Urban Toy Show

Earlier this month I attended my first Urban Toy Collectors Show and Sale in Pasadena. I was looking forward to finally talking to people who might be able to educate me on the whole urban toy phenomenon. (I have since received my copy of Vinyl Will Kill and hope to become more enlightened soon) Imagine my disappointment when, after hiking around a labyrinth of elevators and parking structures (tersely redirected by Chinese entrepreneurs having a convention in the same building) the show amounted to a mere six 8 ft. tables placed around a small room and sparsely covered with mostly toys by one manufacturer, Toy2R.

Slim though the pickings were, I got the feeling that I was seeing the beginning of something that will soon be bigger and more mainstream in the not too distant future. These are the first defectors from Comic-Con. The Blue Fairy has endowed these comic book/graphic novel figures with life, and they have run away, like Collodi’s Pinocchio.

From what I could gather, the word ‘toy’ in urban toy is kind of misleading. It is definitely more art than toy, although by the nature of materials and manufacturing (vinyl, plastic, and mass production) these objects could really serve as toys. (Although I don’t see someone paying $60 for a vinyl figure and then handing it over to a toddler to gnaw on – well, maybe $10.)

The coordinator of this show was a young Asian American woman who goes by the name “Mochi”. I was impressed by her knowledge of self-promotion. I think that’s why I expected so much of the show. The ads were professional and large and in all the local papers. Expecting that Mochi was a very savvy retailer, I asked her where her store was. As it turns out she is just a devoted fan of the Urban Toy Movement and organized the show to attract people to buy from and trade with.

Urban (or Designer)Toys are like a dimensional response to video/computer games. To me at least, there is still something missing. The future of toys lies somewhere between these two. There is a tactile quality that urban toys provide – the secret pocket companionship that is missing from the world of gaming. But the graphics reflect the same image world of computer and video games. There is a lot of violence and darkness here. And some of it seems to have form over substance – it looks cool but refers to nothing with which I can identify(is this user failure on my part?) Not that toys need to be Sanrio-cute to be ‘good’ toys – but much of what I saw lacked soul. The best of what I’ve seen in this genre is able to evoke a good hearty laugh or at least a smile. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of these toys…