Chrismukkah is over at our mixed-marriage residence.  Please ignore those lingering decorations. It’s time to call out just a few of the Santa (and Hanukkah) successes of the 2012 Holiday season.

Disney Apples To Apples

Disney Apples To Apples – Surely, you have played the adult-targeted version of this game at a party or two – possibly under the influence of an adult beverage. “Disney Apples To Apples” down-ages this word association game so the whole family can participate and integrates pictures from almost every Disney property – including Parks, Pixar, Princesses, and tween TV. We have been playing this non-stop since Hanukkah and has become an instant favorite for our 6-year-old.

Star Wars Princess Leia Fashion Set

Star Wars Princess Leia Fashion Set – Most parents of Disney Princess-loving girls have spent much time helping dress  the rubber-dressed, Polly Pocket-esque Disney Princess mini- figures. This Disney Parks “exclusive item,” also available on Amazon, gives Princess Leia the Disney“fashion set” treatment with a slew of clothing and hairstyles from different ‘Star Wars’ films. No matter how hard those rubber clothes are to put on, I will gladly support my 6-year-old’s interest in this property.

Lite Brite LED Flatscreen

Lite Brite LED Flatscreen – Lite Brite lives on! A staple toy of my 80’s, this toy has been downsized to an era-appropriate “LED Flatscreen.” It still comes with the same multicolored pegs we know and love (yet hate to step on) as well as the black slip-in sheets to create designs.

LEGO® DUPLO® Creative Cakes

LEGO® DUPLO® Creative Cakes – My two year old  loves two things: Getting her hands in my older daughter’s LEGO Friends and celebrating birthdays – fake or not. This DUPLO kit keeps her away from her big sister’s creations while letting her have some birthday make-pretend play at the same time.

Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set

Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set – This playset lets kids “bake,” “decorate,” and “serve” cookies. My children have had their eyes on this toy since seeing it at a friends’ house, and I was happy to add a solid wooden toy set to the mix.

MindWare Pattern Play

MindWare Pattern Play – Nothing beats some offline, old-fashioned block play. The Pattern Play set comes with 40 rainbow-colored blocks to assemble. Just choose a pattern card design to replicate and fit it into the wooden tray. While I am sure there is an “app for that,” it is nice to see my daughter disconnecting from the screen for a while.

Cinderella Toddler Doll

Cinderella Toddler Doll – My two-year-old can often be seen swaying through the house warbling her rendition of Cinderella’s “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” in her sister’s flashing “glass” slippers. So, yeah, she loves her Cinderelly. Instead of a Barbie-style doll, Santa brought her a larger-sized Cinderella Toddler Doll. While it may not exactly align with the story – Cinderella wasn’t exactly wearing her crown and blue dress as a toddler – I don’t think that is going to stop her from carrying it with her everywhere she goes.

LEGO Friends Adventure Camper

LEGO Friends Adventure Camper – The LEGO Friends argument is played out at this point, but my stance is “if it gets my girls into the LEGO brand, I am down.” This was one of the most enjoyably intricate sets we have built, and temporarily left last year’s camper-gift-from-Santa (Barbie Sisters Family Camper) in the dust.

Journey Girls Wheelchair and Crutch Set

Journey Girls Wheelchair and Crutch Set – The rite-of-passage know as American Girl Dolls has fully infiltrated our house. It’s a great to have brands like Journey Girls that offer cheaper 18” doll accessories. This wheelchair and crutch set has been a hit on the block and a central part of our daughter’s American Girl playtime since Medical Orderly Kriss Kringle delivered it December 25th.

Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace

Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace – Fisher-Price’s classic Little People brand meets the ubiquitous Disney Princess brand in this musical dollhouse-style toy. My two-year old has already spent hours with this toy, warming up for her eventual full-fledged Disney Princess obsession.

Admittedly, I did not get to spend too much time at Toy Fair. I was in attendance for the sister Engage event, so I only got a few hours to peruse the Toy Fair floor to seek out things that were of personal interest. Below are just a few of the items that caught my attention along the way. If you want a truly deeper dive, I recommend sources like Toy Directory or Out With The Kids. In the meantime, check out a handful of Nugget Island picks below.

Creativity for Kids’ Shrinky Dinks Fairy Garden

Maia recently discovered the joy of Shrinky Dinks. However, she usually discards them after they have done their shrinking thing. So, the idea of being able to use the ‘Dinks’ after baking and shrinking them caught my attention. Each Shrinky Dink turns into a little fairy that can be played with in a 3-D cardboard garden.

Creativity for Kids’ Shrinky Dinks Fairy Garden
Creativity for Kids’ Playful Pets Nesting Dolls Kit

What is it about nesting dolls that appeals to kids of all ages? Add a DIY art twist, and they go beyond being simple novelty items. This Nesting Doll Kit lets kids paint and sticker their own wooden dolls using non-toxic, acrylic paint.

Creativity for Kids’ Playful Pets Nesting Dolls Kit
Curious Chef 6 Piece Fruit & Veggie Prep Kit / 16 Piece Cupcake and Decorating Kit

Sometimes Maia gets tired of playing kitchen, and wants the real thing. I was on the lookout for a company that makes safe, tangible, and cute-looking kitchen tools for kids. These ergonomically-correct kits offer both ends of the culinary spectrum. First off, they guarantee some fun with healthy fruit and veggie preparation. And, being realistic, there is also some sweet tooth-satisfying kitchen fun with a cupcake decorating kit.

Curious Chef 6 Piece Fruit & Veggie Prep Kit / 16 Piece Cupcake and Decorating Kit
Early Rider

Not only does this British company create a unique, safe bike that aims to teach children to ride at a young age, they create it with solid birch wood. This bike aims to be as easy on the eyes as it is to ride. Pictured is the Classic Series in natural color. Love those flames!

Early Rider
eebee’s Adventure Play mat & Activity Play House / Music and Sound DVD

We love eebee in our house. This dreadlocked puppet was a must-watch in Maia’s first few years, and we looked forward to introducing our newborn to this property some day. This brightly-colored, transformable mat/ playhouse will be the perfect place to do just that. Meanwhile, we will be sure to get our hands on the newest DVD in the eebee line, “Music and Sound.”
eebee’s Adventure Play mat & Activity Play House
“Music and Sound” DVD
Pinkalicious Licensing Mania

Like many little girls, my daughter is quite smitten with the Pinkalicious properties. Walking into the Fundex booth, I was surprised by all of the card and board games being released under this property. A great way to get the little one excited about offline analog games, titles included licensed versions of Scrabble Jr. and UNO as well as original titles like “Pinkalicious Pinkarella Lunchbox Game.”

Pinkalicious Licensing Mania

PPW Toys’ Wizard of Oz Mr. Potato Head Set

These classic childhood toys, as well as Toy Story stars, get the ‘Oz’ makeover with this new licensing deal. Part collectible toy, part child plaything, I have yet to make up my mind if the ‘Oz’ Potato Head Set will be a future “daddy collectible” or a gift for the kids.

PPW Toys’ Wizard of Oz Mr. Potato Head Set
Playmates Toys’ Michael Jackson 10″ Collector Figures

For those who have turned their youngsters on to MJ, here’s the chance to collect (and/or play) with the late King of Pop. Set for release in the Spring, the series includes “Beat It Michael,” “First Moonwalk Michael,” “Thriller Michael,” and the “Billie Jean Michael.” (Excuse my terrible photo, better ones here!)
Playmates Toys’ Michael Jackson 10″ Collector Figures
AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press

We could be getting our gelt on next Hanukkah thanks to this Chocolate Coin Press from AMAV/Diamant. I loved the idea of getting Maia involved in the process of making the gold-wrapped chocolate coins from scratch – all done using a small “mint” machine.

AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press
AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press Render
Dunecraft “Pirate’s Cove” / “Mermaid’s Growing Grotto”

I have been a long-time admirer of Dunecraft’s science-themed garden and plant kits. Their down-aged Pirate’s Cove and Mermaid’s Growing Grottos get kids in the growing dome game, with two plant kits targeting both genders.

Dunecraft Pirate's Cove / Mermaid's Growing Grotto
Mezco’s DC Mez-Itz Wonder Woman

My daughter has gone Wonder Woman crazy so I was on the lookout for anything featuring this Amazonian princess. While many toys featured a sexed-up version of the superhero, this pint-sized designer toy was cute and collectible.

Mezco's DC Mez-Itz Wonder Woman
P’Kolino Safari Collection - Tree Table with Animal Chairs

This company makes beautiful products with an eye for modern design, and this wooden table set is no exception. This brightly colored set is made of solid wood and features chairs shaped like animal silhouettes.

P’Kolino Safari Collection - Tree Table with Animal Chairs
P’Kolino Multi-Solution Owl Shape Puzzle

Another small sample of what this company can do with design. Check out their site and get ready to start your P’Kolino-only playroom.

P’Kolino Multi-Solution Owl Shape Puzzle
Putumayo Coloring and Sticker Books

Our favorite world music label expands on their product line with a series of coloring and sticker books based on their trademark artwork. Each uniquely-illustrated set features the animals, instruments and people of that geographical location.

Putumayo Coloring and Sticker Books
NECA Coraline Licensing

Another beloved property in our house, I was excited to see all the licensed toys being offered from NECA. Their “wall of Coraline” included items like a collectible lunchbox, throw pillow, and assorted PVC toys.

Coraline Licensing
Disney Princess Squinkies

Disney Princess Squinkies bring together an evergreen property with the current collectible craze. Guaranteed to breathe extended life into the pencil topper trend, these new sets will come in packs themed around each princess.

Disney Princess Squinkies
Workman’s Wizard of Oz Scanimation: 10 Classic Scenes from Over the Rainbow

The creators of the “Scanimation” style books that were brought to life in best-sellers Gallop! and Swing! are journeying down the yellow brick road with this licensed edition. Iconic Scanimation scenes include Miss Gulch transforming into the witch, The Scarecrow doing his famous dance and the ruby slippers clicking together.

Workman’s “Wizard of Oz Scanimation: 10 Classic Scenes from Over the Rainbow”
Workman’s Papertoy Monsters Book

Despite my lack of Origami talent, I am still obsessed with the papertoy trend – the Internet phenomenon that has some of the coolest designers creating DIY toys. This book brings together 25 papertoy designers from around the world to create Origami-style monster toys for kids to create at home.

Workman’s Papertoy Monsters
Tonner 15” Disney Princess Dolls

At around $200 a piece, these dolls are not made for the hands of your young princess fan. But they are beautiful collectibles and are worth calling out for the adult fan. Maia loved looking at the pictures alone and promised “not to break them if we bought one.”

Tonner 15” Disney Princess Dolls
Tonner 22” Wonder Woman Doll

This showcase piece was wowing all who passed it in the aisle. At $350, this is for serious collectors and hardcore Wonder Woman fans. Regardless of price, Tonner’s attention to detail and quality cannot be denied.

Tonner 22” Wonder Woman Doll
RoomMates Decorative Peel & Stick Products

Peel and stick wall decals continue to replace wallpaper and posters as a popular way to liven up a child’s bedroom. RoomMates have wisely locked in the leading licenses, giving them the advantage in this crowded market. Brands and characters from Disney, DC, Marvel, Star Wars, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network are just some of the decals you can purchase. Plus, there’s this pretty cool Where the Wild Things Are set.

RoomMates Decorative Peel & Stick Products
Batman x MIMOBOT USB Flash Drive Collection

Why buy a boring old Flash drive when you can get one in the shape of your favorite Batman character? Loaded with desktop wallpapers, icons, avatars, and screensavers, these storage drives come in the shape of Batman, Robin, Catwoman, or  The Joker.

Batman x MIMOBOT USB Flash Drive Collection

We have just come back from what has been established as an American tradition: the first family trip to Disney World. Unlike a recent “adult trip” we took, where the main objective was to get our FastPasses for the most intense rides possible, this time we had one “necessary” goal: meet all the Disney Princesses. Princess-mania has been in our house for over a year now, and Disney was as much about Mickey and the rides as it was about Cinderella and crew.

My wife, in-laws and aunt made it a mini-game to become Princess “completists,” getting all the signatures and photos of the faux royalty for Maia’s little book.  Be it top-tier princesses like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty or the more recently crowned like Tiana and Mulan, we were going to make it happen.

Maia had the time of her life, in awe of the in-person appearances of her cartoon heroes and barely able to eat at a Princess breakfast in the castle. She seemed not to notice that the actors changed every time she saw them and had no problem standing in line or searching far and wide to seek out hard-to-find characters like Mulan. While some characters were questionable in live-action form, others looked like Enchanted-style princesses, ripped from their cartoon settings to appear in person at Disney World.

We didn’t have to work as hard as I thought to complete the safari. We left Walt Disney World sweaty, tired but successful in our quest. The autograph tent in Mickey’s Toon Town made some of this easy, as did the breakfast in Cinderella’s castle. The less popular characters took a bit of searching, but we used logic (Pocahontas in the forests of Animal Kingdom, Mulan in Epcot’s China) and all were found on the first try. And, for the most part, the actors did an amazing job capturing the look and feel of the character.

Check out our personal “Princess safari” below and let us know what you think. Does Disney deliver the costumed character goods?

Snow White at Disney
Snow White: The O.G. Princess
Pocahontas, at one with the costumed animals
Sleeping Beauty, wide awake for photo opps
The Little Mermaid
Ariel sans fins
Princess Tiana
The new kids in town: Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen
Cinderella, ready to face those autograph hounds
Aladdin and Jasmine
Aladdin and Jasmine, properly dressed for the heat
Beauty and the Belle
Mulan, the buried treasure of Epcot

Back in November, I reviewed Disney Interactive’s iPhone/iTouch app Disney Puzzle Slider. Essentially a digital version of a plastic scrambled tile puzzle, this app has remained a hit in our household. The key appeal of this app is the ability to collect points to unlock “hidden” images in categories like Villains, Simply Mickey, Disney Stylized, Cuties, Romance, Animal Friends, and Disney Friends. For my little one, it is all about  unlocking the images in hopes that it will reveal a Disney Princess. But for me, it has been about the realization that this app serves as more than a promotional Disney tool. It also serves as a bit of an artist playground.

Throughout the past months I have unlocked some images that are quite stylistic and experimental for the House of Mouse.  A few you would even assume were  fan interpretations if not for the fact they were on an official Disney-licensed app. Disney has really let their artists have fun with their IP, taking classic characters in unique directions. While I do not have a pulse on every piece of Disney merchandise out there, I have yet to see many of these takes floating around the Disney Store. Below, I have shared just a few of  the more interesting interpretations found on Disney Puzzle Slider.

Note: The images were not clearly credited to their original artist in the app. However, a whole category is credited to the  Bloc28 project.

Mickey Mouse Remixed – Mickey Mouse gets multiple, diverse art treatments including reworkings from Bloc28.

Mickey 1 Mickey 2
Mickey 3 Mickey 4
Mickey 5 Mickey 6
Mickey 7 Mickey 8

Tween Princesses – Disney Princesses get a makeover with a look that clearly hits the tween market sweetspot.

Belle Snow White
Jasmine Cinderella

Disney goes Kawaii- Take a Disney character and give it the Japanese touch, and you have these cutesy concepts that would fit nicely on the shelf next to the latest Sanrio creation.


Mini-Makeovers – Various characters maintain their general look, but are re-framed with modern colors, fonts and shapes.

Cruella Snow White
Alice The Queen
Pooh Belle
Sleeping Beauty Evil Queen

What are your thoughts? Enjoy seeing Disney have a little fun with their I.P.? Or would you rather see them leave it alone? Comment below!

All images  Copyright Walt Disney Company

As I have probably hinted at before, my daughter is quite the Disney Princess fan girl. So, when word came out their next major animated effort was the introduction of a post-modern take on Rapunzel (recently renamed Tangled), she was naturally curious about this classic tale.

So, off to my library I went to take a few books out about this long-haired princess in distress. Not surprisingly, there were many options. And, for both fun and review, we ended up taking out half a dozen. Instant favorites included the quirky, modern-day set Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale by Lynn and David Roberts and the subtly humorous illustrated execution by Dorothee Duntze. Even the more sophisticated and award winning take by Paul O. Zelinsky and the gothic graphic novel by Stephanie Peters and Jeffrey Stewart Timmins were a surprise hit with this toddler.

However, the book that Maia seemed to gravitate to the most was Rachel Isadora’s Rapunzel. Inspired by the author’s ten years of living in Africa, Isadora takes this traditional fairytale and transplants it to an African village. While the story itself remains mostly the same, Rapunzel is no longer the traditional, fair-skinned/blonde haired princess. In Isadora’s tale she is a stunning African maiden with long, beautifully-decorated dreadlocks. When her prince rides in to chant the traditional “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” line, he comes not by horse, but by zebra. The happy ending remains in tact and the witch is just as terrifying as seen in other interpretations.

The bright, colorful illustrations in this book are also non-traditional, comprised of collages of textured papers and oil paintings. Rachel Isadora, who has won a Caldecott Honor for her previous children’s book Ben’s Trumpet, has also created African interpretations of fairy tales like The Princess and the Pea, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Fisherman and His Wife, and Hansel and Gretel.

So, before Disney’s  traditional, blonde Rapunzel makes it mark on the public conscious as the “Official Rapunzel”, share Rachel Isadora’s striking and unique version with your little ones.

Rapunzel Cover
Rachel Isadora’s Rapunzel
Isadora’s Artwork
Disney’s Rapunzel