Page 1

Table of Contents

May 2011 volume 6, no. 5



on this page

24 Telling Stories Through Fashion

4 Observations & Opinions

(left to right) Mattel’s Little Mommy My Very Real Baby Doll; Cars 2 Puzzle Furniture from Jakks Pacific’s Kids Only division; Crayola’s Glow Book; Storybook Cottage bed from MGA’s Little Tikes division; and Color A Yumbrella, Color A Sweet Wristlet, Color A Candy Bag, and Make Candy Wrapper Jewelry from Alex’s Dylan’s Candy Barlicensed line

by Laurie Leahey

25 Fashion Dolls: Product Presentation by Laurie Leahey

26 Electronic and Classic baby Dolls Coexist in Marketplace by Laurie Leahey

27 baby Dolls: Product Presentation by Laurie Leahey

28 Family Fun Through Creativity by Chris Adams

30 Activity: Product Presentation by Chris Adams

32 room to grow by Jennifer Lynch

34 room Décor: Product Presentation by Jennifer Lynch

36 Specialty Emporium: Zoobies by Jennifer Lynch

6 Sizzlers 8 Specialty Sizzlers 10 Shelf Talkers 12 Entertainment Marketplace: Lalaloopsy 14 Merchandise Makers: Blip Toys 16 Industry Forum: TIA 18 Industry Forum: ASTRA 20 Industry Forum: Design Edge 22 Tips from the Imagemakers: Kiddie-i-oh! 38 Calendar of Events

on the cover Mattel’s Monster High Gloom Beach doll assortment COvEr by


ObservatiOns & OpiniOns

Utilizing Social Media





hen I started in the toy industry nearly 20 years ago, a toy company’s marketing plan consisted of spending a few million dollars on TV ads in the fourth quarter. It’s a large amount of money but it was guaranteed to get the job done. Advertise on television and sales will follow.

Things have changed quite a bit in the past 20 years. While television advertising

is still a part of the marketing mix for toy companies, many manufacturers are telling me that it just isn’t as effective as it used to be. There are many reasons for this. Television has changed drastically over the past 20 years. Viewing has become more fragmented. There are numerous channels to watch, making it harder to reach a broad audience in a cost-effective manner. There are so many other media options that exist now from app games to Facebook to video games to Netflix to websites—the list could go on and on. Also, there is so much more emphasis on reaching moms with the advertising message, which fragments and complicates things even further. I recently read an article that stated that 51 percent of people in the United States is now actively involved in Facebook. The obvious message from this is social media must now be included in all comprehensive marketing plans. But just how many toy companies and retailers are using all of these new tools to effectively reach consumers? Toy manufacturers always seem to be just behind the curve when it comes to adapting to new technology. Toy companies were very slow to understand, grasp, and use the internet to their advantage when the internet was first becoming mainstream. There are some instances of toy manufacturers and retailers using social media to promote their products and to ultimately drive traffic into stores. However, more companies need to understand the impact and benefits of social media. Recently on WWW.ANBMedIA.coM we ran an announcement from Walmart about its purchase of Kosmix, a social media technology platform that filters and organizes content in social networks to connect people with real-time information that matters to them. In essence, give me the information I want, when I want it. In the announcement, Walmart’s eduardo castro-Wright, vice-chairman, said, “We are expanding our capabilities in today’s rapidly growing social commerce environment. Social networking and mobile applications are increasingly becoming a part of our customers’ day-to-day lives globally, influencing how they think about shopping, both online and in retail stores.” It’s time for more toy companies, and retailers, to not just have “friends” on Facebook but to use social media to drive retail sales. consumers are interested. The industry needs to learn how to engage them.

The symbol to the left is a special type of bar code called a QR code. If you have a QR code app installed on your smartphone (there are many free versions available), snapping a picture of the code will direct your phone’s internet browser to www.aNbMedIa.coM where you can read the latest industry news, sign up for free weekly news blasts, access the content of Toys & Family EnTErTainmEnT, and much more.




MEDIA • Volume 6, Number 5

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 ASSISTANT EDITOR JENNIFER LYNCH JENNIFER@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB MASTER ERIK KIECKHAFER ERIK@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB CONTENT MANAGER BRENDAN SANABRIA BRENDAN@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTRIBUTORS KATHLEEN MCHUGH; MATT NUCCIO; ALI POHN; TIA STAFF PUBLIC RELATIONS REPRESENTATIVE JOSSLYNNE WELCH LITZKY PUBLIC RELATIONS, 320 SINATRA DRIVE, HOBOKEN, N.J. 07030 (201) 222–9118 EXT. 13 • JWELCH@LITZKYPR.COM INTERESTED IN A SUBSCRIPTION? CONTACT SUBSCRIPTIONS@ANBMEDIA.COM ANB MEDIA, INC. 229 WEST 28TH STREET, SUITE 401, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10001 PHONE: (646) 763–8710 • FAX: (646) 763–8727 Toys & Family EnTErTainmEnT is published eight times per year by aNb Media. copyright 2011 aNb Media. 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. 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

Star Wars LEGO

Power Rangers Samurai Deluxe Megazord


Apples to Apples Mattel

Monster high Doll AssortMent Mattel

BArBie BeAch Doll AssortMent Mattel

poWer rAngers sAMurAi Action Figure AssortMent Bandai

BeyBlADe MetAl Fusion hasbro connect Four hasbro leApster explorer leapFrog lego ninjAgo AssortMent lego lego stAr WArs AssortMent lego Mini lAlAloopsy Doll AssortMent MgA entertainment


poWer Wheels BArBie jAMMin’ jeep Mattel scriBBle & Write leapFrog sing-A-MA-jigs Mattel squinkies Blip toys step2 WAterWheel Activity plAy tABle step2 v.reADer vtech

Specialty SizzlerS

Specialty Sizzlers: What’s Moving Off Store Shelves in the Specialty Market? TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT continues its monthly poll of individual specialty retailers. Rather than polling retailers nationwide, this month we asked CREATIVE KIDSTUFF’S merchandising manager, Jennifer Dunne, for the current top sellers. Listed below, in alphabetical order, are what consumers purchased in store as well as online at CREATIVEKIDSTUFF.COM. CREATIVE KIDSTUFF has seven locations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. metro area, one location in West Des Moines, Iowa, and an extensive website.









My Friendship Bracelet Maker

“Fast becoming a customer and staff must-have,” says Jennifer Dunne, merchandising manager.







“With so many features, this is a best-seller every holiday season,“ says Dunne.



”The must-have companion for every new baby,” says Dunne.



“Four games in one little tin for one small price,” says Dunne.




“The quality and play value makes it hard to keep these in stock,” says Dunne.


Spot It!

Shelf TalkerS

The Newest Items Now In Stores NSI International LEgo With the new LEGO Alien Conquest line, available in August, kids ages 7 and up can use their building skills to construct an earth-invading alien mothership, UFO abduction (shown), and defensive vehicles, strikers, and headquarters for the Alien Defense Force soldier figures included. Kits range from a 42-piece alien striker set to an 875-piece Earth Defense HQ set.

Earloomz Earloomz has created a new line of Star Wars-inspired Bluetooth headsets. The collection currently includes four designs: Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and the dueling scene from The Empire Strikes Back (pictured). Future designs, which will include Yoda, Princess Leia, R2-D2, and more, are expected to roll out later this year.

Oglo Sports is a line of fullcolor glow-in-the-dark sporting goods from NSI International, Inc. Using a new technology, the products, which include baseball bats and balls, hockey pucks, soccer and footballs, and flying discs, now glow in the same colors as they appear in the day. They are charged by any light source to glow in the dark for hours.

LeapFrog LeapFrog has released a new children’s app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Scout’s ABC Garden app brings to life its top-selling plush toy characters Scout and Daisy to teach kids alphabet basics and how to sound out words. The app lets kids use interactive games to grow their own letter gardens, sing songs, and explore while learning at their own pace.

Jakks Pacific Jakks Pacific’s new Pokémon Skill & Action Line features the Pokémon Catcher, which kids can use to act out the moves of a Pokémon trainer. Using the retractable Poké Ball, kids can catch the three miniture Pokémon figures included. A special base is also included for use with the Pokémon Pop ‘N Battle Launcher line.


Poof-Slinky In Poof-Slinky’s new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Official Board Game, music lovers can put their rockstar knowledge to the test with more than 1,700 questions and clues about music’s most famous people, places, dates, and events. Whoever moves through the history of rock the fastest will be “inducted” into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The game is for ages 10 and up.

YBike YBike’s new YBike Pewi is a hybrid walker and ride-on that is designed to help toddlers, ages 9 months–2 years old, develop basic motor and balance skills. The YBike Pewi comes in red, blue, and pink.

M.E.G. New Fashion Puppies are the latest addition to M.E.G.’s line of pocket-sized collectibles, Puppy In My Pocket. The line features 28 accessorized Fashion Puppies, each with her own style of removable fashion, and fashion-inspired play sets. The Fashion Academy comes with its own catwalk, while two Fashion Boutiques offer more puppy fashion fun.

K’nex Peachtree Playthings Peachtree Playthings has teamed with Miracle-Gro to create the Miracle-Gro Kids gardening line. The line, which includes a variety of flower and vegetable sets, is designed to help teach kids ages 5 and up about the garden-growing process.

K’nex Brands will introduce new additions to its Kids K’nex building collection this July, with ocean-, monster-, and farm-themed sets. Sets include Ocean Buddies Building Set, Undersea Friends Building Set (pictured), Tractor Pals Building Set, and Farmyard Friends Building Set. All construction sets are made for kids, age 3 and up.







• Girls can visit the 3-D world of Lalaloopsy online at


hen their very last stitch was sewn, the Lalaloopsy dolls came to life. That’s the story behind MGA Entertainment’s Lalaloopsy dolls, a collection of 13-inch rag dolls that promote the idea that old things can become new again. Each doll was born on a special national holiday and has its own personality developed by the fabrics used to make it. Crumbs Sugar Cookie was born on December 4/National Cookie Day and was made from pieces of a baking apron. Jewel Sparkles was born on March 13/National Jewel Day and was made from remnants of a princess’ dress. Each doll’s unique materials show that everything can be repurposed. These whimsical dolls with big heads and buttons for eyes became so popular that MGA introduced a new version of the dolls last year. Mini Lalaloopsy dolls are miniature versions of the original dolls that are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. There are a variety of accessory playsets for these collectible mini dolls. As MGA continues to expand its Lalaloopsy Mini Lalaloopsy doll line, the company has also begun growing Peanut’s the brand through licensing. MGA signed a numSpinning Ferris Wheel ber of new licensing deals in a variety of categories, including backpacks, books, cosmetics, Halloween costumes, and puzzles. Licensees include Fashion Angels, Mead, The Canadian Group, Scholastic, American Greetings, Modern Publishing, Jay Franco, Rubie’s, and more. MGA will continue to expand the Lalaloopsy brand through new licensing partnerships and the introduction of new characters—including the first boy Lalaloopsy, Patch Treasurechest.


• The original eight Lalaloopsy characters are Crumbs Sugar Cookie, Jewel Sparkles, Peanut Big Top, Bea Spells-a-Lot, Mittens Fluff ’n’ Stuff, Dot Starlight, Pillow Featherbed, and Spot Splatter Splash.

• MGA is working on a Lalaloopsy made-forDVD feature-length movie to be released in spring 2012. It will star the original Lalaloopsy characters.




For the Lalaloopsy brand, Added Extras will produce cosmetics and roleplay items. The Cosmetic Set shown below includes a bag, body tattoos, and four flavored lip balms based on Lalaloopsy characters.

Ceaco is producing a variety of fuzzy and glitter Lalaloopsy puzzles. The Glitter Puzzles have 60 pieces and are for ages 4 and up. The Fuzzy Puzzles each have 24 pieces and are for ages 3 and up.

Jerry Leigh signed on to produce a variety of Lalaloopsy apparel, featuring the characters and logo.




FAB/Starpoint signed on to produce bags and backpacks featuring Lalaloopsy characters and artwork.

AME’s Lalaloopsy sleepwear will feature colorful images of the Lalaloopsy characters, such as Crumbs Sugar Cookie (shown).

Lee Publications signed on for novelty publishing, including magnetic paper dolls. Each set comes with two magnetic dolls and clothes and accessories.



More Than Just a Blip BY



or many in the toy industry, small doll aisle had many brands that have extension to round out its offerings and Blip Toys showed up on their been in the marketplace for years, but noth- has also begun to add some licensed radar during the fourth quarter ing had entered the space and innovated. Squinkies into the mix. of 2010 when its Squinkies The innovation Blip offered came as a “Licensing is being driven by core, top became one of the hottest, most result of studying the $2 billion capsule toy brands,” says Nichols. “There are a lot of in-demand toys of the holiday season. vending industry and translating the find- great brands out there, but the ones that are However, Blip Toys, which is headquar- ings to the Squinkies play pattern. resonating are tried-and-true-brands like tered in Minnetonka, Minn., was LEGO, Disney, Barbie, and Marvel.” established in 2000, and its president In addition to licensing in and founder Bill Nichols had been in marquee properties, Blip has also the toy industry long before that. begun to license out its Squinkies Nichols started out his toy career brand. Current licensees include in sales at Hasbro, where he worked Activision (Nintendo DS game), for nine years. He then joined a Cardinal (games and puzzles), manufacturers’ rep firm where he Paragon (activity and sticker got his first taste of product develbooks), and Bulls I Toys (activity opment. In this role, he helped trading cards). develop products and build up small “We want to stay focused on toy manufacturers. Next, Nichols what we are doing and build the took his passion for product develbrand,” says Nichols. “As the brand opment and his toy industry expericontinues to strengthen, we will add ence and founded Blip. in additional categories.” Through his experiences devel- Blip Toys expanded on its Squinkies line by adding boy-targeted In addition to Squinkies, Blip items such as the Skull Cavern Playset. oping products, Nichols developed a Toys’ offerings also include the process that guides Blip to this day. The Many would argue that Squinkies’ suc- Whimzy Pets, Zubber, Hair Balls, Zoomprocess stems from the IIDD acronym— cess was against all odds. The line was O, and Friends Boutique lines, among short for identify, innovate, develop, and launched during an uncertain economy— others. Nichols also spoke broadly of two deliver. The first step is to identify an one in which many manufacturers big projects that emerged out of the IIDD opportunity at retail. Then Blip’s team bemoaned retailers’ risk aversion. Nichols process. While he couldn’t offer details searches for ways to innovate within that doesn’t quite see things that way, though. as of press time, he did say that these space. Next is developing a product that “Yes, shelf space is hard to get. Yes, it is projects offer opportunities to add innofits the opportunity and can also hit the hard to bring product to market,” says vation to the toy aisle. necessary price points. The last step, Nichols. “But if there is some true innovaNichols is well aware of toy manufacturdeliver, focuses on making sure the con- tion, value, and uniqueness, it isn’t that hard ers that have brands that went up like a cept will meet all safety standards and be to get products on the shelf.” rocket ship but crashed down soon after. He delivered to retailers on time. The next phase for Blip is to expand on is using the lessons he has learned throughThe hit Squinkies line was a direct result the success of the Squinkies brand. The out his career in the toy industry to ensure of this process. Nichols noticed that the company has added a boy-focused line Blip Toys stays in orbit.


Industry Forum

Consumer Complaint Database Now Live; Congress Considering Proposed CPSIA Amendments BY


S, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) new consumer complaint database, launched officially on March 11, 2011. The website marks the first time that product safety hazards are being published without obtaining prior approval from manufacturers; it is also the first time that the public can access such information without having to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Mandated in 2008 by Section 212 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the database is a website where consumers can submit “reports of harm or risks of harm, and search for safety information on products they own or may be considering buying,” according to a CPSC press release. By mid-April, more than 600 complaints were received and 44 were flagged for being inaccurate, due in large part to manufacturer misidentification. The erroneous claims were not posted on the website, said CPSC spokesperson Scott Wolfson in an article published by The Washington Post. Critics of the database, both within the government and among the general public, cite several areas in need of improvement, such as greater detail regarding who can submit reports of harm, improving product identification, and giving the CPSC more options for solving the material inaccuracies of complaints. The Toy Industry Association (TIA) had noted numerous issues and concerns


with the database and was active in its outreach to the commission to urge reasonable implementation and to ask for the correction of problems before the database was launched. TIA continues to advocate for corrections to be made both within the system and in the legislation. On April 7, 2011, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing to review draft revisions to the CPSIA, which included objectives to improve the utility and accuracy of information in the database. The draft legislation also proposed reductions in the regulatory burdens created by the CPSIA and enhancements to the CPSC’s ability to investigate complaints and prioritize based on risk. In the meantime, TIA is advising toy industry stakeholders to: 1. Register at in order to get reports of harm as quickly as possible, 2. Identify and train appropriate persons within their company responsible for preparing responses to reports of harm, and 3. Develop plans that include gathering or preparing data that can be accessed quickly to respond to reports of harm. For more information, view the recording of the recent TIA webinar, “A TIA and JPMA Introduction to— The New CPSC Consumer Product Database” under the “Education” tab at For more information visit

Play Comforts is a national partnership of the Toy Industry Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America Military Services that seeks to comfort the children of our nation’s active duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel. It is the first-ever national toy distribution program to canvas every branch of the military.

Play Comforts Kids in Military Families BY



n the United States, an estimated 500,000 children of military families are faced with the anxiety and stress of having one or both parents deployed in service of our country. Oftentimes, these young heroes must cope with the sadness and isolation resulting from numerous deployments, family separations, and multiple relocations. Between kindergarten and high school graduation, the average military child moves six to nine times. Military youth also have higher anxiety levels than their civilian counterparts. Research shows that stress builds cumulatively with each deployment, and while their parents are serving on active duty, these kids are met with increased responsibilities on the home front.

Play Comforts is a national partnership of the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) Military Services that seeks to comfort the sons and daughters of our nation’s active duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel. It is the firstever national toy distribution program to canvas every branch of the military. Since its launch during the 2009 holiday season, the Play Comforts initiative has already delivered new toys and games to more than 50,000 military youth. “The Toy Industry Foundation is deeply committed to the military children,” says TIF executive director Jean Butler. “Through challenging circumstances these children respond with

courage and character; in gratitude, we’re proud to offer them the chance to play and just be kids.” The toy industry can expand its reach to hundreds of thousands of children nationwide and at U.S. military bases abroad through this partnership. But smiles can only be put on these kids’ faces with the industry’s continued generosity. When donating to the Toy Bank, the TIF’s signature program, companies can direct their contributions to military families. Visit the TIF website (, complete a product donation agreement, and check “Play Comforts Donation” on the form. For more information visit


Industry Forum

Trade Show NeTworkiNg TipS: LearN from The BeST iN The BuSiNeSS


s the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) annual Marketplace & Academy draws closer to its June 19 opening, you will hear more and more about all the new, never-before-seen exhibitors (more than 100 this year!) and cutting-edge educational sessions to help grow your retail business. All the new products and all the ready-to-use retailing tips are hallmarks of ASTRA’s event, but don’t forget another big value you will find at Marketplace & Academy: the most successful independent toy store owners in the industry. Trade shows offer an opportunity to meet and learn from others in the same business—giving you the chance to bring home free but priceless and welltested advice. ASTRA’s schedule is set up to accommodate lots of informal exchange of business experiences and ideas. Most retailers come to trade shows with a plan for how they want to tackle the show floor and which seminars to attend. Take it one step further and plan for what you want to get out of your networking time. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your conversations: • CReATe A liST of TopiCS you wAnT To diSCuSS wiTH oTHeR ReTAileRS. what business matters keep you awake at night? what do you expect to be your three biggest business challenges over the next year? Questions like these can guide you to topics you would like to explore with your colleagues. Topics to keep in mind: • Recruiting, hiring, and training staff • inventory management practices • use of technology and social media • plan for neighborhood Toy Store day and the holiday season • Management of multiple stores or very small stores • Building and managing your store’s brand • How to get some time away from the business • opening or closing down stores




• idenTify pARTiCulAR ReTAileRS you would like To MeeT oR geT To know BeTTeR. if you read trade publications such as Toys & Family EnTErTainmEnT, you will frequently see independent retailers mentioned or profiled. you may hear about other top retailers through ASTRA or find their websites when you go online to see what other retailers are doing. you may be impressed by insights expressed by particular retailers on ASTRA’s listserv. or you met someone at a previous trade show who shared lots of terrific ideas and you would like to hear what she’s thinking about now. Make a list of the people with whom you would like to chat. Send an email before heading to the show, or look them up when you get there. • woRk on Honing youR neTwoRking SkillS. A few simple networking strategies can have a big payoff for you when it comes to ideas and advice. • Treat your networking conversations as a two-way street. you are interested in getting information and tips from another retailer, but what are you bringing to the table? if you want others to share, be prepared to do so yourself. • Ask open-ended questions to get a conversation started. The most helpful information will come from asking who, what, how, why, and when. This will get people talking. • don’t apologize for asking for advice. networking is one of the objectives of a trade show. • follow-up with a thank you email after the show. As a courtesy, but also as a way to cement the relationship so that long after the show you can keep in touch and up to date with your new contacts. And don’t forget—getting to know new people in the industry is fun. So start thinking about how to make the most of your networking time at the next trade show. And if you’ll be joining us in June at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy, in Anaheim, Calif., please put me on your list and make a point of networking with me. Kathleen mcHugh is president of asTra. The marketplace & academy will take place June 19–22, 2011. Visit

Industry Forum

Lost in Translation




ome time ago I was working in

speak Chinese. The factory owner didn’t

arm needs to be fixed.” To which he replied

Guangzhou province in China with

speak Japanese or English. The Chinese engi-

“because the big sleeve problem. Sample only.

the factory’s engineer. We were try-

neer only spoke a little English.

Not right to work today. Wrong flavor materi-

ing to resolve some minor issues

The group was having trouble translating

al. Fine in production.” I picked up the sample

that were escalating into big prob-

English to English. The owner spoke to the

and turned to the Japanese men and said, “This

lems. I had spent the previous few weeks going

engineer in Chinese. The engineer translated

is only a clay sample. It will be corrected in

back and forth with diagrams and emails, yet

with a heavy Chinese accent to English. This

ABS plastic in the production.” We went over

nothing was working. Too much was getting

is where I came in. I had to translate the

several points and everything was resolved.

lost in translation. Yet in person, despite the lan-

English between the groups. Here is what tran-

The lesson here is, especially when dealing

guage barrier, we managed to communicate

spired: “We no problem you see?” I looked at

in international business where there are lan-

with very little talking and a lot of pointing.

the Japanese men and could see instantly that

guage barriers and cultural differences, it’s

Within hours the problems were resolved

they did not understand what he said. So I

important to remember that simple, precise

and I was packing my samples and sketch

turned to the engineer, and translated, “What

communication—mixed with a good dose of

book when the engineer was called out of the

is the problem?” They nodded their heads and

patience and understanding—is the best route.

room. He returned a few minutes later with

replied with their Japanese accents, “Dis notta

two well-dressed Japanese men and the facto-

acceptable arm movement. It need to move

Design Edge is a New York-based graphic

ry owner. Apparently they too were having

correctly for sample.” The engineer looked at

design and research development studio. Matt

communication issues. The engineer asked me

me, so I picked up the action figure off the

Nuccio can be reached at (516) 377–0500 or

if I could help them. The Japanese men didn’t

table, pointed to the problem, and said, “The

via email at


from The imagemakers


School’S out for Summer




emember when you were a

the “why?” The politically correct answer

one week of unstructured time,” says Tim.

kid and the last day of the

would be, “I want my kids to have new adven-

“When I was young, my summers were com-

school year rolled around?

tures in the summer—to be challenged,” says

pletely unstructured,” he says. “unfortunately,

Do you remember that feeling

robin. Then she also admits, “It’s also nice

the world’s not like that anymore.”

of freedom? It’s knowing that

having them away. What’s that song? ‘oh

the next few months involved doing a whole

sweet mystery of life at last I found you.’”

family Vacation?

lot ’o nothing. In the high school years, sum-

Tim agrees. “all three kids will be in

all three families plan on taking a vacation

mer activities were usually filled in around a

camp for as much of the summer as we can

to visit grandparents this summer. “We take

summer job schedule.

afford. We’re dropping them off at 9:30 a.M.

‘real’ vacations every second or third year,”

But what are the summer months like for

and not picking them up until 3:30 p.M. no

says Tim. “We’ve been to Disney World and

today’s families? This month we revisit the

more half-day pickups. I freelance but I need

the Bahamas but we have to save up to take

three families we met in the March issue and

to be able to work,” he says.

those vacations. The kids think visiting their

ask them about their summer plans.

let’s Get reacquainted Here is a recap of the families. TIM

Tim recognizes that camps offer activities

grandparents and ‘adventure sleeping’ (sleep-

the kids like—and that the kids want to go.

ing on the floor) means ‘vacation.’ But sleep-

“That was a big factor in looking at full-day

ing in my wife’s lumpy childhood bed is no vacation for us,” he says.


camps—all three kids are very social,” says

SaraH W. live in a suburb of Chicago. Tim is

Tim. nick will be attending a two-week

a freelance writer and Sarah is director of a

overnight camp.

the cost of All this fun

graduate program at a top university. They

leigh didn’t make summer plans for

The cost of camp for Tim and Sarah W.’s

have three children, nick, now age 11, Ian,

Jordie and Zander mostly because they are

family is $7,000—the same cost as they had

age 8, and Molly, age 6.

past camp age. She did admit, “In past years

spent in the past with daycare tuition. The cost

DouglaS o. live outside of

I had them all scheduled up for the summer

for robin and Douglas o.’s kids is $6,000—a

Manhattan with their kids greer, age 15, and

by this time. I wanted them to have a place

savings because greer had opted for a two-

logan, age 11. robin is a screenwriter and

to go from 9 a.M.–5 p.M., partly for fun and

week program instead of four. With no camp

Douglas is editorial director for a start-up

partly so we could work.”

activities planned, robert and leigh H. are



financial publication.

as the kids get older, they are recognizing

leIgH H. reside near los

the importance of community service. Both

angeles. robert is a musician/composer and

Jordie and greer will be involved in service

leigh is a script supervisor. Their kids are

activities this summer.



Jordie, age 15, and Zander, age 12.

“Do You Want the Politically correct Answer or What I really think?”

lazy Days of Summer

saving money but might splurge on a summer family pool membership. “no family we know is cutting back on summer programs,” says Tim. “The parents all work and feel that work has them over a barrel.” The other parents agree they don’t

all parents agreed on the importance of

see friends cutting back on 2011 summer fun

down time. “I plan in unscheduled time,” says

or spending. We will check in with these

our survey parents were asked if their

robin. leigh agrees, “I want them to have time

families toward the end of the summer to

kids attend camp and, if so, why? robin

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ashion dolls got their name for a reason. These dolls wear the latest clothing trends and sport the hottest hairstyles. But aside from looking cool, today’s fashion dolls offer a lot more than just fashion. “One important factor aside from fashion is storytelling,” says Sara Rosales, vice-president, public relations, Mattel Brands. “In Monster High, it is each doll’s unique fashions that help tell the story of its monster heritage and further develop each of the doll character’s individual personalities.” But it’s not just the backstory of dolls that girls are interested in. It’s the stories that girls themselves will tell as they play with the dolls. Over the past few years, doll manufacturers have taken notice of what kinds of stories girls want to tell through doll play and delivered dolls that will help bring those stories to life. Today’s fashion dolls are focused on girls’ aspirations—what do girls want to be when they grow up? What do girls want to be when they are teenagers? Mattel’s Barbie I Can Be . . . line of dolls allows girls to experience different careers (“We

know that eventually roleplay becomes real play,” Rosales says.), while Spin Master’s Liv dolls offer young girls a “teenager” experience. “Our dolls have always been about aspiration and what a 6–10-year-old girl wants, which is to be a teenager, living out what she sees in pop culture,” says Harold Chizick, Spin Master’s vice-president, global communications and promotions. “We really brought the dolls to life and made them more about what girls want to be in five or six years, not in 10, 15, 20 years.” Of course, fashion and hair play are still very important components of these dolls, serving as the catalyst for the creative and imaginative play. “Fashion comes first,” says Jennifer Caveza, vice-president of marketing for girls at Jakks Pacific. “Girls want pretty dolls with beautiful clothes so they can dress them up and take them wherever their imaginations will go.” Doll manufacturers are bringing new technologies to dolls to make the fashion and hair play unique. This fall, Spin Master will debut the new Liv theme: spa. And just like at a real spa, where women get their hair colored and makeup done, girls will be able to do the same with the Liv dolls. When girls put water on the doll’s face or hair, makeup will appear on the face and the hair will change color. MGA is introducing memory hair to its Bratz dolls. Girls will be able to wave, crimp, curl, or straighten a Bratz All Glammed Up doll’s hair with pretend styling tools, and the memory hair will hold its style. For Moxie Girlz, the Summer Swim Magic dolls have several features, including color-change hair With the new Barbie Designable Hair Extensions, girls can and kicking feet for “swimming.” (MGA create personalized hair extensions for themselves and Barbie. was not available for an interview.)


Liv Tranquility Spa Playset

As a way to bring characters to life, Jakks’s Caveza says the upcoming Disney Fairies Flower Scents Deluxe Dolls will each have a signature flower scent to match flower-themed fashions. A special feature from Mattel also involves hair. The Barbie Designable Hair Extensions allows girls to go online, create their own customized hair extensions, and print them on special hair paper to wear and share. “This new innovation combines girls’ love of high-tech electronics and classic hair play patterns,” says Mattel’s Rosales. While girls love playing with their dolls offline, doll manufacturers can’t deny girls’ interest in the online world. Most manufacturers have some sort of age-appropriate online component to further enhance the play and the dolls’ stories. “If children really want to immerse themselves in a brand, we need to be where they’re going to be,” says Spin Master’s Chizick. Whether playing fashion games or watching videos of their favorite doll characters, girls interact with the dolls online in a new way. This interaction also influences how girls play with the dolls offline and what stories they will tell with the dolls. From the clothes to the hair to the online play, doll manufacturers make sure that girls have everything they need to tell great stories.

Mattel Barbie’s newest career is architect. The Barbie I Can Be . . . Architect doll includes a hard hat and a set of blueprints. It is for ages 3 and up.

Spin Master MGA Each of the Bratz Rock dolls wears a cool fashion and comes with a musical instrument. The dolls’ hair and face paint glows in the dark. Bratz Rock dolls are for ages 6 and up.

Madame Alexander

With Liv Twist & Dance dolls, girls can make Daniela, Sophie, Katie, Alexis, and Hayden dance just by moving the dolls’ hips. Girls can also transform the dolls’ hairstyles from day to night by twisting the two-sided wig.

KidsGive LLC

Madame Alexander’s new Alex collection presents Alex and Paris with new bodies, 17 points of articulation, and haute couture wardrobes and accessories. The 16-inch City Sass Alex wears a black sweater, black ruffled lace skirt, tan wool jacket, leopard scarf, black boots, and leopard-print sun glasses. The doll is for ages 14 and up.

New this year from KidsGive are the Karito Kids Play a Role dolls. Each 10-inch soft doll comes with a companion pet in a play space that doubles as a carrying case. A percentage of each purchase goes to help girls in the developing world through charitable partner Plan USA and the “Because I am a Girl” project.

Playmates Jakks Pacific The Disney Fairies 9-inch Fashion Dolls feature the Disney Fairies with new outfits and accessories that emphasize their athletic talents. Each Disney Fairies doll is dressed in either a sporty dress or leggings with flats.

Playmates’ Hearts For Hearts Girls doll line includes six dolls representing the countries of India, Mexico, Belarus, Laos, Ethiopia, and the U.S. Each doll is dressed in authentic fashions and comes with a story booklet, hair comb, and bracelet for girls to wear. With the help of Playmates’ charity partner World Vision, a portion of each purchase is donated to organizations helping girls in the countries represented by the dolls.


Electronic and Classic Baby Dolls Coexist in the Marketplace BY LAURIE LEAHEY


hen it comes to baby dolls there are two Parents want their children to experience the sides—feature-rich, lifelike, electronic nurturing and caring play pattern that comes from playing with baby dolls—both electronic dolls and more traditional, classic dolls. and classic. Right: Corolle’s Coquette Redhead Technology plays a big role in the baby is new to its Miss Corolle line. Below: Hasbro’s Baby Alive Wets ’N Wiggles “wets” its diaper. doll category, but it hasn’t trumped the classic baby dolls just yet. Consumers still want both types of dolls for their children. “Parents look for a variety of features in their children’s baby dolls,” says Darryl Wizenberg, president of Tollytots, a division of Jakks Pacific. “There are key areas that technology can enhance in the baby doll play experience, but at the same time technology should not be added just for the sake of ‘flash and wow’.” He says the new My First Disney Princess Singing & Storytelling Belle and My First Disney Princess Baby Bath Princess stay true to the core baby doll play patterns of taking care of a baby, but the new dolls also incorporate simple animatronic technologies to bring the princess characters to life. “For a young child, even simple innovation becomes truly magical when applied in creative ways,” Wizenberg says. with an imaginative play vehicle. “We’re very driven by what a prodFor Hasbro, adding technology to its Baby Alive dolls is about pro- uct does,” says Jeff Holtzman, CEO of The Goldberger Company. “The viding entertainment and interaction for girls. “When the doll comes to thing about a doll is that it shouldn’t have to do anything other than be life in surprising ways, it creates a very magical experience for the girl, a good-looking, size-appropriate, safe product for a little girl or a little allowing her to care for her doll just like a real mommy,” says Michelle boy.” Goldberger’s Baby’s First doll line is made up of soft dolls that Paolino, vice-president, global brand strategy and marketing, Hasbro. foster early child development skills and encourage pretend play for From its new Baby’s New Teeth doll that “grows” its first two teeth to children ages birth–3. the My Baby Alive doll that speaks more than 30 phrases, Hasbro conCorolle produces several electronic dolls, which the company says are tinues to work with new technologies and reinvent its Baby Alive line- successful, but its big sellers are its traditional dolls. “Parents want their up in order to stay competitive. children to experience play using their imaginations,” says Beau James, Mattel also uses technology to make its Little Mommy brand more Corolle’s director, North America. “You can lead a child in a direction and lifelike. “This year the Little Mommy brand introduces new innova- they will take over using their imagination.” tions in nurturing play so that girls can more realistically experience And the baby doll play pattern of nurturing, caring play is not just for the milestones of ‘mommy-hood’,” says Sara Rosales, vice-president, girls. “We’re seeing more and more boys getting involved in it,” James public relations, Mattel Brands. The new Little Mommy My Very Real says. “There is a growing interest on the part of boys and their parents for Baby Doll is engineered with interactive light and motion sensors, as boys to play with dolls. It is the nurturing experience that is so important well as magnets in the hand that activate programmed responses when in the development of children.” the doll interacts with key accessories. Parents want their children to have a real baby experience and engage For the classic baby doll manufacturers, technology is nice. Some of in nurturing play. The type of baby doll chosen depends on what the parthem have baby dolls that incorporate a few electronic mechanisms ent is looking for, which is why electronic and classic baby dolls will conhere and there. But the main goal is to provide girls (and perhaps boys) tinue to share space in the marketplace.


Jakks Pacific The My First Disney Princess Singing and Storytelling Belle doll is a soft-bodied large doll dressed in Belle’s signature dress. The doll reads aloud a Beauty and the Beast short story and sings “Beauty and the Beast” and “Be Our Guest.” Belle also speaks in the voices of Chip, Mrs. Potts, and Lumière.

Hasbro Hasbro’s My Baby Alive doll says more than 30 phrases and features “rock-a-bye” eyes that can open and close. Girls can “feed” the doll with the bottle and mix special “food.” Girls can also change the doll’s diaper. The doll is for ages 3 and up.

Madame Alexander Madame Alexander’s Starry Night Victoria doll has a painted blond head with blue eyes. The 14-inch doll is dressed in a long-sleeved, white fleece top that is edged in a pink stitching. The doll’s knit pants feature a pink-on-pink print of stars, moons, and suns. The doll is for ages 3 and up.


The Goldberger Co.

Corolle’s Bebe Do Mode baby doll has been in its collection for years. Corolle updates the doll every year with a new outfit. The doll is for ages 2–3.

Baby’s First Tiny Totes My First Purse comes with a soft, huggable baby doll and everything little mommies need. The purse has bows and pockets to hold the soft accessories: a cell phone, a flowershaped mirror, a wallet with ID card, and a musical MP3 player. It is for ages 18 months and up.

Mattel The Little Mommy My Very Real Baby Doll features interactive light and motion innovation. The doll will ask for its juice pop and teddy bear accessories. When those are placed in the doll’s hands, it will recognize and respond to them. Hand the doll the juice pop and the doll’s tongue lights up green (as though the doll has licked the juice pop) until girls wipe it away. The boo-boo on the doll’s leg also lights up, and girls can wipe it away, too. My Very Real Baby Doll includes a doll, a juice pop, a bear, a pretend bandage, a wiping cloth, a bowl, and a spoon. It is for ages 2 and up.





n the few years since the economy took a nosedive, reports on how The idea of a shared experience plays a role in the attraction of activit changed the lives of children and families have been peppered with ity kits for parents. But it isn’t the only factor. Activity is one of a few cutesy words like “staycation” and “cocooning.” Buzzwords aside, toy categories that have a real feel-good factor with parents because parwhat these reports pointed toward was the trend of families staying ents know the products are beneficial to their child’s development. home more often and partaking in various activities together. “Parents value self-expression as important to their With reports showing that the economy is strengthening, it does appear kids’ growth and development,” says that, at least for now, consumers have kept the lifestyle adjustments they Victoria Lozano, viceenacted during the downturn. It does appear that people aren’t being as president, portfolio frivolous with their money as they once were and inquiries with a few marketing, at Crayola. moms and dads show that the family-time elements that were strength“Kids enjoy activities for ened during the downturn are still going strong. the fun they have experiThe activity category is one such area that benefited from an increased menting with new colors, focus on home and family time and it is still seeing high demand for the surfaces, and effects and home-focused, family-friendly offerings. showing others what “Things like Shrinky Dinks—and a lot of craft products—are activities inspires them.” that are shared between This expression of inspiparents and kids,” says ration is a big contributing Bob Muniz, president factor as to why these prodof BSW Toy. “There is ucts have been such a hit with a lot of value in that. children—generation after Parents are doing an generation. Children can create activity with their chilworks of art that they can disdren and they are not play or give as gifts, or they can sitting in front of TV personalize products such as screens.” umbrellas, totes, or room décor Of course, finding items. While creative expression is reasons to participate the tie that binds this category, the in activities with their range of subject matter that is conchildren is nothing tained within is staggering. The key Gender-neutral products, such as BSW Toy’s 3-D Shrinky Dinks, above right, and boy-oriented items like Jakks Pacific’s Real Construction Deluxe Workshop, new for parents. In for a successful activity kit is making above left, are experiencing growth in the activity aisle. today’s heavily schedit fun and easy for children to create uled world, these and express themselves. activities offer parents face time with their kids as well as a sense of bond“A good craft kit enables a child to succeed and success is beautiful,” ing over a shared experience. says Alex’s Amdur. “A good activity kit has a basic structure, but also pro“With all the electronic toys and video games kids play, parents vides enough opportunity for a child to add her own creative touch.” are looking to balance their kids’ lives with hands-on arts and crafts,” The ability to add a personalized touch is at the core of the success of says Nurit Amdur, CEO of Alex. “Consumers are looking for ways to this category. “None of our products will dictate to a child what the end bond with their children and arts and crafts provide an opportunity to product will look like,” says Debbie Kurlansky-Winer, vice-president of create something together.” marketing and product development at Scratch Art.



addition to adding ible form with proprietary digital and color The activity kits category these types of kits innovation,” says Crayola’s Lozano. is one that skews more toward girls to its line, BSW and kits feaalso added a RANDS turing activi3-D element to The activity category offers quite an array ties that appeal more Shrinky Dinks. to girls command a BSW’s Shrinky Dinks pieces inter- of products from well-known and well-estabdecent chunk of lock to create three-dimensional lished brands. Crayola, Scratch Art, Alex, Creativity for Kids, and Play-Doh are practithe shelf space in pieces that kids can play with. this aisle. That “We try to challenge our- cally all household names. Parents know the being said, some of selves to come up with a twist products from these manufacturers will offer the biggest growth for these products,” says their children a good creative experience. in this category in the past few Muniz. “We look for the next There are also a few household names in the years has been in boy-targeted level. We don’t reinvent the making in this category. Jakks’ Real products. Over the past few wheel, but smooth it out a lit- Construction comes to mind. “Real Construction is a basic play pattern, years, Creativity for Kids has tle bit for a better ride.” continued to add boy-oriented Speaking of adding a twist which resonates well in the category,” says Jakks’ Bernstein. “We, kits to its line. Jakks Pacific’s on arts and crafts play, Crayola as marketers, look to Real Construction line is a has added some high-tech utilize this in establishgood example of boy-orientelements to its activity offering perennial brands.” ed products making their ings. Its Story Studio is a Of course, a brand mark on the category. web-based application that name can only get “Boys is an opportunity in uses face recognition you so far. These the market that isn’t overdevelsoftware to help children New from Alex is a line of six candybrands were estaboped at the moment,” says morph their photos into themed Dylan’s lished by offering Michael Bernstein, senior vicecustomizable cartoon Candy Bar-licensed kits. Shown are the activity products that president of marketing at Jakks characters. A special code results of the Color moms and kids Pacific. “There aren’t too many found in each pack lets a Yumbrella, Color A Sweet Wristlet, enjoy—in some cases SKUs in that space. It is a trakids unlock the Story Color A Candy Bag, generation after genditional play pattern that needs Studio application on and Make Candy eration. After all, in the right brands and products that helps Wrapper Jewelry kits. the activity category, to target the boy consumer.” them transform themthe play is less about BSW Toy is another manselves. It is available in the product and more ufacturer that saw opportunity in a girl-domi- three versions, featuring the Creativity for Kids continues with its boyabout giving kids and nated activity aisle. Muniz says the company Disney Princess, Cars 2, and oriented offerings with the Color Changing Robot Light kit. their parents an realized that there were mostly girl-oriented Spider-Man licenses. opportunity to spend Shrinky Dinks in the market and came up with “We differentiate our crea range of boy-oriented and gender-neutral ative activities by providing children with quality time together while giving kids an outitems to comprise its Shrinky Dinks line. In new ways to bring their original ideas into vis- let for their creative expression.






It appears that consumers have kept some of the lifestyle adjustments they enacted during the economic downturn. Categories like actvity kits continue to benefit from the demand for home-focused, family-friendly offerings that suit these lifestyle adjustments. Below is a sampling of arts and crafts activity items that kids and parents can enjoy at home.

BSW Toy BSW Toy introduced eight new 3-D Shrinky Dinks kits as part of its SmArt Studios brand. The kits, designed to appeal to both boys and girls, each come with 10 sheets of plastic, instructions, and stencils. Themes include Trains & Tracks, Pirates, Space, Dinosaurs, Fairy Princess, Military Aircraft, Zoo Safari, and Sea Life. BSW says all the kits are made in the U.S.

Crayola Crayola Story Studio is a web-based application that uses face recognition software to help children morph their photos into customizable cartoon characters. A special code found in each pack lets kids unlock the Story Studio application on that helps them transform themselves. Story Studio is available in three versions, featuring the Disney Princess, Cars 2, and Spider-Man licenses,

Jakks Pacific Among the new offerings in Jakks Pacific’s Real Construction line are power tools. Shown is the Real Construction KidPowered Nail Gun. Also available is the Real Construction 9-in-1 Gadget and Real Construction Motorized Power Drill.


Creativity for Kids After receiving a positive response from the trade for its previous vehicle-themed kits for boys, Creativity for Kids offers three new craft kits for boys. The Color Changing Robot Light kit contains everything needed to construct, paint, and decorate a 3-D robot. Flipping on the battery-powered LED lights creates a light show. The other two kits are Paint and Play Cement Mixer and Paint and Play Loader.

Scratch Art Two new Scratchin’ Fashion Sticker Books are on the way from Scratch Art. The Tattoo Body Art book includes 15 sticker pages, five bonus henna design doodle pages, more than 50 Scratchin’ Fashion stickers, and a wood drawing stylus.

Alex On the way from Alex are three new Kid Concoctions-licensed kits: Bouncy Ball Blast, Mix ’n Slime, and Magic Muck. Also new from Alex is a line of six candy-themed Dylan’s Candy Bar-licensed kits. Kits in the line include Color a Yumbrella, Color a Sweet Wristlet, Color a Candy Bag, and Make Candy Wrapper Jewelry.

Little Kids Hasbro Among Hasbro’s new Play-Doh offerings is the Play-Doh Sesame Street Color Mixer Playset. Elmo teaches kids about colors with this electronic color mixer. Just place two Play-Doh colors in the mixer, crank, and open the lid to discover a new color. The set includes three three-ounce cans of Play-Doh.

Cra-Z-Art Cra-Z-Art’s Electra Doodle allows young artists to design, create, and animate using colorful light. Kids can also play games such as tic-tac-toe, dot-to-dot, and mazes with it.

Toobers&Zots is a line focused around a flexible, moldable soft foam. The Toobers&Zots Bend & Pretend Foamstruction Set contains more than 345 pieces. Using the colored foam, kids can build large creations such as dinosaurs, flowers, animals, and rockets.

Spin Master Spin Master’s Bizu is a bead activity that allows girls to create transforming accessories. They can create bracelets, charms, and necklaces and by giving the jewelry a twist they can transform it into posable characters. Also on the way from Spin Master is Fab Effex, which is a fabric that can bend, twist, stick, and hold its shape.


Room to GRow



child’s bedroom is often the first place that one can express their personality, whether it’s through a favorite color, toy, or character. And increasingly, technology is paving the way for kids to show off these traits using room décor without the permanency or price tag that moms may dread. “Children are very savvy about what’s going on as far as clothing and room décor,” says Paula Berberian, creative services manager for Brewster Home Fashions, creator of Wall Pops, a line of vinyl wall decals, which use a microsphere adhesive technology. “A lot of kids today are very into fashion. . . and that translates into their rooms, too. It’s their personal space.”

wall Flower Wall treatments in a child’s room can be a source of stress for parents. Kids grow and change so quickly and so does their taste. No parent wants to paint and wallpaper every year. But now with the rise of the wall décor category, with its wall appliqués/decals/stickers, parents don’t have to worry. Kids can redecorate on their own. “People have been struggling with a lot of different wall treatments for so long, and this, it’s easy, it’s trendy, and it’s affordable,” says Berberian. And perhaps even more important to parents, the product,

unlike paint or wallpaper, is temporary. “It pushes all the right consumer buttons,” says Pierre Jean Delaye, COO Pacific Play Tents offers a line of bed tents for play and sleep. of RoomMates, a division of York Wall Coverings. “If you look at today’s consumers, everybody is pressed for time, strapped for cash, and they don’t want to commit to anything long term.” A kid’s interests change as often as their wardrobe; one day it’s Elmo, the next day it’s Yoda, which is why the product works, Delaye says. York Wall Coverings, the largest wallpaper company in the U.S., has been in business for more than 100 years. In 2006, RoomMates, which started as a wall decal program under York, became a separate division in order to focus solely on the growing category. Wallables, another wall décor company, has created a detachable form of wall décor that adds a tactile 3-D press-n-play element to the typical appliqué design. “The evolution of wall décor is untapped; it’s just starting,” Dan Garr, Wallables president and founder, says. “And, when at least 70 percent of your room is wall, there is definitely room for exploration in that environment.”

License to Decorate

Uncle Milton’s In My Room line provides kids with interactive room décor items that also have educational value, such as Moon In My Room (pictured above.)


Because wall appliqués are so non-committal, the product has found much success in licensing. “Licenses come and go, and you have things that gain speed suddenly,” Delaye says. Licensors are looking for items like wall decals that can quickly change direction and stay on top of trends. Even in terms of an evergreen property, while the property remains the same, the style within that property is constantly evolving, and wall décor is able to change with it at a rate much quicker than other room décor items. But, that’s not to say licensed furniture does not hold up in the market. A new movie will spike sales for licensed product such as the much-anticipated Cars 2, but the product’s appeal remains for years, says Bob Pagano, vice-president of Kids Only, a division of Jakks Pacific. Kids Only has found success with a line of puzzle furniture that serves as a room fixture and converts into an activity table and chairs. In fact, because so much of licensed kids’ room décor features

timeless characters, multiple children within a family can use the item. “Licensed product has an emotional appeal for children,” says Ron Cohen, president of Kids Only. “It’s [Disney] Princesses and Cars, and Dora, and Thomas. It tugs at a kid’s heart.”

Mom Approved While kid approval is always important in product purchases, moms are still the ultimate decision-makers. As a result there is a price point “sweet spot,” which will get them to instantly redecorate a room. In terms of wall décor, the majority of decals are priced between $12.99 and $20, which makes most parents comfortable with allowing cartoon characters on their child’s walls. Price remains an important factor in this category, as well as in the rest of the toy industry as consumers emerge from the recession. Manufacturers understand that the products must be able to grow with a child without breaking the bank. “We recognize that the customer’s income is being used for everything . . . gas, things of that nature, and we are compassionate in trying to provide a great product at a great retail price,” says Cohen. The recession has also forced a lot of families to downsize their homes and more siblings are sharing bedrooms. However, consumers are willing to spend a little more if they feel the product is durable and multifunctional. Little Tikes, a division of MGA Entertainment, is one such company that creates a line of rocket-, car- and cottage-shaped beds that serve as a place for sleep and imaginative play. “Many homes no longer have separate playrooms for kids, so having a bedroom with furniture that is both functional and fun is key to happy kids and parents,” says Rosanne Kubisty, senior director of marketing for Little Tikes. She adds that instead of purchasing new furniture as a

child grows, parents are also turning toward bedding, linens, and other room décor items to update and refresh the look of a room.

Form, Function, and Fun The top concerns for moms when purchasing just about anything are price, safety, durability, and functionality. But new objectives such as interactivity and emotional comfort are also playing a bigger role in this category. Issues such as ensuring a child sleeps in his own bed can turn bedtime into a chore for parents instead of a time for parent/child bonding. This is why surrounding a child with items of comfort is so important, and room décor experts are reinventing the source of emotional comfort for kids by combining elements of playtime with bedtime, as seen with Little Tikes’ line of beds. Pacific Play Tents line of bed tents, designed to go on top and attach to a child’s bed, provides kids with a duel purpose product for play and sleep, which as Brian Jablon, vice-president of Pacific Play Tents, says, can ease bedtime worries. Because of the nature of the product, the child feels safe in his own room, and is more likely to sleep there. “They play in them so much that they’re thrilled to go to bed,” he says. Adding elements of play to a child’s room and allowing kids to customize their space can help them feel more at home in their environment. New items that use technology are taking this idea to a new level. Uncle Milton’s In My Room line of products are just one example. Frank Adler, president of Uncle Milton, describes the line as two-thirds room décor, one-third educational product. Products such as Moon In My Room not only bring parts of the natural world into kids’ rooms but also include audio and a remote control so they can experience the different stages of the moon. Adler adds that Uncle Milton tries to always use the

Wall decals are a non-permenant way to change the overall look and feel of a room. RoomMates offers licensed decals of characters such as Star Wars’ Yoda, which also glows in the dark.

latest technology in its products. “Whether it’s radio controlled, LED lighting technology that we use in our room lights, color changing [technology], sound, anything that we can utilize, we put [it] into these products for a more magical experience,” he says. Room décor should go beyond just allowing kids to decorate their space, says Garr of Wallables. For Garr, interactive play through décor is just as important. “When I was growing up it was don’t touch this, don’t touch that, and the pictures had to be straight on the wall. Forget it!” says Garr. “Kids, they want to touch things. They want to feel their world. They want to experiment and design sometimes.” The reality is that the world is becoming more interactive, and kids are being exposed to technology at a much earlier age. And technology is allowing room décor to take product function and design to another level. “As far as technology goes, the sky is the limit,” Adler says. “So we’ve got to keep up with that, and I think it’s incumbent upon us to do that and really speak their [kids’] language.”



Bedrooms are often the first space where kids have a say in customizing their environment. And from wall decals to interactive fixtures and convertible furniture, the room décor category is evolving, by offering functional and affordable items that both parents and kids can use to create a more personalized space.

P’kolino P’kolino’s line of Silly Seats are décor pieces of three-piece toddler furniture made of plush micro fiber and high-density foam. Put together they make a huggable toy for kids to play with and pull apart for a comfy chair for any child’s room.

RoomMates RoomMates’ line of XL Wall Murals creates an immersion experience in room décor. Murals, which include scenes from iCarly, Star Wars, Tron, and Sesame Street, take kids inside the films and TV shows so they can be in on the action. Shown above is an XL Barbie Wall Mural.

Kids Only Kids Only, a division of Jakks Pacific, has expanded its line of puzzle furniture to include a Disney Princess castle and a stack of tires inspired by the anticipated release of Cars 2. The items easily convert into a functional activity table and chairs for play.


Wallables Wallables released a series of licensed interactive wall décor featuring Disney Princesses as well as characters from Cars 2. Plans are also in the works to create a paintyour-own-Wallables line.

Wall Pops

Little Tikes

Wall Pops has created a new baby line of its wall decals to make decorating nurseries for new and expecting parents easier. The line, which comes in subtle pastel hues, includes animal silhouettes, growth charts, nursery rhymes, monograms, and more.

Little Tikes offers a line of kids’ beds that double as areas for sleep and play, such as the Storybook Cottage bed (pictured). Many of the Little Tikes beds also come with cubbies and storage components to hold kids’ toys, clothes, books, and more.

Uncle Milton Pacific Play Tents Pacific Play Tents has introduced a new version of its bed tents, which offer two straps, instead of a bottom sheet, to wrap under the edges of a child’s bed for easier transfer of the bed tents for play on the floor or the bed.

Uncle Milton’s latest additions to its In My Room line include a color-changing dream fairy night light, Shooting Stars In My Room, and the Fireworks Lightshow. Using the fireworks projector (pictured) kids can bring the excitement of the fourth of July into their bedrooms any time of the year.

Alex Toys Alex Toys’ room décor items, such as the Butterfly Tent (pictured), allow kids to quickly change up the look of their room. The canopy, made for a twin bed, comes decorated with 18 sparkling butterflies in an assortment of colors and sizes. Ribbon is used to hang the canopy from the ceiling and tie the canopy door flaps open.



Plush Fun Rolled into One


or Reid and JC Smoot, taking a trip with their seven siblings meant packing a total of nine blankets, nine pillows, and nine stuffed animals. It was this experience that inspired them to simplify the family travel process with the creation of Zoobies, plush that converts into a pillow and a blanket. Zoobies launched in 2007, offering something that the company says separates it from its plush competitors: functionality. A quick unsnap of the Velcro straps found on the Zoobies’ underbelly converts the plush into a pillow. Unzip it and the body unfolds into a detachable fleece blanket. Zoobies can be summed up in what the company calls the “3Cs.” “We’re convertible. We’re convenient for moms. And, we’re about comfort, both in terms of the ‘squishability’ of the product as well as the emotional comfort of the toy,” says Arete Passas, CEO of Zoobies. Although neither Smoot brother had a background in the toy industry, Reid owned a sourcing company in China, which provided him and JC with the means and the space to make their innovative idea a reality. Reid continues to oversee the Zoobies’ factories on-site in Shanghai. He uses his background in product sourcing and his fluency in Mandarin to ensure product standards are always met. He also manages the international front, where some of the company’s biggest areas of expansion are taking place. In the past year international sales, online and at retail, grew to just over 20 percent of total company sales, and international distribution now reaches more than 70 countries, and it’s growing.


Licensing has played a critical role in Zoobies’ expansion, with increasingly more time spent looking at the types of licenses the company will take on. This started in 2009 when Zoobies began to acquire licenses to create Zoobies Storytime Pals, a line that combines the huggable Zoobies with classic children’s storybook characters. Zoobies creators again capitalized on a natural connection, this time it’s between reading a book and cozying up with a blanket and stuffed animal, Passas says. The first licensed product was the World of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “We currently have about a dozen licenses and we are even looking to expand beyond that,” Passas says. “This year, we’re releasing Clifford [the Big Red Dog], the Good Night Moon bunny, and Curious George, and looking into ones [licenses] that can take it [the product] further up in age.” Since Passas joined the company in 2010, she says Zoobies has become more focused on creating distinct differentiation among its lines as well as growing the age range for its products. Refining the positioning of the company’s baby

Curious George is one character featured in Zoobies’ licensed line of Storytime Pals.

line is just one example. A relaunch of Zoobies’ Blankie Babies collection this year added new features such as a detachable teething ring and a polka dot blanket that matches the underbelly of the toy. This is more on trend with the infant market compared with the solid color scheme of other Zoobies lines. The goal is to really “differentiate this [product] for mom,” Passas says. “So she really understands that this is for a young child, 0–2 years old. It’s expanding the product both in terms of the age of the child, and then the functionality within that age.” Another example of this can be seen in Zoobies’ newest line, Slumber Pets. While the original Blanket Pets’ bodies deflate to become the blanket, leaving the Zoobies’ micro bead head for a pillow, Slumber Pets’ bodies maintain their plush form for use as a pillow or a detachable stuffed animal. Slumber Pets can also be distinguished from Zoobies’ other lines by their larger size and the zip-up fleece sleeping bag inside instead of a blanket. Passas says it’s been refreshing to see how receptive consumers have been to not only Zoobies but also new brands throughout the entire plush category. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of the brand.”

events of


Industry-Related Trade Shows June 7–9

Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)

Los Angeles Convention Center

14–16 16–19

Los Angeles

Licensing International Expo

Mandalay Bay Convention Center

Las Vegas

Tokyo Toy Show

Tokyo Big Sight

Tokyo, Japan


ASTRA Marketplace

Marriott Anaheim Hotel & Convention Center

Anaheim, Calif.


Origins Game Fair

Greater Columbus Convention Center

Columbus, Ohio


Comic-Con International

San Diego Convention Center

San Diego


Royaltie$ BRand ShowcaSe

the altman Building

new yoRk city


OASIS Gift Show

Phoenix Convention Center



Indy Baby & Toddler Expo

Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center



Minneapolis Mart Gift, Home & Acc. Show

Minneapolis Mart Showroom

Minnetonka, Minn.


Reed Gift Fairs

Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

Melbourne, Australia


New York International Gift Fair

Jacob Javits Convention Center

New York City



september 23–26

ABC Kids Expo

Kentucky Exposition Center

Louisville, Ky.


time to Play Fall ShowcaSe

the altman Building

new yoRk city



Palais des Festivals

Cannes, France



Palais des Festivals

Cannes, France


Fall Toy Preview

Dallas Market Center




Las Vegas Convention Center

Las Vegas


iHobby Expo

Donald E. Stephens Convention Center

Rosemont, Ill.


nOvember 17–18

Toy & Game Inventor Conference

Navy Pier



Chicago Toy & Game Fair

Navy Pier








Toys & Family Entertainment, May 2011  

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

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