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New Toys

While shopping Haight Street for the latest ironic t-shirt, stop in Kidrobot, a new store along the main strip. Nestled amongst shops filled with clunky shoes and whispers of "sticky kind buds," Kidrobot will appeal to anyone from dot-com techies to skateboard junkies and Marina prepsters or Mission hipsters. As Kora Thomas, Kidrobot manager explains, "So many different kinds of people come in here-it would be hard to put them in any category."

Crank a Sharper Image store, the Cartoon Network, and Giant Robot Magazine into a Play-Doh Fun Factory and out come the eclectic toys of Kidrobot. Your inner child will scream just stepping foot in the door. Eye candy surrounds you from head to toe: ultra-hip plush toys, small key chains packed with attitude, remote-controlled cars complete with trimming, and animated action figures posing in b-boy stances. Patrons bump heads and buttocks as they wander the store, transfixed by the hundreds of toys encased in squeaky clean display cabinets.

While Kidrobot boasts a variety of playful sundries, the store began by collecting a new type of action figures called urban vinyl action figures. Arising from Hong Kong, urban vinyl captures city life, street attitude, and bling-bling fashion. Imagine if the animated characters from "Toy Story" were schooled in the Tenderloin instead of Toys "R" Us. Four-inch homies tote cans of spray paint ready to tag your neighborhood. The action and block figures stand anywhere from two to fourteen inches and range in price from $10 to $1000.

Per square foot, Kidrobot manages to pack in the cool with the hip. Not only are the selections unique, but they're innovative. This is in stark contrast to the toys and action figures of years ago. Remember G.I. Joe's Kung-Fu Gripped dolls from days of yore? Or the Matchbox cars that were die-casted on the assembly line? Erase those from your childhood memory. Every toy within Kidrobot has their birthright in urban individuality.

Underground artists such as Michael Lau, Eric So, Tomoyuki Washio, and Jason Siu have reached celebrity status by developing impressive caricatures. Breaking stride in toy conventions around the world, urban vinyl is now a global phenomena with artists popping up in England, the United States, and Singapore.

After walking around the store and vanishing into the street, you might wonder who imitates life more? Is it the colorful toys of Kidrobot or the myriad characters of Upper Haight?

1512 Haight Street
(Between Clayton & Masonic)
Phone: 415.487.9000
Hours: Sunday - Thursday (11 am - 7 pm), Friday - Saturday (11 am - 8 pm)