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Contents October 2017 Features


COVER STORY: SOME LIKE IT HOTH We explore Disney's galaxy of products ahead of Star Wars: The Last Jedi's release.

Opinion 06 Gary Grant 07 Deb de Sherbinin 08 Amanda Gummer 09 Rob Corney

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INTERVIEW: ACAMAR FILMS Having had a stellar time in the pre-school space, we find out what's next for Bing.


FEATURE: BLE THINGS TO SEE This year's show boasts a raft of activities, from its iconic character parade to panel sessions.


INTERVIEW: STEVE PASIERB A look into licensed toys and the sector's future.

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Market Data 52 Generation Media 54 ToyShop UK 57 Campaign of the Month Product Guide 59 Licensed 66 Wooden Back pages 72 People 73 Team of the Month 74 Final word

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Featuring: Flair Leisure Products, Bandai, Playmobil, Halilit, Ravensburger, Zimpli Kids, Spin Master & many more ...

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Welcome W


October 2017


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No. 188 | October 2017

In toys we trust

Editor Robert Hutchins


Deputy Editor Jade Burke Staff Writer Jack Ridsdale Sales Manager Jodie Holdway Production Executive James Marinos Designer Nikki Hargreaves Managing Director Mark Burton

Follow us @toynews online

he news of the current predicament that Toys R Us finds itself in has failed to escape anyone’s attention over the last few weeks. While it may not have been a bolt out of the blue, considering the financial difficulties the retail giant has found itself in not just this year, but for a number preceding it, has managed to cause shockwaves across the industry. Toys R Us hasn’t actually filed for bankruptcy. However, to have filed for protection against insolvency under Chapter Act 11 in order to restructure its $5 billion debt in the US and Canada is as good as such. Is the concern around the move all being blown out of proportion a tad? In this instance, we think not. The position that Toys R Us has found itself within and the actions it has taken to avoid such an outcome has elicited quite the reaction from the toy industry. Hasbro and Mattel have both leapt to the aid of the retailer, while MGA has voiced its own concerns over the scenario. The loss of Toys R Us, while not quite cataclysmic, would certainly impact upon the global toy industry in ways far greater than a simple loss of earning for the fat cats in the US. Perhaps MGA’s Isaac Larian could put it more succinctly. In a recent interview, the CEO of the global children’s entertainment studio made the bold claim that “if there is no Toys R Us, there is no toy industry.” While many of our friends in the independent retail sector would rush to counter the point (our social media channel has been awash with such retorts), there may be an element of truth in the statement. OK, Toys R Us needs to deliver more in terms of in-store experience, eventing – blimey, even the customer service needs some tweaking – but it's a port of call for kids and adults that keeps sales buoyant in a brick and mortar arena; an institution within the market. Let’s just hope that by 2022, the company’s plans to turn business around, all comes together. And from one toy giant to another, our own deputy editor, Jade Burke will be leaving the team. With a new editorial team in place ready for BLE this month, we wish her all the very best. She’ll be missed, even if her vocals could do with a bit of work. Robert Hutchins, Editor

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Are you not entertained? by Gary Grant

2017 has been a difficult year for the toy industry. With the double-edged sword of exchange rates and rising labour costs, retailers are taking more hits to their earnings. With the devaluation of the pound and the fallout of Brexit, retailers will be expected to be more cautious than ever. Despite the myriad challenges facing the industry, we are proud to reveal that The Entertainer has reported strong growth in the year’s first half, with sales up a healthy six per cent. The first important thing to understanding this success is not to draw direct comparisons to other businesses in the market. With 37 years of trading behind us, The Entertainer knows that knocking the industry is not the way to get ahead. Instead what has ensured our continued growth is a commitment to the core values that have seen us rise to the top of the retail space. For us, that starts with convenient placement. We want our retail locations to be where the people are. That prime placement is going to cost you, as will the premium quality shop decorations that catch the eye of our customers.

When it comes to products, watching trends is key. The spinner craze is so Entertainer. L.O.L. Surprise is so Entertainer. If our market share is about eight per cent we disproportionately perform, in lower priced, collectable, craze items, because it’s our USP. It’s not uncommon for The Entertainer to have between a 15 and 30 per cent market share in something that’s desirable, collectable and low priced. On top of this you’ve got various licensed brands, like Cars, that has a movie to support it and the products also boast that collectability, which is very on-trend at the moment. All of this combined with the fact that we are conveniently placed, offer fair pricing and a high level of customer service all resulted in our first half of the year results being marginally ahead of the market. That’s not to mention the boost we’ve received from new stores opening. The Entertainer is focused on three key areas of growth, our brick and mortar retailers, our online commerce and our international stores. As the economic situation grows more challenging, it has been important for us to make sure we are doing everything we can to cut costs, without compromising the quality of our offering. High standards are critical to set yourself apart from the crowd, as is intelligent budgeting and an eye for trends.

“High standards are critical to set yourself apart from the crowd.”

Gary Grant is the founder of toy retailer, The Entertainer, which has over 130 stores in the UK and six stores internationally.

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Business guidance: The power of mentorship by Deb de Sherbinin

The toy industry is ripe with numerous new product ideas from product inventors, gamers and parents. Bringing these ideas to life is a long process fraught with peril, and many people go down this path without fully understanding the challenges they’ll face. And oftentimes the inventor is so emotionally invested that they can’t see the wood through the trees. That’s where the power of mentorship comes in. I’ve been lucky enough to have several mentors in my life and their impact on me has been immeasurable. I now have the opportunity to pay it forward, and my work as an advisor and mentor for start-ups has really driven home to me the importance of helping them learn about the process, (and pitfalls), of developing and launching a product. A mentor can view things objectively and help the mentee come up with ideas that are new and different. It’s the classic ‘two heads are better than one’ approach. A mentee can tap into a mentor’s resources and experience, which has been honed over the course of his or her career. Additionally, a mentor provides candid feedback, challenges thinking, and helps the mentee define a confident path-forward.

Because mentorship and connections are so critical to success in business, the WIT Empowerment Day was created to support women-owned businesses at various stages of their growth – from inventors with a product idea to women who already manufacture and sell product. These entrepreneurs get access to dozens of toy industry veterans who share their years of experience and advice in speed mentoring sessions and one-onone product pitch sessions. “Our Empowerment Day and mentoring events have become a cornerstone of who we are and what we do,” says Ashley Mady, president of WIT and president at Brandberry, Inc. “And at the core are our members, women helping women to grow, thrive and succeed.” Besides Empowerment Day, WIT also hosts regional mentoring events, like the recent Speed Mentoring Event at Spin Master’s offices in southern California, where mentors from Spin Master, American Greetings Entertainment, Jakks Pacific, CENTA IP and GennComm provided mentees with expertise, fresh perspectives and guidance. A problem shared is a problem solved, and the attention, guidance and wisdom of a mentor is a powerful thing that can truly ignite your business. Mentoring creates advantages for both the mentee and mentor and makes our workplaces and industry better as a whole.

"The attention and wisdom of a mentor is a powerful thing." Deb de Sherbinin is founder and principal of Perk Consulting, which offers innovative thinking, marketplace savvy and strategic direction to entrepreneurs and growing companies.

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Top of the toys by Dr Amanda Gummer

We're coming to the time of year where everyone is making their predictions on this year's top 10 toys, and I roll my eyes and wonder when the toy industry, and the public will stop being so lazy. It is impossible to name 10 toys that are absolutely the best toys for all children this Christmas. Children of different ages, interests and abilities all need a balance of play opportunities and not just the latest products that have marketing teams chucking the big bucks at retailers to include it in their top 10 list. Even the most respected Dream Toys list is curated from the votes of toy retailers, not children or parents, so it's difficult to avoid feeling a little cynical about it. I know we all need to make a living and I love working in the toy industry, but I do sometimes wonder when the last time some of the big execs and sales reps actually played with any of the toys. I love watching children thoroughly engaged in their play, or seeing them break out into spontaneous, uncontrollable giggles, or see that beam that comes across their face when they master something new. There are so many benefits to playing that we should be protective of our industry’s reputation as the good

guys, and not let our work be devalued by cynical marketing gimmicks. My other issue with these lists are that they disadvantage both the smaller independent inventors - their products are rarely featured in these lists, despite often being innovative and engaging products, and the independent retailers - they are lower down the priority order for products in short supply due to higher than expected demand. Parents also need to take a bit of the blame for the proliferation of these lists - while they are time poor and stressed, wanting a quiet life, they are more susceptible to them, (who doesn’t like life to be made a bit easier), and instead of seeing the lists for what they are, they use them as shopping lists, thus perpetuating the cycle as the lists clearly work for retailers. If parents take a bit more interest in their children's development and not just give in to pester power, or assume that the toys on the list will help children 'fit in' or be more popular, the lists would lose some of their power and toy companies would spend more time making sure their products were really ‘good toys’. Surely we should be teaching our children that judgements about a person's character should not be based on whether or not they have the latest toy or designer trainers. So my plea - can we give those lists a little less air time this Christmas?

"Toy lists disadvantage the smaller inventors and retailers." Dr Amanda Gummer is the founder of Fundamentally Children, an organisation that offers expert advice on a variety of topics from toys and apps to parenting issues and kids’ safety.

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Content merger: Taking advantage of brand convergence by Rob Corney

Convergence, the coming together of content across multiple platforms, has been a major focus for the media industry since the advent of more interactive platforms and the return pathway of the digital signal. But the impact of the coming together of different outlets is seen more starkly within the licensing world than in most other areas. It’s still true today that great content, generally coupled with Hollywood budgets for retail support, can unilaterally drive a merchandising programme. However, the scale of reach achievable in today’s world means that times have changed and even a quick glance across the top brands in today’s market shows that those properties achieving universal touchpoints, are the ones which are truly achieving cut through and sustainable scale at retail. In an age where kids and adults are having their attention drawn away from traditional media channels by the second screen; and in a year in which the box office is showing its worst performance for a decade, those brands which are able to reach their audience through multiple channels will become the ones to achieve cut through among the high levels of background noise.

It’s no wonder then that we are seeing powerful new voices emerge from traditional channels such as toy and publishing, which have developed a scalable opportunity for themselves by diversifying into new areas of content. Shopkins is the market’s best example of the success that can be brought by developing a concept as a universe of content, soaring to the top of sales charts across multiple categories around the world. Developing a toy line with a compelling concept and appealing characters, the brand is further supported through popular webisodes and music video content. Overlaying more than a billion online views, the property proves itself further with DVD releases of film content, as well as continuing to diversify the physical lines, maintaining innovation and freshness through regular releases of toy lines and licensed ranges. Convergence provides, in one breath, a huge threat to the traditional media approach which seeks a huge presence in a single channel; but simultaneously, a huge opportunity for brands seeking a unified approach across multiple platforms. Traditionally ‘static’ channels such as toy are now able to bring depth to their characterisation, breathe life into their creations, reach huge audiences quickly and, as we are seeing, have become classic poacher turned gamekeeper in a licensing model, which is now seeing toy companies as both licensee and licensor.

"Content can unilaterally drive a merchandising programme." Rob Corney is the group managing director and CEO of Bulldog Licensing, a business he founded ten years ago.

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BING TO THE FUTURE It was Fisher-Price's biggest licensed toy launch to date, features within the top ten most watched series on CBeebies and already airs in 27 countries around the globe. Yet, Acamar Films says Bing is only just getting started. Robert Hutchins talks to Laura Clarke, senior licensing manager and Lee Harris, head of brand marketing, about the future of this pre-school hit


labyrinth of marketplaces, music venues and international foods, Camden Town is often ascribed the role of bohemian activity. An area that the likes of Dylan Thomas and Amy Winehouse made their home, it is London’s epicentre of artistry that, across generations, has always appealed to the creative mind. It stands to reason then, that four years ago its romantic allure was enough to entice the British film and television company, Acamar Films, into its cultural melee, and from it, produce one of the most successful home-grown pre-school characters of recent times. That character is of course Bing, the three year old protagonist of a self-titled animated series that, since its launch, has been the source of huge success for the independent outfit; bringing home chart topping success across toys, children’s books and broadcast that even stretched to a BAFTA nomination and an International Emmy win. Even if you’ve never watched an episode, you’ve heard of Bing, met as it was with a chorus of demand from kids and parents when news

of its master toy line from Fisher-Price first emerged in early 2015. Its episodes feature regularly in the BBC iPlayer’s Top 40 downloads and among CBeebies’ top ten shows, airing as it does five times a day, seven days a week. Now did Dylan Thomas ever achieve that? With the backing of controllers at the Beeb’s CBeebies behind it, a master toy partner in the global toymaker Fisher-Price and publisher in HarperCollins, Bing couldn’t be in a better position to take over the world. But how does one independent studio and its flagship character do that? Well, licensing is a good place to start. “The licensing potential for Bing was recognised quite early on,” Laura Clarke, senior licensing manager at Acamar Films, tells ToyNews. “Our success in the UK has given us a ‘model market’ on which we have been able to base our future brand growth and international expansion. We have secured best-in-class broadcast partners internationally, including Clan (Spain), MiniMini (Poland), ABC (Australia) and KiKa (Germany). “What’s more, the unisex and universal appeal of Bing, alongside the fact that it’s grounded October 2017 | toy news | 11

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in everyday life making it relatable to pre-schoolers, as well as the grown ups in their lives, is a bonus. Whether you live in the UK, Japan or Italy, Bing presents the universal challenges of pre-school life, from the importance of sharing to being afraid of the dark.” This, of course, has also meant that Acamar and its licensing agents have the perfect platform from which to create a ‘thoughtful, wide and varied licensing programme’ around Bing. In 2015, Acamar Films teamed with Fisher-Price to launch a range of pre-school toys to select retailers. Kept to a carefully curated minimum number of products, the launch took social media by storm. The result, of course, was that Bing became an overnight success and Fisher-Price’s biggest licensed toy launch to date. With a measured approach to the toy range – a contract that has recently been extended to 2019 – and the desire to avoid ‘flooding the market’ like some of its direct competitors, Clarke admits that Bing is only warming up. “We have only really scratched the surface in the toy space and we are keen to explore ways in which we can bring Bing’s world to life in a myriad of ways.” “We are looking at opportunities in the role-play and learning category, as well as arts and crafts, games, collectables and complementary toy sub-categories. Meanwhile, outside of toys, we are already seeing huge success in our first apparel range, which will continue into next year, as well as roll-out of the next phase of our licensing programme, taking Bing into food and health and beauty categories.” Bing make-up remover, we think not. But themed toothbrushes or bath products are almost a certainty and the manoeuvre into the more oblique categories goes someway to highlight the strength of Bing in the traditional licensing space. But why has Acamar seen such success with Bing, so early on and in a market as fiercely competitive as pre-school? “Pre-school is very crowded, not just in content but across all categories in licensing and we try not to get distracted by that as every brand is different,” she says. “Our strategy to launch only categories which are relevant over a longer period of time has stood us in good stead

We have only scratched the surface in the toy space and we are keen to explore ways in which we can bring Bing’s world to life in a myriad of ways. Laura Clarke, Acamar Films

for future growth. This is the model we intend to follow in other markets and those we are already in.” While that licensing programme may still be in its infancy, Clarke certainly sees potential for Bing to have evergreen status, underlining the firm’s commitment to its long-term growth and global potential. However, you can’t talk global domination and evergreen status unless you’re prepared to discuss the changing landscape of children’s media consumption. And as that landscape moves from linear to digital, so too is Acamar Films, aligning itself with the likes of Amazon and YouTube, as well as investing in digital marketing through online influencers, all in order to run parallel with today’s youngsters and grown ups.

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“We have seen the migration of shopping habits to online, with the emergence of digital first online retailers and have responded in kind,” Lee Harris, head of brand marketing at Acamar Films, explains. “We are investing in our digital content development with more focus on YouTube and apps. With YouTube now the number one search engine for little ones, we need to ensure that we are a part of the mix.” Investment in children’s digital is crucial to today’s entertainment studios. It’s why Acamar has already scheduled its second Bing app for a 2018 release, offering the consumer touchpoints for the brand where they require them most. “That’s not to say that digital is our only focus opportunity,” continues Harris. “Following the success of the CBeebies

The UK is a key territory for us, but we are gaining traction in the European markets such as Spain, Poland and Germany, too. Lee Harris, Acamar Films

Land Hotel partnership in which Bing is already a mini show. We will have another theatrical partnership in the coming months, launching our first nationwide touring Bing Live Show next year.” But perhaps Bing’s greatest strength is in its universal appeal to the global preschool market. The show already airs in 27 countries, making it a hugely translatable property not just in content but in its licensing strategy, too. Look up the translation of Bing in almost any language and you’ll notice the name doesn’t stray from its British moniker, while the themes tackled in each episode are not quintessentially British by any means, but the universal language of pre-school. It’s why, when it comes to the topic of further European expansion over the coming year, both Clarke and Harris are confident that the animated series can mirror the success it has already seen on home soil. “The UK is a key territory for us, but we are gaining traction in the European markets such as Spain, Poland and Germany, too,” continues Harris. “We launched the master toy line with Fisher-Price in Poland exclusively with the toy retailer Smyk earlier this year with great success, and we’re collaborating with our licensing agent ELC to identify further licensees for roll-out next year. Meanwhile in Spain, plans are afoot for toys to launch in 2018 among a raft of other licensees in partnership with our local licensing agent, El Ocho. “We are also exploring potential for launch in other key European markets, as well as other regions including the US, Russia and Asia where we think Bing could have a similar level of success as the UK and establish itself as the newest preschool evergreen classic.” In what both Harris and Clarke describe as an ‘incredibly exciting time for entertainment and brand licensing,’ the studio is only forecasting more growth, be that in tech and digital, taking Bing into new innovative areas or across physical touchpoints, such as live shows. What’s apparent is that with further global expansion on the cards for Acamar Films, Bing has and will, certainly continue to rack up the air miles as he continues to travel a long way from home. October 2017 | toy news | 13

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SHOWST O Boasting around 200,000sq ft in size, London’s Olympia will welcome a raft of licensors, licensees and agents this month. But with so much activity on the show floor, it’s tricky to know what to prioritise. To help, ToyNews has compiled a list of the 29 top things to see at the annual event from the video games zone and the infamous character parade. We also speak to some of the hottest kids’ brands to grace the show, from the likes of Universal to Sesame Street

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T OPPERS xxxxxxxx

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Making up one third of the major themes of this year’s big show, BLE is placing the focus on video game licensing. Don’t miss the brand new Gaming Activation Zone featuring video games from screen to store with an incredible retail space. Bestselling gaming franchises Horizon Zero Dawn, Candy Crush, Assassin’s Creed, Overwatch, Halo, Sonic, Street Fighter and Call of Duty will all be making an appearance. Location: The Gaming Activation Zone When: Open for the duration of the show


Are you new to the world of licensing and still trying to work out the difference between licensor, licensee and all those in between? Then make sure you attend LIMA’s popular ‘Intro to licensing” sessions at 10am on day one and day two in the Licensing Academy.

Location: Back of the Character & Entertainment Zone When: October 10th at 10am


If you’re looking to break into the video game licensing sector or are simply looking to learn a bit more about the emerging trend for gaming licenses, then have your questions prepped and be ready to fire them at BLE’s panel of experts at Tuesday’s Gaming Keynote taking place at 12pm in the Licensing Academy.


Everyone loves a parade and it just so happens that BLE host’s Europe’s biggest character parade every year. Join in the fray to catch sight of all of your favourite characters as they strut their stuff at 11am on day one of the show. Rumour has it you may see close to 100 characters, so make sure you get to the gallery level for the best view.

Location: The Character & Entertainment Zone When: October 10th at 11am

Location: Back of the Character & Entertainment Zone When: October 11th at 12pm


It’s no secret that innovation drives the licensing industry, so why not take the chance to listen to Angela Farragia and Lisa Shapiro from CAA-GBG as they talk through how you can create a culture of innovation and inspire you to keep innovating. The pair will be presenting at 12.30pm on day one within the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre.

Location: Brand & Lifestyle Theatre When: October 10th at 12.30pm

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Stay ahead of the licensing curve and uncover the next big thing at the annual License This! Competition final on October 12th. Watch the four shortlisted entrants pitch their property to a live audience and expert judging panel before this year’s winner is revealed. 2016's License This! winner Charlotte Reed of May the Thoughts be With You will also be on hand to talk through how her life has changed since her win one year ago.


Think you have what it takes to break the toy industry? Perhaps you are looking to discover the key to product innovation? Maybe you share an interest in what the future of the toy space will look like in the years to come? Visit Mojo Nation’s brand new Toy & Game innovation zone at this year's show to be inspired by some of the most interesting examples of licensed toys and games launched within the last 12 months in the industry, as well as some of the hottest lines launching for this Christmas 2017 and beyond.

Location: Stand J14 When: October 12th


Want to get a snapshot of what BLE 2017 has to offer you? Why not make your way upstairs to the brand new Product Showcase at the back of the Brands & Lifestyle Zone, where you will find more than 120 products from a huge variety of categories. It may just offer a touch of inspiration as you take in the levels of innovation the licensing industry has to offer. Location: Behind the Brands & Lifestyle Zone When: Open for the duration of the show


If you’re football crazy, don’t miss the chance to hear the Juventus story and discover how the Italian name went from football to global brand at 3.30pm on day one of the show. Head over to the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre to be a part of the story. Location: Brands & Lifestyle Theatre When: 3.30pm October 10th

Location: Next to the Gaming Activation Area on Stand D230 When: 2pm October 12th


A good joke is a great icebreaker for any meeting. Pop over to Start Licensing’s stand F71 and get a free joke courtesy of the iconic Beano comic and Start Licensing’s own resident joker, Ian Downes.

Location: Start Licensing Stand F71 When: For the duration of the show

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How licensable is your brand? Join Adam Bass from Golden Goose in the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre on day three of the show to discover just what makes a winning brand when it comes to consumer product development. Location: Brands & Lifestyle Theatre When: Thursday, October 12th at 11.30am


Don’t miss the return of the everpopular panel led by Richard Pink, starring speakers from Penguin Random House, Chupa Chups, Smiley and Fat Face taking place in the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre at 12.30pm on day two of the show.

Location: Brands & Lifestyle Theatre When: 12.30pm October 11th



Location: MTV Bar Stand D95 When: Bar open throughout show opening time

Location: Licensing Link Europe Stand B36 When: Throughout the duration of the show

All that roaming the show floor is thirsty work. Thankfully the MTV Bar on Stand D95 is guaranteed to give you the kick you need, offering visitors an immersive brand experience as well as a drink or two. What reason have you got not to go? We’ll see you there.

Feeling rejuvenated from your pit-stop, it’s time to meet the famous, or infamous, Sir Killalot from the BBC 2 show Robot Wars at the Licensing Link Europe stand B36. All Craig Charles impressions are welcome.


Cameras at the ready – let’s do a bit of elephant spotting. Take a photo with all six Elmer sculptures located around the show and be in with the chance of winning a prize. The sculptures have kindly been donated to the show by Wild in Art.

Location: Hidden around London’s Olympia When: Discover them all throughout the duration of the show

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Mad about football? Can’t get enough of the latest drama to sweep the WWE stage? Well, if you also happen to be into your collectables, make some time to drop by to see the Topps team on stand F65 for your chance to win WWE and Premier League prizes. Are you feeling lucky, punk? Take a chance on the team’s lucky dip Advent Calendars and see if you are a winner.

Location: Topps Stand F65 When: Drop by at any time during the show




Location: Historic Royal Palaces Stand L30 When: Anytime throughout the show

Location: The Light Fund Stand F69 When: The team is open to visitors throughout the show

Location: The Licensing Academy When: 12.15pm on Thursday, October 12t

Well, it’s probably time for a bit of culture, don’t you think? Make your way over to stand L30 to see Historic Royal Palaces’ newly launched collection of fine bone china, enamelled cuffs and silk scarves with licensee Halcyon Days, featuring inspiration from Hampton Court Palace and the Crown Jewels to name just a few.

The Light Fund has been doing some fantastic work with UK charities over the past year, with the Light Fund Treasure Hunt going down a storm. Visit the BLE official charity partners on stand F69, to hear all about the charity's fundraising work and maybe even enter its 2018 London to Dublin bike ride…just make sure you stock up on talc before hand.

How’s business going for you this year? Are you ready to take over the world? Attendees can hear first-hand how to assemble a panEuropean licensing programme with insights from Terri Niadna of Brandgenuity. Niadna will be talking in the Licensing Academy at 12.15pm on day three of the show, so be make sure you don't miss the talk.


And the culture doesn’t have to end there. Why not take your seat in the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre at 11.30am on day two of the show for a special ‘In conversation with’ session with Lauren Sizeland, director of business development and licensing at the V&A.

Location: Brands & Lifestyle Theatre When: 11.30am on Wednesday, October 11th

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All of those meetings you have booked in is thirsty work. Thankfully, BLE is a place to unwind and reflect just as much as it is to network and talk business. If you’re in need of refreshments or a pick me up, the Brands & Lifestyle bar, Brands & Lifestyle Café and the Art & Design Café all on the upper level of the show offers the perfect solution on a busy day.

Location: Brands & Lifestyle Café, Brands & Lifestyle Bar and Art & Design café all located on the upper floor of the show When: Pop in whenever you need a pick me up throughout the show


If you have an eye for a great design, or simply appreciate a nice bit of artwork, be sure to check out the amazing array of artists, designers and illustrators in the Art & Design Zone upstairs, including a gallery of their own work in the Art & Design Café. Location: The Art & Design Zone on the upper level of the show hall When: Throughout the show


Visit POSH Original Art on Stand J18 to discover the artwork of Jacqueline Hurley, who has had the honour of being invited to exhibit a selection of original paintings from her War Poppy Collection at the Royal Albert Hall for the Festival of Rememberance.


Like bees on honey, LIMA’s Kelvyn Gardner is all over BLE this year. Join him for the big Brexit debate at 10am on day three in the Licensing Academy. And if you miss him there, you’re bound to bump into him at any number of the talks and events he will be hosting throughout the show. Location: The Licensing Academy When: 10am on Thursday, October 12th

Location: POSH Original Art Stand J18 When: Throughout the duration of the show


Attendess should check out the BLE official Matchmaking Service and make the most of the programme. You can book your meetings in advance of attending the annual show. It’s a must do for any brand new visitors or exhibitors looking to meet likeminded invidiuals and network. Guests can register online now at to organise meetings.

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Drop by the Edutainment Licensing Stand G25 to meet first timers Flossy and Jim, a new colourful lifestyle brand designed for boys and girls from birth to millenials. Location: The Edutainment Licensing Stand G25 When: Meet the team at any time throughout the show


Hear Louise French from Beanstalk talk about how the world’s number one liquer brand uncovered new ways to savour the Baileys moment through licensing in the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre at 11.30am on Day One of the show. Location: Brands & Lifestyle Theatre When: 11.30am Tuesday, October 11th


Join Jane Evans from JELC and Judith Mather from The National Gallery as they talk about licensing our national heritage in the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre at 2pm on Day Two of the show.

Location: Brands & Lifestyle Theatre When: 2pm on Wednesday, October 12th


Flamingos, views of London and a drink or two. What reason have you got not to attend this year’s LIMA BLE Garden Party at Kensington Roof Gardens on the Wednesday evening? Tickets must be booked in advance through LIMA of BLE websites. Location: Kensington Roof Gardens When: Wednesday, October 12th

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Steve Pasierb

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Steve Pasierb

LICENSE TO THRILL As president and chief executive of the North American Toy Association, no one is better equipped to assess the health of the industry than Steve Pasierb. As the industry gets ready to hit London’s Olympia, Jack Ridsdale sat down with Steve to get the rundown on the biggest toy event in the US, licensed toys and the future of the Toy Association.


s retailers, suppliers and industry hangers on explore the vast halls of London’s Olympia venue at this year’s BLE, their minds may be cast back to industry shows of years past. No doubt, the most memorable show for all those lucky enough to attend is the New York Toy Fair. With its sprawling show floor hosted at the big apple’s famed Javits Centre, the vibrant trade show plays host to over 30,000 attendees, showcasing the latest in innovation and creativity in the ever-changing toy space. For those exhibiting at BLE, images of the show’s extensive licensed categories will spring to mind, an aspect of the space that Steve Pasierb, president and chief executive of the North American Toy Association is quick to highlight. “Licensed toys continue to be a strength, driving about 30 per cent of annual toy sales here in the US,” enthuses Pasierb. “Assuming that entertainment companies and brands continue to produce new content that engage consumers and create new properties, and that toy manufacturers continue to

make creative and innovative licensed toys, aggregate sales should do well in 2018 and beyond.” The space is undeniably one that is growing ever stronger by the day, boosted by the latest brand’s willingness to expand and take chances in a more diverse variety of categories. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and Justice League are just a few examples that promise to propel the licensed toy business,” continues Pasierb. “We’re seeing a range of products – from infant and preschool, to vehicles, to games. Best of all, these toys are hitting on the emotional aspect of a licensed character or storyline, while also deepening classic play patterns like role play, active play, arts & crafts, and so on.” However its not all positivity in the licensing sector. While the winter slate of family-friendly blockbusters look to re-invigorate toys with new life, Hollywood’s summer offering limped in with high profile releases, consistently disappointing with their box office returns. “Clearly, the US summer box office was a disappointment,” comments Pasierb. “I believe toy

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companies of all sizes need to be focused more on IP development and bringing their brands to life via entertainment channels. That would bode well for the industry and specifically for licensing.” Turning our focus towards the 2018 New York Toy Fair, Pasierb is quick to point out the continued growth of the show- despite the sizeable convention centre reaching capacity last year. “Even when an event has limited opportunity to physically grow, it must still grow in stature,” explains Paseirb. “We look at the entire audience attending and isolate their individual interests in being there, and then try to find ways to make their participation that much more valuable and worth coming back every year. There is rumor of some event space opening up in close proximity to the Javits Center. Perhaps that will be another solution until expansion is complete.” Behind the biggest event in the toy industry’s calendar is the all-important Toy Association, in many ways the backbone of the US-side of the industry. Earlier this year, the association underwent a rebrand, turning towards a more global focus. “Our new mission to be ‘a unifying force for members’ creativity, responsibility, and

"Licensed toys are hitting on the emotional aspect of a licensed character or storyline, while also deepening classic play patterns like role play, active play, arts & crafts, and so on" Steve Pasierb, The Toy Association

global success, advocating for their needs and championing the benefits of play,” Pasierb explains. “Our expert staff collaborates closely with international toy associations and foreign governments to align global standards, lessen trade barriers, and mitigate the harmful effects of unnecessary regulations that prevent members’ safe, enriching toys from being sold in the United States or from entering new markets. We’re on the ground and continue to do an extensive volume of international travel on these issues, support training initiatives in developing markets, and look for opportunities to bring standards more into alignment.” 2018 looks to be a big year for the Toy Association and their flagship event, especially when it comes to licensing. “With so many licensed toys on the market and so many toyetic films coming out, competition is fierce,” concludes Pasierb. “Going forward, companies will need to be more thoughtful and cautious, both in placing their bets on new properties and the volume of toys produced for each. The combination of quality IP and quality toys will ultimately win the day.”

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Having had a stellar 2016/17, you’d think it would be hard for Universal's Trolls to continue its momentum. But with a robust licensing programme in place, perhaps you should think again

Having taken £8m in retail sales from January to July this year, Universal’s Trolls is recognised as the fastest growing girls’ license of the year. According to NPD data, the brand is the number six license across total toys and, thanks to a very successful master toy partnership with Hasbro, has even managed to buck the small downward trend in the UK toy market this year. It would seem, then, that for Universal 2016/2017 will be a very tough year to beat. At least, it would be, if the studio wasn’t entering the New Year with a robust licensing programme around the Trolls franchise. “Trolls 2 has been announced for 2020, with the returning cast and new songs and laughter,” enthuses Hannah Mungo, director of consumer products at Universal. “A Trolls Christmas special will broadcast free-to-air this December and a new animated Trolls TV series comes to Netflix from January 2018. In addition, there is enhanced YouTube activity with more than 50 pieces of content released since March 2017.” The idea is, that with this rich slate of new content, the brand will remain firmly part of the national consciousness between now and the second film release. With product devel-

opments from Universal’s raft of licensees in place and Troll Truck Tour making its way around the UK, the brand will be hard for the consumer to escape. “Trolls has captured the zeitgeist as a celebratory, feel-good brand. It has revitalised the tween market and satisfied young and classic fans alike,” continues Mungo. In Hasbro, Universal has found what it describes as a ‘fantastic partner for the brand.’ The firm has already committed to new Trolls toy lines every season, and its new Trolls Hair in the Air Poppy Doll and Trolls POD’ular Troll Tree, are being tipped to be one of the must own toy products of Christmas 2017. It’s not just in the toy space that Trolls is lighting up the stage, however and thanks to the evolution of the consumer products space, Universal has been able to inject the Trolls brand into a new world of initiatives. “The collaboration with MAC Cosmetics sparked a surge in social media coverage and we have enabled consumer engagement with the Trolls karaoke booth that toured Toys R Us and The Entertainer in the UK. Mungo explains: “Our aim is to create multi-platform access to brands like Trolls, and to serve a demographic that considers itself a fan."


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In 1991, Sonic launched SEGA into the realm of heroes of the 16-bit era. This year, the firm is drawing on that rich history of character to build its most robust licensing programme to date


Home to one of the most iconic video game characters of all time, when you think SEGA, you think Sonic. It’s hardly surprising. With a rich heritage within the video gaming world, the 'blue blur' has become a staple of the retro gaming scene, and while SEGA Europe is descending upon BLE with its broadest range of IPs to date this year, including the likes of Total War, Football Manager and the SEGA Retro collection, it’s the heroic hedgehog that will be taking centre stage. Since the character’s first introduction in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog has found itself closely aligned with the world of licensing and the character that led SEGA to becoming the leading game publisher of the 16-bit era, quickly spawning TV series and merchandise. Looking to the future of SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog licensing programme, and the company will now draw from a multi-media content plan that includes new animation, (Sonic Boom season two is currently rolling out globally), and a worldwide movie release. But more than anything, the ‘blue blur’ merchandise strategy will be anchored by SEGA’s core business, that of a long and rich roadmap of multi-platform games, backed by heavy-weight marketing campaigns.

“The immediate future promises a line-up of games, which will celebrate both the past and future,” Kay Ferneyhough, retail and trade marketing manager at SEGA Europe, tells ToyNews. “Reception to Sonic Mania has been phenomenal with rave reviews and a Metacritic of 87 per cent. Hot on its heels is Sonic Forces, launching this November, which will offer super-fast gameplay and the ability to customise your hero character.” SEGA’s growing list of licensees include a number of new partners, including Watermelon who is already working towards the launch of a new online store, dedicated to the sale of customisable and personalised merchandise. “On the clothing side, SEGA has recently signed Poetic Brands for adult nightwear, underwear and t-shirts for the UK starring the Classic Sonic and SEGA’s retro gaming consoles, the Megadrive and the Dreamcast,” continues Ferneyhough. Add to this Branded Clothing International who will develop children’s clothing lines for the UK and Toys R Us for EMEA, the line-up is looking robust. “We are excited to discuss further licensing opportunities around Sonic the Hedgehog and other brands, too,” she concludes.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION: UK Licensing: Naome Jones +44.203.618.6552 Gaming & Digital Licensing: Bill Kispert 818.777.5446 Publishing: Siobhan Harkin +44.203.618.5539 Live Entertainment Licensing: Carol Nygren 818.777.9507

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Kids' brands

MAGIC LIGHT PICTURES Thanks to an ‘incredible year', the Magic Light team is looking forward to driving its plush and apparel offering with its line-up of brands, while its debut at BLE this year will see the firm seek out some new IPs


“2017 has been an incredible year for Magic Light Pictures,” declares Daryl Shute, brand director at Magic Light Pictures. This certainly seems to be the case for the company, as 2017 has witnessed the launch of an ice cream, a theme park ride and an augmented reality app to name a few, and with plans to develop more high quality products in the future to support brands such as The Gruffalo and Stick Man, this year and beyond looks set to be prosperous. At the heart of Magic Light Pictures sits the iconic property, The Gruffalo, which the firm has grown through plush and apparel licensees, an intrinsic part to its licensing programme. A well-known brand in the kids’ space, toys are essential to its growth, which saw the company tap Aurora World to design the Gruffalo Baby collection. Shute tells ToyNews: “The Aurora nursery range launching as an extension to their beautiful Gruffalo plush range is delighting retailers in early presentations, and this category will be a key focus for us in the coming year.” Of course, with such a well-known property, it is important to team with the right licensees to build the brand, something Shute is well aware of. “As a typically protective licensor, we have been cautious to build our wonderful portfolio on a platform of working with the right partners at the right time, but The Gruffalo now has incredible awareness in a very crowded market,” he explains. “We select our partners carefully to ensure that all products offer something unique and all ranges are the perfect accompaniment to the classic stories.” Toys and design are high on the agenda for Magic Light this year, having recently teamed

up with toy and game designer body, Mojo Nation. The deal invites designers to create their own Gruffalo design concepts with the opportunity to present them to the team “We’re intrigued to see what new ideas this collection of designers can come up with," reveals Shute. 2017 also marks the company’s debut at BLE, where the likes of The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, Stick Man, Zog and The Highway Rat will all be showcased to guests. “We're really excited to be exhibiting for the first time this year with a wonderful showcase of characters,” continues Shute. “We're on the lookout for new IPs as well, so any ideas creators have, we'd love to take a look.”

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ALPHA ANIMATION As Super Wings inspires new toys and a film, Alpha Animation is continuing to expand its offering within the licensing space, with the launch of its own IP and a new licensing agent


Super Wings has paved the way for a successful year for Alpha Animation in the licensing space, with the hit series lighting up the TV screen and product aisles with a variety of toys inspired by the show. Series one first made its debut on Cartoonito in February 2017, which was closely followed by a master toy launch in July. Episodes for series two are slated to air later this year with 52 new episodes hitting screens, meanwhile series three has already been given the greenlight. “Product has only been in the market for eight weeks and we’ve seen some great sell through across the brand, with retailers already extending their ranges,” recalls Mark Hyndman, general country manager for UK and Ireland at Alpha Animation. “Super Wings was the number five property, according to NPD August 2017, for the month of August in PS Vehicles, which is a great result considering the other brands within the category are existing or launched much earlier in the year.” But this growth isn’t stopping there. The company recently announced the appointment of Rockpool Licensing as its exclusive UK licensing agent for Super Wings across a variety of categories, and with discussions already taking place with

potential licensing partners, Super Wings fans won’t have to wait long to get their hands on additional branded merchandise. Toys are a vital part to the Super Wings portfolio, with collectables, R/C toys and transforming figures all making up the range, so it’s no wonder Alpha is hoping to take on the market as a key manufacturer in the UK. “Because we have ambitious plans to be a key manufacturer in the UK toy market, we have a vertical and fully integrated business model – Alpha Pictures producing movies, animation studios producing class leading content, research and a development team producing innovative and exciting toys, all supported by our media and TV, all of which combine to augment our international growth plans,” enthuses Hyndman. “We know how competitive certain categories can be, so it is important we deliver innovation to the consumer.” Following Super Wings’ buoyant success, 2018 and 2019 will see Alpha bolster its portfolio further with new properties and the development of its own IP. It looks like the firm’s future in the licensing space certainly is a promising one. “We are very excited about the properties we have coming down the pipeline – watch this space,” Hyndman reveals.

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FOR LICENSING OPPORTUNITIES, PLEASE VISIT US AT BLE STAND C35 OR CONTACT: EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA: Jason Rice Director of Brand Licensing Email: Tel: +44 (0) 208 996 4568

Toby Rayfield Senior Licensing Manager Email: Tel: +44 (0) 208 996 4494



Kay Ferneyhough Retail & Trade Marketing Manager Email: Tel: +44 (0) 208 996 4407


/sonic ©SEGA

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SESAME WORKSHOP With a 50th anniversary around the corner, new toy lines and theme parks, 2018 looks set to be a promising year for the studio


The stage has been set. Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird are out of make-up and ready to propel Sesame Workshop to new heights in 2018. It’s all part of the job when you’re the face of a global children’s entertainment brand that is celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. Entering the year with new partners, new products and new promotions centred around new TV content, social media campaigns and interactive consumer experiences, it’s one that Sesame Workshop is looking forward to. “Our European toy partners, Sambro and Nici, have been in full swing on product development and will be launching the new range in Q4,” says Risa Greenbaum, assistant vice president of international media business, Europe, at Sesame Workshop. “Meanwhile on the content side, we have closed deals with Amazon and Ketchup TV in the UK and in Spain, Sesame Street is now available on HBO, and The Furchester Hotel is debuting on Clan. In short, this has been a terrific year for Sesame Street.” A classic brand that draws on a rich heritage of cross-generational appeal, Sesame Street maintains its strength of position within the children’s media stakes through an ability to remain parallel with current trends. As the licensing space continues to evolve, the studio continues to evolve with it, now

delivering Sesame Street content on a variety of platforms, including VOD services. “We are also creating experiences on social media,” continues Greenbaum. “In August, we introduced our Spread Kindness, #ShareTheLaughter campaign, which encourages viewers to tell their favourite jokes in short videos and post them online. “In the US, we debuted Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch Snapchat filters and we’ll have more later this year." For Sesame Workshop, maintaining a portfolio of innovative consumer touchpoints around the Sesame Street brand is a priority. “We know that the magic of theme parks gives families a unique and powerful way to experience and delight in the Sesame Street characters,” explains Greenbaum. “They deepen our relationship with longstanding fans and help us to connect with new families. This year, we announced plans for an additional Sesame Place theme park. We are also continuing to reach families at Universal Studios Japan and Singapore, as well as PortAventura in Spain.” It’s a robust offering, therefore, that Sesame Workshop heads into BLE 2017 with, covering toys, apparel and consumer experiential initiatives. It all goes a long way to keep Sesame Street top of mind among consumers in what is renowned as being a very competitive environment.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CALL +44 (0)1293 804599 Advert Placement.indd 1

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MATTEL After 72 years as an evergreen kids' brand, Thomas & Friends is undergoing changes. According to Mattel, the implications for what this will bring its licensing roll-out are huge


Mattel is taking Thomas & Friends on what it has billed a ‘huge adventure’ with a raft of changes coming to the globally revered children’s brand. Content has always been at the heart of the studio’s story-telling and ready for 2018, Mattel is evolving its content to make it more inclusive, meaningful, entertaining and global, all while ensuring its characters and storylines remain at the heart of the action. Of course, this means that many changes lay ahead for Mattel’s licensing programme around the franchise, as the firm looks to explore new themes that will in turn filter into the consumer products roll-out. “We are fortunate to work with amazing partners that are supportive of the brand and its values,” Helen Genia, senior manager consumer products, Mattel, tells ToyNews. “We are exploring so many more new themes which open up the world of consumer products, live events, app games, as well as other extensions of the franchise. As this new chapter for Thomas opens up opportunities, we will continue to explore new avenues with our partners and embrace new business for our fans.” The increase in competition in the pre-school licensing space has not gone

unnoticed by Mattel, who has seen a rapid growth in the number of properties now in the market. However, armed with the heritage of the 72 year old, evergreen Thomas brand, Mattel is facing it from a position of strength and the mindset that evolution of the brand will ensure ‘Thomas is as relevant for this generation of children as the last.’ “The brand is opening up the world of Thomas & Friends to be more inclusive, while remaining lighthearted and humorous so that kids can discover the world around them with a trusted friend,” continues Genia. “As we roll out the new brand position campaign next year to reflect the evolution, the change in itself offers the franchise new possibilities. These new themes will give us opportunities across our entire product offering, taking us into new areas. “We have so many best in class licensing partners that will be joining us on this journey and BLE is the perfect opportunity to share these exciting new changes with our current and prospective partners.” With so much to look forward to for 2018, Mattel is heading to BLE this year with a renewed sense of excitement as it looks to build an exciting consumer product slate.

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The Last Jedi

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Last month, Disney turned the heat right up with the launch of Force Friday II, a global celebration of a sci-fi saga that has fired imaginations since its first appearance in 1977. Now, in it’s 40th anniversary year and in the run-up to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney has returned, with a slate of products more powerful than you could ever imagine

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he success of Disney’s inaugural Star Wars consumer event that debuted in 2015 was always going to take some beating. Coinciding with the release of the first Star Wars movie in a decade, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Force Friday was what Disney would go on to call ‘a huge success'. Over the course of 24 hours, taking over social media, online and live streaming platforms, as well as a vast number of retail giants, the global initiative provided a moment in time for Star Wars fans and drummed up huge momentum for the studio’s slate of innovative consumer products. So successful was the launch and the ensuing demand for its toy lines following the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that the franchise stormed to the top of the toy charts, generating more than $700m in sales in the US alone. One year later, and 2016 saw the launch of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first spin-off movie for the sci-fi opera that helped Star Wars maintain its position as the most successful film licensing franchise of all time. This year, and in the run up to the hotly anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the world was brought Force Friday II and a revolutionary augmented reality activation that landed in over 20,000 retailers worldwide. Disney certainly can’t be accused of doing things by halves. “The AR activity and in-store experiences delighted fans and built further excitement around Force Friday II, making it another big moment at retail,” Mike Stagg, SVP of retail and digital commerce at The Walt Disney Company, told ToyNews. “Force Friday II also saw many stores across the UK open their doors at midnight, driving buzz and excitement among thousands of fans who could purchase the latest product as soon as it hit shelves.”

"Star Wars has an enduring legacy and a richness of the universe that keeps fans interested yearon-year." Mike Stagg, The Walt Disney Company

In a year that marked the 40th anniversary of the first Star Wars movie release, one thing was always clear: Force Friday II was going to be one to watch. And, thanks to recent advances in consumer tech and its application within the big franchise space, Disney delivered on a myriad of platforms, propelling Star Wars beyond the 21st century and into a raft of consumer products akin to the genetic make-up of the world Star Wars inhabits. “Industry and fan reaction to our technology-powered product lines has been particularly strong, especially for Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, an AR experience developed by our games and interactive experiences team, alongside Lenovo, who has created a smartphonepowered Mirage Augmented Reality Headset,” continues Stagg. It’s a product that allows players to train to perfect their lightsaber skills as they take on some of the most menacing villains the Dark Side has to offer, as well as command armies in combat missions to defeat the Empire and outwit their opponents in Holochess, all in the AR sphere. Beyond this still, Star Wars is also tapping into the STEM sector, doing its bit to inspire the innovators of tomorrow through a franchise that embodies the engineering ethos in an entirely holistic matter. The Droid Inventor Kit created by LittleBits, for instance allows fans to create and code their own droid. What better way to bring Star Wars to the younger generation, one to whom Star Wars is a new and exciting concept? Of course, Disney couldn’t forget about the core product lines that make up the staple offering of a modern day merchandising programme, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t continue to push the boundaries across these categories, too. “We also continue to innovate in the core categories of action figures, construction, books, games and dressup and expect huge consumer demand

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for all of our new Star Wars products,” explains Stagg. Among them, LEGO revealed its biggest building set to date in the 7,500-piece Millennium Falcon set, while Sphero released the First Order’s BB-9E droid and the R2-D2, Wow Stuff introduced the Jedi Training Remote Set and Funko is on hand to deliver lines to the pop culture collectors. That’s just a snippet of the many varied launches last month. Disney and Lucasfilm has never shied away from innovation and since the launch of the Star Wars concept back in 1977, it has been a movie series that has pushed the boundaries in technology and culture. Star Wars is, after all, widely credited with kickstarting the modern day approach to movie merchandising and licensing. It’s a rich heritage to have, so it makes sense that in 2017, the franchise continues to explore new lines of innovation, embodied by the leading characters of the Star Wars off-shoot, Forces of Destiny. Widely covered in consumer and trade media, Forces of Destiny places the movie series' female protagonists at the centre of their own adventures through an animated series, and a corresponding line of adventure figures from Hasbro. The idea? To open up the Star Wars franchise to a new audience, at a time when female empowerment in the big movie stakes is finally getting the break-through it deserves. Stagg says: “We have been thrilled with the fan reaction to Forces of Destiny. The product range fuses traditional dolls and action figures with authentic and unique styling to create a whole new play pattern for Star Wars.” While it’s still early days to get a true reflection of product sales, Disney is expecting significant demand for the line once the show establishes itself with strong viewership. And that can’t be far behind. Star Wars has, after all, had over 14 consecutive months of being a number one property.

“This only looks to continue as we see the results from Force Friday II and the campaign around Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” enthuses Stagg. “[Star Wars] has an enduring legacy and a richness of the universe that keeps fans interested year-on-year. But it’s just as important to remember that for a new generation of kids, they are only just getting to know Star Wars, so to them everything is brand new.” The thing is, for the adult fan base, everything is new and exciting, too. Disney has managed to bring the Star Wars lore even closer to the consumer

through its newest raft of partnerships across the toy and entertainment space, be it through video games, AR and VR technology or the new Star Wars Lands scheduled to open in the US by 2019. Star Wars has become about far more than a movie slate that follows the Hollywood doctrine of good versus evil – the new Disney attractions will allow visitors to choose whether to join the rebels or fall in with the First Order – it is about consumer immersion within an expansive entertainment universe. And the toy firms are only too keen to play their role in the saga, too.

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w Product Guide

Bladez Toyz 02392 658 259

KEIRAN PEOPLES National UK sales manager Location: Portsmouth

Bladez Toyz will be venturing over to the Dark Side later this year when BB-9E, the mysterious new droid from The Last Jedi joins the remote control inflatable Star Wars family. Unveiled on Force Friday via the Bladez Instagram account, the black droid with red eyes inflatable will be released this November, making the perfect battle partner for the company's best-selling BB-8 inflatable. The droid star first introduced in The Force Awakens looks set to encounter BB-9E in the upcoming movie, and Bladez expects children to have great fun re-enacting scenes with the pair. Jumbo BB-9E will stand at 40cm in height and will arrive with authentic sound effects and an easy-to-use controller for forward drive and spin functions. Other new characters in the Jumbo collection include the classic droid R2-D2 and a Stormtrooper. The launch will mark the first time that a Stormtrooper has appeared as a radio control inflatable and he is bound to prove popular with fans of the First Order. Also coming in at 40cm tall, the Stormtrooper will feature blaster sound effects. Your allegiance with the Dark Side doesn’t end there. Kylo Ren will be joining the slate in 2018, offering a comprehensive cast of First Order foes. Each Jumbo Inflatable is easy to control, drive and spin and each features movie sound effects for added play value. Each character is also easy to deflate for storage or for going on holiday. Finally, Bladez Toyz is excited to bring the 1:1 scale radio control inflatable BB-8 to market, meaning fans can get their hands on a life-sized version of the famous droid. Standing at 67cm, the R/C BB-8 is the ideal companion for cosplayers and Star Wars collectors. Featured product

BB-9E and BB-8 R/C inflatable Manufacturer: Bladez Toyz

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Product Guide

VTECH 01235 546810

Location: Abingdon

VTech is feeling the Force this season with a new range of Star Wars Stormtrooper and BB-8 Camera Watches and a Star Wars Stormtrooper Digital Camera. The Star Wars Stormtrooper and BB-8 Camera Watches are the ideal accessory for intergalactic explorers. Kids can personalise the 3D effect clock face with more than 30 themed, digital or analogue designs, take photos and videos with the built-in camera and test their skills with the three pre-loaded Star Wars mini games. They can even add a selection of fun Star Wars-themed effects, frames and filters to their photos and videos. Wave the watch to activate Star Wars sound effects, including a lightsaber in the Motion SFX app. There’s also a calculator, calendar, alarm, stop watch, timer, voice recording function and more. Fans can then connect the device to their computer to upload and save the images. The Star Wars Stormtrooper and BB-8 Camera Watches retail at £59.99 each. Meanwhile, the Star Wars Stormtrooper Digital Camera allows fans to photograph their own galaxy and one of 30 cool Star Wars borders and character stamps to their photos and videos. They can then record their voice with special Star Wars effects and blast off into hyperspace with three engaging, action-packed mini games; Fighter Battle, First Order Escape and BB-8 Run. The digital camera includes 128 MB of built-in memory with the option of memory expansion using a microSD card and connects to a computer so kids can upload and save their images. The camera also features a 1.8 inch LCD screen for clear viewing and 4x digital zoom. The camera retails at £59.99. Featured product

Star Wars Stormtrooper Digital Camera Manufacturer: VTECH Price: £59.99

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Product Guide

POSH PAWS With an entire cast of characters from across the Star Wars universe, Posh Paws is celebrating the new movie with a range of plush sure to delight fans up and down the country. MD, Dave Martin talks to ToyNews When it comes to licensing, plush is kind of a big deal. Not our words, but those of Dave Martin, managing director at Posh Paws International, who, having seen the plush sector increase two per cent over the last year, is keen to discover what it’s recently launched line of characters from Star Wars: The Last Jedi will do for company sales. Described by Martin as a super category that continues to out-perform the licensing market, plush benefits from a cross generational appeal that taps into a number of varied and diverse consumer audiences. “Grown ups still have a fondness and nostalgia for plush, meaning it’s frequently the perfect occasion purchase for adults,” explains Martin. “The kidult trend is something that’s continued in 2017, meaning plush is one of the simplest toy categories to translate into sales for both the adult and gift-markets.” Couple the sector with a global entertainment franchise that’s currently celebrating its 40th anniversary and enjoys an expansive cross-generational appeal, and you’d like to think you’ve backed a winner. This November will see Posh Paws launch a new collection of plush and bag clips, depicting characters from across the Star Wars universe. Calling on both the nostalgia of the brand with classic best-sellers from past Star Wars eras, such as Yoda, Darth Vader and

"Plush translates into sales for both adults and gifts" Dave Martin, Posh Paws

Darth Maul, the range will also excite retailers with new characters from the highly anticipated new entry to the franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “We have a range of bag clips, plus eight-inch, ten-inch and 18-inch soft toys featuring a host of Star Wars characters both old and new,” says Martin. “Brought to life in plush toy form are the new Praetorian Guard, Stormtrooper executioner, Porgs and BB-9E from the First Order.” Kylo Ren, Rey, Captain Phasma, Finn and Chewbacca also make their return, while Posh Paws looks to tap into the collectors market with the introduction of its premium ‘Deco’ Star Wars plush range. Yoda, Chewbacca, BB-8 and Darth Vader will be the first characters getting the premium treatment in this new series. “Retailers have been incredibly receptive to the range and we are pleased with the positive feedback about the quality of the toys,” continues Martin. “We expect our sales to be very strong, especially during the run up to Christmas, and following the huge reaction on social media, we’re expecting the Porgs to fly off the shelves. “Now everyone’s eagerly awaiting our new range for The Last Jedi, which has had fantastic retail support already, I am certain that we will see cuddly Porgs and Praetorian Guards keeping fans, young and old, company at the big screen,” he concludes.

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Product Guide

MV Sports 0121 748 8000


After an exciting Force Friday in September, the wait for the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi film is nearly over. Based on the success of The Force Awakens and Rogue One, the franchise promises to have a strong presence in the boys’ market, appealing to die-hard and new fans alike. MV Sports’ skull and crossbones Stormtrooper range provides a classic retail solution offering continuity via an edgy collection; incorporating timeless appeal and encompassing all Star Wars touch points. The street-influenced, black and white design celebrates the one consistent character of the Star Wars franchise and incorporates contemporary stunt skate park graphics. This bold and iconic design is sure to make a statement in all retail spaces. The centrepiece of the range is a 16-inch BMX style bike with printed wheel discs fully enclosed chain guard and crash pad. The handlebar and seat heights can be adjusted to grow with the child for a versatile and long product life. No budding trooper would be set without a scooter to fly into action. The three-in-one Scootin’ Suitcase combines scootering and on-board storage, while the Stormtrooper range also includes three skateboards, which showcase the iconic Star Wars look. Topping off the range are the safety and ramp helmets so that kids can stay safe, yet stylish. Featured product

Star Wars Stormtrooper 16-inch BMX bike Manufacturer: MV Sports

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Product Guide

Pyramid International 0116 284 3640

Location: Whetstone

Pyramid International is proud to be launching another fantastic addition to its stellar line-up of Star Wars products. The firm’s range for the upcoming blockbuster, Star Wars: The Last Jedi sees the company add a whole library of new designs to its line. This includes posters, wall art, canvas prints, stationery and merchandise, truly covering all areas of retail. Marketing executive at Pyramid International, said: “Star Wars is an incredible license to work with, so to have the opportunity to work yet again with the franchise on what looks to be one of the biggest movies of the year is phenomenal. “The creative and product teams here have been working hard to ensure we have the most popular designs possible, on products we know work at retail. Now the anticipation for those famous trumpets begins. Roll on December.”

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Generation Media

AIR TIME Jonathan Chambers With the price of online advertising on the rise, TV ads are still an attractive prospect for toy brands. Here, Generation Media’s Jonathan Chambers explores...

Source: BARB 2017


V has long been, and will remain, the first choice media channel for toys and games brands. The ability to deliver deep and meaningful reach in a short space of time is unparalleled. Not only this but, for the time being at least, the cost of advertising on the children’s commercial TV channels provides the lowest cost, highest value means of reaching valuable demographics. However,it has been well documented how TV viewing figures for children’s audiences of all ages and genders continue to decline apace. The reasons for this are multifaceted, however a shift in audience behaviour to consuming content in the digital online space is the primary driver for decline. Should this trend continue, and demand for TV advertising continues to grow, media owners will attempt to increase the cost of advertising on children’s commercial TV. Digital online media channels are becoming more and more prevalent in the advertising mix. The cost of using platforms such as SuperAwesome, Venatus, YouTube as well as a multitude of influencers is greater than children’s commercial TV. High engagement levels and more creative executions mean that these channels provide a fantastic accompaniment to TV campaigns, but whether this can work as effective stand-alone partners for the bulk of the market is debatable. It is therefore interesting to see how else the larger brands within the toys & games market have acted in 2017. Non-kids TV has long been the preserve of

"TV's ability to deliver meaningful reach in a short space of time is unparalleled" Jonathan Chambers, Generation Media advertisers with larger budgets targeting mum with a pre-school products. LEGO has brought its brand to this space with LEGO Masters which has still delivered an average audience of 314,000 children across the first two episodes. This is the equivalent of 15 spots on Pop. Hasbro’s partnership for NERF with ITV’s new Saturday night show, Cannonball, is also of great interest. Whilst this activity cannot compete with children’s TV when it comes to value for money, it is arguably out of sight when it comes to impact. A brief analysis of Google Trends reveals that NERF’s highest search volume index of the past seven days occurred on Saturday 2nd at 19:00 as the show begun. For brands with smaller budgets, there are alternatives to be explored on 'mainstream' TV. Family movies on the ITV and Channel 4 portfolios of channels offer great short-term opportunities throughout the AW season, traditionally generating greater search volumes at manageable budget levels. This does not mean that TV budgets should immediately be switched into these higher cost routes, but as brands look to supplement children’s TV, perhaps the next best choice is closer than you think.

ToyNews PlayTime is provided by Generation Media 0207 307 7900 |

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16" BIKE

Riders of the Storm TOY Advert NEWS Placement.indd OCT AD 2017 1 - Last Jedi Stromtrooper.indd 1

21/09/2017 21/09/2017 11:36:29 14:27

Toy Shop UK



DAVID GROUNSELL Dave's Classic Toys

"Think of how many variations of one toy somebody can collect."


"With more and more movies and TV shows that are fantasy/sci-fi orientated the need for geeky collectables will only grow. Will the bubble burst? I doubt it."

Collectables are taking hold of the toy space, but is the sector in danger of overcrowding? Jade Burke catches up with this month’s ToyShop UK listing to find out more


here’s no doubt that collectables are the driving force behind the toy industry, with global manufacturers all dipping their toe into the trend with blind bags, collectable figures and more. This year alone we have seen Spin Master reveal its Hatchimals Colleggtibles, while MGA Entertainment has bolstered its offering with its Awesome Little Green Men range. It’s a flourishing market that doesn’t look set to slow any time soon, and every toy firm wants a slice of the action.

This year, the NPD Group noted that the collectables sector totals around nine per cent of the total toy sales seen in 2016, while in 2016 both NPD and the BTHA reported that the UK’s growth of 6.3 per cent was largely driven by the sector. With all this growth comes fierce competition, leading to toy firms exploring new ideas to remain at the top of the food chain, but will these developments lead to an overcrowded sector? Moose Toys’ coCEO, Paul Solomon, disagrees and believes innovation and uniqueness is key.

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Toy Shop UK

“It is becoming a much more competitive space; however, as collecting represents a classic play pattern, the category will continue to thrive,” adds Solomon. “Children will find new ways to collect, trade and play with their collectable toys and if brands are unique and original, they will cut through in the crowded market.” As manufacturers choose to buck the trend, retailers are reaping the rewards, selling new launches to entice children to collect the latest trend. However, with collectables now spanning more than just toys, with apparel and POP! Vinyls joining the craze, grocers and online stores are starting to fill up their shelves with the most wanted items. “The 'new' collectables shop usually stocks plushes, POP! Vinyls, t-shirts and

more and they are springing up and even the multi nationals are getting on the bandwagon, treading further on the small independent shops’ toes,” explains Mitch Brown, owner of Darths Hutt. “With more and more movies and TV shows that are fantasy/sci-fi orientated the need for geeky collectables will only grow. Will the bubble burst? I doubt it. You will probably see the traditional back street independent disappear as the greedy multiples cash in.” The abundance of TV series currently airing, from Stranger Things to The Walking Dead, are chipping in to the launch of new collectables and while these remain popular and introduce additional characters, there is no danger that the market may overcrowd, as there is always a fan of that one particular character. David Grounsell of Dave's Classic Toys, concurs: “Think of how many variations of one toy somebody can collect.” In comparison, Models R Go owner, John Guiver, warns that it isn’t the overcrowding retailers should be worried about. Instead, he feels 3D printing is where the competition is at. He continues: “I think a greater danger is the rise of home 3D printing. Customers will be able to download and print collectables thereby circumventing the toy store altogether.” As technology continues to innovate offering customers the tools to create their own toys in the comfort of their home, will there be a need to buy these toys? However, while there are children who enjoy the surprise of picking up a blind bag, surely this market will never be in danger of dying out. Of course, as more firms choose to delve into this space competition will ramp up, but as long as kids’ interest remains, the market will maintain its popularity, as Solomon concludes: “Put simply – kids love collecting and collectables, and as the market continues to expand, kids' play patterns will evolve with it.”


“Put simply ¬ kids love collecting and collectables, and as the market continues to expand, kids' play patterns will evolve with it.”

Toy Shop UK is a consumer-led, online directory that helps toy suppliers, retailers and licence holders promote their businesses to an audience of up to 10,000 unique visitors per day. Popular weekly giveaways, the esteemed Independent Toy Awards and special supplier listings are just three of the ways that Toy Shop UK can help you increase your online presence and complement your other marketing activities this year. Contact: Michael Hawkins 07786 295756 for more information. follow us @toyshopuk

October 2017 | toy news | 55

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I discover...

the shapes and colours

Over 100 new products available for 2017 Specialist in wooden toys, games and puzzles Our slogan is ‘Play Different’ 32 High Park Road, Kew Gardens • Richmond TW9 4BH • United Kingdom Tel.: +44(0)20 8878 2133 | • • Advert jura aug_v3 Placement.indd FINAL.indd 11

21/09/2017 8/23/17 11:51 09:53

Campaign of the month

HOT WHEELS LAUNCHES ‘CHALLENGE ACCEPTED’ New marketing efforts embrace growth mindset to communicate benefits of Hot Wheels play directly to parents, lead by a new TV commercial highlighting the relationship between a mother and son


ot Wheels has launched a new campaign, titled ‘Challenge Accepted’ which will see the firm rethink its marketing to better communicate the benefits of its products directly to parents, catering to parent’s modern focus on finding products that can help their children grow and develop with creativity and perseverance. To launch the campaign, a 60-second video focuses on a mother and son, and draws parallels between play and reality to convey that life is full of challenges that build resilience and champion the challenger spirit in every child. It emphasizes how Hot Wheels is more than a source of fun, but also a great way to learn important life skills. “Hot Wheels has remained a beloved brand for nearly 50 years. Car play is an intuitive play-pattern which has contributed to Hot Wheels’ success as the number-one selling toy in the world,” said Chris Down, senior vice president and global brand GM, Hot Wheels. The new spot puts mum firmly in the driving seat as she takes on the road in an action-packed adventure, overcoming challenges whilst sharing with her son key life lessons. The content then reveals mum and son are actually playing with Hot Wheels toys, and demonstrates how kids can develop and grow through Hot Wheels play, as it provides challenges that help kids learn skills like creative problem

solving, collaborative play and spatial reasoning. The commercial also highlights the relationship between mother and son, showing how it can grow through play.

We aim to nurture the ‘Challenger Spirit’ in all kids by encouraging them to try, fail, and repeat Chris Down, Hot Wheels “We aim to nurture the ‘Challenger Spirit’ in all kids by encouraging them to try, fail, and repeat to achieve success,”

continued Down. “Our ‘Challenge Accepted’ campaign does exactly this in an unexpected and exhilarating way.” ‘Challenge Accepted’ was conceived as a multi-year campaign, designed to associate the brand as one that will challenge youngsters to nurture their ingenuity and dedication to developing their own ideas. The global campaign is also being supported in the UK with a robust marketing programme with a significant digital media plan, social support, retail activations and an exciting Instagram influencer ambassador campaign that will showcase a real-life mum and son relationship, and how Hot Wheels helps them to grow and develop. October 2017 | toy news | 57

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LEADING CHARACTERS Some of the hottest properties and characters right now are being envisaged across a number of toys, including collectables, R/C and play-sets. Jade Burke rounds up some of the latest brands making waves in the sector

Zimpli Kids 01254 460 006

EEJAY ENYI Sales director Location: Blackburn, Lancashire

Zimpli Kids is expanding its Gelli Baff and Slime Baff line with the addition of a licensed Looney Tunes version, which boasts some exclusive colours. Well-known characters Bugs Bunny and Tweety Pie will be depicted in the Carrot Orange Slime Baff and Yellow Gelli Baff, respectively. Both the Gelli Baff and Slime Baff transform water into brightly coloured goo or slime and then back again, and have clocked up over 2.5 billion views on YouTube since October 2015 from independent reviewers worldwide. The brand is still growing too, gaining 76 new views per second. “The Gelli Baff brand has gone from strength to strength since it was first launched over 10 years ago,” said Eejay Enyi, sales director at Zimpli Kids. “We are thrilled to be extending the range with such an esteemed license like Looney Tunes and we have no doubt that it will be a success.” Featured product

Looney Tunes Slime Baff Manufacturer: Zimpli Kids

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Product Guide

Playmobil 01268 548 111

Location: Essex

This year saw the toy firm venture into brand licensing for the first time, with play-sets inspired by How To Train Your Dragon and Ghostbusters hitting retailers’ shelves across the UK. Playmobil’s Ghostbusters range is made up of six sets that include classic favourites such as the famous Firehouse Headquarters, the Ecto-1 and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. As well as the landmarks and characters, there are lots of familiar props for youngsters to enjoy such as the slime, containment kits and proton packs. Children can also re-enact some of their favourite scenes from the movie, How To Train Your Dragon, thanks to a new line from the toy company. Dragon enthusiasts can care for their own pet dragon, with Toothless, Stormfly and Thunderclaw all part of the range. Once their dragons are trained, dragon riders can head to the Island of Berk set and see Drago’s Ship.

Rainbow Designs

Featured product

Ghostbusters range

01329 233 700

Manufacturer: Playmobil

Rainbow Designs is joining forces with Disney to bring a classic Winnie the Pooh baby range to retailers. Slated for release this autumn, comes he new Hundred Acre Wood Signature Collection, which celebrates the classic heritage of A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and his friends; Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore, in a style that is dedicated to baby. A variety of nursery plush items will be joining the line, including ring rattles, comfort blankets and character plush toys. The new collection will join Rainbow’s growing brand line-up that includes the likes of Peter Rabbit, Paddington, My First Thomas & Friends, Peppa Pig for Baby, Guess How Much I Love You, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Miffy, Elmer, The Snowman and the Snowdog and Roald Dahl.

ZARA GRINDROD Director of sales Location: Gosport, Hampshire

Featured product

Winnie the Pooh character plush Manufacturer: Rainbow Designs

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Call us on: 08453 070707

Browse the full range at Advert Placement.indd 1

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Product Guide

Mattel 01628 500 000

Location: Maidenhead

To celebrate the arrival of Disney Pixar’s Cars 3, Mattel has detailed a new toy line featuring the new Movie Moves McQueen and Florida Speedway play-set. Meanwhile, Justice League has inspired a raft of toys including the six-inch Figure Assortment, Ultimate Batmobile, Voice Changer Helmet, Cyborg Blaster and Cape & Cowl set. WWE’s portfolio is expanding with the WWE Tough Talkers six-inch Figure Assortment, which boasts sound recognition and the Tough Talkers Interactive Ring play-set. DC Super Hero Girls continues to build momentum, and this year sees the launch of the 12-inch Action Figure Doll Assortment. Thomas & Friends continues to ‘set friendship in motion’ thanks to its multi-platform brand programme including social content, partnerships, PR and TV. New for A/W17 comes the Super Station, which can store up to ten engines, plus it also comes packed with 10 metres of track and ten different iconic Sodor locations. New toys are also on the way from brands Shimmer & Shine, Blaze and the Monster Machines, Go Jetters and Octonauts. Featured product

Super Station Manufacturer: Mattel

GP Flair 0208 643 0320 Location: Sutton

Girls’ collectables, movie inspired ranges and master toy licenses all make up GP Flair’s licensed offering. The new Shopkins World Vacation theme offers two, five and 12 packs for fans to collect all of the season eight characters. Plus, the Skyanna’s Jet play-set, which the toy firm is billing as a hero line for Christmas, will boast the exclusive Skyanna Pilot doll, three exclusive Shopkins and themed accessories. Mineez Despicable Me blind packs have also been added to Flair’s collectables portfolio, which now includes the Core Collector pack that comes with three figures or the Deluxe Collector's pack that has six figures, one of which is hidden. Alternatively there’s the Collector's Tin, which comes with two exclusive figures and the Micro Key Rings. Elsewhere, the interactive Dru's Super Lair play-set is up for grabs, with sound effects and three exclusive figures. Ben 10 continues to be a winning license for the toy company, with a collection that offers fans 13 characters to collect, including Ben, Heatblast and Diamondhead. Fans can then move on to the larger scale figures, while 11-inch super deluxe figures are available as Heatblast and Forearms. For budding footballers comes the Messi Training System range, and added to all of this comes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Doc McStuffins and a variety of licensed brands from Flair’s Just Play division. Featured product

Skyanna’s Jet play-set Manufacturer: GP Flair 62 | toy news | October 2017

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13/09/2017 21/09/2017 11:07:51 09:54


Play safe and let us be the scientists!

The recent slime craze has seen a huge sales increase in Zimpli Kids Slime Play with phenomenal sell through results at retail. The slime trend has also pushed our YouTube campaign even further with over 2.9 BILLION views since October 2015 from independent reviewers worldwide using our Slime products - thats 71 views per second! Due to the phenomenal success of our Slime products, Zimpli Kids are excited to announce that the range will be extending with new DC and Looney Tunes licensed products. Featuring the top-selling superhero of 2017, na na na na na na na na... Batman! Simply add our slime powder to water and watch it magically transform into 100% safe, gooey oozy slime!

RRP ÂŁ2.99

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Product Guide

Rubie’s 08453 070 707 Location: Oxfordshire

Costume manufacturer, Rubie’s, is taking inspiration from a slate of new movies for its latest costume collection. To celebrate the new My Little Pony: The Movie release on October 20th, the firm has refreshed its Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle dresses. Both skirts on the dresses boast glitter detail, while a sequin laser print motif has been added to the bodice taking the shape of the Pony’s cutie mark. The refreshed Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie costumes will be available in time for the DVD release, which is expected to be in March 2018. Elsewhere, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has inspired an Executioner Trooper costume and a deluxe Rey costume. Rey’s look features a jumpsuit, brown belt, gauntlets and wristbands, while the Executioner Trooper sports a padded jumpsuit with iconic printed features from the movie. Lastly, with Justice League set to hit cinemas in November, Rubie’s has unveiled a line of new outfits for Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman. Featured product

Deluxe Rey costume Manufacturer: Rubie’s

Alpha Animation 01293 836 445

LISA COX Senior account manager Location: Gatwick

Over ten product lines make up Alpha Animation’s Super Wings pre-school offering, featuring star hero Jett and his friends across transforming vehicles, R/C toys, feature playsets and more. First up are the Transform-a-Bots Super Wings figures that transform from a plane to a robot in three easy steps for little hands. The Transform-a-Bots are also available in collector packs allowing young fans to re-create their favourite missions from the show. Another key product in the range is the Transforming Vehicles. Each toy comes with 10 simple steps to transform from plane to robot with each character transforming differently, depending on their unique form. Billed as Alpha’s hero line, the World Airport play-set features a 35-inch scale set and comes complete with electronic sounds and lights. The set also includes mini-transforming characters, Jett and Donnie, that can attach to the fly-bar and spin to circle the airport. Little ones can load Jett and Donnie into the elevator and lift them up to the Control Tower, then launch them down the ramp and flip open the base compartments to reveal a rotating luggage carousel and a cargo scale. Featured product

World Airport play-set Manufacturer: Alpha Animation

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KNOCK ON WOOD As tech toys become an even larger staple of the toy space, it is easy to forget the simple pleasure of a wooden plaything. These toys have remained a part of growing up for hundreds of years and their appeal is no less relevant today. Here, Jack Ridsdale takes a look at some of the top traditional toy firms

Le Toy Van 020 8979 2036

FRANCOIS PIRIOU Sales director Location: Surrey

Le Toy Van is debuting two adorable new wooden products in the Honeybake collection, in the form of the Shop Café and Shopping Trolley, allowing youngsters to enjoy everyday fun. The two in one reversible wooden Shop and Café is exclusive to the Honeybake collection and comes on wheels with two stabilizers. The play-set comes complete with a reversible chalk board and bell. With the Shop & Café Honeybake, children develop their social skills, speech, sharing and turn taking through imaginative play. The product also won the Right Start Award 2017, Junior Design Award Best Toy Design three to five Bronze 2017 and comes recommended by the Experts at Fundamentally Children. Also available is the stylish wooden shopping trolley, complete with two internal compartments and a fabric storage level underneath. The shopping trolley is great fun and helps children develop their social and speech skills through play. Featured product

Honeybake Shop and Café Manufacturer: Le Toy Van Cost: £119.95

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Product Guide

Brio 01869 363800

DEREK SCOTT General Sales Manager Location: Bicester

Ravensburger’s Brio line is back for AW17 with an exciting slate of new toys, combining high-quality FSC certified wood and strong durable plastic. New for this season are six Police themed toys. The Police Transport Set includes a wooden railway track which is compatible with all other Brio World sets, a train and a wagon transporting gold, a railway crossing, a policeman, a thief and a magnetic crane to lift the gold from the wagon. Continue the fun by adding the Police Station with light and sound, and by using the working elevator, you can help transport the prisoner to his cell on the second floor. Look out, the Police Boat and Police Van have just arrived at the station with more policemen to help secure the gold thief. The Police Helicopter is on stand-by to transport the load of gold to its destination, while the Police Motorcycle will ensure the traffic stops to allow the policemen to do their job. Featured product

Brio Police Transport Set Manufacturer: Ravensburger Cost: ÂŁ29.99

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Product Guide

Hape 0845 6000 286

Location: Mücke, Germany

Hape’s wooden toy offering is focussed on the youngest generation with a selection of adorable creative and musical toys. Firstly, with the Sea Animal Rattles from Hape, simply attach to any smooth surface using the rattles smart suction pads to enjoy musical play and experimentation anytime anywhere. It’s deal for the smallest of hands to interact with, while the friendly little smiley faces are perfect for putting a smile on your little one’s face. Babies will love the Rotating Music Box from Hape, as you watch the mesmerising music box rotate, listen to the soothing music tones while enjoying the beautiful colours change that is sure to send those little ones off into a doze. For babies a little older, aged six and above, meet the Penguin Musical Wobbler from Hape. Children will love this happy little character as you experience the sound and delight in the penguins soothing tinkling sound and funny waddle. From the youngest of ages children are encouraged to take part sensory and musical development. What better way to implement this then with Hape Early Melodies range, while babies they may not be able to play music they can still enjoy the sound and music as little ones develop their senses. For high quality experiences of music and tones think Hape. Featured product

Penguin Musical Wobbler

Jumbo 07766 737 092

STEVE WASHBOURNE UK sales director Location: Hatfield

Jumbo’s dedicated wooden toys brand Goula is back with a range of high quality traditional toys, encouraging fun and engaging play through fundamental learning skills. With over 170 wooden puzzles, games, construction and ability toys, as well as educational games in the range, Jumbo has every first step in learning covered. The Goula wooden range puzzles, like the new, brightly coloured Butterfly and Rabbit Peg Puzzles, as well as the playfully creative Magnetic Character and Animal Puzzles start for children aged 12 months and are designed to develop motor skills, colour and shape recognition. The larger puzzles, such as the Extra-Large Jungle Animals Puzzles are aimed at younger children, continuing to develop the skills of youngsters from an early age. Construction and Ability Toys help to develop manual skills and coordination in young children, using eye-catching and engaging constructions to build and play with. Wooden construction toys such as the Goula Geometric Shape Sorting Farm encourage children to explore and express their creativity, balancing and stacking skills, hand-eye coordination skills and to let their imaginations become a physical realisation. Elsewhere, Goula’s My First Games range is the perfect entry point to fun gaming experiences for toddlers from two years and up. Featured product

Goula Geometric Shape Sorting Farm Manufacturer: Jumbo 68 | toy news | October 2017

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Product Guide

Rainbow Designs 01329 233700

Location: Gosport, Hampshire

Rainbow Designs has a stunning range of high quality wooden toys available across many of their renowned licenses, as the undeniable home of classic and well-known characters in the wooden toy space. The Illustrated Wooden Blocks sets are the perfect activity to encourage creative building as well as number and letter recognition amongst youngsters. Available in the Peter Rabbit, Guess How Much I Love You and The Very Hungry Caterpillar designs, the 16 wooden blocks feature letters of the alphabet and numbers alongside beautiful brand illustrations that are sure to delight youngsters. Also available in these renowned brands are the fun and educational wooden Peg Puzzles. The puzzles, that feature beautiful illustrations from the classic properties, encourage number and shape recognition as well as helping to hone fine motor skills. There are Wooden Dominoes available for fans of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Peter Rabbit too. Rainbow Designs also feature a number of pull along toys to keep the little ones entertained, including the fun Peter Rabbit and Flopsy Bunny Pullalong Toys as well as The Very Hungry Caterpillar Wooden Pullalong Caterpillar. Featured product

Peter Rabbit, Guess How Much I Love You Wooden Peg Puzzle Manufacturer: Rainbow Designs

Mattel 01628 500 000

Location: Maidenhead

Toy giant Mattel is no stranger to the wooden toys space, continuing to expand its offering in 2017 with new products from Thomas & Friends as well as Fisher Price's Bing. On store shelves now is Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway, which includes Tidmouth Sheds, which features a working turntable that can hold up to five wooden engines. While Cranky the Crane keeps everything moving at Brendam Docks with his working magnetic crane arm. Elsewhere, children can escape to the Island of Sodor with the Coal Hopper Figure Eight Set featuring a wooden Thomas engine, cargo car, wooden track, coal and bridge. Also in the range is the Battery-Operated Thomas, Percy and James engines, which all connect via magnets to other wooden railway engines including Thomas’ faithful coaches Annie & Clarabel. Gearing up for launch in AW17 is the new Fisher-Price Bing wooden range, with products to enhance role-play and fine-motor skills in preschoolers. The toy range includes Bing’s Lunchbox, recreating the iconic lunchbox from the show while the Balancing Seesaw teaches children about different weights. Finally, the adorable collectable Wooden Figure Packs have adjustable features to express emotions. Featured product

Thomas the Tank Engine, Coal Hopper Figure 8 Set Manufacturer: Mattel Price: £32.99

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Industry moves With peak trading time on the approach, toy firms are suring up their teams for the winter. This month sees CEO changes at Vivid and Hornby among a slew of new hires across the industry at firms including Character and Flair Hornby

Vivid Vivid Toy Group has named a new CEO in the form of former Leapfrog exec, TONY HICKS. Hicks will step into the post at the firm’s UK headquarters on September 11th, replacing ERIC ROSSI who will step down from his role for family reasons to remain in France. “I’d like to thank Eric for the significant contribution he has made to Vivid in his five years at the company. We wish him all the best for the future,” said VARDHAN RAJKUMAR, chairman of Vivid. Hicks brings over 22 years of experience to the role, having served roles in such companies as Carlsberg, Molson Coors and Leapfrog, delivering growth strategies in a wide variety of regions including Europe, Asia and North America.

CEO of Hornby Hobbies, STEVE COOKE is to step down as the firm begins a strategic review. Since Phoenix Asset Management took control of the company earlier this year, the shareholder has spearheaded a turnaround plan to help boost Hornby’s growth. The departure was ‘mutually agreed’ and will see Cooke remaining as CEO for a transitional period with announcement for the firm’s new CEO to follow. Flair GP Flair has announced a slew of staff changes in its sales and marketing divisions, starting with former Cartoon Network exec EMMANUELLE CADET, who has been named the firm’s new head of marketing. Elsewhere, both MANDY VICTORY and MARK ASHURST will be taking on bigger roles and more responsibility as joint head of sales reporting directly to Nicola. Character GUY ROONEY has joined Character in the role of senior account manager. "His drive and ambition, not to mention his valuable

retailer relationships, makes him the perfect man for the job," said DAVID BRAMFORD, sales director at Character Options. The firm also announced its finance director MARK DOWDING has stepped down, with immediate effect. Jumbo After two years at the helm, Jumbo MD, STEWART MIDDLETON is departing the company for pastures new. Following Middleton's departure STEVE WASHBOURNE (pictured) has been promoted to UK sales director, in a move that aims to strengthen the firm for further growth. A statement released by Jumbo reads: “We would like to thank Stewart for his great work and are looking forward to continuing the company’s growth into the Q4 period and into 2018, under the leadership of Steve Washbourne." The Entertainer The Entertainer has appointed a new commercial director in the form of JOHN DRISCOLL. Driscoll boasts experience with Marks and Spencer, and reail consultancy firm, Accenture before spending nine years at Tesco where he has overseen the toy category since 2014.

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Team of the month

BIG POTATO Independent board games maker, Big Potato, has gone from strength to strength this year with a host of innovative titles, including a licensed offering based on hit show First Dates. Here, we caught up with the team to find out what makes them tick

Can you introduce us to the team? This would have been easy a few years ago, but there are now 15 of us so it could take a while, so I’ll sum up. In the creative department we have Ben, Tris, James, Zoe and Beks on vocals. In marketing there’s Massimo, Becky, Nat (marketing) and Alex (events) on lead guitar. Then on the top table we have Dean (CEO), Knopfler (logistics & supply chain), Emily, Ash, Laura (sales) and Justin (finance) on drums. What have been your biggest successes of 2017? Finding and hiring all these talented people is definitely one of the big successes. Producing five brand new games is another. Moving out of our damp and smelly Potato Cave and moving into our smart new office with running water and heating has been a positive luxury.

What has been the biggest challenge for you guys? The biggest challenge is managing the finances, especially over summer when the coffers start to look a bit bare. Another big challenge is getting our games into nonEnglish speaking markets.

What's the biggest problem facing the industry? Well, the biggest problem for little companies such as us with small marketing budgets is getting people to hear about our games. It requires alternative means, such as employing the dark arts of social media.

What's the Big Potato team working on at the moment? Just as the last new game of 2017 rolls off the production line and we start thinking about putting our feet up, it’s time to start working on the 2018 range. No rest for the wicked.

What are you looking forward to for the rest of the year? Firstly, seeing how well all our new games go down this Christmas on both sides of the Atlantic. Secondly, our Christmas party. Last year we tried axe throwing, which was a good laugh.

What’s your favourite part of working in the toy industry? It’s small and everyone is very friendly and encouraging when you start out. Now we’ve been around the block a few times we’re trying to help out other newbies in the industry.

Who's the clumsiest person? Massimo – his nickname should be BamBam because whenever a new prototype arrives in the office, which needs to be handled with extreme care… he picks it up and breaks it.

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Final Word

TOYS R BUST To those following the rumour mill, Toys R Us’ bankruptcy filing comes as no surprise, but the ramifications this could have on the industry at large are only just being considered

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n professional wrestling a ‘squash match’ has nothing to do with rackets. It is when a well-established champ suffers a humiliating defeat at the hands of a fearsome opponent. In the case of Toys R Us, their ‘squash match’ was an all-too public wrestle with mounting debts, one that resulted in the company tapping out with the much-anticipated bankruptcy filing. The firm hopes this will allow them to restructure its outstanding debt and establish a sustainable capital structure, while the stores fight on, with trading over the Christmas season is set to continue as usual. MGA boss Isaac Larian has stated that “if there’s no Toys R Us, then there is no toy business”, but just how well can the toy retail scene recover if the firm does indeed get knocked out? With online retailers and discount stores scooping up sales from dedicated toy shops, perhaps its time to accept that there is no longer room in the ring for a heavyweight retailer? Rival chain, The Entertainer has challenged the firm’s strategy, choosing to focus on smaller items, recognising that in these small packages comes the much larger potential for high profit margins. It’s this eye for industry trends that will help other stores punch above their weight.


Thankfully for the firm, the major suppliers will continue to prop up their retail presence for the foreseeable future, allowing them to recoup and begin their “new era”, as Toys R Us chairman, Dave Brandon so optimistically puts it. Firms like Hasbro, Mattel and MGA are still likely to see Toys R Us as one of the most important retail partners, with their many worldwide locations still serving a sizeable percentage of toy sales. The chain accounted for 11 per cent of Mattel’s annual sales and 9 per cent for Hasbro, and this support will no doubt be rewarded by the chain putting their debts to these firms to the forefront of their efforts. Elsewhere, the company has also taken a fair share of hits for its shaky bankruptcy strategy, with some even going so far as to accuse the company of abusing the system in order to write off chunks of its debt with the threat of suppliers being squashed along with them. With the major suppliers firmly in their corner, only time will tell if Toys R Us can take this pummelling to go on to future success like John Cena, who recovered from his battering at the hands of Brock Lesnar, or fade into obscurity like the fighter’s countless other unfortunate victims, lying face down on the mat.

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Toy News October 2017  
Toy News October 2017  

This month, ToyNews is heading to Brand Licensing Europe, armed with the BLE special issue. Are you making the trip to the show this month?...