For a few days in mid-October last year, the 12th floor of the Dallas Market Center buzzed with anticipation over the big new offering from the toymaker Bandai -- of Tamagotchi fame, you'll recall -- a short plastic mannequin and a few swatches of fabric, packaged as a fashion design toy called Harumika.
Those recently began hitting the shelves, with deluxe kits including digital cameras, and entry into Harumika's own virtual world for sharing design ideas, and Toy Industry Association spokeswoman Julie Livingston says Harumika was an early favorite for this year's top Christmas toy fad (above even the Burning Man cupcake car).
Once again this week, mass retailers like Walmart, Sam's Club and Target are trolling the booths of TIA's Fall Toy Preview and making their picks for what kids will want under the tree come Christmas 2010.
This year's show has exhibits from 276 toy makers -- Farmers Branch-based Erector Set and R/C car maker Nikko Electronics among then -- and around 1,000 retailers looking to buy ... well what, exactly?
Livingston and other TIA officials can't say. They say they know all about the trends in the toy market for 2010 -- when this year's Transformers fad is gives way to next year's Toy Story resurgence -- but the specific toys are all under embargo. Meaning: They're in Dallas, but obscured from prying eyes. TIA'ers won't even hint at what's behind those partitions and curtains; state secrets aren't this well kept.
Look for more details of what's to come when TIA hosts its main event in New York this February.
Short of that, Livingston offered to walk us through a few more of the toys that'll be big this hoilday season, like this iTouch-powered take on an old standby.
This one's more of an "executive level" gift, Livingston says, retailing for around $150, but perfect for busy captains of industry who love their iPhones and don't have time to turn the blocks of an actual Rubik's Cube.
The aforementioned Harumika fashion design set plugs into one of the four main trends from lat year's show: web-connected toys with a physical component (girls can create designs on the computer, share them online and print off patterns to cut and photograph), letting you live out your Project Runway dreams in the thrilling solitude of your living room.
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This Seedlings doll is made from organic cotton, and someday, when your child outgrows it, promises to be the most drool-encrusted item in your recycling bin.
The G.I. Joe headset is part of the 27% of new toys Livingston says are tied to some entertainment franchise, timed to coincide with this year's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and the 45th anniversary of the original toys. Perfect the cinema lover you want to horrify this Christmas.
These two games tap into the two other big trends from last year's show: exercise and education -- jump on them to send numbers flying across the room, then put them back in the order the toy tells you. Perfect for kids and anyone who likes to jump and count.