By Jonathan Alexandratos
For 21 years, the Toy Association has been awarding “Toy of the Year” (TOTY) titles to a range of toys that were particularly popular and/or innovative in the previous year. I’ve been voting in the awards for the past several years, and it’s always fun to see which toys rise to the top. All proceeds from their awards program supports the charitable work of the Toy Foundation, adding an inspiring social component to the tradition.
This year, the award winners were, well, exactly what one might expect. Star Wars did quite well, thanks to their ability to shrink Yoda down into an adorable, huggable, little chicken nugget of blue-puking goodness. (Yes, yes, his name is Grogu, we know.) Star Wars: The Mandalorian won License of the Year, the animatronic Child toy from Hasbro won Innovative Toy of the Year, and the much-loved Child 11-inch plush won Plush Toy of the Year. In addition, LEGO’s Razor Crest won Construction Toy of the Year. This essentially means that, if you’re able to do anything with The Mandalorian, you’re making more credits than an asset-heavy Din Djarin.
In a nice nod to the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fisher-Price’s #ThankYouHeroes line won Action Figure of the Year. This line represented different essential workers through action figures that featured both updated looks and the more classic Little People sculpts.
Color Reveal Barbie won Doll of the Year, adding to Mattel’s domination of these awards. The Color Reveal Barbies come in a variety of sizes and packs, from accessories on up to fully-loaded Barbie dolls. While the blind-box-esque nature of the dolls piques consumer’s curiosity, this writer prefers to leave them encased in their original silver coating, thereby making an army of RoboBarbies that will soon conquer the toy room.
Continuing the unsurprising results, the Pokémon game Battle Academy won Game of the Year. With the card game celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the uptick in the property’s already-high interest is fairly expected. Plus, though Battle Academy is separate from the much-desired card game, it is fun to see kids (and adults) fighting to get a Pikachu again. It seems like only yesterday we were gathering in the cafeteria to see if anyone got a holographic Charizard. No one ever did, but one kid always swore he new a guy with, like, six of them. The more things change…
The rest of the award winners can be viewed here, which includes wins for both LEGO, as previously mentioned, and Playmobil, along with mainstay Crayola and evergreen favorite PAW Patrol. There are plenty of wonderful new toys on the way in 2021, but any of these winners are readily available now and will provide hours of fun for the special toy fan nearest you.