Toy News September 2019

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September 2019


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September 2019



No. 209 | September 2019

The art of the deal

Editor Robert Hutchins

Sales Manager Rob Baker

Sales Manager Sarah Norwood

Designer Nikki Hargreaves

Follow us @toynews online


ll manner of awkward timings had me dangerously close to proroguing the September issue of ToyNews this time around as the October Brand Licensing Europe deadline came somewhat hurtling towards us all, like an unstoppable freight train carrying an ensemble cast of over-sized cartoonish characters... but that's enough politics chatter for this column; strength will out, and I have decided to offer up a mash-up of our Games & Puzzles special, with the annual BLE focus in a single issue. And it just so happens that recent developments in the space have rendered my approach here not so outlandish, afterall. Flip forward a few pages (not before reading this month's bold run of opinion pieces from some of our industry's most insightful, of course) and you'll find an industry exclusive interview with Asmodee, as the board game goliath unveils the grand plans around Asmodee Entertainment - a new entity created to take its board gaming IP into the wider licensing arena, with a spin-off TV series inspired by its multi-million unit selling Tickt to Ride franchise the first of many major moves to come. Franchises are sprouting from the toy industry at an increasing rate the board game sector being just one - while this year, hopes are high that the calibre of films and new properties launching will be enough to strengthen that bond between toys and licensing once again. Robert Hutchins, Editor

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Contents September 2019 Features



Opinion 07 Emma May 08 Oliver Hayes 09 Winnie Mak 11 Trudi Bishop


Asmodee details its plans for the new entity Asmodee Entertainment in this industry exclusive


HOW THE WEST WAS WON ToyNews dives into anime and Manga as the Japanese art form prepares for a cultural explosion in the UK


STOCK AND ROLL Take a leap into the ever-expanding world of board games with ToyNews' round up of the hottest titles this season


THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP Charge head-first into this year's BLE with our extensive focus on the weird and wonderful world of licensing

Market Data 28 Wildbrain 31 Fanbytes Sector Guides 36 Games & Puzzles 56 BLE Showcase

Back pages 86 Industry Moves 89 Bossing It...

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Boarder crossing: Connecting design talent to the toy industry breeds better innovation By Emma May

Putting on my serious face for a moment, let’s talk about two sides of the same industry. It’s a strange one because in the circles I now move, we have a hobbyist market and a mass market. Each of them resides within the same topic of interest - that being games - but both of them work in very different ways. As an indie, self-publisher with a - ahem - mass marketable game - psst, that’s Quirk!, by the way - that started off life in the hobbyist market two years ago, I’ve seen first-hand the difference in thinking and building a business an independent perspective, as well as from the larger names in the games industry. It’s plain to see that anyone who is in this industry, is in it for the love of creating toys and games. On the hobbyist side, there are those that make games purely for the enjoyment of it; only wanting to create a small volume. Then there are others, who would love nothing more than to recreate the success of something like the record-setting Exploding Kittens. It's upon the latter that I shall focus as I now explore the dichotomy in thinking between the two.

There is still a massive gap in knowledge in how a game becomes successful in our market. I truly believe that the more we can help and support each other in how to think about game development for retail, the better our games will be and the better we will serve a growing market. Add to this our growing reputation on crowd-funding sites, and lo, the better deals we can later score through partnerships and collaborations. It just has to start at the prototype stage and not half way through a Kickstarter Campaign in order to work. Kickstarter has become a gem for independents to test their ideas with an early majority, and raise the funds to get started. However, more often than not, without the pre-marketing efforts that lead a campaign to glory, the project will fail - along with any success in the market. It all comes down to wearing one too many hats. The indie developer is expected to be at every step in the product life cycle - but there's little benefit to it. My own game, Quirk, wouldn't be where it is now without the expertise of the toy industry. In fact, it's since soared thanks to its professional in-put. There’s an opportunity here to connect design talent with the industry, and it’s a big thanks to the people that do this, and facilitate innovation in all areas.

"There's still a gap in knowledge in how a game finds success." Emma May is the founder of Emmerse Studios and the creator of the popular party card game range, Quirk. May has found success at retail this past year,. while her party game brand has picked up numerous awards and mentions across the industry.

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Amusement larks: The growth of toy retail within the family attraction space By Oliver Hayes

From memories of trundling down the M5 to Devon, or queueing up the M6 Northwards to the Lakes, the Great British staycation has always been a popular choice for many residents of the UK. According to the GB Tourism Survey 2018, last year, British residents took a total of 97.4 million overnight trips in England, totalling 296 million nights and bringing in a value of around £19 billion to the British economy in doing so. Staggeringly, that’s a three per cent decrease on 2017, but the family attraction market remains buoyed nonetheless by not only a set of rather impressive figures, but by the steady growth and continued innovation that the market delivers when it fires on all cylinders, and that includes retail. While retail isn't painting the prettiest picture on the high streets at the moment, it’s seen an upward shift in the family attraction industry. Over the past ten years, toy retail in particular, has seen a significant growth in this sector. The obligatory pit-stop into the gift shop after a day out has become part and parcel of the visitor

experience, and there’s certainly been an increase in demand for toys in this micro-economy in recent years. This year, The Family Attraction Expo at the Birmingham NEC (running November 6 to 7) is welcoming the largest number of toy manufacturers and suppliers to date, as it prepares to support a full complement of 350 hand-picked exhibitors at this year’s show. Reflective of a growing industry, The Family Attraction Expo has today grown four times its size from launch, underlining the size of the market. This year, the show will welcome the likes of Smart Toys and Games, Kandy Toys, and Melissa and Doug, among many prestigious others looking to tap into the booming family attraction market. Meanwhile, other show highlights include expert speakers, including our Keynote, Tom Lionetti-Maguire from the Crystal Maze Live, to discuss why immersive VR theatre is the new future, while Sebastian Maraloiu from Questro will highlight how tech is changing the face of tourism. But while tech may well be changing aspects of the Great British family attraction, its interdependency on a robust and colourful retail scene holds strong. The potential of this market for toy makers and distributors is vast, so why not take look this year?

"Toy retail has seen big growth in the family attraction space." Oliver Hayes is the event director of the Family Attraction Expo, taking place this year from November 6 to 7 at Birmingham's NEC. The show will welcome the breadth of the family attraction industry, including retail experts and members of the toy industry.

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Self-worth is diverse: How the industry can fight prejudice and bias from the toy box By Winnie Mak

It's true that Britain is a brilliant and beautiful melting pot of diversity. But walk into any regular high street toy shop, and you’d be hard pushed to find that diversity represented on the shelves. This was the challenge my husband Rafael and I faced, when we searched for a doll for our then two year old son. Not only did we find that the majority of those dolls were girls dressed in pink, but that the majority were white, blonde, and non-reflective of culture today. Frustrated by the lack of diversity being represented on the toy shelf, as well as the assumption of gender typical roles, we took matters into our own hands and launched a range of four dolls with different ethnicities and genders under the One Dear World banner. The response was instant and resounding; positive representation matters. As popular as the first range was, it has always been my vision to include more diversity within the range, and start building representation out to all walks of life. That's why, this past month, we have launched a new crowdfunding initiative to produce six more dolls for the One Dear World range, representing visible and non-visible disabilities.

With global toy sales reaching £72.5 billion last year, we recognise, however, that we are just a small fish in a very large pond. Big toy brands have started to make efforts to be more representative, which is thrilling to see, but there is still so much more that can be done. With an estimated 770,000 children in the UK with disabilities, and more than 150 million worldwide, we think it's time the industry woke to the role it can play. Play is crucial in helping children develop and learn about the world, and dolls with disabilities are not just for children with disabilities. In fact, they can help both parents and teachers start conversations about diversity and inclusivity and help them explain what makes every child unique and special. It's been noted in the research paper titled Nature and Nurture in Own-Race Face Processing that prejudice starts early, with babies as young as three months noticing differences in apparance. Between three and five, children start to apply stereotypes, and from five upwards, children understand that stereotyping can lead to discrimination. Sadly, some of the discrimination and inequalities we see in adult life are still being perpetuated in our children’s toy boxes today. Now is the time for the industry to effect change and fight prejudice from the toy box.

"Between three and five, children start to apply stereotypes." Winnie Mak is the founder of One Dear World – an independent brand of diverse and inclusive dolls. For more information on One Dear World and their crowdfunding campaign visit

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Closer to home: How I'll be fighting against plastic pollution from the office By Trudi Bishop

The holidays are done and the schools are back, which means we can all now relax back into the sanity of work… and with that, feel a rejuvenation to tackle the coming months. For me, it all comes with a sense of hope - the hope that, as an industry, we can now begin to stem the tide of our plastic waste. At the moment, the task at hand can seem a bit like trying to turn the Titanic around just as we are about to hit one whopping plastic iceberg, with no band to play us on. Plastic pollution is endemic. Yes, we need strong legislation to reduce carbon emissions; yes, manufacturers need to now change to more sustainable production methods, and if we really get down to it, yes, consumers need to consume less and we all need to live more sustainably. And, yes - this all feels utterly overwhelming. But it needn’t be. I was once told “why worry about the things you can’t change, only worry about the things you can”. So that’s where I am beginning my mission, with simple steps to reduce the plastic addiction. The biggest step, I find, comes in opening your eyes to the crisis we now face. Look around and be honest. And then, instead of panicking, just plot your plastic usage to identify what you might be able to change.

You’ll be surprised just how much of the stuff we throw away each day, oftentimes without really considering it. Next, commit yourself and your office to measurable plastic reduction targets. Why not make a plan as a team to come up with some creative ideas to reduce your plastic use? You can always share the ideas and success with other teams and companies and challenge them to do the same... I know how competitive an industry this can be, I've worked in it, and I am sure this will certainly spark the competitive nature of many of us in it. Even smaller steps I am taking include: using reusable water bottles for the morning commute, setting up a Bring Your Own lunch day for the office (which is actually a great way to cut down costs, try new foods and reduce the single-use plastic I buy at lunch) helping me to an almost guilt-free meal ( just don't count the calories...). I am also removing disposable plastic from the office kitchen. There, I've said it. And I'm aiming to be as digital as I can be. I’m avoiding paper, stemming my use of jiffy bags, and recycling as much as I can. Think I'm nuts? Others are doing it, already. You can even team up with companies like Terracycle for all of those hard to recycle items like crisp packets, so you don't even have to give up your daily bag of Wotsits... not just yet, anyway. It's the small changes that really do matter.

"We're Titanic heading for a plastic iceberg. Let's turnaround." Trudi Bishop is the founder of Bee Licensing and an active campaigner for sustainability in the toy industry. Bishop has a regualr slot with ToyNews Opinion to promote this crucial global and environmental issue.

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Asmodee Group has finally lifted the lid on plans for the mass media landscape with the formation of Asmodee Entertainment, a platform dedicated to developing its best-loved IP outside of the board gaming arena and into TV, live entertainment and more. Robert Hutchins talks exclusively with the division’s head, Andy Jones


nyone with half an eye on the board gaming space of late wouldn’t have failed to notice that Asmodee has been on a bit of a spending spree. Over the last two years, the gaming goliath has been on a growth trajectory, consuming a banquet of

distributors to build out a high-performing portfolio into one that comfortably sits between 200 and 300 titles today. During that time there had been murmurs of a greater game at play for the international outfit, but what that looked like at the time, only little was really known.

When Asmodee finally took on its own book publishing endeavour with Aconyte Books at the start of this year, the edges of that plan started to shift into focus, and it wasn’t long after that the first announcement of Asmodee’s design for the wider entertainment space hit the September 2019 | toy news | 13

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headlines: Asmodee was to operate not on one or two cylinders in Asmodee (its board games division), and Asmodee Digital, but a third and altogether more ambitious cylinder in Asmodee Entertainment. It’s via this platform that Asmodee will be bringing its board gaming IP to the masses like never before. If Asmodee Digital has grown the audience for the likes of Catan or Pandemic outwards for a digital-first generation, the potential for a platform that will span TV, book publishing, or the myriad content platforms available to audiences today, is pretty huge. Consider this for example, the TV production studio Propogate is currently developing an adventure competition TV series based on the now iconic Ticket to Ride board game, created by Alan R. Moon, and published by Days of Wonder and Asmodee Studios. And the only question is: why indeed wouldn’t they? As board games go, Ticket to Ride is one of the biggest of this ‘new wave’ board gaming era out there. Its digital game has been played over 65 million times online, while its physical counterpart has sold over six million copies in more than 40 countries worldwide. Now consider the other 200 to 300 titles Asmodee has under its arm, and just what the company could achieve in the wider entertainment space suddenly looks pretty sizeable. To Andy Jones, head of Asmodee Entertainment, it’s all just a matter of mountains, really.

“You identify an exciting new mountain to climb and want to get going straight away, right?” asks Jones when confronted with the question of ‘why now for Asmodee Entertainment?’ “Remember that Asmodee Digital has been quietly achieving great successes for a number of years now as it keeps growing and growing in the interactive space, and Asmodee Entertainment is the next natural

“You identify a new mountain and want to get going straight away, right? That's how we feel about Asmodee Entertainment." Andy Jones, Asmodee Entertainment and complementary step in expanding our stories beyond the games.” That’s not to say that Asmodee will be taking its eyes off the board gaming market from whence it sprang - given the 10 per cent growth the category saw last year alone, it would be foolish to do so. Asmodee’s

boardgaming division is also the longestserving, most established and “by far the biggest part of Asmodee today,” and one poised to grow only bigger in the coming months and years. “I tell people that the boardgames platform has ‘twin DNA’, says Jones. “On the one hand it develops and publishes all the great games from our many wholly owned studios - from Zygomatic, Days of Wonder and Space Cowboys, through to Plaid Hat, Fantasy Flight and of course Catan Studio. “On the other hand, Asmodee has a huge distribution network to place boardgames into everywhere that makes sense - high street, hobby store, online… you will find boardgames distributed by Asmodee everywhere you look." That’s a big audience already being tapped in to. So it’d make sense to leverage that and complete the circle - or sphere - of entertainment, and position Asmodee as a true powerhouse - and boundary-breaker in the tabletop sector. “It’s true, we could simply carry on growing our boardgames and digital games platform into the distant future (and indeed we will do), but there is so much more we want to do on top of that,” explains Jones. “When we say we have a game for every gamer, we mean it - and this means that our underlying intellectual properties are very varied too. Think Dobble at one end and Twilight Imperium at the other. “Asmodee Entertainment is here to begin to tell those amazing stories in all sorts of media and product types. This means that we will both be showcasing and developing myriad new ways for our fans to engage with the games and worlds they love in ever greater detail, and introducing many new initiatives to our worlds.” Strategy gains Sensibly, Asmodee’s approach to expanding on the worlds of its IP strictly won’t be a case of chucking any of the 200 to 300 properties to the wall and seeing what sticks. The unit’s approach will be decidedly more pragmatic. Where Ticket to Ride will work as an adventure TV series, Arkham Horror, for example, will fair far better as an Escape Room experience. “Asmodee Entertainment is a broad church - we are looking at a wide variety of September 2019 | toy news | 15

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properties, appealing to different audiences, so it certainly will not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” continues Jones. “And with such a vast catalogue in the first instance, we have to focus on the top priority games.” To achieve this, Asmodee Entertainment will be looking both at what it can do inhouse, and the scale of what it can achieve with the right specialist partnerships in place for all those projects deemed a little more complex. “A good example of this,” suggests Jones, “is the setting up of Aconyte Books, where armed with decades of experience in publishing game IP based fiction, we have set up our own studio to commission and run the whole editorial process around amazing stories based on the Asmodee properties (and watch out for some big third-party IPs too). “Meanwhile, the novels will all be written by freelance authors, and print, sales, and distribution in North America will all be handled by Simon and Schuster, while overseas translated versions will be via a network of publishers. In each case we will be looking at ‘what's best to build the brand? Where can we deploy our resources? Who are the best partners for us?’”

Voice of the meeple By now, you’re most likely sick of hearing that games have had a bit of a cultural revolution here in the UK these past few years. But as long as sales and interest in the sector continues to grow as consistently as it has for the last decade, it’s simply one analogy you’re going to have to get used to. At Asmodee UK, who is now expecting to see a wave of new IP contribute to an increase in sales for the coming months and years, it’s a favoured turn of phrase, and one that has instilled a good amount of confidence in Asmodee Entertainment’s plans for the UK market, too. “The great thing about the development of our brands by Asmodee Digital, Asmodee Entertainment and Asmodee

Live is that it is happening on those key titles that are long-term growth targets for us in the UK,” Ben Hogg, marketing manager at Asmodee UK tells ToyNews. “Expanding the reach of our brands into new entertainment spaces opens up a much wider customer base, but ultimately the original game remains the lynchpin of the IP and is what links the property together. We hope any new audiences will be keen to discover where it all started.” As the UK’s demand for board gaming grows, Asmodee sits in a position of strength - alongside a handful of others - to capitalise on the new landscape. Already Asmodee Digital straddled new audiences for the outfit, bringing some of its key titles in Ticket to Ride, Catan, and Splendor into the foreground of UK retail. That’s paved a path for its companion apps while also carving a route to market for some of its more hobby-focussed titles like Mansions of Madness. “We have started sharing the content from the Asmodee Live team with our stores and end consumers, which has gone down really well, allowing both the opportunity to engage and understand more about the games and why they should be playing them,” adds Hogg. So there’s investment here. Not only in new platforms, but in audience growth and interaction; firming up a target audience for when the first fruits

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of Asmodee Entertainment’s labours land. And if there’s on thing Asmodee knows about the board gaming community, it's that you really don’t want to be doing the fans a disservice. “The process [of translating board game IP into entertainment IP] feels pretty normal - and it’s good fun,” continuesAsmodee Entertainment’s Jones. “The avid fans will be both our greatest supporters and most ardent critics, I am sure, but whether or not they like a particular product or experience, hopefully they will get that whatever it is comes from a place of respect and love of that particular game or brand. “We will do nothing that steps on - or tramples on - any brand values. We will always only seek to enhance and add depth and detail to them.” It's in line with some of the biggest players on the tabletop scene of today, including the likes of Hasbro and Wizards

“Expanding our brands into new entertainment spaces opens up a much wider customer base.” Ben Hogg, Asmodee UK

of the Coast's Magic: The Gathering, which thanks to a licensing programme spanning PC gaming, a Netflix fantasy series, and a bold move into esports, currently taps into an audience of some 40 million worldwide. If Asmodee were to be scouting for inspiration, they'd do a lot worse than taking a leaf from that playbook. But here and now, and as a man of metaphors [remember the ‘climbing mountains’ sentiment he reeled off early on in the piece?], Jones likens the task he and his team now have in front of them to dining out at the local Indian restaurant… “We are at the early stages with Asmodee Entertainment right now - it will be really interesting to look back in a few years’ time and see just how far we have come,” he explains. “Right now, that is all ahead of us - which is both hugely exciting and a little daunting all at the same time. “Just like sitting down to eat a hot curry,” he concludes.

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Design Q&A


If you’re moving in the right circles, Rustan Hakansson is a name you’ll be very familiar with. ToyNews sits down for a conversation with the prolific board game designer, and the talent behind Kosmos’ Cities: Skylines tabletop adaptation


rom playing, to organising major tournaments, to working with big distributors and publishers, as well as a stint with the Board Game Geek team, before turning pro at game design in more recent years, the Swedish board gaming expert, Rustan Hakansson’s

knowledge of the sector spans just about every aspect of it. Across his two decades in the business, and still only at the youthful age of 38, Hakansson’s portfolio of games spans seven titles, among them the 2013 Nations, the 2014 Nations: The Dice Game and 2019’s

Cities: Skylines - The Board Game, and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - The Rise & Fall of Anvalor, while there’s an equally eclectic, mix of games in between. ToyNews caught up with the designer to talk his process and the issues in publishing today. Here’s how that conversation went…

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Design Q&A

How’s it been for you since the completion of Cities: Skylines - The Board Game, are you enjoying some down time? Hakansson: Actually, no. There is no time to rest when you're a professional board game designer, particularly when you are freelance. The nature of this work, and of the industry, means that you really have to have three or four projects on the go. If a game isn’t finished by Essen in year one, it still won’t be ready for Essen the following year. You need to be polishing it by Essen the year prior to its launch at the show the next year. Wow, so it’s a lot of work. Do you feel an amount of pressure under the workload? Hakansson: It depends on who you are, and how you are approaching it. Since I made the switch to full time games designer, I’ve definitely felt the pressure increase to take on and complete projects especially ones that are hits, otherwise this would be a hard job to make money from.

If I take a couple of years full time to make a game, and it sold 2,000 copies, that’s not a success, that’s not enough to make money from. That’s the thing, if you have a hobby and you switch to doing it full time, it is your job. You have to approach it as a job. The things you find enjoyable - for me that’s sketching designs - become the smallest part of the job. The initial phase of inventing games is about putting in the hours and working through the game, polishing it, writing rules and discussing with publishers. And the thing is, you have to be making money from this. So, you have to hope that the game you put time into pays off for you in the end. Are there any grants available, like they run for other creative vocations? For game designers, there’s little by way of support. There are a couple of programmes in Germany where they run internships, or you get paid to go to publishers and learn, but that is special for new designers in the industry. It’s very good, but if there were more it would be a real help to the industry.

A lot of game designers who want to go full time, they don’t understand what is required of them. I’ve been doing this for a few years now. My aim is to have five games published a year, but so far I haven’t managed that. This year I will hit four, last year I hit four. I am getting there, but I am aiming for five. It takes a long time. What’s the biggest hurdle that’s stopped you hitting five so far, then? The issue is, there are so many designers out there, including those that do it just as a hobby, and the majority is done by hobby designers, that if you spend a couple of years polishing just one game, you have thousands of people doing that and publishing them. There is a lot of competition out there today. That must keep you driven, though? Do you thrive off that competition? Well, what actually keeps me going is when I have a game published, and I see people playing it. When they say to me ‘this is a fun game, thank you for designing it.’ I get messages from Board Game Geek from

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Design Q&A

people that are happy that they have found a game that I have designed that they like. That’s a big reward. How do gamers know when they're playing a Hakansson game, is there a theme you look to in your games? I don’t have a specific type of game that I do. I won’t only do Euros, or board games or kids’ games. I have been very involved in games for such a long time, more than 20 years in the hobby and in the industry for the last 15 years, so I have been exposed to many types of games. I like to bring this to the way that I design games. In that case, what was the process of developing Cities: Skylines like? A request came to me to do the game. We started discussing it and looking at what publisher would be best for us. We decided it was Kosmos. Then we started sketching out the ideas, and talking to Kosmos about what their targets were. The first iteration of the game was a competitive game that was presented last year. It was popular and people were playing it, but after a few more months of work on it, Kosmos realised that

time on this prototype, and it then all got tossed, and I had to make a new game. It was tough, but I agreed it could be an improvement. The end product now is vastly different to the first iteration, and instead of one and a half years, the project took two and a half.

"There's a lot of competition among designers today. You can't be taking any down time in this job." a co-op title would fit their portfolio better. We asked ourselves, ‘what would Cities be if it was co-op instead?’ It was worth exploring to see if it could be improved this way. For one year I worked nearly half

Did you feel a responsibility to get it right, what with it already being a hit IP in video games? When you have experience of an IP, the pressure is off a bit. If it was an IP I didn’t know so well, I don’t know how well suited I would have been to the task. In general, there’s always a responsibility to make it the best it can be. If I'm not happy with something, I won’t want it to be published. I want it reworked until it is the best it can be. With the Nations Dice Game, I made three versions all completely different. One, the publisher approved, but as I worked on it, I wasn't happy with it, so I scrapped it and started from scratch. I want to design games that will find their place and find their fans in the world. Just designing a game to get designed is not what I am after. September 2019 | toy news | 21

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HOW THE WEST WAS WON The Japanese animation industry is gaining momentum among Western audiences, with the potential to grow exponentially over the coming years. Robert Hutchins takes a look at the art form and growing media as East meets West in children’s entertainment

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ake a look at some of the highest performing animation or properties within the children’s space today and you’ll notice the creeping influence of Eastern culture infiltrating the style and look of so much we experience here in the West. Spin Master’s Bakugan - to name just one example - has only recently been relaunched to a new generation of kids who, more so than ever, find themselves surrounded by influences and the nuances of anime, whether that’s in the many shows they stream, or in the many products they play with today. The UK and European audience for anime and Manga has grown exponentially

over the last few years. You need only look to the comic book shops and the toy shelves for the physical proof that it has become a growing force among the mainstream populis, as well as trade events, like Brand Licensing Europe where its growing presence has been felt for a number of years, thanks to the likes of Viz Media, Crunchyroll, and more. Pointing towards the obvious, The Pokémon Company International could perhaps take much credit for bringing anime to the mainstream masses when it landed on UK screens almost 25 years ago. Today, it continues to be one of the biggest and most successful franchises in Western culture having brought in just under the

whopping $3bn from toys, games, and mobile apps in 2018 alone. Its long-standing partnership with Nintendo helped change video gaming of the 2000s, when it played a hand in pioneering the first steps in mobile handset multiplay, all the while building out a franchise from its top-selling Pokémon Trading Card Game. Now, almost a quarter of a century since it first landed in playgrounds, the Pokémon Trading Card Game is the most popular strategic card game in the UK, fuelling continual expansion packs across the market. It's true then, that as a sector, it's an influx of anime and Manga-inspired brands that make up some big business today.

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According to financial reports, the anime franchise Dragon Ball brought home more than $1bn in revenue from April 2018 to March 31 2019 for Toei Animation - the Dragon Ball TV rights owner - and its merchandising partner, Bandai. Specifically, the property made Bandai Namco $293 million on the last quarter of 2018, making up 17 per cent of its total sales, and earning it the title of Bandai’s biggest franchise. For Toei Animation, the $49m made accounted for a third of the animation studio’s total revenue overall. That, of course, is on the global scale. Here in the UK, and according to Max Arguile, the founder of Reemsborko, a licensing agency specialising in anime and

"There's an enormous amount of interest in, and excitement around, not just the Cannon Busters brand but anime and Manga in general here in the UK." Max Arguile, Reemsborko Manga brands, the demand for the artform and the IP it launches “is steadily growing stronger each year.” “Streaming platforms have given UK audiences almost unfettered access to a

wealth of IP coming from the East, and things like Netflix, or Crunchyroll, have played a massive part in feeding and fuelling an appetite for these brands over here,” he tells ToyNews. Reports from the licensing industry suggest that Dragon Ball is performing well among UK audiences right now, while at The Pokémon Company International, spirits are high at the continued success of the brand, driven in the toy space by Wicked Cool Toys - distributed in the UK by Character Options, and the Pokémon Trading Card Game, with more partnerships in the pipeline. Looking to catch an anime property at the right point in its predicted upward September 2019 | toy news | 25

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trajectory in the market, Arguile has turned to Cannon Busters, a new series that, having made its debut in Netflix this year, is already reading strong among audiences. “Already I have had many discussions with many potential partners for Cannon Busters here in the UK, and there’s an enormous amount of interest in and excitement around, not just this IP, but anime and Manga in general,” says Arguile. Reportedly, Bioworld - the licensed apparel and accessories specialist - has seen Dragon Ball product 'fly out of stock,' while The Pokémon Company is fresh from announcing yet another new partner in Ravensburger for a range of puzzles.

"Streaming platforms have given UK audiences almost unfettered access to anime and Manga." Max Arguile, Reemsborko But what is it about this medium that has so captured the imaginations of Western audiences? And why is it resonating with pop culture fans so well? Dr Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere is the director of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, and the guest curator of exhibitions at The British Museum, currently housing an extensive Manga exhibition exploring the history of the art from its earliest concept to its 21st century impact. Over the past year, she has observed the growing affinity for Managa and anime from British audiences. “We have been stealthily collecting Manga for the last 20 years, and felt that we’d like to make it more open, everything that we had been collecting all along,” she explains. “It happened to coincide with a time in which Manga is gaining a lot of traction here in Britain. Paper sales are up, and people are starting to really appreciate and enjoy it as an artform, as a piece of pop culture, or however. “We are seeing a lot of students coming through wanting to study Manga or read Japanese, so there really is kind

© Cannon Busters Season

of a groundswell - particularly from Gen Z - of interest in this. From the museum’s perspective, we wanted to reach out and bring in and cater for the younger audiences to show that a museum can be relevant in that way.” But beyond the aesthetics of Manga and anime - and believe us, having visited the exhibition, there’s a lot of aesthetics to take in, especially when you reach the horror Manga section - its appeal is channelled just as well through the stories that Manga tells; so different are they to the comic book stories you’d likely find from the comic genre's Western creators.

One Ltd

“Manga tells stories that are democratic stories from people that aren’t represented in other histories,” continues Rousmaniere. “We’re also in a generation that is becoming more and more visual, thanks to social media, and this cultural move towards Manga is reflective of that; these are audiences engaging with the visual stories of Manga. It’s a 22nd Century visual language, and we are all moving towards it. So… ignore it at your peril.” If you’re currently reading this, chances are you’re already vaguely interested in the ongoing anime and Manga movement.

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And if that’s the case, then you’d almost certainly have heard of Crunchyroll by now, arguably one of the biggest players in anime distribution, and one of the first to begin offering UK and US audiences the kind of access to anime and Manga they enjoy so freely today. Crunchyroll has also been the subject of some big headlines in the sector of late, most notably surrounding its majority stake acquisition in Viz Media Europe, Europe’s best-established licensor and distributor of Japanese animation. Crunchyroll now boasts 50 million registered users and 2 million subscribers, as well as a slate of some 350 anime titles, including Dr. Stone, Bananya, Black Clover, and The Rising of the Shield Hero, all ripe, it says, for licensor consideration. Having originated as a streaming and community platform, Crunchyroll now dominates the space, managing the global merchandising, broadcast, videogram and publishing rights to over 100 IPs, much of those already translated in English.

"The market for Manga here in the UK could grow exponentially over the next few years." Dr Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere But still, that’s only a fraction of what the anime and Manga industries have to bring to the West, and, interestingly, it’s a business that is expected to explode further still in the coming years. “I think if the price of Manga in the UK came down, the audience here would grow exponentially,” explains Rousmaniere. “In Japan, Manga is the equivalent of £4 to £5, but here you are paying around £10. “There are a few factors that might bring that price down, and one of them is

the lean towards digital downloads, and reading Manga digitally on your phone or smart device. Another thing is that, pre-war Manga was all in colour, but the majority of the post-war stuff is in black and white. Some artists are re-introducing colour into their Manga, but I personally want it to stay black and white. That keeps is cheaper and more accessible to audiences. “People are buying Manga in the UK at £10 a pop; they are spending that money. But people would like it if it was cheaper, and if there was a way of bringing that price down, that would make a considerable difference and really grow the Manga market to new levels here in the UK.” The very idea that there’s still room for this booming business of artwork to grow among Western audiences is a thrilling prospect, and, at a time in which pressure is mounting to find that IP that is resonating best with current consumers, it’s with intrigue that we await a fresh onslaught from Eastern shores. September 2019 | toy news | 27

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On the world’s largest video site, YouTube, hundreds of hours of content are uploaded each minute. Both fan-made and professionally produced video are uploaded in staggering volumes. Wildbrain explores the perpetual phenomenon that is social media and the impact it is having on the toys kids buy today.


hile professionally produced content performs well on YouTube, it does not always outperform fan-made content. In the kids genre, fan-made content featuring toys is the largest category. But what types of toys are creators using, and audiences viewing? In August 2019 there were 77bn views of kids content on YouTube, across 14.5 million videos. The genre is so strong on the platform that at WildBrain we continue to engage a massive audience of 300 million unique viewers every 90 days. With such volumes of content and viewing, data analytics is a great tool for understanding how to position and build brands. While professionally produced content is viewed in enourmous volumes. Views to fan-made content featuring toys generated 34 per cent of views. Kids TV & Media follows closely at 31 per cent, the second

largest category. Not all fan-made content is created equally though. Although toy content from fans accounts for 34 per cent of views, the category accounts for nearly half of all videos (49 per cent). The imbalance implies the category underindexes despite being the largest category in terms of views. The focus, therefore, for our data analytics teams are to seperate the high-performing formats from the poor performing ones. Kids music by contrast over indexes the most, driving 30 per cent of views from just 18 per cent of content. All brands should assess whether musical content makes for their IP when including YouTube in the media mix. What Toy Categories Are Driving Views On YouTube? In 2019 vehicles and dolls were the dominant areas of fan-made toy content. The doll category is dominated by a wide

variety of formats centrered on the most popular doll lines of the moment. While the vehicle category covers cars, diggers, and construction focused sets. These trends were remarkably stable on a year-over-year basis with small changes occurng in the viewing share. Leveraging Fan Insights We believe there are enourmous learnings and opportunities to be gained from deeper exploration of the fan driven toy category on YouTube and will continue to probe further in more detail for our partners and the industry. These insights have many use cases - from informing original content production, to overall brand positioning of new franchises to the improved allocation of paid media. In a world where audiences are becoming increasingly complex and watching a wider variety of channels - data is increasingly key.

Source: Tubular Video Intelligence, June 14th to September 12th 2019 (90 days). September 2019 | toy news | 29

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gEt rEaDy tO... THiNk FAsT! Introducing the newest party game from Ridley’s Games! Think Fast™ is a loud, sociable, quick-fire party game where you know all the answers already, but can you identify the clues?!

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New marketing

TIME’S UP ON OLD METHODS Social media has changed the rules of marketing, and in that space, Tiktok is about to turn it on its head once again. Fanbytes’ CEO Timothy Armoo explores this changing marketing space, and why the time to act is right now


f you’re a marketer trying to reach the younger audience, you’ve definitely heard of Tiktok. The short video app leapt into the social networking market a few years ago, and not only is it now growing faster than Instagram, but is also the most downloaded app in the world, with over 1 billion downloads. Most relevant however, is that over 60 per cent of its audience is 25 or younger, creating a massively valuable audience to advertisers. At Fanbytes, we’ve run over 100 Tiktok influencer campaigns with the world's leading brands like Universal, Warner, Burberry, and EA. With an average age of 22 in the company we are firmly in the Gen Z sector - which means we spend the majority of our time talking in memes and spreading pop culture. It's quickly becoming the new social language, and not so much an easy way of wasting time. Understandably many marketers see Tiktok as a perplexing thing and as a consequence are wary of the platform. But Tiktok matters to the modern day marketers. It really does. Tiktok levels the playing field. Everyone is a creator in a way that isn’t apparent on Facebook or Instagram, and in a world where there’s a clear delineation between influencers and anyone, Tiktok provides a fairer way to reach the audience. A user with 500 fans has the same amount of potential to go viral as someone with 500,000 as long as their creativity is inspiring enough.

This provides a massive opportunity for your brand to be seen as a purveyor of content, rather than being seen as simply distributing a message, and the approach can be in using normal Tiktokers to amplify a message. Fanbytes recently ran a campaign with Major Lazer, creating a hashtag challenge for the song ‘Can’t take it from Me.’ We tasked people with showing off their ball skills, involving influencers from the UK, US and Mexico. Incredibly this got 50,000 user submitted videos within the first 10 days of launching with 6 million views of the hashtag and became a trending hashtag on Tiktok. In the world of social, increasingly the variable for success is the creative. In the past, you could easily bombard people with ads and with enough money you could get them to do what you wanted. But this type of marketing no longer works. The way to get real cut through with this audience is through creativity, which Tiktok provides in spades. Tiktok can effectively be used as an outsourced creative network for brands who want to stand out. As a company we’ve activated several campaigns with brands on other platforms using our Tiktok creators, a simple brief out to influencers describing a brand has resulted in 100s of incredibly compelling videos which resonate emotionally with the audience because they are the audience. This can then be repurposed onto other social channels as marketing activity.

Timothy Armoo “Timo” is the 23 year old CEO of Fanbytes, a mobile video advertising platform helping brands like Deliveroo, Apple Music and even the UK Government reach Gen Z through TikTok, Snapchat and Tiktok influencers. Fanbytes has been dubbed by Forbes as “owning the mind of Gen Z” in the securing strategic investors like the founders of Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing as well as ex CEO of IAB Guy Phillipson and ex CEO of Dentsu Aegis Nigel Morris.

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STOCK AND ROLL This year, board games such as Ticket to Ride and the EXiT Game series have, in rock n rolla terms, gone platinum and then some. In fact, Asmodee’s popular breakthrough gaming title is now just one million copies away from hitting the same number as The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s album sales. Now that’s why board gaming is the new rock n roll... 32 | toy news | September 2019

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f you’re following trends in the games and puzzles space, some sound advice may be to do so with caution - such a beast has the gaming sector become today that to target a specific slice within it, would be to do a disservice to the rest of this mouth-watering pie. Board gaming, puzzles, and let’s include tabletop gaming here, too, has become an entity so much larger than the Q4 statistic it once was, that it’s simply not enough to reduce consumer interest in its varied titles to the go-to Christmas stock of yesteryear.

Instead, and somewhere between Asmodee selling its nine millionth copy of Ticket to Ride, and Thames & Kosmos shipping off the four millionth copy from its popular EXiT game range this year, gaming has taken up the new mantle of 'entertainment platform' to be enjoyed by the masses; and it’s growing at an increasing rate. The diligent readers among you would already have seen confirmation of this in our exclusive interview with Asmodee Entertainment and its plans to develop its own tabletop IP - Ticket to Ride among

them - outside of board gaming and into the further reaches of television and publishing, with hints towards films. In the breakout titles space alone - you know, the kind of games that anyone with WiFi connection would have heard of; the kind that comfortably hit sales of 10,000 units within the first month - trends vary from strategy games, to co-operative games, licensed games, to the roll-and-write games (of which Coiledspring Games can tell you all about). So, to pin-point one leading trend would be of a fruitless task. September 2019 | toy news | 33

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Over 4 million copies sold worldwide! Qwirkle and the wider MindWare range are now available exclusively from Coiledspring Games

Contact or call 020 3301 1160 to stock

Games and puzzles

Then again, suggests the Swedish game designer, former games publisher and one-time member of the Board Game Geek outfit, Rustan Hanaksson, if you approach board gaming looking for a trend, so compartmentalised has the sector become, that chances are you’re going to find it anyway. It’s arguable, for instance, that the translation of video gaming IP to tabletop gaming has seen an increase this past 12 months. Fortnite, Sonic, or Mario versions of Hasbro’s Monopoly are hardly the forerunners of this sector, simply the latest mainstream endeavour in a sector filled with board game adaptations of even some of the most niche and cult indie video game titles. Take the indie title Shovel Knight for example; a video game brought to life via a Kickstarter campaign that has found its latest incarnation in the tabletop space by returning to the fanfuelled crowdfunding platform. Then there’s what Konami is doing with its Bomberman and Contra videogaming IP; and this is still just a scratch under the surface of the depth of this sector. Indeed Hanaksson himself is the name behind Kosmos’ board game adaptation of the popular city-building video game IP Cities: Skylines. He’s also designed Warhammer’s Age of Sigmar - The Rise and Fall of Anvalor, which sounds almost as niche as you can get. “Whether it’s a video game IP, or a movie or TV series license, there’s going to be enough drive around it to make it a ‘trend’ within board gaming,” says Hanaksson. “But that’s because the board gaming space caters for such a spectrum of gameplay, players, and fans’ needs that you can spot a trend in anything.” So often the allure of the tabletop gaming space is that, no matter your taste, there’s generally a game to cater to it, and while there's still be a firm distinction between the European titles and US ones, eclecticism has opened the market up to as broad an audience as you could hope to reach.

"Expectations are changing and there's now a call for more challenging and innovative games from audiences, like roll and writes, for instance." Roger Martin, Coiledspring “Over five years, the market has evolved from a Christmas phenomenon to being strong all year round due to the growth in popularity of gaming as a cost-effective hobby,” says Coiledspring’s Roger Martin. “We’ve seen a rise in popularity for co-operative games for kids - Zombie Kids Evolution from Scorpion Masque is doing well in this category, winning People’s Choice at the UK Games Expo awards, as well as titles such as Bandido and Cahoots.” If the evolution of the gaming space could be condensed into a metaphor, a favoured one of mine would be the corridor in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Lick the walls and there’s an array of tantalising flavours to be enjoyed, but venture through that door and you’ll step into a 'world of pure imagination'. And coincidentally, it would seem, that the audience of wall-lickers from some five years ago, have well and truly crossed that threshold and is now looking exploring an entire market of new and exotic flavours .

“We’re finding games are now pushing the boundaries of what is expected from gaming,” continues Coiledspring’s Martin. “Take The Mind for instance; it’s so much more than a co-operative card game, it’s an experience. The feeling when you complete a level is hard to match. “Expectations are changing and there is a call for more challenging and innovative games. Roll and writes for instance have increased in popularity, with hits like Ganz Schon Clever and Qwantum flying off the shelves.” Not only is there an increase in demand for sophistication of the titles they play with, but so too is there a heightened focus on diversity and inclusivity, under the umbrella of representation, from games publishers and the titles they push out. Hanaksson tells ToyNews: “This has, quite rightly, become a big topic among audiences and gamers, and the matter that they are demanding better representation of cultures in their games is being listened to by a growing number of publishers, and designers, of course, who are looking very seriously at diversity and bringing that into the games they release. “It’s obviously difficult for me, a white male games designer to sit and talk about the issue of diversity, inclusivity and representation in the board gaming space, when there are those far better placed to do so, but I know it is a big, big topic among the creators and publishers, and something we are starting to see movement on now. “Even in terms of gender representation and the positive changes being made here: It wasn’t long ago that you could walk around a games show and see any number of companies pushing artwork of scantily-clad women within their games. That’s still there, but thankfully it is something - a mind-set I guess - that is starting to be flushed out.” What the sector boasts today is a rainbow of themes, titles, style of game play, licenses and IP, and culture that is being brought to the fore by a growing audience. If you haven’t already, now is just as good a time as any to dive into its colourful world. September 2019 | toy news | 35

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COILEDSPRING GAMES: “THE LAST 12 MONTHS HAVE BEEN THE MOST SUCCESSFUL IN OUR HISTORY” With award-winning titles such as Zombie Kids Evolution and The Mind in the portfolio, Coiledspring Games continues to enjoy a gaming market in full-throttle. MD Roger Martin talks to Robert Hutchins about the firm’s ongoing successes We're well into what's been called a board game revival. What are some of the emerging trends within this space and how are you now tapping into these today? Over the past five years, the games market has evolved from a Christmas phenomenon to being strong all year round due to the growth in popularity of gaming as a cost-effective hobby, and in that time, we’ve seen a rise in popularity for cooperative games for kids. Zombie Kids Evolution from Scorpion Masque is doing well in this category, winning People’s Choice at the UK Games Expo awards, as well as other titles such as Bandido and Cahoots. We’re finding games are now pushing the boundaries of what is expected from gaming. Take The Mind for instance, it’s so much more than a cooperative card game, it’s an experience. The feeling achieved when you complete a level is hard to match. Expectations are changing and there is a call for more challenging and innovative games. Roll and writes for instance have increased in popularity, with hits like Ganz Schon Clever and Qwantum flying off the shelves.

range of exclusive publishers and we continue to do that. We take the best games from around the world and get them to UK retailers. Can you talk us through the portfolio, what do you guys bring to the games and puzzles sector now? Our focus has always been on quality, not quantity. The publishers we work with are leading and innovative in their own territories. We recently took on distribution of the MindWare range in the UK, adding great titles such as Qwirkle which has sold over 4 million copies worldwide. We have some phenomenal games from some of the best inventors. Take Wolfgang Warsch, for instance. He’s provided us with two of the most sought-after games this year: The Mind and Quacks of Quedlinburg. We’ve also got classics from Bruno Cathala such as Kingdomino, and we’re looking forward to new releases in Q4: Kingdomino Duel and Ishtar. Our puzzles range is also growing this year. To coincide with the theatrical release of Downton Abbey, Wrebbit 3D is launching a stunning 890 piece puzzle featuring Highclere Castle, and you have to see it. Wrebbit 3D puzzles are the sturdiest on the market with the highest quality of design and illustration.

How has business been for Coiledspring this past year? Obviously there have been changes following the Asmodee deal - how does this position the brand in the gaming sector now? The last 12 months have been the most successful in Coiledspring history. Joining the Asmodee family has given us access to more resources and we’ve enjoyed working closely with them and learning from each other. The Coiledspring brand has always focused on a core

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Of the games market - Have we seen a generation of new gamers come through looking for those longer play games? If so, how do you guys cater for this market? The gaming market is so diverse, and there will always be calls for strategic games as well as lighter games. Quacks of Quedlinburg won the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2018 and has gone on to become one of our top selling lines. Alongside that in our bestsellers are classics like Forbidden Island and Sushi Go. A large part of our range is classified as family, though we’ve learnt that what we might think is strategic, when you take it to events such as UK Games Expo, everyone gets involved. The beauty of games is that they are cross-generational in that aspect. Games might look complex, taking Ganz Schon Clever as an example, but once you get to know the mechanics, it’s relatively straight forward. What do you make of the strength of the games market? Is it in good health with healthy competition? What are some of the biggest factors affecting this space at the moment? Overall, we’d say it is in robust health with more and more games coming to the market. Events such as UK Games Expo, Tabletop Scotland and Tabletop Gaming Live illustrate the strength of the market.

UK Games Expo has grown year on year since its first show in 2007, a testament to how buoyant the market is. The challenge is getting all the great games noticed and making them stand out, as there are just so many fantastic titles out there. With a number of the big players in the board gaming space being overseas either European suppliers or based in the US - has the shadow of Brexit affected much of the scene here? Brexit is both a threat and an opportunity. Understanding how to navigate these conflicting challenges through careful planning is vital. A large number of our games are made overseas; any changes to import rules and regulations will have an effect on supply and delivery. Most impacts are currently unknown. We’re concentrating on the fundamentals which is all about bringing the best games to our retailers, at an attractive price. On the whole, we’re a relatively low-cost hobby, so hopefully consumers will continue to want games. Where do you see the sector heading in the coming years and how are you adapting to the changes or the evolution of the market? We think the market will continue to grow. As a percentage of the population, the gaming marketing is still smaller than the likes of Germany and France. Consumers now get the information about games from a wide range of sources: social media, recommendations, events etc. We’ll look to continue to target these areas with our marketing efforts, with the goal of getting more people interested in gaming. The easiest way to make a sale is to sit down and play the game, so we’ll look to attend more events and demo as many games as possible. With that being said, we’ve been in our new office in Hampton Hill for over a year now and we have a great gaming space, so please do pop in and meet the team if you’re in the area and fancy a game.

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Coiledspring Games 020 3301 1160 Joining the lineup for autumn is worldwide top seller Qwirkle and the wider MindWare range. With over 4 million copies sold, Qwirkle is a simple game of matching colours and shapes that requires quickthinking and a well-planned strategy. The MindWare range includes hits such as: Q-bitz, Q-BA Maze and the Sensory Genius line. MindWare games have been developed to foster lifelong learning, growth and success. If there are two things Gamewright has learned about its fans over their 25 years of publishing games, it’s that they love playing Sushi Go! and they really love games with dice. With a limited pre-release at UK Games Expo, Sushi Roll is set to hit the shelves in time for Q4. Roll with your favourite Sushi Go! characters in Sushi Roll, a dice-based version of the best-selling card game. Meanwhile, to coincide with the theatrical release of Downton Abbey, Wrebbit 3D is launching an 890 piece puzzle featuring Highclere Castle. Puzzlers and fans of the period drama series that captured the imagination of millions of viewers will

now be able to relive the Downton Abbey experience one delightful piece at a time by building the famous castle from the series in their own home. Alongside new releases, Coiledspring Games has an array of must stock games not to be missed: Kingdomino, which puts a majestic twist on a popular classic, Forbidden Island, the first in the cooperative series by Matt Leacock and The Mind. The Mind is more than just a game, it’s an experience. Your group’s challenge is to lay the cards in ascending number order. Sounds simple? But can you do it without speaking, without communicating, using just the power of your mind? The Mind is a highly addictive cooperative card game and a perfect game to demo. It’s also been a top performer in the range. Another top seller is 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner Quacks of Quedlinburg. In this push-your-luck game, you’re looking to brew the best concoction to prove you’re the finest miracle doctor in the land. To brew your potions, draw ingredients from the shared supply bag. Do you stop early to improve your chances of making a better potion later, or do you risk a big setback to get more money and fame now? Sell-out at the manufacturers, Quacks of Quedlinburg is due back in stock in time for Q4. There's all this and still more to come from Coiledspring for 2019 and beyond.

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Games & Puzzles

Goliath Games / Vivid Imaginations Vivid: 01483 449 944 Goliath Games is launching over 20 new titles in autumn/winter 2019 across pre-school, kids, adult and family, licensed, and party games categories. For younger kids there is a brand new game Early Bird (RRP £22.99). Can you help the Early Bird catch the worm? Pull back the bird so he can peck at the tree and try to get to the worm, which will pop out. There is also the popular Foxy Pants (RRP £22.99) and Shark Bite (RRP £22.99) and the classics; Don’t Wake Dad! (RRP £24.99), Lucky Ducks (RRP £19.99) and The Magic Tooth Fairy Game (RRP £19.99). The kids games portfolio includes brand new game Dragon Snacks (RRP £24.99). Can you steal the Dragon’s snacks? Wave your hand in front of him to light his belly up, then take it in turns to peek inside and try to remove a coloured snack from his tummy. Be careful- if he burps you have to put the snack back. This is joined by Gator Golf (RRP £22.99). Experience the fun of mini golf at home by hitting the ball into the gator’s mouth and he will fling the ball back from his tail. Away from the animals there is iTop (RRP £14.99) the pocket-sized electronic spinning top and the fun and educational Wordsearch Junior (RRP £22.99). Have an 'ice' time bringing the family together with Freeze Fall (RRP £19.99) this season. The new game will lead to thrills, chills and spills, says Vivid. Put on the mask and spin to see how many times you must press down. No ice this time around? Then pass it on to the next player, but get ready, the ice can fall at any time.

On Your Marks (RRP £19.99) is the new game of quick brand recognition. Fast and frantic, collect brands that match the cards being read out. Collect your three brands first to win. Alternatively, enjoy the mystery of an escape room with Escape Room The Game (RRP £29.99), with three different rooms to try and escape within 60 minutes. There is also Catchphrase (RRP £22.99) based on the ITV game show, Silly Sketch (RRP £22.99) a drawing game with a difference and Dizzy Letter Disc (RRP £19.99) a head spinning word game. If you are looking for a classic and addictive game look no further than Sequence (RRP £19.99). Giving games a magical twist are two new Harry Potter games. The Tri-Wizard Maze (RRP £9.99) is a twist on the fast-action Pop ‘N’ Race play as you race around the Triwizard hedge maze to capture the Triwizard cup. Calling all Wizards, The Magical Beasts Game (RRP £19.99) requires you to collect all the magical beasts that have broken loose. Watch out though, moving between Hogwarts and the grounds can be treacherous and cost you valuable time. YouTube sensation Ryan’s World is coming to a game near you. Ryan’s Pop ‘N’ Race game (RRP £9.99) is a twist on the classic game. There is also the Ryan’s World Springin’ Spiders Game (RRP £19.99) where you compete to catch as many spiders in the web as possible. Time to join the party with four new party games. With Burger Party (RRP £14.99), collect a hamburger and all its ingredients, collect the most ingredients to win. Color Smash (RRP £14.99) is the fast moving game of colour coordination. Think you know your friends? Think they know you? Play True Colors (RRP £14.99) to find out! Side Effects (RRP £19.99) is the game of experimental charades and absurdity.

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Games & Puzzles

“WE’RE SEEING GREAT STRENGTH IN OUR SALES; A POSITIVE CONSIDERING THE CHANGE IN CONSUMER BUYING” 100 years on from selling its first game, Gibsons continues to celebrate its centenary year with strong sales across games and puzzles. How is it keeping ahead of the curve? Robert Hutchins talks to marketing assistant Rebecca Hersee to find out

We're well into what's been previously called this board game and puzzles revival now. What are some of the emerging trends within this space, and how are you tapping into them? There is a huge interest in fun, quick-play games as well as puzzles with more design-led imagery. Over the last year we have released two quick-play dice games, Pixit and Zonkers, which are great entertainment for the whole family while on-the-go. We have also seen a recent wave of young adults wanting to take a ‘digital-detox’ and refrain from using their digital devices that can sometimes take over everyday life. Puzzling is becoming a popular pastime as it is an excellent way to relieve stress and focus on the present moment. Following this trend, our White Logo jigsaws are perfect for the new wave of puzzlers who are looking for more contemporary designs and tougher challenges, rather than traditional puzzle scenes. Given the popularity, are we now seeing a generation of gamers come through who are looking towards those

longer play games? If so, how do you guys cater for this kind of market? We cater to the family games market and aim to entertain all generations with our fun range of traditional wooden and tabletop board games. Games such as 221B Baker Street and Crystal Hall have a slightly longer play time of 90 minutes, and we are finding these games are increasingly popular as more and more people are enjoying board game nights with friends. For those who love a game that can last longer than four hours, we relaunched the Francis Tresham original, Civilization, last year and it’s received a huge reception from serious gamers who love a challenge. What do you make of the strength of the games and puzzles market? Is it in good health with healthy competition? What are some of the biggest factors affecting this space at the moment? The market is going from strength to strength and there are some excellent jigsaw puzzles and games on the market from companies big and small. This competition is a good thing, as it encourages people of all ages to put down their

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Games & Puzzles encourage our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to do the same. We aim to be plastic free by 2021.

phones and spend more and better quality time with their friends and family. One factor that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment is how to make products in the toy industry more eco-friendly, and at Gibsons we recognise that we have a responsibility to the environment beyond the legal and regulatory requirements. Therefore, we are committed to reducing our environmental impact and continually improving our environmental performance. We have already started by removing the plastic wrapping from our puzzle boxes and will be reducing the size of our puzzle boxes in 2020. This will reduce our carbon emissions as we will need less room to transport our products from Europe to the rest of the world. These changes are just the beginning as the Green Strategy is an on-going project for our team and we

How's business been for the Gibsons this past year? Where do you see the sector heading in the coming years, and how are you adapting to the changes or the evolution of the market? We are seeing great strength to our sales each month this year which is really positive considering the change in consumer buying habits. This year we are celebrating our centenary which has created a real buzz around our products, and we have also introduced many great new ranges including our children’s range, Little Gibsons. The sector is always changing and consumers are hugely influenced by the way a product is designed and presented. Therefore, over the last few years we have focused on creating excellent packaging for our puzzles and games, and have achieved this through the design of our rerelease of ‘L’Attaque’ and our updated Pass the Bomb box design, both of which are striking and eye catching. As I mentioned, another area which is becoming of greater importance is the environmental impact of products. This is something we as a business are committed to supporting and we have begun to reduce our use of shrink wrap and are making all our puzzle boxes smaller to minimise waste and adhere to our goal to reduce our carbon footprint. It's become such an important issue to tackle.

Gibsons 020 8661 8866 Now in its centenary year, Gibsons continues to entertain all generations as it launches a brand-new children’s collection, Little Gibsons, to sit alongside its adult jigsaw puzzle range. The jigsaws and games have been tailor-made for inquisitive pre-schoolers thanks to their bright, quirky packaging and on-trend themes. Each jigsaw has been designed by a British artist and is presented in an innovative box that links to the artwork theme. The Sweet Dreams puzzle is presented in a striking crystal-ball

shaped box to portray the mystical dream-world jigsaw that’s filled with unicorns and llamas. Keep an eye out this month for two brand new puzzle designs including 48 piece You are Awesome, and Animal Party, a 24-piece puzzle featuring our favourite furry friends. In addition, L’Attaque was the first of the ‘big four’ military-themed games for Gibsons back in the early 20th century and now the firm has relaunched this game to celebrate its centenary which was on May 15 this year. The box artwork has been carefully recreated to mimic an original version of the game, and inside the box are the original rules (as well as the modern version) as a memento from the captivating and historic game from Gibsons' archives.

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Games & Puzzles

Spin Master 01628 535000 A host of new introductions expand upon Spin Master’s games and puzzles portfolio this autumn, with lines including Hedbanz, Bubbles the Sneezy Sheep, the Sock Game, and more. Baa Baa Bubbles is a family game for kids aged four. Bubbles the sneezy Sheep loves to eat; players take turns feeding meadow tiles to Bubbles the Sheep and as she’s fed, her wool made of real bubbles grows. Feed her the number of times shown on the tile but be careful - if Bubbles is allergic to what she eats, she’ll sneeze, blasting her sudsy wool bubbles and you’ll lose your tile. Hedbanz Family, the guessing game for all members of the family, has been refreshed and relaunched for autumn/winter 2019. Players ask “yes” or “no” questions before time runs out to figure out if the cartoon card on their headband is an animal, food or object. Spin Master has launched several versions of the game, including Hedbanz Adulting, with millennial-themed categories, asking players if they’re a binge-worthy TV show, celebrity, profession, or a trendy app, while with the Harry Potter HedBanz the magic begins when players stick cards into their HedBanz, and take turns guessing what’s on their cards. All is not as it seems in Hogwarts, so pick up a potion token to change everything; you may then have to act out, rhyme or describe a clue. The first player to collect five chocolate frog tokens wins.

Bandai Partnering with Zanzoon, Bandai’s games portfolio includes Froggy Party and Fan Zone. Froggy Party stimulates the imagination, your concentration, and agility, boasting 50 different challenges to get kids aged three and up active. The interactive frog tells kids to sing, dance or imitate before having them run to the nearest lily pad. Meanwhile, Fan Zone features over 500 football related questions and can be set to one of two modes – seven plus or 14 plus depending on the difficulty of play required. The virtual games master can test players on five football topics to discover the ultimate football fan. The games master explains the rules, asks the questions, counts the points and gives out the scores, without the need for any additional devices or applications. Bandai is also expanding its offering within the gifting/tech games space with Gorilla Games. A range of classic arcade games are now available in miniature for ‘finger-sized’ play, all featuring light and sound effects, and set to appeal to children plus tap into the popular kidult trend. Punch King is the ultimate boxing arcade game in a portable size. With two modes, players can battle to discover who has the most power and includes challenge cards for extended play value. Hammer King brings ‘King of the Hammer’ play to finger size – players pull back their fingers, flick and release to try and hit the highest scores.

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Games & Puzzles

Hasbro Hasbro Gaming continues to bring fun, excitement and newness to the gaming market with the launch of the Monopoly Voice Banking game. This new version of Monopoly features lights and sounds and comes with an interactive Mr. Monopoly banking unit. The iconic Monopoly top hat is voiceactivated and the personality of Mr Monopoly handles all of the game’s transactions. He keeps tabs on players' money and properties so there's no cash or cards to think about. Talk to Mr Monopoly and he responds. Users press their token's button and say, "Buy St. James Place” And Mr Monopoly will track the transaction, keeping the game moving. To win the Monopoly Voice Banking game, players must travel around the board aiming to be the person with the most money and highest property value. Next up, and the Tiny Pong Solo Table Tennis game brings exciting bouncing action into the palm of your hand. Players launch the ball off the court and bounce it repeatedly to rack up points by moving the court back and forth under the ball. Users should aim to keep it going, getting a point for every bounce. To increase the challenge, they can switch from “Beginner” mode to “Expert” mode. The game responds with lights and sounds as players try to beat their highest score by getting as many bounces as they can. Who will make the porcupine pop? That's a question only you and Hasbro Gaming can answer this the exciting new kids' game combining simple play with suspense.

Mattel 01628 500 000 Pictionary Air is the brand-new way to play Pictionary that reinvents the much loved game for the digital audience, making screen time, family time. The game includes a special pen with a light-up tip and pairs with a Pictionary Air app. Gameplay is similar to original Pictionary, except that the drawer uses the pen to illustrate their clue in the air and players can interact with their drawing. The guessing team points the in-app camera at the drawer, and their masterpiece will appear on the screen. Pictionary Air will launch with a social media campaign and AW19 TV advertising. Meanwhile, stake your claim and protect your territory with Mattel’s strategic game, Blokus. Players take turns placing their 21 pieces on the board: each piece must touch another of the same colour, but only at the corners. Fit as many of your pieces on the board as possible while strategically blocking your opponents. The game ends when no more pieces can be placed down, and the player with the lowest number remaining wins. Blokus Puzzle is a one-player, travel-friendly strategy game that provides hours of brain-busting entertainment. With three different puzzle types and 48 puzzles to choose from, the opportunities for brain-teasing challenges are endless. Blokus Puzzle comes with travel-friendly snap-fit game pieces – and a tray to store them in – for challenging entertainment on the go.

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Games & Puzzles

Ravensburger 01869 363 000 Ravensburger builds momentum towards the festive season with a powerful raft of puzzles and games introductions. The first board game to be powered by the Google Assistant, kNOW! offers games fans an always-up-to-date, multi-activity play experience. With a series of games within the game comprising different challenges based on intuition, fun, knowledge and creativity, it enables players to create a unique experience every time. Suitable for play on or offline, kNOW! brings new news to the games aisles and Ravensburger will roll out a wide-reaching and impactful marketing programme putting this game at the heart of games night fun. Next up, hildren Monster Splat will be supported with heavyweight TV, and is a valued proposition that sees players test their reactions as they try to be the first to swat the monsters with the slime hands. With interest in tabletop gaming increasing, Disney Villainous continues to grow. Villainous – Wicked to the Core and Villainous – Evil Comes Prepared both offer three new Disney villains for TN-SEP19-GIBSONS.qxp_Layout 1 19/08/2019 09:56 Page 1

players to discover, while the JAWS game is already proving popular among fans of the hit movie. Aliens and farm animals collide with ThinkFun's Invasion of the Cow Snatchers. This single player logic game challenges players to maneuver their UFO to beam up the cows in the correct order. ThinkFun’s Rush Hour, Labyrinth, Bugs in the Kitchen and Bugacula complete the game portfolio. Established leader in the 3D puzzle world, Ravensburger add to its line with the London Bus edition and Campervan celebrating Woodstock’s 50th anniversary, while the Harry Potter Knight Bus 3D Puzzle will spark the interest of fans.

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Games & Puzzles

Character Options 0161 633 9800 Character Options will launch two fun family games in 2019 that present a modern twist on classic favourites, together with all the potential of becoming internet sensations. Bang up-to-date with the YouTube trend and with over 500 million views, the What’s in the Box? challenge game provides the perfect way to task players of all ages to blind-guess what’s inside an all-encompassed table top crate. Each set contains the all-important box, built-in timer, scorecards and instructions with two ways to play. Using the timer, players have 10 seconds to make their guess then pass the box to the next player to take their turn. When everyone has taken part, compare answers to see if anyone has guessed correctly. For even more hilarity, each round can be individual open the side panel of the box so all apart from the ‘Guesser’ can see what’s inside, sit back and watch with amusement who guesses what! The ultimate high-energy adrenaline-fuelled game for all the family – Tap It is a brand new electronic game featuring four electronic lightup pods with 4 different modes of play. Pass the coloured light from one side of the pod line to the other in a game of Pong, challenge your brain in a game of Memory or challenge your everyone in the Switch and Tap It games. Be warned, each is fast paced and hugely addictive. Can you master the beeps and defeat the opposition?

Flair 0208 643 0320 Playing games this year will have families using their heads or busting their guts, thanks to the new family games from Flair. For a sumo smashing showdown, look no further than Belly Bashimi. Each game comes with two inflatable bellies that any sumo wrestler would be proud of. Inflate, wear and let the games begin. The aim is to knock your opponent out of the sumo ring with one belly push, as they reach and collect the Sushi playing pieces included in the box. You’ll need to use your head in a different way with HeadSplat, but beware, your performance will either save or soak you. HeadSplat is the water challenge game where you must use your head to flip a water balloon into the splash out cup; Hit the rim or miss, the balloon will burst you'll get head splatted. For the cerebrally minded, 20Q is the ultimate tech toy and game that, through its in-built algorithms, always knows what you are thinking. The concept is simple, think of something and then let 20Q guess what it is; it will invariably succeed in doing so in less than its allotted 20 questions. For those who loved the original, fear not… this 20Q is smarter than ever and comes with a new ergonomic design that makes playing it even easier. Players can use it solo, testing it against whatever object they can think of, or amaze their friends and with 20Q’s help, they can read their minds.

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Games & Puzzles

THAMES & KOSMOS: “THE GAMES MARKET IS IN GREAT HEALTH AND PUBLISHERS ARE PUTTING OUT SOME INCREDIBLE TITLES” Thames & Kosmos was helped to some very impressive sales figures thanks to the popularity of its Exit Games range. This year, it’s the Adventure Games portfolio that’s looking to excite players. Robert Hutchins talks to director, Jo Drage

How's business been for the Kosmos Games arm here in the UK this past year? Our Games arm had incredible growth last year, and we have experienced very strong growth this year too, mostly attributed to the Exit series. Kosmos’ highly experienced editing team have strong relationships with many extremely popular and talented authors, and this produces a great portfolio, which helps enormously. We're well into what's been previously called this board game revival - what are some of the emerging trends within this space? We have found that cooperative games and dedicated two-player games have been a great hit for us in recent years. Our best-selling co-op games are the Exit range by Inka and Markus Brand, which we will continue to develop whilst its popularity continues. We have also embarked on a new range of co-op games called the Adventure Games which will be released this month. These differ from the Exits as they each have three chapters with around an hour's playtime, and which can be completed at different times. They also have different endings depending on the user’s choices throughout the

game, meaning the games are replayable, which could give them an even greater appeal. I’m really excited to see how they perform. Are we starting to see a call for the more in-depth games today? Have we seen a generation of new gamers come through now after those longer play games? Kosmos has a reputation for great entry level strategy games, which cater for most of the core gamers market. I’d guess that 80 per cent of board gamers will always enjoy Kosmos’ strategy level, and while some gamers will go through a cycle which results in them playing heavier games, they will still enjoy playing quality lighter strategy games, too. What do you make of the strength of the games market? Is it in good health, healthy competition? What are some of the biggest factors affecting this space at the moment? The games market is definitely in great health. I think that the big publishers are putting out some incredible titles at the moment, and this is only challenged by the amount of titles being released every week, especially on Kickstarter.

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Games & Puzzles

Thames & Kosmos 01580 212 000 From Devir and based on the popular children’s book of the same name, The Colour Monster encourages discussion of different emotions and aids in helping to understand them, as players help the Monster figure out his feelings. In turns, they roll the die that allows them to move the Monster around the board. When the Monster goes to a space with an emotion token, the player can pick it up and look for the right jar. The jars are all placed on shelves with their colours hidden. If the player chooses the jar which matches the colour of the emotion, then they can place the emotion token into the jar. In order to pick up an emotion token, players have to explain a memory or a situation in which they feel like the emotion they are picking up: happiness, sadness, anger, fear or calm. Players can lose the game if the Monster gets too confused and they flip over too many mixed emotion jars. Meanwhile, under Thames & Kosmos’ Adventure Games line, The Dungeon has players wake up in a dark dungeon, impossible to escape. Players will need to explore spaces, combine items, find clues and talk to people in order to progress. A fascinating story unfolds with each action, and with branching paths you will need to adventure through again and again to discover the whole story. Adventure Games: Monochrome Inc is a thrilling adventure set in the headquarters of Monochrome Inc., a biotech company with some nasty secrets. You’ve managed to get inside, and now it’s up to you to figure out what to do next. Players will need to

explore spaces, combine items, find clues and talk to people in order to progress. Both games feature simple rules and can be played multiple times. RRP £15.00, age 16 and upwards. Cities: Skylines – The Board Game - is a cooperative game based on the popular computer game of the same name by Paradox Interactive. The goal is to finish a number of milestones while keeping the inhabitants of your city happy. Players have personal cards that show what they can build and should discuss and plan with the other players how to best develop the city. The cards show what effects the building will have on the city. When the players have developed the city to the next milestone, they choose which new board to buy to expand the city, score their current happiness, and start a new milestone. When the last milestone is finished, the game ends. The game is suitable for the newcomer and connoisseur alike! RRP £35.00, age 10 Imhotep: The Duel - The competition of the builders continues in Imhotep: The Duel! In this game, players take on the role of Nefertiti and Akhenaten, one of Egypt’s most famous royal couples. Players will seek glory by building monuments to outshine their opponent. Building further on the mechanics that made the original game so fast-paced and competitive, Imhotep: The Duel focuses the rivalry down to two opponents leading to a tight, ruthless head-to-head game for both players. Watch your rival’s moves carefully in order to outwit them and become the greatest monumentbuilder in all of Egypt. RRP £18.50, age 10.

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Games & Puzzles

Asmodee UK 01420 593 593 Asmodee UK is positioned to get family and friends laughing together with its new range of Party Games. Ideal for larger groups, the range includes new titles such as Time’s Up! Party – a game of guessing famous names in teams against the clock – and Telestrations, a riotous game of drawing and interpretation where simple words are guaranteed to be misconstrued. Part of the Party Games range is Just One, a word game which this summer won the Spiel des Jahres award and a guarantee of family fun. The range is completed by Crazy Eggz and Maki Stack, plus topselling word game Codenames. Dobble continues to lead Asmodee’s Fun Fast Games category, which highlights titles suitable for all ages. These include Bananagrams, Rory’s Story Cubes, Cobra Paw, Who Did It? And Dice Academy. Asmodee is also set to bolster its stable of TVlicensed games with two new lines to launch this year. Tenable, based on the hit ITV quiz show hosted by Warwick Davis, will see players completing top-10 lists testing knowledge on a variety of topics. Meanwhile, Carpool Karaoke adapt James Corden’s popular viral

segment into a board game for the whole family. Assisted by any music streaming service, the game has players singing along under unusual conditions. Asmodee’s Modern Classics range continues to champion the essential modern board games, ideal starting points for anyone interested in the market’s broad and exciting offerings. Comprising critical and commercial successes Catan, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride Europe, Carcassonne, Dixit and Splendor, Modern Classics – as with the other key ranges – can be supplemented with a variety of POS support. Ticket to Ride, in particular, is to receive a boost with the launch of Ticket to Ride: London, a bitesized, 15-minute edition of the iconic family game. This spin-off benefited from an exciting launch event held at the London Transport Museum in September.

University Games & Paul Lamond Games 0207 254 0100 .University Games and Paul Lamond Games have significant media campaigns planned for September through to December on key lines including Smart Ass, Google Eyes, Senor Pepper, Sort it Out and Kersplatt! including TV and online support. In addition to this there will be online and social campaigns for Stupid Deaths, Tip of the Tongue and Are you Dumber than a Box of Rocks? Kersplatt! and Sort it Out will see new, thought-provoking TV creatives that will make any family want to play them. For the over 12s there are some brilliant new family games set to make the festive season. Arriving this autumn and set for pre-Christmas TV advertising, is Sort it Out, a game of putting things in order. Guess from a list, from the longest to the shortest or fastest to the slowest, players will find out many facts they never knew and have great fun learning them. There's a new edition of Smart Ass available with a new set of questions. Each question has 10 clues, the first player to shout out the correct answer wins the

round and takes a step closer to being the ultimate ‘Smart Ass’. For more, there's also a further two new sets of questions; Geek Chic and 90’s Nostalgia. Another of the TV advertised lines this year is Kersplatt! is the hilarious, fast-paced, family board game of modelling mayhem. A high energy, tactile but strategic board game that will see players Kersplatting opponent’s pieces in an attempt to be the first to get two pieces home.

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Games & Puzzles

Jumbo Games The autumn months will soon be upon us and with adult puzzles continuing to show growth in the UK toy market, Jumbo has everything you need to capitalise on the sales in the build up to Christmas. As the Wasgij puzzle brand continues to grow in popularity, Jumbo is committed to listening to its fans’ demand for “more puzzles” each year and on this, they have released their tenth puzzle this year, with the latest Wasgij Mystery 17 Catching A Break 1,000-piece puzzle. It joins the firm’s June releases the Original 32 The Big Weigh In, Destiny 20 The Toy Shop and the Christmas 15 Santa’s Unexpected Delivery Jumbo’s other distinctively unique puzzle brand, Jan van Haasteren, is similar to Wasgij in many ways, with it being highly collectable, having a strong and engaging fanbase and being very different to traditional puzzles. To ensure this brand keeps on growing, new releases this month include The Start 1,000 and 2,000-pieces and The Winery in 1,000 and 3,000-pieces and if it’s a comical Christmas you’re looking for, then the Holiday Shopping 2x1000piece box set is perfect. If you haven’t already seen it, then the brandnew Falcon de luxe Christmas puzzle titled Santa’s Special Delivery, should be on your list of puzzles to stock. The festively illustrated 1,000-piece puzzle also includes a free 1,000-piece Christmas puzzle in the box – so that’s two puzzles for the price of one. What a Christmas treat that will make.

With Christmas being the most popular puzzle period, and Christmas puzzles topping the retail charts, this is an item not to be missed. Having the latest puzzles for your customers isn’t enough, as they’ll need a surface suitable for building, sorting and storing their unfinished puzzles, so not to clutter up the house. That’s where Jumbo’s Puzzles Mates Portapuzzle range of storage cases complement puzzle selections and can increase value to your business, Jumbo is happy to look at multi-buy promotions. With not long to go until Disney lifts the embargo placed on Frozen II product this October 4th, Jumbo has every piece covered with its range of five brand-new jigsaws for children aged three and upwards with the 4in1 Puzzle Pack, Puzzle & Colour, 4 Shaped Puzzles, Movie Collection Poster and 4in1 Round Puzzles. But that’s not all, Jumbo has also developed a new game, titled True Friendship that is a cooperative game for two to four players. For pre-schoolers, Jumbo’s Moon and Me puzzle range is available now and the first lines to be released include the Shaped Floor Puzzle, 4 Shaped Puzzles and 4in1 Puzzle Pack. If family strategy games are working for you, then Jumbo’s crowd favourite in Overbooked, How To Rob A Bank and Forbidden City are definitely worth looking at, as they were big hits at the UK Games Expo in June this year, as Jumbo have some appealing offers for customers that want to list these products in Q4. Keep an eye out for more to come from Jumbo Games in the coming months and in the run up to the festive season this year.

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Big Potato Big Potato has launched two new party games that they predict will be bestsellers for Christmas. The lineup includes the licensed movie party game Blockbuster and a new family betting game called What Came First. Blockbuster is a simple party game for anyone who has ever seen a movie. To start, split into two teams. In round one, each team chooses a member to go head-to- head in a quick-fire buzzer battle. From ‘Famous trilogies’ to ‘Movies with a zombie’, these two players must think quick, shout out a movie and slap the buzzer to put the pressure on their opponent. The first player to run out of ideas loses the round. In round two, the player that wins the buzzer battle picks up six movie cards. They give the hardest three to their opponent and keeps the rest for themselves. When ready, they’ll get 30 seconds to get their team to shout out the movies by using three tricky techniques – acting out the film, making up a quote and describing the film with just one word. The faster they get them right, the more time they’ll have to steal from their opponents.

In What Came First, two icons are pitted against each other - like Cher or Tupperware, Bruce Lee or KFC - and you’ll have to figure out which came first. Make your bet by placing your chips on either side of the board, which includes a ‘guess-the-year’ section for anyone who’s feeling extra lucky. Pick the right side and you could double your bet. Pick the right year and you could quadruple it. The more you win, the quicker you’ll get to the finish line but watch out - get it wrong on a big bet and you’ll be heading backwards in a hurry.

Wild & Wolf - Ridley’s Games 01225 789 909 Ridley’s Games has four own-IP games new for the season with Smashing Pumpkins, Cocktail Party, Selfish: The Zombie Edition and Think Fast. Fans of Avocado Smash, its single biggest selling product, will love the new Smashing Pumpkins. The object of this card matching game is to be the quickest to match all things pumpkin and squash the competition by being the first to get rid of your cards. Smashing Pumpkins comes in pumpkin-shaped packaging and features fun illustrations of a pumpkin medley of lattes, pies, soup and more (and out just in time for Halloween). Selfish: The Zombie Edition sees an entirely new setting in the zombie apocalypse, but utter ruthlessness and selfish behaviour is still necessary in order to make it to the safety of the rescue helicopter. Use the remaining survival supplies to advance through the zombie wasteland while battling against broken ankles, roving bandits and most dangerous of all, each other, to win. Gameplay continues even after

you’ve turned into a flesh-eating zombie, where you'll use your turns to prevent other players from winning. Ridley's is launching into the party game space with Think Fast!. In this fast-paced trivia quiz game, you’ll go head-to-head in three rounds. In each round the answers stay the same but the questions get harder, until you're only given one word. You've got 30 seconds to answer, so think fast. Last but not least Cocktail Party is a our cocktailinspired card game for the budding mixologists out there. Lift your spirits and collect the right ingredients.

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With BLE taking place this October 1 to 3 at London's ExCeL, ToyNews takes a dive into the licensing sector to preview just what's on the bill for the show and the industry for 2019 and beyond

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THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP Valued at 13 per cent of the global licensing industry - an impressive $36bn in real money toys enjoys a special relationship with the world of IP. However, that relationship has been put under strain the past three to four years. Robert Hutchins talks to Anna Knight, VP of Global Licensing Group about the toy and licensing bond, and where its future is headed

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t’s a well established fact that the UK licensing industry is the second largest in the world, and the biggest in the Europe, with a value of $14.58bn in 2018, according to the latest figures from the global licensing industry body, Licensing International. That itself is a growth of 3.9 per cent on the year prior, highlighting that when it comes to retail, brands continue to carry a weight behind them that bear a credence in the mind of the consumer - it's true, a well placed IP can still successfully wrestle the cash out of the shoppers hand, even when we’re in the midst of some mighty changes at retail level. But we can’t pretend that the relationship between toys and licensing is as rosy as it once was. It’s well-known that the bond between the two is a special one, of course. Toys account for 13 per cent $36 billion - of the global licensing industry, for instance. Talk to those in the character and entertainment licensing sector, and you’ll quickly learn that toys sits firmly among the key sectors that any children’s

brand with a hope of success at retail, is looking to get in to. Licensing and toys has always been closely connected. It’s also true, however, that that relationship has suffered somewhat of a knock in the last three to four years. According to Anna Knight, VP of Global Licensing Group, and event director of Brand Licensing Europe, this momentary breakdown in the normal status quo, has “become a pressing issue for both industries.” Looking for a reason for this decline in licensed toy sales over the past three or four years, our focus can fall on the usual suspects. The closure of Toys R Us signalled a sweep of change across not only the toy retail space - that saw sales figures at big name retailers in Denmark and France stall somewhat, as much as they did for Toys R Us in the UK and US kickstarting what has been a gloomy period for the UK high street. Underpinning it all, though, is the matter that consumer tastes just haven’t been catered to. The franchise era we

all belong to at the moment has spurred some wonderful innovation in licensing, we’ve witnessed ‘universes’ carved out of some magnificent entertainment brands. Juxtaposing that, however, is the fact that over the course of the past four years, we’ve witnessed just as many licenses fall flat and underperform at retail, as those that have succeeded. It was a veiled admission of oversaturation - for instance - that Disney and Lucasfilm issued when it stated it would be ‘taking a break from the Star Wars cinematic universe,’ following the conclusion of the current trilogy this year, giving the IP ‘time to breathe.’ "On top of this, we’ve had a run of trend-driven categories emerge of late that fuelled sales of products not linked to a brand. Look at the unicorn fad, the collectables space, and the change in approach of the major toy company to its own toy IP," says Knight. During a panel session at this year’s Toy and Game Design Conference, curated by Mojo Nation, experts from Fundamentally September 2019 | toy news | 53

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Children, Spin Master and John Lewis dissected the current relationship between toy design, marketing, and retail in a discussion titled State of Play. Among the panellists was Spin Master’s director of inventor relations David Winter, who stated that so much today, ‘toymakers are looking for the next billion dollar franchise.’ “We’re rivalling the film industry, and toys are becoming franchises themselves, with not just multiple ranges around a brand, but with content and films, too,” he explained. Spin Master is a prime example. Just this month it landed both broadcast and streaming partners for its new animated series Hatchimals:Adventures in Hatchtopia, based on its best-selling Hatchimals toy line. Meanwhile, PAW Patrol continues to be one of toy retail’s biggest IP success stories. “This is what toy companies are hoping to find when they sit down with a designer today,” Winter continued. “The bar of how well-developed your ideas are is so much higher, we are looking for a billion dollar concept, a concept of franchises.” Quite whether this is what retail is looking for at the moment, is increasingly becoming something to assess on a brand by brand basis. Consensus would dictate that as the retail landscape becomes a tougher space in which to do battle, buyers are leaning on the tried and tested IP they know will shift; a mind-set that will impinge on the newer and emerging brands’ route to market. Just how sustainable a strategy this is for either toy or licensing industry remains to be seen; one thing is for certain, and that’s that change is afoot. “And change is not always a bad thing,” continues Global Licensing Group’s Knight. “Evolution is essential to stay relevant and profitable, and innovation is critical to stimulate consumer demand. “Personally, I think we will continue to see a huge transition in what toys look like, how they will be marketed and where they will be sold, thanks to an increasing interest in the circular economy and conscious purchasing, the rise of influencers, and the way millennials, and the iGeneration consume media, as well as the growth of online retailing.

“Also, there are good signs for 2019 being a bit of a comeback year, with the release of movies like Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2.” Just how the ongoing conversation around toys and its relationship with licensing will affect the look of Brand Licensing Europe this year is an easy one to answer. The plan is to continue to nurture and foster that partnership - the special relationship - for the future. ‘It’s one of the core segments, both in terms of content and exhibitors,” continues Knight. “Visitors cannot afford to miss our conference panel - How toy licensing can recover its sparkle - with our experts including NBC Universal, Viacom Nickelodeon CP, VTech Electronics, Moose Toys and The Entertainer.” This will be taking place at the License Global Theatre from 12.30pm until 1pm on

the first day of the show, Tuesday, October 1. It's just one of many reasons that Knight gives as to why the toy sector should be gearing itself up for BLE this year. “BLE is the must-attend show for the European licensing community. The UK licensing industry is the second biggest in the world, and biggest in Europe, with a value of $14.58bn in 2018 according to Licensing International. This is an uplift of 3.9 per cent,” continues Knight.

“Visitors can meet manufacturers, brand owners, network with fellow retailers, and keep up to speed with consumer and retail trends affecting to the industry now and over the next 12 months. This year’s show will have over 260 exhibitors from all areas of licensing, brand new publishing and gaming activations and the License This! Finale, all of which will provide great inspiration for licensed toy programmes and products.”

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For the future of toys and licensing, there’s no doubt there’s a bit of a shift to be put in from all sides of the debate - be you in retail, toy design and innovation or licensing. It’s going to take some frank and honest discussions to get this relationship back on track and back to what it once was, but there’s no doubt that licensing still has a major part to play in just what our industry will shape up to be in the coming months and years.

“Licensing has a huge, supportive role to play in the future fortunes of the toy industry, and it’s one that we - at BLE take very seriously,” adds Knight. “There is always scope for industries to work closer together - communication is key to any successful partnership - and that means between licensees, licensors, retailers and trade associations. “Innovation is critical for any industry to evolve and to create and fulfil consumer

demand and, by its very nature, innovation always starts small before it (potentially) explodes in popularity. “We’ve watched board games become more and more popular in recent years, particularly with more mature gamers, which has been reflected in the number of clubs and cafes that have opened. There’s no reason to believe something like this can’t achieve longevity, if managed correctly,” she concludes. September 2019 | toy news | 55

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Bulldog Licensing Stand A282 It’s a bountiful portfolio that Bulldog Licensing is bringing to BLE this year, with the likes of Moose Toys’ Kindi Kids and Treasure X, Sesame Street, Angry Birds, Care Bears, Miraculous, Match Attax, Life, and That’s not my.... Moose Toys recently unveiled its new brand, Kindi Kids, the company’s latest line of dolls targeted at pre-school children. The brand features the four characters Marsha Mello, Jessicake, Peppa-Mint, and Donatina, each a colourful bobblehead doll. Expected to be a Christmas sensation, Bulldog is building a Kindi Kids licensing campaign set to launch in autumn 2020 – by which time the adorable dolls will be getting ready for their second major Christmas at retail. Meanwhile, with Treasure X, Bulldog has secured agreements with Aykroyds/TDP for nightwear, underwear and swimwear, Blues

Rocket Licensing Stand B301 Godzilla, The Elf on the Shelf, Beano, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Disenchantment, and Horrible Histories fill the bill for Rocket Licensing this year. New to the mix, Rebel Girls is inspired by the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, which celebrates the achievements of women. Four million books have been sold worldwide, which has

for daywear and outerwear, and Spearmark for housewares and lighting. Next up, Sesame Street is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and Bulldog, who has led Sesame Street in early success with Sambro as a master plush partner and across soft lines for both adults and kids, continues to expand the brand’s licensing programme. For BLE, toys, gifts, accessories, homewares and stationery are being targeted. Sesame Workshop’s iconic show remains a favourite among the young and young-at-heart.

From one incredibly successful mobile game, Angry Birds has gone on to become a multi-title franchise with billions of downloads, as well as a hit cartoon series and two box office movies to its name. Strong licensee engagement in the UK for both the Angry Birds brand and its spin-off Hatchlings spans Jazwares for toys, Poetic Brands and Smith and Brooks for apparel, Cooneen/Misirli for nightwear and underwear, Centum for publishing and Winning Moves for Top Trumps.

inspired the lifestyle brand on a mission to raise a generation of confident girls. Meanwhile, the leading character entertainment company Valiant has sold over 82 million comic books since it was founded in 1989, bringing to the world characters like Faith, Harbinger and Bloodshot. Now, as Bloodshot leads a slate of Valiant movies beginning in 2020, Rocket Licensing will manage the brand. The team also represents the Godzilla brand in the UK and Ireland on behalf of Japanese licensor and brand owner

Toho. In celebration of the upcoming film, the franchise is offering up a host of opportunities for licensees to partner with two of the biggest pop culture icons in history, supported by new theatrical releases, graphic novels and other content planned for next year and beyond. More than 13 million copies of The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition have sold globally, with over 600,000 Scout Elves adopted in the UK to date. A new style guide for 2019/2020 with new UK-specific assets is expected to add to an expanding UK licensee list, targeting games and accessories. Beano has become a national treasure since its launch over 80 years ago, while The Very Hungry Caterpillar is looking stronger than ever as it celebrates 50 years of being a brand known by almost every adult and child in the UK. Horrible Histories is hailed as “a cultural phenomenon” as it enjoys its first big screen outing. Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans is inspired by the multimillion selling books written by Terry Deary and illustrated by Martin Brown.

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Silvergate Media It's Octonauts, Hilda, Peter Rabbit and Monkey with a Tool Belt on the bill for Silvergate Media this year. Octonauts’ educational narratives and compelling characters enable it to cross cultural divides. The Octonauts take to the land in the new spin-off series, Octonauts: Above and Beyond, featuring new characters with future adventures focusing on moments of change and challenge that water creates for all creatures. The new episodes are in production and set for delivery from 2021 through 2024 with a major global brand relaunch from 2021. The new themes, characters and creative will offer licensees a rich vein of fresh content to inspire consumer products and Silvergate will be giving visitors to the show a first look at this new world. Silvergate’s newest licensing programme is based on its animated series, Hilda, now

Walker Books Stand E162 Walker Books will be placing particular emphasis this year on Guess How Much I Love You, We're Going On A Bear Hunt, Anthony Browne and Maisy Mouse. Guess How Much I Love You is a favourite of many generations of pre-school children, not to mention parents, for whom the tale of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare trying to express how much they love

available on Netflix across 130 countries, and up for linear broadcast from 2020. Inspired by the award-winning comics from British writer and illustrator Luke Pearson, the 2D animated series follows the adventures of a fearless blue-haired girl as she travels from her home in a magical wilderness of elves and giants, to the city of Trolberg. The animated series is aimed at kids aged six to 11 and scooped

an impressive three Annie Awards in 2019 including Best Animated Television Production for Children. A second series is in production and expected to launch on Netflix in 2020. Elsewhere, Beatrix Potter’s classic British character, Peter Rabbit bounds into an engaging CGI animated TV series for preschoolers. Silvergate continues with its extensive licensing plans for the property.

each other has been a story time staple since its publication in 1994. Today Guess How Much I Love You inspires toys, plush, apparel, party supplies, bed ware, prints, storage boxes and personalised gifting for children; and stationery, calendars, cards, diaries and even jewellery for families and adults. With global book sales of over 43 million in 57 different languages (over 25 years) making this title a firm fixture in homes and nursery schools all over the world, Walker plans to build on the awareness and

develop an evergreen roster for the classic title in the coming years. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt combines the storytelling talent of former children’s laureate Michael Rosen with the drawings of Helen Oxenbury in a light-hearted tale of a family’s quest that has inspired a hit stage play and television adaptation as well as selling close to ten million copies. This property also has a powerful presence at retail in multiple book formats, a success that has attracted strong interest from licensees and retail since the launch by Walker of a licensing programme in 2016. With 30th anniversary celebrations in full swing, the licensee list already includes plush, games, apparel, stationery, babywear, wall stickers, greetings cards and DVDs. Many family-friendly promotions are also planned or under way and Walker will be aiming to expand the licensing growth of this enduring favourite during and after BLE. Maisy the mouse has been a favourite with pre-school children for nearly 30 years. Walker Books continues to publish an average of ten books a year – including board and novelty books. September 2019 | toy news | 57

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BLE Showcase

accessories, bedding, handwashes and a children’s eyewear collection which will launch with a leading optical retailer in the autumn; whilst crafting fabrics will follow in the new year. Two new titles are being added to the licensing programme for 2020: the perennial favourite, Fantastic Mr Fox

followed by The Witches, to coincide with the release of the new upcoming Warner Bros feature film. Emily Coxhead continues to spread happiness through her brand, The Happy News, and the last year has seen a surge in newspaper subscriptions and social media following. Blueprint is a major partner for the brand, with more stationery lines released this summer and new product ranges including Crème D’Or’s cool and quirky confectionery, as well as gift wrap and bags from Penny Kennedy. UK Greetings’ lovable knitted pup, Boofle continues to enjoy an enduringly wide appeal. Having featured on a staggering 70 million greetings cards since the brand first launched, this super-cute character appears across a multitude of product categories, with the brand continuing to see success in ladies’ nightwear. A range of four celebration cakes launched in Asda in spring and dated lines are also a highlight. Here's hoping some of those will be on the stand this year, too.

and marketing campaign and there is more activity still to come as we see Paddington take to the ice for the first time in the UK, in a new Paddington on Ice show at London

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland launching to fans and fair-goers this November. The 45-minute show will combine award-winning international figure skaters with a brilliant ensemble of impressive costumes, topped off with a musical soundtrack that makes it hard to stay in your seat. It promises to deliver the ‘perfect festive show for family and friends - and of course fans - of all ages.’ The performance tells the tale of Paddington and his adventures, as he travels on a ship from Peru to London, discovering new places and meeting new friends along the way. On his voyage to London, he learns that when at sea (and on the ice) it’s not all plain sailing. “Paddington on Ice at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a must for all Paddington fans and gives festive visitors the chance to catch the most iconic bear on ice for the very first time in the UK,” reads a statement from the Paddington brand owners, Copyrights Group. We will also see continued activity with Paddington and UNICEF where he is their champion for children’s rights.

DRi Licensing Stand B261 DRi’s brands will be taking centre stage at this year’s Brand Licensing Europe, thanks to the show’s emphasis on classic book titles with Beyond the Book, and DRi’s experience and knowledge in that very sector. 2020 will mark the 65th anniversary of Miffy, Dick Bruna’s iconic white bunny, and plans are underway to celebrate this landmark occasion with exciting product launches, events and press scheduled throughout the year. New collaborations are also in development, including a luxury handbag partnership as well as gifting lines, and baby and children’s clothing lines which will launch in major high street retailers. A leading brand for World Book Day, Roald Dahl’s popularity keeps on growing, with Smiffys extensive dress-up range a major highlight. Many new product ranges launch in 2019 including bedroom

Copyrights Group Stand B222 More excitement is coming for the Paddington franchise in 2020 as a new TV series launches. Fully animated in 3D, the new Paddington series, The Adventures of Paddington, will launch with 26 x 22 minute long episodes, airing on Nickelodeon’s networks worldwide (except France, Canada, China and Japan). With that in tow, it's already set to be a big year for this classic property. Additional highlights for 2020 include a range of TV tie-in products from both new and existing partners. The partnership with Butlins in the UK continues with their popular Paddington show and internationally a new pre-school touring show is being produced by Rockefeller Productions, which will introduce Paddington to a whole new set of fans across the US and Canada. For 2019, two new Paddington coin designs launched this year from the Royal Mint which were supported by a strong PR

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Licensing Link Europe Stand A302 Molang, Pirata & Capitano, and IFL Science will be joining the likes of Chic & Love, and Van Gogh Museum on the Licensing Link stand this year. Molang, from Millimages, a European leader in the children’s entertainment industry, is a cuddly, kind-hearted, kawaiiinspired rabbit whose animated series is a TV and online hit. Three seasons have already been delivered and a fourth is on the way. Molang recently celebrated the renewal by Tomy of its European master toy line, not to mention reaching 25 European licensees in all core categories, including toy, stationery and apparel. The toy renewal follows the very successful launch of Molang on Tiny Pop, the free-to-air UK television channel where it sits inside the top 10 shows. Season

three is due on Tiny Pop in September, when fans will also see the launch of the show on Amazon Prime in the UK, Germany, France and Italy. Also from Millimages, Pirata & Capitano is a pre-school animation show following the crew of the ship The Pink Skull as they continue their quest for treasure across the islands of the Great Sea. Season two is currently in production for delivery mid 2020, bringing the total number of episodes to 104. This will be complimented

by additional short-form episodes that form the backbone of the digital strategy. The programme, co-produced by France 5 Television and Rai of Italy, has enjoyed strong uptake globally, with new broadcast partners including Discovery in the US, CJ Tooniverse in Korea, Azteca in LatAm and most recently CCTV for China, all coming on board mid-2019. In the UK, the programme quickly became the number two most-watched show on the channel. Nickelodeon Junior.

Moon and Me has now been sold to a number of key international territories including the USA, Canada, Australia and China, with 9 Story Media handling worldwide TV distribution and international licensing (excluding UK, Eire and China).

Sutikki now looks forward to meeting with existing commercial partners, potential licensees, retailers and promotional stakeholders at London's Excel this October to talk future plans. “Tiddle Toddle, pooppoop, Onions!”

Sutikki Stand D223 Following the successful launch of the Moon and Me TV series on CBeebies and BBC iPlayer in February this year, Sutikki is excited to make its debut at BLE this year. Moon and Me was launched as part of a CBeebies re-formatted Bedtime block and has aired continually weekdays Monday to Friday with exceptional ratings. The BBC has given full support on-air, across social, via CBeebies website, as part of BBC Prom’s and the BBC Summer Social Family Festival. There are currently 43 UK licensees including global partners Hasbro and Scholastic. The first toy lines launched in July with 100 per cent retail distribution and in-store support that included power aisle FSDUs, plinths, gondola ends, window displays and catalogue listings most notably with the retailer Argos. Further products launching this autumn include DVDs, books, wooden toys, puzzles, stationery, party paperware, nightwear, bedding and stickers including wall murals. 60 | toy news | September 2019

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Cyber Group Studios Stand F202 Cyber Group Studios is exhibiting at BLE, with its laugh-out-loud-funny CGI preschool series Gigantosaurus. The award-winning animation brings to life Jonny Duddle’s best-selling book, which features four fiercely-fun dinosaur friends – Rocky, Bill, Mazu and Tiny. The characters take pre-schoolers on exciting, comedy-filled adventures as they dare to be themselves and explore the world. In every episode, the curious young dinosaurs explore the mystery of Gigantosaurus – the biggest, fiercest dinosaur of all. They embark on a quest, face their individual fears and work together to solve a problem. As the inquisitive Mazu, playful Tiny, timid Bill and courageous Rocky aim to learn more about Gigantosaurus, they discover that they each have something to learn from him, too. Gigantosaurus already airs on Disney around the globe. In terms of free-to-

air channels, the show is confirmed to broadcast on France TV, Germany’s Super RTL plus Italy’s Rai Yoyo. An announcement with a major UK broadcaster is also lined up for BLE this year. Cyber Group Studios is exhibiting at BLE to extend its portfolio of European licensing partners for Gigantosaurus. The studio has already appointed Jakks Pacific as master toy licensee with the range going into USA retail now and launching across Europe in 2020, and partnered with Outright Games for the video game which will be published on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox

One and Steam in Spring 2020. Publishing remains a priority for the IP, with Templar planning to publish the first of 40 new TV tie-in books across Europe in 2020. “Publishing is a fabulously rich – and relatively untapped – pool of IP that provides inspiration for brand and licensing extensions across all ages and categories,” comments Bruno Danzel d’Aumont, international licensing and marketing at Cyber Group Studios, “Gigantosaurus is a perfect example of this, and we’re looking forward to meeting licensees and our agents from all over Europe."

editorial team on Wednesday afternoon in the Beyond the Book activation zone. Meanwhile, the street artist Sophie Long will be painting live, yes live, at the show in the Retail Trends Lounge during Wednesday morning. Her work will then be displayed for the rest of the show and auctioned off at the Light Fund Southern quiz taking place later in the year.

Larkshead’s focus for BLE is to build on the success of its established clients May The Thoughts Be With You and Numberblocks & Alphablocks by securing new licensees that extend the reach of both brands’ in their sectors. For its new clients the objective is to begin discussions that lead to licensing growth during 2020.

Larkshead Media Stand A280 Larkshead Media will be at Brand Licensing Europe this year to represent a roster of clients which includes May The Thoughts Be With You, the CBeebies ratings-hit series Numberblocks and Alphablocks, street artist, and the newly rebooted TV series Terrahawks. Larkshead will also be showcasing several recent signings and licensing deals which include artist Kate Cledwyn, animation studio Tiny Giants’ two key brands Swampies and Shelf Life, and others that are still to be announced. Exhibiting at stand number A280, Larkshead’s director Clare Piggott will be meeting with prospective licensees as well as hosting two events during the show. Charlotte Reed, the author behind the popular brand May The Thoughts Be With You has continued her licensing journey during 2019 and will be hosting a beyondthe-book Q&A session with the UBM

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it even a bear? Rilakkuma has a zipper on its back. The bear look, it seems, is a costume. But what’s underneath? No one knows… The character’s relaxed approach to life has made Rilakkuma and its friends, such as Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori, stand out among kawaii brands. Today, Rilakkuma is second in popularity in Japan only to Hello Kitty. Its core market in Japan is women from 20 to

40 years old. In Europe, there will be a wide target market, including parents with young children, eight to 14-year-old girls, and all fans of Japanese culture. Rilakkuma is already celebrating some major partnerships in Europe, working with some of France’s most creative names in kids’ fashion and appearing in some of the trendiest parts of Paris. Rilakkuma and friends have also inspired a (recently expanded) range from Cijep Plush, a blackboard book (in the shape of Rilakkuma’s face) from Larousse and, also from Larousse, a number of children’s activity boxes offering kids opportunities for colouring, cutting, glittering and tying. There’s also a Rilakkuma baby album from Editions First in which to keep small souvenirs or write down memories of baby. This popularity is expected to grow, especially with the recent arrival of a stop motion animated 13x11’ show called Rilakkuma and Kaoru as a Netflix original series in more than 190 countries around the world.

German, Italian, Arabic and Russian) in more than 200 countries and territories, Crunchyroll connects the global anime community to a full 360-degree slate of offerings including global events like Crunchyroll Expo, the brand’s owned anime convention, Crunchyroll Games, merchandise, social media and more. Through the Crunchyroll Store, Crunchyroll operates a top retail destination where it promotes licensed products directly to its engaged fanbase, supported

through social media (more than 30 million global followers) and direct-to-consumer marketing emails. Beyond the Crunchyroll Store, Crunchyroll also operates direct event sales, not only at its annual Crunchyroll Expo in the US, but at events around the world including those at Japan Expo and MCM London Comic Con, while bringing exclusive consumer products to these shows, and directly into the consumers' and fans hands.

Sagoo Stand A320 The independent agency, Sagoo, will highlight Rilakkuma at Brand Licensing Europe this year, for which it represents the licensing and merchandising rights across the European region. Already a hit in Asia and the USA, the Japanese character brand Rilakkuma is now making inroads into the European market and is expected to attract strong interest at this year's show. Rilakkuma is a kawaii – or ‘cute’ – teddy bear character, created in 2003 by San-X, one of the largest character manufacturing companies in Japan. Its name is a combination of the word ‘relax’ and the Japanese word for ‘bear’ and that goes someway to sum up this cool character. Rilakkuma loves music, watching TV, hot baths, food and being lazy. This bear is a stress-free zone with a 100 per cent positive outlook on life. But is it a boy or girl bear? Is

Crunchyroll Crunchyroll, the world’s largest destination for anime and Manga with 50 million registered users and 2 million subscribers, is heading to Brand Licensing Europe from October 1 to 3 this year with a diverse and exciting slate of more than 350 anime titles available for licensor consideration, including Dr. STONE, Bananya, Black Clover, the Junji Ito Collection, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime and The Rising of the Shield Hero. Originated as a streaming and community platform, Crunchyroll now operates a robust 360-degree offering to super serve the anime community beyond content. Now, the platform manages global merchandising, broadcast, videogram and publishing rights to over 100 IPs, with continued growth on the horizon, and with new properties being added to the slate each quarter. With the world’s biggest collection of anime titles translated into eight languages (English, Spanish, French, Portugeuse,

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Mondo TV Stand B161 Mondo TV will be highlighting its confident expansion into new licensing and broadcasting areas, as well as its continuing strength in animation and children’s entertainment at this year’s BLE. Its strong portfolio for 2019/2020 and beyond features the likes of Feisty Pets, MeteoHeroes, House Of Talent: the web series, Robot Trains, and Yoohoo. Feisty Pets, for which Mondo TV is the Italian and Iberian sub-agent, working with the global licensing agent Surge Licensing, already has a global master toy partner in Jazwares, and a master English-language publisher in Scholastic. In Italy Feisty Pets toys will be distributed by Giochi Preziosi, with whom Mondo is working to build a robust retail strategy for the launch. Publievent will produce Feisty Petsthemed shopping mall events throughout Italy from October this year. Nice will produce a number of Feisty Pets-branded fashion accessories for girls, to be launched in 2020. In addition, the licensing and merchandising programme includes Clementoni for puzzles, Edicart for books, and Mondadori for magazines. MeteoHeroes is a Mondo TV coproduction with Meteo Expert Center – Italy’s leading weather forecasting group. Featuring six superhero kids who work together to prevent pollution, global warming and climate change, the series

aims to offer four to seven-year-old kids fun and excitement but also to help them better understand environmental issues and what they can do to help the planet. Its aim is to inform, educate and inspire – and of course thrill, amuse and entertain. Mondo TV’s plan for the licensing campaign is not just to deliver fun products but products that are sustainabilityfriendly (a theme of the show) with, for example, plastic packaging replaced with compostable paper. Favourable market feedback has boosted a licensing programme that is attracting major European companies, who see in MeteoHeroes not just a high-quality project but the chance to play their part in the fight against climate change. A second season of Robot Trains is rolling out across Europe, and a third season has been announced with a launch date of autumn 2020 for the first 26 episodes of series three. Season three of Robot Trains is a first for Mondo TV, which was the distributor and licensing agent of series one and co-producer of series two. The themes and storylines of series three are still under wraps but the introduction of new characters, concepts and locations in series two is proving popular with more innovation expected for series three. Robot Trains is now firmly established as a long-term licensing prospect with licensing activity now strong in many territories, where Silverlit’s toys, as well as confectionery and snacks, books, puzzles,

confectionery decorations, live characters and events, stickers and trading cards, carnival costumes, personal care products and paper handkerchiefs, are just some of the items in shops or coming to retail. This year has also seen the launch of the innovative new Robot Trains augmented reality app that works with product from Robot Trains licensees and allows kids to play games and experience live interactions with their favourite characters. YooHoo to the Rescue is the first Netflix Original Series from co-producers Mondo TV and Aurora World. This is a new 3D children’s series based on the globally successful line of Aurora World YooHoo plush toys, more than 80 million of which have been sold since the worldwide launch of the line in 2007. YooHoo to the Rescue has been available worldwide from March 2019 exclusively on the Netflix platform. Licensing activity is strong, boosted by a renovated plush toy line based on the new series, along with the rollout of a licensing and merchandising programme across many other categories. BLE will also be a chance for Mondo TV to tell visitors about a strategic agreement with the German company Toon2Tango, a new kids and family entertainment unit.

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While the stakes may not be quite so high, Mattel and Mega Construx this year decided it was high time they played the Game of Thrones. It’s part of the company’s continued footing in the booming adult fan of toys space. Robert Hutchins talks to Mega’s senior director of global brand marketing, Nicolas Allaire about his strategy for the pop culture IP battleground


aving began its own love affair with the pop culture scene some ten years ago, it’s arguable that the Mattel subsidiary, Mega Construx is among the pioneering first to have unearthed the market potential of the adult toy fan. Certainly it’s among the first to have spotted the gap in the market to begin bringing video game IP into the consumer products space, and onto the construction toy aisles, when, via its partnership with Microsoft it launched its Mega Construx Halo building sets, targeting

the older audience and the emerging geek trend so prevalent today. It’s hardly surprising. Its parent company Mattel has long had a hand in the pop culture scene through its many and varied licensing partnerships that span the worlds of DC’s Superheroes and its own IP Masters of the Universe. And actually, given the scale of its pre-school and fashion doll operations in Barbie and Thomas & Friends, it’s often easy to forget that Mattel has a big business in the collector’s market with its expertise and heritage in the retro. September 2019 | toy news | 65

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It’s certainly an aspect that has rubbed off on Mega Construx, who eyes the pop culture segment ‘as a key priority,’ for its success and growth, which is why it made perfect sense when the brand detailed its latest partnership with HBO for the Game of Thrones construction line, once again targeting all those adult fans of toys and modern day pop culture-heads. “The older audience are fans of the accuracy, authenticity and attention to detail that we are bringing to our sets,” Nicolas Allaire, senior director of global brand marketing, Mega Construx, tells ToyNews. “We started with Halo ten years ago, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and recently, we have been working with the Pokémon Company. The ‘kidult’ segment is key to our portfolio and we will continue working hard to deliver fans of pop cultures great sets to experience their fandom through construction.” The latest fandom it's turning to is, therefore, no other than the vibrant base of enthusiasts surrounding the HBO adaptation of the popular George R.R. Martin A Song of Ice and Fire book series, Game of Thrones. Items in the range include Daenerys atop her dragon, and a battle beyond

The Wall scene in which Jon Snow led the fight against an army of the dead. In the wake of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones this year, Mega Construx has spotted an opportunity in tapping into the rancour and vigour of a fandom driven by a storyline that has played out for the last decade. A beacon of change for the entertainment industry, Game of Thrones changed the way in which networks and content platforms think about television, and by extension, the manner in which fandom was to be celebrated in the consumer products space. And this is most likely what made the HBO property so appealing to Mega Construx in the first place. “We are thrilled with the Mega Construx Game of Thrones partnership,” continues Allaire. “The HBO team has been tremendous to partner with, and fans can expect more highly detailed collector-oriented construction sets and micro-figures in the near future. “Through this partnership, we want to give both Game of Thrones and construction toy fans a chance to build their own worlds based on the solid foundations of the HBO franchise.”

But while GoT had become a recognised IP on the pop culture consumer products space in the years preceding its climactic finale this year, outside of the Funko Pop trope, Game of Thrones had little surfaced on the adult market for toys. Now, with the story at an end and a prequel series in the wings under a working title of Blood Moon, perhaps this partnership was one of a number forged by HBO to perpetuate the immersion in this world of Westeros for the coming years? “We started to delve into pop culture franchises ten years ago, and now we know that as long as you are authentic to the franchise, launching a partnership like this is always the right time,” suggests Allaire. “This pop culture segment has been a key priority for Mega, and appreciated by avid construction fans. We continue to monitor trends and develop construction sets that are as authentic, highly detailed and relevant to the licences we are working with.” But of course, even for a market once as niche as 'adult fans of pop culture', it's far from being a one horse race. Thanks to the advent of streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the many more surrounding it, pop culture has become just as

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Hot Brands competitive as the children’s entertainment space. Game of Thrones is hardly the only IP to drive huge numbers to the screens and the shopping aisles alike, but one of any number of colourful IP vying for our attention and money today. Allaire says: “We are currently focused on delivering the best Mega Construx Game of Thrones building experience to fans as we can, and we have a lot of content to build from. But pop culture has been emerging in different ways above the traditional movie/TV series, or book series, and this is a really exciting time for content developers, fans and us. Everyone is clearly listening to consumers more than ever, and

we are seeing more collaborations and influences from fashion, design and street art. “It’s a fascinating world and we will continue to monitor what consumers truly want, and try to deliver it in great construction sets for the future.” Needless to say, Mega Construx will benefit greatly from its position within the wider Mattel portfolio, with access to those retro and rebooted series and IP: a vault of content it can explore and pluck from in order to deliver to the adult fan today. “Being part of Mattel has given us a chance to explore the vault of amazing IPs that we have access to,” continues Alliare. “For example, we just launched a Mega

Construx Masters of the Universe Castle Grayskull, our biggest set to date with more than 3,500 pieces, and the response from fans has been amazing. “With all the buzz that the franchise has currently, we are continuously looking to build our strategic partnerships, and I am excited to explore new opportunities.” There’s plenty to be said for Mega Construx’s ongoing love affair with the pop culture space, and should the adult market continue as robustly as it has been for the last number of years, there looks to be a bright future for the construction brand within it, whether with IP retro, rebooted, or completely new to the scene.

“Pop culture is a fascinating world, and we will continue to monitor what consumers truly want, and try to deliver in new sets.“ Nicolas Allaire, Mega Construx

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On the cards: The magic of Hasbro It’s a sign of the times when you get to talk about the franchising success of Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons in the same breath as Power Rangers and Transformers, indicative of a growing demand for tabletop IP in the licensing space and the changing consumer tastes. We sit with Hasbro’s Casey Collins to learn more


agic: The Gathering is a completely different ball game, is the gist of the conversation recently held between ToyNews and an expert on the topic - not wholly associated with Wizards of the Coast or Hasbro - of board gaming IP in the wider licensing space. Spanning the physical card gaming sector, the PC gaming space with Magic: The Gathering Arena, launching into the high-octane, and vastly lucrative world of esports, and diversifying further still with its own game universe-inspired fantasy series, this is a property, according to our expert, very much in a league of its own. The fantasy game was certainly headline grabbing news when Hasbro detailed its Q2 results earlier this year, fuelling much of its success, and dictating a new path of success for physical gaming to tread in the coming months and years. And according to Hasbro’s general manager and SVP of global consumer products, Casey Collins, the Magic: The Gathering brand is “more popular today than it has ever been.” In fact, the toymaker and global entertainment powerhouse has so far seen over one billion games played on Magic: The Gathering Arena, while via its highly successful esports initiative and more than 40,000 streamers broadcasting the game, Hasbro has been able to double its viewership of the brand on Twitch in less than a year, making it somewhat of a goliath in the geek's world of tabletop.

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Hot Brands times and these iconic brands offer unique play patterns that have stood the test of time with creative play, nurturing values and the timeless love of cars and trucks.” Back with the tabletop theme, and let’s not forget that Hasbro is also home to the number one selling roleplaying title, Dungeons and Dragons; a brand that boasts a heritage stretching from the 1980s and an IP that has seen a real revival on the tabletop scene in recent years, thanks to a renewed interest in the sector (as well as a return by Hasbro to a working formula for the title, following a blip somewhere in the last five years).

“Magic: The Gathering is more than just a game, it has become an entertainment franchise that has delighted over 40 millions fans to date in 70 countries worldwide.“ It’s no wonder that experts in the gaming sector can only stand back and observe the Magic: The Gathering brand in an element of awe, and, ultimatley, why this is an IP held in such high regard as to just what board gaming IP can achieve in the wider licensing space today. “Magic is more than just a game,” Collins tells ToyNews. “It has become an entertainment franchise that has delighted over 40 million fans to date in 70 countries with compelling characters, fantastic worlds and epic stories across books, comics, and soon an animated series on Netflix from the directors of Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame. “We’re going to continue expanding that audience from tabletop to digital gaming through esports and competitive play, entertainment and licensing to power the next stage of Magic’s growth.” Of course, Hasbro has been successfully ‘franchising’ its brands for a number of years now, and undergone a number of acquisitions in recent history with a view to continue growing this element of the highperforming toy firm. Hasbro’s acquisition of the Power Rangers brand in 2018 for $522 million was a major coup for the toymaker,

and a sensational story that certainly stoked the flames of anticipation of a global fanbase of the brand. In recent months, however, it’s been somewhat eclipsed by the industry-shaking news of Hasbro’s $4bn acquisition of eOne and its wealth of IP, including the perennial pre-school favourites, Peppa Pig, PJ Masks, and eOne’s most recent launch, Ricky Zoom. To put the magnitude of this deal into context, remember that Disney purchased Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise for the same amount in 2012. Franchising, then, really is something Hasbro is taking seriously as we move into 2020 and beyond. “The heart of our business is the power of our brands,” continues Collins. “Our diverse portfolio includes not only our well-known franchise brands like My Little Pony, Transformers, NERF, Power Rangers, Monopoly, Play-Doh, Dungeons and Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering, but also a rich legacy of heritage brands in our vault like Tonka, Spirograph, MicroMachines, Pound Puppies, and Lite Brite… [clearly more of a US thing] “We have opened up the Hasbro Vault to tap into the desire to connect with simpler

Casey Collins, Hasbro Consumer Products

“Dungeons and Dragons is continuing its trajectory as one of the leading fantasy entertainment franchises - experiencing its fifth consecutive year of growth at the moment,” says Collins. “D&D has extended to multiple mediums in its 45-year history, including animated series, novels, liveaction feature films and adventure modules, and one particular area we are aggressively pursuing to fuel awareness is videogames. “We have a number of high-profile digital products on the slate for the coming years, and we hope to continue inspiring intrepid adventurers to ‘gather their party’ and embark on quests for treasure, battles with foes, daring rescues and more.” It seems somewhat out of step, discussing the franchising potential of the likes of Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons in the same sentence as Transformers or Power Rangers, but it’s simply indicative of just how big a business the tabletop space really is generating today, just as much as the changing tastes of today’s consumers. Septemebr 2019 | toy news | 69

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Equally as rich in content, Transformers is a multi-million dollar franchise that has thrown up a series of movies and a spin-off film in Bumblebee for the toymaker over the years. It’s now celebrating 35 years of storytelling in the entertainment space - be that in toys, animation or live-action (well, vastly CGI) movie making. “We are thrilled to keep broadening our cross-generational appeal, leveraging the success of our Bumblebee movie, which generated $468 million worldwide at the box office,” explains Collins. “We have seen our powerful storytelling have great impact on our CP business in categories from publishing to softlines, to fan collectables.” There’s now not a category in the pop culture or children’s entertainment space that Hasbro isn't a part of. The toymaker will be hitting the kids’ content space with a new animated short form programme in Cyberverse on Cartoon Network, with

some “exciting plans for 2020,” including a new animated series, War for Cybertron produced, once again, in partnership with the streaming giant, Netflix.

“Dungeons &Dragons is continuing its path as one of the leading fantasy entertainment franchises today.“ Casey Collins, Hasbro Consumer Products

“Our success at retail is driven by our one voice franchise approach,” offers up Collins with a panache for the marketing vox pop. But as tweaked as the sentiment may seem, it’s certainly backed up by a successful licensing programme, that,

over the past year alone, has evolved into numerous direct to retail relationships across Europe, with partners like H&M, Inditex, Original Marines, C&A, and Tezenis among them. “Back in the UK, we continue to bring newness to this space with our newly launched Monopoly homewares range, for the first time on the I Want One of Those platform. We have also signed our first nonfashion DTR in the UK, and are excited to reveal more soon.” Oh, and if you’re wondering just what plans Hasbro has got for the 2018-acquired Power Rangers brand following the launch of its first content this March in Beast Morphers, Collins divulges a ‘simple but powerful approach.’ “It will be a total franchise management approach - from story, to product, to marketing,” he concludes somewhat ambiguously. Septemebr 2019 | toy news | 71

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EVOLVING POKÉMON Riding a wave of Western culture’s growing demand for the Japanese art form of anime and Manga, while tapping into new reaches of modern day licensing, Pokémon continues to evolve from strength to strength. ToyNews talks to Mathieu Galante, licensing director EMEA at The Pokémon Company International

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"With over 27.2 billion cards shipped to 77 countries, Pokémon TCG is one of the bestselling trading card games in the world." Mathieu Galante, The Pokémon Company International


aving generated just under $3bn at retail globally last year, and with an entertainment empire that spans video games, its own Trading Card Game, mobile games and apps – a space in which it pioneered a new mode of AR gaming through Pokémon Go – and now, of course, success in movies, it’s little wonder that Pokémon is one of the most successful brands in the world right now. ToyNews talks with Mathieu Galante, licensing director EMEA, The Pokémon Company International. Can you talk us through the plans for the Pokémon franchise for 2019 and

2020 – what is Pokémon bringing to the licensing space this year? 2019/20 brings exciting times for Pokémon, which is constantly innovating and finding new ways to harness tech and connect with fans. We have ground-breaking product launches, an expanding licensing programme, and multiple partnerships with major global brands and retailers. November 2019 will see the global launch of the latest video game Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, the first core role playing game on Nintendo Switch. It will be supported by a strong marketing and ad campaign throughout Europe. Ahead of the launch, a special Pokémon Center pop-up store selling exclusive items will open in London’s Westfield retail centre, while, for the first time, Sword and Shield character plush from Wicked Cool Toys will be promoted alongside the video game at key retail partners across Europe. Looking to next year, fans will be able to manage their Pokémon collection across multiple games with the launch of new cloud service app Pokémon Home. Meanwhile, Pokémon Sleep aims to turn sleeping into entertainment, with sleep time affecting game action. And following the huge success of the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu movie, a new Detective Pikachu game for Nintendo Switch is in the pipeline. The Pokémon Trading Card Game will include regular expansions in line with

Pokemon Sword and Pokémon Shield, featuring Galar characters due for release in 2020, which will be supported by wide scale retail promotions and TV campaigns. Of course, the Pokémon World Championships will be held in London in 2020. This is the first time they've left North America. Typically occurring in August of each year, the Pokémon World Championships sees the coming together of the best Pokémon TCG and video game players from around the globe. How has business been this past year and since the launch of Pokémon: Detective Pikachu? What growth have you seen for the brand this year? Pokémon: Detective Pikachu was not only a huge hit at the box office but achieved phenomenal exposure from its promotional programme which included a pop-up shop and promotions with Burger King, Zip Car and LGTV. This resulted in a significant sales lift for licensed products including toys, TCG and apparel. The halo effect from the film has also benefited the brand as a whole, with sales of non-film related products also growing. The film provided us with a fantastic opportunity to secure significant retail promotions across a wide range of retailers including Harrods, Hamleys, Smyths, Tesco and Forbidden Planet. How is this being reflected in the toy space? Can you talk us through the success of the brand – how are the most recent toy partnerships resonating with fans? Our partnership with Wicked Cool Toys has provided us with an expanded toy range and with Character Options as our UK distributor they are able to deliver extensive distribution and strong marketing and retail support. This combination is delivering significant results at retail with a number of innovative new lines out this year. We are very excited about our ground-breaking product releases – including the My Partner Pikachu interactive and September 2019 | toy news | 73

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touch sensitive toys, and the Flame Action Charmander featuring light, sound and fiery flame action, and are confident they will rate highly on kids’ Christmas lists this year. In addition, the Pokémon Trading Card Game is the most popular strategic card game in the UK. We have a very strong partnership with Asmodée for the line. Puzzle partner Ravensburger will be releasing an extended product line across Europe in 2020 while video game accessory partners Hori, PDP, Power A and TCG accessories partner Ultrapro continue to create inventive tie-products. With regard to plush, our direct to retail collaboration with Build a Bear has seen a dozen new characters launched, and we also have a strong partnership with Toy Factory for Amusement plush. With the success of the film, continued success of the TCG and its obvious success in the video game and mobile game space – how is The Pokémon Company International sitting as a multi-faceted entertainment powerhouse today? Pokémon is one of the most successful entertainment franchises in the world, encompassing video games, the Pokémon

"In order to remain relevant, you have to look ahead and adapt. Pokémon evolved from our three enduring pillars; animation, video games, and TCG." Mathieu Galante, The Pokémon Company International Trading Card Game (TCG), mobile games and apps, animation and movies, Play! Pokémon competitive events, and licensed products the company generated just under $ ($2.98bn) at retail globally last year. Key brand highlights include more than 340 million video games sold worldwide, making Pokémon one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time. Meanwhile, with over 27.2 billion cards shipped to 77 countries and regions in 12 languages, the Pokémon TCG is one of the best-selling trading card games in the world, a pretty big deal. Pokémon animation is licensed for broadcast in 169 countries and regions in over 30 languages.

But the Pokémon Company International is never content to sit on its laurels and will continue to find new and enterprising ways to bring ground-breaking products to market and engage with its enormous and loyal fan base. How have you guys seen the licensing space evolve over the past year or so? How is this shaping where you take the brand in the future? With increased entertainment platforms available across all devices there has been greater audience fragmentation. In order to remain relevant, you have to look ahead and adapt. Pokémon evolved from our three enduring pillars of animation, video games and TCG and has added live action movies and apps, increasing our global reach. Pokémon is available on all the main entertainment touchpoints that our fans engage with, and its constant evolution allows us to provide refreshed content across the year. The success of elements like our apps, the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu film and the new video game provide us with suitable tent poles to create cross-category promotions across a wide range of retailers across all markets. September 2019 | toy news | 75

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RACE FOR THE FINNISH The UK licensing agency Caroline Mickler has a portfolio of prestigious character and entertainment brands, from Horrid Henry to Paul McCartney’s new children’s book Hey Grandude!. She also looks after Finland’s greatest export in Moomin. ToyNews takes a look.


he first title in the Moomin novel series, penned by the widely-celebrated Finnish author, Tove Jansson, begins with Moominmaama and Moomintroll looking for a place to live after they have been forced to leave their home behind the stove due to the advent of central heating, proving that, from the very first instance, Moomin has been far more than another series of children’s books. That very same title - The Moomins and the Great Flood - goes on to see a search carried out for Moominpapa, feared drowned. Moomin has never been one to

shy away from some pretty hard-hitting topics. It’s most likely why it’s become such a culturally revered brand today - it’s certainly never pandered to an audience. In its 2019 Finnish-British animated adaptation from Gutsy Animations, there’s little by way of deviation from some of the bigger conversations, tackling topics like anxiety and mental health, environmental issues, and conservation, albeit with the majestic lense of Moomin fully applied. And, as one of Finland’s biggest and most successful exports, there’s little wonder as to why the country invests so heavily

in the Moomin lore. Moominvalley currently holds the title of Finland’s most expensive TV show, with a €20 million budget. Moomin is now preparing for a second season launch in early 2020, and with home entertainment for the first season out in shops now, and following a solid performance on Sky and growing audiences overseas it continues to serve Moomin Characters, Bulls Licensing and the UK licensing agent, Caroline Mickler as a staple across not only character and entertainment, but increasingly the lifestyle, and the art and design licensing sectors.

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"Bulls (the master licensor) has just found a new agent for the Moomin brand in America, which means for the first time it will launch properly over in the US, highlighting just how real the appetite for Moomin is at the moment. The new series has really driven that,” says Caroline Mickler, owner and namesake of the Caroline Mickler licensing agency. In fact, and with Mickler continuing to push new partnerships in the UK, Moomin continues to grow on the world’s stage. “There’s a focus for the brand this year on sustainability,” continues Mickler. “People Tree has launched an organic range of women’s clothing this year, while Moomin has launched its own campaign called Save our Sea, an effort to help restore the Baltic Sea back to where it needs to be after years of pollution have started taking its toll.” Moomin is but part of the Caroline Mickler picture, however, armed as it is with other powerhouses of entertainment, too, including Horrid Henry, The Beatles, Yellow Submarine, and Paul McCartney’s own launch into the kids’ entertainment space with his fiction title, Hey Grandude! “This is very exciting, and very cute,” Mickler tells ToyNews. “It’s a nice story that explores the relationships between grandparents and their grandkids, while encouraging the adventurous side.” Hey Grandude! was launched in September at an exclusive Waterstones event, where McCartney himself was on hand to sign copies of the books for fans from across the world. Like Moomin, Hey Grandude! starts life in the licensing space as a published title, keeping high calibre company in a portfolio to envy. “We are pushing for apparel, as well as games and puzzles partners for this property, rather than the traditional toy partners. It lends itself better to that market,” says Mickler. “Adventure backpacks and travel accessories, too.

“What with Hey Grandude! being a Paul McCartney property, we will be looking for partners that have ethically sourced and sustainable products. That’s an absolutely

"Bull Licensing (the master licensor) has just found a new agent for Moomin the US, meaning the brand will launch properly in that market for the first time. This highlights how big that appetite for Moomin is at the moment. The new series has really driven that." Caroline Mickler key part of the programme. Paul is a vegan you see, so this topic is very dear to him.” Available in 27 languages and counting, Hey Grandude! is already off to a strong

start. It just hit the number four spot in the pre-school book chart, and number two in the hardback picture book chart here in the UK, while in the US it’s number four on the New York Times bestseller list. But this isn’t enough to be keeping Caroline Mickler busy for 2020. Add to the portfolio Feisty Pets, an IP that started out life in the toy space as a YouTube sensation, and continues to grow on the platform today, as it builds out a roster of licensing partnerships, including Jazwares for master toy, Scholastic for publishing, and Rubie’s for dress up. “Beyond toys, Feisty Pets lends itself to apparel, however, there is good potential for the brand in games - I’d like to see a Top Trumps style of game,” says Mickler. “The brand is about being mischievous, and allowing kids to explore the Feisty and nonFeisty side. It’s empowering, allowing kids to be cheeky, without being naughty. “We have more characters and more facial expressions amid the line-up this year, and the brand is so open to consumer engagement on a larger level, thanks to the YouTube content we see uploaded by fans every single day. This is a brand that encourages creativity and humour.”

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Hot Brands


The Roald Dahl Story Company is returning to Brand Licensing Europe this year with a renewed take for the toy aisles, thanks to successful partnerships with Hasbro, Winning Moves, Green Board Games and more. Robert Hutchins talks to senior licensing manager, Rebecca French

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Hot Brands

What are you guys bringing to Brand Licensing Europe this year? Our licensing strategy aims to extend the world of Roald Dahl beyond the book and bring his stories to life with product inspired by core titles in ways that will delight fans young and old. We’ve continued to build on our Hero Year strategy with our ‘Year of Matilda’ - a year-long programme of activity focused around Roald Dahl’s brave bookworm, from our partnership with World Book Day through to our Roald Dahl Day celebrations on September 13. This year, Matilda has been voted as an icon of modern-day bravery and brought new publishing to the market, alongside a raft of top-drawer partnerships, promotions and experiences. For 2020 we plan to expand our focus, introducing two new titles with Fantastic Mr Fox and The Witches joining Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, James and The Giant Peach, and The Enormous Crocodile in our existing licensing portfolio. Illustrations from Quentin Blake are also integral to our Classic Licensing Program and BLE is a key moment to share our latest art direction with all those potential new partners. What current partnerships do you guys have in the toy space? Toy is definitely a growing category for us. We launched Roald Dahl Monopoly last year and our Roald Dahl Top Trumps continue to be a great success. We’ve also been working with Green Board Games on the Brainbox lines, and Paul Lamond who has developed a range of puzzles across all of our core titles. The demand for these puzzles and games extends far outside of the UK and we also work with Aquarius in US, newly signed MGM in Australia and Thos Holdsworth in New Zealand. In the pre-school category we have a beautiful collection of plush characters from Rainbow Designs. We also can’t not mention our enormously successful dress up lines from Smiffys, which continues to grow year on year. What are you guys bringing to the toy space through your IP this year and

beyond? What can we all be excited about? 2019 has already been a fantastic year with a number of new product launches from our valued partners. Following the success of Roald Dahl Top Trumps and Roald Dahl Monopoly, Winning Moves has launched a second Top Trumps set and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Cluedo will arrive in stores in time for Christmas. Paul Lamond has also launched two new educational games, and The Green Board Game Company introduced a new board game concept to much fanfare at Toy Fair earlier this year. Finally, in support of new pre-school books, Rainbow has launched a brilliant Enormous Crocodile puppet. How have you seen the licensing space evolve over the last few years and how are you adapting to these changes? I think the real buzzword of the moment is ‘sustainability’, with an increasing number of licensors placing a growing emphasis on the topic in their licensing strategy. This year has seen some amazing brand partnerships at retail and consumer demand for ethically sourced and

recyclable product is only set to grow. Sustainability and ethical sourcing are both very much considerations in our strategy as we move forward. What's next for the Roald Dahl Story Company in the licensing space? We are looking forward to further developing our licensed portfolio across all categories. For our Classic Licensing Programme, 2020 will see the launch of an exciting new partnership in the kids clothing category - plus more whizzpopping products in homewares, gifting and in the health & beauty space. Looking further ahead, the next few years will see us continue to evolve our multi-title classic programme. We are also beginning the planning for a new Roald Dahl Universe, as we head towards a brand-new slate of story adaptations in partnership with the streaming giant, Netflix. This new animation programme will bring with it a mass market licensing opportunity and see our licensing program hit a new scale. On top of this, we also have a number of new movies, stage shows, partnerships, and immersive experiences in the pipeline. September 2019 | toy news | 79

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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

Wooden toys

The French connection…

Headquartered in Britain’s Surrey, Le Toy Van couldn’t be more quintessentially British, with its artisan family-run business supplying the likes of Harrods and Selfridges with its dolls houses and wooden toy play-sets. All except, the toymaker is very much a global business with strong French ties, which accounts for much of its success on the world stage


e Toy Van enjoys that it’s a small company based in the British county of Surrey, but competing on a global scale with some of the biggest names in the toy industry today. Almost 25 years into its gig, it very much plans on keeping things that way.

There’s no immediate urgency to deliver the grand global growth plan for this family-run outfit, and while the corporate powerhouses of the toy world are feeling the pressure amid the current climate, things are decisively slower-paced at the wooden toy specialists.

That’s not to say Le Toy Van hasn’t got more than enough to be keeping itself busy with; when the final pieces of the plan come together for its big anniversary year in 2020, its Hampton Court Palace garden party is certainly going to be a monumental occasion for this small but close-knit team September 2019 | toy news | 81

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Wooden toys of toy experts. And all the while its pack of designers and developers will continue to work diligently on the releases it has planned for the year ahead. Yet, talking with Le Toy Van’s marketing assistant, Alice King about the busy 12 months the company now has ahead of it, especially as it prepares for its most crucial time of year in the Q4 Christmas gifting season, and readies itself for yet another Toy Fair season to roll around, you get the feeling this little British toymaker is all rather relaxed. Perhaps it’s the continental European influence from its French heritage at work? Or perhaps it’s that Le Toy Van simply knows where to focus its energy - quite firmly into product roll out. “We’re actually celebrating a string of award wins for our product portfolio, which has been great for boosting our recognition and profile in the industry,” King tells ToyNews. “We’ve actualy won awards in the Loved By Parents Awards, the European

Product Design Awards, and the Right Start Awards and it’s all proved to have been a real boost for us.”

“We feel a responsibility to set an example to ourselves and the industry, as well as send a strong message of sustainability to the generations of kids now growing up with our wooden toys.“ Alice King, Le Toy Van

In fact, King is being a bit modest of Le Toy Van’s achievements. The wooden toy specialist has also secured a runner up place

in the Absolutely Mamma Awards, a Recommended in the Loved By Parents Tried and Tested, and a top spot in the Independent Toy Awards. That’s just in 2019 alone. Over its 25 year history, Le Toy Van has now won over 200. If there were any immediate growth plans going on at the toymaker right now, it would be about in which room do they extend the trophy cabinet. But this isn’t a company to dwell on the achievements of the past for too long. It’s got its product line up for the coming years to think about. And, given the lengthy procedure of diligence and care that goes into the 18 month product development process for anything Le Toy Van launches, there’s very little time for basking in glory. “You see that in the quality of the end product, that time spent on designing and redesigning every concept we come up with,” explains King. “These are toys, yes, but they’re more than that, too. We want these to be toys that last, that get handed

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down from sibling to sibling and from generation to generation, like an heirloom. “We are meticulous in what we do. Just when you think something looks pretty much perfect, someone will spot something and it will be back to the drawing board; but that’s what you get with a small, family-run business. Everything that comes out comes from a place of passion and pride, so there is always a lot of thought into everything that we do.” Of those products launched this year, King is keen to highlight the success and popularity of the Stacking Veggies, its Activity Walkers, and it’s big box - OK, giant box - item, the Le Toy Van Palace Dolls House.

“All of our dolls houses tend to start selling well around this time of year, and as we move into the Christmas shopping period, sales really start to pick up,” says King. “But this is a snapshot of the diversity of our product portfolio; Le Toy Van can sit just as comfortably in a Harrods pop-up shop - and our recent Harrods pop-up shop did really well for us, as it can in a smaller, independent toy shop - a gift shop or a little boutique retailer. "After some initial positive response, we have high hopes that our dolls houses will be big performers for us this Christmas. But equally, so will our smaller items like the Stacking Veggies, this is a line that symbol-

ises the whole green message we have been trying to convey over the past year.” Le Toy Van kicked off the year with a big statement to the industry that it was intent on leading the charge for sustainability within toys and toy production, working on a campaign to remove plastic from its products and its packaging. Almost ten months on, it’s still very much mission statement number one for the firm. “With anything in this field of sustainability, it’s about taking those little steps, or doing whatever you can, to build up to the bigger picture. We will continue to grow our efforts, review each process and keep on changing things as we can in the name of sustainability, right down to the rubber wheels on a toy car,” explains King. It was a mix of mind-sets that brought Le Toy Van to this point formulated of a conscious move on the toymaker’s part to be leading the sustainable toy movement in the industry, met at the same time, by a rising awareness, conscience and demand from the consumer for more sustainable toys and products. “It’s our belief that we have a responsibility to set an example to ourselves and to the industry,” says King. “More than anything we want to be sending out a strong message to the generations that grow up with our toys. The toy industry is a direct influencer upon how children grow up, and the beliefs they hold in regards to the products they engage with. “We want to influence a positive change in this space, bring them away from throwaway toys and to cherish a toy that can be kept for a lifetime.” It’s in this regard that Le Toy Van likes to distinguish itself from the major names in the toy industry, freed by an ability to pursue a mind set and an ideal without being necessarily hamstrung by spreadsheets. Yet still, the company likes to think it can roll with the big players just as effectively. “Social media has really opened this opportunity up for us to compete with the major toy companies,” says King. “It’s given us an almost immediate world stage, and we are fielding business enquiries from across the world now. It’s thanks to things like Instagram that you can have an instant connection with an audience, and online presence is so important in building an international brand.” September 2019 | toy news | 83

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Wooden toys

Mattel 01628 500 111 Mattel’s wooden toy ranges continue to expand in 2019, with new products from its popular Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends line. The Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway includes Tidmouth Sheds, which features a working turntable that lets children roll a train onto the platform then spin to choose a direction with up to four track connections. The turntable features five bays with doors that can fit five wooden engines, while the roof opens to seat works. The set even comes with Nia the newest entrant to the Tidmouth Sheds line-up, included. Next up, the Thomas & Friends Wood Cranky at the Docks includes three characters: Cranky the crane, Bulstrode, and Dock manager. It also comes with four cargo pieces and two track adapters which are compatible with other wooden track systems. Cranky the crane keeps everything moving at Brendam Docks with its working magnetic crane arm. Finally, new AW19 engines in the Wooden Thomas & Friends Range include the Wooden Diesel and the Wooden Hiro.

Ravensburger 01869 363 800 Brio continues to lead the way with innovative introductions to the open-ended play of the Brio World railway system and the Brio My First Railway range. Offering new ways for children to explore their imaginations and make new discoveries in the Brio World, Smart Tech trains and features put children in the driving seat. As they arrange and rearrange interactive tunnels and destinations that interact with Smart Engines, children can customise their play experience in endless ways. New Smart Tech destinations for 2019 include the Container Crane and Lifting Bridge. Additional new expansions on the Brio World include an engaging safari theme.The 26-piece Safari Adventure Set, including steam train, tracks, animals and poseable ranger, inspires children to explore the savannah and admire the animals in their natural setting. The Brio My First Railway, fully compatible with the Brio World railway system, offers younger fans the chance to start their wooden railway collection. The newest introduction, the My First Railway Farm, brings frustration-free, interactive learning fun to help teach toddlers about farmyard animals. The five included animals fit into the animal wagon, ready to be transported to the farm. Each one has three distinct sounds, which are activated automatically when placed in the farm meadow. Brio is set to be top of mind for families this year, supported by a 360 degree marketing programme including a first TV campaign for the brand. The campaign will immerse viewers in the Brio World, including the Brio World Railway Starter Set, Brio World Smart Tech Engine with Action Tunnels Set and the Smart Tech Action Tunnels with Track Set. A full menu of merchandising options will assist retailers in creating an impactful Brio destination in-store.

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Tobar Tobar has a timeless classic range which focuses on the wonder of wood, wooden games and puzzles - including dominoes - and an array of shape sorters all for this season. There is an innovative twist in the Robot Building Blocks as it forms two colourful, futuristic robots, while the traditional needs are catered for with the beautifully finished and packaged Lion Stacker. Pull alongs are always popular as gifts and Tobar has a brightly coloured pull along Tractor complete with a horse, cow and a pig; each a lovely chunky wooden toy which is great for little fingers. On top of this, the pull along Unicorn and the pull along Dragon tick all the boxes for current meets classic. Wooden playsets packed full of pieces include a farm, a Noah’s Ark and a Pirate Ship. The contemporary design and bright colours attract the eye and the packaging has been designed to maximise shelf space and eye appeal. The versatility of this wooden range is also demonstrated in the Wooden Car Transporter, complete with colourful chunky wooden cars. New for this year and very well received at the fairs is the Wooden Stack and Sounds Train. This all purpose product comes in Try Me packaging which will prove irresistible to customers. Just press down on the funnel and the train plays one of three sounds. The carriages of the train double up as shape sorters and stackers and the whole item trundles along to act as a push along toy too. Teaching toddlers coordination and colour while being great fun to play with.

Casdon 01253 608 428 Bringing traditional arts and crafts into the home is top of the bill for Casdon this season as it introduces the Casdon Wooden Easel. Not only does it encourage children to create and show off their artistic masterpieces, but it also helps them to develop their fine motor skills through the creative process of drawing. The traditional Wooden Easel houses a chalkboard surface on one side and a wipeclean magnetic surface on the other, allowing parents and kids to enjoy no mess drawing. Children can use the chalk included to create their masterpieces, or hang paper for colourful drawings using the contained clips to make sure their works of art stay in place. Check in with Casdon this season to discover the latest products it has to offer in the run up to Christmas this year. September 2019 | toy news | 85

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Industry moves This month, an industry veteran joins as executive chair at Steamforged Games, Halilit welcomes a new marketing executive, Brand Licensing Europe’s Anna Knight receives a promotion, and Wow! Stuff bids a fond farewell to an industry favourite HALILIT The baby and pre-school toy and product specialist, Halilit, has welcomed OLIVIA CUDWORTH to its expanding team, bringing the young marketing talent in as its new digital marketing executive. The move comes as Halilit looks to grow its presence in the digital space over the coming years. Cudworth will be implementing Halilit’s enhanced consumer awareness and social media strategy and is excited to meet retailers at Toy Fair 2020 to maximise growth opportunities for the year ahead. The new recruit has spoken of her excitement, stating that she is “delighted to be joining Halilit during its current period of growth.” With over three years’ experience in the field, as well as a Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification and a degree in journalism, Cudworth is looking forward to utilising her skills with the company.

STEAMFORGED GAMES The former senior executive of industry giants Hasbro and DreamWorks, and the man responsible for the relaunch of Action Man to the UK market, SIMON SPALDING, has been named the executive chair for the tabletop games developer and retailer, Steamforged. Spalding’s appointment at the firm comes following a 12-year period in international, commercial and production management roles at Fremantle Media, the television producer known for shows such as The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. The entertainment industry veteran has taken an executive role on the boards of several media companies over his career, the latest being Steamforged Games.

LEARNING RESOURCES “I’m incredibly pleased to be joining Steamforged at such an exciting time in the company’s growth,” said Spalding. “With the support of our new investor, Foresight Group, we aim to build on Steamforged’s reputation as an industry leader in creativity, quality and game experience. “As well as strengthening our existing partnerships, in the coming year we’ll be focusing on developing original intellectual property and expanding our distribution.” Prior to Fremantle Media, Spalding spent 14 years at Hasbro, during which time he worked on marketing and brand development for multiple brands including Trivial Pursuit, Transformers, Play-Doh, and Jurassic Park.

The toy industry and baby product expert, THOMAS BAKER has taken up a new role with the education-focused toy firm, joining the team as its new head of sales for the EMEA region. “We’re delighted that Thomas is joining us at this important time in our company’s growth,” said DENNIS BLACKMORE, managing director. “Thomas has a proven record of developing and executing effective sales strategies and is a key appointment to the company. He’ll focus on maximising our strong relationships with our retail partners in the UK and Europe and expanding on our existing base in the Middle East, Africa and India.” Of the current market, Baker said: “Trends indicate that parents are keen to dovetail home learning with what’s going on in the classroom and build on core concepts like numeracy skills and critical thinking through encouraging hands-on play with educational toys." Baker’s appointment comes as the company moves towards the Q4 sales period. He will be based in Amsterdam and will manage a strong sales team across the EMEA region.

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Informa Markets has promoted ANNA KNIGHT – the name behind the annual Brand Licensing Europe event – to vice president, Global Licensing Group, following a two month period as interim managing director for the division. Knight has worked for Informa Markets (formerly UBM) for 10 years, most recently holding the position of event director for BLE, the leading brand licensing event, which takes place at ExCeL London from October 1 to 3. In her new role as vice president, Knight will continue to be responsible for the strategic and commercial performance of Brand Licensing Europe; Licensing Expo Las Vegas, the world’s largest licensing trade show; the Licensing Leadership Summit, which is an annual executive conference that takes place in New York City; as well as the group’s media division, License Global. Knight will also work in partnership with Informa Markets Asia in the continued delivery of Licensing Expo China and Licensing Expo Japan.

Director, JON BIRCH is to step down from his position at the award-winning toymaker after 11 years of sterling service, overseeing the company’s significant growth and expansion in the toy, gift, and gadget market over the past more than a decade. “It’s all about the people. So when a hard working, trusted colleague leaves the company it’s a sad day. Jon goes with our deep heartfelt thanks and best wishes,” said Wow! Stuff’s CEO RICHARD NORTH. Birch leaves the company as it enters another year of ‘unprecedented growth,’ underpinned by the success it has seen in the innovative licensing space with its Wizarding World of Harry Potter range. “The time feels right for a change,” said Birch. “It’s been an absolute pleasure, incredible journey and an honour to have worked with the Wow! Stuff team but now feels the right time. I leave as the business is entering unprecedented growth in 2019 with a raft of new product innovations and brands set for launch in 2020.”

The plush specialist, Posh Paws, has welcomed the much-loved industry personality LEE-ANNE NEALE as its new sales manager this season. With over 20 years’ experience in the toy, gift and nursery categories, Neale brings a wealth of knowledge from companies such as Moose Toys, KD Group and Re:Creation to name a few. ALAN SMITH, managing director of Posh Paws, commented: “We are thrilled to welcome Lee-Anne to the company at such an exciting and evolving time for the business. Lee-Anne’s proven history of developing strong and long-lasting relationships and understanding of the industry makes her a valuable asset.” Neale joins as Posh Paws continues its upwards trajectory in the market, recognised for its vast ranges of specialised and licensed plush and accessories. Neale added: “I'm excited to join Posh Paws, a company known for producing high quality licensed plush, and to be able to work with a team of dynamic individuals.”

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The Number 1 Toys & Licensing Recruiter

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CROWDFUNDING CORNER The crowdfunding scene remains a hot bed of creativity for the toy and games space. Here, ToyNews rounds up the latest titles to hit the Kickstarter platform

Your Teacher’s Pet Creature Created by Jonathon Denholm Status: Preparing to launch Your Teacher's Pet Creature comprises of one nicely illustrated picture book and a cute plush toy to encourage positive behaviours in kids. The creators are launching the project as a fun and useful teaching resource via Kickstarter on September 29, this year. Think Elf on a shelf, but for the entire year, Your Teacher’s Pet Creature project comes with a big promise to make educators’ and teachers’ lives easier by making classroom behaviour management ‘simple and cute.’ In fact, Your Teacher's Pet Creature, is billed as a unique and fun approach to early childhood behaviour management, and is now available for pre-order on Kickstarter. It comprises an illustrated picture book,

FuzzlePuffs Created by: Angel Goulter Status: Currently in Kickstarter Artist and toymaker Angel Goulter started making toys at eight years old. The FuzzlePuff is the culmination of a lifetime of design, and has already been a popular line among a small distribution circle. Goulter’s current Kickstarter project is just another step taken by the artist to make toy making a full-time job. The three designs of FuzzlePuff currently available are: Skulkin, Flutterby, and Tripsy. Known for their quick action and ability to move through tricky situations

a plush toy, and a digital resources pack with supporting activities, posters, reward charts and more. Your Teacher's Pet Creature is the brainchild of Maria Denholm, an early childhood teacher with close to a decade of experience working in schools and early learning centres. Her training and practice have been instrumental in refining this

project to its current phase. While an avid writer, Maria’s husband Jonathon has played an active part in the venture. The proceeds from this Kickstarter campaign will be used to bring ‘Your Teacher's Pet Creature’ to the market. Plenty of early-bird specials and exclusive Kickstarter pricing are available for the backers.

Skulkin FuzzlePuffs are sharp minded, cunning and able to hide in plain sight. Flutterby, meanwhile, are beautifully winged FuzzlePuffs and are graceful, calm and caring. Finally, Tripsy are big-eared FuzzlePuffs, can be a bit reclusive but Tripsies are creative and clever, and they may surprise you with their wild spontaneity. Tripsies are always doing something artistic, be it drawing, painting, sculpting, singing, or dancing. The Kickstarter project runs until the end of the month.

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Bossing it

Bossing it… with Lesley Singleton Each month, ToyNews selects a toy industry bigwig to put through the paces with a series of prying, personal, and some might say impertinent questions. This month, it’s Playtime PR and Board Game Club’s founder Lesley Singleton


o Lesley, winner of ToyNews Woman of the Year, founder of Playtime PR and Board Game Club - why toys and games? How did this all start off for you? My first client in the toy industry was Bananagrams. I started working with them in a freelance capacity back in 2011 and gradually other brands seemed to like the tailored approach I was taking and the results it was delivering. By 2014, my entire clientbase was toys and games brands, so that’s when I launched Playtime PR – so that I could almost ‘formalise’ our offering as a toys and games PR agency. After working in travel, leisure and entertainment, I felt like I’d found a sector I was personally passionate about, one brimming over with innovation and creativity but with real heart – I love the rich, emotional connection that every person on the planet has with toys in some shape or form. What are the biggest changes you've seen in the industry over your time within it? In the grand scheme of things, I’m still a newbie. Probably the main shift I’ve noticed is in how accessible the industry has become for budding toy and game designers, which in turn has made the products hitting our shelves all the more exciting. When I first started working with new inventors, they really had to battle to get in front of big brands or to see key buyers. But now, for

a number of reasons, it feels like a more level playing field for those with strong ideas. That’s partly due to crowdfunding platforms enabling inventors to prove ideas and get them off the ground without taking the ‘traditional’ route; partly thanks to brands themselves helping to bridge the gap through their own innovation (I’m looking at you, Cartamundi); and also partly thanks to people like ToyNews, and Billy Langsworthy of Mojo Nation who have spotlighted new creative talent. Mojo Nation’s events are superb for connecting new designers with existing design teams and there are some excellent new discoveries coming to market as a direct result of these collaborations. What changes do you think the toy industry needs to make still where and to what does it need to adapt? I do feel the toy industry has started moving more quickly in the past couple of years, so with the challenges that await us thanks to Brexit, I’m certain it will evolve and adapt well. Beyond that though, our audiences are more socially conscious than ever before and that isn’t going to go away… toy companies need to take positive steps to ensure they’re acting ethically, responsibly and inclusively. Many already are – we’re seeing great impact from the Toy Like Me movement and a growth in inclusive toys hitting shelves, and I’m encouraged to see so many brands making serious commitments to sustainability today for the propserity of the industry in the future. September 2019 toy news | 89

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19/09/2019 14:02

Bossing it

In a career that has already had a lot of the loss of my Dad. He wasn’t in the industry highs, and a lot of award wins, only five – he was a London cabbie – but he loved toys years in... what would you say has been the and games. At birthdays and Christmas, he’d be best moment to date? trying to sneak a Scalextric or Hornby trainset I can’t pick a single moment because there onto my wishlist and he loved nothing more are too many. But three things stand out as than a few hours of The Game of Life, Hungry highlights of being lucky enough to do this job: Hungry Hippos or The Mr T Game (it existed, I • Having people trust my strategies – like pity the fool who says it didn’t). Building LEGO Bananagrams when I said we needed to get villages; drawing with Spirograph or my Crayola the game into as many hands as possible back easel; role-playing with my collection of Barbies, in 2011. I know that this strategy played a Sindys and forever-naked baby dolls; sewing fundamental part in taking that game to critical with GALT kits bought with my pocket money; mass. I also know that the game wouldn’t be trying to blow the house up with my chemistry appearing organically in TV comedies and set or putting on shows after mastering my Paul dramas were it not for those early, sustained Daniels’ magic set… my childhood weekends efforts to build the brand in the UK. The strategy were all about toys and playing. Dad’s love of play that Rena Nathanson, CEO of Bananagrams, has always been ingrained in me and I suppose entrusted me with back then would’ve been seen – albeit subconsciously – that’s what pushed as risky by so many at the time. But she got it. me on when I first tentatively thought about And she genuinely trusted me to deliver. The fact launching Playtime: I could work in a sector I already love. I could play and it would be actual that we still – almost daily – see the results of work. And finally, for the first time since I’d left those efforts in the form of tangible, major press school, my Dad had some semblance of coverage is proof that playing the long understanding of what on earth I game with a brand is worth it. did for a living. • Getting to work with the "My dad's love of best talent I’ve ever known – I’ve built a brilliant team play has always been So, what's next for you? of senior, experienced, ingrained in me, and As brands trust talented PRs who I Playtime even more admire and respect I suppose - albeit with bigger and better massively. I love that my subconsciously ideas, I look forward to business model enables continuing to deliver the me to handpick the very that's what pushed solid ‘bread and butter’ PR best people to work with me on in work." support we’ve always offered and that I can genuinely Lesley Singleton but with added emphasis promise our clients the on devising bigger creative absolute best in the business. activation bursts to really drive These guys know what will sales and brand impact. We’ve pushed the land, know what won’t, and – just like the needle over the last couple of years with really best toy designers – aren’t afraid to pull things solid campaigns and events – I’d love to see more apart and put them back together again, over and brands willing to push the boundaries further over until they know they’ve got the solution. and try new things. For me personally? As well • Being able to meet the fantastic minds behind as Playtime, I’m also developing some game the toys and games. Richard Heayes, Adam ideas with a couple of folk I really admire and Borton, David Snow, Rena of course, Sally Jacobs, respect, so that’s an interesting new experience. James Austin-Smith… Plus I’m exploring ways in which the Virtual PR Agency model can be replicated in other sectors Board Game Club arguably offers many and helping to champion the business model as their first step into the toy and game a whole in my role on the PRCA’s VPRA working industry, a lovely legacy to have. When did group alongside Charlie Le Rougetel of Big Top you know you wanted a career in toys and PR. The future is absolutely in collaboration and games? Any early gaming memories that I’m fortunate enough to have pooled a brilliant stoked this particular flame? ‘collective’ of talent over the past few years, Like I said, everyone on the planet has an many of whom I’m keen to work and create with emotional connection to toys… for me, that’s in the coming years. become even stronger in recent years following


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90 | toy news | September 2019

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19/09/2019 14:02

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RRP £27.99

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


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