The Chicago Toy and Game Fair is a yearly event that takes place at the popular Chicago tourist attraction Navy Pier. I first learned about the fair a few years back when I was in the middle of actively pitching a reality show concept with a toy inventor who was involved with The Chicago Toy and Game Fair, also know as ChiTAG. ChiTAG has been around since 2003, bringing together “consumers, families, inventors, manufacturers, retailers, educators, hobbyists, and the media, at the start of the holiday season, to play, celebrate, discover, support, and promote the creation of toys and games.”
At its heart, this show is for independent game and toy creators who want to get their products and concepts into the hands of consumers. Unlike Toy Fair, which is more ‘look and don’t touch’, ChiTAG is ‘don’t just look, dig in and play’. The more approachable attitude of ChiTAG’s vendors, the fact that they want you to touch and interact with their game or toy, is one of the biggest things that draws it out from other toy shows. This show is heavily attended by families due to the affordable ticket prices and deals for boy and girl scouts.
Besides the fair, there are a number of other neat events that happen during ChiTAG. There’s the young inventors challenge, inventor conferences for new and established creators, PlayCHIC Fashion Show, and the Toy and Game Innovation Awards (the TAGIEs). In past years, this year included, ChiTAG also has hosted the Illinois State Yo-Yo Contest on their main stage in the fair’s exhibit hall.
I’d be lying if I said there were a lot of doll vendors there. 2016’s show wasn’t really attended by any besides one or two booths that had items that work with dolls. Even more so than in past years, this years fair was attended mostly by board and card game creators. There was a healthy amount of stem based learning companies displaying their wares, too. Below are just a few of the items that caught my eye at the show!
Snapeez are a plastic latching system that you can use to make doll clothes for your 18″ dolls (or smaller, if you’re creative)! They’re not just limited to doll sized accessories– you can make pretty much anything you’d like and there are plenty of kits to get you started! For dolls, you’ll want to check out the Mod Dress Kit, Wedding Gown Kit, the Metallic Party Dress Kit and the Doll Accessory Kit!
Magic MeeMees weren’t completely new to me prior to the show, but it was my first time seeing them in their finished look. They come in ‘play sets’ which are really just fancy displays. Magic MeeMees are supposed to represent the very, very tiny spaces in your refrigerator, holiday box, fruit bowl and other places like that. Magic MeeMees are plastic toys that talk to each other and share their emotions through their colorful belly marks. As their belly lights up (aka as they share their emotions with you), they turn in circles and vibrate. The MeeMees themselves are cute, but what I really like are the cute little play sets! You can’t move the pieces in the play sets, but they are really cute displays for these or other small dolls and toys! If you plan on buying a MeeMee for anyone this holiday season, I highly recommend buying a play set, an extra single MeeMee and a blind bag “food” item. The MeeMees are way more interesting when they can interact both with you and another MeeMee or blind bag “food” item!
PomPom Wow was a sponsor of ChiTAG. They had a huge PomPom tent/tunnel in their booth. Actually, I love the ease in which PomPom Wow’s pompoms work. It makes it very easy to add pizzazz to pretty much anything! We received a sample of pompoms at the show and even got to bling out our own little reporters notebooks. If you gift a starter pack to someone, I recommend picking up something for them to embellish, whether it’s a picture frame, room decor, notebooks, because it seems the starter kits don’t come with projects, just pompoms!
Play Monster, another sponsor, was there mostly promoting Roominate and My Fairy Garden, but also had on display Wonder Crew. Wonder Crew’s tag line is “Inspired by boys, made for all”. It looks like this line started on Kickstarter in 2015 and has been slowly getting into small, independent toy stores since. I know people are always on the look out for dolls that are ‘suitable’ for boys, so if you’re looking for something like that, you might want to give Wonder Crew a looksie!
As I mentioned, My Fairy Garden was on display at the show, as well. Now, I’m not in love with how plastic everything was in the sets on display, but I do love the concept! My Fairy Garden is an introduction to gardening for kids, but with a twist! While I would have preferred more natural elements to create the fairies world, I can see My Fairy Garden being a popular seller this Christmas!
Overall, the Fair is a fun way to spend the day. If they were to ask us what we might change for next year, it would be blogger outreach. They try really, really hard to get as many influences through the show as possible and plan activities to keep them engaged throughout the day. But, this year, the activities, mainly the long and involved social media scavenger hunt, was a miss for me! It involved using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, tagging companies, taking specific photos… It was way too much to do, while trying to check out the show and try to make connections with various vendors. That element fell flat on its face for me. I’m fine with a scavenger hunt, but let’s choose one social media app next time. Another thing that would have made this easier was for the scavenger hunt to be on an app itself, as opposed to having to read it all off and fill out an actual paper form. I felt like I needed six hands to do everything they wanted and at one point, had to stop, because it was super stressful.
Also, unlike last year, there was no indication of who might have brought samples for media who were attending. Let me disclaimer this– I don’t attend the show just for swag, but it’s nice, especially with toys and games of this nature, because 99% of the toys at the show are one’s I wouldn’t buy on my own. Two years ago, they handed us a bag of goodies; Last year, they gave us coupons to hand to booths. This year, they didn’t have any sort of indicator. It would be nice if next year, they give the vendors some sort of graphic to post on their booth, at the very least, to know they’re blogger friendly and might have freebies to give away for review. My mom and I very nearly missed the Magic MeeMees booth, which was quite generous! (You’ll be seeing them on my channel soon!)
That being said, I am grateful to the folks behind ChiTAG for the importance they put on influencers and online media. It makes for a fun filled day of play. For families, as well, ChiTAG is a great way to spend the weekend. I encourage those in the area to check it out!
I’ll leave you with this question: What toy or game has excited you the most this year? If you went to ChiTAG, what did you think? Share your thoughts below!
For a while now, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for Hunter Products Shibajuku Girls. They made their debut at Toy Fair 2016, though somehow in the chaos of it all, we missed them! Shibajuku Girls are the brainchild of Australian Madeleine Hunter. Those abroad have most likely seen these dolls, since they have been out for a while outside the US. Well, I’ve got good news for those Stateside–Shibajuku Girls have finally crossed the pond and landed exclusively at Toys R Us just in time for the holiday season!
Shibajuku Girls are themed around the cool, vibrant fashions seen in the Harajuku fashion district. The line features five dolls– Shizuka, Yoko, Namika, Suki and, the doll sent for review and featured in this post, Koe. Koe’s an animal lover, which is apparent in the mix matched patterns her outfit includes.
At 14″ tall, she’s bigger than most of the fashion doll lines lining toy store shelves now. Shibajuku Girls have articulated bodies, which include shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip and knee joints! Their heads have limited articulation, going only side to side, not up and down.
Shibajuku Girls are, to me, reminiscent of Pullip dolls. They have very similar body types. Where they deviate are their oversized heads. While Pullips have very round heads, Shibajuku Girls have longer, oval heads with no eye mech. Shibajuku Girls have flat, inset glass eyes. They look really interesting in person. I like them a lot, though I think they’ll be off-putting to some. Her eyes are large, clear and vibrant. Koe’s face has some pizzazz to it, silver sparkles placed above her eyes, but other than that, it is pretty natural and make up free.
Koe has a head of rooted blonde hair. The hair feels nice and soft to the touch. I must admit, I didn’t undo her awesome hoodie to see her part, but it looks like she’s rooted fine. There’s a lot of hair on her head! The strands fit comfortably in the hole in her hood, too, which is a plus!
Moving onto the outfit, this is where I have some concerns. Well, one main concern. Starting with the positives, I love the idea around the cool animal hoodie! It’s too cute. I would totally wear this. The animal print skirt and two toned socks work really well with the bright yellow on the animal hoodie. The small details, like the face and ears are done really well and are adorable.
However, I do have an issue with what is hidden, or rather not hidden under the hoodie. You would think they would pair this hoodie with some sort of undershirt, whether it’s a tank top, leotard, anything, really, but there’s nothing. Under the hoodie is literally nothing, no shirt. Now, this is where I really wish they’d thought ahead. Clearly, the hoodie is designed to be something that stays on, judging by the teeny, tiny zipper pull, but that isn’t how kids (or collectors) like to play these days.
We like to be able to customize and restyle our dolls and that is a little easier to do when they come with options, like, let’s say, an extra shirt under the cute hoodie. I understand that technically you can save money without crafting a tiny tank top for your doll, but it’s a little weird to me, since I consider a hoodie to be like a jacket and usually we wear things under jackets. But, maybe that’s just me?
Koe wears removable sneakers. They don’t help her stand on her own, but do look cute. I haven’t successfully gotten her to stand without leaning on something, but her body type isn’t one that lends itself to that sort of thing. She doesn’t come with a stand. What she does come with, though, are surprisingly high quality hair clips. The one’s that came with Koe are quite cute and could actually be worn on your own hair without anyone assuming you picked them off your doll.
Video Review Below!
Overall, I am really happy with Shibajuku Girls. I like their look and articulation. They probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I am a fan and look forward to seeing the line grow! To buy your own Shibajuku Girl, check out your local Toys R Us! (We found them shelved with the Monster High, near our local TRU’s Claires set up.) Do you own any Shibajuku Girls? What do you think of them? Share your thoughts on Shibajuku Girls in the comment area.
So, what’s she like? Her vinyl is softer than I expected. I like the feel of it! Rahel is articulated, to an extent. She has nice shoulder and hip joints that turn out in all directions. Her head has great articulation. It swivels in all directions, as well and holds poses.
What I really like about Rahel is her face! Just like the original launch, Rahel has glossy inset eyes. They look very pretty and are the feature I most like on the Hearts For Hearts Girls. Her face is natural with no make up.
Rahel has an awesome head of curly hair. It looks pretty neat and totally fits her face sculpt. I was happily surprised to see that the round afro wasn’t completely flat in the back when I de-boxed her. It kept its shape quite nicely!
She’s decked out in a bright, colorful outfit with a cool ‘V’ in the back. Her top is really a leotard that is covered with a long skirt. The skirt has a bit of velcro attaching it together, making both elements removable if you decided to redress her. I think the outfit looks great, especially on her dark skin.
Let’s not forget the jewelry. Rahel wears a cool necklace around her neck and has bracelets on both wrists. One wrist has two elastic bracelets (or hair bands, possibly), while the other has plastic ones. To me, they read more as bracelets, as this hair doesn’t need styling. She wears earrings, too!
There are plenty of accessories, quality accessories at that, that come with Hearts For Hearts Girls. Rahel came with a booklet explaining her story, printed on thicker paper than expected. It goes into her country, the life she lives and what she strives to change for the future. She also comes with a comb (which may not come in handy so much for this particular doll, but is welcome) and a kid sized friendship bracelet. All three extra’s are much higher quality than I expected. As we all know, this is where companies tend to slack a little on materials, but not MPA!
You can buy your own Hearts for Hearts Girl on Amazon. But wait– there’s a bit more to this review than usual! MPA, the masterminds behind the relaunch, have agreed to send one lucky winner their own Hearts For Hearts Girl Rahel!
This contest is for US and Canada readers only. To enter, fill out the google form. There’s a limited time to enter, because I want the winner to hopefully receive their prize before Christmas rolls around! To enter, you MUST ‘like’ Hearts For Hearts Girls on facebook. (You can earn bonus entries, too! See the form!) The winner will be contacted by e-mail. Now, fill out the form below and good luck!!!
The contest has ended.
So, what do you think of the relaunch of Hearts for Hearts Girls? Share your thoughts on that and Rahel in the comment area.
This doll was sent to me for a fair and honest review. All opinions stated are my own.
You’ll remember Doll Angel from my last post spotlighting the amazing Abnegation custom she did for me. Learn more about her in the video linked below!
I highly recommend giving it a watch, even if you’re more of a blog reader than a YouTube watcher. In the video, Doll Angel (aka Nicole) talks about her Pullip customizing journey, her favorite things about the hobby and gives a few tips for those who are looking to start customizing their own doll!
Since Doll Angel was awesome enough to shoot and edit this spotlight for the channel, I encourage you to leave her some kudo’s in the comment area here, on YouTube or via her sites, Flickr, Etsy or Dolly Market.
If you want to be in a Collector Spotlight post, let me know and I can give you details! Thanks for checking out Doll Angel’s story and don’t forget to send some kudo’s her way!
In 2013, I was an extra in the movie Divergent. Extra is the term used to describe background actors in film and TV. They’re the people walking across the street, sitting in a diner or working in the office behind the main characters of your favorite film and TV shows. It’s not a glamorous job, being an extra, but it makes for some interesting stories.
When I heard Divergent was casting background in the Chicagoland area, I decided to submit myself. I had applied to extra in other films, but rarely got called back, so I didn’t expect much. Much to my surprise, I got an e-mail relatively quickly from the background casting agency, confirming my availability to take part in the much hyped movie as an ‘Abnegation Woman‘.
There are some people who consider background work their full-time job. For me, participating as background for Divergent was purely for fun. I thought it would be a nice break from normal life. Besides that, the hours and pay for background work pretty much suck. Living wage, it offers not!
For me to warrant the travel and time off needed to do extra work, a film really has to call to me. With Divergent, it checked all the boxes needed to be ‘worth it’. Would I care to watch the finished film? Check. Would I get to work on an actual set built for a movie? Check. Would I be fit for a cool costume that I didn’t have to bring from home? Check.
All in all, I shot 10 days on Divergent as an Abnegation citizen, jumping between being an adult and a teen, though you’d never know it. I was on set for all the scenes that feature the Abnegation village, in the scene where the families are all heading towards the Choosing Ceremony and in the super wide shot where you see all the different groups of people walking around and getting supplies. In the finished film, you see me for a handful of seconds in only one scene. In the scene, I’m walking away from camera in the Abnegation village, so you don’t even see my face. That being said, it did make for a fun, out of the ordinary week and a half.
So, fast forward to PUDDLE 2016. I was playing around with the idea of immortalizing that moment in my life in doll form and the Pullip Make It Own kit seemed like a really simple way to do that. Essentially, I wanted to create a ‘mini me’ of sorts! Prior to PUDDLE, I had reached out to some Etsy sellers who passed on creating the custom’s outfit. At PUDDLE, Doll Angel had set up shop. I chatted with customizer Nicole and her mom about my idea and they seemed enthusiastic about trying to make my vision a reality. So, a few weeks after the convention, I shot off an e-mail. This beautiful doll below is the outcome.
Nicole created both the face up and outfit on the provided Make It Own kit. I knew the outfit would be complicated to create on such a small scale, however simple the design looks on the outside, which is why I’m amazed at how similar she was able to make the Pullip sized fashion!
Nicole was awesome enough to even make a backpack to represent the times when production thought I was hired as a teen and not an adult! (It was a running gag for me that I never knew if I was going to be a teen or an adult on set! If they called for both types of extra’s, I would just stand smack dab in the middle of the adults and the teens and see what happened.)
And the face up– it blows factory face ups out of the water. It has so much depth to it. I personally love the strong, in your face freckles this doll has. On the back of her head cap, there is a brilliantly drawn image of the original inspiration for this piece. Everything about this face up is so well done.
The wig is a Monique wig. Technically, the hair should be pulled into a bun, but I couldn’t find one with a bun attachment that was easy to get in a hurry! I’m fine with this wig, though, because it fits my current look.
How stunning is this face?! It’s natural, yet striking. (I wish I had an ounce of this talent when it comes to face ups!) The brown eyes Nicole created have more depth than you traditionally get with factory eyes, adding to this dolls lovely appearance.
I am extremely pleased with how this Abnegation Pullip turned out. From head to toe, she’s a perfect little ‘mini me’! If you’d like to see more of Doll Angel’s work or commission her to make an amazing Pullip for you, you can find her at the links below! I highly recommend working with her on a custom one day. She excels at natural dolls like this, as well as cool fantasy ones!
Doll Angel graciously put together a Collectors Spotlight for the site, which should be up before the year is over. Stay tuned for that! And in the meantime, what event in your life would you like to re-create in Pullip or doll form? What do you think of this custom? Do you have questions about shooting the film? Let me know it the comment area!