March/April 2016

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March/April 2016


Volume 32, No. 2 — Published by Adventure Publishing Group

Jackie Breyer Editor-in-Chief

DEPARTMENTS 7 Editor’s Viewpoint 8 Stat Shot 9 Talking Social Media 10 Industry Update 14 TIA Perspectives 23 Talkin’ Toys: Q&A with Knolly Nibbles

24 Property Profile: The Powerpuff Girls

57 International Toy Industry

The ethical manufacturing program for toys

18 Plush Showcase

A look at what’s new in the plush aisle

26 Game of Drones

Drones compete to be top dog in the R/C aisle by adding extra features, gaming, and more.

A look at Kids Time 2016 in Poland

Ali Mierzejewski Senior Editor

34 Sweet Suite 2016

57 Industry Marketplace

46 Talkin’ Toys: Q&A with Hansa

58 Flashback: March/April 1996

Maddie Michalik Assistant Editor

54 Raising the Bar

Stephanie Grassullo Editorial Assistant Bill Reese Production Director

28 R/C Showcase

Lori Rubin Controller/Office Manager

A look at what’s coming to R/C shelves in 2016.

Elyse Carmosino Chelsey Hubric Editorial Interns

52 Outside the Box The Future of Brands: Why Immersion Matters

U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht President

16 Stuffed with Fun

Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® 307 7th Avenue, #1601, New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510 • Fax: (212) 575-4521

The New Age of Feature Plush

specialty toys & gifts: 35 Keeping up with the speed of business

37 What’s New

Varuni Sinha Assistant Editor Joe Ibraham Assistant Visual Media Editor

How e-Signatures Affect Email Negotiations

GUND Mermaid Adventure Playset

36 ASTRA’s Insights

Marissa DiBartolo Senior Editor

33 What’s New


Jonathan Samet Publisher

38 The New Sense of Plush

Specialty plush appeals to kids’ senses in new ways.

On the Cover: Toy State’s Adrenal-N Series Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2 Super Trofeo

48 Toys that Inspire Storytelling

These tech-free products kick imagination into high gear.

50 Media Center

The Toy Book Volume 32, No. 2 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bimonthly 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 © 2016 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.

Member, International Toy Magazine Association

editor’s viewpoint

Accessible, Immersive Play Gets Kids Invested in Toys by JACKIE BREYER, Editor-in-Chief WRITING THIS COLUMN IS ALWAYS THE last thing I do before sending an issue to the printer. The reason is not purely procrastination—though I’d be kidding myself if I pretended that wasn’t part of it—but because there’s often a theme running through the issue that doesn’t emerge until I’ve sat down, re-read every single page, and had that “aha” moment. For this issue, The Toy Book’s editors got to work covering R/C vehicles (specifically drones), plush, and story-telling toys. While these product categories seem to have little in common, I was pleasantly surprised to realize the big trend across all of these toys is accessible, immersive play. This is an important trend because it’s one that kids and parents alike will appreciate. Toys that are easy to get into, appeal to all the senses, and draw kids into their world are the ones they will play with over and over again. The last thing a parent wants is a flashy toy that costs big bucks and gets tossed in the corner after 15 minutes. Senior Editor Ali Mierzejewski investigated what’s new in the red-hot drones category, and found that ease of use is a huge trend. I saw this at Dallas Fall Toy Preview in October, with both WowWee and Skyrocket Toys’ new drones that feature height stabilization and the ability to perform stunts at the push of a button. Newcomers to the category, such as Mattel and Spin Master, have also incorporated this trend into their new drones, resulting in a range of options for younger kids to quickly and easily get in on the drone action. Other trends include augmented reality and gaming, ensuring long-lasting interest and excitement for these flying toys. Assistant Editor Maddie Michalik took a look at new trends in plush, and found that the latest introductions appeal to kids’ senses from sight and touch to hearing and even smelling. They give kids a 360-degree experience and allow them to connect with their stuffed friends

“A remote-control flying car? What could they possibly come up with next?” on a number of levels, creating a fun and emotional bond between kids and their plush. Senior Editor Marissa DiBartolo rounded up a few of her favorite toys that get kids’ imaginations going. These toys encourage storytelling and immerse kids in a world of fun and engaging role-play. Contributing writer Ted Mininni wrote his Outside the Box column about the importance of immersing kids in a brand to create long-lasting interest and excitement for the toys and products associated with the brand. Enjoy this issue of The Toy Book, and let

me know what you think! Your feedback is important to us. Send me an email, or simply tweet @toybook and @jackiebreyer. We’d love to hear from you! » Jackie Breyer is editor-in-chief of The Toy Book and the Toy Insider, and editorial director at Adventure Publishing. She has been reporting on new products and toy industry trends for 14 years. Contact her at

TOYBOOK.COM | March/April 2016 | THE TOY BOOK  7

Dollar Sales

Unit Sales

Plush and R/C Toys

Plush and R/C Toys

R/C toy dollar growth was 2.5x the industry growth of +7 percent in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 27.

Plush unit growth was 1.3x the industry growth of +7 percent in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 27.

















Radio/Remote Control Toys


2016 Sales ($MM)

2 3

FurReal Friends JJ, My Jumpin’ Pug Pet Hasbro


Easter Assortment Dan-Dee Imports




FurReal Friends StarLily, My Magical Unicorn Hasbro Playskool Play All Day Elmo Hasbro


5 Thinkway Toys

Despicable Me 2 Small Buddies Assortment


CATEGORY Weekly Dollar Share


Sky Viper v950 HD Video Drone Skyrocket Toys


Monster Spinning Car Assortment Polyconcept


Star Wars Air Hogs Millenium Falcon Quad Spin Master


Marvel Hulk Smash Vehicle Jakks Pacific


Sky Viper m200 Nano Drone Skyrocket Toys

Valentine’s Day 10


Dollar Share (%)


Radio/Remote Control Toys

2016 Sales (MM)

Plush 1











Holiday* contributed about 33 percent of all plush sales while Valentine’s Day week had the highest dollar share, 10.1 percent, of any given week.


*Thanksgiving week through Christmas week (5 weeks)



Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service/Annual 2015 All other data provided by: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service/52 WE February 27, 2016

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Tips to Create a Meaningful Instagram Presence





by MADDIE MICHALIK, assistant editor A PICTURE USED TO BE WORTH A thousand words, but now, it’s worth thousands of followers and likes. Gone are the days when social media was just a weird experiment. Now, we’re more familiar with it, we’re learning the benefits, and we’re all expected to be better at it. Instagram, the Facebook-owned platform with photos as the focus of sharing, is more relevant than ever before. Today, Instagram has more than 400 million users worldwide, even beating out Twitter, which has 320 million monthly active users. To put that into perspective, that’s more users than if every single person in the U.S. had an account, and then tens of millions more. There have been many changes to Instagram since its inception six years ago, including a fresh look, a move away from posting only square photos, a multi-account feature, and the launch of companion apps. In the coming months, users are going to see a gradual shift in their timelines from a reverse chronological order to one based on relationships and engagement. To make the most of everything Instagram has to offer, follow these tips to create an account everyone will double-tap for.

KNOW YOUR BRAND IDENTITY Like any form of social media, the most effective place to start is with your biograpy. Make sure your profile photo is something that is recognizable to consumers, such as a logo or a product shot. You only have 150 characters for your bio, so use a sentence or two that best describes what your brand is all about. Don’t be afraid to use emojis, and definitely include a hashtag to give users a way to further explore your brand. Be sure to include a URL to your brand’s website, which is not part of the character limit.

POST VISUAL CONTENT Although this seems self explanatory, make sure to post eye-catching content. In an ideal world, every user would see every post, but users miss about 70 percent of content on their timelines, according to Instagram. Think: What would make you stop while

quickly scrolling through your feed? You don’t have to be a professional photographer to have an amazing Instagram page, but make sure to put some care into the photos that you post. The Instagram app has its own suite of editing features and filters, but there are plenty of other third-party apps that you can also use, such as Afterlight or VSCO Cam. Don’t feel as though you have to limit yourself to just photos—post graphics and videos, too! Videos on Instagram must be at least three seconds long, must not exceed 15 seconds, and will repeat on a loop on users’ timelines. Use other apps to help you create engaging videos. Instagram’s Boomerang app will take photos and stitch them together in a mini video that will, as the name suggests, play forward and backward. While Instagram doesn’t support a repost feature, such as retweeting on Twitter, there are plenty of third party apps that will let you repost content with a watermark, such as Repost for Instagram. Not only does this let you share additional content, but it will also keep your followers engaged.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE If you notice a shift in your audience, then embrace it and change your style. For example, if you’re just starting out on social media as a toy brand, you would naturally think that parents are your target audience—gift-givers are the ones who are going to do the buying after all, aren’t they? However, if you see that over time mostly kids are engaging with your content, then modify it. This will get you more followers. Kids will relate more to a post about the struggles of getting up for school than a post about desperately needing coffee before starting a workday.


USE YOUR #HASHTAGS WISELY Make sure to make the most of your captions. Although there is no character limit on captions, Instagram recently rolled out a “read more” feature that will cut your caption off after 250 characters (and then users can tap to read the rest). Although you are essentially limitless, try your best to constrain your captions to these 250 characters—nobody wants to read paragraphs. The most important part about your captions is the hashtag. Make sure to tag relevant topics on every single post, and even tag emojis! You can post up to 30 hashtags in a single post before it is considered spam, but don’t go over 5 to 7 to harness the focus on your posts. You should always try to direct users to links to a landing page, products, or another specific part of your website. However, the only place you can use a hyperlink is in the website section of your bio. So, do not post links in your captions, but definitely direct users to the link in your bio.

Your followers want to see that you are engaging with them. Users love when brands comment or like their photos. For example, if you’re a toy company and someone asks for a photo of a specific product—go for it! Give sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes looks at things coming up to excite followers. Also, host giveaways to get your followers involved, and gain new followers. In addition, spend time going through hashtags that are in your posts. Giving other users’ posts a simple like will get people excited and looking through your profile— and those people will engage and probably follow you back. Use a web browser to easily sift through content, including hashtags for your brand and liking photos. Use direct messaging for giveaways. Lastly, make sure to connect all of your social media channels together. When you’re about to post a photo, there is an option to share to other platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more. Keep your feed full of fun, sharable content, and your followers will begin to soar! » Maddie Michalik is an assistant editor at Adventure Publishing Group, where she contributes to The Toy Book and The Licensing Book. She also reports on trends and news, and writes weekly product reviews for The Toy Insider.

TOYBOOK.COM | March/April 2016 | THE TOY BOOK  9

INDUSTRY UPDATE FANTOYSTIC FACT: World Monopoly Day took place on March 19, and fans of Monopoly around the world celebrated Mr. Monopoly’s 81st birthday on social media. Mr. Monopoly was introduced into the game in 1936, and first appeared on the cover of the game in 1946 as Rich Uncle Pennybags. He also made an appearance on the cover of the Monopoly Game in 1954, on its Popular Edition. After talking to fans, Hasbro found out most people referred to Rich Uncle Pennybags as the Monopoly Man, and officially changed his name to Mr. Monopoly in 1999. The iconic Scottie Dog token is known as his loyal pet, officially named Scottie. In 1985, Mr. Monopoly led a parade on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Monopoly. In 2013, Mr. Monopoly was ranked as No. 13 on The Forbes Fictional 15 list of the wealthiest characters, with a net worth of $1.2 billion, and in 2015, he rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate his 80th birthday. »

MATTEL LAUNCHES MATTEL CREATIONS Mattel launched Mattel Creations, a content division that will leverage the company’s global brands and library of properties to drive content across multiple platforms including theatrical, television, and digital. Mattel’s Chief Content Officer Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, who joined Mattel in September, will head the cross-portfolio content strategy. Mattel has also promoted creative executive and producer Christopher Keenan as senior vice president, content development and production. Mattel has greenlit WellieWishers, a 2-D animated series for girls ages 5 to 7 from American Girl, and unveiled the new series for the first time to buyers and distributors at MIPTV. The series will be produced and distributed by Mattel Creations’ content distribution team and animated at Submarine Studios in Amsterdam. The series has entered production and will be delivered to broadcasters by the end of this year. The division has signed international deals for new Bob the Builder episodes and will launch a Fireman Sam special. »

Mr. Monopoly and Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill stand in front of the South Dakota State Capitol. Pierre received the most votes in the Monopoly Here & Now property space vote and was featured as the iconic Boardwalk space in the Monopoly Here & Now: U.S. Edition game. Photo by Patrick M Callahan.

PLAYMATES TOYS LAUNCHES TMNT: OUT OF THE SHADOWS TOY LINE Playmates Toys introduced a new collection of products inspired by Paramount Pictures’ and Nickelodeon Movies’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, set to release in theaters on June 3. The collection includes action figures, vehicles, play sets, role-play gear, and additions to existing T-Machines, T-Sprints, and mini-figure collections. The action figure line is highly detailed, fully poseable, and sculpted to match the appearance of the Turtles, allies, and villains in the film. It includes basic figures, 6-inch battle sounds figures, and 11-inch figures. The vehicles line includes cycles that feature ninja-flip action, the Street Speeder with an exclusive Leonardo figure, the Ragin’ Racer

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Turtle Tactical Truck

with an exclusive Raphael figure, and the Turtle Tactical Truck full of fighting gear. Play sets include the City Sewer Lair Playset and the Technodrome Playset, and role-play gear includes Conceal & Reveal Weapons, the Extreme Battle Shell, and Leonardo’s Electronic Battle Sword. » STAY CONNECTED!


industry update KLUTZ TO LAUNCH KLUTZ JR. IN JANUARY Klutz will launch Klutz Jr., a book and craft kit product line for kids ages 4 and up, to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary next year. Klutz Jr. will launch with four kits in January, with four more planned for fall 2017, and four planned per year thereafter. Unlike Klutz products, which are typically for kids ages 8 and up, Klutz Jr. is developmentally appropriate for preschool-aged kids. Created with a team of early learning educators, safety experts, and kid-testers, each kit comes with a handle, a full color idea book for inspiration, and content and components to get started right away. The line will launch with My Clay Critters, which lets kids make 10 ocean critters; My Egg Carton Animals, with which kids can transform egg cartons into six barnyard animals; My Twinkly Tiaras, with which kids can decorate tiaras any way they like; and My Hand Art, which promotes fine motor skills and teaches kids to draw 20 designs. »

SESAME WORKSHOP LAUNCHES FIRST FEMALE AFGHAN MUPPET Sesame Workshop has unveiled its first Afghan Muppet, Zari, a curious and eager 6-year-old girl, who will make her debut in the fifth season of Baghch-e-Simsim, the local co-production of Sesame Street. Zari, whose name means “shimmering,” will be featured in locally produced segments that focus on topics such as female empowerment, national identity, physical health, and social and emotional wellbeing. The 26 new 25-minute episodes will still feature locally produced, live-action films about traditions, culture, and other aspects of urban and rural life in Sesame Workshop’s new Muppet, Zari

Klutz Jr. line, from Klutz

Afghanistan. Segments from other Sesame co-productions, adapted and dubbed into Dari and Pashto, will continue to introduce children to Muppet friends from series in Egypt, Bangladesh, Mexico, and Russia. Zari will be featured in three formats: speaking directly to viewers, interacting with children in person, and interviewing a variety of Afghan professionals. Segments include exercising, the explanation of a greeting, and an interview with a doctor. »

VTECH COMPLETES ACQUISITION OF LEAPFROG VTech Holdings Limited has completed its acquisition of LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. Under the terms of the previously announced transaction, VTech agreed to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding common stock of LeapFrog at $1 per share through an allcash tender offer followed by a second step merger. The tender offer commenced on March 3 and expired on April 1. Approximately 56.6 percent of all issued and outstanding shares of LeapFrog common stock were tendered into the offer and accepted for purchase by indirect wholly owned subsidiary of VTech, Bonita Merger Sub LLC. »

WHITE HOUSE BREAKS DOWN GENDER STEREOTYPES IN MEDIA AND TOYS Representatives from toy, media, retail companies, and more came together April 6 for a day-long conference sponsored by the White House Council on Women and Girls, The Department of Education, and the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California. As part of the conference, companies and organizations committed to taking new action to break down gender stereotypes in toys and

media to help children explore, learn, and dream without limits. Companies invited to participate included littleBits, Dream Big Toy Co., Disney, Mattel, and DC Comics. According to the White House, research shows that the media that kids consume and the toys that they play with can shape their interests, ambitions, and skills, potentially influencing everything from the subjects they choose to study to the careers they ultimately pursue. Consequently, those early experiences can affect not just their development and life choices, but the composition of the country’s workforce and the strength of the economy for decades to come. »

HASBRO, INDIEGOGO LAUNCH SECOND CROWDFUNDING CHALLENGE The Hasbro Gaming Lab Spring 2016 Next Great Game Challenge is now open to game designers in the U.S., the UK, Canada, France, and Germany. Following its successful debut in the U.S. last year, Hasbro and Indiegogo’s challenge provides a platform for independent game designers to get visibility for their ideas and allows Hasbro to celebrate the growing gaming community and discover and develop new games. Game designers can submit their ideas through May 15, and a team of Hasbro game experts and designers will evaluate each submission based on its level of new mechanics, visual style, and creative narrative. Fifteen semifinalists will be chosen to submit a prototype of their game for review. Hasbro will select five finalists to launch campaigns for their concepts on Indiegogo, which will run from Oct. 13 through Nov. 13 this year. The grand prize winner will be announced later this year and will receive $25,000, a trip to Hasbro’s headquarters in Rhode Island, and the opportunity to work with Hasbro to produce the game. »

TOYBOOK.COM | March/April 2016 | THE TOY BOOK  11

Talkin’ toys


THE ETHICAL MANUFACTURING PROGRAM FOR TOYS The Toy Book catches up with Mark Robertson, the director of communications and stakeholder relations at ICTI CARE Foundation. Can you tell us about ICTI CARE and your work with the toy industry? The ICTI CARE Foundation was set up in 2004 to improve ethical standards in the global toy industry supply chain. Around that time, toy brands and retailers were facing increased scrutiny from consumers, non-governnental organizations, regulators, government, and the media, all of whom were concerned about the labor standards and working conditions at factories where toys are made. ICTI CARE Certification provides toy brands and retailers with confidence that the products they source are manufactured according to high ethical standards. Thousands of toy companies, both large and small, now use our program to monitor, manage, and fix social sustainability issues in the toy industry supply chain, and to protect and improve labor standards. More than 1,100 toy factories, located in 12 countries, are ICTI CARE Certified and represent more than 600,000 workers. Most of these factories are in China, though this is slowly changing as the toy industry seeks to diversify its supply chain and source from other countries, such as India and Vietnam. Why is ethical manufacturing important to the toy industry? As the nature of play evolves, so do the risks within your supply chain. Around the world, expectations among consumers, regulators, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), employees, and investors are rising. Each stakeholder demands compliance with legal standards, transparency on key risks, and a commitment to improve conditions at toy factories over an increasingly small timescale.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a raft of new legislation that creates responsibilities for toy companies in relation to supply chain risks, the most recent example being the UK Modern Day Slavery Act. Increased consumer interest in ethical issues means they expect toys to be manufactured ethically. Growing scrutiny from NGOs and the media creates added pressure on companies, while the widespread use of social media means negative stories or images from factories can become global news stories in minutes.

But ethical manufacturing isn’t just about avoiding risks. For toy factories, the business benefits associated with ethical manufacturing are well-documented. Factories with happier, healthier workers tend to be more productive, with fewer instances of absenteeism and lower worker turnover. Increasingly, good practice in relation to ethical issues is therefore seen as a proxy for how well a toy factory runs overall. Which ethical issues are most relevant to toy manufacturers, and what progress are we making toward addressing these? ICTI CARE is 100 percent committed to promoting safe and fair working conditions

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throughout the toy industry supply chain. The starting point for all of our work is the safety and well being of workers. We take a zero-tolerance approach to critical risk issues such as child labor, human trafficking, bribery, and corruption, and we look at other key labor standard issues including safety, wages, and working hours. There have been issues related to the toy sector that received negative media attention, but these issues have decreased markedly, partly because ICTI CARE exists and has made good progress. For example, China now sees real progress in relation to wages, fewer incidents of child labor, and greater transparency among toy factories. We need faster progress in other areas such as working hours and safety training. Different countries bring different levels of risk, and we are increasing our work with external partners around the world to ensure that toy brands and retailers can be confident in ethical standards at ICTI CARE certified factories, no matter from which region they source. What else does ICTI CARE offer for workers in the toy industry supply chain? In 2010, we launched a free, confidential helpline for workers in China. For the last five years, it has assisted roughly 12,000 workers, providing help and advice on managing work-related issues. Feedback from factories in the ICTI CARE program tells us that migrant factory workers from rural communities can sometimes struggle to adapt to working life when they arrive in the city. This can reduce levels of well being among workers, and ultimately have a negative impact on productivity. ICTI CARE also produced a Rural-Urban Integration illustrated booklet for migrant factory workers in China. The booklet is full of useful tips and information on how to adapt to city life and workplace culture.

Talkin’ toys How does ICTI CARE work with factories to drive standards on the ground? It starts with awareness. Whichever ethical issue you look at, it’s important for factories to understand ethical manufacturing and the expectations of their customers and stakeholders. We hold regular Q&A sessions for factories, along with support when they first join our program, to build this understanding. A second element of our strategy focuses on changing mindsets of factories from compliance to engagement. It’s important that factories drive improvements because they want to, not because they are told to. We want to take factories on a journey so they see why responsible business is important to their business. One way we do this is through workshops and training for factory workers to empower and educate. We also have a special investigation team working on the ground in China to solve issues and tackle root causes. How do you keep the program close to the heart of the toy industry? We work closely with toy associations around the world, meeting regularly with the industry to understand the emerging business challenges. Our Governance Board, an independent, multi-stakeholder board which incorporates NGOs, industry, and civil society organizations, provides guidance and direction to our work. Our Technical Advisory Council (TAC) brings together industry specialists to ensure our program remains effective and reflects best practices. What are your plans to grow and develop ICTI CARE? Though ICTI CARE is in great shape, we must evolve further to meet the ever-changing needs of toy retailers, manufacturers, and brands. To ensure that we keep pace with the needs of buyers and manufacturers and continue to make a difference in workers’ lives, we are currently undertaking a thorough review of our program, which will strengthen ICTI CARE certification at the issue level, and also develop new capability programs to support factories and achieve faster progress on raising standards. We will also strengthen the support we offer toy brands and retailers with the launch of Committed Brands PLUS, a package of new tools and a powerful, new online responsible-sourcing platform. Driving improvements requires commitment and cooperation at all levels of the toy industry supply chain, and we see the best progress when parties work together. We move at a faster pace since people work better when they learn together. We will also pilot a new Chinese Ethical Manufacturing Forum, which will bring toy brands, retailers, and factories together to share ideas and find joint solutions to common challenges. » Mark Robertson has more than 15 years of experience with sustainability. He leads on global communications and stakeholder outreach at ICTI CARE Foundation, and is passionate about sustainability. tkMark Robertson haMark Robertson hayears stain

tia perspectives

TIA EXPERTS EXPLORE 2016’S TRENDS by JUSTIN SMULISON, content developer/communications specialist, Toy Industry Association AT THE TOY INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION’S (TIA) 113th North American International Toy Fair, held in February in New York City, TIA trend experts revealed this year’s top trends in toys and games. Many factors leading up to Toy Fair determine the trends, including meetings with hundreds of toy companies, sales data, patterns in parallel industries, and, finally, surveying the aisles at Toy Fair. “Whether children are hosting flying drone contests outside or collecting figures of their favorite characters and superheroes, nearly all the trends we named for this year feature a range of items that are both traditional and tech-based,” says Adrienne Appell, TIA’s primary trend specialist. Below is an overview of the trends that will be strong through 2016:

Turtle Mail, from AE Dreams

TECH: DRONES, ROBOTS, & TOYS-TO-LIFE Experts named drones, robots, and toys-to-life as the categories to watch in the ever-evolving tech area. Each year, drones reach new heights with their capabilities. No matter the size, the newest drones enable kids to do amazing things. Multifunction aircrafts can be launched from the palm of a little hand and drones can be commanded using the latest in voice-recognition technology. Drones foster patience and hand-eye coordination just as much as they promote fun and play. A great example of a drone with enhanced play patterns is the Sky Viper Hover Racer, from Skyrocket Toys. Kids can place beacons on the ground to create flight courses and the Hover Racer uses infrared sensors to identify them from the air as navigational guides, essentially allowing kids to chart the drone’s course. Animal enthusiasts can also get in on the fun with the Cyber Dactyl, part of the TX Juice line, from Wow! Stuff. With one press, this drone dino will flap its wings and circle overhead. It can also be remote-controlled for long-range flights. Families will enjoy the customizable robots that teach kids important concepts such as coding, engineering, problem-solving, and building. These robots are also becoming more lifelike, varying from simulated house pets to quirky licensed characters whose personalities change and grow with regular interaction. Children can develop engineering and spatial skills with robots such as Dash and Dot, from Wonder Workshop. Kids can code functions for these robots on their mobile devices, or use their voice or the robot’s motion sensors to control them. Users can also snap on Dash’s new launcher to turn it into a traveling projectile launcher.

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Careful attention to detail meets the fun of bot-building with Kamigami, from Dash Robotics. Inspired by origami and nature’s quickest animals, kids can fold and snap these animatrons together from flat sheets and send them on fast-paced adventures. The toys-to-life category offers products that can provide hours of fully immersive fun both inside and outside. These toys combine innovative and affordable technology with traditional toys to provide immersive play experiences. The coloring book has received a tech upgrade with Painting Lulu, from Fly Catcher. This coloring app comes with digital crayons, brushes, and markers. Kids can draw licensed characters such as Transformers, or with the click of a device’s camera, they can upload pictures that can become new patterns or projects. A trip to the mailbox is more exciting with Turtle Mail, from AE Dreams. Kids check this Wi-Fi-connected, wooden mailbox, which prints digital content using an embedded thermal printer. Family and friends can send messages from a mobile or desktop device, and parents can sign their kids up for daily play and activities. COVETED COLLECTIBLES Children and hobbyists of all ages will find affordable collectibles everywhere this year. Collecting can be an art form for kids hunting for the hard-to-find items that will complete their collections. For others, the hobby is all about socialization—they love to share and trade characters, pets, trading cards, and other minis with friends. Collection-building teaches children patience and perseverance (due to “the hunt”), organization, and negotiation skills (during trading time). New toy characters hitting the market prove that they don’t need a comic book or on-screen presence to amass a fan base. Kitty Club, from Dracco, and Zomlings, from Magic Box Toys, come in blind packs and in play sets. As their collections grow, kids can trade and build worlds and social circles with feline

tia perspectives

fashionistas and spooky monsters. Thinking “small” has big possibilities with the brands represented in the World’s Smallest line, from Super Impulse. Miniaturizations of classic toys such as Little Green Army Men and the Duncan Imperial Yo-Yo are designed with the same fun look and functions as the originals and are easily transportable. Adding to its ever-expanding world of tiny groceries is the Shopkins Kinstructions Shopping Cart, from The Bridge Direct. This 37-piece cart also comes with buildable Shopkins, Posh Pear and Strawberry Kiss, and can be added to other play sets. STEAM & BRAIN BOOSTERS The STEAM trend continues this year and toys that teach or reinforce science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) are engaging and educational. Parents and educators appreciate these products for keeping children learning outside the classroom by building important spatial, reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. “Brain-boosting” playthings also encourage kids’ proficiency in subjects beyond STEAM, such as language and history. From enhancing kids’ communication skills to improving their logic, the latest in educational toys encourages kids to experiment, design, and discover. Young observers will have lots to explore with the ScienceX Smartscope, from Ravensburger. Along with a phone or tablet’s camera, the Smartscope provides a large view of small objects. Place a tiny item on the microscope’s sliding tray, align with the lens, and get a close-up of a ladybug’s spots or a coin’s etchings. Another standout in the category is Plant Peace, from Faber-Castell, which combines botany, environmental awareness, and art, and transforms them into an international symbol of positivity. Color in the 10-inch round tray, plant and water the chia seeds, and in a few days kids can display their own peace sign garden creation. Brainboosting games such as Fourple, from Fourple, foster creative competition. With pieces and elements similar to chess, Connect Four, Jenga, and others, the goal is to line up four cylindrical or cube pieces in a row. Players can build as high as possible

ers can build their tracks nearly anywhere, including on the floor or by attaching pieces to furniture.

and also enjoy the artistic and architectural nuances of the results. ULTIMATE CREATOR The Ultimate Creator trend taps into the full spectrum of children’s creativity. Toys and crafts in this trend could inspire the next contemporary artist or fashion mogul, as they teach kids to skillfully cook, design, build, grow, and create physical and digital masterpieces they can share. Many teach techniques and skills that can be applied throughout life—including sewing, dip-dyeing, crocheting,

Shopkins Kinstructions Shopping Cart, from The Bridge Direct

watercolor painting, laser cutting, embroidery, and more. Young artists and designers can take their art beyond a page or canvas with the I Do 3D pen, from Redwood Ventures. This individualized take on 3-D printing allows children to sketch special patterns or ones from the guidebook, use the spotlight to harden the ink, and see designs materialize in reality. By creating their own papercraft robots, kids can express their inventiveness with Smash Bot Battle, from Klutz. Propelled by pullback motors, the bots can wreak havoc on skyscrapers, cities, and each other. Racecar fans can create their own courses—including twisting loops—with Mega Tracks, from Lionel. Utilizing a new clamp and flexible construction system, track design-

FAMILY MATTERS Products in the Family Matters category provide the best of all worlds when it comes to tech and traditional play. Some parents seek unplugged playthings to encourage face-to-face interaction, while others embrace electronic and online toys and games. Both approaches strive to bridge generational gaps by creating lasting memories through play. Kids have loved starring in home movies and playing dress-up for generations, and Props in a Bag, from Theatric Toys, provides on-the-go families a chance to combine the two pastimes. This travel-friendly product comes with info to download the Movie Maker app and provides a costume, a backdrop, and accessories that can authenticate any filmmaking setting. Though it resembles an ordinary spice rack, Spicy Games, from Goliath Games, is the perfect way for families to enjoy a little extra participation at the dinner table. Each shaker contains various 10-minute games to play and ensures that the time surrounding meals is fun. All parents want well-behaved children, and Polite PigPals, from Manners Made Easy, can be strategically placed throughout the house for extra pairs of eyes and encouragement. Using motion sensors, the line’s Bathroom Buddies, Cleanup Crew, and Hangup Helpers thank kids when they pitch in and help keep a tidy home. To see the video from the Toy Trends Briefing and learn more about these trends, visit »

Justin Smulison is the newest member of TIA’s Marketing Communications team, after years as a journalist and custom content producer in legal publishing. A proud husband and father, he is thrilled to report on toys and characters that he and his 2-year-old daughter play with together, and to be involved in an industry that positively impacts her and future generations.

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The New Age of Feature Plush

by MADDIE MICHALIK, assistant editor

FEATURE PLUSH HAS COME A LONG way, expanding far beyond plush toys that just talk or make sounds. This year, plush are more realistic and interactive than ever. Last year, most interactive plush introductions responded to touch, voice, or movements. This year, companies continue to raise the standard, taking plush to the next level. In 2015, high-tech toys dominated store shelves and kids’ wish lists, and that won’t change this year. Despite the high-tech products competing with plush at retail, plush is as relevant as ever. The NPD Group reported a 2 percent increase in the plush category last year, and a 5 percent decrease in youth electronics. Ironically, it’s the next-level technology inside these plush that is steering the category in a new direction. Take Moose Toys’ new Little Live Pets Snuggles, My Dream Puppy, due out this

Torch My Blazin’ Dragon, from Hasbro

fall. Snuggles moves, feels, and responds just like a real puppy. It features interactive eyes, makes puppy sounds, and kids can even watch it breathe. Moose made sure that Snuggles would respond to kids patting and caring for it, according to Paul Solomon, coCEO of Moose Toys. “We pride ourselves in making the most realistic looking, feeling, and sounding electronic pets on the market and the interactive pets we’ve introduced are animals that kids can recognize and relate to,” says Solomon. “High-tech toys often come with a robotic or futuristic look and leave the realistic aspect behind. We compete with the high-tech toys by using advanced technology that responds to touch and sound, while also bringing highly realistic looks, movements, and sounds to our products.” While parents might use plush animals to introduce kids to the concept of looking after pets, this year there will be plenty of animals that consumers can’t find at a pet store. “Recently, we’re seeing a trend toward non-traditional pets that react in amazing, lifelike ways. Kids are especially interested in out-of-the-ordinary animals, and dragons have been dominating pop culture, from TV and movies to digital gaming and more,” says Kathleen Harrington, senior director of marketing at Hasbro. Hasbro’s FurReal Friends Torch My Blazin’ Dragon is a responsive baby dragon that features more than 50 sound and motion combinations. Torch even breathes a water-fueled mist, illuminated to look like flames. When kids bring Torch’s marshmallow treat close to the mist, its colors will change, giving it a toasted appearance Torch is also equipped with multiple sensors throughout its body. Pop culture influences kids’ interests in a

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big way, and feature plush based on characters from TV, movies, and other entertainment has an advantage over the competition. However, it’s imperative that these products meet kids’ expectations. Kids want their on-screen friends to say key phrases and act exactly as they appear every day on the TV or on the big screen. This year, companies are raising the bar to produce products that look as though consumers just reached into the screen and pulled characters right out. Just Play’s line includes feature-based, interactive plush based on licensed characters, including Hot Diggity Dancing Mickey from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which will dance with kids. Leap and Roar Kion from Disney Junior’s The Lion Guard has motion-activated head movements and a fierce pounce feature that will remind kids of Kion’s behavior from the series. “Our plush incorporates the latest fabrics to make them super huggable, and from a technology perspective with feature plush, we truly bring the character to life through movement, sound, and interactivity that’s realistic and on-character,” says Sarah Buzby, vice president of marketing at Just Play. No matter how advanced plush toys become, cuddliness will always be a key element to success in this category. After all, plush enhances classic play patterns for kids, such as storytelling and role play. “Traditional play is extremely important from a developmental perspective for children,” says Buzby. “They learn to nurture, and they use their imaginations to play out stories. Plush that’s huggable and cuddly is often a child’s first toy; from taking their favorite character or plush animal to bed, to playing and making up endless stories, plush will always be a favorite for children.” One thing’s for sure: While we’re seeing key enhancements this year, feature plush will only continue to get better. »

DC COLLECTIBLES’ Super Pets are based on the designs of comic book artist Art Baltazar. The collection features Batman’s Ace, Shazam’s Hoppy, Superman’s Krypto, Wonder Woman’s Jumpa, The Joker’s Joker Fish, and Bane’s Osito.

AURORA WORLD introduces Gnomlins, a line of gnomes with colorful oversized hats, big noses, and fluffy white beards. The line is available in five different styles in 7.5-, 11-, and 16-inch sizes. Six new Sea Shimmer mermaids will be introduced this year, featuring hair colors from blonde to turquoise and more, with sparkly tails. The Miyoni Tots Duckling is the newest addition to the Miyoni Tots line, which features baby animals ranging from every day to exotic. Each Miyoni character’s hangtag has information about its species. Aurora adds sea life creatures to its YooHoo & Friends line. Sea Life includes an assortment of fish and sting rays, available in 5- to 12-inch sizes.



WILD REPUBLIC introduces the Sassy Scents line of 5-inch scented plush with large, glittery eyes. The collection includes six characters: Grape Penguin, Raspberry Snow Leopard, Strawberry Elephant, Blueberry Wolf, Cherry Red Panda, and Tangerine Tiger. CK Huggers feature snap bracelets in their arms, so when kids squeeze their bellies, their arms wrap around to give a hug. The 8-inch plush can hug onto wrists, backpacks, strollers, and more. The line is made of 12 animals, including a sloth, snow leopard, wolf, tiger, panda, and more.


CJ PRODUCTS introduces Pillow Pets folding plush and Dream Lites based on characters from DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming comedy Trolls. Trolls Pillow Pets offer hair play, so kids can brush and style the Trolls’ hair. The Dream Lites turn the folding plush into a night-light, illuminating the playful Trolls icons and star patterns onto the ceiling, with alternating hues of amber, blue, and green light. Dory plush will be available based on the upcoming feature film, Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory. CJ Products also introduces Sweet Scented Pets, stuffed animals infused with aromas of childhood treats with the characteristic plush of a Pillow Pet.

CK Huggers Sloth

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showcasePLUSH name

World of Nintendo Plush, from JAKKS PACIFIC, are 7.5-inch plush that feature characters from the franchises of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Pikmin, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing, Splatoon, and more. The World of Nintendo Sounds Plush feature embroidered details and motion-activated sounds. Styles include the coin box, 1-Up mushroom, star, turtle shell, World of Nintendo Mushroom Sounds Plush and more.

TOMY brings Zootopia characters Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde to large 12-inch plush featuring the characters’ voices. Singing Gazelle is a 15-inch feature plush that plays the song “Try Everything” from Zootopia. When kids hug My Friend Pikachu, its ears will move, its cheeks will light up, and it will make cute sounds. Poké Ball Plush has embroidered details and weighted beans, and lands upright when thrown. Eight-inch plush will be available in new characters, including a new Pikachu pose, Meowth, Eevee, Wobuffet, Gengar, and more, and new Large Plush in 12-inch scales feature Pikachu wearing Ash’s hat, Meowth, and Eevee. TOMY also introduces Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary 8-inch Plush, featuring classic Sonic the Hedgehog characters in plush styles from 1991. Characters include Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, and Eggman. Judy Hopps

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JAZWARES introduces the Hug ‘n Oink George Plush. When kids give George’s soft belly a big squeeze, he will giggle, talk, and snort. Kids can keep hugging him to hear more laughter, snoring, a melody, and other sounds.

GUND introduces Pusheen Surprise Plush Series #1 Snacktime, its first series of plush blind boxes. The Pusheen Snack Time collection features the cat cozying up to her favorite treats. Each box includes a sealed mylar bag containing a randomized 2.75inch plush key chain in one of eight formats: ice cream, doughnut, pizza, cookie, taco, hamburger, coffee mug, and cupcake. The Mermaid Adventure Playset includes a mermaid rattle, a seahorse crinkle toy, a starfish squeak toy, and a dolphin sound toy. The Pirate Ship Playset comes with a treasure box rattle, a pirate crinkle toy, a parrot squeak toy, and a shark sound toy. The Sleepy Seas line expands with a 5-inch portable Soother format. Available in three designs, ambient music plays for 30 minutes and shuts off at the push of a button. Sounds include ocean waves, bubbling water, and spa-like music to help babies rest.

Parents can program HASBRO’s Love2Learn Elmo to know a child’s name, favorite colors, favorite animals, and favorite foods. Parents can also use the accompanying app to customize learning opportunities for their kids, choosing from three different stages and five different subjects, including letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and animals. Elmo also features sensors in his nose, hands, and belly, and will interact with kids with more than 350 responses. New to the FurReal Friends line is Torch My Blazin’ Dragon. Launching this fall, Torch breathes flame-colored mist, “toasts” his marshmallow, responds to touch, and features more than 50 sound and motion combinations. The 12-inch DreamWorks Trolls Hug ‘n Plush Assortment dolls feature colorful hair and a plush body. Six characters will be available, including Poppy, Guy Diamond, DJ, Harper, and Cooper. The 16-inch Yo-Kai Watch Jumbo Plush toys come in Whisper and Jibanyan styles. Kids can also collect Yo-kai characters including Jibanyan, Jomasan, Whisper, and Robonyan in the Yo-Kai Watch Plush Figures Assortment. Each plush character stands 5 inches tall.

DreamWorks Trolls Hug ‘n Plush Assortment

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Adorned in a green and purple party hat and teapot, Miss Kit-tea, from CUDDLE BARN, spins and dips to the classic song, “I’m a Little Teapot.” Buttons wears a bright polka-dot bow and sways his head and flaps his ears to the song, “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” Spook spins around in unpredictable directions and lights up to the theme song from the Ghostbusters movie.

THE BRIDGE DIRECT introduces Shopkins Color ‘n Create Activity Plush. Each 10-inch character includes three washable markers for freestyle coloring on the front and filling in the pattern on the back. The activity plush are also available in a 7-inch Shopkins Color ‘n Go Activity Plush version.

Shopkins Color ‘n Create Activity Kooky Cookie Plush

Snuggles, My Dream Puppy joins MOOSE TOYS’s Little Live Pets line. Kids can feed him with his bottle and watch him breathe and respond like a real puppy. With a pat of the head or a rub of the tummy, Snuggles will close his eyes and make puppy sounds. He also comes with an adoption certificate that kids can personalize.

ADORA’s Plush Fairies feature new shaped fairy faces, are made of microfiber plush, and come in three colors: pink, green, and purple. Baby Fairies are made of soft microfiber, have a rattle inside, and are made to attach on strollers, car seats, and more. Available in yellow and pink, infants can play with the crinkle material on their feet, body, and wings. Adora has added a boy to the My First Adora line for the first time. My First Adora Baby Boy features a squeezable body, removable clothes, and a magnetic pacifier to encourage kids to nurture and role play with their babies.

Pink Plush Fairy

Super Roller-Skating Minnie Plush, from JUST PLAY, skates, talks, and sings a pop song while her signature, oversized bow lights up to the beat of the music. She skates forward and backward, twirls, and does splits. Kids can control her moves with a touch of her bow. Hot Diggity Dancing Mickey dances, returns kids’ high fives, wiggles, spins, and takes a bow. Just Play also introduces Kate & Mim Mim plush as the new master toy licensee for the Disney Junior series. The Leap ‘n Roar Kion Feature Plush showcases the power of Kion, the leader of the Lion Guard. If kids wave their hands in front of Kion’s nose, they will trigger a raging roar, and pushing down on Kion’s rear legs will make him leap into action. The Care Bears line expands with Care Bears Cousins, including Lotsa Heart Elephant, Bright Heart Raccoon, Brave Heart Lion, and Cozy Heart Penguin.

Care Bears Cousins

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The Toy Book chats with artist and author Michele Goren about Knolly Nibbles, its launch as a brand, and plans for 2016. Who is Knolly Nibbles? How did the character come about and what is the brand’s core message? Knolly Nibbles is a cute and silly, sometimes shy, little mouse born with heartshaped ears and no tail. She is full of love and kindness, and can’t wait to share it with the world. She becomes unsure of herself and thinks if she had a tail, she would be special like everyone else. After trying to be like others she realizes she doesn’t need a tail at all to be loved. She begins to accept herself despite her differences. Being different can be a beautiful thing! Knolly is a big daydreamer and has a huge imagination, which she uses to

Check out Knolly Nibbles plush, from DGL Toys, on page 42.

tell us new tales. Her stories show us that all life is important and that everyone has something unique to offer. Knolly touches the souls of the young and young at heart. It’s tough being small these days in a harsh world. I hope that everyone joins Knolly, where she nibbles on knowledge, heartfelt— and sometimes silly—stories, and quotes of courage, confidence, love, strength, and life’s simple pleasures. Knolly’s many tales and adventures can be seen and heard using animation, songs, stories, toys, and more. I created Knolly after several family crises. I would draw Knolly and add positive quotes around her to heal my family and bring joy to them. One day, one of my grandchildren told me, “Knolly Nibbles taught me how to love myself from the inside out,” and “If the whole world holds Knolly Nibbles, the whole world will be happy!” I was amazed. It was in those moments that Knolly was given life and the wish to share her with the world became my biggest passion in life. If I was living for no other reason but to help children and the child within every adult smile, feel joy, and feel loved, that would be enough for me. Why did you choose ToyBacker as a platform to launch Knolly Nibbles? When I came across an article about ToyBacker, I was so thrilled. It seemed as though other crowdfunding sites mainly got attention for electronic and technical items, books, and music, but I never saw anything for toys or children’s brands. Choosing ToyBacker was one of the best decisions I’ve made for Knolly. Their team was so professional in every aspect and step of the way, never failing to answer questions in detail and offer endless support.

Tell us about the upcoming consumer products program. Team Knolly is developing an app due out in May. There are books, cookbooks, songs, short videos, plush, play sets, dolls, R/C toys, and more in the works, all due out this fall. What do you see in the future for the Knolly Nibbles brand? I believe Knolly’s appeal and messages touch the world. I see every child hugging a plush, singing her songs, or reading her books in classrooms and hospitals adorned with her posters, endless love, and kindness grasped from her messages for generations to come. That just touches the surface of how I see Knolly Nibbles in the future. »

“Knolly is so loving; so empowering, simply irresistible. When children see love, it’s obvious to them. Knolly has such a sweet and gentle quality and yet says the things that make children learn to love themselves and others, making them strong people with strong character. Knolly engenders self confidence, peacefulness, individuality, kindness, sharing, and gentle caring ways. All heart!” —Susaye Green, ambassador of the Nobel Peace Prize Organization and former member of Diana Ross and The Supremes.

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property profile

“The Powerpuff Girls is one of the entertainment industry’s most cherished and enduring brands and we expect the new animated series and full worldwide licensing program to be very well received. The Powerpuff Girls has always had an amazing fan base and we know that the newly imagined series will continue to resonate with this audience while also attracting the next generation of fans to the brand.” —Pete Yoder, vice president, Cartoon Network Enterprises, North America

meet the girls bubbles



Bubbles is the heart of the group. She is the most sensitive and artistic. Although she can be a bit naïve, her bubbly disposition lets her find the good in anyone.

Blossom is the leader of The Powerpuff Girls. Although she can be overly Type-A sometimes, she leads with her smarts, positivity, and strong moral compass.

Buttercup is The Powerpuff Girls’ muscle. She’s not afraid to speak her mind or do as she pleases. Buttercup punches first and asks questions later. She’s a true renegade.

Powerpuff Girls Facts • The Powerpuff Girls all-new, animated comedy series, from Cartoon Network Studios, is reimagined for a new audience, centering around Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup juggling school, homework, and monsters. • The Powerpuff Girls are not just average little girls from Townsville. Together, they form a superhero team that defends their city from villains such as Mojo Jojo, Princess Morbucks, and Fuzzy Lumpkins. • Along with defending their beautiful metropolis, the sisters also navigate the real, everyday adventures of kid-dom, such as fitting in, school, and homework. • In addition to The Powerpuff Girls, fans will recognize the familiar characters of their father and creator Professor Utonium and the goofy Mayor of Townsville. • The initial run of The Powerpuff Girls premiered in 1998 and was nominated for five Emmy Awards and won two. This original series ran for 78 episodes and spawned a feature film with Warner Bros. Pictures in 2002.

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property profile 1. The Deluxe Flip to Action Playset, from SPIN MASTER, transforms from The Powerpuff Girls’ bedroom into their superhero lab. Kids can attach the girls to their light trails to keep watch and save the day. The play set comes with 2-inch Bubbles and Professor Utonium figures. 2. Kids can bring home the action of The Powerpuff Girls’ new Aura powers that reflect each of their unique personalities with the Aura Powerpods with 2-inch Doll Assortment. Each pack includes translucent aura power vehicles with a 2-inch figure of each girl, a break-through wall, and a 2-D villain character. The vehicle has a pull-back feature that lets the characters zip around or break through walls. Styles include Bubbles/Bunny, Blossom/Stapler, and Buttercup/Cannon. 3. The Vectron Flying Powerpuff Girls Assortment lets The Powerpuff Girls soar across the sky with the power of kids’ hands. Each girl flies with the power of her spinning light trails using Vectron Technology. The set includes all three Powerpuff Girls characters.


1. 3.

Can The Powerpuff Girls save Townsville before bedtime? In the Saving Townsville Before Bedtime Game, from PRESSMAN TOY, players work together or risk going alone to defeat villains as the clock ticks down toward bedtime. Players can play as any of the three Powerpuff Girls on any turn, and try to defeat villains, such as Mojo Jojo, off the board. After each round, Professor Utonium moves one step closer to bedtime. If the girls defeat all the villains before the Professor reaches bedtime, they will save Townsville.

CARDINAL will introduce a line of puzzles based on the new The Powerpuff Girls series. The co-branded Crayola puzzle includes Color Wonder Markers and 48 pieces that kids can assemble and then color. Cardinal will also offer the Super 3D Puzzle in August, which features the characters in a 150-piece puzzle that measures 12 by 18 inches.

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Drones compete to be top dog in the R/C aisle by adding extra features, gaming, and more. by ALI MIERZEJEWSKI, senior editor WINTER IS COMING—WELL, AT LEAST FOR the toy industry, which is constantly looking forward to Q4—and toy manufacturers are always competing to provide the best products at the best price. Last year, we saw an influx of drones hit the market. A lot of companies were jumping on the trend, from traditional R/C companies to newcomers to the game that were importing in unknown brands. Retail shelves and online retailers were flooded with a variety of drones, making it a bit of a struggle for consumers to sift through all the options to find the one that suited their needs. This year, the R/C toy category is seeing a bit of a change in the form of fewer players and more features. The drone category is becoming an even tougher category in which to compete—kids and experienced fliers alike are both looking for more than just a quadcopter with a camera.

Not only are companies looking for new ways to innovate their drones, but they’re also looking to find ways to make the nuanc-

Air Hogs Connect: Mission Drone

es and technicalities of drone-flying more accessible to a wider audience. A lot of the added features are making drones semi-autonomous, allowing younger and more novice fliers the chance to get in on the action. “We're taking a different approach,” says Davin Sufer, chief technology officer, WowWee. “We want to make something that’s going to be fun to play with and interact with—and not just about learning to fly and having to get through that learning curve.” One feature you’ll see in several drones on the market this year is auto-hover. This allows the drone to sit and hover in the air at a designated height. Basically, it removes the pressure of having to fidget with the throttle to keep the drone steady at a consistent height. Eliminating the worry of crashing opens a whole new world of possibilities. DRONE RACING With new organizations, such as the Drone Racing League, gaining popularity, drone racing is becoming the hot new thing. It takes a lot of practice and preparation to be able to fly a drone from a first-person point of view (meaning the user feels like he or she is sitting in the cockpit instead of on the outside looking at the drone). “Those guys spend hours and hours and hours training their quads and learning how to fly them and calibrating them and doing all these things to make them work perfectly,” says Conor Forkan, global business unit lead for SpinMaster’s Air Hogs brand. “Your average person doesn’t really have the time or patience to do [that].” The Air Hogs Sentinel takes all of that frustration out of race-type flying. It puts

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the flier in the first-person point of view, just like the pros, but it’s also covered in sensors that will detect the obstacles first, and correct the flight pattern. “The Sentinel has obstacle avoidance, autonomous flight, a really high-definition camera, and a really wide-angle lens, so that I am able to fly it around inside a building, around corners, and through a detailed obstacle course, without having to have that much skill,” says Forkan. “I can just press full throttle on the gas, and it has sensors that are going to compensate.” Skyrocket Toys is also capitalizing on the drone racing trend with the newest addition to its Sky Viper drone line: the Hover Racer. The Hover Racer flies up to 20 mph while hovering 3 feet off the ground and has different modes for game play. Using the free app and infrared beacons, players can race and battle with up to four different Hover Racers, or play as a single player. It also has a Co-Pilot mode, in which two different smart devices connect to one Racer, so that friends without Hover Racers can also play. As players improve, they can unlock new capabilities, such as stronger weapons and better performance—equivalent to leveling up in a video game. “We say it’s where drones meet video games,” says Kristy Burns, vice president of marketing, Skyrocket Toys. “And that sort of connected play with R/C flying is absolutely where the category is going.” GAMER’S PARADISE In order to incorporate other video gametype play aside from racing, WowWee added beacon sensor techonology to its drone line this year, meaning the drone can sense the beacon and stay near it. This year, WowWee introduces flight to its REV line of battling artificial intelligence (AI)

cars with REV Air. REV Air will come with an AI car and a drone, so that players can play as either vehicle. With this new technology, the quadcopter recognizes where the car is located and flies above it. Players can take control to try to outmaneuver the quadcopter (or vice versa) and shoot at it with laser blasters to disable it. Thanks to beacon-sense technology, the quadcopter can not only chase the car around and follow it while kids are driving, but it also knows how to fly without crashing into things. “And the question now is: ‘I can fly—now what?’ And that’s what we’re answering,” says Sufer. “We’re also opening it up to a wider audience because people who can’t fly can now say, ‘I can fly. And guess what? I can play a game.’” But the technology doesn’t just make it easier to fly. WowWee believes that the gaming aspects add a whole new level to the flying R/C play pattern. “We think it’s not just an enabler, it’s giving it its own depth,” adds Sufer. “It’s giving it the concept of a flying thing, with more interactivity, more play, and more depth.” Spin Master will also introduce the Air Hogs Connect: Mission Drone this year, which will use an included mat to give players what is best described as—in the words of Forkan—the Star Trek Holodeck. The Mission Drone uses augmented reality to build a video game world out of the room in which players are standing. Users can walk around the room as they play because if there is furniture there, they can still see it, but there is also a 3-D video game building in front of it. “This is the first time where it’s completely immersive and reactive and there’s no delay and you just play the game and you fly this drone in this 3-D space,” says Forkan. DESIGN MATTERS Odyssey Toys’ Pocket Drone is award-winning for its innovation in design. This small drone fits inside of a pocket, but also shoots video in 720 HD. It’s designed to be completely portable, so that it fits into the very on-the-go way of life today’s consumers lead. “‘On-the-go’ is what society is about nowadays,” says Sal Irigoyen, president, Odyssey Toys. “It’s people going on vacation, it’s instant communication, people going places. How cool is it that you can go camping and bring Odyssey’s Pocket Drone with you and in that forest, pull out your Pocket Drone,

and just film the beauty that nature has to offer without it being a cumbersome device that you have to carry around with you?” And just because it’s small, that doesn’t mean that drone-lovers will sarcrifice the height. The Pocket Drone can fly up to 150 feet. Skyrocket also added new features— including one-button touch for auto-pilot— to the drones in its 2016 product line. The newly designed controller will allow for the R/Cs to be easier to fly right out of the box. “This will allow you to press a button and it will auto launch and it’ll hover at a height and will lock in at that height and just stay right there in position,” says Burns. “It will allow you to move the drone up and down in pre-set 6-inch increments, just by pushing the button.” But the one-button flight mode won’t deter more experienced fliers from Skyrocket’s line. Users are also able to use the normal two-stick analog control when they graduate from novice flying and feel more comfortable with their drone. Irigoyen predicts that the future of the category involves bringing those high-tech features from the higher-priced drones in the greater than $1,000 category down to the toy category (under $200). Features such as more detailed GPS and more advanced auto-pilot features will trickle their way down to a more affordable price point. One thing is for certain: When you play the game of drones, you win and you fly. »

Odyssey Toys’ Pocket Drone

REV Air, from WowWee

Skyrocket Toys’ Hover Racer

Ali Mierzejewski is a senior editor at Adventure Publishing Group, contributing to leading trade magazines The Toy Book and The Licensing Book. She is the co-director of digital and social media content for The Toy Insider.

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R/C The Ghostbusters’ R/C Classic Ecto-1 ghost-chaser, from NKOK, is a large full-function R/C vehicle with working headlights and taillights, working roof lights, and classic sound effects.

The Sky Rover Voice Command Missile Launcher, from AULDEY TOYS, lets kids fly a helicopter and launch missiles using voice commands. They can speak into the included headset and watch as the indoor helicopter responds to commands such as “Enemy scan” and “Missile fire.” Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the Sky Rover Missile Launcher helicopter comes with eight missiles and has a gyro-balanced engine for easy and stable flying.

The VelociTrax, from TOY STATE, is a full-function remote-control vehicle with fast and futuristic styling. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, this vehicle can drive up to 8.7 mph and features 360-degree spins and ultra-manueverability that can handle any terrain. The VelociTrax will launch this fall. The MAISTO TECH Cyklone360 is a radio-controlled motorcycle with spinning action, including 360-degree turns. The rear wheels twist and turn, and the LED lights change color while driving. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the Maisto Tech Cyklone360 is approximately 8 inches long and comes with a pistol-grip controller.

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R/C CARRERA’s Nintendo Mario-Copter features Mario flying on top of a 12-inch gyro-stabilized quadcopter that features protected rotors. The 2.4 GHz flight control system features precise control over the quadcopter and has a flight time of about 7 minutes with a 60-minute recharge time. Designed for kids ages 12 and up, this quadcopter comes with everything kids need to fly it right out of the box.

MATTEL’s Barbie Star Light Advenutre RC Hoverboard features a joystick and a simple sliding lever to adjust the flying height. Based on the space fantasy movie Barbie Star Light Adventure, this vehicle has automatic launch and land features that make take-off and landing simple with the press of a button. Kids can practice all kinds of flight maneuvers and get started with three pre-set flying stunts for cool tricks right out of the box.

The Starblade, from ODYSSEY TOYS, is an easy-to-use quadcopter that is high-tech without the steep learning curve required by other copters its size. With more than 40 LED lights, the Starblade features gyro technology that ensures it can fly stably both inside and out. The Starblade measures approximately 2 feet long.


With the XPV Marvel RC Rollover Rumbler, from JAKKS PACIFIC, kids can choose their superhero and control this vehicle as either Captain America or Iron Man for twice the R/C action. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the vehicle will do flips and extreme 360s, as well as drive at superhero speed.

R/C Designed for kids ages 3 and up, BRIO’s Remote Control Travel Train has a unique controller with easyto-use reverse and stop functions, two different forward speeds, and A and B frequencies to allow so kids can play with multiple R/C trains on the same tracks. Kids can press the buttons for light and sound effects, or control the train with the buttons on the engine.

DGL TOYS will release a full assortment of feature-driven quadcopters for Call of Duty under its Quadrone brand. Call of Duty, a video game published by Activision, has featured drones in its online and digital gameplay for years. The DGL quadcopters will feature authentic game detailing, interactive battle features, cameras, and more. DGL will release four products by fall, which include three scale sizes.

The AI Stunt Drone, from WOW STUFF, features patented sensor technology so it can fly without relying on air pressure. The Juice Button activates auto-take-off, auto-hover, and auto-land. It also features an Auto Stunt button that lets fliers activate 360-degree spins and flips.


Lumi, from WOWWEE, offers app-based gameplay that allows kids to fly both a virtual and real quadcopter using direct commands. Using the free app on any smart device, kids can activate motions and stunts on the physical toy. Various game modes challenge kids to follow sequences of lights and music while Lumi flies and dances in the air, reacting to their performance. Kids can even choreograph flight moves and record them for sharing with their friends.


Fisher-Price Shapes Early Learning with Wooden Toys

Rhythm & Roll Percussion Plane, Chomping Gator, and Curious Pup

Hasbro Goes Mini with New Disney Frozen Little Kingdom Set Hasbro’s Disney Frozen Little Kingdom Elsa’s Magical Rising Castle Playset includes Elsa’s ice castle, which rises with lights and music with the wave of a hand. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, it also includes an Elsa doll, an Olaf doll, snap-ins, cuff bracelets, and themed accessories.

The Fisher-Price Wood Line is designed to foster early learning and development in kids. Made with real beech wood, the toys are tactile and stimulate kids’ senses. The Sweet Sounds Ice Cream Truck is designed for kids ages 18 months and up. The truck includes chimes, a bell, and a mallet so that kids can make music. Rolling and grasping the wooden truck improves kids’ motor skills and hand-eye coordination. The Rhythm & Roll Percussion Plane, also designed for kids ages 18 months and up, is a musical airplane. Kids can remove the stick from the plane’s tail to play the guiro or use the mallet or their fingers to play the cymbal propellers. The Chomping Gator and the Curious Pup are designed for kids ages 6 months and up. Kids can push the toys to make the gator open and close its jaw or make the pup move its head to and fro. These moving toys help encourage curiosity about how things work and their patterned surfaces help stimulate visual sense. The Wood Line is available exclusively at Target, but will be available to additional retailers next year.

Jakks Pacific Creates Little Carpenters The Real Construction Deluxe Workshop, from Jakks Pacific, is designed for kids ages 6 and up. The kit comes with a detailed project book that gives kids eight ideas to get started. The kit also includes tools, foam material, fasteners, nails, and screws. The kit incorporates key elements of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum and lays the foundation for more complex construction projects.

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SWEET SUITE 16: MAKING WAVES IN NYC THE TOY INSIDER’S SEVENTH ANNUAL SWEET SUITE EVENT will take place on July 13 aboard the Majesty Yacht docked in New York City. Known as The Biggest Night of Play, the premiere toy party of the year will welcome more than 400 influential bloggers and vloggers and more than 100 members of traditional media to connect with toy companies in advance of the holiday shopping season. Sweet Suite will be the feature event at the third annual Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced digital influencers featuring parties, exhibitions, and speed pitching sessions. Blogger Bash welcomes attendees into high-energy party atmospheres, giving them a chance to have fun while mingling with brands in a professional yet inviting setting. Last year at Sweet Suite, bloggers enjoyed one-on-one time with representatives from more than 75 of the hottest kids’ brands and properties on the market, including VTech, Activision, LeapFrog, Hasbro, Spin Master, Lego, TOMY, Disney, and more. #SweetSuite15 generated more than 95 million Twitter impressions, more than 8,000 original Instagram photos, and hundreds of blog post recaps.


This year, Sweet Suite will give digital influencers and members of the press a chance to meet old and new friends while sipping on cocktails, feasting on sweet treats, and—best of all—playing with toys before they even hit the market. Enormous swag boxes will once again be shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgance in social media impressions, and ensuring bloggers and journalists have products readily on-hand to review and share with their followers. With five different levels of sponsorship, there is something to fit every budget, allowing toy companies of all sizes to get in on the action and get products in the hands of the most influential press, bloggers, and vloggers. Get on board to party, play, and make an impression. » If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at







by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association BUSINESS MOVES FAST. BUILDING AGILITY

and innovation into day-to-day operations is a constant challenge, especially for small business owners like specialty toy retailers. When the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) was founded less than 25 years ago, there was no e-commerce or Amazon to compete with, no concerns about showrooming, no buzz about omni-channel marketing, and no Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). A dozen years ago, small business owners asked if they even needed a website if they did not sell products online. Facebook pages for brands have been around less than 10 years, and in 2007 Twitter was a new company that was posting only 400,000 tweets per quarter, compared to today’s 500 million tweets per day. Strengthening Members’ Businesses Fast forward to 2016, and one thing is constant: ASTRA’s focus on strengthening its members’ businesses. Our programs continue to evolve, just like your business does. Have you checked out ASTRA lately? Thanks to our board and committee leadership, retailers, manufacturers, and sales representatives, we are grounded in the day-in, day-out challenges of running a business in the competitive toy industry. You will see their strategic thinking and creativity in these key ASTRA initiatives:

• ASTRA Exclusives: One strategy for making ASTRA stores a destination is to offer top-quality products with exceptional play value that their customers cannot find anywhere else. This creates a meaningful competitive edge for specialty toys, and removes price as the main issue in the competition with mass-market products. The ASTRA Exclusives program launched last year in response to member requests for products that could be found only in ASTRA stores for

a set period of time. Manufacturers submit proposals for an exclusive line in a specified category, such as preschool products, active play, or arts and crafts. A committee of ASTRA retailers select manufacturers based on the uniqueness of the products and their fit with a “typical” specialty toy store brand. This review process ensures that these products are high-quality toys that align with the values of creative play that consumers expect when they walk into an ASTRA retail store. • ASTRA Connect: We hear over and over again that ASTRA is more than a trade association. It’s a community of professionals who care about children, healthy play, quality products, shopping locally, creating jobs, and supporting communities. ASTRA connects members so they can share that extra something—information, advice, and even emotional support—when days are long or business conditions are tough. ASTRA made a big leap forward in supporting this communication with the launch of its new ASTRA Connect platform this past December. It’s user friendly, easy to access on mobile devices, and searchable. This new generation took ASTRA’s member-connecting function from a discussion board to an online community. • ASTRA Academy: Another way ASTRA evolved to support the health and growth of the specialty toy industry is with its certification program. The Certified Master Retailer (CMR) was first offered in 2015, and a second ASTRA credential, the Certified Play Expert (CPE), became available this year. These courses are available online or through in-person workshops. ASTRA retailers guided the development of the curriculum for the CMR credential, which provides hours of instruction in seven areas: business and finance, merchandising, marketing, personnel management and coaching, children and play, customer and vendor relations, and technology. The CPE program consists of 10 modules


that address theories of child development, characteristics of major developmental stages, play for children with disabilities, types of play and their benefits, toy safety, choosing toys and play activities, advocating for play, and making sense of play. Ideas and Insights Welcome Owners of independent retail stores constantly adjust their strategies and operations to respond to the demanding retail environment. ASTRA, with the guidance of the members you elect as your leaders, does the same. Check out or visit the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy (www. in Denver from June 6 to 8 to share your insights. » Kimberly Mosley, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, is an experienced, award-winning, results-oriented association executive with a long track record of success in managing association operations, developing innovative programs, and growing revenue.

Specialty toys & gifts

LIONEL’s Mega Tracks TwisTrack system lets kids ages 8 and up design their own race courses and stunts. The new clamp and construction system allows kids to create and construct on any surface. After kids build their raceway, they can drive their Rail Racer vehicle into action with the R/C controller, which gives them the ability to adjust the speed of the vehicle so that it stays on the track. Mega Track Stunt Packs will also be available in the Twister Tower and Tornado Mountain assortments, which include 12 feet of additional track, and more than 20 construction pieces to ensure endless adventures.

NEAT-OH!’s Magnutto Make a Mood offers a silly way for kids to express themselves. Kids are able to make faces with magnets to help them understand what facial expressions signify certain moods. Made for kids ages 3 and up, Make a Mood’s 133 thick foam magnets include facial features, hair, and headpieces to create specific emotions. Once kids’ works of art are done, parents and children can discuss the finished product. Each box includes a selection of multilingual activity cards with questions designed to engage kids in conversations about different feelings, as well as vocabulary words to describe different emotions. Once playtime is over, the cards and magnets tuck away inside the box for easy storage and travel.

GREEN TOYS introduces the Farm Playset and Fire Station Playset for kids ages 2 to 6, which come with accessories to inspire cooperative play as well as communication. The Farm Playset includes the barn, farm animals, a white fence, a green pickup truck, and character figures. The Fire Station comes with a command center, a firetruck, a water cannon, and stackable bunkbeds. Additionally, all pieces are dishwasher safe and fit inside each play set to allow for quick cleanup, storage, and travel.

SMART GEAR TOYS’ PonyCycle is available in small sizes for kids ages 3 to 6, and medium sizes for kids ages 4 to 9. This ride-on toy works with kids’ physical power. With no batteries or electric power, the PonyCycle lets kids gallop away on their faithful stead, or journey off into faraway lands. The PonyCycle encourges imaginative play, acts as a form of exercise, and improves balance and coordination skills. The rollerblade wheels on the horse’s hooves ensure that the pony moves with the child’s rhythm, and also make it a perfect toy for both outdoor and indoor play. The PonyCycle also restricts the horse from backward movement.

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A New SENSE of Plush by MADDIE MICHALIK, assistant editor

MULTI-SENSORY TOYS USUALLY TARGET the development of sight, sound, and touch, but more companies in the plush category are now hitting a new sense—smell. Think about the phenomenon of scratch ‘n sniff stickers from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Although it seemed like a niche product at first, the mega popularity eventually outweighed any doubt. The trend of scented plush now is comparable to the trend of scratch ‘n sniff stickers that were popular decades ago. Kids are drawn to lively and exciting scents, whether its fruity pineapple and strawberries, sweet cupcakes and candy, or even savory bacon and root beer. Scentco Inc., maker of three lines of fragrant plush, has honed in on the popularity of scented items for years. “Our ultra-soft line of scented Smillows, Smanimals, and Backpack Buddies adds a fun new dimension to what’s currently trending on the market, optimizing sensory play

for children in addition to providing a cozy companion,” says Marissa Huffman, marketing director at Scentco. “We believe adding an element of scent to everything that we do provides a fun new way for kids to explore, process, learn, and play.” The sense of smell is most closely linked with feelings and memories, reminiscent of events from the past, activities, or even something as simple as a favorite meal. It seems fitting that kids would want a pillow of a cute s’more, for example, to remind them of the summertime. Perhaps it’s this nostalgic feel that kids (and adults) find appealing about these plush. For companies like Whiffer Sniffers, this nostalgic feeling inspired the creation of the brand. “Just like a song on the radio can bring a person back to a certain time and place, smell can evoke fun memories of vacation, movies, fairs, and more,” says Jon Bailey, vice president of Whiffer Sniffers.

In addition, the collectibility of scented plush lends itself to the larger trend of collectible toys. Kids get excited about a certain scent and want to bring their collections with them wherever they go. Whether it’s large plush that kids can hug or small collectibles that kids can hook right onto their backpacks or other belongings, one of the most important parts of scented plush is the smell itself. Companies need to make sure that these fragrances not only appeal to consumers, but also last long enough to be a worthwhile purchase. Although challenging, plush manufacturers have created solutions to make scents that will stick. For example, Scentco uses special beads infused with their gourmet scents for a two-year scent guarantee. Manufacturers also pay close attention to scents and the character personalities to match them. This year will be full of huggable, cuddly food, animals, and characters. »

WILDLIFE ARTISTS introduces Skelesaurs, a breed of plush toys that feature realistic fossil skeletons to enhance curiosity and learning for young paleontologists. The line consists of a Brachiosaurus, a T-Rex, a Stegosaurus, a Triceratops, a Velociraptor, and a Megalodon. Todd Parr Collection

NORTH AMERICAN BEAR CO. introduces the Todd Parr Collection , based on the books of children’s author and illustrator Todd Parr. Characters from Animals in Underwear ABC and Doggy Kisses 123 will be available in 6- and 10-inch sizes. The Puppy Activity Toy is a 16-inch golden plush with a removable paw-print cotton jacket, a tethered tennis ball rattle, a rawhide squeaker, a barking bone, and a slipper crinkle. The Amy Cole Collection is a modern interpretation of classic rag dolls. They are dressed to mimic the Amy Cole spring apparel collection. The line is made up of animals, baby cozies, and dolls.

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Skelesaur T-Rex

SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS | PLUSH From a drawing, sketch, illustration, or photo, BUDSIES transforms any original character artwork into a oneof-a-kind plush companion. Original Budsies are made from a photo of a kid’s original artwork. The Budsies team hand-sews the details to make sure the creation is exactly as the child envisioned. Selfies are personalized plush figures of real people made from a photo. Original Budsies and Selfies are available in 16-inch and 30-inch sizes.

This year, HANSA introduces the Nordic Deer, laying Fox, Pomeranian Dog, Shihtzu Dog, Black Bear Seat, Tiger Seat, beige and white and black and white Chihuahua, Pegasus, Unicorn, Kitten, and Dachshund to its collection of realistic plush animals. Each animal is handcrafted from portraits of real animals in their natural habitats, and comes with a “Toys that Teach” tag describing in detail the animal’s lifestyle, gestation period, care of their young, eating habits, and habitat. The fabric for the spotted and striped animals is custom designed black and white Chihuahua and exclusively manufactured in small quantities, and the coats of the plush are hand-cut and trimmed.

Doll Fabian, from HABA, includes a hooded jacket, pants, sneakers, a padded body, and chenille hair. The character plays soccer with his friends and is the best striker on the team.

Original Budsie

My Buddy Bernie, from CLOUD B, is the first plush in the line to feature interactive, voice-activated talk-back engagement to help kids transition from playtime to sleep time. In playtime mode, Bernie will respond with silly sayings when kids talk to him. When it’s time for bed, Bernie changes to sleepy phrases for about two minutes until he says, “goodnight,” to kids. As Bernie begins to fall asleep, he starts to yawn before playing a soothing lullaby. Storytime Huxley plays five different classic bedtime stories, such as the “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Kids can pick and play any story as many times as they’d like and pause and resume stories with the press of his paw. The included illustrated storybook features interactive questions to keep kids engaged. My Buddy Bernie

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My Friend Corduroy Bear Soft Toy

Smanimals, from SCENTCO, is a line of six stuffed animals, each featuring its own scent. Backpack Buddies are scented stuffed animals that come attached to a key chain. Both lines come in Cotton Candy-scented Bunny, PB+J-scented Elephant, Banana-scented Monkey, Cupcake-scented Puppy Dog, Strawberry-scented Teddy Bear, and Tutti Fruttii-scented Unicorn. Smillows are scented pillows available in five styles: Blackberry, Cupcake, Jelly Donut, Pineapple, and S’mores. All scents are guaranteed to last for at least two years.

YOTTOY introduces a new collection of plush based on classic children’s books. The My Friend ADORA’s CorduroyPlush Bear Fairies Softfeature Toy is newinspired shaped by fairy faces, areFreeman’s made of Don microfiber plush, and Corduroy book secome in and threefeatures colors: ries, pink, and hisgreen, signature purple. Baby Fairies green overalls are and made of microfihand-embroiber dered soft, have a rattle details. inside, and are Time made to fit on Sleepy strollers, car seats, andismore. Available Paddington Bear dressed in cus- in twotom-printed colors, yellow and pink, can play felt buttons, pajamas withinfants hand-stitched withfluffly the crinkle material on the hat, feet,and body, slippers, a red velvet a “Please look andafter wings. My tag. First Adora line has a little thisThe bear” boy in the gang forMo theWillems first time. My First includes the YOTTOY’s assortment Adora a squeezable body, details BusBaby Soft Boy Toy, features which features embroidered removable and a magnetic pacifier such as clothes, character profiles, headlights, grills, and shiny to encourage kids the to nurture and&role playFinger Pupbumpers, and Elephant Piggie withpets, their which babies. will spark imagination and creative play.

S’mores Smillow

FOLKMANIS celebrates 40 years with the redesign of its original mascot. The Raccoon puppet sits up and kids can animate its mouth and forelegs to engage friends in fun animal antics. The French Bulldog puppet features bat-shaped ears and a wrinkly face. The Guinea Pig puppet can be used as a starter pet and features a movable mouth and legs.

French Bulldog puppet

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Sing-a-Long Knolly Nibbles, from DGL TOYS, features original songs and a mini song book for kids to sing along. The 14-inch plush has ears that wiggle, and her head and arms move from side to side.

SPECIALTY TOYSshowcase & GIFTS | PLUSH name “Dress Me” Super Hero Princess, from MADAME ALEXANDER, are sensory plush dolls designed to engage and heighten babies’ senses. The three dolls in the line have strong visual and touch features, such as buttons, snaps, and zippers. Plus, the dolls are machine washable.

Surprizamals, from BEVERLY HILLS TEDDY BEAR CO., are collectible, pop-out play friends that hide in Surprizaballs, so kids don’t know what pet they’re going to get. There are more than 60 animals to collect in the first wave, including Wacky, Cuties, and Mini styles, as well as chasers and ultra-rare pets.

Unicorn Surprizamal

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Peter Rabbit plush

WHIFFER SNIFFERS’ line of Backpack Clips are ready to clip onto a backpack, lunchbox, bag, and more. Kids can collect and trade the different characters in the line, including bacon-scented Ben Sizzlin’, blueberry-scented Billy Blueberry, chocolate-scented Chip, cherry pie-scented Jerry Pie, strawberry cupcake-scented Sugar Cake, and more. The scents last for at least one year.

KIDS PREFERRED’s amazing baby collection offers plush that help babies learn with movement, sounds, textures, colors, shape-sorting, rolling, puzzles, nesting blocks, and more. The collection includes Zippee Bunny and Zippee Whale, Bendable Doll and Bendable Bear, Bumble Bee Bumpy Ball, Knotted Teether, Dog and Bunny Activity Bib, and more. The Beatrix Potter Collection features characters from Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Friends. New items for the line include the Peter Rabbit and Flopsy Bunny blankies, stick rattles, beanbags, mini jinglers, and more. Disney baby toys expand with the Mickey Mouse Pirate Activity Toy, Minnie Mouse Ladybug Activity Toy, Birthday Cupcake Mini Jinglers, and more.

Ben Sizzlin’

THE HAYWIRE GROUP expands its line of Worry Eaters with new characters. Worry Eaters are a safe, non-pressure way for kids to express their worries. Kids write or draw their worries on a piece of paper, feed it to their Worry Eater, zip up the mouth, and let it hold their troubles so they do not have to carry the weight of that worry. A parent or caregiver can then help the child find solutions, face that worry, or acknowledge that the worry exists.

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DEMDACO introduces the Nancy Tillman Collection, including baby dĂŠcor and toys inspired by On the Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman. The line includes a 10-inch Polar Bear Plush, 9-inch Polar Bear Rattle, 7-inch On The Night You Were Born Soft Story, and 13-inch Polar Bear Blankie. The Posh & Precious collection includes plush gift sets with modern styling and a fresh design, including Dog & Bib Sets and Frog & Sock Gift Sets. DEMDACO also adds new animals to its 13-inch Fuzzimals and Cuddleez collections.

Color Stripes, the latest collection from DOUGLAS, features characters with embroidered facial features. In addition to their striped middles, the 20inch animals are made of textured fur.

Talkin’ toys

Q&A WITH The Toy Book spoke with Richard Martinez, president, Hansa North America, about what sets the plush company apart. Tell me about Hansa’s background. Inspired by our mission to educate today’s generation and future generations on the need to preserve and protect nature’s wildlife, Hansa’s artisans have lovingly designed and hand-crafted the world’s largest collection of “true to life” animals. From the 3-inch mole to the life-size mammoth, the quality, care, and commitment to education, creative play, heirloom quality, and exacting detail are reflected in each Hansa item. What are your plans for expanding U.S. distribution? Hansa offers its dealers unique opportunities through multiple merchandising and display platforms. Everybody loves animals, and offering customers and guests “wow”-evoking, traffic-driving attractions and must-have quality designs makes your store even more of a destination. Delighting and empowering Hansa collectors—who value the quality, eco-friendly, educational, and creative play features—provides unlimited opportunity for zoos, museums, wildlife parks, children’s and pet stores, specialty retail, display, home décor and furnishings, attractions, promotional, event planners, catalog, eco-friendly, rental, and educational facilities to “share the magic” of Hansa’s Creations. What makes Hansa different from other plush companies? Each item is individually hand-crafted, giving every animal a unique personality. What makes your products so special? Custom-designed fabrics, pin-point creation detail, and the eco-friendly design studio setting provide the creation team with the environment where gentle paws, swishing tails, and soulful eyes and faces come together to give each character a realistic look and heirloom-quality feel that is unmistakably Hansa. Are there educational components to your products? Yes, each item comes with an educational booklet that features factoids, a teaching tag, and pictures and tells the story of the animals in their natural settings. What messages are you imparting to consumers? Our mission is to educate,

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delight, and entertain today’s generation and future generations, reminding them of the need to preserve, protect, explore, and understand nature’s majestic animal kingdom. What are Hansa’s plans for the future? Hansa will continue to enhance and expand our collection, availability, and consumer access, while creating opportunities for our dealers with unique, educational, traffic-driving, cuddly, and creative play designs. Hansa will never rest in its goal to make our good products better and our better, best. »






toys that inspire


storytelling by MARISSA DIBARTOLO, senior editor KIDS’ IMAGINATIONS TAKE THEM TO NEW HEIGHTS, SOARING ABOVE LOGIC AND reality to faraway lands of magic, unlikely friendships, and inexplicable weirdness. Toy companies are kicking imaginative fun into high gear this year, with new products that will allow kids to tell creative stories like never before. At the 113th annual North American International Toy Fair, we sought out new unplugged toys and games that will have kids engaging their creative sides to spin silly tales of creatures, dreams, and even a little sci-fi mayhem. The toy aisles can sometimes seem overrun by tech and talking toys, but all of these new products are totally tech-free, proving that classic play is still alive and well.

ice cream truck

fantastic castle

It all started on a hot summer day, when the vanilla cone with sprinkles began to melt! PACIFIC PLAY TENTS’ new Ice Cream Truck role-play tent provides kids with the perfect setting for fun-in-the-sun stories. The ice cream truck comes fully equipped with mesh windows, inside pockets, and an order counter with a roll up window so kids can properly serve their customers or set the stage for their next cool tale. With room for multiple kids ages 3 and up, this ice cream truck provides hours of imaginative play, just in time for the summer months.

Kids can travel back in time to a land of knights and dragons with the Fantastic Castle, a classic play set from JANOD, an Alex Brands company. Kids can assemble the 16-piece puzzle and then add in the wooden and cardboard accessories to live out the ultimate medieval tale. The pieces are designed to stack on top of each other, so the knights can ride their horses into battle. The fierce but friendly dragon figures perch nicely on top of the castle walls, and everything folds together for easy storage. Kids can get creative with this story box set, which is sure to provide imagination with the fuel it needs to kick into high gear.

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cardventures GAMEWRIGHT’s new Cardventures are play-your-path games that present kids with exciting and adventurous situations, challenge them to make decisions, and choose their own story outcomes using a series of cards. In Stowaway 52, players have snuck aboard an alien ship that’s about to attack Earth, and they must work to prevent the impending attack. In Jump Ship, kids take on the role of captain of the Black Bounty and try to collect the most gold. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, both games challenge kids to make decisions and think outside the box. Plus, game play only takes about 15 minutes. Victory!


tall tales Tall Tales, from SCS DIRECT, is a cooperative game designed for kids ages 5 and up. To kick things off, players choose one of 24 story cards, which feature beautifully illustrated backgrounds to set the scene of the story. Then, players reach into the drawstring bag to randomly select a few story pieces, which are squishy little 3-D figures, such as a cow, a rocket, a telephone, and a UFO. One player starts by placing a story piece on the story card and coming up with a line inspired by the piece. For example, kids can place the snake piece on the jungle background and say “Once upon a time, there was a lonely snake…” Play continues in a circle, and each player adds a new line to the story based on the piece he or she places onto the story card. The gameplay is fast, easy, and results in humorous stories that will leave kids and families cracking up laughing, while also getting those creative juices flowing.

Specialty Toys & Gifts


props in a box All kids really need to play make-believe is a blanket—which can double as a cape, turn them into spooky ghosts, or even let them soar into the starry night sky on a magic carpet. But, it’s nice to give them accessories that let them really feel like they are getting into fantastic situations. Props in a Box, from THEATRIC TOYS, gives kids everything they need to set the scene for storytime. Each prop kit features classic, minimalist accessories and play pieces that are soft, safe, and truly adorable. Plus, kids get a 55- by 42-inch backdrop and a fabric storage case. The kits feature two different character costumes, such as a dinosaur and a pirate, a princess and a chef, or a fisherman and an astronaut—allowing two kids to dress up at once, and come up with some silly scenarios that link the two characters together. Plus, if kids want to kick things into the 21st century, there’s a downloadable Movie Maker app that lets kids record their epic tales—complete with special effects.

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specialty toys & gifts | Media center

LEARN TO LOVE WITH PRINCESS CUPCAKE JONES BELLE PUBLISHING’s Princess Cupcake Jones series introduces kids to Princess Cupcake Jones, a modern-day princess who loves her tutu. In the first book in the series, Princess Cupcake Jones and the Missing Tutu, Cupcake learns how important it is to keep things tidy when her beloved tutu is nowhere to be found. The next two books in the series, Princess Cupcake Jones Goes to School and Princess Cupcake Jones and the Queen’s Closet, also teach kids valuable life lessons that apply to real-life situations. Every book carries positive messages to encourage kids to be kind to one another. Hidden within each page is the word “LOVE,” to not only remind kids of the importance of this virtue, but also to add a fun twist to their reading experience.


HEAD WEST WITH THE OKEE DOKEE BROTHERS OKEE DOKEE MUSIC takes listeners on a brand new journey with the Okee Dokee Brothers’ latest release, Saddle Up: A Western Adventure Album. The brothers are ready to saddle up and get a little dirt on their boots. In this musical adventure, the pair takes on a 30-day roadtrip that covers five national parks and campsites on the Continental Divide. Their melodies transport listeners into the heart of the Wild West, where they learn cultural Navajo tales and much more.

ENTERTAINMENT ONE’s Peppa Pig: The Golden Boots DVD features 10 snortingly funny “peppasodes.” In addition to already favorite Peppa Pig episodes, the DVD features a new journey that begins after Miss Duck takes Peppa’s golden boots. Kids will join Peppa and her friends as they discover what Miss Duck has done and try to get the boots back. They will travel with Peppa and the rest of her friends as they journey across lands, over seas, and through space.

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PARTY LIKE IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY WITH MISS NINA PACKAROONUS RECORDS sends Miss Nina & The Jumping Jacks on a mission to turn every day into a feel-good dance party with Every Day’s Your Birthday. With musical inspirations that range from rock ‘n’ roll to sounds of the ‘80s, today’s hits, and more, kids and parents will want to turn up the volume and sing along. Every Day’s Your Birthday gives kids the power to turn their bad days around. The album features 12 fun tracks that let kids get goofy, sing silly, and make sure they celebrate every day like it’s their birthday.


THE FUTURE OF BRANDS: WHY IMMERSION MATTERS by TED MININNI, president and creative director, Design Force MARKETERS AND DESIGN EXPERTS always talk about the power of brand storytelling, including yours truly. As marketing guru Seth Godin said, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” Storytelling has the power to move brands from being transactional to transformational. As a result, every conceivable media channel is clogged with content and stories from brands seeking to make a connection with consumers. But, not all of it grabs attention or is inspirational. Nor is it able to suspend the usual human reaction of suspicion or downright disbelief. What are consumers or would-be brand fans looking for? It’s quite clear that they’re no longer receptive to merely being told a story, and it’s obvious that they’re too sophisticated to be fooled by a glossy story that doesn’t have a meaningful, substantive brand with values behind it. Consumers are looking for immersive experiences. They don’t want to be told stories; they want to become part of the story, but they only want to be involved with brands in which they can believe. This is especially true for children, teens, and tweens, who aren’t into buying products, but crave experiences. They will buy, but only from the brands in which they become immersed or those that create captivating product and package designs that add to the richness of their experiences. Let that truth sink in.


The brands that are rising to the top are letting go. These brands have gone beyond asking fans to share stories and images and integrating consumer-generated content into their own. They’ve moved the needle all the way to giving the consumer control of the brand, inviting them to co-create the story itself. The result is brand immersion, which I call the ultimate consumer experience, and

it’s what makes fans fall totally in love with the its ability to leverage astonishing, realistic visual imagery of characters, places, and time brand. It doesn’t get any better than this. frames, makes the virtual world of the brand Immersion goes well beyond brand tangible and real, transports consumers into engagement, and immersive experiences are that world, and makes them want to buy. By the result of a compelling story where verbal creating engaging experiences in such an assets are made visually rich, creating a new immersive manner, brand fans can live in “the world. Visual assets are highly sensory in enchanted state” at any time they choose. nature: we can feel the rain, smell the soup What these property owners intrinsically cooking in the pot, or hear the train in the understand is that consumers who create distance. Visualization has the power to turn their own narratives around the brand are fantasy into reality for consumers because it compelled to share them. People rememengages the senses in a very real manner. It’s ber their own stories more vividly than they crucial to the representation of the brand, do of any brand alone. As they invest more especially in retail environments. time immersed in the world that the brand Not only are we invited into the world presented and co-created, it helps deliver created by the brand and given total control, powerful human satisfaction on a deep and we are allowed to experience it in many dimeaningful level. mensions. When people willingly enter into a brand-created world, they erase the boundaries between marketing storyteller and conA WHOLE NEW WORLD sumer and between illusion and reality. For Creating a world around a brand that’s that to happen, the virtual world created by three-dimensional starts with a story that the brand has to be so realistic and visually captivates the heart and dispels suspicion stunning that disbelief is automatically susas to its veracity. When JK Rowling originally pended. As a result, fans live in what J.R.R. created her Harry Potter stories, she fashTolkien, the writer of The Lord of the Rings ioned a complete and separate world, full of trilogy, dubbed “the enchanted state.” rich characters, storylines, and venues. The Few brands are as immersive as books were written in a unique linguistic manthose in the entertainment indusner that was later translated into a stunning try. Not only do they know how visual language. I’m to tell engaging stories, they sure that Rowling nevalso know how to leverage er dreamed that her the power of digital platforms The Wizarding World of books would become Harry Potter at Universal and every other consummovies, games, conOrlando Resort er-facing touch sumer products, and point. Licensed theme parks, but, product package I’m equally sure that design, due to she did know that

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Harry Potter and his stories were highly immersive

and that when the right opportunities arose to extend the brand, kids would be willing to transport themselves into the magical world of Harry Potter and create new stories of their own around the property. Also, kids would be eager to buy licensed consumer products as long as the visual design of the products and packaging were able to whisk them into the enchanted state. No brand understands the magic of immersive branding more than Disney. Star Wars is a great example that continues to evolve. The Harry Potter franchise has also taken a page from Disney, and so have numerous other properties that captivate audiences in a powerful manner. Their stories have been co-opted by fans who are under their spell.


Entertainment properties can create immersive storylines with ease, but what about consumer product brands? Shopkins, bucking almost every trend in the toy business—and on its way to the top as a global brand—is a great example of an immersive brand. Shopkins launched in the summer of 2014 by the Australian company Moose Toys. They aren’t tech toys; they’re plastic miniature figures and play sets packaged in pink and primarily, unabashedly aimed at the girls’ market. In spite of that, Shopkins appeal to boys as well. The brand is also unapologetically based on consumerism, everyday life, and the domestic world. The brand tagline: “Once you shop, you can’t stop”is clearly a reference to how consumerism powers Western economies. By the fall of 2015, 100 million Shopkins characters had been sold worldwide. The brand also won the Toy Industry Association’s Girl Toy of The Year Award in 2015. According to a Fortune magazine article published in January, Shopkins is the top-selling toy brand in the U.S.: “despite the strength of the film (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and the many toys associated Shopkins Jellie Bean and Lolla Lollipop

with it. There was just one Star Wars toy on the list of the year’s 10 best sellers (the Sphero app-controlled BB-8 robot, which came in eighth). Instead, the Shopkins toy line, which is phenomenally popular with both boys and girls, topped 2015 toy sales. The 12-pack of the tiny figurines of the anthropomorphized household objects ranked No. 1, while the two-pack was the year’s fourth bestseller.” “I think the key to success is a great theme,” says Paul Solomon, co-CEO of Moose Toys. “Whether it’s tomato sauce or a donut or a cupcake or a lipstick, these are objects that are recognizable to kids. We were trying to find the most iconic products to turn into Shopkins characters.” The doe-eyed Shopkins characters are cute, fanciful, and endearing to kids. They represent the mundane: supermarket staples, cosmetics and fashion items, baby, and bakery merchandise; but there’s nothing mundane about how they’re represented in toy and package design, and that enthralls kids. Because new figures are launched annually, some in limited quantities, and because they’re cute and small, they’re highly collectible. Naturally, kids love them. Remember the Beanie Babies phenomenon of the 1990s? What does all of this have to do with immersion into a Shopkins-created world? The dedicated website welcomes kids to “Shopville,” with engaging backstories of its big-eyed characters so that kids can get to know each one. features videos and cartoon shorts, which also appear on the Shopkins World channel on YouTube. Storylines feature Shopkins characters in the land of Shopville, but that’s not all. Consumers are uploading their own animated videos as well as toy unboxing videos, bringing attention to the Shopkins brand packaging on YouTube, and creating a following among kids worldwide. There’s clearly more than engagement going on here: kids are immersed in the Shopkins world and they are creating their own stories—placing themselves as the protagonists with the Shopkins characters as their friends.


As Shopkins licensed products continue to roll out around the world and consumer products appear in numerous categories, I expect the immersive magic of the brand to ex-

Shopkins Food Fair Sweet Spot Playset

tend this year. On its own packaging, the brand uses verbal communication sparingly but wisely. More than anything, verbal branding comes in the form of call-outs reinforcing how many Shopkins characters, including exclusives, are included in each play set. Plus, the packaging calls out the cool interactive aspect of each set, sparking huge sales. For example, the Shopkins Small Mart play set mimics some of the fun aspects of a supermarket for kids, including a shopping cart and a checkout counter. For good measure, the set also includes a slide so that the Shopkins characters can slide their way down to the sales floor. The package structure includes cut-outs to increase visibility of the toys in each set. The package design architecture features borders filled with eye-popping color and symbols that kids love (hearts, flowers, candy, cookies, etc.), almost reminiscent of Hasbro’s Candy Land board game. The world of Shopkins feels lifelike through the highly sensory imagery surrounding the products, enticing kids to want to immerse themselves in that world. They can easily put themselves into the scenarios presented and craft their own stories because of the rich visual language created by Shopkins—and they do. New Shopkins products and packaging must continue to be immersive to keep the brand relevant for kids and to encourage them to create their own stories. For kids, it’s all about choosing to remain in the enchanted state, in the magical land of Shopkins, when so many other brands beckon. » As president and creative director of Design Force Inc., Ted Mininni sets the standard for research and design development for the consultancy, while guiding his team to achieve their clients’ goals through expert creative strategies.

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e-signatures HOW


by HOWARD N. ARONSON, managing director, Lackenbach Siegel LLC IF YOU’VE EVER HANDLED IMPORTANT business by email—instead of wasting time writing letters, making phone calls, or traveling—beware. The block signature that appears at the end of your emails—or even simple sign-offs such as “Regards, Sue”—may commit you or your company to an agreement even if you had no intention of “signing on the dotted line.” While your email signature may enter you into major contracts without ever intending to be bound, on the other hand, you may find that your emails let you down when you think you’ve concluded an agreement. We can’t stop using email, but all business people need to think harder about what we say in emails, and we must pay attention to what our signatures—whether automatic or personally typed—can mean. Although not all federal and state courts agree on the legal significance of emails and email signatures, it’s best to play it safe when negotiating electronically. Here are some pointers on how to avoid legal disasters in negotiating agreements via email.


the case. And third, the email message was capable of enforcement because the adjuster signed it. Thus, the court said that the circumstances showed the adjuster’s intent that her name be treated as a signature, and as a consequence, the email was to be treated as the execution of a formal settlement agreement.

IF YOU TYPE IT, YOU AGREE TO IT Don’t assume that an email alone can’t be treated as an enforceable contract. A lyracist in a copyright infringement case in Florida may not have thought his email would be viewed as an agreement, for example. The writer argued that he hadn’t assigned the copyright in lyrics for a commercial adapted from the song “Wavin’ Flag” to Coca-Cola. But the court pointed to an email, in which the writer had said, “For the adaptation, you may consider it a work for hire with no economic compensation to that respect.” The court said that the law was clear that signed emails can form a contract and that a Florida statute specifically stated that electronic signatures had the same force as written signatures. The same principle was applied to force

It’s always better to play it safe. State in your emails that you’ll be bound only by a final, written contract—not by the thoughts and reactions you express in the email. In a New York case, for example, an adjuster for the defendants’ insurer probably wished she had made such a statement. Instead, the adjuster sent the plaintiffs’ counsel an email message proposing a tentative agreement to a settlement, which the plaintiffs then moved to enforce. The defendant argued that there was no settlement, but the court held that the email was a binding written settlement agreement. First, the email stated the agreement’s material terms, contained an expression of mutual assent, and was not conditioned on an actual settlement document to be executed later. Second, the adjuster had apparent authority to settle

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-John Hancock President Second Continental Congress Independence Hall 520 Chestnut St. Philadelphia, PA U.S.A. “We dread nothing but slavery.”

a Massachusetts property owner to pay a bill for environmental cleanup. In the case, an environmental cleanup company sent a proposed contract to the property owner for emergency cleanup work. The property owner replied in an email that she accepted the terms. When the property owner asked the court to discharge the mechanic’s lien on her property, claiming that her email signature block did not create a written contract, the Court said that the parties had “entered into a ‘written contract’ within the meaning of the mechanic’s lien statute” when the cleanup company sent the property owner a proposed contract to undertake the work and the property owner responded by email indicating that she agreed with and accepted the proposed contract terms. The court explained, “Nothing in the mechanic’s lien statute requires a physical signature…on a piece of paper rather than an acceptance of written contract terms by an electronic signature that is conveyed by email.”

SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE... OR LET YOUR EMAIL PLATFORM SIGN FOR YOU Be aware that even an automatic signature block can bind you as effectively as your handwritten signature. Although some probably prefer a scanned image of their actual signature to a typed block signature, block signatures are universal and can have the same effect as a handwritten signature. Several federal and state cases hold that an electronic signature in an email could constitute a written contract under the federal ESIGN Law and the various state versions of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. Consider that a copyright owner won a judgment based on an exchange of emails that had the effect of transferring performance and distribution rights to him. In the Florida copyright infringement and unfair competition case, the plaintiff claimed that

RAISING THE BAR a competing satellite TV provider infringed its copyrights in programming that had been licensed to the plaintiff. Deciding the issue of the validity of the transfer of U.S. public performance and distribution rights to the plaintiff under the U.S. Copyright Act, the court found that the agreements transferring the rights to Plaintiff satisfied the Copyright Act’s writing and signature requirements. The only document without a physical, handwritten signature consisted of an email exchange, and the Court held that under the ESIGN Act, a signature in an email can satisfy the signature requirement of the Copyright Act. Electronic signatures allowed an Arizona plaintiff to prevail over the defendants, who argued that the contract at issue was invalid under Arizona’s enactment of the Statute of Frauds (the requirement that certain kinds of contracts be memorialized in a writing and signed by the party to be charged, with sufficient content to evidence the contract) because the complaint did not include a copy of a written and signed contract and the plaintiff did not specifically claim that “the requirement for a signature is waived or excused.” However, the court said that the defendants “included an electronic signature in some of the emails that could constitute the written contract and such ‘electronic signatures satisf[y] any law that requires a signature.’”

SPELL IT OUT On the other hand, if you do intend for your email to be a signed agreement, make that fact clear in the email itself. In a patent infringement case, the court found that a sentence (“It looks ok”) in an email from a co-inventor did not constitute a signature for the purpose of assigning the patent. Referring to Illinois law, the court said, “Although the statute does not define what constitutes an electronic signature, [the] statement that ‘It looks ok’ does not indicate [an] intent to adopt the assignment and thus does not serve as an electronic signature.” The court found that the co-inventor did not assign his rights through email exchanges with the law firm filing the patent application. The judge in a Texas patent lawsuit also found that an email exchange didn’t dispense with the need for the parties’ signatures. Counsel for one of the parties wrote in one of the pertinent emails, “‘I am not guaranteeing or representing that [the client] will sign today—or ever. I think they are signing today.’”

According to the judge, “These e-mails are insufficient to create a binding settlement agreement.”



WHAT DOES YOUR SIGNATURE REALLY MEAN? Some courts require a positive indication that the electronic signature is supposed to mean the same thing as a handwritten signature. A California court found, “Even if a printed name can satisfy the signature requirements … a printed name is not a signature under contract law simply because the person deliberately printed his or her name. ‘[I]t is a universal requirement that the statute of frauds is not satisfied unless it is proved that the name relied upon as a signature was placed on the document or adopted by the party to be charged with the intention of authenticating the writing.’ … The evidence must also demonstrate that the person printing his or her name intended to execute the document.” The court found no evidence that the defendant “intended to execute a settlement agreement by electronic means when he printed his name at the end of his e-mail.”

DON’T FORGET As a precautionary measure, make crystal clear how the parties will handle email communication when drafting any written agreements. Remember: What you say in an email can be taken out of context of any previous—or subsequent—conversations. The email should stand on its own to express your meaning, no more and no less. If you do realize that you’ve inadvertently made a statement that could be misconstrued after you hit send, make sure you immediately correct the communication before any action can be taken based on the erroneous email. To avoid email—or any other—miscommunication and resulting legal problems, consult with legal counsel before and during contract negotiations. » Howard N. Aronson has provided legal counsel to toy companies for the past 30 years. He is the managing partner of Lackenbach Siegel LLP, an intellectual property law firm recognized for its nine decades of handling toy companies. Grateful acknowledgement is extended to Eileen DeVries, Counsel at Lackenbach Siegel.

Electronic signatures became the law of the land in 2000. Congress made an electronic signature an acceptable “John Hancock” with the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN). The Uniform Law Commissioners completed the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) in 1999, and all states except New York, Illinois, and Washington have adopted a version of the UETA (those three states each have their own versions of an electronic transactions law). The federal law governs interstate commerce. The general intent of the ESIGN Act is to provide that a contract or signature “may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.” Under ESIGN, electronic signatures and records are equivalent to paper-and-ink documents and handwritten signatures, and they are subject to the same tests of authenticity as paper documents. The same is true of UETA and the individual state laws: under both ESIGN and UETA, electronic records and signatures carry the same weight and legal effect as traditional paper documents and handwritten signatures, and they are subject to the same tests of authenticity as paper documents. For example, the electronic signature laws retain the rule that a signature is only valid if the signer intends to sign, and UETA requires that electronic signature records are capable of being retained and accurately reproduced for reference later by all persons who have a right to the record for the electronic record to have legal effect. Under ESIGN and some state versions of UETA, there is special protection for consumers: Electronic records may be used to deliver required information to consumers only if the consumer receives proper disclosure, consents to use electronic records, and has not withdrawn consent. For transactions between businesses, though, the parties’ consent is established either by explicit agreement or by the parties’ interactions.

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international toy Industry


A LOOK INSIDE CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE’S LARGEST TOY FAIR HELD IN KIELCE, POLAND by REYNE RICE, trend hunter and toy industry analyst THE LARGEST TRADE SHOW FOR TOYS, games, and children’s products in Central and Eastern Europe, Kids Time 2016 was held in Kielce, Poland in late February. This seventh annual international fair featured toys and products for children and recorded double digit growth in key measurements, including more than 150,690 square feet of exhibitor space, more than 5,500 professional trade visitors, and more than 400 exhibitors. Due to overwhelming exhibitor growth and interested buyers, event organizers added two exhibit halls, for a total of seven exhibit halls. The Targi Kielce Exhibition Center, home of Kids Time, is the second largest exhibition center in this part of Europe, and this state-of-the-art exhibition and congress center hosts nearly 70 events per year. For the first time, the Kids Time Star Awards were presented at the trade show. Six winners were selected from a pool of more than 240 competition entrants across various categories, including toys, textiles, and juvenile products. The Kids Time trade show offers a unique

showcase platform for international manufacturers of toys, games, strollers, car seats, and other children’s products, including brands such as ABC Design, Baby Jogger, Britax, Bugaboo, Chicco, Cloud B, Disney Interactive, GoldieBlox, Graco, Hasbro, Jakks Pacific, K’s Kids, Miniland, Playmobil, Scandinavian Baby, SkipWish, Spin Master, Tiny Love, and Yookidoo. Kielce Expo is also the premier exposition for all Polish-leading manufacturers, including Adamex, Aro, Avionaut, Baby Design, Deltim, Euro-Cart, Jedo, Lookart, Pilch, Tako, and Tutek. A Central and Eastern European trade show is important to the U.S. market for two key reasons. First, export markets for U.S. brands can reach into Poland and also into Czech, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, the Baltic states, Greece, Russia, and more. Poland’s annual birth rate alone is approximately 400,000, making it a great market for children’s products. Second, Polish manufacturers produce high-quality and innovative products that cannot be found anywhere else. Some exhibitors still sell exclusively to

A LOOK AT THE POLISH MARKET According to NPD data in Poland, the Polish market increased 10 percent from Sept. 2014 to Sept. 2015. The fastest growing categories of products in Poland were games and puzzles (up 26 percent), plush (up 20 percent) and arts & crafts (up 19 percent). The two largest categories also increased year-over-year, with the No. 1 category, building sets/construction, up 14 perecent, followed by the No. 2 category, infant and preschool, up 8 percent. The fourth quarter represents roughly 45 percent of sales in Poland. the Polish market, but they are looking to expand their exports, and expansion into North American markets is a key goal. Trade guests from more than 33 countries attended this expanding fair this year, including representation from the U.S. and Dubai. The number of exhibits has nearly doubled for three years in a row. There are also core established distributors, such as Marko and Dumel, who distribute products into Poland, and into other Central and Eastern European markets, expanding the depth and breadth of U.S. manufacturers into these regions. Next year, Targi Kielce, organizer of Kids Time, will hold a newly formulated conference program designed to inform Polish and Central and Eastern European manufacturers how to break into the North American marketplace. This program will offer more visibility for Polish and Central and Eastern European manufacturers, and offer U.S. and Canadian retailers new products with distinct points of difference for their consumers. » Reyne Rice is a trend hunter, toy industry analyst, consultant, and journalist with more than 30 years of experience in marketing, researching, and analyzing the toy industry, children’s and family technology, and the youth market. She has owned her own consultancy, Toy Trends, since 2003 and can be reached at

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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:

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, 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 • CHINA…We maintain a full time Hong Kong sourcing Office We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.


To place a classified ad, please contact Bill Reese 212-575-4510 x2322

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Battle Brawlers, from Kenner, are two monster-style warriors that stand 10 inches tall. Crackarm can deliver a crushing bear hug by pushing a button on his waist. Hammertail has articulated arms, wrists, and tail. When the button on his waist is pushed, he lowers his head and swings his tail forward to stun his enemies.

“For more than 75 years, buyers by the thousands have traveled to The » Toy Center on Fifth Avenue in New York, trusting this giant complex to offer and fulfill all their needs in the toy and related fields. In more than 400 beautifully decorated and modern showrooms, the quality products of more than 2,500 manufacturers continuously earn the privilege of presentation here.”

Parker Brothers introduces the Nerfuls figures, a group of 12 round, soft, bouncy, and colorful little creatures that consist of three separate pieces that can be taken apart and rearranged in a variety of ways. The Nerful characters include Buddy, Bitsy, Betty and Bart Ball, Scratch, Officer Bob, Fetch, and Captain Nerfuls.

The set contains a 45 caliber army pistol, three safety darts, three enemy targets, a safety knife with a sheath, a warning whistle, dog tags, a canteen, a compass, and a grenade.

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The 18-inch soft and huggable Punky Brewster, from Galoob, is dressed in her traditional jeans, sweatshirt, and vest. Punky even wears her “trademark” handkerchief tied above her knee and two different colored sneakers.







July 13-14, 2016 • Majesty Yacht, NYC


CONTACT: Jonathan Samet or Laurie Schacht Tel: 212-575-4510

Fall 2016