The old saying, “everything old will be new again,” always holds true. But wooden toys? I have to admit I didn’t see that one coming.
One of the most popular attractions of going to San Diego Comic Con is a chance at grabbing the exclusive merchandise. Entertainment Earth – a popular online toy retailer – has turned exclusives into an art form and was offering more than 40 exclusive items at its booth on the exhibitor floor this year. Mixed in with those exclusives, which ranged from shot glasses to traditional action figures, was a wide assortment of toys made from wood.
As we toured the booth with product marketing specialist Samantha Ordoñez, it was hard not to notice how often she was mentioning which products were made of wood. “We want to offer something for everyone,” she said. That’s exactly they’re doing.
The Pin Mates line covers a wide range of properties from The Big Bang Theory to The Big Lebowski and everything in between. The main line consists of 2-inch figures that sport full 360 decorations, which means they’re painted on all sides from head-to-toe. And when I say ‘painted,’ I mean hand-painted. As in someone is sitting there and painting each and every one of these. “Except for things like iconic logos such as the chest patches on the Star Trek figures,” Ordoñez explained. “Those types of logos and symbols are so iconic that we do have to do those as decals, but everything else is hand painted.”
As someone who has followed toys for decades and been privy to the manufacturing side of things, everything she said set off cash register sounds in my head, driving the cost of these figures higher and higher. “The individual figures sell for $4.99,” said Ordoñez. Yes, they’re only 2-inches tall, but when you consider the materials, the work and the licensing involved in these products, that is a shockingly good price.
Things took an even more impressive turn when I was shown the first upcoming playset for the Pin Mates, which will be a recreation of the original Enterprise bridge for the Star Trek figures.
The Enterprise bridge playset will launch either in the fourth quarter of this year or early 2017. I was quick to ask and confirm, while the figures are hand painted, no, the control panels are not, saving the sanity of workers we’re sure.
Entertainment Earth has more wooden toys planned from nesting dolls to the stackable Tiki Tiki Totem line.
Entertainment Earth had many more exclusives – some of which you can see in the gallery below – but the inclusion of real wood into its products is an interesting turn in an industry dominated by plastic. This feels like a return to a more artistic version of toys and, while mass produced, there is something to the heft that makes these feel substantial and more permanent. Like you’re purchasing something that you can hand down to your children instead of something that may deteriorate in a few years in a landfill.
Will other companies follow this wooden lined path? Only time will tell.