It's late September, which means it's time to talk about Christmas gifts.
Wait, come back! OK, we admit it, you're right: Christmas is literally three months away. And it's downright ridiculous that Christmas Creep has gotten so, well, creepy that a full quarter of the year is now given over to the holiday shopping season.
But don't blame us. Blame the retailers, whose never-ending arms race has pushed the start of the season earlier and earlier every year. Case in point: Over the last couple of weeks, Walmart (WMT), Toys R Us and Kmart (SHLD) have all released their lists of what they predict will be the most popular toys this winter. This despite the fact that -– and we really can't emphasize this enough -– Christmas morning is three months away. They don't even have the excuse of an early Hanukkah this year.
Still, if you've got kids, you might as well know in advance which toys they'll be begging for. So we've pored through the retailers' lists, checked them twice, and picked out the seven toys that everyone agrees will be popular this year.
Now, it's up to you whether you want to until December to buy them, or get it over with now and avoid a "Jingle All the Way"-style debacle on Christmas Eve.
The 7 Hot Toys Your Kids Will Want for Christmas This Year
7 Hot Toys Your Kids Will Want for Christmas This Year
The Apple Watch doesn't come out until 2015, and it's going to cost you at least $350. The VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch is out now and only costs $60. It's clear which smartwatch is going to wind up dominating the market.
Fun idea: When you give this to your kid, perform Christopher Walken's monologue from "Pulp Fiction."
When Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird wrote a comic book in the mid-'80 about giant mutated turtles who were also teenage ninjas, they probably didn't think they were launching a multimedia franchise that would still be selling movies and toys 30 years later. But here we are in 2014, and the turtles are coming off a blockbuster movie -- and they're once again expected to be a top-selling Christmas toy.
Toys R Us thinks your kids will want this "Stretch 'N' Shout Leonardo," which takes the Turtles' stoic, katana-wielding leader and gives him the ability to. .. stretch his arms and scream really loud? OK. Meanwhile, Kmart has the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lil' Dune Racer, which is basically just a powered kid's bike with some Ninja Turtle stickers slapped on. It costs $162 and has a top speed of 3.5 mph.
Really, these are some weak offerings on the Ninja Turtles front. When I was a kid, I had a little tank that launched pizza discs. Now that was a toy.
Here's another late-'80s/early-'90s toy franchise that's seeing a second life thanks to Michael Bay. The "Transformers" movie franchise is now in its fourth film, swapping out America's Sidekick Shia Laboeuf for America's Knucklehead Drinking Buddy Mark Wahlberg. But more importantly, the fourth film finally got around to introducing Grimlock ("me Grimlock!"), the Transformers' truculent dinosaur robot.
We've got two Tranformers: Grimlock! toys appearing on this year's lists. Toy R Us has the Stomp and Chomp Grimlock ($70), which transforms between dinosaur and robot and comes with a bonus Optimus Prime toy to ride Grimlock into battle. Kmart's Grimlock toy is only $20, but you get what you pay for: It's just Grimlock in robot form, with a button that lets it make some noises. What good is a Dinobot that can't transform into dinosaur form? If you get this for your son, he'll spend three minutes trying to get it to turn into a dinosaur and then throw it aside.
Doc McStuffins –- who, you may recall, provides medical care to stuffed animals –- appeared on the list last year, with a tricked-out check-up center. But this year the good doctor is really stepping up her game, making house calls with the Doc McStuffins Get Better Talking Mobile Cart, basically a pull-along ambulance ($50). It comes with a siren, an EKG machine, a gurney and even a little ladder (I guess to rescue stuffed animals trapped in tiny burning buildings).
Next time someone trots out that tired old "It's the future, where's my flying car?" line, show them this $55 flying Hot Wheels Street Hawk Remote Control Flying Car. Or better yet, buzz them with it like Maverick from "Top Gun" doing control tower fly-by while screaming "Is this futuristic enough for you?!"
The Zoomer Dino appears on all three retailers' lists, so it looks like it will be one of the season's most in-demand toys. It also sounds like it will be completely awesome:
"Boomer can detect when you're nearby and interacting with him. But watch out! Just like a real Dino he can get angry, spin around, chomp and roar! Using True Balance Technology, Boomer perfectly balances on two wheels as he roams freely, exploring your home. ... He might even let out dino-sized burps and farts!"
So imagine the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, only he's wearing roller skates, and also he's burping and farting all over the place. It's $100, and I just ordered it.
This is the one.
The only other toy to appear on all three lists, the Snow Glow Elsa Doll (from the hit Disney movie "Frozen") is already looking like this year's Tickle-Me Elmo. At Walmart, it sold out online while I was writing this article. Kmart says it won't have it in stock until Oct. 30. Toys R Us still has it in stock, but it's already set a limit of five per customer.
All this in September.
If someone winds up getting pepper-sprayed at a toy store this December, you can bet that it will be over this doll. It lights up and sings "Let It Go" -- and your kid probably wants it. You can hunt it down now and pay $35, or wait until December and pay $200 on eBay (EBAY).