Page 1

ISSUE 200

November 2018

www.toynews-online.biz

TOY NEWS NOVEMBER 2018


No. 200 | November 2018

In the words of the First Lady

Editor Robert Hutchins robert.hutchins@futurenet.com

Sales Manager Sophia Freeman sophia.freeman@futurenet.com

Production Executive Matthew Eglinton matthew.eglinton@futurenet.com

Designer Mandie Johnson mandie.johnson@futurenet.com

Follow us @toynews online

G

reat minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people. These words, attributed to the former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, are ones I try to live by. Being a journalist, the irony isn't wasted on me, given that talking about people is pretty much the only remit of my job. But more than about them, I enjoy talking with them and having the chance to discuss their bigger ideas. It's why in this issue we find ourselves talking about the necessity to evolve and differentiate in the pre-school market with Fundamentally Children's Amanda Gummer. It's why past issues I have explored topics of inclusivity, mental health, SEN, LGBT inclusion in the board gaming space; all for presenting new ideas to an industry that thrives on imagination. I'll never sit counting the pages of a 'rival' and present that as an in any way credible or measurable means of comparing the quality of publications. I won't because ToyNews' role in this industry is to continue to explore new ideas and cultures and present those to you for you to digest how you will. You may agree with some or disagree with many - you may even call me a numpty - but we will never tell you what to think or how to think it, just give you the perspective to do that yourselves. Robert Hutchins, Editor Robert.Hutchins@futurenet.com

November 2018 | toy news | 3


Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

COVER STORY PRE-SCHOOL PROBLEM? P14

Contents November 2018 Features

Regulars

BIG INTERVIEW: MARIANNE JAMES We talk to Nickelodeon's Marianne James about the studio's first venture with Hasbro

Opinion 06 Mike Thomas 07 Robert Hutchins 08 Valerie Vacante 09 Richard Heayes

10 14

UN-PICKING PRE-SCHOOL We dive into the issues surrounding pre-school and ask 'is it time for an evolution?'

22

CREATION STORY Toy Fair 2019 has announced a new Creation Zone. We talk to them to find out more.

47

PLAYING IT TO THE MASSES ToyNews assesses September's new Tabletop Gaming Live launch

Market Data 30 Generation Media 32 WildBrain Product Guide 35 Pre-school toys Hall of fame 43 Rainbow Productions 53 Anjar Back pages 56 Industry Moves 57 Team of the month

November 2018 | toy news | 5


Opinion

And, action! It's time to start uncovering the logistics of Brexit By Mike Thomas

As the national media dutifully reminds us, Brexit on March 29th 2019 is moving ever closer. And as that looming date edges all the nearer, the UK Government has published a series of Technical Notes of provisions to apply under a ‘no deal’ scenario. It’s at this moment that we here at Import Services would like to point you in particular to the note on Trading with the EU, which is key for our clients, who import toys and associated products from the Far East to the UK and Continental Europe, via our own Port-Centric distribution centres. While we may appear no closer to an outcome than we were one year ago, Import Services is in a more advantaged position than some to be able to provide practical import/export operations in case of a hard Brexit, noting advice and guidance from our leading trade association the UKWA, working closely with the UK Government. The Technical Notes are extensive and detailed. However, initial guidelines to help ensure your goods keep moving are summarised in the following: Full description of goods: Both UK and EU Customs will require a clear description of the products we are distributing. In this respect,

goods are required to be classified [CCCN], with their description applicable to the cited classification. It will be important that invoices clearly state the description of the goods involved with consistency across nomenclature in this respect. A letter of empowerment: UK/EU Customs will require Import Services to formally ‘empower’ our carrier partners to act on our behalf as a Customs representative. This will be necessary to have in writing and Import Services will provide the template. EORI Registration number: Both VAT and EORI numbers will be required. Payment of duty and VAT where applicable: Post-brexit import duty and VAT liabilities may be incurred, although the level and incidence of charges are yet to take form. When they do crystalise, agreement will be sought on each trade lane to market, facilitated by AEO accreditation already in place. Bonded storage with Import Services: It's recommended if your goods are not already held under bond with Import Services, we consider the facility of Customs bonded ops to gain Brexit flexibility and cashflow advantages [deferred duty and VAT] in supplying goods to the EU and other external markets.

"Here are the first steps you want to be taking in the eventuality of hard Brexit." Mike Thomas is the client services director at Import Services. Thomas is a graduate in logistics and a member of the UKWA Board. His track record is development of warehousing and distribution businesses for P&O and Ocean Excel.

6 | toy news | November 2018


Opinion

Is it just me, or has the current face of retail turned rather ugly? By Robert Hutchins

It’s been suggested that the outing of Sir Philip Green last month by Lord Haine as the ‘businessman’ behind a number of allegations of sexual assault, bullying and racism, is only the start of something more dreadful for retail than changing consumer habits. Towards the end of last month, the public flogging of Green commenced when Haine named the once upon a time King of the High Street during the Lord’s speech in Parliament as the man behind an assault of allegations that placed him ‘at the heart of the UK’s own #MeToo movement.’ It was the Telegraph that first put those words to paper, simultaneously suggesting that the calls to strip Green of his Knighthood over such allegations allegations that at the time of writing he has strongly denied - are just the start of an unravelling of the upper echelons of the retail business. Now, regardless on whether you believe this wholly arrogant, despicably unscrupulous and foul character to be innocent of the allegations he has thrown money at to keep quiet, or not, the saying goes that every dog has his day. What might not be so fair is that high street will have that day in court with him. Questions like 'should we still be shopping at TopShop?' (currently

the most lucrative asset among Green's retail empire) are now being asked of ourselves. Should we really continue to line the pockets of those so rich, powerful yet ultimately so fragile that they slap NDAs on their employees and slam injunctions on the press? From my point of view, it's those like Green that are as equally responsible for the state of the UK's high street retail scene as the advent of the internet or the tax exploits of Google and Amazon. Thanks to the power of the #MeToo movement, the billionaire playboys can no longer sell-off all their problems for a £1 coin, and while the high street is on the verge of yet more suffering at his hands, it could be the shakedown it - and its era of modern-day bourgeoisie - needs once and for all. The business of retail is in need of a severe talking to. Take a look at this from a different perspective and the models of the by-gone era simply aren't working any more: Debenhams messed it up. Toys R Us before it. House of Fraser, too. Mothercare's yo-yo-ing business swung its axe on some 150 jobs last month, and something is very clear. Modern culture is in a state of rejection of the shape that retail once took. From their seats as kings of the high street, so many now have fallen. Its face has turned ugly. If this isn't now the turning point, frankly, it's a missed opportunity. Now, if only we can sort out the issues of bullying and taxation for the online giants once and for all, that would be lovely.

"One time kings of the high street have fallen from grace." Robert Hutchins is the editor and curator of ToyNews and Licensing.biz. A toy and licensing industry journalist for the last six years, he has grown rather fond of his Funko collection. Contact Rob and the team via robert.hutchins@futurenet.com

November 2018 | toy news | 7


Opinion

Close encounters: Our vision of the future of connected play is getting ever nearer By Valerie Vacante

When people think of the future, it's often images of flying cars, hovercrafts, space, rockets, robots and holograms that leap to mind. Actually, most of those things are here today in some form or fashion. We aren’t talking about a galaxy far, far away or some made up time continuum, we are talking about our near future. When we think about the near future of connected play, we will see more choice and ways to play, more technologies working in smarter ways to create magical experiences and more memorable wonderment for kids and parents alike. Companies will begin to provide choice in how we connect with the physical and digital world providing more options to play connected or not. Hasbro’s Nerf Laser Ops Pro allows players to take the blaster out of the box and blast on or connect the app and jump into a digital laser tag arena. It’s video gaming in the physical and digital world and kids have their choice to play on their terms. Augmented Reality and emerging technologies will work together for more immersive experiences, for example, MekaMon by Reach Robotics combines the power of robotics and AR gaming, Carpe´by Reilly-

Works combines IoT and AR for a Simon Says meets Whack-a-Mole experience, Nickelodeon’s Screens Up app provides extended screening with AR and TV viewing and it won’t be long until we see more voice, sound and AR play experiences. The app barrier will be broken with web-based AR experiences; imagine bringing your favorite toy to life, enhancing your favorite board game or creating immersive retail play experiences all without downloading an app, you will in the very near future. There will be more experimentation with voice, sound and touch in connected play, Novaila, part of the Techstars Amazon Alexa accelerator is creating printed capacitive touch surfaces that connect to Alexa. Storyball encourages kids to get moving through sounds and sensors creating screen-free movement and fun. Data over sound technology or using sound as a bar code will provide immersive experiences engaging connected toys and entertainment experiences. NFC and RFID technologies have been used for years however we are going to see them used in new ways, to get kids moving. A-Champs, ROX2 is an interactive gaming system that brings video gaming into the real world with RFID Base Station that gets kids up and moving with fun interactive RFID Animal tokens. The near future is bright, filled new technologies, new technology configurations, more choices, and new ways to create connected experiences.

"This isn't galaxy far, far away, this is real world stuff." Valerie Vacante is the founder of the consumer tech resarch hub Collabsco. She is an expert in consumer tech and tech in toy. She has recently launched Tech Up, a concept designed to scout out the latest in consumer tehc advancements.

8 | toy news |November 2018


Opinion

The Essen essentials: How Spiel remains the epicentre of European board gaming By Richard Heayes

Late October sees the world's gaming community head out to the Northern German city of Essen. The Internationale Spieltage SPIEL started back in 1983. Last year visitors over the four days exceeded 180,000 and this year is likely to be over 190,000. The show is a place where deals are done but the main focus is as a public event where games are played, bought and showcased to the public. When I first went to Spiel in the early 00’s it was pretty hard to get a game described in English as it was very much a German gaming audience, and the kind that appreciated those games where you were lucky to get three completed in a day. You know the types. These days, however, both the show's audience and exhibitor are much more international, much more diverse and looking for gaming experiences across the spectrum of what the industry has to offer. Not just the kinds that require two weeks of your annual leave booked out in advance. Highlighting the show - and the hobby's - growth, this year saw an extra hall added. But this simply means it can fit more people in, and the sheer volume of people filling the halls and stands always catches the first-timers out. The experienced traveller will check

in a large case but take minimal clothing, allowing plenty of space for the deals on offer. With thousands of games on offer and the same again new for that year, it is clear that many will struggle to pay back their investment. As with all entertainment products, the overall quality level has increased in graphics, components and gameplay. Trying to get away with half-baked gameplay or graphics these days just isn’t an option. Asmodee continued to visually dominate with its live Twitch streaming area and beautiful stands which wouldn’t have looked out of place at CES. The Mattel Scrabble 70th themed stand was also very nice, while there were many startups with Kickstarter ready products also putting on a good show. The gaming community by their nature are a collaborative bunch. They want to know what you’ve played and what you’d recommend. It’s a living, breathing rating event. You check out what people have bought and are carrying around, what is selling out at the many shops in the halls and check the reactions as people play on the stands. You leave with a smile on your face, a few wins under your hat, sausage in your tummy and an appreciation for being part of a great and growing business. For any of those looking to diversify deeper into the world of board gaming, Essen Spiel continues to be a "must-attend" show. It's well worth the trip.

"The international focus of audience at Essen has just grown." Richard Heayes is the founder of heayes Design, a toy and game design consultancy and Play Lenz, a toy and tech invention studio: www.playlenz.com.

November 2018 | toy news | 9


Big interview

10 | toy news | November 2018


Big interview

“WE’VE NEVER WORKED WITH HASBRO IN THIS WAY BEFORE” Nickelodeon is excited about its new pre-school launch Top Wing. Not only because the studio has quickly become renowned for its ability in the pre-school space, but because it presents the firm a whole new opportunity to partner with a toy company on a global scale. Robert Hutchins talks to Nickelodeon’s Marianne James about the whole thing, and more...

I

f you’re wondering why the premise behind Nickelodeon’s upcoming new preschool launch, Top Wing sounds more than a little familiar, you really can’t be blamed; there’s a multitude of reasons why. The new pre-school series is scheduled to take flight on UK TV next spring and follows the adventures of Swift, Penny, Rod and Brody, a group of rescue birds in training who learn to work together and earn their wings as a full-feathered flock of rescuers. The series is just part of a slate of new pre-school IP to be launched by Nickelodeon for the coming year, yet is the only one to have been created via a strategic partnership between the studio and the global toymaker, Hasbro. It’s a partnership that marks Nickelodeon’s first pre-school master toy deal with the global entertainment company, and is one that will be delivered on a global scale. But we’ve been here before, haven’t we? Well… at least somewhere similar: PAW Patrol, anyone?

We won’t go on to explain PAW Patrol to you, but suffice to say it’s a multi-award-winning pre-school IP that was developed in partnership with Spin Master. It’s also gone on to become a worldwide phenomenon. So, it’s no wonder Nickelodeon is so excited about its latest release in the space. After all, if it can emulate the success of PAW Patrol in the same way, there will surely be little doubt left over the firm’s ownership of the pre-school space. “To have something that is a phenomenal success like PAW Patrol in the preschool space hopefully gives our partners the confidence that we have the understanding and knowledge on how to bring pre-school properties to market,” Marianne James, Nickelodeon’s vice president of commercial partnerships, consumer products and experiences, UK and Ireland, tells ToyNews. “It’s why we are really excited about Top Wing because we have never worked with Hasbro in this way before, this is the

first time we are entering into this level of partnership with them and it is great.” Already, Hasbro has championed the new property for “having all the signature elements of a top toy property,” and will deliver a range inspired by the show’s characters, themes and hi-tech gadgets as well as vehicles via its Playskool toy brand. Top Wing is already airing in the US by the way. It launched to TV audiences this autumn and already, according to James, the TV readings are strong. But not only this, it’s hitting all the right notes in the gender neutral stakes, too. “This is giving us a great opportunity to do something unique in the pre-school market,” says James, “and that’s tapping into both boys and girls audiences. That’s a key point of difference to strike in a market as crowded as pre-school.” Differentiation, as James goes on to explain, is paramount in surviving the shifting retail and consumer landscapes: “It’s how Nickelodeon creates room on shelf and room in its partners’ consumer November 2018 | toy news | 11


Big interview

“On air, when you are scheduling pre-school programming, kids tend to watch whatever they want to. They don’t choose ‘I am a boy so I should be watching this,’ or ‘I am a girl, I should be watching princesses…’ they watch because they enjoy the content.” Marianne James, Nickelodeon’s vice president of commercial partnerships

12 | toy news | Novenber 2018

products programmes.” Bring the gender neutrality aspect into play once again, and the differentiation points are stacking up in Nickelodeon’s favour. Was it a conscious decision on the part of Nickelodeon and the series’ production studio, 9 Story Media, therefore to push the gender agenda? It would be a prescient move to do so, given the shifting cultural clime. James continues: “On air, when you are scheduling pre-school programming, kids tend to watch whatever they want to. They don’t choose ‘I am a boy so I should be watching this,’ or ‘I am a girl, I should be watching princesses…’ they watch because they enjoy the content.” However, in physical retail, admits James, there will be a skew towards one side or the other, and that will in turn in-

form its wider marketing as Nickelodeon builds the consumer programme out around it. “While on air, it is gender neutral, from a toy perspective it does lend itself to the boys’ market in the play pattern. But when we look at building out other categories like apparel and food accessories, we can bring in a gender neutral approach. Exactly like we do with PAW Patrol.” It’s yet another parallel to draw with the series that since its launch has fast become the flagship pre-school property for the company. On the topic of differentiation, it’s also important to note that Nickelodeon’s gaze is reaching beyond the offerings of linear TV and into the realms of YouTube stardom. In fact, it, as James tells us: “would be


Big interview

remiss not to talk about JoJo Siwa.” Rarely is it that Nickelodeon will admit to being taken by surprise over the success of its IP. However, in the case of the singer, dancer, actress and YouTube personality, James is prepared to make an exception. “It was phenomenal,” she explains. “I would happily say it took us by surprise. We have never worked with a model like this before. We have always worked with a consumer products programme off the back of strong, linear TV content. ‘For the first time ever, we moved incredibly quickly to get the 30 licensees signed in three months and the first products out to market again within three to four months of having partners signed. The success of JoJo has given us inspiration to begin to look for IP that is not from the traditional background.” This would make Nickelodeon somewhat of a vanguard. Not in recognising the wealth of potential that YouTube harbours in the IP stakes, but as a global entertainment corporation to have successfully brought one in under its own branding and translate it to toys, apparel, gifting, accessories and live events. “It really has opened up conversations we wouldn’t be having three or four years ago,” continues James. “It’s not just in con-

sumer products, it has lent itself very well to our live events programme as well, and that has been a huge growth engine for us.” When, at the start of the year, Pam Kaufman stepped into the role of president of Viacom Nickelodeon global consumer products, the executive issued a manifesto that placed a whole new emphasis on the company’s attitude towards growing its live events portfolio. “We are recognising that consumers aren’t just wanting to buy products, they want to engage with their favourite characters on multiple levels and we need to do more to be there for them in that space,” says James. It’s part of the reason as to why Nickelodeon has a slate of “four or five” live shows and events planned in for 2019, and plenty more of them to come. Among these are talks around a new Turtles live tour, bringing the studio’s recently launched, re-booted Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand to experiential licensing in much the same way it has with JoJo Siwa or PAW Patrol. There’s certainly no lack in demand for more Turtles, suggests James, even with an IP as fresh as Rise of. It only hit screens in September this year, with a toy launch that took place on October 6th. It currently airs simultane-

ously on Channel 5 and Nicktoons. “This was absolutely the right thing to do,” says James. “We have never done that before and the ratings it delivered back have more than proved themselves. We are really pleased that we took that angle and we worked hard to get that agreed. That set us up really well for the toy launch.” It was a very intense launch period. The new show launched with a Rise of PR event on September 19th this year, Two-weeks later, the toys followed. “That concentrated, intense activity has served us well,” James adds. “We work really well with Flair and with their support we have delivered the right programme to get the toys up and running. We will start looking to get more meaningful retail promotions running as we start moving into the second half of next year and as we launch more categories.” So, it’s been somewhat a year of exploring new avenues for the Nickelodeon outfit. It’s successfully foraged the land of YouTube, it’s re-animated the Turtles brand and it’s taken a new leap with the toymaker Hasbro to reaffirm its position in the pre-school market. Yet all the while, it’s retained its familiarity. Perhaps that’s the key to success? New, but familiar. November 2018 | toy news | 13


Pre-school

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

14 | toy news | November 2018


Pre-school

CHANGING THE SHAPE OF PRE-SCHOOL It’s notoriously over-crowded, competitive and filled with potential for new advances with technology, segmentation and redefinition. Robert Hutchins takes a close look at the evolving pre-school space and where it’s heading towards

T

here’s a new movement to redefine the pre-school sector currently on the boil. It’s been highlighted as a practical yet forward-thinking means of alleviating the pressure the sector is currently facing. The pre-school sector is one rife with competition. Historically, the space has always been crowded. A persistently high performer in terms of retail sales, yes, and a lucrative hotbed for new IP, but ruthlessly competitive, all the same. Bring into the fold the recent advances - or evolution - in the way entertainment November 2018 | toy news | 15


Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Pre-school

is consumed today with the rise of our multi-screening culture and what we are currently looking at is a mind boggling statistic courtesy of the data crunchers at WildBrain: 400 hours of pre-school content is being uploaded to YouTube every minute. It’s little wonder then, that when companies talk about the pre-school space, the underlying tone is that it is only poised to become vastly more crowded than it currently is. And what do we have to thank for this? Amanda Gummer, founder of Fundamentally Children tells ToyNews that the explosion we have witnessed in the preschool sector over the past couple of years is made up of a tri-factor of societal changes. For a start, changing

parental styles have played a key role, this is followed by an increased understanding of how children develop today, but the biggest and and most influential factor has to be the rise of our on-demand culture. Let’s call it multi-screen living. That state of existence most, if not all of us - like it or not - find ourselves immersed in. Ask your local independent toy store owner what has been the biggest impact on business over the past 12 months, two years, even half a decade and it’s guaranteed that ‘online advancement’ will feature within the top five. It was certainly the result of ToyNews’ own cross section survey of UK independent toy retailers this month. 80 per cent of those asked cited ‘the internet’ as the biggest vehicle of change to their business; whether that is home shopping, family entertainment or in the new modes of children’s play time. It’s as Little Tikes' head of UK marketing,

Michelle Lilley suggests: “Babies and pre-schoolers are being born into a world where consumption is constantly increasing.” In the multi-screen and on-demand environment we all now operate, never have kids been more engaged with the wealth of entertainment content offered to them across a multitude of platforms. Equally, never before has there been more content vying for their attention and more companies each trying to take a slice of the pre-school pie with new ranges fighting for shelf space. “On-demand viewing has played a huge role in the explosion of the pre-school sector, as has the massive increase in mobile,” Gummer tells ToyNews. “Having content that parents can have on their phones or tablets that they can just pull out wherever they are massively increases children’s engagement with the content and thus their attachment to the characters and recogni-

“Having content that parents can have on their phones or tablets that they can just pull out wherever they are massively increases children’s engagement with the content and thus their attachment to the characters and recognition of merchandise.” Amanda Gummer Founder of Fundamentally Children November 2018 | toy news | 17


Pre-school

tion of merchandise.” But what if there was a way of breaking this content down into sub-categories within the pre-school sphere? Would that ease the pressure of what makes the cut as your pre-school offering for the year? At the start of the year, Amanda Gummer, an expert in child development, partnered with DHX Brands, a specialist in children’s and pre-school entertainment - and brand owners of the likes of Teletubbies, In the Night Garden and plenty more of those staples of the pre-school scene - to introduce a new First Steppers initiative. The idea was to add more diversification to the pre-school sector. Its concept: to target the younger end of the pre-school sector with the aim of alleviating some of the pressures felt in that overcrowded and sweeping category. “Pre-school is one of the most crowded and challenging sectors in the licensing industry,” Charlotte Hill, senior brand manager at DHX Brands, explains. “Children develop faster between the ages of six months and five years old than at any other point in their lives, and the developmental differences between the higher and lower end of this demographic are vast. “In contrast, the industry tends to present all products, content and brands for children in this age band together as ‘pre-school’, with little differentiation.” It is the belief of Hill, along with Fundamentally Children’s Gummer that in rethinking this “broad category”, bigger 18 | toy news | November 2018

opportunities for licensees, retailers and brand owners will present themselves. Alongside this, it will benefit this vitally important consumer group as it continues to wade through the reams and reams of content, toys and branding that is presented under the one umbrella. The sentiments are not isolated to those that sit in the content creation sphere; far from it. On the front line, retailers are calling out for a strategic reformation of what we know and believe to be ‘pre-school.’ Sam Broad is the owner of the independent Cambridge toy shop, Lighthouse Toys. As such, she is well-positioned to place what the broad age-range the term

‘pre-school’ covers in very real terms for retailers. “The span of ages within that frame is just too wide,” she tells ToyNews. “Within our shop and website, we display the toys according to age. Newborn up to 11 months, then one year olds, two year olds and three years plus. We have found that parents won’t buy a toy labelled three years plus even if, developmentally, it is suitable. “On the other side, I would prefer toys that are more suitable for six year olds not to be labelled three years plus. We need, as an industry to go away from putting ages on toys.” It’s timely in that case that the First Steppers initiative from DHX Brands and Fundamentally Children is singing from the very same hymn sheet. The concept itself introduces a new sub-category, between nursery and pre-school, for brands which meet the socio-developmental and entertainment needs of children aged six months to two and a half years. Thanks to brands like Teletubbies, In the Night Garden and Twirlywoos - all aimed at First Steppers - DHX boasts an “intimate understanding of this age group”. It also believes that this knowledge of the new sector will eventually feed into product development. “I think toy companies also need to understand how children of all ages engage with content, and to have a clearer break-


(Roundel) Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Pre-school

down on the age of the children watching the show - their cognitive and physical development needs to play a key part,” continues Hill. “The difference between how a two and a half year old and a four and a half year old plays is huge. For example, plastic characters need to be a lot chunkier than those at the upper end of pre-school as very young children are not as dextrous.” But just how far away is this from implementation? Well, the concept has only been in play for around ten months, but already it has received backing from the British Toy and Hobby Association, as well as those at LIMA - the licensing industry body - and Brand Licensing Europe. OK, it’s not earth shattering, yet, but with industry experts behind it, the initiative is only looking to pick up momentum. “We are very excited about the possibilities that First Steppers could have on the industry,” says Hill. ‘We have begun the

dialogue and, while we are only at the beginning, we are hopeful that it will start to be considered more by the industry and eventually taken as a new demographic. “We firmly believe that every stakeholder benefits from this preschool segmentation. By understanding children’s needs, the needs of their parents and their shopping habits, we can better meet them.” Together, Hill and Gummer are looking to broaden the licensee base to provide “extra choice which, along with improved products, will encourage retailers to make it easier for parents to find what they want,” all, they suggest, “leading to increased sales.”

But let us not forget the key catalyst behind this pre-school explosion in the first place, the new kind of playground that technology has brought to the toy sector itself. It’s no surprise that ‘screen time’ has and continues to drive a divide among those in the toy industry. Lighthouse Toys’ Sam Broad laments what she cites as a ‘growing dependency of children on screens’ in favour of traditional play time. “My concern is that pre-school children are being entertained by screens and they are not playing with toys,” she decries. “3D play is more important to a young child’s development than a 2D screen. November 2018 | toy news | 19


Pre-school

“Children need to be talked to and communicated with by their parents and other adults. We get saddened by some customers who ask for toys that the children can play with on their own…” However, we have to ask, just how big an issue is the notion of ‘screen-time’ really? Brands like Little Tikes - perennials in the pre-school market - for instance, have found the new platform for entertainment to be an empowering one, for brands and consumers alike. “Babies and pre-schoolers are being born into a world where consumption is constantly increasing, as is the pace of everything around us,” Michelle Lilley, head of UK marketing at Little Tikes tells ToyNews. “On-demand viewing gives us the authority to be ever-selective, plus the time and capacity to watch and do more. At Little Tikes, we embrace technological advances and modern media as it creates new routes to engaging with our consumers and giving them more control than ever before.” Of course, Little Tikes will forever be rooted in traditional play with a mission statement of bringing innovation through via the kind of concepts that over the last few years have found themselves truly embedded in the pre-school fold.

“The pre-school sector is constantly and consistently developing, which presents immense opportunity for classic and innovative toys alike. At Little Tikes, we have launched many new products in this category over the last two years, with ranges such as Light ‘n’ Go and Wheelz - and the most recent being STEM Jr,” continues Lilley. “Our pre-school range aims to build imagination and create new memories. Educational toys are at the forefront of the category and our STEM range is leading the way, with products such as the Wonder Lab and the Builder Bot, which introduces youngsters to engineering through play.” Lilley would be the first to accept the competitive nature of the pre-school sector. However, it is by striking the balance between the traditional and the digital that she believes retailers now have a “fantastic opportunity to engage with consumers.” “Online merchandising can be met with in-store theatre and POS demonstrations,” she says, “and the constant mix of licensed and core branded products available now offer a huge assortment for retailers to choose from.” But what of the fears of what ‘screen time’ is doing to the traditional concept of ‘family time’? Is it truly distancing parents from their children? Not if you are of the

same train of thought as AR technology developers Weyo, the team behind a new preschool app game that utilises the advancing Augmented Reality technology to “enhance family play time.” The app is called Fun Time with Faces. It’s a new technology that aims to immerse children into songs, stories and games with their favourite entertainment characters for an interactive AR experience. It’s goal is deliver something more than the simplistic ‘tapping and swiping of screens’ that presents interactive experiences to allow kids to ‘develop confidence through experimentation, and to use their imaginations to sing, act and role play.’ “We ask children to ‘wonder who they will be’ and, through the magic of AR, they become their favourite characters with the ability to do the things those characters would do,” explains Baz Palmer, co-founder and CEO of Weyo. “In the Fun Time with Songs house, the child is automatically edited into Wiggles videos with AR masks added to their faces, so they become one of the characters in our videos.” What Palmer loves about the concept is the way Weyo and the technology can help bring families together at a time in which screens are so often seen as the enemy. “Whether it’s jumping into the video or photo, wearing fun masks or creating unique content together with their child, then being able to save these videos and photos to your iPhone or iPad to view them back together, or share with other family members is all key to the experience.” The possibilities that AR presents in the pre-school sector, or indeed any toy category, are exciting. As Palmer suggests: “AR lets you be the character and that freedom allows you to go beyond the you that you are…” Are we nearing an age in which this kind of technology is considered a fundamental part of the pre-school offering? Palmer believes so, yes. What’s more, he wants to ensure Weyo is leading the way for it. ‘This is just the start for us, we have many more tricks up our sleeves. The more immersive we can make those experiences become, the greater the possibilities for opening up other avenues to explore the way children learn,” he says. "Our future product roadmap is insane in a fun, but also an educational way.” November 2018 | toy news | 21


Toy Fair

It’ll be nine years strong next year since the Toy Fair returned to its home in London’s Olympia since the hiatus of pre-2010. Over that time, the UK’s biggest toy expo has seen an industry through all manner of evolution. For 2019, it’s doing it again, this time acknowledging the importance of YouTube Content Creators with a dedicated new zone. ToyNews talks to Toy Fair's head of operations and sales, Majen Immink about the next step in toy industry focus

22 | toy news | November 2018


Toy Fair

Y

ear by year, the numbers of bloggers and YouTubers descending upon London’s Olympia to bask in the soft glow of Toy Fair, increases. It’s in line with the surge of digital media and the popularity of online video contentthat the world has seen. Today, it’s just as aspirational to become a YouTuber as it is a television presenter or Hollywood A-lister, yet all the more achievable for anyone with a mobile device and a haircut. And doesn’t the BTHA just know it. It’s why next year sees the launch of the first Content Creation Zone at London’s Toy Fair - a new area designed to support influencers and content creators of all kinds. The BTHA recognises that as the popularity of this kind of content has grown, so too has the need for a dedicated space that supports its creators. “By launching the Content Creation Zone this year, we can provide these influencers with the space they need to create

the best possible content at the show, such as shooting an interview or trying out some of the new launches,” Majen Immink, BTHA tells ToyNews. It’s also part of the BTHA’s latest investment into the future landscape of the toy industry, all of which seems to be stemming from “the digital revolution”, something that is filtering into every sector from fashion to technology or lifestyle. We are in an age where the latest trends are being published, discussed and reviewed faster than ever by social media, after all. “The rise of influencers in the toy industry is all part of this,” adds Immink. “Content creators won’t be going away any time soon. We will be gathering feedback from 2019’s Zone to ensure we can provide the best possible support for Toy Fair and the Toy Fairs to come. “In the toy industry, we have a few specific trends and audiences that are a perfect fit for this kind of content. Trends such as

November 2018 | toy news | 23


Toy Fair

“In the toy industry, we have a few specific trends and audiences that are a perfect fit for this kind of content. Trends such as collectables, for example, are big hits on YouTube, with thousands of kids tuning in to watch their favourite personalities unbox the latest toys." Majen Immink, Toy Fair - Head of Operations

24 | toy news | Novenber 2018

collectables, for example, are big hits on YouTube, with thousands of kids tuning in to watch their favourite personalities unbox the latest toys. Parenting bloggers are also an increasingly important resource for families, looking for reviews on everything from days out to nursery furniture and much more.” While it will be an important aspect of the continued evolution of the London Toy Fair, the Content Creation Zone is far from the only development to be looking forward to at the 2019 big show. In fact, like the toy industry, Toy Fair never stops evolving. “One of the important changes has been the introduction of the Greenhouse 15 years ago,” continues Immink. “The Greenhouse is designed to give smaller companies and start-ups new to the show the chance to exhibit on a smaller budget.” So successful has the Greenhouse Zone been over the years, that in 2018, the BTHA made the decision to increase the size of the section by 80 square meters. The larger physical floorspace for the start-up

area will be maintained for a second year running in 2019. Of course, so many aspects of the Toy Fair as we know it now have been developments implemented over the course of the last decade. It’s been a 10 year period that has, for instance, seen the show return to London’s Olympia following a hiatus from the exhibition centre pre-2010. On top of this, Gavin Inskip and Anna Williamson introduced us all to Toy Fair TV one year later. It’s strange to think the presenting pair have only been broadcasting Toy Fair TV across Olympia London for only seven years - they have, after all, become part of the Toy Fair furniture. “Having the show broadcast across Olympia London as well as making it available online via the website is an excellent way for us to extend our audience reach,” says Immink. “Toy Fair TV also gives exhibitors of all sizes an opportunity to have their products showcased in the Demo Zone, where children get to play with it all." If you’re on the fence over whether to exhibit at Toy Fair in 2019 - and come on,


Toy Fair

why would you be? - Immink is readily equipped with a multitude of reasons for exactly why you should. Above them all though is the fact that Toy Fair really is the place where you can find all of the UK’s biggest toy companies under one roof. ‘It’s an invaluable place to network with other professionals and, for smaller companies, to build your brand awareness within the industry,” says Immink. “Exhibiting companies also have the opportunity to showcase their products to a vast array of buyers and influential visitors, from the biggest retailers to smaller independent gift shops. “There is also an extensive media presence at Toy Fair, from national newspapers and broadcasters to the ever-influential world of YouTubers and bloggers.” As every year passes by, it’s the consistent goal for the show’s organisers to make the next Toy Fair bigger and better than the last. So what can we expect from the

show in this regard for 2019? Well, it’s a good question. “The business elements to Toy Fair are what drive the overall success of the show we always seek to give buyers, retailers and exhibiting companies the perfect platform to establish lasting business relationships,” explains Immink. “We have struck the perfect balance between providing space for the biggest names in the toy industry and the latest start-ups and inventors. This year, we’ve also put plans in place to house a brand new Content Creation Zone to better support the many YouTubers, bloggers and other influencers that are attending London Toy Fair. “Much like we have with our press office, we want to ensure that influencers have everything they need to report live from the show and reach those all-important parent and child audiences.” With an array of new developments

underway for the 2019 show, you can be sure to find a whole of new faces drawn to London’s big event by the allure of the evolving toy spae. ‘It’s always exciting to see new exhibitors at Toy Fair,” grins Immink. “My best advice would be to make sure that you have a few retailers in mind that you’d like to approach over the three days, making sure you plan your pitch and book in those appointments as soon as you can. “As always, myself and the team are very excited to see what the industry has to offer this year in toy design, creativity and innovation. ‘I would like to thank everyone in the toy industry - from toy inventors and retailers, to marketing teams and PRs. The hard work that goes into Toy Fair wouldn’t be worth it if those attending didn’t have such passion and talent. “January is just around the corner and I can’t wait.”

November 2018 | toy news | 25


Head to head

PRE-SCHOOL’S NEXT GOLDEN WONDER? Acamar Films really means business this year and having secured a new toy partner for its pre-school series Bing, the firm is only just getting started. Chief commercial officer Sandra Vauthier-Cellier sits down with Golden Bear’s vice chairman and director of PD, Christine Nicholls to talk the new toy line Sandra Vauthier-Cellier: We were delighted to announce Golden Bear as the new master toy licensee for our hit pre-school property, Bing during the run-up to BLE this year. Golden Bear is known for being a leading force within the pre-school sector and we're thrilled with the response we've had to the announcement. The new Bing toy line is wide ranging and will feature 26 | toy news | November 2018

Bing, Flop and friends in plush lines, figurines and playsets, role play items, bath toys and wooden peg puzzles. The first products will launch in the second half of 2019 across the UK, Ireland, EMEA and of course, Australia. We are particularly excited about the extensive range of plush, which covers basic, talking, feature, night time and jumbo

options as we know these will resonate particularly well with our Bingsters and their grown-ups. Christine Nicholls: Yes, for us capturing the essence of the brand is of paramount importance in the planning of our new Bing toy collection. We focus on bringing the characters to life with the emphasis on design, quality and competitive pricing.


Head to head

The toy range is actually structured to cover all the key sizes and price points, starting with our smallest Bing soft toy in super-soft plush, featuring cute floppy arms and legs - just perfect for little ones to carry around. Flop is also available at this size and together they are the first entry into the new collection. The next level of plush takes us to Talking Bing and Sula, who are brought to life at a larger size and feature their favourite phrases from the show, while Lights and Sounds Bing brings another dimension to the plush range and features an amazing light-up button. We are very excited to introduce our irresistible feature plush - Bedtime Bing who is so adorable wearing his cute pyjamas and will be the perfect companion for little ones during their bedtime routine. Plastic figurines neatly packaged in a gift box also form an important part of the range as they introduce more of the characters for imaginative role play and are always a popular choice for pre-schoolers…. And the Bing phone is a must have addition.

Vauthier-Cellier: It really is such an extensive line-up as you can see. But it’s important to be, the pre-school sector is well-known for being highly competitive, but Bing has quickly become well-established within it, so it is important that this really is brought to the market equally in the toy range.

“In regards to the Golden Bear toy line up, it's an extensive range. But it is important to be, the pre-school sector is well-known for being highly competitive and Bing has become established within it. It's important that is carried on by the toys.” Sandra Vauthier-Cellier, Acamar

Nicholls: Absolutely, Bing really is adored by young children everywhere and is trusted by parents for its values and learning opportunities. The new range of Bing toys will play an important part within the pre-school sector as there is clearly a huge demand for this delightful character and his friends. Vauthier-Cellier: Bing is a very special property, both for the team at Acamar and for its devoted audience. Preschoolers love Bing because they connect with him and his friends on an emotional level and can relate to the difficulties of navigating the ups and downs of everyday pre-school life. Golden Bear’s experience and success within the pre-school sector is legendary. The team has demonstrated a genuine passion and enthusiasm for the property. We have no doubt at all that Golden Bear is the perfect partner to take the everyday joy of Bing and translate that into a unique range of toys that children will love. That;s why we are so thrilled to be welcoming them as our partners and Bing fellow travellers. November 2018 | toy news | 27


Head to head

Nicholls: We do have a heritage in this space‌ Golden Bear is renowned for producing quality toys that are both trusted and appealing. Our experience in the preschool market spans almost 40 years and we take great pride in looking after brands to assure their longevity. We are thrilled to be working with Acamar to design Bing toys that help to celebrate the joyful, messy, reality of life from a preschooler perspective. Vauthier-Cellier: Look, it’s no secret that we are faced with a challenging retail climate at the moment, which continues to place increasing demands on both licensors and licensees alike, but despite the gap in the market left by the loss of Toys R Us earlier in the year, the toy sector in general is managing to thrive and remains exciting and full of creativity. That said, it is of course still extremely competitive, with new properties and innovations launching all the time. Content and product both need to be of exceptional quality in order to keep an audience engaged and to encourage them to connect at retail. This is especially true in the pre-school sector, where there is a need to appeal to both children and their parents. We are beginning to showcase some of our new Bing content for 2019 and 2020. 26 | toy news | November 2018

The new series is currently in production and will begin airing from Q3 2019. As well as this, we are focused on the development of new digital content - both short and long form. There will be engaging content for grown-ups too, which will be based around the experiences that come hand in hand with having a pre-schooler in their lives. Our aim is to deliver the right content at the right time on the right platform, while always remaining authentic and true to the Bing brand.

The new episodes will allow Golden Bear and our licensees to continue to drive product development forward with fresh assets and new style guides. The timing is perfect for bringing these exciting new Bing developments to market. Nicholls: There is something exciting and always rewarding about working in the pre-school space for us, but what about you Sandra? What is it that keeps you in it, despite how competitive it has become? Vauthier-Cellier: It's just how quickly


Head to head

trends emerge - and how quickly IP owners need to work in order to keep up with them. As an independent company, we are lucky enough to have both the autonomy and the flexibility to move fast, which means we can react to emerging trends. At the moment, the rapid growth of YouTube as a viewing platform remains at the heart of our content creation plan and forms an essential part of our wider global growth strategy. We already have a global Bing YouTube channel as well as local

language versions in Poland, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and The Netherlands with Russia to follow later this year. The new series which will launch next year is an essential part of building the property, both internationally and domestically. Our key marketing themes for 2019 and beyond resonate with our audience and will be supported by new partnerships, experiential activities and fresh consumer initiatives - such as the current ‘Bath & Bedtime’ campaign.

“The new range of Bing toys will play an important part in the pre-school sector as there is clearly a huge demand for the character. For us, capturing the essence of the brand is of paramount importance, we bring those characters to life with an emphasis on design, quality and competitive pricing. We have a heritage in this space to uphold after all, and with 40 years under our belt, we're well placed to deliver within it.” Christine Nicholls, Golden Bear November 2018 | toy news | 27


Generation Media

PAY BACK TIME Lauren Coombs The Holiday shopping product showcase season is in full force. But, asks Generation Media’s Lauren Coombs, are companies getting the right kind of pay-back from their television ad spend? Source BARB May 2018

T

he October half term week is arguably one of the most coveted weeks of the year in the toys and games space, for many know that this is the time when children begin to write all of those Christmas wish lists. With October-November alone accounting for over a third of toys and games ad demand last year, it's no surprise to currently see their commercials in full force showcasing the must-have products of the year. With last month reporting 256 toys and games campaigns on TV, it is important to understand if the stations have the available inventory to deliver the high volume of campaigns coming their way. Looking back across the first nine months of the year, equivalent impacts across the kids’ commercial channel set reported a decline of 24 per cent, compounded by the double-digit (17 per cent) decline of the previous year. There are a few reason for the drop off. One clear alteration vs previous years is the incredible weather we had, meaning more children have spent time outside and away from the screen. The other, more notable reason will be the fact that children are content chasers and not restricted to only watching their favourite characters through the TV screen. They are seeking content through YouTube, non-commercial channels and in particular platforms such as Netflix that can keep them hooked for hours.

Despite the fact that viewing to kids’ commercial channels are down year on year, there are some positive outcomes. One of which being that a number of pre-school channels are delivering year on year increases with channels such as Tiny Pop reporting a 42 per cent increase for September as well as Milkshake at plus 27 per cent and Cartoonito at plus 23 per cent. It is through this kind of content that advertisers can speak to parents over the shoulder while their younger children are watching the channel, therefore providing a more cost-effective route to market in comparison to the adult’s portfolio that is based on ITV’s station average price. The older boys' channels are also proving popular with CITV Breakfast and ITV Breakfast reporting year on year increases for September of 31 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. Unfortunately however, the same can not be quoted for the Sky sales house with some of its key channels such as Nickelodeon down by 45 per cent, Nick Jr down 42 per cent, and one of the largest channels in the kids market, Pop down by 31 per cent. It is therefore, even more important in an uncertain market with retailers increasingly under pressure that your marketing campaigns pay back. For more assistance in this area and to understand the media market in more detail, please contact us on the below details.

ToyNews PlayTime is provided by Generation Media 0207 307 7900 | www.generationmedia.co.uk

November 2018 | toy news |30


Campaign of the month

MYLA THE MAGICAL MAKE UP UNICORN VTech launched its new magical unicorn toy in September but as the holiday shopping period creeps up on UK consumers, the company's marketing strategy is rolling all the way through to the end of the year

F

lying to success this autumn/winter is Myla the Magical Make Up Unicorn. Thanks to Myla’s magic makeup brush, kids can become stylist by simply selecting any colour from the make up palette and applying it to Myla’s horn, eyes and wings. They can then watch it all light up in that colour. They can even sing along to Myla’s favourite songs with the magic microphone. Myla the Magic Make Up Unicorn first went on air in September and will now be advertised on TV through the key selling period, delivering almost 1000 TVRs. As video content is becoming more imperative for both parents and children alike, the TV advert is just one of three videos that have been created for Myla the Magical Make Up Unicorn. Working with a fan of the brand, VTech has created a video of them unboxing Myla the Magical Make Up Unicorn, to capture their initial reactions of the product, what is inside the box, how the product works and what they enjoyed working with. The more natural video will be used to promote Myla the Magical Make Up Unicorn across YouTube, targeting children that search for this type of popular content. VTech knows that video content at point of sale online increases sales on average by 29 per cent, therefore, important for retailer websites, the final video is the enhanced demo video. The magical element of Myla is really highlighted in the engaging lifestyle video that will not only highlight

key features for parents but will capture the imagination of children. The videos will also be used to promote Myla the Magical Make Up Unicorn across digital and social platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Social media is becoming increasingly time consuming for mums, 59 per cent of Pre School mums (0-5) check social networks 5+ times a day (source GB TGI 2017 Q3 Audience Female Main Shopper with Child 0-5), “ so consequently it is important that we have engaging video content on these platforms, so we can target mums where they consume media.” Rebecca Lazarus, Senior Brand Manager at VTech, explains.

"Also using these social platforms to engage with consumers, we invited 20 influencers and their children to attend a unicorn event for the launch of Myla the Magical Make Up Unicorn. The event was hosted at the Unicorn Theatre in London, where VTech implemented a series of unicorn themed creativity stations, including unicorn themed hairstyles created by the Powder Puff girls." The event resulted in 52 pieces of lifestyle content alongside a series of Instagram stories, with an engagement rate of almost four per cent which is much higher than the 1.5 per cent that is typical of the parenting audience. November 2018 | toy news |31


WildBrain

WHAT'S DRIVING SALES ON YOUTUBE? This month, WildBrain’s Will Mahmood returns to the YouTube platform to take a look at the enormous kids’ vehicle genre and the YouTube content that fuels this sector to continued growth, as well as examining the preference for types of vehicles and the gender profile of the viewers watching this content.

T

here’s no escaping the fact that the vehicles genre is a staple of the children’s entertainment and toy sector with everything from Batman’s Batmobile to the Peppa Pig Bus, and all those thousands of products in between. This month, WildBrain is taking a look at this expansive sector, analysing just what is fuelling the growth of this sector through a closer look at the vehicle genre content on YouTube. Is there a preference for the type of vehicle, and what are the gender profiles of the viewers watching this content?

32 | toy news | November 2018

Just how much vehicle content is on YouTube? Simply put: a lot. Using data from Tubular Labs, WildBrain estimates that in September this year, videos featuring vehicles made for a kids’ audience was four per cent of kids’ content viewing on youTube. Over the month, this amounted to nearly 500 million views from newly uploaded videos, making it bigger than Peppa Pig, a multi-billion dollar consumer products phenomenon and more popular than LOL Surprise content. A look at the graph will show you that among the most watched YouTube content,


WildBrain

Vehicular Kids Content Compared

So what are the sector’s biggest drivers? And now most likely the most important piece to our vehicle study: what vehicles are driving this sector’s success on YouTube the most? Well, the vehicles dominating the top charts are unsurprisingly ordinary and classic pre-school favourites. Within the top five videos in September, cars and trucks ranked first and second, with construction vehicles and emergency service vehicles following.

Views in Millions (September Uploads)

800 706 600 494 400 385 316 200 95

87

0 Nursery Rhymes

Vehicles

PJ Masks

Peppa Pig

LOL Surprise

LEGO

Topic

Vehicles comes in at second place only to Nursery Rhymes which takes 705 million views. Peppa Pig, PJ Masks and LOL Surprise are each left trailing the sector significantly. Sticking it to the stereotypes It’s true that vehicles are traditionally seen as most appealing to boys. That however has long since become a perceived wisdom proven to be unrepresentative of the society we are our children live and play in today. It’s interesting to note that it is Barbie vehicle content that ranks as the fourth viewing figure leading content among the sector, in fact, among all vehicle-based topics. The main products driving this topic are two Barbie Camper vans: one a ride-on for pre-schoolers and the other a Dream Camper play-set for the dolls. Both items in the set aim to inspire adult role-play and have been embraced by Creators on YouTube in their video telling.

Most Popular Vehicular Topics on YouTube Cars

23% 20%

Truck Excavator

9% 8%

Topic

Barbie Fire Truck

7%

Giant

6%

Police Car

6%

Camper

6%

Construction

5% 0%

6%

12% % of Vehicle Content

18%

24%

The most popular new video during the month, with 42 million views, was by Vlad and Nikita - a family vlogging channel from the US. It features two children and their mum playing with Ride-on cars. The top 15 videos generated a staggering 218 million views, with all but one being live action content. The only brands to be featured in the top 15 videos of the month were Barbie, Lightning McQueen and PAW Patrol. Given the scale of this category, there is a major opportunity for toy companies to produce content in this vein, or to work with lesser known influencers to showcase new products. November 2018 | toy news | 33


Pre-school

KINDERGARTEN SHOP The pre-school sector is competitive and crowded, it’s also brimming with innovation and new launches that will keep the imaginations of youngsters sharp and vivid throughout their most formative years. Robert Hutchins takes a look at the latest products in the sector

VTech 01235 555 545 VTech has successfully launched the Touch & Learn Activity Desk this Autumn/Winter. This four-in-one desk features a writing pad, desk, blackboard and art station. It also boasts an interactive desktop, stylus and four double-sided touch pages filled with engaging content including letters, numbers, music, colours and much more. It transforms from a desk into an easel and chalk board and has plenty of storage space for art supplies. Next up, the TV advertised Dash the T-Rex is a fierce remote controlled dinosaur that switches from a T-Rex to a racer. It’s continuing to be a popular seller and to capitalise on this success, VTech has introduced another remote control dino. Sandstorm the Stegosaurus, also featured on the TV advert, switches between a Stegosaurus and a beach buggy. Simply pull the dino’s tail up to switch modes and then use the remote control to see cool moves, play sound effects and listen to Sandstorm speak. He has over 80 wild sounds and phrases.

Zimpli Kids 0845 459 1818 Zimpli Kids has a brand new product taking its Gelli Baff to the next level this season and it arrives in the form of Gelli Factory. Gelli Factory is the perfect bath time buddy and allows children to mix and make their very own Gelli Baff. Simply add water to the dispenser, sprinkle in the Gelli powder, stir and watch it transform into colourful goo. The Gelli can then be dispensed into the cups for the ultimate bath time fun for kids of all ages. Head of marketing at Zimpli Kids, Jessica Coy, said: “Children love experimenting and this is the perfect bath product for that. "Different colours, scents and even Glitter Gelli Baff can be used with the Gelli Factory to create a unique sesnory experience at every kids' bath time.” Gelli Baffi has been labelled as “perfect for pre-school children to work on their sensory and motor skills.” Little ones can’t wait to squeeze it between their hands. Gelli Baff, like all Zimpli products is 100 per cent safe, boron free and easily disposed. November 2018 | toy news |35


Pre-school

Mattel 01628 500 111 Fisher-Price continues to support parents and children in being ready for every milestone, with offerings across its Babygear, Newborn, Infant and Pre-school ranges, launching in spring 2019. New for Babygear is the 3-in-1 Spin & Sort Activity Centre featuring a sit-in mode with a spinning seat and moveable activity pods. As baby grows, the activity pods can be added to the shape-sorter plate, so baby can explore as they sit up on the floor. When ready to stand and walk, the seat can be swapped for the shape-sorter plate and the activity centre becomes a play table. New from Newborn is the Coffee Cup Teether, a rattle and teether which offers sensory fun for little ones to explore. Infant introduces the Sit-to-Crawl Learning Fox which features light-up buttons to see the fox spin around as music and sounds play, introducing baby to the alphabet, numbers and more. As baby grows, switching modes enables the fox to roll forward, encouraging littles one to crawl after it. Also new to the range is the Laugh & Learn Busy Learning Tool Bench which is great for role play as little one’s hammer, drill, and press the switch to activate songs, phrases and sounds that introduce numbers, colours and the alphabet. Plus, with Smart Stages technology, the learning content grows with baby. The Silly Sounds Piano encourages baby to press the light-up keys to be rewarded with real piano notes, animals sounds and playful songs that introduce colours, numbers, and shapes. New for Pre-school is the Little People Helpful Neighbour’s Garage that encourages role play and develops emotional intelligence by teaching little ones how to work together and take turns through various tasks.

Vivid 01483 449 944 Having recently been appointed as UK master toy licensee for Ryan’s World, Vivid will be launching a complete toy range inspired by the hugely successful YouTuber in early 2019. Already a big hit in the US, the Ryan’s World range will include blind bags, squishies, plush, action figures and more. With a variety of content on his channel, Ryan Toys Review, including toy reviews, animation and family vlogs, six-year-old Ryan has created fun and engaging characters which have their own series of videos such as Gus the Gummy Gator and Combo Panda. These and other characters - including Ryan’s Super Hero alter ego the Red Titan and Peck the Penguin - will also be featured within the toy line up. Meanwhile, Vivid’s Nella the Princess Knight toy range continues to be a key brand for spring 2019, with refreshed lines coming through for the season. Alongside the current Style Me Trinket, with her colour-change hooves, new Princess and Knight Nella Style Me dolls in Royal Ball outfits have been added to the growing assortment. These six-inch scale articulated dolls have ponytails which can be brushed and styled with their secret combs. The small Cuddle Plush will be refreshed into adorable pyjamas with flip down reversible eye masks. There is also a new pocket money entry price point for the brand, with the introduction of single figures for playing out knightly adventures – little ones can collect Nella as a Princess and as a Knight, her unicorn BFF Trinket, best friend Sir Garrett, and his trusty steed Clod. What more could you need?

November 2018 | toy news | 37


Pre-school

Fiesta Crafts 0208 804 0563 Earlier this year, Fiesta launched two new First Years Toys that are perfect for curious and developing babies as they are suitable straight from birth. Both the Play Blankie and the Spiral Toy have entertaining, sensory, and interactive features that are ideal for keeping tiny tots amused. The Spiral Toy and Play Blankie both display the familiar soft friendly animal faces seen across Fiesta’s First Years range, with the Play Blankie available in Giraffe or Elephant, and the Spiral Toy available in Bee or Giraffe. The Play Blankie, as well as being an adorable cuddly companion, offers interactive elements attached to each paw, including a teether/ chew piece, a jingly rattle, colourful fabric tags, and a stripy star that squeaks when you push it. The Spiral Toy, which has been designed so it can wrap around a cot or buggy, has all the elements of the Play Blankie dangling from the toy itself. All these parts appeal to multiple sense and create ongoing entertainment for any baby exploring the world. Both toys can be attached to cots and buggies making sure that the friendly colourful giraffe or elephant is with them wherever they go. There is also the Sort, Lace and Build, which is the perfect pre-school product to help children improve their fine motor skills and hand to eye coordination. The Sort, Lace and Build contains 36 wooden blocks that are the perfect chunky size for little hands, and are all decorated differently. Each block can be sorted in a variety of ways. With numbers going from one to 20, and an assortment of shapes, colours, sizes and patterns, children will love sorting the blocks in any way they like. They will also love lacing the pieces together with the thread using the wooden rod at the end, making it simple and easy to pass through each piece, improving motor skills.

Orchard Toys 01953 859539 Orchard Toys now makes more games than ever, all targeted specifically at the preschool market. Designed in bright, eye-catching colours, Orchard Toys’ first games and puzzles are perfect to introduce young children to early learning skills such as hand eye coordination, matching, observation and the concept of gameplay. With large wipe-clean cards, these products are made to last and perfect for little hands to hold. Following the success of its top three bestseller Farmyard Heads and Tails, Orchard Toys has launched a jungle version. Jungle Heads and Tails features a variety of wild animals for children to match and pair, from a crocodile to a flamingo. As they grow in confidence and ability, children can play as a more advanced memory game by turning the cards over. The game offers children as young as 18 months the perfect introduction to first gameplay and turn taking. ‘Dinosaurs’ is the latest addition to Orchard Toys’ first puzzle range. Dinosaurs are always a hot topic in the preschool market, and this collection of six chunky 2-piece dinosaur puzzles are not only bright and appealing but also perfect for little hands to hold and piece together. Children from as young as 18 months will love matching the friendly and colourful dinosaur characters. Award-winning Smelly Wellies is a fun and simple matching game for ages two to six, where players turn over welly cards to find matching pairs of wellies for their monsters. The quirky monster characters will get kids giggling, while teaching key early skills. November 2018 | toy news | 39


Pre-school

Jumbo Games 01628 535 000 Launching in Jumbo’s children’s portfolio for Q1 next year is the Disney Muppet Babies collection. Featuring two puzzle in Jumbo’s best-selling pre-school formats, the 4in1 Shaped Box Set and 4in1 Puzzle Pack will launch in February. Jumbo is also launching a brand new, EcoGames range to its children’s games portfolio, focusing on 100% environmentally friendly games, using recycled materials. The four EcoGames are Catch the Mouse, Colour Chameleon, Honey Yummy and Peek-a-Boo. All four of these games are made from 100% recycled materials and suitable for ages three plus. Catch the Mouse is an exciting dexterity game where you play as a cat and try and stop the mice eating the cheese. Catch the mice to gain points, the person with the most points at the end of the game wins. Colour Chameleon is a colour matching game which teaches little ones how to recognise and name colours. Roll the coloured dice and if it matches your chameleon you collect a dot. The first player to collect all their colour dots first wins. Honey Yummy is a cooperative game where bees have to work together to fill up their beehive with honey. But beware of the bear trying to your honey. Roll the dice and fill your beehive with the honeydew pieces. Peek-a-Boo is a memory game where you have to guess what animal is under the coloured covers. Roll the dice and match the colour rolled with the cover and guess the animal underneath it. Guess right and keep the animal, guess wrong and pass onto the next player. Play until all the animals have been collected.

40 | toy news | November 2018

Flair 0208 643 0320 Just Play/Flair have all new lines for the best in pre-school properties for spring 2019 including exciting new playsets, figures and vehicles for PJ Masks. It’s heroic play on the go with the new PJ Masks Fold N Go Headquarters Mini Playset. This nifty storage case doubles up as a miniature three-storey HQ playset for the blind bag collectable figures. The playset features a fur ball catapult, a ladder to access all three levels, a collapsible floor, five accessories, two mini figures, and is the perfect place to store the PJ Masks mini figure collection. The blind bag collectables will be refreshed for spring with 24 new figures, including four rare and one ultra-rare character amongst them. Following the success of the vehicle and figure range, spring 2019 will see the introduction of the new PJ Masks Power Racer Vehicle Assortment for even more choice. Each comes with an articulated figure dressed and ready to go in a racer outfit, along with a vehicle that has a sleek design and chunky wheels. The Super Moon Adventure themed segment also continues to grow with the new Super Moon Adventure Fortress Playset. Packed with interactive features, hero and villain figures can battle it out in Zero Gravity. The playset comes with two articulated figures: Cat Boy in his space outfit and Luna Girl, ready for battle to commence. Everyone’s favourite little Bat girl, Vampirina will also see new figures for spring when the Vampirina Screams Set joins the selection.


Pre-school

Alpha Animation and Toys www.alphatoys.com Alpha Animation and Toys will bring its unique Massive Monster Mayhem range to market in Q1 2019. Massive Monster Mayhem, which launches on CITV in November, is an action-packed sci-fi adventure TV game show, where real children (known as Heroes) battle Monster Superstars to save the earth from the evil Intergalactic overlord, Master Mayhem. Skewed at a higher range, the cross-over appeal is certainly one to keep an eye on as the series beds in with audiences across the globe. Meanwhile, Alpha continues to build on its hugely popular animation Super Wings, with long term plans in place for the top preschool brand. Series Three is due to launch late Q4 / Q1 2019 with a new twist on the plot, featuring ‘Mission Teams’ for each core character, which acts as a basis for the new collection. Highlights include Build-it Buddies, a new three-in-one transforming vehicle called Remi, a member of Donnie’s Build-it team. The product features a cement mixer, crane and dump truck and with space for other members in Donnie’s team and the big construction claw, Super Wings fans can re-enact their favourite missions from the show. High Flying Jett brings a new element to the collection, allowing children to launch Jett into the sky. With a simple pull on the cord, and re-attach to base mechanism, the product has been created with little hands in mind. Alpha will also be launching the new Series three characters across the popular Transforming Vehicle and Transform-a-bots formats, meaning fans can complete their collections with all new characters from the show. It's an exciting prospect for the pre-school space this season and beyond.

Little Tikes www.littletikes.co.uk As a market leader in the pre-school category, Little Tikes has a host of toys geared towards helping aid the mental development and movement of infants, to enhance learning through play and engage little ones at key stages of growth. The Little Tikes Fantastic Firsts infant preschool offering includes the Light ‘n Go 3-in-1 Activity Walker, Sleepy Stacker, My Buddy and an array of further inspiring and interactive games with elements of surprise throughout. The 3-in-1 Activity Walker is perfect for keeping the most curious of toddlers engaged. A multi-functional product, available in pink or orange and lime green, this product integrates a walker which projects enchanting light displays onto the floor to inspire babies to walk, an activity table packed with fun features to aid learning and a sit and play toy for endless fun on the floor and easy flat storage. The Fantastic Firsts Sleepy Stacker combines two classic play patterns into one; stacking and nesting. Little ones can mix and match the three characters to open their eyes and create figures. Each includes a sound, rattle or crinkle for added sensory play. The learning elephant that truly grows with babies, My Buddy – Triumphant and My Buddy – Lalaphant, helps little ones discover, learn and play. My Buddy features over 200 songs, sounds and phrases throughout the three growth stages of content, encouraging development from six months old. Little Tikes’ extensive core IPS classic line offers a wealth of development and role play concepts, suitable for younger tikes, also including: Big Car Carrier, Dirt Diggers Assortment, Activity Garden and Tap-A-Tune line.

November 2018 | toy news | 41


Rainbow Productions

Last month, David Scott, the managing director of Rainbow Productions scooped the number one position in the first ever Licensing.biz Power 50, a supplement celebrating the most influential people in the licensing industry. Each year, Scott and his team work feverishly away putting the finest details on some of the most recognisable character costumes on the world of children’s entertainment. As London Toy Fair hoves into view, we take the chance to chat with Scott about the business of show business November 2018 | toy news | 43


Rainbow Productions

B

eing with a costume character can get you into anywhere…” reads the email as it pings into my inbox late one Thursday evening. It wasn’t quite the response we were expecting to the question, ‘what have been your career highlights to date?’ but then again, when was the last time David Scott conformed to the norm in any - or at least the majority of - capacities? When he’s not being stopped by border guards while attempting to enter some farflung, off-the-map territory in his down time, his work life sees him helping to dangle Spot the Dog out of Buckingham Palace windows, being police-escorted down The Mall with Postman Pat, or knocking on Number 10 with any number of children’s characters in tow. “When you’re sitting on a sofa in the Chief Whip’s office with Bob the Builder and Father Christmas, you do wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn in life,” Scott’s email muses. We’re now in the run-up to Toy Fair sea44 | toy news |November 2018

son, and part and parcel of this is the build up and buzz that can only be likened to that of Christmas. Yes, it’s our own corporate Christmas. But as the industry prepares itself for the busiest part of its year, we too often forget the people that work behind the scenes to help deliver the excitement of the show each year. And that includes the costume characters. David Scott is the managing director of Rainbow Productions, the company that painstakingly prepares the majority of the costume characters that so many of us are used to seeing at meet and greet events, launch parties and yes, every now and then walking the aisles of London’s Toy Fair. In October this year, Scott was named the number one most influential person to know in the licensing industry, taking the top spot of the first ever Licensing.biz Power 50 Licensing Legends category. He’s been in the business of creating costume characters based on all of our - I mean children’s - favourite brands for the past 25 years. It’s about time the chap got a bit of well-earned

recognition for his efforts in the business of show business. We’re communicating electronically on this occasion owing to time constraints. Scott’s a busy man, which is only to be expected. At the time of the interview, we are just weeks away from Brand Licensing Europe where the managing director of Rainbow Productions’ handiwork is not only on full display, but parading up and down the aisles, in the entrance way, the lobby - everywhere short of the toilets - in front of the industry in its entirety. As you read this, Scott is just weeks away from doing it all again. There are last minute touch-ups and character preparations to be done and it’s just all part and parcel of operating one of Europe’s most successful and most revered licensed costume character production firms. And there’s a part of Scott that seems to enjoy the showmanship. There has to be, it’s the basis of the entire Rainbow Productions business; the theatre of costume characters, whether at meet and greet events in


Rainbow Productions shops or for licensed experiential venues that demands so much attention, and delivers such high levels of brand engagement in return. “We’re not just a licensee you see,” he tells Licensing.biz. “We also work with licensors to promote their brands, such as at BLE [and Toy Fair]. Most licensors are now aware of the additional revenue stream that live events offer, but they also value the power of the public’s physical engagement with the brand, which is much more intense than with licensed merchandise.” So getting it right is imperative; something Scott strives to do day in and day out. But it was almost by mistake that he landed the role for which he is so celebrated. “Like most people in the business, I fell into the industry when I was appointed general manager of Rainbow Productions, then a small subsidiary of CPLG,” he recounts. “My bosses were the legendary David Cardwell and Richard Culley who, along with a handful of competitors, effectively created the UK licensing industry in the early days. “I joined Rainbow in 1992 and I didn’t even know what a costume character was (some would say I haven’t learned much since…) but in 1995 I did an MBO and Rainbow has grown and developed ever since.” Was it simply lucky circumstance, then, that Scott happened to be a champion at the role handed to him some more than a quarter of a century ago? Even via email, the scoff at such an idea is audible, because the success of Rainbow Productions, replies the licensing veteran, comes down to the team that surrounds him and the hard work each of them put in on a daily basis. “Yes, we have certainly grown over the years,” he explains. “We started off with 2,500 sq ft, and now we have over 30,000 sq ft to cater for our offices, costume manufacturing facility, wardrobe and, of course, our very own ‘fluff mountain’. “To maintain that growth, we have to deliver value each and every day to clients and licensors alike, so we have a very highly skilled team - all our costume makers are graduates, as are most of the costume artistes that work for us. “Because of what we do, we know that we are often seen as the face of the licensing industry, and that is something we can

“To maintain that growth, we have to deliver value each and every day to clients and licensors alike, so we have a very highly skilled team - all our costume makers are graduates, as are most of the costume artistes that work for us." David Scott never and will never take lightly.” It wouldn’t have escaped anyone’s notice that over the last five years or so, the live event sector has blown up for licensing, with greater emphasis now being placed on bringing consumer engagement experiences into the licensing mix. It’s all making a lot of work for Scott and his team, so it’s becoming a wonder how he manages to juggle this with his other role as a Trustee of the Light Fund, the licensing industry’s

fundraising and charity unit. “Going back to the earlier question about career highlights, that would be a real one for me,” he tells me. “Passing the £1 million raised by the Light Fund was a very special moment, and just goes to show what a generous industry we have. “My old boss at CPLG, David Cardwell, used to say that the greatest assets of this business go up and down in the lift each day - in other words, it’s a people business. And what the Light Fund has done, and what we all do every day is testament to that.” It was no accident that Scott took home the leading spot in this year’s Most Influentials listing. The votes spoke for themselves. Over the years, Scott has worked with almost all of those brand owners and licensors that continue to help drive sales through showmanship and theatre. Along the way, he has made a lot of friends. And if Scott could pass on any piece of advice from his illustrious career in licensing it would be this: “Just get to know as many of those people as you can. If you’re on the licensor side of the industry, you’re going to work for quite a number of your competitors in your career - so build bridges, don’t burn them.” November 2018 | toy news | 45


Live Gaming

PLAYING THE

This September, Tabletop Gaming launched its first ever Live show for the UK’s surging board gaming, hobby gaming and roleplay community, boasting over 100 exhibitors, 3,500 visitors and a line-up of talks and discussions that truly highlights the boundaries that this vibrant and only growing community of gamers are pushing amid this gaming renaissance.

W

hen you sit down in a hall full of like-minded enthusiasts to listen to a talk on 5,000 years of gaming history or enjoy a workshop on how roleplaying masters write unforgettable campaigns, it settles any debate: you really have been swept up in the tabletop gaming phenomenon.

November 2018 | toy news | 47


Live gaming

Historically, it has been the likes of Gen Con or Germany’s Essen Spiel that have been heralded as respected Meccas of the board gaming community, but with the continued growth of the hobby here in the UK it was only a matter of time before the capital bore its own of similar ilk, where players could get hands on with the latest releases from across the globe. This is the train of thought that gave life to Tabletop Gaming Live, a new convention launched in the UK’s capital that gives players this very opportunity: to play the kind of games they wouldn’t find anywhere else, at least until Birmingham’s UK Games Expo rolls back around in 2019. Now, Tabletop Gaming Live is the result of the efforts of the UK 48 | toy news |November 2018

consumer title Tabletop Gaming, a publication set up to serve the tabletop gaming, hobby gaming and roleplay community. Tabletop Gaming Live 2018 was its inaugural event, and by all accounts, it was quite the success. Over the course of the weekend of September 29th to 30th, London’s Alexandra Palace welcomed upwards of 3,500 members of the public as they delighted in the latest offerings from some 100 board game companies, publishers, designers and artists all exhibiting their wares. While the show hosted a number of headline grabbing product reveals and launches, including the UK launch of Forbidden Sky - a new co-op game from the Pandemic creator, Matt Leacock and

distributed across the UK by Coiledspring Games - or one of the first chances in the UK to play KeyForge: Call of the Archons (a game designed by Richard Garfield, the name that brought us Magic: The Gathering and Netrunner and handled by Asmodee UK) it was perhaps the show’s line up of educational talks and seminars that hammered the singular point. The evolving world of board gaming is here to stay. “One of the things that made Tabletop Gaming Live particularly special was its schedule of live talks, seminars and panels from designers, experts and other members of the gaming community,” Matthew Jarvis, editor of Tabletop Gaming and member of the show’s organising team, tells ToyNews. ‘We had historians, roleplaying masters, hilarious discussions about the games that make us laugh, an insight into how games get made from a former Games Workshop designer, important talks about mental health and inclusivity in gaming and even a complete game made from scratch live in front of an audience.”


Live gaming These are topics that have picked up a lot of momentum over the course of the year, and the matter of inclusivity within the gaming sphere has fuelled debate the world over as to where the future of gaming is heading and just how is the best way to arrive there. The discussion has given rise to new sensibilities on the matter and today, stand out publishers are making concerted efforts to embrace this matter of inclusivity through the artwork, game play, narrative and development teams they have behind some of their biggest titles. Many are now bringing out expansions to their flagship titles that bridge gaps left between the titles and the wider communities. Hub Games is in the preparation stages of launching an LGBTQ+ expansion to its Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr title. It's just one example. Are we still some way off of seeing such an expansion incorporated into the original gameplay from the beginning? May be so, but it all starts with the discussion, and the board gaming community certainly appears progressive enough to be hosting them. “I couldn’t be more proud of the diversity and range of voices and topics we covered

“I couldn’t be more proud of the diversity and range of voices and topics we covered in our talks and podcast, and how many people were clearly interested in finding out more about the people behind the games,” Matthew Jarvis, Tabletop Gaming in our talks and podcast, and how many people were clearly interested in finding out more about the people behind the games,” continues Jarvis. Of course, thanks to the innovation that continues to surge into and out from the board gaming space, the show has plenty to build upon for any subsequent events. For example, Jenn Sandercock, a game designer and author of the Edible Games Cook-

book - a collection of board games that can be cooked and eaten as they are played - wasn’t in the vicinity. But next year, as the wealth of imagination and inspiration only grows stronger in this field - she just could be. “Of course there is an endless list of ideas to bring to the convention, and loads we can do to give Tabletop Gaming Live more and more quantity without sacrificing the quality experience that made the first year such a hit,” says Jarvis. “We already have plans to have a bring and buy at next year’s show, plus even more new, unreleased games, talks, workshops, tournaments and more. “This year’s show has laid an incredibly strong foundation for us to build on, and we can’t wait to announce everything we are working on for 2019 and beyond.” While Jarvis won’t go into too many specifics, one thing is for certain, exhibitors like Coiledspring Games and Asmodee UK will be making their return. Coiledspring Games in fact, used this year’s show for the UK launch of the Forbidden Sky title, as well as offer previews of games ahead of its Essen release.

November 2018 | toy news | 49


Live gaming

“Tabletop Gaming Live was a fantastic showcase event for us, providing us with a platform to not only launch Forbidden Sky in the UK, but to also offer previews ahead of the big German show,” Gemma Briant, marketing executive at Coiledspring Games tells ToyNews. ‘There was constant demand for demos for both new releases and the existing ranges. It’s great to have another event for the board gaming industry and we are looking forward to next year already.” The Asmodee UK team shared in the sentiments, enjoying a successful show during which it was KeyForge that proved to be one of the biggest draws for the firm. After the game’s announcement at Gen Con this summer, Tabletop Gaming Live was one of the first chances for UK-based players to try out KeyForge ahead of its Q4 release. “Another one of the major hits in terms of on-the-day purchases was Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, which was demonstrated all weekend on the Asmodee-run Esdevium stand,” explains

“We loved the bright, atmospheric and picturesque feeling that the venue brought to the show, and we look forward to Alexandra palace becoming London’s new home for tabletop gaming in the years to come.” Matthew Jarvis, Tabletop Gaming George Ankers, Asmodee UK’s content assistant. “This innovative cooperative game has players interviewing suspects, analysing evidence and investigating cases as part of a five-case campaign.” As the team at Tabletop Gaming Live looks to build out the show, so too does it look to bring in a widening representation

of the UK’s board gaming scene. This will include bringing in more from the country’s clubs, retailers and board game cafes. "It’s really important for us is to work closely with the UK gaming community as Tabletop Gaming Live grows and grows,” says Jarvis. “A number of clubs helped run games and sessions this year, and we’ll be chatting with local clubs, friendly local game shops and board game cafes to make sure the event reflects the wonderful community in and around London and the rest of the country. If you want to get involved, get in touch - we’d love to hear from you.” For those now eyeing the event as an avenue to explore as the board gaming momentum continues to carry across the UK’s retail space, the 2019 date has already been set for September 28th and 29th, returning to London’s Alexandra Palace. “We loved the bright, atmospheric and picturesque feeling that the venue brought to the show, and we look forward to Alexandra palace becoming London’s new home for tabletop gaming in the years to come.” November 2018 | toy news | 51


Hall of Fame

A HISTORY OF INVENTION Anjar is an American toy invention, development and manufacturing unit famed for bringing some of the biggest titles to the US and UK toy space. Among them, the likes of Othello and Fireball Island which has undergone a Kickstarter reboot for the 21st century. Robert Hutchins talks to Anjar’s Jonathan Becker about half a century of inventing and how the toy space is a very different landscape today Jonathan Becker, president, Anjar Co; Patti Becker. CEO, Becker Associates, LLC

November 2018 | toy news | 53


Hall of Fame

I

t was only this year that the company Restoration Games secured more than $2 million via a Kickstarter project to reboot the '80s classic Fireball Island. While, given the rising popularity of both retro and board gaming, it comes as little surprise that the project quickly shot to success on the crowdfunding site, it also speaks volumes of the heritage that of the original game's licensors and co-licensor ofthe remake, Anjar, left behind it almost 40 years ago. Now celebrating its 50 anniversary in the toy inventing space Anjar is ready to look back over those wonder years and muse on where the industry is heading next. We chat with Anjar's Jonathan Becker. Could you tell us the history of Anjar? How did it all come to be? Anjar was founded by my father, James R. Becker, the 71st inductee into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. The name is an acronym for Jim’s four sons: Arto, Neil, Jonathan and Roger and his daughter, Nancy. The company was founded in 1968, after Jim departed Lakeside Toys (subsequently purchased by MB), which he ran for several years. Lakeside was a great place for Jim, where he could bring his talents for developing products, as well as tapping into the talents of other professional inventors and designers that he had come to know over his years in the toy business. Jim began in the toy industry shortly after WWII when he left the army and started

as a salesman with the toy jobber Schranz and Bieber. Jobbers were the equivalent of a wholesaler/distributor today, and an important part of the supply chain through the 1950’s and early 1960’s. As a salesman, Jim used a very interesting and unique method of showcasing his products: he converted a trailer into his travelling showroom and, travelling with the trailer towed behind his car, sold toys to the State Parks (big customers in those days) and retailers through the region

What was the first big hit to emerge from the company? How did this put you on the map? Among Jim’s earliest, and probably best known products, was Othello. Anjar represented the Japanese company, Tsukuda Original, for licensing Othello around the world outside of Japan. The game emerged within a few years of its introduction as one of the most successful licensed games and, with over 50 million pieces now sold in every conceivable format in over 70 different countries, is the most successful licensed abstract strategy game in history. Among Jim’s most notable products: Gumby & Pokey Bendy’s, Barrel of Monkeys, The Betsy McCall Fashion Designer, ... and hundreds of others that he developed and marketed at Lakeside Toys and, earlier, at Amsco. Other notable products created and licensed by Anjar include Fireball Island, Nerf Ping Pong, Grabbin' Dragons, Flipsiders and Breaking Point, all of which sold over one million pieces. It’s an expansive portfolio, what successes took you by surprise? With over 75 years of toy experience between us, we think we know a potential ‘hit’ when we see one. However, since so many factors contribute to whether an item

54 | toy news |November 2018


Hall of Fame

"(Othello) The game emerged within a few years of its introduction as one of themostsuccessfullicensed games and, with over 50 million pieces now sold in every conceivable format in over 70 different countries, is the most successful licensed abstract strategy game in history. "

is ultimately successful, it’s impossible to predict which items will succeed and which won’t. Our role at Anjar is to bring our experience in product development, as well as our respective expertises, to maximize the chances for a product’s success. How has the world of toy invention evolved over your career history? Over our 50-year history, we have witnessed dramatic changes in the marketplace, and in our industry, including the globalisation of the toy business. As it has affected nearly every aspect of our lives, the electronic/digital revolution has also transformed the toy industry. In fact, electronic toys have been an important part of Anjar from our earliest days. One of the earliest handheld games was Gabriel’s electronic Othello, and Othello was one of the titles released for the Atari 2600. One of the earliest electronic strategy games, The Generals, designed by Jim, was released by Ideal Toy in 1980. Today, many of our products have electronic components and comprise patented technology. Patents and other Intellectual Property have become increasing important to toy companies, as it gives them the competitive edge they need to be successful. What about the breadth of famed toy inventors you have worked with? Anjar has always been a place for professional inventors.

Over the past 50 years we’ve worked with hundreds of inventors, as well as manufacturers seeking markets for their products outside their current channels and territories of distribution. At any given time, we represent dozens of inventors for licensing, and who seek our help in developing, marketing and protecting their product ideas. About half of the products licensed by Anjar are developed in-house by our staff of designers. I am a tenured professor at the State University of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, where I developed the curriculum and have taught Business Practices in the Toy Design Degree Program since its inception in 1989. We’ve been fortunate at Anjar to have had several talented graduates of F.I.T. (The Program was started by Hall of Fame inductee Judy Ellis) come work for us over the past 28 years where they’ve helped develop several successful products. Jim's relationship with Japanese toy companies defined a significant part of his early career in the toy business. Following WWII (Jim served in the Army in the Pacific), he began travelling extensively, including Japan, learning the language and developing lasting relationships there. One of his earliest licenses to Japan was the Newton Game, licensed in 1973 to Takara. Today, Anjar is as very well known in Japan, as well as Europe, as an important source of new ideas for toys and games.

companies globally. What do you

make of the current health of innovation in the toy space? The retail marketplace is very receptive to new ideas, especially those that can amuse and entertain – for a reasonable price. Consumers are always looking for products that will improve their lives, and toys and games certainly fit that need. Compensating inventors, typically in the form of royalties, for both new and improved products, motivates and incentivizes inventing, ensuring that the retail market sees a steady flow of new ideas, is one of the biggest challenges for inventors at the moment. Most toy companies in recent years have developed good, if somewhat complex, systems for working with the inventor community. Many toy companies rely heavily on the inventing community to supply them with new product ideas and brand extensions to existing lines. This symbiotic relationship has been great for both inventors and manufacturers, with many of the biggest successes in the toy industry originating with inventors and licensors. The long history of success that manufacturers have had with ‘inventor products’ encourages independent creativity and licensing. November 2018 | toy news | 55


Appointments

Industry moves This month, the AR tech toy company Draw & Code has tapped both a former Hasbro exec and Angry Birds developer, Flair is building out its Just Play marketing team and the Kids@Play outfit has welcomed a familiar face back to the toy industry FLAIR

DRAW & CODE The former Hasbro executive BRETT PAGE has joined the AR tech toy company as its head of play. The firm has bolstered its team as it gears up for the launch of the AR toy line, SwapBots, having also brought in BECKY JONES, a former producer on Angry Birds and Moshi Monsters to take on the role of lead producer. With a renewed strategic focus on the family market, the XR expert aims to be at the vanguard of the immersive technology revolution. Page arrives from Hasbro where he was in charge of UK commercial strategy, dealing with brands like Star Wars and Transformers. At Draw & Code he will be charged with seeking out opportunities in the connected play space. The firm’s creative director and co-founder, Andy Cooper has welcomed the pair to the team. "The opportunity to work with people of the calibre of Brett and Becky is just what Draw & Code needs," he said.

56 | toy news | November 2018

The UK outfit has bolstered its team with the appointment of MARTA ZIETKIEWICZ to the role of marketing manager for the Just Play portfolio. In her new role, she will work with key brands including PJ Masks, Vampirina, and Puppy Dog Pals. She joins Flair after seven years at Mattel where she held various brand management positions in the UK and in Poland. Zietkiewicz was most recently senior brand manager for Mega and a number of pre-school brands across Europe. KIDS & PLAY The company has welcomed a new general manager of UK and Ireland to its ranks in the form of the sports nutrition sector innovator, and returning toy man, Ben Smith. His arrival follows a four year period working in the sports field during which time he oversaw the successful launch of the Mars, Snickers and Bounty protein bar with a multi-channel strategy that secured sales in excess of 3 million units in the first year. Smith has previously held national account positions with Vivid, Re:creation and Rainbow Designs.

RAINBOW DESIGNS Having invested in strengthening its core sales team, the firm has appointed two new members in the shape of MARK STANDEN in the role of sales manager and MANDY MCGOUGH as its new northern territory manager. Standen has joined Rainbow as the sales manager with responsibility for its independent sales team, key accounts as well as B2B online sales. With 14 years in the industry, Standen has experience with Carte Blanche and Posh Paws. Meanwhile, McGough’s position at Rainbow will draw upon her four years’ experience as a territory manager for DMC. HTI The toy firm is ready for ‘further expansion across the US,” this year and beyond with the appointment of BRUCE CANNER as its vice president of sales for North America.Canner brings with him extensive toy industry experience following a six year period serving as vice president of sales for Toy State. His career spans over 40 years in the sector with names like Mattel, Fisher Price and Tyco. Canner’s new role will focus on driving the overseas sales in the USA.


Team of the month

REDAN FUN TO LEARN The Fun to Learn editorial team over at Redan Publishing works with some of the biggest pre-school IP going, including the likes of Peppa Pig. ToyNews thought it was about time we got to know the kind of personalities pushing this important channel in the sector, if only to discover their survival tactics... Can you talk us through the Redan Fun to Learn team? The Fun to Learn editorial team works on Redan’s award-winning pre-school titles including Fun to Learn Friends, FTL Favourites and FTL Peppa Pig. Headed up by editorial director Jenny O’Connor with managing editor Anita Cash and group editor Becky Mitchell, the team is 11 strong. They are responsible for all the editorial content in our Fun to Learn range of magazines, from designing layouts and writing stories to baking cakes and making the dream catchers out of milk bottle tops. What have been the highlights of 2018 for you guys? Winning eOne’s licensee of the year award for hardlines for our Peppa titles was pretty exciting. And celebrating the 20th birthday of Fun to Learn Favourites last month was pretty special. What have been the biggest success of the past 12 months? We were pleased with our Peter Rabbit BagO-Fun Movie special which came out at Easter. Our overall performance in the latest ABCs is pretty impressive too. Increases in circulation across the board is definitely noteworthy, considering that the market is down and competition is fierce. What’s the best part of working in the children’s entertainment industry? It’s ever changing. We are constantly getting to work with new brands and

licenses, created by the world’s top designers and entertainment producers. One days it’s a talking pig, the next it’s super hero puppies, you just never know what’s around the corner. What are the biggest challenges? Defending print media against the onslaught of the digital age is definitely a challenge, but the pre-school age group is still very much engaged with books and magazines. We need to protect and maintain that connection. We are also looking towards making our products more sustainable, which is something that children’s magazine publishers as a group are coming together to tackle.

The team is stuck on a desert island… what’s your plan of action? Our office is in the wilds of Shropshire so we are at home with nature and are used to rolling our sleeves up and getting stuck in. There’s a steady supply of surplus eggs and home grown fruit and veg in our staff kitchen so I am confident our team, with their range of skills, could secure water, food and shelter and would then design an extremely eye-catching SOS in the sand… Who would be the first to couple off? I can’t answer that. I have to work with these people. Who would be lone survivor? Jenny. No one messes with the boss. November 2018 | toy news | 57


Final word

Like a Rolling Stone...

CONTACT US

FOLLOW US ON Twitter.com/ToyNewsOnline Facebook.com/toynews EDITORIAL Editor: Robert Hutchins rob.hutchins@futurenet.com • +44 (0)207 354 6017 Group Content Director, B2B: James McKeown james.mckeown@futurenet.com • +44 (0)207 354 6015 Designer: Mandie Johnson mandie.johnson@futurenet.com • +44 (0))207 354 6030 Managing Design Director: Nicole Cobban nicole.cobban@futurenet.com Production Executive: Matthew Eglinton matthew.eglinton@futurenet.com • +44 (0)1225 687525

Toy inventing is about as far away from rock and roll as you could get. Rarely do you hear tales of toy designers throwing TV sets out of windows… which is not to say it doesn’t happen. ChiTag’s Mary Couzin talks putting faces to the chart topping toys of today

T

his is my 16th year hosting a series of industry and public events celebrating play and innovation called Chicago Toy & Game Week. Aside from a family or friend gathering, I had never run events before starting these, nor had I worked for a toy or game company. I did invent toys and games to pitch to companies and self-produce as my side hustle, loved it and the whole inventing community. After eight years I left my day job and fully focused on our events. It took time to convince and educate companies on the importance of talking to your customer in a setting where your competition is - a focus group in the wild. It also takes consumers time to get to know you and trust you. They are after all entrusting us with their kids and families have so many options today. Our Inventor and Innovation Conferences and Awards continue to evolve to meet the needs of the inventing community. We’ll have more than 100 product acquisition execs from over 60 companies, and over 150 new and professional inventors. To ChiTag, they come from all over the world where the sense of community, fun and trust is palatable. For so long, our industry of inventing has been reluctant to put a face to a product or tell the story. We are in the entertainment business and all the other entertainment industries personalise what they are selling. 58 | toy news | November 2018

ADVERTISING SALES Sales Manager: Sophia Freeman sophia.freeman@futurenet.com MANAGEMENT Managing Director/Senior Vice President Christine Shaw Chief Revenue Officer Luke Edson Chief Content Officer Joe Territo Chief Marketing Officer Wendy Lissau Head of Production US & UK Mark Constance

SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER SERVICE To subscribe, change your address, or check on your current account status, go to www.toynews-online.com/ subscribe-to-newsletters-digital-editions faqs or email subs@toynews.com ARCHIVES Digital editions of the magazine are available to view on ISSUU.com. Recent back issues of the printed edition may be available please contact lwilkie@nbmedia.com for more information. INTERNATIONAL Toynews and its content are available for licensing and syndication re-use. Contact the International department to discuss partnership opportunities and permissions. International Licensing Director Matt Ellis, matt.ellis@futurenet.com

Printed by Pensord Press Ltd, NP12 2YA ISSN number 0269-4735 (print) © 2018

Future plc is a member of the Periodical Publishers Association

Media Partner

Exclusive Media Partner

Future PLC, The Emerson Building, 4th Floor, 4-8 Emerson Street, London SE1 9DU

As Tim Walsh of The Playmakers says, “If you sell a million songs, you’re on the cover of Rolling Stone. A million books, the NY Bestseller list. But if you’ve sold over 80 million Jengas, precious few outside our industry know how awesome Leslie Scott is. This is slowly changing and we are doing our part. As just one example, when we run a social media consumer giveaway, that includes games Leslie invented and dinner with her at our Toy and Game Inventor Awards. People are excited to meet the people behind their playthings. Why not give it a go in your business?

All contents © 2018 Future Publishing Limited or published under licence. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the publisher. Future Publishing Limited (company number 2008885) is registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA. All information contained in this publication is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Future cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. You are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/services referred to in this publication. Apps and websites mentioned in this publication are not under our control. We are not responsible for their contents or any other changes or updates to them. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. If you submit material to us, you warrant that you own the material and/or have the necessary rights/permissions to supply the material and you automatically grant Future and its licensees a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in any/ all issues and/or editions of publications, in any format published worldwide and on associated websites, social media channels and associated products. Any material you submit is sent at your own risk and, although every care is taken, neither Future nor its employees, agents, subcontractors or licensees shall be liable for loss or damage. We assume all unsolicited material is for publication unless otherwise stated, and reserve the right to edit, amend, adapt all submissions.

Future plc is a public company quoted on the Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne London Stock Exchange (symbol: FUTR) Non-executive chairman Peter Allen www.futureplc.com Chief financial officer Penny Ladkin-Brand Tel +44 (0)1225 442 244


9000

Profile for Future PLC

Toynews November 2018  

Toynews November 2018  

Advertisement