PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Toy Fair 2018: Bachmann Trains

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bach-001The last time we went to Toy Fair, one of the friendliest booths was Bachmann Trains, and this year they showed off a few cool new products and provided images, so we’re passing them along to you. Toy Trains are experiencing a bit of a rebirth by incorporating new technology to make them more appealing to today’s kids.

Bachmann has been in the forefront of this, and they’ve updated their app that allows you to operate a train using any smartphone or tablet. Features of the E-Z App® Touch-Screen Train Control include: Wireless control with any Android™ device (running Android™ 4.3 or later) or any iPhone®, iPad®, or iPod touch® device (running iOS8 or later); Operational range from up to 100 feet away with Bluetooth® Smart technology; Realistic, dynamic engine sound broadcast through your smart device; Compatibility with 16 volt DC or DCC track power for operation; Ready to launch and use instantly after downloading the FREE Bachmann E-Z App® from the Google Play store or Apple App Store and no configuration or additional equipment required.

We got to see a demonstration of this a couple of years ago, when they were still developing the system, and it was really impressive then. It’s cool to see they’re still improving it.

For 2018 Bachmann Trains introduced five new ready-to-run electric train sets in the two most popular scales at Toy Fair 2018

HO Strike Force

The HO Strike Force honors the tireless efforts of our men and women in uniform. Its GP40 diesel locomotive and three cars all feature a camouflage paint scheme.

HO North Pole Express

All aboard for a Christmas adventure with the HO North Pole Express, which includes a 2-6-2 locomotive and two passenger cars.

bach-004HO Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

You can join the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus® and ride the rails with The Greatest Show On Earth® Special! This HO set offers a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey F7-A diesel and two Red Unit smooth-side passenger cars.

Chessie Special
The Chessie Special is led by a classic C&O® 0-6-0 steam locomotive that hauls four freight cars.

Merry Christmas Express
Bursting with holiday cheer in N scale, the Merry Christmas Express is decorated for the holidays and is ideal for a table-top display or around a miniature tree.

Bachmann’s sets include everything needed to get started in model railroading in one complete package: locomotive, cars, track, power pack, and speed controller.

bach-006Bachmann also showed off two new battery-operated sets for younger railfans. Both feature a diesel engine with locomotive, whistle, and bell sounds plus an operating headlight. These ready-to-run sets come complete with a 63″ x 45″ oval of snap-together track and include either two passenger cars, station, crossing gates, and signals (United Railways Express) or three freight cars, crossing gates, signals, and trees (Fast Rail Flyer). Just add batteries (no controller or power pack needed) and you are ready for hours of railroading fun!” Each set carries an MSRP of just $29.00, and requires two AA batteries for operation (not included).


PopCult will wrap up our Toy Fair 2018 coverage Friday, but we’ll be covering cool toys all year long. Stay tuned.

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poop-001It’s not every day that you sit down to write an article about a hot new trend in toys–the use of poop as a play item–and find yourself scooped by The Associated Press.

I’d actually planned to write this post last week, but held off because, well, I didn’t think anybody else would bother looking in-depth at this topic. I was wrong. To be fair, this is a trend in toys that I predicted almost five years ago, so you could say that I was some kind of fecal visionary, or scat prophet. At the very least, when it comes to toys and grossout trends, I know my poop.

poop-002This year at Toy Fair Mattel introduced “Flushin’ Frenzy,” a game in which kids compete to see who can grab the turd that comes flying out of a plastic toilet while it’s being plunged.You can see it above.

Hasbro countered with “Don’t Step In It,” a game where players are blindfolded and have to avoid stepping in Play Doh-ish poop. It’s sort of like pin the tail on the donkey, if you use a real donkey…and follow behind him. That one’s to the left.

poop-003There is also poop elsewhere in the toy section, as two new collectible lines are already in stores. Spin Master makes “Flush Force (right),” a blind-bag collectible with over 150 tiny plastic disgusting characters that live in a plastic toilet (sold separately).

poop-004Another blind-bag collectible is “Poopeez (left),” from Basic Fun, who have the advantage of being squishy.

Unlike Flush Force, Poopeez also actually happen to be poop, and come with commode accessories. Both of these are “blind-bag” toys, which means that kids will be asking parents to buy them bags of poop, without knowing what they’re getting. Sometimes life really is like a box of chocolates.

You can find both of these now at Target and Toys R Us.

poop-005Hog Wild makes “Sticky The Poo (right),” a squishy poop-emoji-esque figure with eyes, that clings to walls and ceilings when thrown. Just the thing to help train the kids how to behave, right? There is also a Sticky Unicorn Poo variant, and a Plunger, sold separately. I guess some toy companies really will throw anything against the wall to see what sticks.

poop-006There is also “Poo-Dough (left),” which is modelling clay, scented, but apparently not to smell like poop, that comes with a mold that lets you make realistic poop logs.

Smaller companies have squeezed out dozens more poo-centric toys this year, but if I sit here broken-hearted pondering them any longer my legs might fall alseep, so we’ll just wipe it up here.

There are two words I have agreed never to use in PopCult, and at the moment, I really wish I had access to one of them. Anyway, it looks like 2018 will be the year that the poop really hit the fan in the toy aisle. The message to kids: It’s never to late to start playing with your poop!

Toy Fair 2018: Harry Potter Toys and Games

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hp-001Toy Fair is over, but we still have plenty of news to bring you as we sort out the reports and figure out what’s the most newsworthy items. We’ll probably wrap up our coverage by Friday, and then move on to the next big things in pop culture.

For now, we’re going to look at toys based on Harry Potter, since you can’t find many pop culture phenomenons bigger than good old Harry.

Jakks Pacific announced that they will be releasing a series of new technologically enhanced Wands in the Harry Potter Wizard Training Wand collection, as well as an assortment of Die-Cast Wands inspired by fan-favorite characters. Additionally, the Wizarding World™ toy line will also include the new Niffler Challenge Game inspired by Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

We go to the PR: “With 11 different spells to learn and master, kids can now train like a wizard with the Harry Potter Wizard Training Wands (seen at the head of this post and below). Using active motion sensors, these wands track movement throughout five different modes of play, allowing for endless spell casting alone or with friends. The Wizard Training wands assortment includes Harry Potter’s Wand, Albus Dumbledore’s Wand, and Lord Voldemort’s Wand; each sold separately for $24.99.”

“Kids can also collect die-cast replica wands from some of their favorite Harry Potter characters. With a variety of 12 different styles, for only $4.99 kids can master the wizardry of Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Harry Potter himself, and many more. Each wand stands 4 inches high and includes a special stand for display purposes. And in the spirit of Wizarding World magic, each wand is sold in a blind mystery box allowing the wand to choose its wizard!”



JAKKS Pacific also introduces the Niffler Challenge Game, inspired by Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This two-player game allows each player to load up the Niffler with jewelry and coins until they spill onto the cases; the first player to spill the contents wins. For the first time the adorable, mischievous Niffler has its own game. The game includes one Niffler on a rocking base, two wands, 64 coins and necklace pieces — available for $19.99 this fall.



LEGO has an impressive set that’s sure to entice Harry Potter fans. The Hogwarts Great Hall set (above) has one side that looks like the outside of the stately fixture of Hogwats, while the other side showing the inside of the building with room for all your Harry Potter minifigures as well as other features like the Sorting Hat and other iconic items, characters and characters from the films.

hp-004Funko expands their Rock Candy line to include several new Harry Potter figures (seen right and below). This is Funko’s less-cartoony representation of characters that doesn’t transform everything into their big-headed “Pop” style. The first wave of figures in this line was a big hit last year.

Among the figures due out in 2018 are Harry Potter with the prophecy orb; Ron Weasley in his Quidditch Uniform; Lord Voldemort and Albus Dumbledore.

There’s also a Barnes & Noble exclusive figure of Neville Longbottom with the Sword of Gryffindor from Book 7.

Funko also showed a new line of Harry Potter plush figures (seen below, bottom), but those have already hit retail. They’re still pretty darned cute-looking.

With a Broadway play, and a new movie due out this year, in addition to millions of fans of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts clamoring for more, it’s no surprise that the world of toys is being overrun by Wizards this year. I would be at all surprised if even more Harry Potter merchandise hits stores near the end of the year.



life-speaks-logoWe are still a bit hungover from Our PopCult Toy Fair coverage (keep checking back, we’re not done yet) and all the Rubber Soul Beatles Marathon programming that we’ve featured the last two weeks over at The AIR , but Wednesday we have some classic replays for you as well as a fresh serving of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle. Tune in at the website, or on this neat little embedded player…

You can hear a brand new edition of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle Wednesday at 1:30 PM, with a replay at 7 PM, Michele brings us a half-hour pep talk about self esteem, self-worth and how to gain confidence. She tells of her own struggles with insecurity and self-doubt and how she overcame her fears and has spoken, literally, to millions of people. It’s all part of the running narrative of Michele’s show, where she urges us to slow down and listen as “Life Speaks.”

You can keep up with Michele’s other projects, her life-coaching and her first novel at her website, where you will also be likely to find out about her upcoming second novel.

Elsewhere on the schedule for The AIR Wednesday you will find carefully-curated, hand-picked encore editions of programs like Curtain Call, hosted by Mel Larch, where this week the focus is on Hamilton, and Beatles Blast, hosted by your PopCulteer. We are still deep in the thrall of The Beatles this week on The AIR, as we bring you four more hours of the Rubber Soul Beatles marathon Wednesday at 8 PM. Due to popular demand, the entire marathon will be played again Sunday, February 25, beginning at 11 AM.

You can follow the whole schedule on this embedded doo-hickey, which quite frankly scares us just a little, the way it changes with each day…



Toy Fair 2018: Barbie News

barbie-001The PopCult Toybox

Mattel showed off a ton of new Barbie Product at Toy Fair, and we have some images to share. These aren’t exactly scoops. The dedicated online Barbie fandom uncovered most of this info in the middle of last year, but now we have Mattel’s official photos to confirm what they already knew by haunting accidental pre-order listings on Amazon and Chinese eBay postings.

At the bottom of this post you’ll find a link to a comprehensive blog post that shows multiple images of all of the products that Mattel is releasing in the Barbie line this year, along with news on sets which have not yet been seen. Mattel releases dozens of new Barbie figures in a multitude of forms all year long, and if you’re a die-hard collector, you already know that.

The trend this year is away from the high-tech gimmickry that failed to catch on for the last few years. Barbie will focus on new fashions, new careers and high-quality dolls based on upcoming movies. After failed ideas such as a Wi-Fi enabled Barbie and a Barbie drone, Mattel has realized that they don’t really need to change their core product that much. Barbie is Barbie, and with the demise of Monster High and the recent slump of Disney Princesses, Barbie remains the grande dame of the fashion doll world, even in her 59th year.

Tomb Raider Barbie was announced at Toy Fair as coming out in March, but was already available locally at the Barboursville Toys R Us over the weekend. This thirty-dollar figure is based on the upcoming movie and has an articulated figure with a great headsculpt that resembles actress Alicia Vikander, who plays Lara Croft.



Other movies that will inspire Barbie sets this year include Jurassic World: Fallen Temple, A Wrinkle In Time and Wicked. No images were released for Wicked, or for the upcoming new X-Files, Nutcracker and the Four Realms or Mary Poppins sets, but we do have Jurassic World and Wrinkle sets depicted below.





Barbie’s Fashionista’s line continues with new dolls in a variety of body types and skin tones wearing all-new fashions.




The impressive big playset this year is the Barbie Large Rescue Vehicle, which is due out in June. Barbie comes to the rescue with her care clinic vehicle, which includes a working siren and lights.


Lift the lever at the back of the colorful vehicle to instantly transform it into a care clinic. Barbie can greet her patients at the check-in stand that flips up in the center of the clinic. On the left, a yellow couch can be pulled down to reveal a waiting room with a fish tank. Pull down the fish tank to reveal a gift shop, where you can pick get-well gifts like a teddy bear or heart-shaped balloon! On the right, an exam room is fully equipped for medical emergencies and check-ups. The pink patient bed can be adjusted for comfort and also doubles as storage.


While these are great for Barbie collectors, 1/6 scale action figure collectors (think the original GI Joe) might have some interest in the kit-bashing and customizing potential for some of Barbie’s items, particularly this Ken Traveler set with Motorcycle, which is in stores now for thirty bucks.




These are just the highlights.  PopCult Note: We have removed a link that was here originally after being informed that the site we linked to pilfered their content from other websites. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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e2441-mvl-mcu-10th-avn1-1Due out this fall, Hasbro will be releasing ten sets of figures to celebrate ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans can commemorate 10 years of epic blockbusters with new MARVEL LEGENDS SERIES figures.

Each MARVEL STUDIOS: THE FIRST TEN YEARS figure features high-quality deco and extensive articulation in 6-inch scale.  These are all-new sculpts designed with the collector in mind. While recommended for ages four and up, make no mistake that these figures are aimed at the adult collector. Prices have not yet been released on these, but I would expect them to be in the thirty-to-fifty dollar range per set.

All told there will be  10 new multi-figure packs including updated fan favorite characters as well as several first-time Marvel Cinematic Universe figures as featured in THE AVENGERS, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, CAPTAIN AMERCIA: CIVIL WAR and more! Each figure sold separately.

The packaging is designed so that the images on the sides of the boxes all fit together to create a panoramic montage of all the Marvel Cinematic Characters together when displayed on a bookshelf.  You can see that below, and then after the jump, check out Hasbro’s official images of some of the sets.



Continue reading…

The PopCult Toybox

tf-001While we’re not at Toy Fair ourselves this year, YouTube is loaded with videos that are the next best thing to being there. Not Another Retro Channel has great videos that show stuff from NECA and MEZCO, two companies that have all kinds of great pop culture toys and collectibles.

NECA offers up cool horror-movie characters, with Re-Animator, It and The Fog making a big spash this year, plus they have toys anc collectibles based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Crash Bandicoot, Pan’s Labrynth, Ash vs. Evil Dead, FRiday The 13th, Gremlins, Aliens, Predator, American Gods, Elf, as well as Marvel Comics and more.

The video runs under twelve minutes and shows lots of cool images…

MEZCO is another great company that produces Living Dead Dolls and the ultra-high-quality One: 12 collection of six-inch action figures.  New this year are figures from Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Blade and the Netflix Marvel characters in the One:12 scale, plus DC, Popeye, and horror movie classics in that scale too.

MEZCO will also be releasing some really high-detail Kong: Skull Island figures this year and next. This video is just over four minutes and is also packed with great images…

Just a few hours ago Not Another Retro Channel posted a quick walk-through video of the McFarlane Toys booth.

Keep checking PopCult. We’ll be posting more Toy Fair news all this week. Not Another Retro Channel is sure update their YouTube page with more videos all week long, too, so give them a visit and subscribe.



This week our art for you is a happy accident, or some would say, just an accident. While adjusting the white balance on a photo of the Chicago skyline, taken in December, I slipped up and hit the button for one of the paint filters, and the buildings turned all fuzzy–like they were made out of dryer lint.

It cracked me up, and I still don’t have all my graphics program’s bells and whistles working on the new PC, so I thought you’d enjoy it and then I wouldn’t have to do any new art this weekend. Click to enlarge.

Our Toy Fair 2018 coverage continues later today.

Toy Fair 2018: Reports from Bleeding Cool

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bc-imageOver at the beloved muck-raking comics and pop culture website, Bleeding Cool, they’ve been very busy all weekend long posting updates, reports and photos from Toy Fair.  They’re doing a killer job, so we’re going to point you to some of their more interesting items…

They have extensive photos from Hasbro’s showroom, so you can see what to expect from My Little Pony and Disney Princesses.

Also from Hasbro, Bleeding Cool brings you tons of images from upcoming Marvel toy lines.

They have more photos than we’ve seen elsewhere from the always-incredible NECA booth.

Everybody has coverage of Funko, but Bleeding Cool pointed out their Conan action figure, which I don’t recall anyone else mentioning.

They also offer up lots of great close-ups from the Super 7 booth.

These are the first photos we’ve seen so far from our friends at Cryptozoic Entertainment.

Lots of in-depth images of Transformers on display in this post.

Bleeding Cool offers up plenty of details on the Star Wars collectible action figures lines.

They show plenty of great high-end colletible statues from Good Smile Company.

They also posted plenty of images from the MEZCO booth with Living Dead Dolls and the One-12 Action Figure line.

For more Toy Fair news from  Bleeding Cool, keep visiting their “Games” section of their website.

PopCult will continue to bring you news from Toy Fair 2018 for the next few days, be it links, videos or full reports. Just keep checking back.

pc-2-18-01The PopCult Toybox

Mattel’s Monster High seems to be missing in action at Toy Fair this year. So far the only mention I’ve seen of it anywhere was in a press release about Mattel’s partnership with Tynker, an educational program that helps teach kids coding. This is no great surprise, as the doll line unwittingly paid tribute to another classic monster movie at retail last year: The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Unless Mattel had Monster High buried in a corner of their enormous booth that nobody’s bothered to cover on the internet yet, the rumors of the past two years are true. Monster High has been cancelled.

It’s been a precipitous fall for Monster High, a brand that, just four years ago, was pulling in almost two billion dollars a year, but it’s also pretty much the norm for the toy business.  Monster High had close to an eight-year run, which is pretty impressive for a toy line.

pc-2-18-03In 2016, Mattel, in dire financial straits following the loss of the Disney Princesses line to Hasbro, rebooted Monster High and tried to aim it at a younger audience.

Instead of extending the life of the brand, that move seemed to hasten its demise, as collectors rejected the new designs and the already dipping sales never quite recovered. The new designs were really out of touch with what fans wanted.

If any new Monster High toys  make it into stores in 2018, they’re most likely just the last few items that were in the production pipeline. Apparently the division was shut down last year (or earlier) and the design personnel shifted to other projects.

pc-2-18-07Last year Mattel introduced Enchantimals, which seems a lot like Monster High, only replacing the monster part with cute woodland critters, and that line is pretty much destined to have a short shelf-life. Hasbro tried the girl/animal hybrid thing with their My Little Pony Equestria Girls line, and that didn’t exactly set the world on fire.  I don’t see Enchantimals doing any better. Like with the failed Ever After High, Mattel cannot seem to catch lightning in a bottle again.

Interestingly enough, the core concept behind Monster High–adventures of the offspring of famous monsters as youngsters–is still alive and well in at least two new properties from other companies.

pc-2-18-04Videogame developer Beautiful Glitch and publisher Those Awesome Guys will release Monster Prom in April.  Monster Prom is a dating simulator with an angle familiar to fans of Monster High.

This new game places the traditional dating simulator into one of the most traumatic environments known to teenagers, high school.

Gone are the days of a solitary slog to find your perfect match, Monster Prom lets you pit your wits against your friends with 1-4 player modes available. Beautiful Glitch has released a trailer for what looks like a hellishly fun trip back to adolescence, and you can find out more on the game’s steam page. The game will be available on PC, Mac, and Linux.

More interesting, in terms of coincidental origins is Super Monsters, a Netflix animated kids series that will make it into toy stores via Hasbro’s Playskool brand.

pc-2-18-05Let’s go to the press release: “Super Monsters is an animated series about a group of preschool-aged kids who are descendants of the world’s most famous monsters, such as Count Dracula, Cleopatra and Frankenstein. The show follows the kids through their Pitchfork Pines Preschool adventures as they learn to master their own special powers while learning how to be the best they can be.”

Super Monsters is basically Monster High, set in pre-school. Monsters still remain popular with kids, and there’s still plenty of life left in the idea of the children of famous monsters learning monstrous life lessons.

I do have to wonder when Cleopatra made the jump from historical figure to monster, though.

Hasbro’s Super Monsters product line will include collectible figures of the core cast, plush, playsets and vehicles iconic to the show. The line will also feature role play products to let kids act out their own silly monster adventures. As the global master toy licensee, Hasbro will launch its line based on the Super Monsters series in fall 2018 under its Playskool brand in the U.S., with additional markets to follow in 2019.  Season one of Super Monsters is available now on Netflix. Season two of the series will launch in October 2018.

pc-2-18-08So Monster High is dead, but monsters live on. Super Seven showed new Universal Monsters action figures. Funko (seen left) will be producing more recent horror movie icons like Jason and Freddy as He-Man style figures. NECA continues their MEGO-style horror series with figures based on Re-Animator and The Fog, and plenty of other companies will be releasing spooky toy concepts this year.

The interesting thing to watch in the coming years will be how the large and passionate Monster High collector community evolves.  Will Monster High fade from memory completely, or will a group of dedicated collectors manage to keep it alive long enough to be revived by Mattel five or ten years down the road? The concept obviously has legs. Kids have loved classic monsters for over sixty years.  It all depends on the patience and persistence of the fans.  Plus, it’s hard to keep a good monster in the grave.