Toy Fair 2018 Round-Up

At the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center the floor has been swept, the banners pulled down, the garbage bags tossed in the dumpster and the doors have been locked. And as the dust motes settle to the ground we take a look back at what LEGO had to show at this year’s New York Toy Fair.

Even though LEGO issued a press statement last week there was a fair amount uncertainty over what Summer ’18 sets LEGO would be showing this year, and though everyone felt that the focus would be on their Solo offerings those members of the press who attended the LEGO previews breakfast weren’t treated to any surprises. You can bet there’s a few unhappy influencers who made the trip only to find that 85% of what was being displayed could be photographed on shelves in Toys “R” Us, Target, Walmart, et al.

Dave and Nick from Rebelscum were on the floor early on Saturday morning to get the first shots of what LEGO had to offer this yea. Only to discover that – with the exception of 75208 Yoda’s Hut, 75212 Kessel Run Millennium Falcon and 75537 Darth Maul buildable figure sets – LEGO went ahead with their decision to not exhibit Summer ’18 releases to the press.

This being the first official outing of 75208 Yoda’s Hut the crowd surrounding this set was like an open day at 10236 Charing Cross Rd, Los Angeles. Being good guests neither Dave nor Nick broke the “no touching” policy and so couldn’t get a glimpse at the back of the set which included a grotto, cocktail bar and a massage room. Just kidding.

The main play features of the set is focused on Luke’s training, with a number of scenes – but not including Yoda being a backpack while Luke runs – from The Empire Strikes Back recreated faithfully.

On the whole the set really works and screams “in a slimey mudhole in the swamp there lived a Jedi master.”

With official photos of the 75212 Kessel Run Millennium Falcon already shared to the press, the only pull to this solo Solo set was a chance to check out the interior and the removable pod.

Having only been seen in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, the bunk is a new addition to Han Solo’s ship. What looks like an adjoining kitchen unit adds to the domestic feel of the new interior. Maybe one day we’ll see a refresher?

The front of the ship has lost its characteristic mandibles, and infilling the gap is what we had assumed to be a cargo pod. From the reveal at Toy Fair we can see it is some kind of personal shuttle, though for what purpose and whom is a mystery that is sure to be explained.

The seating/gaming area has had the WayBackMachine treatment and the upholstery restored back to its original state, but judging from our photograph the sitting area was remodelled by Han when he realised it blocked access to the adjacent compartment.

Armed with a giant swizzel stick – which actually swizzles when the hidden dial is rotated – is the new 75537 Darth Maul buildable figure. There’s little to say about this set other than “how about Qui-Gon Jinn now?”

Also taking some time to share their supporting LEGO Star Wars products were old favourites Scholastic, IQ Hong Kong, DK and ClicTime Holdings, plus new kids Isaac Morris Ltd who will be producing a selection of LEGO Star Wars graffiti t-shirts and New York-based Handcraft Manufacturing and Fast Forward LLC who are making children’s character briefs and backpacks, respectively.

Check out the full photo gallery from our comprehensive New York Toy Fair coverage for all the pics.

Despite a poor Star Wars presentation, LEGO enjoyed the spotlight when they were awarded three accolades – two of which were for sets in their Star Wars line. In another press release they shared the news that their North American division “was honored with three Toy of the Year (T.OT.Y.) Awards. Building sets from LEGO Star Wars and the build and code toolkit, LEGO BOOST, were recognized as Toy of the Year in the Construction, Specialty and Tech categories, respectively” at the Toy Association’s annual gala the night before New York Toy Fair opened.

Considering the well-documented downturn in gloabl Star Wars toy sales, LEGO was notably pleased and declared that “Receiving two T.O.T.Y. Awards for LEGO Star Wars is a testament to the power of the Star Wars property brought to life in LEGO form for fans of all ages.”

Construction Toy of the Year: 75187 BB-8

This LEGO incarnation of the diminutive BB-8 droid from the new movie trilogy makes the perfect gift for any Star Wars or LEGO fan. Turn one wheel at the side to rotate the detailed head, and another to open the access hatch and extend the welding torch. This faithfully reproduced model also comes with a display stand, decorative fact plaque and small BB-8 figure, making it a great display piece for any bedroom or office. Contains 1,100 LEGO pieces. [Price: US$99.99]

Specialty Toy of the Year: 75192 UCS Millennium Falcon

The LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon is the largest and most detailed LEGO set ever made, containing 7,541 bricks and elements. This LEGO interpretation of Han Solo’s unforgettable Corellian freighter has all the details that Star Wars fans of any age could wish for, including intricate exterior detailing, upper and lower quad laser cannons, landing legs, lowering boarding ramp and a 4-minifigure cockpit with detachable canopy. The set also includes seven minifigures, a BB-8 droid, two buildable Porgs and a buildable Mynock. [Price: US$799.99]

The overall License of the Year award was given to Star Wars, a distinction which rings of self-congratulation following a year of poor sales.

And while licensees are downplaying the so-called “Star Wars fatigue” that toy manufacturers are putting down to bad timing caused by the release of a number of highly merchandised movie tie-ins, such as Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League, LEGO seems to be doubling-down on licensed themes.

Yet with the return of Jurassic Park to the Duplo, Junior and System lines and Harry Potter coming back on the scene it’s a wonder that LEGO, who have recently seen a change in management and the lay-off of over a thousand employees isn’t falling back on staple themes like Technic, Ninjago and City to shore up its beleagured sea defenses.

Compounding this is word that 75904 Hogwarts Great Hall is not a standalone set and will have a number of modular sets to accompany it. Additionally a couple of cutesy licenses were announced, with a Collectible Minifig series for Unikitty and a small range of sets for Powerpuff Girls means that LEGO is putting more of its eggs in the licensed basket.

Even core markets like Europe, where LEGO is often the top selling toy brand, has seen drops in sales. With a market share of 16.8% the 2.6% decline in Germany and 3.3% in Switzerland may seem negligible reports, but after a 13 year period that had steady sales increases the last two years has seen the company’s profits drop.

LEGO is looking to the East, a region which has “strong growth opportunities in growing markets such as China.” said Joergen Vig Knudstorp, chairman of the privately held company, to Business Insider just a few days after the release of the first wave of their The Last Jedi sets.

With sales in Europe and North America accounting for a staggering 75% of its revenue LEGO has to increase its brand value in untapped markets and to this intent, they have been developing partnerships and taking steps to protect their brand identity against copycat companies, as well as giving Merlin Entertainment approval to build a LEGOLAND park and Discovery Center there.

One can hope that the 60th year of the brick sees the uptick that LEGO needs but if this lacklustre New York Toy Fair is anything to go by the future isn’t awesome.

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