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LLAMA MIA:

HERE WE GO AGAIN

PLUSH, R/C, AND COLLECTIBLES: A DEEP DIVE INTO EACH CATEGORY IN 2019

ENTERTAINMENT EXPLOSION: TOP TOY LICENSING TRENDS THIS YEAR


march/april 2019

®

Volume 35, No. 2 — Published by Adventure Publishing Group

DEPARTMENTS 5

Editor’s Viewpoint

12 Industry Update

60 Raising the Bar

6

Toy Association Update

14 Sweet Suite 2019

62 Media Mashup

7

ASTRA’s Insights

15 Talkin’ Toys: Imperial Toy

64 WIT Stories

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Stat Shot

10 Talking Social Media

44 Talkin’ Toys: Odyssey Toys 58 Outside the Box

65 Industry Marketplace 66 Flashback: March/April 1999

features 16 It’s a Licensed World, We’re Just Living in It

From the field to the screen, licensed product rules this year with fresh toys inspired by every fandom, including sports, cinema, and beyond.

18 Llama Mia!

A Look at Some of Our Favorite Llama-Themed Products

20 There’s an App for That

A new generation of toy companion apps enters the market.

36 Taking Control

R/C manufacturers respond to the category’s continuing sales decline.

38 R/C Showcase

What’s New This Year in R/C and Vehicles

46 Bigger, Bolder, Newer, Older!

A new trend emerges as kids and collectors embrace the 5.5to 6-inch action figure scale and beefy stance of the 1980s.

48 Go Ahead, Play With Your Food The toy industry embraces foodie fun with a slew of new edible toys.

52 A Bigger, Better Reveal

Moving forward from the unboxing trend, collectibles have evolved to feature a bigger reveal that ultimately leads to greater play value.

53 Collectibles Showcase The Top Collectibles Dominating Toy Aisles in 2019

22 Plush Showcase

U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht President laurie@toybook.com Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® 307 7th Avenue, #1601, New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510 • Fax: (212) 575-4521

The Hottest Plush Hitting Store Shelves This Year

Rainbow Furry Pillow, from Iscream

On the Cover: Squishmallows, from Kellytoy

Jackie Breyer Group Publisher jackie@toybook.com Maddie Michalik Managing Editor maddie@toybook.com Marissa DiBartolo Senior Editor marissa@toybook.com Sierra McCleary-Harris Senior Editor sierra@toybook.com Ali Mierzejewski Senior Editor ali@toybook.com James Zahn Senior Editor james@toybook.com Jacqueline Cucco Associate Editor jc@toybook.com Madeleine Buckley Assistant Editor mbuckley@toybook.com Victoria Rosenthal Editorial Assistant victoria@toybook.com Miranda Siwak Editorial Assistant miranda@toybook.com Joe Ibraham Art Director joe@toybook.com Bill Reese Production Director bill@toybook.com Patrick Kennerly Account Executive patrick@toybook.com Lori Rubin Controller/Office Manager lrubin@adventurepub.com

The Toy Book Volume 35, No. 2 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bi-monthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2019 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 USA. 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: Toy Book, c/o Adventure Publishing Group, 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001 or e-mail bill@toybook.com. 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

FRESH TOY TRENDS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD by MADDIE MICHALIK, managing editor

ADVANCE TICKETS FOR MARVEL’S Avengers: Endgame came out earlier this morning as I was writing this column — and it quite literally broke the internet. For hours, passionate fans (including this editor) were refreshing pages that kept crashing on AMC, Fandango, and any other site they could use to try to score a ticket to one of the most-anticipated movie events of the year. This only speaks to the immense impact entertainment has on our culture today, and we’re seeing that loud and clear in the toy industry. Of course, entertainment licensing isn’t new, but with other expected blockbusters, such as Toy Story 4, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, UglyDolls, The Lion King, Sonic The Hedgehog, Frozen 2, Star Wars: Episode IX, and many more (I have a word count, people!), we’re seeing more of it in 2019 than in years past. And that just covers cinematic releases. We’re also seeing a boost in entertainment licensing in sports players and mascots — including esports — legacy brands, and the streaming generation. Naturally, the latter includes Ryan’s World, based on the child star Ryan who needs no introduction, and we’re seeing a lot more product inspired by the Ryan ToysReview YouTube channel. If you pay close attention, you’ll see a lot more of Ryan in this issue, including in our R/C and collectibles sections and other features in this book. Senior Editor James Zahn analyzes the top six trends in key categories to watch this year, encompassing all types of fandoms. Take a look on page 16! I’m also seeing some new and exciting trends this year, and we’ve given them comprehensive and insightful coverage throughout this issue. One of my personal favorites is the llama takeover. I’m officially calling it: Llamas have dethroned unicorns as the most popular animal in the toy industry — and I’m not mad about it. However, mythical creatures, unicorn hybrids, and animals wearing costumes are also hot this year. Check out some of the best llama-themed items we saw at Toy Fair New York on page 18. OK, you

caught us. We threw an alpaca in there. We don’t discriminate. Morticia Addams from The Addam’s Family TV series was an icon to kids everywhere when she encouraged her daughter Wednesday to play with her food. Now, the toy industry is embracing foodie fun with new edible toys and innovative kits for kids to create edible candy, drinks, and other goodies. Read more about it from Associate Editor Jackie Cucco on page 48. Most of these edible kits incorporate classic play patterns, a phrase we are hearing more than ever this year. However, most of these screen-free toys are accompanied by companion apps, two things that don’t necessarily sound like they mix. Learn how these two trends are coexisting, and how companies evolved the idea of a toy companion app on page 20, from Assistant Editor Madeleine Buckley. And speaking of classic play, beefy and heroic action figures are back! Take a quick journey through toy history on page 46

to see how action figures have evolved over the past few years — and why the 5.5- to 6-inch action figure scale of the ‘80s is back. We also take a deep dive into plush (page 22), R/C and vehicles (page 36), and collectibles (page 52), including commentary and product showcases for each category. Flip through the pages to see how these categories are performing this year and find out what hot toys will hit store shelves. I sincerely hope you enjoy this issue of the Toy Book, and I welcome any feedback and thoughts on our issue. Send over an email, or tweet at us @ToyBook. We’d love to hear from you! » Maddie Michalik is the managing editor of the Toy Book and senior editor at the Toy Insider and the Pop Insider. She reports on new products and toy industry trends, and has been featured on broadcast TV stations in the U.S. and Canada. Contact her at maddie@toybook.com.

toybook.com | MARCH/APRIL 2019 | THE TOY BOOK   5


TOY ASSOCIATION UPDATE

BECOME A TOY SAFETY WHIZ Everything You Need to Know About the New Toy Association Course by KRISTIN MORENCY GOLDMAN, senior communications specialist, The Toy Association THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF U.S. AND global requirements and tests in place to ensure the safety of toys, but navigating these laws, which are continually revised based on emerging products, trends, and technologies, can be challenging. That’s why The Toy Association created a unique, exclusive Safety Education Program, available at toyassociation.org. The program is led by industry experts from the Association who walk participants through the federal, state, and international product safety landscape; provide important details about compliance based on specific toy types; lend insight on how to keep track of standards as they evolve; and more. “The Toy Association team has been educating the industry on safety matters for many years, but this program is unique in that it’s accessible online 24/7 for participants to go through at their own pace and as their schedules allow,” says Ed Desmond, The Toy Association’s executive vice president of external affairs. One of the experts behind the course materials is Alan Kaufman, senior vice president of technical affairs at the Association and an industry veteran with nearly 40 years of experience in toy safety. As a global leader in his field, he participates in several international committees and working groups responsible for toy and juvenile product safety standards. Kaufman regularly fields inquiries from members who have questions about compliance with U.S. and international product safety laws, product testing, and more. “Toy professionals who participate in the course will find that it serves as an excellent roadmap to various lengthy technical documents,” Kaufman says. “The course content covers just about every topic we are frequently asked about regarding safety — and more. We lay out what companies need to know and where to turn to help ensure that their product types are in compliance with the most up-to-date laws and regulations.” The Toy Association’s Senior Vice Pres-

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ident of Standards and Regulatory Affairs Joan Lawrence’s portion of the online course covers ASTM F963, which includes dozens of provisions that apply to all sorts of toys sold in the U.S. Her experience and leadership spans a broad range of issues — from product safety and quality to corporate social responsibility initiatives. She chairs the ASTM International subcommittee on toy safety and the U.S. technical advisory group to the global technical committee on toy safety, and is known within the industry as the “Toy Safety Mom.” Year-round, Toy Association staff works with various government agencies, regulators, and consumer groups to align global standards and ultimately make it simpler for

“The course content covers just about every topic we are frequently asked about regarding safety — and more. We lay out what companies need to know and where to turn to help ensure that their product types are in compliance. ...” companies to enter new markets. “As we continue our efforts to align standards, it’s important for companies selling in foreign markets to understand that there are some differences in how toys are regulated elsewhere,” Lawrence says. To that end, the Safety Education Program dives into the requirements for toys used in Canada and the European Union, as well as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO standard), highlighting specifics on how to achieve compliance. Additional course presenters include The Toy Association’s Rebecca Mond, vice president of federal government affairs, and

THE TOY BOOK | MARCH/APRIL 2019 | toybook.com

Jennifer Gibbons, vice president of state government affairs. Mond works closely with members to help them understand and comply with existing and pending federal legislation and regulations. She also helps companies navigate issues related to importing and the federal agencies involved in toy importing and sales. Gibbons works on issues related to product safety, chemical regulation, and environmental sustainability at the U.S. state level, working to minimize potential conflicts of state rules while educating on the existing federal structure that ensures toy safety. Christian Wetterberg, senior director of product safety and compliance at The LEGO Group, rounds out the course with his insight into the international landscape. Wetterberg also chairs both the European and ISO technical committees on toy safety and is a recognized international expert in the area. The Safety Education Program consists of about six hours of curriculum presented in webinar format and is delivered via 11 modules. At the end of each module, participants must correctly answer questions on the content in order to move ahead. Participants who successfully complete the program receive certificates of completion from The Toy Association. As standards change, course materials will be updated. The Safety Education Program is a free resource offered to all Toy Association members. Non-members may access the program for a fee. Learn more by visiting the “Education” tab at toyassociation.org. » As The Toy Association’s senior communications specialist, Kristin Morency Goldman leads the development of content for the Association’s print and online communications. Her articles on toy trends, toy safety, and industry news can be found in trade and consumer publications around the world. She holds a master’s degree in media, culture, and communications from NYU.


ASTRA’S INSIGHTS

ASTRA MEMBERS GROW TO REACH NEW MARKETS ASTRA Introduces Three New Membership Categories by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association MEMBERS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AT THE core of everything we do at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). Elected members govern ASTRA, who shape the strategic plan to guide our decision-making and use of resources. Over time, we launched key initiatives in response to member needs for creative tools to grow their businesses. Many of these member-driven innovations — for example, the Best Toys for Kids awards and Neighborhood Toys Store Day — have become signature programs for ASTRA, along with professional certifications and expanded education offerings. Now, ASTRA is growing in another direction: through additional membership categories that reflect the ways the independent side of the toy industry is evolving. “Over the years, much of the innovation in the toy industry found its way to market through independent retailers and the manufacturers serving that channel,” ASTRA Member Relations Director Sue Warfield says. “We reviewed our membership structure with the idea that we want to attract creative new talent to ASTRA, and at the same time, retain a strong connection with our most experienced members who may be exiting the industry thanks to retirement or career changes.” As a result, three new membership categories round out the four long-standing, traditional categories of membership (retailer, sales representative, manufacturer, and affiliate): inventor, ambassador, and student. • Inventor: Much of the innovation that fuels excitement and buzz on the independent side of the toy industry starts with new products designed by inventors. “It’s a win-win to bring inventors into our fold,” Warfield says. “They do so much to keep the industry fresh and relevant, and at the same time, the retailers they meet often provide invaluable feedback on the products

they have in development.” The inventor category will include both seasoned pros who have already produced products and are looking to grow into new channels or license their product, and inventors who are new to the industry and are looking for guidance on how to bring their idea to the next stage. Membership is by application only. • Ambassador: If you were a long-term member but you’ve been out of the toy industry for at least six months, perhaps there is an Ambassadorship in your future! The Ambassador category is a way to maintain your membership as an individual so you can keep up with ASTRA and attend our events. “Members build so many relationships and gain so much valuable experience over many years of involvement with ASTRA,” Warfield says. “When they leave the toy industry, many members don’t want to lose us and certainly we don’t want to lose them. Now we have an affordable way for them to stay connected and involved at whatever level suits their interests.” Membership as an ASTRA Ambassador is by application only, and a maximum of ten ambassadors will be added annually. • Student: “For our industry to be healthy, we need to attract top talent and grow our talent pipeline,”Warfield says. “The next generation of retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives need a place to learn about the toy industry and the opportunities that are available to them in this fun and exciting world of toys.” There are many directions ASTRA can take in its work with this new category, such as possible internships, opportunities to work on committees, and participating in job fairs, just to name a few. The main point, Warfield says, is that ASTRA can offer a new look at career paths that may otherwise be unknown to many post highschool students.

ASTRA EXPANDS ITS REACH ASTRA’s new membership categories are another way that we are fulfilling the directives from our board of directors in the latest strategic plan. To advance the interests of our members and their businesses, the plan seeks reinforce the long-term viability of the industry through cultivating industry talent and expanding ASTRA’s reach into other markets that will grow the community. Watch for the details of each new membership category or contact Sue Warfield at swarfield@astratoy.org for more information. We are excited to bring these new memberships into our network and to continually improve our member services. It’s part of achieving our collective goal to change the world through the power of play within all the communities served by ASTRA members. » 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.

toybook.com | MARCH/APRIL 2019 | THE TOY BOOK

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PLUSH

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TALKING SOCIAL MEDIA

PARTNERING WITH THE RIGHT INFLUENCERS Six Simple Steps to Foster Meaningful Influencer Partnerships by JULIE LIVINGSTON, president, WantLeverage Communications AS A YOUTH MARKETER, YOU KNOW THE value of having your product featured in the media and endorsed by a celebrity or social influencer. Online content and social conversations can initiate that “gotta have it” buzz, skyrocket website and social platform traffic, and boost sales. In fact, a recent Association of National Advertisers (ANA) survey revealed that 75 percent of marketers use influencers as a marketing tool, with many planning to increase influencer spending by 43 percent over the next 12 months. ANTITHESIS OF ADVERTISING Influencer content has a dramatically different impact than advertising, where the imagery and message are controlled by the advertiser and can actually be a turnoff, especially to kids who can see through the facade. When kid consumers see that one of their favorite influencers endorses a product, it can have the same effect as celebrity fashion looks on a Hollywood red carpet. When looking for the right influencer partners, there are six things to consider: 1. The Right Fit To get a feel for the influencer landscape, there are online tools that can help identify the right talent. Influence.co helps you find and connect with influencers who want to work with brands. The vetting tool is free to use for up to 30 influencers per month. Look for those with at least a 4 percent engagement rate and a minimum 10,000 visitors per month. Another free influencer data reporting tool, Social Blade, will show you more analytics, including whether an influencer has a natural follower growth curve. Look at the number of followers while recognizing that the quantity is not the only measuring stick. Is this individual relevant to your product or entertainment property? If it’s a child, how will their age resonate with your target audience? Have they promoted similar

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products in the past, and if so, was that successful? How well do they use a combination of conversational and descriptive language that will invite someone to buy? 2. Regular Posting Schedule We always follow influencer candidates for a week or two to see them in action and experience their posts as a fan would. While it’s true that influencers who post regularly will have greater visibility, take note of whether or not people are consistently responding, commenting, and sharing their content. If so, that influencer is successful at maintaining momentum and creating loyalty. 3. Unique Personality and Authenticity Does the influencer have a unique quality? Does he or she come across as more authentic or scripted? Consumers can instantly see through forced or overly polished language, which can be a turnoff. Also, does the influencer do something special? For example, the 10-year-old crocheting star Jonah, of JonahHands, has 133,000 followers. Don’t pass up micro-influencers who have a smaller ratio of sponsored content; they tend to be construed as more genuine and credible, especially if they use personal stories and situations, as opposed to tradional product reviews, to bring a product alive. 4. Allow for Creativity We’ve found that our most successful influencer relationships were established when the client and influencer communicated openly and there was an allowance for creativity. If the influencer and her kids have fun with your product, they will want to use it uniquely and work with you again. Check out Claire Ryann who created a mermaid song around Fin Fun’s swimmable mermaid tails. While creativity in these situations is paramount, be clear about the deliverables and what tracking measures and Key

THE TOY BOOK | MARCH/APRIL 2019 | toybook.com

“Online content can initiate that ‘gotta have it’ buzz, skyrocket website and social platform traffic, and boost sales.” Performance Indicators an influencer can provide and deliver on before entering into an agreement. More followers doesn’t always mean better results. 5. Compensation There are a number of ways to work with influencers, and not all require deep pockets. If your product or entertainment property is coveted, try a barter arrangement. According to the ANA survey, 35 percent of companies work on barter, providing free product in exchange for influencer coverage. One of our clients has gotten fantastic content simply by sending free product to tweens in the product’s target age group to demonstrate. Be sure to specify what you expect from them in return. 6. Sponsored Content Rules If you’ve engaged a social influencer to work on behalf of your brand, make sure that they follow Federal Trade Commission guidelines for flagging their sponsored content with hashtags, such as #ad or #sponsored. Per FTC guidance, disclosures like #thanks, #collab, #sp, #spon, or #ambassador are insufficient. If they do not, this can make or break a campaign. » Julie Livingston is president of WantLeverage Communications, a NYC-based public relations and business development consultancy that specializes in consumer products, education/ed tech, and related industry associations. She spent six years leading marketing communications for The Toy Association. More information can be found at wantleverage.com.


INDUSTRY UPDATE

DISNEY•PIXAR’S TOY STORY 4 REVEALS NEW CHARACTERS INSPIRED BY TOY HISTORY

Toy Story 4 Poster

The return of Disney•Pixar’s Toy Story franchise is one of the biggest licensing events of the year. In March, the studio released the movie’s first official trailer and new character descriptions. The film embraces real toy history, with characters designed as a homage to the pull-string dolls of the ‘50s (Gabby Gabby), the Little People of the ‘80s (Giggle McDimples), and the ventriloquist dummies (Benson) of the vaudeville era. There’s even Duke Caboom, a ‘70s stuntman inspired by Ideal Toys’ Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. The catch is that Duke can’t achieve all of the fantastic stunts shown in his own toy commercial. Mattel is the master licensee for the toy line, with products set to debut ahead of the film’s release this June. »

MATTEL UNVEILS BTS DOLLS

Mattel officially unveiled its BTS dolls after announcing the collection at Hong Kong Toy Fair, previewing the dolls at Toy Fair New York, and teasing fans with an extensive social media campaign. The dolls include all seven members of the South Korean boy band: V, Suga, Jin, Jung Kook, RM, Jimin, and j-hope. The dolls’ design is based on the band’s appearance in the YouTube recordbreaking “IDOL” music video. The dolls are 11 inches tall with rooted hair and feature 11 points of articulation. Mattel will also release BTS collectible figures, dolls, games, and more with a

multi-category license with the band’s label, Big Hit Entertainment. »

NICKELODEON UNBOXES RYAN’S MYSTERY PLAYDATE

Nickelodeon will premiere its new preschool series, Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, on Friday, April 19 at 12:30 p.m. The live-action series, created and produced by pocket.watch, stars 7-year-old YouTuber Ryan of Ryan ToysReview. The show’s first season includes 20 episodes. Kids will follow Ryan, his parents, and animated friends, including Gus the Gummy Gator and Combo Panda, as they work together to tackle a series of imaginative, physical challenges and solve mystery box puzzles to reveal his play date’s identity. Following the premiere, a new episode of Ryan’s Mystery Playdate will debut on Saturday, April 20 at 12:30 p.m. The series then moves to its regular timeslot, Fridays at BTS Doll Collection

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THE TOY BOOK | MARCH/APRIL 2019 | toybook.com

12:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon. There will be additional, digital content for the series on NickJr.com and the Nick Jr. app, in addition to episodes available on demand. »

CHUCHU TV LOCKS BRANDGENUITY AS NORTH AMERICAN LICENSING AGENT

India’s ChuChu TV is the latest YouTube channel making the jump into licensing in the U.S., with Brandgenuity serving as its agent in North America. In collaboration with Dream Theatre, its global master licensing agency, ChuChu TV looks to harness its audience of more than 36 million subscribers for success in toys, publishing, and other product categories. The YouTube channel has captured more than 23 billion views with reinvented classic nursery rhymes and famous kids’ songs, such as “Wheels on the Bus” and “The Finger Family.” Since its launch in 2013, ChuChu TV has become one of the top YouTube Kids brands in the world. Catering to kids ages 2 to 8, it averages more than 500 million views per month across its family of chanSTAY CONNECTED!

@ToyBook


INDUSTRY UPDATE nels. The U.S. is one of its top three territories, accounting for more than 4 million subscribers and 3.5 billion views thus far. »

L.O.L. SURPRISE! GOES OTT WITH SUPERAWESOME, FUTURE TODAY

MGA Entertainment is bringing L.O.L. Surprise! to OTT channels worldwide. In partnership with kidtech platform SuperAwesome, YouTube content such as “L.O.L. Surprise! UNBOXED” will become available to more than 50 million additional homes around the world via Future Today Inc. The new L.O.L. Surprise! channel is available now on Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire, with more than 60 videos of original content from the original digital series “UNBOXED, L.O.L. Surprise! World,” “How Do You Unbox?,” and “EYE SPY Mini Series,” along with behind-the-scenes footage and bloopers. New videos will be uploaded to the channel every Thursday. »

SESAME STREET MUSICAL HEADED FOR THE BIG SCREEN IN 2021

Nearly 35 years after Follow That Bird hit theaters, the crew from Sesame Street is headed back to the big screen. Warner Bros. Pictures locked a Jan. 15, 2021, release date for Sesame Street as a live-action musical. The studio acquired the rights for a Sesame Street film back in 2015, initially picking up a project from Night at the Museum‘s Shawn Levy that had been in development at Fox. Last fall, Warner Bros. confirmed that the film was moving forward, with Anne Hathaway eyeing a starring role and Levy (now known for the Netflix hit Stranger Things) on board to produce. The Wrap reports that Portlandia co-creator Jonathan Krisel will direct the movie. Mike Rosolio handled first draft screenplay duties, with Chris Galletta penning the latest draft. The news comes in the midst of Sesame Workshop’s massive, yearlong celebration of Sesame Street’s 50th anniversary. »

RUBIE’S COSTUME CO. INTRODUCES CAPTAIN MARVEL COLLECTION

Rubie’s Costume Co. partnered with Marvel to produce officially licensed costumes, masks, and accessories inspired by Captain Marvel, the first female-led superhero movie in the Marvel cinematic universe. The collection is available now in both child and adult sizes and includes costumes for Captain Marvel, her Kree mentor Yon-Rogg, and the shapeshifting Skrull Nuro. »

Adult Captain Marvel Hero Suit, from Rubie’s Costume Co.


CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF SWEET SUITE The Best Way to Reach Influencers & Press

IT’S THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF SWEET SUITE, THE ULTIMATE TOY event connecting top digital influencers and press with the hottest toys coming to market! Taking place on Wednesday, July 24, Sweet Suite is the most effective way to get your hot new products in front of the most influential consumers and top-tier press in the country. Known as the Biggest Night of Play, the event returns to Pier Sixty in New York City. Sweet Suite will welcome more than 350 members of the press, YouTube creators, and digital influencers. They’ll connect with more than 80 toy brands face to face and get hands-on with the hottest toys and games of the season. Guests will enjoy delicious food and cocktails, all while getting a first look at new product reveals and making new industry connections. Last year at Sweet Suite, guests enjoyed one-on-one time with representatives from more than 80 of the hottest kids’ brands and properties on the market, including Wicked Cool Toys, VTech, LeapFrog, Nintendo, Jazwares, Just Play, Basic Fun!, Crayola, Dynacraft, Hasbro, PlayMonster, Mattel, HEXBUG, Jakks Pacific, LEGO, WowWee, Spin Master, Moose Toys, and many more. Enormous swag boxes will be shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgence in social media impressions and ensuring influencers and journalists have products on hand to review and share with their followers. The What’s Poppin’ Lounge, sponsored by the Pop Insider, also returns this year with a wide array of pop culture products from companies that #fuelyourfandom. Cosplayers and products featuring entertainment brands that fans love will fill the lounge with geeky goodness. Additionally, on Sept. 18, the Toy Book and Toy Insider team will host the seventh annual Holiday of Play event at Current in New York City. At this launch party, members of the media will be the first to see the Toy Insider’s Hot 20, Top Tech 12, and STEM 10 hot holiday toy picks, as well as meet with top manufacturers right before the holiday season. This one-of-a-kind cocktail party will welcome traditional press, top lifestyle bloggers, and YouTube personalities to engage with sponsors and experience the top holiday toys. Holiday of Play is a great place to show off new products and be a part of the first round of holiday shopping coverage. For more information about these events, contact Laurie Schacht (laurie@toybook.com) or Jackie Breyer (jackie@toybook.com). »

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TALKIN’ TOYS

IMPERIAL TOY CELEBRATES 50TH YEAR

The Toy Book chats with Peter Tiger, CEO of Imperial Toy, about the company’s big milestone and what’s next. Toy Book: Congratulations on Imperial Toy’s 50th anniversary this April! In what ways has the company evolved over the years? Peter Tiger: From the classic Teeny Bouncer high bounce balls to novelty toys and bubbles, Imperial Toy creates each product to spark imagination and appeals to kids of all ages. The company is founded on fun and continues to deliver with the promise to be first in fun. Today, we continue to create and innovate with best-in-class products for children everywhere. Our company strives

to deliver a portfolio of products and brands based on our core values that connect with children and families, and offer the highest standards in product. How do we evolve? We listen to the consumer and create exciting first-to-market trends that we integrate into our lines. This — along with innovations to our classic evergreen play patterns and toys — allows Imperial Toy to continuously make an impact. Currently, the biggest trend areas are tactile and sensory toys and compounds. We also are building on beauty, food, grossout, and prank items. TB: How have the outdoor and novelty categories changed over the past few years, and how has Imperial Toy kept up with those changes? PT: We are a market leader in the bubble and novelty category. We offer a good/better/ best model in bubbles with our Miracle Bubbles, Super Miracle Bubbles, and Blitz Bubbles premium bubble solutions. Also, our speed to market is a key strength in supporting the business. We have a key advantage with our worldwide facilities, including those in Mexico, Hong Kong, the U.S., the UK, Italy, and Canada.

Lick-A-Bubble Bubble Bar at CAMP in New York City

TB: How important is licensing to your overall product lines? PT: Licensing is a core part of Imperial Toy, making up close to 25 percent of sales last year. And, we continue to focus on both licensed products and the Imperial brand in the following categories: active play, outdoor, novelty, and bubbles. Top licensed lines include Lights & Sounds Bubble Wand, 6-ounce Bubbles, Figural Bubbles, Life Like, Bop Ball, Microphone, Wall Tumblers, and D-Lectables. Looking to 2019 through 2020, key licensed drivers are Toy Story, SpongeBob SquarePants, JoJo Siwa, Frozen

2, Batman, Paw Patrol, TMNT, Marvel, Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, and Muppet Babies. TB: What are your plans and goals for Imperial Toy moving forward? PT: We see the future of toys built on the values of the past. As families continue to focus on core values, including creativity, imagination, and active play, we see expanded opportunity and interest to build innovation and value for our products and categories. There is huge opportunity for Imperial to connect and engage within the novelty, bubble, seasonal, impulse, and outdoor space. Shrinking shelf space, tight production windows, and competitive pricing has been a challenge for the toy industry as a whole. The market continues to shrink as the world view expands, so this will continue. We are fortunate that Imperial is a global company with global access, which also becomes an advantage. Our goal is to continue to provide creative, quality, innovative, and cost efficient options to partners and the end consumer. TB: How is the Lick-A-Bubble activation at CAMP going, and do you plan to do more experiences like this one in the future? PT: Our activation and experience at CAMP allowed us to bring the Lick-A-Bubble experience to life. The Lick-A-Bubble Bar perfectly captures the magic of Lick-A-Bubble edible bubbles. We are thrilled to partner with CAMP on this experience, which allows families to come together, create, and play. The Lick-A-Bubble Bar truly offers guests a magical experience with bubble play and a picture perfect moment when you taste your first edible bubble. We believe in the power of social media, experiential spaces, and alternative channels of marketing, and believe this is just the beginning. »

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LICENSING EXPLOSION Despite a push toward original IP development, licensing is on the rise. by JAMES ZAHN, senior editor AS TOYMAKERS CONTINUE PUSHING toward the in-house development of original properties that can become evergreen staples with big profit potential, it’s impossible to ignore that we are living in a licensed world. The Toy Association dubbed it “Explosive Entertainment” when revealing this year’s top toy trends, noting that licensed properties represent around 30 percent of all toys sold in the U.S. Traditionally, properties from film and television have been the drivers, but we’ve turned the corner, and the road ahead is dotted with top licenses from every facet and fandom. We’ve identified six key trend categories to watch. THE CINEMATICS It’s a massive movie year, and that means equally massive consumer products launches at retail. While the prospect of creating tie-in products for the latest blockbuster is tantalizing, it’s also an area where caution and restraint are best suited. “Franchise fatigue” is an oft-touted buzz phrase that’s generally been proven false or irrelevant in terms of the box office. Marvel Studios is the shining example as it prepares to

open the 22nd entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with the release of Avengers: Endgame this month. While audiences will gladly line up for a quality film, there’s a real concern for overkill at retail, especially with accelerated release schedules that create shorter windows to move product. The same applies to the overlap between competing projects that are vying for eyeballs and wallets, not just at the box office, but in the toy department as well. The LEGO Movie 2, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and Captain Marvel have already made an impact at retail. Shazam!, UglyDolls, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Toy Story 4, Aladdin, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, The Secret Life of Pets 2, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Lion King, Dora the Explorer, The Angry Birds Movie 2, Spies in Disguise, The Addams Family, Sonic The Hedgehog, Frozen 2, Playmobil: The Movie, and Star Wars: Episode IX are just some of the other movies impacting the licensing front. One early disappointment was Paramount’s Wonder Park — a cautionary reminder that a $100 million budget and an

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A-list cast do not equal guaranteed success. The production was accompanied by a toy line from Funrise with endcap placement at Walmart. It opened to just $16 million at the box office, which was slightly more than expected. Still, there’s potential for Nickelodeon’s forthcoming animated series to turn Wonder Park into a winner down the line. THE STREAMING GENERATION The lines have been crossed, and it’s not just about YouTube anymore. Streaming is all about reaching an audience on every screen possible. That means traditional television; VOD; over-the-top (OTT) services such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV; and yes, YouTube, where new licensing opportunities continue to be born. Ryan, the child star from YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview, is impossible to avoid. The accomplishments of his family and the team at pocket.watch are numerous, including dozens of licensing partners and a new series coming to Nickelodeon — but he’s far from alone. The Toy Book broke the news that Blip Toys partnered with YouTube family Tic Tac Toy for a whimsical line of collectibles, plush,


and more. With a channel boasting more than 2.6 million subscribers, the family’s videos have more than 1.3 billion views on YouTube. The line will hit retail on Aug. 1. With other successes from the likes of Craft City by Karina Garcia and Guava Toys by Roi “Guava Juice” Fabito, and the cross-platform appeal of JoJo Siwa, potential licensees are searching for new partnerships to harvest from the digital fields. From the traditional TV side, properties such as PJ Masks and Peppa Pig continue to perform, but even they have competition from digital-first brands. Little Tikes, which traditionally stays away from inbound licensing deals, recently signed on to produce toys based on the YouTube hit Little Baby Bum. And who can forget Pinkfong’s Baby Shark? THE ESPORTS STARS & GAMING GODS Last month, Electronic Arts unveiled plans to build its own esports video production and broadcast studio, complete with two sets — one competitive, one casual. Blizzard has its own arena and will soon take Overwatch League on the road. The appetite for professional gaming from an audience standpoint is growing, with star gamers building personal brands by forging connections with a highly engaged following. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins currently leads the pack as the top Twitch streamer, racking up consistently record-breaking views while playing Epic Games’ Fortnite. Wicked Cool Toys went all in with Ninja, locking the streamer for plush, app-enhanced figures and more — pretty much everything except for blasters. ZURU stepped in for the latter, launching a Ninja-branded X-Shot line. There are Overwatch action figures and NERF blasters from Hasbro, while Fortnite is on everything, with licensees including NERF, Jazwares, Moose Toys, and McFarlane Toys. Evergreen characters and properties, including Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter, and Tetris, continue to do big business alongside newschool counterparts. THE PLAYERS (AND MASCOTS) Traditional sports licensing has been stale in recent years, but this year shows freshness, starting with Major League Baseball (MLB). SuperSports by Super7 is the most notable line to spawn from new MLB licensing deals,

and the fun is going beyond the players. Mascots are on fire, and they’re popping up everywhere. Super7 has action figures and Super-Buckets, while Funko is releasing mascots in its signature Pop! Vinyl format. And it’s not just mascots from MLB getting in on the action. Uncanny Brands has plush figures of team mascots from across the NBA and NHL appearing in its Bleacher Creatures collection, including the hottest mascot right now: The Philadelphia Flyers’ Gritty. Motorsports are also hot, with a NASCAR line on the way from Far Out Toys and vinyl figures of famous drivers coming from Funko. Feld Entertainment Inc. just kicked off a 10-year partnership with Spin Master for an all-new range of Monster Jam toys, while Bigfoot — the original monster truck manufacturer — returns to toy aisles thanks to deals with Mattel, Greenlight Collectibles, and New Bright. THE LEGACIES Warner Bros. Consumer Products’ global rollout for Batman’s 80th anniversary and continued expansion for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are two prime examples of legacy brands poised to do big business across hundreds of licensees. Comic book heroes and retro interests are hitting the right notes for kids and adults alike. Basic Fun!, which already has a range of retro products from Fisher-Price to Lite Brite, will relaunch Texas Instruments’ Speak ‘n Spell. Meanwhile, Super Impulse continues to bring more licenses into its line of World’s Smallest and World’s Coolest collectibles. These days, classic brands are popping up everywhere we look.

nizes properties that have spread themselves across toys, entertainment, and consumer products, featured seven nominees — only three of which began purely as toys. Alongside L.O.L., Spin Master’s Hatchimals and Mattel’s Hot Wheels completed the top three. The other nominees were all existing entertainment brands. Those three original properties are the benchmark that everyone is shooting for: toy lines that become the center of their own world and fandom, attracting other companies eager to get a piece of the action. On its own, L.O.L. has more than 270 licensing partners. Hasbro even partnered with MGA for a Monopoly game featuring the popular dolls. Hot Wheels, now in its 51st year, has become a lifestyle brand, extending beyond die-cast cars and into real-life automotive products and car care goods. Hatchimals, which has slowed in the past year, still boasts more than 30 licensees, though Spin Master continues to do well with its refreshed Paw Patrol offerings and the new Abby Hatcher. Funko put it best when it adopted “everyone is a fan of something” as its mantra. There’s a lot of opportunity to reach kids and adults of every age and interest, and with the amount of quality licenses out there, this should prove to be one of the most competitive years in ages. » Philadelphia Flyers’ Gritty, from Uncanny Brands

Ninja 5-inch Collectible, from Lamo

THE OUTBOUNDERS MGA Entertainment’s L.O.L. Surprise! took home “License of the Year” at this year’s Toy of the Year Awards. The category, which recog-

toybook.com | MARCH/APRIL 2019 | THE TOY BOOK

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LLAMA

MIA!

Lions and tigers and llamas, oh my! Some might call it a trend, others might call it a takeover. Whichever way you slice it, there’s no denying that llamainspired products are all the rage. Here’s a look at some of our favorites.

LINKIMALS LIGHTS & COLORS LLAMA FISHER-PRICE The Fisher-Price Linkimals Lights & Colors Llama teaches babies ages 9 months and up about colors as they grasp and stack three colorful, translucent rings along the llama’s neck. The wobbly base teeters back and forth for fun play, and lights and sounds add to the experience.

RAINBOW SPARKLES LLAMACORN GUND GUND’s Rainbow Sparkles Llamacorn is a soft and textured blush pink plush animal that is as magical as it sounds. The 15.5-inch plush creature features sparkly rainbow hooves, a twisted horn, flexible wings, and a fluffy tail. The surface is machine washable for easy cleaning.

H20GO! POP LLAMA BESTWAY Bestway’s H20GO! POP Llama is a super-sized float that’s ideal for pool time. The puncture-resistant vinyl features a colorful design and includes three separate air chambers. Kids can grip it with ease thanks to two rubberized hand grips on the llama’s neck.

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LLAMA LOVE ULTIMATE BAKING PARTY SET

WHO’S YOUR LLAMA

HANDSTAND KITCHEN

JAKKS PACIFIC

The Llama Love Ultimate Baking Party Set includes two large llama and cactus cookie cutters and a llama-shaped silicone mold for kids to bake llama-shaped treats. The kit also includes recipes for Llama Party Cake, Llama-rama Frosting, and more.

HACKIN’ PACKIN’ ALPACA MATTEL

Who’s Your Llama is a line of collectible llamas with unique personalities and articulated legs. Each collectible figure comes dressed in a soft, molded outfit and a headpiece, and includes one of four interactive features: winking, spitting, grinning, or sticking its tongue out. Kids can collect all 12 llamas in Series 2, which comes packaged in blind bags. The Who’s Your Llama line also includes Who’s Your Llama Mini Collectibles Series 1 and Who’s Your Llama Plush Series 1, available this spring.

Technically, this is an alpaca. Despite this fact, we don’t discriminate. Mattel’s Hackin’ Packin’ Alpaca game challenges kids ages 5 and up to stack pieces of cargo on Al the Alpaca’s back. If players fail to stack a piece before the time runs out, Al will spit water at them. The first player to stack all of their pieces wins.

I LOVE LLAMAS ANN WILLIAMS GROUP New to Ann Williams Group’s Craft-tastic line, the I Love Llamas craft kit includes 160 pieces for kids to fuel their llama obsession with engaging activities. With this set, kids ages 7 and up can create their own pom-pom bracelets, stuffed llamas, headbands, charms, and more with six separate llama-themed craft projects.

BOPPI, “THE BOOTY SHAKING” LLAMA ZURU ZURU’s Boppi, “The Booty Shaking” Llama is the newest addition to its robotic Pets Alive line. It features unique twerking and head-spinning dance moves and grooves to three different songs.

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APP

THERE’S AN

FOR THAT

A new generation of toy companion apps enters the market. by MADELEINE BUCKLEY, assistant editor ON FIRST LOOK, IT SEEMS THE TOY industry has stumbled upon two dueling trends: at the same time that “screen-free play” and “classic play” are becoming industry buzzwords, dozens of companies are releasing companion apps for their toys. It sounds paradoxical that these two trends could coexist and thrive at once, but the two ideas may not be quite as separate as they seem. David Kleeman, senior vice president of global trends at kids research and development agency Dubit, says the entire concept of “screen time” is somewhat flawed from the start. When looking at kids’ interaction with technology, time isn’t necessarily the best indicator. He says there are some screen-based behaviors with which parents are happy, which is key.

A few years back, when we saw toys utilizing apps for the first time, the apps’ role was a bit different. As Kleeman describes it, the early generation of toy-screen combinations put the screen between the child and the toy. Forcing kids to use the screen to control the toy physically disrupted kids’ natural play patterns. Now, many of the new companion apps perform a different function. “We’ve now seen an evolution where more often the child is playing with the toy…” he says. “[The screen] either extends the story, or it acts as a score keeper, or in some way it contributes to play without becoming the play itself.” This is an important distinction for a few reasons. To start, it means most of these toys can stand alone without the app. Andrew Yanofsky, Untamed brand manager at Wow-

LEGO Hidden Side

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Wee, says that is an incredibly important factor when developing a toy with a companion app. This year, WowWee will launch Untamed Mad Lab Minis, miniature hybrid creatures kids can collect in real life, then scan into the free Mad Labs augmented reality (AR) app. “When we market and sell these toys, we’re selling toys first, period,” he says. “Our first inclination is, ‘Does this toy have merit on its own two feet with the price/value relationship that we’re offering? Is it worth the purchase?’ We don’t want to rely on the app as part of the purchase decision, but we do want to use the app as a brand enhancer, as a marketing tool, and as a way to get kids to come back to us.” This idea of getting kids to “come back” is another key component in the new generation of companion apps. Done right, an app has the added capability of extending a toy’s play value. For example, Yanofsky says, the novelty of a toy line like Untamed — another WowWee product with an AR companion app — eventually wears off. “[Kids are] going to play with that dinosaur, they’re going to have a good time with it, and they’ll put it back in the toy box,” he says. However, companies can draw kids back to both the toy and the brand by adding new content or features to the app. Making the technological component of the toy — in this case, the app — a separate entity also allows companies to sell these toys at a fairly low price point. The Mad Labs figures, for example, cost $5 at retail while Untamed cost $15. Robin Raskin, founder of Living in Digital Times, says this is evidence of the industry realizing that most parents can’t afford tech


toys at three-figure price points. The companion apps give kids the tech component they enjoy without breaking the bank. “It’s just a lot less expensive to put a ton of technology in your app than to put it in the toy,” she says. “And so, in a way, you’re getting a toy that constantly refreshes itself. So hopefully it lasts longer as a plaything and just doesn’t sit on the shelf.” AR is a common factor in many of the new companion apps for that reason. As Kleeman explains, nearly everyone carries around an AR-capable device in their pocket. One example of successful AR integration, according to Raskin, is LEGO’s Hidden Side sets. The line, which will be available this summer, includes eight “haunted” building sets. As with any other LEGO product, kids physically assemble the set, but a companion app can overlay a variety of AR challenges and games on the set. With the Hidden Side sets, kids physically manipulate the real-world product to solve mysteries, uncover items, and battle ghosts on the app. “LEGO Hidden Side is one of the first play experiences where the physical world influences the AR experience, instead of the other way around ...” says Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations for the Americas at LEGO. “Because kids must keep one hand in the physical world at all times, the focus remains on the play set rather than solely on the screen.” Again, this shows a shift toward incorporating classic play patterns into companion apps, rather than hindering them. With so many toys offering companion apps, companies have to make theirs stand out. Raskin says kids will choose a few favorite apps to use regularly. “As adults, we keep I don’t know how many apps on our phone,

Mad Lab Minis figures

Spin Master’s Hatchtopia Life app

but we probably use no more than seven of them regularly,” she says. “And I think kids will sort of have the same pattern — you’re going to have one or two favorites that you actually will spend the time engaging with the app, or the world, or the adventures. And some of the others you won’t touch.” So what can companies to do be one of these chosen few? Kleeman says they must think beyond the first use and ahead to the tenth, making sure there is enough to do in the app to keep kids coming back. He says companies can do this by “putting creativity in the hands of the child,” and by evolving over time. One upcoming toy-app combo Raskin believes gets this right is Spin Master’s Hatchtopia Life. Kids can collect and hatch the Hatchtopia Life plush in real life, but each plush includes a code kids can enter to unlock four surprises within the Hatchtopia Life app, which launches in June. One of these surprises is a virtual Hatchimal to hatch, different than the real-life Hatchimal. Within the app, kids can customize their personal Hatchtopias and Hatchimals, message friends, and more. This app may not incorporate AR, but it offers a sense of community and the crucial element of creativity. Kate Frostad, Hatchimals franchise director at Spin Master, says the company decided to create the Hatchtopia Life app for a few reasons. First,

the brand saw success with its CollEGGtibles app, which has gathered more than 4.2 million downloads and more than 350 million minutes of play since launching two years ago. That app is more of a collector’s app with mini-games, while Hatchtopia Life builds on the lore Spin Master had already created for the Hatchimals brand. “Personally, I think the worst mistake you can make is building an app just for the sake of building an app,” Frostad says. “It needs to make sense for the toy, for the user, and ultimately for your brand. Having said that, I think that the beauty of the Hatchtopia Life app is that it’s more than just an app. It’s part world building, part commmunity, part entertainment. And the best of it is that it’s your world your way.” Despite the positive aspects of these apps for both consumers and the industry, some issues — primarily privacy and safety concerns — remain around kids’ app usage. However, both Kleeman and Raskin believe companion apps are here to stay, as parents find a balance between screen time and classic play. “In a way, it does speak to how kids play,” Raskin says. “There are times they’re going to want to be online and there are times that they’re not and this done well gives them reasons to do both at the right time.” »

Madeleine Buckley is an assistant editor at Adventure Publishing Group, where she contributes to the Pop Insider, the Toy Insider, and the Toy Book. She enjoys covering the latest news and trends the toy industry and pop culture.

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WELCOME TO THE

Plush gets creative with blind bags, apps, interactive features, and minis. by JACQUELINE CUCCO, associate editor THE PLUSH CATEGORY USED TO BE

comprised of teddy bears that kids cuddled with at night, and that’s about it. Plush has come a long way since then: Now they talk, they sing, they dance, and they double as key chains, room decor, and even collectibles for kids to proudly display. Some come in blind bags and others have their own companion apps. They leak into all different categories and go way beyond the typical teddy bears of the past. Animals in costumes, interactive pets, and, of course, llamas are everywhere this year. Unicorns are still huge, but companies are getting more creative with unicorn hybrids, combining the mythical creature with other animals to create new breeds such as caticorns and llamacorns. Puppets are becoming more popular, growing $1.8 million in the 12 months ending this January, according to The NPD Group.

Folkmanis has several new puppets this year, including a realistic labradoodle, a robot, and a shark, and Steiff has a new Starry Sea Star puppet. The Puppet Co. launches new additions to Animal Puppet Buddies and introduces the Story Tellers collection. Spin Master’s Hatchimals is the No. 1 property in plush, and the brand is expanding with Hatchtopia Life, a line of squishy, beanie plush characters that come inside Spin Master’s patented crackable eggs. Kids can download the accompanying Hatchtopia Life app to play games, decorate a hatchy home, complete quests, and more. Several companies are creating miniature versions of their popular lines, such as Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co.’s Micro Squeezamals, a tinier take on the slow-rising Squeezamals. The second wave of Skyrocket’s Pomsie Poos are launching this fall as pocket-sized Pomsies plush without the electronics but with the

same wraparound tails. Basic Fun!’s Cutetitos Babitos are a smaller version of Cutetitos, the plush animal characters that come hidden in burrito blankets, but these characters also come with a gender-reveal diaper for an added surprise. As trends come and go, the plush category keeps getting more and more creative to include everything that’s hot in the toy industry right now. »

Jacqueline Cucco is an associate editor at Adventure Publishing Group. She writes for the Toy Book, the Toy Insider, and the Pop Insider, and is in charge of all things Instagram. When she’s not watching slime videos, you can find her playing paparazzi for her pet bunny Peepers (@ thebigpeep on Instagram).

Folkmanis Labradoodle

Micro Squeezamals, from BEVERLY HILLS TEDDY BEAR CO.,, are miniature versions of the brand’s regular Squeezamals. Each character is squishy, soft, and slow-rising. They are sold in packs of three in which two characters are showing and one character is hidden for a surprise reveal. Each character is sweetly scented.

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FOLKMANIS launches a labradoodle, a robot, and a mini shark puppet this spring, all designed for kids ages 3 and up. The Folkmanis Labradoodle puppet is 20 inches long, and kids can animate its mouth and head. The Folkmanis Robot puppet is a 16-inch, vintage-looking automaton with a movable mouth, arms, and digits. The Folkmanis Shark finger puppet is 8 inches long.


SQUISHABLE launches the blind box debut of Sparkles the Narwhal, a 2.5-inch plush keychain that is individually wrapped and packaged. In Series 1, Sparkles the Narwhal tries out eating, wearing, and even being some of his favorite snacks. The plush is designed for kids ages 3 and up. Squishable expands its line of Undercover Squishables. The 7-inchtall plush animals have four different bases (corgi, kitty, bunny, and panda) and fully removable, swappable outfits. There are additional disguises sold separately. Undercover Squishables are designed for kids ages 3 and up.

Undercover Squishables

PILLOW PETS adds Secret Life of Pets Pillow Pets to its collection, featuring Max, Duke, Snowball, and Gidget from the movie. The plush transforms from a character into a pillow sleep buddy.

MOOSE TOYS expands Scruff-a-Luvs with ScruffBunnies. They arrive as a sad ball of a-Luvs Blossom Bunnies matted fur, but kids can bathe them, dry them, and brush them to reveal what’s underneath. Blossom Bunnies are available in green, pink, or yellow, but the color remains a mystery until kids open the package. Each Scruff-a-Luv Blossom Bunny includes a brush for grooming, a flower crown, and an adoption certificate.

WICKED COOL TOYS adds the 10-inch Pokémon Detective Pikachu Movie Feature Plush to its Pokémon collection. The plush features two voice modes: Detective Pikachu and Pikachu. Kids can press its chest when they want to hear Detective Pikachu speak, and press it again when they only want to hear Pikachu’s voice. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the plush figure also features more than 14 responses, motorized ears, and a detective hat.

BASIC FUN! launches Cutetitos Babitos this fall. Babitos are 3-inch plush animal characters — including a Giraffito, Owlito, Chipmunkito, and more — with hot spot personalities that come hidden in a burrito blanket. Each of the 12 different Babitos characters also comes with a gender-reveal diaper. Pound Puppies are authentic reproductions that look and feel like the originals, available this fall. There are a variety of puppies with different facial and eye expressions, ear lengths, and fur colors in an updated soft material. Each comes in a pet carrier-shaped package and includes a tag, a care sheet, and official adoption papers. Each line is designed for kids ages 3 and up.

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YOTTOY’s Paddington Stacking Toy features a gingham-printed base tower and three different sized rings for babies to stack and build. The Pigeon Jack-in-the-Bus is a musical toy featuring a tin bus and a 5-inch plush Pigeon, made to celebrate The Pigeon’s 16th birthday. Kids can turn the crank to hear “The Wheels on the Bus” play, and when the tune ends, a 5-inch plush Pigeon will pop out of the bus. Both toys are designed for babies ages 6 months and up.

Paddington Stacking Toy

ISCREAM introduces the Unicorn Furry Neck Pillow, featuring a horn and rainbow glitter detailing, and the Rainbow Furry Neck Pillow, a rainbow-shaped pillow. Both are designed for kids ages 5 and up and feature snap closures. Iscream’s UFO Embroidered Scented Pillow and Space Shuttle Embroidered Scented Pillow are bubble gum scented, feature bright colors and metallic accents, and are made for kids ages 5 and up.

JAZWARES launches MeBears as part of its Russ Berrie family of brands. MeBears was created by 11- and 12-year-old sisters Sage and Carmin. Each MeBears measures 5.5 inches tall and is made from a soft velboa material. The MeBears all have their own distinct personalities, talents, and passions to celebrate uniqueness. There are four styles of bears launching under the Fantasy Kingdom series, with more styles to come in the next series, Food Court. Jazwares adds to its Feisty Pets line with two 10-inch plush pets, Toby Toejam and Treacherous Travis, that turn from happy to feisty when kids squeeze them.

Feisty Pets Treacherous Travis

UFO Embroidered Scented Pillow

Disney Dumbo Fluttering Ears Dumbo

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The Disney Junior Minnie’s Walk & Dance Unicorn Feature Plush, from JUST PLAY, PLAY is inspired by the Disney Junior series Minnie’s Bow-Toons. Minnie Mouse is dressed in a rainbow outfit and plays music from the show, including the song “Giddy Up Penelope.” Kids can press Minnie’s hand to see Penelope, Minnie’s unicorn friend from the show, dance, or they can attach Minnie’s hand to Penelope to watch the friends walk together. The feature plush will be available in the fall and is designed for kids ages 3 and up. The Disney Dumbo Fluttering Ears Dumbo is a 13-inch-tall plush animal based on Disney’s latest live-action film, Dumbo. When kids ages 3 and up press Dumbo’s foot, his ears flap up and down and he plays elephant sounds. Dumbo is made with soft fabrics and embroidered detailing.

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AQI introduces its San-X authorized and licensed Rilakkuma plush, based on the new Netflix show Rilakkuma and Koaru. Koaru. The Rilakkuma Space Plush is 15 inches tall and features Rilakkuma wearing an astronaut outfit. The Rilakkuma Tiger Eating Fish is 13 inches tall and features Rilakkuma dressed Rilakkuma Space Plush as a tiger. AQI adds to its Amuse collection with the Amuse Yellow Alpaca, a 13.5-inch smiling alpaca with a polka dot ribbon, and the Amuse Grey Sloth, a 20-inch fluffy sloth with soft, long arms. All items are recommended for kids ages 3 and up.

AURORA launches YooHoo Sacks, tiny versions of the characters from the Netflix show. YooHoo is an Aurora World original brand created to bring awareness to rare and endangered animals, as well as the conservation of their habitats and the natural world. Kids can juggle, stack, and collect YooHoo Sacks. Sequin Sparkles, from the Sea Sparkles line, feature mylar hair that kids can comb. They also have sequin tails with scales that can flip to show different colors. They are designed for kids ages 3 and up.

KELLYTOY’s Squishmallows Hug Mees KELLYTOY feature a new 3D look with hands, feet, or paws. There are eight super-soft Squishmallows Hug Mees, including two unicorns, two foxes, an alpaca, a blue bear, a sloth, and a raccoon, all available in four sizes: small (10 inches), medium (14 inches), large (18 inches), and jumbo (20 inches). Each Squishmallow character’s backstory is detailed on its tag.

SPIN MASTER introduces Hatchtopia Life, a new line of Hatchimals collector plush featuring squishy heads and beanie bodies. There are more than 15 characters for kids to collect, and each little plushy comes inside Spin Master’s patented crackable egg. Kids can rub the heart to make it change colors, then press it down to make it hatch. Each egg contains an exclusive code that unlocks surprises in the Hatchtopia Life app. In the app, kids can play games to earn Hatchy Coins, hatch eggs, decorate inside and out, complete quests, and connect with friends. Eggs will contain a second code for kids to share with friends as a bonus for series one. Kids can use the code to access bonus rewards, send each other preapproved messages, and visit each other’s Hatchtopias. There are 17 characters to hatch in the first series this summer, with three more series coming this fall, including glitter plush, scented, and more. The Hatchtopia Life line is designed for kids ages 5 and up. Spin Master also introduces Squeeze and Roar Toothless, a soft dragon plush based on the How to Train Your Dragon movies, coming this fall. Kids ages 4 and up can squeeze his belly to make him transform from happy to fierce. His facial expression changes, his ears move back, and he reveals his teeth. He also makes roaring sound effects. When kids let go of his belly, he returns to a cuddly dragon buddy. Hatchtopia Life

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Baby GUND Sleepy Seas Sound & Lights Whale

GUND introduces the Baby GUND Animated PeekA-Boo Bear, Bear an 11.5-inch teddy bear featuring a moveable mouth and arms that move up and down during play. At the push of a button, the bear recites one of six different phrases and hides behind the blanket before popping back out for an interactive game of peek-a-boo. The Baby GUND Sleepy Seas Sound & Lights Whale is a plush whale that helps sooth babies to sleep with relaxing sounds and soft, glowing lights. There is a music icon that releases 20 minutes of continuous soothing sounds when pressed. Parents or kids can press the spiral icon to shuffle through five options of calming whale sounds, soothing ocean, gentle bubbles, white noises with waves, and “Brahm’s Lullaby.” Circles of light glow from within the whale’s cheeks to create a soothing ambiance.

NSI INTERNATIONAL adds to its Fuzzy Wubble line with new characters. Fuzzy Wubbles are plush animals stuffed with Wubble Bubble Balls. They are available in 10 characters, including the newest additions: Spike the shark, Lola the German Shepherd, Squiddly the octopus, and Rocky the T. rex. Fuzzy Wubble Babies are mini Fuzzy Wubbles that kids can bounce, toss, catch, snuggle, and collect. These 4- to 4.5-inch minis are premiering with Twinkles the unicorn, Pal the puppy, Penny the piglet, and Cuddles the Kitten. They are recommended for kids ages 4 and up. Fuzzy Wubbles

YUME expands its DZNR series with a specialty line of chibis to celebrate Batman’s 80th anniversary. The DZNR Batman Series features five designs that will be available this August: Modern Age, based on the artwork of comic-book artist Jim Lee; Symbols, featuring the various transitions the Batman emblem has taken over the years; Logos, featuring all the different logos spanning Batman’s entire comic book history; Camo, created using subtle Batman designs and symbols; and the classic Dark Knight. A special, limited-edition Blackout Batman will also be released in September. Each design will be available in two sizes: 7 inches and 10 inches. The DZNR Batman Series is designed for kids ages 13 and up. DZNR Batman Series Logos

Shimmer Stars, from KD KIDS,, are plush animals that kids can decorate with the included Shimmerizer Wand. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the Shimmerizer stores more than 200 shimmers in different shapes and colors. To use it, kids place a shimmer on the star, use the Shimmerizer to pick it up, and press the button to add shimmer to the plush animal’s fur or to their own hair. Shimmer Stars feature three wear-and-share fashion accessories so kids can match their plush pets. Shimmer Stars will be available this fall in unicorn, panda, cat, and dog versions. KD Kids expands its Rescue Runts line with Rescue Runts Babies, Babies, 4-inch plush pets that arrive in plastic crates. Kids ages 3 and up can pick out their fleas, brush their messy fur, and tie a ribbon collar to transform them into loved pets. The crate also features interlocking walls and can transform into a bed, a cubby, a carrier, or a house for the Rescue Runt Baby. There are more than 20 pets to collect, including cats, dogs, wild animals, and mythical creatures.

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Shimmer Stars


Starlight Musical Unicorn, Unicorn from DOUGLAS TOYS, TOYS, is a 15-inch musical plush with a music box and projectable, long-life LED lighting inside. The light and sound activation buttons are built into the plush on the front paws, and it has an indepenJaxton the Dog dent on/off light and Rainbow Fuzzle sound switch. Once turned on, the animal projects a calming moon-and-stars pattern on the ceiling. The plush plays multiple soothing lullabies on repeat, and automatically shuts off after five minutes. It is designed for all ages. Jaxton the Dog Rainbow Fuzzle resembles a classic sheep dog, with long, crinkled, pastel rainbow fur. The plush is 19 inches long and features a shiny, black nose and lavender eyes. Fuzzles are ultra-floppy, ultra-soft, and designed for kids ages 3 and up.

Starry Sea Star

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Jimmy the Teddy Bear Bear, from STEIFF, features a contemporary design and ultra-soft fabric. The teddy bear is designed for creative play, comfort, and companionship for all ages, and is available in three sizes: 8 inches, 12 inches, and 16 inches. Star, an 11-inch soft Starry Sea Star puppet for all ages, features a coral-colored body decorated with pink spots, some of which have embroidered edges. Her eyes and smiling mouth are stitched in black thread. Starry’s face and arms are made of short-pile plush; the reverse side is sewn from a longer, pile fabric. Beanbags are hidden inside the ends of the starfish’s two lowermost legs for weight and stability.

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Wonder Park FUNRISE launches a line of Clip-On Plush products based on the movie Wonder Park. The Wonder Park Clip-On Plush Assortment features Wonder Chimps, the official souvenir of Wonderland. They are soft and smell like cotton candy, just like in the movie. The Wonder Park Scented Wonder Chimp Plush Assortment features big, soft, cotton candy-scented Wonder Chimps plush monkeys that are available in four styles: Bunny, Princess, Flower, and Bee. Both of these products are designed for kids ages 3 and up. Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Fabulous Felicity Plush is a 14-inch plush toy with a vibrant rainbow coat and a soft tail, based on the Nickelodeon show Rainbow ButKitty. terfly Unicorn Kitty

ANIMOODLES introduces the Animoodles Storytale Forest Collection, Collection, the second collection in the Animoodles line. There are six new magnetic, buildable stuffed animal characters, including Jada Panda, Odin Dragon, Sammy Fox, Rosie Deer, Hannah Owl, and Sweetie Bee. Each Animoodles animal is made of six detachable plush parts with magnets hidden inside for kids to attach different parts to other Animoodles. Kids can also mix and match them to create animal hybrids, or stick Animoodles onto refrigerators and lockers. When fully composed, each plush stands 7.5 inches tall. Animoodles are designed for kids ages 3 and up.


PLUSH The Lights & Stripes Zebra Zebra, VTECH, features bold from VTECH black-and-white stripes, colorful patterned fabric, and a variety of textures to enhance tactile awareness. The zebra’s tummy plays endearing phrases and introduces colors through upbeat songs while it glows in five different colors. The plush has a washable surface with removable electronics.

HABA USA introduces Snug-Up Doll Edda, Snug-Up Doll Dorothea, and Snug-Up Doll Roya.. They have soft bodies to keep kids company throughout infancy and early childhood. Doll Coco has an embroidered face with rose cheeks, dark brown eyes, and freckles. Her brown hair is pulled back in a floral headband, and she is dressed in a greenand-pink, floral dress. She has removable clothes and a beanbag bottom so she can sit on her own. All soft dolls are designed for babies ages 18 months and up.

Snug-Up Doll Edda

THE PUPPET CO. expands Animal Puppet Buddies with the addition of a unicorn, a T. rex, a sloth, a red dragon, and a green dragon. There are more than 30 animals in the collection overall. The puppets are made from soft fabrics and are suitable for babies and kids ages 1 and up. The Puppet Co. launches the Story Tellers collection, which includes a princess, a prince, a king, a queen, a fairy, and two superhero characters. Story Tellers

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Rainbow Fluffies

The Butterfly Counting Pal, Pal, from LEAPFROG,, is a plush learning toy with five colorful number buttons that play a variety of songs to teach kids colors and numbers. The butterfly’s light-up wing shows the colors of the rainbow and helps babies fall asleep with soft, classical melodies. Each segment of this onthe-go toy features a dangling toy that rattles, squeaks, turns, or crinkles to help develop fine motor skills. The butterfly includes straps to secure it to infant carriers and strollers.

SKYROCKET expands Pomsies with new characters, sounds, and features in Wave 4, available this summer. These wearable pom-pom companions are designed for kids ages 3 and up and feature two modes of play: Virtual Pet Mode and Freeze Dance Mode. Pomsies’ eyes light up in different colors to indicate when they are feeling happy, sleepy, or hungry. When kids pet one of three touch points on the Pomsie’s head, nose, or mouth, Pomsies will react with Pomsie up to 50 different responses. Wave 2 of Pomsies Poos launches this fall with new characters, designed for kids ages 3 and up. The Poos are miniature versions of Pomsies plush without the electronic features but with the same wraparound tails so that kids can take and wear them anywhere. Kids can attach the heart-shaped clasp to backpacks, clothing, and more.

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Rainbow Fluffies, Fluffies, from JAY@PLAY JAY@PLAY,, are rainbows stuffed with animals. Kids can unfluff the rainbow plush toy to transform it from a rainbow into an animal and back again. There are nine Rainbow Fluffies for kids to collect. Wish Me Zoonicorns have horns that glow when kids kiss their noses, and each one has four touch points that make them light up, giggle, and make other noises. There are four Wish Me Zoonicorns to collect: Ene, Promi, Valeo, and Aliel. Both products are designed for kids ages 3 and up, are available online now, and will hit retail shelves this fall.

WOWWEE’s Pinkfong Baby Shark plush line includes song cubes and song dolls, designed for kids ages 2 and up. Kids can squeeze the stackable, collectible Pinkfong Baby Shark Family Song Cubes to hear the “Baby Shark” song play. Kids can clap or tap the head of the Pinkfong Baby Shark Dancing Song Doll to watch it dance to the complete “Baby Shark” song and make additional sounds. Kids can call its name (Baby Shark) for a surprise reaction. Pinkfong Baby Shark Dancing Song Doll


PLUSH

TOMY launches a soft plush line called Club Mocchi- Mocchi- this spring, designed for kids ages 3 and up. Designed in Japan, Club Mocchi- Mocchi- plush toys have a squishy texture and are soft to touch. TOMY launches its first series of Club Mocchi- Mocchi- with Mario Kart plush toys that feature characters from the Nintendo game, available in a mega plush size and clip-ons. The mega plush will be available in red shell, blue shell, and mushroom styles. The clip-ons will be available in bullet, star, bomb, banana, green shell, mushroom, and red shell styles.

CUDDLE BARN introduces Tree Rex, Rex a T. rex dressed as a Christmas tree, designed for babies ages 18 months and up. He dances up and down while the tree lights up to the holiday song, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

MMG BRANDS expands its Large Moosh-Moosh Plushies collection with series four, Halloween Series, Christmas Series, and the Sequin Collection. MMG Brands launches Moosh-Moosh Squared Pattern Plushies,, 10-by-10-by-10-inch squishy, cubed characters that are available in nine styles, including a shark, a zebra, a cow, a corgi, and more. MooshMoosh features details such as Bumblebee’s antennae and a daisy tucked behind Cat’s ear.

Large Moosh-Moosh Plushie

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R/C manufacturers respond to the category’s continuing sales decline. by MADELEINE BUCKLEY, assistant editor R/C TOYS CAN PERFORM INCREDIBLE feats, from flying hundreds of feet in the air and exploring on water to executing tricks and flips on tough terrain. Yet, for the second year in a row, the R/C category has seen a decline in sales and performed below the industry average. According to The NPD Group, ground, sea, and other R/C saw a 12.3 percent decline over 12 months ending in January, while air-specific R/C sales decreased by 32.1 percent — nearly double its 17 percent decrease in the previous 12 month period. Last year’s sales performance hasn’t stopped major players in the category from producing new R/C products, but it is clear that the category is changing. Companies are incorporating new technology, relying on popular licenses, and introducing new ways to drive. For example, Maisto Tech’s Cyklone Drift features 40 small wheels to increase range of motion, and its Rock Crawler Pro Series 4WS features true four-wheel steering. When you look at this year’s new R/C offerings, however, one difference is hard to ignore: There are nearly no new drones. THE DRONE DAYS ARE OVER From 2015 to 2017, drones ruled the R/C category. The Toy Book covered R/C with headlines such as “Drone Domination,” “Game of Drones,” and “Flying High Tech,” while the category met or exceeded the industry average. Drones flew higher, longer, and with increasingly intricate features and designs inspired by popular licenses. Last year, the number of new drones began to wane. This year, drones have all

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but disappeared from toy companies’ new product lineups. Gerrick Johnson, director of BMO Capital Markets, says this drone bust comes from high investment, thin margins, and too much competition. Liolios Managing Director Sean McGowan agrees, noting that, as with many trends, the “faddish nature faded.” Also, he says, people don’t really collect drones. “If you want one, you buy it, and you are unlikely to buy another one,” McGowan says. “If it keeps working properly, you don’t need another one, and if it isn’t working properly, you don’t want another one.” The nature of drones, too, puts their play value at risk. McGowan notes that flying toys’ limited battery life impacts the length of time kids can play, and outdoor use means drones can break or end up on the roof — resulting in frustrated customers returning the product. LICENSE TO SELL R/C vehicles continue to sport a variety of licenses, including Spin Master’s new Monster Jam vehicles and Mattel’s Imaginext DC Super Friends Transforming Batmobile. One recent, significant R/C licensing deal was when Jada Toys acquired the vehicles license for Ryan’s World, based on the popular Ryan ToysReview YouTube channel. According to Darryl Li, marketing director at Jada Toys, the company was a bit skeptical of the license at first because kid influencers are so new to the toy market. However, the company saw an opportunity to further expand its preschool portfolio and move away from its reputation as a die-cast company for collectors.

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Li says the partnership was a fun challenge because, unlike many other licensing partnerships, there were very few guidelines. “Ryan is just a 7-year-old kid,” Li says. “He likes what typical kids like. He likes pizza, he likes slime, and all that good stuff. ... If that’s all our creative team has to go off of, it’s a nice challenge to see what kind of collection of toy products we could put together that Ryan himself would enjoy.” One product in Jada’s Ryan’s World line is the Skateboard Stunt R/C Combo Panda, which is based on a character from Ryan’s channel. Kids as young as 3 years old can control the panda — who rights himself when he falls over — using a colorful remote. Carrera, a company known for its slot cars and other R/C products, introduces a new Battery Operated slot car system to appeal to a younger audience. These new sets bridge the gap between Carrera’s “First” system, which is designed for kids ages 3 to 5, and its “Go!!!” series, which is recommended for kids ages 8 and up due to the electric components. The Battery Operated system, like many of Carrera’s products, incorporates Nintendo characters. Tony Donoso, e-commerce sales and marketing manager at Carrera, says the Mario license appeals to kids and adults alike. “The moms and dads who grew up with Nintendo, I mean, they still love Mario Kart,” he says. “And I think that’s a big hit for everybody.” In a world ruled by content, Li says most retailers expect licensed products based on familiar characters and year-round content from shows, games, and movies. “It’s just really hard to make it onto shelf when there’s


LIGHTS, SOUNDS, TECH In addition to introducing new licenses, R/C manufacturers are continuing to add new tech components to their products to attract consumers. “Miniaturization and the addition of cameras, Wi-Fi, and other technology continues to expand because the cost of these features keeps dropping, even as the quality increases,” McGowan says. One example is Odyssey Toy’s new FPV ATV. FPV stands for “first person view” because the vehicle features a camera on top that can livestream and record video on a smart device. Kids can choose to drive the vehicle using a standard remote or with a smart device. Though the technology may not be cutting edge, Li says many R/C products incorporate lights and sounds, too. Alpha Group’s Grrrumbal, for example, is an R/C

creature with light-up eyes and monstrous sound effects. Grrrumbal also features two modes, which is another popular R/C feature this year. NKOK’s new Earth Movers line similarly offers two modes — auto and manual — that kids can choose between using a switch on the remote. LOOKING FORWARD As a category, R/C is certainly in a time of transition. Like many in the toy industry, Li says the loss of Toys “R” Us had a major impact on Jada Toys and other R/C manufacturers. “The support system that was once there is no longer there,” he says. “So we have to be a little bit more strategic in how we operate.” In the case of R/C, being strategic means adding product features and marketing them in new ways. McGowan’s advice for keeping

Expanding upon its rock-crawling R/C offerings, MAISTO TECH introduces the Rock Crawler Pro Series 4WS. This 15-inch, off-road vehicle features true four-wheel steering: Kids use a switch on the controller to choose which wheels they want to control. With this feature, kids can turn a tighter radius and maneuver diagonally. The company also introduces the Cyklone Drift, an R/C with 40 individual wheels so that the vehicle can perform drifting stunts and 360-degree spins. It is about 10 inches long and features a 115-foot range and working lights. Both R/C vehicles are designed for kids ages 5 and up.

the category vibrant is innovating and adding tech components. “Complex programmability will help,” he says. “Modularization could help. Battery innovation will help.” However, BMO Capital Markets’ Gerrick Johnson cautions to remember ease of use. “Too many R/C toy companies think it’s novel and cool to have the vehicle controlled by your phone,” he says. “Don’t make things too complicated. Don’t try to do too much.” Both Li and Donoso say they expect things to look up this year and beyond with their new offerings. “As we look forward into 2020, we’re looking to really make a big splash within the category,” Li says. “So, we’re really excited.” »

& VEHICLES

Skateboard Stunt R/C Combo Panda

Rock Crawler Pro Series 4WS

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JADA TOYS introduces a line of Ryan’s World products inspired by the YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview. Kids can spin, pop wheelies, and do tricks with the Skateboard Stunt R/C Combo Panda using the included controller. The R/C features a 9-inch character that rights itself when it falls over. Kids can also play with Ryan and his friends with Ryan’s Racers, 3.5-inch, die-cast vehicles featuring fully functional wheels and a nonremovable Ryan’s World character. These vehicles also work on the Ryan’s Track Set. Both products are designed for kids ages 3 and up.


Earth Movers Excavator

& VEHICLES

Auto Moto Battling Robots, from ODYSSEY TOYS, transform from sporty race cars to robots with the push of a button. The R/C functions in both car and robot form. Each pack comes with two cars and two remotes so kids can battle the robots. When one robot is punched in the “heart” three times, it transforms back into a car. Odyssey also introduces the FPV ATV, an R/C that gives kids a view from the car itself. The car is designed for all terrains and features a high-definition camera mounted on top, which can livestream to and record on a smart device. Kids can choose to drive the car with the included standard remote control or use a mobile device to drive the ATV.

NKOK launches its Earth Movers line, which includes customizable construction sets and R/C vehicles. The first three R/C vehicles in the line are a Dump Truck, a Wheel Loader, and an Excavator featuring a working boom and bucket with three points of articulation. Kids can select from an auto digging mode or a manual digging mode with the push of a button. NKOK also takes things to the water with Hydroracers, a new line of R/C boats. The line includes a Jet Ski with a rider and a Fire Rescue Boat with a built-in water hose. Kids can run these vehicles in a pool, pond, or lake. Both lines are designed for kids ages 6 and up.

ALPHA GROUP releases Grrrumball, an R/C creature designed for kids ages 6 and up. Grrrumball features light-up eyes and sound effects. The R/C also has two attack modes — Spin Attack and Arm Smash — that kids can activate with the remote.

FPV ATV

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SPIN MASTER expands its Monster Jam offerings with the Official Monster Jam 1:10 R/C Grave Digger Truck. Kids can perform stunts, crashes, and bashes with the large truck, which features four authentic monster truck sounds, lights, and realistic Grave Digger features. The truck is designed for kids ages 4 and up.

& VEHICLES

HASBRO introduces the Marvel Spider-Man Titan Power Cycle, part of the Titan Hero Power FX 2.0 Series. Kids Pack Cycle ages 4 and up can plug the Spider-Man figure into the motorcycle to activate sound effects or connect the included Power FX Pack to the figure’s arm port to hear Spider-Man phrases and sounds. Swap with other characters’ packs to hear Spider-Man speak to whichever character is wearing his power pack.

MATTEL’s Imaginext DC Super Friends Transforming Batmobile R/C puts kids in the middle of Batman’s crime-fighting action. Kids ages 3 and up can use the remote control to drive the Batmobile or to launch projectiles when the vehicle transforms into battle mode. In battle mode, the car features light and sound effects. Mattel also introduces Hot Wheels TechMods Hyper Speeder,, an R/C kit for kids ages 8 and up. Kids can build and customize the vehicle from the chassis up, then use a smart device (not included) to control it. The car features two driving modes: R/C mode for free play and controller mode, which challenges kids to complete increasingly difficult physical tasks with the car to level up. Additional challenges are available on the TechMods app. Both products will be available this fall. Imaginext DC Super Friends Transforming Batmobile R/C

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Knuckle-Headz Head Poppin’ Racers, from SKULLDUGGERY, are fueled by a pull-back motor and have a fun twist: When the vehicle hits something head on, its spring-loaded head pops off. There are six characters to collect in both single and double packs. Kids ages 3 and up can face off their Knuckle-Headz in a head-on battle to see whose car keeps its head. Skullduggery also introduces RC Marble Racers. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, these cars feature rear-wheel-drive for hairpin turns and drifts. The car’s clear chassis gives kids a view of the motor and gears inside the car and the 1.25-inch LED marble lights up as the car moves. The racer is available in four colors.

PLAYMONSTER adds to its Automoblox line with the Ultimate Series, a redesign of the large vehicle line with four unique sets that include 23 mix-and-match components and more vehicle styles. Kids can create one vehicle at a time, with up to eight different looks using the pieces. If collectors have multiple Ultimate sets, they can mix and match them to create even more vehicles. The vehicles’ bodies are made of European beech wood and include multiple interchangeable components, including tires and wheels. The Ultimate Series is recommended for kids ages 4 and up, available this fall. CARRERA expands its Nintendo R/C line with new Mario Kart Mach 8 vehicles and a Super Mario Odyssey Scooter. The Mach 8 vehicles come with either Mario or Luigi at the wheel. As kids ages 8 and up drive, the characters’ bodies tilt from side to side when taking a turn. Mario sits atop the scooter, which features front and rear lights. The scooter is designed for kids ages 6 and up. All three R/C vehicles travel up to 5.59 mph. 16-inch Cement Mixer

SMART ZONE expands its Mighty Wheels line with a 16-inch Cement Mixer and a 16-Inch Crane.. The vehicles are made of heavy-duty steel and plastic and feature sound effects. The mixer spins when kids turn a crank, and the crane’s hook expands and retracts. The vehicles are designed for kids ages 3 and up.

Super Mario Odyssey Scooter, Mario

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TALKIN’ TOYS

ODYSSEY TOYS DRIVES TOY INNOVATION IN 2019 The Toy Book catches up with Odyssey Toys’ Head Toy Maker Sal Irigoyen about the company’s growth and what sets it apart from other R/C companies. Toy Book: Tell us about how Odyssey Toys got its start. Sal Irigoyen: We started back in 2006 because my friend, who was the vice president of merchandising for Home Shopping Network at the time, asked me if I could source toys for him for the network’s Christmas in July shows. I went to China and found three to four items that all sold out within the first couple of shows. We had to run back to find more for the fourth quarter, and those also sold out. After being in the consumer electronics business for 25 years and in the music industry for five, I decided that toys were for me. At first we didn’t even brand the products that we brought in, and my wife ran customer service from an office in my house. Then in 2008, we went to our first show at Toy Fair New York, and Odyssey Toys was born. TB: What makes Odyssey Toys different from a traditional R/C company? SI: We always strive for uniqueness and try not to be a “me too” company. If somebody else has it, we don’t want it. We also look for new technologies before they become mainstream, and that gives us an edge over other companies. Our factories in China always present new concepts to us, and we try to make those into products that have the fun factor. TB: What new strategies are the company taking to keep up with the changes in the R/C category? SI: When we realized that everyone started copying drones, we started designing new products that were based on land, which is where we originally started in the R/C category. Although, and I hate to sound like a broken record, but our strategy is designed all around fun and uniqueness from everyone else. Regardless whether we produce flying drones or land R/C, our uniqueness makes us stick out.

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Auto Moto Battling Robots, from Odyssey Toys

TB: How do you decide the different ways to incorporate technology into your products, and what are they? SI: The problem with technology is that it is an ever-changing and moving target. You have to be very careful in not putting a whole bunch of features in your product that the customer will not use or understand. For instance, voice control is great in our Auto Moto line of transforming land vehicles, but not in flying products. We could have added the feature, but we didn’t feel confident in the functionality of the feature with the level of stability of a drone. At the end of the day, we want the products to make sense to our customers, and that’s our mindset when adding new technology to our products. TB: Odyssey Toys expanded its product offerings to include mobile gaming products. What sparked the idea for the new line? SI: That’s an easy answer. I don’t really know the exact percent of kids who have phones or tablets, but it’s pretty high, and it’s not limited

THE TOY BOOK | MARCH/APRIL 2019 | toybook.com

to teenagers. Some of our mobile games involve virtual and augmented reality (AR), such as our Upshot Bow and Virtual Racer, or our educational mobile games, such as ARIA, which uses AR to teach kids about animals. Even our new Ultimate Mobile Gaming line, which is made up of triggers and handles that turn your phone into a remote control, helps kids play their favorite games, such as Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, at a higher level. TB: Besides Ultimate Mobile Gaming, what other new products are you excited to launch this year? SI: We added two new products to our Auto Moto line of transforming R/C: Diggin Moto (a bulldozer) and Dumpin Moto (a recycling truck). Our Glow Striker is off the rails, and everybody is going crazy for it. We also are launching a 4K video drone at an MSRP of $99.95, and it has a ton of features. We have a couple more in the oven that are not ready yet. We will likely introduce them at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy show. »


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Beefy and heroic action figures are back! by JAMES ZAHN, senior editor OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, THE TOY industry has seen an evolution in scale. When it comes to playability and collectibility for kids, the physical scale has been shrinking. Moose Toys accelerated the process when, inspired by the earlier success of the micro-collectible Trash Pack, it launched Shopkins in 2014. The latter would eventually be reborn as the Grossery Gang, and before long, it seemed that everyone was launching their own line of tiny collectibles. Fueled by the excitement of chase pieces and rare, super-rare, and ultra-rare figures coupled with the “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” mentality of Pokémon, the popularity of the tiny trend shows no signs of fading; in fact, it may be growing. From Hatchimals CollEGGtibles (Spin Master) and Micro Squeezamals (Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co.) to ZooBalloos (Basic Fun!) and Smashers (ZURU), small is everywhere. Even Hasbro’s Transformers went small with the launch of BotBots last fall. But elsewhere in the toy department, a trend from the past has quietly re-emerged: chunky, playable action figures with heroic, cartoon-reminiscent sculpts, and fantastic proportions are back. Heroes are practically bursting with power! We may not owe the entire scale to Masters of the Universe (MOTU), but there’s no denying that Mattel’s classic line set the gold standard for 5.5-inch action figures. When they arrived at retail in 1982, they were a counter to the 3.75-inch scale that Kenner’s Star Wars collection made popular four years earlier — itself a transition from the 8-inch to 12-inch, clothed dolls and figures that were popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Kingdom Builders Hex Castle, from Little Tikes “The 5.5-inch scale is the perfect size for

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action figures because it feels like a great, meaty extension for play,” says Robert McCallum, director of Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of HeMan and the Masters of the Universe. “It’s not too big and clumsy, nor too small and delicate.” Right out of the gate, Remco released its own figures with bodies, poses, and themes that closely mirrored what MOTU was doing — essentially knocking them off in plain sight. Then Galoob and Coleco were in the mix, bumping the scale to 6 inches in some cases, but applying the muscular stature to licenses including The A-Team and Rambo. In the decades since, 6-inch scale has become a popular staple, but the proportions have been streamlined as the market has moved toward a preference for a screen-accurate, or more grounded, true-to-life look. When we hit the 2000s, the collector market started to embrace the past with reissues and revamps of classic characters, but none of that was geared toward kids. Eventually, some of the design elements, such as the unmis-

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takable wide stance of those ‘80s collections, began to resurface in smaller, preschool-focused lines. Now, it’s come full circle. MOTU is running strong across several collector lines from Super7, and Funko launched


Savage World, bringing back the 5.5-inch scale and stance by pairing it with unexpected licenses. Characters from Mortal Kombat, classic horror movie villains, and even Thundercats — a former He-Man competitor — joined the fray. However, the most unexpected move was the release of DC Primal Age, a line that reimagines famous superheroes and villains from the pages of DC Comics as if they were fantasy creations from a more barbaric age. First sold on Amazon, the line gained prime endcap placement at Target stores in February, complete with a 100-page comic to provide some real backstory. “Speaking as a kid from the ‘80s, these figures are appealing because of their beefy nature,” says Funko President Andrew Perlmutter. “They feel like action figures that can really take a beating! Nostalgia is really important to people, it helps take them back to another, simpler time.” Target also served as the launch partner for Little Tikes’ Kingdom Builders last fall. Expanding across mass retail and specialty this spring, the new line from MGA Entertainment captures the chunky feel of a substantial toy while putting a completely fresh spin on a medieval world of fantasy. Combining figure play with role-play tools, kids can build (and demolish) through the Land of Buildera as armor-clad Builders face off against troublemaking Bashers. At Toy Fair New York, Fisher-Price dropped the curtain on its all-new line of Rescue Heroes. The line, which first hit stores in 1997, went dormant a decade later, only to be partially resurrected in small scale as part of the Imaginext brand. This year’s full relaunch brings Rescue Heroes back to the classic scale with a new mission to honor real-life heroes — first responders. With the line’s exclusive launch at Walmart this month, Fisher-Price says it “aims to stimulate children’s imagination and sense of adventure without involving violence.”

Rescue Heroes, from Fisher Price

“When we hit the 2000s, the collector market started to embrace the past with reissues and revamps of classic characters, but none of that was geared toward kids.” “When kids grab ahold of these figures today, they feel proper agency, much like kids in the ‘80s felt when they grabbed a He-Man or Ninja Turtle,” adds McCallum, who’s starting production on a definitive action figure documentary. “That scale just has a powerful presence that’s impossible to beat.” On the collector front, NECA recently revealed the first of its Alien & Predator Classics, a 5.5-scale series “meant to evoke a simpler time when action figures were tossed in the bucket to go to the beach, or left strewn across the stairs for parents to trip over.” The figures appear to be a continuation of the ‘90s Kenner series. Meanwhile, Funko brings characters from Capcom’s evergreen Street Fighter video game into Savage World. “Bringing the Street Fighter characters

into the 5.5 figure world is very exciting,” Perlmutter says. “This allows geeks like me the chance to build out my existing ‘80s figure collection with new licenses that were never made in this style. Whether it is a video game title like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, or DC Comics and horror classics, my collection can continue to grow.” Finally, Hasbro refreshes its Marvel Super Hero Adventures and Star Wars Galactic Heroes with the debut of Mega Mighties — a sub-range that will also include Transformers and Power Rangers. The 10-inch figures bring new, muscular, kid-friendly sculpts to classic characters such as Spider-Man and Chewbacca, but even the smaller-scale figures in the range reflect the beefiness that was first seen in toy stores nearly 40 years ago. »

James Zahn, best-known as The Rock Father, is senior editor of the Toy Book, the Pop Insider, and the Toy Insider. A true multi-hyphenate, he is a media personality, writer, commentator, consultant, actor, adventurer, raconteur, and overall pop culture and toy enthusiast. He is driven by a fascination for the business of play, with a strong interest in consumer habits, product development, and retail trends.

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The toy industry embraces foodie fun with edible toys. by JACQUELINE CUCCO, associate editor ELBOWS OFF THE TABLE, NAPKIN IN YOUR

lap, and don’t play with your food! Adults have always taught kids that food is for eating, not for playing. But toymakers are taking matters into their own hands and flipping the switch on the age-old rules of etiquette with a whole buffet of edible toys on the market. That’s right — toys you can eat. NEW TREND ALERT One of The Toy Association’s top toy trends of this year is “Foodie Fun,” based on the creative ways that food and drink items are making their way into the toy aisle. “We absolutely see this as a growing trend and saw a lot of fantastic edible food toys at Toy Fair New York,” says Adrienne Appell, The Toy Association’s senior director of strategic communications. “Some of these toys teach kids about cooking and healthy eating habits, and others are really just about being experimental and having tons of fun while making tasty treats.” Food-related toys are not a new idea

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(remember the Easy-Bake Oven?), but manufacturers are staying ahead of the curve with what’s trendy for today’s kids. “We are already seeing great innovation in the area,” Appell says. “A lot of these toys produce truly delicious food and tap into foodie trends, from Instagram-worthy eats to trendy desserts.” BUFFET OF TOYS RedwoodVentures is venturing into edible toys for the first time with Foodie Surprise, mini mystery food carts that contain surprise ingredients and supplies for kids to make their own edible candy. The food carts come in a variety of themes, such as sushi, pizza, and ice cream, so kids can partake in DIY fun to make edible gummies that are colored and shaped like different foods. Then, kids can pack the snacks inside collectible “to-go container” keychains to save them for later. “It hits on a number of key trends, including DIY, foodie culture, carts and trucks, of course, and a consumable candy line that will be merchandised in the collectible toy space for the first time ever,” says RedwoodVentures CEO Andy Wiseman. He also revealed that RedwoodVentures is opening a candy division in the fall as opportunities continue to expand with “interest from sectors of retail that are new to us, like candy and confectionery.” That element of discovery and experimentation makes it fun for kids. “Foodie surprise is a blind purchase brand, but in addition to that, the candy making experience is very engaging for kids, and adds another layer of fun discovery,” says Wiseman. Kids may not be old enough to caffeinate with an icy frappuc-

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Mattel’s RoseArt Creative Café Frappe Maker

RedwoodVentures’ Foodie Surprise

cino, but they can make their own version of the frozen beverage this summer with Mattel’s RoseArt Creative Café Frappe Maker. It comes with apple-, mango-, and strawberry-cream-flavored powders that kids can mix with milk or a milk substitute to create a blended drink. The Yummy Nummies collection, from Blip Toys, has a variety of kits, including a Soda Shoppe Maker, a Cake Push Pops Maker, a Sweet Straws Maker, a Marshmallow Treats Maker, and the newest version, a Slushy Maker. For kids who can’t get enough of the gross trend, Jakks Pacific is launching the Chocolate Poop Maker this fall. Kids can melt chocolate, flush it down the toilet-shaped dispenser into the poop molds, refrigerate it, and eat it. They can make brown chocolate for realistic-looking poop or pink chocolate for a more whimsical poop experience. Thames & Kosmos has Candy Chemistry kits that teach kids hands-on science principles as they create different types of edible candy,


such as gummies, chocolate, and hard candy. The newest addition, the Rainbow Gummy Candy Lab, features a gelatin mixture kids can use to personalize unicorn-, cloud-, and rainbow-shaped gummies while learning about the scientific properties of natural polymers. “It’s a fun, yummy activity that sneaks in some science lessons as well,” says Andrew Quartin, CEO of Thames & Kosmos. “The idea of making your own candy is very appealing to kids, while the educational factor appeals to parents.” There’s a fair amount of customization that goes into making the candy. Kids can choose which flavors they want to make, which colors they want to use, and which molds to use to shape the gummies. They can even add citric acid to turn the gummies sour. “It’s also important to us that we continue to offer enriching scientific content with each kit,” Quartin says. “Our goal is to continue to make science relatable and fun for kids.” NUTRITION AMBITION Parents who are concerned about nutrition don’t need to worry; not all edible toys revolve around sweets and candy. Linda York launched StickyLickits last October as a way to encourage her grandkids to eat healthier snacks. StickyLickits are edible stickers that kids can stick on food and then eat. The nonGMO, vegan, and kosher stickers are free of sugar, peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, soy, and dairy. To use them, kids peel a sticker off the backing, lick it, and stick it on fruits, veggies, or anything edible. They have a slight marshmallow taste when

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you eat them on their own, but when you stick them on food, they basically take on the taste of the fruit or vegetable. StickyLickits melt in your mouth and are meant to promote healthy eating habits. “Kids love stickers. They love peeling them off the backing and they love the satisfaction of placing them on something and having them stick,” says York, CEO of StickyLickits. “Studies from the Cornell Food Lab have shown that a child will choose a piece of fruit with a paper sticker of a favorite animated character on it over a sweet dessert, so the opportunity was there to make edible stickers.” SitckyLickits are available online at stickylickits.com in several themes, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Paw Patrol, and StickyLickits originals featuring silly faces and fun doodles. Each pack contains 30 unique, edible stickers for $4.99. SAFETY FIRST Because kids are ingesting the toys, do parents need to worry more about safety? In short, no, not if it’s from a trusted brand. “Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) testing does a great job covering this, and parents need to look for those labels,” says Christine Osborne, founder of specialty toy store chain Wonder Works. All toys designed for kids ages 12 or younger are subject to a set of federal safety rules and

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still need to pass the CPSC’s standards. The Toy Association’s Adrienne Appell says, “As with all toys, parents should follow the age grading on the toy box, read all instructions carefully, and teach their kids how to properly and safely use the toy.” Whether kids are more of an Alton Brown or a Duff Goldman, a Rachael Ray or a Giada De Laurentiis, there are so many different recipes for them to spice up their toy rooms this year. And the next time someone lectures you on playing with your food, or your toys for that matter, you can tell them to eat it. »


COLLECTIBLES UNVEIL

A BIGGER, BETTER REVEAL New collectibles focus on the duality of toys. by MIRANDA SIWAK, editorial assistant IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SURPRISE INSIDE. Toys need to be more than just a simple, shelf-worthy figure to pique kids’ interest. Whether there’s a mystery surprise inside, a blind bag package to unbox, or an extra activity to play, it’s no longer just about the collectible figurine or the surprise reveal inside, but rather an even bigger reveal that supports continued play value. As part of last year’s trend of “radical reveals,” kids unboxed collectible toys and uncovered a unique surprise that added to the play experience with a one-and-done reveal. MGA Entertainment has dominated this category and stayed ahead of this trend with its popular L.O.L. Surprise! dolls. This line brought a new way to collect dolls as kids unwrap mystery packaging to unveil multiple accessories and a doll hidden inside. In fact, according to the NPD Group, L.O.L Surprise! was three times larger than the next popular collectible in the market. Since it’s all about bigger and better surprises, especially given that most collectibles already come in a blind package, what’s next? What differentiates one collectible from the others in the market? The answer: Slime, confetti, glitter, sand, or other tactile surprises hidden inside that kids can touch or feel. Not only do most of these toys still feature a blind bag component for kids to unwrap, but upon opening, kids discover an extra layer of play as well. Think of the confetti in Spin Master’s Party Popteenies, the slimy goo coating Mattel’s Breakout Beasts, and the sand surrounding MindWare’s Dig it Up! Dragons. These extra tactile surprises enhance the reveal and give kids an additional activity for more play value. “Tactile appeal is ultimately key in this category. Without that, it is tough to succeed. However, toy companies also need to be

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create extra tactile elements or wary of not overcomplicating things,” additional play sets for kids to Brand Kids of CEO Reece, says Steve engage in imaginative play with conducted has company “Our Insight. the characters they collect. and groups, focus 1,200 than more successful most the THRILL OF THE MYSTERY collectible toys we Collectibles are hardly a new often are tested adults have long comtrend; simplest. the piled toys and merchanneed just They dise on a shelf to view compelling be to and collect, with touch, of terms in no intention to play and visuals, them. Alterwith matrix.” character natively, kids have Finding a grown to expect more Treasure X Aliens, compound inside from Moose Toys Collectibles — playtime. of out role key a plays also much like other toys — have shifted to reflect in the unboxing process, and new changes in the market, adding play value gives kids the first element to discover. With to keep kids entertained and to validate the even more ways to play, kids keep coming spend for parents. back again and again. Currently, the unboxing trend is at the “By combining another popular element forefront of today’s culture. Thanks to Youto an already popular toy, you can extend Tube and its popular unboxing videos, kids the life cycle of that trend,” says Nick Tarzia, can watch the excitement that comes from owner of retailer Stamford Toys based in discovering what’s inside on screen and enjoy Stamford, Connecticut. “It also adds value to replicating that in reality. the product for the purchaser.” Adding to the excitement, certain hidden Collectible toys themselves have figures are more exclusive, coming in rare transformed into a more developed and super rare versions so kids want to keep experience, too. collecting. “It’s not just an unboxing experience, it’s “That thrill lies in the mystery,” says not just a physical reveal of a figure, but it’s Lindsey Scheftic, vice president of marketing part of the storytelling,” says Kotomi Nanfor Skyrocket. “Part of [the] fun for kids is jo, director of global marketing for girls at that they love the process of opening and reMoose Toys. “Treasure X Aliens is a good vealing, and that anticipation of what you’re example; the end product is not just a figure, going to get.” but it leads into a larger story that’s being delivered through webisodes. You don’t just COLLECT FIRST, THEN PLAY get a figure to display, you get to play out a Collectibles now also focus on multiple story with it.” ways to play, with even the packaging beThe idea that a collectible can be more coming part of the toy. than just a figure on a shelf is transformng “I think children’s play patterns really the category, with toy companies working to

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doll they got. Kids can sprinkle water changed in the last few years,” droplets on the “seeds” and watch as the Scheftic says. “Whereas adults doll’s over-the-top hairdo sprouts from or children of the ‘80s and the flower pot base. Kids can collect 22 ‘90s were just collecting dolls different doll styles, and the reveal makes to collect dolls, today it’s more the toy stand out. about collecting dolls, but “We wanted to make something also that imaginative play where there was a purpose and a use and having something and for everything that came into that little creating something that a pack,” Scheftic says. “What’s exciting child doesn’t throw away and about the flower pot is that you can can keep and play with.” see the surprises you get along the Toy lines such as Funrise’s way.” Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Kitty 9 Lives Surprise and Hog Wild’s Tony Hawk Box BoardCREATING A “WOW” MOMENT Blume, from Skyrocket Toy companies are going above and ers feature characters that kids can collect, but with packaging that beyond to come up with creative ways to functions as part of a play set that kids can enhance the big reveal and create wowworthy moments. Kids want a big, exciting build and use. gesture that will spark a moment of joy with With Skyrocket’s Blume, a flower pot their toys. serves as the packaging for the collectible. “Surprises for adults can be scary, but for Rather than simply opening a blind package, kids who haven’t lived through adulthood, Blume mimics the gardening process to [they] are still fun,” Scheftic says. “They are add an extra “wow” factor to the surprise excited, not scared, about what’s going to discovery for kids to see which collectible

come through the reveal, and are not often disappointed about what’s coming out on the other side.” Many toys have the unboxing blind reveal, a tactile surprise to touch, and a transforming play set, but what really piques kids’ interest is that “it” factor and that moment of awe when they open their toys for the first time. “There’s so many different types of reveal toys out there,” Scheftic says. “We wanted to make sure that we had a [wow] factor for anyone who saw it [Blume], and not just the first time but the second, [and] the third. There’s that repeat excitement that comes with revealing because you don’t know what’s going to pop out the pot.” » Miranda Siwak is an editorial assistant at Adventure Publishing Group, where she contributes to the Toy Book, the Toy Insider, and the Pop Insider. You can find her covering the latest toy and entertainment industry news for both online and print.

New from MAYA GROUP, Foodie Roos are plush characters that smell, look, and feel like certain foods. Each plush character comes in a food container that kids ages 5 and up can open to reveal a different character. Once open, the container becomes a house for the Foodie, and kids can feel a surprise in each Foodie’s belly. The line of 20 collectible characters will be available this summer.

Pop Tops, from PLAYMATES TOYS, are detailed, stylized collectibles based on licensed characters. The 2.5-inch figures pop open from an oversized head into a full-bodied figure with the press of a button. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the first wave of characters takes inspiration from Marvel’s Avengers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

MGA ENTERTAINMENT takes its L.O.L. Surprise! line to a new level with L.O.L. Surprise! Makeover Series #Hairgoals. Kids can unbox the glamorous dolls and their fancy new looks. Each #Hairgoals reveals 15 surprises, accessories, and real or glitter hair. Each mystery capsule resembles a hairspray can that transforms into a salon chair, display case, and doll stand. There are 12 dolls kids can collect.

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RELEVANT PLAY PLAY’s Mad Mattr 1, deMeteor Monsters Series 1 signed for kids ages 5 and up, features blind packs of mystery monsters inside Mad Mattr compound. Kids can fill the container, twist the top off, smash it open, and lift the compound out to watch each monster break out. Each colorful creature will escape in a different way. The Mad Mattr Mini Meteor Monsters feature a two-in-one blind pack of miniature creatures for kids to collect. The line includes more than 100 mini-monsters.

ZooBalloos, from BASIC FUN!, are squishy, balloon animal figures that do not deflate. Each capsule includes a blind bag ZooBalloo figure, stickers, and a self-inflating Bopaballoo balloon. Place the balloon on a hard surface, bop it with a fist, shake it, and then watch it inflate and pop with a burst of confetti. There are 28 different balloon animals for kids to collect in the first series, including eight Metallic Rare figures and two Glitter Ultra-Rare figures. With Mash’Ems, kids can collect soft, squishy, water-filled collectibles based on their favorite characters. Kids can mash and twist the four unique characters, which come packed in blind capsules. New this year, Mash’Ems come in Harry Potter and Captain Marvel characters. With Mash’Ems Wear’Ems, kids can squish the 24 collectibles, which transform into wearable accessories. ZooBalloos

With Tony Hawk Box Boarders, from HOG WILD, kids can perform skateboarding tricks with the 16 collectible box skaters. Kids can skate their figures around and land tricks on the included ramps and pipes. Kids ages 4 and up can also make these skateboarding figures can flip, ride, or grind to perform impressive stunts.

Mega Man Basic Figure

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JAKKS PACIFIC introduces Piñata Fiesta with Piñata 1, available this fall. Designed for Fiesta Collectible Series 1 kids ages 4 and up, each collectible piñata is available in 12 different themes, such as unicorn, cupcake, watermelon, doughnut, and pony. Kids can pull the strings to open different compartments and reveal hidden surprises. The reusable piñata includes charms, jewelry, stickers, and confetti, based on the different party themes. Kids can collect all 12 piñatas and 36 charms. In late fall, Piñata Fiesta Series 2 brings 12 new, sparkly piñatas for kids to discover. Jakks Pacific will also introduce Mega Man Basic Figures so that kids can collect the iconic character Mega Man and his film cohorts. Each Robot Master includes a swappable Mega Blaster arm cannon based on the characters.

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MINDWARE introduces Dig It Up! Discoveries Dragons for kids to reveal surprises inside the golden mystery eggs. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, there are 12 individually wrapped eggs that kids can excavate and chisel away to reveal the dragon inside.


TOMY introduces Ritzy Rollerz, a collectible line of vehicles, each designed with its own personality and features. Each animal-based character has different “adorability” features, such as real hair, fur, and chrome finishes. Kids can outfit each Ritzy Roller with different accessories and charms, discover mystery surprises hidden inside the trunk, and wheel the figures around.

JUST PLAY introduces Ryan’s World Smashin’ Surprise Safe for kids ages 3 and up to unbox toys, inspired by Ryan ToysReview. Surprises include figures, tattoo stickers, and slime, with more than 30 to collect. Each pack comes with five mystery safes for kids to smash. T.O.T.S. Surprise Nursery Babies are mystery baby animal figures, coming this fall. Kids can reveal the fuzzy baby animal, then nurture and care for the babies.

Ryan’s World Smashin’ Surprise Safe

Luvi Pups,, from REDWOODVENTURES, are stretchy, tactile puppy figures that kids can tug, pull, and squeeze. Available this summer, each mystery pup comes with surprise dog toys. Kids can collect different puppies in every package, including the ultra-rare runt of the litter.

WOWWEE expands its Fingerlings range with the Fingerlings Narwhals. As they sit on kids’ fingers, the narwhals use motion sensors to detect when kids surf airwaves with them. They also feature a mood horn that can change colors in response to interaction and react when kids pet them and give them a “kiss.” Kids can extract the Untamed Mad Lab Minis, miniature versions of hybrid creatures from the Untamed by Fingerlings series, from Geoslime, Biosand, or Terraclay. The different heads and bodies are swappable to create different hybrid characters.

With Pop Pops, from YULU, kids can pop the air bubbles to reveal oozy slime and a collectible figure inside. Pop Pops Pets include more than 60 collectible animals, while Pop Pop Snotz feature hidden gross alien figures inside the oozing slime.

Fingerlings Narwhals

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Playfoam Pals Fantasy Friends

EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS expands its Playfoam Pals line with Playfoam Pals Fantasy Friends and Playfoam Pals Monster Party. Each range includes 12 new characters for kids to collect. Each figure is hidden inside the squishy compound for kids to discover.

Fisher-Price The Beatles Yellow Submarine by Little People

LEARNING RESOURCES expands its line of Beaker Creatures collectibles with Beaker Creatures Series 2 Reactor Pod. The new range includes 30 collectible creatures, such as Swampoids, Bytebots, and Frostonians. Each pod is packaged in individual blind boxes with a different figure for kids to reveal inside.

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Kids can make stop-action videos with Klikbot, the newest addition to ZING’s Stikbot line. The collectible figures feature multiple points of articulation and interchangeable pieces for creating new figures.

With MATTEL’s Disney•Pixar Toy Story Minis Assortment, kids can collect miniature Figure Assortment figures based on the characters from Toy Story 4. Each figure, including Woody, Buzz, and Jessie, comes in a blind bag for kids to unbox. The Fisher-Price The Beatles Yellow Submarine by Little People is a special, celebrity four-pack of Little People figures. The four members of The Beatles are depicted and stylized based on “Yellow Submarine.” The figures will be available this fall.

Kids can unbox the Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Kitty 9 Lives Surprise Assortment,, from FUNRISE FUNRISE,, to transform the Kitty Can container into a multi-level, miniature play set. It also comes with two collectible mini-figures, six accessories, and a sticker pack to customize the set. Fart Ninjas Series 1 are collectible ninja figures that launch a fart attack, activated by a motion sensor. There are eight different characters that come equipped with 10 realistic fart sounds.

Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Kitty 9 Lives Surprise Assortment


OUTSIDE THE BOX

IT’S JUST A PACKAGE. OR IS IT?

Brands make packaging integral to play. by TED MININNI, president and creative director, Design Force HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED THAT KIDS often love the packaging that a toy comes in more than the toy itself? They find creative ways to integrate the colorful packaging into play. Even basic cardboard boxes morph into dollhouses, spacecraft, robots, puppet stages, or countless other possibilities. According to toyhalloffame.org, this play pattern has been so prevalent that the cardboard box was actually inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2005. Fast forward to 2018: Ikea took it a step further and released Ikea Toybox, an interactive kids app that gives parents ideas for DIY toys their kids can make from cardboard boxes. Not only are these projects fun, but they also reuse packaging that would’ve become waste. Most toy packaging is thrown away after unboxing. Since more pressure is on manufacturers to reduce the amount of packaging that ends up as waste, doesn’t it make sense to turn to design that is integral to the toy itself? Or to create packaging that becomes a cool storage receptacle for toys that feature many parts? How about designing high-end packaging for collectibles that people can use to display or add value to the product? We know that, if kept in pristine condition, packaging adds to the value of limited-edition items and collectibles. In fact, quality, expertly designed packaging adds value to every consumer product, not just collectibles. It even makes some products more desirable than others in the same category. It’s been proven. Next-level packaging effectively removes a product from the perception that it is just one more commodity item. How can toy packaging be so compelling and ingeniously designed that kids won’t want to part with it? DISNEY LEADS THE WAY Over the years, I’ve pointed out exam-

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ples of sustainably designed packaging that became part of the toy itself. I’ve discussed how beneficial the reduction of materials in the design of toy packaging is, not to mention how much easier many toys are to unbox as a result. While many of these initiatives came from small, entrepreneurial brands that were purpose-driven from the outset, recently the leaders of the toy industry have actively embraced more aggressive sustainability measures in packaging. Enter Disney. The global entertainment behemoth felt a responsibility to go beyond its established sustainability efforts to a new level. In 2014, Disney’s SPI program was born. The Smart Packaging Initiative launch was the culmination of six years of work at Disney. SPI aims to reduce the amount of packaging, make more of its components recyclable, optimize its performance on the shelf, and reduce costs not only for the company, but also for its licensees and the entire industry. By generously sharing their data and the SPI measurement tool, toy manufacturers and licensees are making a positive impact across the industry. Sarah Levine, former manager of global sustainability at Mattel, says, “Mattel is using the SPI to enhance packaging, not only for the products we create with Disney, but as an additional input as we look at packaging efficiency for all of our brands.” The LEGO Group, Hasbro, Mattel, and Jakks Pacific have all implemented SPI principles into their packaging decisions. SPI IN ACTION Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Moana opened in theaters in November 2016. The Moana Classic doll launched in a unique,

THE TOY BOOK | MARCH/APRIL 2019 | toybook.com

Moana Classic doll, from Disney

sustainable package. Not only was the packaging made from 70 percent recycled paper printed with vegetable-based inks, it was created without any glue or tape, enabling kids to take it apart easily — but not to throw it away. The packaging was specially designed to transform into a boat for Moana, a fun project that parents and kids could work on together, effectively extending the storyline from movie to toy to packaging seamlessly. While most packaging tells a story, this package design became a physical part of the Moana story, according to Babble. Disney has been integrating the SPI across all toy packaging and hosting sustainable design workshops to drive packaging innovation in a voluntary program called License to Lead, which it offers to licensees. SPEAKING OF LICENSING... When most adults think about hot licensed properties, their thoughts turn to the most dominant sports and entertainment properties in the world — Star Wars, the NFL, Superman, Spider-Man, and classic Disney properties. These are heritage brands that appeal to multiple generations, and some of them have an impact among kids. But there


OUTSIDE THE BOX

is a world full of brands that are top of mind for kids, a world that parents can attest to but of which many other adults are unaware. Kids across the globe have made a superstar — and a millionaire — of a 7-year-old kid named Ryan. Ryan ToysReview is the most popular kids’ YouTube channel on the planet, thanks to kids who tune in by the millions to watch Ryan unbox, critique, and play with toys. Ryan posts daily reviews on YouTube, an endeavor that he began at the young age of 3, and now his videos are getting a billion hits per month. Forbes reported that Ryan earned a whopping $11 million last year, prompting his mom to quit her job so that she could work on her son’s YouTube channel full time. Recently, Ryan’s star power was leveraged into licensing. Pocket.watch, a kid’s media company with a focus on digital media stars, inked a contract with Ryan’s family to negotiate licensing deals in multiple categories. As a result, an extensive line of toys for kids ages 3 and up, branded Ryan’s World, launched exclusively in Walmart stores last August, with more retailers coming online in October. There are also T-shirts featuring Ryan’s favorite things — his pal Gus, the Gummy Gator, and pizza — and more merchandise categories are currently in the works, including home decor. This news was all over the industry during the summer, but there’s nothing unusual about the licensing of a popular brand in this manner, or is there? Ryan’s licensing deal broke new ground on several levels. Anne Marie Kehoe, Walmart’s vice president and divisional merchandise manager for toys, says in a press release, “This is the first time that a YouTube star in the children and family space has created their own dedicated line of toys and apparel, and we are excited to be partnering with pocket.watch to have it available at Walmart stores nationwide.” In a stunning but shrewd move, Ryan was named creative director for Ryan’s World, hand-selecting all of the toys for which he

has a passion. The line includes toys that few adults get but that kids go crazy for, including super slimy slime, blind bag collectibles, plush, racing vehicles, squishies, and a giant surprise egg — all from Bonkers Toys. A 75-city experiential tour is in the works so that kids can fully engage with the Ryan’s World brand. Ryan will appear at select venues in person to surprise his fans. While most kids will never meet him or take part in the tour, the idea that they can acquire Ryan’s favorite toys and play along with him is a not-to-bemissed opportunity. PACKAGED BY A KID, FOR KIDS Since Ryan came to fame unboxing toys, it isn’t any surprise that his own, hand-selected toys are boxed in a manner that appeals to him and his audience. The brand-centric logo confirms this. A smiling, rising sun over multicolored “Ryan’s World” lettering is held within a burst. Some of the packaging depicts Ryan himself in his characteristic thumbs-up pose, signaling his approval of the toy. His stamp of approval is all most kids need to see to clamor for these toys. The signature brand color is red, but the packaging is filled with bright, primary colors, as one would expect to see on toys aimed at young kids. Due to Ryan’s notoriety, much of this packaging is meant to be savored and kept as long as the toys are. Take the Giant Mystery Egg. Each egg features an exclusive lights-and-sounds vehicle, ultra-rare figures, special slime and putty, a limited-edition squishy, plush, and more. Plus, no two are the same. How cool is it for kids to unbox and play with the toys contained inside and then experience the thrill of doing that over and over again, just as Ryan does? PACKAGING A MYSTERY Who doesn’t like a surprise? Some of the greatest recent toy hits feature uniquely packaged toys that hide what is inside. Spin Master’s Hatchimals eggs and MGA Entertainment’s L.O.L. Surprise!

ball-shaped packaging, featuring a thin, outer wrapper that kids must remove to reveal what lies inside, are good examples. Both franchises continue to be red-hot as they roll out new generations of toys in packaging that promises to surprise and delight. Even though the toys are cute, a strong argument can be made that they wouldn’t sell half as well without the intriguing packaging. A new entry in the realm of mystery toys, Moose Toys’ Little Live Scruff-a-Luvs was on many retarilers’ and experts’ hot lists last holiday season. The packaging is an octagonal-shaped pet carrier with a heart-shaped handle that poses the question: “Who will you rescue?” A small, scruffy animal peers out of the packaging. When kids follow the on-pack instructions to wash, groom, and love their new pet, all is revealed. The packaging makes this toy come alive. This “pet carrier” is definitely a keeper. Not only does it make it possible for kids to take Scruff-aLuvs with them, it also helps foster a special relationship between owners and their toys. Packaging like this becomes an integral part of the toy, as does the story that each child creates around a very special new friend. »

Ted Mininni is president and creative director at Design Force Inc., a package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. The goal of Design Force is to establish strong emotional connections with consumers and create powerful visual brand experiences that engage, excite, entertain, inspire, and influence consumers’ decision to buy. Mininni can be reached at (856) 810-2277. Visit designforceinc.com for more information.

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RAISING THE BAR

GETTING TO ZERO A new Amazon tool takes aim at counterfeits. by HOWARD N. ARONSON, managing director, Lackenbach Siegel LLC A NEW AMAZON PROGRAM MAY BRING some hope of attacking — if not solving — the problem of counterfeiting for trademark owners. The program — optimistically dubbed “Project Zero” because it aims to reduce the number of counterfeits on its platform to zero — allows trademark owners themselves to remove counterfeit products from the Amazon site. Until now, trademark owners had to go through a process of reporting suspected counterfeits to Amazon. Then, the retailer would conduct an internal investigation before removing counterfeits. The process, as brand owners know, was time consuming, burdensome, costly, and all too often ineffective. Amazon states that in recent months it tested a pilot program with several brands. The web giant now plans to expand the program and eventually offer it to all brand owners. Amazon claims that if the program is as effective as its early reports indicated, removing counterfeits before items are offered for sale should make trademark enforcement 100 times more effective than removing reported counterfeits already online. However, the downside is that registering trademarks with Amazon under Project Zero will be more complicated than it was under the past system. The first requirement is that the trademark owner must be enrolled in the Amazon brand registry. Only registered trademarks are eligible for participation in Project Zero. Note that access to the program is by invitation only — for now. Amazon says that it will designate only selected brands, including reported trademark owners and current users Vera Bradley, Thunderworks, Kenu, and ChomChom Roller, to take part in the program. However, trademark owners can join a waiting list to be notified when they can actually participate in the program. REGISTRATION REQUIRED Toy companies will not have to read much of the fine print about Amazon’s Project Zero to discover that the first requirement

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for participation — even signing on to the waiting list — is registration of its trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This requirement lengthens the already long list of advantages of U.S. trademark registration, including the right to use the registered trademark symbol; the right to file a trademark infringement lawsuit in federal court and obtain significant monetary remedies not otherwise available; legal presumptions, including validity, ownership, incontestability, and priority; the possibility of seizure of counterfeit goods; the ability to obtain recordation with U.S. Customs; and a bar to the registration of another confusingly similar mark, among many others. So, if your trademarks are not registered, consult your intellectual property counsel, who will guide you through the process. HOW IT WORKS Trademark owners can designate listings of products for removal, providing their trademarks, including logos and other designs, to Amazon. The retailer will then scan its approximately 5 billion listings each day to identify likely counterfeits. In addition, trademark owners are able to access a search portal online. When a trademark owner spots a suspected counterfeit, he or she can remove the product or the seller electronically with a click. Machine learning incorporates this owner-initiated removal information, increasing the accuracy of the automated systems now in place that scan the attempted uploads to the Amazon site and remove items that appear to be counterfeits. Amazon is also urging trademark owners to aim for a high rate of accuracy in their listings to maintain their Project Zero privileges. To that end, the retailer is running training sessions required for enrollment. Amazon also says that it will monitor use of the project to prevent misuse of the removal tools. SERIALIZATION PREVENTS COUNTERFEITS Amazon says that the best anti-

counterfeiting results are achieved when trademark owners serialize their products. The system generates serialized barcodes for products by individual units. As part of the manufacturing process, trademark owners print the new barcodes directly onto their product packaging or attach a sticker bearing the barcode to the product. The new barcode makes it easier to check products for authenticity in Amazon warehouses. When a customer orders a product using the serialization service on the website, Amazon can scan and verify the authenticity of the item. The pilot project showed that serialization allowed the company to detect all of the counterfeits before they shipped to customers, according to Amazon. However, product serialization is not required. Trademark owners may serialize some, but not all, of their products if they choose, with brand owners able to choose which products to serialize. Although it is free to enroll in the new Amazon anti-counterfeiting program ­— once a trademark owner is invited to access the automated systems — and use the counterfeit removal tool, the cost for using the product serialization service ranges between 1 and 5 cents per unit, based on volume. The current participants called the program “very effective,” “an insurance policy,” and “a game changer.” One company believes that its “counterfeit problem has nearly disappeared,” according to Amazon. However, only time will tell whether or not owners of trademarks for toys and other goods will find that Project Zero lives up to its name. »

Howard N. Aronson has provided legal counsel to toy industry 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 company issues. Grateful acknowledgement is extended to Eileen DeVries, counsel to Lackenbach Siegel.


her second Renee & Friends album. Kindred features Grammy winners Ziggy Marley, Lisa Loeb, and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, plus Elizabeth Mitchell and Chris Stills. Jennifer Paskow, Renee’s daughters Amelia and Isadora Dektor, and Jeremy Toback, a longtime collaborator in the family duo Renee & Jeremy, also lend their talents to the new album. Available now from One Melody Records

Latin Grammy and Emmy Award-winning, husband-and-wife duo Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis is back! On Buenos Diaz, a bilingual celebration of family life, the duo celebrates a decade of work, reinventing themselves as The Lucky Band — complete with a “retro space age” new look. “Taco Tuesday” should get the whole family movin’ and groovin’ right on over to Funkytown. Available now from Rainy Day Dimes Music

RENEE & FRIENDS: KINDRE NAPPA Gold Award winner Renee Stahl brings together a collection of guest stars for

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Paramount Pictures’ new production has been hailed as the best of the live-action films inspired by Hasbro’s Transformers. Available now

The Warner Bros. film finds Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael hitting the streets of Gotham in search of Shredder and the Foot Clan. Will Batman view them as friends or foes, as his own Rogue’s Gallery joins the fray? Available on May 14

JACK FORMAN: OFFICE HOURS

LUCKY DIAZ: BUENOS DIAZ

BUMBLEBEE

BATMAN VS. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

MUSIC Meant for kids and former kids, the Recess Monkey bassist fills his second solo album with pop culture (and Pop Tart) nods and bouncy, “slightly caffeinated” energy. From the glory of blowing on a cartridge to play Super Mario 3 on an original Nintendo Entertainment System to a song with a story told from the perspective of Jawas selling Droids on the sands of Tatooine, Office Hours is a top kindie (kids and independent rock) record for spring. Available now from Monkey House Music

BLU-RAY/DVD

PAW PATROL: ULTIMATE RESCUE

JOHNETTE & SCOTT: SWAMP ROMP Swamp Romp is a Louisiana dance party that’s meant to evoke a certain joie de vivre — a zest for life! The new album is inspired by everything from the cajun, zydeco, and swamp pop of South Louisiana to the rhythm and blues, gospel, jazz, brass band, and street music of New Orleans. It’s got the rock ’n roll of North Louisiana, and it even takes listeners on a small side trip to the Mississippi. Available now from Wiggle Worm Records

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Fans of these furry rescuers won’t want to miss a moment of these wildly brave missions as Chase, Marshall, Rocky, and the rest of the pups save the Royal Kitties, stop a mechanical monster, rescue a swamp creature, and more. Available now

COMING SOON! April 16: The Kid Who Would Be King, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season One Steelbook, The Wiggles: Wiggle Bop May 7: Floogals: Season 1, Volume 1


from Random House, based on Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets 2. The book kicks off a complete range of books in support of the film. Available on April 30

DC ZOOM AND DC INK

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: THE POETRY OF MISTER ROGERS For the first time, 75 beloved songs from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and The Children’s Corner are collected in this illustrated treasury, from Quirk Books, sure to be cherished by generations of children — and the millions of adults who grew up with Mister Rogers. Available now

BOOKS HAROLD & HOG PRETEND FOR REAL! Author and illustrator Dan Santat is back with another hilarious and heartfelt story for Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series, from Disney-Hyperion. Hog is careful. Harold is not. Harold cannot help smiling. Hog can. Hog worries so that Harold does not have to. Harold and Hog are best friends. But can Harold and Hog’s friendship survive a game of pretending to be Elephant & Piggie? Available on May 7

SESAME STREET: LOVE THE FUR YOU’RE IN With words of wisdom and advice for all ages, this hardcover from Random House is all about being true to one’s self and living life with that famous Sesame Street perspective: always seeking those sunny days! Presented as part of Sesame Street’s 50th-Anniversary celebration, the book is illustrated with pieces curated from 50 years of Sesame Street-themed children’s books. Available on April 23

SPOTLIGHT

STRANGER THINGS VOLUME 1: THE OTHER SIDE The comic book mini-series based on Will Byers’ unseen journey during the first season of the Netflix Original series is collected in this new trade paperback edition, from Dark Horse. In the Upside Down, Byers is frightened, but there’s something even more terrifying lurking in this parody world. The series is written by Jody Houser, along with artist Stefano Martino, inker Keith Champagne, colorist Lauren Affe, and designer Patrick Satterfield, with cover art from Aleksi Briclot. Available on May 1

This spring, DC Comics launches two new imprints for young readers. DC Zoom will cater to readers ages 8 to 12, while DC Ink will focus on titles for kids ages 13 and up. DC Zoom kicks off with Super Sons: The Polarshield Project. From New York Times best-selling author Ridley Pearson (Kingdom Keepers) and artist Ile Gonzalez, the first book in a threepart series follows the adventures of Jon Kent and Damian Wayne — sons of the world’s greatest heroes, Superman and Batman. DC Ink begins with Mera: Tidebreaker. New York Times best-selling author Danielle Paige and artist Stephen Byrne tell a new story of Mera and Aquaman that explores Mera’s first steps on land. Will she choose the path of a hero, or that of a villain? New titles will feature DC Super Hero Girls, Harley Quinn, Swamp Thing, Teen Titans, Black Canary, Wonder Woman, and more.

COMING SOON! April 30: Dragon Masters #13 — Eye of the Earthquake Dragon: A Branches Book, Spy School: British Invasion May 7: Dr. Seuss’s I Love Pop!: A Celebration of Dads

MAX ON THE FARM Max, Gidget, and all of their pet co-stars are back in a full-color Little Golden Book,

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WIT STORIES

PAYING IT FORWARD: PAM KAUFMAN ON MENTORSHIP by MARY KAY RUSSELL, executive director, Women in Toys, Licensing, & Entertainment WOMEN IN TOYS, LICENSING, & Entertainment honored Pam Kaufman as Mentor of the Year at the 2019 Wonder Women Awards, which was presented by Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm president and Kaufman’s personal friend. She pays it forward every day as president of Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products and as a WIT Advisory Board member. Her unwavering strength to lead is a true testament to the mentors who impacted her along the way. Kaufman moved the room as she gave her acceptance remarks with her stories of reflection, inspiration, and encouragement. She paid tribute to her mentors with her trademark authenticity and razor-sharp humor. Kaufman explained how mentoring is a path for us to see more parity in the boardroom. “Pure and simple, mentorship is a direct path to leadership,” she said. Kaufman shared how mentorship plays a key role in her success and how important it is to contribute meaningfully to the lives of others. She ele-

Kathleen Kennedy and Pam Kaufman

vated the value that mentorship has on future generations, vowing to dedicate her career to empower the next generation of leaders. Kaufman inspired and fired up the crowd of 800 women and men to be better leaders, and her message resonated with me both professionally and personally. I was inspired to take action and to mindfully practice mentorship every day in my role as WIT’s executive director and as a mother of four young men, who are just starting out in the business world. Here are the five guiding principles in Kaufman’s philosophy on mentorship that she shared during the Wonder Women Awards. 1. Make everyone feel heard. This was a lesson Kaufman picked up from her mom. She talked about the importance of making everyone in the room feel included, acknowledged, and heard. 2. Motivate, motivate, motivate. Every leader should be the chief motivational officer for their team. 3. Willingly share your successes and failures. A good mentor will share her failures with others so they can be better.

Pam Kaufman, president of Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products

4. Always shine a light on others. Kaufman expressed that one of the most important leadership skills is shining a light on others, acknowledging each other, and cele-

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brating each other’s achievements. 5. Don’t take your title, or yourself, too seriously. Kaufman learned this from Kennedy, who she calls her “Obi-Wan-Kenobi.” She stressed that — regardless of any title you may have — you should always put the work first and take on any task to get the job done. Kaufman encouraged us all to make mentorship part of our daily life and job description. She left us with a few questions to ponder: 1. How are you going to make sure people in the room feel heard? 2. How can you take on the role of chief motivational officer? 3. How will you pass on the lessions you’ve learned? 4. Who are you going to shine a light on today? »

Mary Kay Russell is executive director at Women in Toys, Licensing, & Entertainment and The WIT Foundation, a global nonprofit organization that champions the advancement of women through leadership, networking, and educational opportunities. Prior to her role at WIT, she worked in the toy industry in multiple roles, such as a marketing professional, inventor, and manufacturer.


INDUSTRY MARKETPLACE

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: murraybass@playtimesales.com lensoyka@playtimesales.com carolleeman@playtimesales.com 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, and TJ Maxx, • NY METRO​ NY City and New Jersey. Accounts... dd’s Stores, Macy’s Backstage, Cititrends, Burlington Stores, Xmas Tree Shops, Shepher Distributors, Buy Buy Baby, Party City, National Whle., Bed Bath and Beyond, Stevens Intl., and NY area Supermarket chains. • MID-LANTIC…Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Western Ohio. Accounts…Rite Aid Drug, Group Sales, Boscov’s, 5 Below, Dollar Tree, Variety Wholesale and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // 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.

Toy Overstock Experts We are looking for manufactures and suppliers to help manage your closeouts and overstocks. With over 20 years of experience we can work with lots large, small and mixed. Distressed goods and need for rebranding. Call us for help with your inventory management needs! 600 Cummings Center Beverly, MA 01915 Phone: (978) 969-3734 Email: S.Rovendro@topnotchproducts.net ®

To place a classified ad, please contact Bill Reese at 212-575-4510 x2322 or bill@toybook.com

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FLASHBAC

MARCH/APRIL1999

1

LEGO Racers and LEGO Rock Raiders are the first LEGO software available for PlayStation and PC CDROM. Players can explore and excavate the underground tunnels of an unexplored planet in LEGO Rock Raiders. In LEGO Racers, players customize their own race car and driver. Then, they can challenge five other drivers in landscapes based on LEGO System themes: castle, town, space, and adventures.

THE DOLL CATEGORY EXPANDS FROM TRADITIONAL TO TECHNOLOGICAL Playmates’ Amazing Ally looks like a real little girl. Her face and lips move as she talks. What makes the doll truly unique is that Ally can interact with a child as if she were alive, much like last year’s Amazing Amy doll. However, Amazing Ally is made to be a kid’s best friend and give them attention.

THQ EXTENDS MULTIPLATFORM LICENSING AGREEMENT WITH NICKELODEON FOR RUGRATS THQ and Nickelodeon will continue developing interactive video games worldwide based on Rugrats through December 31, 2002. The new deal gives THQ the exclusive rights to the Rugrats property for all current and future game systems from Sony, Nintendo, and Sega. THQ intends to publish one of the first interactive, 3D board games for Nintendo 64, Rugrats: Scavenger Hunt, a new Game Boy Color game, and an updated PlayStation sequel to Rugrats: Search for Reptar.

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2

Mattel’s The Rosie O’Donnell doll is the first in a collection of Barbie’s celebrity friends. She is sculpted to look like the famous talk show host and comes with a microphone; a chip art copy of her new book Kids Are Punny 2; and an activity book with jokes, crafts, and tips from O’Donnell on hosting a talk show. A donation to For All Kids Foundation is made with the purchase of every doll.

»

LEGO MEDIA EXPLORES NEW FRONTIERS AND MEDIUMS

A new Blue’s Clues line, from Tyco Preschool, includes » the Goodnight Blue and talking storybook. Preschoolers read the story to Blue, who is dressed for bed. When they press a button on each page, different characters say unique phrases. With each successive page, Blue’s eyes slowly close and her ears lower as she fades off to sleep.


Reach Millions of Shoppers This Holiday Season The Toy Insider runs in the November issue of Family Circle magazine. Family Circle readers purchased nearly 41 MILLION toys in 2018, worth nearly $1.4 BILLION.

Our digital media program engages toy shoppers with giveaways, product reviews, and demo videos across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, e-mail newsletters, and more. thetoyinsider

@thetoyinsider

@thetoyinsider

The Toy Insider Team appeared in more than 300 national and local TV segments in 2018, showcasing the BEST toys to millions of consumers all season.

To participate, contact: Jackie Breyer Laurie Schacht (646) 736-2324 (646) 736-2320 jackie@toyinsider.com laurie@toyinsider.com toyinsider.com

#weknowplay

@thetoyinsider


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