Fans looking for the inside scoops on this year's hottest blockbusters may want to turn away from the rumor mill and instead head to their local toy store. Because if there's one thing that a visit to the 2008 American International Toy Fair proved, it's that the key to Hollywood's biggest secrets is probably sitting in the action-figure aisle.
The New York event was an ample proving ground for that theory as movie studios trotted out toys for such established hot-ticket franchises as "Indiana Jones," "Harry Potter" and "The Dark Knight," alongside newer entries like "Iron Man" and "The Spirit." From Indy's lost temple to Batman's latest ride, mysteries were solved as an array of products related to the upcoming films was displayed to a parade of industry professionals in town for the annual trade show. (Flip through photos of the hottest toys at the fair here.)
Hasbro's exhibit quickly became a must-hit destination as the company unveiled its full slate of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" merchandise. The Temple of Akator playset revealed the most clues, showing off an array of boulder traps and sandpits that our intrepid archeologist must dodge in order to gain access to the jungle fortress. Action figures for Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf and Cate Blanchett's characters were also on display, along with a new Mr. Potato Head doll, branded "Taters of the Lost Ark" and featuring the classic fedora and whip.
Lego also had its share of Dr. Jones toys, with a wide assortment of miniatures from the upcoming "Kingdom" as well as from the previous films. A bite-size version of Sean Connery's father figure was featured alongside the toymaker's own version of Akator, which comes complete with tiny crystal skull-adorned alien skeletons.
"Harry Potter," which in previous years was represented heavily at the show, saw a lighter presence this year given the nine-month window before the release of the next film, "Half-Blood Prince." Toy company NECA unleashed figures of Harry and Dumbledore from "Chamber of Secrets," while fellow manufacturer Corgi had its entire "Half-Blood Prince" line misplaced by FedEx, along with products for the next James Bond flick, "Quantum of Solace."
Superheroes were out in full force as DC Comics made the trip from Gotham to showcase its line of products connected to Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight." Mattel made news early on by revealing the weapons-laden Lamborghini that Bruce Wayne drives after parking his Batmobile, in addition to its ultra-detailed figure for Heath Ledger's Joker. Lego, which holds a Batman license, opted out of producing toys for the heavily anticipated sequel given its dark nature, while DC Direct — the toy arm of the comics giant — kept its plans under wraps as it prepares a series of collectible statues and props.
Marvel Comics made its presence known at Hasbro's two-story showroom, with one large display split between "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk." Under the watchful eyes of massive statues of both characters, an extensive collection of action figures and vehicles were packed into the exhibit. Highlights for "Iron Man" included a 12-inch figure with motion-activated sounds and a removable helmet that reveals Robert Downey Jr.'s face underneath, while Marvel's jolly green giant turned heads with a dancing Hulkey Pokey Hulk, which does, you guessed it, the hokey pokey.
Mezco immortalized Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes as their characters from Frank Miller's green-screen-heavy superhero romp "The Spirit" with a series of statues. The firm also presented figures and busts based on "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," including an impressive 18-inch sculpt of the devilish hero, complete with a six-barreled shotgun.
The parade of Hollywood heavyweights continued with the Wachowski brothers' big-budget "Speed Racer," for which Mattel turned Emile Hirsch, Matthew Fox, Christina Ricci and even John Goodman into action figures. The adrenaline-fueled film also inspired a Hot Wheels line of elaborate track sets, which shot their die-cast vehicles high into the air.
Disney's "Chronicles of Narnia" follow-up, "Prince Caspian," got its due at the Jakks Pacific display, where an assortment of figures for both its human and mythical characters gave us detailed looks at the movie's minotaur, centaur and wer-wolf. A castle playset representing the film's climactic battle to reclaim Caspian's throne was also on display, featuring more than two vertical feet of trap doors, collapsing bridges and secret elevators.