March/April 2015

Page 1

Vol. 31, No. 2

Drone Domination


he hottest buzzword in the R/C category this year is “drone.� From Audi car commercials boasting smart technology to Amazon promising that it will eventually deliver orders within 30 minutes, drones have been a star in the media lately. What was once a terrifying, futuristic word that confused many civilians because of its connotation of military technology is now becoming commonplace.

March/April 2015

Keeping Plush Exciting page 32

page 20

Spotlight On...

American-Made Toys Innovative Tech Outdoor Toys Science Toys

page 47 Catering to Your Customers: How to Reach Millennials and Baby Boomers page S2

Plush Showcase page S4

Clockwise from top: Dragon in Turret, from Folkmanis; Frog Pudgie, from Douglas Co.; Switch-A-Rooz, from Wild Republic; Roswell, from Gund

in this issue March/April 2015

D 07 10 12 13 14 30 40 42 46 60 61 62


Editor’s Viewpoint

A look at how consumers are using smartphones to influence purchasing decisions, as well as a look back at the toy industry in 2014.


Industry Update Talking Social Media

F eatures

Stat Shot

Toy Trends for 2015: Experience, Engage, and Explore Trend hunter Reyne Rice shares her picks for this year’s top toy trends.

Drone Domination The R/C aisles are facing a total drone takeover—one that's much less intimidating than it sounds.



The Toy Insider’s Sweet Suite `15

Spotlight on Innovative Tech Spotlight on Science Toys What’s New Industry Marketplace Flashback: March/April 1995

P UBLISHER Jonathan Samet E DITOR - IN -C HIEF Jackie Breyer S ENIOR E DITORS Marissa DiBartolo

A SSOCIATE E DITORS Christine Duhaime Phil Guie

Smarter Speed

Spotlight on American-Made Toys

Volume 31, Number 2

Ali Mierzejewski

TIA Perspectives: Q&A with Carter Keithley Property Profile: Jurassic World

Published by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.®

Artificial intelligence and other new technologies power up vehicle racing.


Keeping Plush Exciting Manufacturers keep the plush category fresh with creative sources of inspiration.

Outdoor Toys: Innovative Ways to Get Kids in Motion


Major trends that are shaping the outdoor toy category.



Visual Merchandise Don’t toy with your brand story: How concept shops can keep customers coming back.


Specialty Toys & Gifts ASTRA’S INSIGHTS S2

E DITORIAL A SSISTANT Deanna Atkins E DITORIAL I NTERN Magdalene Michalik P RODUCTION D IRECTOR Bill Reese C ONTROLLER /O FFICE M ANAGER Lori Rubin U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht, President

Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® 307 Seventh Ave., #1601 New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510 Fax: (212) 575-4521

How to Cater to Your Customers




Member, International Toy Magazine Association



Jackie Breyer editor-in-chief


Flying High The R/C Category Takes Off

armer weather is finally upon us in the Northeast, and kids are venturing outside to play. Outdoor toys will be the star in regions where warm weather is just arriving, and welcoming window displays of outdoor toys will help drive consumers to action. As Associate Editor Phil Guie can attest, there are a ton of new products to engage kids in outdoor play in innovative new ways. Check out Phil’s overview of products to get kids moving on page 44. Outdoor play and R/C vehicles go hand in hand, and this year’s big trend in that arena is drones. Manufacturers, retailers, and consumers can’t get enough of drones, which have become a hot topic in the news, and a hot seller at retail. Technological capabilities have rendered manufacturers able to create products that soar beyond Federal Aviation Administration regulations, so the toy industry must be careful not to stray outside the legal limits in what it makes available to consumers. Senior Editor Ali Mierzejewski provides the details on this growing R/C niche on page 20. After talking about high-tech R/C drones, plush sounds boring, right? Think again! According to The NPD Group, the plush category was up 6 percent last year, thanks in no small part to my daughter’s addiction to Ty’s Beanie Boos. Plush manufacturers continuously find new inspirations— YouTube for one—and functionalities to up the ante on this wholesome category. Check out Associate Editor Christine Duhaime’s take on this growing category on page 32. Also in this issue, we shine a spotlight on toys that are made in America (page 40), innovative tech toys (page 42), and science toys for little kids (page 46). Also be sure to check out trend hunter Reyne Rice’s “Toy Trends for 2015: Experience,


Engage, Explore.” Reyne visits more trade shows than you can shake a stick at, and has shared with us (and you!) her take on some of the biggest trends for this year. Check out page 17 for an overview of what to be on the lookout for this year, and what consumers are going to be searching for. I will leave you with words of wisdom bestowed upon me in my youth by my wise mother: Go out and play! ■

“Using drone technology, he’s able to deliver fast food meals. We call him ‘Supperman.’”



2014: A Brief Recap

Contact Eileen Brown: +1-516-625-2831


1. Source: The NPD Group/Consumer Tracking Service, 2014 2. Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, 2014 3. Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, Q4 2014



For the 12 Months Ending February 2015 TOP U.S. TOY PROPERTIES RANKED ON DOLLARS Plush Toys • FurReal Friends • Disney Frozen • Sesame Street • Mickey & Friends • Ty


Radio/Remote Control Toys • New Bright • Air Hogs • Hot Wheels • Maisto • Ford

Plush Toys • Ty • FurReal Friends • Peppa Pig • Mickey & Friends • Steiff Classic

Radio/Remote Control Toys • Nikko • Carrera • Air Hogs • Air Raiders/Power in Air • New Bright Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service

How Online Shoppers Use Smartphones to Compare Prices In-Store Percentage of shoppers who use phones to help them make purchasing decisions, by age


Shoppers ages 15 to 19

45% 49% 45%

Shoppers ages 20 to 29 Shoppers ages 30 to 39




FanTOYstic Fact Bicycle playing cards turn 130 years old this year, and while the brand has seen its share of special designs over the years, one of the most innovative decks dates back to the days of World War II. Bicycle’s parent company, the United States Playing Card Company, teamed up with American and British intelligence agencies on a special deck for military personnel fighting abroad. When moistened, the individual cards in these decks would peel apart, revealing maps with escape routes out of German prisoner of war (POW) camps. In 2013, Bicycle released the Escape Deck, inspired by the original map decks, though none of the cards peeled apart. Sections of map are visible on the front of the cards, which form a complete map when placed in the proper order.

TOY STATE PARTNERS WITH WWE Toy State has entered into a licensing agreement with World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE). The deal includes products developed for the R/C vehicle category for the North American market, the first of which will be in stores later this year. This agreement marks Toy State’s first licensing agreement under the Nikko brand since its acquisition of the company last year. “There are few brands with as loyal and passionate a fan base as the WWE,” says Andy Friess, president of Toy State. “The personality of the brand is perfectly aligned with the attitude and innovation of our toys, and we can’t wait for WWE fans to see our products when they hit the shelves.” Toy State also recently reached a nine-race agreement to be primary sponsor of Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 car on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Circuit.

AMAZON LAUNCHES STEM TOYS & GAMES STORE On March 31, Amazon launched its STEM Toys & Games Store, a single destination for discovering products that are meant to help children of all ages develop science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related skills. STEM was Amazon’s second most-visited category, as well as the second highest in terms of sales volume, during the holiday season.




Digiplush is a new toy, app, and entertainment company featuring brands designed to enhance children’s play experience through physical toys and mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. A partnership between Kids Preferred, Creative Capers Entertainment, and Rethink Entertainment and Media, BirthdayLand is the first brand under the Digiplush venture, which launched at Toys “R” Us in March. BirthdayLand’s initial characters consist of Birthdaykins, a line of birthday-themed plush toys; and the Huggaloons, Bicycle Escape Deck

For this year’s major milestone, Bicycle continues to look back on its storied history. The company’s 130th Anniversary Edition replicates one of the first designs used under the Bicycle brand name, with hand drawn reproductions of all the original artwork.


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which are plush toys that resemble balloon animals. Both lines include a code at purchase that unlocks premium features in the free, downloadable BirthdayLand app.

DISNEY CONSUMER PRODUCTS LAUNCHES MULTIPLATFORM KEYS TO THE KINGDOM CAMPAIGN Disney Consumer Products will launch Keys to the Kingdom, a multi-platform experience intended to drive awareness and excitement for new Disney Princess product offerings across multiple categories at retail. Disney Princess fans will have the opportunity to unlock music videos, app extensions, and other special content that celebrate the inner qualities of the Disney Princess characters. Mattel, Jakks Pacific, and other licensees have developed dolls and role-play items that introduce new character art and key-inspired designs. For spring release, Mattel has created a Disney Princess Royal Celebration Dolls line, which comes with a special invitation that unlocks premium content in the new accompanying Disney Royal Celebrations app, available now for free in the App Store.




Learning Express Toys (LE Toys) has entered into a yearlong partnership with Autism Speaks, and will offer different ways for shoppers to donate to the organization, which supports people with autism. During the month of April, which coincides with Autism Awareness Month, in exchange for a donation of $2 or more, shoppers can add their names to Puzzle Piece cards to show their commitment to Autism Speaks. Throughout the year, LE Toys will also hold sensory shopping fun and play day fundraisers to benefit the not-for-profit organization.



Arad Animation and 41 Entertainment have granted the exclusive worldwide master toy license for Kong—King of the Apes to MGA Entertainment. The product line will include action figures, electronic and action plush, play sets, vehicles, games, and learning aid toys for kids ages 5 to 10. Kong—King of the Apes is a Netflix original series slated to debut next year. “We were attracted to this great brand because of its iconic nature, Avi’s great storytelling and designs, and the power of Netflix as a platform,” says Isaac Larian, president and CEO of MGA. “We are excited to design and produce a strong product line for 2016.”


social media



by Marc Gordon, marketing expert, speaker, and strategist


any businesses live or die by the reviews they receive, but sometimes negative reviews can be unfair, exaggerated, or just untrue. In these cases, it’s tempting to lash out at the author, resulting in an online war of words. But if this is the path you take, your company will come across as the bully picking on the poor consumer—even if you’re right. The next time you get a negative review, refer to these five tips to keep your business looking professional and your reputation intact:


Was it a real customer who wrote the review or just a bitter competitor? Was it honest or just a threat from someone looking for free stuff? In many cases, if you can prove the review is fake or just an attempt at blackmail, the review site will take it down.


Thank the reviewer for the comments—no matter how negative they are. Tell them you view negative comments as a way to keep striving toward customer service excellence. Let them know that in order to rectify the problem as efficiently as possible, you need to communicate with them offline. Don’t allow them to turn it into a public debate. If things work out and the customer is happy, ask for a positive review—or at least for the negative one to be removed. You may even want to consider making the “deal” conditional on the customer retracting their negative comments.


Your silence can appear as guilt or apathy in the eyes of


readers. Reply as quickly as possible—just make sure you’re not emotionally charged. Perhaps have someone else write a professional response on your behalf. You do not need to commit to a solution in the initial response. The goal is to show you are interested in making things right, then take the conversation offline.


An apology is always a great first step and instantly makes you the better person. However, admitting any wrong-doing could make you liable. You will also be at a disadvantage when negotiating compensation. Your first apology should be for the fact that the customer is unhappy. Then be sure to follow up and ask the reviewer for the opportunity to make things right. If they refuse, it will make them appear unreasonable to your offer, while you come out looking generous.


Many review sites allow contributors to remain anonymous, making it easy for them to write angry things that may not even be relevant or true. Sometimes you just need to ignore them, knowing that they’re likely posting negative comments about every business they encounter. By now most people who read reviews can spot the crazies—they are usually the angriest reviews that contain the fewest details. And don’t worry too much about them, anyway. Your competitors likely have just as many. ■ Marc Gordon is a marketing expert, speaker, and strategist. His articles appear in more than 200 publications worldwide. For more business tips, visit or view his online show at



he sixth annual Sweet Suite event will be held on July 16 at Pier Sixty in New York City.

Known as The Biggest Night of Play, the event will welcome more than 400 digital influencers from around the country and more than 100 members of traditional media to connect with

the best toy companies and the hottest new products and properties in advance of the holiday shopping season. Sweet Suite is the feature event at Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced bloggers featuring parties, exhibitions, and speed dating sessions, giving brands the chance to connect with the most influential consumers. Now in its second year, Blogger Bash provides influencers and brands with a new type of conference. Eliminating hotels, convention centers, and exhausting speeches, Blogger Bash instead welcomes attendees into a high-energy atmosphere, giving them a chance to have fun while mingling with brands in a professional yet inviting setting. During Sweet Suite, bloggers enjoy one-on-one time with some of the hottest kids’ brands and products in modern lounge areas. The night gives bloggers a chance to meet old and new friends while they sip on martinis, feast on delicious sweet treats, and—best of all—play. After hours of kid-free toy time, bloggers are invited to kick back and dance it out at the Sweet Suite after party. Once the fun is over, enormous swag boxes are shipped directly to attendees’ homes, sparking a resurgance of excitement and social media impressions, and ensuring bloggers and journalists have products readily on-hand to review and share. For those who can’t attend the event, the entire four-hour party streams online, so consumers at home can get in on the fun and brands can get in front of even more people. The Big Toy Book also posts highlight videos to YouTube, so everyone can see each company’s top priority items hitting shelves in the fall. Last year, Sweet Suite generated more than 88 million Twitter impressions, more than 1,580 original Instagram photos, and hundreds of blog post recaps. This year, Sweet Suite will be bigger and better than ever before, welcoming more bloggers, more brands, and more press. There are sponsorship levels available for every budget, so don’t miss your opportunity to connect with digital influencers before the holiday shopping season is in full swing. If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at




Toy Industry Association

A Decade of Leadership with the Toy Industry Association Q&A with Carter Keithley, Retiring President





t the end of April, Carter Keithley will retire as presiSince I entered the toy industry in 2006, I have seen the dent and CEO of the U.S. Toy Industry Association dramatic effect of technology on toys, games, and companies. (TIA) after nearly a decade of leadership with the trade Of course, technology has been used to update and revoluorganization. During tionize traditional his time at TIA, Keithtoys and play, but ley has helped supsome of the biggest port the growth and changes I’ve seen rehealth of the toy inlate to online platdustry by increasing forms that have TIA’s budget by helped “democranearly 30 percent and tize” the toy indusexpanding the TIA’s try. For example, membership base Kickstarter, Infrom 470 members to diegogo, ToyBacker, more than 750 comRockethub, and panies, including other crowdfunding sites are now availmanufacturers, reable to help tiny toy tailers, sales reprecompanies obtain sentatives, licensors, startup capital, and toy inventors, and limited shelf space more. The Toy Book Keithley at the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the at brick-and-mortar recently spoke with 112th North American International Toy Fair retailers is no longer Keithley to learn an obstacle to new more about his key accomplishments and the biggest challenges he faced while at toy introductions, thanks to the growing importance of online TIA, and to hear his thoughts on where the toy industry might retailers such as Amazon. Social media has also opened up a whole new avenue for promoting toy products. So, I think the be headed in the next 10 years. democratization of the toy business resulting from new techCongratulations on your retirement as TIA’s presi- nologies is the most profound change I have seen. In addition, the increasing globalization of the toy industry dent! What are some of the biggest changes you have and its growth in emerging markets outside of North America seen in the industry during the last 10 years?



has refocused everyone’s attention. We are seeing tremendous growth in developing nations such as China, Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and the Gulf States. Today, any toy company that wants to grow its business has to either take market share in North America or grow its sales overseas. That is why we have launched new export assistance initiatives at TIA as a benefit to our members. How has TIA evolved during your tenure? When I came on board, I found that TIA’s advocacy and government affairs capabilities had been diminished in the previous few years, and since that had been a major focus of my career up until that point, I set to work on rebuilding some of TIA’s capacity in that area. Then the roof caved in with the recalls of 2007, so our need for a robust external affairs team was greater than ever. We began to dramatically build up the department with the hiring of Ed Desmond as executive vice president for external affairs, who put together a team of nine professionals who are doing an extraordinary job for the toy industry. In particular, the addition of industry veteran Al Kaufman as senior vice president for technical affairs has enabled us to provide a whole new dimension of service to the industry. Today, more than 30 percent of TIA’s total budget is dedicated to external affairs. We also developed a new research and data capability to generate information and studies that support our advocacy efforts and help our members make good business decisions. Our Toy Industry Foundation has emerged as a very significant philanthropic organization for children and is on the threshold of launching an important new mission. Our membership has nearly doubled and includes companies of all kinds in the toy business, not just manufacturers. And finally, Toy Fair at the Javits Convention Center—which used to be an overflow addendum to the Toy Center building event—is now a full-fledged trade show for the North American toy industry that occupies the entire convention center. All-in-all, TIA is a very different organization from what it was when I started, and these changes are a tribute to the efforts of our fine


team of senior executives. What legacy do you hope to leave on the association and the industry? Over the past decade, I worked to make TIA a welcoming organization, respectful of all companies and individuals in our industry, and focused on providing service to all stakeholders. The only reason for TIA (or any trade association) to exist is to serve the needs and interests of companies and individuals in the industry. Whenever someone in the industry comes to us with a problem or need, it is yet another opportunity for us to prove our worth. TIA must always focus on what is good for its members and the industry, not on what is good for the Association. We are not for profit—we are “for service”—and I hope that perspective and orientation will be a legacy that remains long after I am gone. What are some of the biggest challenges the industry and the TIA have faced since you joined? A little over a year after I became TIA president, the first lead paint recall was announced on June 13, 2007. That crisis threatened to destroy decades of hard work by thousands of people in the industry who had dedicated themselves to toy

Keithley speaking at PlayCon 2014


that it voted unanimously for such a policy. I am most proud that my background and experience in conformity assessment systems enabled me to propose and develop the policy. I think it was great good fortune that a new executive who had experience in these areas was hired for TIA just at the time when that experience was needed. And I am glad to have been that guy.

Keithley at a press conference announcing the nominees for the 2015 Toy of the Year Awards

safety and earned a reputation for quality as a result. Putting the industry back on a path to recapture the confidence of lawmakers, media, and the public was an existential challenge that could have unraveled the fortunes of many companies in the industry. There will always be toys—but who makes them, what they cost, and where they originate for sale in the U.S. market were all in jeopardy. To address that crisis, we developed substantive measures to restore confidence in the industry. We undertook deficit spending from the Association’s budget, and at the same time, the value of our reserves declined by nearly two-thirds due to the economic downturn that hit the world’s financial markets in 2008. Taken together, these challenges will certainly go into my diary as the biggest crises of my career and were also perhaps the biggest crises in the toy industry in more than 100 years of TIA history. What accomplishments are you most proud of? I am most proud of having helped the industry through the recall crisis by positioning TIA as a supporter of federal legislation establishing new “conformity assessment” requirements to assure that toys meet our stringent safety standards. Rarely does an industry association endorse new legislative requirements for its members, but that was the right thing to do in 2007 to assure the safety of toys sold in the U.S. and to communicate to lawmakers and the public our industry’s genuine commitment to safety. It is a tribute to the courage of the TIA board of directors


Which projects are currently underway that you wish you could see through? We are on the threshold of launching a major new campaign about the value of play in children’s lives, and this is the first proactive and positive campaign we have undertaken since before I came aboard. In addition, we have developed a rich agenda of events and activities over the next 12 months to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of TIA in 1916. I am wistful about retiring from TIA just at the time when we are undertaking such positive activities, but these and other new initiatives need an executive at the helm who has more youthful energy and ambition to achieve their maximum impact. Now I will joyfully watch them unfold from the sidelines. What do you expect to see from the industry 10 years from now? The creativity in the toy industry astounds me. I am not clever enough to predict what we will see from the industry 10 years from now, but I have no doubt that it will be spectacular. There will always be toys—the only question is: Who will be making and selling them? Whoever that is, TIA needs to be the organization that serves their collective needs. We’ll miss you! What will you miss most about the toy industry? Thank you. And I will miss all of the quirky, interesting, smart, warm, shrewd, comical, and committed people I have had the privilege to become friends with in the toy industry. But, hopefully, I am not going to die just because I retire. After taking some time to travel with my wife, Fran, and scrape off the barnacles, perhaps Providence will find a good use for me that will help me to maintain those friendships. ■


Toy Trends for 2015:

, e c n e i Exper e, Engag e r o l p x E by Reyne Rice, trend hunter, toy trend expert, industry analyst, and consultant


ver the past few months, I got to walk the floors of various trade shows, reviewing toys, games, and licensed products. While sleuthing Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair 2015, Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg, North American International Toy Fair in New York, and ToyFest West in Las Vegas, I noticed a number of trends, which should continue to be strong throughout this year:

Little Scholars/Scientists: Get Your Geek On With the continuing emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects and the evolving movements in science, technology, robotics, engineering, art, and mathematics (STREAM), manufacturers are developing toys and games that provide engaging and relevant experiences. Today’s little scholars are immersed in hands-on experiments that encourage a love of learning by playing. By juggling with numbers and tinkering with new tools and technologies, they are discovering fun applications for science experiments, brainteasers, and other toys and games that develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Learning about robotics in after-school programs—as well as programming with fun robotic playmates and new coding games—teaches kids that they are capable of affecting how their toys behave. This means that these toys and games offer a different experience each time kids play, adding increased play and learning value.

Express Yourself: Get Creativity Flowing Creative expression continues to be a strong trend, providing kids with an outlet for customizing and personalizing


Little Scholars/Scientists—Examples: • Science Kits: Space Explorers R/C Vehicles, from Thames & Kosmos • Robotics: Dash and Dot, from Wonder Workshop by Make Wonder • Mathematics: Tiggly Counts, from Tiggly • Engineering: Lego Minecraft, Lego Architecture, other construction toys • Combined Skill Sets: Kiwi Crate, from Kiwi Crate Inc.; CreatorBox

their world in their own unique ways. By providing a variety of open-ended play experiences that tap into hobbies and selfexpression, kids can develop a strong sense of self, and build confidence in the process. Whether their creations are hands-


on physical expressions that they can wear, share, and gift to others; or a digital collection, kids are able to embrace their creative endeavors, which include music, sewing, woodcrafts, drawing, doodling, painting, gardening, cooking, and more. The Maker Movement also encourages learning through do-it-yourself building, as well as new tools and brain-stretching methods. Maker Faires—and smaller-scale, Mini Maker Faires—have exploded across the country, allowing kids and parents to join in on the Maker Movement together.

ternal GPS tracking and movement, and robotic building and programming, there are new interactive methods of play, such as voice-activated and Internet-connected toys. For the latest tech trends, turn to our Spotlight on Innovative Tech, on page 42.

Unstructured and Unplugged: Unleash Open-Ended Play (and Get Away from Digital Devices) Kids and parents can discover worlds of imagination within themselves, and would benefit from some time spent away from the digital world. By delving into social games and outdoor play, kids exercise their brains, their communication skills, and their muscles. Construction toys continue to expand into new form factors, as building toys now click, stick, swivel, stack, friction-hold, and magnetically connect. Lego’s Bionicle brand is also back, further evolving the point where construction toys and action figures meet. Kendama focuses on hand-eye coordination and spatial skills. This ancient Japanese skill toy is taking Hawaii and the West Coast by storm, and generating non-stop sales, spreading across the Midwest and to the East Coast. Diving into offline activities provides opportunities for kids,

Express Yourself—Examples: • Maker Movement: Maker Studio sets, from ThinkFun • Crafts: Urban Fold and Jewelry Fold engineered paperfolding kits, from Paper Punk • Jewelry Kits: i-Loom and Charmazing jewelry kits, from Wooky Entertainment • Entrepreneurial Skills: It’s My Biz program expanded to eight modules, from Fashion Angels • Digital Art & Creativity: Disney Imagicademy Mickey’s Magical Arts World, from Disney • Music: Make-It-Yourself Music Synthesizer Set, from littleBits • Cooking: Girl Scouts of America Cookie Maker, from Wicked Cool Toys; Candy Craft Chocolate Pen, from Skyrocket Toys

Beyond Reality: Share the Wonder Emerging technologies are being applied to toys and games in a way that delights and inspires kids to play differently. Along with new technologies such as artificial intelligence, in-


Unstructured and Unplugged Play—Examples: • Outdoor Ride-Ons: balance bikes, convertible bikes, and ride-ons from Yvolution and Razor USA • Social Gaming: Apples to Apples Freestyle, from Mattel Games • Skill-Building: Kendama, from Kendama Co., Kendama USA, and Roots Kendama • Construction Toys: Korxx, from Oh! Toys; Squigz and Joinks, from Fat Brain Toys • Doll Play and Action Figure Play: In general, role-playing real and fantasy play patterns encourages imagination.


siblings, friends, and families to re-connect and learn about each other.

Movie Magic: Pretend to Be the Hero or the Villain Blockbuster movies targeted to a kids’ audience—and some that are targeted to older audiences—will continue to drive sales of movie-related merchandise this year. New kids’ movies kick-off in the second quarter and are staggered throughout the summer months and the holiday season. Both Jurassic World and The Good Dinosaur should drive year-long sales of anything dinosaur-related. The new liveaction Cinderella movie (featuring the new Frozen short film, Frozen Fever), in turn, will continue to drive classic princessrelated merchandise. In addition, anything Star Wars will be hot this year, including any fourth quarter Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens products. Streaming, downloadable, and DVD movie sales always continue to drive role-play once kids have the movies at home,

Movie Magic—Examples: • Jurassic World and The Good Dinosaur: Includes Lego construction sets, Schleich dinosaur collectibles, and more • Superheroes: Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron toy line, from Hasbro; Barbie in Princess Power Transforming Super Sparkle Doll, from Mattel • Minions: Interactive figures from Thinkway Toys; construction sets from Mega Brands; Minion Monopoly, from Hasbro • Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens products

Jurassic World T. Rex Tracker, from Lego


or stored on their favorite devices.

Mini Madness: Collect and Connect Miniatures continue to thrive, with kids collecting, trading, and sharing their collections, both in the physical space and in digital galleries. Kids are definitely playing with their vast collections of characters, whether they are Shopkins, Beanie Boos, or mini-figures. This category seems to have a long life; it makes sense, since there are new kids entering the market every day, and these mini-figures can be bought with allowance or pocket money, so kids can save up to extend their collections.

Mini Madness—Examples: • Mini-Figure Collectibles: Shopkins, from Moose Toys • Blind Packs: Mini Max, from Jakks Pacific; Lego Minifigures, Series 13; Kre-O, from Hasbro • Video Game Mini-Figures: Skylanders Minis, from Activision

This year, retailers have a variety of trends to showcase instore, and grouping similar products together to tell a story and show variety can encourage customers to take a second look at a play pattern or a collection of products. It can also enlighten customers about new trends and drive sales. In short, showing your consumers that you follow the trends and know what is top-of-mind will deepen your dialogue with them and, in turn, earn their loyalty. ■ Reyne Rice is a toy industry consultant, trend hunter, and media spokesperson with 30 years of experience in marketing, researching, and analyzing the toy and game industry, children’s technology, entertainment and licensing, and the youth market. She is an international trade journalist and a frequent keynote speaker at conferences spanning Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Rice has owned her own consultancy, ToyTrends, since 2003, and can be reached at


Drone Domination

The R/C aisles are facing a total drone takeover—one that's much less intimidating than it sounds. by Ali Mierzejewski


he hottest buzzword in the R/C category this year is “drone.” From Audi car commercials boasting smart technology to Amazon promising that it will eventually deliver orders within 30 mintues, drones have been a star in the media lately. What was once a terrifying, futuristic word that confused many civilians because of its connotation of military technology is now becoming commonplace. An episode from the current season of Modern Family demonstrated perfectly how colloquial drones have become, as part of the plot revolved around some of the male characters trying to take down the recreational drone that a neighbor was using to spy on the beautiful Gloria sunning by the pool. “Look how quickly that gets put into the mainstream—the fact that you can spy on your neighbor,” says Sal Irigoyen, president of R/C toy company Odyssey Toys, referencing the ABC show’s episode. “Everybody’s recognizing the name ‘drone.’” It’s evident that the R/C toy industry is no exception. Attendees were hard pressed to walk down the R/C aisles of the North American International Toy Fair this year and not see a drone hovering above the booths. Although we’re all using the term, do we know what it really means?

What Is a Drone? Quadcopters have been on the market for some time now, so what differentiates them from the drones? Irigoyen believes that “drone” has become a sort of misnomer for something that flies and also has four propellers, so Odyssey has set some clearer standards about what gets marketed from their company as a drone. “Quite honestly, anybody who is selling anything that has four propellers and goes up in the sky is calling their product a ‘drone,’” he says. “We are differentiating between a drone and a quadcopter by [noting that drones have] some sort of [camera] capability—whether it’s video streaming, which is real-time video, or whether it has a camera and it’s taking pictures.” Odyssey’s drones are designed for a bit of an older R/C en-


Skyrocket Toys’ Sky Viper Video Drone

thusiast, with most of the products featuring a 14 and up age grade. Odyssey’s Sarkon X10 is a higher-priced flying drone with features such as one-button return and what they refer to as “the headless feature.” “When you are 200 feet away, it’s kind of hard to tell [which end] is front and back,” says Irigoyen. “When you press this button, the drone or quadcopter then knows which way you’re going by knowing what you’re doing with the remote control. It’s not a common feature, but it probably will eventually be a common feature. Sort of like what happened with helicopters and gyros. At one point, there were no gyros ever, and the helicopters were hard as heck to fly. Then, all of a sudden, even the $15 helicopter has a gyro in it.” Enhanced tech can also help make performing complicated stunts much simpler. Stunt drones, such as Odyssey’s new Nebula Cruiser NX, perform tricks mid-air with just the quick push of a button. This drone, with 36 LED lights so it can fly at night, will perform 360-degree barrel rolls and other stunts without all the tricky controller manipulations. But drones are not just becoming easier and more accessible for older pilots. Companies, such as Skyrocket Toys, are trying to bring this technology to fliers of all skill and experience levels. “We design the Sky Viper drones to be able to be used by


inexperienced users. They are extremely stable and easy to control,” says John Ardell, vice president of sales and marketing, Skyrocket Toys. “But when they are on the advanced setting, they are very fast and agile.” In fact, the company’s Sky Viper Stunt Drone can fly up to 14 mph. Skyrocket’s Sky Viper drones have two pieces of proprietary technology that are unique to the company’s flying vehicles: Dyna Flight Firmware, which is software that controls the stability of the copter to make it easier to fly and very responsive, and Duraflex Body, which is a super tough flexible plastic that allows it to fall to the ground from 200 feet in the air and not break.

The Sky’s the Limit (But Only Up to 450 feet)! With advanced technology comes The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with a list of rules about flying unmanned aircrafts, including those that are hobby/recreational. The FAA partnered with multiple industry associations to promote its program Know Before You Fly, which educates the public about using recreational drones safely and responsibly. Limits have been set for how high you are legally allowed to fly a drone, especially within certain distances of airports. Rules and regulations such as these have led toy companies to place a limit on all of the cool technology that they’ve developed, to help ensure that consumers remain safe. This includes placing limits on how high—usually about 400 feet— a drone is capable of flying, even though the manufacturer may Odyssey Nebula Cruiser NX


have the ability to make it soar even higher. “We showed a couple of drones that have the capability of going [up] 1,500 to 2,000 feet,” says Irigoyen of Odyssey’s Toy Fair demos. “We actually took two products out of our line because I don’t want to be the first person to have his face on USA Today that made a 737 swerve coming into LaGuardia [Airport]. We have gone out of our way and spoken with our factories and our engineers to make sure that the highest our drones can fly is 450 feet.” But 450 feet is nothing to shrug off. From up there, kids can still get video footage of their neighborhood, house, etc. from a very cool vantage point.

Consumer and Retailer Reaction While some media outlets may still be against using the term “drone” for toys because of negative connotations, R/C companies are seeing that retailers and consumers cannot get enough of them. “There is a ton of buzz around the term ‘drone.’ Retailers prefer the use of this name over quadcopter,” says Ardell. Odyssey is also picking up retailers that expand beyond standard toy stores. Book stores, sporting goods stores, and more want to get in on the action. “They want to sell drones,” says Irigoyen. “That name is just becoming so hot that it’s ridiculous. Everybody wants to be in the business.” Retailers love it, of course, because the term is like a magnet for consumers. Whether it’s because they’ve seen it on their favorite TV show, or because it gives them extra confidence in the product, drones are no longer making consumers feel especially uneasy or unsafe. Instead, it’s what they’re seeking out on shelves. “Consumers recognize the term ‘drone,’” says Ardell, who says that consumers are drawn to them because they believe drones to be a higher quality than products labeled quadcopters. “We are seeing that retail buyers and consumers are discerning and want to purchase quality and durable products.” Drones are everywhere: They can be seen hovering above us on the Internet, on TV shows, and in the R/C aisle. As companies begin to see the value of the once-feared term, be prepared to see the word “drone” plastered all over marketing and advertising campaigns. And with high-tech, cool stunts, and video capability, kids will be able to reach new heights like never before. ■


Smarter Speed by Ali Mierzejewski


hile they may not be considered part of the R/C moves you make in a digital game come to life in the real category, WowWee’s REV and Anki Overdrive are world, such as seeing the physical car react to damage that drastically changing the way kids play with ve- it experienced in the on-screen game. hicles by making them—well—smarter. “It’s expanding the concept of play and putting it in a “We’re seeing a complete upending whole new light,” says Palatucci. “In terms of value, of traditional categories here,” says this technology allows the toys to grow and evolve with Mark Palatucci, co-founder and you. The product you open up and play today will be chief product officer of Anki. much different in the future.” “What is a toy? What is a Although the intelligence tech product? These worlds these companies are offering Anki Overdrive are blending and fusing into now are impressively innew consumer experiences.” novative to the industry, These two products are both they don’t expect it to part of a hybrid world that combines continue to be impresvideo games and physical toys into a unique sive forever. Technology entertainment experience for kids. Anki lets players has changed the way kids use a mobile app to control, race, and customize real physplay over the past couple of years, ical cars with artificial intelligence (AI), then use the video and instead of being a “wow” factor, this sort of robotic or game element for gameplay progression and weapons up- artificial intelligence will become expected. grades. WowWee’s REV uses Bluetooth, navigation, and AI “I think people are expecting more immersion, and a technology to allow players to battle each other’s cars or more immersive experience with their products,” says Sufer. compete against an autonomous car. “I don’t think it’s so much about how [this type of technol“Kids, and the whole market, are moving toward very ogy] benefits them, it’s that everything else will fall short.” ■ immersive gaming, where you have scoreboards and you have different games with lots of visual effects, sound effects, and we don’t feel that playing with a physical toy has to be limited to just what the physical toy on its own can do,” says Davin Sufer, CTO, WowWee. He explains that the company looks at what the app can do for the physical gameplay, as well as what the physical toy’s intelligence can do for the on-screen experience. “We love that the two worlds are colliding now— physical and virtual—and we love making products that take advantage of both,” he says. This sort of physical and virtual hybrid allows for kids to get a ton of play value out of a physical car. Not only does the intelligence take these racing cars to the next level, it’s almost a magical experience to see the



C / R Spin Master


he Air Hogs Shadow Launcher, from Spin Master, is a rugged ground vehicle for conquering indoor obstacles. With the push of a button, the doors open revealing a stealth helicopter. Kids ages 8 and up can then increase the throttle and fly away with a gyro-stabilized helicopter using the same controller. The Air Hogs Shadow Launcher is a 2-in-1 combination for kids to take on all different kinds of adventures.



chylling Toys introduces the new AI Copter, from TX Juice, an easy-to-fly R/C helicopter. With a press of the Juice button on the controller, the copter takes off and hovers above the ground. Kids can then take complete control with the joystick handset. By pressing the Juice button again, the helicopter lands. The TX Juice Artificial Intelligence System, with its patented Auto-Launch and Land functionality, helps smooth kids’ flight and avoid obstacles. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the copter features three-channel control, an AI system, gyro stability, and built-in proximity sensors. The AI Copter comes with a USB cable and charger for fast and convenient charging.



aisto’s Rock Crawler 3XL is an oversized R/C for off-road rock-crawling action. Available in black or green, the Rock Crawler 3XL features a lightweight, but tough, vacformed body, front and rear articulated spring suspension, and four-wheel drive. The 2.4GHz technology allows up to eight players to drive at one time and place with a 164-foot control range. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the Rock Crawler comes with a hobby-sized controller with speed control and a rapid electronic battery charger, allowing the vehicle to recharge in 45 minutes.



C / R PowerUp


he new PowerUp 3.0 model allows users to control the paper plane for more than 10 minutes of continuous flight with a smart device through Bluetooth technology. The kit includes paper templates, a crash-proof attachable propeller, and a portable charging station.



kullduggery’s Max Traxxx Tracer Racers R/C Set features glow-in-the-dark pieces, such as a dual loop, six dual corners, more than 46 feet of track, and two remote control Tracer Racers, which utilize Light Trail Technology to emit streaks of light on Skullduggery’s patented track long after the racer has passed. Kids ages 6 and up can set up their own customized racing circuit and compete head-to-head.

World Tech Toys

Toy State


oy State’s Nikko VaporizR 2 is a full-function remote control vehicle that drives on land, in water, and in snow. With true 4x4 power, kids can play on any terrain.



orld Tech Toys will introduce a line of Avengers R/C toys in time for the new movie this summer. The two-channel R/C helicopters feature the most popular characters from the franchise, such as Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and the new Hulk Buster.


C / R



KOK will expand its Mean Machines line of 4x4 remote-control vehicles with the new Rock Crawler and Extreme Terrain super monster truck. The Rock Crawler’s power and longtravel suspension allows it to scale some intimidating terrain. It will be available with a 1970 Bronco or a 2015 Jeep Wrangler body. The Extreme Terrain truck can do doughnuts and is equipped with tires so large that they can float on water, go down stairs, go up curbs, or tackle almost any obstacle. The 1:8 scale Extreme Terrain is available in a 2015 Jeep Wrangler, a 2015 Ford F-150, a Ford F-150 Raptor, or a Dodge RAM 2500 Power Wagon body. Rock Crawler Jeep Wrangler

Carrera RC


arrera RC’s Quadrocopter RC Video One features 2.4 GHz command and control, the ability to do 3-D looping, a recharge time of 60 minutes, and more than 7 minutes of flight time. The copter comes with everything kids need to fly, including the helicopter, the controller, batteries, and rechargers. This helicopter is designed for beginners, as well as advanced pilots.



ionel Trains’ DC Comics Batman Ready-to-Run M7 LionChief Subway Set has bold graphics and detailed designs featuring famous Batman characters. With the LionChief Remote features, users can control the direction, speed, and sound effects from up to 60 feet away, including special passenger announcements from Batman and The Joker.





Jurassic World and its Indominus Rex will roar into retail in a big way this year. There are figures, role play, plush, and much more inspired by the upcoming film, coming to theaters June 12. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s to come in time for one of this year’s biggest blockbusters.


s global master toy partner for Jurassic World, Hasbro offers a lineup of toys for fans of all ages. The Jurassic World Indominus Rex Dinosaur features chomping action, roaring sound effects, and color-morphing skin on her back. The rest of the line includes classic and animatronic plush, figure assortments, play sets, vehicles, and more. Other offerings include role-play items such as the Chomping Dino Head Hand Puppet and Raptor Claws. Hasbro will also introduce Jurassic World Hero Mashers, a line of figures that lets kids mix and match the interchangeable pieces to create their own new dinosaurs. The Jurassic World Hero Mashers can be mixed and matched with any other Hero Mashers figures. Hasbro’s Playskool Heroes Jurassic World line is designed for younger kids with products sized for little hands. The line includes figure and vehicle assortments, such as the Jurassic World Tyrannosaurus Rex figure, which features light-up eyes and roaring action. The head-chomping dinosaur comes with a human figure that it can capture and gobble up.



urassic World Monopoly, from USAopoly, delivers more dinosaurs, more attractions, and lots of buying and selling as players attempt to rule Jurassic World. The game includes six collectible tokens, including a DNA sequence, a park vehicle, a T-Rex skull, a founder statue, an entrance gate, and a helicopter. Jurassic World money and a custom Jurassic World dinosaur-inspired game board provide an exciting twist to classic Monopoly gameplay. This prehistoric version of the iconic board game is great for Jurassic World fans, collectors, or dinosaur lovers.





arner Bros. Entertainment, TT Games, The Lego Group, and Universal Partnerships & Licensing will release LEGO—Jurassic World, a video game for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, and PC. Following the storylines of the first three movies in the franchise, as well as the upcoming Jurassic World, this game features the world of Jurassic Park reimagined in Lego form and told in TT Games’ signature Lego humor. The storylines recreate scenes and action sequences from the films, allowing fans to fully explore the expansive grounds of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna.




he infamous king of all dinosaurs from Jurassic World is now available as a 3-D puzzle from Cardinal Industries’ Puzz 3D line. The 80-piece puzzle builds up to a 22-inchlong replica of the T-Rex. After completing the challenging build, dino lovers can then place the finished product on display.


he Lego Group has partnered with Universal Pictures to bring the dinosaur world from the Jurassic World film franchise to life in brick form. The line includes building sets featuring different dinosaurs, vehicles, minifigures, and more. Sets include Pteranodon Capture, Dilophosaurus Ambush, Raptor Rampage, and T-Rex Tracker. The biggest set is the Indominus Rex Breakout, which features Jurassic World’s new star and her triangular pen with a breakout function. Lego’s Jurassic World line also features the Raptor Escape set, which is exclusive to Wal-Mart.


Indominus Rex Breakout set



Keeping Plush Exciting Manufacturers keep the plush category fresh with creative sources of inspiration. by Christine Duhaime


lush toys deserve appreciation. It’s an easy category to overlook in an ever-evolving industry in which new robots, apps, ride-ons, and video games, among many other types of toys, are constantly hogging the limelight. So what’s so exciting about a stuffed animal? Plush toys today have come a long way from the basic, classic teddy. Designers are coming up with new styles, patterns, and features that are taking this relatively subtle genre to a new level. At the North American International Toy Fair in February, there were thousands of manufacturers eager to display their latest and greatest products for retail buyers and the press. As I roamed the aisles, making my way to see as much plush as I could in the four days of the fair, I noted new trends as well as classic mainstays. Creative plush designs are especially cool because they appeal to both kids and adults. The right plush piece can even add a unique design element to a room, and many of these types of plush characters are great gift ideas for expectant parents who are waiting to find out their little one’s gender, since they have a gender-neutral heirloom quality to them that makes them extra special. Folkmanis is known for its intricate and unique puppets. While some design ideas come from popular culture trends, others come from the very material from which they’re made. Folkmanis’ Dragon in Turret puppet is an example. Elaine Kollias says of the designer, “it wasn’t until she saw the fabric that would make a good stonewall for a castle that she was really inspired to go forward. So this is a case Dragon in Turret, from Folkmanis


where surface design kind of drives the design process. All of our designers find their inspiration in different ways, but it is common for us to have the surface design drive the whole design.” Folkmanis has experimented with sound technology in recent years, and Flattso, from Aurora Kollias expects to see more evolution in the company’s technology department—but not in the way most would expect. “We’ve experimented with sound a little bit and we don’t like the idea of mixing in technology with old-fashioned play patterns. So, when we used digital sounds before, it just didn’t seem right. But recently, we’ve found a real old-fashioned technology to make sound, which is kind of like old-fashioned squeakers. But they’ve gotten so sophisticated these days: For example, one of our top-selling items is the grunting pig, which makes this really low, organic, earthy sound that we wouldn’t get from something that’s digital. The feedback from customers and collectors has been phenomenal.” Drawing inspiration for new products from social media is a growing trend in plush. Last year, the YouTube video “What Does the Fox Say?” launched an undeniable surge in fox toys of all kinds, not least of all in plush. The year before, owls enjoyed a top spot in popularity. This year, there are a lot of sharks, whales, and sloths. “We depend on what’s happening in the marketplace, trends and things that are hot,” says Tara Rubino, national sales manager of Douglas Toy Co. “One of the things we did this year was Simon Sloth, and a new spunky pygmy hedgehog, and that actually came from a YouTube sensation. So we looked at what was happening in social media—our soZoobic Friends, cial media coordinator was the one who from DEMDACO


saw that YouTube video with the pygmy hedgehog—and made it into a plush toy.” Plush manufacturers like Douglas are also using existing successful items to inspire new ones. Douglas’ Sshlumpies are flat-bodied cuddle toys for babies. Stemming from Sshlumpies’ popularity, Douglas created Plumpies— similar to Sshlumpies, but with huggable, understuffed bodies. Creativity in the plush category takes on many different Zonkey Plumpie, from Douglas Toy forms. DEMDACO’s Zoobic Friends introduce a fun new form to the category with their tall, four-sided, soft bodies. Truly unique, they can serve as either a cuddle toy or as fun décor in a kid’s room. Also riding the funky form trend is Aurora, with its new Flattso line. Flattsos are narrow—or “flat”—stuffed animals that are just the right shape and size to double as a travel pillow. Flattsos are eye-catching and fun, and their dual purpose potential adds to their play value while being aesthetically interesting. Apple Park manufactures organic plush products for babies. This year, the company introduced a new character to its line: the bat. A bat is a unique and uncommon choice for a baby’s plush toy, yet Apple Park used soft, sweet fabric in a soothing grey and navy palette, with an enchanting starry sky pattern on its wings and inside. While bats are widely seen as fearsome and creepy, Apple Park’s bat line is the very opposite, adding an unexpectedly sweet twist to a baby’s Bat Blankie, from Apple Park toy collection. Plush has always been a mainstay in kids’ toy collections, and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. While there will always be demand for tried-and-true classics, manufacturers keep finding ways to innovate, develop, and expand the category in fun ways. Whether it’s a viral Internet sensation, an unusual animal, or a new technology feature, inspiration for creative plush is everywhere. ■


Plush Tushies, from Aurora, appear in a playful romping pose with their fluffy tails high in the air. Tushies are available in eight styles of woodland animals, such as a chipmunk, a beaver, and a raccoon. Aurora’s Miyoni line features animals from domestic, woodland, farm, and jungle categories that are realistic and feature high attention to detail. The collection includes more than 180 styles, with new styles releasing throughout the year. L.E. Phants is a new plush collection that is designed to appeal to a broad audience. Available in a variety of price points and unique fabrications, each style is an original Aurora design. The Sea Sparkles line features mermaid dolls that have flowing yarn hair and sparkling fabrics. New to the collection are Sea Shimmers, which have long-flowing doll hair infused with shimmering mylar, sparkling crowns, and new outfits. Sea Shimmers join more than 20 styles in the Sea Sparkles line.

Sea Shimmers


Gund introduces Roswell, a realistic 15-inch sloth plush toy. Roswell features a wide smile, fur accents, and Roswell stuffed claws. He is made of high-quality, surface-washable material and is designed for kids ages 1 and up. ABC123 Doggie is a playful animated plush toy that makes learning fun. This 14-inch spotted puppy repeats several phrases and sings a counting song and an alphabet song. Doggie’s mouth moves along with the words as he sings. He features a red satin scarf printed with “ABC” and “123,” as well as embroidered letters and numbers on his feet. Made of surfacewashable construction for easy cleaning, ABC123 Doggie is appropriate for kids ages 10 months and up. Sleepy Seas Sound and Light Octopus is a cute and cuddly plush toy that helps soothe babies to sleep with relaxing sounds and soft, glowing lights. Sleepy Seas plays calming, ambient music at the push of a button. Sounds include ocean waves, bubbling water, and spa-like music. Circles of light glow from within before shutting off automatically with the music, and corduroy accents add an additional tactile sensation. This plush toy is appropriate for kids of all ages.

Hog Wild introduces Brobo, a daytime buddy and sleep solution for kids ages 18 months and up. Brobo features both light and dim modes, and gives little ones instant control over the darkness and shadows that make nighttime difficult, all from the safety of their own bed. This soft, plush robot has a five-minute auto shutoff with LED lights that are cool to the touch. Kids can swipe Brobo’s right hand across his chest to activate T-Rex flashlight mode for before-bed playtime, and swipe his right hand across his chest again to activate nightlight mode. Brobo comes in five different characters: Brobo, Pep, T-Rex, Mumu, and Dog. Parents can also download the kid-friendly Brobo Bounce app for free in the App Store so kids can help Brobo and his heroic friends reach the outer limits of space.


Plush Splushy Friends, from Neat-Oh!, can go from bed to bath to beach. The Microban anti-microbial filling allows these plush toys to dry quickly and resist mold and mildew. Splushy Friends are available in bright colors and each features a removable hoodie. Splushy Friends are 12 inches tall and are suitable for kids ages 2 and up. Minilina, Minilotta, Miniclara, and Minilara are machine-washable, 12-inch Nici Wonderland dolls. Each doll is handmade and has removable, reversible clothing and is designed for kids ages 2 and up.

Splushy Friends

NightBuddies are plush toys that double as a calming night light. NightBuddies have eyes that light up when kids hug them. The patented illuminating eyes help ease kids’ fear of the dark while doubling as soft cuddly companions. Kids can manually turn off the eyes, or can drift off to sleep and let auto shutoff turn off the glow. NightBuddies are available in styles such as an airplane, a car, and a fish.

CJ Products Inc. introduces BodyPillars, 30inch Pillow Pets character -inspired body pillows with caterpillarlike segmented bodies. Available in eight styles, BodyPillars are comfortable and make sleeping with a stuffed animal even more fun. BodyPillars will be available in Purple Cow, Black and White Cow, Green Puppy, Pink Pig, Teal Elephant, Flower Power Cat, Panda, and Moose styles.

Cuddle Barn’s new Roar ’n More Dinos feature five powerful roars and distinct movements. They are available in Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and T-Rex styles. These 12inch plush dinos are designed for kids ages 2 and up. Kids can learn and sing about different parts of the body with Dr. Charlie. He has a magnetic stethoscope that is activated when kids place it on one of the colorful patches. When activated, Dr. Charlie talks about that part of the body and sings a song. Dr. Charlie teaches about the brain, heart, nose, ears, feet, hands, and tummy. Roar ’n More Dinos T-Rex



New from Just Play, Doc McStuffins’ Take Care of Me Lambie is an interactive plush for kids ages 3 and up that comes to life with realistic movements from head to toe. Lambie talks and sings as her eyes, ears, mouth, and body move along to show how she’s feeling. She has more than 50 interactive responses that are activated through three trigger points on her wrist, tummy, and heart. Doctor’s tools, such as a stethoscope, a thermometer, an otoscope, a syringe, and sticker bandages, are included. When playtime is over, Lambie declares it’s time to “go stuffed,” just like on the show. The retro Puppy Surprise is back again this year with three new puppy families featuring special new coats, fresh hairstyles, and puppies that make barking sounds. The line will also expand to include popular themes from the past, including Kitty Surprise. The new Care Bears Sing-a-longs interact with each other and can talk, sing, and dance in sync to three different songs. They sing solo, as a duet, or as a group. The bears will be available in Cheer Bear, Grumpy Bear, Funshine Bear, and Share Bear styles and are intended for kids ages 3 and up. Care Bears Sing-a-longs



Gaston Pudgie

Plush Bright Eyes Pets, from Blip Toys, are a new line of touch-activated plush with expressive light-up eyes that show kids how much they love them. During playtime, kids can pat their Bright Eyes Pet’s head to see its eyes blink open and hear it sigh and sniffle as it wakes up. A tickle to the chin will trigger happy noises and attentive wide eyes. When it’s time to snuggle up together for bedtime, a soft touch to the Bright Eyes Pet’s back puts it to sleep, as its eyes slowly close and it starts to snore. Bright Eyes Pets are designed for kids ages 3 and up. Disney Princess Palace Pets Plush Lily is Tiana’s kitty. She has a sparkly tiara and a big furry tail, and is styled to match Princess Tiana. Lily is designed for kids ages 3 and up.

Douglas will introduce several new plush toys this year. Bosco, from Douglas, is a brown plush Labradoodle that stands 8 inches tall. He is floppy and soft and is the perfect size for kids ages 2 and up to bring along on the go. Agatha is a 7-inch silver owl that features silver, grey, and white plush and realistic detailing. Bright Eyes is a grey and white plush wolf. He is 11 inches long and features realistic coloring. Jumper is a 10-inch flying squirrel, and Swinger is a 12inch purple and pink stuffed monkey with sparkly ears, hands, and feet. Astra is a pink, sparkly stuffed unicorn. Gaston is a teal and green stuffed frog that is 10 inches sitting and 16 inches tall. He is part of the new Pudgies line, which are soft, squishy, and understuffed plush animals. Clarice is a 12 inch grey and white spotted pig hand puppet designed for kids ages 2 and up.

Bun Buns are collectible stacking plush from The Bridge Direct. The first collection includes Kit Kit (a cat), Moo Moo (a cow), Pup Pup (a dog), Shu Shu (a monkey), Bit Bit (a mouse), Pip Pip (a pig), Bai Bai (a polar bear), and Bon Bon (a rabbit). Bun Buns range in size from mini to jumbo and are designed for kids of all ages.

Bright Eyes Pets

Melissa & Doug’s Jumbo Plush Unicorn is 45 inches long and 32 inches tall, and is designed for kids ages 3 and up. Palace Pals Hand Puppets is a four-piece hand puppet set that includes a royal collection of characters. Designed to help kids ages 2 and up role-play, the prince, the princess, the knight, and the dragon inspire creative stories and imaginary adventures. The puppets are made of brightly patterned, washable fabrics. The simple glove puppets fit both kids and adults and are easy to use, so even the littlest puppeteers can see exciting movement with very little skill—helping kids build self-confidence, motor skills, handeye coordination, and communication skills.


Jumbo Plush Unicorn


Brown spots serve as protective camouflage for the Mountain Lion Cub, from Folkmanis. The puppet features sweet, expressive eyes and a movable mouth. Mountain Lion Cub Out of hibernation and fresh from the den comes the newest Polar Bear Cub. The cub features heirloom design with soft plush fur, padded paws, and a workable mouth. Folkmanis’ puppets are designed for kids ages 3 and up.

Switch-A-Rooz, from Wild Republic, is a line of reversible stuffed animals with one special mission: to solve everyday challenges in the Land of Rooz. There are 24 Switch-A-Rooz combinations with 48 animal characters. Each Switch-A-Rooz character has a unique BFF that helps them solve challenges and spread messages of friendship and acceptance. Kids can flip them inside out and match up the BFF symbols located next to each character’s picture to complete these sets of unlikely friends. Smoky and Timber Switch-A-Rooz




or consumers, shopping conscientiously is a lot easier when there are toy companies out there dedicated to manufacturing products in the U.S. While American-made toys wasn’t the biggest trend at this year’s North American International Toy Fair, it’s important to note the newer companies in the category, such as Yoxo (founded in 2012), as well as the companies that have been commited to “made in America” for the past 53 years (we’re looking at you, American Plastic Toys)! These companies deserve a pat on the back, a high five, and two pages in this magazine, so keep reading for more information on some of our favorite all-American-quality products:

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3 4


1. Just in time for summer, kids can grill just like mom and dad with the Little Tikes Sizzle ’n Serve Grill from MGA Entertainment. Designed so kids ages 18 months and up can get the real grillin’ experience, this set features bright colors, wheels for portable play, realistic styling, and 14 unique accessories from plastic hamburgers and hot dogs to a spatula and a pair of tongs. 2. Green Toys is a great company not only because its toys are made in the U.S.; they’re also made from 100-percent recycled plastic. Even the packaging is printed using soy inks and can be recycled again. The Green Toys Watering Can, just one of the company’s new products for this year, is a great set for little gardeners ages 18 months and up. Featuring an easy-to-pour spout and a cotton rope carrying handle, the set is complete with a mini shovel and a rake. 3. Zorbz, from Hydro Toys LLC, launched last year and the company will add combat toys to the line this year, all of which aremade in the U.S. The Zorbz Combat Launcher allows kids to launch Zorbz Water Balloons more than 100 feet. Featuring an easy-grip handle and flexible design, kids can easily load and launch in a stable motion. 4. Manufactured in Vermont, Maple Landmark Woodcraft’s Rolling Shape Sorter serves as both a push-and-pull toy and a standalone Shape Sorter once kids remove the cage from the chassis. Designed for kids ages 18 months and up, the chassis is made from hardwood maple and decorated with brightly colored graphics. This toy helps kids learn about colors, shapes, and more while simultaneously strengthening their hand-eye coordination.




7 5. Yoxo, the sustainable building toy company, has added five new construction kits to its eco-friendly, made-in-the-U.S. line. The Fyre kit ignites imagination in kids ages 4 and up by allowing kids to construct a firebreathing dragon using the set’s 68 pieces. Like all Yoxo products, the set includes durable, recyclable, and interchangeable chipboard connectors in Y, O, and X shapes. Once built, Fyre and its colorful blaze is more than three feet long. In addition to building Fyre, the set offers three other design ideas. 6. In the games arena, Nut Island’s I Know New York is a challenging multi-player game for kids ages 16 and up. Through individual or team play, this American-made board game allows players to test and expand their New York knowledge in topics such as geography, people, history, sports, arts, natural history, and pop culture. 7. For the first time in nearly 60 years, K’NEX’s Lincoln Logs are being made in the U.S. to celebrate Lincoln Logs’ 100th birthday next year. The 100th Anniversary Tin will be just like parents remember with 111 made-in-the-U.S., real wood logs for kids ages 3 and up. 8. Manufactured exclusively for Bachmann Trains by InRoad Toys, Bachmann’s new Thomas & Friends Track PlayTape looks just like the track kids see on the show. Made in the U.S., the tape sticks to any flat surface and is easy to tear, reposition, and peel away without leaving any residue behind. Kids can lay down the recyclable track any way they want for fun train play. 9. For more than 50 years, American Plastic Toys has offered quality, made-in-the-U.S. products to American families at an affordable price. Its new Cozy Comforts Kitchen features an ultra modern design and realistic feel. Accessories include everything kids need such as plates, cups, utensils, a muffin tin, and a strainer. The kitchen stands at more than 3 feet tall and has a single-cup coffee machine, a raised “gas” burner that makes a boiling water sound when pots and pans are placed on it, a microwave, a refrigerator, an oven, a toaster, and more. ■





HT G I L T O SP by Ali Mierzejewski


ids today are more tech-savvy at the age of 2 than most adults will ever be. Living in the digital age comes instinctively for kids, and the fact that they have the ability to understand and use technology so early on provides the toy industry with the opportunity to create some really innovative tech toys for kids of all ages. Below is a round-up of some of the imaginative and original tech that we’ll see hitting the shelves later this year: 1. Play All Day Elmo, from Hasbro’s Playskool line, is equipped with tons of technology without the bulky battery box, allowing him to double as a cuddly plush toy. Elmo has more than 150 responses and two different play modes: one for toddlers and one for preschoolers. He plays games, dances, recognizes kisses and his hands clapping, knows when kids are moving or standing still, and much more. Elmo also has a sleep mode, so when playtime is over, he will go to sleep with kids and won’t turn on while they are asleep. 2. Mattel’s iconic Barbie doll really can become a girl’s best friend this year with Hello Barbie. Using voicerecognition technology, Barbie talks to kids, learns things about them, and then actually remembers who they are and all of the things she learned.




3. Spin Master’s Meccanoid G15 KS robot may be one of the most innovative toys on the market this year, and it comes straight from the classic Meccano line of building toys. The programmable robot stands at about 4 feet tall and can pop-andlock and give high fives. He comes to life right out of the box and talks kids through the process of how to build him. The Meccanoid also comes in a smaller version (G15, standing at about 2 feet tall) for a lower price point.


4. 3-D printing just became kid-friendly with the 3D Magic 3D Creation Maker, from Tech 4 Kids. Kids simply squeeze the included gel into


molds, stick the mold into the 3D Creation Maker, and in 10 seconds, it becomes a 3-D object. The best part: It uses UV light technology instead of heat, so kids don’t have to wait for it to cool down.


5. With Crayola’s Color Alive line, kids draw with special crayons on the included notebook, snap photos with their smart devices, and bring their drawings to life. One of the coolest products in the line is the Easy Animation Studio, which uses the same technology, but also includes a motion-capture mannequin so that kids can use the app to quickly create their own animated videos. 6. Anki Overdrive features a modular track system that kids can snap together quickly with magnetic connectors. Anki Overdrive Supercars are high-tech, intelligent vehicles with built-in computers and visual sensors to make sure they stay on track even during the most legendary battles. Players can earn points ingame and customize their Supercars with upgrades. Kids can also go head-to-head with friends or step up their game against elite AI Commanders and their crews to become the champion of the Anki Overdrive tournament. 7. VTech’s line of Go! Go! Smart Wheels for preschoolers gets an upgrade with the addition of R/C vehicles. All the educational SmartPoint technology is the same, but now kids can race cars around the track with a remote control. The controller is easy to use, with only two big, bright buttons—one to go forward, one to go backward—and the track features fun stunts and hills to keep kids engaged.



8. The Sky Rover Voice Command Helicopter, from Auldey Toys, takes R/C helis to the next level. By putting on the headset, kids can speak commands such as “Take off,” “Go left,” and “U-turn,” and the helicopter will follow suit. It also does fun tricks such as “Smart Hover” and “Dancing in the Air.” 9. The IO Hawk high-tech ride is reminiscent of a handlebarfree Segway mixed with innovative technology. Riders just stand on it, relax, and think about which direction they’d like to move in, and off they go. ■






Outdoor Toys

Innovative Ways to Get Kids in Motion

by Phil Guie


resh air, sunlight, and exercise are all wonderful things. Unfortunately, many kids just aren’t getting enough of them. At the North American International Toy Fair, we encountered numerous toy makers that are trying to address this problem by developing new outdoor toys that encourage kids to get off the couch for some outdoor physical activity. Many feature novel tweaks to familiar play patterns, and the sheer breadth of items on-hand was impressive. Most surprisingly, not all of them try to pry kids away from their mobile devices or video screens. Here are some of our favorite picks from among the outdoor toy trends we saw. While we’re not guaranteeing that any one of these items will be the outdoor toy that every kid has to be seen outside with, we definitely think they point to the direction in which the category is evolving. We also included products from a wide array of price points, because fun, in our opinion, should

2. 1.


Making Fun Easy never be cost-prohibitive.

It’s not enough to just be outside (although it’s a start). Little ones have to run around and get their blood pumping, and the easiest way to do that is through an activity that interests and engages them. Many of the manufacturers we visited seek to give kids even more of something they enjoy, or to make an activity easier to perform.

1. Batapult Jr. (OgoSport) With the Batapult Jr., from OgoSport, kids who are not yet able to throw a ball very far can use the bat itself to do the work. After fitting the ball into a space on the bat, they just have to swing it in order to simulate a throw. Kids can also use the Batapult Jr. for fielding balls and working on other aspects of their game.

2. Faux Bow 2.0 (Marky Sparky)


Bow and arrow play is more widespread than ever, but one of the least fun aspects is picking up the arrows you’ve fired. Luckily, the Faux Bow 2.0, from Marky Sparky, has twice as many quivers, meaning twice as many arrows to shoot.





7. 5. Sbyke (Sbyke USA)

3. Combat Trigger Filler/Zorbz Balloons (Hydro Toys LLC) Both the Combat Trigger Filler and Zorbz Balloons, from Hydro Toys LLC, cut back on some of the more arduous aspects of playing with water balloons. The Combat Trigger Filler, which attaches to a faucet or spigot, fills Zorbz Balloons quicker than conventional methods. Zorbz Balloons have a special valve system that allows each one to be snapped shut easily, eliminating the need to tie the ends.

4. Squap For kids who are still developing shoulder and arm strength (and let’s face it, there are some of us adults who probably need to work on that, too), there’s Squap, a mitt-like toy that launches a ball through the motion of opening one’s hand. To send it flying further, simply open your hand faster. Squap is easy to learn and doesn’t require a lot of dexterity, so older and younger kids can play together without the former dominating—and if the goal is to keep everyone playing, that’s a good thing.

Putting a New Spin On Ride-Ons

We found these items especially appealing for several reasons: First, each company has different models for varying age ranges. Plus, each of the items has elements reminiscent of an existing outdoor toy or toys, yet the companies managed to find a way to make something original. Instead of reinventing the wheel, these companies found new ways to feature the existing one.


The Sbyke, from Sbyke USA, resembles a cross between a skateboard and a bicycle. However, despite having front handles like a bicycle, the user steers by moving his or her body from side-to-side (Not easy in the face of oncoming Toy Fair visitors).

6. Spooner (Spooner Inc.) A high-density polyethylene board from Spooner Inc., Spooner lets kids do spinning tricks, and even practice snowboarding at the nearby skate park—whether or not there’s any snow on the ground.

Active App Play

7. Backyard Sports (Day 6)

Kids spend more time glued to their screens than ever before, and some companies, such as Day 6, are taking advantage of this. The Backyard Sports line features physical toys, such as the big-barreled Sonic Boom Bat and the Mega Morph Super Hoop, the latter of which has an expanding and contracting rim. Each item works with a free, downloadable app game, and the more kids play with the toys the more they can power-up characters in the games. To be fair, the toys themselves sound pretty fun. A basketball hoop that randomly grows and shrinks while you shoot? A bat built to make booming sounds? Still, the real star is the way the physical toys and digital games work in tandem, as kids have a tangible incentive to be active, and a reward for their efforts. Sure, improved physical conditioning and a healthier lifestyle should be their own rewards, but the chance to make a digital version of NBA star Stephen Curry dunk from the three-point line is also pretty sweet. ■



s t i K e c n e i c S


Little Kids by Christine Duhaime


cience kits are typically geared toward kids ages 8 and up. There have been plenty of logical reasons for this—for one thing, kids need to be able to read the manual to do the experiments; and for another, science experiments can be complex, requiring kids to have longer attention spans and higher critical thinking skills. However, at this year’s North American International Toy Fair in New York City, many companies offered ways to introduce science to a younger audience.






1. Elenco’s Snap Circuits Beginners kit teaches kids ages 5 and up about building circuits, and each kit includes dozens of projects to keep kids engaged and learning. The kit offers a visually driven manual; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts; and 20 projects. 2. Kids ages 4 and up can start learning about healthy eating, plants, and organic vegetables through augmented reality with Powerful Plants. When the 36 different packets of organic heirloom vegetable seeds— with names such as Country Gentleman (sweet corn), Snow White (snow white cherry tomatoes), and Sugar Daddy (sugar snap peas)—are viewed through a smartphone using the free app, the characters come to life to share information about each type of food. 3. Thames & Kosmos’ Kids First: Level 1 Amusement Park Engineer set provides kids ages 3 to 5 with a storybook manual and chunky, colorful building pieces and accessories. The story follows two kids and the fun rides they encounter on their family trip to the fair. Kids can build and experiment while learning about physics and engineering. 4. The Science Utility Vehicle, from Educational Insights, features a 3x magnifying glass and night-vision LED lights. Kids can get a close-up view of things on the ground by pushing down on the handles, revealing the magnifier to show what’s underneath the vehicle. 5. The Dinocular Kit, from Geoworld, offers kids ages 4 and up three dinosaur figures, “dinoculars” (binoculars), and a scientific educational fact card for each dinosaur.








What’s New in Plush

Catering to Your Customers

How to Reach Millennials and Baby Boomers






How to Reach Millennials & Baby Boomers

by Sue Warfield, director of member relations, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA)

ho is most important in the lives of today’s kids? Their parents and grandparents, of course. As it turns out, the very same people are critically important to the success of the specialty toy business. Kids may know them as Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and Grandpa, but in business terms, they are part of the demographic cohorts known as millennials and baby boomers. Both generations are large and influential enough to have a huge impact on our industry’s future. Members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) need to understand and cater to them. So, who are they and what do they want?

for me?” is the key. It has to be something truly of value for this generation. Reserve a shopping night once a month, or offer personal shoppers just for your loyalty customers. When new products arrive, choose which items to promote and make them available to your loyalty customers first. • Think beyond your store walls. Take your store and your healthy play message “beyond the lease line.” Millennials want convenience and they crave flexibility. Go to them. Try planning some road shows. Host fundraisers at local daycare centers and organize community education sessions where you can present an “importance of play” class for a parenting group. Get creative!

The Millennial Generation

The Baby Boomer Generation

Millennials—sometimes known as GenY—were born between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 2000s. By the next decade, they will replace their parents (the baby boomers) as the largest buying group in the U.S. The most influential group of millennials when it comes to buying decisions is millennial moms. These consumers are going online to research products and make purchases, and they also visit brick-and-mortar stores because speed and convenience (“I want it now—today”) are very important to them. They also put a big value on social connections, whether in person or via social media, and many choose to spend their money at locally owned businesses. Here’s what we can do to cater to millennials: • Embrace technology. Make sure you have a website for your business—one that works well on a smartphone or a tablet, not just on a computer screen. • Prioritize speed and convenience. Quick checkouts, convenient hours, and ease of shopping—online, over the phone, and in store—are vital. • Make your store look awesome. Your website, outside signage, Facebook page, and all forms of media should be visually appealing. Make customers want to come into your store. They are accustomed to instant gratification, so if you make them fall in love with your store and the products inside, they’ll make purchases right away. • Make your loyalty program appealing to millennials. “What's in it



Baby boomers are aging. Now in their late 50s, 60s, and 70s, they tend to be active in the lives of their grandchildren. Raised without the multimedia, gizmo-laden tech toys that are so prevalent now, today’s grandparents understand play that incorporates imagination, movement, and simple features that let children make up their own stories. Here’s how we can cater to boomers: • Consider them for your in-store events. Try after-hours events for grandparents to relax and shop with others from their generation. Or host grandparent/grandchild play days. Art kits are great for these events. • Accommodate aging customers. Place products where they are easy to see and reach, and keep the aisles tidy so they are easy to navigate. Go out of your way to help older customers find what they’re looking for. • Cater to their nostalgia. Carry toys and games that remind them of their childhood. It may be old standbys that you carry or new games that have the same type of play pattern. • Keep good records. Grandparents think there are no better grandkids than their own. They want to tell everyone about them. Get to know the grandparents and ask about their grandchildren by name. For many years to come, retail will be driven by the priorities of millennials and baby boomers, and the way they like to do business. ASTRA’s mission is to help our members grow their businesses through education and sharing ideas, information, and resources. ●


Hugzies, from DEMDACO, are friends that hug kids back. Designed for kids of all ages, Hugzies have elongaged, weighted arms and are 14 inches long. Hugzies are available in 12 styles, including a bear, a tiger, and a hippopotamus. Giggaloos are whimsical plush that make giggling sounds when kids spin them. When they stop spinning, the character ends with a sigh. The 7inch Giggaloos line is available in 12 styles for kids of all ages.

Plush CLOUD B introduces Stay Asleep Buddies: The Simple Sleep Trainers, developed to help children understand when it’s time to stay in bed and when it’s OK to wake up. The Stay Asleep Sleep Buddies line includes a cuddly interactive plush Hedgehog that engages kids while delivering gentle melodies and glowing reminders on bedtime and playtime. When parents set the Hedgehog’s internal timer to countdown for the desired wake-up time, a soothing lullaby sound loops and a soft night light glows from the character’s heart. It plays for 45 minutes to help kids fall asleep. If kids wake up during the night or too early in the morning, a motion sensor re-activates the lullaby sounds and lights for 23 minutes to remind them that it’s still too early to get up. When the designated wake-up hour arrives, the little Hedgehog greets the day with a Happy Wake-Up tune and a bright wake-up color. The happy tune plays for three minutes and the morning light glows for 23 minutes, completing the switch to Daytime mode. Dream Buddies are colorful, soft friends designed for kids ages 1 and up. Dream Buddies project stars onto bedroom ceilings and walls to ease the transition from playtime to bedtime. Each 6-inch character provides a soft glow in blue, green, or amber, and has the option to automatically cycle through all three colors. Characters include a puppy, a bunny, and a sheep. The lights automatically shut off after 45 minutes to create the complete darkness recommended by pediatricians.


The Woodland Friends collection, from NORTH AMERICAN BEAR CO., is a line of gender-neutral forest friends available in three different sizes. Bunny, Fawn, and Owl are offered in 14- and 8-inch sizes, as well as 5.5-inch animals with an attached 10-inch square security blanket with appliquéd accent that can be custom embroidered as a keepsake gift. The Fox, Unicorn, and Peacock Collection makes its debut in velvety velour with embroidered eyes and contrasting bright colors. Available in a choice of 11- and 5.5-inch sizes, these critters feature oversized flat tails for cuddling and are ideal for personalized embroidery. The Sleepyhead Bunny Jumbo Baby Cozy Set includes a 15-inch snuggle bunny and baby crinkle bunny in velvety soft velour, with stitched eyes and a signature striped jersey knit stocking cap. The oversized plush allows for embroidered personalization on its long ears or flat body. It is available in pastel pink or blue, and is machine washable.

Stay Asleep Buddies Hedgehog

Woodland Friends Owl




Birthdaykins, from KIDS PREFERRED, are birthday-themed plush toys from BirthdayLand, the place where wishes come true. The Birthdaykins are also featured in the BirthdayLand app, which offers birthday-related games and activities. Each Birthdaykins purchase includes a code that unlocks premium features inside the app, which is free to download in the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Apps. Huggaloons are soft plush toys that resemble balloon animals. They are the special guides in BirthdayLand, and also include a code to unlock features in the app. To celebrate 20 years of the classic children’s book Guess How Much I Love You, Kids Preferred introduces a soft toy and gift collection. The Guess How Much I Love You Developmental Activity Toy is designed for babies and features an on-the-go clip, a mirror, crinkly ears, a squeaker, and a teething ring. Giraffe Huggaloon


BLEACHER CREATURES are plush figures that combine elements of an action figure and a plush toy. Bleacher Creatures are available in many different sports-licensed characters, including players from the MLB, MLBPA, NFL, NFLPA, NBA, NHL, MLS, CLC, and with European Soccer Clubs. Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron collection includes eight characters: Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Vision, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and Hawkeye. The Bleacher Creatures Universe also includes plush from DC Comics (Batman ’66 inspired), The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies, Superman, Rocky, and Archer.

Trobo is a cuddly, connected plush toy and app that inspires kids ages 2 and up to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in the world around them through fun, interactive stories. Kids build an avatar of themselves and input their names into the app so they can go on adventures with Trobos Newton and Curie. Trobo reads the stories aloud to the child, and each story features an interactive puzzle every few pages.


Worry Eaters, from THE HAYWIRE GROUP, make their U.S. debut this year. When times get rough, kids can jot down their frets, worries, and fears and feed it to the Worry Eater. As the child sleeps, parents can remove the worry and discover the scary concern. The next day, parents and kids can discuss a solution, providing a healthy way to deal with stress and worry. Worry Eaters are available in 9- and 14inch sizes and are designed for kids ages 3 and up. Each character boasts round, understanding eyes, a soft body, and a mix of two, three, or more ears or horns. Worry Eaters are kind and cuddly in both good and bad times. From Enno, with his two pointy ears, to Saggo, with his five tall striped ears, these pals create opportunities for children to talk to parents or other adults. Enno, Saggo, and six other fellow plush friends offer lots of reassurance to children that someone is always there to help. Worry Eater Bill



If Your Monster Wears Pajamas is a bedtime story that follows Maggie and Michael on an adventure to get rid of some big, ugly, annoying monsters; reclaim their bedrooms; and make a few friends along the way. The story aims to engage kids in a nightly ritual that quiets fears and instills a love of reading. Pajama Monsters are plush dolls that are based on the characters in the book. Stinky, Nipper, Daisy, Fluffy, and Vincent each have Daisy unique personalities and silly quirks. Pajama Monsters are designed for kids of all ages.


New to YOTTOY’s Paddington collection is Big Screen Paddington Bear. The movie-inspired bear is available in 8.5- and 12-inch editions, both featuring Paddington’s iconic tag. The 12-inch style includes a hand-sewn marmalade sandwich accessory, and both styles are designed for kids ages 3 and up. Leonardo the Terrible Monster, from the book of the same name, is both a terrible monster and a loveable friend, as he realizes that it is more satisfying to be a good friend than to be scary. He has whimsical facial features and is made of soft chenille materials. He has a hidden fabric pocket so kids can transform him into a puppet. Leonardo is designed for kids of all ages. Leonardo the Terrible Monster

In the Garden is a new theme from KÄTHE KRUSE that features bright colors, sweet faces, and familiar items: a cat, a flower, a fairy, and a bird. Käthe Kruse’s custom prints, stripes, and checks blend with bright orange velour. Grey, green, and white terrycloth add play value with a tactile textured feel. In the Garden Dress Up Cat teaches kids ages 3 and up how to tie, buckle, clip, and change shoes as they dress and undress the cheery gardening cat.


Under the Waldorf license, KÄTHE KRUSE has crafted a 20-piece Waldorf 100% Organic collection and a 19-piece Waldorf 100% Anti-Allergic collection. The Organic range includes all-natural materials sourced from organic farms, and features sheep wool for the filling. The collection uses a bright blue, red, and yellow color palette, and features items such as the Waldorf Schatzi Doll (offered in blue and red) and the Waldorf Musical (a yellow star-crowned huggable figure with a beech ring that plays a lullaby for baby). The Anti-Allergic range is made of a synthetic fill, and features a pastel pink and blue color palette. The Waldorf Wooden Grabbing Toy is a grabbing and teething toy for babies ages 3 months and up, and the Waldorf Towel Doll with Stars is a soft, reversible blanket. Waldorf Musical

Known for its career role-play wear, AEROMAX has outfits, accessories, and everything kids need to dress up as firefighters, police officers, dolphin trainers, and more this year. The reimagined line features refreshed and updated versions of the Firefighter outfit, which is available in black and tan and features real reflective stripes on the neon yellow ribbons, gusseted pockets on both legs, and more. The Police Officer ensemble features arm patches, a fabric policeman hat, a black belt, and more. Kids can take imaginative play a step further with the all-new Police and Firefighter Accessory Sets. The set of Police tools includes a radio, a badge, handcuffs, and a Billy club, while the Firefighter set includes an ax, a crow bar, a fire extinguisher, and a badge.

FANTASY FIELDS will launch a hand-painted, kid-friendly furniture line designed for kids ages 2 to 8. The line will feature the Enchanted Woodland Bookshelf and Rocking Chair, as well as the Knights & Dragon Bookshelf and Rocking Chair. Each piece is intricately decorated with either cheery woodland animals or scenic designs of noble knights, fire-breathing dragons, and majestic castles. Both lines add brightness to any room and inspire kids to use their imaginations. While the wooden rocking chairs are sturdy enough for even the toughest kids, the three-level bookshelves offer enough room to store kids’ favorite storybooks, trophies, and more. In addition, each bookshelf also includes a storage drawer that slides out to hold games, toys, and keepsakes. Enchanted Woodland Rocking Chair

HEROME allows kids to design their own superhero HeroMe Action Figures in their own likeness, as well as a unique story to go along with them. During the creation process, kids build and personalize their heroes by choosing from five heads, ten superpowers, a name, and a story. The experience further empowers kids’ creativity and storytelling as they invent their superhero’s story using the 60-page HeroMe Handbook. The Handbook is essentially an activity book, which serves as an educational resource to help kids develop their problem-solving and writing skills while they imagine and create adventures for their heroes.





Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over, from THE SECRET MOUNTAIN, is a set of dream songs on a CD and a bedtime storybook by Hilary Grist. The story is about Ira and Isabelle, two clay character siblings living in a little red house by the sea, who decide one night to escape the sound of the city’s beeping cars, and sail off to a faraway island. On their journey, their newly made robin friend tells the duo that dreams really can come true. In addition to a narraration of the story, the CD offers nine heartwarming songs for the whole family to enjoy together, including “Say Goodnight,” “Fall in My Loving Arms,” and “City of Green and Blue.” The soundtrack is followed by a rendition of Johanne Brahm’s classic “Cradle Song.”

LEGACY RECORDINGS, a division of Sony Entertainment, presents The Sound of Music— 50th Anniversary Edition, a multi-format soundtrack release celebrating Rodgers & Hammerstein’s five-time Academy Award-winning movie music, in a newly remastered and expanded version. As part of the golden celebration, the soundtrack features previously unreleased orchestral cues from the score, and all of the vocal performances on one CD for the first time. It includes original titles, such as “My Favorite Things” and “So Long, Farewell,” along with introductory notes from Julie Andrews and Theodore S. Chapin. The CD package also includes rare photographs and illustrations from the film. In addition, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release a five-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of the movie.

KEITH MUNSLOW is releasing a new album, Tiny Destroyer, available from CDBaby, Amazon, and iTunes. The album chronicles the chaos of everyday family living, inspired by the crazy happenings going on when families live together under one roof. The songs are sung in styles ranging from jazz and funk to doo-wop and the blues. The title track marches to a martial beat as a one-toddler wrecking crew causes havoc wherever he goes. The album opens with the song “Coffee Breath,” which is about kids having to deal with stale coffee stenches throughout the day from those older than them. Two stories, “Old Joe’s Bones” and “Princess Pepper’s Story,” offer messages to kids that they are important, even when they’re not the center of attention.

THE SECRET MOUNTAIN introduces Sleep Softly: Classical Lullabies by Brahms, Schubert, Satie, Debussy… as part of its book-and-CD series. The hardbound book features whimsical, dream-like illustrations by Elodie Nouhen and brief explanatory notes describing how the song was composed and how it was arranged for the recording. The accompanying CD was recorded in France with the quintet Ensemble Agora. It features 16 soft and sweet songs and visuals, totaling 34 relaxing minutes that will send everyone in the family off to dreamland. Pieces include the gently rocking rhythm of Offenbach’s “Barcarolle” and the most famous track in the CD, Brahms’ “Wiengenlied,” which translates as “the lullaby song.”




Don’t Toy with your Brand Story How Concept Shops Can Keep Customers Coming Back by Paul J. Russell


othing excites a 10-year-old more than a trip to Disney World. It’s like visiting a distant planet developed just for kids. From characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to dinner shows such as Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue or Disney’s Spirit of Aloha, every aspect of Disney World has been created with kids in mind, and is part of a bigger brand story. These themed events, in turn, allow audiences to engage and connect with the brand. In the retail environment, it’s imperative for a brand to connect with customers. You want to provide an enjoyable shopping experience that keeps the customer coming back. An effective way to communicate your brand story is to showcase product in a brand concept shop. This is a small shop within a retail store where a brand creates a unique shopping environment for its target consumer. Your concept shop conveys your brand story, echoes your company’s DNA, and resonates with customers long after they leave the store. Communicating your brand story is, in fact, storytelling. To tell that story, you must create a world where nothing exists except your unique brand and its message. That means merchandise, signage, graphics, and displays should all relate and culminate to deliver your story. In your world, everything plays a part in storytelling, from the colors of product packaging to the colors on signage. Product should be organized, easily accessible, and displayed in a manner that connects to the customer emotionally. There are three key steps to developing a concept shop to present your brand story at retail:

1. Secure a location to tell your story Your environment must possess its own space to tell the story. In order to obtain a larger space for a concept shop, negotiations with each retailer must take place. A brand story may be presented on an endcap or a back wall, or in an aisle or larger section. The site of the space you’re allotted may not


be the same in all stores, therefore, it would be beneficial to prepare shop layouts of varying sizes that could be placed in different retail environments.

2. Communicate your story to retailers The vision for your shop should be communicated through 3-D concept drawings to each retailer. These drawings are an effective vehicle for explaining your brand story to retailers before an actual concept shop is implemented. In addition, these drawings provide a visual of what the shop will look like in the proposed area. The drawings should reflect the product quantities and how the product looks when presented on the fixtures, along with corresponding signage.

3. Implement your Brand story for customers The last factor in telling your story is to effectively roll out the shops at retail. This is executed through planograms and directives to communicate the details of setting up each shop while developing a project management schedule to stay on task. The directives and planograms work together to provide a visual of the completed shop. The project management schedules provide direction on who will be completing each task in the implementation process and when. Telling your story at retail brings your brand to life and builds a long-term relationship with your customers. Engage your customers with emotional connections by becoming a master storyteller. ■ Paul J. Russell is a visual merchandising and retail marketing executive with a comprehensive background in developing and executing integrated consumer-focused programs for manufacturers. His new book, Field Visual Merchandising Strategy, is available in the U.S. from and For a 20 percent discount everywhere else, use discount code TOYBOOK before May 31 at




The Beatrix Girls Go Country The Beatrix Girls, PopStarClub’s line of collectible pop star dolls, are going on their long awaited country tour. The dolls feature countryinspired fashions and hairstyles, and kids can rock out to their new country songs. Each doll also comes with a country-styled musical instrument. Additionally, the Beatrix Girls will hit the red carpet this year, sporting glitzy, high fashion outfits.

Decorate in a New Way CJ Products, maker of Pillow Pets, introduces Crazy Clingz, removable and repositionable wall art that sticks to any surface. Ideal for kids’ lockers, binders, bedroom walls, notebooks, windows, and any surface that needs a touch of color, the line is available in seven different themes, including polka dots, flowers, space, sports, hearts, stars, and alphabet. Crazy Clingz come in 6-, 10-, 15-, and 26-piece kits.

Zip and Flip Into Sweet Dreams

Wave Your Way to Victory

Zippy Sack, from Toy Island, is a new way to help kids make their beds with a quick zip and flip. Made from soft and cuddly machine-washable fleece, it slips over a kid’s bed like a fitted sheet and stays in place. At bedtime, kids zip inside for the night. In the morning, with a zip and a flip, the bed is made and transforms into a cuddly friend. Characters include a kitty, a puppy, a dino, and a panda. Each Zippy Sack comes in a reusable bag with carry handle, and is available in twin or full size.

Launching this fall, Wave Racers is a new line of racers, tracks, and play sets in which kids hold the power. Kids activate their racers through wave sensors, so the faster they wave their hands, the faster their Wave Racers will go. Intended for kids ages 6 and up, play sets include the Skyloop Rally & Speed Streak, the Epic Challenge & Triple Loop Raceway, and the Mega-Match Raceway. TrackPack extensions are available so kids can expand or customize tracks.

TMNT Turtle Transforms into Play Set Playmates Toys introduces a Leonardo Ninja Turtle figure that transforms into a complete lair play set. The turtle stands 24 inches tall, and the play set includes eight different rooms. The set has more than 30 built-in features, from activated surprises to false floors, and more. The turtle also displays Leo’s signature Katana sword. For kids ages 4 and up, the Giant Leonardo Playset is compatible with most Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle basic action figures and will be out in the fall, just in time for the holiday season.





Classifieds Playtime Sales & Marketing Co. LLC A Toy Manufacturers Sales Representative Corporate Office 331 Piermont Road Norwood, New Jersey 07648 TEL: 201-784-7727 FAX: 201-784-1912 E-MAIL: //

BUSINESS DIRECTORIES 2015 Trade Show Directory $39.95 Independent Sales Rep Directory $69.95 Toy Wholesalers & Manufacturers $29.95 We carry Salesman’s Guides to Find Buyers and Trade Show Exhibitor Lists for Toy Fair and others! 1-800-635-7654 • Free Magazine: The Toy Book Volume 31, Number 2 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bi-monthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2015 Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. Subscription rates: $48 one year, foreign $200. The Toy Book is a trademark of Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Toy Book, c/o Adventure Publishing Group, 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001. Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of the management of The Toy Book.


The Playtime Sales & Marketing Company, LLC. is a Toy and Electronics Manufacturers sales representative organization. Our prime focus is to represent Toy and Electronics Manufacturers to the Mass Market Retailers. The principals of our Company are Len Soyka and Murray Bass. Our only vocation has been in the Toy Industry. We are dedicated toy professionals.

Our geographical areas of sales coverage and accounts include: • NEW ENGLAND…Connecticut North to Maine and Upstate N.Y. Accounts… CVS Drug, BJ’s Whle Club, Benny’s and TJ Maxx, • N.Y. METRO…N.Y. City and New Jersey. Accounts… Toys R Us and their DOTCOM and Global Divisions, FAO Schwarz, Xmas Tree Shops, Shepher Distributors, Burlington Coat Factory, Buy Buy Baby, Marlon Creations, Party City, National Wholesale, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Steven’s Intl., TRU Express and NY area Supermarket Chains. • MID-LANTIC…Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Western Ohio. Accounts…Rite Aid Drug, Group Sales, Boscov’s, Omni Global, 5 Below, Dollar Tree, Variety Wholesale and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // Gordman’s // Target and Walmart • CANADA…Walmart, Toys R Us, Canadian Tire and Costco

We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.



Flashback: April 1995 1.

The Busy World of Richard Scarry comes to life with Tomy’s new introductions for the year. 2. World Championship Wrestling’s Jimmy Hart and Hulk Hogan unveiled an action figure toy line from The Original San Francisco Toymakers during Toy Fair. The line includes action play sets, figures, and wrestling pals. 3. New to the Mattel family this year are Cabbage Patch Kids, each with different ethnicities, faces, hair colors, and outfits. 4. Galoob has created Sky Dancers, the industry’s first flying doll. 5. Cardinal Industries is releasing a Nickelodeon-licensed game based on the TV show “Are You Afraid of the Dark?,” which incorporates stories of ghosts and goblins.



News Briefs Hasbro Buys Super Soaker Hasbro Inc. has acquired the Super Soaker line of products from Larami Corp. The Super Soaker franchise has been a category leader since its introduction in 1990, and its products continued to command an impressive proportion of category sales through year-end ’94, according to the company.

CPSC Sets Final Rules on Choking Labels

3. 4. 5.


The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted to finalize regulations requiring packaging labels for balls, balloons, marbles, and other toys presenting choking hazards to small children. The rules mandated by the Child Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1994, bans balls smaller than 1.75 inches in diameter for toys and games, balls, and marbles for children over age three and under age six. The rules also require manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers of small balls, marbles, and similar objects to report to the federal government any incidents of children choking.


The Voice Reaching Both Trade and Consumers

Contact: Jonathan Samet or Laurie Schacht Adventure Publishing Group 307 7th Avenue, Suite 1601 New York, NY 10001 Tel: 212-575-4510 Fax: 212-575-4521

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