The following article was written with the assistance of Sarah Elizabeth Grace.  Many thanks for your help, Sarah!

Every year since 2008, we’ve been attending Toy Fair in New York City, in search of the latest Muppet, Sesame Street, and Henson toys to come out in the next year.  We spend an entire day walking up and down the aisles, our feet flattened with pain, utilizing our Sixth Sense to find anything with a frog collar or googly eyes or a baloobius.  And we do it all in the name of journalism.

This year was no different, with a good amount of Muppet merch to get us excited, but not nearly enough to satisfy our hopes or expectations, especially with a new Muppet movie coming out in just a few weeks.  That part is what bugs me the most, as I can’t figure out why Disney wouldn’t want to get as much Muppet stuff on shelves as possible.  As it is, kids (and grownups!) will go see Muppets Most Wanted, and then run to their local toy store or comic shop searching for new shelf porn or clever trinkets, and they’ll be forced to spend the money they almost gave to Disney on something like rent or groceries.

But I digress. There’s still a lot of cool Muppet and Sesame swag coming our way.  So let’s take a look at what we spotted at this year’s Toy Fair!

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The majority of Sesame Street’s upcoming merchandise was on display at the off-site Hasbro showroom.  Basically, that means we can see everything they’ve got in one room, rather than search an entire convention center for each piece.  Highlights included travel pillows, plush toys with “slap bracelets” in their arms, Elmo’s boat, and Cookie Monster’s submarine.  Wait, did I say “highlights”? Because there were lighter highlights than those.

sshasbroletspretendelmoThe new feature toy coming from Sesame Street is the Let’s Pretend Elmo.  This Elmo plays a series of games with your kid, and the game changes depending on which hat he’s wearing.  He has a crown, a captain’s hat, and a cowboy hat, and the games involve squeezing Elmo’s nose, tickling his tummy, and bouncing him up and down.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a plush toy quite so interactive, even though it’s a little strange to see Elmo wearing a crown and ordering children to do his bidding.  Did I say strange? I meant appropriate.  He’ll cost around $39.99, and he’ll be in stores this fall.

sshasbrosnuffyThe other gem we saw at the Sesame Street Hasbro showroom was this Snuffy plush.  It’s pretty much the biggest, softest, most accurate, most adorable Snuffy I’ve ever seen.  There’s no way I won’t be buying this for myself.  We were told that Snuffy will be “exclusive”, but they didn’t know to which stores he’ll be exclusive.  Wherever that may be, he’ll be available this fall.

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As we previously reported, our friends at Funko are releasing Swedish Chef and Sam the Eagle figures as an addition to the rest of the Funko Muppet crew.  We talked to a Funko representative, and they said that there aren’t any other Muppet figures on the horizon, so don’t expect any more Wacky Wobblers or cupcake-head toys for now.  But the two fine gentlemen above will be available very soon: As early as February 25th.

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Costume and novelty hat company Elope has a new line of Muppet headwear coming, but not until this August (just in time for Halloween, but too late for the new movie).  They’ve got Kermit and Animal face masks, Kermit and Piggy headbands with a pointed collar or pearls and snout, an assortment of Muppet eyes, and fluffy character headbands in the style of Animal, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear.  If nothing else, this should make for some quality ToughPigs Halloween Parade entries.

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Sesame Street plush toy manufacturer Gund always has a lot of monsters, birds, and counting vampires on display.  They don’t have much new this year, but that’s okay.  I mean, just look at that display.  Why can’t every toy store have that??

manhattantoy-fragglesManhattan Toy has been holding down the “Fraggle Rock merchandise” fort for too long now.  I’m not saying we need more Fraggle plush and puppets, as they do the job quite nicely.  But I’m saddened every year to see that they seem to be the only Fraggle Rock licensee.  And during the show’s big 35th anniversary, no less!  I’ll just have to drown my sorrows with that Junior Gorg plush, which I’m still surprised and elated to know it exists.

ty-kermitsTy, the company known for accidentally making the Beanie Baby a poor investment, has a new Kermit the Frog doll, in stores now.  He retails for about $10.99, and I recommend buying all of them that you see on a shelf like this, then jumping into them Uncle Scrooge-style.  Fun Fact: That’s how I got thrown out of Toy Fair this year!

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Our biggest surprise was the awesome display at the Madame Alexander booth.  In the past, they’ve had cutesy little girl toys holding tiny versions of the Muppet toys you wish you could buy.  For the first time ever, Madame Alexander is branching out and building puppets, starting with Kermit, Piggy, Animal, and Fozzie.  They’re also releasing plush of the same characters, all of which look pretty cute to me.  The Fozzie plush is particularly on-model (which is rare for him), and I dig Animal’s dreadlocked mane.  The puppets will cost around $25.95, and the dolls will run you about $19.95 each.  Sadly, these toys won’t be available until this fall, set to be released alongside the Muppets Most Wanted DVD.

disneystoreAfter the minor disappointment of Muppet merch at Toy Fair (by my count, that’s only four Muppet licensees at the entire fair… for shame, Disney), we stopped over to the Times Square Disney Store.  I needed to buy the new Rowlf doll (because: there is a new Rowlf doll… I mean, come on) and I was pleased to see a wall full of Muppets.  They’ve got plush dolls, t-shirts, journals, mini figures, mugs, and iPhone cases, and almost all of it is brand spankin’ new.  So maybe this is why there wasn’t much to see at Toy Fair. Could Disney be hoarding all the good stuff for their own stores?  There’s probably not much more than this, since the movie’s about a month away and that seems a bit late to be introducing new stuff to their shelves.  But hey, this is still a hell of a lot more than we had just four years ago.

Be sure to keep an eye out for all the new toys and merchandise seen above over the course of the next year, and let’s keep our fingers crossed for even more than that!

Click here to dive into a pool of Kermit dolls on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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