Facts About the Hot Toys of the Last Decade

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With the holidays upon us again, many parent’s minds turn to gifts. What will the kids want this year? Each year, toy manufacturers dream of securing the coveted title of the most popular toy. In this post, we’ll look at the hot toys from the last decade.

Once the year’s hot toy is declared, parents rush to secure it, often resulting in demand exceeding supply. Soon, these toys are selling for outrageous sums on the secondary market. It’s all part of the now-traditional holiday craze.

For the prime example, who can forget 1996, the year Tickle Me Elmo hysteria was in the news? Demand for the red interactive Muppet was so intense it resulted in the trampling of a Fredericton Walmart employee. 

Before the incident, more than 300 people lined up outside the store for five hours. According to AP News, assistant manager Randy Hitchcock said he hadn’t “seen such a toy craze since the days of the Cabbage Patch Kids” from 1983. Meanwhile, desperate parents who couldn’t find Elmo paid ridiculous amounts of money to get one.

Humorously, a video showing Elmo with the fur reveals that underneath the hype was a kind of disturbing collection of plastic and various parts. Now, remember, this is what parents were willing to do anything to get their hands on.

Who wants to tickle this?

Nevertheless, every year since Elmo, Americans have come to expect a shortlist of the hot toys of the year. Now, let’s take a look at some of the top toys from the last decade. What will it be this year? Chances are, it’s not Elmo, but another famous brightly-colored animatronic creature.

2010: The iPad Takes Over

Apple iPad mini (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 64GB) - Space Gray (Latest Model)
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In 2010, the so-called hot toy of the year wasn’t a traditional toy at all. That year, Apple introduced a touchscreen tablet called the iPad. It was the late Steve Job’s last major innovation before his death the following year.

Ever since then, these hand-held devices have remained common in homes everywhere. However, the first iPad went obsolete fast after the 2nd generation came out in 2011. Today, Apple has released over 104 different models.

In 2010, Apple sold an astonishing 15 million iPads. It worked essentially like an oversize smartphone capable of playing games, movies, and around 140,000 apps. Since the screen was interactive, it paved the way for new video game experiences like playing air hockey with your finger.

However, the first iPad wasn’t a cheap toy. Interestingly, the apps were also rather expensive when the iPad first came out. Now, most are available for free on Mac or the iOs operating system.

See more about the iPad over the last decade from 91Tech:

2011: LeapPad Explorer

LeapFrog LeapPad Ultimate Ready for School Tablet, Green
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Following the iPad’s year, a niche quickly opened up for a touchscreen tablet made for kids. Thus, the company LeapFrog introduced the Explorer, durable enough to give to little kids age 4 to 9. By then, kids were readily using touchscreens and a stylus already!

Unlike the iPad, the Explorer was just the right size for tiny hands and much less costly to replace. Consequently, it was the perfect way to lure kids away from Mom and Dad’s iPad!

Indeed, they could make their own home movies using the camera and microphone. Today, these videos are like finding a time capsule back in time!

Furthermore, the LeapPad Explorer offered educational games, music, and books. Thus, less guilt for parents since these games helped kids learn for hours. Plus, you could use cartridges or download new apps.

See the 2011 LeapPad below from The Toy Spy:

2012: The Return of Furby

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By 2012, the LeapPad2 remained popular. Also, the Nintendo Wii U was hot, the first new game console from a major gaming industry company in six years. This hand-held gaming device sold more than 3 million units in 2012.

However, another iconic toy, first introduced in the fall of 1998, came back in 2012. It was the Furby, the strange talking interactive furry owl-like creature for age six and up. Furby was the first successful domestically-aimed robot. It also spoke its own language, Furbish, until it gradually learned to speak English.

Fourteen years later, the 2012 edition was a bit expensive for a toy that could irritate the daylights out of you. But, the new Furby had more personality, expressive LCD eyes, smartphone app compatibility, and less predictable behavior. 

Amazingly, Hasbro sold over 1.8 million Furbies in 1998 alone. In three years, over 40 million were sold. In 1998, Furby cost less. However, the demand was so high they sold for hundreds on the secondary market. Today, vintage collector Furbies are worth hundreds of dollars.

Notably, Furby was once accused of being a spy by US Intelligence. The NSA banned the toy in 1999 on its premises over concerns it was possibly a Chinese-manufactured spy. Later, Tiger Electronics issued a statement that “Furby is not a spy!”

See the 2012 Furby from Tx TechDad:

2013: Flutterbye Flying Fairy Doll

Flutterbye Fairy Flying Unicorn
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In 2013, Furby remained popular, while a toy called the Flutterbye Flying Fairy Doll by Spin Master was one of the year’s hot toys. Strangely, a toy very similar in concept, the Sky Dancer by Galoob, was recalled in 2000. The company recalled 8.9 million Sky Dancers after 150 reported injuries to kids and adults.

Although the Sky Dancers could shoot off unpredictably, the Flutterbye was supposed to be guided by your hand in flight. The lightweight fairy could stray but wasn’t likely to cause injury or damage itself when it fell. Nevertheless, it required 6 AA batteries in the base to charge up and fly for a few minutes.

Today, the Flying Fairy dolls remain popular with advanced features like light and automatic sensing.

See the Flutterbye Flying Fairy Doll below from Gearshift Productions:

2014: The Hot Toys Are All Frozen

Disney Frozen 2 Anna & Elsa Doll Set

Disney’s Frozen animated musical movie was introduced in 2013, going on to box-office success. The Oscar-winning song by Snow Queen Elsa, “Let It Go,” could not be escaped, whether you liked it or not.

As a lesson about accepting the things that make us different, the song became an “Anthem of Acceptance,” per NPR

Dolls and figures from the movie were the hot toys of 2014, including a light-up singing Snow Queen Elsa doll that sang in English and Spanish. Olaf, the animated snowman, castle sets, and other figures sold out everywhere.

See Elsa sing her heart out (again) from Barie Video World:

2015: The Droid We Were Searching For

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One of the most popular toy franchises of all time, Star Wars, was back in 2015 with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” From 1977 to 2005, audiences came to love the comic droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO. Then, Disney introduced a new rolly-polly droid, BB-8. The round, orange, and white droid somehow stole the show amid all the special effects.

Thus, BB-8 was one of the hot toys of 2015, selling out when it hit toy shelves. This toy was app-enabled and could be paired with your smartphone or tablet. Unlike anything seen before, the droid rolled with a removable magnetic head.

Like Furby, BB-8 was interactive, responding to voice commands with expressive sounds and motions. By 2016, the makers at Sphero introduced a Force Band device. Then, users could control BB-8 with a wave of their hand. Even better, in 2017, they introduced an app-enabled R2-D2.

See more from Sphero, makers of the rolling toy:

Related: Star Wars Facts – 36 Interesting Facts About Star Wars

2016: Hatching a New Hot Toy

Hatchimals, HatchiBabies Ponette, Hatching Egg with Interactive Toy Pet Baby (Styles May Vary), for Ages 5 and Up
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In 2016, a new hot toy from Spin Master hatched onto the scene in October 2016, looking quite familiar. Hatchimals, interactive robotic furry animals that looked much like Furby, could “hatch” from colorful spotted plastic eggs. More accurately, Hatchimals seemed a cross between a Furby and a Tamagotchi, the small digital pet.

Upon hatching, the Hatchimal could then learn to walk, talk, and play games through five stages of life: egg, hatching, baby, toddler, and kid. However, it never became an adult. Color-changing eyes indicated emotions, hunger, and the need to burp. 

Also, like Furby, the toy became an overnight hit, selling out as the demand far exceeded supply worldwide. Parents were shelling out more than three times the retail cost to get one for the holidays. 

Industry analysts estimated that over two million Hatchimals were sold in 2016. Interestingly, you didn’t know what your Hatchimal would look like until it left the egg, but that made for a fun surprise. Another surprise: some parents reported Hatchimals they thought were uttering vulgar phrases.

See a Hatchimal unboxing below from Waterjet Channels:

2017: Interactive Toys for Your Fingers

Fingerlings 2Tone Monkey - Charlie (Blue with Green Accents) - Interactive Baby Pet
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Following in the footsteps of Furby, 2017’s hot toy was called a Fingerling Baby Monkey. Small enough to fit on your finger, these interactive monkeys could respond to sound, touch, and motion. Sensors on the head could sense its position, causing the animated monkey to respond with sounds. 

The 5-inch-tall Fingerlings were affordable. However, the demand was so high; they sold for much on the secondary market. The month before Christmas, eBay reported that one Fingerling was sold every minute. Following the monkeys, WowWee introduced sloths, unicorns, and glitter monkeys.

See the Fingerings from WowWee:

Fingerlings were hailed as the Hatchimals of 2017, but new smaller, more affordable Hatchimals called Colleggtibles were also popular. 

Like Hatchimals, a toy called L.O.L Surprise hid the toy inside a plastic sphere. Thus, half the fun was opening it to reveal one of 50 surprise toys like dolls and accessories. Indeed, thousands of unboxing videos of these toys remain popular today –each a bit of free marketing for the manufacturer.

See more about L.O.L. Surprise from Tech Insider:

2018: Bigger, Softer Monkeys That Hug

Fingerlings HUGS - Kiki - Advanced Interactive Plush Baby Monkey Pet - by WowWee (Amazon Exclusive)
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Fingerlings were a breakthrough toy in 2017. Then, the following year, they introduced Fingerlings that no longer fit on your finger. With Fingerlings HUGS, they grew to 24 inches with a plush body. Thus, they were huge in comparison but soft with long arms for cuddling instead of hard plastic.

You could also record your voice and listen as your Fingerling repeated what you said–but in their voice. Along with the monkeys, WowWee introduced large-sized sloths, unicorns, lions, and narwhals. Like the smaller versions, they could be rocked to sleep, blow kisses, and make funny noises (like farts!) when you move them.

See the Fingerlings HUGS from WowWee:

Related: Looking At Some Amazing Facts About Pokemon

2019: A Toy That Blooms from a Flowerpot

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After Hatchimals the L.O.L. Surprise dolls, toy manufacturers jumped on the ever-popular unboxing trend. Kids loved the surprise of getting a collectible toy with an element of surprise. Thus, they introduced blind-box toys with more creative reveals. In 2019, the Skyrocket Blume Doll was one of the year’s hits.

When you buy the toy, it looks like a plastic flowerpot. Using the included watering can, a doll seems to grow from the dirt magically. Slow-rise foam grows to reveal a big head of hair. Sometimes, the hair looks like hair, but some toys feature hair that looks like crystals, cake, or other things. After it grows, the hair is removable and interchangeable with other Blume dolls.

When you have revealed the dolls, the flowerpot serves as a custom playset to decorate with stickers and accessories.

See the 2019 hot toys, Skyrocket Blume Doll from The Toy Buzz:

2020: The Year of The Child?

In 2020, the hot toys of the year will almost certainly be any featuring “The Child” from Disney+’s popular The Mandalorian streaming television series. Based on the Star Wars movies, the Child is more commonly called “Baby Yoda.” Today, even while avoiding stores due to the pandemic, you can’t avoid seeing Baby Yoda merchandise everywhere.

A Hasbro animatronic version of “The Child” will certainly be one of the hit toys for 2020. Reportedly the animatronic toy for ages 4 and up makes baby noises like in the series. Also, it can attempt to use the Force, requiring a nap to recharge afterward.

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Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition 7.2-Inch-Tall Toy by Hasbro with Over 25 Sound and Motion Combinations, Toys for Kids Ages 4 and Up
  • SERIES-INSPIRED SOUNDS: Touch the top of The Child Animatronic Edition’s head to activate sound effects inspired by The Mandalorian, including happy and excited, giggles and babbles, tired and sleeping, and Force effects sounds
  • ANIMATED TOY: Features motorized movements, including a head that moves up and down, ears that move back and forth, eyes that open and close, and more
  • FORCE ACTIVATION: Boys and girls ages 4 and up will love patting The Child Animatronic Edition’s head 3 times for Force activation, in which the animatronic toy will raise its arm, close its eyes, and sigh, as if using the Force
  • FORCE NAP: Pretending to channel the Force takes a whole lot of energy and requires a lot of rest. Lay The Child toy down and it will close its eyes and take a “Force nap”
  • STYLED AFTER THE DISNEY PLUS SERIES: Inspired by the fan-favorite character from The Mandalorian, this 7.2-inch-tall Star Wars toy by Hasbro includes a removable Mandalorian pendant necklace and premium soft goods robe

Suppose you can’t find the animatronic version –no worries. There seem to a million Baby Yoda items covering just about any product you can imagine. However, it’s interesting that almost nobody calls the toy by its proper name. 

Jon Favreau, the creator and head writer of the series, explained the Child is not Yoda, but the same species. Further, The Mandalorian timeline takes place after Return of the Jedi, in which Yoda passes away to become a Force Ghost. Nevertheless, the moniker “Baby Yoda” isn’t likely to pass away -ever.

See more about The Child from Good Morning America:


Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube

Last update on 2021-01-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API