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When it comes to creating Aquabats merch for SDCC, Toddland always goes “with the most fun & crazy idea”

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If you’re a regular reader of JHM, then you might already be familiar with The
Aquabats
.  A band of five spandex-wearing
middle-aged men who live out of a van and travel the land to fight crime, sing
songs & stuff. And, if you’re an Adventure Time, Yo Gabba Gabba, or just a
cute-and-cool-things-in-general fan, then you’re most likely already familiar
with Toddland

Started in 2009 by ” … a few friends that liked rad
stuff, and wanted to make rad stuff to give to our friends,” this company
has been making some really awesome stuff. And at San Diego Comic-Con next
week, they’ll be premiering some amazing new Aquabats products.

I recently got the chance to talk to Todd, owner of
Toddland, about the history of his company as well as the upcoming SDCC merch:

Alice: First of all, could you tell us a little about how
Toddland started. What got you into the industry?


Todd:  Toddland was
started in 2009 by a few friends that liked rad stuff, and wanted to make rad
stuff to give our friends.  We all worked
at Paul Frank together for years and just wanted to work on a new project.

Alice: How did you start working with The Aquabats?

Todd: While working at Paul Frank we became good friends
with them. And it didn’t hurt that our super pal Parker [Jacobs] is MCBC’s
brother.  (Parker did the artwork for the
Hi GFive target practice print for Comic-Con this year.)


Alice: What’s the process like when a company / group like The
Aquabats approaches you with product ideas? Did it go smoothly in the lead-up
to SDCC?

Todd: We love working with those guys.  We work best with other creative types that
don’t like boundaries.  Always go with
the most fun & crazy ideas. You can always back off if you have to. But you
never know unless you try.  We only work
with people we like now, and those guys are always super-fun to work with!

Alice: Can we expect to see these items for sale on the
Toddland website later?


Todd: Maybe.  We are
still working out all of that.  The plan
is to sell everything at Comic-Con, and take what we can to the House of Blues show
during SDCC.  Then whatever we have left
will probably go on tour with The Aquabats, then we’ll see what is left to put
online. BUT if we sell out of something, and there is enough demand, we may
bring it back. That is the reason we decided not to get anything approved as a “SDCC
EXCLUSIVE” this year. If it is an official Comic-Con exclusive, we cannot
sell it online or at any of the shows. 
With SDCC tickets being so hard to get, we wanted to make sure everyone
had a chance to get things.

Alice: Could you tell us a little about the panel / signing at
SDCC this year?

Todd: Well, Thursday they are planning House of Blues San
Diego (doors open at 7 p.m.), Friday
I know that all of the Aquabats will be in our booth (#4537) from 1 – 3 p.m. signing, and that there is a panel
that night from 9 – 10 p.m. as
well.  Saturday I heard there is an
unofficial [not Aquabats, Toddland, or SDCC-sponsored] meet-up at Children’s
Park that day for Aquabats fans!


Todd then tossed in some extra notes about merch, and tips
for those attending the signing:

Todd: The only tip I have people is that we have a limited
amount of tix we can hand out for the signing. 
You should come to the booth as early as possible on Friday morning to
get a ticket.  They are free. But having
one is the only guarantee you’ll get to meet/greet/get things signed with
them.  If you do not get one, you are
welcome to get in line during the signing, but all the ticketed people
will get to go first, and the signing ends promptly at 3.


Also, for merch, there are limited numbers of things, so
people should consider the math on things. 
There are 5 days of Comic-Con, and 1 HOB show.  So considering that, if we only have 100 Lil
Bat blank figures, that breaks down to less than 20/day/event that are available.  We usually
sell out of everything, and there is no guarantee of things going online. So
best to pick things up or have your friends grab them while they are there.


Alice: How much, altogether, would it cost to buy at least one
of each new Aquabats merch available at SDCC?


Todd:  Hmm, off hand
I’d say probably between $250-300 for one of everything of the new stuff, not
counting anything that has already been released, and helmets, power belts,
goggles, rash guards, etc. Keep in mind this year that everything we made was
100% designed, produced, and made in the USA.


Alice: What made you guys decide to bring back the Squishy Lil
Bat figures?


Todd: They’re not squishy. They are actually molded urethane
plastic and coated with white semi-rigid plastic.  Since a lot of people really loved the
Squishy Lil Bat and didn’t have one, we thought these would be a cool update to
them.  Now they can make their own.  From following cadets on Twitter, [we know
that] there is A LOT of creativity in the [Aquabats] fan base. And we think the
fans will do some really really cool things with these on their own. 
We partnered up with Thingify to make this happen. They’re awesome!



Alice: Can we expect more Toddland / The Aquabats team-ups in the
future?



Todd: you know it!

Alice: What’s your favorite merch going on sale at your booth
at SDCC?



Todd: Anything we get to collaborate on with other companies
/ artists is always fun.  This year we
got to work with Dave Perillo again, and are introducing collabs with Thingify
and Toygami.  The art prints are always
awesome. But I really like what we were able to pull off with Toygami, 100
handmade blank Lil Bats that people can buy and paint up / design however they want. We’ve been trying to make it
happen for the past few years, but we finally pulled it off.  Anything that promotes creativity and gets
fans involved is awesome for us.


Alice: Finally, anything else you’re looking forward to at
SDCC?


Todd: Other than the Aquabats going’s on, I’m really looking
forward to seeing a lot of my friends, trying my hand at cosplaying a couple days (two
outfits is twice the fun right?) hitting a couple panels, and of course picking
up some exclusives like everyone else. (*cough*, I REALLY need a Star Wars
black edition Jabba the Hutt from Hasbro this year. If somebody can make that happen, I’ll make it worth
it).  At the end of the day, I’m just a
big fanboy like everyone else.  Walking around
and experiencing it is the best part. 
It’s the greatest week of the year!


Well, there you have it! It was an absolute pleasure talking
to Todd about the upcoming merch, and I’m fully prepared to throw just about
all my money for SDCC at him. To learn more about the upcoming merch for SDCC,
follow Toddland on Twitter at @Toddlandstore! And make sure to follow The
Aquabats at @TheAquabats for more news.

Here’s to all the news, and merch coming out of SDCC!

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“Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion” game coming this summer

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Adventure Time Pirates of the Enchiridion

“C’mon on, grab your friends … ” A new Adventure Time game is coming out across multiple platforms.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

In this open world game, Finn and Jake will be sailing on a raft (Named Jeff) through the flooded land of Ooo to solve the mystery of why water engulfed their home and to help others & get in hijinks along the way. With a ragtag gang of friends (From a vampire, to an Ice King, to a little robot) Finn and Jake will travel from the melting Ice Kingdom to the Fire Kingdom and fight in turn-based combat like an RPG.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

The trailer shows off some absolutely gorgeous character models and environments. I’m particularly enchanted by the gorgeous Candy Kingdom that’s briefly shown in this footage. The art design sticks close to the show, but brings with it a soft, sweet design rarely seen in adventure games. Which is a refreshing thing to bring to the table. Likewise, it’s a joy to see the characters translate to 3D so well. Outright Games has done some fantastic work here with their art design.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

Likewise, the voice cast for the show will be reprising their roles as characters in the land of Ooo. And they’ll have a lot of lines to record. Not only can you control Finn and Jake, but you’ll be able to play as BMO and Marceline as well. You can upgrade these characters to unlock unique abilities for combat and the map holds plenty of fun mysteries too. With side stories and secret locations, this seems like a game that’ll have hours & hours of fun.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

What strikes me particularly about this game is how much it resembles Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. This is no coincidence. Adventure Time have a history of being direct corollaries to Legend of Zelda games. “Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!” ‘s gameplay references “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” and “Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom” has the same top down look & combat stylings as “Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.” With this in mind, it’s absolutely delightful to see a Wind Waker homage with a series like this. Wind Waker was a gamechanger for the Legend of Zelda series, and it feels like “Pirates of the Enchiridion” will be a gamechanger for the Adventure Time games.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

‘Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion’ will be out July 17th for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC. 

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Do you like treasure hunting and/or cooking soup? Then Pokemon Quest is the game for you

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Pokemon Quest

Immediately after the Pokemon press conference on May 29th, the mobile-switch cross platform game Pokemon Quest was available to download on the Nintendo eShop (with the mobile device version debuting later this month). Curious about the ‘Free-to-Start’ game, I snagged a download and started playing.

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Pokemon Quest is a game that feels best letting itself auto-run. You check in several times a day to see what Pokemon have appeared at your camp (The conceit behind this game is that you’re a treasure hunter & Pokemon flock to you to fight their brethren in your honor. They also sometimes just come by because you make really good soup. What can I say?). With the Pokemon at your disposal, you build a small exploration team much in the same style as the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game series. And you then set them out to fight other Pokemon in open levels. From these battles, you win power stones (which allow you to upgrade your Pokemon’s health & attack power), and ingredients to lure other Pokemon to your camp.

You may’ve taken notice use of the term ‘Free-to-Start’ earlier in this article. That’s because — like many mobile services — this game offers add-ons for purchase. I don’t see any age limit on the Nintendo Switch version to take away ads for purchases (which many mobile games have chosen to add. See Disney’s own ‘Disney Crossy Road’) but the Pokemon Company may be expecting parents to set their own controls over the switch with the parental controls available on the system.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

Still, the game is typical in mobile game fare for trying to wring money out of players. Energy to play the game costs P tickets, which you can earn 50 a day … or you can just buy. The game gives you an amount to start with, shows you how to use them to speed up your game, and then takes you to the shop where you can see an advertisement to buy it — along with Pokemon furniture to help your team.

These packages can go up to $30 and include Pokemon in-game items & exclusive furniture. And while Pokemon Go offered items in bundles like this, it’s still odd to see in a Pokemon game — let alone a Pokemon game on the Nintendo Switch (albeit, this is a cross-platform game). The game itself doesn’t seem to have any sort of hard-pay line for gameplay, though. I’m up to the fifth world in my game without making any purchases. And while the game difficulty has dramatically ramped up, likely to encourage purchases, it’s still completely manageable to play without paying.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

In that sense, for a free game, it’s really cute & enjoyable. The graphics are pleasing and colorful. And if you return to camp, you’ll find all the Pokemon you’ve befriended hopping around adorable decorations. Sometimes stacking on top of each other, other times following each other around in what seems like games of tag.

The ‘cooking’ mechanic to encounter a random Pokemon makes encountering them feel less like gambling and more like strategy. By cooking certain recipes from materials you find on missions, you can draw certain types of Pokemon to your camp. Cooking in certain pots (unlocked by playing through the game) can draw higher powered Pokemon at the cost of more materials. And waiting while your energy fills up means running out of ingredients (At the point of the game I’m at, about half-way through) doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

All in all, I’d say, if you have access to this game, check it out and see if it’s for you. There doesn’t seem to be cross platform support for other Pokemon games. But as a standalone, it’s a cute, fun blip of a game. The hard ‘end’ of the levels within surprises me, especially since it seems to end with 150 Pokemon (out of the over eight hundred available). So I’m not sure what there is to get out of it when you get to the end level outside of getting every Pokemon. But it’s still a fun, very casual strategy game. Just keep an eye on purchases if your children decide to play. 

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“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” & “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” to come to the Nintendo Switch this year

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Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu

During a conference in Japan earlier this week, the Pokemon Company revealed three new games : A mobile and Nintendo Switch cross platform game, “Pokemon Quest,” with graphics similar to Crossy Road and some absolutely adorable furniture in a “free to start” format; and for the Nintendo Switch, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !”

Taking inspiration from gameplay styles from the popular “Pokemon Go” for mobile devices, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !’ adopts the thrown Pokeball system. By using one controller with the Switch system, you can make a tossing motion to throw a Pokeball and capture a cute critter for your team.

Copyright the Pokemon Company. All rights reserved

Additionally, you can buy the “Pokeball Plus” accessory to act as an additional “Joy-con” controller for your Switch to capture Pokemon. Then load a Pokemon into your pokeball, and take it out on the go.

From there, with the accessory, you’ll be able to interact with the Pokemon you have inside. Although current information doesn’t offer whether we’ll have more options than putting Eevee or Pikachu in the Pokeball Plus, the footage seen in the linked trailer is absolutely adorable.

The game itself seems to be a remake of Pokemon Yellow, a game released twenty years ago for the Game Boy Color. You explore the Kanto Pokemon region, and seem to be limited to the 150 Pokemon available when that game was out (Well, 151, if you were lucky, or good at exploiting glitches). But these games ditch the random encounters of mainline Pokemon games and adopt the overworld encounters of Pokemon Go. What Pokemon you see on the overworld is what you get.

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Additionally, Pokemon can follow you around and you can ride some of them. In footage, we see a trainer riding a giant Onyx (i.e., a giant snake made out of rocks. Who wouldn’t be comfortable riding on that?) and followed by a starting Pokemon, Bulbasaur. Although in these two games, you start instead with the series mascot Pikachu, and the evolution Pokemon Eevee, which can evolve into several different pokemon. You can also put little outfits on them. Which is – frankly — incredible.

Likewise, this seems to have local multiplayer. Hand the left Joy-con to a friend and let them enter your game. Or if you’re feeling really lonely, put the left Joy-con in your hand and pretend you have a friend while controlling the new trainer that arrives. What a fun time!

You and your friend can then team up to capture Pokemon together, or go exploring together- And you can have Pokemon you capture in Pokemon Go (of the original 151 Pokemon) arrive in your game. You can also send “Presents” back to your Pokemon Go game, including a possible new form of Pokemon as the trailer discusses.

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“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” will be arriving on the Nintendo Switch this November. Likewise, a new Pokemon game will be released in the second Half of 2019. With a Mario movie in development and theme park additions on the way, it’s sure to be a busy year for Nintendo. 

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