TIME technology

The 5 Hottest Toys Americans Are Searching for Right Now

Operations Inside A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Location Ahead Of Black Friday
A Microsoft Xbox One game console at a Wal-Mart ahead of Black Friday in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Disney’s ‘Frozen,’ Xbox One and the Skylanders game set to be among the top sellers this year

The upcoming holiday shopping season is crucial for the $22-billion U.S. toy industry, and early data suggests Disney’s “Frozen,” as well as electronics such as Xbox One and the Skylanders game, will be among the top sellers this year.

Data provider Experian Marketing Services has given Fortune a look at the hottest toy searches for the week ended Nov. 22, and “Frozen” handily tops the list. With the Christmas holiday just a little over four weeks away, consumers who wait too long could find it challenging to scoop up some of the top sellers.

“The holiday shopping season [is] more and more condense,” said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of toy-focused website TTPM.com. It used to last 12 weeks, and then eight, he added. “Now it is a five-week season.”

Silver estimates that last year as many as 50 toys were sold out at some point during the holiday season, as retailers can find it challenging to restock shelves so quickly. But many of those supply shortages were temporary, and no one item became impossible to find. Retail executives at chains such as Toys ‘R’ Us say they are well positioned after months of merchandise planning to ensure they can meet demand.

Roughly half of all Americans plan to buy toys as gifts this year, according to a recent Nielsen poll of more than 2,200 adults. Alhough that indicates there will be a lot of interest, observers such as Fitch Ratings have said toy promotions will remain intense, as traditional brick-and-mortar retailers such as Toys ‘R’ Us compete with online retailers, including Amazon AMZN -0.89% .

Here are five toys that are dominating America’s search engines just a few days before the holiday season kicks into high gear.

Activision Blizzard’s ‘Skylanders’ videogame property has been a hot seller since its debut in 2011.
Courtesy of Activision Publishing, Inc.

1. Frozen

Walt Disney’s “Frozen” leads Experian’s list, with the search term “Frozen dolls” gaining 181% in popularity on a week-over-week basis. “Frozen” is so popular that interest in the princess line has topped Barbie, the first time the fashion doll didn’t top the National Retail Federation’s holiday “Top Toys” survey in its 11-year history. Disney, which owns the “Frozen” property, benefits most from this craze though Mattel, and Jakks Pacific will also see stronger sales for the brand as they manufactured the dolls, costumes and other items based on the popular film. Retailers are also ready to meet demand (Toys ‘R’ Us, for example, has 250 “Frozen” items on its website).

2. Dareway

Scooters often turn in a strong holiday performance and this year is no exception, as a $200 scooter called the Dareway ranks as the second most popular toy search. The Dareway looks like a mini-Segway and is designed for kids that weigh 89 pounds or less. Famosa, the toy maker behind the Dareway, claims the toy is essentially a hybrid–mixing features of a scooter and ride-on-cars. The item first hit shelves two weeks ago and has already sold out three times (it was supposed to come to market earlier in the year, but had some issues getting imported from Spain). Toy experts have pointed out that scooters remain a popular toy as they encourage kids to play outdoors.

3. Skylanders Trap Team

Activision Blizzard’s “Skylanders” videogame property has been a hot seller ever since its debut in 2011, and each year the franchise is expanded with a new line of physical collectible toys that can interact with a video game. Though the technology that Activision first developed has led to knock offs by Nintendo and Disney, this list indicates Activision’s line remains the most popular. Searches for the “Skylanders Trap Team” have risen 30% for the latest week, Experian said. The newest version of the franchise has games available for traditional consoles such as the PlayStation and the Wii, as well as mobile versions for Android, iOS and Fire OS.

4. Max Tow Truck

Among the top five toys, only the Max Tow Truck is new to the scene. It ranked 4th on Experian’s latest list, but wasn’t among the top 10 hottest searches in the prior week. That suggests that interest has notably spiked for this toy, a truck that costs about $60. Made by Jakks Pacific, the truck can pull and push up to 200 pounds and is stocked at all the major toy retailers. Of course, Jakks also developed an app for this toy.

5. Xbox One

The Xbox One made headlines late last month when a special promotion touted a $50 limited-time price cut to the console, bringing the price down to $349 for the holiday season. The price cut could be generating greater interest in the console, though searches tumbled 47% from the prior week. And while PlayStation 4 hasn’t generated as many searches as the Xbox One, the former device has been selling better. The PlayStation 4 has reportedly sold 13.5 million units through September, while the International Business Times said there are estimates that around 5 million Xbox One units have been sold. (Microsoft doesn’t release sales data for the Xbox One.)

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Toys

Find Out Which Holiday Toy Is Most Popular in Your State

eBay made a map that tracks trending toys

As the holidays approach, eBay decided to make the torture that is toy shopping slightly easier by creating an interactive map that identifies the most popular toys in every state. (Because you know kids want to stay on trend this holiday season).

While California is all about the video game Call of Duty, North Carolina kids lean more towards Frozen-themed puzzle sets. Click on your state in the interactive map below to see the most popular gifts near you:

The information was gathered based on the number of items sold on eBay per state during the week of Nov. 10.

More: The Top 10 Toys of 2014

MONEY Shopping

You May Already Be Too Late for the Hottest Holiday Toys

141210_EM_HottestToys
If your kid wants Disney's Frozen Castle & Ice Palace Playset, let's hope you bought it already. Richard Drew—AP

Favorites from Frozen, Legos, and more are gone from store shelves or going fast. Expect to pay up if you don't want to disappoint.

If you still have Disney’s Frozen Castle and Ice Palace Playset on your holiday gift list this year, you may already be out of luck.

With Christmas approaching, the $119 toy—made by Mattel Inc—is sold out. Of course, you can find it at resellers for about $225 and even as high as $700 on eBay. There are still plenty of other Frozen-themed toys available—but only for now.

Industry analysts, poring over results from the Thanksgiving holiday week, say the hottest 25 toys have already hit their price lows and will only get more expensive as Christmas nears and the remaining inventory flies off stores’ shelves.

The silver lining? Retailers made a huge bet on toy inventory this holiday season—ordering twice as many shipments of Legos as last year, for instance, according to research firm Panjiva.

Expect fierce price competition at major retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp, which carry thousands of toys, notes Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of Time to Play Magazine.

“There will be huge promotions going on,” he predicts.

The sales will not be nationwide shopping events like Black Friday, but will pop up sporadically, culminating in major sales on Dec. 20, the Saturday before Christmas which experts expect to be an extremely heavy shopping day.

“One by one, either loudly or quietly, they will be rolling out some amazing deals,” says Panjiva CEO Josh Green.

Early Birds Get Hot Toys

Consumers love sales, but Silver notes they may be very disappointed if they can’t find the hottest toys.

Besides the sold-out Frozen Castle, there are 12 to 15 items which are currently hard to find, including the Max Tow Truck. It is listed currently around $128 on Amazon.com, depending on color—well above its list price of $59.99. Another hot item is the Imaginext Supernova Battle Rover—currently available for $109.99 at Toys R Us, slightly below the list price of $119.

There are also about 25 to 30 toys that will sell out in the next two weeks, Silver says, especially the most popular new toys in the Lego, Barbie, My Little Pony, FurReal Friend, and Nerf lines.

Toys with a movie or popular culture tie-in drive demand, while interactive pets tend to be short-lived fads (think Zhu Zhu Pets or Furby).

“There are clear bets by retailers—orders for Frozen toys and My Little Pony toys are up massively versus 2013,” says Green.

Most hot toys hit their price lows on Cyber Monday, according to data firm MarketTrack. This year, for example, the FurReal Friend Get Up & GoGo dog, which has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $59.99, was being offered for $49.99 at most stores in early November. It went down to $39 just before Thanksgiving and hit $27 on Amazon on Cyber Monday.

The very next day, the dog, which responds to commands from a remote-control leash, was back up to $39. The price is now fluctuating at most stores because of limited supply.

Similarly, the My Little Pony Friendship Rainbow Kingdom Playset, which lists at $39.99, was on sale for $35 at Target on Black Friday and bottomed out at $19.99 on Cyber Monday on Amazon for a half-price sale. It is now back up to $34 at Wal-Mart and Toys R Us.

What should shoppers do if they want the hottest toys?

“Grab the hot items early and then get bargain toys when you can,” Silver says. But you may have to wait until next year to employ this strategy.

 

TIME

Scooters Leading Cause of Toy-Related Injuries This Christmas

Young boy riding scooter
Jill Tindall—Getty Images

Toys are leaping off the shelves faster than ever now that we’ve officially entered the holiday season, but a new study finds that many toys cause serious injury to children. The study, out Dec. 1, from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, found that an estimated 3,278,073 kids in the United States were treated in emergency rooms after suffering toy-related injuries from 1990-2011. Even more alarming, every three minutes a child was treated for a toy-related injury in the year 2011 alone.

Toys foster imaginative learning and creativity, but parents may want to consider the types of toys their children are playing with. Study researchers found that the rate of toy-related injury rose by about 40 percent between 1990 and 2011–– in part because of the increased popularity of foot-powered scooters. From 2000 onward, there was an estimated one toy-related injury every 11 minutes, and children who were injured thanks to scooters were three times more likely to break or dislocate a bone.

“All children should use safety precautions when using a scooter or other riding toys,” says Dr. Gary Smith, study author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy. “The first three safety tips I give for preventing injuries on those toys are: 1. Wear a helmet. 2. Wear a helmet. 3. Wear a helmet. Buy a scooter, buy a helmet.” He notes that any adult planning on giving a scooter to a child should also make sure to get a helmet that fits. And take worthwhile precautions: only ride scooters on flat, dry surfaces away from motor vehicle traffic.

Hundreds of toys are recalled every year for being defective (Mattel alone recalled 19 million toys back in 2007), and there are numerous other ways kids can inadvertently injure themselves while playing –– from choking on a Lego to getting hit with a rogue baseball. Yet, researchers found that falls and collisions (as opposed to other injuries such as ingestion or aspiration) were the most frequent cause of toy-related injuries among children in all age groups. Falls accounted for 46 percent and collisions were responsible for 22 percent of injuries.

While more than half of toy injuries are sustained by children younger than five, injuries due to riding toys like scooters were shown to increase later into childhood. A whopping 42 percent of injuries in children ages 5 to 17 were attributed to scooter, tricycle or wagon accidents, while only 28 percent of injuries in children under five were attributed to these ride-along toys. (Though, it’s worth noting, that young children are at an increased risk for swallowing or ingesting small toy parts.)

So, how can parents protect their children from toy-related injuries this holiday season? “First, follow a toy’s age restrictions and any other guidelines from the manufacturer,” says Smith. “If a package label says that children younger than 3 years of age should not use the toy inside, it often means that the toy poses a choking risk to young children because of small parts. In addition, parents should check the website, Recalls.gov, to be sure that toys they already own have not been recalled, especially since there have been hundreds of toy recalls in the last decade.”

For more parenting stories and advice on raising a child in today’s world, check out the new TIME for Family subscription.

MONEY Shopping

Barbie Is No Longer the Most Popular Girl at the Toy Store

Disney Frozen Snow Glow Elsa and Disney Frozen Sparkle Doll
Anthony Harvey—Getty Images

Princesses Elsa and Anna will now share the crown

For the first time in over a decade, Barbie is no longer the most popular girls’ toy of the holiday season, the National Retail Federation reports. This year, that honor will go to the stars of Disney’s blockbuster movie Frozen, princesses Elsa and Anna.

One in five parents say they plan to buy Elsa and Anna merchandise for their daughters, the NRF’s survey found. Just 16.8% plan to buy Barbie dolls.

“It is no surprise that Disney’s Frozen has taken the top seat as children have had it on the mind as far back as Halloween,” saidPam Goodfellow, consumer insights director at Prosper Insights & Analytics.

MORE: The new “normal” Barbie comes with an average woman’s measurements—and optional stretch marks

For decades, critics have suggested that Barbie dolls promote negative body image and sexist stereotypes. Disney’s Frozen, on the other hand, has been praised for its strong female leads.

The latest reason some parents might prefer the Frozen sisters? Controversy over Barbie’s career. In a recent book, Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer, Barbie was portrayed as an incompetent worker who needed boys’ help with everything. VP of Barbie’s Global Brand Marketing Lori Pantel told TIME that the book was published in 2010 and that “since that time we have reworked our Barbie books.”

For now, Elsa is queen. Barbie’s just going to have to let it go.

Related:

TIME Toys

Nintendo Wants to Cash In on the Toy Industry’s New Billion-Dollar Craze

"Toys to life" genre combines virtual play with classic action figures

In Nintendo’s wildly popular fighting game series Super Smash Bros., action figures spring to life so they can pummel each other in multiplayer bouts. When the next installment in the series debuts Friday on the Wii U, that fantasy will actually come close to reality. Along with the new game, Nintendo is launching a line of toy figurines that can actually be transferred into the digital world of Smash Bros. to fight against the game’s rowdy characters.

The new toys, called amiibo, are the latest entrants in the rapidly growing “toys to life” sector, a melding of the physical toys of yesteryear and the software kids now enjoy on their tablets and video game consoles. The idea is to expand the play kids are already enjoying in virtual games into the physical world—and let video game companies generate a tidy profit selling figurines and peripherals in the process.

The concept was first proven a hit by Activision, which launched its Skylanders video game franchise in 2011. In that series, gamers can purchase dozens of different figurines embedded with an electronic chip. When players place the figures on a special peripheral that can scan the chip, the characters are transported into Skylanders‘ virtual world. As the character levels up in the virtual world, so does the figurine. If a kid takes his figure over to a friend’s house to play, it’ll retain the same data from his own game.

“By combining the immersive world of video games with the physical connection that kids have with action figures, it was incredibly powerful,” says John Coyne, Activision’s senior vice president of consumer marketing.

While Activision made toys-to-life games viable, Disney has been able to leverage its massive trove of iconic intellectual property to popularize the genre even more. The company’s Disney Infinity series uses technology like that used by Skylanders to let gamers place their figurine characters into virtual worlds based on hit Disney properties like Brave and Lilo & Stitch. A separate, open-ended mode lets players create their own worlds, populate them with Disney characters and share them online.

“It’s very much about building things in there and kind of telling your own stories,” says John Blackburn, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Infinity.

Experts say these titles have been a hit because they spark kids’ imaginations more than a traditional video game can. “It’s really an extension of what kids want naturally, which is to not really have parameters in how they play,” says Liam Callahan, an analyst at research firm NPD. “It’s about breaking down that barrier.”

Skylanders and Disney Infinity have generated $600 million in software sales and nearly $1 billion in hardware sales in the U.S. between them since the genre was first introduced in 2011, according to NPD. Sales in the sector have risen 22% in the last year. Exactly who’s leading the market is a point of contention—Disney Infinity sold more than any version of Skylanders in 2013, but the latest version of Skylanders outsold Disney’s new Marvel-focused Infinity game in October.

It’s not yet clear how Nintendo will fit into this increasingly competitive space. Skylanders and Disney Infinity perform best on Nintendo consoles, according to NPD, which means Nintendo already has a user base actively interested in toys-to-life games. The strength of Nintendo’s intellectual property is also a selling point, as is the ability to use amiibo in games across different genres on the company’s Wii U system, like Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8. “These characters have tremendous fan bases already,” says Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America’s executive vice president for sales and marketing.

Whether these titles will become a permanent fixture in gaming remains to be seen. A few years ago, millions of gamers were buying plastic musical instruments to play games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero—now those titles are forgotten in bargain bins. But toys-to-life titles may evolve in more dynamic ways than past gaming fads. A new entrant called Anki Drive, for instance, has melded a mobile game with actual stock cars that players can race on a physical track, directing them with a smartphone and the cars’ built-in AI. The cars saw limited retail exposure in 2013 but will be available at Toys R Us and Target this holiday season.

The Anki Drive game uses AI-enabled stock cars that players can control with their smartphones.

The success of these physical toys in an age when apps dominate our lives shows that the next generation doesn’t want play with only their thumbs — there’s hope yet for the real world. “At the end of the day, it’s still very classic play,” says Chris Byrne, a toy industry analyst at Time to Play Magazine. “The technology has just made the toy box bigger.”

TIME

Everything You Need to Know About Nintendo’s New Toy Figurines

Ty Milford / Nintendo

They're called Amiibo and they can do some incredible things

If I have a single critique of Nintendo’s amiibo, it’s that information about the company’s toy-game versions of its iconic characters like Mario, Link and Yoshi has been scattershot since the figurines were first revealed at E3 in June.

Nintendo rectified this by putting up a helpful amiibo website recently, but there’s still a fair amount about how amiibo works—and what makes them unique in a now fairly crowded toy-game market space—that you have to cobble together for yourself. The figures themselves sell in informationally blank receptacles, exhorting you to simply “collect, customize, and compete.” They don’t come with instructions, nor do the games they’re designed to initially work with offer robust tutorials.

So if some of these are on your holiday maybe list, here’s everything you need to know, including my initial impressions of some of the launch models.

We’re not sure what amiibo means either

But when I asked Nintendo’s director of product marketing Bill Trinen about it, this is what he told me:

They came up with the name in Japan, and the ‘amii’ portion comes from a little something in Japanese that conveys the sentiment of friend, of playing with your friend. That’s what they’re really trying to convey with it. I think for us it sounds a little like amigo. That’s not the origin of the name, but it conveys the intent.

The figures launch on November 21 alongside Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

That’s the release date for both franchises in North America, and at this point. And each of the dozen amiibo figures available at launch, as well as the ones coming later this year and early next, are part of Super Smash Bros.‘s massive fighter lineup.

Amiibo as it exists on November 21 is clearly biased toward Smash, too–the golden base tops even sport the Smash series’ trademark crosshatch logo.

They’re not ridiculously expensive

Nintendo’s suggested retail price is $12.99 per figure, which is what everyone appears to be selling them for heading into the holidays. With a dozen figures available at launch, they’ll set you back $156 if you’re looking to collect the set.

The figures talk to your Wii U GamePad using NFC

NFC, or near-field communication, is just a standard for two devices to communicate wirelessly over extremely small distances. In amiibo’s case, the figures have chips in their bases that activate when placed near the NFC sensor in the Wii U GamePad (you just tap the amiibo figure’s base to the designated area). If you own a Wii U, it’s the lower lefthand space on the GamePad with an icon that looks like a white rectangle pushed into a corner.

They don’t require batteries

The amiibo stands are roughly half an inch thick, bottom to top, without ingress points–they house no power sources because the NFC chip in each figure’s base is activated by its proximity to the Wii U GamePad’s NFC sensor. The figures don’t need batteries or anything else that’ll need replacing to do what they do, in other words.

Here’s every amiibo announced, and when it’s coming

The first 12 amiibo figures launch on November 21, and include the following characters: Mario, Link, Samus, Kirby, Fox, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Peach, Marth, Yoshi, Villager and Wii Fit Trainer.

Nintendo’s planning to release six additional amiibo figures figures this December (dates unspecified): Diddy Kong, Zelda, Luigi, Captain Falcon, Pit and Little Mac.

And in February 2015, we’ve been told to expect: Bowser, Toon link, Sheik, Sonic, Mega Man, King Dedede, Ike, Rosalina & Luma, Shulk, Lucario and Meta Knight.

Here’s the list of amiibo-compatible games at launch

At launch, amiibo supports two games: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Mario Kart 8, and the updates to those games which enable amiibo functionality are live now.

And the list of amiibo-compatible games (probably) in the offing for later this year

Nintendo has announced amiibo support for both Hyrule Warriors (already out) and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (due on December 5). Nintendo’s Trinen told me he expects the amiibo update to Hyrule Warriors to arrive shortly after amiibo’s launch this week, though it’s unclear if we’ll see Captain Toad‘s update arrive in December or slip into 2015.

How does amiibo work in the launch games?

It’s different with each game, and this is where amiibo can get a little confusing. With Activision’s Skylanders and Disney’s Infinity, those franchises’ respective figures are designed to work in relatively uniform ways with very specific games.

Amiibo, by contrast, was designed from the get-go to work with each Nintendo game uniquely. As Trinen put it when I spoke with him, Nintendo designed amiibo such that each studio can build amiibo functionality into their game in whatever way they feel best suits the gameplay, thus how your amiibo functions in one game may bear no resemblance to the way it functions in another.

In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, for instance, your amiibo becomes your sparring partner. It levels up as you train it and “feed” it stat boosts, in essence molding it into something that’s uniquely your own. You can then use it in battles against other players’ amiibos, or as a way to study your own strengths and weaknesses: if you’re great at a certain maneuver, your amiibo will be too, but if you’re not doing something you ought to be, say raising your character’s shield, neither will your amiibo.

In Hyrule Warriors, by contrast, using amiibos will unlock special once-a-day weapons or bonuses–unique ones if you use the Link or Zelda amiibos. And in Mario Kart 8, using an amiibo unlocks new racing outfits: basically costumes inspired by each amiibo that your Mii character can wear.

What other games will amiibo support?

Nintendo’s confirmed at least three future games will support amiibo: Mario Party 10 (2015), Yoshi’s Woolly World (spring 2015) and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (February 13, 2015).

It’s a safe bet that others, especially anything mainline like the next Legend of Zelda, will also include some form of amiibo support.

They’re seem beautifully made

I don’t collect action figures and have little experience of miniatures beyond some exploratory Warhammer figurine painting in the mid-2000s, but the three amiibo figures Nintendo sent me–Mario, Link and Kirby–seem immaculately manufactured. Each has a stylish pose and instantly recognizable expression, crisp design lines, intricate texturing and zero color bleed between even the tiniest zones.

They don’t work with Nintendo’s 3DS

Not yet, though Nintendo plans to eventually support the 3DS by way of a special NFC attachment the company’s pegged for 2015. For North American gamers in 2014, amiibo only works with the Wii U.

Amiibo does work natively with the “New Nintendo 3DS”–that’s its unofficial English name by way of Japanese translation at this point, anyway. But that slightly more powerful and joystick-doubled version of Nintendo’s dedicated gaming handheld isn’t available in the U.S. this year, and unless you’re fluent in Japanese, there’s no reason to bother importing one. Chances are we’ll see the new 3DS stateside in 2015, but Nintendo has only confirmed availability in Japan, Australia and New Zealand for 2014.

TIME Body Image

Watch Little Kids React to a Realistic-Looking Barbie Alternative

"She looks like a regular girl going to school."

The dolls kids are used to playing with are often nipped and tucked to have impossibly big eyes and a ridiculously small waist. So when Nickolay Lamm presented a Pennsylvania class of second graders with his Barbie alternative, his newly created Lammily doll which has the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman (according to CDC data) rather than an anatomically impossible mutant, he didn’t know how they were going to react.

Most of the kids thought the doll, available for purchase Wednesday, looked kind of familiar.

“She looks like my sister!” one girl exclaimed, smiling. “She kind of looks like my aunt Katie,” said another.

“She looks like a regular girl going to school.”

“She looks like she would help someone if they were hurt.”

“She’s not like other dolls… she looks real.”

That reality check didn’t prove to be a bad thing. When presented with a blonde and busty Barbie, the children said that they’d rather have the one who, if real, “would be able to stand.” A very apt observations, considering previous research showing Barbie wouldn’t be able to lift her head fully if she were an actual human.

Of course unrealistic looking dolls are still very popular whether it’s Barbie or the Monster High collection with their mini-skirts and platform-heeled thigh-high boots. In 2012, researchers asked 60 girls, ages six to nine, to choose one of two paper dolls: one dressed in a tight “sexy” outfit and the other wearing a “fashionable” but loose and covered up outfit. Sixty-eight percent of the girls wanted to look like the sexy doll and 72% thought she would be “more popular” than the conservative looking paper doll. That study had a limited sample size, and paper dolls are no match for 3D toys, but the results are an indication of how difficult it is to change cultural trends.

But perhaps after a decade during which dolls have gotten ever more racy, perhaps parents and kids are ready for an appealing alternative to the bug-eyed, wasp-waisted creatures that now populate the girls aisle. At least that’s what Lamm is betting on.

Read more about the Lammily doll — and her strange accessory packs — here.

Read next: Mattel Apologizes for Making Barbie Look Incompetent in Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer

TIME Body Image

The New ‘Normal Barbie’ Comes With an Average Woman’s Proportions — and Cellulite-Sticker Accessories

"I wanted to show that reality is cool," says the creator of the Lammily doll

Screen shot 2014-11-19 at 3.57.10 AMIt’s a month before the holidays and you’re grappling with a serious toy buyer’s dilemma: 0n the one hand, you kind of just want to get your kid a Barbie; on the other hand you’d rather not perpetuate the peddling of anatomical ideals that are so impossible to achieve — and impractical. (Were Barbie human, she’d have to walk on all fours because of her tiny feet and because she would only have room for half a liver.)

That’s why graphic designer turned toymaker Nickolay Lamm created the Lammily doll — what the Barbie would look like if she actually had the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman’s body (based on CDC data). And brown hair. (She also comes with a sticker-extension pack, complete with cellulite, freckles and acne, but we’ll get to that later.)

What started as an art project in July 2013 became available for purchase and delivery Wednesday. “Parents and their kids were emailing and asking where they could buy the ‘normal Barbie’ — but they didn’t exist,” Lamm, 26, tells TIME. And so he decided to crowdfund his creation, raising $501,000 for his $95,000 target goal. “To be honest, I knew it was either going to bomb or blow up, there was no in between,” Lamm says.

Lamm also created a video that transforms a Lammily doll into a Barbie to really get his point across:

“I wanted to show that reality is cool,” Lamm says. “And a lot of toys make kids go into fantasy, but why don’t they show real life is cool? It’s not perfect, but it’s really all we have. And that’s awesome.”

But real proportions and movement weren’t enough. Before putting the $24.99 dolls on sale — 19,000 dolls are going to backers, but 25,000 more are ready to be shipped before the holidays — Lamm decided to take things a step further.

Enter the $5.99 sticker-extension pack, available in January. Lamm says it took four months to find the proper sticker material, that gives the doll’s face acne, freckles, moles and the ability to blush:

Lammily
Lammily
Lammily

Lamm also decided to include scrapes and bruises. “Some people were like ‘Oh my God,’ as if I’m promoting domestic violence or something,” says Lamm, before assuring TIME that that was far from his intention. “Look, we all get boo boos and scratches. Life isn’t perfect, we all sometimes fall down but we get back up.”

Lammily

Lamm’s aunt recommended he add scars, he says, “because, you know, some kids have scars and are really shy about them.”

Lammily

But then there’s the cellulite and the stretch marks:

Lammily
Lammily

Unleashing a doll with stretch marks on the Internet is basically asking for trouble. But Lamm insists that it came from a sincere place, and that some people will welcome the option. “Demi Lovato even tweeted about it,” he says:

“You know, people were saying this whole project was a joke from the beginning, so I have no doubt some people will take it as a joke,” Lamm says. “But I hope there are enough people who believe what I believe. I think 25% to 30% will think the stickers are stupid and the rest will think it’s good.”

The Lammily will have other fashion options in January:

Lammily

“This is the doll people have been waiting for,” Lamm says. Stretch marks and all.

See More: Watch Little Girls React to the Realistic Barbie Alternative

Read next: New GoldieBlox Doll Takes Aim at ‘Barbie’ Beauty Standards

TIME Education

New GoldieBlox Doll Takes Aim at ‘Barbie’ Beauty Standards

The startup that makes girls' engineering toys introduces a new doll and a campaign against 'Big Sister'

GoldieBlox, an engineering toy for girls that got began on Kickstarter, made waves last year with a viral video showing girls using traditional pink toys to build a Rube Goldberg machine. For this holiday season, they’re taking on the status quo again with a new video and a new toy.

In the ad, an Orwellian ‘Big Sister’ tells a line of young girls dressed in pink dresses and heels, “You are beauty, and beauty is perfection.” The girls line up and take too-skinny, too-pretty dolls that look suspiciously like Barbie from a conveyor belt—that is until a girl with frizzy hair, overalls and Chuck Taylors shows up and destroys the machine with a hammer. Out from the decimated machine sprouts, you guessed it, a GoldieBlox doll complete with wild hair and sneakers.

It’s yet another effort by the small toy brand to disrupt the pink aisle dedicated to girls in the toy store, which tends to emphasize beauty over brains.

GoldieBlox began as a boxed toy that included a storybook and the wheels, gears and other building materials girls needed to construct machines that would help the character Goldie and her friends. It also had the added benefit of teaching young girls the fundamentals of engineering at a time when just 11% of engineers are women. Sparking interest at a young age is the key to closing this gender gap: Studies show that girls lose interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers as early as age eight.

As Goldieblox creator Debbie Sterling told TIME last year, there are very few girls’ toys on the market that foster an interest in these critical skills. And those that do often emphasize being pretty over being smart: As a parent of a small girl, your options are the chemistry set for concocting makeup or rebelling and shopping in the boys’ blue isle. Even companies paying lip service to teaching girls engineering have come under fire for perpetuating problematic stereotypes. Some parents say that Lego’s Friends line for girls, for instance, has too many sets dedicated to pet beauty salons and too few dedicated to school.

“The Lego Friends line has definitely been getting girls to play with Legos,” says Sterling. “But I don’t think it’s been inspiring girls to want to be engineers. It’s continuing to inspire girls to look pretty and decorate.” Enter, GoldieBlox’s building toys, which found massive success their first holiday season. GoldieBlox is now available at over 1,000 retailers, including Toys R Us.

It’s no surprise then that Goldie is now foraying into the doll market.

Most action figures designed for boys are based on strong, empowered characters (think: G.I. Joe). Not so for girls. Dolls usually emphasize being cute over being powerful. There are the babies that girls must mother, the Disney princesses with eyes larger than their waists and Barbies with feet that can never wear flats, only heels. Indeed, Barbie, despite efforts to lean in, is perhaps the worst offender. A recent study showed that little girls who played with Barbie dressed as a doctor aspired to far fewer and less ambitious careers that girls who played with an amorphous Mrs. Potatohead doll.

Female action figures aren’t any better. They’re usually hyper-sexualized with large breasts and splayed legs, designed for adult male collectors. Another company, IAmElemental, noticed the gap in the market earlier this year and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to create their own kick-ass heroes with normal women’s proportions to inspire girls to be brave heroes too.

Like IAmElemental, the GoldieBlox action figure is certainly aspirational. The tagline? “Other dolls are built for fashion, Goldie is built for action.” But the company also aims to make Goldie more relatable than other dolls. She doesn’t have impossible beauty standards like Barbie, but she also doesn’t fall into the uncool nerdy girl trope popular in kids’ shows (like Gretchen from Recess). And she makes mistakes, unlike the boy geniuses popular in kids’ culture.

“There’s Bob the Builder, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Jimmy Neutron—they’re all boys with IQs off the chart,” says Sterling. “That’s intimidating for all kids, but particularly for girls who suffer from this thing called math anxiety where they have really, really high standards for themselves when it comes to math.”

In short: Your daughter could never be Barbie (or Jimmy Neutron for that matter). But if she put her mind to it, she could become Goldie. Giving girls smart role models—not just pretty ones—isn’t as simple as destroying Big Sister’s conveyer belt. Goldie will still have to compete with Barbie and Elsa from Frozen on Christmas lists. But this is a start.

Here’s last year’s ad:

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