- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2009

NEW YORK - This year’s four-day American International Toy Fair offered a surprisingly calm atmosphere, helped by a smaller-than-usual crowd and pleasant weather in the Big Apple.

In fact, if it weren’t for an appearance by Michael Bay, director of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” at Hasbro’s showroom, I would have dozed off occasionally after being introduced to the gamut of toys associated with comic books, cartoons and movies.

Hasbro easily dominated the competition, supporting four mega pop-culture licenses: Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Transformers and Marvel. Add the fact that three are tied to upcoming movies nearly guaranteed to be blockbusters (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and the fourth is a “gold standard” supported by the current cartoon series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” and Hasbro should have a major lock on parents’ money supply as well as plenty of stock on toy aisles throughout the year.

Here’s a breakdown of the best the toy giant has to offer.

Let’s start with G.I. Joe, a fellow who celebrates his 45th anniversary this year. First, expect a full lineup of 3-inch ($7.99) as well as 12-inch figures ($15.99) throughout 2009 based on classic characters from the G.I. Joe vs. Cobra conflict, as well as movie counterparts. Yes, Sienna Miller’s Baroness will be available as well as multiple versions of Ninja Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.

A dream play set for fans with an abundance of 3 3/4-inch figures arrives in the PIT Mobile Headquarters ($99.99; summer). A massive assault vehicle opens into a sprawling 3-foot structure. The multilevel control center comes with electronic sounds, living quarters, weapons storage and an elevator. It includes an exclusive Gen. Clayton “Hawk” Abernathy figure.

Next, imagine the Real American Hero as RoboCop, and you get the Accelerator Suit Duke ($69.99; summer). A 12-inch figure bound in an exoskeleton, it simulates a running motion with a handgrip control; has motorized head, arm and torso movements; and speaks 50 phrases, complete with moving lips.

Hasbro’s Transformers celebrate their 25th anniversary this year with a lineup heavily weighted toward the movie release.

One of the best figure sets devoted to the film begins with the Human Alliance collection, which offers a 2-inch action figure and scaled robot to ride or hide on ($29.99; August). Expect Bumblebee with Sam Witwicky to sell quickly.

Also, much as with last year’s great Optimus Prime helmet, young fans can role-play with the Bumblebee Movie Voice Mixer Helmet ($39.99; late May). Its features include a radio voice-mixing effect, robot battle sounds and radio tune-in phrases.

The new movie’s villain comes to life through the Constructicon Devastator ($99.99; August). This classic and monstrous foe of the Autobots, made up of six construction vehicles, should be a handful for collectors.

Anybody remember Star Wars? Young children have been mesmerized by Cartoon Network’s “Clone Wars” series - trust me - and that leads to another year of toys based on a galaxy far, far away.

The key item for the proud owner of a 3 3/4-inch collection of Clone Troopers is the Clone Turbo Tank ($99.99; fall). Thankfully, it looks much sturdier than last year’s AT-TE, sporting 10 large tires. This deluxe field vehicle holds up to 20 figures and includes a detachable command center, multiple missile launchers, a hidden crow’s nest, electronic sounds, running lights, phrases from the cartoon and a launchable speeder bike.

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