Toy makers favor the familiar

Tiffany Hsu / Los Angeles Times /

NEW YORK — A digital Barbie vanity mirror that allows makeup experimentation without the mess. Customizable figurines mounted on spinning tops that battle in a portable arena. New Play Doh Plus that’s fluffier and more malleable.

The hippest new toys showcased at the American International Toy Fair this week are interactive, adaptable and, often, more than a bit familiar.

“We’re reinventing older brands so that kids can rediscover them as if they were new,” said John Frascotti, chief marketing officer for Hasbro Inc., at the show in New York City. “A 5-year-old doesn’t know or care that a toy has actually been around for decades.”

More than 31,000 attendees — including 1,000 exhibitors — are congregating at the annual event, which is considered to be the start of a yearlong scramble to identify, market and occasionally copy the products expected to dominate the Christmas shopping season.

Toy analysts are already taking bets on likely trends.

One major buzzword? Construction playthings, and not just in the form of boys’ building blocks.

Build-your-own robots and action figures and do-it-yourself doll backdrops helped the building sets sector grow 19.7 percent last year — the largest revenue gain of any toy category, according to NPD. Analysts expect another boost in 2013.