This weekend marks two separate, equally major events in the world of toys. In Tokyo, Wonder Festival Winter 2012 takes the stage, while in New York City, it's Toy Fair time.
While many of you probably know what the events are ... you may not know that's there more to it than just "OMG TOYS!" Hit the jump for some of the basic details on each event. It is by no means a complete look, as not all the information I sought was readily available, but you might learn a new thing or two!
What is Toy Fair?
Toy Fair (full official name: The American International Toy Fair) is an annual event produced by the Toy Industry Association and currently held at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. As of 2011, more than 1,100 manufacturers, distributors, importers and sales agents from around the globe attend Toy Fair, with just about every possible toy you can imagine being covered under one roof.
Toy Fair has, in the past, been a launching point for almost every popular American toy of ... well, forever. The list of toys that have debuted at Toy Fair range from the iconic Barbie (1959) to Furby (1998). Stupid Furby.
So what and who's exactly there?
Lots of companies from all different walks of toys and other forms of entertainment: board games, model kits, children's toys, educational toys, dolls, plushes, anime/PVC stuff, designer vinyl and action figures. Most major U.S.-based companies, or those with a big presence in the U.S., are there: Kotobukiya, Bandai, Square Enix, tokidoki, GIANTmicrobes, Squishable, Uglydolls, McFarlane Toys, NECA, Funko, Playmates, Hasbro, LEGO and Mattel are just a sampling of who you might find there.
Is there anything we should expect this year?
Yes! Glad you asked. Besides the exclusive we had on the Camilla d'Errico/Dark Horse bust, Playmates will be launching their new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures at their Toy Fair booth and tokidoki will be launching new figures as well.
There's also likely to be plenty of new stuff from Hasbro and Mattel for the upcoming summer movie rush: The Dark Knight Rises, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and more are likely to be featured, possibly along with LEGO's upcoming licenses.
How do I attend?
Unless you're a member of the toy industry or you can get media clearance ... you can't. It's a trade show. Also, no one under age 18 is admitted, period, per the Toy Fair rules.
What is Wonder Festival 2012 Winter?
Wonder Festival is a bi-annual (held once in the winter and once in the summer) event, sponsored by figure maker Kaiyodo, that has grown to serve as the Japanese figure and garage kit industry's E3. Like Toy Fair in the U.S., it is a popular launching point for new figures (along with its sister summer show) and in a way, sets the table for what you can expect to see from each of the attending companies over the next 12 months.
Wonder Festival has two official mascots: Wonda and Reset, both of which Kaiyodo has made into event-exclusive figures in the past. Oh, and its Wikipedia page is a sad little stub.
How did it start?
The precursor to Wonder Festival took place in December 1984, a small event in Osaka featuring local shops. The first Wonder Festival itself was Wonder Festival 1985 Winter, held Jan. 15, 1985, on Tokyo Metropolitan Industrial Trade Center's third floor. Only 2,000 people and 60 dealers were on hand, but at the time, WonFes was primarily focused around the garage kit. By WonFes 1989 Summer, the event had taken up the entire trade center, with 250 dealers and 11,000 attendees. Eventually, Wonder Festival had outgrown its space and moved into the new Tokyo International Exhibition Center (a.k.a Tokyo Big Sight) in Ariake, starting with WonFes 1996 Summer. The change allowed for explosive growth, bumping the show's dealer number to over 1,000 by WonFes Summer 1998 and its attendance to over 30,000 the following summer. However, an incident involving an overcrowded elevator at WonFes Summer 2008 strained relations between the WonFes executive committee and Big Sight's owners.
As a result, Wonder Festival moved again in 2009 to the Makuhari Messe International Exhibition Hall in Chiba, where it currently takes place twice each year. Last year's winter event had nearly 2,000 dealers and more than 47,000 attendees.
So what's exactly there?
Well, it's not just folks who make erotic garage kits (thanks, Wikipedia. *grumble*). While garage kits are still a major part of the WonFes experience, many major figure companies from Japan (and other parts of the world, sometimes!) have made WonFes the site for revealing upcoming releases, showing off new painted masters and making a quick buck or two off of some limited exclusives only available at the show. It's also home to a number of sofubi/kaiju makers and painters, who will usually have smaller booths at the event and will sometimes even split a booth.
And who's there?
Pretty much anyone and everyone who wants to sell to the Japanese market. Big companies like Kaiyodo, Good Smile Co., Kotobukiya, Bandai and Alter; somewhat "smaller" names like Orchid Seed, CM's Corporation and Kaitendoh; vinyl producers like Medicom; plush makers like Gift; garage kit makers like Nekoban and Dimension Diver; sofubi and kaiju makers/artists like Gargamel, Max Toy Co., Velocitron, Ilanena, Shikaruna, US Toys, Pico Pico, Sunguts and RESTORE.
In past years, I've seen garage kits on sale from makers who I know don't have the license because someone else does. How does this happen?
This is something a lot of people note. The answer is that for Wonder Festival (and a few select other major events like Treasure Festa), rights holders will sometimes give those small, independent grage kit makers or sofubi makers a single-day license to sell their wares. The process for applying through permission goes through the organizer (in this case, Kaiyodo) and each approved license allows the seller to sell their wares for the day of the event only. That's why many of the garage kits you see are exclusives to these type of events.
Is there anything we should expect this year?
To be totally honest, outside of the already revealed information, I'm not sure what to expect from Wonder Festival 2012 Winter except the unexpected. Most of the big companies will have a few surprises they keep close at hand until the event itself, in order to get the attention of both attendees and folks in the media. So yes: expect the unexpected, becuase there's bound to be things shown off we had no idea were coming!
How can I attend?
Hope you live in Japan or can make the trip over there! WonFes is a one-day event, so if you're actually going, you'll want to get their early so you can get in line. Like, I dunno ... 7 a.m.? Don't worry, the sun rises in Japan really early.
The easiest way is to get a ticket in advance by buying the official guide book at Kaiyodo retail stores, specialty stores and some bookstores (pretty much any Animate or Gamers store is on the list) or via mail order. There is a second, "Direct Path" option that opens up closer to the event, but it's a bit more complicated and I still don't know much about it, unfortunately.
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