Under the Radar’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide Part 5: Toys | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, November 28th, 2021  

Under the Radar’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide Part 5: Toys

Fun Stuff for Kids From Mattel, LEGO, Playmobil, Hasbro, Warner Bros., Kidrobot, NECA, and More

Dec 14, 2020 Photography by Mark Redfern and Wendy Lynch Redfern Holiday Gift Guide 2020
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While 2020 has been a hard year for adults, it’s also been tough on the kids. Many have been stuck doing virtual learning since March, staring at their teacher and classmates on Zoom or Google Meet rather than interacting in person. Amazing teachers the world over are doing the best they can considering the circumstances, but few would argue that virtual learning is anything but a poor substitute for the in-person experience. In-person playdates were a no-go for a while and then had to be outdoors (which is harder as the weather turns colder) and sometimes with masks on. And kids are picking up on the anxiety their parents and other family members are feeling. In worst-case scenarios, some children have lost parents or loved ones to COVID-19. Just like some adults living now survived 9/11 or lived through the Kennedy assassination or various wars and recessions, this period of history will be one today’s kids reflect back on and tell their kids and grandkids about. While not all parents have the means to spoil their children this holiday season, if you do have the funds then go for it, our kids deserve it and earned it after this trying year. In part 5 of our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide we present some toy gifts for kids. You might be a parent or grandparent yourself or you may have nieces or nephews or younger siblings. Whatever the case, we hope you find something fun for the kid in your life. Also check out part 4 of our Holiday Gift Guide, which centered on collectibles, some of which might also be good for kids (and a handful, but not all, of the kid-friendly collectible entries are also reprinted below).

Also check out the other parts of our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Part 1 on video games, Part 2 on drinking, and Part 3 on table top and board games.

Wonder Woman 1984 Mystery Minis (Funko)

RRP: $7.00 Each

Wonder Woman 1984 is finally coming out on Christmas Day. Once upon a time it was going to be a fall 2019 release, before it settled on a June 5, 2020 release date. That was of course delayed due to the coronavirus, first to October 2 and then to December 25. And now it’s also coming out on HBO Max at the same time as it’s in theaters, something Warner Bros. also now plan to do with all their 2021 releases (which is a controversial move within the film industry). One challenge with all of 2020’s movies being pushed back is that in some cases the merchandise was already produced and released. Case in point, Funko’s Wonder Woman 1984 Mystery Minis. Each blind-box includes a different mini little figure from the movie, featuring various versions of Wonder Woman, as well as Steve Trevor, and villains Cheetah and Maxwell Lord. Included are three figures of Wonder Woman in her new (and already iconic) winged gold armor costume. Early word is that Wonder Woman 1984 is worth the wait and if so you can celebrate with a Mystery Mini on release day. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Wonder Woman 1984 Barbie Signature Dolls (Mattel)

RRP: $80.00

One of the big mysteries of Wonder Woman 1984 is how Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine) returns. The film takes place 66 years after the World War I set Wonder Woman. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) is a god of sorts and ages much more slowly than mere mortals. But even if Trevor had somehow survived the tragic events at the end of the first movie, he’d be in his 90s or even 100 by 1984 and yet in the trailers he hasn’t aged at all.

All will be revealed on Christmas Day, but based on the trailers it seems that they reconnect at a formal party in Washington, D.C., with Diana in a beautiful white dress and Steve in a more casual tracksuit. Mattel has produced two stunning dolls as part of their Barbie Signature collection that feature Diana and Steve in this romantic moment. Diana’s gala gown features as wrap around tie detail at the waist. Steve’s black tracksuit is accompanied by an ’80s appropriate fanny pack. The package comes with a doll stand if a collector wants to display them or you can gift them to a young girl or boy who is a Wonder Woman fan. Bill Greening designed the dolls and has experience designing impressive superhero Barbies, including previous Wonder Woman ones and ones featuring fellow DC Comics heroes Batman, Superman, and Mera. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Wonder Woman 1984 Golden Armor Doll (Mattel)

RRP: $29.99

One of the big reveals at the end of the Wonder Woman 1984 trailer was Wonder Woman’s new golden armor costume. It features wings and a helmet and is glorious to behold. Even though she hasn’t seen the movie yet, just based on the many times we’ve watched the trailer together my 7-year-old daughter was Wonder Woman in the golden armor for Halloween this year. We’ll have to wait until the film’s release on Christmas Day to find out how she gets the armor and for how long she wears it, but in the meantime Mattel has this impressive looking Barbie-sized Golden Armor Doll. Not only does it faithfully recreate the look from the film, her whole torso and chest area lights up. My daughter is going to be over the moon when she gets one on Christmas Day. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Wonder Woman 1984 Battle-Ready Doll (Mattel)

RRP: $14.99

If you’d prefer Wonder Woman in her more regular costume, then there’s the Battle-Ready Doll. It’s got her bullet-repelling bracelets, her tiara, and of course her iconic magic lasso. Also available are dolls for Barbara Minerva (who becomes Cheetah and is played by Kristen Wiig), Barbara in full on Cheetah mode, and Diana in her white gala gown. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Wonder Woman 1984 – Wonder Woman vs Cheetah (LEGO)

RRP: $39.99

One of the coolest LEGO sets of the year is also tied into Wonder Woman 1984. When it was released earlier this year it gave fans a sneak peak at Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah and perhaps the location of the film’s climax. Wonder Woman is in her already iconic gold armor. The 371-piece set is some sort of jungle satellite station or TV studio. Also included is the film’s other villain, Maxwell Lord. Lord is played by Pedro Pascal and it will be nice to see his face on screen again, after two seasons of watching him hidden by a helmet as the star of The Mandalorian. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

The Iron Giant Light & Sound Walking Robot Toy (Warner Bros./Goldlok)

RRP: $19.87

The Iron Giant was perhaps ill-timed when it was released in 1999. A traditionally animated film set in the 1950s was maybe not what family audiences were looking for in the aftermath of Pixar’s first computer animated hits with Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and A Bug’s Life. The marketing campaign for the film was also reportedly botched, leading it to only earn $31 million worldwide, way below its $50 million budget. Still, the film was acclaimed by critics and is regarded as an animated classic today, even if it remains under-seen by general audiences. It was Brad Bird’s first film as a director, but he went on to greater success with the two Incredibles movies, Ratatouille, and his first live action film, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

While a lack of promotional tie-ins has been one of the reasons cited for The Iron Giant’s box office failure, there’s no shortage of merchandise available now. Case in point, Goldlok’s The Iron Giant Light & Sound Walking Robot Toy, which is available exclusively from Walmart. The 15-inch motorized toy actually walks across the room, thanks to two wheels on the bottom of each foot. While is marches, it is accompanied by walking sound effects and The Iron Giant intermittently saying “I am Superman” (a line from the climax of the film) while its eyes light up green. Open up its chest and push the button there to put it into war mode, in which the chest lights up, its eyes light up red, and there are additional sound effects. There’s also a Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet version. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Ghostbusters Plasma Series Action Figures (Hasbro)

RRP: $19.99 Each

Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the fourth Ghostbusters film, was supposed to come out this past summer, but like most of 2020’s blockbusters it has been pushed back to next year. Unlike 2016’s all-female reboot (also simply titled Ghostbusters), Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a direct sequel to the first two films from the 1980s. Little is known about how much the original Ghostbusters actors are featured in the new movie, but Bill Murray (Peter Venkman), Dan Aykroyd (Ray Stantz), Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore), Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett), and Annie Potts (Janine Melnitz) are all in the film in some capacity. Alas Harold Ramis passed away in 2014 and Rick Moranis only very recently came out of retirement and so isn’t in it (although with the release date delay, maybe they could now get him for an end credits scene).

2016’s Ghostbusters is a bit underrated in my opinion. It’s at least probably better than 1989’s Ghostbusters 2. And for all the complaints about the gender-swamped leads, I can attest that the film did make a positive impact on some girls and young women (it’s my second grade daughter’s favorite of the franchise). Still no Ghostbusters movie, cartoon, or video game can hold a candle to 1984’s original. Hasbro has put out a great line of action figures featuring most of the original Ghostbusters, including Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddemore, Dana Barrett, and Gozer. Each figure includes a different part of a Terror Dog figure, buy them all to build the figure. By Mark Redfern (Buy Peter Venkman here. Buy Ray Stantz here. Buy Egon Spengler here. Buy Winston Zeddemore here. Buy Dana Barrett here. Buy Gozer here.)

The Real Ghostbusters Kenner Classics Action Figures (Hasbro)

RRP: $14.99 Each

Confusingly, in 1986 two Ghostbusters cartoons debuted. One was simply titled Ghostbusters (later renamed Filmation’s Ghostbusters) and was based on the somewhat obscure 1975 live action sitcom The Ghost Busters (which only lasted one 15-episode season). The animated series was more successful and ran for 65 episodes in 1986 and spawned toys and comic books. But of course it had nothing to do with the 1984 hit movie from Columbia Pictures, also titled Ghosterbusters. Hence when Columbia and DIC went to make a cartoon based on the movie they had to title it The Real Ghostbusters to avoid any confusion with the Filmation cartoon. The Real Ghostbusters was far more successful, running for seven seasons over the course of five years. None of the actors from the film provide any of the voices on the show, but there were some notable voice actors, including Arsenio Hall as Winston Zeddemore in the first three seasons, Dave Coulier (Full House) as Peter Venkman the last four seasons, and Frank Welker (Scooby Doo, Transformers) as Ray Stantz, Slimer, and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Kenner was one of the best toy companies of the era, famed for producing Star Wars action figures and their Super Powers Collection featuring DC Comics characters. Kenner was eventually bought by Hasbro in 1991 and fully folded into the company in 2000. Before all that, Kenner produced a range of Real Ghostbusters action figures, which Hasbro has now essentially reissued. There are figures for all four main Ghostbusters—Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddemore—as well as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and Slimer. Each of the Ghostbusters comes with a proton pack and a ghost to fight. This gift would certainly appeal to Gen Xers or Millennials who grew up with the show and originally had the toys, but there are also young kids who have been exposed to Ghostbusters and The Real Ghostbusters by their parents. By Mark Redfern (Buy Peter Venkman here. Buy Ray Stantz here. Buy Egon Spengler here. Buy Winston Zeddemore here. Buy Slimer here. Buy Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man here.)

Transformers Bumblebee Cyberverse Adventures Battle Call Officer Optimus Prime and Transformers Bumblebee Cyberverse Adventures Battle Call Officer Class Bumblebee (Hasbro)

RRP: $49.99 Each

One of the last big public events I attended before the pandemic truly took hold was a Comic-Con in Richmond, VA in early March. And one of the highlights was a panel featuring voice actors Frank Welker and Peter Cullen talking about their work on the original 1980s Transformers series and doing the voices in person, with Welker performing as the villainous Megatron and Cullen recreating his Optimus Prime voice as they redid a scene from the show’s very first episode. It was surreal and somewhat mind-blowing to hear the iconic robot voices coming out of the mouths of two unassuming men in their 70s.

There have been many different Transformers cartoons and movies since the original, with the most recent film, 2018’s Bumblebee, arguably the best in the franchise. One of the most recent shows has been Transformers: Cyberverse, which ran on Cartoon Network for the last two years. For this year’s third season the show was renamed Transformers: Bumblebee Cyberverse Adventures, which makes sense as Bumblebee is one of the central characters, with the Autobot having lost his memories and requiring the help of fellow Autobot Windblade in recovering them. And since the original TV series was based on the Transformers toy line that predated the show, it makes sense that there are new toys connected to Transformers: Bumblebee Cyberverse Adventures. Hasbro sent us two of them, one for Optimus Prime and one for Bumblebee. Both are 10-inch tall Battle Call toys, meaning that not only do they turn from robots into vehicles, they are voice activated. Part of their armor flips out with sound effects when voice activated, and they can give commands to other figures as well, making these toys more than just robots in disguise, more than meets the eye. By Mark Redfern (Buy Optimus Prime here. Buy Bumblebee here.)

Back to the Future Ultimate Marty McFly 7-Inch Scale Collectible Figure (NECA/Fun.com)

RRP: $29.99

When I was a kid Back to the Future was my all-time favorite movie. I’m going to age myself by saying that I saw it three times in the theater when it came out in the summer of 1985 and also devoured the two sequels. Thirty-five years later it remains my favorite, perhaps tied with Blade Runner (which came out three years earlier, but which I saw when I was a bit older). In the 1980s there were no Back to the Future action figures, or even really any toys. In fact, it’s surprising that it’s taken 35 years for deluxe action figures to be made of the characters. Now NECA has finally stepped up to the plate with various figures from the beloved movie. There have been several smaller Back to the Future figures before, but none as realistic or as big as these. First up is Marty McFly, the time traveling teenaged hero, as he looked in the first movie. He comes with various accessories: a second head with sunglasses on, a backpack, a skateboard (to ride behind cars on), a video camera, three interchangeable hands, and an electric guitar (to accidentally invent rock ‘n’ roll with). Fun.com sent us the Marty figure from Part 1. By Mark Redfern (Buy it from Fun.com here.)

Back to the Future Part II Ultimate Marty McFly 7-Inch Scale Collectible Figure (NECA)

RRP: $29.99

Four and a half years after the first film, audiences were treated to Back to the Future Part II, which took place in the far off future of 2015. Writer/producer Bob Gale and writer/director Robert Zemeckis didn’t initially count on a sequel happening when they wrote the ending of the first movie, which set up a trip to the future. That left them locked into a visit to a world of flying cars, even though they knew we likely wouldn’t have flying cars (or true hoverboards) by 2015. Gale and Zemeckis weren’t really trying to predict the future (no, we don’t all have fax machines in every room and the latest fashion is not to wear your pockets inside out or to wear two neckties at once), they just wanted to make a fun movie. Still, they did get a few things right, such as wall mounted flat screen/widescreen TVs and the Chicago Cubs finally winning the World Series again (although it actually happened in 2016 and against the Cleveland Indians, rather than a team from Miami).

One of the highlights from NECA’s Back to the Future line is an action figure of Marty McFly in his 2015 garb. He’s got his self-drying jacket and Nikes with power laces. And yes, his jeans pockets are inside out. The figure comes with two heads (one with the shiny baseball cap), a Pepsi Perfect, and, of course, a hoverboard. It also comes with a clear plastic stand you can place the hoverboard and Marty on to make it look like he’s really hovering, which is a mild consolation for those who still long for actual hoverboards to be real. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Back to the Future Ultimate Biff 7-Inch Scale Collectible Figure (NECA)

RRP: $29.99

What’s a hero without a compelling villain, and Marty and Doc had a great one in Biff Tannen (played by Thomas F. Wilson). In Back to the Future Part II, old Biff secretly stole the DeLorean and went back in 1955 to give his younger self a sports almanac with 50 years worth of sports statistics. That led to an alternate 1985, where Biff controls the town of Hill Valley, has turned the courthouse into a tall casino and hotel, and Marty’s dad has been murdered. Co-writer/producer Bob Gale has confirmed that the alternate 1985 version of Biff was inspired by Donald Trump, which led to various Trump as Biff memes when he lost the election in November.

NECA’s Back to the Future range includes 1955 Biff from Back to the Future Part II. And yes he comes with a Grays Sports Almanac (which is also the artwork for the front of the action figure’s box), as well as a second head, three interchangeable hands, a receipt for when Biff had his car fixed after ramming a manure truck, and a mini flyer for the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. A copy of Ooh La La magazine is also hidden. NECA’s line also includes action figures for Doc Brown and Marty in the yellow radiation suit, as well as separate figures based on the designs for Back to the Future: The Animated Series. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Back to the Future Marty McFly Phunny Plush, Back to the Future Doc Brown Phunny Plush, and Back to the Future 11” DeLorean Time Machine Plush (Kidrobot)

RRP: $12.99 Each for Marty and Doc, $14.99 for DeLorean

Great Scott! Has it really been 35 years since Back to the Future hit theaters, becoming the biggest box office success of 1985 and turning Michael J. Fox into a movie star (he was already a TV star thanks to Family Ties)? It’s enough to make anyone who saw it in the theater on its original run feel really old. If only we had a real time machine, so that we could revisit our youth. Kidrobot’s Phunny Plush line now includes three Back to the Future items. There’s teenaged time traveler Marty McFly, clad in his 1985 outfit from the first movie and wearing headphones. Alternatively, you’ve got Doc Brown, with the silver-haired scientist wearing his white science coat from the Twin Pines Mall (later Lone Pine Mall) parking lot scene in Part 1. Also available is the silver and black DeLorean time machine. By Mark Redfern (Buy Marty McFly here. Buy Doc Brown here. By the DeLorean here.)

Back to the Future DeLorean (Playmobil)

RRP: $49.99

Playmobil have really stepped up their game in recent years, leaning into putting out more sets based on well-known films or TV shows, such as their Ghostbusters toys. Hans Beck created the German toy-line in 1974 and when I was a kid partially growing up in England it always felt like an alternative to LEGO, even though the two toys are quite different. Playmobil vehicles do require some assembly, but not from hundreds of little bricks, and mini-figures are much larger in Playmobil than in LEGO. Both companies are from Europe, but Playmobil has definitely always felt more popular across the Atlantic than in America, whereas LEGO is huge with many kids I know. But if Playmobil keeps putting out sets like the ones they sent us, they might see their market share grow.

The jewel in the company’s 2020 crown is their DeLorean from Back to the Future. It looks very faithful to the movie and comes with both Marty McFly and Doc Brown figures, as well as one for Einstein the dog. Accessories include a skateboard, a video camera, the pole Doc puts in the top of the car to collect the lightning from the clock tower (1.21 gigawatts!), a yellow plutonium case and some plutonium, and more. Also, the wheels can fold underneath the car if you want to convert it to 2015 flying mode. As Doc Brown puts it, “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Indeed. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Back to the Future Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown (Playmobil)

RRP: $7.99

Also available from Playmobil are separate Marty McFly and Doc Brown figures, but wearing different clothes than the ones in the DeLorean set. Marty is dressed in a suit and comes with an electric guitar, ready to perform at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance to help his parents kiss for the first time. Doc is his 1955 self and comes with the “Save the Clock Tower” flyer from 1985 that helps them know when lightning will strike the tower. These figures could make a nice accompaniment to the DeLorean or could be a stocking stuffer on their own. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Scooby-Doo! Mystery Machine (Playmobil)

RRP: $49.99

If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s, chances are you watched and loved Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! or one of its follow-up series. The semi-anthropomorphic Great Dane and his mystery solving teenage friends haven’t faired quite so well on the big screen, with the two live action films in the early 2000s being poorly received by critics, with 2004’s Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed even winning the Razzie Award for Worst Remake or Sequel. This was despite both films being written by James Gunn, who would later win acclaim for writing and directing the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. A third Scooby-Doo live action film due to be written and directed by Gunn never materialized. Since then there have been plenty of straight-to-DVD and TV films, both live action and theatrical, including 2018’s live action spin-off/prequel Daphne & Velma and 2018’s amusing Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This year Scooby-Doo and gang finally returned to the big screen in Scoob!, except they didn’t exactly. The film’s planned May release was fouled up by COVID-19 and so in the U.S. the film was released on-demand instead (and later on Blu-ray/DVD and HBO Max), although it did screen in theaters in some other countries. Scoob is a computer animated film that tells the story of how Scooby-Doo and Shaggy met and how they met the rest of the crime-solving team (Fred, Daphne, and Velma), but also shows them as a fully fledged team and features other Hanna-Barbera characters such as Dynomutt, Blue Falcon, Dick Dastardly and Muttley, and Captain Caveman. Scoob got decent reviews and I can attest that my seven-year-old daughter liked it.

Playmobil have a series of Scooby-Doo toys that are more connected to the original TV show rather than Scoob. The highlight is obviously the Mystery Machine, the iconic van the characters travel the country in. It comes with Fred, Velma, and Daphne figures, as well as various accessories, including a flashlight and magnifying glass, as well as various food items, such as a hot dog, donut, and slice of pizza (Scooby and Shaggy do like to eat, a lot). The whole thing is faithful to the show and looks great. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Scooby-Doo! Scooby and Shaggy with Ghost (Playmobil)

RRP: $12.99

Since the Mystery Machine set doesn’t include Scooby and Shaggy figures, you may want to buy them separately. They come with a ghost, which in true Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! can be revealed to just be a regular person pretending to be supernatural (“And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those darn kids!”). Various other Scooby-Doo Playmobil sets are available too, including Adventure in the Mystery Mansion, Adventure in the Cemetery, and Adventure in the Egypt. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Go Go Bird (Zing)

RRP: $49.99

My cat loves to chase and catch birds (we have rescued a few he’s brought into the house). Will he be fooled by the Go Go Bird? It is a remote control flying bird that flies like a real bird, complete with flapping wings. It can be controlled from up to 200 feet away and has infrared collision technology, to avoid running into real birds. The remote control is easy to use and the lithium battery is rechargeable. It’s kind of like bird meets drone. Go Go Bird is available in various colors, including red and green. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel Travel Set (BRIO)

RRP: $179.99

Train sets may be among the most classic holiday toys ever produced—in fact, toy trains have been part of many a child’s playtime since at least as early as the 1860s. Founded in Sweden in the late 1800s as a producer of wooden baskets, BRIO have been in the toy business since 1907 and long famous for their iconic (and highly durable) wood toys. Wooden trains and track have been part of the BRIO catalog for much of that history, and chances are good that you’ve played with one of their sets before; or, perhaps even one of your parents did, when they were kids.

Their new Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel Travel Set combines the classic design of BRIO train that’s been around forever, with some modern touches. The engine comes packed with their Smart Tech Sound, which—with the help of AAA batteries—allows it respond to certain pieces of track with things like motions, whistles, and lights. These can also be controlled through an app, using pre-recorded sounds, or your children can record their own with the press of a button. Both old-fashioned and modern, this 37-piece set is one your kid can grow with or expand upon in the future. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Gluten- and Allergen-free Baking Kits (Little GF Chefs)

RRP: Around $35

Most of us have found ourselves having more time at home with the kids, whether it’s because we’re working from home, they’re learning remotely, or a combination of both. Activities that get them out from in front of the TV and engaged in something else are always welcome—and what’s more enticing than cookies? The baking kits assembled by Little GF Chefs will go a long way in helping you lure your kids into the kitchen—not to ask for a snack, but to bake their own treats and perhaps spark a love for baking. The options range from pretzel bites to cookies glazed and decorated to look like mermaid tails. (All options are gluten- and allergen-free, so you can feel completely safe with them sharing their results.) Whether the end product looks like something from Bake Off or Nailed It will depend on the age of your child, and perhaps your patience as a parent! By Austin Trunick (Buy them here.)

Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story Andy’s Toy Chest - Retro Core Figure 4-Pack (Mattel)

RRP: $29.99

Twenty-five years on, the Toy Story series is still going strong—it’s amazing to think that a series so many of us saw in theaters as kids has stuck around to entertain our own children. (It’s even more amazing to think that the quality somehow hasn’t dipped one bit, even after a quarter-century.) This figure bundle gathers Buzz, Woody, and Slinky Dog together into one package, making it a nice collection of main characters, plus the Viewmaster-like Lenny, who hasn’t been released as a toy until this point. With high articulation and pose-ability, it’s pretty believable that these particular toys might come to life and get into hijinks whenever you leave the room. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Kids’ Training Bow and Arrow (Bullseye Bow)

RRP: $29.99

Now, here’s a gift idea that’s going to take the right kind of parent—and, if you didn’t scroll on as soon as you read what it was, that just might be you. Archery is a sport, and it’s one that a child could learn and practice with just the help of a parent, which is especially nice during a pandemic, when team sports can’t be counted upon to give children an athletic outlet. The Bullseye Bow is a legitimate training bow and a great way for kids to get a (safe) start into the world of archery. Round, foam tips on the flexible arrows are there to give parents peace of mind during target practice. If archery is a sport your child has shown interest in, one of these might be the coolest gift they’ll find under the tree—whether they fancy themselves Robin Hood, Green Arrow, Hawkeye, or Katniss Everdeen. (Back in my day, it was Rambo.) By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Disney and Pixar’s Cars Rust-eze Double-Circuit Speedway (Mattel)

RRP: $49.99

The Double-Circuit Speedway includes everything a kid will need out of the box to start racing their favorite Cars characters. With a motorized booster, the lower track can be used for practice laps, while a ramp can be added that launches Lightning McQueen over a gap and drifting through a wide curve. Other cars and track pieces can be purchased separately. That makes this a great starter racetrack for a younger crowd, or an action-packed, high-speed gift for a little Cars fan. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

B3 Blitz Bean Bag and Ping Pong Ball Toss Game (B3)

RRP: $29.99

We have a long winter ahead of us, and one in which we’ll be spending more time than ever before in our own homes. B3 Blitz is a fun, family-ready game a lot like corn hole or other barbecue-season favorites, but can be played in the comfort of your living room without the danger of destroying any furniture. The option to switch objects being tossed, increase or decrease your distance from the tower, or re-orient the buckets means you can easily scale the difficulty up and down. (And hey, mom and dad—there’s no rule that you can’t turn this into some sort of drinking game after the kids go to bed.) By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Ghost Spider Spider-Gwen Phunny Plush (Kidrobot)

RRP: $12.99

Spider-Gwen goes by various names, including Ghost-Spider and Spider-Woman, but her real name is Gwen Stacy. In the original 1960s Spider-Man comics, Gwen was Peter Parker’s girlfriend who was tragically murdered by the Green Goblin in 1973’s The Amazing Spider-Man #121. But the modern Gwen comes from an alternate universe and was introduced in 2014’s Edge of Spider-Verse #2. Gwen is the drummer in a high school band called The Mary Janes, but is also the costumed hero Spider-Woman. In her universe it is Peter Parker who dies (he’s not Spider-Man, but instead becomes the Lizard). In the acclaimed Oscar-wining animated movie from 2018, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, she was voiced by Hailee Steinfeld and the character has also appeared in various animated series, video games, and TV specials (including the Marvel Rising series). Steinfeld will be back in the 2022 sequel to Into the Spider-Verse, with a female-centered spin-off revolving around the character also planned. With her stylish hooded costume and rock drummer side-gig, Spider-Gwen is one of cooler Marvel characters of late.

As part of Kidrobot’s Phunny Plush line they have one of Gwen, in her costume, but mask-less with a black headband on. This cute little stuffie will make a great addition to my daughter’s bed, as she’s currently her favorite superhero. Check out many more Kidrobot items in our Collectibles Gift Guide. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Disney Princess Vívofit Jr. 3 (Garmin)

RRP: $79.99

You’re never too young to embrace good fitness habits. Of course for most kids it’s easy to get outside and run around with their friends. It’s when we become adults that it becomes more challenging to find the time to get exercise. Garmin’s fitness trackers help many adults stick to it and with the Vívofit Jr. 3 kids can get in on the fun too. Their Disney Princess line is themed to different characters (the one we were sent featured Ariel from The Little Mermaid). When paired with the app, the fitness watch also unlocks games and adventures. It can even help with tracking and rewarding chores being completed. The Vívofit Jr. 3 also has a useful “In Case of Emergency” widget that contains emergency contact information in case your child gets lost. Other variations include Moana, Rapunzel, and Belle. There are also Marvel versions featuring Black Panther, Iron Man, and others. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

The #UpsideDownChallenge Game (Vango)

RRP: $19.99

The #UpsideDownChallenge Game is one of the more offbeat and just plain fun submissions for our toy gift guide this year. The concept is fairly simple: you wear especially made goggles that make the world appear upside down and then you have to complete simple tasks printed on the accompanying cards within the allotted time. Some cards give you 30 seconds to write words (such as “expert” or your name) or draw specific pictures (a house, a fish). Other tasks are more complex, such as high-fiving the person to your right within 10 seconds, pouring water from one cup to another without spilling too much within 10 seconds, and taking the cap off a marker and trying to put it back on within 15 seconds. All quite simple tasks under normal circumstances, but made surprisingly complicated when your perception is all out of whack and you’re looking at things the wrong way round. There are also blank cards where you can come up with your own challenges. The person who does each challenge the best and in the least amount of time gets the points for that round and the person who has the most points at the end of the game wins.

My wife and I tried this out with our 7-year-old daughter and both our moms (who are now staying with us during the pandemic) and there was much laughter to behold. In these socially distant times, you could buy one set for yourself and another for friends or family members elsewhere and all play together over Zoom. It’s recommended for two to six players aged eight and up. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

And that’s a wrap, but stay tuned for more gift guides featuring DVDs/Blu-rays, music reissues and box sets, books and graphic novels, and more.

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