TIME Appreciation

The 13 Most Influential Toys of All Time

As the holiday season approaches, we interviewed toy historians and experts (hello, dream job!) to rank the playthings that made the biggest impact on the toy industry—and the world at large.

  • 13. Cabbage Patch dolls

    Cabbage Patch dolls
    Vince Talotta—Getty Images

    These dolls were the first toys not tied to a popular TV, movie, or comic that “everybody had to have and nobody could find,” says Jim Silver, editor of TimetoPlayMag.com. A December 1983 TIME article described parents knocking over display tables, grabbing, and shoving each other just to get one for their kids. By billing each doll as unique (each one came with adoption papers and a birth certificate), the makers of Cabbage Patch dolls were able to create an urgent sense of demand—a strategy mimicked by Beanie Babies, ZhuZhu pets, and more.

     

  • 12. Leap Pad

    LeapPad
    Amazon

    Introduced in 1999 to help kids master reading, this talking book was the first toy that aimed to make learning fun. “Kids thought they were playing,” says Silver. “And they could do it on their own without their parents.” It also paved the way for VTech’s orange and purple V.Smile, which debuted in 2004 to help preschoolers hone motor skills through a Winnie the Pooh game, as well as countless other educational gaming consoles (including a new launch of its own). But still, “if you go down the learning aisle, LeapFrog and VTech dominate it,” says Silver.

  • 11. Rubik’s Cube 

    Rubik's Cube
    Pat Greenhouse—The Boston Globe/Getty Images

    More than 350 million have been sold worldwide since it was invented 40 years ago in Budapest by architecture professor Erno Rubik, making the cube one of the best-selling puzzles of all time. (There are a maddening 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different ways to twist and turn it.) Today, there are annual tournaments held to reward the fastest solvers, and the Transformers toys have adopted a similar mechanism. “People love play that involves mastery,” says Richard Gottlieb, CEO of Global Toy Experts. “The harder you work at it, the better you get at it.”

  • 10. View-Master

    View-Master
    Steve Russell—Toronto Star/Getty Images

    Invented by Harold Graves, president of Sawyer’s Photographic Services, the stereoscope was unveiled at the 1939 New York World’s Fair as a way to view photos of tourist attractions in 3D and got its big break when it landed a licensing agreement with Disney. Think of it as a precursor to the Internet, says Tim Walsh: “People who couldn’t get to New York City to see the Statue of Liberty could feel like they were standing in front of it.” The old-school device still exists in some form—Mattel’s Fisher-Price makes a version—but its lasting impact is more visible in gadgets like the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

  • 9. Star Wars figurines

    Star Wars
    Darron R. Silva—AP

    Ever wonder why every summer blockbuster seems to come standard with a line of toys? Credit Star Wars‘ 1977 marketing campaign, which encouraged people to buy empty boxes with coupons redeemable for collectible Star Wars-themed toys. That “opened up the collectible category and made collecting cool,” says Silver. Likewise, the popularity of Marvel toys can be traced back to Mego, which helped license action figures for Marvel and Star Trek characters.

  • 8. Doc McStuffins

    Doc McStuffins
    Amazon

    The toy line based on the Disney Junior animated TV star who is doctor to her stuffed animals was the first black figure to become popular among kids of all races, boasting $500 million in sales last year. “This is a big statement about how the world is finally changing,” says Silver, “because it means kids are buying the doll not because of the color of its skin, but because of the character of the person.”

  • 7. Super Soaker

    Super Soaker
    John Blazemore—AP

    This pump-action water gun literally blew its competition out of the water, so to speak. Before NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson invented and licensed it to the Larami Corporation (later acquired by Hasbro) in 1989, “water pistols were cheap throwaway toys that you gave to somebody at a birthday party,” says Tim Walsh, author of Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them. “The Super Soaker changed the summer toy aisle, so now there’s an aisle of Super Soaker-esque water pistols that shoot 30-50 feet of water into the air.”

  • 6. Easy Bake Oven

    Easy Bake Oven
    Hasbro/AP

    Cooked up in 1963 by Kenner Products (now part of Hasbro), it was the first toy that allowed kids to make edible food, a brand new category of play. Now stores feature devices that make s’mores, sno cones, cotton candy, cupcakes, and most recently, cake pops.

  • 5. Chatty Cathy

    “The fact that dolls talk started with Chatty Cathy,” says Silver. She was the first portable, interactive doll that said things like “Let’s play house” or “I love you” when children pulled her drawstring. Mattel made it from 1959 to the mid-1960s, paving the way for the 1986 launch of Teddy Ruxpin, the first interactive stuffed animal or plush toy—kids inserted a cassette tape in its back, and it would talk—and mega-popular talking plushes like Furby, Tickle Me Elmo and Hasbro FurReal Friends.

  • 4. Nerf Bow and Arrow

    Nerf Bow and Arrow
    Mark Lennihan—AP

    The NERF “Bow ‘N’ Arrow” launched the toy blaster market when it was introduced in 1991. “Up until the 1980s, NERF had always been the hoop and basketball, so the bow and arrow changed NERF’s entire brand to where it is today, which is more of a blaster with foam darts,” says Silver. Today, the brand (owned by Kenner Products and now Hasbro) counts on the popularity of The Hunger Games’s bow-hunting heroine Katniss Everdeen to sell blasters, especially to girls, while its influence market-wide can be seen in the emergence of Zing Toys, a line of foam darts and slingshots, and the “secret” line of blasters Mattel revealed in April that are designed to fire more accurately than NERF ones.

  • 3. G.I. Joe

    G.I. Joe
    William A. Rice—MCT/Getty Images

    No one thought boys would play with a doll—until Hasbro introduced G.I. Joe in the middle of the Cold War as an “action figure” named after Government-Issued Joe, the World War II nickname for regular soldiers. “He’s an everyman, but he’s a hero—a singular individual who gets things done,” says Patricia Hogan, curator at the Strong Museum of Play. Joe paved the way for other action figures, specifically spies like the female private detective Honey West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., as people were fixated on espionage during the Cold War. But his most enduring impact may be his bendable frame. “You couldn’t bend Barbie’s knees or her elbows—she just sort of stood there while you explained what she was doing,” Hogan says. “But a kid could pose G.I. Joe doing almost anything. There were a lot of action figures that came out after Joe that didn’t have that kind of articulation, and they did not sell nearly as well.”

  • 2. Barbie

    Barbie
    Stan Honda—AFP/Getty Images

    Sales may have dropped recently, but Mattel still claims a Barbie doll is sold every three seconds, which would make the billion-dollar brand the world’s most popular doll for girls. And she’s a pretty good role model, having held more than 150 careers—including doctor, scientist and lawyer—since her debut in 1959, and always keeping an active lifestyle. “Barbie was the first incarnation of the adult version of a doll that would allow girls to envision, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ besides a mom,” says Walsh. She also embraced cultural diversity before many Americans did. Barbie’s first African-American friend debuted in 1968, and the first African-American version of herself debuted in 1980. “She has staying power because she’s changed and grown with the times,” says Hogan. And she has even surged ahead of them: Barbie has, after all, become President of the United States.

  • 1. LEGO

    Lego
    Kazuhiro Nogi—AFP/Getty Images

    Never mind that LEGO is the world’s biggest toy company—bringing in $2.3 billion in the first half of 2014 compared to Mattel’s $2 billion—and that it has spawned action-figures, TV shows, a fan conference and, most recently, a hit film. Since its debut in 1958, LEGO has also redefined the potential of playthings, allowing kids to build permanent structures from scratch, in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and “take them anywhere they want,” says Silver. That has had a massive impact on the toy and gaming industry—Minecraft was born from its creator’s experience playing with LEGO—and especially its younger players. As Walsh puts it: “I hear more stories about people who have become architects and engineers because they had a love for building with LEGOs” than I have heard people say, ‘I became a lawyer because I had a lawyer Barbie.'”

MONEY Family

Toys R Us ‘Breaks Bad’ with New Crystal Meth Toys

141020_EM_BREAKINGDOLLS
At least one toy maker is dreaming of a Walter White Christmas. ©AMC/courtesy Everett Collection

Parents aren't happy that the toy store chain is selling drug dealer dolls, complete with bags of crystal meth and sacks of cash.

Susan Schrivjer, a mom from Fort Myers, Fla., was a fan of the award-winning AMC show Breaking Bad. “I thought it was a great show,” she told a local TV station recently. “It was riveting!”

Even so, she thinks it’s not such a great idea to sell action figures based on the show’s notorious crystal meth dealers Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in a store where the customer base is families with young children. So last week Schrivjer launched a Change.org petition criticizing Toys R Us for selling “a Breaking Bad doll, complete with a detachable sack of cash and a bag of meth, alongside children’s toys [as] a dangerous deviation from the [company's] family friendly values.”

The petition, which asks Toys R Us to stop selling the dolls, had attracted signatures from more than 2,200 supporters as of Monday morning. The “Breaking Bad”-Toys R Us protest picked up extra steam after Schrivjer appeared on The Today Show this weekend, making her case that “anything to do with drugs” should not be sold in a toy store. She has no problem with the figures being sold by e-retailers and shops that are less likely to be frequented by children, such as adult novelty stores. (For what it’s worth, Breaking Bad figures are also sold by Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and other major retailers. Walmart even sells a pink Breaking Bad teddy bear.)

Toys R Us has released a statement clarifying that the Breaking Bad packaging “clearly notes that the items are intended for ages 15 and up” and that they’re only sold “in the adult action figure area of our stores.” Yet Today Show staffers found the drug dealer figures within arm’s reach of G.I. Joe dolls, Super Mario Brothers figures, and other products of obvious interest to kids. Schrivjer and her supporters are of the opinion that the Breaking Bad figures shouldn’t be sold anywhere in a toy store: “Its violent content and celebration of the drug trade make this collection unsuitable to be sold alongside Barbie dolls and Disney characters.”

The controversy pops up at a time when sales of traditional toys have been slumping—and therefore so have stores whose bread-and-butter is selling those traditional toys. With the exception of Lego, which has been on an amazingly awesome roll and recently became the largest toy company in the world, many iconic toy brands have been struggling. Mattel sales declined during the last year’s all-important fourth quarter (when winter holidays take place), and the company’s latest report shows that Barbie sales continue to dip. One of the biggest reasons cited for dismal sales is that children are increasingly drawn to electronics over traditional toys.

It’s understandable, then, that toy makers and toy stores have taken steps to sell more of what kids want today (video game and electronics sections at these stores have exploded), and also to try to expand their customer bases by manufacturing, marketing, and selling products that are for “more mature” folks. Hence, the September decision by Toys R Us to enter a global partnership with Claire’s, a jewelry and accessory brand favored by tween and teen girls—a demographic that hasn’t had much interest in shopping at Toys R Us of late. By the end of 2014, Claire’s shops will be set up within a dozen U.S. Toys R Us locations, and more are expected down the road.

The desire to woo older customers also provides some explanation for why the toy chain would be selling drug dealer dolls, as well as why it would have an “adult action figure area” to begin with.

Read next: Netflix Had a Pretty Awful Day

TIME Innovation

Check Out These Army Figurines in Yoga Poses

Let G.I. Joe help you find your inner Zen

lost-at-e-minor_logo

This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

Apparently, soldiers of war are now finding peace – not with guns, but with yoga poses! ‘Yoga Joes’ is an action figure concept by San Francisco-based Dan Abramson, in which he takes the classic green army men and makes them do yoga poses.

“I made Yoga Joes in the spirit of getting more people to try yoga. More unexpected folks are reaping the benefits of yoga today, from professional athletes, to children, to military men and women returning from wartime,” says Abramson. “I’m hoping people pass Yoga Joes around as an inexpensive gift to friends and loved ones, who might like to give yoga a shot.”

Some of the yoga poses included in the toy collection are Downward-facing Dog, Warrior Two, Cobra Pose, Child’s Pose, Meditation Pose, and Tree Pose. You can find out more about the Kickstarter project here.

(via Design Taxi)

TIME Gadgets

Hands On: Ollie Is an Acrobatic Mini-Robot Designed for Speed

Sphero

A spry toy that's three times faster than Sphero

A little over a year ago, my former colleague Harry McCracken wrote about Sphero, a nimble robotic orb you could bowl around a room like a remote-controlled plastic baseball using a smartphone or tablet.

Colorado-based Sphero (nee Orbotix), the futuristic gizmo-maker that came up with the eponymous Sphero robotic ball, is about to release its next big thing: another remote-controlled robot-toy, only one designed to zip around play-spaces three times faster.

You wouldn’t guess as much looking at it. Take one of those miniature soda cans you sometimes get on airplanes, paint it white and turn it on its side, then strap a pair of rubber rings around the ends like caterpillar track (the obvious analogy being something tank-like, and no one’s ever described a tank as “fleet”). Instead of aluminum, make the frame polycarbonate (a type of highly durable plastic), and instead of carbonated liquid, fill it with the gyroscopic innards of a gymnastic robot.

Do all that (and stylize the sides with a stack of tiny LED rectangles, and paint the tread deep sky blue) and you wind up with something that’s a little less versatile and elementally durable than Sphero, but a whole lot faster.

Sphero calls it Ollie, like the trick you can do with a skateboard or snowboard where you jump into the air without ramping off something else. Ollie can pull off ollies, do a quick spin in place, spin in place indefinitely, speed boost while driving (called “grabs”), jump around like a hot potato, pull off wheelies, or rocket across the room and turn on a dime before zipping off in a new direction. Ollie is available today for iOS and Android devices from gosphero.com for $99, with plans to sell the toy in stores starting September 15.

I’ve been playing with Ollie for about a week, putting the tubular robot through its paces in a largish room with a wood floor and a few plush rugs (both of which it navigated with ease). Unlike Sphero, which came with an inductive charging base, you have to plug Ollie into a USB outlet to charge, and its built-in battery takes about three hours to fill while returning about an hour of playtime. It’s a snap to turn on or off: just tap your mobile device (running the control app) against the toy and it connects, illuminating Ollie’s LED rectangles. You turn Ollie off by closing the app.

There’s some minor assembly required, but it’s pretty basic. Out of the box you get Ollie itself, a pair of optional “hubcaps” and two rubber “tires.” Ollie works with or without the tires (drifting’s easier with them off, hitting top speeds is easier with them on), and like Sphero, the company plans to sell a line of upgrades starting at $10 each, most of them tire-related and designed to let you tweak whether your Ollie is grip- or speed-oriented. Sphero sent along a small ramp made by Tech Deck, though it looks like the one the company is planning to sell as an official accessory–something called “Terrain Park” with ramps at either end of connector rails–is a totally different product.

Also like Sphero, Ollie seems like a product that–as Harry said of the former in his hands-on–“runs the risk of being something you love for half an afternoon and then stick in the back of a drawer forever.” I’d say it’s even more of a risk with Ollie. Though it can travel a lot faster than Sphero (up to 14 m.p.h. versus Sphero’s comparably poky 4.5 m.p.h.), it ships with just a handful of activities compared with Sphero’s 30-plus.

Once you exhaust Ollie’s velocity-related possibilities over the course of that half-afternoon (one of those possibilities including, in my case, unintentionally freaking out our Sheltie), you’re left with the tricks, which you access through a free control app pulled down from Apple’s App Store or Google Play. The app’s also where you can fiddle sliders to set top speed, finesse handling and acceleration, or optimize for hard or soft surfaces.

Sphero

In Sphero’s case, the control app included a slew of augmented reality exercises, games and programmable macros. In Ollie’s case, all you get are some light gymnastics: a few spins and mundane tricks. Flip the phone sideways and the interface shifts from a virtual motion control joystick to a square grid beside the virtual joystick that lets you swipe to trigger a few trick maneuvers, rewarding deftly executed ones with little messages like “sick spin” or “intergalactic steam roll bit flip.” But we’re talking a handful. Put Ollie in the hands of a child creatively laying down makeshift obstacles and the possibilities grow, but out of the box, Ollie feels even more niche than Sphero.

Speaking of kids, Ollie seems pretty durable for a toy that, unlike Sphero, has exposed moving parts. My two-year-old had no compunctions about chasing Ollie down, snatching it up, then giving it an emphatic toss (Ollie didn’t seem to mind). While I’m pretty sure Ollie’s not meant to be an aerial projectile, I can vouch for the toy’s ability to survive several drops from heights of about two feet onto a hardwood floor without breaking or malfunctioning. (I can’t say the same for the floor, which picked up a few dings in the process.) Also, if you’re thinking about using Ollie outside, be aware that where the company bills Sphero as waterproof as well as “pet-proof,” Sphero quips that Ollie “outruns pets and hates water.”

Questions of demographic appeal aside, I do have a minor quibble with the control scheme. Sphero’s app turns your mobile device’s touchscreen into a kind of pancaked joystick. Ollie gleans directional and velocity input using Bluetooth based on where your thumb or fingers are in relation to a central point on the screen. The good news is that the connection operates lag-free, and Ollie responded to my swipes instantaneously–up to the stated connection range of 30 meters (just under 100 feet).

Sphero

But the app shares some of the downsides of touchscreen-based control schemes that attempt (and generally fail) to give you precision control of three dimensions using only two. If you’ve played tablet or smartphone ports of 3D games made for actual 3D gamepads, you know what I’m talking about: a tendency to lose your place in the touch area when things get frantic, since there’s nothing to physically limit or “bound” your fingers on a touchscreen.

In Ollie’s case, the problem manifests less as directional control–it’s easy enough to gauge whether your thumb’s at three- or nine-o-clock without looking down at the screen–than picking the toy’s velocity. Since Ollie can move at such high speeds, you have to make course corrections far more often. So your eyes have to be on Ollie all the time, making it easy to lose your place in the app’s radius-related speed controls.

Don’t get me wrong: I like Ollie well enough, and my two-year-old now routinely asks for it by name. I can also imagine an older child coming up with some pretty sophisticated play scenarios, say devising a makeshift obstacle course using ordinary household objects or toys and working hand-eye coordination skills as well as design ones. I just wish Sphero could have come up with more for the toy to do out of the box on the app side.

The company says it’s planning to release a few more apps down the road, including one that’ll let you draw paths on the touchscreen that Ollie follows as well as others that’ll let programmers goof around. But I can’t speak to those because they aren’t yet available.

Getting Ollie racing along at top speeds certainly has its satisfactions (exhausting an energetic toddler being one of them), but Ollie needs more in its arsenal to make it, like Sphero, about more than the novelty of remote-controlling a movable toy with your mobile device.

MONEY Toys

Lego Is Now The Largest Toy Company In The World

After the success of 'The Lego Movie,' the company plans to double down on using motion pictures to drive sales.

After stacking on another six months of rapid growth, Lego is now the largest toy company on the planet.

The Danish block-maker on Thursday announced that revenues increased 11% in the first half of 2014. Total sales hit $2.03 billion, narrowly beating out Mattel’s $2 billion in revenue over the same period.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Mattel missed expectations earlier this year as interest in its flagship Barbie doll waned. In contrast, Lego earnings have soared on the strength of products related to its wildly popular movie. The film, released in February, received rave reviews and spurred new interest in the company’s products.

In a press release announcing earnings, Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp said he wasn’t sure how long the movie’s line of toys will continue their momentum. But, as the Journal points out, the company has doubled down on using motion pictures to drive sales. A movie based on Lego’s Ninjago line of ninja-themed toys is planned for 2015, and The Lego Movie 2 is scheduled for a 2017 release.

While success at the box office has surely helped spur Lego sales, the block-maker’s earnings should come as no surprise considering its other recent victories.

As MONEY’s Brad Tuttle previously reported, Lego is experiencing strong growth in China, and Knudstorp is on record as predicting his company would quadruple its revenue in less than a decade. This comes during a time when competitors like Mattel have struggled to keep up sales. Even Lego Friends, a girl-focused line of toys that was widely panned for promoting stereotypes, has been a smash hit, with sales to girls tripling in the wake of its release.

Looking forward, Lego plans to continue its growth by turning multicolored building blocks into a global icon. “We have been investing and we will continue to invest significant resources in further globalising the company,” said Knudstorp. “Ultimately this is what will ensure the future success of the Lego Group.”

TIME Tablets

This Enormous Tablet Could Replace Your Kid’s TV

Fuhu's Big Tab tablet boasts a screen as large as 24 inches. Fuhu

The Big Tab is aiming to replace video game consoles and TVs for kids' entertainment

Family game night is going digital — a new super-sized tablet for kids is aiming to replace the classic board game, the Xbox and maybe even the television.

The Big Tab, developed by fast-growing startup Fuhu, boasts a massive screen of either 20 or 24 inches, depending on the model. That’s a big jump from the company’s popular Nabi 2 tablet, which has a seven-inch screen. But Fuhu founder Robb Fujioka says the big screen size will encourage children to collaborate and socialize when they use their device, rather than tuning out the rest of the world.

To make the tablet into a social hub, Fuhu has developed a large suite of multiplayer games, from classics like checkers and Candyland to internally developed titles. A feature called “Story Time” offers 35 interactive e-books that utilize animated illustrations. Kids can also utilize video editing software, a Pandora-like radio service and educational software.

There are also tools for adults on the Android-powered device. A separate Parent Mode allows adults to download apps from the Google Play or Amazon stores. Parents can also set limits on which apps their children can access and for how long they can use them. Like Fuhu’s other devices, the Big Tab also boasts a virtual currency system that lets parents pay their kids when they complete chores or use educational apps for a certain amount of time.

The device, which also lets parents track their kids’ usage patterns, could appeal to adults looking to guide their children toward more productive forms of entertainment. Fujioka says he replaced the television in one of his children’s rooms with the Big Tab and uses it to keep track of whether his kid is playing educational games or watching Netflix. “It’s not just a boob tube,” he says. “It’s an interactive device.”

Though the tablet market is only a few years old, the devices have been embraced by parents in a big way. Tablet usage among children between ages two and 12 increased from 38% to 48% over the last year, according to research firm NPD. Juli Lennett, head of the toys division at NPD, said it’s a combination of safety, durability and kid appeal that has led to the quick popularity of children’s tablets. “When the price point is $99, on top of being a real functional tablet, these additional features are tough to beat,” Lennett told TIME via email.

The challenge for Fujioka and Fuhu will be convincing parents to pony up for a high-end tablet. The Big Tab will cost $449 for the 20-inch model and $549 for the 24-inch when it launches this fall, far more than the $180 the Nabi 2 goes for. And while the larger size means the Big Tab can be used by multiple people at once, it also makes the device less portable than its smaller cousins, eliminating one of the original selling points of the tablet form factor. “The beauty of these tablets is you throw them in your bag and you go,” says Gerrick Johnson, an equity research analyst at BMO Capital Markets who follows the toy industry. “A [24-inch] tablet becomes a little more difficult.”

Still, Fuhu is well positioned to prove skeptics wrong. The company sold 1.5 million of its normal-sized kids’ tablets in 2013, says Fujioka. This year, Fuhu is leading the children’s tablet market in the U.S., according to NPD, beating out competitors like Samsung and KD interactive. The question now is whether others will follow their lead in developing kids’ devices that cost as much as an iPad or a video game console.

“We think there’s a big market out there,” Fujioka says. “We believe we’re defining a new category of tablet products for the family.”

TIME Video Games

Skylanders Series Finally Heads to Its Logical Home: Tablets

Activision

Activision's toy-game franchise is finally coming to tablets, and not a watered-down spinoff, but the full console experience (and then some).

Toys — speaking as a child informed by the 1980s’ halcyon infusion of Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe and Transformers — are things you want to play with using your hands, not virtual appendages. You want to feel their heft, to pick them up and set them down, to put fingers to their plastic contours and movable joints and smooth or spiny textures before positioning them along imaginary compounds and battlements.

Activision’s Skylanders series celebrates the physicality of toys by folding that experience into a virtual one and back again. But until now, you’ve always had the virtual part of the experience with a television screen, probably up off the floor and away from the toys themselves. The toys were the physical experience you had to carry to the virtual one.

Activision’s finally remedying that by inverting the formula and bringing the virtual experience to the physical one: Skylanders Trap Team, the newest installment in the series that lets players “trap” characters from the game in physical objects, will be the first to support tablets, and it’ll launch simultaneously with the console versions when they ship on October 5.

It’s not a scaled-down version, either, but the full Trap Team experience you’ll have with any of the console versions, soup to nuts. What’s more, and this is where the notion of a table version starts to get interesting, Activision’s engineered its own Bluetooth gamepad. Imagine an Xbox 360 controller with all the trimmings, including dual analog thumbsticks, d-pad, face buttons and triggers, only one that’s slightly smaller (designed for the game’s younger target demographic).

It’s available as part of something the team calls the Skylanders Trap Team Tablet Starter Pack, which includes a Bluetooth version of the Traptanium Portal (the plastic stand you set the Skylanders action figures on, as well as the traps) and the gamepad itself, which rests under the platform in a formfitting cubby hole.

The starter pack includes the controller, the built-in tablet stand (it’s part of the platform, so “included” may be overselling this point) and a display tray that lets you track the traps and villains you’ve collected. Activision told me all 175 existing Skylanders toys are compatible with the platform, and that’s in addition to Trap Team‘s over 50 new playable Skylanders heroes and 40 new villains.

The tablet docks directly to the portal, tilting backward slightly, nestling in a crook-like stand (built into the portal) designed to grab and hold it without mechanical latches. That’s so you can pull the tablet out or drop it back in with ease. Watching Activision demo the new interface, it looks like coming home, like a game that’s finally found the interface it was designed for.

How much? You’ll need a tablet, of course, but assuming you have one that’s compatible — Activision supports the 3rd gen iPad forward, the Kindle Fire HDX, the Google Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Note — you can lay hands on the starter pack for $74.99, same as console.

TIME Opinion

Disney’s Perfect Answer to Barbie Is Doc McStuffins

'Time for Your Checkup' Doc McStuffins Doll with Lambie Disney Junior

The African-American doctor doll leads the way in science toys for girls

Who would have thought that Disney, the company that made its name with a parade of Caucasian princesses whose waists are smaller than their eyes, would set the record for the best-selling toy line based on an African-American character — and that this particular doll also happens to be a girl who’s interested in science? But it’s true. Merchandise based on the Disney Junior TV character Dottie “Doc” McStuffins, a young girl who plays doctor with her stuffed animals, grossed around $500 million last year.

Doc McStuffins is a miracle not only because she’s one of the few popular black dolls on the market but because she also has inspired all sorts of young girls to don stethoscopes during playtime. In an era when toy stores are divided ever more strictly into blue aisles for boys and pink aisles for girls, most of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) toys have ended up in the blue aisle. Girls, on the other hand, are stuck with chemistry kits to create their own makeup.

This may have had an impact on girls’ desire to enter the STEM fields and on the number of female engineers in the U.S. A 2009 poll of children ages 8 to 17 by the American Society for Quality found that 24% of boys say they are interested in a career in engineering while only 5% of girls are. “Wanting to be a doctor or architect or cook, that really begins when you’re young and walking around with a stethoscope or playing with an Easy Bake oven,” says Richard Gottlieb, CEO of toy-industry consulting firm Global Toy Experts, told TIME in November. No STEM toys for girls means fewer grown-up female scientists.

As parents have begun to complain about the dearth of science toys for girls, old companies and startups alike have responded with varying degrees of success. Buoyed by a viral ad campaign, GoldieBlox, an engineering toy designed for young girls, flew off the toy shelves last Christmas. The building blocks and accompanying storybook starring a blonde girl named Goldie aimed to make engineering more appealing and accessible to girls raised on boy TV characters like Jimmy Neutron and Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory with off-the-charts IQs.

Meanwhile, Lego came out with a girls-only line of toys called Lego Friends after finding in 2011 that 90% of its consumers were boys and men. Seeing an untapped market, they created an entire universe called Heartlake, featuring teen girls who wear a lot of pink and work in pet salons. But thankfully one of the characters also has an invention workshop. The Danish manufacturer has also recently issued a line of female-scientist Legos in response to feminist complaints about Lego Friends.

And then there’s Barbie. Despite Mattel’s renewed efforts to tell girls they can “be anything” — dress her in an astronaut suit, business attire or a bikini — Barbie still has an impossible figure, feet designed for high heels only and platinum blonde hair. Girls think about looks, not occupation, when playing with Barbie. So it’s not all that surprising that studies have found that Doctor Barbie doesn’t make girls want to be doctors: girls ages 4 to 7 were more likely to identify ambitious occupations as “boys only” after playing with a Doctor Barbie doll for 10 minutes than they were after playing with Mrs. Potato Head for the same amount of time.

Which is why girls so desperately need toys like those from Doc McStuffins. The show features not only 7-year-old Dottie but also her doctor mom and her stay-at-home-dad and has been endorsed by organizations like the Artemis Medical Society, which supports physicians of color. Anecdotally, the No. 1 rated show among kids ages 2 to 5 is already having an effect: a recent New York Times article on the doll included interviews with little girls who are wearing lab coats to school.

It helps that Dottie isn’t just dressing up as a doctor — like Barbie — but is actually mimicking her mom and treating her toys. You can’t be what you can’t see, which is why Doc McStuffins’ (and Goldie Blox’s and the Lego Friends characters’) actions matter more than their outfits.

TIME Toys

LEGO Adds New Female Scientist Toys After Fans Demand Them

LEGO Female Scientists
LEGO Female Scientists LEGO

Perfect for the tiny, aspiring astronomers, paleontologists and chemists in your life

Young girls interested in science finally have some encouragement from LEGO.

The toy company is selling a new kit, the Research Institute, which features women in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs: a paleontologist, an astronomer and a chemist.

According to LEGO, the set was conceived by geoscientist Ellen Kooijman as a part of the LEGO Ideas series, sets that “are based on fans’ ideas voted up by the community, and have been chosen for release.”

As i09 notes, the addition comes a few months after a letter from a 7-year-old girl complaining about the opportunities for female figurines went viral.

“All the [LEGO] girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs,” Charlotte wrote, “but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.”

Unfortunately for Charlotte, there are no sharks at the Research Institute, but there are dinosaur fossils, which are just as cool.

TIME Retail

Here’s Why Barbie Is Having a Pretty Rough Month

The Biggest Barbie Collection Auctioned At Christies
Chris Jackson—Getty Images

World’s largest toy maker posts 61% drop in second-quarter profit as demand also falls for Fisher-Price and Hot Wheels brands

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published atFortune.com.

Mattel’s iconic Barbie doll joined the popular social-network site LinkedIn this year and even appeared in a Sports Illustrated campaign, but both marketing ploys weren’t enough to drive sales in the latest quarter.

The world’s largest toy maker posted a sharp 61% drop in second-quarter profit as Barbie posted another sales decline and demand also fell for the well-established Fisher-Price and Hot Wheels brands. Results badly missed Wall Street’s expectations for the quarter, hurt by sales weakness across almost all categories.

But the sales woes for Barbie, which have plagued Mattel MAT -0.71% the past few years, are especially problematic. Barbie’s global sales slumped 15% in the latest quarter.

Worldwide sales of Mattel’s preschool Fisher-Price brands slid 17%, while Hot Wheels sales dropped 2%. The pricier American Girl doll segment was the lone bright spot, with sales rising 6%.

For the rest of the story, go to Fortune.com.

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