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Hot toys: Oonies, Fingerlings, Legos and some ‘surprises’

  • Lego has had a bumpy year – it ousted its chief executive in August and the following month posted the first sales decline in more than a decade. But now the Danish toymaker may be poised for a comeback. Troy Harvey / Bloomberg

  • The Nintendo Switch is widely expected to surpass the Wii to become Nintendo’s bestselling product. Troy Harvey / Bloomberg



Washington Post
Friday, December 01, 2017

The holidays are upon us, which means toys are popping up everywhere.

There are Hatchimals and Shopkins, Fingerlings and Oonies, and of course updates on classics like Legos and Nintendo. The most popular of the bunch have already begun selling out online and in stores.

Shoppers are projected to spend an average of $967.13 this holiday season, a 3.4 percent increase from last year, with the bulk of that money going toward gifts for family members, according to the National Retail Federation. Spending on toys is also on the rise, with roughly 40 percent of adults saying they plan to buy toys this year, up from 29 percent five years ago, according to data from Deloitte.

But finding the right toys can be overwhelming. Here are some newcomers that retailers and industry experts say are likely to be among the season’s most popular.

1. Nintendo Switch: Who says you have to stay home to play video games? The $299 Nintendo Switch is a portable home console that doubles as a handheld device for when you’re on the go.

The console, introduced in March, is widely expected to surpass the Wii to become Nintendo’s best-selling product. Nearly 8 million units had been sold as of September. The company expects to sell more than 17 million Switch consoles this year, and is planning on making up to 30 million more next year, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal.

“Momentum for Nintendo Switch is in full swing,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement earlier this year.

Games, which typically start at $59, include Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In early November, Nintendo introduced a new Switch video app that allows users to stream movies and television shows on the device. Users can also record 30-second video clips of “great gaming moments” to share with friends.

2. “Big” surprises:  No surprise here, say toymakers: Kids love big reveals. And that’s exactly why two of the season’s most popular toys, the L.O.L. Surprise! Big Surprise and Hatchimals Surprise, both priced at $69.99, are flying off shelves.

The L.O.L. Big Surprise, by MGA Entertainment, is a glittery, dome-shaped plastic case filled with four dolls – along with dozens of accessories, clothing, charms and other knickknacks – that must be individually unwrapped. It can take hours to peel away the toy’s layers and figure out exactly what’s inside. Some dolls cry, spit or “tinkle.” Others change color in cold water.

Hatchimals Surprise, meanwhile, adds a twist to last year’s hit holiday toy. This time around, there are two Hatchimals – fuzzy creatures that sing, dance and interact with one another – inside each speckled egg. But first, users have to help the creatures hatch, which generally requires about 15 minutes of holding, tapping and cajoling the outer egg.

“You don’t know what you’re going to get until you go through the process and hatch the egg,” said James Martin, head of robotics at Hatchimal game company Spin Master. “People just love that anticipation. They love the surprise.”

3. Women of NASA and Star Wars Lego sets: Lego has had a bumpy year – it ousted its chief executive in August and the following month posted the first sales decline in more than a decade. But now the Danish toymaker may be poised for a comeback with two fast-selling lines: Women of NASA and Star Wars.

Women of NASA, which sells for $24.99, honors four female scientists and astronauts, including Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. The set, released Nov. 1, sold out on Amazon.com within 24 hours.

Still available, though, are the BB-8 building kit ($99.99) and First Order Star Destroyer ($159.99) from the upcoming movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Also part of the line: The Millennium Falcon ($149.99), which comes with 7,541 pieces, making it Lego’s largest set to date.

And for those who can’t wait until Christmas: The Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar, which sells for $39.99, is currently the best-selling toy on Amazon.

4. Interactive animals: Meet the Fingerlings: A family of tiny monkeys, and the occasional unicorn and sloth, that latch onto your finger and respond to voice, movement and touch by blinking, babbling and blowing kisses. The animatronic toys, which sell for $14.99 apiece, are already sold out online at Walmart, Target and Toys R Us.

Tap their heads, and they’ll burp. Hang them upside down, and they’ll laugh hysterically. The critters – which are about the size of fingerling potatoes – also coo when cuddled, and doze off when rocked. And if you run out of ways to keep them entertained, the toy company WowWee also sells pint-size jungle gyms and playground sets for $25 to $40.

“Fingerlings,” said brand manager Sydney Wiseman, “are like having an interactive friend at your fingertips.”

Another animal that’s being marketed as a friend: FurReal Roarin’ Tyler, a plush tiger that blinks, roars and wags its tail. Tyler, which costs $129.99, comes with his own squeaky chicken toy and is among Amazon’s best-selling toys.

5. Oonies: What are Oonies? According to Moose Toys, they’re “air-filled balls of amazing fun.”

The bubbles – part-balloon, part-bubble –are made of a latex-free plastic material. Once inflated, Oonies can be stuck together and decorated to create animals, monsters, even elaborate games. But the fun is temporary: Oonies typically deflate within a matter of days.

The Oonies Mega Starter Pack, on the Toys R Us “hot toy” list, costs $29.99 and comes with 90 pellets and an “inflator.”

Moose Toys, the company behind other hits like Shopkins and Pikmi Pops, says Oonies is on track to become the company’s most popular craft toy.