Yes, some kids will be content unwrapping their Twilight Eclipse board game or finding a Justin Bieber doll in their stocking. But let's face it. When it comes to the Yuletide, toys are where it's at. And some of this year's best are based on blockbuster franchises.
After some rigorous goofing around testing, we are ready to give our top five picks for the hottest Hollywood playthings this season.
1. Harry Potter Legos: Heck, even Voldemort looks cute as a mini-fig. Just in time for the part one of the franchise's cinematic grand finale, these brick sets appeal to both boy and girl builders and range from simple, stocking-stuffable (Freeing Dobby) to expert (Hogwarts Castle), with prices to match ($10.99 to $129.99). But our favorite has got to be the Hogwarts Express ($79.99), which features the magic train, five mini-figs (including Harry, Ron and Draco) and the Wesley's flying Ford Anglia.
2. Star Wars AT-AT: Sure, the Clone Wars is the best thing to come from Team Lucas in years, but for us nothing compares to The Empire Strikes Back—still the best of the Star Wars flicks 30 years after its release. Now, thanks to Hasbro, our (ahem) kids can relive the Battle of Hoth with this awesomely retro vehicle. Standing over two-feet-tall, the Imperial walker can hold up to 20 action figures and comes complete with speeder bike, driver and awesome sound effects. Neither batteries—nor the Force—included. ($99.99)
4. Disney Store Singing Princess Dolls: We're sure the girls will be clamoring for all kinds of Tangled toys to round out their Disney Princess collections, but our pick is the Mouse House's new line of 17-inch singing dolls ($29.99 each) featuring the actual star voices from the films. You can hear newbie Mandy Moore 's a cappella rendition of Tangled tunes, as well as Anika Noni Rose (Tiana, The Princess and The Frog), Jodi Benson (Ariel, The Little Mermaid) and Susan Egan (Belle, Beauty and the Beast).
4. Toy Story 3 Blast-Off Buzz Lightyear: Representing the best movie of the year is one of the coolest toys of the year. This tricked-out space ranger ($34.99) comes fully equipped to send Zurg packing, with light-up rocket pack, retractable wings, laser bear and all the Tim Allen-powered catchphrases from infinty to beyond.
5. Tron Impulse Projection Action Figures. Tough choice for our final slot between the cool Iron Man 2 goods that wowed us at Toy Fair earlier this year and the new crop of Tron: Legacy toys. In the end, we went with the new, opting for these cool high-tech action figures ranging in size and price (7.5 inch-12 inch; $14.99 to $34.99) that feature digitized, moving faces straight from the movie, as well as the characters' voices. Almost enough to make you think Jeff Bridges and Garrett Hedlund snuck into your stocking.