TM & © Cartoon Network 2009. © Sega Toys/Spin Master Bakugan™ is a trademark of Spin Master Ltd. All rights reserved. Nelvana™ Nelvana Limited. Corus™ Corus Entertainment Inc.
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Volume 4, No. 8
Features 24 Water Toys: Squelching Summer’s Inferno by Chris Adams
28 Pool Time Becomes Family Time by Laurie Leahey
32 Beach Toys: Innovative Yet Changed by Nancy Lombardi
36 The Next Stage of Action Figures: New Looks, New Features, New Prices by Laurie Leahey
40 Sprig Toys by Laurie Leahey
Product Presentation by Laurie Leahey
Observations & Opinions
Entertainment Marketplace: Discovery Kids
Merchandise Makers: The Empire Group
Industry Forum: TIA
Calendar of Events
ON THIS PAGE (CLOCKWISE FROM THE TOP): Bandai’s RPM Ultrazord, Wham-O’s Slip ’n Slide Splash Factory, and Poolmaster’s inflatable ride-on Pirate Ship ON THE COVER: main photo: Small World Toys 15-piece sand toys assortment; upper left: Hasbro’s 20th anniversary reissue of the Super Soaker 50; lower left: Mindwalk’s Super Subbie Orky COVER BY DESIGN EDGE
ÂŠ 2009 Mattel, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Includes one vehicle. Additional vehicles sold separately.
OBSERVATIONS & OPINIONS
ast month I attended the ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. For those not familiar with this organization, it is comprised of specialty toy retailers, manufacturers who supply product to the specialty market, sales representatives, and others, like me, affiliated with the specialty toy industry. This is an annual convention that I have attended for a number of years. I left last month’s convention feeling very good about this segment of the toy business. While toy industry-specific trade shows and trade shows in general have seen a decline recently in both exhibitors and attendees, ASTRA proudly announced that it has broken its own record by drawing more retailers than any other previous ASTRA Convention. It also had a record number of exhibitors at this year’s convention, of which more than 80 were first-time ASTRA exhibitors. Every year I leave the ASTRA Convention with the same feeling. There is a passion that both retailers and manufacturers bring to this segment of the toy business. Retailers I spoke with conveyed to me how the entire ASTRA experience benefits them in running their business. Aside from shopping all the great products shown by manufacturers, the ASTRA Convention features seminars where retailers have the opportunity to hear various speakers who know the challenges of running a small business. Retailers from around the country have the opportunity to compare success stories and, in some cases, failures and challenges with those in similar situations. What really struck me this year was that even with all the negative comments about the American economy and its outlook for the next few months, toy manufacturers are still taking the risk of introducing new products. Several manufacturers I spoke with were very excited about the new products they were introducing. That positive message was echoed by many of the retailers as well. Like many other trade shows, the ASTRA Convention is a time for industry people to once again connect and celebrate. Congratulations to Kathleen McHugh and her staff on another great convention. I look forward to attending next year’s event in Providence, Rhode Island.
MEDIA • Volume 4, Number 8
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 DINA GITTINGS; MATT NUCCIO, MATT@DESIGNEDGE.NET; LAURA QUARTUCCIO HONG KONG REPRESENTATIVE TONY LEE SMART REGENT PRODUCTIONS LTD., 66–72 STANLEY STREET, ROOM 603, KAI TAK COMMERCIAL BUILDING, CENTRAL HONG KONG PHONE: 2815 0166 • FAX: 2815 6911 • SREGENT@NETVIGATOR.COM 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 2009 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 trade-
marks 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.
6 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
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.
LEGO STAR WARS ASSORTMENT LEGO
BAKUGAN TRAP ASSORTMENT Spin Master
RAZOR SCOOTER ASSORTMENT Razor
CRAYOLA SIDEWALK CHALK Crayola
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS FIGURES Hasbro
Fisher-Price Power Wheels Barbie Princess Lil’ Quad
FISHER-PRICE POWER WHEELS BARBIE PRINCESS LIL’ QUAD Fisher-Price
LEGO’s TIE Fighter
HYPERDASH Wild Planet Razor’s Sweet Pea Scooter
8 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
TECH DECK BOARDS Spin Master
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN FIGURE ASSORTMENT Hasbro
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.
GROOVY GIRLS MERMAID DOLLS Manhattan Toy
BLAST PAD Marky Sparky Max Liquidator Eliminator
FABULOUS FLOWER KIT Brain Noodle
MAX LIQUIDATOR ELIMINATOR Prime Time Toys PLASMACAR PlaSmart
FLOOR JIGSAW PUZZLES Melissa & Doug
RACING HELMET Castle Toy PlasmaCar
FOLDING ANIMAL CHAIRS Pacific Play Tents
10 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
SETTLERS OF C ATAN Mayfair Games
A RECAP OF LICENSING SHOW
This year’s Licensing Show was held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, and despite some griping
about the city and venue changes, mostly from the East Coast attendees, it was a successful show. Traffic seemed to be down, which may be a mixed result of the bad economy along with the uncertainty of the venue change. Exhibitors reported less walk-in traffic yet reported having productive meetings from both walk-ins and meetings that were
pre-arranged. LICENSING SHOW 2010 will take place JUNE 8–10 in the MANDALAY BAY CONVENTION CENTER in LAS VEGAS.
STRETCH ARMSTRONG COMES TO THE BIG SCREEN
Executives from Universal Pictures and Hasbro, Inc., announced that Stretch Armstrong is the first feature film to be released under Universal and Hasbro’s six-year partnership. Stretch Armstrong is scheduled for its theatrical release on April 15, 2011. They also announced Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind, American Gangster) will team with Hasbro to bring the action figure to life for the big screen. Steve Oedekerk (Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty) is writing the screenplay for the action adventure based on the toy that was made popular in the 1970s and then relaunched in the 1990s. Universal Pictures and Hasbro formed the partnership in 2008 to produce at least four motion pictures based on some of its best-known brands. Currently in development are Monopoly, with Ridley Scott set to produce and direct and Pamela Pettler writing the screenplay; Candy Land, with Kevin Lima to direct based on a script from Etan Cohen; Clue, with Gore Verbinski to produce and direct; Ouija, with Michael Bay to produce; and Battleship, with Peter Berg to direct from a screenplay by Jon and Erich Hoeber.
SCHOLASTIC SIGNS TOOTS
Scholastic Media, a division of Scholastic, announced that it will serve as licensing agent for the online world, Toots (www.tootsville.com). Created by RES Interactive LLC, Toots is based on the elaborate virtual world of Tootsville for kids ages 6–12. The site will soon launch a series of webisodes featuring the Toots characters mixed with original music from established and upcoming artists. Scholastic Media will drive the licensing program with plush, novelty, and accessories while also looking for partners in apparel, stationery, domestics, toys, publishing, gift, novelty, video games, and games and puzzles.
WALDO EXPANDS DOWN UNDER
Wilmer Valderrama, voice of Handy Manny on Disney Channel’s preschool series, Handy Manny, was at this year’s Licensing Show. Valderrama is pictured above on the left along with Gary Marsh, president of entertainment, Disney Channels Worldwide, and, of course, that’s Handy Manny on the right.
Picasso from Tootsville
Classic Media announced that it has appointed Stella Projects to manage the intellectual property rights to its global brand Where’s Wally? in Australia and New Zealand. (Waldo is known as Wally in that region.) The two-year deal sees Stella Projects, led by former ABC Consumer Products and Distribution executive, Grahame Grassby, acting as a broker for the brand, bringing potential licensing partners into direct negotiation with Classic Media. The agency will also look to secure distribution deals for Where’s Wally? consumer products for current licensees and will uncover new retail opportunities within the territory. Stella will be responsible for targeting strategic third-party promotional partners and will coordinate strategic marketing activities for the brand. Just in case you are wondering, Waldo actually goes by many different names. There are 18 international name variations including Wally in the UK, Charlie in France, Hugo in Sweden, and Walter in Germany. Waldo and Wally are the most universal names, while the rest are region specific.
12 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
Today’s the day… to rise and shine on the farm “let’s play!”
2 sides of play! “good morning!”
“1, 2, 3”
“a, b, c, d, e, f, g …” laugh & learn learning farm
The learning fun begins as soon as baby crawls through the barn door and is rewarded by engaging
music and twinkling lights. There are letters to learn, shapes to sort, eggs to count and animals to feed. More than 30 delightful songs and tunes, lots of fun phrases, and two full sides of play!
“I’m a little muddy”
Fisher-Price, Inc., a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. East Aurora, NY 14052 U.S.A. ©2009 Mattel, Inc. All Rights Reserved. ® and ™ designate US trademarks of Mattel, Inc.
6/18/09 2:21:58 PM
A RECAP OF LICENSING SHOW MATTEL ANNOUNCES LICENSEES FOR L AUNCH OF HOT WHEELS BATTLE FORCE FIVE
Mattel, Inc., announced a full complement of licensing, promotional, and distribution partners to support the launch of its new original animated series debuting on the Cartoon Network in late August, Hot Wheels Battle Force 5. Featuring CGI animation, Battle Force 5 transports kids into a fantasy world where they will meet an elite team of drivers in five ultra-fast vehicles. The drivers must work together using their armored battle machines to save the Earth from the most outrageous galactic predators. The Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 line features a full range of toys for boys, with highlights including two different assortments of 1:24scale battle vehicles and figures, a 1:64-scale vehicle assortment, a track set, and 1:64-vehicle assortment two-packs with a DVD containing the first episode of the show. Activision Publishing will bring Battle Force 5 to Wii and Nintendo DS platforms this November, giving kids an entirely new way to experience the action of the television show. Gamers can choose to be members of the Battle Force 5 team or the show’s evil team villains, The Sark and The Vandals. Battle Force 5 will also feature an extensive collection of nearly 30 licensed products for boys across 15 categories. Items and partners include roleplay toys by Creative Designs International; apparel by Freeze, AME, and Handcraft; footwear by ACI International; and publishing titles by Del Rey/Random House and Firebrand Media.
MARVEL EXPANDS APPAREL AGREEMENTS
Marvel Entertainment, Inc., is enhancing its presence in the apparel category through renewed and expanded agreements. The company renewed an extensive licensing agreement with Fruit of the Loom for the children’s underwear category. Additionally, Marvel has renewed its agreement with Mad Engine for tops, and expanded its agreements with Freeze and Mighty Fine for T-shirts. Through its recently extended multi-year license agreement, Fruit of the Loom will develop and manufacture children’s underwear lines based on all Marvel character franchises, including product lines based on the upcoming Marvel Studios feature films Iron Man 2, The First Avenger: Captain America, Thor, and The Avengers. Marvel renewed its license agreement with Mad Engine for T-shirts and hoodies for all Marvel Universe character properties as well as for the Iron Man 2 and Thor films. The company has also expanded its relationMad Engine Iron Man tee ships with both Freeze and Mighty Fine, which had previously signed on to develop and manufacture apparel for the female category, to include men’s and boys’ merchandise. The expanded relationship with Freeze includes all pertinent character properties for men’s and boys’ for all tiers of distribution. Freeze will also continue to develop and manufacture fashion tops for women inspired by Marvel Comics/Retro and Marvel Extreme for mass market and mid-tier distribution. The agreement with Mighty Fine has also been extended to include men’s merchandise for adult-driven classic programs for distribution at mid-tier, department, and specialty stores. Mighty Fine will also continue to develop and manufacture fashion tops for women inspired by Marvel Comics/Retro and Marvel Extreme for distribution at mid-tier, department, and specialty stores.
NELVANA RELAUNCHES BEYBLADE
Nelvana Enterprises, together with d-rights, Inc., announced the return of the Beyblade toy and programming franchise, with the introduction of 51 new episodes and a revamped toy line, both to be called Beyblade: Metal Fusion.
14 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
Beyblade: Metal Fusion will feature 51 new episodes co-produced by Nelvana and d-rights. Set to launch in North America in fall 2010, the new series features a fresh cast of characters that take on the continued battle between good and evil. The companion toy line is produced by Tomy Company. Hasbro, Inc., has been chosen as the master toy licensee outside of Middle East and Asia. Hasbro brought the original Beyblade product line to market in the U.S. and other regions in 2002. Nelvana Enterprises will represent d-rights in various countries, distributing the TV series internationally, as well as for merchandising rights and home video. The new TV series and toy line have already launched in Japan. All-new tournaments for the Beyblade Battle Association are planned for North America.
IMAGI STUDIOS OPENS UP GATCHAMAN FOR LICENSING
Imagi Studios announced that its next feature film property, Gatchaman, is open to licensing partners in all categories worldwide. The film, based on the popular anime series, is set to hit theaters in 2011 and will target tweens and young adults. Gatchaman, Imagi Studios’ animated adaptation of the popular anime TV series, is being brought to the big screen in stereoscopic 3-D and features state of the art animation. The series originally debuted in 1972 and spawned a number of adaptations worldwide, including the U.S. versions Battle of the Planets and G-Force. A fast-paced sci-fi action thriller, Gatchaman is the story of a lone wolf who finds a family in the most unexpected way. Against a backdrop of stealthy ninja-style shadow fighting to full-scale clashes, five teenaged superheroes defend Earth in an epic battle against evil aliens bent on destroying our planet.
HIT NAMES AMERICAN GREETINGS MASTER SOCIAL EXPRESSIONS LICENSEE
HIT Entertainment named American Greetings Corporation as the master social expressions licensee for HIT’s portfolio of brands, including Angelina Ballerina, Barney, Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam, Rainbow Magic, and Thomas & Friends, as well as acquired properties including Chapman Entertainment’s Fifi and the Flowertots and Roary the Racing Car and Aardman Animations’ Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and Timmy Time. Under the terms of the agreement, American Greetings will design, manufacture, distribute, and market key social expressions items, such as party supplies and decorations, greeting cards, invitations, stickers, gift packaging, and seasonal items, including Valentine’s Day cards and Christmas ornaments, for HIT’s brands.
Fifi and the Flowertots
4KIDS ENTERTAINMENT NAMED GLOBAL LICENSING AGENT FOR WORDWORLD
4Kids Entertainment, Inc., has been named global licensing agent for WordWorld, the 3-D animated series airing daily on the PBS Kids television network. The multimedia preschool property playfully brings words to life through a methodology that embeds words into the objects they represent. 4Kids will leverage WordWorld’s combination of educational and play value to build a licensing program across a variety of product categories that highlights the property’s focus on word play for preschoolers.
BBC WORLDWIDE EXPANDS DEAL WITH V TECH
BBC Worldwide announced that it has expanded its licensing partnership with Vtech to key international markets for the In the Night Garden property. BBC Worldwide is now rolling out a full merchandising program on a global level, with more than 67 licensees currently signed, across all major categories. BBC Worldwide first announced a licensing partnership with Vtech for In the Night Garden last July for the UK, and is now expanding the relationship to include France, Spain, Benelux, and Scandinavia. Product introductions will include Sing & Slide Nursery Book, Spin & Discover Gazebo, Sort & Learn Pinky Ponk, and Explore & Play Table.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 15
SHELF TALKERS: CHECK
THESE NEW ITEMS
Toysmith Introduces Robotic Science Kits
Toysmith introduces Robotic Science Construction Kits, which the company says offer everything needed to learn the basics of robotic science while constructing fun machines. Four styles are now available. There is the Robotic Bird, Robotic Ball Collector, Robotic Bubble Blower, and Robotic Beeper. All parts snap together with easy-to-follow instructions, says Toysmith. The sets require two AA batteries, which are not included.
Jungle of Fun with Vtech
Vtech introduces the Jungle Gym line modeled after a parent’s exercise equipment in a toddlerfriendly size and style. Shown here is the Monkey Moves Smart Seat based on a rowing machine found at the gym. There are two modes of active play to develop cognitive and motor skills. As kids move the monkey’s arms up and down, the seat’s buttons light up, helping kids learn numbers and colors. In addition, the faster the child rows the faster the music plays and a baby monkey will pop out of the top just like a jack-in-the-box. There are two adjustable positions to grow with the child and the seat bounces to keep kids active as they also slide back and forth. Also available in the line is the Ride & Giraffe Bike, Bouncing Colors Turtle, Twist & Learn Gorilla Pals, and Step & Count Kangaroo. All items are designed for ages 18 months and up.
16 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
Build and Learn with K’ NEX
Use bricks, rods, connectors, and wheels to build a dragster in one of four colors—red, yellow, blue, or green—with the 4X Dragsters from K’NEX. Each set is stored in packaging that makes it portable. Combine all four sets and build a truck that uses the four packages as its wheels. Step-by-step building instructions are included with these sets, which are designed for ages 5 and up. For younger kids, ages 2 and up, the Kid K’NEX Sesame Street Building Sets offer play and learn activities for the parent and child to work on together. When playtime is over, store the parts in the canister for a quick and easy clean up. The sets include less than 15 pieces, including Kid K’NEX rods, connectors, and blocks, plus unique parts such as specially designed character hands and eyes for a realistic character outcome.
Cycle with Hello Kitty
Pacific Cycle, Inc., recently announced the introduction of an all new collection of Hello Kittybranded bikes and protective gear for this fall. Some of the items to be introduced include 12- and 16-inch bicycles, as well as bicycle helmets. The bikes have MSRPs ranging from $69.99–$89.99 depending on size and the helmet value packs (including pad set) have an MSRP of $19.99. This multi-year licensing agreement allows Pacific Cycle to develop and distribute bicycles, tricycles, protective gear, bicycle accessories, and children’s electric ride-on vehicles in the U.S. and Canadian markets. Additional product designs are in the works for upcoming seasons.
10Vox Revolutionizes the Jigsaw Puzzle
Baby Talk with Aurora
Aurora has made additions to its Baby Talk line with My First Pet and My First Tool Kit. The plush carriers, which are six inches in size, are easy for children to carry. Included in each carrier are four related plush characters, which are two–four inches in size depending on the character. Each plays a sound and has its corresponding name embroidered on the side. This line is designed for ages six months and up.
10Vox Entertainment is expected to introduce a line of puzzles in August that merges traditional jigsaw puzzles with virtual puzzles creating a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). Puzzle enthusiasts of all ages will be able to solve 2-D and 3-D puzzles right from their computer desktops. The pieces of puzzle and game play all come together online. Consumers will purchase a traditional-themed puzzle in 250, 500, or 1,000 pieces. Each puzzle will come with an oversized puzzle piece that has a unique code on it. The consumer will be able to enter that code online at MyFunPuzzle.com and select 50 images from a gallery of thousands of images that fall within the theme of the puzzle they purchased. Those 50 images are saved to the consumer’s library and then may be cut into 100-, 200-, 250-, 500-, 750-, 1,000-, 1,500-, and 2,500-piece virtual puzzles. If a player masters a 100-piece puzzle of a certain image, they can go back and re-cut the puzzle to be 500 pieces or they can select another puzzle cut to increase the level of difficulty. A true MMOG, this online game will also allow multiple people from anywhere in the world to work on one puzzle together. They will also be able to engage in open chat while they solve the puzzle. Players will be able to view their puzzle pieces in a coffee table view, allowing them to zoom in and out to work on certain sections at a time. They’ll also be able to automatically separate puzzle pieces by color or shape and even sort out edge pieces. Puzzle lovers will be able to race against their own best solve time or another puzzle doer’s best time. The online game will post leader boards with the best solve times for each image, by the number of pieces, and type of puzzle cut. Puzzles will retail for $15.99. There is no online subscription required.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 17
BIG TENT ENTERTAINMENT BY LAURIE LEAHEY
magine a world where a child wants to learn about science, adventure, exploration, and natural history. Discovery Kids makes this world possible through its documentaries, reality shows, scripted dramas, and animated stories all geared toward kids ages 4–12. The 24-hour television network provides entertaining, engaging, and high-quality real world programming that kids enjoy and parents trust. Launched in October 1996, Discovery Kids is owned and operated by Discovery Communications, a leader in non-fiction content. A natural “kids” extension from its popular parent network, Discovery Kids helps children exercise their minds and bodies and explore the real world—from the depths of the ocean to outer space and from the backyard to the global community.
Discovery Kids helps children exercise their minds and bodies and explore the real world.
18 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
In April, Discovery Communications and Hasbro announced a 50/50 joint venture to create a rebranded television network dedicated to high-quality children’s and family entertainment. The rebranded network is scheduled to debut in late 2010 on the current Discovery Kids in the U.S. The network will feature content from Hasbro’s portfolio of entertainment and educational properties, and content from Discovery’s extensive library of children’s educational programming, as well as programming from third-party providers. Discovery Kids will continue to operate under its current brand outside of the U.S. This new venture will not affect the Discovery Kids licensing program, as the brand is not predicated on the TV channel and Big Tent Entertainment, licensing agent for Discovery Kids, does not license content around the programming. Instead, Discovery Kids-licensed products promote the channel’s motto of “learning through exploring.” Big Tent has created a licensing program that includes master toy licensee Jakks Pacific, as well as SRM Entertainment, Kidz Toyz, MerchSource LLC, Parragon Publishing, 505 Games, and Kids Station. The fun doesn’t end once the TV is turned off. With products ranging from video games to electronic encyclopedias, the licensing program puts adventure and exploration right into kids’ hands. Through the licensing program and television programming, Discovery Kids is committed to satisfying kids’ natural curiosity about everything.
• 56 million U.S. households subscribe to Discovery Kids. The channel has 25 million international subscribers. • Bindi Irwin, host of Discovery Kids’ Bindi: The Jungle Girl, is nominated for a 2009 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series. Discovery Kids’ series Adventure Camp and The Future Is Wild also received nominations. The Daytime Emmys will air on August 30. • On the Discovery Kids website, kids.discovery.com, kids can watch videos and play games.
In addition to Discovery Kids-branded camcorders and musical items, Kids Station expanded its relationship with Big Tent to cover an array of new branded electronics including DVD players, electronic journals, text messengers, and digital photo frames. The product line is slated to hit mass market retail channels across the United States and Canada this fall.
MerchSource will debut a new line of Discovery Kids products this fall, including a Digital Camera (shown), Digital MP3 Boombox for small children, Animated Marine and Safari Lamps, and a Toy Laptop. The camera allows kids to snap pictures and load them onto a computer for viewing and sharing. The boombox comes pre-loaded with 20 tunes and features a USB jack for adding new music. Kids can listen to music through built-in speakers or the headphone jack. The laptop will feature more than 50 different activities for children 4â€“8 years of age. The Marine Lamp features exotic fish against an ever-changing coral backdrop, creating a realistic underwater illusion.
505 Gamesâ€™ line of Discovery Kids-branded pet simulation games for the Nintendo DS include Dolphin Discovery, Puppy Playtime, Pony Paradise, and Kitten Corner. The games help kids realize the dream of owning, raising, and caring for a pet.
Jakks Pacific will expand its Discovery Kids line this fall. The products are designed to inspire children to be creative and have fun while learning about animals, nature, science, and technology. Each of the Discovery Kids Smart Animals figures features a Discovery Kids logo that can be scanned by the Smart Animals Scanopedia, an electronic talking encyclopedia, to unlock information and sound effects for that animal. The handheld Scanopedia scanner features a new look for 2009 and holds more than 2,500 sound effects, facts, and quizzes for more than 200 animals. It also includes a bonus poster full of scannable images, interactive maps, and games. It is for ages 3 and up.
Parragon follows up on its 2008 launch of Discovery Kids readers, sticker books, and hardcover books with more than 30 new titles this year. From early readers to encylopedias, puzzle and quiz books to sticker titles, the books cater to all age groups and reading abilities. The new Discovery Kids titles include many formats, such as pocket books, lenticular 8x8s, and magnetic workbooks. Boxed set versions of many of the series will also be available.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 19
ALL FOR ONE: THE EMPIRE GROUP BY
he creation of a single toy product takes an incredible amount of effort, not to mention manpower. Teams of artists, designers, engineers, marketing execs, and countless others are required to bring a product from the purely conceptual stage to retail. Some companies may not have the resources to take care of all these necessities in-house or may simply need more manpower than they have to handle all of their projects in-house. For these situations, The Empire Group can provide the extra help needed to get a product on the shelf for consumers. The Empire Group consists of four separate companies that each work on a distinct part of the process of creating a toy line. The first of these companies to exist was Empire Prototype, created in 1999 by Jason Enos, who remains president of the company. Enos first got started in the toy-making business at Hasbro, where he soon fell in love with the toy category. This is also where he met Dean Robinson and Paul Paesang and established working relationships with both of them. When Enos left Hasbro and founded Empire Prototypes, his intended goal was to have a part-time source of income. Soon, however, Empire Prototype became a full-time project, and Enos wanted to move on to greater things. Between 2002 and 2003, Enos connected with Paul Paesang and partnered with him to create Ideology. Dean Robinson and his company, Creative Bonz, followed shortly after, and finally the fourth part of the Empire Group, Evolution, came on board, headed by Bob DeRoche as president. “We had a goal when we first started up,” says Enos. “We wanted to
20 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
be a turn-key product development company.” Combined, the four companies that comprise the Empire Group can take a product from start to finish, managing the entire process in-house for its clients, which range from established manufacturers and licensees to companies just breaking into the toy business. The first step in the process is conducted by Creative Bonz. Robinson, who is president of Creative Bonz, describes his role as “advanced marketing and development strategies.” He works with the client to create a full conceptual lineup of products. After Robinson and his team create these concepts, the project is passed on to Paul Paesang, who is president of Ideology. Paesang and his team at Ideology are responsible for what Robinson describes as “the nuts and bolts” of the process. Ideology takes the concepts and ideas that Creative Bonz has promised and delivers working toy designs. From here, Enos takes over at Empire Prototype, which takes Ideology’s work and crafts the necessary product prototypes. The fourth and final step takes the line to Evolution, where DeRoche and his team connects the client with manufacturers that they feel can best handle the job. Because each step is conducted by an individual company, The Empire Group can offer a client only the services it needs. “We can truly become an extension to any one of our clients,” says Robinson. “We will work with them as partners before handing it over to their partners or their chosen manufacturers.” If a client only needs the services of Creative Bonz or Ideology, that can be arranged. However, when a client needs the services of all of The Empire Group’s com-
panies, the group strives to keep absolutely everything in-house. This allows projects to be completed quickly and affordably. The projects can also be kept extremely confidential. “When you have to outsource, information can get out there,” Robinson says. “We keep everything in-house.” The Empire Group takes its duties as an “extension” of its clients very seriously. The combined companies do everything they can to learn about a client’s design philosophy and process, so that its own work matches with the clients. “Like any service industry, we have to be a chameleon,” says Paesang. “We extract as much information as we can from our clients so that what we deliver is on the mark and ready to go.” This is extremely important for The Empire Group because another part of its job is “to be completely invisible,” as Enos puts it. “We’ve worked with every major license and every major toy company,” he says. But The Empire Group does not generally reveal the specifics about any project, even after completion. “We keep things as quiet as we can,” says Enos. While The Empire Group is still doing a strong business in the U.S., new opportunities have continued to crop up. “We’ve been approached by a lot of companies outside the U.S.,” says Robinson. “The Asian and European markets want to develop products with a Western flair.” In addition, the company has continued to tighten its relationship with U.S. companies, working on brands such as Mattel’s Barbie and Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants. As long as companies need its services, this is one particular Empire that will continue to grow.
5/14/09 3:54:42 PM
TIA CREDIT PROGRAM PROVIDES VALUABLE INFORMATION BY
DINA GITTINGS AND LAURA QUARTUCCIO, TOY INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
n today’s economy, it should come as no surprise that toy companies large and small are concerned about the credit worthiness of customers. It is important for all toymakers to have the financial information they need to protect their bottom line. “For our members, knowing the credit worthiness of their customers is a key element of assuring the fiscal integrity of their businesses,” says Jean Butler, vicepresident of membership at the Toy Industry Association (TIA). The TIA Credit Interchange is a comprehensive credit assessment program that was created more than 20 years ago to provide TIA member companies (i.e., “regular members”) with convenient, 24/7 access to credit and industry-related data about toy retailers around the world. Members receive regular updates on retailers’ credit practices and payment history along with daily bulletins on retail industry breaking news. The program also hosts a number of credit conferences throughout the year allowing members to network and engage in confidential discussions on credit issues. Toy companies participating in the TIA Credit Interchange have access to a variety of resources that allow them to reduce the risk involved in making important business decisions. For example, EZCredit is the password-protected online retailer database that enables participants to access the payment histories of more than 5,000 retail accounts specific to the toy industry. Through these comprehensive credit ledger reports, members have access to real data that will help them determine the credit wor-
22 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
thiness of current and potential retail customers. Members can also post queries about any retailers not currently in the database. Also included in the database is a summary of breaking national and global financial news pertaining to the toy industry. The reports focus primarily on retail news, including bankruptcies and SEC filings. This news is also sent directly to the subscriber’s email account through the daily credit bulletin. TIA publishes a bi-monthly Watch Report of delinquent or problem accounts as well as a comprehensive quarterly Payment Experience Book listing credit reports for key retailers. Should a member have a pressing need for immediate information on a particular retailer, the credit interchange administrator may also send interim urgent requests to all program participants. One of the program’s most popular features is the TIA-hosted credit meetings where members have the opportunity to come together to exchange credit information and hear presentations by leading experts on credit risk analysis and bankruptcy law. Regional meetings take place quarterly in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. In addition, TIA hosts a meeting during Toy Fair each year in New York as well as an annual, three-day summer credit conference in Chicago. “The face-to-face contact with other participants at the regional meetings and at the winter and summer conferences have made me more comfortable asking for guidance and more confident in sharing my information,” says Elizabeth Kesler, credit manager at Cadaco, Inc., and member of the TIA
Credit Interchange Program. “I learn something new every time I speak with one of the participants of the TIA Credit Interchange and that contributes to my making educated decisions for my business.” The 2009 Summer Credit Conference, taking place July 27–29 at the Westin Michigan Avenue Hotel in Chicago will enable attendees to network with other credit managers in the toy industry and to gain knowledge from credit professionals from both inside and outside of the industry. Featured speakers will include experts from Wal-Mart and Walgreens, as well as representatives of investment firm William Blair & Company, the Schiff Hardin LLP law offices, Attain Consulting Group, Euler Hermes, HUB International, and Creditntell.com. This year’s conference will also include an interactive hands-on credit-manager-challenges workshop. The events are available only to members of the program. “The TIA Credit Interchange is a valuable resource for TIA member companies to share and discuss information that might otherwise be unavailable to them,” says Butler. TIA members needing more information about the Credit Interchange Program, contact Dina Gittings at (646) 520–4849 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Laura Quartuccio at (646) 454–5585 or email@example.com for information on TIA membership.
Water Toys: Squelching Summer’s Inferno
he water toys category, which encompasses water slides, director for Super Soaker. “The reintroduced Super Soaker 50 retails squirters, and blasters, is a perennial favorite among for $14.99 and the Super Soaker Bottle Shot blaster retails for $7.99.” kids. The appeal of limitless, open-ended fun combined It is certain that this product segment has its fair share of either with putting the chill on the dog days of summer never iconic or well-entrenched brands, including the aforementioned Slip wanes. Even in the midst of a recessionary economy, ’n Slide, Banzai, and Super Soaker, but another big player in the catconsumers are attracted to the cool fun the category offers. However, egory, Imperial, has been quietly introducing an array of water toys that is not to say the economy hasn’t affected the category. for years and has successfully utilized licensing to maintain a high “The biggest impact that we’re seeing is that sales are shifting to profile for its products among a wide array of demographics. lower price point items, typically $20 “Licensing brings with it built-in and below,” says Chris Guirlinger, awareness and doesn’t need a lot of vice-president of marketing and advertising,” says Tim Thompson, licensing at Wham-O, manufacturer senior vice-president of marketing at of the popular Slip ’n Slide line of Imperial. “The creative challenge is water slides. “The retailers are being to take the character and put it in a cautious in their buying for 2010, water environment so that it comes to even though no one can see the future. life in a fun way.” We are working closely with each Other manufacturers in this space retailer to make sure that our product utilize licensing to varying degrees. mix is appropriate and priced correctToyQuest produces Banzai products ly for their consumers.” featuring licensees such as Barbie, One thing working to Wham-O’s Disney, Fisher-Price, and Nickelodeon. ToyQuest’s Banzai 3-D Shark Bite Water Slide advantage is the deep-seated, longThe Disney licensed products, which standing equity that the Slip ’n Slide include the Princess, Cars, Finding brand holds. It has been on the market for almost 50 years. A newer Nemo, Toy Story, and Little Einsteins properties, will launch at mass brand that has carved out a space for itself in the water slide catego- in spring 2010, as will a Barbie-branded line of water toys. ry is ToyQuest’s Banzai line. This year, ToyQuest is utilizing the Wham-O also takes advantage of the appeal of strong licenses, but Destination Backyard campaign to promote its Banzai items, which to a lesser degree than some of the other manufacturers in the categowas created and implemented after conducting consumer research. ry. “At Wham-O it quickly became clear to me that when you have “Our market research is telling us that families are not only curb- strong, pioneering brands, licensing is not so much a requirement for ing their vacations but also their ‘staycations’ and focusing more on getting placement, but more a means to achieve incremental busiaffordable backyard activities,” says Peter Magalhaes, vice-president ness,” says Guirlinger. “Of course, the economics of the deal must of business development for ToyQuest. work, and you must have a well-promoted license that appeals broadAnother backyard favorite is celebrating its 20th anniversary this ly to your target consumer.” year. In celebration of 20 years of its Super Soaker line of blasters, When it comes down to it, a license may help a product get Hasbro reintroduced the original Super Soaker 50. Not only is the placement and it may attract consumers’ attention on-shelf, but reintroduction an apt celebration of an iconic toy, but it also makes what matters most is the drenching, cooling fun that products in the sense from an economic standpoint. water category offer year-in and year-out. Despite the economy, “Super Soaker blasters have always been offered at a range of price consumers will always look for a way to squelch the inferno of points, with most $20 or under,” says Jonathan Berkowitz, global brand scorching August afternoons. BY
24 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
20 F in T B C rting ” o p p 009. u 2 S n t i n F eve CBT A g n M i I t r ly L ppo u “On S t n eve A M I yL
DREAMS AND PROMISE GALA honoring DREAMS AND PROMISE GALA honoring
Ronnen Harary, Chairman & CEO Anton Rabie, President & CEO Ronnen Harary, Chairman & CEO Ben Varadi, Executive Vice President Anton Rabie, President & CEO Spin Master Ltd. Ben Varadi, Executive Vice President Jonathan Finlay, M.D. Spin Master Ltd.
Director, Neural Tumors Program—Childrens Hospital Los Angeles Professor of Pediatrics—Keck School of Medicine, Jonathan Finlay, M.D. University of Southern California
Director, Neural Tumors Program—Childrens Hospital Los Angeles Professor of Pediatrics—Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
Thursday, October 22, 2009 Beverly Hills Hotel Thursday, October 22, 2009 Melina Beverly HillsKanikaredes Hotel
Regardless of the economy, kids (and their parents) look for ways to cool off. The water toys category offers a range of options across the spectrum of price points.
Wham-O’s featured slide for 2009 is the Slip ’n Slide Splash Factory. This slide features Twin Turbo Drenchers to soak sliders. In addition, the company has re-engineered its entire line to make them wetter, faster, and easier to set up. On the licensing front, Wham-O has introduced a line of NASCAR-licensed Slip ’n Slides. The line includes the Slip ’n Slide NASCAR Racer, Slip ’n Slide NASCAR Double Raceway with Driver Slide Boogies, and Slip ’n Slide NASCAR Triple Slide with Driver Slide Boogies (shown).
ToyQuest has a range of offerings in its Banzai line of water toys. The Banzai Titan Blast Rocket (shown) stands more than seven feet tall and can reach heights of over 100 feet, according to the manufacturer. It is powered by a pressurized water tank. The company entered the water blaster category this year and expects to introduce the Hydro Twister and Compound Bow Blaster in 2010. Also on the way for 2010 is an array of new licensed Banzai product featuring properties such as Barbie, Disney Princess, Cars, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Little Einsteins. The company’s 2009 driver is the Banzai 3-D Shark Bite Water Slide, which is shown on page 24.
Imperial reaches a wide range of demographics with its water squirters through licensing. For 2010, expect sprinklers featuring properties such as Marvel Super Heroes Squad, Care Bears, and Nickelodeon’s Ni Hao, Kai-Lan. In addition the company is continuing its relationship with Nickelodeon’s Dora, Diego, and SpongeBob SquarePants properties.
26 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Super Soaker. To commemorate, Hasbro reintroduced the first model in the line, the Super Soaker 50. The blaster holds up to 25 ounces of water and can shoot water up to 35 feet. Other items in the line include the Super Soaker Bottle Shot, which converts almost any water bottle into a water supply for the blaster.
Fisher-Price’s Turbo Fill Blasters are a one-stop, fast-fill water station for kids. Plug the blaster into the item’s waterfilling base and it fills the blaster up in 15 seconds or less. It is then ready to squirt, with no pumping required. The deluxe version allows kids to hook two blasters into the base. Additional water toys in Fisher-Price’s line include Sprinkle ’n Splash Play Mat, Tadpole Splash Pool, Soak ’n Splash Animal Park, Spray ’n Play Seal, Squirt Friends Animal Sprayers, and Spin ’n Splash Weed Wacker.
MGA Entertainment’s Little Tikes offers two new water toys for 2009. The Little Tikes Slam ’n Curve Slide is an inflatable water slide that includes a kid-friendly “rock” wall climb, a slippery slope, and a splash pool, as well as a basketball hoop. The other item is the Rocky Mountain River Race (shown) which is a two-person “rock” climb to the top of the slide. Water pours unexpectedly out of a dump bucket onto unsuspecting climbers. It has twin water slides that lead down into a splash pool.
Dip Poolmaster’s Water Pop Power Water Launchers into a water source to fill them up. The blasters are 24 inches long and can shoot water up to 45 feet.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 27
POOL TIME BECOMES FAMILY TIME
BY LAURIE LEAHEY
he easiest and most inexpensive place for families to This is not to say that if a consumer had to decide between a $20 pool vacation this summer is at home. This concept dubbed toy and a $40 pool toy that he would automatically choose the $20 toy. by the media last summer as a “staycation” is an ideal Some consumers are still willing to spend more on pool toys because situation for families with a pool. The pool toy category they feel they are saving money elsewhere, possibly by staying at home becomes the source of summer family fun, boosting over the summer. “People are looking to spend more on pool toys with sales in a category that usually doesn’t receive too much attention. the economy because the entertainment value and the recreation value From inflatable ride-on toys to floating games, pool toy manufactur- that you can have in your backyard is greater as opposed to taking the ers provide consumers with an endless array of options. kids out somewhere on vacation,” says Jesse Purewal, marketing managWhether consumers purchase an elecer, Poolmaster. “This whole ‘staycation’ theory has tronic pool toy, such as SwimWays’ ESPN actually increased demand of those types of items.” Swimming Challenge, for the kids or a Of course, with more time spent in the family water game that the whole family can pool, there is a greater need for safety measures. A play, such as Fundex’s Chuck-O Splash, child who doesn’t know how to swim or who isn’t consumers are really looking for items that supposed to be in the water can easily turn family turn the backyard pool into a playground fun time into a tragedy. The idea behind Terrapin for kids and parents. Monica Jones, marCommunications’ Safety Turtle is to save small keting director for SwimWays, says that children (as well as pets and adults) from drowning her company conducted research in order accidents. A child wears a special wristband and a SwimWays’ ESPN Swimming to better understand purchasing behavior sensor near the pool registers whenever the wristChallenge can be used by kids and adults. and asked participants what they did in the band—and the child—are in the water. An alarm pool. “For more than 50 percent of people, then sounds so that parents, guardians, or whoever what they do in the pool is just family time,” Jones says. “It’s all about is nearby can rescue the child from the water. “The reality is that children bringing the family together.” are not supervised 100 percent of the time 24-7 for a variety of reasons,” Manufacturers are keeping this, as well as the economy, in mind says Bob Lyons, president of Terrapin Communications. “Drowning is this summer, as well as into the future, by providing consumers with silent. It’s quick and it’s silent and our alarm breaks the silence.” high-quality toys under the $20 price point. For some companies, this When a child is ready to learn to swim, parents can turn to the classic means shifting the focus away from high-tech pool toys. “We never Floaties. Prime Time Toys recently acquired the exclusive U.S. distribuchase the technology because the technology always brings a lot of tion rights for the original Floaties and will relaunch the brand in a major cost with it,” says Douglas Rubel, president of Mindwalk, Inc. For way next year. “We’re making sure it’s easy for moms and dads who are Mindwalk, it is possible to create fun toys—even ones with the abil- buying the product to understand what they’re buying,” says Bryan ity to move underwater, such as those in its no-batteries-required Sturtevant, national sales manager, Prime Time Toys. Packaging will Torpedo line—for $10 or less, creating added value at a value price. include age and weight information so that parents can make the best Consumers are attracted by more value at lower price points, says decision as to which size Floaties will fit their child. Nick Riek, product line manager, Fundex. “We’ve really tried to bring in The combination of these safety products with family-friendly more elements—better game play that can work for the whole family pool toys ensures that families staying at home this summer will have whether it be for the young kid or the adult, but really putting enough a safe and fun time together. No matter what the price, this summer stuff [into it] so it’s a game we feel people are going to play over and over parents are looking for fun and unique ways to enhance the time spent again and that will last through the summer,” he says. in the pool with their kids.
28 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
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BY LAURIE LEAHEY
This summer, families are opting to stay at home and swim in their backyard pools instead of hitting the beach on an expensive vacation. Pool toys, from high-tech electronics to floating games, bring families together for a fun pool-time experience.
Keep kids safe and in-style with Dora the Explorer and Diego life jackets from ColemanStearns. These comfortable vests are made with durable flotation foam and a sturdy nylon shell featuring graphics of Dora and Diego. The Type III U.S. Coast Guard-Approved PFD vests feature adjustable belts and leg straps. They are for children up to age 6.
With SwimWaysâ€™ ESPN Swimming Challenge, kids can compete against each other to see who swims the fastest. Place the two high-tech touch pads on the inside pool wall or outside of the pool. The swimmer who touches their touch pad first wins. An LED timer flashes the winning time and ESPN sounds cheer on the winner. The Swimming Challenge will also track your time or laps. It comes with a built-in storage with carry handle.
30 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
Poolmasterâ€™s inflatable rideon Pirate Ship features a special open-bottom seat that allows kids to use their feet and legs for easy maneuverability. The attached high-volume squirter has a specially designed slot to hold a feeder line for a continuous supply of water.
Fundex gave its backyard classic Chuck-O a wet and wild twist. With Chuck-O Splash kids place the floating Chuck-O at the end of the swimming pool, grab the beanbags, take aim, and throw. The game can be played solo or in teams of two or more people. Chuck-O Splash includes one floating game board, six beanbags, and instructions. It is for ages 8 and up.
The Safety Turtle Wireless Wristband Alarm is a combination of a wireless signal-outfitted wristband and a wireless base station receiver that sounds an alarm the instant a child falls or ventures into water. The base station can be positioned anywhere between pool/waterside and up to 1,500 feet away (depending on the model desired).
Finis’ Swim Explorer is a learn-to-swim inflatable that helps kids gain confidence in the water. It teaches basic floating and swimming positions for first-time swimmers. A swimmer can go from floating to swimming within hours as he learns to control his body position in the water without the aid of human touch. The Swim Explorer’s patented figure-eight design places the body in multiple flotation positions. The added instructional booklet calls out positions, tips, and ways to help get kids started. It is made of durable vinyl material to prevent punctures.
Prime Time Toys
The new focus for Prime Time Toys in 2010 will be Floaties. The company recently acquired the U.S. rights to relaunch and distribute the original Floaties in the U.S. Packaging will include weight and age information so that parents can decide which size is right for their child. Prime Time Toys will bring the highquality features that have been in Europe and Australia in specialty to the U.S. mass market. These features include bright yellow non-phthalate PVC and multiple air chambers.
Mindwalk’s Scoobarang is an underwater disc that boomerangs back to the thrower. Its soft latex outer surface ensures safety. Depending on how kids throw it, the Scoobarang can also be used as an underwater glider— throw it a certain way and it will glide underwater across the pool. In addition to being an underwater boomerang, Scoobarang can also be used for game competitions and free-throwing. It is for ages 7 and up.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 31
Beach Toys: Innovative Yet Unchanged
s summer unfolds in many parts of the country, families will be
heading to the beach and carrying with them a ton of toys.
Beach toys is a category that
remains tried-and-true yet innovative in small
vate-label items serve the mass-market con-
a bucket, shovel, and rake that come together
This is one category that is projected to do
ways, immune to licensing.
vacation. Other families are cutting out vaca-
Oftentimes, the toys
recession. Some parents are scaling back vaca-
tion plans and opting for a less-expensive beach tions entirely opting for a staycation near their local
are purchased on the
beaches. Both scenarios
way to the beach or
bode well for this category.
during a shopping trip for
“Sand toys don’t seem
to get hit as hard [during a
inside a big-box retailer.
recession] because they are
It’s inside the big-box stores
where price becomes the driver, whereas the specialty-focused
toys have more innovative twists.
Sand Diggers from International Playthings
“The beach category is very competitive
in a sense,” says Martin Crowley, brand manager for Toysmith. “There may not be a lot of
players in mass but there is a lot of competi-
tion in the big-box retailers. They typically use beach toys as a loss leader.”
Mass-market retailers know that mom is
picking up these items while buying other things. Mom is looking primarily for a value bag that contains a lot of stuff. And, if it in fact
comes packaged in a travel bag for the beach, that will probably seal the deal.
“Consumers are more conscientious of
price this year compared with last year,” says Michael Albarelli, president of Amloid. “This
year is all about value, value, value.” He explains that a set that sold for $14.99 last year is now more likely to sell for $12.99.
Amloid and American Plastics Toys, which
didn’t respond for this story, along with pri-
32 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
Sprig Toys is one such specialty company
focused on innovation and style in this cate-
tend to replace each year.
even better than usual perhaps because of the
toy industry, it’s gender neutral and, in many
sumer well with low-priced items that parents
ways. It’s a category that’s a price-driven mom
purchase. And, unlike most categories in the
such a staple for inexpensive entertainment,” says Jason Johnson,
senior brand manager of Small
World Toys. “We may even be selling more because of [the recession].”
Innovation in Specialty
Mass-market manufacturers said price is
the driving factor in the category. Yet those serving the specialty market mentioned style, color, and innovation as key factors.
“Over the past year or two I’ve seen a move
away from some of the traditional primary colors to more of the fashion-color palettes,” says
Toysmith’s Crowley. “You see a lot more of the
bright greens and oranges. There are more
blues and aqua blues. Different types of finishes are also becoming more popular.”
Crowley cited the example of Toysmith’s
oversized beach shovel with a marble finish,
which is shown on page 34. “It’s a great seller
for us. It’s a combination of low price point, oversized item, and the new finish.”
gory. The Dunebug Sand Truck, shown on page 35, features traditional elements such as to create the vehicle. Many of their other
items have dual purposes and feature faceless characters so kids can use their imaginations.
“There is a lot of tradition to this catego-
ry so whatever we do we still have to weave it into classic play,” says Chris Clemmer, designer and co-founder of Sprig Toys.
“There is not a lot of change from year to year in this category and that may get more parents to play with their children.”
One such item to help bring families
together is International Playthings’ Beach Builder series. “It is a line of beach toys and
molds that encourage children to use the sand as their canvas for creativity,” explains Sue Tice, product manager for IPI. “It
becomes a fun family project as parents enjoy helping children create a sand wall by
making individual sand bricks in addition to
molding castle towers and walls. Each Beach
Builder set comes with a zippered storage bag with a netted top.”
As the summer fun heats up across the coun-
try, those interviewed agree that this is a classic category that can be enjoyed by all generations.
After all, kids, parents, and grandparents know
how to use all of these items—no instructions necessary and there’s no generation gap.
“Parents are looking for toys that are safe,
fun, and memorable,” says Jamie Edry, sales
and marketing coordinator for Schylling.
“Summer is a time for being with family and friends and enjoying the weather outdoors. If we
can help to maintain that lifestyle with some of our toys then our job has been a success.”
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This tried-and-true category is a favorite with kids and adults. Itâ€™s a category that remains unchanged, yet is innovative at the same time. Simple improvements, new color palettes, and eco-friendly toys keep it fresh. Although always an inexpensive product category due to its impulse nature, price is even more top of mind with parents this summer.
International Playthings has an extensive line of beach toys under its iPlay brand. The iPlay Sculptor Set is a multi-piece set that includes five sculpting tools, a shovel, and two textured rollers. The stone and sea rollers can be rolled along the sand to create an underwater scene, or a stone-like texture. Both rollers are great for creating a moat around the perfect sand castle. After a long day at the beach the tools can be stored in the durable storage tote. The Sculptor Set, for ages 5 and up, has an MSRP of $24.99. The iPlay Sand Diggers Set comes as a twopiece digging set available in three different styles, duck, dino, or crab. This set is designed for ages 18 months and up, with an MSRP of $3.99. The six piece iPlay Castle Bucket Set (shown) includes a bucket, sand/water mill, watering can, shovel, scoop, and rake. The bucket in the set even acts as a castle mold. This set is designed for children ages 3 and up, with an MSRP of $18.99.
34 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
Toysmith offers a variety of bulk beach items for kids to enjoy a day of building castles. Shown here is the 15-inch Sand Shovel. Each is made of sturdy plastic and comes in assorted colors. The suggested retail price is $4 each. The Beach Set in a Bag is the classic combination pack of toys that includes a five-inch watering can, 9.5-inch shovel sieve, 9.5-inch spade, a 9.5-inch rake, two 5.5-inch sand molds, five-inch high bucket with handle, and 6.5-inch sieve. These toys are packed in a reusable zippered bag at the suggested retail price of $12.
The beach toy category is filled with numerous versions of plastic pails and shovels. Now the SandSac, from Mesko Associates, offers an alternative. The SandSac is an ecofriendly, foldable travel beach pail. It is 100 percent cotton canvas and is packaged with a renewable resource bamboo shovel and four fabric markers in assorted colors so kids can decorate the bag. It is also customizable using fabric markers, paints, or applied accessories. It is machine washable and can be folded and stored until its next use. The SandSac comes in three sizes, and is sold individually or as a set of two. The medium (MSRP $14.95) and large (MSRP $16.95) versions are shown here. Itâ€™s sold in specialty retailers and on the web.
Sprig Hollow is the latest eco-toy line from Sprig Toys. This line encourages kids to get outside to scoop, pour, fill, plant, and play, especially with mom and dad, according to the company. The new collection features an assortment of items and shown here is one specifically for the beach, Dune Bug’s Sand Truck. The water-resistant, five-in-one playset features a sand bucket, a snap-on shovel, and rake that doubles as the truck’s cab. Also available is Dragonfly’s Heli-Scoopter, which also features a shovel, character, and helipad that is also a sand strainer. The suggested retail price for each item is $14.99, for ages 3 and up.
Transforming the beach into a crater on the moon or any other planet is the theme of the Moonworker line from HaPe International. Moonworker offers the combination of color and design with a lunar theme. The toys are silver and blue with hints of yellow. The line includes five items for children, ages 1 and up. Included in the line is the Roller (shown here), which has a suggested retail price of $19.95. Children can use this 15-inch long Roller to put a flat, seamless surface on their sand sculpture. The tire tracks leave a decorative mold in the sand. Press the handle of the Grabber ($12.95) with one hand and the scoops snap together at the bottom. The almost-19-inch long, 3.5-inch wide Grabber allows narrow holes to be dug quite deep. The Dozer ($17.95) eliminates the need for buckets. Just wheel and scoop sand and leave some tire tracks at the same time. This sturdy unit is 15 inches long by 11 inches wide. The Moonworker Driller ($7.95) is shaped just right to drill some large holes. Just turn the crank handle to drill down, then reverse turn it to see the drilled hole with a corkscrew tunnel. Children can simply put their hand through the opening and use the Scraper ($2.95) as an extension of their own hand.
Schylling offers a classic spin on beach play with tin pails and tin shovels in solid colors. Although each item is sold separately, they are gender neutral making them ideal for a group of kids, ages 3 and up. The MSRP for each tin shovel is $3.99. Each tin pail has a suggested price of $6.99.
Small World Toys
Small World Toys offers a host of value-priced sets for the beach. Pictured here is The Peek a Boo Wagon Set, which comes with a rake, shovel, pail, and sand shapers. The items can be pulled along or stored in the wagon. Also in the line is a variety of watering cans, rakes, shovels, pails, and sieves all in gender-neutral primary colors.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 35
THE NEX T STAGE OF ACTION FIGURES: NEW LOOKS, NEW FEATURES, NEW PRICES here are a few reasons why action figure sales have remained relatively steady despite the down economy. One is the already low price points for most traditional 7-year-old-boy-targeted action figures. Another very important reason is working with big name properties, from summer blockbuster movies to television shows. Consumers see characters they recognize and are immediately drawn toward the action figures as a way to either recreate the story in their own home or showcase their love for a property by putting their figures on display. “The consumer has to care about the character and if they love the character and they’re immersed in the story, then that’s really the most powerful combination when it comes to sales for action figures,” says John Blaney, director of marketing, action play division, Mattel. Mike Drake, Mezco Toyz’s director of special projects, likens it to the Field of Dreams philosophy. “It’s kind of like if you build it, they will come,” he says. “If you make things that people love, they will buy it.” But action figures can’t rely only on a consumer’s affinity for a favorite character or story. They have to offer something more— and today’s action figures certainly do.
Keeping it Real
BY LAURIE LEAHEY
machine that gets every single angle of the superstar’s head,” Padawar says. “Then it goes into a computer program that maps the face and prints out a tooling model that can be taken to a sculptor.” Another way the company creates realistic looking figures is by taking turn-around photos of the superstar wrestler or fighter, catching every angle and taking the photos to a professional sculptor—very similar to the way Madame Tussauds creates its wax figures. Articulation is also very important because consumers want to pose their figures in certain ways. Of course, these checkpoints are more for the adult collector than for the kids. “[Adults] understand that this is a metal and not a pleather sort of thing or a stamped-on ensignia rather than embroidered,” says Robert Tonner, CEO/owner of Tonner Dolls. “They see the differences and if you’re doing it for an adult’s taste and sensibility, they understand and can appreciate the quality and the work that goes into it.” When it comes to what boys want from action figures, as long as the figure allows them to recreate the storylines and partner with their favorite character, they are less concerned with all the little details and more concerned with having fun.
These days, consumers don’t have to Keeping it Fresh Jakks Pacific strives to make its UFC It’s easy to create new items in an action figsearch for authenticity from only the colaction figures resemble the fighters ure line if the property is constantly adding and lectible action figure market. Many manufacas much as possible. developing new characters and special powers, turers are creating realistic action figures and such as with Ben 10. On the show, Ben changes placing them on mass-market toy store shelves. Jeremy Padawar, senior vice-president, boys’ entertain- into many different characters and uses his Omnitrix to discover new ment, Jakks Pacific, says that as more collectors became involved powers. “Every time something like that happens, it’s great for us in the “toy” action figure market, manufacturers realized they because it gives us a phenomenal wealth of creative material with which to bring forward into the toys,” says Tim Wills, senior viceneeded to satisfy a collector’s needs in addition to boys’ needs. For Jakks’ UFC and TNA action figures, to debut next year, “we president, sales and marketing, Bandai. For Hasbro’s G.I. JOE and Transformers brands, a wide selection use real-scan technology where we’ll bring in a 360-degree scan
36 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
of characters in both brands enables the company to rethink characters, as well as offer them in different expressions. “Additionally, with new avenues of entertainment that drive these characters and maintain interest in the action figures, such as television shows, video games, publishing, and movies, there are many ways for consumers to continually find these characters and sustain interest in the figures,” says Jeff Jackson, vice-president of U.S. marketing, Hasbro. But some manufacturers don’t have that luxury, such as McFarlane Toys with its professional football action figures. “The question is how do we continue to refresh a program that we’ve been doing for six, seven, eight years now?” asks Todd McFarlane, founder/CEO of McFarlane Toys. The company answered this question by creating a College Football Line of action figures that spotlights current NFL stars in their college uniforms. For Avatar, which hits theaters in December, Mattel is creating not just action figures but action figures that incorporate a new technology. Each Avatar action figure or vehicle will come with a 3-D web tag. Utilizing a computer’s webcam, kids can scan the web tag to unlock special content. A 3-D image of the action figure or vehicle pops up on the computer screen and kids can control the image by pressing different spaces on the web tag. Because the movie industry continues to produce action-packed films that lend themselves well to action figure lines, manufacturers consistently have new characters and storylines with which to work. This year’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. JOE: Rise of Cobra, and even Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will attract numerous kids and adults, many of them action figure fans. “Creating products based on a license gives action figures a leg up on the marketing side,” says Rob Embleton, vice-president, sales at Thinkway
Toys. “A license certainly carries weight with consumers. That being said, not all licenses carry the same weight or have the same life cycle, so timing to market is key with any license.” Some manufacturers are even entertaining the idea of creating their own entertainment IPs instead of relying on whatever the next big property might be. “Companies are recognizing that the payoff is so significant that it’s time to get on the creation side,” says Jakks’ Padawar. However, during a time when retailers are more risk averse, it’s hard to say how big the payoff might be for manufacturers who take this route. “[Retailers] don’t want to be carHasbro’s G.I. JOE rying a lot of inventory,” McFarlane says. Accelerator Suit “Whatever inventory they are carrying, Duke figure, based on G.I. JOE: Rise they want it to be A-plus stuff.” of Cobra Manufacturers can only hope that the economy eventually takes a turn for the better and retailers begin opening up more shelf space.
Keeping it Affordable
Even though most action figures can be purchased at affordable price points, manufacturers such as Bandai and Mattel are reworking their 2010 lines in order to bring even more value to the consumer. Keeping an action figure under $20 is very important, especially when a line includes numerous action figures that kids and adults want to collect. “There is some responsibility on the part of the manufacturers and the retailers to make sure there’s an appropriate and responsible suggested retail price,” says Bandai’s Wills. “When it’s a good value, it allows the family or consumer to buy back into the franchise.” Consumers know an action figure is a good value if it’s at the right price point, contains enough attention to detail to satisfy a collector, and offers a high level of playability for boys who want to reenact their favorite action-packed scenes.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 37
BY LAURIE LEAHEY
The action figure category will always rely on big name properties to drive sales, but consumers want something more than just a familiar character figure. The response from manufacturers has been to create more realistic-looking figures or add new technology, giving collectors the details they crave and boys new ways to play.
As the global master toy licensee for Cartoon Network’s The Secret Saturdays, Mattel will launch a line of toys this fall inspired by the adventures of Doc, Drew, and Zak Saturday, a family of scientists dedicated to protecting the world’s secrets and the mysterious monsters, the Cryptids. Kids can collect their favorite Cryptid with the Cryptid Figure Assortment. Each unique Cryptid figure comes with its own collectible card, which can be used with the Cryptipedia (sold separately) handheld accessory to unlock exciting secrets. The figures are for ages 3 and up.
Tonner Doll’s Wonder Woman Deluxe features Wonder Woman’s classic red and blue bodysuit with an electroplated Wonder Woman emblem and faux leather belt with gold trim. The figure includes matching zipup faux leather boots, pantyhose, an electroplated tiara, silver faux leather cuffs, a cape lined in lamé with star embroidery, and a display stand.
38 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
Bandai will release new figures based on Power Rangers RPM. The Auxiliary Trax System empowers kids to use their imagination and create battle-ized Power Rangers figures and vehicles by collecting and combining the five-inch Guardian Figures, Racing Performance Cycles, and Formula Transporters. With the Trax Command Center, kids can unlock sound and light features, then morph the center from an Action Jet into a Deluxe Battle Station. The Command Center includes an exclusive five-inch Ranger figure. By combining three deluxe RPM Zords included in each set, kids can create the turbo-charged Megazords as seen on the TV show. Collect and combine all four spring and fall Formula Megazords to create an exclusive RPM Ultrazord (shown).
Thinkway’s new Buzz Lightyear comes to life with more than 30 points of articulation and 65 phrases, including classic Toy Buzz phrases and Space Ranger phrases. Buzz even responds to kids’ voices. Press the figure’s round chest button for pop-out wing action. Move Buzz through the air to hear flying and landing sound effects.
McFarlane’s new 2009 College Football Line will spotlight current NFL players in their college uniforms. McFarlane Toys has worked through The Collegiate Licensing Company, an IMG company, to license its 2009 College Football Line, which will feature six-inch scale figures of six pro football superstars in their school’s home uniform, including Tom Brady, The University of Michigan Wolverines; Ray Lewis, University of Miami Hurricanes; Peyton Manning, University of Tennessee Volunteers; Adrian Peterson, The University of Oklahoma Sooners; Hines Ward, University of Georgia Bulldogs; and JaMarcus Russell, Louisiana State University Tigers. The line will be in stores next month.
Abe Sapien, the psychic humanoid amphibious paranormal investigator of Hellboy fame, gets the deluxe treatment with this super-sized figure. Standing 18 inches tall, this Abe Sapien is faithful to the design of Abe as seen in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. Abe features 15 points of articulation, removable goggles, and a removable breathing apparatus.
Hasbro’s 2009 G.I. JOE toy line includes the Accelerator Suit Duke action figure that comes equipped with the armored accelerator suit that Duke wears in G.I. JOE: Rise of Cobra. When activated using an easy hand grip control, Duke simulates the character’s accelerator running motion, with motorized head, torso, and arm movements, as well as lights and speech with more than 50 phrases.
Freedom Ops Network is a line of 4.5-inch action figures developed in conjunction with the American Armed Forces. The highly detailed figures come with authentic military gear. Kids 4 and up collect the figures, then log onto www.freedomopsnet.com, enter the special dog tag code included with each figure, and train, secure covert information, and execute missions. New figures for spring 2010 include USAF TACP ETAC, USAF SOAR Nightstalker, and Navy SEALs Mountain Ops.
Jakks will launch two new fight brands next year, UFC and Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling. In both lines, six- and seven-inch highly articulated figures will be featured, including UFC fighter Brock Lesnar (shown). The UFC Octagon playset allows boys and collectors to play out everything realistically from the world of UFC. TNA playsets can be used as display sets for the figures, but also include play features, such as electronic elements.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 39
PLAYING NATURALLY WITH SPRIG TOYS BY LAURIE LEAHEY
f you want something done right, you must do it yourself. And if you want toys to be made in an environmentally friendly way, you have to make them that way yourself. This is essentially the idea behind green toy company Sprig Toys. “We got the idea to start a toy company after working on a lot of toys and not seeing them being made the way we thought they should be made,” says Sprig Toys cofounder Justin Discoe. After working as in-house designers at Radica Games (now owned by Mattel) and providing design services to the toy industry through their consulting studio Sector 7 Studios, Discoe, Chris Clemmer, and David Bowen let their experiences working with toys and being parents guide them on their new business endeavor. “A lot of the reasoning and a lot of the observations we make come from being parents,” says Clemmer. “We wanted to make toys the way we envi-
sion them. We want our kids to play the way we used to play.” The self-professed toy dorks wanted to not only create fun toys, but also create toys that were battery-free, kidpowered, paint-free, and eco-friendly. They named their company Sprig Toys because the word “sprig” had a double meaning—it conveyed the image of a green, growing sprig and also that of a young, growing child, kind of like a sprig. In 2007, Sprig Toys officially got its start. The company began designing toys made out of a bio-composite that the company calls Sprigwood. Sprigwood is bits of reclaimed plastic mixed with sawdust. “The sawdust is typically burned as waste from furniture makers,” Clemmer says. “We use it to offset the amount of plastic we use.” Sprigwood helps Sprig Toys reduce the amount of plastic used by 30 percent, which means less oilbased plastic going into the toys and less drain on oil-based resources. Because most of its toys are geared toward preschool-age children, the company is also careful not to use BPA, phthalates, or paint in any of its toys. Sprig Toys wants to keep its toys safe not only for the environment, but also for the kids. “It’s really important to preschool parents. They’re the Sprig Toys’ new Non-Electronic Adventure Series toys, such as Rex Jungle’s ones who have been affected Dino Rescue, require no batteries—just kid power. over the past couple of years
40 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
with what they’ve seen in the news, from a food standpoint to product recalls, so they are looking at where the products are coming from now,” Clemmer says. Sprig Toys also knows that parents are looking more closely at the prices of toys, especially eco-friendly toys. Whereas Sprig’s Discover Rig retails between $49–$69, some of the company’s new fall items will be as low as $6.99. “We’re trying to hit a whole range of play—playsets, characters, storytelling all the way from low impulse prices to the holiday gift season prices,” Clemmer says. “Part of our goal is to be eco-friendly and economical at the same time.” Sprig’s new Non-Electronic Adventure Series items meet that goal. Captain Ron’s Wild Water Explorer and Rex Jungle’s Dino Rescue are in the $19.99–$24.99 price range and require no batteries. The vehicle and character figures are totally dependent on kid power. But for all the talk of eco-friendliness, the co-founders are quick to point out that they are a toy company first and foremost that just happens to make toys in an eco-friendly way. Kids can read the toy’s packaging for an earth-friendly lesson, but Sprig Toys really just wants kids to play with the toy. “If anything, we’re really hung up on more creativity and open-ended play and inspiring children to use their minds to fill in the gaps in play,” Bowen says. “The sustainability and green stuff is just how we see business as normal. We don’t really preach that as much as we do, ‘Use your creativity and have a good time and really get in and play.’”
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HABA’s new infant and toddler gear includes rattles and pacifier clips. There are two rattle themes—Paul, an icy blue penguin, and Henni, a soft pink hen—and two styles for each theme, including a soft, washable fabric clutching toy and a wooden/fabric combo. The new wooden toddler toy Cory Caterpillar stimulates crawling and toddling. Toddlers will watch the eccentric waddling effect of the caterpillar as the six lopsided wheels pull the chunky body across the floor.
With Jacquard Products’ Funky Groovy Tie Dye Kit, kids can dye up to five T-shirts. The kit comes with everything needed (except the shirts), including three colors of pre-measured dye (red, yellow, and blue), 1/3 pound of dye fixer, three squirt bottles, a pair of rubber gloves, rubber bands, and full instructions with tying patterns. The dye is for use on cotton and other natural fabrics.
42 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
International Playthings’ new Ecotronics line of electronic toys that don’t use batteries includes Ecotronics Farm Flashlights. These flashlights are squeeze-powered, kid-sized flashlights that come in four assorted animal selections, including a pig, cow, chick, and dog. The flashlights include a side lever that is stored inside the body that releases. Children simply squeeze it to charge up the light. The nose of each of the animals lights up and leads the way for kids in the dark. The Ecotronics Eco Rocket (shown) includes a hand crank that is stored neatly in the body. Charge the crank and push the rocket buttons to hear a realistic countdown and watch launchers power up with flashing lights and cool sounds. The rocket also includes a removable cockpit and hatch. All Ecotronics products come in Gekopak packaging that is made of biodegradable materials, is easy to open, has no dangerous ties or wires, and uses nothing but recycled paper.
Discovery Bay Games
Discovery Bay Games’ LOL is the laugh out loud way to stay connected. In this new text messaging game, players draw letter tiles and then have three minutes to create as many text message phrases as they can. The game is for two or more players age 8 and up.
Squiggle Style lets kids mix and match clothing and accessories to create their own unique, hip, funny, and wild outfits. It opens up to a dry-erase drawing art board. Underneath there are six colored dry-erase markers. On the left and right are accessory wheels and spinners, which make for a random selection of garments. Squiggle Style is for ages 7 and up.
The Jingle Bell Rock skirt is the latest addition to Acting Out’s line of musical dress-up products. This petticoat-style skirt is made of layers of red-and-white soft tulle. The skirt is adorned with a candy cane-striped bow finished off with a silver jingle bell. The skirt features an adjustable waistband, which allows for maximum size versatility. The skirt fits most girls ages 3–8. A music device is hidden within an interior front pocket. Press “on” for music and “Jingle Bell Rock” plays. The music will continue as the girl moves in the skirt. Three AAA batteries are included.
Peaceable Kingdom Press
Peaceable Kingdom Press’ new Fish Stix game is the game where every fish counts. Players must match fish to score points. Fish Stix is a simple visual strategy game that allows children of different ages to play together. The game includes 72 fish sticks, four scoreboards, 24 fish tokens, and instructions.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 43
SCREENLIFE GAMES BARRY WATTS, CEO
Screenlife Games appointed Barry Watts as CEO. Watts brings more than 20 years of entrepreneurial experience to Screenlife Games. Previously, Watts served as co-founder and president of MusicandBrands, a self-financed venture he started in 2001, which he grew into a diverse portfolio of products that have been distributed globally into territories including Europe, Australia, and the United States. In addition to the interactive digital entertainment products MusicandBrands produced (for properties including High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Pirates of the Caribbean, Trivial Pursuit, Deal or No Deal, and Big Brother), the company completed deals with entertainment media companies, such as Walt Disney Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 4DVD, Hasbro, and EMI/Capitol Records. Watts also served as CEO for Startle, plc, and began his career in the interactive entertainment industry at Telstar Records.
TOM KEEFER, SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT, GLOBAL LICENSING
BBC Worldwide appointed Tom Keefer as senior vice-president of global licensing. He will lead the existing UK and international licensing teams and work alongside Susanna Pollack, senior vice-president, TV sales, co-productions, and children’s, on building children’s brands in the U.S. market, and oversee the development of adult licensing on brands such as BBC Earth, Doctor Who, and Top Gear. Keefer joins BBC Worldwide with 30 years of global licensing and brand-building experience. Since launching his career with Newsweek International, he has spearheaded the development of licensing programs for businesses and brands, including L.A. Gear, K-Swiss, Mattel, and most recently for FIFA/2010 World Cup.
44 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
FREMANTLEMEDIA ENTERPRISES KEITH HINDLE, CEO, AMERICAS
FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME) appointed Keith Hindle as CEO for the Americas as part of its strategic shift toward a more regional focus, creating a structure that will allow FME to move the business forward across its international program distribution, home entertainment, licensing, and new media activities. Hindle will develop, set, and implement a strategy for FME’s Americas businesses, which include operations in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Hindle will work to increase FME’s position in the Americas as a creative, successful production rights expansion company, as well as further FME’s position within distribution and development. Previously, Hindle served as executive vice-president licensing, FME Americas.
MICHAEL POLIS, CEO, WILDBRAIN ENTERTAINMENT
Wildbrain appointed Michael Polis to the newly created position of CEO, Wildbrain Entertainment. Polis will oversee all operations for Wildbrain Entertainment, where he will continue to expand, evaluate, and develop opportunities for the studio’s intellectual properties. Charles Rivkin stepped down as president and CEO, having been named as President Obama’s candidate to serve as the United States Ambassador to France. Prior to joining Wildbrain as chief marketing officer in 2007, Polis served as senior-vice president of marketing worldwide at The Jim Henson Company and executive director of marketing at Universal Home Entertainment.
UNIVERSAL ROLLS OUT NEW PARTNERSHIPS AND LICENSING DIVISION
Universal Pictures formed Universal Partnerships and Licensing (UP&L), a new division that joins the studio’s retail-focused Consumer Products Group with the division known as Universal Studios Partnerships (USP). Aimed at integrating and enhancing the studio’s brand management and Stephanie Sperber promotional partnership efforts, UP&L will now have combined oversight of all Universal’s consumer product licensing, film, and home entertainment promotions, and corporate alliances for the studio’s theatrical, home entertainment, theme parks, and stage productions. Stephanie Sperber, who founded and currently heads USP, will run the division and assume the title of executive vice-president, UP&L. Senior vice-president Amy Taylor will oversee UP&L’s North Amy Taylor American promotions, worldwide licensing, and retail development. David O’Connor, senior vicepresident of brand management and marketing services for Universal Pictures, will also oversee marketing for UP&L. Stephanie Testa, vice-president corporate partnerships, will head UP&L’s corporate alliances practice, David O’Connor which oversees long-term partnerships for Universal’s film, home entertainment, theme park, and stage production business units. She is responsible for acquisition of new brand partners as well as managing relationships with the existing partners.
FITZ ROY MEDIA
Fitz Roy Media appointed Jonathan Breiter and Jennifer Zivic as the designated U.S. licensing agents for the company’s slate of children’s properties, including Funny Face, Heathcliff, and Secret Wings. Also added to the team are Jon Rosenberg, who will represent Fitz Roy’s Jennifer Zivic slate of properties exclusively throughout the publishing industry, and Richard Oren, who will be the exclusive agent handling promotional opportunities. Breiter is currently a principal at Public Group LLC where he runs the area that specializes in licensing and retail relations. Most recently, Zivic was director of licensing, soft lines for HIT Entertainment, responsible for managing and growing HIT’s soft lines business. As president of Jokar Productions LLC, Jon Rosenberg Rosenberg has provided brand development, marketing services, style guide development, editorial direction, package produce development, design, product management, worldwide sourcing, and consulting services to entertainment companies and book publishers. Previously, Oren was vice-president of licensing for Target Entertainment Group where he managed licensing in the U.S. and Latin America.
DEB THOMAS, CFO
Deb Thomas, an 11-year Hasbro veteran, has been elected to the position of CFO. She most recently served as the company’s senior vice-president and head of corporate finance. Thomas joined Hasbro in 1998, and held positions of increasing responsibility within the company’s finance department, including corporate controller, prior to her appointment as head of finance in 2007. Prior to joining Hasbro, Thomas worked at KPMG Peat Marwick, LLP, both in the United States and overseas.
JULY 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 45
INDUSTRY-RELATED TRADE SHOWS AUGUST 7–11
Minneapolis Mart Gift & Accessory Show
San Francisco International Gift Fair
Minneapolis Mart Moscone Center
ABC Kids Expo
Las Vegas Convention Center
Palais Des Festivals
Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Fall Toy Preview
Ocean City Resort Gift Expo
Dallas Market Center
Ocean City Convention Center
Ocean City, MD
Sands Expo Center
Global Gaming Expo
Las Vegas Convention Center
Toy & Game Inventor Event Conference toyandgameinventors.com
Chicago Toy and Game Fair
Grand Strand Gift & Resort Merchandise Show
Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Navy Pier
Myrtle Beach Convention Center
Myrtle Beach, SC
TOY FAIR 2010 SUNDAY–WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14–17 JACOB JAVITS CONVENTION CENTER, NEW YORK CITY
JUST ANNOUNCED: LICENSING SHOW 2010 TUESDAY–THURSDAY, JUNE 8–10 MANDALAY BAY CONVENTION CENTER, LAS VEGAS 46 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT JULY 2009
Rosemont, IL Chicago
BRINGING JOY, COMFORT AND LEARNING TO CHILDREN IN NEED THROUGH PLAY
Play Makes A Difference The Toy Industry Foundation represents the collective philanthropic commitment of the North American Toy Industry to the welfare of children.
This is your foundation.
Together we are working to make play possible for all through: Groundbreaking programs like Play HealsTM and the My Stuff Bags signature partnership The Toy BankTM— distributing 6 million toys to children in need around the world Public education initiatives that teach the value of safe and developmentally appropriate play
Help us make a difference! To learn more about how you can help, visit www.toyindustryfoundation.org or call 646.454.5581.
5/1/09 3:13:24 PM