Table of contents
April 2010 volume 5, no. 5
on this page
22 r/c options: vehicles, Flying Toys, games, and More
4 observations & opinions
(left to right): Manhattan Toy’s Fraggle Rock Gobo plush, a dress from CDI’s Pinkalicious dress-up line, Hasbro’s FurReal Friends Snuggimals Long-Eared Basset Hound, Mattel’s Hot Wheels R/C Stealth Rides Car, and Learning Curve’s John Deer Monster Treads Gator R/C
by Nancy Lombardi
24 innovation, value, and retro Toys Dominate Toy Fair 2010 by Nancy Lombardi
26 Tech-Driven or simple and small, Plush industry Has it All by Laurie Leahey
28 Plush: Product Presentation by Laurie Leahey
30 A classic category Plays its role by Paul Narula
32 roleplay and Dress-Up: Product Presentation by Paul Narula
34 Specialty Emporium: neat-oh by Paul Narula
6 sizzlers 8 specialty sizzlers 10 The Ticker 12 entertainment Marketplace: Pinkalicious 14 Merchandise Makers: Fan Stamp 16 industry Forum: TIA 18 industry Forum: ASTRA 20 industry Forum: Design Edge 36 you’re Hired 38 calendar of events
on the cover Fisher-Price’s Sing-a-ma-jigs! sing when their tummies are squeezed. There are three modes of play. First they chatter, then they each sing their own song, and when kids put them all together and squeeze their tummies they sing in harmony. cover by
OBSERVATIONS & OPINIONS
MORE EXCITING NEWS FROM ANB MEDIA B G
hile we are known throughout the toy and licensing industries for the magazine you currently hold in your hands, and our sister publication, ROYALTIE$, we offer many different products under the aNb Media umbrella. Our monthly trade magazines will always be an important part of what we do here at aNb Media, but like everyone else we are strategically expanding our business. In October 2008 we launched a consumer toy website, www.TimeToPlayMag.com. In our short existence, we have quickly become mom’s No. 1 information source for all things play on the internet. While we don’t sell toys, we provide the most up-to-date product information covering more than 20 product categories. On www.TimeToPlayMag.com we offer several different ways, paid as well as free, for toy manufacturers to reach today’s ever-elusive mom. The website has allowed us to embark on a number of exciting new initiatives, one of which is media events. Each year we kick off the holiday season by showing the media the 16 Most Wanted toys for the holiday season. Through Jim Silver’s and Chris Byrne’s well-earned reputations as toy industry experts, everyone from print, TV, and online attends the event. This event provides the perfect vehicle for participating companies to inform the media about their product offerings regardless of who is named on the Most Wanted list. Our 2009 event was our most successful one to date. Part of the reason for that was the inclusion of key mommy bloggers and our emphasis on social media outreach. The success of our fall media event has led us to now launch a spring/summer event later this month in New York City. All traditional forms of media will, once again, be in attendance as well as the key players in the mommy blogger world. This event will feature outdoor play items and toy companies promoting licensed products for the summer movie releases. Another way for TimeToPlay fans to interact with us is on MomTV.com. Log on every Friday at 1 P.M. EDT to watch and interact with us on TimeToPlay with Jim and Chris on MomTV.com. This is a one-hour live streaming program where Jim and Chris, with an occasional visit from Shannon Eis, talk about, demonstrate, and give away toys. This is truly an interactive program as viewers respond via chat to what Jim and Chris are talking about, which gives the show a different vibe every week. Jim has described it as Wayne’s World meets the toy industry. These offerings are just the tip of the iceberg. We are working with a thirdparty company hosting mommy parties to help toymakers spread the word about new products to moms. There is so much more, including a weekly game show every Wednesday on Twitter also at 1 P.M. EDT. aNb Media is a fully integrated 21st century media company. Whatever your goals are as a toy manufacturer, aNb Media has a vehicle to help you reach that goal. BY
4 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
MEDIA • Volume 5, Number 5
PUBLISHER BOB GLASER BOB@ANBMEDIA.COM ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER ANDY KRINNER ANDY@ANBMEDIA.COM ADVERTISING MANAGER AMY LAND AMY@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTROLLER MARY GROGAN MARY@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF JIM SILVER JIM@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITORIAL DIRECTOR NANCY LOMBARDI NANCY@ANBMEDIA.COM MANAGING EDITOR CHRIS ADAMS CHRISA@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR AT LARGE CHRISTOPHER BYRNE CHRISB@ANBMEDIA.COM ASSISTANT EDITORS LAURIE LEAHEY; LAURIE@ANBMEDIA.COM PAUL NARULA; PAUL@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB MASTER ERIK KIECKHAFER ERIK@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB CONTENT MANAGER BRENDAN SANABRIA BRENDAN@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTRIBUTORS AMANDA MCDORMAN; KATHLEEN MCHUGH; MATT NUCCIO, MATT@DESIGNEDGE.NET PUBLIC RELATIONS REPRESENTATIVE JOSSLYNNE WELCH LITZKY PUBLIC RELATIONS, 320 SINATRA DRIVE, HOBOKEN, N.J. 07030 (201) 222–9118 EXT. 13 • JWELCH@LITZKYPR.COM INTERESTED IN A SUBSCRIPTION? CONTACT SUBSCRIPTIONS@ANBMEDIA.COM ANB MEDIA, INC. 229 WEST 28TH STREET, SUITE 401, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10001 PHONE: (646) 763–8710 • FAX: (646) 763–8727 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT and SPECIALTY EMPORIUM are published monthly by aNb
Media, Inc. Copyright 2010 aNb Media, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in the U.S.A. TOYS & FAMILY
ENTERTAINMENT and SPECIALTY EMPORIUM are registered trademarks of aNb Media, Inc.
Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of management.
Sizzlers: What’s Moving Off Store Shelves? What Are the Hottest Web Orders? Here is an alphabetical listing of the hottest-selling items in the toy industry, based on a combined survey of both offline and online retailers, reflecting the previous month’s sales.
Magic Fabric Creation Studio WWE FlexForce Undertaker Figure
LEGO Minotaurus Game
APPLES PARTY BOX Mattel
BAKUGAN BOOSTER PACKS Spin Master BOP IT Hasbro CHUCK MY TALKING TRUCK Hasbro
6 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
Zhu Zhu Hamster Assortment
CRAYOLA 3-D SIDEWALK CHALK Crayola
MAGIC FABRIC CREATION STUDIO Spin Master
LEGO MINOTAURUS GAME LEGO
MIGHTY BEANZ Spin Master
LEGO STAR WARS ASSORTMENT LEGO
SCRABBLE SLAM Hasbro WWE FLEXFORCE FIGURE ASSORTMENT Mattel ZHU ZHU PETS & ACCESSORIES Cepia
Specialty Sizzlers: What’s Moving Off Store Shelves in the Specialty Market? This is an alphabetical listing of the hottest-selling items in the specialty segment of the toy industry, based on a survey of independent toy and gift retailers, reflecting the previous month’s sales.
BANANAGRAMS Bananagrams BLOSSOM BEAR BeePosh
HEXBUG Innovation First HIDE ’N SQUEAK EGGS International Playthings Bananagrams
PAPER L ANTERN ASSORTMENT Three Cheers for Girls QWIRKLE MindWare SILLY BANDZ BCP Imports STICKY MOSAICS Orb Factory
Hide ’N Squeak Eggs
8 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
TEA SET Green Toys TWILIGHT L ADYBUG Cloud B
A Recap of Industry Headlines Visit www.aNbMedia.com for More How to train Your Dragon L auncHes witH waLmart DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., and Walmart unveiled an exclusive, first-of-its-kind program tied to the March 26 release of the studio’s feature film, How to Train Your Dragon. Just before the film hit theaters, Walmart and DreamWorks created a retail-tainment experience for customers featuring a giant How to Train Your Dragon designated area in stores, complete with a Viking ship and more than 100 How to Train Your Dragon items for purchase. Walmart serves as the exclusive retailer for this film and worked with a number of licensees to develop the product lines. Kraft, Kellogg, Pepsi, and Spin Master, among others are licensees for the film. “It’s a quality movie and the passion of the story connects with our customers,” Gary Severson, senior vice-president of entertainment, Walmart U.S., told aNb Media. “Toys are key to our customers. We developed this line with Spin Master from the ground up. They are creative and entrepreneurial, and would take the risk.” The product line from the various licensees includes toys such as foam swords and helmets, apparel, skateboards, hooded towels, sunglasses, and snacks, all available among the life-like character stands of Viking- and dragon-themed fixtures, as well as Walmart’s actual Viking Ship displays holding the products. Walmart is actively advertising and marketing How to Train Your Dragon with broadcast, print, and in-cinema spots as well as digital activities. Moviegoers will see 30-second in-cinema commercials running on more than 13,000 screens in 4,600 theaters. Online, fans of the movie can create their own Viking name or watch the dragon’s fire burn a message on screen through Walmart’s digital ads. Walmart’s How to Train Your Dragon website, which features a Dragon-themed map game, went live on April 1.
FisHer-Price L auncHes moments to sHare Fisher-Price, Inc., launched the Moments to Share application, built on the Facebook platform. The application makes it easy for parents to record their child’s milestones and special moments in a timeline they create with digital photos, videos, dates, captions, and stories. Photos and videos can be uploaded to Moments to Share from a computer hard drive or existing Facebook albums, and content can be customized by adding dates, location, captions, and even a short story about the moment. Once moments are loaded in the Moments to Share timeline, parents have a scrollable, digital album they can refine and add to as their child grows. Plus, parents can control with whom they share their moments—they can share individual moments with all of their friends on Facebook or their entire timeline with a smaller, select group of family and friends. They can even allow select family and friends to add new moments to their timeline. In addition, the application makes it easy for parents and friends to access Fisher-Price product recommendations relative to each child’s age. Fisher-Price enlisted social media and consumer engagement agency, Big Fuel Communications, Inc., to help conceive, develop and manage the Moments to Share application and outreach campaign.
mga PLans to enter sPeciaLtY market MGA Entertainment recently announced its plans to enter the world of specialty toy products with the launch of its own specialty division, MGA Entertainment Specialty. The company is currently hiring sales representation groups across the U.S.
10 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
that will service specialty retailers at store level. MGA Entertainment Specialty will offer a large assortment of toys and gifts derived from its diverse portfolio of brands including Little Tikes, Moxie Girlz, Zapf, Rescue Pets, and more. Sales industry veteran Terri Maccarrone has been tapped to helm MGA Entertainment Specialty. With a background that includes roles at Small World Toys, Michel & Company, and Applause, Maccarrone is poised to lead the way in widening the scope of retail outlets that carry MGA brands.
Hassenfelds Make lIMa Hall of faMe Alan G. Hassenfeld, chairman of the executive committee and former chairman of the board of Hasbro, Inc., and the late Stephen Hassenfeld, CEO and chairman of the board until 1989, have been selected for induction into the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) Licensing Industry Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place on June 8, 2010, at the second annual LIMA Opening Night Awards Party at Licensing International Expo 2010, which will be held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. LIMA says that the Hassenfelds were among the first to recognize the impact toys and games could have in telling a story and to harness the power of licensing to build a strong global brand. As a result, licensing has a preeminent role at Hasbro; the company has been a top toy licensing partner for many entertainment and brand companies, and many of Hasbro’s own brands have become licensing juggernauts in their own right. Beginning with the revitalization of G.I. JOE in the early 1980s and continuing today with Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers, Playskool, My Little Pony, and the successful Transformers program, with more than 250 licensees across all major lifestyle categories, Hasbro’s portfolio of brands is unmatched, says LIMA. “Stephen and Alan transformed their family’s Rhode Island toy company into a global marketing powerhouse, along the way garnering Wall Street’s respect for toy companies,” says Charles Riotto, president of LIMA. “They also share LIMA’s commitment to integrity in business and to giving back to the communities and consumers who support our business. LIMA is proud to honor them as licensing industry pioneers at Licensing International Expo this June.”
APRIL 2010 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 11
BY LAURIE LEAHEY
ink is their favorite color— they being New York sisters Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. And they’ve taken their love for all things pink, including cupcakes, to the world of children’s books with the popular Pinkalicious series. Pinkalicious debuted in June 2006, published by HarperCollins. The book was inspired by Victoria Kann’s then-3year-old daughter who loved the color pink (just as much as her mom and aunt), wore pink princess dresses every day, and would do anything for a cupcake. In this book, Pinkalicous is warned by her parents not to eat too many pink cupcakes. Pinkalicious does anyway and turns pink. The picture book celebrates all things pink (bubble gum, peonies, cotton candy), but also teaches a valuable lesson—more is not always better and moderation is key. According to the Kann sisters, the book focuses on desire and discipline and parents can relate to Pinkalicious’ mother who says, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” But pink isn’t the only color favored by the Kann sisters. And books aren’t the only
a scene from the book Goldilicious
12 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
a scene from the book Purplicious
place to find the adventures of Pinkalicious. The two sequels Purplicious and Goldilicous spent 33 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. The book series expands this year with new releases, and Pinkalicious, the Musical is currently on stage in New York City and Toronto. All of this sets up the opportunity for a strong licensing program. The Joester Loria Group, exclusive licensing agency for Pinkalicious, will expand the consumer products program and launch a new collection of Pinkalicious merchandise across multiple categories, including dolls, toys, dress-up clothes, games, puzzles, apparel, and more. Licensees in these categories include Jakks Pacific, CDI, Disguise, Ceaco, Fundex, and Madame Alexander. On March 1, Burger King launched a Pinkalicous promotion with its Kids Meals. Through the licensing program, kids can celebrate colors and cupcakes in new ways.
• Pinkalicious illustrator Victoria Kann’s artwork has been in magazines, newspapers, and books, including Harper’s, BusinessWeek, and The New York Times. • Author Elizabeth Kann has written for the Pittsburgh PostGazette and the Chicken Soup for the Soul and Chocolate for the Soul book series. • Victoria’s favorite cupcakes are from Pantry in New York’s East Village. Elizabeth prefers hers from NYC’s Cupcake Café.
CDI, a division of Jakks Pacific, will debut Pinkalicious roleplay items this fall. A variety of dresses, tiaras, shoes, and even a cupcake decorating set will be available.
Disguise, a division of Jakks Pacific, will launch Halloween items, including the Deluxe Pinkalicious Halloween Costume with pink dress, wand, and tiara.
Pinkalicious dolls by Madame Alexander include an eight-inch Pinkalicious figurine with wand, a nine-inch pink Pinkalicious collectible doll with wall and mirror, an 18inch cloth Pinkalicious collectible doll (shown), and an 18-inch cloth Pinkalicious from Goldilicious collectible doll.
Pinkalicious games from Fundex will launch this fall. There will be interactive card and board games, as well as co-branded games, such as Pinkalicious UNO and Pinkalicious Scrabble Jr.
Ceacoâ€™s Pinkalicious product line includes a 24-piece puzzle with glitter, 24- and 36-piece puzzles with figurines (either a wand or a unicorn), a 100-piece puzzle, a 24-piece floor puzzle, and a 36-piece puzzle and memory game. They will be for ages 3 and up.
Jakks Pacific will debut a line of dolls, toys, and activity items inspired by the Pinkalicious book series. Available at Walmart this fall, the small doll assortment includes three soft dolls styled to portray key moments from each of the books (shown). The large doll portrays Pinkalicious in her fairy princess wings and crown. There will also be a Pinkalicious Activity Easel with pink paper, pink markers, pink glitter glue, and stickers.
APRIL 2010 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 13
FUN BEYOND FACE PAINT
common sight at fairs or stamps are simply applied to the skin and fans. Siegel (who is also the owner of Vantage boardwalks is the face painter: peeled off. Each stamp can be used multiple Sports Management, giving him a connection someone painstakingly creat- times and can only be removed with an oil- to college and professional sports) approached ing small, detailed paintings based makeup remover (so that a Fan Stamp the NCAA about licensing early on, seeing a on a fidgeting child’s face with won’t be removed during a rainstorm or when gap in the marketplace for high-end regional non-toxic colors. The images created by these sweaty, such as what happens with a tempo- football stamps. The company rolled out the face painters could range from a colorful but- rary tattoo). Fan Stamps are actually rated as a NCAA team-licensed kits at 350 stores. The terfly or fairy for a young girl to a re-creation cosmetic product. “We’ve got a compound popularity Fan Stamp gained allowed it to of a young boy’s favorite expand into new territory with superhero. These paintings themes such as pirates, butterare time consuming and flies, and more. The product’s require skill to achieve. retail presence expanded as However, Fan Stamp, foundwell, with independent toy and ed in 2008 by Scott Siegel, gift shops placing orders. Many aims to do away with that themed Fan Stamp kits find restriction by making highadditional retail space as well. quality face painting availThe company also has plans to able to everyone without all expand via Amazon.com. “We the extra work and expense. touch a number of different Siegel came across the condemographics,” says Siegel. cept for Fan Stamp when it “Younger children from 3–10 was originally intended to be is strong for us, but we also hit Though it started with cosmetics and team logos, Fan Stamp has expanded into a number of new styles and images for kids. a cosmetic product, but saw the older demographic.” the potential for the product’s Siegel strongly believes that application to a greater number of uses. After that’s very similar to high-end makeup,” says the company has a lot of room for growth. developing the product for six months and an Siegel. In addition, the design of Fan Stamps This year at Toy Fair (the company’s first year eight-month test period with focus groups, allows the company to do things that no one exhibiting at the show), Fan Stamp revealed Fan Stamp was born. else can do. Fan Stamps can include glitter that it would be working with Disney to create Fan Stamp is a press-on face paint applica- that fully transfers with every application and a number of Fan Stamps based on many of the tion that is as easy to use as any temporary tat- stays firmly with the stamp’s design. The major Disney licenses, including Cars, Disney too, but doesn’t suffer from many of the company also makes eye shadow kits using Fairies, Disney Princess, and more. Siegel restrictions that a standard temporary tattoo Fan Stamp to create a new way to apply believes that Fan Stamp’s success will bring in would have. “We have the ability to create any makeup. “We include the eye shadow in a lot additional licensees and bring the product to design, no matter how intricate and colorful,” of our other kits. It’s something we do that no the larger retailers. “We have a fun and intersays Scott Siegel, CEO and founder of Fan one else has,” says Siegel. active product,” says Siegel. “We make peoStamp, “and those designs can be applied with The product has found considerable suc- ple smile. All we want to do is adhere to that a simple press-on application.” Fan Stamps cess in a number of demographics. Originally, and create a product that will always allow require no water or outside applicators. The the Fan Stamp found popularity with sports people to have a great time.”
14 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
whips side to side
rotating caste r for self-propellin g!
Scooter + Part Wave casterboard = Exciting New Ride! • Great for Carving & Drifting action! • Supported with exciting Spring TV campaign Patent Pending
In addition there is an entire line of brand new WAVE® caster boards.
For sales information please call: Analei Samaseia 949.788.1191 or email: email@example.com For specialty stores call: Zachary Snow 949.788.1189 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
H ONORING N ATIONAL F OSTER C ARE M ONTH BY
AMANDA MCDORMAN, TOY INDUSTRY FOUNDATION ach year an estimated 300,000 children enter foster care across the United States. Suffering from abuse or neglect, these children often leave their homes with few personal belongings other than the clothes on their backs. On Friday, May 7, the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and strategic partner My Stuff Bags Foundation are joining forces with companies from across the toy industry to help these disadvantaged children by filling duffel bags with toys, toiletries, and handmade items that can be distributed to child-focused charities across the United States. Last year’s Do Good Stuffa-Thon was a huge success, with 5,000 duffels stuffed by volunteers from across the entire spectrum of the toy industry. Coordinators have set a goal of making this year’s event bigger and better with even more volunteers, more toys, and more completed bags. “Last year’s event drew large numbers of toy industry volunteers and we anticipate an even greater crowd this year as word has spread,” says Jean Butler, Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) executive director and vice-president of membership at the Toy Industry
16 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
Association (TIA). “This event showcases the unified commitment of the toy industry to bring the joy of play to children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned.” Members of the toy industry are invited to come together in Westlake
Village, Calif., on Friday, May 7, for the second annual Do Good Stuff-aThon. Industry volunteers will be joined by representatives of the TIF and My Stuff Bags Foundation boards of directors and representatives of the media. California state and local government are also expected to attend and join in the effort to help bring smiles and care to deserving kids. RSVPs from interested “Do Good Stuffers” are requested by April 23 (sign up online at
www.toyindustryfoundation.org). “Not only did we do some good last year, but we had a good time,” says Janeen Holmes, president and CEO of My Stuff Bags. “Our Do Good Stuff-aThon is a unique opportunity to demonstrate how combined efforts can have a profound impact on the lives of these suffering children. Together with TIF we are reaching out to comfort America’s most vulnerable children, show them that they matter, and give them back dignity and hope through a My Stuff Bag.” For those who can’t attend in person, a virtual event is also being held during the first week in May so that corporate teams can Do Good Stuff by sponsoring duffels online. The Toy Industry Foundation has pledged to My Stuff Bags a contribution of $400,000 and 50,000 new toys over two years. The toys are donated via The Toy Bank, which is generously stocked by toy industry manufacturer contributions throughout the year. For more information on the Do Good Stuff-a-Thon visit www.toyindustryfoundation.org. For information about sponsorships or to volunteer contact TIF manager Amanda McDorman at email@example.com.
Educate Yourself About Teachers BY
KATHLEEN MCHUGH, ASTRA ew would contest the idea that education is a good thing. But is it profitable? For independent specialty retailers education can be profitable—that is, in the form of sales to teachers. Members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) are an entrepreneurial lot, so it’s no surprise to see many members of ASTRA looking to the teacher market to pump up sales. Some ASTRA retailers got their start in the school supply business and have morphed into toy stores; others are toy retailers at their core who are reaching out to educators as an additional market segment. John MacDougall, owner of Golden Apple Learning Store in Pleasanton, Calif., could serve as Exhibit A for the former. While he has always carried toys in what was originally a school supply store, the balance has shifted over the past five years. Now sales are 60 percent toys and 40 percent school and education products. In contrast, Erin Blanton, owner of Pufferbellies in Staunton, Va., is a toy retailer who is adding special programs for teachers and schools. MacDougall offers a rewards program for teachers, who get points for each purchase and can earn discounts over time based on the total amount spent. His store also makes donations in the form of gift certificates to school organizations like parent/teacher associations that are holding special events. His marquee event of the year, however, is the annual Rep Day, held
18 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
in early August and featuring reps from leading manufacturers at his store. “We make it fun, with lots on sale, prize drawings, and free food,” says MacDougall. “But the main event for many teachers is the free gift bag full of useful items that we have solicited from manufacturers or donated ourselves. We have a line out the store and around the block on Rep Day.” Blanton also offers discounts to teachers, but in the form of a straight 10 percent off on every purchase. Her big annual event is a book drive that benefits local school libraries. “We invite schools to submit a wish list for toys and books,” says Blanton. “We share the wish lists with our customers and offer them 40 percent off any product that they want to buy for a school. In the winter—often around Valentine’s Day—we have a party in our store for the librarians who are receiving gift books and invite our customers to join the celebration.” If you are working to grow sales to teachers, here are a few perspectives: • Take advantage of the halo effect. Let your other customers know about what you do for teachers and schools. “Honestly, the teacher market is not the most lucrative in and of itself, but it burnishes your star,” says MacDougall. “It tells parents that you are a good community citizen and gives you a seal of approval.” • Recognize that not all teachers and schools are the same. “Public schools are tough to break into,” says Blanton. “We have better luck with preschools because most are private and teachers have fewer
rules.” MacDougall is finding that in the face of public education budget cuts and layoffs, preschools are still going strong. “Those teachers haven’t stopped shopping, but there is lots more competition in that segment with companies that specialize in preschool products,” he says. • Learn from experienced retailers. “Don’t make the mistake of asking teachers for advice on what to carry in your store,” recommends MacDougall. “What they wish for and what they buy are not the same.” If you are expanding product lines to appeal to educators, get input from experienced retailers, including other ASTRA members. ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy (this year to be held June 13–16 in Providence, R.I.) is a good venue for such networking—and the Academy sometimes includes seminars on increasing sales to teachers. Is the educator market a big growth area? Not in today’s economic environment, say Blanton and MacDougall, given the insecurity of teachers and large numbers of schools struggling to manage through draconian budget cuts. But your efforts in this area can have payoff in building your brand and through word of mouth. If you can get local teachers to fall in love with your store, chances are they will tell parents about you. And who is more influential to parents than a respected teacher? Kathleen McHugh is president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). Visit astratoy.org.
T HE D ESIGNER ’ S P ERSPECTIVE : B EWARE OF FALSE P ROPHETS M
’m not quite sure if it is the bad economy, the poor job market, the end of the world, or simply just a sign of the times, but over the past few years I have seen a large influx of illinformed guru consultants leading small manufacturers astray and sometimes even into ruin. Many of these so-called experts have limited knowledge of the industry yet claim to be well versed in all aspects. These so-called gurus prey on start-ups and small
20 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
companies that need help as they look to expand into new categories. The so-called gurus tend to focus on ethereal marketing approaches and justify themselves by passing off personal observation analysis as if it were well-researched fact. They have very limited knowledge of how to create forecasts, build items to a specified cost, or properly market them. Of course, not all those who put themselves out there as experts are cons. Over
NUCCIO, DESIGN EDGE
the years I have known many very bright experts who know the ins and outs of this industry and have provided priceless guidance. I have watched many take companies from zero to hero. But for whatever reason—maybe it’s the recession—as of late, there seems to be abundance of false prophets out there, clearly looking out for their own profits. Buyer beware. Design Edge is a New York-based graphic design and research development studio. Matt Nuccio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (516) 377–0500.
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R/C OPTIONS: VEHICLES, FLYING TOYS, GAMES, AND MORE BY
LEARNING CURVE BRANDS
The radio controlled John Deere Monster Treads Gator is making its retail debut this spring. It is ready to tackle any obstacle that lies in its path with its ultra-tough, all-terrain tires and off-road speed. It features fullfunction radio-controlled movement and includes a 9.6v rechargeable battery with a charger.
Uncle Milton’s R/C Snake is more than 20-inches long. It slithers along any hard, smooth surface and features light-up eyes and a segmented body.
MoxieGirlz Artitude R/C Vehicle, from MGA Entertainment, features a stylish hybrid design and black-and-white graphics. Girls can design their own car with the included set of markers.
NKOK offers a host of licensed R/C items from such properties as Halo, Sega’s Sonic (shown), and Shrek as well as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Interactive Toy is building upon the success of its Duck Hunter with a host of new products for this year. The two-player Duck Hunter Xtreme allows users the option of being the hunter or the prey. Player one takes to the sky with the full function R/C duck while player two tests his or her hunting skills blasting the duck from the sky with the infrared blaster. Three direct hits will bring the duck down. Duck Hunter Xtreme is for ages 8 and up. The Virtual Reality Control (VRC) lineup uses patented technology to offer the most realistic flight control available by using tilt steering rather than thumb control. It is designed for ages 10 and up. Skeet Shooter, designed for ages 8 and up, is a new item in the Hunter series. It offers all the thrills of skeet shooting in the comfort of one’s own living room. Load the skeets into the launcher then sit back and take aim using the infrared blaster, says Interactive Toy. A direct hit will break the skeet into two pieces. Simply snap the broken skeets back together, load them back in, and start again.
22 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
The newest item in Spin Master’s Air Hogs line is the Sharpshooter, an indoor missile-firing helicopter. Using the patented “tail lock” stabilizing technology, kids can pinpoint the target and fire. It carries two onboard missiles, which launch remotely. There are two frequencies to choose from so it allows kids to battle with friends, fly tandem missions, or battle chosen targets. Designed for ages 8 and up, it comes with one sharpshooter, one controller/charger, six missiles, three targets, and one instruction guide. Available this spring, it requires six AA batteries, which are not included.
Silverlit has an extensive new line of products focusing on the R/C category featuring Iron Man 2, Spider-Man, and Marvel. The Turbo Racer is a highly detailed, full function R/C car with professional level transmitter and digital speed and steering controls to deliver high speed turns and real feel racing. There are also two SKUs in this line, Mark VI (shown here) and War Machine, designed for ages 5 and up.
The Tonka Garage Ricochet R/C vehicle (shown), from Hasbro for ages 8 and up, is a double-sided stunt vehicle that can tackle virtually any terrain. It can flip and keep on going, offering an unstoppable driving style that allows kids to execute exciting stunts. Push a button to engage the machine’s Monsterlift Suspension Technology and lift the vehicle into awesome monster truck mode. The R/C vehicle comes with a threechannel remote for steering control and a 9.6v battery charger. It requires one 9.6v battery and one 9v battery, both of which are included. Star Wars R/C Millennium Falcon, for ages 8 and up, allows fans to roleplay the iconic Star Wars ship with an indoor flying remote control vehicle. Measuring 11-inches long and eight-inches wide, it includes a charging controller and vehicle battery for up to five minutes of flying time.
The newest R/C from Mattel fits in the palm of one’s hand. Available this fall, the Hot Wheels R/C Stealth Rides Car Assortment (shown) folds flat enough to fit into a carrying case no bigger than a cell phone. Slide the Stealth Rides car out of the case and with the touch of a button transform it into a speedy 3-D, fully functioning R/C vehicle. The case doubles as the vehicle’s remote control. It is available for ages 6 and up. The Hot Wheels R/C Stealth Rides Tank Assortment, also designed for ages 6 and up, has a pocket-size design. These R/C tanks fold and fit in a slim carrying case. The case becomes the control for the vehicle, which slips out and transforms from flat to a fully functional R/C tank made for gripping and climbing.
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INNOVATION, VALUE, AND RETRO TOYS DOMINATE TOY FAIR 2010 BY
his year’s Toy Fair was one of the best in recent years. Manufacturers reported a lot of order writing at this year’s show—perhaps more than in years past. Traffic was up, the mood was positive, and the general consensus seemed to be that the worst is over as far as the economy is concerned. The product lines from companies, both large and small, were scaled back as they have been for the past few years. However, just about everyone’s line was solid. Gone are the days of shameless knock-offs and random items introduced as one-offs to test what would stick. Product lines now are focused and well-thought out. However something unexpected does pop up from time to time, such as Fisher-Price’s Sing-a-ma-jigs! (shown on the cover). This item is a staff favorite yet it’s quite a departure for a company such as Fisher-Price. It’s not licensed. It’s not feature plush. Yet it’s representative of the theme of this year’s Toy Fair, which is back-to-basics play. There are fewer bells and whistles across all companies’ lines and more of the simple, classic play patterns are at the forefront. Jakks’ Real Construction line is an example of the perfect, timeless play patBasic Fun tern for boys, while demonstrating innovative materials and design. The durable foam looks is relaunching like real pieces of wood. Boys can actually “saw” through the foam as well as “hammer the Koosh nails” through it to create anything they can imagine. Fisher-Price and MEGA Brands, which brand. introduced strong lines for Thomas & Friends, mix roleplay, classic vehicle play, and construction for product lines that will be successful for both companies for the long-term. Skill-and-action games make a comeback with Patch re-introducing the classic games Bed Bugs and Shark Attack, complete with retro packaging. Pressman, like many other game companies, is working in this same vein with Hold On Scooby-Doo! as just one example. Games always perform well when the economy is bad. Families stay home and use board games as well as puzzles as a low-cost activity. Pressman, Hasbro, Mattel, Techno Source, and many others introduced games with cross-generational appeal. Hold On Scooby-Doo! is just one example of the classic Crayola and LEGO are two companies that have performed very well because of the bad econoskill-and-action games that are making a comeback. my. Those in the industry are well aware that companies like these tend to do well when times are Examples of value items featuring classic play tough because it’s the parents who seek comfort in the simplicity of the classics—not to mention the patterns include LEGO Ben 10 Spider Monkey figure (above) and Crayola’s Color Wonder Lap Desk (below). fact that both of the companies have strong product lines. Both LEGO and Crayola also have items with low price points and that was a continuing trend at this year’s show. Now “value” is the key word, yet value doesn’t mean cheap. Value is what consumers determine is a good price for what they are purchasing. For example, Little Kids is introducing a line of sports toys. Hall Stars Indoor 2-in-1 Hockey and Baseball Machine, Hall Stars Indoor Disc Golf, and Hall Stars Indoor 3-in-1 Net Sports are each available for $25–$30. It’s the perfect value item because the whole family can get involved. Of course, Toy Fair isn’t complete without the relaunch of retro toys. There is Koosh from Basic Fun. Patch is offering Yakity-Yak Teeth. Techno Source has BowBiters. All are fun, inexpensive items that today’s parents—and even grandparents—loved as children. Today’s kids will enjoy toys that have a mix of classic play, innovation, and retro themes at parent-approved prices.
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Have extra inventory?
Donate it to K.I.D.S.
Your excess product can put smiles on faces! Poverty is a disaster that happens every day, but K.I.D.S. brings hope to 4.5 million children and their families every year. Donating your excess apparel, shoes, toys, books and juvenile products can provide your company with a generous tax deduction and replace despair with dignity. Fill out the donation form online at www.KIDSdonations.org or call 1-800-266-3314.
Tech-Driven or Simple and Small, Plush Industry Has it All BY LAURIE LEAHEY
o matter what your age, what you’re looking for, or how much money is in your wallet, there’s bound to be a plush toy for you. Some consumers are willing to pay top dollar for a plush toy made of quality materials, something that will last for generations or something that makes a nice collectible. Others are willing to pay upwards of $60 for a feature plush toy that offers the latest technology and interactivity. And still others are looking for something a little simpler that costs less but is more classic—a cuddly New offerings in Hasbro’s teddy bear, for instance. FurReal Friends line include This broad spectrum of plush offerings the lower-priced Snuggimals. Each is $7.99. gives the plush industry a leg up when things go down. Vince Smart, vice-president of marketing at Gund, says that even with the recession, the plush industry didn’t have to adapt its prices too much. “That’s the great thing about plush,” he says. “You can make big ones or fancy ones that cost more money or you can make small ones and simple ones that don’t. If anything, you might see more of the small ones and simple ones like finger puppets or backpack clips that can serve some of the same purposes at least but at a lower price point.” Even in a good economy, the simpler basic plush tends to do very well in terms of sales because of its low price point. However, technology-based plush continues to dominate mass-market store shelves because kids not only want to cuddle with a soft friend, but they also want to interact with it, and adding technology to a plush toy makes this interaction happen. Usually thought of as an expensive purchase, feature plush doesn’t always break the bank anymore. These days, plush manufacturers are finding ways to deliver feature plush at lower prices. Gina Sirard, vice-president of marketing at Fisher-Price, says that adding technology to basic plush brings the product to life and adds a whole new play pattern. However, the technology doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Sirard cites Fisher-Price’s new Sing-a-ma-jigs! as an example. These plush characters use simple chips and switches to elicit a fun and musical play pattern for only $12.99. “You can still have technology and fun play patterns at a lower price point,” Sirard says.
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Hasbro has also found ways to lower the prices in its FurReal Friends line. “Hasbro continually re-imagines, re-invents, and re-ignites the FurReal Friends brand and is focused on delivering play value at all price points,” says Michelle Paolino, vice-president of global brand strategy and marketing, Hasbro. The new FurReal Friends Snuggimals collection retails for under $10 and gives kids the chance to experience the realistic play of the original FurReal Friends animals at an affordable price point.
Plush on the Web
No one can overlook the internet and the myriad plush lines with online components. While some say that this trend has reached its peak, many manufacturers understand that bringing plush to the internet makes sense because kids, especially older kids, spend so much time online anyway—watching TV shows, playing games, chatting with friends, listening to music. To keep kids interested in this type of plush and the activities in the online worlds, manufacturers have to figure out the next big thing. The way it works now is that kids purchase a plush toy that comes with a special code. Kids then enter the code online to unlock content. But instead of using codes, an idea popularized by Ganz’s Webkinz in 2005, technology may have advanced enough to allow plush manufacturers to do even more—both online and in the plush. Sirard says that Fisher-Price is looking into taking the technology from its Dora Links doll (when kids change Dora’s eye color online, the doll’s eye color really changes, for example) and bringing it to its plush products. She says that the company won’t be ready with plush that utilizes this technology until next year.
Technology adds a “wow” factor to plush, especially when a licensed character is involved. Licensing is an important part of the plush industry. From television and movies to books, kids love bring-
ing their favorite characters home with them and watching them come to life. “Special feature plush usually is driven by licensed characters,” says Fisher-Price’s Sirard. “Kids want their favorite character to come to life. The first thing we try to do is capitalize on the personality of the character and bring it to life through the plush.” In the case of this year’s Dance Star Mickey, Fisher-Price combines a favorite Disney character with game play, interactivity, music, and dance. As with any segment of the toy industry, kids (and parents) are drawn to brands and properties they know. “It’s what kids are familiar with,” says Gund’s Smart. Gund works with the Sesame Street license, bringing characters such as Elmo from the TV screen to kids’ hands. “It really helps if the licensed character is supposed to be soft and cuddly to begin with,” Smart says. “That helps the license translate very well to plush.” Hasbro will also be working with the Sesame Street license. In December of last year, the company announced that it had entered into a 10-year global strategic alliance with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. Hasbro will manufacture and market a wide range of toys, presumably including plush, based on Sesame Street characters, with product available in stores beginning in 2011. Fisher-Price, creators of Sesame Street-branded feature plush such as Tickle Me Elmo and Elmo Live during its 15year arrangement with Sesame Workshop, will continue to release product through this year.
There is something for everyone (and every price point) in the plush category, from technology-driven feature plush such as Fisher-Price’s Dance Star Mickey (left) to simple, classic plush such as Manhattan Toy’s Derby Bear (right).
Classic—Tried and True
But licensed plush doesn’t always have to include special features. And plush doesn’t always have to be licensed in order to attract consumers. “There are many factors kids look for when selecting plush toys,” says Lauren Diani, director of product development, Russ Berrie. “They look for their favorite characters or animals, new fun materials, or unique designs. However, what appeals to them most is plush that is soft and cuddly that they connect with, as it is such an emotional purchase.” She says that one of the new trends in the plush category is a return to the classic ways of plush— “Just cute, cuddly characters.” Steiff USA attracts consumers and keeps them coming back for more because of the highquality way in which the company makes its plush. “We use woven plush [instead of knitted plush],” says Jim Pitocco, president of Steiff
USA. “It’s difficult to remove plush fibers from a woven backing. That’s one of the reasons Steiff plush lasts so long.” Consumers, who are constantly looking for value in what they buy, are willing to pay a little more for a classic plush toy that will last. How plush is made is also a factor for Manhattan Toy. “We have to use our design sense and aesthetics and find innovation out there with unique materials,” says Amy Reitsma, director of sales at Manhattan Toy. This year the company is introducing a classic antique bear called Derby Bear that has a surprise—hidden jingle bells in its ears. “Moms are looking for things that don’t have electronics and all those added features—batteries and things. We’re just keeping it simple so we can inspire imagination for kids.”
Future of Plush
The classic teddy bear is still a staple in children’s lives and some adults may even still own their favorite childhood teddy bear or bunny rabbit or whatever plush animal it was. These are friends that are fun to cuddle and hug and, for adults, may evoke happy childhood memories. And while classic plush will always have a place in the market, technology in feature plush will continue to evolve so that kids can do more than just hug their favorite plush. “Year after year the innovation and technology allows you to top [what you did before],” says Fisher-Price’s Sirard. “We haven’t exhausted the technology yet.” Whether it’s a classic teddy bear or a feature plush that looks and acts just like a real animal, plush toys are all made to, essentially, do the same thing—be cute and give kids a fun friend to cuddle and play with.
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BY LAURIE LEAHEY
Whether a classic plush animal or a technology-driven feature plush toy, manufacturers offer a plethora of plush products that fit everyone’s tastes and budgets. Here’s a look at some of the newest items in the plush category.
Sing-a-ma-jigs! sing when their tummies are squeezed. There are three modes of play. First they chatter, then they each sing their own song, and when kids put them all together and squeeze their tummies they sing in harmony. Each requires two AAA batteries, which are included.
Aurora’s Jungle Babies line includes soft sculpture plush, hanging picture frames, rattles, blankees, and boy or girl room banners. The plush, rattles, and blankees are available in four styles including two elephants (for boy or girl), a monkey, and a giraffe.
Manhattan Toy recently signed on as a licensee for the Fraggle Rock property. The company will produce plush and puppets based on Fraggle Rock characters, such as Gobo, shown.
Mynus is one of the newest Ugly Dolls. Mynus may seem silent and introverted at first, but she is actually in deep thought most of the time.
Folkmanis’ 22-inch Chicken puppet features oversized wings for adult hands. Operate one wing and the moveable beak solo or join with a friend and have one operate both wings while the other manipulates the beak and head.
In honor of Sanrio’s 50th anniversary, Hello Kitty and other Sanrio friends will be sold together in limited anniversary editions this fall. The collectible Hello Kitty 50th Anniversary Mini Plush are six inches and feature Hello Kitty dressed up as Sanrio characters, including Badtz-Maru, Tuxedosam, Keroppi, and Chococat.
Russ Berrie’s Pudgee Pals are 11–13-inch soft and cuddly jungle animals.
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North American Bear Co.
The 25-inch Tickly Toy Zebra is black and white with red accents. This machine-washable, baby-safe zebra is made of soft velboa and comes with embroidered eyes and a signature ribbon mane and tail.
Douglas’ new Fuzzles line features 12 styles. Each 11-inch plush is floppy and soft and comes in fresh hues and color combinations. They are machine washable.
Mary Meyer’s Cheery Cheeks features textured fabrics and a mix-and-match collection of patterns. Cheery Cheeks includes six characters: Lively Lion, Sunny Bunny, Giddy Kitty, Dandy Dog (shown), Merry Monkey, and Happity Frog.
Vermont Teddy Bear Co.
Vermont Teddy Bear’s Learn-To-Dress Knight helps kids learn how to snap, buckle, tie, button, and zip. The Knight includes both a traditional buckle and an overalls buckle. The outfits and accessories are completely removable. The bears are handmade in Vermont, machine washable, and come with a lifetime warranty. A Learn-To-Dress Fairy Princess is also available.
Gund’s Snuffles (shown) celebrates its 30th birthday with a variety of commemorative Snuffles plush, including a 30th birthday version, a limited-edition Snuffles, and a high-end version of the crescent moon-shaped bear.
The latest in Hasbro’s FurReal Friends line is Gogo, My Walkin’ Pup. Attach Gogo’s leash and it knows kids are ready to walk. Gogo wags its tail, pants, and barks just like a real dog. Using Gogo’s hot pink leash, kids can make Gogo walk left, right, straight, in circles, or do a figure eight. Gogo requires four C batteries, which are included.
Steiff teddy bears are now dressed up and ready for playtime. Lotte the Ballerina is dressed in a chiffon tutu, ballet slippers, and a headband and comes with a suitcase.
The newest series in the Audubon Birds plush line is Baby Birds. Each bird comes with a hang tag that includes information about its appearance and eating habits, habitat maps, and sound information.
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A CLASSIC CATEGORY PLAYS ITS ROLE BY
hile products may come and go, there are play patterns that children turn to time and time again. Roleplaying is most certainly one of these. Children have an active imagination and pretending to be a favorite hero or favorite character is easy for them. Roleplaying products make that even easier, giving kids the ability to become even closer to the hero, princess, or other character that they wish to emulate. In today’s world, where electronics and video games are overwhelmingly popular and the computer and television seem to occupy hours of a child’s day, a classic category such as roleplaying must move with the times to keep children and their parents interested.
Updating the Classics
Products such as the Ben 10 Hero Collection Omnitrix from Bandai (above) and the Toy Story 3 Ultra Blast Gauntlet from Mattel (right) give children the same equipment as their favorite heroes.
Roleplaying is a play pattern that everyone is familiar with. From great-grandparents to today’s children, everyone has played makebelieve at some point. “Roleplaying is a part of the values that we as adults shared as kids,” says Mark Levine, president of Aeromax. Because the category has a long-standing tradition, there are a number of costumes and kits that are perennial favorites, especially among non-licensed products. Year after year, the popularity of firemen, policemen, princesses, astronauts, and other costumes remains strong. “Essentially, a lot of classic patterns have not changed over time,” says Michael Rinzler, president of CDI, a division of Jakks Pacific. “It’s very aspirational. Every little kid wants to pretend to be something they’re not.” However, a company cannot simply produce the same costume year after year and remain successful. Even though classic themes remain strong, a manufacturer has to update the style of its products to catch the interest of the consumer. “If I showed you a dress from 10 years ago and one from today, the difference would be obvious,” says Rinzler. Today, television shows such as Dancing with the Stars and American Idol have given the average child a glimpse of the glitz and
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glamour that celebrities and their costumes have and they demand it in their roleplay products. Many classic girls’ themes incorporate additional sequins and glitter as well as new fabrics to appeal to the more fashion-conscious young girls of today. Similarly, boys have seen more “cool” technology, both in the hands of their favorite characters and in the hands of their parents, so many boys’ products incorporate extra features and accessories beyond just a costume. A d d i t i o n a l l y, some products are breaking the gender barrier that has existed for decades. Traditionally, fireman and policeman costumes have been oriented toward boys, but a number of manufacturers interviewed for this piece have referred to a rise in unisex costumes to include little girls in this particular brand of aspirational play.
Where Licenses Fit
Of course, it is hard to address roleplaying without taking into account the massive impact that licensing has on the category. There are a number of powerful brands in the children’s market today and children want to emulate their favorite heroes and characters. “It’s pretty clear that roleplay is an instrumental part of our lineup,” says Marc Shaffner, executive vice-president of toys at Bandai. “Having properties such as Power Rangers and Ben 10 has been incredible for us. Allowing kids to dress up and really become their favorite action heroes is a key point to developing any licensed line.” Advances in technology have helped licensed products immensely as they both reduce the cost of many products while bringing more fea-
The WWE Electrovision Spinner Belt from Mattel uses LED technology to generate imagery of WWE Superstars, on top of playing entrance themes and WWE sounds to enhance roleplaying.
tures to each toy. Whereas once lights, sounds, and animation would have been prohibitively expensive, manufacturers can now include features that make products capable of connecting a child even more extensively with the character they choose to emulate. “We have been able to successfully use technology in our roleplay items to extend the pretend play pattern,” says Michael Ritchie, senior director of global brand strategy and marketing on the Marvel line at Hasbro. Hasbro’s Iron Man 2 products feature high-end sounds and lights that mimic those made from the high-tech Iron Man superhero character, encompassing almost every aspect of the character’s armor. Major brands can have an impact even on unlicensed products. Some manufacturers have noted that when Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films were popular, even generic pirate costumes increased in popularity. The popularity of Hannah Montana increased the desire for rock ’n’roll-based roleplay. “Pop culture is always going to have a major impact on this category,” says CDI’s Rinzler.
Keeping Prices Pretty
As with all categories, the recession has caused manufacturers in roleplaying to take a new look at how they sell their products. Rather than reducing the quality of their products, some companies have chosen to package their products in a different way. For A Wish Come True, which manufactures all of its products in the U.S. (and thus incurs higher production costs for its products), one way to keep prices down was to create smaller dress-up kits that give consumers a chance to buy the pieces of a costume or set that they want, rather than the entire set at once. “Quality is absolutely maintained here,” says Renee Stojek, art director of A Wish Come True, “so that’s one way that we’ve tried to keep things more affordable.” Other companies have
chosen to create entirely new lines of products that provide lower-price alternatives to their main lines. Elope, which normally produces character hats and headgear, has created a line of animal-themed headbands that include a clip-on tail that retails for under $10. “We feel it adds a new element to the category while still being affordable,” says Kelli Borel, chief sales relations officer at Elope. Many companies have adopted what Bandai’s Schaffner refers to as the “Good-Better-Best” model by providing roleplay products at three separate price points— usually one under $10, one under $15, and one under $20, though those numbers vary from company to company. This provides parents with a chance to buy their children the products they want with the brands they want without breaking the bank.
The Playskool Adventure Heroes Hero Talk assortment combines roleplaying with action figures as each Hero Talk communicator can be used as a pretend communicator for roleplaying or be unfolded into an Adventure Heroes playset.
While there have been a number of changes to the industry in the past year, most manufacturers interviewed for this article have nothing but positive expectations for the future of the roleplaying category. As with many classic play patterns, the category is a resilient one and has held up well during the recession. Many companies view 2010 as a good year to continue to improve and develop their product lines as consumers look for newer and more eye-catching products and features, especially as new technologies increase the scope of the category. The category will stay strong as long as companies can continue to create immersive products that give children a chance to be something more. “Once the child gets a hold of a roleplay product, it’s not a toy anymore,” says Bandai’s Schaffner. “It’s the actual Omnitrix or Blade Blaster—it’s what they see on the show. And when things fly off the shelves, you know that the experience you’ve created for them is working.”
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Roleplay and Dress-Up
Imagination is an important part of childhood. It can carry children from their backyard to the world of their favorite movie, show, superhero, or somewhere entirely their own. Roleplay and dress-up products give children a chance to make those worlds more real. Here’s a sample of some of the upcoming products in this imaginative category. BY
Hasbro’s Star Wars Boba Fett Helmet allows children to pretend to be one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars franchise, Boba Fett. The helmet is based on the real movie appearance of Boba Fett’s helmet and in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The helmet features electronic sounds, phrases, and a light-up tracking scope. The Star Wars Boba Fett Helmet comes off a child’s head with ease and is padded for comfort and safety.
Mattel has created a line of Toy Story products for the upcoming release of Toy Story 3 in theaters. The Buzz Lightyear Deluxe Action Wing Pack is a lightweight pack that kids can wear on their back. With the touch of a button, children can emulate the hidden wing action that Buzz Lightyear uses in the film. The Buzz Lightyear Deluxe Action Wing Pack also features a variety of Toy Story and Buzz Lightyearrelated sounds and imagery.
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Bandai will expand its line of Ben 10 roleplaying products with a number of new items this year, including the Ben 10 Ultimate Omnitrix. Just like Ben’s Omnitrix from the animated series, this roleplaying product will snap to a child’s wrist securely. The Ultimate Omnitrix allows children to snap their translucent Ben 10 alien figures to the toy to unlock a number of new sights and sounds. The Ultimate Omnitrix includes one additional translucent figure.
Aeromax will continue to emphasize the aspirational nature of dressup and roleplay with the new My 1st Career Gear line of dress-up kits. These kits allow children to dress up as a variety of careers, representing anything from a fireman to a construction worker to a pizza chef. Each kit comes with a costume and the relevant accessories.
Elope will be working with Disney to create a line of headwear for the Toy Story brand. The line will include hats based on those worn by Woody and Jessie in the Toy Story films. Elope will also be working with Disney on brands such as Disney Fairies, Winnie the Pooh, and more.
Kids can have a shopping spree at home with the new Barbie Scan ’n’ Buy Boutique from KIDdesigns. Kids can scan the included products using the pretend scanner or enter their own prices into the number pad. When they are done shopping, they can swipe their pretend debit card and sign the signature pad to check out. The Barbie Scan ’n’ Buy Boutique includes realistic sounds and lights, as well as Barbie’s voice helping to add up the prices and commenting on purchases.
Learning Resources will add a number of new sets to its Pretend & Play line. The new Pretend & Play Emergency Rescue Set is designed to reinforce fire safety and emergency rules. Children can dress up with the included gear, which includes a helmet with light and siren sounds; a pretend hammer, ax, and pick; megaphone; fire extinguisher; walkie talkie; vest; and badge. The set also includes a guide describing various safety activities and rules.
New from Little Adventures is the Traditional Cinderella and Cinderella Doll set. Like many Little Adventures kits, this dressup gown comes with a gown, accessories, and a matching doll. The Cinderella gown is made of stretch blue velvet, with white inlay and ruffled cap sleeves, as well as silver trim. A headband and other accessories are included. The included Cinderella doll comes with a matching outfit and doll accessories.
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Keeping it Neat and Fun
arents are very familiar with the struggle to make young children clean up after themselves, especially after the toys have come out of the toy box and been spread around the room. Kids love to play, but hate to put things away. Wayne Rothschild, president and co-founder of Neat-Oh, had this exact problem with his son Max. However, rather than shout and scold, Rothschild sat down with his son and devised a way to solve the problem with an answer that both parents and kids could appreciate. “What if the toy box would open up to create a playmat?” says Rothschild. “You wouldn’t have to dig around for the toys at the bottom of the box and cleaning up would simply involve zipping the box up again.” Rothschild, who has 20 years of product development experience at companies such as General Binding and WMS Gaming, designed the first of Neat-Oh’s ZipBins for his son. When he saw the appeal of the product for his son and the easy way it made cleaning up fun for kids, Rothschild realized he had a legitimate product on his hands. Neat-Oh was founded in 2007, with the first themed ZipBins rolling out into production. Since its founding, Neat-Oh has steadily been expanding its original line. The company has expanded its sales beyond the U.S. market. “We’re focused on the specialty market,” says Rothschild, “and that includes the specialty market around the world.” Currently, NeatOh’s products are available in more than 50 different countries. The company has also formed licensing deals with toy brands that have a natural fit for the ZipBin’s style of toy
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chest. LEGO and Hot Wheels both work closely with Neat-Oh to create lines of licensed ZipBins that complement their products. LEGO-licensed ZipBins feature playmats that kids can build their structures on, while the Hot Wheels products unzip into mats with street scenes and driving environments for Hot Wheels cars. In addition to licensing, Neat-Oh has expanded its product line as well. The core ZipBin product lines feature toy chests and smaller toy tote bags. The company has since added ZipBin Shapes, which are shaped based on the theme of the play mat (the Airport ZipBin is shaped like an airplane hangar, for example), as well as Playpacks, which are backpacks for carrying toys that can be unzipped into playmats like the rest of the ZipBin line. “Portable play is a huge need right now,” says Rothschild. “By creating environments that are highly portable and easy to use, we give kids a great way to take their products on the go.” Neat-Oh has also recently added a new line of playmats to the line in large and small sizes that feature the same design quality as the core ZipBin products. All of the mats are completely non-toxic and the smaller size mats are designed to be used either as a playmat or a place mat at the table. The larger mats
LEGO and Hot Wheels are current licenses featured on ZipBins. Neat-Oh is looking to sign with additional licensors.
are double-sided, allowing a greater variety of play for a low price point. Neat-Oh continues to grow as 2010 moves forward. The company is expanding its relationships with LEGO and Hot Wheels with new exclusive products featuring each license. In addition, the company’s success with its current licensors has opened up further opportunities for Neat-Oh. While the company couldn’t discuss it at press time, other licensors (including international brands) have expressed interest in working with Neat-Oh on exclusive products. The company is also working to produce more toyetic ZipBin products. “We’re kind of alone in this category,” says Rothschild. “We take core traditional play, think about how the kid wants to play with it, and we come up with the next play solution.”
GRIDDLY GAMES, INC.
MARY LIN, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
Griddly Games, Inc., hired Mary Lin as director of operations. She will be responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the Griddly Games internal departments and implementing procedures to deliver the best productivity for the company’s cornerstone Griddly Headz sport-themed games as well as the company’s new Chronicles of the Mind and Words of the Wise games. Lin will also provide input to the strategy, research, and development of new products. She will interact with outside vendors and agencies and advise on the company’s agenda of trade show participation, exhibits, sponsorships, and protocol for game night events. Previously, Lin was director of marketing of the Langara Business Association at Langara College.
DAMON WHITESIDE, VICE-PRESIDENT, MARKETING, DISNEY STORE NORTH AMERICA
The Disney Store named Damon Whiteside as vice-president of marketing of Disney Store North America, bringing his retail marketing and franchise development experience to the planning and execution of the new store design set to launch this summer. Whiteside will oversee key global marketing initiatives and lead the North American marketing strategy through instore brand positioning, franchise, and synergy development. He also brings to the role a background in digital marketing, promotions, and strategic alliances. Most recently, Whiteside was the head of marketing for Walt Disney Records.
JEREMY PADAWER, EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT OF MARKETING
Jakks Pacific promoted Jeremy Padawer to executive vice-president of marketing for Jakks brands. In his new role, Padawer is responsible for product development, marketing, new business, intellectual property, and entertainment content development for Jakks, including girls, dolls, activities, preschool, vehicles, seasonal, construction, boys’ entertainment, electronics, and pets. Padawer’s new role is not inclusive of Jakks’ divisions Creative Designs International (CDI), Tollytots, Kids Only!, and Disguise. Padawer was formerly senior vice-president of marketing for boys’ entertainment brands. He joined Jakks in 2003.
36 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
Chorion appointed Lauren LaBumbard as director, retail development; Tamra Knepfer as executive vice-president, brand management & marketing; and Steve Cipolla as executive vice-president, global licensing & sales. LaBumbard will expand the presence of Chorion’s properties at key U.S. retailers through developing relationships and promotional opportunities with retail buyers and management. She will also be responsible for exploring directto-retail partnerships. Previously, she worked in retail development roles for companies including VIZ Media, Signatures Network, and 4Kids Entertainment. Knepfer will oversee brand strategy, marketing, and creative for Chorion’s brands worldwide. Most recently, she was senior vice-president, global licensing and business development for Rodale. Cipolla will oversee Chorion’s global licensing and retail teams and develop new opportunities for the company’s growing portfolio of brands. Most recently he was vicepresident & general manager for ESPN Consumer Products.
BIG TENT ENTERTAINMENT
LISA K. WEINER, DIRECTOR OF BRAND DEVELOPMENT
Big Tent Entertainment appointed Lisa K. Weiner as director of brand development. She will maximize all of Big Tent Entertainment’s brands in licensee sales and at retail, including Domo, Discovery Kids, TokyoPop, and Telemundo. Previously she was director, brand management at Random House Children’s Books.
DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES
SUSAN BRANDT, PRESIDENT, LICENSING AND MARKETING
Dr. Seuss Enterprises promoted Susan Brandt from executive vice-president to president of the licensing and marketing division. She will continue to oversee worldwide operations for Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Brandt joined Dr. Seuss Enterprises in 1998.
THE JIM HENSON COMPANY
LISA O’BRIEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CHILDREN’S ENTERTAINMENT
The Jim Henson Company added Lisa O’Brien as executive director of children’s entertainment. O’Brien will support Halle Stanford, executive vice-president of children’s entertainment, in the development and production of new projects across all children’s media and will support the promotional efforts of established properties such as Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train. She will also focus on the company’s interstitial and short-form properties. O’Brien comes to Henson from PBS Kids Sprout where she worked with The Jim Henson Company on its short-form productions of The Pajanimals and Musical Mornings with Coo. She also co-created and wrote The Good Night Show and oversaw the writing and producing of the channel’s branding elements, interstitials, and promotional campaigns.
A SQUARED ENTERTAINMENT APPOINTMENTS
A Squared (A2) Entertainment appointed Gregory Payne as its COO and general counsel, Darren Romanelli as its creative director, and Sidney Iwanter as story editor. Payne will strategically expand A2 Entertainment as it develops its catalog of original programming, as well as oversee its business partnerships and the legal aspects of the company. He previously served as executive vice-president of legal and business affairs for DIC Entertainment. Romanelli will oversee and develop all the creative materials that support the A2 Entertainment brand and its digital animation projects. He has developed A2 Entertainment’s first two programs, Secret Millionaire’s Club, featuring Warren Buffett, and Gisele & The Green Team, featuring supermodel Gisele Bündchen. Future projects include an animated series based on a 10-year-old Martha Stewart. Previously, Romanelli co-founded StreetVirus, a boutique marketing agency. Iwanter will ensure that programming excites and engrosses the A2 audience. He previously served as vicepresident of programming, strategic development, and acquisitions for Fox Kids.
Hasbro hired Jerry Perez as senior vice-president and global brand leader for the company’s worldwide preschool business. He will lead global strategy, marketing, and merchandising for Hasbro’s preschool brand portfolio. He will also lead global efforts around the recently announced Sesame Street toy and co-branded games license. Perez’s 25 years of global and domestic toy industry experience includes positions at Learning Curve, LeapFrog Enterprises, Fisher-Price, Kenner, and Quaker Oats. Hasbro Studios named Kathy Page as vice-president of production. She will oversee physical production of programming produced by Hasbro Studios. Page joins Hasbro from Sony Pictures Television where, as vice-president of animation since 2007, she led the television animation production division.
UNCLE MILTON INDUSTRIES, INC. FRANK ADLER, PRESIDENT
Uncle Milton Industries, Inc., named Frank Adler as president. He will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of Uncle Milton and will focus on developing strategic plans to grow the company. Adler joined Uncle Milton in 1995 as director of sales and marketing and most recently served as executive vice-president.
PROMOTIONS AND APPOINTMENTS
HIT Entertainment named four experts to its newly created Global Advisory Committee. The committee will guide the development and programming teams around the world, acting as an educational resource to HIT’s writers and producers. Members of this committee include Dr. David Buckingham from The Institute of Education, London; Dr. Sandra Calvert, a professor in the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center; Dr. Renee CherowO’Leary, president of Education for the 21st Century; and Dr. Wendy Sims from the University of Missouri-Columbia, who is associate chair of the Department of Learning, Teaching & Curriculum, as well as a professor and director of music education at the university’s School of Music. HIT also promoted Chris Rose to vice-president of programming and development, and appointed Christina Schick to the newly created position of director of development. Rose is charged with shaping HIT’s new content strategy by sourcing and developing trans-media programming. Schick is responsible for identifying creators and projects, and developing those properties to expand the HIT portfolio of brands for preschoolers and older children.
APRIL 2010 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 37
Industry-Related Trade Shows JUNE 6–8
Minneapolis Mart Gift & Acc. Show
15–18 22–25 22–24
Licensing International Expo
Origins Game Fair
OCTOBER 4–8 5–8
Minneapolis Mart Showroom
Los Angeles Convention Center
Mandalay Bay Convention Center Rhode Island Convention Center
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Tokyo Toy Show
Tokyo Big Sight
Reed Gift Fairs
Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Center
Blaisdell Exhibition Center
OASIS Gift Show
Minneapolis Mart Gift & Acc. Show
Hawaii Market Merchandise Expo douglastradeshows.com
San Diego Convention Center
University of Phoenix Stadium
Minneapolis Mart Showroom
Indy Baby and Toddler Expo
Palais des Festivals
Time To Play Holiday Showcase
Fall Toy Preview
The ABC Expo Show
Dallas Market Center
Las Vegas Convention Center
San Diego Phoenix
New York City
LICENSING INTERNATIONAL EXPO 2010 JUNE 8–10; MANDALAY BAY CONVENTION CENTER, LAS VEGAS;
FALL TOY PREVIEW 2010 OCTOBER 5–8; DALLAS MARKET CENTER, DALLAS; WWW.TOYASSOCIATION.ORG
AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL TOY FAIR 2011 FEB. 13–16; JACOB JAVITS CONVENTION CENTER, NEW YORK CITY; 38 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2010
Little girls. Big imaginations. Loving Family Grand Dollhouse ™
Beautiful Victorian styling, 8 extra-large rooms, and a family with twins to enjoy it all! The Loving Family™ Grand Dollhouse opens wide for easy access to all the playspace, with a curving staircase and charming details. There are lots of great accessory sets too — all to help bring her imagination to life. It’s easy to fold, with room to store everything inside. And yes, it’s sure to be easy to sell.
Fisher-Price, Inc., a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. East Aurora, NY 14052 U.S.A. ©2010 Mattel, Inc. All Rights Reserved. ® and ™ designate US trademarks of Mattel, Inc. Some accessories shown sold separately.
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