On Tuesday 5 July 2011, as the British summer finally arrived, felt it was being arrogant, and swiftly hid behind a raincloud, I found myself wandering along the Euston Road. Not aimlessly, as is often my wont: this time I had an appointment. For me it was going to be… Christmas in July!
Christmas in July is a trade fair: toy manufacturers from across the UK congregate in a mighty convention venue to show the eager press what’s going to be hot and what’s not for the 2011 festive season.
The convention venue, in this case, was Camden Town Hall. Not all of it, at that: I eventually found a small sign indicating that the event was “this way”, pointing in to what looked like a small church hall tacked on the building’s back.
Inside, a collection of some twenty stalls from a variety of manufacturers showing their wares. Of these, the majority were displaying a variety of remote control devices, dolls, child-oriented computer games and the like. All very nice, but really only three or so were of specific (as opposed to general) interest to Skaro’s readers.
The first of these was Schleich, the well-known German toy figure manufacturer. Schleich’s figures tend to be head and shoulders above the competition, and this season looks to continue in that trend. Most of Schleich’s ranges continue, and this Christmas we see the arrival of a “Warriors from History” range, including such stars as Roman legionaries, Vikings, Mongols and one character in a loin-cloth holding a spear who was dubbed “The Proud African” – ever so slightly dubious. Pride of place in the collection, however, is the magnificent Battle Elephant – a snip at £35 (Battle Howdah and figures extra) – and I can honestly say, it feels almost worth it. Lovely.
Schleich’s big push this year, however, is a genre smash: the Smurfs! Schleich has held the licence for the little blue men for forty years now, and with this summer’s blockbuster movie (if you believe the advertising) promising to be Smurfs in 3D, Schleich are looking to cash in. Watch out for them (and if you have any left over from the petrol promotions forty odd years ago, check out ebay: you could have a nice little earner on your hands).
Second, Mega-Bloks, the other Lego-ish manufacturer, is moving more and more into the genre market. Having had a good degree of success with its Halo tie-in compatible-construction range, this Christmas it is introducing both a need for speed and Marvel superheroes range. Sadly, none of the latter were available, but it promises to be quite fun.
Which brings us to the manufacturer of what will probably be of most interest to visitors to this site: Character Options and its various Doctor Who offers.
Much of CO’s Who display was taken up with products that are already well known, in both the 5” figure and Character Building Lego-ish ranges. However, a few new products were on display: the Cyber-Conversion and Dalek Factories from the Character Building range both look expensive and worth every penny. Hours of fun – and when you’ve finished, the kids will enjoy them too.
Likewise – and this I predict to be a runaway bestseller – a mix-and-match sonic screwdriver set: three different models of sonic screwdriver all of which break into multiple, recombinable sections. A total of sixty-four different combinations are available I’m told. It’s Pimp My Sonic basically – create your own unique screwdriver (for values of unique less than sixty-four, anyway) for only £20.
And pride of place goes to CO’s faithful 5” figure reproduction of Susannah Leah’s Blue Peter competition winning junkyard Tardis console, as seen in The Doctor’s Wife. (Susannah herself was on hand, having been subpoenaed by CO to appear on their behalf and help with the marketing – you’ll be pleased to hear she’s not yet been corrupted by celebrity status.) It’s a lovely reproduction, and again should provide hours of fun until the kids get their greasy paws on it.
I asked both CO and MegaBloks if there was any opportunity for cross-promotion. Both laughed at the weird little man and his preposterous ideas. Nonetheless, I predict that the good Doctor with his companions Hulk and Spider Man will be fighting Daleks and Green Goblins alike, coming soon to a playground near you.
All in all, then, there looks to be little revolutionary on the scene this year. Nonetheless, more of the existing good stuff – especially from CO – is on its way, and that can’t be bad.
CO have very kindly donated one of the Junkyard Console reproductions to give away – complete with a signature from Susannah herself, you lucky people. Details of the competition will be released later in the year.