Table of Contents
March 2011 volume 6, no. 3
on this page
26 Chuggington: On Track for Specialty Sales
6 Observations & Opinions
Ravensburger’s puzzlepyramid, innovativeKids’ Love Bus green start Wooden Puzzle, Pressman’s Green Lantern Power of the Ring Game, Hasbro’s Monopoly Live, Haywire’s French Toast Forgets His Lunch Game, and Endless Games’ Dueling Dice
by Nancy Lombardi
28 There’s a board game for Everyone but Is Everyone Playing? by Laurie Leahey
30 games: Product Presentation by Laurie Leahey
34 Puzzles: Piecing Together The new Innovations by Chris Adams
35 Puzzles: Product Presentation by Chris Adams
37 Trading Cards: Product Presentation by Nancy Lombardi
8 Sizzlers 10 Specialty Sizzlers 12 All Access: Toy Fair Recap 14 Entertainment Marketplace: Generator Rex 16 Merchandise Makers: Funrise 18 Industry Forum: TIA 20 Industry Forum: ASTRA 22 Industry Forum: Design Edge 24 Tips from the Imagemakers: Kiddie-i-oh! 38 Calendar of Events
on the cover Mattel’s Angry Birds Knock on Wood game, I Can Do That! Games’ Busy, Busy Airport Game, and LEGO’s Ninjago COvEr by
ObservatiOns & OpiniOns
Toy Show Season off to a Positive Start BY
s we move into March and await the arrival of spring, we can bid farewell to the hectic trade show season. As we reported last month, the mood coming out of Hong Kong was very positive. Christopher Byrne (aka The Toy Guy) reported that toy manufacturers he met with while in Hong Kong were mostly happy with 2010’s results.
While Christopher was in Hong Kong on behalf of aNb Media, I attended the Nuremberg
Toy Show. While I have been to Hong Kong numerous times, this was my first trip to Nuremberg. I was excited to attend what is billed as the “world’s largest toy show.” For those of you who have not attended, this show certainly lives up to its name. There are 12 halls, with a user-friendly layout. Several halls have two floors; most are set up by product category. One of the interesting things about the Nuremberg Toy Show is the variety of products shown. In the U.S., there are a variety of individual shows. There is a model and hobby show, a juvenile products show, and, of course, one major toy trade show along with many smaller, and sometimes, regional toy shows. Nuremberg features all these product categories during one show. This fact certainly contributes to the vast number of people who attend the show. Speaking to mainly North American toy manufacturers who exhibit in Nuremberg, I’m told they all look forward to Nuremberg each year. While toy sales have remained mostly stagnant year to year in the U.S., Europe provides great sales potential for U.S. toy manufacturers. Just like Toy Fair in New York, some manufacturers write considerable business while for others it is a meet-and-greet trade show. My trip was
Bob Glaser working hard at the Nuremberg Toy Show in Germany. Here’s to a successful 2011!
very enlightening—tiring, but enlightening—and I look forward to returning to Nuremberg. Hopefully, by the time I return, they will have done something to seriously curtail the rampant cigarette smoking. aNb Media went from Hong Kong to Nuremberg and back home to
New York City for Toy Fair. The Toy Industry Association reported that New York Toy Fair, “welcomed 10,305 buyers from 91 countries, and saw year-to-date increases in
MEDIA • Volume 6, Number 3
PUBLISHER BOB GLASER BOB@ANBMEDIA.COM ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER ANDY KRINNER ANDY@ANBMEDIA.COM ADVERTISING MANAGER DONNA MOORE DONNA@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTROLLER MARY GROGAN MARY@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF JIM SILVER JIM@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITORIAL DIRECTOR NANCY LOMBARDI NANCY@ANBMEDIA.COM MANAGING EDITOR CHRIS ADAMS CHRISA@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR AT LARGE CHRISTOPHER BYRNE CHRISB@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR LAURIE LEAHEY LAURIE@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB MASTER ERIK KIECKHAFER ERIK@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB CONTENT MANAGER BRENDAN SANABRIA BRENDAN@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTRIBUTORS KATHLEEN MCHUGH; MATT NUCCIO, MATT@DESIGNEDGE.NET; ALI POHN; TIA STAFF
attendance across the board, including overall attendance (excluding guests) (+2 percent; 15,335), international attendance (+17 percent; 2,299), international buyers (+8 percent; 1,534), and manufacturer’s reps (+19 percent; 1,933). The show also drew a 10 percent increase in trade guests, including an unprecedented surge in licensors (+8 percent), entertainment executives (+31 percent), and international trade guests (+26 percent).”
Clarification: In the February issue of Toys & Family Entertainment, we profiled Summit Toys. However, we must clarify a few points: The CEO of Summit Toys is Dan Henderson; not Mike Searls. Henderson is also the founder of Zillionz. Mike Searls is the founder of Summit.
PUBLIC RELATIONS REPRESENTATIVE JOSSLYNNE WELCH LITZKY PUBLIC RELATIONS, 320 SINATRA DRIVE, HOBOKEN, N.J. 07030 (201) 222–9118 EXT. 13 • JWELCH@LITZKYPR.COM INTERESTED IN A SUBSCRIPTION? CONTACT SUBSCRIPTIONS@ANBMEDIA.COM
business being conducted. Even the much-talked-about
ANB MEDIA, INC. 229 WEST 28TH STREET, SUITE 401, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10001 PHONE: (646) 763–8710 • FAX: (646) 763–8727
Javits Center construction didn’t seem to affect the show.
Toys & Family EnTErTainmEnT is published eight times per year by aNb Media.
Most manufacturers I spoke to were happy with the
The Javits Center, along with the TIA, did a great job
Copyright 2011 aNb Media. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
moving traffic from one hall to the next. I must comment
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, with-
on one thing: the pre-recorded sounds of the laughing
EnTErTainmEnT and spEcialTy Emporium are registered trademarks of aNb Media.
children that were piped in between the halls was a bit freaky and quite unnecessary.
6 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
out written permission from the publisher. Printed in the U.S.A. Toys & Family
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. Mini Lalaloopsy
Apples to Apples Mattel
lego ninjAgo AssortMent lego
nerF n-strike BArricAde Hasbro
BeyBlAde MetAl Fusion Hasbro
lego stAr WArs AssortMent lego
scriBBle & Write leapFrog
Mini lAlAloopsy doll AssortMent MgA entertainment
lAlAloopsy doll AssortMent MgA entertainment
Monster HigH AssortMent Mattel
squinkies Blip toys
leApster eXplorer leapFrog
Moon dougH spin Master
leArning systeM Fisher-price
8 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
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.
6-IN-1 SOLAR KIT Elenco BANANAGRAMS Bananagrams BRAINBOX: A BOX OF ANIMALS Mindware
CALICO CRITTERS COUNTRY TREEHOUSE International Playthings Spot It!
ER-U-DI-TION Acumen Associates FLIP ’EM FLOPS Alex Toys PERPLEXUS PlaSmart SPOT IT! Blue Orange Games STICKY MOSAICS: FAIRIES The Orb Factory TURBOSPOKE: THE BICYCLE EXHAUST SYSTEM Schylling Calico Critters Country Treehouse
10 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
Perplexus (Shown here is the Rookie Edition.)
Toy Fair 2011 Recap PHOTOS BY
AND LAURIE LEAHEY
The Parents Magazine product line is by Manhattan Toy.
aNb Media’s booth in the Javits Center. As you can see, we spared no expense on the design and decorations. The Halo product line is by MEGA Bloks.
The Radio City Rockettes were posing for pictures in Madame Alexander’s booth to promote their dolls. Publisher Bob Glaser and editorial director Nancy Lombardi pose at the Briarpatch booth. The cake, made by TLC’s Cake Boss, celebrates the 20th anniversary of I Spy.
Comedian Gilbert Gottfried and editorial director Nancy Lombardi at the Fisher-Price event.
12 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
cupcakes at the Fisher-Price event
Did you have a Smurfy Toy Fair? The Classic Smurf product line was on display in Schleich’s booth.
The LEGO Builders were hard at work this Toy Fair. Shown here on the top right is Captain Jack Sparrow from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Shown on the right is Lightning McQueen from Disney/Pixar’s Cars films.
Disney’s Cars 2 event at Chelsea Piers: Shown on the left is British agent Finn McMissile voiced by actor Sir Michael Caine. On the bottom right is the Hot Wheels Disney/Pixar Cars display. On the bottom left is a view from Chelsea Piers looking toward New Jersey taken during the event. It was a sunny, warm day during Toy Fair— must have been a sprinkling of Disney magic.
Dylan Lauren of Dylan’s Candy Bar shows off her licensed product line from Alex.
MARCH 2011 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 13
CartooN NetworK eNterprises BY LAURIE LEAHEY
ex is just an average teenager. Except that he can turn his body into different machines. As the main character of the animated series, Generator Rex, which airs on Cartoon Network, Rex’s abilities come from nanities, which are microscopic machines that can turn ordinary living things (people, animals, plants) into mutant monsters known as EVOs, or Exponentially Variegated Organisms. Unlike most EVOs, Rex is able to control his nanities, which allows him to turn his body into machines, such as a gigantic fist, projectile launcher, motorcycle, or jetpack. Rex can also communicate with and control other machines. But most importantly, he can cure EVOs. Because of his abilities, Rex is the ultimate weapon of the global organization called Providence. However, he must balance being a super agent with the everyday ups and downs of being 15. Rex is joined by a team of characters, including his sidekick, a highly intelligent monkey named Bobo Haha; his mentor Agent Six; Dr. Holliday; and Noah, a regular kid and Rex’s friend. Created by the same team that brought kids Ben 10, Generator Rex uses the same themes of transformation and good versus evil in a new way. When the animated series debuted last year, the premiere episode was the No. 1 Friday night show on television in its time period with boys
14 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
• Generator Rex was created by Man of Action, the team behind Ben 10.
Generator Rex and some of his machines
6–11, boys 9–14, and kids 2–11, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. More than one million kids ages 6–11 tuned in to watch the series premiere. Since then, Generator Rex remains a top 5 show among kids 6–11 and kids 9–14. Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE) is creating a licensing program for the show. Generator Rex fans can act out scenes from the show through toys from Mattel and MEgA, dress up as favorite characters through costumes from Rubie’s, and learn more about Rex and his world through comic books from DC Comics and books from Random House. Through the licensed product, kids can bring the action of the show to life.
• Fred Savage of The Wonder Years voices Noah, Rex’s best friend in the series.
• Actor J.K. Simmons voices White Knight.
• Generator Rex airs on Cartoon Network on Friday nights at 7:00 Central Standard Time.
• Kids can play free games and watch video for Generator Rex online at CartoonNetwork.com.
Random House will produce a variety of Generator Rex books, including 3-D books (through its Golden Books division), activity books, and Step Into Reading books.
DC Comics has two Generator Rex comic books coming out this year: Cartoon Network Action Pack No. 59 and No. 60.
MEGA’s Generator Rex Action Assortment features Rex’s Punk Busters. This building scene comes straight from the TV series. The set comes with a sticker sheet and a collectible micro action figure. It is for ages 6 and up.
Mattel Warner HoMe Video Available now from Warner Home Video is Generator Rex Volume 1. The DVD set features 10 episodes along with a music video and an “EVOs Evolution Slide Show.”
Mattel’s Generator Rex lineup includes action figures and playsets, such as the EVO Battle Pit. Kids must destroy the monster beneath the secret lair of Van Kleiss. The Battle Pit playset comes with a kid-activated monster, a tub of nanite goo, and an exclusive Rex figure.
otHer liCensees Other Generator Rex licensees include Rubie’s, which will produce two Generator Rex costumes (Rex and Van Kleiss) for ages 5–9; Accessory Innovations for cold weather gear, headwear, rainwear, and backpacks; Activision for video games; Hybrid Apparel for T-shirts; and Hallmark for cards and party goods.
MARCH 2011 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 15
Funrise Focuses on the Basics BY
unrise Toy Corp. was founded Funrise introduced Gazillion Bubbles, by toy veteran Arnie Rubin, which was designed to be a better, easier-towho still serves as president and use bubble solution. The line has grown sigCEO of the company. Rubin’s nificantly since then. extensive experience in the toy The relatively low price points of prodindustry helped carve out the path that ucts like bubbles and Lights and Sounds Funrise would follow as it grew. vehicles has helped Funrise weather the Rubin’s first job was working as a bub- economy over the past few years. The lack of ble mixer for a toy company called costly bells and whistles combined with Chemical Sundries. Four years later, in avoiding the expense of licens1969, Rubin went on to co-found Imperial ing entertainment properties Toy Corp. When he sold his share of that company in 1987, he launched Funrise. His expertise in taking basic toys and innovating within that space is what has forged Funrise’s identity. “What I have tried to do with my company is to stay very close to basic products while being innovative with these basic products because of the high costs and The Tonka Dig Rig Dump Truck and the Gazillion Bump-N-Go Bubble Bug high risks of being highly promo- are two examples of the basic-yet-innovative items Funrise focuses on. tional,” says Rubin. An example of this process is the ubiquitous Lights and Sounds vehi- has helped keep Funrise’s price points attraccles for which Funrise is known. Back in tive to cash-strapped consumers. Because of the early 1990s, Funrise utilized the the added costs involved with licensing, available technology and added electron- Funrise is tentative to sign on as a licensee. ic lights and sounds to basic vehicles and “We license the Tonka brand, which the line has grown to be among the com- has more than 60 years of equity,” says pany’s most successful. Rubin. “It is the perfect partnership for us “That success encouraged us to look at because we can devote a tremendous other basic items to see how we can do amount of our efforts on a single brand them better,” Rubin says. and it has worked well for Hasbro because Years later, that line of thinking was that company is diverse and has so many directed at another basic toy item. In 2003, things going on that our concentrating on
16 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
7811 Lemona Ave. Van Nuys, CA 91505 (818) 883-2400 www.funrise.com Tonka gives Hasbro a chance to concentrate on many other things.” Speaking of concentrating on other things, Funrise isn’t the only toy industry endeavor that Rubin focuses his energy on. Over the past 15 years he has served various roles for the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and he currently serves as president of the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI). “I figure you lose every right to complain if you don’t participate,” says Rubin of his industryrelated involvement. “When you want something changed you can’t just wring your hands and complain about it, so I got involved early on.” Rubin does say that his involvement in industry-related organizations has benefited Funrise. That involvement has given him a better understanding of issues facing the industry, including product safety, environmental sustainability, and being a good corporate citizen as far as making sure the factory workers are treated fairly and paid reasonable wages. In addition to having a voice in the industry and gaining insights that help him better run Funrise, Rubin also enjoys being involved in industry-related organizations as a way of saying thanks. He adds, “This industry has been extremely good to me and my family.”
Toy Fair 2011 Welcomes Surge in International Buyers, Licensors, and Entertainment Executives BY
TOY INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION STAFF
ore than 25,000 players in the global toy industry flocked to the 108th American International Toy Fair last month to scout out 100,000-plus innovative products on display, while exhibitors garnered worldwide media exposure and struck business deals across 360,000 net square feet of exhibit space at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. The largest toy trade show in the Western Hemisphere, Toy Fair 2011 (which ran from February 13–16) welcomed 10,305 buyers from 91 countries, and saw year-to-date increases in attendance across the board,
including overall attendance (excluding guests) (+2 percent; 15,335), international attendance (+17 percent; 2,299), international buyers (+8 percent; 1,534), and manufacturer’s reps (+19 percent; 1,933). The show also drew a 10 percent increase in trade guests, including an unprecedented surge in licensors (+8 percent), entertainment executives (+31 percent), and international trade guests (+26 percent). Canada, the UK, Japan, mexico, and Brazil were identified as the top five countries with the highest international attendance numbers. “The Toy Industry Association’s [TIA’s] Toy Fair continues to grow and change with the changing toy industry,” says Carter
Keithley, TIA president. “The astonishing increase in attendance by licensors, entertainment executives, and international buyers tells us something about where the U.S. toy industry is headed.” In addition, “We saw a robust and steady stream of order-writing and deal-making on the show floor,” says marian Bossard, vicepresident of meetings and events at TIA. “The boost in international attendance and the striking increase in licensors made for a highly dynamic and successful show.” The energetic event attracted droves of national and international media outlets. Overall, media attendance grew by 15 percent and international media saw a 13 per-
Toy Industry Foundation Collects Thousands of Products at Toy Fair
he Toy Industry Foundation (TIF), in partnership with Kids in Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.), capped off the 108th American International Toy Fair with a toy drive through The Toy Bank, the foundation’s signature program. The 8th annual Toy Bank Collection at the trade show kicked off at 4 p.m. on February 16 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, when 100 volunteers scoured the show floors to gather exhibitors’ samples of plush, toys, and games to benefit children in need. This year, 200 exhibitors representing 32 states and five countries participated in the drive, donating more than $200,000 worth of product and filling eight truckloads with toys. “Thanks to the generosity of exhibitors and the help of our dedicated volunteers, we can continue to spread the joy of toys and play to deserving children nationwide,” says Jean Butler, executive director, Toy Industry Foundation.
18 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
Donated products collected at Toy Fair 2011 will benefit TIF’s partnerships with Ronald mcDonald House Charities, the my Stuff Bags Foundation, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America military Services. products will also be distributed nationwide through K.I.D.S. to the Toy Bank network of charity recipients, including New York-area organizations museo del Barrio, Christ Tabernacle of Glendale, World Vision, The New York Foundling, New Alternatives for Children, Children of promise, Bronxworks, Newark Now, and Federation of protestant Welfare Agencies. The Toy Industry Foundation works year-round to bring the “tools of play” to kids who are living in poverty, recovering from abuse or crisis, suffering from chronic illness, or living with the stress of having a parent in the military. TIF’s Toy Bank facilitates this mission by collecting newly manufactured toys from members of the toy industry and distributing them through local charities serving children in difficult situations.
cent rise. More than 1,000 media representatives came to the show to report on this year’s top trends, which included themes such as Simply Social, Cent-sational, Performance Play and Design, and Discover and Learn. They also came to predict which toys and games will be on everyone’s radar come fourth quarter holiday shopping season. Major media outlets covering Toy Fair this year included The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, ABC News, BBC, CNN, Fox Business, NBC News, Parents, and Popular Science. “Toy Fair 2011 proved to be a huge success and one of Patch’s best shows in more than 25 years of attendance,” says Brian Maxwell, president of Patch Products. “There was a lot of excitement leading up to Toy Fair, and that energy definitely carried over into the actual show. We saw an increase of traffic and meetings with specialty toy, mass retail, and international buyers, along
Have extra inventory?
with quality licensors, media, and inventors in attendance. We credit this to the great new products our employees and inventor partners were able to create along with the hard work and dedication of the TIA personnel.” More than 5,900 unique retail outlets—as well as representatives from 21 of the top 25 toy retailers in the U.S. and 45 of the top 250 retailers worldwide—scoped out product from nearly 1,100 exhibitors (255 first-timers) from 26 countries. The diversity of the retailers spanned traditional toy sellers ranging in size from specialty toy stores to big-box and warehouse retailers to drugstores, supermarkets, and hypermarkets, as well as alternative toy and game distribution channels such as book and clothing stores, pet shops, and travel-themed retailers. “As a first time exhibitor, I was so impressed by how many people attended Toy Fair,” says
Donate it to K.I.D.S.
Your excess product can put smiles on faces!
Jennifer Kelman, creator of Mrs. Pinkelmeyer, LLC. “It was such an incredible environment for all the exhibitors to showcase our latest products. The response has been incredible. I look forward to Toy Fair 2012.” Additionally, “2011 was an extremely successful show for our Uglydoll brand and our results improve year after year,” says Alita Friedman, chief brand officer at Uglydoll. “We were extremely busy exhibiting to wonderfully enthusiastic groups of buyers visiting our booth. Our new booth design and expansion into new product categories certainly caused buzz bringing in a surge of customers and press each day.” The 109th American International Toy Fair will be held February 12–15, 2012, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. Visit www.toyassociation.org for more information.
Poverty is a disaster that happens every day, but K.I.D.S. brings hope to 4.5 million children and their families every year. Donating your excess apparel, shoes, toys, books and juvenile products can provide your company with a generous tax deduction and replace despair with dignity. Fill out the donation form online at www.KIDSdonations.org or call 1-800-266-3314.
MARCH 2011 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 19
HOW’S IT SHAPING UP? SPECIALTY RETAILERS BY
KATHLEEN MCHUGH, ASTRA
t’s the time of year when independent retailers are reflecting about what they saw at Toy Fair and looking ahead to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy in June, when many expect to firm up their fourth quarter plans. What are the big issues for specialty retailers this year as the first quarter draws to an end?
WHAT’S NEW? “For us, it’s all about what’s new,” says Jane Willis, co-owner with her husband Tom and son Chris of The Village Toy Shop stores in New Hartford, N.Y., and Fayetteville, N.Y. “Lately, when I take customers around the store and suggest products to them, I hear that the child already has several of our most popular items. And the first thing many of our regular customers say when they walk in the door is ‘What’s new?’ We need to bring in appealing new products to show them. We were pleased with what we found at Toy Fair, especially creative products like science and robotics toys for older kids at good price points.” Katherine McHenry, owner of Building Blocks Toy Store in Chicago has the same priority. “It’s a balancing act,” she says. “We are ordering cautiously because we have more inventory left over from December than we planned. At the same time, we have to keep it fresh to keep customers engaged. At Toy Fair, it was terrific to see some of our favorite vendors—such
20 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
as the Orb Factory, International Playthings, and Blue Orange Games—taking the risk to introduce new products. As a retailer, I felt very supported by that.” OTHER
• PRICING “We could see at Toy Fair that prices are going up and we are hearing lots of ASTRA retailers talk about it,” says Mary Sisson, owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. “We try to be fair to our customers, but it’s tough to compete when so much product is available at a discount, and it’s so easy to find those discounts.” Jane Willis adds that while she keystones most things at her stores, “increasingly we are eyeing it up for some selected products because we think we can sell it at a higher price.” • COMPETITION Competition is coming from both online and discount retailers. Related to the pricing challenge is how easy it is for customers to compare prices online or using the new technology on smartphones and other related devices. And sources such as mommy blogs get the word out fast when a better price is available for a hot product. • INVENTORY MANAGEMENT As retailers work off excess inventory from the fourth quarter of 2010, they are looking ahead to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy in Anaheim, Calif., for good deals on new products, and some expect to make up for the reduced ordering they did at Toy Fair. “I only ordered about 50 percent of what I usually do at Toy Fair,” says McHenry, “and ASTRA’s Marketplace will happen at the right time to increase my inventory.”
• CHANGING THE MARKETING MIX As always, retailers are looking to keep their marketing efforts relevant, fresh, and cost effective. McHenry is ramping up her person-to-person marketing efforts by talking one-on-one to customers to learn how to “infiltrate” their networks. “One of our customers heads up a mothers’ club, and she brought 25 families to the store to play. It was a win-win—they got a free event, complete with playtime, refreshments, and a gift bag, and we got introduced to more than 20 new families who fit our profile,” says McHenry. Willis is working on strategies to get people in the door and spending before Black Friday— perhaps using ASTRA’s Neighborhood Toy Store Day (on November 12) and Best Toys for Kids list to help with that effort— and Sisson is intent on increasing the focus of her advertising and deepening customer engagement with social media. Despite the need for aggressive cost containment, Sisson is hopeful that her store will have a good year. “It’s a challenging business, but we provide a valuable service in the community,” she says. McHenry notes that manufacturer investment in new product introductions is a good sign for retailers. Willis emphasizes the need to keep trying new things. “We’re not really behind so far this year,” she says, “but we’re not going gangbusters ahead of last year either. We just have to keep at it, and do more of what’s working, and change anything that’s not.” Kathleen McHugh is president of ASTRA. Visit www.astratoy.org for more information.
The History of Faux•Cabulary
MATT NUCCIO, DESIGN EDGE
nother Toy Fair at the Javits
cards and players bluffed their made-up defini-
back from Out of the Box and my play test
Center has come and gone
tions for these words. I spent a year showing it
groups, I simplified the game by pre-writing
and Design Edge had a fan-
around the industry to great reaction, but there
all the definitions and reversed the rules so
tastic show. Besides all our
were no takers. I received a laundry list of rea-
that one person read the definition and the
development work and pack-
sons why people weren’t interested. There
other players came up with the fake words.
age design, we had strong interest in several
were too many card games on the market.
We reconvened in February 2010 at New
new inventions. For me this is the exciting part
Word games don’t make good party games.
York Toy Fair. This time, my cousin Chris and
of the trade show. We launched five new con-
The name was possibly offensive along with
I met with the entire Out of the Box team for
cepts at this year’s show. Two of the most
countless other reasons. So I moved onto the
a few rounds of the new and improved What
notable are PetCakes (Wellmade Toys) and
next project, and then the next. I had forgotten
the Bluff? The game was a smash hit. A few
about the game all together.
weeks later we had a deal in place.
Faux•Cabulary (Out of
Matt Nuccio explains the evolution of Faux•Cabulary from an idea with friends to lead product in Out of the Box Publishing’s line.
the Box Publishing).
Then, sometime around 2009, two things
Over the next few months, my team and
They were the lead items
happened that brought What the Bluff? back to
Out of the Box continually tested and fine-
of their respective manu-
life. The first was I met Al Waller, the owner of
tuned it. Some of the content was toned down,
facturers and garnered
Out of the Box Publishing. The second was the
rewritten, or replaced. The hardest part was
creation of another game I did called A Bee C
coming up with the name. I always loved What
Match Game for Endless Games. When I met
the Bluff?, but the game had changed so much
Both items have their roots in past trade shows. It’s amazing how
Al, I immediately took to him and his team. I
since its inception that the name was no longer
knew they had a keen sense of how to sell a
relevant. My team and I spent months going
party game—just look at their track record.
back and forth with Out of the Box with new
everything comes full
I went back to the studio and dug up a few
name suggestions. Hundreds of names were
concepts including What the Bluff? I play test-
thrown around, and ultimately we all decided
moves from concept to
ed all of my old concepts again and found that
on Faux•Cabulary. It fit the game perfectly:
trade show to retail. A few weeks ago,
What the Bluff? did not stand out the way I
“Faux” (pronounced “Fo”) from the French,
BoardGameGeek.com asked me to walk their
remembered it. I found the card game aspect
meaning fake, and “Cabulary” from the word
readers through the process. They asked me to
to be too traditional—yawn. I wanted to create
vocabulary. From there, my team and I did the
explain how Faux•Cabulary went from concept
something that didn’t just play well, but felt
artwork for the box and cards.
to reality. And so I sat down and laid it all out.
different in your hands, too. This is where A
This past Toy Fair, Faux•Cabulary was the
Faux•Cabulary goes back to a party that my
Bee C Match Game came in. I had spent the
lead item in the Out of the Box line. The recep-
wife Michelle and I had back in 2006.
previous year building a children’s spelling
tion was spectacular. We couldn’t be happier.
Unfortunately, I don’t recall the party or what
game with letter dice. My testing showed that
And when I look back, it was a trade show
sparked the inspiration—I guess it was a rough
people loved the dice aspect, so I ditched the
where it all came together. It really is amazing
night. I just remember waking up with a name
cards and added dice for creating the fake
how one day you’re pitching a concept at a
that I wanted to build a game around. That
words. I tested the game all over the country
trade show and the next you’re looking at your
name was not Faux•Cabulary. (That would
with friends, family. . . whoever would play it.
product on the shelf. I love this business.
come later.) The name was “What the Bluff?”
I presented the game to Al in October 2009
I had, what I thought was, a funny name and I
at the Dallas Toy Preview. He immediately
Design Edge is a New York-based graphic
wanted to create a solid party game around it.
liked the game, but we felt it needed polishing.
design and research development studio. Matt
The first version of What the Bluff? was a
Al took a copy of the game back to Out of the
Nuccio can be reached at (516) 377–0500 or
card game. The game included “fake word”
Box and played it with his team. With feed-
via email at email@example.com.
22 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
from The imagemakers
A Tale of Three Families: From the Recession to Technology in the Home
ALI POHN, KIDDIE-I-OH!, INC.
eet three families from
ed DVDs. Grandparents handled babysitting
spending. We stay home and watch
three different parts of
duties. Vacations ceased.
Netflix,” says Robin. Vacations were long
“We didn’t want to move because we
going to visit with
love our school district,” says Tim. They
“The recession forced us to realize that the
them four times this
also stayed loyal to their favorite brands by
kids’ education is our biggest priority,” says
using coupons and bulk buying.
Robin. They sold their apartment and moved
year and document the findings in upcoming
weekends to Philadelphia and the beach.
issues of Toys & Family EnTErTainmEnT.
“We’re spending less on the kids,” says
out of Manhattan. They started renting to off-
In this installment we’ll explore how the
Tim. And even though since the end of
set paying for private school. Since that time,
recession, along with the rise of technology,
2009 Tim has seen things picking up, he
Greer tested into a top public high school and
has impacted these family’s lives.
notes, “We stayed in a frugal frame of mind
Logan, who needs special education, is in an
Sarah W. live in suburban
in 2010.” For Christmas, Santa brought
excellent school funded through high school.
Chicago. Tim is a freelance writer and Sarah
each child a book, a game, pajamas, and
“We’re looking to buy a home in Brooklyn
directs a graduate program at a top universi-
one small splurge—an iPod shuffle.
now that we don’t pay tuition,” says Robin.
ty. They have three children: Nick, age 10, Ian, age 8, and Molly, age 6.
On birthdays, “we’ve always been
The kids now realize that, “life isn’t about
cheapskates,” says Tim. “We celebrate
getting everything you want. Birthday parties
douglaS o. live outside
with at-home parties or a few friends at the
used to cost more than $500,” says Robin.
Manhattan with children, Greer, age 15, and
movies.” Their kids’ presents cost around
Last year, Greer had four friends over to
Logan, age 11. Robin is a screenwriter and
$50. Some examples of what the children
swim in the building then dinner at home.
Douglas is an editori-
have received include crafts; sports, video,
Cost: under $100. “We still spend $100–$200
al director for a
and board games; and LEGO and Hot
on their gifts and around $25 for friends’
Wheels. The parents spend $10–$20 on
gifts,” says Robin.
Like many Los Angeles
gifts for their children’s friends.
Greer thinks her parents are spending the
Despite surviving the “lean times,” Tim
same as a year ago, as is she, spending her
thinks their new reality includes “a state of
money on clothing and electronics. The last
h. both work in the
anxiety. We’re not going back to the old
big thing Greer saved for was an iPod. Logan
ways, not with college looming.”
thinks his parents are spending more than last
“industry.” Robert is a musician/composer and Leigh is a script supervisor on commer-
Are Tim and Sarah’s kids aware of the
year. However, Logan says he is spending
cials. Their two children are Jordie, age 15,
cutbacks? Apparently not, as all thought
less of his own money. “I’m still liking my
and Zander, age 12.
that their parents were spending the same
things from last year,” says Logan. Robin is optimistic. “We’ve been dis-
as a year ago. “I’M
A LIVING ECONOMIC INDICATOR,”
“I’m older so I’m spending more money,”
placed by the recession but we played it
Nick said about 2010. Ian agreed, “I spend my
smartly by being conservative with our
money on Wii games and vending machines.”
finances,” she says.
laid off again,” says Tim W. “There was no
freelance work. Everyone said, ‘We’re
US AND OUR FRIENDS,” SAYS
“In the summer of 2008 I was laid off from my job, found another, and was then
RECESSION] CAST A LONG SHADOW ON
WE FINISH A JOB WE JUST ASSUME WE’RE
NEVER GOING TO WORK AGAIN,” SAYS
Douglas’ company downsized and he
“The recession caused a big impact on
The family also had to do more with less.
lost his job. There’s a salary freeze in his
Leigh’s business and mine is always up and
Instead of going out to the movies they rent-
new job. “We’ve become more mindful of
down,” says Robert. In addition, they took
doing more with less.’”
24 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
a significant hit in the stock market and the value of their home has declined. “We’re pretty trimmed down anyway, but we cut back on everything,” says Robert. They refi-
BUYING TECH TOYS DESPITE THE RECESSION Kids want it all—iPad and iPod touch, Wii,
for work so I gave my old Mac to Jordie. It was the
Xbox Kinect, and a laptop—but what tech items
have spent a couple of thousand on a computer for
do they actually have?
her so she was happy with it. Zander has an iPod
nanced their mortgage, stopped the cleaning serv-
Tim and Sarah’s kids share a Nintendo DS Lite.
ice, opted for “bare bones” cable, and delayed
Also, they have a Wii. “We tried to make it [the
new equipment purchases for Robert’s business.
Wii] happen so we bought a used one,” says Tim.
computer she wanted and there’s no way we would
and he bought himself a PC laptop,” Robert says. He claims their cell phones are not fancy, no email, although Leigh has been waiting for
Robert says that, “even using miles to fly to
He also says that “the boys are more into
Colorado and staying with my brother, skiing was
computer games than video games. They’ll get a
“Jordie started asking for a phone at age 11 but
too expensive. Our vacation was a family visit in
computer when it’s a hand-me-down. Buying
we figured age 13 is when you should have a cell
San Francisco, which was much cheaper.”
Verizon to come out with an iPhone.
them their own computer is not a priority. They
phone and we got one for her then,” says Robert.
Like other families, Robert admitted that
ask for time on our computers and that works.”
“However, we got one for Zander when he was 9.”
birthdays have been pared down as well. “A few
Nick has been bugging his parents for a cell
Robert explained that Zander was diagnosed
years ago we rented out this little bowling alley,
phone but that’s a no. “We know he’ll lose it and
with diabetes and they felt that Zander had to be
which cost about $800. This year we told Zander
there’s no need for it,” says Tim.
able to contact them at any time.
he could invite a friend to a movie and dinner.
“We got him the one that came free with the
Jordie had a couple of friends sleep over. We did
“WE’RE NOT THE MOST TECHIE FAMILY IN THE WORLD,”
get each one a big $150–$300 gift. Zander got a
Les Paul [guitar]—but he paid for part of it. Jordie got an iPod touch,” says Robert.
plan. He hadn’t been asking for a phone but as soon as he got that one he wanted a newer, bet-
“We have a family MacBook and Greer has
ter one,” says Robert.
her own MacBook. We had a desktop computer
The kids also have a Wii and Zander has
Robert and Leigh weren’t happy with their
but it wore out and, because of the recession, we
PlayStation 2. The kids haven’t asked for an iPad
children’s school before the recession. Yet,
haven’t replaced it. I don’t want the kids spending
but were jealous when Robert got one for Leigh
moving to “the best school district” wasn’t an
a lot of time on the computer anyway. They have
for her birthday. Most of what they request are
option since they couldn’t sell their home with-
better things to do,” says Robin. “Logan plays on
tech items, although for Christmas both kids
out a kitchen renovation.
his Nintendo DS Lite all the way home on the
wanted guitars and Zander wanted baseball equip-
school bus and that’s enough video games.”
ment. Robert says that Zander stopped asking for
To get their children’s educations “back on track,” Robert got an office in the preferred
The family does have a Wii. They all have cell
school district where Zander is now in public
phones except for Logan. “He can have one when
school. Jordie goes to a private high school.
he won’t lose it,” says Robin. The kids have
They’re spending an extra $20,000 a year, but feel
iPods—Greer an iPod touch and Logan a Nano.
it’s important enough to do even in a recession. Robert thinks the worst is over, yet worries,
toys around age 9 or 10 while Jordie’s wishes shifted from toys to tech around age 11. Despite parental concerns that kids may feel deprived by recession-driven cutbacks, the per-
“Greer is really into technology,” Robin
ception among these kids was that nothing had
says. “She communicates with friends more on
changed with their parents’ spending habits. In
“things will get better, then worse because of
Facebook than on the phone. Logan is still
fact, these kids seem happy with what they
the debt,” he says. Now, they’re remodeling
50/50 toys and tech items. He still likes his
have—even with the hand-me-down and shared
their kitchen. “We might want to sell our house
LEGOs and Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh cards. He
tech items. We’ll continue to follow these fami-
and downsize to pay for college.”
has gift cards to GameStop that sit unused.”
lies as the year progresses.
Other than the kitchen remodeling, Jordie and DROID
Zander agree that their parents are spending
about the same as last year. However, the kids
WHAT HE’S NOT GETTING?,” SAYS
admit that they are spending less than a year ago. Zander says he has, “everything I want.”
Ali Pohn is president and founder of Kiddie-i-
Oh!, a market research and consulting firm spe-
“Jordie has an iPod touch. Leigh has an iPad, an iPod touch, and a laptop. I needed a new computer
cializing in kids and moms. Learn more at www.kiddie-i-oh.com or call (773) 525–2345.
MARCH 2011 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 25
Chuggington: on traCk BY
huggington tells the story of Wilson, Brewster, and Koko. These three “chugger trainees” go off on countless adventures. During each episode they interact with all sorts of characters that teach them lessons about “riding the rails of life.” The series went on air in the U.S. in January 2010 on the Playhouse Disney block, and has since moved to the Disney Junior block. (Playhouse Disney ceased last month as it transitions to Disney Junior. Disney Junior is scheduled to become its own network, replacing SoapNet, in 2012.) Ludorum, the UK-based company that created and developed the show, says that Chuggington now airs in more than 170 countries. It has been translated into more than 26 languages. The property has taken off quickly in the U.S. Ludorum has been able to gauge what fans are interested in thanks in large part to Facebook. The Chuggington fan page has nearly 14,000 “Likes” as of press time. An extensive product line is expected for Chuggington across numerous categories reaching both the mass and specialty retailers. Many of the toys are available now. However, a centerpiece of the brand’s product line is launching this month exclusively with independent specialty retailers. Learning Curve is introducing a Wooden Railway System for Chuggington. “We know the importance of channel differentiation,” says Joal Kjarsgaard, senior marketing manager on Chuggington for Learning Curve. “Chuggington has allowed Learning Curve to put a new Wooden Railway System in place for the independent retailers.” Learning Curve worked with Mastermind Toys, an independent retailer in Canada, during the fourth quarter of 2010 to test the sales of the Wooden Railway System. Mastermind Toys has 11 stores in the Toronto area, an active website, and active social media outreach. “We started in October with the Chuggington Wooden Railway,” says Ryan Carr, head of marketing and communications for Mastermind Toys. “It was a very successful launch. It exceeded all of our goals.” Carr explained that Mastermind used a variety of methods to garner attention for Chuggington. In-store signage highlighted the brand. An email campaign went out to customers. Social media was a big part of the outreach including sneak peek videos. Carr says that Mastermind built buzz in advance of the launch. The store then kept the momentum fresh with additional promotions. “Even before Chuggington arrived we put our tools to use,” he says.
26 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
From left to right: Koko (a female train), Brewster, and Wilson are the key train characters in the Chuggington TV series airing on Disney Junior. Learning Curve is launching a Wooden Railway System exclusively for independent specialty retailers this month.
“But the best part was we didn’t have to tell people what Chuggington was. We just had to tell them it was coming.” Mastermind Toys worked with Learning Curve to set up in-store play tables. In addition, customers who purchased $30 of Wooden Railway items received a free Chuggington DVD sampler featuring two episodes.
thomas Vs. Chuggington Of course, it’s hard not to make comparisons between Thomas & Friends and Chuggington. After all, the players involved in Chuggington’s creation know a thing or two about classic wooden train play, the independent retail market, play tables, and brand building. The group now at Ludorum includes Dick Rothkopf (formerly of Learning Curve), Rob Lawes (formerly of HIT Entertainment), Charlie Caminada (formerly of HIT Entertainment), and Don Toht (formerly of Learning Curve). This group helped shape Thomas & Friends into the brand it is today. Yet everyone was quick to point out that these brands are not one in the same and Chuggington is certainly not a “knock-off brand.” “The stories, pace, and modern CGI style of Chuggington means we are
capturing an older child,” says Maureen Taxter, senior vice-president of U.S. consumer product for Ludorum. “Chuggington is for ages 3–6,” she says. “Thomas is for age 2 or 3.” In addition, Taxter pointed out that one of the key characters, Koko, is a girl, which adds an element of aspirational play for little girls and helps to make the brand a bit more gender neutral. The product line is not the same either. “It’s a fresh take on Wooden Railway,” says Carr. “The products have a nice, chunky feel to them. The pieces are modular. For example, the Roundhouse set is a double-decker piece. It can be used as one location or set up as two separate roundhouses.” Taxter agrees. “Learning Curve has done a beautiful job of re-inventing the train category.” The industry is quick to compartmentalize brands and play. The assumption is kids will choose to be loyal to one brand over the other. But that is how adults think, rather than how kids play. The reality, according to Carr, may be quite different. Learning Curve’s Wooden Railway System for Thomas and Chuggington are compatible. “There doesn’t seem to be exclusive loyalty to one brand or the other,”
says Carr. “The fact that the Wooden Railway Systems work together encourages parents and kids to mix and match. We sold a lot of Chuggington starter sets and train packs in destinations. But we also sold a ton of vehicles on their own. People would come in and buy six or seven Chuggington vehicles. That tells us they have some wooden railway already and they are adding Chuggington characters to it,” he says. Learning Curve agrees with this assessment. “The test allowed us to see the possible interaction,” says Kjarsgaard. “We are thrilled to say that it really just re-energized the entire wooden railway category.” Fresh energy is what is needed at retail as consumers are slowly starting to begin spending once again. Parents are more apt to spend when the product line is a fresh take on classic play. Perhaps Thomas & Friends will be able to serve the needs of the younger wooden railway fans who can then age up into Chuggington. Perhaps both brands can be played with simultaneously. Given the history of the team that launched Chuggington, we can only assume that Chuggington, like Thomas, is the next classic in the making.
MARCH 2011 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 27
THERE’S A BOARD GAME FOR EVERYONE BUT IS EVERYONE PLAYING? BY LAURIE LEAHEY
here have been several toys in ways to play games more quickly and try to find recent history that many thought ways to make games more accessible. We love would “kill” board games. the interaction and socialization that you get sitHandheld electronics. DVD games. ting around the table, but we wanted to kind of Video games. And yet, board heighten that experience.” games are still here. “These things come and go Other board game manufacturers steer clear but board games do stay,” says Jim Pressman, of technology in their games and anything that is president of Pressman Toy. “The board game industry has been very resilient over the years. It hasn’t grown, but it hasn’t really declined.” According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 Statistical Abstract of the United States, 18.2 percent of Americans said they had played board games in 2009. But, out of all of those Americans, who specifically is playing board games? “One thing we’ve definitely seen is age compression,” Pressman says. “For board games, most of the successful games are either in the preschool area or Hasbro’s Monopoly Live adds infrared technology to the classic game. The Live tower scans the board and pieces to the college age and older area. That midkeep track of the game. dle age group is very difficult.” Game manufacturers say that when kids turn 8 and well into their teen years, they just aren’t as interested in board games. Even though played on a screen. These companies are all there are board games designed for their age about providing families with classic human group, video games, computers, iPods, and interaction. “Great board games inspire constant smartphones are what tweens and teens spend deviation from the course of the game,” says their time with these days. Brian Turtle, national sales manager at Endless Some game manufacturers are meeting this Games. “They inspire storytelling or laughter demographic halfway. Hasbro has brought a and going off on different tangents or anecdotes, number of its games to multiple platforms and whatever may come up during the course of incorporated new technology into some of its playing the game. Board games provide a platclassic games, such as with the new Monopoly form for human interaction and conversation.” Live, which uses infrared technology to keep Even in a time when families are getting track of gameplay. “We want to be relevant,” together and playing games on various video says Phil Jackson, global brand leader of games game systems, many game companies believe at Hasbro. “We’ve done things like try to find that that kind of interaction is still different and
28 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
inferior to the kind of interaction families get when playing a game around a table. “Newer systems like Wii, Kinect, and Move are great ways for video games to expand their appeal to families and people who don’t normally play video games, but it’s not quite the same to be staring at a TV screen together as it is to be sitting across the table eye to eye,” says John Ludwig, marketing director, Mattel Games. “Certainly some of the family time that used to be devoted to family game night has shifted from the kitchen table to the living room [for playing video games], but traditional games continue to offer a unique social experience that kids and adults alike enjoy.” To bring consumers away from the living room and back to the table, manufacturers must create games that will spark consumers’ interest. Jill Bazos, vice-president of marketing at Fundex, says that the bar has been raised in this category to create unique gameplay options. “There are so many players in the industry and so little space at retail that a so-so game just won’t cut it,” she says. “Retailers can’t justify the space for it and parents are not going to spend part of their well thought-out budget on a game that will sit in the closet.” Jason Schneider, product development and marketing manager at Gamewright, says that his company tries to bring more to its games than merely rolling a die and moving a pawn from point A to point B, while still making the game easy to learn and play. “I see little glimpses of people trying to push the envelope of complexity, giving people the balance between a game that is easy to learn yet challenging enough that you’d want to come back to it again and again,” he says.
Jacobe Chrisman, founder and CEO of I Can Do That! Games, a diviWhile licensing does serve a purpose in the games category, the trend to sion of The Wonder Forge, says his company focuses on a combination of create a game for every available license is dwindling. “Licensed games tend roleplay and active play in its board games. In the new Richard Scarry’s to come and go pretty quickly,” says Mattel’s Ludwig. “They are a great overBusytown Busy, Busy Airport Game, players move around the room “fly- lay for a popular established brand or a temporary measure to capitalize on a ing” their airplane pawns. There is also a dancing element hot new movie or show. As big movies come in, we see a in the new Angelina Ballerina Dance with Me game. “We spike in sales of games connected to the property, but overfeel that part of our success is oriented toward creating all it’s a temporary gain.” these active play, roleplay, really engaging play experiThe focus has shifted, says Endless Game’s Turtle, ences,” Chrisman says. from licensing everything to creating more innovative LEGO continues to add new gameplay to its and unique product. “The licensed stuff is still going unique line of build-and-play games that it debuted to get placement because people will see the movies, last year. New releases this year include Pirate Plank, and if they like the movies, they may want to buy LEGO Champion, and Ninjago, as well as a new something for it,” he says, “but I think it’s kind of Heroica Adventure Games theme. “LEGO board moving back into where we were 25 years ago where games offer a hands-on building experience for games like Scattergories and Outburst were comabove: The Haywire Group created its own game kids that differs from our typical LEGO playsets,” ing out that were more creative and original.” brand, French Toast and Friends. below: The says Julie Stern, brand relations manager, LEGO. The companies producing licensed games say Wonder Forge works with licenses, such as Richard Scarry’s Busytown, for its I Can Do That! Other companies have also found ways to bring they do so strategically. Out of 10 games, LEGO preschool games. unique gameplay options to consumers. Both only had one licensed game last year with the Haywire and Cardinal have added plush to some of Harry Potter license. “That game was very suctheir games, giving kids two toys in one box. cessful, but our homegrown property games like Mattel used the Angry Birds license to create a new Minotaurus and Creationary were just as successoffline way to play the popular app. ful, if not more,” says LEGO’s Stern. “Licensing Licensing continues to serve as a way for game adds a new element to the game, but we’ll only do manufacturers to offer consumers something new it when appropriate and relevant.” and unique. When people see characters that they Other companies that are producing homeknow and like, they want to play out the board grown brands instead of using outside properties game experience with those characters. “Licensing include the Haywire Group. The company’s new has grown very important in the children’s game French Toast Forgets His Lunch is the first game in market and the teenage market,” says Bonnie the French Toast and Friends line, which is a new Canner, vice-president of Cardinal Games. “Licenses are a way to appeal brand for preschoolers. The company is looking to expand the brand, turnto the consumer. They provide immediate recognition to the consumer.” ing it into a line of products and books featuring the French Toast characWith the right licenses, games manufacturers can attract many demo- ter, which the company hopes will become familiar to children. graphics from preschoolers to the hard-to-reach tweens and teens. Canner No matter what way game manufacturers try to reach consumers says that last year Cardinal saw success with teenagers thanks to its (whether through added technology or classic gameplay), everyone can Twilight-themed games. Likewise, Pressman Toy worked with the Diary agree that board games are all about offering consumers a fun and social of a Wimpy Kid license last year and was able to reach fans of the proper- experience. “There has to be something out there for when a family gets ty in the 8–12 age range. together for Thanksgiving and after the dessert’s been eaten and the famiThis year Patch Products brings fond characters to preschool games under ly’s still hanging around,” says David Blanchard, director of sales and its new Tales to Play games line. Parents can take a trip down memory lane marketing, Haywire Group. “People are still going to want to play a game. with their kids as they play along with characters from The Little Engine That It’s kind of that security blanket. It’s something that everyone grew up with Could, Where the Wild Things Are, The Berenstain Bears, and Mother Goose. and it’s the go-to thing to do when everyone’s together.”
MARCH 2011 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 29
BY LAURIE LEAHEY
In an age of technology, board game manufacturers are looking for unique ways to bring people (especially tweens and teens) back to the table—from adding technology to board games to inventing a new way to play a favorite game. Here is a sampling of the newest board games for this year.
The Wonder Forge New in the I Can Do That! Games division is Richard Scarry’s Busytown Busy, Busy Airport Game. Players set up destination game boards around the room, then “fly” to faraway places and collect souvenirs. The player with the most souvenirs wins. It is for two to four players ages 3 and up.
30 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
Mattel In Angry Birds Knock On Wood, based on the game app, players build structures and launch Angry Birds to knock them down. The player with the most points wins. It is for one or more players ages 5 and up.
Jax Games In Hit the Habitat Trail, Wisdom & Consequence cards explain environmental hazards and ways to improve the environment. Answer a Knowledge card correctly to collect Habitat cards. The player with the most Habitat cards wins. It is for two to six players ages 8 and up.
Hasbro Hasbro’s Monopoly Live utilizes the company’s Motion Vision Play technology. The Live tower contains an infrared camera that scans the game board and pieces, identifying movers, watching hand movements, tracking all bank balances, and introducing unexpected events throughout the game. Monopoly Live is for ages 8 and up.
Gamewright City Square Off is a tactical game of city planning. Players draw a shape card and then simultaneously try to fit the matching tile into their city grids without going over the limits. It is for two players or teams ages 8 and up.
Fundex In High Divin’ Hippo, players roll the dice to indicate how many of their animals to place in the water and how many times to drop the cannon-balling hippo. One big “splash” could knock the animals out of the pool. The last animal in the water wins. It is for two to four players ages 4 and up.
MARCH 2011 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 31
Board Games Buffalo Games In Gotcha!, each player tries to follow the changing rules, while trying to catch others breaking a rule. Gotcha! is for three to eight players ages 14 and up.
LEGO In LEGO’s Ninjago buildand-play game, players roll the LEGO dice to battle the skeleton guards, find the golden weapons, and defeat the Skeleton General. It is for two to four players ages 8 and up.
32 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 2011
Hotaling Imports Hop! Hop! Hop! is a cooperative game where players work together to get the sheep, the shepherd, and the shepherd’s dog over the bridge before the “wind” blows the supports from under it.
Cardinal Cardinal’s Squinkies games highlights the “surprise” element of the Squinkies brand. Each game comes with a mystery Squinkie.
Pressman Toy In Green Lantern Power of the Ring, players move around the game board collecting constructs that will help them get to the Green Lantern, which ultimately decides a player’s fate. The game features a light-up ring.
U.S. Game Systems In Flip Six, players practice adding and subtracting as they get rid of their high cards. Starting each round with six cards, players try to reduce their points by getting rid of cards and/or swapping them for lower cards. After 10 rounds, the player with the lowest cumulative score wins.
In French Toast Forgets His Lunch, players must help French Toast fill up his lunchbox. The first player to fill his lunchbox with a full meal wins. A French Toast storybook comes with the game. This game is for two to four players ages 3 and up.
Patch Products Patch’s Tales to Play line includes games based on popular children’s books, such as the tales of Mother Goose, The Little Engine That Could, The Berenstain Bears, and Where the Wild Things Are. Each game comes in packaging that looks like a big book and includes realistic character pawns.
Endless Games Dueling Dice has players rolling dice on every turn. Roll the master die to determine the point—high, low, odds, evens, three of a kind, or a straight. Then everyone rolls their three dice at once to be the first to match what is on the master die. Dueling Dice is for ages 6 and up.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Official Board Game takes players along the path to fame and fortune and tests knowledge along the way. It includes more than 1,700 questions and clues about people, events, recordings, and dates from rock ’n’ roll history. The game is for ages 8 and up.
Bananagrams For players ages 5 and up, Fruitominoes is a fruity and colorful twist on dominoes. The game comes with 28 dominoes in a compact pouch. However, instead of connecting dots, players must connect fruit.
Peaceable Kingdom Peaceable Kingdom’s new cooperative board games include Count Your Chickens, Hoot Owl Hoot, Lost Puppies, Mermaid Island, and Stone Soup. Each game, geared for children 3 and up, reinforces cooperative, not competitive, play.
MARCH 2011 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 33
Puzzles: Piecing TogeTher The new innovaTions BY
o most folks, when they think of puzzles they picture a staid activity for young children and older homebodies. While the reasons that attract people to puzzles have remained the same over the years, there has, in fact, been quite a high level of innovation in the category as of late. As with Hollywood and the consumer electronics industry, 3-D is all the rage in this category. While 3-D puzzles did experience a spike in popularity about 10 years ago, manufacturing innovations have allowed today’s 3-D puzzle manufacturers to create new, exciting offerings the likes of which the category has never seen. As with 10 years ago, there is a lot of action occurring in 3-D structures. Ravensburger, MegA Brands, and Patch are just a few of the manufacturers that are innovating in this space. Above is Ravensburger’s 240-piece “For 3-D structures, we are trying to puzzlepyramid and on the right is innovate past the way it was done 10 Great American Puzzle Factory’s Barbie Puzzle Pizzaz. years ago when they were also popular,” says Thomas Kaeppeler, CeO of Ravensburger USA. “This innovation includes robotic technology and injection molding technology that makes new types of structures possible.” Ravensburger broke into 3-D with its 2007 introduction of puzzleball. That product bore a line of 3-D globe-shaped puzzles that has been expanded into the puzzlepyramid line. This fall, a line of 3-D structure puzzles is on the way. At Toy Fair, MegA Brands introduced its new 3-D puzzle line, called 3D BreakThrough Puzzles. The line is expected to offer puzzles with various levels of complexity. MegA hopes this line will help spur increased interest in the category. “Innovation is the key to increasing the value of the puzzle products within the market,” says guy Thomas, vice-president, puzzles and games, at MegA Brands. “Hopefully we will increase retail productivity per space with our retailers.” Beyond 3-D structures, actual 3-D images are also making their way into the puzzle category. Pressman will be introducing a new line called 3D Dual Vision Puzzles that will come with a special 3-D viewer that makes the 2-D puzzle scenes spring to three dimensions. And this fall Ravensburger expects
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to have product to show based on actual 3-D images that will allow the puzzles to be viewed in 3-D without the need of special glasses. “Clearly, innovation has its place in the puzzle category—for both adults and kids,” says Patrick Nycz, vice-president of puzzles at great American Puzzle Factory. “New offerings in image-based effects, features, and 3-D dimensional puzzles provide that ‘something new’ challenge for puzzlers that keeps the category fresh, relevant, and in context with what is happening in the puzzlers’ world today.” Beyond strict innovation, puzzle manufacturers also keep their offerings fresh through their choice of subject matter. Puzzles is an art-driven category and by keeping the images new and fresh, puzzle aficionados are given unique challenges and rewards with each puzzle project. Sometimes this imagery is developed in a proprietary manner and sometimes manufacturers look to license images from outside sources. Whether licensed or non-licensed, manufacturers spend a lot of time verifying that their chosen images will resonate with consumers in the puzzle category. While there certainly is a lot of innovation occurring in this category, the attraction to puzzles and puzzling remains much the same. It is this attraction that has allowed the category to endure. “It is the numerous educational and developmental benefits of puzzles, including problem solving, patience, fine motor development, cognitive development, teamwork, cooperation, organization, and logic skills that keep parents and gift-givers buying puzzles,” says Lisa Wuennemann, director of marketing at Patch Products. “Puzzles are also fun and children love the sense of accomplishment they get when they complete a puzzle.” Whether it is the innovation taking place in this category or the tried and true puzzling play pattern, those interviewed say the category has done well in the economic downturn, as consumers are looking to get a lot of athome entertainment value for the dollar.
Today’s puzzle aisle contains a mix of tried-and-true themes and innovative new puzzle concepts. The latest innovations include both 3-D structures and 3-D images. Below is a sampling of both classic and cutting-edge puzzles from a range of puzzle manufacturers.
Each 3D Dual Vision puzzle comes with a 3Briarpatch’s Thomas & Friends ABC Floor Ceaco’s The Baffler line includes three puzD viewer that springs 2-D images into the third Puzzle includes 27 big pieces that help kids ages zles that are randomly designed and cut in odd dimension. Licenses include Scooby-Doo, Hello 3 and up learn the alphabet as well as associate ways to make it as challenging as possible. Kitty, The Smurfs, and Happy Feet. words and pictures with each letter.
Hasbro’s JI GA ZO is a 300piece puzzle that can be arranged and rearranged to create millions of face configurations. The key to the puzzle is the software that creates a symbol map that shows where each piece needs to be placed on the assembly grid to recreate a particular face. The pieces can be shuffled to create a brand new face.
Cardinal has been granted rights to produce a game and puzzle line based on Blip Toys’ Squinkies brand. Included in the line is the Squinkies 24-Piece Lenticular Puzzle, which is shown.
tHe Canadian group The Compact Puzzler is a portable sorting and storage system that contains a 500-piece puzzle. It features two slide-out sorting trays, an easel that holds the included reference poster, and a plastic support to display the finished puzzle.
Hotaling Hotaling’s Tales puzzle is from the Observation Puzzles line from the Djeco brand. The puzzle shows a scene of characters and events from various fairytales. The 54piece puzzle is graded for ages 4 and up. Other Djeco puzzles include Knight at the Dragon’s Lair and Abracadabra.
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PuzzLes ravensBurGer usa
Great american PuzzLe factory
Ravensburger USA’s Animal Planet line captures animals as seen on the network that are The Another Tough Puzzle is a new extension brought to life with high-quality wildlife photography. The line includes 10 puzzles ranging from to the One Tough Puzzle line that features more 100 to 1,000 pieces. Shown is Jungle Friends, a pieces and offers a more challenging puzzling experience. 200-piece Discover & Learn puzzle.
meGa Brands MEGA’s biggest puzzle news is the introduction of the 3D BreakThrough line that unites the traditional flat-art jigsaw puzzle with 3-D technology. Also on the way is the Disney Attractables Wall Puzzles line, which features 50-piece puzzles that can be augmented with magnetic characters.
Buffalo Games launched six new puzzle lines for 2011. Among the new offerings is the Photo Seek line of 750-piece puzzles. There are 15 subtle differences between the finished puzzle image and the image on the enclosed poster. There are four puzzles in the line, including Portofino (shown).
Based on the success of Patch Products’ initial 3D Sneaky Floor Puzzle offering, the company is expanding the line to include Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants properties. Shown below is the original 3D Sneaky Floor Puzzle. Images for the two new Nickelodeon puzzles were not available at press time.
innovativeKids’ Love Bus green start Wooden Puzzle is divided into 14 colorful pieces that make completing the puzzle challenging but doable for kids ages 3 and up. The green start line utilizes recycled materials and eco-friendly ink.
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Lafayette PuzzLe factory The 2-Sided USA Map Puzzle features a colorful map of the U.S. featuring iconic images for each state on one side and fun facts about each state, including the state flag and the date it joined the union, on the other.
Trading Cards BY
Trading cards have long been a staple of the toy industry. Whether kids follow their favorite athlete, play games centered around superheroes, or learn about history, this genre will always have a place with kids as they spend time with friends collecting, trading, and sharing.
Spin Master Redakai is the newest innovation in gaming, taking trading cards to the next level with what Spin Master calls 3Dmatik technology. These trading cards have 3-D and animation effects by using a lenticular card design. In addition, new game technologies automatically track a player’s progress. Redakai is coming to Cartoon Network in 2011. Ky, Boomer, and Maya are three teens on a quest to gather mystical Kairu energy from across the globe. The fate of the world rests on their mission to collect the energy, harness its power, and defeat the evil forces of Lokar. The incredible Kairu energy gives them immense powers and the ability to transform into the galaxy’s most powerful warriors.
Konami Super Heat Games, the maker of the new trading card game, announced it has finalized a distribution agreement with Konami Digital Entertainment. The first release in the multiyear agreement will be the Super Heat Skateboard Card Game starter decks and booster sets in early May. The Super Heat Skateboard Card Game features more than 30 of the top professional skaters in street and vert, as well as the legends who helped build the sport to worldwide prominence. Super Heat Games, a division of Ahead of the Game, Inc., designs, develops, and markets collectible action sports trading card games, showcasing the world’s top professional athletes in action sports including skateboarding, snowboarding, motocross, surfing, and BMX.
With the Pokémon (trading card game) TCG: Black & White expansion, kids can discover a legion of more than 70 never-before-seen Pokémon from the newly explored Unova region, including new starter Pokémon Snivy, Tepig, and Oshawott, as well as powerful new Pokémon such as Zoroark, Galvantula, Reuniclus, plus many more. The expansion comes battle-ready with more than 110 cards. Three Pokémon TCG: Black & White theme decks arrive at retail— Green Tornado, Red Frenzy, and Blue Assault—which will include a special code to unlock an identical digital deck for play in the recently announced Pokémon TCGO: Trainer Challenge online game. Use any of the three new theme decks to battle against 14 virtual TCG players in leagues.
U.S. Games Systems U.S. Games Systems introduces a new series of playing card games featuring the American Revolution. Similar to the company’s popular Civil War series, the new American Revolution series consists of four 54-card decks.
Topps Topps has granted Abrams, publisher of illustrated books, an exclusive license to publish books inspired by Topps’ long-standing presence in sports and popular culture. The multi-year arrangement is expected to yield an array of nonfiction and fiction sports- and entertainmentthemed books and calendars, which will be published across all of the Abrams imprints. The first line of books is slated to release in spring of 2012. The scope of the new venture is also expected to include electronic books. A fiction series geared primarily toward 7–10-year-old boys is also on the agenda. The new fiction will serve as potential media content, consistent with Topps’ strategy to expand into film, TV, and other media platforms.
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Industry-Related Trade Shows April 28
Time To Play SPring ShowcaSe
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Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa
National Stationery Show
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Time To Play Fall ShowcaSe
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ROYALTIE$ BRAND SHOWCASE JULY 26; THE ALTMAN BUILDING, NEW YORK CITY; WWW.ANBMEDIA.COM TIME
PLAY FALL SHOWCASE SEPTEMBER 27; THE ALTMAN BUILDING, NEW YORK CITY; WWW.TIMETOPLAYMAG.COM TO
TIA FALL TOY PREVIEW 2011 OCTOBER 4–6; DALLAS MARKET CENTER, DALLAS; WWW.TOYASSOCIATION.ORG TOY FAIR 2012 FEBRUARY 12–15; JACOB JAVITS CONVENTION CENTER; NEW YORK CITY; WWW.TOYASSOCIATION.ORG