure in six colors, while McFarlane offered exclusive NBA

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CultureFly's Harry Potter box, a Walmart exclusive.

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2K19, Madden NFL 19 Ultimate Team, and Stranger Things figures. CultureFly, a fandom-focused subscription box service, originally partnered with Walmart about a year before the collectibles section launched, but its hyper-specific boxes fit in well with the fandom merchandise. For the new section, the company introduced themed boxes based on Harry Potter, PlayStation, Rick and Morty, and Fallout. For now, CultureFly plans to supply Walmart with new boxes each quarter, focusing on a variety of fandoms. According to co-founder Michael Chera, the partnership and the new section are a match. He says the CultureFly Harry Potter box—which includes a hat, a scarf, a squishy, a stationery set, and a handheld mirror—is the most popular so far. These boxes, Chera explains, will always be exclusive to Walmart, as each CultureFly box is only sold at one retail location.

“Everything that we do—whether it is on our own website, at Walmart, at Target, at GameStop—it’s all exclusive to that specific partner,” he says. “Our direct-to-consumer boxes will never be sold at Walmart, and vice versa. ... If [Walmart does] a Game of Thrones box, Target’s not going to have that same box. They’re going to have something totally different.” The company originally partnered with Walmart to get more eyes on its boxes and meet an increasing demand for the product. Chera says the partnership is very successful and will continue to grow. While he can’t provide any definitive details, Chera says CultureFly intends to expand its presence at Walmart beyond themed boxes. “Nothing’s really finalized yet, but we’re working on developing not just boxes, but putting some other product in that section as well,” he says. Another important aspect of CultureFly’s partnership with Walmart is its ability to provide boxes at a variety of price points. At Walmart, CultureFly boxes sell for $19.88, which is less expensive than some of CultureFly’s other retail offerings. This goes with Walmart’s general appeal as an affordable shopping destination with mass appeal. Chera says this is why he believes a collectibles section is a logical choice for Walmart in today’s market. “It’s becoming cooler and cooler to collect things, and people are going to Walmart for all of their essentials,” he says. “So they go in there for clothing, they go in there for grocery stores—why not be able to have a one-stop shop for everything when these customers are actually diehard fans of these specific intellectual properties?”✪ properties?”


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TOY FA IR

‘19

NEW YORK

NEW TOYS, WHO DIS? Toys are more than just child’s play. At the Toy Association’s annual Toy Fair New York industry trade show, thousands of new products from all of your favorite fandoms will be on display before they hit store shelves later this year. Check out the following showcase for a sneak peek of what’s to come from your favorite video games, movies, TV shows, and more. For toys, games, and collectibles designed for kids’ favorite fandoms, check out our additional Toy Fair coverage on page 60.

PILLOW PETS Pillow Pets celebrates the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas with new Pillow Pets. The Jack Skellington Pillow Pet will put everyone in the Halloween mood, whether they use it for décor, watching the seasonal classic, or for snuggling in bed. The Dumbo Pillow Pet celebrates the beloved baby elephant introduced in 1941 as he makes his comeback with a live-action movie this year. Fans of the original will also love this Dumbo Pillow Pet, available in March.

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Jack Skellington Pillow Pet

CRYPTOZOIC ENTERTAINMENT

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Cryptozoic Entertainment’s series two of Cryptkins includes creatures from myth and folklore, such as the Kraken, Cerberus, Gryphon, Unicorn, Blue Dragon, and more. There are 13 vinyl figures in all, including two rare and one ultra-rare. Each 2.25-inch figure comes packaged inside a collectible blind-reveal miniature crate. Cryptozoic’s terrifying Freddy Krueger vinyl is the first in the new horror-inspired line and features the character’s trademark gruesome face, fedora, and clawed glove. The 7-inch figure will be available this summer. The Wonder Woman Movie Collectible reflects the power of the iconic Amazonian princess, as she wields a sword and wears her trademark armor, ready to battle at a moment’s notice. Designed by Pedro Astudillo and sculpted by Anders Ehrenborg, this figure will be available this summer. Inspired by the character’s ties to Greek mythology, the Wonder Woman: Princess of Themyscira Statue reimagines her as a classical Greek sculpture. Paying homage to the famous Venus de Milo, the marble-colored polyresin statue measures 12 inches from the base of the plinth to the top of the spear and features gold-accented versions of Wonder Woman’s iconic bracelets, lasso, and other accessories. The spear is removable, and the rim of the shield is inscribed with Wonder Woman’s classic epithet in Greek lettering: “Beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, swifter than Hermes, and stronger Wonder Woman than Hercules.” This meticulously crafted collectible will be available this summer. Movie Collecible The Batman Batarang Statue is the latest in Cryptozoic’s series of detailed, life-size hand statues and features the Caped Crusader’s gloved hand gripping his signature batarang. The statue measures 10 inches tall with the batarang equipped and will be available this summer.


TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019

PALADONE

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Paladone sheds light on popular fandoms this spring, including retro favorites. The battery-powered Harry Potter Icon Light is approximately 4 inches tall and is available in eight different characters. The Rick and Morty Rick’s Spaceship USB Light emits light from the cockpit and two front lights. It has an 8-inch posable arm. The Crash Bandicoot Harry Potter Icon Light TNT Light is a 4-inch collectible 3-D light that plays exploding TNT crate sounds when you turn it on. Paladone also debuts the oversized Tamagotchi Heat Change Mug, which features the classic ‘90s toy and changes color when a hot drink is poured into it.

PLAYMONSTER PlayMonster will release a new version of The Logo Game. The Logo Game will have all new content, featuring new and nostalgic brands, with trivia about popular logos, commercials, facts, and more. Recommended for two to six players ages 12 and up, the new version features 3-D pewter pawns of items and characters and will be available in the fall.

DC COLLECTIBLES DC Collectibles is set to launch new high-end collectible figures based on iconic DC heroes and villains this year. Dark Nights: Metal Batman and Darkseid Baby features the caped crusader alongside DC’s most powerful supervillain, as seen in the pages of Dark Nights: Metal. In the twisting, nightmare- and rock-and-roll-infused plot of Metal,, Scott Snyder has the Dark Knight capture the newborn Darkseid to shoot himself back in time. Based on the art by Greg Capullo, the 6.1-inch figure was sculpted by Neobauhaus and includes an interchangeable head and removable Darkseid baby. Limited to 5,000 pieces, it will be on sale in July. The Batman Black & White Batman statue by Kenneth Rocafort incorporates demonic and otherworldly elements, including a serrated cape, skeletal feet, and a vampiric bat symbol. Sculpted by Paul Harding, the 8.77-inch figure is limited to 5,000 pieces and will be on sale in July. DC Collectibles’ Batman Black & White statue series, featuring work from celebrated artists, is back this year with Batman Black & White Mini PVC Figure 7-Pack Box Set One.. This new offshoot of the black-and-white collectibles features 3.75-inch tall PVC figures. Released in box sets of seven, each set is composed of resized statues from some of the most popular designs in the line’s history. The first set will release in May and features art by Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Jason Fabok, Patrick Gleason, Frank Quitely, Dick Sprang, and Jim Lee. The DC Designer Series: Wonder Woman statue by Jenny Frison is based on the Jenny Frison-illustrated cover from the Rebirth era of the Wonder Woman comics series. Cast in polyresin, the statue captures a Wonder Woman who is prepared for battle, armed with her shield, Amazonian spear, and the Lasso of Truth on her hip. Sculpted by Jack Mathews, the 15.5-inch tall figure is limited to 5,000 pieces and will be available in July. Following the success of the Teen Titans multi-part statue, DC Collectibles is back with a new line of combinable statues featuring the Batman family. Batman Family: Robin MultiPart Statue features Robin perched upon a gargoyle with a sword at the ready and a smile on his face. Sculpted in polyresin by Chris Dahlberg, this 5.71-inch statue will stand out on its own or as part of the Bat-Family when collectors connect it with the other statues. The DC Gallery collection presents some of the most iconic accessories, costumes, and art as seen in the DC universe. In 2019, DC Collectibles will launch a collection of Batman cowls, each representing an iconic rendition of the Dark Knight’s headgear from comics, video games, and more. Coming in July is the Batman: Arkham Asylum Batman Cowl, based on the cowl from the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game produced by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Rocksteady Studios. Standing 11.29 inches tall, this 1:2-scale polyresin sculpture is limited to 5,000 pieces.

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Dark Nights: Metal Batman and Darkseid Baby


WREBBIT 3D Wrebbit 3D introduces two Game of Thrones 3-D puzzles, each depicting a building from the show. Game of Thrones: The Red Keep Wrebbit 3D Puzzle is 845 pieces and will be available this month. Game of Thrones: Winterfell Wrebbit 3D Puzzle is 910 pieces and will be available in March. Both puzzles are designed for fans ages 14 and up.

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Game of Thrones: The Red Keep Wrebbit 3D Puzzle

MINTED LABS Minted Labs’ new patent-pending Soft Statue line brings a new category into the collector market. This year, the company will launch a Resident Evil Nemesis 1:6 scale Soft Statue, a 12-inch Street Fighter Assortment, Assortment a 12-inch Megaman,, and a limited series of Netlix’s popular Queer Eye Fab 5. 5

MCFARLANE TOYS McFarlane Toys partnered with HBO to create highly detailed, 6-inch figures based on iconic characters from Game of Thrones. The line will include Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, the Night King, and Arya Stark, each with screen-accurate accessories and classic outfits from the latest season. The figures will be available in April.

BUFFALO GAMES Available in August from Buffalo Games, Pac-Man The Game challenges each player to take a turn as Pac-Man as the other players work together and play as the ghosts trying to catch Pac-Man. Each Pac-Man has three lives to gobble up as many pellets, power pellets, fruit, and blue ghosts as possible; roll the dice and strategically move; and elude capture. The player with the highest score wins the game. Tabletop Pinball brings full-tilt pinball action to the home. Use 10 balls to try and get the high score in this action-packed tabletop pinball game. Land balls in scoring zones to accumulate points. Players can play solo or go head-to-head in this game, available in May. The Fanny Pack Game is a game of luck, strategy, and quick reactions in a frantic race to fill your fanny pack. Players swap item cards in their hands until they fill their fanny packs with the contents designated on their character card. Play as your favorite ’90s persona from the rollerblader to the mall rat. The Fanny Pack Game will be available in April. Chickapig is a strategic board game in which chicken– pig hybrids attempt to reach their goals while dodging opponents, hay bales, and a menacing pooping cow. Brian Calhoun, a custom guitar builder from Charlottesville, Virginia, and Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band, invented the game. The game is available on Amazon now and will be available in specialty toy stores this spring. Buffalo Games will also introduce Pokémon and Game of Thrones Jigsaw Puzzles. Puzzlers can piece together images from these two popular licenses in a piece-count that is friendly for the whole family. Game of Thrones 500-piece jigsaw puzzles feature artwork depicting popular story lines, characters, and scenes from the show. Pokémon 300-piece jigsaw puzzles feature favorite characters from the history of the brand. Both will be available in May. THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 33


TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019

USAOPOLY USAopoly will have new collectible games featuring popular fandoms this year, including the new Captain Marvel: Secret Skrulls hidden identity game, which challenges players to defend the planet as their favorite Marvel characters. Choose from Captain Marvel, Nick Fury, or Korath and fight in an intergalactic war against shape-shifting Skrulls. With more than 160 components to play, players decide whom to trust, and aim to defend their alliance and restore the planet. In Clue: It, players must correctly guess who Pennywise will abduct next in the twist on the classic murder mystery board game. Players take on the roles of members of the Loser Club as they move around the Derry, Maine-themed board game to deduce Pennywise’s plans. Ruh roh! In Clue: Scooby Doo, players must solve a mystery at Mrs. White’s Haunted Mansion to find out which character was abducted. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Scooby Doo, players ages 8 and up can play as members of the Scooby gang as they discover the custom evidence to find their missing friend. With Monopoly: Scooby Doo, kids can buy, sell, and trade locations in Scooby’s world. In this special edition of the classic game, players travel around the board in search of the most valuable properties in a bid to win. The game features retro Scooby Doo art and custom metal tokens that each resemble a member of the Scooby gang. The classic game of strategic conquest lends itself to the zombie demolition team with Risk: Call of Duty Black Ops Zombies. The licensed game, designed for players ages 17 and up, features factions led by Call of Duty characters as they seek control over familiar maps and fend off zombie threats. Harry Potter fans can piece together the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Baby Nifflers puzzle. The premium puzzle includes 1,000 pieces revealing a cute picture of a pack of Nifflers— no wand or magic required.

POWERUP TOYS Explore the world around you with OKO Multi View, the newest multi-use accessory for your smartphone, from Powerup Toys. Pop in your device, wear the OKO Multi View goggles, and transform your phone’s camera into an augmented reality tool and entry-level binoculars with capture capabilities. The spatial aspherical oculars create a high-quality, full-screen viewing experience to immerse players in AR apps. When using OKO Multi View as binoculars, you can see beyond what a traditional smartphone camera captures. Take photos or video using your smartphone without removing your device from the goggles. OKO Multi View will be available in April.

FOLKMANIS Get into the Halloween or Christmas spirit with the Jack Skellington puppet from Folkmanis. The Pumpkin King from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas magically comes to life with your movements. Strap on the feet and place one hand in the mouth and another in the gloved hand to animate this spectacular 6-foot character puppet. Jack’s faithful companion Zero is also available, featuring a movable mouth, a light-up nose, and diaphanous fabric that enhances its supernatural appeal. 34 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER


Fuggler Vinyl Figure Collectibles

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TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019

ONE FUNNY MOTHER Make the holidays more bearable with Shiraz on the Shelf, from One Funny Mother. Place your Shiraz on the Shelf glass out each night and a magical angel will fill it with wine by morning. This packaged gift set includes a designed wine glass and hilarious illustrated booklet with your new favorite inappropriate Christmas poem. Shiraz on the Shelf is a gift for the harried, under-appreciated moms out there who might need a little help to survive the holidays. Wine is not included, but it is highly encouraged.

SPIN MASTER Spin Master introduces a new kind of Fuggler— Fuggler Vinyl Figure Collectibles. They’re just as horrible, only now, they fit in the palm of your hand. These collectible vinyl figures have tiny mouths full of (too many) teeth. Some have buttons for eyes, some have eyeballs for eyes, and some have three eyes. Bring one home and unbox a little weirdo covered in zebra print or a different weirdo with gangly arms and claws. Flip them around and you’ll even find a butt-on hole. Each vinyl figure collectible captures all the bizarre unlikeability of the monsters you’ve grown to tolerate. With 16 Vinyl Figures to adopt this spring, fans can collect all kinds of toothy goons. But be warned: Adopt at your own risk! Fuggler Keychains are available this fall. The line includes 32 unique Fuggler character heads to collect, each complete with the signature teeth. Fans can hang them and take them with them on the go.

BOSS FIGHT STUDIOS

36 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

Bruiser the Betelgusian Berserker Babon

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Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian Highly Articulated Character Kit System (H.A.C.K.S.) is a 1:18-scale line of customizable action figures. The 4-inch figures feature uniquely designed proprietary connections, so collectors can pull the figures apart at specific joints and reassemble them into countless different combinations. Customizers have the flexibility to create an army of Spartan Warriors, rally an Orc Horde, or even build a team of their own customized heroes. Then, they can add accessory kits with armor, weapons, mini-kits, and more for further customization options. Series one figures are themed around Greek mythology, while series two is a fantasy collection. As an approved licensee of Continuity’s Bucky O’Hare collectible toys, Boss Fight Studios will introduce new super-articulated action figures, including Bruiser the Betelgusian Berserker Baboon.. This figure comes packaged in a window box featuring Bruiser artwork and biography. It includes an alternate head, left and right alternate hands, a blaster, and a banana.


With Jaws, from Wonder Forge, fans can experience the movie as a suspenseful tabletop game. One player must menace the island of Amity as the 3-ton great white, while other players hunt as Brody, Hooper, and Quint in two different phases of gameplay. Jaws will be available in July. Available in March, Villainous lets kids take on the role of a Disney villain as they strive to achieve a devious objective. Players can discover their villain’s unique abilities while dealing twists of fate to their opponents.

MACCABI ART Kick fun into high gear with new sports collectibles from Maccabi Art. Coming in the spring, FanFigz Collectible Figures feature players from top soccer teams around the world. Each PVC figure features kicking action and includes a soft soccer ball and a detachable stand. Kids can use the FanFigz to play a game of soccer with the Air Soccer Game. The folding game board features two soccer nets, two player clips, two paddles, and an air soccer ball. For sports enthusiasts who like a little surprise, Sportzies Collectible Figures come packaged in mystery packs and feature teams including Barcelona, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and more.

LEGO The future of Overwatch hangs in the balance as Winston races to get the rocket ready for takeoff at LEGO Overwatch Watchpoint: Gibraltar with the help of his trusted ally Pharah. Fans can immerse themselves and replay one of the most iconic maps in Overwatch or build and display this 730-piece set near their gaming setup. Build your own LEGO Overwatch Bastion and its companion Ganymede. This highly detailed figure features recon-mode Bastion with Ganymede perched on its shoulder, plus a gun and a light brick in its head. Fans can also reconfigure the Bastion figure into sentry mode with a powerful long-range cannon. This Overwatch 602-piece collectible Bastion is a great display model for fans of all ages. Join Disco Kitty, Tempo, Melody, and Zebe and take a trip on the fun The LEGO Movie 2 Pop Up Party Bus. Place Zebe in the cockpit, open the roof and sides of the bus, fold out the loudspeakers and disco ball, and get the party started. Drink a smoothie, turn on the disco lights, and then show off your dance moves on the rotating dance floor. Build the awesome LEGO Speed Champions 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and 1970 Dodge Charger R/T and prepare for a new-versus-classic-car drag racing duel. Power up the classic Dodge Charger with the supercharger and place the racing drivers in cockpits. Wait for the Christmas tree lights to change and speed away at full throttle. Who will be first past the checkered flag in this historic race? All of the above LEGO sets are available now.

LEGO Overwatch Bastion

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WONDER FORGE

TASTEMAKERS Tastemakers LLC introduces four new titles to its Arcade1Up line. Standing at about 4 feet tall, the machines each feature a joystick, control buttons, and classic arcade games in full color and high-resolution. This year’s new titles include Mortal Kombat II, II Space Invaders, Golden Tee, Tee and Final Fight. All Arcade1Up machines are designed for players ages 14 and up.

THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 37


TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019

KAHOOTZ TOYS Kahootz Toys will bring back some retro favorites this year, including the Original Waterfuls. The original hand-held game has a new twist in which players can choose from six different game panels inspired by classic arcade games. Players add water, swirl, shoot, and score in this old-school dexterity challenge. Colorforms Classics Retro Replay Editions will be available in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Care Bears styles. These timeless activity toys feature re-stickable vinyl pieces that cling to the play board, just like the original sets. The pieces can stick and re-stick to just about any surface, and fans will love the retro character art from decades past.

FACTORY ENTERTAINMENT Kuzos, from Factory Entertainment, are a new series of detailed die-cast metal collectibles based on iconic movie and TV characters and props. Available this spring, the collectible pop culture figures measure 2 inches wide, for collectors to easily display anywhere. The first wave of Kuzos includes collectibles from Batman, Wonder Woman, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween. Future collections will feature characters from Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Beatles, and Looney Toons for a variety of collectors. Collectors ages 14 and up can display and play with Revos pop culture-themed vinyl figures. The stylized 4-inch figures consist of characters from iconic pop culture scenes and have a special mechanism built into the base for the figures to spin, revolve, and knock around the stand. The first two waves include characters from Jurassic Park, IT, Beetlejuice, and Nightmare on Elm Street. Additional collections will include figures from various movies and the DC universe. The Tin Totes line expands to include a range of bright, bold designs of pop culture favorites. Featuring icons from E.T., Fast & Furious, The Beatles, The Blues Brothers, Animal House, and Monty Python, the collector lunch boxes are designed for fans ages 14 and up.

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Revos

38 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

HASBRO Hasbro brings Fortnite battles to the real world with its NERF Fortnite AR-L Blaster. Inspired by the iconic weapon used in Fortnite, the blaster boasts rapid-fire, motorized blasting action and flip-up sights for players to focus their aim as they eliminate opponents. It also features a 10-dart clip and comes with 20 Elite darts. Hasbro expands the Transformers world with Transformers BotBots. As the story goes, a flowing mist of Energon came down from the sky and covered a shopping mall. The objects inside were brought to life as little Transformers robots that can hide in plain sight as everyday objects, meaning no one knows what’s a bot and what’s not. The new collectible BotBots toys each stand approximately 1 inch tall and change from totally normal stuff to adventurous little robots in three to five steps. Fans can collect all 61 characters across three assortments. The Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures line of action figures will expand this year with Princess Leia, Yoda, Han Solo, and an Imperial Stormtrooper. Each 3.75-inch figure comes with a mini comic and a QR code that fans can activate with any smart device to discover online stories about the character. The figures are available exclusively at Walmart.


TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019

PLAYMOBIL With the Playmobil Ghostbusters Ecto-1A,, fans can catch the ghosts from Ghostbusters II.. Available in May, the Ecto-1A features an updated logo and technical equipment and a functioning digital announcement board to advertise their ghostbusting business. The detachable roof makes it easy to load in the proton packs and ghost traps. When synced with the free Playmobil app, the ghost trap projects a ghost into the clear hologram cone for real ghost-catching action. The set includes Ghostbusters Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore in their official Ghostbusters II uniforms with two detachable slime blower packs and wands, two proton packs, a ghost trap, a PKE meter, and silicone slime splatters that stick to smooth surfaces.

ORB ORB will release tactile and squishy toys based on the Netflix series Stranger Things this year. Stranger Things Soft’n Slo Squishies Ultra are slow-rising squishies featuring characters from Stranger Things, including Eleven, Hopper, Dustin, Barb, Steve, Mike, Will, and Lucas. They will be available in the spring/summer.

UNIVERSITY GAMES In University Games’ Tip of the Tongue, players have to think fast and spit it out. The questions seem easy in this fast-paced trivia game, but can you spit out the answer in two seconds flat? With more than 1,000 questions, players can play over and over with as few or as many players as they want. Tip of the Tongue will be available this fall. Designed for players ages 21 and up, Don’t Drink and Draw is party mayhem as every player draws and guesses on every turn. Choose your Person, Action, and Location cards, then draw that combination. Whether it is “Frankenstein bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower” or “Humpty Dumpty doing a striptease in jail,” everyone is guaranteed laughs as they guess each other’s drawings. Available this spring, Don’t Drink and Draw is the natural, rowdy successor to Pictionary. In Are You Dumber than a Box of Rocks Rocks, players draw a card, pick a category, shake the box, and open the top to see who has the correct answer—the player or the rocks. Available this spring, this quick-play trivia race asks the obnoxious question: Are you dumber than a box of rocks? The answer may surprise you. 40 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

ENTERTAINMENT EARTH Coming this fall from Entertainment Earth is the Batman TV Series Batmobile with Batman and Robin Pin Mates Wooden Collectible Set. The set features a wooden Batmobile modeled after the design by George Barris from the 1966 Batman TV Series, complete with rolling wheels and two retro-styled, 2-inch wooden Pin Mates figures. Each Pin Mates figure features brightly colored, 360-degree artwork and is individually numbered within the Pin Mates Gold Series.


XTREME PLAY

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XTreme Play’s Rainbow 6 Chibi Collectible Figures are 3-inch chibi-style figurines inspired by Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6 video game from Ubisoft. The highly detailed, small collectible figures pay tribute to fan-favorite operators from the game, and the Six Collection refers to the charms that hang on the operator’s weapons. Series one features 10 different character styles, each sold separately. The universe of Assassin’s Creed puts the player in the middle of an ancient war between two age-old factions—the Assassin Brotherhood, which fights to protect Free Will among the populace, and the Templar Order, who wish to impose their control within a New World Order. The Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed Collectible Figures stand 3 inches tall atop a flat base. Fans can collect 10 characters in series one. XTreme Play also brings to life the Broken Spear of LeoniRainbow 6 Chibi Collectible Figures das, from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.. Originally wielded by King Leonidas of Sparta during the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E, the broken legendary spear was inherited by Alexios or Kassandra. This 26.5-inch replica is a great accessory for both cosplay and collectors, and is available exclusively at Gamestop.

TEKNOFUN «

Eevee LED Lamp with The Eevee LED Lamp Remote Control with Remote Control wireless lamp, from Teknofun, is a 12-inch tall Eevee that spreads a soft light thanks to LED lights. With the remote control provided, fans can turn this battery-powered lamp on and off and choose their favorite lighting position, either fixed color or varying intensity. Eevee looks after you and lights up your nights with the Eevee Lamp Alarm Clock.. Featuring light diffusers, this alarm clock has a digital display for hour, date, and room temperature, and a programmable alarm. This lamp alarm clock runs on batteries or via the included USB or micro USB power cable. TEKNOFUN will also introduce two Wireless Induction Chargers. The Pac-Man-shaped wireless charger lets fans put their phone into Pac-Man’s mouth to recharge via induction. Pac-Man also lights up while charging. The Hello Kitty London charger lets Hello Kitty look after your phone when you place it on top of the London phone booth to charge via induction. The phone booth’s cabin also lights up while charging. The Pikachu Light-up Figurine with Hand Strap can be taken anywhere. The 3.5-inch tall Pokémon features a light that you can turn on or off with a switch. Fans can also choose from either fixed color or varying intensity with this battery-powered figurine. All of the above products are available now.

NORTH STAR GAMES The Quacks of Quedlinburg, from North Star Games, is a strategic push-your-luck game in which players draw from their potpourri of ingredients until they think the special blend is just right. But be careful: A few too many special ingredients and the whole potion could blow up in your face. Players must decide whether to stop early to improve their chances of making a better potion later that will win the day, or risk a big setback in order to get more money and fame now. Finding the right balance between risk and reward is the key to victory. The game is designed for two to four players and takes about 45 minutes to play.

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TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019

NEW ZEALAND MINT New Zealand Mint introduces a new DC Comics silver coin note collection of Batman Villains. The collection begins with the iconic DC villain, the Joker. Immortalized on a 5-gram silver coin note, the design features a montage of images synonymous with the Joker’s love of chaos and incorporates both color and engraving to allow the silver to shine. The coin note sits within a unique holder, which stands up for easy display. Inside the holder are more striking images of the Joker, and both are packaged inside a high-quality, Joker-themed box to complete the collectible. Officially licensed, the coin notes are a limited edition with only 50,000 available worldwide. Each note has a unique serial number printed on it to confirm its authenticity. Wonder Woman Also new this year is the Wonder Silver Miniature Woman Silver Miniature Miniature. Designed by 3-D master sculptor Alejandro Pereira Ezcurra, this miniature has a limited worldwide production of only 1,000 casts and features the Amazon Princess with her Golden Lasso of Truth. Using approximately 130 grams of silver, the sculpt is finished with an antique silver polish and stands about 9 centimeters tall. The silver purity, DC Comics copyright, and unique serial number are detailed on the base. The miniature comes complete with an additional stand, a metal plate confirming the series number, a unique serial number, and New Zealand Mint authentication.

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JAKKS PACIFIC Jakks Pacific introduces a line of toys inspired by Godzilla: King of Monsters. The 3.5-Inch Monster Battlepacks include two articulated monster figures—one Godzilla and one monster—and a backdrop accessory. There are three versions of Godzilla available in the packs. The 6-Inch Monster figures— available as either King Ghidorah or Rodan—each come with a vehicle accessory and a breakable accessory. Kids can open their mouth while wearing the Godzilla Mask with Lights and SFX to activate Godzilla’s growl, or open their mouths wider to activate Godzilla’s lights and roar. The detailed 12-Inch Godzilla and 24-Inch Godzilla are poseable figures modeled after the monster in the movie.

SUPER IMPULSE Motion Arcade,, from Super Impulse, is a new line of hand-held, motion-activated games, launching with Rubik’s Tilt and Tetris Tilt this summer. Tilt the device left, right, forward, and backward to control the direction the tube turns in Rubik’s Tilt, and to control the falling Tetrominoes in Tetris Tilt. Rubik’s Tilt’s features sound, various skill levels, and a timer for speed-cubing. In Tetris Tilt, speed increases as players advance through the game. MicroArcade is a line of compact, old-school arcade games. Series one launches this March with Pac-Man, Tetris,, and an Atari Combo Card featuring Missile Command, Centipede,, and a surprise bonus game. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, each game measures 3.25 by 2 by 0.375 inches and comes with a full-color screen, sound effects, and directional control buttons, plus a micro USB charger.

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THE HUNT

BEYOND

The Rock Father and The Toy Hunter discuss collectibles going mainstream, and why tracking a gem is about much more than the flip. by James Zahn, senior editor From Starlog to Star Wars, Jordan Hembrough spent the last few decades immersed in fandoms on all fronts. The owner of Hollywood Heroes Gallery in Westwood, New Jersey, Hembrough maintains an ever-changing inventory of vintage and modern toys and collectibles, evolving with the industry as consumer tastes and desires change. He hit the national stage as “The Toy Hunter,” traveling the country in search of elusive toys for celebrity clients over the course of three seasons on the Travel Channel. While the series lives on in reruns worldwide, Hembrough still travels in search of something bigger—making connections between people and toys, and finding stories that continue to inspire. Like many kids of a certain age, Hembrough was inspired by George Lucas’ original Star Wars back in 1977—a first step into a larger world that went far beyond the film,

and one that would include more products and spin-offs than anyone could have imagined at the time. From action figures and vehicles in the Kenner Star Wars collection, to bedding, food, and housewares—fans could buy anything with the Star Wars name on it, and it was all collectible. Hembrough’s passion for The Force eventually led to his career and, decades later, it has come full circle. Last fall, Hembrough worked with Lucasfilm as host and producer of the new digital series Our Star Wars Stories. The show took an intimate look into the personal lives of individual Star Wars fans and their families, showing how the franchise continues to inspire. A five-person crew trekked across the U.S., shooting the first five-episode season in just 11 days. Pop Insider: Our Star Wars Stories really touched a lot of people. What’s the outlook for season two? Jordan Hembrough Hembrough: We had an incredible time producing the first season, and it was very well received by fans. Everyone is on board for another season, and we all want to do one. It’s just figuring out timing and logistics right now. PI: How has collecting changed over the past five years? JH: I think what we are seeing now is that people are more open to items being collectibles. It’s not a term that many people don’t understand anymore. Toy companies have done such an incredible job with their marketing of “collect them all!” that even people not regularly engaged in the collectible market are actively seeking out complete sets of toys or figures. Furthermore, collectible toys, statues, and replica props have started to enter the zeitgeist of television.

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Star Wars and Marvel figures are in high demand this year, Hembrough says. Many collectors seek high-end collectibles, such these Hot Toy figures. Pictured (left to right): Star Wars Princess Leia Bespin Sixth Scale Figure, Star Wars Darth Vader Sixth Scale Figure, and Black Panther Shuri Sixth Scale Figure.

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Jordan Hembrough sits with the Perales family of Anaheim, California, for the the fifth episode of Our Star Wars Stories. The Perales family shares a love of Star Wars and cosplay. Photo: Lucasfilm

Shows like The Big Bang Theory regularly showcase main characters talking about high-end collectibles and the demand for them ... so it’s not surprising that it will creep into the lives of casual viewers. I actually had a couple in my gallery the other day looking at some high-end Star Wars statues from Sideshow, and one of them commented, “That’s like the one on The Big Bang Theory in the comic shop.” PI: As the marketplace changes, what trends are you seeing in collectibles for this year? JH: I have a lot of people asking me for vintage Star Wars toys and vintage Marvel collectibles. As we lead up to Star Wars: Episode IX, and Avengers: Endgame, I think people are starting to realize that many of the characters they grew up with will not be around. People are asking me to complete sets of original Kenner Star Wars figures for them, and I’ve seen a rise in demand for Captain America and Iron Man collectibles. This trend is always expected when it comes to a new movie opening, but with Star Wars specifically, Lucasfilm has said this marks the end of the Skywalker Saga storyline—so it’s a rather unique circumstance. For the short term, I expect this trend to continue.

PI: With retro toys continuing to remain special, are there any modern toy lines that have the potential to be as exciting for collectors 30 to 40 years from now as the toys of the ‘70s and ‘80s are today? JH: While they may not be specifically toys, I do like the stuff Hot Toys is doing. The quality of the product is just so amazing with regard to detail. People are displaying these in their homes and offices, and I expect some of the rarer pieces to become highly valuable in the future. The same can be said with many of the Premium Format statues from Sideshow Toys. I have seen those jump in value, and they are simply stunning. I have three of them in my office. PI: Beyond the high-end pieces, have you identified any particular items from recent kid-focused lines that could become highly sought-after in the years ahead? JH: The demand for the larger LEGO sets increased. LEGO has a really unique and timeless anchor in the market, and their toys have just gotten better with time. The really cool thing about LEGO is that they have added so much detail to their building sets (Hogwart’s Castle, Millennium Falcon) while keeping their basic play pattern the same. They are building blocks, pure and simple.

Yet, they have evolved this concept over time by adding characters and increased play value to their sets. PI: After all the decades and countless miles, what excites you most about keeping the hunt alive? Do you find that it gets harder as time goes on? JH: You know, it’s funny; 2019 will mark my 33rd year as a toy dealer. I have traveled all over the world and sold tens of thousands of toys. The hunt for rare items always remains the same—it’s always tough. The main thing that has changed over the past five or so years is the way I interact with my customers. For me personally, it’s no longer about the price attached to the rare toy ... it’s the story that goes along with it. I love hearing how people acquired a certain item, or why they are selling. There have been some incredible people that have come into my life all because of a toy, and I always want to speak to them and hear their story. ✪ To learn more about Jordan Hembrough and his store, visit hollywoodheroes.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @jordanhembrough. Keep up to date with Our Star Wars Stories at starwars.com.

THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 45


MINT CONDITION

DON’T OPEN THAT PACKAGE!

Why Leaving Collectibles in Their Original Packaging Matters by Ted Mininni, president and creative director, Design Force Inc.

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f you’ve ever had a collectible appraised, or watched the process on TV shows, such as Antiques Roadshow, you know that every item has a greater value if it’s still in its original packaging, and you also know that the condition of the packaging matters as much as the condition of the collectible. The greatest value occurs when a collectible remains in its package, especially in the case of a toy. It’s hard to know which of the collectibles will accrue the most value over time. Rarity plays a big part in that, but so does condition. Given that, collectors often like to purchase two of their favorite limited-edition action figures. That way, they can keep one in its package for display purposes and to maintain maximum value, and play with the second one. WHY DOES THE BOX MATTER? Well-conceived package design matters. You can scan retail shelves and find your favorite brand by looking for package color, structure, imagery, and logo. And if you’re not sure which brand to purchase, you usually make a choice solely based on the appeal of its packaging because packaging sells product and adds value to brands. Since collectibles command premium

prices, the package design reflects the item’s desirability. If you compare the packaging of items that are limited-edition collectibles with the mass-produced items for that brand, you’ll see the difference very quickly. For example, if you’re shopping for a Barbie doll for your kid, you can easily spot her in a sea of dolls on the shelf because of Mattel’s distinctive packaging. The signature logo in its famous custom script likely attracts your eye first. Character artwork depicting Barbie and her friends confirm that this is the doll you want. When you get close to the shelf, you can see most of the doll thanks to a die-cut window. Background art behind Barbie tells you that she’s an empowered career woman or that she’s a pop culture fashion diva. But you’ll also note that Mattel packages limited-edition collectible Barbie dolls differently from the basic dolls. High-end packaging stands out from everything around it. Matte finishes, special inks, and limited text on this packaging subliminally tell you that there is a collectible item inside. Unique package structure and high-end design showcases and displays in a striking manner. Pop culture meets haute couture in Mattel’s Barbie and Ken Moschino Gift Set. Boldly colored, urban-inspired street art meets high fashion in an inspired look from Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott. The dolls are wonderful, but the packaging steals the show. Minimalist, black matte packaging is punctuated by bold, multicolored acrylic lettering that spells out Moschino, the brand known for its exuberant take on high fashion. The packaging opens to reveal Barbie and Ken on a silver stage within an acrylic case that gives us a 360-degree view of their spectacular outfits. The Barbie logo appears at center bottom of the acrylic cover. And the words “Barbie Collector Gold Label” are inscribed on the front of the silver staging. This packaging is meant to be kept, displayed, and savored as much as the collectibles contained within it. POP CULT KEEPSAKES There are very few more dominant licensed entertainment properties in our culture than the Star Wars franchise. The impact of Star Wars continues to rever-

46 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

berate around the world. Here, too, we see stark differences between the packaging of basic Star Wars toys and high-end collectibles. Basic Star Wars action figures appear in blister-carded packaging that hangs on peg walls in retail stores. Background artwork depicts the character in action, as you’d expect. Although this packaging is meant to be opened to play with the action figures, these basic product lines are often kept intact and cherished as collectibles by avid Star Wars fans. On the other hand, The Black Series Star Wars figures are clearly designed to be collector’s items. They are actually staged within boxed packaging against backdrops of striking artwork. A black matte finish on pack tells us that this is a premium product. Additional artwork of the character appears on the lower right-hand side of the package in shades of gray and black. Touches of red appear around each character, and red is also used for the name of each character on the lower left-hand side of the package. In a Good Housekeeping magazine article titled “The 40 Most Valuable Toys from Your Childhood,” the point is made over and over again: Vintage collectibles fetch the most money when sold in mint, original packaging. For example, a Sotheby’s auction in 2015 brought its owner $25,000 for a rare 1978 Luke Skywalker Action Figure in its original packaging. An original Furby in an unopened box can go for $900, while an original 1984 Transformers Optimus Prime figure in “pristine packaging” sells for $2,000. Every aspect of package design plays a role in adding value, which, in turn, adds value to the product. So, please, don’t open that package. ✪

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ted Mininni is president and creative director at Design Force Inc., a package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. The goal of Design Force is to establish strong emotional connections with consumers and create powerful visual brand experiences that engage, excite, entertain, inspire, and influence consumers’ decision to buy. Mininni can be reached at (856) 810-2277. Visit designforceinc. com for more information.


BABY SHARK DIVES INTO RETAIL

2 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

TOY FAIR NY Top Toys Inspired by Kids' Favorite Fandoms POWER RANGERS GETS A NEW HOME WITH HASBRO


POP JUNIOR: NERDY NEWS

NERDY NEWS

THE LEGO MOVIE WORLD LAUNCHES AT LEGOLAND FLORIDA RESORT The LEGO Movie World will open on March 27 at the LEGOLAND Florida Resort. The new expansion features three new rides and numerous attractions, all inspired by the characters and themes of The LEGO Movie and the recently released The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part. Collaborating with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, the team from Merlin Magic Making recreated Bricksburg with its characters, creative eating spaces, and authentic cityscape, where guests can experience Emmet’s Super Suite. Rides include The LEGO Movie Masters of Flight, Unikitty’s Disco Drop, and Battle of Bricksburg. The LEGO Movie World will also feature a Taco Tuesday Everyday eatery; The Awesome Shop, filled with take-home collectibles; and a space-themed playground structure inspired by Benny’s spaceship. ✪

MATTEL ANNOUNCES HOT WHEELS LIVEACTION MOVIE Hot Wheels is racing from the toy aisle to the big screen. Mattel announced that its film division, Mattel Films, will partner with Warner Bros. Pictures for the very first live-action Hot Wheels movie. The Hot Wheels brand celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and sells more than 500 million toys annually. This marks the second partnership between Mattel Films and Warner Bros. Pictures, following the news that Margot Robbie will star in a Barbie feature film. ✪

SPIN MASTER ENTERS THREE-YEAR TOY LICENSING AGREEMENT WITH DC Spin Master entered into a three-year global licensing agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP). Beginning in spring 2020, Spin Master will be a new toy licensee for DC in the boy’s action category, remote control and robotic vehicles, water 52 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

toys, and games and puzzles. Spin Master continues to expand its portfolio of licensed products, including its 10-year licensing partnership with Feld Entertainment as the worldwide master toy partner for Monster Jam. ✪

POCKET.WATCH EXPANDS RYAN’S WORLD INTO GLOBAL LIFESTYLE BRAND Following last year’s foray into toys, pocket.watch unveiled plans to turn Ryan’s World—based on the kid-host of the Ryan ToysReview YouTube series—into “a true global lifestyle franchise.” New partnerships and licensees, including Just Play, Jada Toys, Kids Preferred, American Greetings, and

Zak Designs, anchor the expansion of Ryan’s World. pocket.watch will extend Ryan’s World beyond toys and introduce new categories, including sleepwear, backpacks, lunch kits and accessories, Halloween costumes, party goods, social expressions, hydration, furniture, and home goods. Just Play will make a variety of products, including toys, play sets, a range of role-play and dress-up clothing, musical instruments, and seasonal products, such as inflatables. Jada Toys is the global vehicle partner for Ryan’s World. The comprehensive range will include vehicles in all sizes and scale— R/C and die-cast—and will debut in time for Easter, exclusively at Walmart in the U.S. American Greetings expands Ryan’s World into party, social expressions, and seasonal goods, and Zak Designs brings Ryan’s World home products, such as dinnerware and water bottles, to stores this spring. pocket.watch is also working alongside Accessory Innovations, Komar Kids, High Point, Handcraft, Fun World, Sun-Staches, Idea Nuova, Far Out Toys, Walmart, and others on a range of Ryan’s World apparel, Halloween and back-to-school items, homegoods, accessories, seasonal toys, and wheeled goods. ✪


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POP JUNIOR: FANDOM FEATURE

BABY SHARK DIVES INTO RETAIL From Viral Dance Video to Lifestyle Brand

by Marissa DiBartolo, editor-in-chief It’s the song you just cannot get out of your head. It’s the viral dance challenge taking over Instagram. It’s the YouTube video with more than 2.2 billion views: It’s Baby Shark (doo doo doo doo doo doo). While “Baby Shark” is a classic camp song kids all over America sang for decades, Korean education company Pinkfong reinvigorated the song with a dance video featuring a few adorable kids, color-saturated graphics, and moves that are easy to master. Pinkfong posted its “Baby Shark” YouTube video in June 2016, and the views continue to climb. While every parent with a child younger than 5 has likely watched the video a dozen times, Baby Shark became a pop culture phenomenon—with celebrities getting in on the fun, too. James Corden performed a slower, classy rendition of the song on The Late Late Show in September, featuring Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner as Mommy Shark and international singing sensation Josh Groban as Daddy Shark. Ellen Degeneres even did her own rendition on her daytime talk show, subbing in “Ellen Show” for “Baby Shark” lyrics. “Baby Shark” even landed itself on Billboard’s Hot 100 list for multiple weeks in January, peaking at 32. A children’s song is officially one of the hottest songs in the country. “We took ‘Baby Shark’ to a whole new level. Adding upbeat rhythms, a fresh melody, and characters, we’ve recreated slow and monotonous children’s songs into animated music videos with lively, vivid characters,” says Bin Jeong, CEO of Pinkfong USA. And there’s no end in sight for Baby Shark and his family. Pinkfong and its licensing partners are set to debut a full line of Baby Shark products this year. Soon, kids will be wearing Baby Shark T-shirts, playing with Baby Shark toys, and reading 54 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER


Baby Shark books. “With the rising trend of Baby Shark, we are in the process of rolling out physical products ranging from books to toys, and other consumer products, including apparel, accessories, and home,” Jeong says. WowWee partnered with Pinkfong last September, and quickly rolled out a small line of Baby Shark Song Dolls for $16.99 and Sound Cubes for $7.99 for presale on Amazon on December 1. The toys sold out in two days. This year, WowWee also has a Baby Shark Dancing Song Doll plush; Baby Shark Fingerlings; and Baby Shark, Mommy Shark, and Daddy Shark singing plush puppets with speed control. The faster kids open and

close each puppet’s mouth, the faster it will sing “Baby Shark.” “We’re excited to launch a toy line that marries the incredible Baby Shark music and characters with WowWee’s signature innovation and interactive play. We crafted a robust selection of items to satisfy customers across toy categories and channels,” says Emily Chacra, brand manager at WowWee. In addition to WowWee, Pinkfong also partnered with Cardinal/Spin Master, Hasbro, and Basic Fun! for more toys and games. But wait—there’s more. Kids can take a break from the “Baby Shark” YouTube video because new Baby Shark content is coming. “We already have strong short-form content production/distribution and live shows/con-

certs happening around the world, and will be launching long-form content such as the Pinkfong Wonderstar 3-D animated series and Baby Shark shorts for TV, as well as a Baby Shark movie,” Jeong says. Adults and kids alike will have the song stuck in their heads for months to come. It’s not the end (doo doo doo doo doo doo). ✪

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marissa DiBartolo is the editor-in-chief of the Pop Insider and the Toy Insider. She reports on trends and hot topics affecting the toy and pop culture industries, and has been featured on ABC World News Now, the TODAY show, MSNBC, Fox & Friends, and more.

PINKFONG BABY SHARK DANCING SONG DOLL | WOWWEE WowWee’s Pinkfong Baby Shark Official Dancing Doll dances along to “Baby Shark.” Kids can tap its head or clap to see it spin around and make sounds. The plush also reacts when kids call its name, “Baby Shark!”

PINKFONG BABY SHARK LET’S GO HUNT FISHING GAME CARDINAL GAMES, A SPIN MASTER COMPANY This classic game gets a refresh with Mommy Shark, Daddy Shark, Grandma Shark, and Baby Shark. Players race to grab the fish with their Baby Shark-themed fishing rods as the board spins, and the player who reels in the most fish wins the game. The game plays “Baby Shark,” as it spins, and it’s recommended for two to four players ages 4 and up.

PLAYHUT PINKFONG BABY SHARK EXPLORE 4 FUN PLAYHUT, A DIVISION OF BASIC FUN! This play tent and tunnel combo features Pinkfong Baby Shark graphics, including Baby Shark, Mommy Shark, Daddy Shark, and more. The Explore 4 Fun play tent features Playhut’s patented EZ Twist frame, which pops up for a quick set-up and folds down for easy storage. It can be separated into three distinct structures including two 3-foot tunnels, and includes multiple crawl-through doors and a flap that kids can roll up and tie back.

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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD The third film in the trilogy inspires dragon merch that slays. by Jacqueline Cucco, associate editor

B

eads of sweat start prickling at your skin as the fiery hot dragon breath warms your face. You can feel the leathery, scaly dragon hide as you pat your new pal on its ginormous bumpy forehead. Some Vikings might think that dragons are a bit of a problem—that they’re even meant to be slayed—but three How to Train Your Dragon movies later, and you know better. As majestic as dogs are, man has a new best friend—and it’s a dragon. DreamWorks Animation introduced the world to Toothless, the elusive Night Fury dragon, and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the fearless Viking who befriended him, on the big screen in 2010 with How to Train Your Dragon, followed by 2014’s How to Train Your Dragon 2. Distributed by Universal Pictures, the fantasy saga follows the story of Hiccup as he goes against the traditions of his tribe when he trains a dragon he’s supposed to kill,

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proving that everything his people think they know about dragons is wrong. There’s a star-studded cast, including the voices of Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Cate Blanchett, and Kit Harington, to name a few. The first two films were both Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Feature Film in 2011 and 2015, respectively, and the sequel won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film in 2015, among other awards. The third and final installment in the trilogy hits theaters on Feb. 22, and it is full of glorious new dragons and villains. In How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Hiccup is all grown up and living in a world in which dragons are vanishing. A new villain named Grimmel is on a mission to hunt every dragon into oblivion. Hiccup discovers that his buddy Toothless isn’t the only Night Fury around, and they set out to find the mythical Hidden

World, a secret safe haven for dragons that his late father told him about. It’s time for them to fight for their freedom. MEET THE CHARACTERS Of course, Toothless is back, but our adorable dragon friend is in for some romance this time around. Light Fury is a new dragon in town—and she’s just as rare and intelligent as he is. “She’s a variant of the Night Fury species, and she and Toothless develop an immediate bond that continues to grow throughout the film,” Universal Brand Development (UBD) says. And what’s a hero without a villain? Enter Grimmel. He doesn’t believe dragons and humans should live in harmony, and devises an evil plot to exterminate any and all dragons he can’t control. “Grimmel believes that he has driven all


the Night Fury dragons into extinction, and once he discovers Toothless, he moves Toothless to the top of his list to eliminate,” UBD says. As powerful as dragons are, they’re no longer safe. Battles will arise between good and evil, and viewers will find themselves on the edge of their seats as they root for their favorite characters. RESONATING WITH FANS Over the span of three movies, fans watched Hiccup grow from a young boy who didn’t know his place in the world to a strong, respected leader. What began as an unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome dragon turned into a life-changing friendship and an epic adventure, ultimately making How to Train Your Dragon a comingof-age story that appeals to fans both young and old. “It is this epic action-adventure story, but it is also grounded by this powerful and heartwarming bond between Hiccup and Toothless,” UBD says. “The overall theme is about finding the wisdom to let go, which taps into an emotion that all fans can relate to and embrace.“ As the movies come to an end, the fun doesn’t have to. Kids can bring the adventure home with a series of imaginative new toys and games, helping the story live on.

THIS MERCH IS ON FIRE The success of the franchise inspired a medley of How to Train Your Dragon merch— ranging from video games to bedding and action figures—to fully immerse fans into a dragon-inspired world featuring the characters they know and love, and the newcomers too. “Toys are very popular, as fans around the world love to play out their favorite scenes and train their own dragons,” UBD says. Fans can expect new products from Spin Master, Funko, Playmobil, Ravensburger, and more. Spin Master’s collection includes glowin-the-dark features, dragon-glow effects, and color-changing technology. Playmobil, a partner since 2017, introduces “a strong line to support key-story arcs from the DreamWorks Dragons franchise and film,” UBD says. Build-A-Bear Workshop released Toothless and Light Fury plush with the option of adding sound chips to each, as well as a special edition Toothless plush with bioluminescent fur for a shiny dragon glow. There are also books, such as The Art of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, from Dark Horse Comics. Returning publishing partners include Simon & Schuster, Readerlink, and Bendon in North America. The publishing program features storybooks, activity books, early readers, and more. While Outright Games will collaborate

with Universal Games and Digital Platforms for a new console game, the brand will also see a new mobile game for fans to take along on their adventures. DreamWorks Dragons: Titan Uprising is a new mobile game that launched globally on the App Store and Google Play. Developed by top mobile game studio Ludia, also in collaboration with Universal Games and Digital Platforms, DreamWorks Dragons: Titan Uprising is a match-three puzzle role-playing game. Fans can hatch and nurture their own brood of dragons, from small-scaled babies to towering Titan Wings. Kids and adults alike are in for a wild ride as the gates to the hidden dragon world are about to burst open, and fill our world with the majesty of these high-flying friends. ✪

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jacqueline Cucco is an associate editor at Adventure Publishing Group. She writes for the Toy Book, the Toy Insider, and the Pop Insider, and is in charge of all things Instagram. When she’s not watching slime videos, you can find her playing paparazzi for her pet bunny, Peepers (@thebigpeep on Instagram).

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SQUEEZE AND GROWL PLUSH | SPIN MASTER Give the adorable Toothless and his new girlfriend, Light Fury, a squeeze with these cuddly plush. MSRP: $24.99 (sold separately) Available: Mass retail

DREAMWORKS DRAGONS: DAWN OF NEW RIDERS I OUTRIGHT GAMES This video game introduces new characters and a new storyline within DreamWorks’ Dragons universe. MSRP: $39.99 | Available: Mass retail

DREAMWORKS DRAGONS T-SHIRTS | HYBRID Suit up in some fly dragon gear with a selection of trendy graphic T-shirts featuring different characters and phrases. MSRP: $7.99 | Available: Target

DREAMWORKS DRAGON BACKPACK BIOWORLD Don't worry, Toothless has your back with this faux leather bag that has the print and texture of dragon skin, two wings attached, and a front zipper pocket. MSRP: $39.90 | Available: Hot Topic

LIGHT FURY WITH BABY DRAGON AND CHILDREN I PLAYMOBIL Explore the Hidden World with Light Fury as she protects herself with her pink fire darts and fire-charged scales. This set also includes a baby dragon and kid figures. MSRP: $39.99 | Available: playmobil.us

DRAGON & VIKING SET I SPIN MASTER Add something different to the squad with this blue dragon and viking combo. It’s up to you if you’ll use them for good or evil. MSRP: $14.99 | Available: Mass retail

MEET THE NEW DRAGONS SIMON AND SCHUSTER Get an intro to the movie’s new characters with this book, which comes with collectible dragon trading cards. MSRP: $6.99 | Available: Mass retail

LIGHT FURY & TOOTHLESS FUNKO POP! VINYL | FUNKO Grow your dragon collection with Funko’s new line of Funko Pop! vinyl figures featuring Toothless, Light Fury, and more. MSRP: $9.99 | Available: Mass retail

FLY DRAGON FLY BEDDING I JAY FRANCO Dream of dragons with Fly Dragon Fly Bedding, featuring three-piece sheet sets and cozy comforters covered in different icons from the film. MSRP: $21.99-$32.99 | Available: Mass retail

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TOY FA IR

‘19

NEW YORK

WHAT'S THIS? NEW TOYS! Fans come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. The toys, TV shows, and movies we obsessed over as kids influence what we love as adults. At the Toy Association’s annual Toy Fair New York industry trade show, thousands of toys from kids’ favorite fandoms will be on display before they hit store shelves later this year. Check out the following showcase of some of our favorite toys based on characters kids love from video games, movies, and more. For toys, games, and collectibles designed with adults in mind, check out our additional Toy Fair coverage on page 31.

«Sesame Street 50th

Anniversary Blind Boxes

GUND GUND’s Sesame Street 50th Anniversary Blind Boxes feature miniature versions of characters from the show, including Elmo, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Prairie Dawn, Snuffy, Baby Bear, and a mystery character. There’s a new friendly monster in the neighborhood. GUND Sesame Street Gonger Plush is a plush replica of the fuzzy pink star of Cookie Monster’s Foodie Truck. Gonger loves to cook and bang his gong to let everyone know it’s tea time. Pusheen fans can now enjoy the ninth series of Gund’s Pusheen Surprise Plush: Dinosheen. The latest series features eight different Dinosheens inside plastic eggs. Collectors can reveal the Pusheenosaurus, a pink triceratops, a green T. rex, an orange raptor, a blue dinosheen, a raptor, a yellow dinosheen, and a rare mystery style.

JAZWARES Jazwares brings video games to real life with new toys and collectibles from Rocket League and Roblox. Rocket League Battle-Car Mystery Garages: Series 1 are 1:43-scale Battle-Cars hidden inside connectable garage display cases, along with additional accessories. Fans of the video game can collect all eight Battle-Cars in the first series. Fans can also customize their own Battle-Cars with the Rocket League Custom Mega Pack. The pack includes Octane, Aftershock, and Animus GP Battle-Cars, along with six toppers, six antennae, and four sets of rims for different customization options. It also comes with a redeemable download code players can use to access new content in Rocket League. New figures and play sets join Jazwares’ Roblox line, including the Roblox Jailbreak: Great Escape Large Playset, inspired by the game Jailbreak. The set includes four Roblox figures, accessories, and a redeemable code. Kids can mix and match the figures’ parts to build their own Roblox characters, then recreate Roblox adventures or create something unique. And for Peppa Pig fanatics, Jazwares unveils the Peppa Pig’s Lights & Sounds Family Fun Car. Available this spring on Amazon and this fall at mass retail, the car plays Peppa-inspired tunes and phrases. Kids ages 2 and up can press the trunk of the car to make it move and watch the headlights light up. The car comes with exclusive Peppa Pig and Daddy Pig figures. 60 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER


ORB This spring, ORB will introduce Ryan’s World Sticky Mosaics, a craft activity featuring characters from the Ryan ToysReview YouTube channel. Kids ages 5 and up can follow the numbered template instructing them on where to place foam stickers to decorate four Ryan’s World characters—Moe, Baby T. rex, Ryan, and Gus. Ryan’s World Sticky Mosaics are colorful, mess-free, and easy to use. Each set includes four scenes. Additional Ryan’s World products include Ryan’s Sticki Mix-Upz, which are sticker squares that kids ages 5 and up can mix and match until they complete the mystery puzzle. Ryan’s Red Titan Adventure Pad features Ryan-themed stickers that kids ages 3 and up can place in their Pad and reposition to create new scenes. There are 10 different worlds to explore, including outer space, underwater, and the beach. Kids can grip, mold, and throw Ryan’s Splatee Palz and watch them stick to the wall. These wacky, sticky toys will be available in multiple Ryan’s World characters and are designed for kids ages 8 and up.

For PJ Masks fans ready to go into the night to save the day, Just Play will launch the PJ Masks Super Moon Adventure Fortress Playset, designed for kids ages 3 and up. The play set includes 3-inch articulated Catboy and Luna Girl figures. Kids can secure their figures in the zero-gravity belts and pull the levers to engage in imaginative play. There is a Moon Shooter, a Crystal Moon Trap, and a secret Lunar Platform that kids can reveal by pulling the lever at the top of the play set. JoJo with the BowBow is back with the JoJo Singing Doll High Top Shoes doll. Sporting her signature double bow, this 10-inch JoJo Siwa doll sings her newest hit song, “High Top Shoes.” The doll has poseable arms and legs and comes dressed in an outfit inspired by the one she wears in the music video for the song.

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JUST PLAY

Ryan's World Sticky Mosaics

PENGUIN YOUNG READERS With more than 20 million books in print, The Little Engine That Could is a bookshelf staple, and Penguin Young Readers will roll out new publishing in honor of the Little Engine’s 90th anniversary in 2020. Penguin Young Readers has a growing product portfolio for the Little Engine, including apparel from Litographs and e-invitations from Punchbowl. Penguin Young Readers continues to expand its licensing program with Mad Libs with more ways to fill in the blanks through card games, greeting cards, and more from partners such as American Greetings and Looney Labs. The Mad Libs app for iOS and Android had more than 1 million downloads last year, and more than 14 million total downloads to date. Mad Libs is also available as an Amazon Alexa Skill via Amazon Echo speakers and all other Alexa-enabled devices, and a Google Action on Google Home speakers and all other Google Assistant-enabled devices.

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JoJo Singing Doll High Top Shoes

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BANDAI AMERICA Bandai America Inc. introduces the Dragon Ball Super 12- and 13-inch Figures.. Based on characters from the series, the figures each include five points of articulation and will be available this fall. Armor-Up Baymax 2.0,, based on the character from Big Hero 6: The Series, comes with a 6-inch White Baymax figure and more than 20 connecting pieces. Kids can use the attachable armor and weapons to get Baymax ready to save the day. The set is available now. Both action figures are designed for kids ages 4 and up.

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Fortnite Battle Royal Collection

Dragon Ball Super Goku Figure

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MOOSE TOYS The Fortnite Battle Royale Collection from Moose Toys includes Fortnite figures, vehicles, and play sets for kids ages 8 and up. Each Solo Pack includes a poseable Fortnite mini figure with swappable weapons, accessories, and Back Blind. Each Squad Pack includes four mini action figures. The collection will be available in the spring and will grow to include more than 100 characters this year. The Mighty Beanz Fortnite Four Pack is available now, with 35 Mighty Beanz to collect in series one, including rare, epic, legendary, and mythic Mighty Beanz. Kids ages 5 and up can slam the top of the bean pod to make it expand and burst open. Moose Toys will also launch series two of Disney Doorables. This micro-collectible line features sparkly-eyed Disney characters and stackable play set pieces with surprises behind every door. Series two includes characters from Zootopia, The Little Mermaid, Wreck-It-Ralph, Disney•Pixar’s Toy Story, and more.

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Black Panther Deluxe Battle Suit Costume Top Set

RUBIE'S COSTUME CO. Rubie’s Costume Co. expands its Imagine by Rubie’s line with the Black Panther Deluxe Battle Suit Costume Top Set and the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Costume Top Set. Each set includes a fiber-filled muscle chest costume top and a mask. The Gryffindor Four-Piece Dress-Up Set includes a hooded robe, a tie, a scarf, and a wand. It is available in a child’s medium. The Deluxe Wonder Woman Costume features the iconic Wonder Woman dress, a fabric tiara, a lasso rope, and two gauntlets.


POP JUNIOR: TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019

PLAYMATES TOYS Playmates Toys, master toy licensee for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, expands its product line inspired by Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,, which premiered last September. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Babble Heads are talking, interactive turtle brothers that are ready to battle. They feature head, eye, and mouth movements; interactive strike sensors; and battle-motion sensors in their shoulders, arms, and hands. Each turtle features a clip so fans can take it on the go. Choose from Loud Mouth Leo or Motor Mouth Mikey, both available this fall. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Figure Assortment expands this year with fully articulated and uniquely sculpted figures in heights ranging from 3.25 to 5 inches. The turtles are available in Battle Shell, Wrestling, and Oozesquito varieties, along with villains such as Mystic Monk, Party Animal, Bumbling Bull, and more. Additional figures include the Deluxe Ninja Spin Attack Figures,, which stand from 5.25 to 5.75 inches tall and feature spin and ninja kick actions; and Giant Battle Shell Figures, which stand between 10.25 and 11 inches tall and feature full articulation and a back shell storage compartment for battle weapons. TMNT Giant Battle Shell Figures, Donatello (left) and Leonardo (right).

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BASIC FUN! Basic Fun! will release multiple figures based on the animated series Robozuna. The Robozuna Battle Build Multi-Pack features four figures, each with twisting battle action. The Battle Build figures are also available as single packs with 24 different figures to collect and battle. Each figure comes with an Arena Block display stand, which kids can connect to create the Robozuna Battle Arena. The Robozuna Combatabot Battle Action Figures are available in single or dual packs. Kids can press levers on the back of the figures’ legs to trigger battle actions. The first wave features six figures for kids to collect. The Robozuna Deluxe Figures each stand approximately 5.5 inches tall and feature multiple points of articulation and lights and sounds from the show. The Robozuna Mega Mangle figure is also fully articulated and stands more than 12 inches tall. It features light-up eyes and two modes—friendly or battle—with three different sound phrases in each mode. It also includes an interchangeable arm with a special battle action feature. The Robozuna Transporter Vehicle is battle-ready and can transport Robozuna figures. The two-in-one vehicle goes from Transporter to storage case to hold up to eight Robozuna figures. Basic Fun! will also add Harry Potter and Captain Marvel to its line of Mash’Ems squishable toys hidden in blind capsules. Fans ages 4 and up can collect six unique characters from Harry Potter, including Harry Potter and Dumbledore; or four characters from Captain Marvel, including Captain Marvel and Talos. The new collectibles will be available this spring.

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Rainbow Rangers

GENIUS BRANDS Genius Brands’ original series Rainbow Rangers is an animated adventure series for girls that airs on Nick Jr. It follows seven 9-year-old girls on rescue-based adventures as they protect people, animals, resources, and the natural beauty of the world. Rainbow Rangers heads into this year with more than 25 licensing partners poised to debut a range of more than 300 new branded products across all retail levels in the third quarter. Partners include Mattel as the master toy licensee, MacMillan Publishing as the master publishing licensee, and Bentex as the master apparel licensee. Additional partners include BioWorld for bags and backpacks, Ceaco for puzzles, Cra-Z-Art for crafts and activities, Disguise for Halloween costumes, Esquire Footwear for shoes and footwear, H.E.R. Accessories for jewelry and hair accessories, Jay Franco for bedding and bath, and more. Genius Brands International will also build out its expansive licensing program for Llama Llama with a roster of licensing partners, including Kurt Adler for Christmas ornaments and holiday décor; Creative Converting for party goods; PhatMojo for toys, figures, play sets, and plush; Bendon Publishing for coloring and activity books; Cuddle Barn for animatronic plush; and Myself Designs/Myself Belts for belts. The company is also collaborating with Kids Preferred on a line of Llama Llama infant and developmental toys and plush. New products for the brand will roll out at retail throughout this year. Based on Anna Dewdney’s best-selling Llama Llama book series, the Netflix TV series of the same name focuses on first childhood experiences and adventures, as well as the special connections between the lead character Llama, his Mama, and his grandparents. The show is currently in production on season two and two 30-minute specials.

PILLOW PETS Pillow Pets expands its line of pillow-plush hybrids with Toy Story 4 Pillow Pets. The Pillow Pets are available as classic Toy Story characters Slinky Dog and Alien, as well as new characters Ducky and Bunny. Pillow Pets also introduces a Spirit Riding Free Pillow Pet and Spirit Riding Free Sleeptime Lite.. Both products are designed after the titular character in Dreamworks’ Spirit Riding Free.. The Sleeptime Lite features a glowing light cover that projects rainbows and stars onto the ceiling.

Alter Nation,, from Panda Mony, is a 1:12-scale action figure line made up of eight characters with a variety of play features tied to their animal abilities. The figures come in three sizes—standard, large, and extra large. Each figure includes one to three character-specific accessories and a comic book. The first wave has four heroes and four villains. M.U.T.T.S. is a line of collectible animal hybrid figurines that kids can use with Alter Nation action figures. Sold individually or bundled with deluxe collectibles, each M.U.T.T.S. blind box comes packed in creepy “bio-slime,” and some attach to select action figures in the Alter Nation collection. All Alter Nation and M.U.T.T.S figures are designed for kids ages 6 and up.

Alter Nation Albert VII

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Toy Story 4 Ducky and Bunny Pillow Pet

PANDA MONY

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JADA TOYS It’s Ryan’s World, and we’re all just living in it. Jada Toys introduces new toys based on the popular YouTube star and all of his friends from Ryan ToysReview. The Ryan’s World Combo Panda Airlines play set opens to reveal Ryan and his friends with all of the accessories kids need to imagine they are going on a fun flight. When playtime is over, all of the accessories store inside the plane. Kids can show off their amazing skateboard moves with Ryan’s World Skateboard Stunt R/C,, which comes with a 9-inch figure. The car can perform spins and wheelies and right itself when it falls over. Combo Panda comes to the rescue with Ryan’s World Rescue Helicopter,, which features a retractable hook, a launching safety net, and a removable 2.5-inch Combo Panda figure with articulated arms. Kids can collect the 3.5-inch Ryan’s Racer die-cast vehicles, which feature fully functional wheels to get Ryan and friends wherever they need to go. All of Jada Toys’ Ryan’s World products are designed for kids ages 3 and up and will be available in the spring. Ryan's World Combo Panda Airlines

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WICKED COOL TOYS

SPIN MASTER Spin Master launches Monster Jam Diecast Trucks this spring for kids ages 3 and up. The new trucks feature BKT tires, stylized chrome rims, a chassis with chrome detailing, and a molded driver. There are 100 1:64-scale Monster Jam trucks to collect, including Grave Digger, Max-D, and more. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, Monster Jam Monster Dirt Sets are coming this spring. Kids can use the included molds to build real ramps out of Monster Dirt, which is specially formulated play dirt. Each set includes an exclusive 1:64-scale die-cast Monster Jam truck detailed with dirt-stained BKT tires. Monster Jam RC Vehicles feature BKT tires and a lookalike chassis to mirror real Monster Jam vehicles. Kids ages 4 and up can race up to six 2.4 GHz Monster Jam trucks at a time, and choose from three styles—Megalodon, Grave Digger, and Monster Mutt. The packaging transforms into a ramp for the trucks.

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Monster Jam Monster Dirt Set

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As the master toy licensee for Pokémon, Wicked Cool Toys will bring Pokémon masters tons of new interactive friends this year. The toy maker will introduce a line for the upcoming movie Pokémon Detective Pikachu, including products such as Flame Action Charmander and 4-Inch Electronic My Partner Pikachu with sensor technology. The Feature Magikarp has motorized flopping action, and kids can squish and squeeze Squishy Ditto. Kids can collect a line of 4-inch vinyl figures based on Pokémon Quest and a variety of new collectible Pokémon plush. Wicked Cool Toys also expands its WWE line with new figures, belts, accessories, and more. The Real Scale Championship Belts are life-sized belts made from the mold of an actual WWE Title Belt. On a smaller scale, fans can collect Mini Diecast Belts, Fan Flair enamel pins, and Micro Maniax Figures, which they can battle with in the Micro Maniax Battle Game or Wrestling Ring. This fall, Wicked Cool Toys will also introduce new products in partnership with eSports influencer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. This line will include collectible figures and emotes, vinyl figures, plush, mystery boxes, role-play items, accessories, games, and vinyl augmented reality figures.


POP JUNIOR: TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019

MATTEL

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Oooh yeah! Mattel lays the SmackDown this fall with new WWE toys. The wrestling franchise comes to the younger generation with Fisher-Price WWE by Little People. Kids ages 18 months and up can bring out their inner champion with this special-edition celebrity Little People figure pack featuring WWE Legends “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Ultimate WWE Elite Figures Warrior, hitting retailers this fall. The WWE Wrekkin’ Figure Assortment is a series of 6-inch action figures that each feature a distinct action move, including slam, punch, or kick. Fans ages 6 and up can utilize the figures’ “lock tight grip” to make them grasp their included accessories—such as a ladder, a table, and more—then wreck them and reassemble for repeat play. The WWE Wrekkin’ Ring is also available, complete with breakable accessories and a mirror through which fans can send the figures flying. Additional figure assortments include WWE Core Figures, which are 6-inch poseable, fully articulated figures with True FX-enhanced facial detailing and ring gear; and WWE Elite Figures, which have deluxe articulation and iconic accessories. For more serious fans, the Collector Ultimate Assortment features top WWE Superstar action figures with more than 30 points of articulation, two swappable heads, and a pair of swappable hands. The figures are outfitted in authentic gear and include additional ring or entrance gear for even more options.

SUNRIGHTS

KLUTZ Kids ages 4 and up can get ready to roll— and create—with their favorite Paw Patrol Pups this spring. New from Klutz Jr. is the My Paw Patrol Pom-Pom Pups, a hands-on, soft construction kit that includes a storybook, Pups Save the Camping Trip. Once they read the Paw Patrol tale, kids can use the included pompoms and punch-out pieces to craft the pups from the story, including Chase, Skye, Rubble, Zuma, Marshall, and Rocky—plus their chicken pal Chickaletta. Kids will also enjoy the scouting sticker badges and mini camping accessories. 68 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

Sunrights Inc. spins into action with new Beyblade-branded products this year. Beyblade Burst chocolate eggs are back from Dolci Preziosi in Spain, with a brand new look featuring imagery from season two, Beyblade Burst Evolution. Available this Easter season, each chocolate egg features a surprise toy inside. Goliath Games will globally introduce an interactive board game featuring Beyblade Burst Turbo. Available in the fall, this board game challenges players to become a master Blader through an interactive gameplay experience. In France, Panini will debut a Beyblade Burst Evolution magazine so that fans can find info on their favorite Bladers, as well as tips to improve their battle techniques. Each issue features comics, games, and a Beyblade Burst toy. Also in France, Grund will publish a Beyblade Burst Evolution novel, in which epic battles ensue on the international stage. Readers can follow Valt on his road to becoming the world’s best Blader. In Peru, Industria Denz will debut Beyblade Burst Evolution sandals and clogs, featuring Valt and his partner Genesis Valtryek.


TOMY

«

TOMY International signed a multi-year licensing agreement with WWE to produce battling toys, set for release this fall. With the WWE Smash Brawlers Starter Set, fans can go head to head with WWE Smash Brawlers Battle Figures. The controller enhances the battle experience and enables players to fight and dodge. Compatible standalone figures are also available to extend the fighting fun. When kids hit their opponent three times, the figures will collapse in defeat. Sixteen characters are available across three SKUs. The Starter Set comes with two unique figures and two controllers. The Super Mario Club Mocchi-Mocchi- series features fan-favorite icons from the Nintendo video game. The Mega Collectible Mario Hat is made in a plush that has a unique squishy texWWE Smash Brawlers ture and is super soft to the touch. Fans can collect them all this fall.

PLAYMONSTER PlayMonster’s Burping SpongeBob SquarePants is the newest addition to the Stinky Pig line. SpongeBob plays a tropical tune while players pass him around. Whoever is holding him when he farts must take a token. The player with the fewest tokens at the end of the game is the winner. This twoto four-player game for kids ages 6 and up will be available this summer.

JAKKS PACIFIC

«

Jakks Pacific can fuel kids’ fandoms this year with collectibles, play sets, figures, and role-play toys from Disney, Harry Potter, video game franchises, and more. Jakks will introduce a line of Toy Story 4 role-play toys this spring. The Buzz Lightyear Table Top Star Command Center features moveable targets, blaster buttons, a joystick with a trigger, and multiple light and sound effects. Toy Story in a Box is a replica of Andy’s toy chest with a laser blaster, a sheriff badge, green army figures, an Old West map, Pizza Planet tokens, and Lenny the Binoculars inside. Kids can pretend to be a Space Ranger hero with the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Set. The set includes a laser blaster that features lights and sounds. All Toy Story 4 products are designed for kids ages 6 and up. Jakks will help fans bring home the excitement of their favorite Super Mario video game levels with new play sets and action figures. With the Deluxe Dungeon Playset, Mario fans can replay this iconic level in real life using the included 2.5-inch Fire Mario figure and seven interactive environment pieces with feature mechanisms. The lifts and Thwomp move up and down, the fireballs spin around on the tower, the doors open and close, the swing moves back and forth, and the question block has a hidden coin that pops up. Kids can switch up the scene with the interchangeable fire tower, brick platform, and doors. Jakks Pacific also introduces a line of products for Mega Man: Fully Charged Charged, available this spring. The Basic Figures line features an allblue Mega Man figure and Robot Masters. The Deluxe Figures line features fully transformed versions of Mega Man. Each figure has a feature to highlight its power, such as spinning drills, projectile launchers, or expanding Harry Potter bellies. In both lines, each figure comes with an arm cannon accessory Quiddich Playset that kids can swap onto the all-blue Mega Man. Kids can pretend to be Mega Man with the Roleplay Mega Buster Arm Cannon. The Arm cannon features light and sound effects when kids squeeze a trigger. The Mega Buster Playset is a multi-tiered set shaped like Mega Buster with 10 features, including a projectile launcher, trap doors, an elevator, and a slide. The set holds up to six figures. Kids can recreate their favorite Harry Potter scenes with the Harry Potter Mini Playsets Assortment. The Quiddich Playset includes Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy figures, a Golden Snitch, and a chest with a Quaffle and Bludgers inside. The Ollivander’s Playset includes Harry Potter and Garrick Ollivander figures, a levitating lamp, a sliding ladder, and moving shelves with wand boxes. Each set is sold separately. The Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall Mini Playset includes Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Albus Dumbledore figures. The set also features the Sorting Hat, banquet food, and other accessories. Available in March, all three Harry Potter sets are designed for kids ages 4 and up and are sold separately. THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 69


POP JUNIOR: TOY FAIR NEW YORK 2019

HOGWILD Hogwild introduces Tony Hawk Box Boarders, a new line that lets kids ages 4 and up perform and record skateboarding tricks with one of 16 skateboarder figures fitted with a steel ball bearing. With the Tony Hawk Box Boarders Action Pack, kids can land tricks on the included quarter pipe ramp or create their own park features at home. The Box Boarders Super Pack includes three featured riders and a secret Tony Hawk Box Boarder, so kids can emulate pro tricks and film them with the included camera holder and fish-eye lens. Using the free Tony Hawk Box Boarders Studio app, kids can record and edit their footage to create skate compilations and share them online.

WONDER FORGE Wonder Forge introduces Mickey’s Snuggle Time, a cuddly game of cooperation designed for kids ages 3 and up. Ideal for bedtime, naptime, or quiet time, Mickey’s Snuggle Time asks kids to help Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and friends get farm animals across a soft gameboard and into the barn before the sun goes down.

BULLS-I TOYS In advance of the Avengers: Endgame film, Bulls-i Toys will launch the Marvel Avengers 4 Challenge Coin and Mission Patch Combo Set in the spring. Each combo set includes a challenge coin and a stick-on mission patch specific to different Marvel characters. Kids ages 5 and up can collect 10 coins and 10 patches in total. A Captain Marvel Challenge Coin and Mission Pack Combo Set will also be available. Kids can unbox the JoJo Siwa Mini Tins to discover four layers of exciting JoJo-themed surprises inside. Designed for kids 5 and up, each tin includes magnet cards, puffy stickers, charms, and a mini poster.

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ALPHA GROUP Alpha Group launches WWE Airnormous, a line of oversized, WWE-themed inflatable bash props, belt banners, and more. Kids ages 4 and up can pretend to step into the ring with an oversized microphone or surprise a friend with a massive hammer. The Deluxe Championship Title Belt features LED flashing lights and sound effects. Cushioned for safety, WWE Airnormous inflatables are made for indoor or outdoor use.


LITTLE KIDS With the Paw Patrol Sea Patrol Water Rescue Pack Assortment, from Little Kids Inc., kids ages 3 and up can go on patrol with the pups. Each pack features adjustable straps and color graphics of the three Paw Patrol pups in their Sea Patrol suits. The pack can hold 30 fluid ounces of water and can shoot targets up to 30 feet away.

WINNING MOVES GAMES Which one of Aunt Agatha’s friends and employees will inherit her loot? In Winning Moves Games’ 13 Dead End Drive, players carefully guard their identities and stay sharp as they wind their way through the mansion. Players must be aware of the smashing statue, the cranium-crushing chandelier, or the perilous push into the fireplace. In Apocalyptic Picnic, a fun-filled family reunion picnic is turning everyone into Zombies. Players need to fend off zombie “bites” with special food cards, or better yet, outfit family members with special equipment to help protect them from attack. The only cure for being a zombie is Grandma’s Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup—it heals everything. In this game designed for players ages 8 and up, the last player to survive is the winner. Become a princess in the classic Pretty Pretty Princess jewelry dress-up game from the ‘90s. Players collect their own matching color necklace, bracelet, ring, and earrings. The first player to collect all their jewelry and the crown is the Pretty, Pretty Princess. This game is designed for players ages 5 and up.

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POP JUNIOR: FANDOM FEATURE

Owlette, Catboy, and Gekko assemble to fight baddies in PJ Masks’ second season

INTO THE NIGHT TO SAVE THE DAY

How Three Non-Violent Superheroes Rocked Preschool TV by Madeleine Buckley, editorial assistant Take a look at the top box office hits from the past few years, and one thing is clear: We are in an era of superhero dominance. Comic book powerhouses DC and Marvel loom large on both the big and small screens, which makes breaking into the superhero genre seem daunting. Yet, one trio of young heroes did succeed, finding a superhero niche that had yet to be filled—preschoolers. PJ Masks premiered on Disney Junior in September 2015. It stars three children— Connor, Amaya, and Greg—who, during the night, transform into their alter egos: Gekko, Catboy, and Owlette. By that November, Forbes reported the animated 72 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

show gathered more than 1.5 million unique viewers and an audience share of 29 percent among 2- to 5-year-old viewers. Joan Grasso, senior vice president of licensing in North America for the family and brands team at Entertainment One (eOne), the show’s production company, says PJ Masks was the first superhero series specifically designed for preschoolers. This means that, while the heroes always save the day, they do so with no violence whatsoever. “Basically, our heroes outsmart the villains in every episode by using their special super powers, which get pulled out in every single episode,” Grasso says. “They use those super powers and the power of

teamwork to outsmart their opponents, so preschoolers love it. They don’t really realize that it’s not so violent, but it’s aspirational for them. And of course, moms love it because it’s safe for kids.” Grasso, who has been part of the PJ Masks development team for about four years, says the show took a few years to get off the ground because they wanted to get everything right—the storyline, the characters, and the animation all had to make sense for their target audience. When the show did premiere, Grasso says it “immediately exploded out of the gate,” and her team realized fans wanted PJ Masks products—and they wanted them


right away. Originally, eOne planned a consumer product launch two years after the show’s premiere, but moved the timeline up to get products out sooner. In January 2016, eOne named Just Play as the brand’s global master toy partner. Since then, the show completed two seasons, with the third season set to premiere this June. Working with Just Play, eOne released a variety of PJ Masks products. Last year, Grasso says, the company was especially happy with the success of two toys: the Super Moon Adventure HQ Rocket and PJ Masks Romeo’s Lab Playset. The team initially had some worries about Romeo’s Lab, Grasso says, because it was the first PJ Masks toy based on a “baddie.” However, the item still performed well. “I think it’s a testament to how popular the brand is, and the fact that if an item really looks great and has a lot of play value in it, it can be successful, even if it’s based on a villain,” she says. Looking forward to this year, and even a few years ahead, Grasso says the team has plans for new product lines and digital and social campaigns—in addition to new

episodes of the show. “I think one of the keys to ensuring continued success for the brand is that we have newness infused to continue to engage our audience,” she says. When developing digital content, the team has to keep in mind both their target audience—kids—and the parents who control kids’ access to the internet and TV. In addition to PJ Masks apps and websites for kids, eOne creates content and social media campaigns for parents. There is even a monthly PJ Masks newsletter for parents, which includes product offers, activity ideas, and more. eOne also plans to continue PJ Masks character meet-and-greets, sweepstakes, and promotions with its team of VIP blogger influencers, who often break the news of new PJ Masks products and initiatives. In addition to expanding its products and digital offerings, PJ Masks continues to expand into experiential activities and events. For example, the brand partnered with My Gym to offer the “Super Moves” exercise program at more than 180 locations in the U.S. and Canada. This weekly preschool class, running this month, features PJ Masks-themed challenges and activities. According to Julie Christopher, eOne’s vice president of marketing in North America for the family and brands team, the class encourages preschoolers to “tap into their own hero powers and be more active through fun fitness and games.” This year also marks the second tour of the series’ musical stage show, PJ Masks Live. This year’s show, PJ Masks Live: Save the Day! features new content and new characters, including PJ Robot. The tour is set to perform in more than 30 cities. As the brand continues to grow, Grasso notes its global reach. She says the content team “does an amazing job of ensuring that the content resonates around the world, not just in the U.S.” For example, the show is available in five languages on Netflix. So why does PJ Masks have such a wide appeal? The creators intentionally included a female hero in the trio, Owlette, so PJ Masks would resonate with a wider audience. Grasso also says there is an aspirational aspect of the show. Ultimately, kids can see themselves in the heroes who “go into the night to save the day.” “All the characters have their own super powers,” Grasso says. “I think kids want to be them and go out there and save the day, just like they see their favorite characters do in every episode.” ✪

SUPERHEROES, SUPER TOYS

PJ Masks PEZ Despensers PEZ / available this month

PJ Masks Super Learning Phone VTech / available this spring

PJ Masks Super Moon Adventure Fortress Playset Just Play / available this spring PJ Masks’ master toy partner, Just Play, also introduces a PJ Masks Seeker play set this fall.

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POP JUNIOR: FANDOM FEATURE

HASBRO POWERS UP WITH A CLASSIC BRAND Power Rangers gets a new home, episodes, and products. by Madeleine Buckley, editorial assistant Since its debut in 1993 Power Rangers produced 25 seasons of TV, more than 150 different Rangers, and four feature films. Now, going into its 26th year, the brand has a new home at Hasbro, with new episodes, products, and games on the way. Hasbro purchased the Power Rangers brand from Saban Brands last May, obtaining rights to toys and games, consumer products, digital gaming, and entertainment. Saban Brands, owned by Power Rangers creator Haim Saban, controlled Power Rangers for most of its history. Simon Waters, general manager and senior vice president of the Power Rangers franchise at Hasbro, says the sale was partially the result of a long-term friendship between Saban and Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner. Waters says the Power Rangers brand was also a good fit for Hasbro’s company goals. “We’re in the business of bringing great play and entertainment experiences to families and enriching their lives through compelling stories,” he says. “Power Rangers delivers all of that.” The sale also gives Power Rangers an opportunity to grow. In a press release about the acquisition, Saban says, “Hasbro’s leadership in innovation, storytelling, and brand stewardship make it the perfect company to further develop the global reach and appeal of the Power Rangers property.”

Now that the future of the crime-fighting, morphing teens rests with Hasbro, the company developed a new Power Rangers series—Power Rangers Beast Morphers— which premieres on Nickelodeon this year. According to Waters, showrunner Chip Lynn and Hasbro’s head of product development were in constant communication while creating the show.

“We’re in the business of bringing great play and entertainment experiences to families and enriching their lives through compelling stories. Power Rangers delivers all of that.” “Beast Morphers is based on a hightech, digital theme, which runs throughout the entire series, and we wanted to make sure that we leaned into that by delivering amazing production values and ‘wow’ moments for fans,” Waters says. “This theme will also be reflected in cool new ways in the toy line, as well as an extensive amount of new digital short-form content.” Hasbro is keeping most of its Power Rangers product lines a secret for now, but the first set of toys and lifestyle products will debut this spring. “We have entirely new generations of audiences who’ll be discovering the magic of Power Rangers for the first time with

Hasbro,” Waters says. “Our existing fan community is very close to our hearts, for whom we have great things in store.” Hasbro did unveil the first product in its Lightning Collection, a White Ranger figure, at last year’s Power Morphicon convention in Anaheim, California. The Lightning Collection includes articulated, 6-inch figures of Power Rangers characters from the past two decades. The White Ranger figure is inspired by the second season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Hasbro also announced Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid, a new cross-platform fighting video game that will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch in April. Battle for the Grid joins four existing Power Rangers-themed mobile games, including the multi-player Power Rangers: Legacy Wars game, which has more than 45 million downloads to date. To explain why Power Rangers has such a wide and lasting appeal, Waters says fans imagine the impossible when watching the show and dream of being someone else. “It’s a magical show to watch—fun and aspirational at the same time, no matter your age, gender, or background,” Waters says. “Because good always prevails through the help of others around you. That makes for a uniquely universal message and it appeals to everyone, not just kids.” ✪

IT'S MORPHIN’ TIME[LINE] 1993

1995 » Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie debuts in theaters.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers premieres on Fox Kids.

74 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

2001

2010

The Walt Disney Co. buys Fox Creator Haim Saban buys back Family and gains control of the Power Rangers from Disney. Power Rangers brand.


Power Rangers Rangers..

Three rangers from the new Power Rangers: Beast Morphers series.

The Power Rangers series move to Nickelodeon.

Âť

2011

2017

Power Rangers debuts in theaters.

2018

2019

Hasbro buys Power Rangers from Saban Brands. Power Rangers: Beast Morphers premieres on Nickelodeon.

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THE TOYS THAT MADE US

MAKING THE TOYS THAT MADE US Brian Volk-Weiss, a toy collector with more than 700 pieces of his own, turned his passion project into the Netflix series The Toys That Made Us. The Pop Insider's Ali Mierzejewski spoke with him about making the show, and how his career as a comedy producer helped him get the partnership he needed for this show to thrive.

Brian Volk-Wiess, comedy producer and toy collector, found a meeting of this two worlds in creating The Toys That Made Us

Pop Insider: Did the idea for the show come out of your love for toys? Is it a passion project? Brian Volk-Weiss: I was working on this toy show long before Netflix was even making original content, so it took about seven years to actually sell it. I came very close twice and, in retrospect, I’m very lucky that I didn’t sell to where it would’ve sold then. The Eureka moment was when I was in a bookstore, and for whatever reason, I wanted to learn more about Transformers and the origin of Transformers. And I found it very hard—there were literally no books about the origin of the Transformers. Then, I realized there were no books about the

origin of G.I. Joe. There were a bunch of books about Star Wars toys, but they were always about the toys; they were never about “why were they three and three-quarters… why this? Why that?” But at the same time, when I was in the bookstore I noticed that there were so many books about the War of 1812, which very few people know about, and it inspired very few people who are alive today. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Barbie, and all these toys inspired so many people, but you can’t find out anything about them? So that was the Eureka moment when I realized that there was a hole that should be filled. Even if people don’t collect toys,

76 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

99.9 percent of us played with toys, so I’m sure they would find it interesting to learn more about the things they played with, but never thought about when they were little kids. PI: You tried to sell this show before, but it eventually landed at Netflix. What are the benefits of working with Netflix? BVW: There are a bunch of benefits. The first benefit—which since Toys happened to me a few times, but before Toys never happened to me before—is there was no pilot. They literally went straight to eight episodes, so that’s like breathing underwater without wearing scuba gear. It’s like,


THE TOYS THAT MADE US

Dave Okada The Toys That Made Us Courtesy of Netflix

Steve Sansweet de Us The Toys That Ma x Courtesy of Netfli

“this is impossible”—that’s what that felt like when it happened. Second of all, one of the things that’s great about Netflix is they’re very, very picky about the shows that they greenlight, but once they greenlight them, they really support the creators. So, I’d say for about eight or nine months, we’re shooting and editing—and I was able to choose the eight toys; it was really wonderful. They just trusted me to do all that. 78 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

And then, if that wasn’t good enough, when we sent in the first cut, which was the Star Wars episode that was about 2.5 hours long, the notes we got were fantastic. They were absolutely some of the best toys we ever got. The example that I always give is that 2.5-hour cut—and as much as everyone loves Star Wars, nobody needs a 2.5-hour documentary about Star Wars toys. But when you’re so close to something, you lose sight of it. And we had a five-minute section on this Star Wars character named Vlix. Every-

one is always talking about the rocket-firing Boba Fett—but Vlix is the hardest to find figure that actually went into production; one of them just sold [recently] for just under $60,000. So, we had a whole section about this guy and our executive at Netflix was like, “Listen, great episode, great cut. Don’t need five minutes on Vlix. Save that for the DVD.” That really allowed us to get a much tighter show that hopefully a lot of people will enjoy—more than just people like me. Believe it or not—I hope you’re sitting down—not everyone has the same 700-plus toy collection at 42 years old. PI: How do you choose the focus for each episode and define toys that “made” us? BVW: I use these unofficial theories. I created in my brain this idea of a Mount Rushmore of toys. What I mean by that is that I needed the toys to have at least one character, so that if it was on a Mount Rushmore of toys, people would see it and be like, “Oh! I don’t know anything about Transformers, but that’s Optimus Prime.” There had to be somebody that could stand up for the toy. I wanted every brand we covered to be iconic. The second thing is it had to be a good story. There were a couple of brands that


are great brands, but they are boring. It was like, “the toy came out, it was a hit, we kept making it!” And that’s great for the toy company, but that’s a boring thing to do a TV show about. The third thing was that I wanted the toy to be in production from the origin through today to a certain extent; the only exception to that is He-Man. You could argue Super 7 is making He-Man now, but they’re making like 10,000 copies per toy. The reason I wanted that to be one of the variables was if it’s been in production for 30, 40, or 60 years, that means that 8-year-olds and 60-year-olds will be interested in the episode. We get a lot of emails and Facebook messages and sh*t saying, “Why don’t you do Thundercats?” Look, I love Thundercats and I have a bunch of them in my collection. Thundercats was around for 18 months. It failed. Now, I do want to do an episode one day that’s called “The Toys That Should’ve Not Been Made,” but the star of that show would be Dune. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that insane David Lynch movie, but there was an equally insane toy line that I am obsessed with. PI: How do you choose the people that you’re interviewing for the show? BVW: Every episode, within reason, we have an expert—and by the way, for the first season, the experts were all friends of mine. They were people I had known for years, but they were real experts. Brian Stillman was the expert on the Star Wars episode; I had been friends with him for two or three years before the show was greenlit, but he made a documentary before us about Star Wars toys—so who’s going to be better than him to be an expert on our show? The day the show was greenlit, I was like, “Hey, dude, the show is greenlit, congratulations, you’re a producer on it. Can you tell us who we should talk to?” He sent us probably 20 names; we talked to those 20 people. We probably found another 40 to 50 names. Then we interview everybody, within reason, ahead of time via Skype, so we know beforehand what they know or don’t know, who they know or don’t know. It also gives them an idea of what we’ll be asking if they want to re-read a diary or talk to their friends about their memory. Some of the people are talking about stuff that happened close to 50 years ago. So that’s how we find the people, and we pre-interviewed 98 out of every 100 interviews. PI: You’re in the process of creating the third season of the show, correct?

BVW: Yes. We started to lock episodes for it. We’ve been shooting since February. PI: How do you keep the content and the format fresh in order to produce new seasons of this show? BVW: The structure that we came up with, I think, is sound. Obviously, many shows and documentaries have come before us. So we didn’t reinvent the wheel. A lot of good producing, by the way, is not reinventing the wheel—it’s about finding what works and improving it slightly. On the Star Wars episode, we left out, for example, the Powers of the Force line because we didn’t have time to get into it—so one of the things we did for season three is that we are not doing the reenactments that we did in the first two seasons [to make] more time for storytelling. So, that is one big change. We get comments daily through Facebook and emails and whatever, and it doesn’t seem like people are too excited about the reenactments. I could be wrong about that, but we’ll see real soon.

“There had to be somebody that could stand up for the toy. I wanted every brand that we covered to be iconic. ” PI: Do you think that there is a limit to how many seasons you can produce, or can you keep creating until you’re tired of it? BVW: As a toy lover, and as a producer, I want to produce as many as possible. That being said, these shows are not cheap—we spend 10 months making them. That’s a staff for 10 months; we interview hundreds and hundreds of people; we do research for three or four months before we even start shooting. Looking at this from Netflix’s point of view, they need a show to cost X and have Y amount of eyeballs. Do I think if we did an episode about Mask and Thundercats that would justify the cost to make that episode? I don’t know. My gut tells me there are 20 awesome episodes that we can make, and we made 12—eight aired and four are in post. I think we can do 20 A+ episodes, and then if Netflix is like “This is the greatest show ever, we don’t care how many people watch,” I think we could do 25 total that’ll justify making them. PI: What is one of the most surprising things you learned in making this show? BVW: There were a whole bunch of things that surprised me tremendously, but without a doubt the No. 1 biggest surprise: My first love—the reason I’m in television and movies

and not a dentist or a lawyer in Queens—is because of Star Wars. Star Wars is the movie that changed my life. If I could’ve only made one episode, it would’ve been about Star Wars figures. My entire life, everybody my age—and maybe even younger or older—we were all told, repeatedly, that Lucas made a little bit of money on the movies and a LOT of money on the toys. We were interviewing the head of business affairs for Kenner [Jim Kipling]— which by the way is one of my secret little tricks as a producer: I learned through my job producing and doing deals that lawyers always have the front row seat to a business’ history and a lot of people don’t know that. I always try very aggressively to find the lawyers, which is hard to do in general because they never get interviewed. But it’s even harder because these guys usually hate to talk. But luckily, we got Mr. Kipling to not only talk to us, but he also brought the contract with him. We were literally interviewing him in Cincinnati, and he told us that Lucas was only getting $.025 of every dollar. I was like, "No no no no no. I know you were the lawyer, I know you were there and I wasn’t, but that’s impossible.” And he’s like, “You’re wrong.” And I’m like, “No no no no no, everybody I know…” And he’s like, “Everybody you know is wrong.” And he literally brought the contract. That was absolutely the biggest surprise. Then the second biggest surprise: Also during another interview, I found out I was wrong and obviously the person who was there was right because they were there. [I found out] that G.I. Joe was initially going to launch without Cobra. And it was Marvel that came up with Cobra, not Hasbro. And then third: I have been aware of Hello Kitty forever. But one of the things that surprised me about Hello Kitty, which I never knew before, was that all those characters in Hello Kitty are in separate little worlds and don’t interact with each other. And that was very surprising. If we got to make like 30 episodes, I’d make an episode called “The Making of a Hello Kitty Episode.” That was a weird experience. PI: Anything else to add? BVW: Believe it or not, I did not make this show by myself. I had an amazing crew; the majority from the first two seasons came back for the third. I’ve never worked with a better crew. Everyone working on the show is a toy geek. Everybody has toys all over the place. They're just the greatest crew ever. ✪

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Photo: HBO

FANDOM FEATURE

WINTER IS HERE Game of Thrones moves into its final season, but the brand will live on with new branded merchandise long after the series ends. by Marissa DiBartolo, editor-in-chief

W

inter is finally here, and it’s the season millions have been waiting for. For eight years, HBO gave life to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and fans worldwide fell in love with the blood-spattered series Game of Thrones. Since it’s premiere in 2011, the fantasy show has brought magic, zombies, war, and dragons to TV screens worldwide. With its final season just a few months away, this medieval tale has its loyal fans eagerly awaiting what’s sure to be an epic conclusion. Who will sit on the Iron Throne when the series ends? Only time will tell. Game of Thrones has amassed a major following over the years, with an army of millions at its back. The season seven finale attracted 16.5 million viewers in 2017—including those who watched it live when it aired and night-of streams—according to HBO. Fans pledge their undying allegiance to the noble Houses, throw wine- and ale-infused viewing parties for new episodes, and spend all their Gold Dragons on merchandise featuring their favorite characters.

BEYOND THE WALL

The reach of HBO’s smash-hit series

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goes far beyond the TV screen with a raft of licensed products that keep fans engaged with the brand all year long. From beer, wine, and spirits to collectible figures and apparel, Thronies can enjoy just about anything in the realm thanks to the geniuses at HBO and their licensing partners. According to HBO’s Vice President of Licensing and Retail Jeff Peters, creating Game of Thrones-branded products is all about extending the brand in natural, organic ways. “Game of Thrones—with its deeply rich world, fascinating characters, and mind-blowing plots—affords us a luxury of options for our product portfolio,” Peters says. “It also hasn’t hurt to have a set of iconic house sigils to play with. They look great on everything.” Stark, Targaryen, Lannister, Baratheon, Greyjoy, Tyrell, Arryn—the list of Great Houses in Westeros is quite extensive, and fans are loyal to each one. From mugs and coasters to T-shirts and flags to whiskey glasses, Game of Thrones fans will collect anything imaginable bearing the sigil of their favorite houses. “We key in on each house’s attributes— their sigil, their motto, and their colors—and bring elements of each into the products we design. Many of our licensees are huge fans of the show and come to us with ideas fully

formed and fitted neatly into place. It’s been fun watching that dynamic form over the years,” Peters says.

THE SEVEN KINGDOMS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

Game of Thrones fans looking to flaunt their fandom are met with a curated selection of products on thinkgeek.com. The online retailer features everything for die-hard fans, such as a prop replica of Jon Snow’s sword Longclaw and White Walker ornaments. “What’s great about our selection is we have something to cover all the bases for fans, from casual to cosplayer,” says Erica Jones, senior manager of marketing at ThinkGeek. She attributes Game of Thrones’ success to its rich storytelling, citing that not only are fans still invested after seven seasons, but they are also still tuning in live when the episodes air, a behavioral anomaly in today's world. In addition to ThinkGeek, fans can head to the HBO online shop to find more than two dozen pages of Thrones gear. Want all of the Stark direwolves’ names on a T-shirt? It can be yours. A set of copper mugs that read “Khaleesi”? You got ’em. Tankards and goblets featuring dragons and lions? Check.


FANDOM FEATURE

Photo: HBO In Game of Thrones, the wall has been breached by the Night King's dragon and the army of the dead is ready to march on the seven kingdoms. Tune in to see how it all ends on April 14, only on HBO.

DRINK AND KNOW THINGS

If there’s one thing Game of Thrones has, it’s copious amounts of wine. And ale. And whatever it is they drink north of the wall. HBO partnered with Vintage Wine Estates for a line of officially licensed wines and Ommegang Brewery for branded beers, including King in the North, a special brew inspired by Jon Snow. According to Peters, the beer, wine, and spirits are among the brand’s most successful licensed products. New partnerships include Johnnie Walker for White Walker Blended Scotch Whisky and a collection of eight Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from Diageo, including a special black bottle named after the Night’s Watch.

KING FUNKO

Collectibles are among the most popular products for Game of Thrones fans, from action figures to high-end prop replicas that run more than $200. But one collectible manufacturer stands out from the crowd. “In the collectible realm, we bend the knee to King 82 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

Funko, first of his name and protector of the realm,” Peters says. Funko consistently releases new Game of Thrones Funko Pop! Vinyls, so fans can collect new versions of their favorite characters, from the Lannisters to Daenerys’ dragons. And as the show evolves, so do the Pop! figures. The collectibles perfectly reflect each character, right down to their outfits, scars, and snow-covered hair once they’ve ventured to the snowy realm that lies beyond the wall.

THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS

In addition to updated classics like Funko Pop! Vinyls and apparel, new Game of Thrones products releasing in 2019 will span several new product categories, making it a fun year for collectors. “When it comes to Game of Thrones licensed products, fans can expect some amazing new collectibles and collaborations celebrating the final chapter to this amazing story! When it comes to the season itself, we’ll all just have to wait and see! You won’t

get any spoilers from me (nice try, though!),” Peters says. With very little information released on the final season, fans will have to wait until April to learn the fate of the seven kingdoms.

WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE

Even after Game of Thrones wraps, Westeros will live on. HBO already has a spin-off, which will take place before the events of Game of Thrones and star Naomi Watts, in the works. Reports say the new show won’t include the main characters fans already know and love—or hate—but we don’t have to say goodbye to Jon and Daenerys just yet. According to Peters, new Game of Thrones products will be available at retail well beyond the show’s finale. “This I swear, by the Old Gods and the New. We plan to celebrate Game of Thrones through licensed products for many years to come,” he says. The final season of Game of Thrones will air on Sunday, April 14 at 9 p.m. EST/PST, exclusively on HBO. ✪


FANDOM FEATURE

HOUSE SIGIL APRON & OVEN MITT SETS I KATALYST

GEEKI TIKI MUGS I GEEKI TIKI

Cook up a tasty feast of pigeon pie with the Game of Thrones Oven Mitt Sets, available in Houses Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen designs. The mitts feature quilted padding for insulation, and the aprons are a poly-cotton blend. MSRP: $14.95 Available: shop.hbo.com

Fans can drink to the Mother of Dragons, the King in the North, the Night King, or Drogon the dragon with these tiki mugs. Each 7-inch ceramic mug holds up to 20 ounces of your favorite drink. MSRP: $17.99 | Available: shop.hbo.com

HOUSE DESKTOP STATIONERY SET WITH PENS INSIGHT EDITIONS Send a raven home to your castle with a Game of Thrones Desktop Stationery Set with Pen, available in House Stark or House Targaryen. Each desktop set includes a 128-page pocket journal branded with the House Stark or House Targaryen sigil, 20 sheets of letterhead paper and envelopes, and a quill pen, all inside a keepsake display box. Raven not included. MSRP: $26.95 | Available: shop.hbo.com

BRIENNE OF TARTH SEASON 7 1:6-SCALE DELUXE COLLECTIBLE FIGURE I THREE ZERO She’s loyal and worth every one of your Silver Stags. This 1:6-scale, limited-edition collectible figure of Brienne of Tarth from season seven stands 12.5 inches tall. It features a stunning likeness of actress Gwendoline Christie as Brienne, including textured hair, piercing eyes, and a bold face. The figure is dressed in a tailored cloth garb with detailed armor pieces, a belt, a cloak, and boots. It features exchangeable hands and articulated arms for posing. The figure comes with Brienne’s sword, Oathkeeper, which fans can sheath in its scabbard. MSRP: $229.99 | Available: shop.hbo.com, October

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GAME OF THRONES HANDBAGS & ACCESSORIES I DANIELLE NICOLE The road is long to King’s Landing; you’ll need something to put your stuff in. Fans can choose from backpacks, crossbody bags, pouches, wristlets, and coin purses featuring faux fur, fringe, or famous phrases from Game of Thrones,, such as “Winter is coming” and “Fire and blood.” The handbags and accessories feature mighty tones such as red and orange juxtaposed alongside cool tones such as icy white and gray to represent the contrast between fire and ice. The show’s Houses are also featured in Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen pouches. MSRP: $18-88 | Available: boxlunch.com

MONOPOLY: GAME OF THRONES EDITION I HASBRO Will you sit on the Iron Throne? Maybe, if you’re a Monopoly master. Players move around the board with game tokens inspired by the honorary sigils of the Great Houses. Fans can buy, sell, and trade iconic locations from the Seven Kingdoms, building castles and holdfasts in their pursuit to rule the Iron Throne. The game includes an Iron Throne card holder with a musical stand that plays the Game of Thrones theme song throughout gameplay. MSRP: $29.99 | Available: mass retailers

SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKIES I DIAGEO In celebration of the eighth and final season of the TV series, Diageo and HBO are releasing a limited-edition collection of single malt scotch whiskies inspired by the show. Each of these rare scotches is paired with one of the iconic Houses of Westeros, as well as the Night’s Watch, giving fans an authentic taste of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. These iconic whiskies serve as must-have collectibles for Game of Thrones and whisky adorers to toast to the final season. MSRP: $29.99- $64.99 | Available: spirit retailers

WHITE WALKER WHISKY I JOHNNIE WALKER Created by whisky specialist and blender George Harper, this unique, new limited-edition whisky was inspired by the most enigmatic and feared characters on the show—the White Walker. Known by their icy blue eyes, the undead army of White Walkers bring with them the chill of winter. At the heart of this blend are single malts from Cardhu and Clynelish—one of Scotland’s most northern distilleries. White Walker by Johnnie Walker is best served directly from the freezer, and the limited-edition bottle features thermochromic ink to give fans a surprise message when frozen. MSRP: $36 | Available: spirit retailers

Photo: HBO

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2019 VIDEO GAME PREVIEW

From first-person survival horrors to role-playing adventures, here are a few games we can’t wait to play this year.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 Available now | Capcom | PS4, XBOX, PC | Rated M Available now, Resident Evil 2 is a remake of the original Resident Evil 2 that was released for PlayStation all the way back in 1998. After nearly two decades, this reimagined survival horror game features an “over-the-shoulder” third-person shooter gameplay style, similar to 2005’s Resident Evil 4. Amid a zombie outbreak, players can control rookie officer Leon S. Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield as they attempt to make it out of Raccoon City alive. The story features heightened character and environment detail, a more modern gameplay, and brand new cut scenes.

DAYS GONE April 26 | Sony Interactive Entertainment | PS4 | Rated M Days Gone is an open world, post-apocalyptic action game set in the high desert of the Pacific Northwest. Players can control Deacon St. John, a former outlaw turned bounty hunter struggling to survive. While battling nature’s harshest elements, players will have to face Freakers—fast-evolving, zombie-like creatures that players can study and adapt to. Players can explore the landscape, craft new items, and complete objectives, all while experiencing an ever-changing weather system that features a day-night cycle.

MARIO KART TOUR Summer 2019 | Nintendo | Mobile | Rating Pending Mario Kart Tour is Nintendo’s latest property to go mobile, following in the footsteps of Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, all of which offer free gameplay on touch-enabled devices. While little is known about this upcoming mobile racing game, gamers can expect it to arrive sometime in summer 2019.

FAR CRY NEW DAWN February 15 | Ubisoft | PS4, XBOX, PC | Rating Pending Like previous installments of the game, Far Cry New Dawn is an action-adventure first-person shooter game that lets players explore an open-world environment. Picking up where Far Cry 5 left off, the surprisingly colorful game acts more as a continuation of past events than a full-on sequel. Following the nuclear explosion that took place in the last game, players can assume the role of a new customizable character, recruit fellow humans and animals, and loot enemy encampments in a quest for treasure.

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KINGDOM HEARTS III Available now | Square Enix Co. Ltd. | PS4 | Rated E 10+ This PS4-exclusive is the newest installment in the Kingdom Hearts video games series, and it’s long overdue. After nearly 13 years since the previous iteration, Kingdom Hearts III brings Disney and Pixar worlds into the fold. Players follow Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy as they try and stop an evil entity known as the Heartless from taking control of the universe. Along the way, players join forces with iconic characters to complete challenges and persevere against the darkness.

YOSHI'S CRAFTED WORLD March 29 | Nintendo | Nintendo Switch | Rated E Available only on the Nintendo Switch, Yoshi’s Crafted World lets players jump into a world made entirely of everyday objects—such as boxes, sticks, paper cups, and more. Players can adventure through each level, and then make their way back to the start by completing the stage backward on the reverse side. Go solo to take on obstacles and villains, such as Zombie Guys, Skelesaurus, Ukiki, and Monty Mole, or pass a Joy-Con controller to a friend for two-player co-op play.

TEAM SONIC RACING May 21 | SEGA | PS4, XBOX, PC | Rating Pending Team Sonic Racing will combine elements of arcade and fast-paced style racing to create the ultimate multiplayer competition. Racing as a team, players can share power-ups, speed boosts, and more in an effort to knock out opponents in as many as four modes, including Grand Prix, Exhibition, Time-Trial, and Team Adventure. With 15 playable characters and vehicle customization, there’s something for any racing style.

CRASH TEAM RACING NITRO-FUELED June 21 | Activision | PS4, XBOX, Nintendo Switch | Rating Pending Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a remake of the original Crash Team Racing game, featuring original game modes, characters, tracks, power-ups, weapons, and controls. New content will include tracks, online play, kart customization, and more, so players can power slide to glory with assets that stretch beyond the original game.

MORTAL KOMBAT 11 April 23 | Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment | PS4, XBOX, PC, Nintendo Switch | Rating Pending Mortal Kombat 11 stole the show at The Game Awards last year when it was revealed that an 11th installment would be added to the already popular franchise. Developed by NetherRealm Studios, the fighting game will bring back the familiar violent and over-the-top gameplay style that fans have come to love about the title. THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 87


COSPLAY CORNER

How This YouTube Series Brings Cosplayers Together by Marissa DiBartolo, editor-in-chief What happens when Cersei Lannister and Darth Vader sit down for a cup of coffee? A lot less evil scheming than you’d think. Cosplayers Getting Coffee (CGC) is a YouTube series that gives cosplayers a platform to display their unique talents, letting fans get to know the artists behind the handmade masks. In each episode, two cosplayers who don’t know each other meet in a coffee shop to talk nerdy. Fully clad in EVA foam suits of armor, lavish wigs, and spandex jumpsuits,

these dedicated artists show off their creative skills while bonding over their favorite fandoms. Co-Creator and Producer Michael Abdul-Qawi says the show’s purpose is to give a voice to cosplayers. “In the cosplay community, everything comes down to photos. These people put all of this time and energy into their cosplays and wear them to cons and take tons of photos—and fans wanted more. CGC gives people the chance to learn more about these costumes and the people who create them.”

On the show, cosplayers share the inspiration behind their cosplays, details on how they execute the design, and what sparks their creativity. The cosplayers go into the experience as strangers, and quickly learn they have a lot in common. But at the end of the day, every cosplayer is unique. “The cosplayers we feature come from a variety of interesting backgrounds; some are teachers, musicians, and artists,” explains Co-Creator and Creative Director Chris Silva. “CGC allows them to share that part of themselves with the viewers, while also having a lot of fun on set and meeting someone new who shares their passion.” Each episode of CGC features a caffeine-fueled fandom collision that is almost too good to be true. Super Lex and The Flash share their love of the Justice League over espresso, while Deadshot and the Yellow Ranger discuss their favorite Disney princesses and Ninja Turtles as they sip on sweet chai tea lattes. And while life is not all fun and games, this show is. Cosplayers challenge each other to explain different fandoms in 10 seconds, try to recreate each other’s cosplays using Play-Doh, and maybe even dabble in a game of Jenga Pass or Watch Ya Mouth. In the first episode of CGC’s second season earlier this year, Babs Butcher appeared in her Ash Ketchum cosplay from Pokémon. According to Butcher, the cosplay community can be stressful and competitive, but CGC provides a positive, safe space for cosplayers to have fun and get to know each other. “The dynamic that is fostered by the CGC team focuses on the positive. 'What are

Left: Kim Chu (@Kc_cosplay) as Xion and Vann Rivera (@Vsol_cosplay) as Korra. Right: Brandon Drummer (@fire_forged_cosplay) as Heimdall and Rafael Ayala (@raf_bucky_barnes) as the Winter Soldier.

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Top: Babs Butcher (@BabsButcher) as Ash Ketchum and Rebecca Bitondo (@Rebzdeladisco) as Faye Valentine. Right (top): Rocco Chierichella (@ohrocco) as Cable. Right (bottom) Jamie Kolodziejczyk (@hollypeppermint) as Deku. Photos by Joshia David.

your favorite things? What do you like best?' Sometimes a community of people can band together on negative perspectives, so having a cool group of people who actively pursue being positive banishes the popularity of being antagonizing to others,” she explains. “I believe CGC is definitely what the cosplay community needed,“ says Jonathan Aragon, aka FitNerd from Superheroes Ultimate, who appeared in episode seven of the series. “An outlet for each of us to show our talents, learn about what drives our creativity, and at the same time make some pretty cool new friendships.” With more than a dozen episodes, four Comic Con specials, and nearly 100,000 views in their first 18 months of production, CGC has even more geeky goodness in store this year. “Viewers can expect to see more content from us with even more varied cosplayers, hilarious conversations, interesting fandom-fueled questions and responses, and more game integration to really bring out the unique personalities of our featured cosplayers,” Silva says. The Pop Insider is the official sponsor of CGC, helping fuel the show’s production to bring fans more content than ever before. “I’m excited to see this relationship introduce more people to cosplay,” Abdul-Qawi says. “This partnership is an example of how cosplay is moving more into the pop culture spotlight. What was once a hobby very few knew about is now an art form being displayed at conventions, movies premieres, and beyond.” Catch new episodes of Cosplayers Getting Coffee biweekly on popinsider.com or the Cosplayers Getting Coffee YouTube channel. ✪


COSPLAY CORNER

Meet Chris Calfa: The Gender-Bend Princess of New York City by Marissa DiBartolo, editor-in-chief

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Photo: Nicole Horsfield

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Chris Calfa is more than a princess. Actually, he’s about 10 different princesses. And a few pop icons. And also a power ranger. Cosplay is a unique artform, and Calfa is undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind artist. Known as Princess Chris for his Disney Princess gender bends, he turns iconic dress designs worn by Belle, Ariel, Rapunzel, and Elsa into ornate “dapper looks,” featuring hand-painted blazers and lots of shimmer and shine. That’s the beauty of cosplay: It lets you portray any of your favorite characters anyway you want—as long as you are willing to put in the work. Calfa’s love for dressing up and his passion for Disney started at a young age. “I was always the kid who wanted to dress up,” he says. "My birthday is on Halloween. My friends get scared when August rolls around because that’s when I start talking about Halloween, and I have 20 ideas of what costumes I want to do.” But it wasn’t always about princesses. Calfa’s favorite childhood costume was Aladdin, which he wore for Halloween from ages 3 to 6. Growing up in the ‘90s, princesses seemed out of reach for a young boy. “I used to bring my Aladdin costume with me to Disney World to wear it around because I saw little girls wearing Disney princess dresses and I was like ‘well, I can’t do that,’” he says. “The ’90s were a different time. But that’s what ultimately made me want to do the gender bend stuff because I very strongly identify as a male.” Eventually, Calfa’s love for costumes translated into his education, and he attended college for costume design. While designing his costumes came naturally to him, the more hands-on skills proved challenging. “The sewing professor once told the entire


Photo: Hannia Siri

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swan locket to finish the look. “It is not in your face that it’s a male Odette, but it has the elements of Swan Lake,” he says. With countless princesses to choose from and so many avenues for inspiration, how does Calfa choose which princesses to cosplay? It all comes down to the ones he loves and to whom he feels a personal connection. “A lot of people ask me if I am going to do Anastasia and I say no, because I hate Anastasia.” But it’s not all princesses all the time. Though cosplay is a huge part of Calfa’s life, it’s not everything. “In real life, I am a T-shirt and jeans guy. I love wearing flip flops, I hate wearing shoes. I love hoodies. When I’m not cosplaying, I grow out my beard so I look scruffier,” he explains. “Then it’s really funny when I show someone a picture of me as Cinderella and I have blonde hair, I’m clean shaven, and I’m wearing a blue jacket with butterflies all over it. It’s fun to transform.” One of his most memorable cosplays, in fact, is not even a princess, but instead a Star Wars and Aladdin mash-up—Aladdin Fett. Calfa remembers this particular look as one of his most difficult forays into cosplay to date. “Foam armor and I are not a match. It sounds so basic and so easy, but once I started I was like ‘ooh, mama no,’” he laughs. “If I could do it again, I would hire someone else to do it. But I was really proud of myself because I do love that costume.” Cosplay is gaining in popularity year after year, with thousands of people flocking to comic conventions all over the world in their own DIY creations inspired by their favorite fandoms, including Disney, Marvel, DC, and Star Wars, among the most popular looks. What once was a niche community of artists and fans is steadily becoming more and more mainstream. According to Princess Chris, the uptick in cosplayers is a result of “nerdoms” in general becoming more popular among more people. The cause of that? Nostalgia.

Photo: Freda Mattea

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class, ‘he can’t sew for sh*t, so thank god he’s a good painter,’” he jokes. His painting skills come in handy for his modern, princess-inspired dapper looks. Calfa takes standard blazers and customizes them with hand-painted details, turning drab into fab. He then pairs the blazers with custom makeup, wigs, shoes, and glammedout accessories. The gender-bend princess fun really began with Calfa’s favorite mermaid at New York Comic Con in 2014. “I did Ariel. I had dyed red hair, a purple tank top, green jeans, and a seashell necklace,” Calfa says. It all skyrocketed from there. “Right after that I did Cinderella, and then Rapunzel, and then Belle, and things just got out of hand. And now, I’m gender-bending things I never thought I would, like Odette from The Swan Princess.” 2014 was also the year Disney gender-bend cosplays really started to take off, thanks to lots of fan-created art hitting the internet. “I disagreed with a lot of what I was seeing, so I wanted to do my own thing,” he says. “There’s this weird line people cross between masculine and feminine. So people would make these characters that are either really, really masculine or really, really feminine and I try to bring balance to that. I want to be sparkly and pretty, but still masculine.” Each dapper look only takes Calfa about a week to complete, but while the cosplay creation isn’t terribly time consuming, it is expensive. “Let’s put it this way: If I didn’t spend any money on cosplay, I think I would be able to save an entire year’s worth of rent for my apartment,” he says. Before cosplay, Calfa was a toy collector, and he looked to cosplay as a more affordable hobby—but that didn’t last long. “You want to up your game, you want to up the materials you use and then you end up spending more money,” he explains. “It just gets to a point where it’s not a little thing, it’s a whole thing. Now I have an entire rack of my costumes and an entire shelf of wigs.” Calfa’s creative process starts with an idea, then he sketches his design before bringing the full look to life. “With the gender bends, you have to look at what is the most iconic. What details are people going to recognize when you translate it to a gender bend? Like with Cinderella, you need to have that specific blue, you need to have the sparkly shoes,” he says. With his custom version of Odette from The Swan Princess, Calfa used rhinestones and holographic fabric to symbolize the transformation process from swan to human. He also used lots of feather details and a

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Photo by Rachael Krause

“My parents don’t understand our obsession with Disney movies because we always had it as kids, and as kids they didn’t have that. The only time they ever got to see movies is when they went to the movies. They never had a VHS. I think that’s partially what’s responsible for our nostalgia. I can’t imagine for kids these days what cosplay culture is going to be like when they grow up,” he says. Calfa’s Instagram page (@princesschriscosplay) is an endless scroll of creative cosplays, from Mary Poppins and Walt Disney to Britney Spears and Freddie Mercury to almost every princess you know and love. The breadth of his cosplay skills is wildly impressive, and his passion for his art is immeasurable. He recently unveiled his newest creation at WinterCon in New York City—Princess Aurora. Princess Chris will be prepping for his next convention debut, Katsucon, undoubtedly with a few surprises up his very sparkly sleeves. ✪ THEPOPINSIDER.COM | #FuelYourFandom | 91


FLAUNT YOUR FANDOM

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THE NORTH REMEMBERS

Geek fashion doesn’t have to be geeky anymore. Wear your heart on your sleeve; scratch that, wear your favorite fandom on your sleeve with new collections and collaborations from some of the trendiest designers of the moment and cool new brands waiting for you to discover. Whether you swear by a good pair of sweatpants or you’re known for your bling bling, check out these fashion must-haves to help you flaunt your fandom.

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WEAR YOUR ON YOUR SLEEVE

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Thronies can show their allegiance to House Stark, House Targaryen, or House Lannister with a fierce Game of Thrones House Wristlet Pouch, from Danielle Nicole, featuring the House name embroidered on the wristlet strap, a top zip closure, and three interior front wall card slots. MSRP: $42 Available: danielle-nicole.com

Step aside, Sporty Spice; the Powerpuff Girls are back with Champion’s limited-edition collection celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Cartoon Network show. The collection features comfy sweatpants and sweatshirts adorned with the sassy superheroes. MSRP: $60-$75 Available: Champion stores

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CHARIZARD ON FLEEK

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IT’S T-SHIRT TIME

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Kigurumi are a staple of Japanese street style, and now Pokémon fans can take their #OOTD to the next level with a selection of Pokémon Kigurumi, from Clever Idiots, featuring characters including Charizard, Charmander, Eevee, Snorlax, and Pikachu. MSRP: TBD | Available: kigurumi-shop.com

BUBBLES, BLOSSOM, AND BUTTERCUP TO THE RESCUE

Are you itching to join the resistance? There’s a T-shirt for that. Were you a day-one Zelda fanatic from way back when? There’s a T-shirt for that, too. Are you a true Trekkie, but dying to make it fashion? Yes, there’s a tee for that from Design by Humans, with tons of licensed apparel to browse through for every fandom in the book. MSRP: $22-$30 | Available: designbyhumans.com


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EXPECTO NEW JEWELRY!

Potterheads can put everything they learned at Hogwarts on display with Alex and Ani’s Harry Potter Charm Bracelets, including valuable nuggets of wisdom from Dumbledore, how to charm Harry Potter or Ron Weasley into going heart-eyed, and how to make the class LOL by transforming a boggart into a handbag-yielding Professor Snape. MSRP: $29-39 | Available: alexandani.com

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HELLO KITTY HAS NO MOUTH, BUT SHE HAS A NEW BACKPACK

HOLY SMARTWATCH, BATMAN!

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What time is it? Time to call the Batmobile with One61 Studio’s Superfan Smartwatches featuring health and fitness trackers, Bluetooth capabilities, microphones, weather, music, cameras, and more. These watches are available in Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Fallout, and Rick and Morty styles. MSRP: $125-$150 | Available: one61.com

Let Hello Kitty keep an eye out for all your stuff with satin backpacks and hip packs featuring all-over prints of the bowclad critter. Available in black, cameo rose, and highrise (gray), the collection features oversized and exposed plastic zippers, Hello Kitty embroidery, and her signature red bow. MSRP: $34.99-$74.99 Available: sanrio.com, herschel.com

DISNEY DAYS ARE THE BEST DAYS Deck yourself out for your next Disney visit with the new Destination Disney collection from Her Universe, featuring jewelry and apparel in junior and plus sizes. Pieces include the Princess Castle Athletic T-Shirt and Rose Gold Jogger Pants that say, “Disney days are the best days.” Ain’t that the truth. MSRP: $9.90-$34.90 Available: heruniverse.com, Hot Topic

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ARTISTS ALLEY

ARTISTS

ALLEY

DC taps indie artists for limited-edition designer collectibles. by Marissa DiBartolo, editor-in-chief Comic Cons across the country feature sprawling show floors with endless streams of cosplayers and fans in pop culture T-shirts, shuffling along between massive booths sponsored by entertainment behemoths. But somewhere, tucked in a faraway corner or convention center basement, diamonds in the rough sit alongside each other among long rows of six-foot tables and simple popup banners. Artists Alley is home to hundreds of talented artists who sell unique prints and commission pieces to fans all over the world. These artistic greats not only create artwork found in popular comic books, but they also put their own unique spin on iconic characters, from Disney princesses to DC superheroes. DC Collectibles is recognizing this talented group in a unique way, partnering with independent artists for unique designer collectibles. “The motivation to create a line celebrating radical new artists stems from years of visiting cons and being impressed by the raw talent and artwork on display,” says Jim Fletcher, executive creative director, DC Collectibles,

in a statement. “When we decided to launch DC Artists Alley, we approached visionaries we felt would best represent the line while bringing their own creative signature to our classic characters.” The first line from artists Chris Uminga, HaiNaNu “Nooligan” Saulque, and Sho Murase debuted last year, and included limited-edition versions of Batman, the Joker, Poison Ivy, and more. This year, DC Artists Alley is going in a few new directions with Chrissie Zullo, Joe Ledbetter, and James Groman.

CHRISSIE ZULLO

Chrissie Zullo is a Connecticut-based artist who has been drawing since she can remember. Zullo created dreamy, whimsical iterations of Batgirl, Hawkgirl, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman for DC Collectibles. She says working with the DC team was “beyond a dream come true,” especially because of how much the DC characters mean to her. And seeing the figures for the first time was an experience unlike any other. “I remember that the team had sent me photos of the 3-D sculpt and then photos of the prototypes, and I was blown away, but when I got to see them in person I was just in awe. The sculptor, Renee, just nailed it so well, and even captured really subtle things in my style. I think I was just fortunate to be paired with an amazing sculptor,” she says. Like so many others, Zullo got her start at Artists Alley. “I signed up for my first Artists Alley table with my college classmate in our senior year. We split the table, brought prints of our artwork at the time, and showed our portfolios,” she says. “Since my first experience was so great, I was pretty

much hooked from there!” Zullo counts New York Comic Con, Emerald City Comic Con, and Comic Con International: San Diego among her favorite cons to attend. “I love conventions that have a really diverse Artists Alley and feature artists that you might not normally see,” she explains. Zullo’s designs are all about girl power, and these fierce females are infused with beauty and strength. “I wanted my girls to be fun, approachable, and confident, but still be a girl that can kick butt. I wanted to create something appropriate for any age, and hopefully something that is timeless.”

JOE LEDBETTER

Joe Ledbetter is an artist, designer, and illustrator based in Los Angeles who cites skateboarding, ‘80s video games, and classic animation as his main sources of influence. Ledbetter created tough, yet campy versions of Batman, Penguin, Catwoman, and Robin for DC, each of which has distinct animal features, including accentuated wings, oversized claws, and massive fangs. “The fangs are one of my favorite elements on the figure that serves a couple purposes. First off, it’s a design choice; I wanted to counterbalance the tall ears using similar shapes reflecting in the opposite direction. I’m also looking for ways to give my Batman more animal features to distinguish him from a human Batman, and when I think of bats, I think of vampire bats and fangs. The fangs also make him a bit tougher and more threatening,” Ledbetter explains. Ledbetter started attending cons in 2003, and now has a robust portfolio of toys, prints, and more. In addition to creating toys


based on popular brands such as the DC heroes and Jurassic Park dinosaurs, Ledbetter also creates his own original characters, such as Mr. Bunny and Fire-Cat. But he says creating toys based on existing brands is not all that different from his own characters. “With a licensed toy you obviously have parameters to your design (Batman must have the cowl, cape, logo, and color scheme), but that actually makes the work a bit easier. There is also a lot of research that goes into a licensed figure to be sure you are staying loyal to the brand, and also that you’re not doing something that’s been done before,” he says.

JAMES GROMAN

And then there’s James Groman: The monster man from Cleveland. Known for his outrageous designs for popular toys such as Madballs, Groman brings his signature style to Batman, Killer Croc, the Joker, and Two-Face—making popular DC villains look even more horrific than ever before. Groman graduated from Cleveland Institute of Art in 1986 and has been designing toys ever since. “I had been doing monster sculptures of my own designs for years, selling them as resin Garage Kits and collectibles. I tried sculpting a quick prototype for a toy concept I was pitching to my boss while working at American Greetings, and the folks there thought I was good enough to start sculpting toy patterns as part of my job,” Groman says. Groman’s favorite fandoms are integral to his artistic style, making DC a perfect fit for the master toy creator. “My style is and always will be an amalgam of the many pop culture entertainment and publishing brands I’ve loved most of my life—science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies; comic books and graphic novels; and animated TV shows. I think that’s true of most any artist. Art we respond to and enjoy becomes part of our DNA, and we can’t help but want to re-experience that feeling again when executing our own artwork,” he says. Groman has worked on many pop culture properties, including Godzilla, Ray Harryhausen, Star Wars, Transformers, Universal Monster movie characters, and of course, Batman. Groman’s interpretation of Batman fea-

tures a hunchback, a mouth full of sharp yellow teeth, and vibrant orange skin adorned with bulging, electric yellow veins. Groman said in his research, it was hard to find something that’s never been done with Batman and the DC villains. But he did discover that monsters like the ones he envisioned didn’t exist. “I felt that the mutation process I wanted to subject the hero of Gotham City to would result in a disproportionate and asymmetrical growth process. To me, that is true mutation. Not like the Hulk, who grows to his immense and powerful musculature evenly, perfectly. My characters needed to have an uncontrolled and irregular malformation that had not been applied to the characters in the Batman universe—growth and malformation that was out of control,”

DC Artists Alley expands with three new artists and new collectibles. Left: Wonder Woman by Chrissie Zullo. Top: Batman by Joe Ledbetter. Right: Batman by James Groman.

he explains. Groman’s imagination soared beyond the appearance of the figures; he actually developed characters, considering how their mutations would affect their minds and behaviors, which is how he chose some of the accessory and costume details on his monstrous hero and villains. Partnering with these artists, designers, and illustrators allows DC Collectibles to give fans completely unique and original portrayals of iconic DC characters to add to their collections. Each artist is encouraged to bring his or her original style into the figure designs, and the result is a completely surprising and delightful line of collectibles. “I think Jim Fletcher and his team have done a wonderful job in trusting in these artists’ unique and individual visions being the very thing that helps make each and every part of this figure line different from each other,” Groman says. From big-eyed beauties to ferocious animals and frightful monsters, the latest crop of DC Artists Alley collectibles has something for every type of superfan. DC Artists Alley collectibles from Chrissie Zullo, Joe Ledbetter, and James Groman are available now for pre-order, and will release in October. ✪


COMING SOON

FROM BOOK TO BIG SCREEN You can’t complain about how much better the book was unless you read it first. THE AFTERMATH BY RHIDIAN BROOK Fox Searchlight’s adaptation of Rhidian Brook’s 2013 story focuses on love and betrayal. From director James Kent, the film centers around Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley), who relocates to Hamberg, Germany, from England with her husband to help rebuild the city that the British military destroyed. During the couple’s tenure in the city, they allow a widower named Stefan (Alexander Skarsgård) and his daughter to stay with them. Stefan and Rachael begin a love affair, with conflicting allegiances and home countries threatening to pull them apart. Ridley Scott executive produced the fim. The Aftermath will be in theaters on March 15.

THE GOLDFINCH BY DONNA TARTT This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel focuses on orphan Theo Decker, who steals a famous painting during a bombing at a museum after he’s thrust into this new underground world of art. As an adult, Theo navigates his job at an antiques store, alienated from the one he loves, and finds himself in the midst of a dangerous circle. The tale of survival and reinvention stars Sarah Paulson, Nicole Kidman, Ansel Elgort, and Luke Wilson. The Goldfinch will hit theaters on October 11.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY BY GERARD WAY In the comic series The Umbrella Academy, 43 babies were born on the same day to women who were not pregnant the day before. A millionaire adopts seven of the babies and creates an academy for his kids to save the day. The dysfunctional family of superheroes teams up to solve their father’s mysterious death and the impending apocalypse. The Netflix Original series stars Ellen Page, Mary J. Blige, Cameron Britton, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher, Colm Feore, Adam Godley, John Magaro, Ashley Madekwe, and Kate Walsh. The series debuted on Netflix on February 15. 96 | Issue No. 2 | THE POP INSIDER

THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO BY PATRICK NESS The first book in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go focuses on 12-year-old Todd Hewitt, the only boy in a town full of men in which everyone can hear each other’s thoughts. He flees the town with his dog, but not before he realizes something is not right. He then meets a girl, who somehow managed to survive whatever wiped out the female population. The film adaptation, titled Chaos Walking, stars Tom Holland as Todd Hewitt. Todd meets Viola Eade (Daisy Ridley), whose presence may be the key to unearthing the New World’s secrets. The film also stars Mads Mikkelsen, Demián Bichir, Kurt Sutter, David Oyelowo, and Nick Jonas. Directed by Doug Liman, the film’s screenwriters include Charlie Kaufman, Gary Spinelli, Lindsey Beer, John Lee Hancock, and Ness. The big-budget adaptation is slated for a release in 2020.


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COMING SOON

HELLBOY BY MIKE MIGNOLA The long-running comic book series returns to the big screen with a new film adaptation starring David Harbour as the red demon. Each issue of the original comic series is typically focused around a series of one-shot stories or miniseries that either advance the ongoing plot or offer standalone stories. This new, darker version of Hellboy’s origin story will pull from the original series with more horror and mythological elements than previous filmed iterations. Hellboy will hit theaters on April 12.

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW BY A.J. FINN The best-selling thriller became popular for its story focusing on a woman who believes she sees a crime committed in a house across the street through a window. The film stars Amy Adams as child psychologist Anna Fox, who notices something alarming while spying on her neighbors and then begins a crusade into crime and darkness as she discovers the truth. Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman also star in the film adaptation. The Woman in the WIndow will be released in theaters on October 4.

SHRILL: NOTES FROM A LOUD WOMAN BY LINDY WEST The Hulu adaptation of Lindy West’s memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, stars Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant. West’s personal essay collection focuses on fat-shaming, body acceptance, and working in journalism in New York City. The limited series tackles the subject matter from the best-selling book in six episodes. Lorne Michaels and Elizabeth Banks optioned the book rights and serve as producers on the series. Shrill is available to stream on Hulu beginning on March 15.

FIVE FEET APART BY RACHAEL LIPPINCOTT, WITH MIKKI DAUGHTRY AND TOBIAS IACONIS This recently published YA romantic drama focuses on love interests Stella and Will, who meet—and subsequently fall in love—while both battling cystic fibrosis and getting treatment in the same hospital. While Stella and Will find comfort in each other’s presence, they must stay at least five feet apart to avoid possible infections that could keep Stella from receiving a lung transplant. The CBS Films adaptation stars Haley Lu Richardson as Stella and Cole Sprouse as Will, and will be directed by Jane The Virgin’s Justin Baldoni. Five Feet Apart is slated for a March 15 theatrical release.

THE BEST OF ENEMIES: RACE AND REDEMPTION IN THE SOUTH BY OSHA GRAY DAVIDSON

IT BY STEPHEN KING The successful 2017 film adaptation from Stephen King’s novel IT was only adapted from half of the book. The sequel film, IT: Chapter Two, follows the childhood friends returning to Derry, Maine, as adults to confront the supernatural killer Pennywise the Clown. Pennywise is back to terrorize the next generation of kids, and it’s up to this group of friends to battle him once more. Bill Skarsgård, Jessica Chastain, and James McAvoy star in the follow-up. IT: Chapter Two is slated for release on September 6.

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The upcoming film starring Taraji P. Henson is based on the 1996 book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the South. It centers around civil rights activist Ann Atwater (Henson), her unlikely friendship with local KKK leader C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), and their battle over school desegregation in North Carolina. While at first the two have different perspectives, they soon bond upon realizing the depths of the South’s power dynamics. Babou Ceesay, Anne Heche, Wes Bentley, Bruce McGill, John Gallagher Jr., and Nick Searcy also star in the drama, written and directed by Robin Bissell. The Best of Enemies is slated for a theatrical release on April 5.


Profile for The Pop Insider

No. 2 - Winter 2019