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Table of contents

June 2010 volume 5, no. 7



on this page

28 sales in the construction category build

4 observations & opinions

(left to right): K’nex’s Sonic Blizzard Coaster, a screen shot of the Where’s Waldo game by Ludia, Alvin and the Chipmunks Nintendo DS game, Nintendo’s Cloud Mario, MEGA Brands’ 2-in-1 Buildable Thomas, and Manhattan Toy’s Quadrilla Twist and Rail set.

by Chris Adams

34 small screen, big category by Paul Narula

38 schleich celebrates 75 years by Nancy Lombardi

40 AsTrA showcase compiled by Laurie Leahey

48 Licensing show 2010: Licensing show Highlights challenges, optimism by Chris Adams

50 Licensing show 2010 compiled by Laurie Leahey and Paul Narula

62 Specialty Emporium: rokenbok by Paul Narula

6 sizzlers 8 specialty sizzlers 10 The Ticker 16 entertainment Marketplace: Angelina Ballerina 18 Merchandise Makers: Gamewright 20 industry Forum: TIF 22 industry Forum: TIA 24 industry Forum: ASTRA 26 industry Forum: Design Edge 64 you’re Hired 66 calendar of events

on the cover LEGO’s Great Train Chase cover by

Design eDge





his month’s Licensing Show will, once again, be held in Las Vegas. All I can say is what a difference a year makes. All the talk leading up to last year’s show in Las Vegas was whether the show should have left New York City. Would anyone exhibit? Would anyone attend? There seemed to be no talk about business. Things have certainly changed. Heading into this year’s show all the griping has ceased and the attention is now focused on the task at hand: developing, creating, and marketing licensed properties that consumers will buy. How consumers support licensing in the future has yet to be determined. And a lot of the answer will come from the industry itself. It will be determined by how the industry approaches this next decade of the evolving business. In LIMA’s (The International Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association) Licensing Industry Survey for 2009 some interesting results appear. In the “Estimated Licensing Revenues by Product Category for 1999–2008” section, sales of licensed toys/games were down 4.8 percent in 2008 compared with 2007. This drop in sales can be attributed to the economy coming to a standstill in 2008. Looking at the revenues in the same category over the years 1999–2008 the decrease in sales is even more alarming. Over that period of time almost $200 million was lost. Figures show that in 1999 this category accounted for approximately $1 billion in sales. Yet in 2008 the toys/games category accounted for approximately $839 million in sales. That is a significant decrease for all involved in every aspect of the industry. To what can this negative trend be attributed? For some time now, manufacturers have been complaining that retailers are only interested in carrying product from an evergreen property or from the hottest property of the year. Sometimes these are one in the same. While this strategy leads to sales, the above numbers show that the strategy is not leading to increased sales over time. I certainly am not advocating that now is the time to throw caution to the wind and manufacturers should license every possible property presented to them. And retailers shouldn’t instantly change their buying strategy and carry all possible licensed properties in their stores. However, a little tweaking is in order. We need to be open to new properties, new products, new ways of doing business, and perhaps a new approach at retail to wow consumers. There is a lot at stake, dollar-wise specifically, when talking about licensing. Manufacturers dole out considerable amounts of money to secure licenses. Retailers count on the dollars generated by selling licensed goods to bolster their bottom line. To that end, it is important that both manufacturer and retailer walk the aisles of the Licensing Show with a keen eye. Gambling on the anticipated hits is a good bet. Yet be open to new approaches. To reverse the downward sales trend, a calculated roll of the dice may be needed.





MEDIA • Volume 5, Number 7


Media, Inc. Copyright 2010 aNb Media, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or

mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in the U.S.A. TOYS & FAMILY

ENTERTAINMENT and SPECIALTY EMPORIUM are registered trademarks of aNb Media, Inc.

Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of management.


Sizzlers: What’s Moving Off Store Shelves? What Are the Hottest Web Orders? Here is an alphabetical listing of the hottest-selling items in the toy industry, based on a combined survey of both offline and online retailers, reflecting the previous month’s sales.

Iron Man 2: Iron Man Helmet

WWE Electrovision Spinner Belt

Fisher-Price Bubble Mower

3-D Sidewalk Chalk

Mighty Beanz



COZY COUPE Little Tikes













Specialty Sizzlers: What’s Moving Off Store Shelves in the Specialty Market? This is an alphabetical listing of the hottest-selling items in the specialty segment of the toy industry, based on a survey of independent toy and gift retailers, reflecting the previous month’s sales.

BANANAGRAMS Bananagrams BIG BANG ROCKET Can You Imagine BUTTON ART Alex Bananagrams


Chalet Dollhouse

FROG AQUARIUMS Natural Aquatics HEXBUG Innovation First Hexbug

PLASMACAR PlaSmart QWIRKLE MindWare TEA SET Green Toys TWILIGHT L ADYBUG Cloud B Twilight Ladybug

Tea Set



A Recap of Industry Headlines Visit for More Saban buyS back Power rangerS Haim Saban has bought back the worldwide rights to Power Rangers from its current owner, The Walt Disney Company. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but numerous media outlets are reporting that it’s estimated at $100 million. In 2001, Disney acquired the Power Rangers as part of the purchase of Fox Family Worldwide, the media business Saban then co-owned with Fox, for $2.9 billion. In addition, Saban’s company, The Saban Capital Group, just announced a deal to air the Power Rangers on Nickelodeon. Starting this fall, Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons will begin airing existing episodes with new episodes expected in 2011. Saban Capital also announced that it has signed a new deal with long-time Power Rangers licensee Bandai Namco for toys and video games. Under the deal Bandai America will continue its nearly 20-year tradition of developing action figures, playsets, roleplay items, and more for the Power Rangers brand worldwide. In addition to Bandai America developing and manufacturing new toys for the American market, Bandai Europe will also continue to produce and distribute the Power Rangers toy line across the continent. Further, as part of the agreement, D3Publisher of America, Inc., will produce video games for the Power Rangers brand.

4kidS entertainment SuckS uP new animation ProPerty 4Kids Entertainment has been appointed the licensing agent for Suckers, a new HD animation from BRB Internacional, across the U.S., Canada, UK, and Ireland. Suckers comprises 104 shorts which are two minutes in length. Each Suckers episode depicts the world through the eyes of the Suckers, a peculiar group of toys that are attached to the rear windows of cars. The property is targeted to kids ages 6–12 and features unique, anarchic humour but no dialogue. The storylines reflect day-to-day life in any big city. The show has been airing on Disney XD in the U.S. since February. Spain commenced airing in April and Disney XD channels across the rest of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa will follow suit shortly.

in my Pocket brand exPandS globally A new animated television series produced in HD is expected to expand the In My Pocket franchise. The series, Puppy in My Pocket: Adventures in Pocketville, made its debut during MIPTV in Cannes, France. The series (52 x 13-minute episodes) is scheduled to launch in late 2010 in Italy and will roll out to the rest of the world in 2011.  Presales have been negotiated throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Inspired by the highly successful In My Pocket franchise created by MEG and originally launched in the early 1990s, the brand has been licensed worldwide with toy distribution partners in more than 50 countries. Giochi Preziosi distributes the In My Pocket brand in Europe. Development of a new toy line based on the show has already started and its market release will occur simultaneously with the show’s launch. MEG and Giochi Preziosi, co-producers with Mondo TV on the series, will coordinate and manage the licensing program for the new television series.  Giochi Preziosi will manage Europe (excluding the UK), while MEG, in conjunction with its merchandising agent Licensing Works will oversee the other territories. New television series licensees will join classic Puppy In My Pocket licensees, including newly signed Scholastic Books, Bakery Craft, NTD, Senario, Cadaco, Wiesner, and Redan.



A Recap of Industry Headlines Visit for More Jack Friedman: July 9, 1939–may 3, 2010 Jack Friedman passed away May 3, 2010, from complications caused by a rare blood disease at age 70. Friedman was a pioneer in the toy, licensing, and video game industries. Many years ago, while working for toy rep company Norman J. Lewis, Friedman had an idea for a product. The two men started LJN Toys, Norman J. Lewis’ initials backwards, which was the manufacturing arm of the company. They went on to license the first WWF toys, Michael Jackson dolls, and E.T. toys for the movie. LJN was acquired by MCA Universal in 1985. Friedman then founded the video game company THQ, Inc., which originally stood for Toy Headquarters. From there, Friedman founded Jakks Pacific in January 1995. He served as its chairman and CEO through March 31, 2010. Under his leadership, the company has grown into a top five U.S. publicly traded diversified toy company. Friedman was a generous philanthropist and supporter of the company’s Jakks Cares program, which has benefited organizations such as The Toy Industry Foundation, Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, The Special Olympics, Feed the Children, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Marine Toys for Tots, and more. Under the program, the company has donated more than $40 million worth of toys and school supplies to children around the world. Friedman, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and originally from Queens, N.Y., is survived by his wife Karen Friedman and his children, Brooke Porter and her husband Tom, and Tony Friedman, as well as his stepchildren Shannon and Andrew Farrell. Jakks CEO Stephen Berman said in a statement, “Jack was a legendary toymaker and a real titan in our industry. He dedicated his talents to Jakks Pacific for 15 years and he will be sorely missed.” In addition, Jakks’ board of directors said in a statement, “We are greatly saddened by the passing of Jack Friedman. He was a visionary leader who guided the company with wisdom and keen judgment. Toys were his passion and his legacy will live on in Jakks Pacific.” Jakks Pacific asks that, in lieu of flowers and in honor of Friedman’s 50-year commitment to the toy industry, anyone interested in making a donation contact The Toy Industry Foundation at; or Toy Industry Foundation 1115 Broadway, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010; or at (212) 675–1141 to pay by phone with a credit card. Friedman loved golfing and was very proud of his yo-yoing skills.


Jack Friedman

Friedman with Jakks co-founder Stephen Berman ringing the closing bell at NASDAQ

Friedman with Disney’s The Cheetah Girls at Toy Fair


A Recap of Industry Headlines Visit for More ClassiC Media announCes Where’s Waldo? Publishing PrograM Independent children’s publishers The Walker Group with Classic Media announced that The Walker Group has been appointed to create a new global publishing program for the Where’s Waldo? books. Inspired by the Where’s Waldo? books by Martin Handford, this first-ever spin-off program for Where’s Waldo? will feature all-new material that will be released across a variety of formats. The line will debut in 2012 in honor of Waldo’s 25th birthday celebration.

beyblade: Metal Fusion Makes u.s. tV debut Beyblade makes its return to the U.S. as Beyblade: Metal Fusion, which is scheduled to premiere in the U.S. on Cartoon Network on Saturday, June 26 at 7:30 a.m. ET/PT. The 51 new episodes from Nelvana and d-rights, Inc., offer a fresh take on the original series with new characters competing for dominance with their spinning Beyblade tops, battling against an evil organization, The Dark Nebula. Staying true to the Japanese version, it features a new storyline brought to life in a unique mix of 2-D animation and battle scenes with the tops spinning in CGI animation.




n 1983, little girls opened the pages of a book and followed along as a little mouse danced ballet. Written by Katharine Holabird and illustrated by Helen Craig, Angelina Ballerina became a classic book, spawning a whole series of books about Angelina, the mouse with dreams of becoming a ballerina. Not only can girls continue to read about Angelina’s adventures through books published by Penguin (Holabird and Craig still write and illustrate them), but they can also interact with Angelina through ballet performances, an off-Broadway musical (debuting this fall), and a new CGI-animated TV series on PBS Kids, Angelina Ballerina The Next Steps. The new show, based on the original books, follows the now 8-year-old Angelina as she attends a new school where she experiences new forms of music and dance, including modern, ballet, tap, jazz, classic, and ethnic. The show introduces viewers to a cast of


colorful characters, including Angelina’s new teacher Ms. Mimi, Angelina’s best friend Alice, new friend Viki, rival Gracie, and many more. The series launched in September 2009 and airs on major broadcast platforms in the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and France. It is slated to launch in 30 more countries this year. Following the launch of the series, HIT Entertainment is bringing Angelina Ballerina center stage in the U.S. with a new consumer products program. FisherPrice signed on as global master toy licensee and will create a variety of toys, dolls, and roleplay items based on the new animated series. Topsville is the new U.S. master apparel licensee. The Angelina Ballerina-themed dancewear, tees, apparel sets, and coordinated separates will hit stores this fall. Madame Alexander signed on as a new specialty partner for Angelina Ballerina, bringing a collection of dolls and accessories to specialty retailers. New books from publisher Penguin will feature the CG look from the new animated series. After more than 25 years, the new series and licensed product allow the Angelina Ballerina left: a screenshot from Angelina Ballerina The brand to take the next step in Next Steps reaching a new generation of balabove: Angelina and best friend Alice lerina-loving girls.


Need to Know • Author Katharine Holabird wrote the first draft of Angelina Ballerina at the kitchen table, while her daughters danced around her. • In 1985, Angelina Ballerina was honored with The Kentucky Bluegrass Award, an annual award for the best books as chosen by Kentucky students.

• The Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy in the UK introduces children to the early movements of ballet through Angelina stories.

• HIT Entertainment and the English National Ballet debuted the international touring ballet, Angelina Ballerina’s Big Audition last year. • Angelina Ballerina, The Musical debuts in New York City October 2.


Fisher-Price is the global master toy licensee for Angelina Ballerina. The toy line, based on Angelina Ballerina The Next Steps, includes figures and dolls, playsets, dollhouses (shown), vehicles, plush toys, and preschool toys, including electronic learning and developmental toys. The products are for ages 4–7.


New Angelina Ballerina titles from Penguin include Angelina and the Royal Wedding, featuring a classiclook Angelina. The Nutcracker Sweet, Angelina’s New Dance, and Angelina’s New School (shown), all feature the new CGI look from Angelina Ballerina The Next Steps.


HIT Entertainment selected Topsville as the U.S. master apparel licensee for Angelina Ballerina. Topsville will create and market a complete line of dancewear, tees, apparel sets, and coordinated separates. The new apparel line launches at retail this fall and will continue rolling out through spring 2011. Designs will be based on Angelina Ballerina The Next Steps.

Madame Alexander

Madame Alexander’s collection of Angelina Ballerina dolls and accessories includes Dance with Me Angelina Ballerina Cloth, a 36-inch soft doll with purple eyes and a pink satin bow. The doll wears a pink tutu with a satin bodice that is paired with a satin and organza skirt. A sash with a pink rosette at the waist, pink satin panties, and pink satin ballet slippers complete the look. Elastic bands under the doll’s ballet slippers attach to girls’ feet so they can dance with the doll.


Lionsgate will release Angelina Ballerina: Love to Dance, the first Angelina DVD using the new CG animation. The DVD will hit shelves on August 24, 2010. A second holiday-themed DVD is scheduled for a fall release.


HIT Entertainment and SmartFish bring Angelina Ballerina to the iPhone with the Dress Up with Angelina Ballerina app. Girls ages 4–8 can mix and match outfits and accessory combinations and play games.





n 1994, two sets of parents took a look games with their children, according to at the board game category and decid- Schneider. Rather than patronize the younger ed they didn’t quite like what they saw. players, Gamewright tries to make sure that its While there was plenty of product on games bring the children closer to the market, none of it matched what their parents’ level they wanted to give their children or play by emphasizing with their children. In an strategic but simeffort to solve this probple play that a lem, these parents child can grasp. teamed up and cre“It’s our goal to ated Gamewright. create family fun “They wanted to with games that can make games that work for two levels at brought out fun, once,” says Schneider. laughter, and creativity Though many in the players,” says Jason companies suffered Schneider, product developduring the economic Bingo Link, created by Walter Wick ment and marketing manager at slump of the past few Gamewright. While those parents have since years, Gamewright has maintained a steady left the company, Gamewright remains the business throughout. “The past year may not company founded on those values. Currently, have been our best year, but it certainly wasGamewright is a division of Ceaco, which n’t our worst,” says Schneider. Many of purchased the company in 1999. Gamewright’s products are priced affordably “Our main philosophy is to find games that at $10–$15, which put them well within the can appeal both to kids and their parents,” reach of most parents’ shopping budgets. In says Schneider. “When families are playing addition, this price point makes them a strong together and having fun, they can really enjoy choice for birthday presents. each other’s presence.” While this sounds Of course, an acceptable price point and a simple enough, it can be an extremely difficult strong reputation aren’t always enough to challenge, especially in the games category. grab a consumer’s attention. Gamewright has Gamewright produces board games and also worked on creating table games for all ages, from prestrong packaging for its school to adult, and applies that philosproducts. “You’ve got ophy to every level of product. such a small amount of Gamewright firmly time to grab a conbelieves that a parent sumer’s attention, so we should never have to need to make the most of Slamwich is one of it,” says Schneider. “cheat to lose” to play


Gamewright’s classic products.


Keeping games looking unique on the shelf can be a challenge with the number of manufacturers in the category. The company consistently works with teams of high-quality illustrators to create eye-grabbing artwork and packaging styles. For one of its most successful games, Sleeping Queens, much of the inspiration for the artwork came from the original creator’s prototype—and, in this case, the original creator was a 6-year-old girl. “We spent a lot of time debating on whether or not we should include [the girl’s] drawings as the primary artwork for the game,” says Schneider. In the end, the company chose to go with a professional illustrator who would use the original drawings as a base. The result was a unique art style that has proven to be successful. “We’ve become known for our lush and rich illustrations,” says Schneider. Beyond artwork, Gamewright is also working on making its actual packaging stand out by utilizing new types of packaging, such as tins or differently shaped boxes. Gamewright has continued to do well. One of its classic games, Slamwich, has sold more than one million copies and a newer game, Rat-a-Tat Cat, is pushing toward that mark. Much of the company’s popularity stems from word of mouth. With new games like Rory’s Story Cubes and Bingo Link, created with Walter Wick, the co-creator of I-Spy, Gamewright will continue to expand its product line with appealing games for all ages. “One of the best things to hear from a retailer is that people will come into their store and ask ‘What’s new from Gamewright?’” says Schneider. For the near future, it looks like the answer to that question is going to be “a lot.”


Toy Industry Does ‘Good Stuff’ in Honor of National Foster Care Month A M D , T I BY




n early May, executives and employees from L.A. metro- it’s even more fulfilling when we see smiles and hear laughter comarea toy companies joined forces with California legisla- ing from kids who are entering foster care or are in similarly difficult tors and local volunteers to commemorate National Foster situations,” says Jean Butler, TIF executive director and vice-presiCare Month and help children in need at the Second Annual dent of membership at the TIA. “We are thankful for the generosity Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and My Stuff Bags of our toy companies, all the volunteers, and our My Stuff Bags partFoundation Do Good Stuff-a-Thon. ners for making this such a productive Held at the My Stuff Bags headquarday to benefit kids in need.” ters in Westlake Village, Calif., more The My Stuff Bags Foundation than 125 volunteers came together to coordinates the collection of content fill 5,000 duffel bags with toys, toifor the bags and distribution of the letries, handmade blankets, and other completed duffels. items that will be distributed to agen“So many children rescued from cies rescuing abused and neglected terrible environments enter shelters children across the United States. with absolutely nothing—no special Organizations such as California’s blanket or stuffed animal to distract Bienvenidos; Kids Central, Inc., of them from their pain,” says Janeen Florida; New York’s Steuben County Holmes, president and CEO of My The volunteers are in action during the May Department of Social Services; and Stuff Bags. “Through this incredible Do Good Stuff-a-Thon in California. Texas’ A World for Children are repreday of combined efforts and the gensentative of groups in 11 states that will receive bags from this event. erosity of TIF and the toy industry, thousands of these lonely chilDuring the Do Good Stuff-a-Thon, California State Assembly dren will have special “stuff” to play with and the tangible proof, members Fiona Ma and Audra Strickland worked alongside State through a My Stuff Bag, that they have not been forgotten.” Senator Curren Price and volunteers from toy and youth enterIndividuals—inside and outside the toy industry and regardless tainment companies such as Disney, Educational Insights, of geographic location—can also help support kids in need by parFunrise, Jakks Pacific, Mattel, Pacific Play Tents, and The Piggy ticipating in the TIF-sponsored Virtual Do Good Stuff-a-Thon. Story. Representatives of the Toy Industry Association (TIA), From a link on the TIF website, a contributor can drag and drop the TIF, and My Stuff Bags Foundation, including My Stuff Bags items he or she would like to “stuff”—a blanket, a toy, toiletries, or Foundation board director Michael Reagan, joined in the effort. even an entire bag of goodies—into an online shopping cart and “We feel so good about participating in the event and are so click “Checkout.” The Virtual Stuff-a-Thon runs throughout the grateful to the TIF for organizing the day,” says Lisa Guili, general year as a component of the TIF’s individual giving campaign. manager of Educational Insights, a toy company based in Rancho The Toy Industry Foundation has made a minimum two-year Dominguez, Calif. “This is such an important cause and it feels commitment to provide $400,000 and 50,000 new toys to the My really good to give back. It’s also amazing to be able to spend the Stuff Bags Foundation. For more information about the TIF and day together, both as a company and as an industry.” its sponsored programs, visit In addition to those present at the event, North American toy companies such as Hasbro, iToys, and Schoenhut Piano Company Amanda McDorman is manager of the Toy Industry Foundation. also donated items to include in the duffel bags. To donate or learn more, contact Marisa Medina at “Toymakers love to bring the joy of play into children’s lives, and (646) 454–5581 or




Annual Washington D.C. ‘Fly-In’ Connects Toy Industry with Government STACY LEISTNER, TOY INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION epresentatives of the U.S. toy industry convened in the nation’s capital on May 4–5 to meet with members of Congress, the Secretary of Commerce, a CPSC Commissioner, and other decision makers. Toy industry stakeholders helped to build awareness of the issues affecting workers and jobs, economic development, market expansion, and other factors affecting the growth of U.S. toy businesses. A regular topic was the ongoing need for further enhancements to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). As the group came together for dinner, attention shifted from legislative to regulatory matters as U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Commissioner Robert Adler joined the group to provide an update on a number of evolving issues, including the commission’s publication of proposed rules for periodic testing requirements in fulfillment of the CPSIA. A highlight of the evening came in the form of an announcement by Adler that some of the more burdensome aspects of the original draft had been eliminated from the version that was currently being reviewed by the commission. Carter Keithley, TIA president, acknowledged the industry’s relief but noted there was still a lot of work to be done regarding testing requirements, process controls, and documentation. Commissioner Adler answered questions about the evolving aspects of a publicly accessible, searchable database containing public safety complaints addressing consumer products and other products or substances regulated by the CPSC. A draft rule currently under commission review will interpret CPSIA statutory requirements concerning the input, verification, and confidentiality of information included in the system. TIA members expressed concern about certain aspects of the system that have yet to be defined. As prescribed by the CPSIA, the database must be functional by March 2011. On Wednesday, May 5, the toy industry representatives gathered for a breakfast briefing before traveling to the U.S. Department of Commerce for meetings with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Manufacturing and Services Assistant Secretary Nicole Lamb-Hale, Acting Assistant Secretary for Market Access and Compliance Stephen Jacobs, and Julia Doherty, Senior Director for Non-Tariff Measures in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In response to a suggestion from Bryan Stockton, TIA chair, that the identification of tariffs, protectionist measures, technical barriers to trade, and standards alignment were the four key challenges facing the industry, the secretary identified a number of resources



that are available to assist U.S. toy companies with expansion into the global marketplace. In addition to foreign commercial service officers stationed around the globe, the website and President Obama’s National Export Initiative were cited as programs that can help businesses grow their international reach. The APEC Toy Safety Initiative launched in 2009 was also referenced as a “model of good government” and a success in moving forward the concept of standards alignment and minimizing the prospect that the CPSIA could have been seen as a technical barrier to trade. After making a short trip to Capitol Hill, the participants met with members of the New Democrat Coalition, including U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire (D-PA), Chair of the House Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, and Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Chair of the New Democrat Coalition, a Chief Deputy Whip, and a member of the Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Congressmen discussed the 70-member coalition’s philosophy as “pro-biz” and “pro-trade.” Legislative staff for Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, provided a brief update on the process and timing of the proposed bill to amend the CPSIA. Congressman Barton subsequently invited TIA staff to meet with him in the Capitol for a more in-depth discussion of the issues. Over lunch, political strategists John Feehery and Karen Finney shared their “Left” and “Right” views of Congress, the White House, and the 2010 election outlook and answered a few questions posed by the TIA audience. Following the lunch, small groups of toy industry representatives dispersed across the Capitol to engage in nearly 20 individual meetings with Congressmen, Senators, and their legislative staffs. “All of us have a stake in the outcome of government regulation,” says Richard Gottlieb, president of Richard Gottlieb & Associates, a business development firm specializing in toy businesses. “The days are gone when the toy industry did its thing outside of the scrutiny of government. Whether we are inventors, designers, packagers, retailers, or any other participant, we will all be affected by how government intervenes in the toy industry. We are going to have to be an ongoing presence in the nation’s capital.” Stacy Leistner is vice-president of strategic communications for TIA. For more information, visit

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Tips for Motivating Retail Employees BY


oogle the phrase “motivating retail employees” and one could spend days reading through the nearly 300 articles on the internet. Then head to a local bookstore and walk the aisles to see all of the books the store carries on the topic. The point is there’s no shortage of advice for employers. But ask members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) for their best ideas on the topic, one consistent response comes through loud and clear: it’s all about RESPECT. “It’s a simple rule: treat your employees as you would like to be treated,” says Connie Hoeft, owner of CR Toys in Kearney, Neb. “As a small business, we cannot do some things for our employees that a larger operation might do. But we can recognize their talents, listen to their ideas, and give them the opportunity to make decisions on their own.” Valla Wagner, co-owner of Teaching Toys and Books in Tacoma, Wash., and Teaching Toys, Too in Gig Harbor, Wash., embraces the same philosophy. “We work shoulder to shoulder with our employees, and we treat it as a grown-up relationship. Our philosophy is that we’re all in this together, and we need to encourage and help everyone grow.” Both Hoeft and Wagner staff their stores with a team of parttimers. Both make heavy use of students who are attracted to the flexible hours—and neither is in the position to offer expensive benefits like health insurance, though Wagner is hopeful that the new law may make that a possibility. Most benefits come in the form of employee discounts (30 percent at CR Toys; 20 percent during the first year of employment at Teaching Toys and 40 percent thereafter) on products. But, in addition, there are smaller, informal gestures to let employees know they are appreciated. “We always have tea and snacks available for employees. On days when we have a big sale, we keep the break room stocked with pizza,” says Wagner. “Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, each employee gets a prepaid Starbucks card and is entitled to a drink of their choice from the Starbucks around the corner on every shift that they work during that busy time.” Here are some of Hoeft’s and Wagner’s tips for keeping employees satisfied and productive:



• BE PICKY DURING THE HIRING PROCESS. “Our customers expect a lot from us, so we expect a lot from our employees,” says Wagner. “We are in an area where many people are well-educated. Our customers are smart and I want them to see our employees as peers. So I make a point of hiring people who are at that level. And I make sure that they have the personality to put the same priority on customer service that we do.” • LET EMPLOYEES MAKE DECISIONS. “Often staff members find a new toy they want to order and they are empowered to go ahead and do so,” says Hoeft. “It might not be what I would pick, but they are on the sales floor and they have a good sense of what can sell. If they are committed to selling it themselves, it only makes sense to let them do it.” • GIVE EMPLOYEES THE OPPORTUNITY TO USE A RANGE OF SKILLS. “Because we hire many college students, they come to us with lots of talent,” says Hoeft. “They have terrific ideas and skills like artistic ability or strong writing skills. I let them be creative, which helps to keep them happy and show them they are valued.” • DON’T TAKE ANYONE FOR GRANTED. “When someone has been with you for a long time, it’s easy to forget that she might not always be there,” says Wagner. “I make sure that I remind myself regularly that we would be in big trouble if some of our key employees moved on. And I make a point of doing something special to let them know they are appreciated.” Neither Hoeft nor Wagner experiences much staff turnover other than students graduating and going on to graduate school or jobs. “Our employees become part of the CR Toys family,” says Hoeft. “They stay with us through college and beyond. When they move on, I always hear from them regularly. Some come back and work for us again. They let us know when they get married and send photos of their kids every year—or even come in with their little ones. As a small store, we are able to create that sense of family, and it serves our business well.” And, of course, in turn, it serves the customers well. Kathleen McHugh is president of American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). Visit


The Toy Grouch Sings the Blues BY

MARK NUCCIO, DESIGN EDGE “I got the toy industry blues, Lord, I got the toy industry blues yeah, I got the toy industry blues doom and gloom, doom and gloom I got the toy industry blues”

Tune guitar into open E. Use a bottle neck slide.

es, it’s time for the “Toy Industry Blues” and the blues fits this industry like a glove. In fact, in my more than 40 years in the industry I’ve heard the same songs every year. I got them memorized now. The sky is falling. The industry is falling apart. Orders are slow in coming. Money is tight. Cash flow is terrible. Vendors are not giving terms. Retailers are pounding for discounts and charge backs. China is getting too expensive. The CPSC is killing the industry. The songs go on and on. But these blues are not the authentic Mississippi Delta versions you would hear from Robert Johnson or Son House. No, they’re just the watered down Eric Clapton versions of the blues and that pushes my buttons. Halfway into my toy career I began to notice a trend to these mantras. Questions began to arise: “How come so many toy people sing the tunes but don’t lead the lives of real Mississippi Delta bluesmen?” No one is living in a shack and standing at the crossroads in the morning waiting for the devil to show them a few guitar riffs for their souls. If the toy blues were the real thing you wouldn’t see so many toy executives driving luxury cars, wearing Rolex watches, eating at the finest restaurants, and taking exotic vacations. Yes, there are some companies that are having tough times and they deserve our empathy. But most companies are not in that predicament. It seems that many times the blues are sung to keep prices down and to delay paying obligations as long as possible. Yep, it’s true!



Take the cream off the top and let everyone else wait. Cry the blues and put everyone on notice. “Don’t bug me now, can’t you see how much I’m suffering!” And then there are some smarties who do get in real trouble. Most of these guys had no management skills to begin with. Many of these guys just took out of their companies and never put anything back. Then when they are done, they fire their employees, ruin lives, and then arrange that famous accounting technique called the “asset buyout” to a new shell company of themselves or some other person and a “new” company arises. I’ve seen it happen time and time again and that pisses me off. If they are lucky, they make A LOT of money on the deal. If they are not, the lawsuits fly and yet somehow they still drive their luxury cars and live the good life. In a few short years they’re back in toy business. And it’s not too long until the cycle beings again and they are crying the blues once more. Now, can you imagine what would happen if most of these toy entrepreneurs stopped singing their blues and stopped hiding behind their Katrina-disaster scenarios? I think the industry would be strengthened. Inventive product, innovative marketing, stronger bottom lines, and a general widening of product outlets would emerge. Companies would grow healthier and profits would rise. Everybody gets paid, and then the blues can get replaced by front row tickets to a Lady Gaga concert. Oops—I think I just got sick on my guitar. Mark Nuccio of New York-based Design Edge can be reached at (516) 377–0500 or He says that musically, authentic blues are still the best. Be sure to listen to Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Son House, and Mississippi John Hurt to learn what real blues are about.

SaleS in the ConStruCtion Category Build BY



s the construction category the bizarro world of the toy industry? In a 2009 that saw virtually every avenue of trade in the crapper, the construction category had the largest growth of any toy category and the first half of 2010 shows no signs of the category slowing down. While other toy categories are benefiting from only a sense of optimism among consumers, construction is seeing real tangible successes in the marketplace. So what factors are driving the anomaly of success amid a tight economy? “It is a one-word answer: LEGO,” says Jeff Pinsker, CEO of Infinitoy, which manufactures the Zoob line of construction toys. “There is a very strong correlation between LEGO’s operating results and what you see playing out in the construction category.” That’s not to say that other construction toy manufacturers are not seeing success. Pinsker says Infinitoy was up slightly last year and is seeing growth of almost 20 percent so far in 2010. But it is very true that LEGO is such a dominant factor in the category that as it goes, goes the category. “We have seen tremendous growth in the LEGO business despite the macroeconomic factors, which, in turn, is driving growth in the construction category,” says Soren Tørp Laursen, president of LEGO Systems. “We have not adjusted our product launch or pricing strategies [because of the recession] and last year we actually saw the strongest growth coming from our higher-priced items.” Construction play is a timeless play pattern that has real developmental value that parents recognize, so it is not surprising that it was the most successful toy category in 2009. With tight budgets, fads fall by the wayside and items that deliver long-term play value thrive. The construction category is fairly unique in that it offers more than a one-off play experience for each item purchased. Each subsequent purchase in a particular system reinvents all of the previous purchases. The system becomes more useful and offers more play value with each addition. This idea is most likely the reason that higher-end items thrived in a weak economy. “Most of our retailers report seeing a flight to quality,” says Infinitoy’s Pinsker. “Consumers decided to buy a few nicer things rather than a bunch of less expensive things. That helps the construction category because consumers understand they get a better value if they buy a larger set.”


LEGO’s Atlantis Exploration HQ converts into a mobile command sub to take on the Manta Warrior in the quest for the yellow Atlantis treasure key.

liCenSing This being the June issue, which is chock full of licensing-related information, it provides a good reason to discuss the role that licensing has played in the construction toy category. Looking at the overall construction landscape, it is clear that evergreen properties thrive here. Sure there are challenges and pitfalls (more on this later), but when offered as a part of an overall portfolio, licensing works well in the category. In deciding what properties will work in a particular manufacturer’s lineup, “you have to know yourself and what your brand and segment of the toy category stands for and why it is important to consumers,” says Michael Araten, president and CEO of K’nex Industries (who will be moderating a panel on licensing at Licensing Show). “It is about creating families of products that make sense for your consumers.” The key to successful licensing in the construction category, as in any category, is finding the right fit between property, product line, and consumer. If well executed, it can result in solid product lines like K’nex’s Sesame Street and NASCAr lines. Another license that shows great promise in this category is MEGA Brands’ Thomas & Friends line, which was introduced this year.

“In licensing, we focus on partnering with strong, evergreen properties that complement our preschool and boys’ portfolios,” says Vic Bertrand, chief innovation officer for Mega Brands. “We prefer multi-year licenses, giving us the opportunity to fully develop the potential of a given property within our portfolio.” Properly executed licensing strategies can play a big role in one of the most crucial moments in the success of a construction system: the first, entry purchase. Coaxing the sale of the first item in a construction system is critical to its ongoing success. Seeing how purchases in this category build upon one another, that first sale is key. You have to attract kids to the product. “For the most part, the purchases in this category are kid directed,” says Popular licenses such as Thomas & K’nex’s araten. “Under the age of Friends, seen above in MEGA Brands’ 3, that tends to be parent directed 2-in-1 Buildable Thomas, and Sesame Street’s Elmo, seen to the although, even there, kids are point- right in K’nex’s Kick It Elmo ing at elmo in the store. Kids recog- Building Set, draw attention nize brands early and more and to construction sets on store shelves. more purchases are kid directed.” While smart licensing can certainly lead to success in this category, there are some pitfalls to avoid. Part of the reason behind the LegO restructuring that started about five years ago was an overemphasis on licensing. “We are very mindful of how licensing works best when it’s complementing a very strong core business in construction toys,” says LegO’s Laursen. “We lived through a time of too many eggs in the licensing basket, which sometimes delivers short-term gain without guaranteed sustainability. Now, licensing is a strong part of a very healthy core LegO business.”

Tech Sure, the construction category, in most instances, is rather basic and traditional. It involves using creativity and physical dexterity to snap pieces of plastic together to create something. That’s not to say the category isn’t rife with innovation. In most instances, that innova-


tion comes from reinterpreting a building system to offer new worlds for products to be built in. However, there are pockets where this innovation comes in the form of technology. Rokenbok has, since its introduction in 1997, offered a system of technology-enhanced construction products. This year, the line is going through the biggest transformation in its history. In addition to serving up the ROK Blocks items for preschoolers, the company has revamped the electronic brains of the system by introducing the wireless ROK Star Controller, as well as introducing the Dual Drive Power Unit to power creations built with its high-end Inventor’s Series. “Our view is not about technology, but what makes a really great playtime—what keeps a child or family involved in this type of play and what makes it valuable to them,” says Paul eichen, president and founder of Rokenbok. “Technology is an enabler to allow kids to have a different kind of construction experience.” as today’s technology-native children don’t focus on the technology, but rather the experience it offers, they have a certain level of expectation out of what their toys can do. This is where high-tech construction items like the Rokenbok system as well as LegO’s Mindstorms products shine. “Tech creates a wealth of opportunity for engaging LegO experiences that bridge the gap between physical and virtual play,” says LegO’s Laursen. “Today’s children don’t see a difference and expect the two worlds to be entwined.” It is the diversity of offerings created by meeting the needs of today’s tech-savvy children while also offering a range of appropriate licenses and compelling basic play patterns that has positioned the construction category for success during the recession. It is these same factors that have lead to what manufacturers say is a very strong showing in the first half of 2010. and it is these factors that has the construction category well-built for the economic improvements that are just over the horizon.

constructIon BY


In a 2009 that proved challenging for virtually every category of every industry, the construction toy category experienced the largest growth of any toy category. And if trends from the first half of the year are any indication of the year-end 2010 numbers, the category will be among the best-performing in the industry yet again this year. Below is a sampling of new construction toys set to hit the market this year.



The LEGO City Airport lets young builders construct all the details of the airport such as revolving doors, ticket counter, security checkpoint with X-ray machine, baggage claim carousel, and café. It includes a control tower, passenger plane, and five minifigures.

Cars make up a third of the Zoob line. This year sees the introduction of the ZoobMobile Fastback. This kit includes 20 pieces with four wheels. Two of the wheels are attached to a pull-back motor.

PlaymobIl The Wildlife Care Station lets kids roleplay caring for injured animals. It includes two figures, leopard and cubs, baby rhinoceros, giraffe, and zebra. Also included, in addition to the care station, is a cage, an animal enclosure, and additional accessories.


K’nEx Among K’nex’s Sesame Street offerings is the Sesame Street Schoolhouse Building Set. The 40piece set includes pieces to build a schoolhouse as well as Elmo and Grover figures and a school bus crossing sign.

ErEctor The Erector Tuning RC Carbon Style, which is distributed by Schylling, allows children to build three styles of remote-controlled cars. It also features sound effects such as screeching tires, roaring engine, and a music player with rock and hip hop.


Mega brands

The ROK Works Construction & Action Set contains everything needed to build an interactive construction site. It includes the new ROK Star Controller that lets kids wirelessly control any number of Rokenbok machines.

In celebration of their 25th birthday, the original-sized MegA Bloks are back. The Build Big! Deluxe Creation Box (shown) offers numerous possibilities for preschoolers to build with its big blocks. Also on the way is the Build Big! 123 Box, which includes 11 blocks that help kids learn to count from one to 10. MegA will also be introducing two Build ’n Play items: the Build ’n Play Workbench and the Build ’n Play Kitchenette. each doubles as a building workbench.

PatCH ProduCts Patch’s Überstix Monorail lets kids build a course that features up and down grades of 30 degrees with more than 20 feet of track. It includes the first new Überstix part to be introduced in three years: the Quark15.

aMav Amav’s Fun Bricks is a line of soft, flexible pieces and accessories that suit the youngest of builders. The Fun Bricks Fire engine (shown) allows kids ages 2 and up to build a fire truck that they can then play with. Another favorite in the line is a 75-piece bucket with a wide assortment of pieces that foster free-form building play.

CitibloCs For 2010, CitiBlocs is unveiling its wood plank sets in an array of new colors. The three variations are the Hot Colors, Cool Colors, and Natural Colors. Shown is a combination of the color sets.

Hasbro The Tinkertoy brand is celebrating its 95th anniversary. As part of the anniversary offerings, Hasbro introduces the Tinkertoy Jumbo Builder Set, which includes 48 rods, 20 spools, eight connector clips, two flags, 10 end caps, six couplings, two tubes, one length of string, a face plate, two robot arms, two rail holders, and a design guide.




ou’ve seen them if you take the internet, which has truly changed the way public transit, such as the bus that games are both played and delivered. or the subway. You hear about “Increasingly, games are being played via systhem if you turn on the televitem download versus CD and consumers play sion or when you check your them in a streaming or embedded fashion,” Facebook messages. They’re on your cellsays Simon Jones, vice-president of strategic phone, in your computer, and perhaps even solutions at Plimus, an e-commerce consultant in your living room. that helps companies sell product online. This They, of course, are video games, and has allowed companies to take advantage of they are becoming a more integral part of reduced overhead when it comes to marketing modern life. Whether it’s an expensive their products. Delivery systems such as complex game on the Xbox 360 or a simValve’s Steam service (which has just been Thanks to systems such as the Nintendo Wii, video games have ple point-and-click affair on Facebook, released for the Mac platform) provide gamers become a more social activity. people interact with this form of entertainwith access to many of the most popular games ment more than they ever have before. Nowadays, a new game release can available without having to set foot outside the house. have as much fanfare surrounding it as a Hollywood blockbuster (and in In addition, the internet has allowed gaming to become a part of activities some cases could lead to a Hollywood blockbuster of its own). Many that consumers conduct as day-to-day affairs. One of the most popular video major entertainment brands have licensed video games while a number of games out there is Zygna’s FarmVille, which is a part of the popular Facebook the more successful developers have managed to create full-fledged con- social networking site. Facebook applications represent a large share of the sumer products brands around their own intellectual properties. For the casual gaming market and many larger companies have begun to take note— past three to four years, members of the gaming industry have even shown a Family Feud Facebook application has recently met with success, proving up on Time Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Most Influential People (the that there is plenty of room for established brands and companies to develop most recent examples being web comic authors and Child’s Play Charity this space further. founders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, whose charity raised more than The internet has also made gaming a social experience. “Consumers now $1.7 million for children’s hospitals this year). Video games have long make decisions based on their preferences for where and what their social cirsince broken out of their place as a niche entertainment category and have cles are playing because it enhances their own experiences,” says John ingrained themselves in almost everyone’s life. O’Connell, head of gaming at Davie Brown Entertainment, a marketing agency. When people begin playing games together, this creates an extra conEasy Access nection and longevity that a game wouldn’t have if it wasn’t part of a shared One of the reasons that the video game category has become so strong is experience between friends. In games such as FarmVille, playing to win is that there are now an enormous amount of entry points to the hobby. “There only a part of the fun. The game (and other similar games) provide consumers are games at every price point,” says Rick Marazzani, director of content and with another way to interact with their friends via the internet. programming of Exent, Inc., a digital entertainment media company specializing in the marketing, merchandising, monetization and broadband-based dis- Family Fun One of the major developments that has led to success for many publishers tribution of PC video games, “from free with ad support, to $0.99 apps, to lowcost subscriptions that offer hundreds of full PC games for the family all the is the advent of video games as a hobby that an entire family can enjoy. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, as well as the Nintendo Wii console, have way up to $60 console titles. Multiple entry points have expanded the base.” The prevalence of the personal computer has been a huge boon to the gam- brought gaming to a wider audience by making it more accessible. “Consoles ing industry in many ways. With the advent of computers came the advent of are now in the living room, providing entertainment for the entire family,” says



O’Connell. “We’ve culturally limited what a ‘gamer’ is in the past and social games have really broke that mold.” Video games have also become a remarkably affordable alternative to other ways that a family could obtain entertainment. Taking a family of four out to the movies on a regular night can cost upwards of $60 for an hour and a half of entertainment. While a Nintendo Wii or full Band Hero set could cost as much as $200, it can provide entertainment to a greater number of people for far longer than a single movie. Many consumers see that as a major factor in favor of spending money on video games despite the tightening of belts when it comes to spending.

Rated L for Lawsuit

Video games have been in the news for less positive reasons lately. The California state legislature recently moved to ban the sale of violent video games to minors with more stringent restrictions in place. The proposed law was struck down in two lower courts as an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech, but has been elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear the case at the beginning of its next session in October. The video game industry has always been plagued by the worries of parents and legislators and the vocal argument about the influence of video game violence has been hashed out many times. Members of the industry claim that its own voluntary rating system (the ESRB rating system) is accurate and will safeguard children as long as parents continue to take responsibility. Some legislators and parents believe that even with a rating system, there’s no way to stop a child from playing what they want.

above: Licensors such as Universal increase their properties’ reach by licensing video games, such as the above Saw II game from Konami. left: Nintendo’s Mario has become a recognizable character across multiple demographics.

Many both inside and outside the industry view video games as simply another form of media. “It begs the question, would all other forms of media also be subject to this type of law?” asks Stephen Smith, an attorney at the Greeberg Glusker law firm in L.A. and head of the firm’s entertainment litigation and video game practice. “Take the Lord of the Rings books or the Harry Potter books or any number of other books. They are quite violent and depictions of that violence are often quite detailed. The only difference is that they aren’t necessarily visual.” In Smith’s opinion, attempting to pass a law such as the one proposed by California’s legislature would only result in making future cases involving the First Amendment more and more difficult. One can only wonder what this stage in this long-running argument will bring for either side of the debate.


Of course, one of the ways to judge the strength of the video game category is to look at the number of trade shows dedicated to video games. The Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) remains the most prominent of the shows, where a majority of

the business in the category is conducted. Despite misgivings when the show moved toward a more business-oriented model and a less consumer-friendly atmosphere, reports continue to show that E3 has grown over the past few years. The Global Gaming Expo (G2E) and Consumer Electronics Show (CES) have picked up a great deal of the consumer-oriented slack and remain very successful shows for the industry. Another show that has been on the rise recently is Casual Connect in Seattle, which takes place in July. This show has become an extremely useful meeting ground for those directly concerned with the casual gaming market. “All of these shows are great places to understand what is happening in the industry and to meet the major players,” says Pietro Macchiarella, research analyst at Parks Associates.

Staying Strong

Like almost any business, video games took a hit in 2009. Macchiarella reports that the industry lost almost eight percent in sales in 2009 compared to 2008. But 2010 is looking to be just the opposite. With a number of well-known franchises receiving sequels early in the year, Macchiarella notes that retail sales for the video game industry were up by nearly 10 percent. Manufacturers have begun taking another look at how they market their products as well, trying to avoid creating a crowded holiday season that did hurt some game developers this past year. New technologies, such as motion sensors and advances in 3-D technology have also made the category more appealing for consumers. With E3 this month and a number of major shows in the offing, the category has a great deal to look forward to and, according to Macchiarella, “the greatest advances in gaming have yet to arrive.”


Video Games BY


Video games have come a long way from

being a niche hobby for a select group of people. While the core demographic for the category remains 18–35-year-old

males, many companies have realized

the potential for expanding the borders of the market. Whether it’s family fun,

single-player hardcore gaming, or pointand-click casual play, there are enough

variations in the video game category to have something for everyone. Here are

some of the latest and upcoming games and products for 2010.


Nintendo has released Super Mario Galaxy 2, the sequel to the first Mario adventure for the Nintendo Wii home console system. Players will once again take control of Mario and guide him through adventures as he tackles new levels with the help of sidekicks such as Yoshi the dinosaur and power-ups including a cloud suit or a powerful drill.


In partnership with game developer Rebellion, Sega has created the new Aliens vs. Predator video game. This game is the latest in the long-running Aliens vs. Predator entertainment franchise. The game allows players to play through the Alien life cycle, take heads as one of the Predators, or defend humanity as a member of the Marines.


Pokémon has released the two latest versions of its long-running video game series. Pokémon SoulSilver and Pokémon HeartGold feature more than 100 new pokémon for fans to capture, battle, and level up. Pokémon will continue to support its video game series with new licenses, an officially sponsored video game tournament series, and a continued animated television series.


Konami will distribute the new Def Jam Rapstar video game, developed by 4mm Entertainment, Autumn Games, and Def Jam Interactive. Players will be able to make and record their own hip-hop videos using console-based camera add-ons and post them to the fully integrated Rapstar community at


Majesco has created the newest video game based on the Alvin and The Chipmunks brand from Fox. Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel puts players in control of the characters’ adventures.


Crave’s newest game, Man vs. Wild, puts players in the shoes of the Discovery Channel’s Bear Grylls as he journeys to some of the most dangerous places in the world and teaches players how to survive. The game is based on Discovery Communications Man vs. Wild television show and features voice acting from Bear Grylls and other talent from the television show.

Video game brands have become a fixture in the

world of licensing. Major brands such as Pokémon, Halo, and Mario have developed strong licensing programs. Other brands have also developed strong followings both among gamers and

collectors. Shown here are an Eidos’ Lara Craft Tomb Raider figurine from Sideshow

Collectibles (left), a figure of Dante from EA’s

Dante’s Inferno by NECA (upper right), and one of the characters from Sony’s LittleBigPlanet on a T-Shirt by Bravado (lower right).


Schleich Celebrates 75 Years BY


Retail Support

These dinosaur figures are part of, what Schleich calls, its World of History. The two other major lines are World of Nature and World of Fantasy. All figures are designed for ages 3 and up.

e all know that unstructured play is crucial for a child’s development. It may even be more important as the world becomes increasingly dominated by technology. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying screen time, it’s also important to strike a balance and leave ample time for imaginative play. When most Americans think unstructured play, companies such as LEGO and Crayola come to mind. Both are great examples that offer great play options. However, there is another company that wants to be able to pop into an American consumer’s mind with that type of immediate brand recognition and that is Schleich. Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the German company (which proudly pointed out its Swabian roots in the press materials) specializing in figures, has a host of activities planned for retailers all based around its new tagline “Anywhere’s a Playground.” The company offers figurines under three distinct banners. There is the World of Nature, which includes animals. The World of Fantasy includes the Smurfs and the company’s proprietary World of Elves line. The World of History focuses on educational toys. Schleich figures offer impeccable attention to detail. Yet what



they don’t offer are bells, whistles, watch-me features, or a code that sends kids to a website. It’s simply the figures that are charged with igniting a child’s imagination. Schleich, like so many toy companies, did not start out making toys. Schleich, based in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, launched in 1935 as an industrial supplier of protective clothing and safety glasses. In 1945, Fredrich Schleich, the company’s founder, created a bendable figure, which he patented, according to the company. By 1950 he decided to concentrate on toys as he was already a successful supplier of technical plastic parts. Today the company says it offers more than 500 different figures for all ages and stages— starting at age 3 and up. “We follow children as they grow, learn, and expand their interests,” says Mary Ludovico, marketing director for Schleich, North America. “For example, younger children enjoy the animal figures as they start to learn what the different animals are and what sounds they make. They may have traveled to a zoo with their parents and the figure represents, in miniature form, what they experienced,” she explains. “As children grow their play becomes more varied and more layered. Here, our fantasy and historical figures can become imaginary worlds complete with each child’s own personal storyline.”

The 75th anniversary plan offers a program that all retailers can participate in globally, according to Ludovico. “The store decoration program is offered to all countries and retailers in the same form,” she says. “However, all retailers are encouraged to creatively build upon the basic set and create their own style of playground in their shop window.” The retail celebration package contains a free basic decoration package, an exclusive figurine program for consumers, direct-to-consumer advertising, and a point of differentiation for the store, according to Ludovico, all of which is designed to generate foot traffic. Schleich, which attends both ASTRA Marketplace and the Fall Toy Preview, offers lit merchandise displays to independent toy retailers. “Our lit displays have helped to create a section within each store that highlights the product line and concept,” she says. “This is always a powerful tool to draw the consumer to a product and, in those stores that have introduced the program, a large number have experienced significant sales increases.” In addition to independent toy retailers, Schleich products can be found in the mass market at Target and Toys “R” Us. Ludovico says the figures are available in more than 70 countries and are certainly best known in their native Germany. “Outside of Germany, North America is one of the fastest growing markets as we continue to increase our distribution and presence,” she says. “One of our long-term goals is to increase awareness of the Schleich brand in the U.S. by focusing on our quality message in conjunction with the importance of imaginative play in children’s intellectual development.” Schleich is looking to gain a foothold in this market so families will think LEGO, Crayola, PlayDoh, and, of course, Schleich for imaginative play.

ASTRA Showcase


The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy takes place June 13–16 at the Westin Hotel & Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, R.I. Listed on the following pages are a few of the products that will be exhibited at the convention.

Tier Toys

Tier Toys’ Animal Stackers Barn Yard, for ages 3 and up, comes with 51 detailed figures stored in five layers of tiers. From the rooster on the roof to the red tractor and white fencing, the set recreates a down-on-the-farm experience. A bonus DVD with the story of Old McDonald and interactive games is included.

Blue Orange Games

Blue Orange Games’ Spot It is a matching game where players match a symbol between any two cards. The game comes with 55 cards and illustrated rules. It is for two to eight players ages 6 and up.

K’s Kids

The four detachable blocks between CrocoBloco’s head and tail offer multiple activities. Babies can poke CrocoBloco’s nose or pull on the flower and watch CrocoBloco’s wagging tail. CrocoBloco can also be used as a pillow or a snuggle pal. It is for ages 6 months and up.


Chicco’s free-rolling Turbo Touch Truck makes engine noises and transports up to five Turbo Touch vehicles (one is included). It opens up into a three-foot-long racetrack. A working race light signals the beginning of the race, and a sensor on the track senses when the cars cross the finish line. If the Turbo Touch vehicle crosses the finish line with a green light, claps and cheers will play as the vehicle exits from the hidden door chute at the front of the truck. It is for ages 2 and up.



Dizios is a domino game with a colorful, dizzying twist. Tiles are placed down one by one to create a flowing piece. Players take turns placing tiles with matching edges. Points are earned according to the pieces on the board a tile touches. The game includes 71 glossy chipboard game tiles. Dizios is for two or more players ages 6 and up.

ASTRA Showcase Bananagrams

Oh-Spell! is a card game, for ages 6 and up, that combines the concept of four patterned suits with the 26 letters of the alphabet. The result is a game of infinite possibilities, in which all of the permutations of word creation are virtually endless. Oh-Spell! comes with a cloth travel pouch, Weords, and a scoring pad and pen.

Jax Games

In Jax Games’ Respond, players pick a category from the cards in their hands and name an item that belongs in that category. With every quick, correct answer, a card gets thrown away. The first player to get rid of all his cards wins. It is for two to eight players ages 8 and up.

Thames & Kosmos

Learn about rocks and the minerals that form them with Thames and Kosmos’ Crystals, Rocks, & Minerals kit. This experiment kit helps kids understand the chemistry of crystals and the geological science behind rock formation with more than 18 hands-on projects and investigations. The kit is for ages 8 and up.


The Haywire Group

The Haywire Group’s Outnumbered is a fast-thinking, dice-rolling game of smarts. Players try to answer the challenge questions faster than their opponents and using only the dice rolled. Stooges? Did you roll a three? Call it out. Brady Bunch? Got an eight? Call it out. Outnumbered is for three to four players, ages 12 and up.


Elenco Electronics, Inc., will distribute the Engino line of educational construction toys. The Engino product line offers threedimensional construction toys that comprise a system of multi-faceted rods and connectors with unique geometrical features, allowing connectivity of up to six sides simultaneously. Packages can also be combined to create larger models.


BSW Toy’s Curiosity Kits Pottery Wheel lets beginners become pottery pros. The foot pedal lets kids control the wheel speed. Two pounds of clay, paints and brushes, real artist’s tools, and a 12-page instruction booklet get kids started. The clay dries in 24–48 hours or faster with the Easi-Art Maker or home oven (use with adult supervision). The kit includes an AC power adapter.

ASTRA Showcase Maple Landmark

Maple Landmark’s new Chess pieces are made of hardwood maple and cherry. The pieces are blocks with traditional chess characters engraved on two sides. Each piece has the move pattern for that specific character engraved on the bottom. The 32-piece set comes with 16 hardwood maple blocks, 16 hardwood cherry blocks, and a cloth pouch for storage. The board is available separately.

Around the Table Games

Around the Table Games is introducing two of its conversation-starting games in Spanish. Buddy Talk (shown) and Family Talk will include both English and Spanish versions of the questions for use with Spanish-speaking families or for use as an educational tool to facilitate learning either Spanish or English as a second language. Buddy Talk comes with more than 50 questions and is for ages 7 and up. Family Talk comes with 100 questions and is for ages 3 and up.

Be Amazing Toys

Be Amazing Toys’ Big Bag of Science kit comes with more than 70 unique, fun, hands-on science activities. Kids will set up their own science labs and amaze friends and family with activities such as making water disappear, having a liquid flow uphill, making a 30-foot soda geyser, growing fake snow instantly, balancing six nails on the head of one nail, and much more. This kit covers the three areas of science (physical, Earth, and life), as well as activities in chemistry, physics, magnetism, weather, biology, geology, and flight. The re-usable zipper bag stores all components.

Just Think Toys

Just Think Toys’ WaterBlocks bring classic block play into the bathtub. Kids can create waterslides, waterfalls, ball runs, floating towns, bridges, towers, and more. The “sticky” viscosity of water creates a cling between blocks.

Wild Creations

Wild Creations is bringing science product from the UK Science Museum to American store shelves. One product is the Mega Bubble. The inflatable base holds the bubble liquid around the perimeter, allowing kids or adults to stand inside while the bubble wand is lifted above their heads. It is for ages 5 and up.



A new tribe joins Schleich’s 2010 Bayala collection. Each Arelan character comes with its own animal companion, including figures, Marween, Lindariel, and Florindel (shown). They are for ages 3 and up.

ASTRA Showcase Manhattan Toy

Send marbles down the 99-piece wooden Quadrilla Twist & Rail set from Manhattan Toy. Curved rails, straight rails, and a big twist make up this set. Fifty marbles are included along with a cloth bag for safe storage.

Creativity for Kids

Creativity for Kids introduces the takealong version of Coloring & ARTivity Books for ages 3 and up. The books have 20 illustrated six-inch by eight-inch pages and come with a set of three Faber-Castell Duo-tip markers. Choose from Way Cool Diva Doodles; Cars, Trucks & More; Travel Doodle & Do (shown); and Princesses A to Z.



Babalu’s Monsters Puzzle Blocks are nine 1.5-inch cubes that create six 4.5-inch square puzzles. A six-page answer sheet is included. The blocks are for ages 4 and up.

Paradise Horses

Paradise Horses’ Cowgirl Cool Mini Collectibles line features nine different horse breeds from around the world. These miniature, three-inch horse figurines have realistic manes and tails that can be brushed. On the back of each box are firstperson narratives from each horse explaining their breed and heritage.

Buffalo Games

In each round of Buffalo Games’ Truth Be Told, one of the players is the host and reads a question card. The host writes a truthful answer and all other players write bluff answers. The host reads all answers aloud and players try to guess the host’s true answer. Truth Be Told is for three to eight players ages 14 and up.

Reeves International

Reeves International introduces Geomag World. Geomag World sets let kids create custom floor plans with Geomag’s patented system of magnetic steel rods, stainless steel spheres, and plastic panels. Each set includes stickers, plus blank and decorated panels. Shown is the 79-piece My Castle set. It is for ages 3 and up.


With Alex’s Create a Marionette kit, kids can decorate and assemble their own marionettes with stickers, punchouts, ribbons, yarn, craft glue, and nylon cord. The kits are available in Kitty, Dino, Giraffe, and Fairy Princess themes. They are for ages 5 and up.

Winning Moves Games

Scattergories Categories is a twist on the original Scattergories. Each round starts with a word and phrase. For instance, the card says Road Trip and Names of Cities. Players have two minutes to list as many cities as they can that start with the letters in the words Road Trip. When time’s up, players compare their lists. Score one point for each answer that doesn’t match an opponent’s answer. It comes with 125 cards containing 250 word challenges, a two-minute sand timer, four pads of player score sheets, a plastic card base, and instructions.


The Bird Man and War Griffin set is part of the Fantasy Mutant line from Papo. The characters can be used together or separately. Both feature detailed impression of movement and action in the poses. The set is for ages 3 and up.

The Original Toy Company

The Pop Up School Bus is a traditional wooden toy from The Original Toy Company. The four included figures feature spring-loaded action designed to help develop eye/hand coordination and fine motor skills. The bus is for ages 12 months and up.

Learning Resources

Learning Resources’ Primary Science Set is sized for little hands. It includes a beaker, a magnifying glass, a funnel, test tubes, and an activity guide and cards with easy-to-do experiments. It is for ages 4 and up.


LICENSING SHOW 2010 Licensing show highLights chaLLenges, optimism BY



he two topics that are front of mind with the licensing executives interviewed for this article on the current state of children’s licensing are the challenging-yet-increasinglyoptimistic retail environment and the approaching year two of the International Licensing Expo, better known as Licensing Show, at Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay. First the bad news: even though there are signs of the economy improving, the retail environment is still very challenging. Retailers are still very risk averse. The good news is people’s attitudes are creeping toward optimistic and that is the important first step in improvement. “From a physical perspective, we are still seeing that the economy is not recovering as much as we’d like,” says Roz Nowicki, executive vice-president, licensing & marketing at 4Kids Entertainment. “While we are seeing glimmers of hope here and there, a lot of it is hopeful thinking rather than physical proof.” She does add, though, that, “if you will it, it will happen at some point.” The hope is that once this air of optimism on the part of consumers creeps into retail, the logjam that has been the past few years will open up opportunity for those in the licensing business that are well-positioned. “We are gaining traction in consumer confidence. People are spending again; at least they are in stores again,” says Christina Miller, senior vice-president, Cartoon Network Enterprises. “If we learned any lessons coming out of what is the closest thing


this generation has to a depression, we all learned that things change quickly.” As the licensing industry descends on Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay for Licensing Show, it is this feeling of increasing optimism and of a change being afoot that has licensors excited about the show’s potential. “When we go to Licensing Show, we are not selling for 2010, so you have to believe that you’ll be in an even better position in 2011,” adds Miller. Add onto this growing optimism and sense of hope the fact that last year’s first licensing show in the new Vegas venue—which took place amid what was certainly near the low-point of the recession—generally received positive feedback. Those interviewed mentioned having, as of press time in mid-May, more appointments booked for this year’s show, as well as more international interest, which was one of the concerns coming out of last year’s show. There are also reports of companies taking bigger booth space, as well as companies who stood on the sidelines last year taking the dive and setting up space. “Licensors and licensees were cautious last year given the uncertain economy, but this year there is a more optimistic outlook going into Licensing Show,” says Pam Westman, executive vice-president, consumer products, The Americas, HIT Entertainment. “We expect good business to be done at the show.” The move to Vegas did offer up an unexpected benefit in terms of doing business. Whereas in New York, once the show floor closed for each day, people would battle the Manhattan traffic and go their separate ways—

off to business dinners and maybe a nightcap. At the Mandalay Bay, it is possible to take care of this under one roof, without losing time battling traffic to get back to a hotel room to freshen up for the night. “It’s great to have everyone together in one place,” says HIT’s Westman. “There is more of a campus feel that also promotes greater collegiality versus being scattered at the end of each day in New York.” In spite of the optimism that has spread throughout retail and the licensing business, there are still challenges at retail. Retailers are still avoiding risk and licensees are remaining as discerning as ever. “We are having to go to retailers and pre-sell them and really have programs almost foolproof in order for them to take them,” says 4Kids’ Nowicki. “By foolproof, I mean something that is a proven property that either has some history behind it or a property that is similar to one that has been incredibly successful or else it has a ton of marketing muscle behind it.” So, yes, there is optimism in the air. Optimism that things are looking up. Optimism that Licensing Show 2010 will be a success. Optimism that Q4 2010 will be solid and that 2011 will be even better. But it is also likely that the recession has changed the licensing business. Probably, fewer B-level properties will be getting a shot on shelves in the near future. Maybe the shakeout really will make the industry put a finer focus on its offerings that, really, in the long run will lead to a stronger industry.

LICENSING SHOW 2010 Warner Bros.

4Kids Entertainment

Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) will have a number of new entertainment properties ready for licensing. The upcoming feature film Green Lantern is slated for a summer 2011 release. The first part of the seventh and final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, will be released this November and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open this month in Universal Orlando Resort.

Dinosaur King, part of the CW4Kids TV block of animated television, will continue to expand its licensing program with trading cards from Upper Deck, video games from SEGA, DVDs from Shout! Factory, and toys from Playmates. Yu-Gi-Oh! remains one of 4Kids’ strongest brands, with new trading cards hitting the market and a successful spot on the CW4Kids animated television block as well as Cartoon Network. 4Kids is also the licensing agent for the Karito Kids brand and its parent company, KidsGive. 4Kids will be looking to expand the nonprofit organization and toy company’s brand into a worldwide licensing program. 4Kids Entertainment is also seeking licensees for Quints, the line of quintuplet baby dolls that were successful in 1990. 4Kids is seeking a global master toy licensee for a new version of Quints.

BBC Worldwide BBC Worldwide has developed a full line of licensed products for the television series In the Night Garden. Hasbro is the global master toy partner for this property. BBC has signed more than 70 licensees for In the Night Garden worldwide. Fisher-Price is the master toy licensee for 3rd & Bird!, which will begin airing in the U.S. in 2011 on the Disney Channel’s Playhouse Disney programming block. Fisher-Price will develop preschool, infant, and toddler toys for the brand. Dr. Who, which currently airs in the U.S. on BBC America, is also an important brand for BBC. The brand has sold over five million action figures in the UK from licensee Character Options, which will continue to produce additional products in 2011. 2011 will mark the 10th anniversary of Charlie & Lola as a publishing property. The BBC will continue to build the property’s licensing program with apparel lines at retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, and Tesco.


LICENSING SHOW 2010 I Can Do That! Games I Can Do That! Games has added the Mythbusters license to its new ZimZala Games line, a line of games designed for families and children. The new Mythbusters Hit the Target Trivia Game plays like a normal trivia game as players answer questions about a variety of science topics. Correct answers allow players to aim or position the catapult containing Buster the Crash Dummy, or launch him onto a target for points. The first player to three points is the winner.

Manhattan Toy Manhattan Toy’s Chicka Chicka Boom Boom infant toy line is based on the popular book by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. The product line showcases the bold illustrations by Lois Ehlert, while helping babies and toddlers become familiar with their ABCs and 123s. The collection consists of nine infant items in classic play patterns with developmental features and sensory stimulation. Manhattan Toy also introduces six new Dr. Seuss toys. Straight from the pages of favorite Dr. Seuss storybooks, including One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and The Cat in the Hat, come plush and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish infant toys featuring classic characters. Blue Fish fish bowl

Brand Freaks Perplexus, marketed by PlaSmart, is the focus of a new licensing program from Brand Freaks. The company is currently in negotiations for key categories and is focused on bringing out the gameplay and sculptural and aesthetic appeal of the game in licensed products.

Ludorum Ludorum’s Chuggington airs on Playhouse Disney in the U.S. six days a week. The company is seeking to build its global licensing program and further develop the U.S.-based consumer products program that will launch next year. Learning Curve, Scholastic, Vtech, Anchor Bay, and other licensees are already on board for the brand.





Brandberry has been announced as the licensing agent for The Wiggles brand in North America. Brandberry will be handling licensing for The Wiggles in all categories and will be working on increasing the brand’s presence for the upcoming 20th anniversary of The Wiggles in 2011. The Wiggles brand assets include a television show on Sprout, the virtual world, two new CD and DVD releases a year, concert tours, and more.

Universal Partnerships & Licensing will be presenting a number of new licensing and promotional opportunities for a number of new films. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World follows the story of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) as he attempts to win the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), while her seven evil exes attempt to kill him. Ubisoft has signed on as a licensee for interactive licensed products. Hop stars Russell Brand as the Easter Bunny and James Marsden as an out-of-work slacker named Fred who injures the bunny and must take care of him as he recovers. Cowboys & Aliens stars Daniel Craig as a mysterious gunslinger who arrives in a Western town under siege by aliens.


Fox Licensing

Fundex is creating a full line of new products for the Pinkalicious brand, represented by The Joester Loria Group. The Pinkalicious 3-in-1 Card Game lets children play crazy 8s, old maid, and bingo with new twists and Pinkalicious brand imagery. The Pinkalicious Cup Cake Board Game has players working together to collect cupcakes by performing a variety of activities.

Fox Licensing will be expanding its licensing program for James Cameron’s Avatar into home goods, social expressions, costumes, and more. The company has also begun laying the Avatar groundwork for a licensing program for the upcoming film Rio, a 3-D animated feature from Blue Sky Studios. For its established franchises, Fox Licensing will build up the appeal of Ice Age and Alvin and the Chipmunks with a steady presence in licensing. Diary of a Wimpy Kid will also receive an expanded licensing program and Fox has been named the agent for all Wimpy Kid merchandise based on the book franchise. Fox will also roll out a new licensing program for the television show Glee, as well as extending the programs of The Simpsons and Family Guy.


LICENSING SHOW 2010 Dimensional Branding Group The Dimensional Branding Group has signed a number of new deals for the Sony PlayStation brand. Slamsbrands will be marketing new storage towers and ottomans for the PlayStation Brand. DC Comics will launch new collectible figures for God of War and Twisted Metal, as well as a line of comics, manga, and graphic novels for inFAMOUS. BuySeasons is launching party goods for Ratchet and Clank. Toy2R is developing a Qee-line for LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers. Random House will launch a novel for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

Nascar In 2010, NASCAR will expand its licensing business with a number of new licensing programs. The company has teamed up with to create a new officially sanctioned online racing series. Fans can join racers around the world to compete in multiple races and qualify for the World Championship. Other new licensing initiatives are being directed toward younger fans. Jada will create new remote-control and batteryoperated NASCAR vehicles and K’nex will continue to produce new NASCAR building sets.


Scholastic Media Scholastic Media will be expanding a number of its brands for 2010. The Wordgirl brand will be expanded as new episodes air on PBS Kids Go. Scholastic will build on its products in existing categories for the brand. Scholastic will also expand its licensing program for The 39 Clues as the final book is released in September, with a deal with Post Cereals for 2011. Briarpatch will continue to roll products out for the I Spy franchise. The Scholastic and Little Scholastic brands I Spy Quest from Briarpatch will also hit shelves with a new line of electronic and non-electronic learning toys from Kids Station Toys, as well as additional products from Tara Toy and Danara.

Big Idea

Big Idea has signed a number of new licensees for its Veggie Tales brand. Frankford Candy & Chocolate will be producing a line of VeggieTales Easter candy for mass-market retail. The company is also designing VeggieTales candy for the 2010 Christmas season. Hedstrom is planning a line of VeggieTales vinyl balls and bounce toys for the summer. Sherwood Brands has created a new VeggieTales Easter Basket for spring 2011. Enesco, Gund, and Gregg Gift will be producing gift and plush lines. Other recently added VeggieTales partners include ScrollMotion, Carpets for Kids, Kidlandia, Find It Games, Trace Designs, and more.



Pokémon will continue to expand its licensing program, with Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver versions for the DS on the shelf and four new expansions for the TCG. The 13th season of animation debuted on Cartoon Network. Throughout the year, there will continue to be TCG and video game tournaments for the brand.

Chorion Chorion will be building a number of its brands up in 2010 with new deals in multiple categories. The company is focused on building the Olivia brand into a global franchise. Spin Master is on board as the global master toy licensee. Simon & Schuster, Nickelodeon Home Video, and Sony Home Entertainment are also on board. The Mr. Men and Little Miss brand Olivia continues to grow with new products in apparel and accessories for infants in the U.S., UK, and Australia. Chorion will also continue to expand its World of Eric Carle, Noddy, and Beatrix Potter brands. In addition to its existing brands, Chorion will introduce the new Octonauts brand, as well as the upcoming Gaspard and Lisa animated show.

Marvel Entertainment will be building on its brand licensing programs and character franchises with a number of new licensing agreements. The Avengers Assemble comprehensive licensing program is under way as Marvel Studios’ upcoming theatrical slate— including Iron Man 2, Thor, and The First Avenger: Captain America—will pave the way for the upcoming The Avengers film in 2012. Marvel is positioning Avengers Assemble as an umbrella theme that will be a long-term and expansive tent pole franchise. Licensees include Hasbro, Hallmark, Crayola, and Maisto. Marvel Animation will continue to build up the licensing programs surrounding Marvel’s animated series. Marvel will continue to develop the licensing program surrounding The Super Hero Squad Show with Hasbro as the master licensee for Super Hero Squad toys. Disguise/Cesar will do dress-up, MEGA Brands will do construction, Hallmark will handle social expressions, THQ will do video games, Elmer’s will handle arts and activity, and Bendon Publishing and Little Brown Books will produce young readers books. Marvel is also broadening its female focus with the expansion of a lifestyle brand targeting the female demographic. Junk Food, Mighty Fine, Fortune Fashions, Freeze, Biodome, H.E.R. Accessories, Jakks Pacific, Disguise, Lotta Luv, iscream, and Mines Press are all licensees for female-oriented Marvel products.


LICENSING SHOW 2010 Learning Curve Learning Curve introduces a new expansion to the Thomas Wooden Railway line. The Thomas Wooden Railway Early Engineers Line is designed specifically for Thomas & Friends fans as young as 18 months. It features larger engines for small hands, as well as track and destinations that fit into simple, molded layouts so everything stays securely in place. Made with the same quality wood craftsmanship and timeless signature look found in every Thomas Wooden Railway set, the Early Engineers Line is compatible with the rest of the Thomas Wooden Railway. Learning Curve teamed up with The Jim Henson Company to create and launch a line of original products based on Dinosaur Train. The product line will make its retail debut this summer. Learning Curve’s Dinosaur Train line includes interactive dinosaur action figures, collectible dinosaurs, plush, puzzles, and electronic learning aids. The InterAction Roar ’N React Boris Tyrannosaurus Ultimate T-Rex spans two feet in length. This fully articulated action figure says more than 70 dinosaur phrases and facts. Press its InterAction Roar ’N React tail and Boris’ mouth begins chomping. Press its Boris Tyrannosaurus tongue and Boris makes crunching sound effects. Ultimate T-Rex Watch out for the motion-activated stomping and the T-Rex-sized roar. Built-in technology allows Boris to recognize and interact with the other InterAction Figures in the Learning Curve Dinosaur Train line. Boris is for ages 3 and up.

Highlights Highlights for Children announced two new licensing deals. Ravensburger signed on to produce a new line of 2-D puzzles and 3-D puzzleball designs. Horizon Group USA has been licensed to produce a full line of make-your-own craft and activity kits. Horizon is also adapting existing and new Highlights, puzzles, and more to a three-dimensional format.


Licensing Works Licensing Works expands its portfolio this year. For Puppy In My Pocket, the new Adventures in Pocketville series debuts later this year in Italy and the rest of the world in 2011. Inspired by M.E.G.’s successful In My Pocket franchise, the brand is licensed with toy distribution partners in more than 50 countries. Playtime Buddies, a new preschool animated television adventure series, features both fantasy and real-life role models. From Farmer Buddy to Super Hero Buddy, each Playtime Buddy encourages the development of positive social interaction and cognitive skills, “Because that’s what Buddies do!” Kewpie’s wide side-glancing eyes, distinctive facial expressions, topknot of hair, starfish right hand, and little tummy define these original dolls. Kewpie is now in development for a live-action, CGI series.

Hasbro The entertainment and licensing division of Hasbro will showcase its portfolio of toy and game brands, such as Nerf, Tonka, Transformers, Littlest Pet Shop, My Little Pony, and Playskool, across all major licensing categories such as apparel, publishing, and back to school. There will be extensions of Hasbro game brands such as Monopoly, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

The Jim Henson Company The first products for The Jim Henson Company’s Sid the Science Kid debuted earlier this year in the U.S. with a complete line of preschool science toys from global master toy and game licensee Hasbro, books from HarperCollins, and DVDs from NCircle. Newly signed licensing partners for the brand are Buy Seasons, Inc., for party goods; MediBadge, Inc., for stickers through doctor and Hasbro’s Sid the dentist offices; Patch Products for Science Kid science kits; SaraMax Apparel products Group, Inc., for sleepwear; the Smithsonian Institution for museum exhibition; and Trevco Sportswear for T-shirts.

Classic Media Classic Media presents new licensing, promotional, and retail programs for Tinga Tinga Tales. The new preschool series debuted in the UK on CBeebies in February. A multi-faceted merchandising program is scheduled to roll out in the UK this summer, including toys (Bandai as master toy partner), publishing (Penguin Group as master publishing partner), apparel, games, and more. Tinga Tinga Tales will premiere in the U.S. on Playhouse Disney next year. The first Where’s Waldo? app for iPhone and iPod Touch sold more than one million units and the first mobile game for Where’s Waldo? was named a Where’s Waldo? iPhone app Top 10 Game for Summer by Verizon. Where’s Waldo? continues to expand in other key categories, including video games, social expressions, and Halloween costumes. National promotional programs and more video games and mobile releases will launch this summer.

American Greetings Properties This fall American Greetings Properties (AGP) will celebrate 30 Sweet Years of Strawberry Shortcake with promotions, exclusive products, and aggressive public relations. Together with global licensing partners Hasbro, Fox Home Entertainment, and Cookie Jar Entertainment, AGP will introduce new Strawberry Shortcake toys, a new CGI-animated DVD, and books, among other promotions including a QSR promotion in Q4 2010. Copyright Promotions Licensing Group (CPLG), licensing arm to Cookie Jar Entertainment, continues to work with American Greetings as the global licensing agent for Strawberry Shortcake, building on Strawberry Shortcake’s success and enduring appeal. Maryoku Yummy, the star of the girls’ preschool television series launching this fall, resides in the magical and whimsical world of Nozomu as a wish-sitter who nurtures and takes care of the wishes until they are granted.

Target Entertainment Group Target Entertainment Group will focus on the PlayStation brand, which includes the PlayStation logo; the format logos—PS one, PlayStation2 (PS2), PSP (PlayStationPortable), and PlayStation3 (PS3); Dualshock3 wireless controller designs; and PlayStation symbols and phrases. Opportunities for licensing include stationery, apparel, bags, toiletries, and housewares. Sackboy, the character from the PlayStation platform game LittleBigPlanet, has deals signed for publishing, plush, accessories, adult and children’s clothing, posters, and more. Additional opportunities for LittleBigPlanet include Sackboy figurines stationery, housewares, and gifts.


LICENSING SHOW 2010 HIT Entertainment

Big Tent Entertainment

This fall Angelina Ballerina takes center stage at Target in the U.S. with a new toy line from global master toy partner Fisher-Price. The line will include dolls and figurines and will launch in tandem with a new episodic DVD, Love to Dance, from Lionsgate and a series of book titles from longstanding publishing partner Penguin. Products are set to launch in the rest of the world during 2011. Angelina Ballerina will also debut new episodes of Angelina Ballerina The Next Steps in September on PBS Kids in the U.S. Angelina Ballerina and Nick Jr. in the UK. The series currently airs on major broadcast platforms in the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and France, and is slated to launch in 30 more countries in 2010. In October, Vital Theatre Company will bring Angelina Ballerina and her friends to life in a new original musical stage show Angelina Ballerina, The Musical. The show will debut in New York City in October and will travel around the U.S. and Canada in 2011. This fall, Barney will tour North America in an all-new stage show from Vee Corporation. The music-filled show will feature Barney, BJ, Baby Bop, Riff, and other characters. Bob the Builder is enjoying new product ranges this year, led by master toy licensee Martin Yaffe. New licensees include Halstall for die-cast vehicles, Zap for bedding and accessories, and bikes with CG imagery produced by MV Sports. An all-new TV series, featuring new CG animation, Bob the Builder: Ready Steady Build has been sold to 20 broadcasters around the globe. HIT celebrates the 65th anniversary of Thomas & Friends and unveils new lines from global master toy partner Fisher-Price, Learning Curve, and MEGA Bloks. New CG-animated content will launch on TV, DVD, and online; themed live events will take place on four continents; and top-tier partners across retail and marketing will mark the milestone with special celebratory activities. This fall, Thomas leaves the Island of Sodor for the first time in the CG-animated adventure Misty Island Rescue, which will be supported by more than 50 tie-in products and events around the world. AEG/ThemeSTAR will launch a live, touring Thomas stage show this fall.

Big Tent will unveil several developments for the Domo brand in North America. Dark Horse Comics will release its second wave of Domo Qees and new vinyls. Domo is hitting mass market with a new line of T-shirts from Fifth Sun; board shorts, hats, and bags from Concept One; and loungewear from Briefly Stated. Bell Sports is gearing up for the release of Domo skateboards and helmets. Aquarius has signed on for Domo posters, black light posters, door posters, playing cards, and holiday balls. Virtual Greats has rolled out new Domo-themed virtual goods on Facebook and will soon launch on new social gaming sites like WeeWorld and Outspark. Big Tent will continue focusing on key categories for the Domo property, such as video games, casual games, electronics, and home décor. The brand also continues to expand around the globe with major programs in Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and Spain. For Discovery Kids, Big Tent continues to focus on developing a well-rounded licensing program that connects children with the environment and the world around them. Arrow Home Fashions has signed on for a Discovery Kids line of bedding and bath. An all-new licensed relationship for online game Seek Your Own Proof is set to launch on Seek Your Own Proof is an online community where children 8–12 are challenged to investigate history and science. Seek Your Own Proof uses both online and real world activities to keep kids engaged. 505 Games is set to launch its newest Discovery Kids DS title, Snakes. Big Tent and its licensing partners will also be rolling out more than 50 new products in the marketplace including an all-new line of puzzles from MasterPieces, Recycle Bot—the newest item in SRM’s Build Your Own Remote Control line, and more than 30 new book titles from Paragon Publishing, including a 3-D Coloring Sticker Pad, a Photo Projection Book, and Recycled Paper Activity books. Big Tent looks to expand Discovery Kids into video game and MMO, electronics, apparel, home décor, and outdoor sport.


LICENSING SHOW 2010 SloaneVision Unlimited

Nelvana Enterprises

SloaneVision Unlimited’s (SVU) property offers more than 13,000 Smiley emoticons on the web. Licensing categories available are back to school, gifts/novelties, stationery/paper goods, and toys/games/puzzles. Dairy Queen celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard this year. SVU seeks licensing partners in toys/games, stationery, party goods, gifts/collectibles, and roleplay. The Ideal Toy Company, founded in 1907, produced classic games such as Bumpershot, Fiddlestix, Frontier Logs, and more. SVU hopes to bring Ideal into licensing for toys and games, interactive, and electronics.

Nelvana Enterprises’ Babar property gets an update with Babar and the Adventures of Badou, a new CGI series that introduces King Babar’s adventurous grandson, Badou. Confirmed broadcasters include TF1 in France; YTV in Canada; Disney Channel in Japan, Spain, and Italy; and many more. Nelvana has also kick-started celebrations for Babar’s 80th anniversary next year. The latest season of Bakugan, Bakugan: Gundalian Invaders, follows Dan and his friends as they are drawn into a conflict between two alien factions. The Bakugan toy line from Spin Master continues, along with products licensed by Nelvana and Cartoon Network Enterprises, including interactive titles from Activision, a publishing program from Scholastic and Random House, T-shirts from Hybrid Tees, apparel from Fame Jeans, toothbrushes and toothpaste from Colgate, party goods from Hallmark, and others. Beyblade: Metal Fusion offers a fresh take on the original Beyblade series. The series from Nelvana and d-rights, Inc., is set to air on Cartoon Network in the U.S., YTV in Canada, and Nicktoons in the UK, with other broadcasters to be announced soon. The new toy line features an innovative metal gear system and an online virtual battle component. Hasbro has been appointed the master toy licensee for the new line in most international markets outside of Asia, with toys set to be on shelves this spring in Canada and this fall in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Scandinavia. Nelvana has already appointed international agents including CPLG in the UK; Kidz Entertainment/EEMC in Eastern Europe and the Nordic Region; m4e AG in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland; Brand Licensing in Israel; and more.

King Features Syndicate King Features grows the Betty Boop program with the new brand extension, Baby Boop. Both in the U.S. and internationally, new agreements have been signed for infant apparel and accessories, baby-care products, gifts and stationery, and learning and exploration products. A new Sony Pictures Entertainment production is in the works for Flash Gordon. The licensing opportunities include toys, men’s apparel, accessories, advertising and Scaredy-Kat promotion, video games, and mobile. The Scaredy-Kat brand is a colorful cast of after-school afterlife characters. Scaredy-Kat and friends attend Mockingbird High Skull, the learning institution for animals that are no longer among the living. The characters star on a line of T-shirts, underwear, and wallets. Speed Racer made its debut on American television in 1967. King Features will be seeking licensees in a number of categories, including apparel and accessories and gaming and mobile.




onstruction is a classic play pattern, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to innovate on the basic underpinnings of the category. In 1994, Paul Eichen, founder of Rokenbok Toy Company, began thinking about the potential of a construction property that combined snap-together construction with radio-controlled vehicles. “I wanted to The new ROK Blocks kits are build the kinds of toys I enjoyed playing with as geared toward preschoolers. a child, such as Lincoln Logs and Erector sets, but I wanted something more,” says Eichen. “I because they are built to be strong and durable. wanted building to only be the start of the fun.” Rokenbok provides a lifetime guarantee for its Thus in 1997, Eichen launched the Rokenbok Control Pad and Command Deck, as well as a Toy Company, officially debuting the company six month warranty for all other products. at the 1997 Toy Fair. Rokenbok’s durability and guarantee makes its Rokenbok toys are a combination of basic products appealing for parents who want to snap-together construction sets and radio-con- make sure they can get the maximum value trolled toys. Basic Rokenbok kits allow children possible from a single toy purchase. “The econto build working models of vehicles, machines, omy has been challenging for the entire indusanimals, and more. While many construction try,” says Eichen. “It keeps us on our toes.” At toys have kits that can create movement on their the same time, Rokenbok’s radio-control aspect own, Rokenbok is almost entirely devoted to this gives it an additional appeal for parents looking style of play. It also gives Rokenbok products an for long-lasting toys. While it may increase the appeal for a wide variety of age groups, from price-tag for the product, parents feel that younger children to young adults, because of the they’re getting extra value from a construction mechanical aspect of building. toy that does According to Eichen, Rokenbok has more than sit an extra appeal for parents in there once technical careers, such as the building architecture, because it is complete. allows them to connect “We like to say with their children on a that when the buildhigher level than many ing’s done, the fun has other products do. just begun,” says Eichen. ROK Blocks Deluxe Plane In addition, the products “No one else can say that.” have a large appeal to parents In addition to just the prod-



uct on the shelf, Rokenbok has a strong online presence as well. The Rokenbok website provides a central place for fans of the product and parents to do much more than shop. PDF instructions for all the Rokenbok sets are downloadable from the website. In addition, builders can download additional building plans for Rokenbok block sets, view a video gallery full of tips, and get access to a number of tips and tricks for using Rokenbok products. The website also features a parent’s guide section that provides more details on how parents can use Rokenbok products to teach their children. Rokenbok also has an online forum, gallery, and newsletter. This year, Rokenbok is focused on expanding the appeal of its line. The new ROK Blocks are aimed at preschoolers. The oversized building blocks are made for easy handling and building, but remain fully compatible with the core Rokenbok sets and will still allow children to build three-dimensional working models. The basic ROK Blocks kit allows children to build and animate a number of different models, just like a normal Rokenbok kit. Expansion kits, such as the Deluxe Plane kit and Helicopter Kit, allow children to introduce more complexity to their builds. Rokenbok has also introduced new wireless controllers for its sets to increase the flexibility of its products. For older enthusiasts, the Inventor’s Series is offering pulleys, hinges, axles, angled connectors, and wheels, as well as a new Dual Drive Power Unit for more powerful and larger constructions. “Rokenbok is truly a system for all ages,” says Eichen. “The future looks great as we continue to expand the Rokenbok world.”

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Cookie Jar Entertainment promoted Michael Berreth to vice-president of marketing. He will oversee all of Cookie Jar Entertainment’s global marketing campaigns and promotional programs. Since joining Cookie Jar Entertainment, Berreth has managed a wide range of brands and marketing campaigns for the company including tune-in campaigns for the CBS Weekend Morning Block, third-party promotions such as McDonald’s, and the 2009 global relaunch of Strawberry Shortcake. Prior to joining Cookie Jar Entertainment, Berreth held management positions with Disney, Universal Studios, Nestlé, and Kellogg’s.





Patch Products hired Ron Hayes as corporate vice-president of product development, design, and engineering. Prior to joining Patch, Hayes was vice-president of product development for Spin Master Toys, head of product development and manufacturing at Sababa Toys, senior vicepresident of Warner Bros. Toys, and senior vice-president of boys toys design and development at Kenner/Hasbro.



Hasbro Studios hired Finn Arnesen to lead its international expansion as senior vicepresident of international distribution and development. He will be responsible for managing Hasbro Studios’ global content sales, distribution, channel, and program development activities outside of North America, extending across television, online, and other emerging media. Previously, Arnesen served as senior vicepresident of original series and international development at TBS International. During his 17-year tenure at TBS, Arnesen oversaw programming and development for the Turner-owned networks, the start up and management of Cartoon Network Studios London, and program management of Cartoon Network Europe.




4Kids Productions, a subsidiary of 4Kids Entertainment, Inc., promoted Michael Haigney to creative director and Kristen Gray to head of network operations. Haigney, who joined the company in 2000, will be responsible for the creative direction of all series adaptations and other projects created by 4Kids Productions. He will continue to serve as producer and writer for various series produced by 4Kids Productions. Haigney has been the creative force behind the English-language adaptations of Pokémon, Kirby: Right Back At Ya!, F-Zero, and Sonic X, and was a creator and producer of three seasons of the Chaotic television series. Gray, who joined the company in 2002, will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of TheCW4Kids television block, 4Kids Productions, and the website. She will continue to serve as legal counsel on all network and website matters.



Sesame Workshop hired Lorenzo Dunoyer as senior producer, Plaza Sésamo, the original Latin American version of Sesame Street. He will oversee production for the Spanishlanguage series, which is broadcast throughout Latin America and in the United States. Dunoyer has worked for major U.S. network affiliates including NBC, PBS, Univision, and Discovery Networks Latin America/Iberia. Most recently he served as senior consultant of content and production for RTVC/Señal Colombia.



BBC Worldwide appointed Bob Traub as vice-president of retail development for the Americas. Traub will work across BBC Worldwide’s portfolio of brands including BBC Earth, Doctor Who, Top Gear, and In the Night Garden. He joins BBC Worldwide with 16 years of U.S. and international licensing and marketing experience in the entertainment sector, including leading the global retail synergy plans for companies including Chorion, Nickelodeon, and Marvel Entertainment Group.



Mattel hired Rachel Cooper as a PR manager. She will be working on wheels, action play, Disney, games, and Radica brands. Cooper spent the past four years working on Barbie PR at Ketchum. In addition to Barbie, Cooper also spent time working on several other Mattel brands while at Ketchum, including Mindflex, Polly Pocket, Hot Wheels Consumer Products, and Fisher-Price Consumer Products.



Faber-Castell USA promoted Cathy Blankenship, director of national accounts since 2006, to a new position that combines her current role with full responsibility for sales of the company’s children’s brands as director of sales, children’s brands. Blankenship will manage both specialty and key account channels for sales of Creativity for Kids and Faber-Castell Playing & Learning products.



Zoobies LLC hired Arete Passas as CEO. Passas has extensive consumer goods and toy experience having worked at Procter & Gamble, Crayola, Scholastic, and Mattel. She is the former CEO of Manhattan Toy Company. Passas has served as a director on the Toy Industry Association board and chaired the committee for the annual ToyCon industry conference.



MEG hired Patrick Enright as vice-president of worldwide sales. He will lead the MEG sales organization as it transitions from the distribution arrangement with Jakks Pacific that expires at the end of this year. Enright joins MEG from Dream International where he served as vicepresident of sales and marketing. He was previously executive vice-president of sales at Stravina Operating Company, and president and COO of Tomy Corporation.





Peaceable Kingdom Press named Jeff Roberts its national director of key account sales & business development. A 15-year toy industry veteran, Roberts has the task of expanding the retail presence of Peaceable Kingdom products in the marketplace. Roberts’ time in the toy business began as a Playmobil regional sales rep in the New England area. More recently he was Nikko USA’s vice-president of sales for the U.S. market. Additionally, Roberts founded and was a partner of RobertsBlumberg, a New England sales rep group, and Flipp Sports, a manufacturer of sports-licensed trading card toys.



RC2 Corporation named Gregory J. Kilrea as executive vice-president of the company, while still remaining the company’s COO. RC2 also named Jamie A. Kieffer as its chief marketing officer, expanding his current role as senior vice-president of marketing. Since joining RC2 in 2004, Kilrea has served as senior vice-president of planning and corporate development and in various management roles including COO since 2007. Kieffer joined RC2 in 2008 and now heads all marketing efforts including the company’s digital, consumer, trade, and brand marketing areas.



CPLG Canada hired Al Fedrigoni as senior licensing director. He will handle TV brands including Johnny Test, Inspector Gadget, The Latest Buzz, and Totally Spies. Fedrigoni will also oversee book properties such as The World of Eric Carle and Richard Scarry. He will continue to build the design brand It’s Happy Bunny. Fedrigoni previously held executive positions with The Walt Disney Company (Canada), most recently as director of licensing for all toy categories.




Industry-Related Trade Shows AUGUST 7–11

Reed Gift Fairs


Minneapolis Mart Gift & Acc. Show


New York International Gift Fair


Hawaii Market Merchandise Expo


Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

Melbourne, Australia

Blaisdell Exhibition Center


Minneapolis Mart Showroom

Jacob Javits Convention Center

Minnetonka, MN

New York City

Indy Baby and Toddler Expo

Merchandise Mart



Palais des Festivals

Cannes, France


iHobby Expo

Donald E. Stephens Convention Center

Rosemont, IL




Time to Play Holiday Showcase

Fall Toy Preview

The ABC Kids Expo




Toy & Game Inventor Conference

14–16 16–18 20–21


Chicago Toy & Game Fair


Grand Strand Gift & Resort Show

Altman Building

Dallas Market Center

Las Vegas Convention Center

New York City


Las Vegas

Las Vegas Convention Center

Las Vegas

Navy Pier


Donald E. Stephens Convention Center

Las Vegas Convention Center

Myrtle Beach Convention Center


Navy Pier

Rosemont, IL Las Vegas Chicago

Myrtle Beach, SC






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Toys & Family Entertainment, June 2010  

Toys & Family Entertainment is a monthly magazine showcasing the hottest trends in the toy and family entertainment business.