Earlier today, Disney/Pixar presented a panel on Toy Story 3 during WonderCon 2010 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Panelists included director Lee Unkrich, producer Darla Anderson and cast members John Ratzenberger (Hamm), Kristen Schaal (Trixie) and Jeff Garlin (Buttercup).
Earlier today, after a presentation of Toy Story 3 to attendees at the ShoWest convention at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas, Disney/Pixar’s John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Darla Anderson accepted the Big Ten award on behalf of Pixar Animation Studios in honor of its ten-in-a-row box office smashes.
The award may be a bit premature, however, if even a single percent of what we have heard from early reviews of Toy Story 3 is true. If so, the crew at Pixar are best advised to start working on their Big Eleven award acceptance speech.
Note: this is a continuation of an article that begins here.
After the presentation was complete, I was able to speak a little bit to Lee Unkrich who graciously posed for some photos and entertained my questions, particularly on how his recent inspirational decision to auction his own personal Pixar memorabilia on eBay to raise money for Haiti disaster relief went (he provided a guesstimate on the total and he and the legions of Pixar fans did impressively well, that much I will say). So congratulations to Lee for the generous donation as well as for the film.
I also got to speak at length with Chris Heatherly, Disney Consumer Products’ General Manager & Vice President of Toys, on various topics (all Disney) as well as received some personal demonstrations of some of the new toys.
By far, most of the toys presented at the event were from Mattel with demonstration models including the Buzz Lightyear Deluxe Action Wing Pack and the Toy Story 3 Action Links Playsets.
I was most surprised with the Buzz Lightyear Wing Pack, both for the better and for the worse. On the pro side, I was completely expecting the Wing Pack to be restricted to child size, but the backpack/strap style actually fits adults surprisingly well. On the con, the wings are motor-controlled, not spring release so they expand a bit slower than one might perhaps hope (but it’s doubtful many kids will notice or care). On the motor action, a representative for Mattel told me that there is actually a mechanism in place to respond if the wings end up being forced by small hands, so that the mechanism is virtually indestructible, so that is a good thing. Overall, it is pretty neat with large ‘LED’ lights that light up and blink when the wings expand at the press of the giant red button (which contracts the wings at the next press) and features popular Buzz phrases, both automatically and at the press of other buttons, just like the real toy. Using accelerometer technology, when the child (or adult) bends over at about 30 degrees or so (and more), the wings automatically make flying noises and light up and also respond in kind to the swaying movement as the Space Ranger-to-be runs/flies/falls-with-style around.
For the Action Link playsets, individual sets of varying sizes and prices link up to produce a wacky series of Rube Goldberg-esque events. There will be five sets at launch, of which three were on display at the event (though I did manage to see the other two at the Mattel showroom) and the gimmick is that the sets (which incidentally are purely mechanical, so no batteries needed) can be arranged in any order, changing the whimsical sequence with each arrangement. I did find resetting the sets trying my patience at times because they each operate with a hair trigger and — just like with setting up dominos — it’s frustrating to be in mid-setup and inadvertently fire off half of the sets, forcing you to attempt to reset them again. Still, there is quite a bit of fun and novelty value to it despite some of the inevitable setbacks (maybe teaching patience also makes it an educational toy).
Not presenting at the International Toy Fair, but well represented at the event was original Toy Story licensee and innovative toy developer Thinkway Toys. Of course a ‘LOT’ of attention went the way of Lotso, the overly fluffy pink male bear who happens to be strawberry scented (although maybe a tad more Frankenberry than strawberry), but Thinkway has quite a few more new exciting products to share with Toy Story 3.
There is, for example, the Toy Story Collection Mr. Potato Head. Or rather the Animated, Talking, Part Popping Action Mr. Potato Head. The very animated and vocal potato responds to voice and eagerly chats away and entertains, but he’s always just one loud noise away from exploding, sending his body parts scattering in all directions. He also has the capability of realizing when the wrong parts are in the wrong place (purely G rated of course, he is a Playskool toy afterall).
Tucked away with the rest of the Thinkway Toys on display, I also managed to catch a glimpse of both Jessie and Bullseye who have been added to the collection. Yeehaw!
But speaking of incredibly horrible reverse-segues, on the former topic of Playskool and Mr. Potato Head, Hasbro is introducing a set of Toy Story 3 themed Potato Heads including Spud Lightyear and Woody’s Tater Roundup (Reach for the Fry!) which were on display. I also understand there will even be a Mrs. Potato Head themed as Jessie.
Another product on display from Hasbro that I’m particularly excited about is a Toy Story themed edition of the classic electronic boardgame of Operation. Buzz. Aliens. Probe. Need I say more?
In the gallery of photos below, you’ll see many more of the Toy Story 3 products you can expect to see in stores within the next few months. With around 250 new products from about 20 different licensees, I promise there’s plenty more to come than just what you’ll find here, especially from Mattel who I’ll cover a bit more in a future article.
I was extremely fortunate to attend an event earlier this week in which Disney Consumer Products launched dozens of new toys from Mattel, Thinkway Toys, LEGO, Hasbro and JAKKS Pacific, just some vof the licensees for Toy Story 3 products with the aid of some very special guests.
Held at Gotham Hall in the Herald Square area, the space was magically transformed into the Sunnyside Daycare Center featuring oversized props, shrinking us all down to toy size. An over-sized chair provided an appropriate photo opportunity while Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear were on hand to greet guests and to take complimentary photos.
To kick off the presentation, Mary Beech, Vice President/General Manager for Global Studio Franchise Development at Disney Consumer Products, talked about the previous night’s event at the Toy of the Year Awards in which John Lasseter was inducted into the International Toy Hall of Fame. We were shown the mini-documentary that was shown during the awards show which focused on Lasseter’s contributions to the industry and featured many of his colleagues at Pixar as well as his wife, Nancy, and his three sons who spoke of receiving a Buzz and Woody for Christmas after Toy Story had first been released.
[SinglePic not found]Lasseter took the stage next and talked about the genesis of the toy story franchise — how the idea was hatched after witnessing his niece’s approach to toys and wondering how the toys would react if they were alive. After implementing some of the concept in the Pixar short Tin Toy, he talked about how the story was made to be able to reach an older audience by giving the toys neuroses such as Rex’s expectation to be the fiercest creature on earth despite his tiny little arms or Mr. Potato Head’s chip on his shoulder because his body parts are always being removed and re-arranged. Of course, Lasseter says, a toy’s biggest fear is being outgrown, leading into a key plot point in Toy Story 3 in which the toys are led to believe that a daycare center is nirvana — a ‘retirement home for toys’ — in which there will always be a steady flow of children needing the toys and no need to become emotionally attached to the kids as they come and go.