Monthly Archives: March 2014

Treasures unearthed at Australian Toy Fair 2014

After four days of treasure hunting at Toy Hobby & Nursery Fair in Melbourne the Entropy Elves are jetting back home.

Annual Toy Fair is the industry’s premier event in Australia where the latest and greatest toys for the year are revealed, so you can always guarantee a frenzy of activity.

This year was particularly exciting as our Chief Poobah Deborah Latouf was presented with the Australian Toy Retailer of the Year award. Here is a snap of her with Toy & Hobby Retailer publisher Lindy Hughson.

Deborah Latouf with Lindy Hughson

There were lots of opportunities at Toy Fair to catch-up with our friends in the industry and test all the amazing toys and games on offer.

We created quite a kafuffle in one tent playing the new game Pigs in Pants from Orchard Toys – there were squeals of delight as we blatantly and unashamedly stole each others’ pants. Here is Mary from Orchard Toys with the game — she is an absolute games gun who lives in England and has spent the first three months of the year going from one international toy fair to the next; always with enthusiasm for these fab games that are designed and made in the UK.

 Mary from Orchard Toys

 

Here’s Rami — he supplies many of our popular games, including Smart GamesCamelot Junior, Castle Logix and Road Block. There are lots of new and exciting games rolling out this year from Rami and other games suppliers, so stay tuned.

Rami from Leisure Learning

 

Michael here showed us the new Tegu range. This is quite amazing — these beautiful wooden blocks are magnetic, so it opens up a whole new world of play. Plus they look amazing.

Michael from Educational Experience (EdEx)

 

A visit to Heebie Jeebies is always a magical experience. This is Jim — he invents many of their toys and his inventions are really something else (well, you can see what a character he is! P.S. He doesn’t usually look this angry…). This is the new Knock-A-Ninja that he’s showing who’s boss. As usual, Heebie Jeebies has a raft of wonderful imagination-igniting and geek-enhancing toys coming this year.

Jim from Heebie Jeebies

 

This is Tanya who looks after Sylvanian Families — she is posing with the new restaurant (and of course the photo bombing Freya Chocolate Rabbit). There are lots of fantastic newbies this year including the Grand Hotel (OMG!), Bluebell Seven-Seater (which can be converted to a campervan), and gorgeous families like the Chihuahua Dogs, Red Pandas, Hamsters, Beavers, Sheep and Bears.

Tanya from Modern Brands

 

Our Elf Poobah is here with the wonderful Dan — he’s showing us the latest from Discovery Kids (we love Dan – he’s always so much fun).

Dan from Modern Brands

 

Anthony from Tiger Tribe is modelling the new Quut range. This bucket not only looks super cool, but it is designed so that water doesn’t tip out on the way back up the beach.

Anthony from Tiger Tribe

 

Paula shows us these simply stunning Polish-made blocks. They are just beautiful in their colouring and packaging and would make an equally ideal gift for an adult — just imagine these on your coffee table or desk.

Paula from Axis Toys

 

Elf Bec and our Chief Poobah with some of the latest puppets from Folkmanis — the Ostrich and the Camel. The Ostrich is a co-operative puppet, meaning to needs two puppeteers to give the true effect. They are both so, so soft with lovely long eyelashes…

Ostrich and Squealing Pig Folkmanis Puppets

 

Here’s an ‘Elfie’ with Independence Studios‘ (IS) Alex. IS has some great additions this year, including Sands Alive; an anti-bacterial, non-toxic, soft and fluffy version of sand that can be sculpted and played with in countless fun ways (trust us, it’s addictive… and quite soothing!).

Independence Studios

 

We didn’t get a picture with Jeremy from Micro Scooters, but rest assured there is HEAPS coming from this progressive scooter-making guru; including a scooter with a built-in box to carry all your treasures and the Skiddy — an innovative way to get around that folds up in the boot of your car.

Micro Scooter

 

There is obviously much, much more, but the Elves need to fly. We are so excited about introducing you to all these finds over the coming year (and, of course, playing with them some more ourselves).

 

French toast

Why is this in here we hear you ask? It’s the breakfast of champions. This French toast from Southbank’s Baci powered the Elves on our adventures. Yes, it is as delicious as it looks :)

Children blossom through puppets… and magic

Sister Kerry is somewhat of an icon in Townsville. Being nominated for Australian of the Year in 2010 for her warmth and generosity, she conducts speech and drama classes from her North Ward home using a huge array of puppets. And a healthy dose of old fashioned magic.

Sister Kerry’s home and drama studio is the sort of thing childhood memories are made of — there are puppets hanging from the ceilings, Enid Blyton-style books lining the walls, and colourful jars of lollies dotted here, there and everywhere. With a warm personality where everyone is “darling” and no student goes hungry, you can see why generations of children flock to her.

Magic House

Sister Kerry calculates that she must have more than 100 puppets in total. She hasn’t counted, but about 50 of these would be Folkmanis and the others are wooden marionettes. While she wouldn’t dare play favourites with her students, she admits that “of course” she has a favourite puppet; although it does change from year to year. 2014’s is Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox — two Folkmanis Puppets that took a fair bit of effort to track down.

 

Magic House Folkmanis Puppets

Sister Kerry has seen many children blossom through play with puppets, with even the shiest child coming out of their shell.

“To a child, a puppet is a ticket to another world,” she says in between running off to fetch more nougat. “Children are able to experiment with different personalities and moods and see life through the eyes of their puppet.”

 

Magic House Folkmanis Puppets

Sister Kerry adds, although we often equate puppetry with the younger child, it’s important not to limit our educational explorations.

“The right puppet is always able to support language development, communication and social/emotional development in the young and not-so-young; plus they are a great way to destroy the social barriers of children,” she tells.

You could say, all are united through puppets. And Sister Kerry.

View Entropy’s range of finger puppets, hand puppets and marionettes — there are lots to choose from!

The magical world of Folkmanis Puppets

Folkmanis marketing director Elaine Kollias explains how Folkmanis’ amazingly-detailed and life-like animal puppets have the power to change lives. Seems a bit melodramatic? Read on…

What’s so magical about Folkmanis Puppets?
Folkmanis Puppets are magical because the magic is created by the puppeteer! Puppets are merely a toy, or rather, a tool that removes the wall of disbelief, allowing the puppeteer and their audience to suspend disbelief. In other words, the magic is created by believing, if even just for a moment, that the puppet is alive. It’s a subconscious thing that most of us fall for.

Elaine Kollias

Elaine Kollias playing puppeteer with the new Grunting Pig and Ostrich

Why should every child have one in their toy box?
Puppets enhance learning, encourage creativity and discovery and have an ‘open-ended’ play pattern; meaning that they may be played with in a variety of ways. When a particular play pattern gets old or boring, the child creates their own new play pattern, making puppets a bottomless-well of inspiration.

“Sometimes designs are driven by the fabric or surface design, sometimes it’s a pop-culture thing, sometimes it’s just a personal fancy to the designer. There is no set formula.”

What other benefits do children get from playing with Folkmanis Puppets?
Fine and gross motor skills benefit from puppet use, as well as abilities like learning to engage, express feelings and communicate. Puppets can assist in problem solving and will make learning and lessons fun! Plus, puppets can be a friend and a companion — they bring comfort and joy, and they listen well too!

 

Bear in a Tree StumpMice in Red Box

Now, this a hard one: Do you have a favourite Folkmanis creation (if you REALLY had to choose)?
I hate this question… LOL! Really, it’s so difficult to pick out just one favourite. I love our puppets that have a gimmick or hook, like the Mice in Box, or the Grunting Pig. But for me personally, I prefer to use puppetry as an illusion, like handling wildlife and having folks exclaim how well behaved my wild skunk, raccoon or bear cub is. For that same reason I love to puppeteer the dogs and cats as I get similar remarks and it’s pretty fun to fool people!

Enchanted Tree

We read that it took two years to develop the eyes on the Enchanted Tree. That’s amazing! Are there any other innovations that have taken a while to perfect?
Certainly — the blinking eyes on the Great Horned Owl probably took a few years too. There are special moulds that need to be opened, sculpts to be made, fabrics to be custom-printed, special safety tests taken, and more. Most of our puppets are designed and on the market within six to 12 months of conception, but there are definitely a few dozen that have taken years to develop. One example is the Peacock puppet. While we always wanted to design a peacock, it seemed virtuously impossible until a special fabric was developed called ‘Pine Needle’ — then everything just fell into place. Sometimes designs are driven by the fabric or surface design, sometimes it’s a pop-culture thing, sometimes it’s just a personal fancy to the designer. There is no set formula for our designs.

Peacock Great Horned Owl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How important is it to constantly evolve and innovate?
Extremely important. While the toy industry is extremely competitive, the puppet category is a bit less competitive as it’s a small niche market. And while we may enjoy many ‘evergreen’ products that are still top-sellers after a few decades; the collectors and the public do tire of the same designs. It’s crucial to stay fresh and current. But since we truly love what we do, it’s easy to stay challenged and innovate and always strive to make the next great ‘mouse-trap’.

“The amount of time it took the boys to empty the bookshelf was the amount of time that Judy would have to sew a puppet. Then she would repeat the cycle all over again.”

What are some of the new and exciting puppets you have released this year? Will these be available globally?
Yes, all the new releases will be available globally soon. My top picks are: The amazingly life-like Airedale Terrier; the Grunting Pig, which has an airbag squeaker that grunts and rumbles; an adorable fluffy Wolf Pup; an elegant two-handed Ostrich and a wonderful Perched Eagle puppet that could fool a naturalist!

Folkmanis Founder Judy Folkmanis

Founder Judy Folkmanis (right): The beginnings of the company as a street vender at UC Berkeley

What’s something we may not know about Folkmanis puppets?
Folkmanis is a small, family-run, boutique, niche company with a huge global reach. It was started by Judy Folkmanis in her living room while her two small boys ran underfoot. Judy devised a method of filling a bookshelf with books that her boys would empty out. The amount of time it took the boys to empty the bookshelf was the amount of time that Judy would have to sew a puppet. Then she would repeat the cycle all over again. This is how Folkmanis® Puppets started. And her boys are all grown now with their own children. The sons are also active in the business.

“We cherish many stories of an autistic child finally speaking their first words to our puppets… we think that our work is more important than just creating a plaything.”

Can you tell us a memorable story when your puppets have particularly been able to brighten a child’s life (we know you are a charitable bunch!)?
Oh no. You’re going to make me cry. Stop. Was it terminally ill Michael’s beloved Dodo in Dallas Texas that we were able to comfort by sending him the owner’s archived retired Dodo? Was it the self-muted girl who spoke her first words in years after she saw her brother run over by a vehicle? Or is it the child that lost a beloved puppet and we scrambled to secure a long-gone version to complete their happy childhood? There’s no doubt puppets can change lives.

Kenya Smiles

Folkmanis’ Elephant and Hippo Puppets with their proud new owners – Kenyan school children

Elaine’s tips for animating a puppet:

1. Stand in front of a mirror – this will help you to gauge your movements and make connections until you achieve the results you’re happy with.

2. Try different emotions: curiosity works well with most animals; as does shyness, eagerness, sleepiness, and excitement.

3. Always keep your fingers deep in the muzzle, nose or mouth of the puppet as much as possible to get the best control out of the expressions.

4. If your puppet has a tail, use your free hand to give it a wag or swish – another way to give believability to your illusion!

 

trust

Puppet play and autism

A Year Five teacher recently wrote to Folkmanis with this story:
“I have the privilege of teaching a wide range of students and this year I had several students with autism. In August, when one student arrived, I was told that he wouldn’t write and he only mumbled when he spoke. This student made great progress through the year and, in May, asked if he could present a puppet show. I told him that it would be amazing if he did, but he just needed to tell a story. A few days later, he arrived with four Folkmanis Puppets — an owl, chipmunk, mouse and packrat. He had a four-page written script that he had memorised and has presented two different shows over the past few weeks about bullying and good manners. It was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes! If I could, I would buy this boy your whole collection! What a difference your puppets made! Thanks, from a teacher’s heart, for helping a boy with autism find his voice!

Elaine Kollias says the folk at Folkmanis hear these amazing stories practically every day: “We’re in contact with several autism spectrum specialists, therapists and teachers throughout our country [United States]. The thing that they all have in common is to witness autistic children open-up, engage and communicate — some for the very first time. In speaking with these experts, we get the sense that puppets aren’t threatening or confrontational, like people can be, so it makes it easier for the child to connect with an inanimate object that seems to be alive.

“We cherish many stories of an autistic child finally speaking their first words to our puppets. When we hear of a child making a breakthrough like that, we think that our work is more important than just creating a plaything — that puppets are forces capable of changing lives. This makes us proud.”

 

See Entropy’s complete range of Folkmanis Puppets.

An Entropy Elf in London…

Reading our blogs lately, you could be forgiven for thinking that we Elves jetset all over the world! We recently farewelled our lovely Elf Gab as she headed to the UK for some travel. However, being a true Elf through-and-through; Gabs couldn’t resist a report from the Sylvanian Families wonderland…

Sylvanian Families

Step through the tiny door…

I haven’t even been gone a week, and I’m already checking in (with good cause though)!

Naturally, I had a search for toy stores in the London area, just to check out the competition, you know; but what I found was far more magical…

The magical world of Sylvania

Armed with six layers of clothing and an (extra) pair of ears, I ventured to Arsenal, which was much quieter than the bustle of Oxford Street. Following my map closely, I finally came across the white and green striped awning of the Sylvanian Families Shop.

Elf Gaby outside Sylvanian Shop

So I donned my elf ears and snapped a quick ‘selfie’ (we would like to interrupt Gab’s story here to ask if that’s meant to be an ‘elfie’?). It was NOT the best I have ever produced, but it’s hard lifting your arms with all those clothes!!!

Sylvanian heaven!

Once I entered, it was floor to ceiling of the little critters! Everything you could imagine was there (and quite literally — I spoke to the shop manager and he informed me they have everything that is currently in production!). They had all the different types of boxes from all around the world, and Australia is the only place that uses the signature blue packaging that was originally designed for British stores!

Sylvanian Families Corgis

After dragging myself out of there, I made it over to Hemley’s Toy Store. It’s only eight floors, but I had to get a hot chocolate to keep my stamina up! A note for my Elves back home – the sky’s the limit!

I’ve also popped a little something special in the mail, just so I can keep in touch with all the Sylvanians back home! ;)

Love to you all,

Elf Gab x

Check out the range of Sylvanian Families we have at Entropy.