A couple of weeks ago I was invited along to the Toy Fair 2015 which is where all the latest in the world of play is on display to showcase what’s new for the year! I saw so many exciting things, lots of them with an embargo date but quite a few I can talk about now too!
I love the kitchen range from Plum Products; last year the big thing was a space on the oven for your tablet to sit with an app that lets children roast chicken and pop popcorn, we loved that but I think even more impressive is this year’s offering. The kitchens now come with pots that you fill with cold water and then somehow, some sort of gadget makes pretend (cold) steam come out of the top. I looked at this for absolutely ages so amazed by it I was and I can’t wait for Florence to see it too as I know she will LOVE it!
Also on stands were ride on cars which look like real cars and run on a battery so can really be driven. These are the sort of toys I only imagine very rich people and celebs to be buying yet these ones, which had a separate remote control for adults to steer if needed, retail at £299.99 which makes them affordable to everyone if you really want one!
Other eye catchers were the sand from The Science Museum shop which made me stay playing with it for ages, Weebledown Farm we already knew we were keen on, The new Doc McStuffins range looks fun, Half Shell Heroes from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crew, magic light up popper things for magic tricks, the new Steffi Love with Pixie Lott range, strange boomerangs that were very impressive, the latest Trunki (it’s a big red bus – love it) and there were even toys for the big kids with grown up Micro Scooters complete with a suitcase attached! These fold up and into themselves to be the right size for an aeroplane cabin which will make them perfect for business travel – I want one!
I think I also have a brand new favourite toy (to add to my list) in Playmobil which I can’t wait for my two to get into in a big way. Florence already has a little bit and Jimmy has the rocket from the 1,2,3 range which is lovely but you should see what’s coming this year. They even have Easter calendars to match their Christmas ones which, incidentally, look ace for 2015!
One of my favourite things at the show was definitely the latest offerings form the Little Live Pets range which is such a massive hit already in our house! I flipping love them and the butterflies and birds are loved by all our friends too so we know we’re not the only ones! 2015 will see swimming turtles (so super cute) and also talking parrots – have you met the Little Live Pets yet? They’re awesome!
I also got to have a first look at the new ‘Something Special’ toys which are to go with the brilliant CBeebies programme devised and starring Justin Fletcher. I was particularly drawn to the soft ‘Mr Tumble’ skittles but the whole collection looked ace and very in fitting with the programme which has brought Makaton sign language to all children watching and promoted many fits of giggles in our house!
I actually got to meet the man behind ‘Something Special’ at the Toy fair and he very kindly answered a few of my questions in a little round table interview.
Justin was smiley and friendly while being extremely gently spoken and not at all, on first impression, who I thought he would be. I had heard stories, although not from any reliable sources, that he was a little bit of a diva yet having met him just for half an hour I simply find that hard to believe. Would he have been on his best behaviour at a round table interview? Yes of course he would but I am also rather a good judge of character and if someone is really unpleasant but trying to project the opposite then it usually doesn’t go unnoticed. I met Annabel Karmel once, a woman I THOUGHT would be the epitome of lovely and yet she was rather self-absorbed and rude in my opinion. I am pleased, very pleased actually, to report that it was completely the other way around with Justin who began by telling us that he started ‘Something Special’ with a 300 word vocabulary in Makaton after only a 2 week introduction and these days he has around 500 words.
We asked him who his favourite character to play on the show is and his response was, of course, Mr Tumble – although he loves all of them! He says there are many more to come as the Tumble family is always evolving and he is constantly throwing out ideas with the creative team about what he’d like to happen next on the show. He was so full of enthusiasm and genuinely looked very pleased and excited to be talking about his show which is so long running another person might have become jaded or bored by now. Not two things I could imagine Justin, who comes from a performing family with a song-writer Father, feeling about ‘Something Special’ judging by the way he spoke about it.
Justin was thoroughly animated telling us that he absolutely loves everything about ‘Something Special’ even down to the props from the show. His favourite is Grandad Tumble’s bath tub but he is also very fond of the bumper cars which are genuine 1950’s originals. Justin even restored some of the cars himself which was a real labour of love for him and how he likes to spend his down time – I had often wondered what ‘Mr Tumble’ did when he got home after a presumably just as harried as the rest of us tube journey. So mechanic could be his fall back career should being an iconic children’s television presenter ever become old for him although I don’t see his retirement happening any time soon so we can all relax!
He says his inspiration is retro slapstick comedy which he wanted to bring into everything he does for children on television. From his own memories of finding comedy gold with people like Charlie Chaplin he has fed this genre of laughs into ‘Something Special’ with gusto and it follows him into all of his productions like ‘Justin’s House’ and ‘Gigglebiz’ as well as his live show ‘Mr Tumble’s Circus’ which will be back for 2015 please note.
With so much going on in his world of work we wondered what he’s like when he’s just being Justin, not Justin from his house or Justin from CBeebies and certainly not any of his wild and famously funny characters; we asked him what his own personal three special things are and he answered, 1) His iPod, 2) Film music and 3) Sitting down with a good book. He also said as a cheeky fourth, not being able to stray from his alter egos too much, that he loves Aunt Polly’s cakes. When I asked him if he gets mobbed in Tesco he gave a cheeky smile before the question was deflected by someone else and I rather get the impression that he probably does but you know what, I bet he doesn’t even mind!
Just before we finished I put it to him that with ‘Something Special’, a show of his own device and creation, has done wonders for eliminating stigmas and differences between able bodied and disabled children. I know my own children don’t even notice if someone is different to them because they know that everybody is special and they feel familiar with people having a disability because they see it on CBeebies. I asked Justin if he is proud of the way his show has made children see each other and he very humbly answered that ‘he is just proud to be a part of the show’. We all know he’s far more than a just a ‘part of it’ and that show is him entirely so I think he should be very proud indeed. I liked him very much and found him to be intelligent, pleasant, friendly and so very passionate about his job which is remarkable when you consider how long he’s been in the game of children’s tele!