Toy News June 2019

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No. 206 | June 2019

The age of immersion

Editor Robert Hutchins

Sales Manager Rob Baker

Designer Nikki Hargreaves

Follow us @toynews online


resh off the plane from Las Vegas' Licensing Expo earlier this month, it was with a rejuvenated feeling of excitement that I returned to the office and back to the ol' nine 'til five - having, of course, dedicated the weekend to ridding myself of debilitating jetlag (yes, jetlag) and catching up on the Love Island latest (yep, it's still garbage and yep, it's still absolutely unmissable). Licensing Expo is a show I enjoy. Not only is it always easy to find a friendly face - and one that will always obligingly while away the small hours with you as your brain surrenders to the complexities of time zones, but so is it always easy to find something to inspire and reinvigorate a passion for this line of work. And this year, it fell to Elvis. We all know there's plenty of noise being made within the $280bn global licensing industry (according to the latest Licensing International insight), but none of it captured my attention as much as Elvis. More specifically, an augmented reality app that put me directly into the recording studio with The King himself, allowing me to walk amongst his backing singers and musicians as it picked up their specific channels in my headphones. As immersion goes, it was utterly thrilling. And as for where tech is taking us - we are only just embarking on what looks to be a very exciting, possibly trepidatious, journey ahead. Robert Hutchins, Editor

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Contents June 2019 Features



Opinion 06 Trudi Bishop 07 Tom Musk 08 Rob Trup 09 Steve Pasierb


We chat with MD Simon Newbury about why Orchard Toys won't be veering from the traditional path anytime


A NEW PLAYGROUND ToyNews unveils the 2019 Connected Play Landscape in an industry exclusive with Collabsco


ALL IN THE VOICE We talk to the company advancing the bedtime story tradition with augmented reality and voice technology


Market Data 33 Generation Media 34 WildBrain Sector Guides 41 STEM toys 49 Dolls 55 Back to School Back pages 58 Bossing It...

THE RECYCLE OF LIFE ToyNews talks to TerraCycle about its LOL Surprise partnership and what it's doing for sustainability

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The bottom line: Why businesses need to take the ‘sustainable’ hit now By Trudi Bishop

The groundbreaking movement by the young environmentalist Greta Thurnberg with the now global “School Strike 4 Climate” and the “Extinction Rebellion” has made governments and businesses sit up and take notice of the climate catastrophe we are facing. English, Welsh and Scottish governments have now declared a climate emergency, which will hopefully be followed by solid action to make swift changes to policies affecting all aspects of society. Businesses are beginning to react making some products from recycled goods and using raw materials from more sustainable sources. We are seeing collaborations in the clothing and footwear industry in particular with shoes made from recycled water bottles. The recycling company, Terracycle, is creating ways to recycle products that most recycling centres are unable to process, such as toothpaste tubes, crisp packets and toy packaging. Some toy companies (primarily in the US) have signed up to its recycling scheme.

All these steps are great but they are only a toe in the water. We still have an addiction to plastic, and we cannot recycle our way of the problem. Ever since China put in place “Operation National Sword” banning most plastic waste, (India has since followed), countries that previously exported their waste have ended up stockpiling or sending the waste to countries whose infrastructure cannot cope. We’re now polluting the poor. Recycling is both costly in money and energy and should be used as a last resort. I read in another publication that companies need to do more ‘story-telling’ and marketing to convince consumers to buy sustainable products. I disagree. This kind of thinking, along with toyco’s asking consumers to recycle their excessive packaging, is putting all the guilt on them to make the better choice. It is ticking the CSR box for shareholders and not acting in a truly responsible way. Businesses: take the hit now. Create only from sustainable resources, design out excess packaging and don’t give us the “choice”. Manufacturers need to take the lead, and take the hit in the short term, so we have a world that our consumers can live in. It’s time we thought differently about growth, waste and being truly sustainable and more responsible as an industry.

"Businesses: take the hit now, so consumers see tomorrow." Trudi Bishop is the founder of Bee Licensing and formerly of Cartamundi. Bishop is an active campaigner for sustainability in the toy industry and will appear in the pages of ToyNews regularly to promote the issue.

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New Speak: Are you ready for the next generation of tech-heads? By Tom Musk

This generation of kids is more connected than ever before. As technology continues to advance, we’re seeing a new trend emerge: Generation Type and Generation Swipe are making way for Generation Speak – a term we at the Insights People have been using for the past nine months. The popularity of smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home continues to grow, with latest Kids Insights figures showing that 21 per cent of kids, tweens and teens in the UK now live in a household with access to one of these devices. They’re poised to become a key form of disruptive technology over the coming years, but are toy brands ready to capitalise on the opportunities they present? One advantage smart speakers and voice-controlled technology has is that it’s more accessible to all age-groups than other forms of technology. While computers, tablets and smartphones rely on reading and typing for kids to interact with them, younger children who have not yet developed these skills can

still interact with smart speakers by speaking simple commands and listening to the responses. Kids Insights data shows that over the past 12 months, there has been an 82 per cent jump in access to smart speakers among four to 12-year-olds, while the 13 to 18 demographic has seen a 60 per cent increase. The proportion of children who say voice is their preferred control method for interacting with technology is also on the rise, up 50 per cent in the past year to 12 per cent overall. Price is a key reason for its rise. Smart speakers are cheaper than most smartphones and tablets, while the surge in smart speakers’ popularity means developers are clamouring to find new ways of harnessing the potential of voice control and merging the online world with traditional offline play. Games that are now getting voice-powered updates include Twister – an Alexa Skill has been developed to replace the traditional spinner used in the game – and Pac-Man. The market for voice-based toys and entertainment is growing fast, and brands need to be ready to take advantage of Generation Speak’s preference for using voice control for interacting with the online world. Visit

"The market for voice-based toys is growing fast, so be ready." Tom Musk is the head of content at the market research and insights specialists, The Insights People. The firm surveys more than 400 UK kids and 200 parents each week for insight-led reports across the kids’ ecosystem.

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The Real Store Club: More real shoppers in your real store By Rob Trup

I still remember my first visit, as an excitable four year old, to the now longgone Kendrick’s Toys in Temple Fortune, North London; where, shelf upon shelf, toys towered with the packaged promise fun. It was a moment that imprinted a memory that would stay with me for years to come. Even now, some... years... later, I still love to browse toy shops. It’s work, is what I advise my wife. We shouldn’t underestimate the special, emotional bond that children, parents, and the community form with their local bricks and mortar toy shop. (Afterall, it’s a rare breed that remembers their first visit to a DIY store…) and, as high street retail transforms in the e-commerce age, we ought to remember that more so than ever. But retailers need to get creative in order to keep shoppers coming through the door. I recently spotted an article on a New York launderette that started hosting movie nights - a vastly better watch than a tumble dryer window, I dare say but it's in this idea that we realise, anything is possible. To engage and draw customers into your toy store, you need to employ modern marketing activities that combine creative ideas and new technologies alongside

those finely tuned old school retailing skills that bricks and mortar shops are renowned for. It's easy to write those words above, I realise, but finding the right marketing activities and ways to implement them, that's a whole different matter. Not everyone has their own marketing division, or the resources to dedicate to it. Well... actually... Allow me to introduce to you the Real Store Club - a real pit stop to help bricks and mortar retailers with your store marketing. We have produced a resource document to share successful marketing activities that other retailers have used, ones that you might want to trial in your own store, and over the coming weeks we'll be providing downloadable resources and templates to help them succeed in your shop. In time, you will have access to a full marketing toolkit for you to use as you choose. Most importantly, we want your feedback and ideas to develop and improve those we have. We’re realistic; not everything will work first time, but this club will let you explore ideas until you find those that do. We built our business selling to small shops; many are still our loyal customers and friends today. It's my belief that, by sharing best practice through the Real Store Club, we can help you and many other shops to keep making those first memories for years to come. Visit today.

"The Real Store Club is a place to share marketing ideas." Rob Trup is the marketing manager at Fiesta Crafts and brains behind the new bricks and mortar retailer initiative The Real Store Club, a concept launched to help high street retailers thrive amid growing pressure from e-commerce

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World of play: How the world’s toy associations are uniting to tackle an evovling industry By Steve Pasierb

Earlier this month, national toy associations from around the world convened in Valencia, Spain at the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) annual general meeting, hosted by the Spanish Association of Toy Manufacturers. Discussions covered the changing business of toys – from stopping the global wave of counterfeiting and protecting factory workers through the ICTI Ethical Toy Program, to assuring the future of toy companies large and small – as well as the importance of educating families about the role and value of childhood play. One major initiative on the agenda was for ICTI member nations to join with the United Nations on November 20 this year, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Children's Rights Declaration. The Declaration is a result of General Assembly Resolution 1386 (XIV), which occurred 14 years after the creation of the UN. Here, The Toy Association shared the positive impact of the Genius of Play programme in the United States, including the campaign’s positive influence on mothers’ mindsets towards play, attitudes towards toys, and actual purchase behaviors. Recent research found that mothers who recall Genius of Play messaging tend to spend 44 per cent more on toys than those who do not recall the campaign.

Likewise, the BTHA has made a significant positive impact through its longstanding Make Time 2 Play initiative, which promotes the developmental benefits of play to consumers, offers play ideas for families, and encourages families to make time for play. Our BTHA colleagues are leaders in helping to ensure that all UK children get to reap the rewards of play. The business of toys has grown into its own interdependent global economy where collaboration and cooperation benefits all. ICTI is currently comprised of toy associations from 20 countries. The Toy Association’s membership in ICTI is crucial to helping us strengthen alliances with fellow toy associations and gain a better understanding of the global toy world, especially as we remain focused on addressing challenges and opportunities in emerging markets on behalf of our members. I can say that we’re proud and honoured to be a part of ICTI and believe that all national toy associations should be a part of this collaborative group. So, the entire toy and play community should take solace in these disruptive times that many national associations choose to come together, share ideas and innovations, and face down challenges while building a stronger global toy community and a worldwide appreciation for play and its many benefits. The industry is changing, and we're on to it.

"Toy business has become an interdependent global economy." Steve Pasierb is the CEO and chairman of the US toy industry body, the Toy Association. Each month, Pasierb presents the latest from the US and global toy business via the pages of ToyNews.

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CORE STRENGTH Orchard Toys has been in the traditional pre-school games and puzzles business for the past nearly 50 years, and remains a name synonymous with the strength of educational play today. Robert Hutchins talks to managing director, Simon Newbury about where Orchard Toys sits within this digital age of play and learning, and why traditional toys still hold their own 10 | toy news | June 2019

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hile Orchard Toys may currently be watching the dust settle around the successful launch of its first app-enabled pre-school game, Sound Detectives, this UK educational game specialist insists “it’s never felt any pressure to align itself with that digital space” the game sits within. It’s despite the surge in growth of STEM areas such as coding, or digital play, among pre-schoolers and young children, the Norfolk-based games and jigsaws

manufacturer tells ToyNews that it’s future ‘is very much in the traditional.’ Traditional games and puzzles for youngsters, afterall, is what Orchard Toys has been doing since the late ‘60s. Its 1975 hit title Insey Winsey, for example, sells just as well today as it did some 40 years ago. Upsetting this particular apple cart and switching lanes to a wholly more digitalfocused one, is certainly not something Orchard Toys is looking to do. As business strategies go, this one won’t be stealing the front cover of Time

magazine anytime soon, but it will certainly continue the business down a path that - in the main appears to be paying off for the team. This is an outfit that, by the end of the last financial year, had once again, seen double-digit revenue growth year-onyear. Not only that, but The NPD Group reported Orchard Toys as the number one manufacturer of pre-school games and jigsaws only recently. It indicates one thing: that if anyone can attest to the June 2019 | toy news | 11

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strength of the traditional toy market, it’s Orchard Toys. But how has it managed this, when the world around us - and the next generation of children coming through - are so much in the digital? “When you look at the wider toy space, educational play has evolved much more with technology, use of tablets, coding etc. However, we have chosen to remain true to our values of very much traditional game play,” explains Simon Newbury, managing director of Orchard Toys. “So from our perspective, there hasn’t been a revolution. Our products are based on simple and engaging gameplay covering basic educational skill sets such as numbers and counting, matching and memory, and literacy and language. “We continue to stay true to our values in terms of premium quality of manufacture,” continues the managing director, offering over just one of this 50 year old company’s many secrets to half a century of success.

But despite all of his talk of roots in the traditional, Newbury and the Orchard Toys team maintains the importance of staying fresh, through artwork, themes, and trends.

"Parents want products they can visibly see helping their children's education. They're becoming more focussed on learning." Simon Newbury, Orchard Toys

“You can see this from a number of our lines that have been revamped over the years, Insey Winsey being one,” continues Newbury. “For example, dinosaurs are really popular at the moment, and we develop different styles of products with this theme that appeal to children from

18 months through to nine years old. We ensure that we stay current with changes to the National Curriculum through engaging with teachers and educational specialists.” There’s a sense that things are ticking over all rather nicely at Orchard Toys, and that they have been for the past almost 15 years, since the firm’s relocation in 2006 to its current Norfolk headquarters; a move that “marked a significant turning point for the company.” “From that point,” says Newbury, “the company has seen significant year on year growth and a much more diverse retail customer base. Not only are we selling to the toy trade, but it is great to be working in the gift and garden centre sectors, as well.” It’s perhaps for this reason that by and large, the pressure is off. Orchard has avoided the sweeping call to digitise or gear its offering towards the YouTube generation of today. “We have recently launched our first game with an app that supports the

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gameplay, but that doesn’t exclusively rely on the app to enable people to play the game,” states Newbury. “During development, it was imperative that the game could be played on its own, as well as with the app.” So if it’s not digital that is making the most impact on the UK’s educational play sector at the moment - not enough for Orchard Toys to shift gear in this sector, in any case -what is? Put the question to Newbury and you’ll likely get the same answer: visible results. “Parents are wanting products they can visibly see help their child’s educational development,” he says. “It’s an indicator that parents are becoming more focussed on their child’s education from an earlier age.Lines that have been successful over the past few years have been targeted at a key learning skill." Orchard Toys keeps its recipes simple. It’s all about engaging play, with key educational themes and current trends.

“We've worked hard building the brand in recent years, with the visual appeal that consumers trust,” says Newbury.

"We appreciate how difficult retail is for indies, and appreciate the support they provide to us, and will always support them." Simon Newbury, Orchard Toys

“Staying true to our values of quality and learning made fun means that customers will repeat purchase throughout any season, giving the independent customer a bread and butter brand all year round.” That’s most likely music to the ears of the independent toy retailer. Orchard Toys has always had quite the affinity with

the indie toy shop; remaining a perennial favourite among this population of stockists for the best part of its 50 years. And since its inception in 1968, when founder Keith Harvey and his wife decided to start making building blocks and tracing sets for the local nursery school, this relationship between Orchard and the independent toy seller has been maintained harmoniously. “We appreciate how difficult retail is for indies at the moment, and appreciate the support they provide to Orchard Toys, which is why we do all that we can to support them,” explains Newbury. “We believe that there is a great symbiosis between us and independents, and they will always play an important part in our landscape. Looking to the future for the Orchard Toys business, Newbury adds: “We are very proud of the way that the Orchard Toys brand is perceived in the UK, and we have exciting plans to replicate this internationally.” June 2019 | toy news | 13

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One year on from the big reveal of Collabsco's Connected Play Landscape within the pages of ToyNews, researcher Valerie Vacante has unveiled 12 months of delving into the space in her latest update to the growing connected play market. ToyNews is privileged to reveal it in full

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THE TECH CONNECTION Whether it’s Voice tech, AR on your mobile phones, or bringing the world of videogaming to physical children’s play; the world of connected play is an ever-evolving one and it’s all thanks to the innovators and philosophers within it and their mission to continue to push the boundaries of play. Robert Hutchins catches up with the tech space researcher and founder of Collabsco, Valerie Vacante to uncover the latest developments


an you refresh us with what the Connected Play Landscape is? What does it span today and how has it evolved from what you introduced to us one year ago? Creating toys and games is more than pushing plastic or fluffy, stuffed, cuddly companions. People in the toys and games industry are the innovators, creators and designers of culture who, by the experiences they architect, ultimately shape the memories for kids and families to connect in the physical and digital world. Connected Play goes beyond simply connecting an app. It’s far richer, magical, and more meaningful than that. It encompasses toys, games, and education while enhancing imaginative play by fusing physical and digital worlds through emerging technologies. As new technologies have evolved, so have the ways kids interact with the physical and digital world; the Connected Play Landscape outlines those technologies and companies that have impacted and improved this space. Over the past year we have showcased the Connected Play Landscape at the Play Innovators Summit in London, Game XP in Brazil, CES, the Alexa Conference, New York Toy Fair, as well as across various toy and gaming companies, design studios, industry organisations such as Women in Toys and the British Toy and Hobby Association, and schools to inspire a

new generation about careers in product innovation. It provides a single view of over 250 companies, products and the emerging technologies behind the experiences. This year we designed the Connected Play Landscape to include Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI),

“Connected play goes beyond simply connecting an app; it's far richer and more meaningful than that and enhances imaginative play.” Valerie Vacante, Collabsco Robots, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Wearables, Near Field Communication (NFC), Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Voice Assistants, Data Over Sound as well as additional areas centered around how various technologies are implemented: Social, EdTech, Makers, Location Based Entertainment (LBE), and “Let’s Play” - video documenting the playthrough experience, usually, of a video game. So, it's an expansive field that it covers, but an exciting one to explore.

What are the biggest changes we are seeing in connected play at the moment? How does it differ this year from last? The biggest changes in the overall landscape are more extended experiences, honing in on the overall experience and how technology can bring that sense of wonderment and magic in purposeful ways. We are seeing more companies putting the story and experience first. T Options to play - technology is the enhancer. Enhancing is the key word. It’s not about the tech first rather it’s about creating fun experiences that bring magic and wonder to the world. The best way to create a magical experience is to stay core to the brand, characters and storylines, and consider how technology will “enhance” those stories. T More immersive play in more places with Location Based Entertainment. Location based entertainment allows companies to extend brand stories through immersive and engaging experiences that may not be affordable to everyday consumers or lets them test and learn about products and marketing messaging in development before investing big. The Art and Science Museum, Two Bit Circus, Lumo Play, Draw and Code and Game XP are fine examples of this in action. T Power Up learning. Fun first missions and explorations, several companies are diving into EdTech, STEM/ STEAM June 2019 | toy news | 17

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in big ways and we’ve seen a significant growth in EDU programmes over the past year. Companies that might have been “edutainment” have launched specific experiences for schools and educators. Examples include Reach Robotics Edu, Merge Edu, Octagon Edu, Maker Brane, and more. T Gamer Makers. There have been several gaming platforms that have launched that encourage creating your own gaming experience through cool tech. Game Bender, Bloxels, and Blinks are a few examples. T The Power of Voice and Sound. Voice and sound experiences create ways for kids to have magical, screen-free experiences from voice assistants, NFC and data over sound. Check out St. Noire (X2 Games), Touchscapes (Novalia), Tonies, Birdie, Snow Shine (Immersive Play) and Doodle Bear (Tomy). T Play for everyday - accessible experiences. There’s been a significant

increase in more affordable play experiences, Pictionary Air, Spark Plug (Scalextric), Dragamonz (Spin Master), Untamed Mad labs (WowWee) T Getting kids up and moving. The increase of augmented reality gaming and physical play are getting kids up and moving - they are not all keeping track of their step count but they are exploring play in the physical and digital worls with experiences like Angry Birds Isle of Pigs that gets kids making the world theirs. Biba is an experience that encourages outside play, Afitar is a family fitness and puzzle game, and DribbleUp is a series of connected sport experiences from Basketball to Soccer that helps kids train and improve their play. T Let’s play. This is gaining momentum and new ways to engage with kids Tankee, Super League and Funiverse are creating kid-friendly ways to engage with go-getting gamers. The highest growth areas have actually been augmented reality, robotics, edtech,

voice and sound. There are now more products that are more accessible to everyday consumers. How have these changes impacted on its growth or projected growth? Well, let’s take a look at this with a few stats from Juniper Research. According to its latest report smart toy revenues are expected to grow by almost 200 per cent from 2018 to hit $18bn by the year 2023. The same paper suggests that consumer robotics will reach almost $23bn per annum by the year 2022 - up from an estimated $6.4bn in 2018. In line with what we have already explored about the increased accessibility of tech, the Augmented Reality Gaming Market is expected to reach over $280bn by 2023, while its use within the home place will grow by 1000 per cent by the same year when the number of digital voice assistants rises from 2.5 billion to 8 billion. Meanwhile, analysts at TNW estimate that

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the NFC market will continue to grow 17.9 per cent over the next decade, reaching nearly $50bn by 2025, while Juniper Research forecasts that unique viewers of eSports and Let’s Play content will reach 858 million by 2022. That’s up from 630 million this year. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, by 2023, LBE will also make up about 11 per cent of the VR industry. This is one of the reasons behind its recent success, and while VR was launched to much fanfare around two years ago, the cost has hampered its universal use, while the content has remained scarce. What hurdles is the connected play sector currently coming up against? To answer this question, I have devised what I like to call The Four Ps of Play. In the connected world of technology and play there are four core challenges on the table at the moment:

T Product with purposeful play- Is your product fun and easy to use? Does technology enhance the experience, or is it simply tech for tech’s sake? Many of the products we see emerging today are successfully navigating this first hurdle. T Price - Is the product affordable and accessible for everyday people? There is still some way to go here to bring every kind of connected play product into the household, but as research and development continues, so too the prices start to come down. T Privacy and consumer education - In simple terms, is it clear on what consumers are buying and is it safe for their families? We have seen this hit the headlines big time with the recent controversy surrounding Alexa and the discovery it was ‘listening’ to conversations. This could be a moment in this technology’s history in which its future is defined and shaped for the better. T Promotion - How and where will people find out about this product? Tech can be complicated and having a simple message and demonstration of the product is key.

We’ve had success with TechUp this year, some of our partners have been able to gain consumer insights that they were able to implement to enhance the experience based on real world interaction by being where their consumers live and play. Who is now bringing about change in Voice space? What can innovators do to make sure they are safe when working with voice? The US voice-activated speaker sales are expected to see a 50 per cent growth this year, according to NPD’s forecast, which is good news for gamers - most notably, board gamers. Board games are being transformed through the power of voice, Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment from Mattel extends the escape room experience, while Trivial Pursuit Tap from Hasbro incorporates a gameshow-like experience by incorporating Echo Buttons. Meanwhile, St Noire by X2 Games transforms Alexa boardgaming through cinematic sound design and HollywoodJune 2019 | toy news | 19

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level voice acting, and Touchscapes by Novalia are all creating immersive board game and play experiences through their creative touch platform. According to the Smartaudio report, most popular activities include music, jokes, games, homework help, connecting with electronics and audiobooks. Voice and sound technologies have also enabled the magic of enhanced stories with experiences like Novel Effect and Disney Read to Me. Other examples of sound based interactions between the physical and digital world include Storyball - a screenfree smart toy that uses games, stories and challenges to get children playing, learning and moving - Tonies and Yoto do not connect to voice assistants; rather they provide a screen free sound experience through the power of scanning. Tonies uses crafty characters to ignite stories, whereas Yoto uses cards to ignite storytelling fun all using NFC technology to create magical experiences. Birde is an interactive media player that also uses NFC technology to engage and spark connected experiences from music, stories and tv shows that give children the freedom to choose what experience they want and parents the security in knowing that there are only selected media in the allocated bird

seeds (nfc cards) for children to choose their own media adventure. How are developments in connected play impacting on education? How is tech opening new worlds and opportunities? Since it’s launch last year, we have been on a journey to educate the industry on the high growth of connected play and emerging technologies, create awareness

"The opportunities in connected play are endless: they are as big and broad as your imagination. It's an exciting time for tech." Valerie Vacante, Collabsco of the companies and collaborators in the space and collaborate and inspire the industry to pioneer new and incredible experiences in this high growth area. Collabsco’s Connected Play Landscape has been featured at the Play Innovators Summit (London), Game XP (Brazil), CES (USA), Alexa Conference (USA), collaborative work sessions with global brands, innovation design firms,

inventors and startups as well as industry organisations such as Women in Toys and the British Toy and Hobby Association, and schools to inspire a new generation about careers in product innovation in toys and gaming. While the original intent was to educate the toys, games and technology industry, we have received feedback and requests from educators who have used the connected play landscape as a teaching tool to inspire and educate children on the vast opportunities across the industry and how what they are learning in school can be applied to a tangible career path in toys, games and technology. We have had hands on workshops in schools to discuss the connected play landscape, with hands on play and onsite sketching of ideas that technology inspires. How is connected play being used to tell stories? What opportunities does this present for brands and licensing? The opportunities are endless: they are as big and broad as your imagination. The important factor is putting the experience first, specifically on how technology extends the story and brings it to life. For example, some of Collabsco’s most recent work we helped a publisher explore new ways to extend their brands and

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stories through emerging technologies curated various partners and technologies across augmented reality, virtual reality, NFC (near field communication), voice assistants, data over sound and more. How are we seeing this reflected in its use in things like location based entertainment etc? We are seeing more immersive play in more places with Location Based Entertainment. Since the early days of DisneyLand and of Chuck E Cheese, family entertainment has been big business for gaming, new tech and testing new product experiences. At SXSW Gaming in the panel “Gamifying the World Around Us,” we talked about how family entertainment continues to extend the brand story and experience. There have been a number of collaborations across the industry including Hasbro and Kilburn Live, Mattel in partnership with iP2Entertainment, while Disney recently opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge - described by Disney as “a new land coming to Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort, where you can live out your own Star Wars story, fly the Millennium Falcon and explore a remote outpost where adventure awaits.” Arcades and independent fun centres

such as, Pinballz that are meshing retrogaming with new tech such as VR Arcades, XR immersive experiences with both laser tag and laser mazes, Dart’em Up, an independent indoor NERF battle ground, while the LA-based Two Bit Circus experiments with immersive experiences from Storyrooms, an enhanced take on escape rooms, Virtual Battle zones and Beta nights to unveil new games creators and test material. Other rich immersive experiences include Future World - Where Art Meets Science a permanent installation by teamLab located in the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, Meow Wolf is “transporting audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of storytelling.” Elsewhere, Liverpool’s Draw and Code is currently designing immersive experiences to learn and interact with in museums around the world. Game XP is the world’s first game park, the largest gaming and innovation event in Latin Amerca packed with physical and digital experiences bringing your favorite video games to life. This year, a full on Fortnite experience will be included along with the world’s largest E-sports screen and tournaments and innovation arena packed with speakers and stories behind the games, global

innovators, business innovation, smart cities, health tech, or gadgets of the future. What’s ahead for the space? The future is bold and bright, and in the near future, we are going to see technology enhance experiences, putting the consumer experience and stories first to create the power of purposeful play. Kids will continue to video game their world, and creating options to play connected or not will give more freedom and flexibility to play experiences. “Let’s Play” for kids will evolve and will be some of the must see content kids crave, while gaming will not be perceived as something negative; moreover, it will be the way parents and kids connect and play together. At the same time, augmented reality will continue to skyrocket in growth in gaming and general physical digital play, with the announcement of ARKit 3, and it will be able to let us interact and more with our favourite characters in our own mixed environments, with motions. Robotics and makers will continue to fuse boundaries between education and play to create funfirst experiences that help kids play, learn and gamify their world. We are looking at a future where more immersive experiences become the norm. June 2019 | toy news | 21

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STORYTELLING OF THE FUTURE Juan Ciapessoni is the CCO of The Electric Factory and co-founder of Read to Me, an AR storytelling device triggered by words and phrases from a book to project images and animations onto a child’s wall. Robert Hutchins talks to the man behind the tech to find out what the future holds for our storytime traditions

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t’s after one failed attempt to catch up with the co-creator of the Read to Me augmented reality storytime device in his Uruguay office - seasoned with a smattering of my worst Spanish to a confused sounding South American receptionist - that I finally track Juan Ciapessoni, co-founder of The Electric Factory, down to a hotel room in Argentina. He has just been delivering a talk on the latest advancements in voice technology, and the ongoing work that he and his team

are doing to bring it all into the family space through play, entertainment and interaction. In his role as CCO of this boundary-pushing tech and entertainment company, Ciapessoni lectures all around the world, and on a regular basis. “I am actually trying to reduce the number of talks I give and attend. I am 40 now man, and I have been doing these things for the past 20 years,” he relays. “From across South America all the way to Hong Kong and the Far East; I have been travelling to a new place pretty much every two weeks since I was 20.” Ciapessoni is a man in demand. An entrepreneurial thinker and advocate of the technological era, this is a man held in high regard within the tech developer circles, while his lectures have helped put The Electric Factory firmly on the world’s map for its work in advancing the connected play landscape. For the past four years, for example, Ciapessoni and his team have been hard at work developing a suite of connected devices, augmented reality platforms and immersive concepts - largely in the field of children’s play and entertainment - all with the aim of “humanising technology, making it invisible, in order to re-engage children with their play spaces on an emotional level.” Of the many projects those past four years have seen burst into life, Ciapessoni seems to have his own most emotional connection with that of the Read to Me augmented reality storytime device, a platform that “revamps the time-old tradition of bedtime storytelling by leveraging a unique, Internet of Things approach to Mixed Reality.” They’re fanciful words, and ones that might just sound like incantations to anyone who, like myself, is still inclined to put even ‘contactless payments’ down to Voodoo sorcery, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Read to Me is not about bamboozling its user with everwinding technological layers to navigate, but actually freeing them from those constraints altogether. Read to Me acts as a projector that when triggered by certain words or phrases from a book during bedtime reading, will project images, illustrations and animations corresponding with the story onto the wall

or ceiling. “It serves as an AR solution that enhances the audible reading of tangible books,” says Ciapessoni. “We’re changing the way we consume content through bedtime stories, building a human connection between kids and parents while delivering unique memorable experiences. “Read to Me is intended to refresh, not replace, the bedtime reading experience through the use of modern technology.”

"Read to Me is intended to refresh, not replace, the bedtime reading experience through the use of modern technology and reengage children with their play spaces on an emotional level. It's about humanising technology." Juan Ciapessoni, Electric Factory

Not only this, but it offers the perfect implement with which to explore the changing relationship between children, families and the technology around them. Screen time, for instance, has to have been one of the biggest chagrins of the modern day toy company in the battle for a child’s attention; and it’s certainly been the focal point for much media dissection and scrutiny, as well as governmental guidelines and legislation. In fact, it’s a conversation that has only just fallen short of an emotionally-charged polarisation (assuming we all like to read the Twitter rants, of course). But what if there was a movement to bring the physical and emotional connections back into the play space through the use of technology? And what if that started somewhere as simple - and wholly traditional - as the bedtime story routine? “The key to Read to Me is still in the books, the parents and their children” continues Ciapessoni. “We want to humanise the playground again; to build June 2019 | toy news | 23

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memories and bring back moments of physical connection through technology. If you ask any adult which are the moments of their childhood they remember the most, they will answer bedtime stories, cooking time and homework. We need to create more moments like these, and this is where we want to work to build new toys and platforms to express and live in a ‘connected’ world.” To date, Read to Me hosts a library of stand alone content, but harbours a much wider, vibrant and far reaching vision of what its future could look like. It also comes with a white-label app that can be connected to multiple devices. This app is open to publishers and parents, meaning that any publisher will have the ability to add their content to the app. It’s a concept

"Our big vision is for this to become a hub of storytellers, animators and creatives; to become a mixing bowl of creativity." Juan Ciapessoni, Electric Factory

that Ciapessoni believes will be a “game changer” for the connected play space. “Our big vision is for this to become a hub of creativity for storytellers, animators, and creatives. This app, the cloud space it occupies, will become a big mixing bowl of creativity,” he says. “While also, for parents, we want to give them the ability to download their own sound libraries and animations to customise their stories and enhance the imagination of their children.” Early chatter around the product is that of excitement. The Electric Factory commands a global stage, and Read to Me has so far been met with a positive reaction from the audiences across it. The plan from this point, Ciapessoni explains, is to license the platform outwards to the likes of the

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Hasbro and Mattels of the toy world. “That is where we have got to, as a company, is taking this kind of technology to the players in the toy space who will then be able to build the content library, or bring in those licenses and book IP to come and work with the platform. “This way, we can focus on what we at The Electric Company do so well and have gained such a reputation for doing, and that is continuing to push the boundaries of what the technology and play space looks like together.” Ciapessoni is now on a mission; to change society’s mind-set towards the evolving role of technology in waking life, entertainment and play. “The apocalyptic vision of the future and technology should be destroyed to

"We need to destroy the apocalyptic vision of of the future of tech - it's here to enhance our lives and create new ways to make us smile." Juan Ciapessoni, Electric Factory

build a world where super and augmented technology helps kids spread laughter and joy around the world,” he says. “Technology arrived to enhance our lives and the combination of it with our emotions will create new ways of hugs, smiles, cries, and most importantly, memories. “We will continue our work to push the

boundaries in tech in the education and health fields, while also developing toys that will not only bring joy, but also help the user to gain quality of life. When it comes to toys, our goal is to find the sweet spot where all the best of both worlds physical play and technology - mix in order to create new moments of fun, joy and connections.” Ciapessoni believes in what he says, and better still, in what he is doing. And while the Read to Me project looks to hold much of this young 40 something's attention as he looks forward to taking some time away from the travelling, the exuberant CCO talks with a passion that suggests, without a shred of subtlety, that there’s a fair few more lectures in him yet. ToyNews will have to book a flight to South America. June 2019 | toy news | 25

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For the past 60 years, Scalextric has brought the glamour, thrill and spectacle of the world of motorcar racing to homes across the globe. Robert Hutchins talks to the team at Hornby Hobbies to discover just how it is maintaining its relevance for today’s digital audience


n a decade that started in austerity, and concluded at the height of affluence, little else better embodied the cultural mindset of 1950s Britain than the glamour of Formula One. Pushing the everyday boundary to the limit; from speed to spectacle; the sport managed to wholly capture the pioneering spirit and aspirations of a post-war nation. It’s of little surprise then, that when

Scalextric - a scaled down version of the thrilling action sport - was first unveiled at the 1957 Harrogate Toy Fair, it took the imagination of a market of motorheads and hobbyists to places they had only dared dream of before. For the next 40-odd years, Scalextric sped across the bedrooms' of kids and adults across not only the UK, but the world, as engineers continued to develop

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the technology and design of the cars - from tin plate to plastic - and track - from model railway to precision-designed slot - that helped fuel major sales for the toy motorcar racing brand. Over the course of those decades, the very visceral nature of the hobby was unmistakable; the hours of labour going into building the perfect track, the hum of the cars as they whirred around the course, and the faint, yet lingering, smell of an overheating controller - never more than one aggressive corner away from a small electrical fire. Times have moved on, and while the threatening wisp of smoke no longer rises from a handheld controller precariously wired into the mains, the hobby still retains the same sense of jeopardy, thrill and excitement as it did all those decades ago. How has it done this? How has it maintained a thoroughly engaged audience within in an era where kids spend half their waking life connected to a digital mainframe? Well, by meeting them within it, and bringing them a new blend of digital and physical play, of course. Since 2004, and under the watch of Hornby Hobbies, Scalextric has been embracing the digital sphere; and 2019 is no different. Its mode of play has managed to align itself better with the world of videogames that most kids - by the time they are old enough to be playing with Scalextric - are already ofé with.

"We always look for ways to innovate, but our challenge is to find the balance between enhancing slot car racing and not deviating too far from the Scalextric experience and what the brand is known for." Sarah Frame, Scalextric

It’s a move that has helped Scalextric maintain its strength of brand, even among audiences of today. “Scalextric has high brand recognition with adults in the UK, and kids really enjoy playing with it at the events we attend,” Sarah Frame, Scalextric brand manager at Hornby Hobbies, tells ToyNews. “With the addition of Scalextric App Race Control (ARC), we’re bringing elements of smartphone gaming into the real-world racing of slot cars, which engages kids from the tech generation, while still being traditional great fun for the parents.” Scalextric has now fully embraced the digital across a number of platforms. Give the brand a quick search on the App Store

via your mobile phone, and you’ll find its globally revered controller app immediately at your fingerprints. Alternatively, type Scalextric into YouTube and you’ll find hundreds of hours of video content - not all of it via the brand’s official YouTube channel, either. Scalextric knows, that while its heritage is deeply rooted in the physical and tactile world of slot car racing, its audience is digital first. That’s the thinking behind the brand’s latest launch across the digital realm, at least, with its new add-on device, the Spark Plug. “Spark PLug is a device that you plug into your Scalextric layout that then allows you to control your car by either a smartphone or tablet, but it is more than just a wireless controller,” explains Frame. “The Spark Plug app has the option of single player or Versus Mode, because in Versus Mode you can restrict your opponent’s power or boost your own which adds greatly to the racing experience.” It’s an app that works towards bringing elements of videogaming into physical play; a new development in the world of connected play. But more than this, the app also has other functions such as: music that can be taken from the app or from a players’ own music library, engine sound effects and even the ability to personalise the racing screen itself. “It all adds to the user’s own engagement with the play experience,” continues Frame. “There are characters already within the app or alternatively you can take images from your library or even a selfie that can then have snap-chat filters applied, enabling you to add some fun to your personal profile.” June 2019 | toy news | 27

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So, Scalextric is a brand conscious of the social media era, too. Add to this, the already established success of Scalextric ARC, and it’s clear that under Hornby Hobbies, Scalextric is very much a forwardlooking brand. Frame continues: “Scalextric ARC is a revolutionary slot car system which adds an interactive dimension to racing. The stateof-the-art gameplay presents drivers with the option of recreating adverse weather conditions and race incidents with the added ease of wireless controllers. “Drivers can personalise their race selecting features such as race type, driver names and number of laps. It’s as simple as getting a smart device and downloading the Scalextric ARC app.” However, despite its very forwardlooking approach to the next generation Scalextric racers, Hornby reassures its global fanbase that it will never lose sight of

the traditional play that put the name firmly on the map some 70 years ago now. “Nostalgic Scalextric racers will enjoy racing with traditional hand controllers, but the tech-savvy kids will enjoy the added gameplay element of having to pit stop and watch their fuel levels while racing, continues Frame. “While we are always looking for ways to innovate, we also must be conscious of what Scalextric is all about and that is slot car racing. We must find the balance between enhancing slot car racing but without deviating too far from the Scalextric experience and what the brand is known for.” According to Frame, an evident change the team has observed over the years - and one that has impacted on how Hornby Hobbies positions the brand and sells product - is that Scalextric is now seen as a family event rather than a boy racing

with his dad in his bedroom. Despite the memories we may all share. “Product usage now hardly has a gender divide or age divide,” says Frame. “The skill and concept of the play pattern is very equal which increases the appeal for the whole family.” This isn’t just reflective of the content that Scalextric is now pushing out there via its social channels, centralised around an online hub found at its own website, but the calendar of events and race days that is has plotted for the year. In a series of interview pieces with Scalextric insiders, the interviewee ratio is an even keeled spread between males and females, name-checking Scalextric’s female engineer workforce. It’s a refreshing approach for a market that for so long has typically been aligned closer to a male market and fanbase, and one that actually mirrors a growing female and family audience that motorsport is

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seeing in general, thanks to the familyfriendly appeal of the likes of Formula E, a relatively new sporting league championed as the next generation for the sport. Interestingly, Scalextric’s association with Formula E doesn’t end at the anecdotal, as this year the brand is readying to launch a line of Formula E licensed slot cars, adding the growing global license to its roster of globallly revered brand names. In fact, licensing has played a major part in the success of Scalextric for a good number of years now. “Licenses are a key part of Scalextric, from entertainment licenses through to all the different vehicle licensors we work with, our licenses are part of the heart of the brand,” explains Frame. “Our newly announced deal with Warner Bros, for instance, allows the Scalextric brand to develop further into the toy market using our 1:64 scale system. Scalextric is just about racing and motorsport, a huge part of the brand and the slot car market is about the fun of being able to control a car that is raced around

"From entertainment licenses through to vehicle licensors we work with, licensing is part of the heart of our Scalextric brand." Sarah Frame, Scalextric

a track as well as the ability to create your own racing circuit. “In addition to this, the option to add some recognisable characters that will resonate with younger generations and the simple role play pattern of ‘I want to be…’ “For this younger driver, Scalextric has a whole new easy to use 1:64 scale track system with vehicles based on the Justice League super heroes. The character vehicles include Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and Flash, while the set will include over five metres of track allowing 12 different layout options and is complete with two vehicles, with a RRP of £59.99.” As for the future of the brand, Hornby Hobbies is confident. This is, afterall a parent company that has weathered many a rough road and what, at times, has been the ultimate test of endurance of the company’s legacy. However, having thrived for almost seven decades, moving and adapting to audience tastes over that time, there’s little doubt that Scalextric will continue to be known as a forerunner in its class for some time to come. June 2019 | toy news | 29

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AN APPETITE FOR IP Ravensburger has grown its licensed games portfolio by an impressive 26 per cent in just under two years, and has cited its success in the space as a major contributing factor to the toy, games, and puzzles specialist's continued growth. Robert Hutchins sits down with Ravensburger’s North American CEO, Filip Francke

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t hasn’t been by accident that, over the course of the last one year and ten months, the tabletop gaming juggernaut, Ravensburger, has found itself at the centre of a far greater narrative on the global licensing space. It’s actually been a focal point for the company, and one that culminated with a major Game of the Year win for its popular Disney Villainous board game - a game that puts players in control of the Disney Universe’s most wicked - that in just under one year has shifted more than 350,000 copies to board gaming fans worldwide. In little under two years, and under the leadership of Ravensburger’s North American CEO, Filip Francke, the company has grown its licensed games offering by 26 per cent, now working with some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Disney, Universal, Google, and Porsche. For this 135 year old toy, game and puzzles specialist, licensing presents an area of “huge potential,” to build on a success that has already allowed Ravensburger to expand its operations in the sector, from in-house design and development to marketing and plenty inbetween. ToyNews catches up CEO Filip Francke to learn more... ToyNews: Can you talk us through the strength of Ravensburger's licensed games portfolio? Ravensburger’s approach to licensing has always been tightly connected to the values of our company. For the past 135 years, Ravensburger has built toys and games for “the hand and the head.”

This philosophy ensures that a consumer of a Ravensburger licensed game will enjoy an immersive game experience. Not only do we want you to live the IP, we aim to have you come back and experience the game over and over again. Re-playability is a core principle of our products, whether they are licensed or non-licensed products. That said, it’s not surprising that our stable of license partners has expanded

"Successfully bringing AAA licenses into the tabletop gaming space takes more collaboration than ever before, but we see immense oppportunity in licensing and boardgaming - it's an exciting prospect for us now and for the future." over the years. When we establish the team needed with a license partner, both on game development and on joint launch and marketing, we consider our licensed games as license property brand equity building. Many in the market see licensing so often as a cash grab, but we see licensed games as an asset and extension of our shared brand promise around immersive storytelling, play and experience.

The new Disney Snuggle Time game (and platform), which will be available this August, is another example of innovative, immersive game/storytelling play that we will extend to other stories/licenses loved by families. Licensing opportunities for Ravensburger, which we consider our mother brand, will mainly target older children through adults. Licensing here will focus on building exciting new franchises and broadening classic titles like Labyrinth. Ravensburger has experienced several years of double-digit growth, fueled in large part by licensed games. 2018 in particular launched several big hits: Jurassic Park: Danger! was a runaway hit (Universal really understands the importance of marketing collaboration). Then, of course we won the Game of the Year with Disney Villainous, with more than 350,000 units sold to date. This year, we’re excited to offer new immersive titles like Jaws, Universal Monsters: Horrified and also added to the Villainous franchise with Disney Villainous: Wicked to the Core. What plans have you got to continue the momentum in this space - can we expect to see further AAA licenses from you? Today, consumers are looking for comfort, connection and fun, and it’s not hard to understand why given our sometimesfrantic lifestyles. We’re looking for familiar or nostalgic titles that offer comfort, and a reason to gather and connect. So, we aim to become even more authentic, immersive and re-playable in our next game experiences.

How does this position Ravensburger in that licensed games market? We have recently decided to streamline the positioning of the brands in our portfolio. For example, Wonder Forge will stay true to its original DNA and focus solely on licensed games for pre-schoolers and children. We believe the Wonder Forge licensed pre-school and children’s games offer the highest re-playability value in the market. For example, we love how we’ve been able to keep our Matching and Surprise Slides platform fresh with classic literature licenses and the latest box office movies for the past year, it's been really exciting. June 2019 | toy news | 31

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How has business been for you guys overall over the past year? Very good – thank you. We are quickly expanding our in-house ideation, design, development and marketing teams to keep up with the demand both from consumers but also from licensors. How have you guys been adapting to the changing retail landscape - is the growth in the licensed games space a reflection of the strategy here? We believe in storytelling and we have found many retailer partners who are willing to tell stories together with us. Licensing in particular allows for hypertargeted digital video marketing where we, together with the retailer, can reach the IP’s core fans in a very powerful way. On that note, we have taken a successful page from the movie industry when it comes to building buzz pre- launch. We now try to launch every big new game with a trailer – a video that makes you want to know more. What do you make of the health of the licensing space - are we seeing good properties coming through? There are so many fun fanbases and going forward, we’re focusing less on new

releases and looking more at the fan base. How you reach and engage with the fans, and how you give a fantastic, unexpected and authentic experience they will enjoy. Those fans are the heart of any licensed property, which means the market is ripe for the right game that transports players with original art, immersive storyline and inventive game mechanics. What's that process of bringing these big entertainment properties into the gaming world like? Successfully bringing AAA licenses to the tabletop takes more collaboration than ever before, and shared and supported vision with your big entertainment partner. Can we make something special happen together, something unexpected? We are great at producing fantastic game experiences, but we need a partner that allows that special idea to form.

Disney, Universal, Porsche and more to create inventive and immersive game play experiences. We will look to expand those partnership into other properties. We added ThinkFun to our Ravensburger family in 2017 and its multimillion-unit properties like RushHour, Zingo and Maze Series have never been licensed. We’re excited to see what opportunities we can find for these titles. We see many relevant licensees that in a very authentic way can be represented in ThinkFun’s values. We see immense opportunity in the licensed market.

What's next for Ravensburger in this licensed gaming space? How do you guys build on the success? We will continue to work with our marquee partners like

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Generation Media

FIGHT THEM ON THE REACHES Sangita Sivanesan YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime are challenging linear TV and competing for audience attention, but the reach of TV still remains unmatched, according to Generation Media Source BARB May 2018


ith Q1 now behind us, it’s important to reflect on the performance of key media channels to ensure all upcoming plans are fuelled with the latest insights. When looking at the toys and games market, TV remains at the heart of the media mix for most advertisers, as it would for any advertiser intending to reach children. The reason being that in the UK, commercial kids’ TV is the most effective medium to generate mass awareness over a short period of time in the most cost-efficient way. However, YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime are challenging linear TV viewing and competing for audience attention. In Q1 children’s equivalent impacts suffered by a 25 per cent YoY decline on the commercial kids channels and 23 per cent on all TV. Despite this, the reach of TV is still unmatched reaching a potential maximum of approximately 98 per cent of children aged four to nine in the UK. On top of that, there are currently more kids in the UK than ever, with the population hitting 9.3m in April. There are more kids in the UK watching TV, but they are spending less time doing so. It’s important for toys and games advertisers and their partnering media agencies to be creative with their media strategies. We don’t have to look far; TV advertising is not limited to the traditional spot advertising. Opportunities arise in addressable TV, spon-

sorships and films spots, which are also channelled through the big screen at home. Addressable TV pioneered by Sky’s AdSmart offering replaces the normal commercial stream with commercials targeted specifically to respective households heightening the relevance of ads served. It’s yet to be available on commercial kids channels but is a great way for brands to reach households with children across other channels. Sponsorships are a great way to build awareness and frequency of messaging on a specific channel and daypart that already resonate well with choice audience. Taking the girls four to nine audience, for example, this has proved difficult to reach this Q1 observing a 32 per cent YoY decline. Sponsoring a daypart such as evenings on Pop or Nickelodeon would benefit the brands targeting girls, as all commercials will be concentrated on this strand. Booking film spots such as ITV2 and Channel 5 films offer advertisers the chance to reach the family as a unit, a proposition that’s becoming harder to capture. These films usually attract a high number of viewers. For example, a spot on Hotel Transylvania on October 28 2018 recorded 64,000 HW+CH0-3 impacts. For more advice or guidance on how to strategies and structure your media activations to best target the youth and family sector, please contact us on the details listed below.

ToyNews PlayTime is provided by Generation Media 0207 307 7900 |

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Beyond toy unboxing: The evolution of YouTube content Viewing figures of unboxing videos on YouTube are on the wane, having played their part in fuelling the online content age to dizzy heights. Data from WildBrain suggests that the next big thing for YouTubers is Pretend Play. WildBrain’s Will Mahmood explores


o date, surprise unboxing videos have generated billions of views on YouTube and received significant media attention. This category – which features videos usually made on budgets of less than $100 – has turned some YouTubers into millionaires while generating billions of views in advertising for the toy industry. However, kids content on YouTube is now shifting and the traditional unboxing video is in decline in favour of more varied pretend-play videos that are proving more popular than unboxing videos ever were. Comparing unboxing and pretend play is

a useful case study in how to think about original content creation on YouTube, and possibly even identifies new tactics for brands developing content to promote toys. Unboxing videos feature kids opening new toys and other products to reveal package contents in surprising and entertaining ways. Pretend play videos, on the other hand, show kids using the toys for role play or as props for make believe stories. Until recently, only one kids' channel on YouTube had ever achieved over one billion monthly views. Now, two additional channels have joined that club – and both feature pretend play videos.

Unboxing Unboxing Videos Unboxing videos are not unique to the kids' space nor to YouTube. Across the main free online video platforms – including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram – products of all types are unboxed to viewers of all ages. However, in Q1 2019, 86 per cent of all unboxing views occurred on YouTube. There are two key reasons for this. First, search is a core part of the YouTube experience, enabling viewers to research products they might purchase. Content discovery on other free online video

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*Source: Tubular Video Intelligence, Analysis WildBrain. Period: Q1 2019, Platforms: All platforms is almost solely in unsearchable news feeds. The second reason is YouTube’s dominance in kids' content. Kids is the largest unboxing genre; one-third of all unboxing views on YouTube are on videos from creators in the kids genre (34 per cent). Unlike tech unboxing (the number two subcategory), which relies on consumers searching for answers to product questions, toy unboxing videos focus on surprising the viewer. The format has proved to be enormously popular – with over 24 billion views to date. The leading toy unboxing channels are generating millions of dollars a year and billions of views overall in advertising for the industry. The toy industry has been well aware of this format for many years. Influencer marketing, for instance, tends to be a primary focus of digital marketing teams at established companies, with much of that energy devoted to unboxing videos. With unboxing on the decline,

however, marketers may want to consider pretend play as a new avenue for product promotion. In March 2019, for example, the number of unboxing videos uploaded to YouTube actually declined by 43 per cent YoY, while views of unboxing videos declined 22 per cent. Views of pretend play content, conversely, are up 500 per cent YoY and are now seven times greater than views of toy unboxing videos. Pretend play videos are now generating three billion monthly views, compared to 400 million on traditional unboxing videos. Why does this matter? Overall this is a positive evolution for the industry, because it increases engagement and reach for toy-focused content. Identifying this shift shows that data can play an important role in evaluating and commissioning official content. YouTubers are always on the hunt for new formats and trends. Uploads of pretend play videos have doubled YoY (March ’19) as more creators attempt to

benefit from the format. But the volume of content is still only one-fifth the peak level of unboxing three years ago, despite the fact that viewing is now seven times greater, suggesting there may be a meaningful “content gap” and an opportunity to capture views that remains untapped. The average YouTuber is usually keeping tabs on only a few key channels. At WildBrain we’ve invested in comprehensive coverage of every online video being uploaded to the platform, with specialised data science professionals studying these trends. Data scientists at WildBrain work closely with our creative teams to ensure we have the very best insights available into what is working and emerging on the platform. The massive growth of the leading pretend play channels demonstrates the power of evolving established ideas from unboxing to pretend play. The other approach we recommend is identifying emerging formats. Both will result in fresh formats as audiences look for new content. June 2019 | toy news | 35

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Earlier this year, MGA Entertainment took one stride forwards in the march towards a sustainable future for toys, when its LOL Surprise brand partnered with TerraCycle’s initiative to reduce th world’s plastic waste crisis. Robert Hutchins talks to TerraCycle’s head of communications, Stephen Clarke about where the toy industry goes from here 36 | toy news | June 2019

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hen MGA Entertainment released details of its partnership with the recycling-focused TerraCycle initiative, a firm known for giving household waste plastics new leases of life as components of playgrounds and children’s play spaces, it marked somewhat of a step change for the toy industry’s alignment with sustainability messaging. Yes, Hasbro had already teamed with TerraCycle sometime before, ensuring much of its plastic waste was being utilised in a means more beneficial to the future of our planet, but when the hottest toy of the moment - and the driving force behind it joins the good fight, people sit up and start to take notice. LOL Suprirse has now become the first UK toy brand to partner with TerraCycle here in the UK. There’s a long, long road to be travelled in the journey towards sustainability, but at least now, the key is in

the metaphorical ignition and that engine is at least begin to rev up. ToyNews catches up with TerraCycle’s head of communications, Stephen Clarke to talk about the MGA partnership, and what this means for the future of the industry.

"Although toys and games, like many products, are technically recyclable, the difficulty is the seperation and high costs of recycling mixed plastics makes it tough for standard recycling practices and systems." Stephen Clarke, TerraCycle

ToyNews: Hi Stephen, thanks for joining us. To start, how important is it that toy companies begin looking at this LOL Surprise! partnership as an example they should be following? Stephen Clarke, TerraCycle: We feel it’s very important. Although toys and games, like many products, are technically recyclable, the difficulty in separation and the high cost of recycling the mixed plastics makes it impractical for council recycling systems to accept them. The LOL Surprise! recycling programme launched in the US on May 29 this year, with equivalent international programmes rolling out later on in the year across other markets where TerraCycle operates, starting here in the UK. In doing so, LOL Surprise! Has become the first UK toy brand to partner with TerraCycle in the UK. June 2019 | toy news | 37

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TN: Is this a game-changing partnership in terms of the publicity and attention you guys will gain? Will this kickstart a wider movement from the toy industry? Clarke: The more awareness that is generated in raising awareness of which materials can and can’t be recycled the better for the planet. The BBC Blue Planet II series has been widely heralded as a key moment, sparking the war on plastics in the UK. Since then we have seen a real change of momentum. Consumers are more aware and are demanding that brands make their products easier to recycle. We are also seeing that consumers are more likely to view favourably and purchase the brands that are providing more sustainable choices that can be recycled. This can be seen in other industries like food and the beauty sectors, where we work with a large number of brands to recycle

"Consumers are aware and are demanding that brands make their products easier to recycle, viewing them more favourably today." Stephen Clarke, TerraCycle

packaging which can’t be recycled via the local council recycling systems. TN: Can you talk us through the recycling processes that you have in place. Where is the waste shipped to? When the same MGA initiative launches in the UK, where will UK recycling waste be shipped to? Clarke: The toys and games are aggregated at our facility and then sent to

a processor where the collected toys and games are separated into fabrics, metals, fibers, and plastics. Fabric scraps are upcycled or recycled as appropriate. Metals are smelted so they may be recycled. The fibers (such as paper or wood based products) are recycled or composted. The plastics undergo extrusion and pelletization to be molded into new recycled plastic products, for example the likes of waste bins, storage containers, benches or outdoor furniture. Because there are a number of factors at play – including vendor pricing, available equipment, quality of work, market conditions, etc. - TerraCycle frequently moves between processing partners to maintain the most positive economics. Additionally, TerraCycle doesn’t finalise processing vendors until a large accumulation of material has taken place and we are closer to beginning the work.

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tackle that? How do you encourage consumers to not be passive? Clarke: If someone doesn’t want to recycle then it’s hard to change that view. But the UK has seen a huge rise in interest and awareness of what can and can’t be recycled, particularly over the last 18 months which is very encouraging. This has translated to TerraCycle where we have partnered with a lot of new brands to be able to make new types of waste recyclable for the first time in the UK. We have seen a large rise in consumer uptake both dropping their waste off to the growing network of public access drop off locations (there are over 6,800 currently) we have in place across the UK and signing up as private collectors. We always ask consumers to tell their friends and family that they are now recycling something that was previously non-recyclable and that can’t be accepted by the local council collections. Word of mouth is a powerful tool.

For those reasons, we are not able to commit on a location or vendor where this work will happen. However, we always prioritise processing material in the region where it was collected in order to maintain the best economics and the least impact on the environment. So when the UK LOL Surprise! recycling programme launches later this year when we have collected the required volume to process, it will be recycled in the UK.

"In the UK, TerraCycle has diverted 64 million pieces of waste from landfill or incineration and raised over £805,000 for schools."

TN: How successful has TerraCycle been in the UK to date? How receptive are consumers to the initiative? Clarke: In the UK TerraCycle currently runs collection programmes for cracker and biscuit wrappers, crisp packets, nuts, popcorn and pretzel packets, contact lenses, baby food pouches, Pringles cans, bread packaging, writing instruments, disposable gloves, pet food packaging, air and home care waste, toothbrushes and

toothpaste tubes, Aqua Optima water filters, personal care and beauty products TDISC waste and cigarette waste. In the UK to date the TerraCycle recycling programmes have diverted over 64 million pieces of waste from landfill or incineration and raised over £805,000 for schools, charities and non-profits.

Stephen Clarke, TerraCycle

TN: What issues does the Terracycle initiative overcome for recycling? Clarke: You can pretty much recycle anything as long as someone covers the cost, but it costs more to recycle toys than the value of the resulting recycled material. So even if a consumer puts a LOL Surprise! toy in their council recycling box it wouldn’t be recycled. Our US programme - and it’ll be the same for the UK launch -enables consumers to recycle their LOL Surprise! toys and packaging for the first time. LOL Surprise! covers the free postage so consumers can send the toys or packaging in for recycling, any charity donation (the UK programme details are being decided upon now) and the cost of recycling the toys and packaging.

TN: The concept obviously takes away consumer passivity - how do you June 2019 | toy news | 39

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STEM interview

CRACKING THE CODE June 2019 | toy news | 41

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STEM interview

The children’s science and art magazine publisher and team behind one hit CBeebies series, OKIDO has joined forces with the learning toy specialist OjO to develop board game to teach pre-schoolers the ways of coding. Robert Hutchins explores the concept


here’s a lot to be said of the Kickstarter community. As a platform for creativity, the whole crowdfunding scene has opened the metaphorical floodgates for innovation to flow into what was traditionally - and still remains so by large - a tough industry to crack. However, thanks to the growng awareness of platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, more and more, smaller and more niche products are finding and serving a community of enthusiasts and consumers. Of the toy categories that have succeeded via these crowdfunding spaces, few have been as successful as board gaming. And while Kickstarter has found itself more than partially responsible for the explosion of new titles to launch across the tabletop gaming space, so too has it played a hand in the growing STEM toy and product category. So, imagine just how successful a project that combines the two - a tabletop game that teaches coding, for instance - would be

on the Kickstarter platform. The good news is, you don’t have to imagine - because the team at Okido (the makers of the CBeebies series Messy Goes to OKIDO) and the child development experts at OjO, already have. Earlier this year, the pair joined forces to bring a new title, Which Way? to Kickstarter, combining their efforts to deliver a new means of teaching children essential coding skills. Currently, Which Way? is believed to be the only board game of its kind. It’s simple in its concept, and by using a magnetic, self-driving Okidoodle (the character Messy’s own futuristic car from the show), it helps teach four of the top coding skills to children aged four to eight. The game is played by spinning a wheel to select a coding mission. Kids must then plan and build their route using the magnetic pieces provided. Each magnetic piece represents a certain direction that the car can take. Once they have the route planned, kids can watch the self-driving Okidoodle as it twists, turns and travels.

The first player to reach all destinations is the winner. The game also comes with a coding book, including additional coding activities for kids, in order to reinforce the learnings of the game. Which Way? is the product of collaboration with Okido - who alongside the popular CBeebies series, currently publishes the OKIDO arts and science magazine, but is the brainchild of OjO founder and London Business School graduate, Maha Khawaja. Khawaja began her journey in making STEAM educational games from her Shoreditch base, after struggling to find suitable toys, games, and products to keep her four-year-old son occupied while at home. “Apart from LEGO, there was hardly any choice when it came to fun, educational STEAM games and toys, and we know that children need and want to learn much earlier,” she explains. “So I started inventing my own and testing them with the harshest critics - children. The games and toys have to be fun and educational in

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STEM interview

equal measure and combine STEM subjects with the arts, because creativity is key. By collaborating with OKIDO, we hope to help inspire the next generation of innovators and inventors.” To Khawaja, coding is the language of the future, and it is her belief that the game makes it second nature for young kids to learn its dialect. Meanwhile, its price point hits a sweet spot that - unlike many of the coding toys on the market today - makes it affordable for parents and schools alike. Of course, the collaboration with OKIDO was more than an opportune licensing partnership, but moreover, a meeting of minds with a common goal. OKIDO as a company, founded by Dr Sophie Dauvois and the artist Rachel Ortas, reagularly holds STEAM-based activities, interactive experiments and live shows for youngsters across the UK’s capital. Meanwhile, its magazine uses recycled paper, edible vegetable ink and boasts no plastic wrapping, all while offering young readers a host of educational activities to engage with. A more wholesome company, then, you are not likely to meet: it ticks every box the millenial may have in mind… knowingly or not. “Our readers and viewers are looking for educational, meaningful toys, combining

learning and having fun,” said Dr Dauvois. “Boardgames are something we really believe in, and it’s rare to find an engaging STEAM toy that children will enjoy playing with again and again. But we believe we have done so with our game.

"It's rare to find an engaging STEAM toy that kids enjoy playing with again and again. We think we have countered that now." Dr Sophie Dauvois, OKIDO

“This game will help to get young children interested in the scientific world around them, using play, art, and fun.” The story of the OKIDO conception reads in much the same way as OjO’s; as a labour of love that all started from a kitchen table in Brixton back in 2007. “It does away with stereotypes, fires up young imaginations and helps to spark a life-long love of art and science,” continues Dauvios. “OjO shares this same ethos and

we are delighted to be working with them on the launch of the Which Way? game.” This isn’t OjO’s only partnership in licensing terms. It also works with The Science Museum to deliver Mars Mission and Moon Friends Creativity kits, and is currently setting up a New York base, which will trade via Amazon. Khawaja adds: “Studies have shown that very young children’s brain are more open to learning about new systems in a creative way. Over the past few years, we have seen a massive increase in the number of girls choosing STEM subjects, which is long overdue. Learning to code before you start school is essential for both boys and girls, as it helps to enhance the types of skills that will be needed to do the jobs available for the next generation of college leavers.” As for how the Ojo and OKIDO collaborative project faired on the Kickstarter platform, by the way: it succeeded, smashing its target of £15,000 rather comfortably. Where this leaves the team is at the foot of its next challenge - bringing the title to market. With a community of supporters already behind it, however, and an expanding market for STEM products before it, this is a partnership looking at a successful future. June 2019 | toy news | 43

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STEAM POWERED There’s plenty going on in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths) space today, with more and more toys being developed to encourage and help kids advance their skills in the subjects. Robert Hutchins rounds up just a few

Re:creation A globally established player in the world of STEM play, Engino more than delivers on its founder’s vision of introducing children to core STEM principles while having fun. The unique, patented construction system comprises modular connectors that enable students to build fast and easy, fully functional technological models. The high quality sets are each complete with easy-to-follow instructions and supported by a free online KidCAD app showcasing 3D step by step builds. The ENGINO range is exclusively designed and manufactured in the company’s state of the art production facility, based in Cyprus. The Engino STEM Heroes collection offers a comprehensive line-up of themed, multibuild sets complete with full colour booklet of activities, challenges and ideas for further experimentation. Among the themes are the ‘Toy Fair Hero Product’ awarded, Greenhouse set enabling children to build their own functional mini-greenhouse and then discover

what effects temperature and water can make as they grow their own favourite plants. The Jurassic Earth motorised set will inspire students to discover more about dinosaurs as they build. Other themes include aeronautics, automotives, sea exploration and space. Fans of JCB will welcome the Engino exclusively licensed collection of four multibuild sets, showcasing iconic machinery from this much-loved brand. The sets delivering on a range of price points include the motorised Tall Crane set and the legendary Back Hoe Loader. The soon-to-launch Academy of STEAM collection will introduce additional sketching and colouring elements to the play, enabling children to design panels and features to attach to their completed models. Re:creation will now roll out major marketing support throughout the second half of the year, introducing new audiences to the exciting world of Engino.

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OjO Children will love learning the four top coding skills with the whole family, friends and classmates, all thanks to the new Which Way? board game from OjO and its collaborative partner, OKIDO. This new and exciting board game by OKIDO and OjO is unplugged, meaning no screens are needed (making for quite standout in the world of coding toys), fun, with no words needed, and good for developig STEM skills among preschoolers, advancing the skills the need for the jobs and world of tomorrow. Using a magnetic, self-driving, Okidoodle (Messy’s futuristic car), the game helps to teach four of the top coding skills to children aged four to eight years. To play the game you spin a wheel to select a coding mission, then plan and build your route using the magnetic pieces provided. Each magnetic piece represents a certain direction the car can take. Kids can then watch the self-driving Okidoodle as it twists, turns and travels across the route you have built to see if it reaches all its destinations. The first player to reach all destinations wins. The game also comes with a coding book including additional coding activities for kids to reinforce the learnings of the game. Suitable for home, classroom-based learning, and clubs, Which Way? helps youngsters develop ‘computational thinking,’ incorporating planning, problem solving, coding and testing skills – essential attributes for successful coders and vital skills for the 21st century. The Messy Goes to OKIDO game is priced at RRP £30 which includes a coding booklet.

MGA Entertainment MGA Entertainment is making a play for the STEM sector with its popular Project Mc² brand, a fashion dolls and accessories range that looks to encourage girls into STEM topics through role-play. Project Mc2 continues to engage with fun, on trend science with its new UV Nail Maker, adding to the range this season. Using the scientifically formulated ultraviolet gel polishes, children can fill the nail mould wheel with different colours and glitter, place into the UV Nail Maker, and in less than two minutes have press on nails to wear. The Ultimate Spy Bag also continues to be stocked in retailers for young STEM fans to complete their lab collection. 2019 has already been a great year for encouraging and getting girls involved in STEM related projects, as it kickstarted with its British Science Week campaign back in March, where the brand collaborated with influencers and bloggers to become NOV8 agents for the day and tap into their geek chic side. The UV Nail Maker retails at £29.99.

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STEM toys

Smart Toys and Games 01903 885669 Smart Games creates multi-level logic games, and the multi award winning brand’s STEM toy offering is a popular line. With inspirational logic games and puzzles with innovative mechanics, 2019’s STEM heroes are proving popular already. Smart Games’ latest one player compact game is sure to have you puzzled. Introducing Colour Catch, where players need to match the colours and catch the bugs as they complete the 48 challenges. The player’s motive is to help the animals catch their dinner by placing the puzzle pieces in a certain way on the game board so that the frogs and salamanders capture the bugs and match the colours shown in the challenge. But watch out, the animals are transparent, and their colours will change on different parts of the game board. Budding car enthusiasts will love SmartCar Mini, a new game that encourages players to use their brain to create a car. Players must build their car according to the plan, placing four blocks correctly, before taking it for a test drive. SmartCar Mini is a fun, compact, 3D-puzzle with 24 multi-level challenges, plus a further 48 challenges available online from the Smart Games website. Enjoy an interactive trip to the farm this spring with Smart Games’ Smart Farmer, a fun

game for five plus. The Pigs, Sheep, Horses and Cows are making a big mess and need to be separated, but the player will need to give this some thought as there are only three simple fences to divide the field into separate meadows. Help by placing the fences so the animals each get their own space. SmartMax is the award-winning preschool magnetic construction system, which allows children aged one and upwards the chance to explore the world of magnetism in a fun and safe way. This year, the brand welcomed the arrival of two new ‘My First’ sets. Introducing, ‘My First’ Dinosaurs, featuring five iconic dinosaurs including the formidable Tyrannosaurus Rex. Little ones can ‘mix and match’ the dinosaurs to create weird and wonderful combinations. With a new and creative approach this year, the ‘My First’ Totem set features eight colourful magnetic building blocks, with different sounds, styles and textures. Combine the sensory blocks to build the coolest totem; or follow one of the 24 fun challenges . Meanwhile, GeoSmart is the magnetic construction system that enables children from five years upwards to build different structures using an exciting selection of magnetic geoshapes. The range is already a hit among STEM learning kids.

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STEM toys

Spin Master 01628 535 000 2019 sees Meccano continue to support a host of educational initiatives building on its important role within STEM/STEAM category. The brand has its sights set firmly on opportunities to get kids building and creating with this challenging construction material through partnerships and events. Recently taking Gold in the 2019 Dadsnet Awards for best STEM toy, Meccano continues to inspire the next generation of young scientists and engineers. The year kicked off with the Big Bang Fair where Meccano showcased new products as well as offering hands on play and free building with Meccano construction kits. The activity brought key STEM themes and skills to life amongst visitors. Meccano’s partnership with STEMWorks continues after a successful year in 2018, with the brand offering helpful resources teaching key STEM skills in the classroom, as well as launching a school’s competition to encourage hands-on building with Meccano. The competition will result in a grand finale workshop at the Royal International Air Tattoo in the summer, once again offering exciting experiential activities. Budding engineers of the future will be able to take part in the workshop, enjoying fun building challenges with the latest construction kits. Meccano continues to infuse innovation into the line by incorporating new materials and advanced technologies into its building sets, and fans can continue to be inspired by two classic sets. Both sets are suitable for ages 8+.

Bandai Bandai maintains its foothold in the STEM category for 2019 with new licenses, ranges, and product lines for the year ahead. As a growth category for the UK business, the company has joined forces with some of the world’s best-known partners to feature a variety of themes and play-patterns to inspire children’s learning and the confidence to explore the world around them. Bandai’s National Geographic assortment covers a variety of STEM subjects, encouraging ‘edutainment’ play through a variety of entry and mid-price kits. In partnership with one of the world’s most respected and influential brands, National Geographic is fast becoming a solid evergreen brand in the portfolio. Dig Kits are core to the range with sharks, dinosaurs, bugs, and gems available for 30-minute excavations to discover real specimens. Mini Kit versions offer treat-sized purchases, ideal for first-time dig experiences or for adding to existing Dig Kit collections. Meanwhile, Bandai reports strong sales on the heritage Sea Monkeys brand. June 2019 | toy news | 47

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DOLLED UP Casting its eye over the ever-popular dolls category this month, ToyNews rounds up just some of the latest products to be hitting shelves this year, from collectables to the more unique dolls on the market this season

Flair 0208 643 0320 Flair and Just Play have a wealth of doll and collectable brands to choose from, including the fashion dolls with attitude from Hairdorables and a new nurturing interactive collection that are full of surprises. Meet the Bellies; the craziest, cutest and funniest interactive babies to adopt. This new nurturing doll brand offers unique play value and are the only nurturing dolls that feature; interactivity, cuteness, humour, collectability, and heaps of surprises. The Bellies come from Bellyville, where a nanny called Beth looks after them all. There are six Bellies with unique personalities, all ready for a new home. Each baby comes with host of features; take their plaster off to hear their heart beat and listen to them babble in their own language. When they're together, the Bellies will interact, but the surprises don’t stop here, because kids can discover their baby’s

birthmark and check out the surprises left in their diaper, before checking the “Poopypedia” to see what type of care the baby needs. Already popular in South Europe, the Bellies will be available in the UK from July with four to adopt in wave one. The launch will be fully supported through TV and Digital, ensuring great support for retailers. Meanwhile, Just Play’s Hairdorables has just introduced its new Series Two dolls. The girl squad with "Big Hair Don't Care" attitude has 26 new dolls to collect with new styles and a new colour reveal accessory. Also new for spring are the Hairdorables Pets. If the spring additions weren’t exciting enough already, Just Play unveiled the bombshells which will hit shelves this Autumn at New York Toy Fair. The next chapter for this burgeoning girls’ brand will include Series Three dolls, their little sisters, the Shortcuts, and the introduction of Dudes to the Hairdorables tribe. With this new season launch will come a heavyweight marketing drive. June 2019 | toy news |49

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RRP £27.99

Includes 11” doll and story book introducing Satty and her family Trade enquiries



Mattel 01628 500 111 Mattel brings fun and innovative products to its dolls and accessories portfolio in AW19, from its iconic brands, including Barbie, Enchantimals, and Fisher-Price, as well as new and exciting licensed properties. Barbie is introducing its most diverse and inclusive Barbie Fashionistas range to date, with dolls reflecting physical disabilities, including a doll in a wheelchair and a doll with a prosthetic limb. The new body types for Barbie also now include a doll with a smaller bust, less defined waist and more defined arms and diversity in skin tones, eye colours, hair colours and textures, including a new braided hair texture. This Autumn introduces the new Barbie travel range, including the new Barbie Dreamplane with 15 accessories. It joins the Travel Barbie Doll and her puppy, who are ready for any adventure with 10 accessories. From Fisher-Price character brands, the new Sunny Day toy range launches, inspired by the Nickelodeon TV series to encourage children to express their style. The range includes the 6” Dolls and 11” Brush and

Bracelet Dolls, innovative Little Wonderbun Assortment with surprise reveals, and Sunny's Hair Dryer Kit for role play fun. Young stylists can play out Sunny’s adventures with Sunny’s Fan-tastic Salon, with three levels of play and over 45 sounds, songs and phrases. For Shimmer & Shine, the Genie and Zahracorn figures remains a key focus, these Zahracorns come to life with fluttering wings and over 35 sounds, phrases and songs. This Spring Mattel unveiled the BTS Core Fashion Dolls Assortment, inspired by the global superstar boy band; a worldwide phenomenon with sold out tour dates at Wembley Stadium and over 14 million followers across social media. The BTS dolls' outfits are inspired by the group's ‘Idol’ Music video and are unlike any other fashion dolls currently in the market. Harry Potter fans can travel back to Hogwarts with the Yule Ball Doll Assortment. Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione and Cho Chang dolls outfits are inspired by the Yule Ball in the film The Goblet of Fire. The animal-themed Enchantimals dolls introduce a new Junglewood theme for AW19, with their Enchantimals Junglewood Café a 2ft tall playset. June 2019 | toy news | 51

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Hasbro New for this season, and the world of Disney Princess small dolls is getting a stylish upgrade courtesy of the global entertainment and play company, Hasbro and its innovative Royal Clips dressing system. Made for little hands, these one-clip outfits are designed for quick, seamless wardrobe changes. Kids can imagine dressing up their favourite Disney Princess characters for an enchanted evening or an exciting adventure. With Disney’s Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Pocahontas, each Disney Princess small doll in this assortment features a signature gown inspired by the movie with sparkling, eye-catching glitter accents. Kids simply have to open the Royal Clips skirt and slit it into the doll. The doll can then sit or stand while wearing her dress. Kids can collect all the Disney Princess with Royal Clips fashion dolls in this range now.

Casdon 01253 608428 Famous for its trusted brands and role play toys, Casdon offers not just pretend appliances but also has a successful range of dolls accessories in its Baby Huggles portfolio. The Baby Huggles range is a proven seller and offers a one-stop shop for all dolls up to 46cm. Keeping on trend, 2018 has seen a refresh to the design bringing a contemporary and up-to-date feel to the collection. This new colour scheme has been applied to such items as the car booster seat that features a three-point harness and can be fixed inside a car to take dolly on the go. For when it’s time to change the dolls, little ones can use Baby Changing Mat Set; the perfect set to pretend change baby. This stylish looking mat and accessories including re-usable nappy, comb, dolly wipes container and more are all that tots need to keep a doll clean and dry. Ensuring the Casdon brands are seen by the firm’s core consumer - parents and grandparents - a year round social media strategy is in place. Included in this will be reviews of the new Baby Huggles range with the UK’s top parenting influencers. 52 | toy news | June 2019

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Apne Dolls Taken from the Punjabi word meaning ‘our’, Apne Dolls are ‘our dolls’, a range of fashion dolls designed for second, third and fourth generation British Indians living in the UK, and is the culmination of years of pondering on the point, 'where are the dolls to reflect this heritage?', from the creators at Apne Dolls. Being from Sikh backgrounds, the Apne Dolls team had spent years researching the dolls market, yet finding nothing accessible, or as attractive as other fashion dolls on shelves across the country. It was then that the team took it upon itself to create the dolls they wanted to see on shelves, themselves. The process has developed since October 2017 and, while Apne Dolls will admit that navigating the toy industry has "all been a steep learning curve," the success it has achieved in "such a short space of time has been nothing short of remarkable." Today, Apne Dolls now introduces its Bhabi-ji Satty, known as Satty, the first doll in the Apne Dolls production line, as she arrives in full traditional Indian wedding dress emblazoned in vibrant red and gold. Satty stands at 11 inches tall and arrives in window box. Her name derives from the Punjabi for Sister-in-Law, for the family she intends to be

wed into in a nod to the Sikh cultural customs and traditions. Giving this fashion doll an educational slant, Satty the doll comes with an A6-sized story book, written by the Apne Dolls team in English throughout. "This was completely created by me at home with the aim of making it something my seven-year-old daughter would enjoy reading," Apne Dolls creator, Narinder tells ToyNews. "I illustrated the book myself, while the cover features a drawing by my seven-yearold, which I have ensured is used centre stage. The illustrations that followed all stem from the original cover drawing." The book offers readers a number of chances to try and sound out the Punjabi words for numbers, days of the week etc... offering the element of learning and engagment with the Punjabi language. "There are also pages designed to encourage the young reader to develop their own ideas for story writing and create their own illustrations along the way," added Narinder. The doll has been tested to trade standards for both CE/EN71 & ASTM F963 and retails at £27.99. Apne Dolls is including free UK postage and packaging for orders and is urging retailers to get in touch. June 2019 | toy news | 53

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Our 2019 features list is available and with it a new chance for you to sign up and get involved in the industry’s leading and most read publication.

Get in touch with anything you’d like to see us cover in ToyNews. Contact Robert on and for advertising opportunities get in touch with Rob Baker on ToyNews House Ad 210x265mm.indd 1

04/03/2019 18:10

back to school

CLASSROOM ANTICS Daunting for children, yet a relief for parents; the back to school season does land - yes, stay strong because it really, really does land - at least once a year. Ahead of the big event this year, ToyNews looks over the latest products with which to celebrate the time-honoured tradition

Jumbo Games The Goula range of wooden toys from Jumbo Games brings on-trend traditional toys, with the proven concept of children learning through play. Jumbo’s collection offers products for three to six years, with each providing multiple developmental and educational benefits, alongside the allimportant fun factor. The new format Calendar Clock helps kids three and over learn all aspects of time and weather. The colourful clock features a traditional clock showing seconds, minutes, hours and clock positions. The top slider helps children to understand dates, while the bottom one helps to identify the weather, with the vertical slider allowing tots to choose the right day of the week. Turning the dial to the correct month will help understanding of seasons.

Helping kids understand mathematical concepts, the Goula Coloured Rings wooden set relates number and quantity. Little ones use the chunky coloured rings, which are easy for small hands to manage, to stack onto the posts to count their way to the right number. Underneath the numbered puzzle piece in front of each post, lies a visual representation of the colours needed to reach the right number. Animal pictures on the Wooden Puzzle Duo each have a unique shape to help children fit the correct number piece. Counting up the animals helps tots understand numbers, quantities and correlate the two together, while enjoying the satisfaction of completing puzzles. Meanwhile, the Vertical Abacus is suitable for those moving into reception at ages five and over.The robust numbered wooden tiles are used to create a sum along the bottom of the abacus and the vibrant coloured rings are then added to represent the number below to create an easily understandable mathematic equation. June 2019 | toy news |55

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12/06/2019 11:25

back to school

Bandai Bandai brings new items to the back-toschool and arts and crafts markets this season, with the introduction of two new creative play sets and activities. Brand new for 2019, the Pretty Pixels Eraser Maker allows children to make their own designed erasers using pixelated templates and microwave heat as opposed to an iron. With erasers remaining a collectable favourite, Pretty Pixels provide endless createand-collect opportunities. Available in Deluxe, Starter, and Mini, the range features different themes from animals, fairies, cute and cool; with moulds and design sheets to create erasers of varying sizes to keep kids occupied for hours and use while at home and school. Meanwhile, Sticker Fun brings an easy and fun way to sticker. The high-quality stickers use a special adhesive to enable the users to stick, remove, and re-peel – ideal for decorating pencil cases and exercise books. Each Sticker Fun pack comes complete with a sticker stamper and two sticker tubes with the latest themes including Animals, Smileys, and, of course Princesses.

Playmobil 01268 548111 Playmobil is launching the City Life school series, making learning colourful and fun for little scholars. In support of the ‘Toy Like Me’ campaign, Playmobil is actioning the call for better disability representation with its new City Life play-sets, which include characters with disabilities and accessible features. The vibrant 9453 Furnished School Building contains everything needed to explore the joys of education. The school comes equipped with two classrooms to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills development, as well as a front office, staircase, integrated lockers, lifts and accessible toilets. This innovative set features a school bell, as well as the digital clock, which can also double up as an alarm for young school-goers. Vital supplies such as books, recycling bins, bikes and a wide array of furniture are all included to help create the perfect school environment for little learners. The set comes complete with nine figures, each with their own learning accessories. Additional play-sets are available to extend the school building for more learning fun. The 9419 School Van contains a wheelchair accessible ramp and five figures, 9456 Chemistry Class contains all that's needed to launch lab experiments, while 9455 History Class features a swivelling blackboard and a host of props and tools to encourage interactive learning.

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12/06/2019 11:15

back to school

Spin Master 01628 535000 Moonlite, the innovative storybook projector for your mobile phone, continues to transform the way children experience their favourite stories with new titles this spring, and more exciting introductions in the autumn. Moonlite creates an immersive storytelling event that fuels a child's imagination. They will love watching beloved characters come to life with new stories from Moonlite including the popular Goose by debut author-illustrator Laura Wall. With simple, bold, and colourful illustrations, Laura creates a sweet story about an unusual and heart-warming friendship that delights young readers. Children will also love reading new classic stories including The Princess and the Pea, The Little Prince, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, and from the iconic Mr Men & Little Miss books, the story of Mr Strong and Little Miss Princess all available now. Autumn introductions include stories from Nick Jr's PAW Patrol, in a new Gift Pack. It features five adventures, including Pups Save a Lost Tooth, Pups Save a School and Pups Save a Surprise. The line will further grow with new Fairy Tale story reels including the iconic Hansel and Gretel, enchanted story of Rapunzel, and the classic tale of The Tortoise and the Hare. Find out more about Moonlite by visiting

Smart Toys and Games 01903 885669 Discover the magic of classic fairytales with these puzzle games from Smart Toys and Games. Children as young as three can enjoy their favourite stories in a new way thanks to the ‘Once Upon a Time’ collection, featuring Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Three Little Piggies. Three Little Piggies is a brain teasing game; where children will be intrigued by the way the piggies fit inside the houses and look through the windows to escape the wolf. Having already received a Right Start Best Toy Award, this educational and exciting game is a huge hit. With ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, little ones will discover how to play in this magical world, by working out the right path to Grandma’s house; but beware of the wolf, right behind you. Sleeping Beauty Deluxe is an enchanting game where young players, aged three to five, must help rescue the princess by navigating through a maze to the magical castle. While older children, five to seven years, can opt to play as the fiery Dragon, hindering the knight from reaching the castle and destroying his rescue mission. Finally, delve into your very own fairy tale Snow White; with a 3D house, seven Dwarfs, Snow White and an Evil Queen, this fantastical game becomes a toy within itself. With the added bonus of a picture storybook, the whole family can enjoy this sweet game. A charming world that will educate, entice and enable children to systematically work through 48 challenges of varying levels; and with a choice of starting from the interior or exterior of the house, the fun is limitless.

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12/06/2019 11:15

Bossing it

Bossing It… with Gibsons’ Kate Gibson Each month, ToyNews picks on one industry bigwig to put through the ringer with a series of questions. This month, it’s Gibsons’ managing director, Kate Gibson


hat have the past 12 months been like over at Gibsons? It’s been a really strong past year, actually. We are delighted and I'm not sure where it has come from. Last year was challenging, particularly the second half, but this has been a really good start to the year; it’s been a combination of great product launches, and our Centenary celebrations that has generated a lot of noise. We recently had the NPD stats come in that verified that we are the leading manufacturer of adult jigsaw puzzles, in terms of greatest sales, and that is making a big impact. Our customers are hearing that message, mainly because we talk about it at every opportunity we get. What do you make of the health of the sector at the moment - both in performance and in innovation coming through? The big sticking point is the volatility of the market and the not knowing what is going on politically. It creates a nervousness in everyone and you see that on the High Street - it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But in terms of innovation, we’re in a good place. There’s a huge amount going on in games and puzzles right now, which, as we know from NPD, are very healthy. Although not reflected in the rest of the industry, something's going on suggesting games and puzzles are the antidote. How did you get into the Gibsons business? It's a family business, but I was in marketing elsewhere at first, which was all good experience before I joined Gibsons 15 years ago. I joined in 2005 and took up various roles before, in 2016, I took up the role of managing director. That was a year of questioning, wondering if it was the right thing; would I be juggling family

and responsibility? Once I took the plunge, I have never looked back. It was one of those bizarre things, that it was meant to be. I really enjoy it, I thrive on it now. It’s been great to take the company forward, into the next generation and through that priod of evolution. What has been the best moment of your career to date? Blimey Rob… tough questions… But it would have to be, taking our company into its fourth generation and leading us through our Centenary year. In addition, I have an ongoing sense of pride in seeing our outstanding team driven and motivated to achieve company growth and targets continuously. Can you think of a stand out moment growing up that put you on this path in the toy industry? I remember going up to the toy show as a child, and there was a moment when Trevor and Simon, the British comedy duo, were hosting a promo for Gibsons: How many games of Uno can you play in a Fiat Uno. Uno became a big hit for Gibsons back when we distributed it. I always remember playing family games like that. Nowadays, my youngest daughter is five and she loves playing Uno. You've hit 100 years, what’s next on the list for Gibsons then? Well, as well as the perfect puzzle, green strategy and continuing to make Gibsons a great place to work, we are focusing on International growth and our new International Account Manager, Alice Tournaire is making great progress and signing up new distributors in China, Australia and much more.


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