Back in the day, I was a nerd who worked at FAO Schwarz. I read too many comics, collected way too many action figures, and lived and breathed toys. And every year, I tried to find a way to get into Toy Fair New York.
Toy Fair, for those who don’t know, is the annual trade show where toy companies show off their wares and try to get you excited about the products they have coming out in the new year. While that can be a hit or miss prospect for getting store buyers excited for new lines, it never fails to thrill nerds like me.
You see, I used to agonize over not being able to get into Toy Fair. I may have worked in toys, collected them, and amassed vast knowledge about them, but I wasn’t a buyer and I wasn’t press, so I wasn’t getting in there to see all the awesomeness.
Well, things change. Thanks to the interwebz, I’m now officially press. And because I write about this nerdy stuff, I’ve gotten to attend Toy Fair these last three years, an ambition of mine that’s been literally decades in the making.
Toy Fair has become more than just being about the toys. It’s the people making, distributing or reporting on those toys that really makes Toy Fair awesome. Attending Toy Fair gives you a backstage pass to the toy industry, and it introduces you to some great folks along the way. After all, anyone can take pictures of all the toys to be seen there, but the really interesting stories are why some of these people are at Toy Fair in the first place.
Marty Abrams is well known by avid toy collectors, and even if you don’t know his name, you know his work. Marty is the man behind Mego, which made iconic toys in the 1970s. If you didn’t have these eight-inch action figures from Star Trek, DC, Marvel or even from Happy Days, then you know someone who did. So it’s really nice to see the gregarious Marty Abrams back at Toy Fair, bringing these beloved toys back!
Todd McFarlane is another rock star in the toy industry. I’ve been a fan of his ever since he drew Batman: Year Two in the ’80s, and watched with awe as he became a comics superstar. He started his own company, Image Comics, which revolutionized that industry, and then subsequently started up McFarlane Toys which revolutionized the toy industry.
McFarlane now handles multiple hot licenses, including Fortnite, Game of Thrones, and all major sports leagues. It also just acquired the rights to DC Comics’ characters. Because of that, Todd himself was being pulled in 80 different directions at once while I was touring his booth. But he still took a few moments to come over and chat with me and pose for a picture, because I’m a nerd, and so is he.
Charlie Friend, president of Green Toys, is also passionate about the products he makes but he fills a unique niche. Green Toys are made of completely recycled material, right here in the USA. They have everything from active play toys to vehicles, and their message of sustainability and respect for the planet we live on is a necessary and pertinent one. His enthusiasm for what he does is impressive and admirable.
Zach Oat is with Diamond Select Toys, producing figures, props and statues meant for adult collectors. I knew him from ToyFare magazine, one of the periodicals that used to tell me about Toy Fair. We had a grand conversation about some of the things he’s seen and had a hand in, including the show Robot Chicken, which came from Toyfare magazine.
Some folks I’d gotten to know weren’t there this year, but in Christine Kaskey’s case, this was a good thing. She started her own company, Kaskey Kids, and became famous for her “Sports Guys” figures. While I did miss seeing her at the show, I was happy to see it was for a good reason, as she had sold Kaskey Kids to Masterpieces, a well known toy and game company.
Toy Fair also provided me the opportunity to meet other writers, vloggers and influencers I either already knew or was a fan of. Dan Larson of Toy Galaxy was there, as were Nerds in a Bar, Toy Shiz, and many others. I’m happy to report they’re all great folks.
But what was especially nice was hanging out with other dads and parents I’ve gotten to know through City Dads Group. Granted, some of these folks I now only see at events like this, but when you work at home a lot, it’s actually very nice to have “work friends” again, people like Gregg Jobson-Larkin from Darleen & Gregg, Adam Cohen from Dada Rocks and Denise Comeau from Game On Mom.
When I was a kid, I wanted to work with toys somehow. Whether it was making them, selling them, whatever, and my career has reflected that. Now that I’ve been going to Toy Fair for a while, it’s been a welcome and pleasant surprise to discover that the people who share that passion for toys are just as nice as one could hope they’d be.
Toy Fair is awesome. But what makes it awesome is not just the toys, or even getting to see all of the new lines, but meeting the people who work with those toys. Seeing them again is what I most look forward to from Toy Fair next year.
All photos by Chad R. MacDonald.