July/August 2015

Page 1

Vol. 31, No. 4

The Lowdown on Doll Hunting Doll Collecting in the Age of Social Media

July/August 2015




oll collecting may be as old as the industry itself, but the newest generation of collectors is armed with video cameras, vlogs, and thousands of YouTube subscribers. They call themselves doll hunters. Doll hunting is a reinvented, pumped-up version of collecting all of the dolls from a specific doll line, or a variety of dolls from different lines, and sharing the action on social media.

uilding eyond oys

Construction Toys Continue to Make Inroads with Girls

page 35 A Certified Strategy for Strengthening Your Store Dolls • Games Building Sets

Clockwise from top left: Panda Head, R&R Games; Zip It, Bananagrams; Tetris 3D Puzzle Cube, MasterPieces; Swingy Thing, Fat Brain Toys; Bellz, Wiggles 3D; Magic: The Gathering Arena of the Planeswalkers, Hasbro

in this issue July/August 2015


04 05 06 08 10 20


Editor’s Viewpoint The Toy Insider’s Sweet Suite 15

No Slowdown in the Chinese Toy and Game Market

Eurmonitor’s Mykola Golovko looks at the significant growth in the toy and game industry in the Chinese market, and how it is expected to grow in the future.


Stat Shot

F eatures

The Lowdown on Doll Hunting


Industry Update

Smart Play Innovative tech toys are a hit with strategic and financial acquirers.


5 Questions with Thames & Kosmos

34 48

Game On Consumer demand for tech-free fun drives game sales.

What’s New


Industry Marketplace


Building Beyond Boys The construction toy segment continues to make inroads with girls.



July 1995


Specialty Toys & Gifts ASTRA’S INSIGHTS S2 A certified strategy for strengthening your store

P UBLISHER Jonathan Samet jsamet@adventurepub.com

S ENIOR E DITORS Marissa DiBartolo mdibartolo@adventurepub.com Ali Mierzejewski amierzejewski@adventurepub.com A SSOCIATE E DITOR Phil Guie pguie@adventurepub.com A SSISTANT E DITOR Deanna Atkins datkins@adventurepub.com A SSISTANT V ISUAL M EDIA E DITOR Joe Ibraham jibraham@adventurepub.com E DITORIAL A SSISTANT Magdalene Michalik mmichalik@adventurepub.com P RODUCTION D IRECTOR Bill Reese breese@adventurepub.com C ONTROLLER /O FFICE M ANAGER Lori Rubin lrubin@adventurepub.com E DITORIAL I NTERN Tatyana Bellamy-Walker U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht, President laurieschacht@aol.com

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


EVERYBODY’S GAME AT ASTRA GAME NIGHT S8 Retailers take on more than 30 board games, 10 minutes at a time.


Volume 31, Number 4 www.toybook.com

E DITOR - IN -C HIEF Jackie Breyer jbreyer@adventurepub.com

A look at what’s driving a new generation of doll collectors.

TIA Perspectives

Published by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.®


Member, International Toy Magazine Association



Gearing Up

for Back-to-School


he weather is still blazing here in New York, but back-to-school reset is on everyone’s minds. As we start to think about how best to connect with consumers during this time frame, one major trend stands out: STEM. Toys that enhance kids’ understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math are really hot right now, and show no sign of slowing down. In this issue, we take a look at construction sets, which place a lot of emphasis on engineering. In fact, the major trend we focus on in this feature is how construction toy companies are working overtime to make sure they are not only talking to the importance of engineering, but also making sure they are engaging girls in this important experience. While the Lego Friends line was really the first to spark the industry into seeing how important girls can be to the category, smaller companies, such as GoldieBlox, have come onto the scene in a big way, not only talking to girls directly and in a way that captures their attention, but in a way that introduces them to engineering concepts in a fun, straightforward manner. There are also companies that are talking to both boys and girls in a very non-gender-specific way, such as Hexbug with its Vex Robotics line. The Hexcalator is one of my personal favorites, but the entire ball machines line is very cool, and sure to be a hit for both boys and girls during the backto-school and holiday seasons. Building sets overall experienced double-digit growth last year, and the category’s focus on girls and STEM concepts is sure to keep the momentum going well into next year. Another category that’s hitting on all cylinders is games. While there are several types of games to consider, adult and family games have shown significant year-over-year growth so far this year. Mary Couzin gives us the lowdown on page 21.


Jackie Breyer editor-in-chief

STEM is no stranger to the games category either, and with Thames & Kosmos expanding its games distribution to the U.S. this fall, there’s lots of fun and experiential learning to be had in this category, too. Check out our Q&A with Andrew Quartin, Thames & Kosmos’ CEO, on page 20. We hope you enjoy this issue of The Toy Book. Please share what your best-sellers are heading into the back-toschool season. Tweet @ToyBook and let us know! And, as always, I love to hear from you. Tweet @JackieBreyer with your feedback. ■

Mental Blocks JULY/AUGUST 2015

sweet suite 15 Takes Over NYC


he Toy Insider’s sixth annual Sweet Suite event took place on July 16 at Pier Sixty in New York City. Known as the

Biggest Night of Play, the event welcomed more than 400 influential bloggers and vloggers and more than 100 members

of traditional media to connect with the best toy companies in advance of the hol-

iday shopping season. Sweet Suite was the feature event at the second annual Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced digital influencers featuring parties, exhibitions, and speed pitching sessions. Blogger Bash attendees were welcomed into high-energy party atmospheres, giving them a chance to have fun while mingling with brands in a professional yet inviting setting. During Sweet Suite, bloggers enjoyed one-on-one time with representatives from more than 75 of the hottest kids’ brands and properties on the market, including VTech, Activision, LeapFrog, Hasbro, Spin Master, LEGO, Tomy, Disney, and more. Robotic pets zoomed around the floor, streams of bubbles filled the air, and LED lights winked throughout the venue as the sun set on the Hudson River. The night gave digital influencers and members of the press a chance to meet old and new friends while sipping on strawberry mojitos, feasting on chocolate covered bacon, and—best of all—playing with toys before they even hit the market. Enormous swag boxes were shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgance in social media impressions, and ensuring bloggers and journalists had products readily on-hand to review and share with their followers. #SweetSuite15 generated more than 95 million Twitter impressions, more than 8,000 original Instagram photos, and hundreds of blog post recaps. The Toy Insider will return to New York City on October 16 for the HoliDAY of Play, and plans are already underway for Sweet Suite 16. If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at thetoyinsidermom@gmail.com.






IN THE CHINESE TOY AND GAME MARKET by Mykola Golovko, senior toys and games analyst, Euromonitor



hina has driven growth in the toy and game industry nificantly smaller than those in other emerging markets. Even for some time now. Its importance increased signifi- the relaxation of the country’s one-child policy has had no sizcantly during the 2008 to 2009 recession, which led to able effect on birth rates. Last year, there was an average of prolonged declines and stagnation across most developed mar- 0.6 children per household in China, compared to 1.7 in India kets. According to our latest research, sales of traditional toys and 2.3 in Nigeria. So the capacity to spend on discretionary and games in China increased at a compound annual growth products such as toys is far greater in China than in most rate of 9 percent in real terms over 2009 to 2014; we expect the other emerging markets. At the same time, the Chinese market indicator to continue at 9 percent over 2014 to 2019, and with remains very fragmented, and growing incomes will make ingrowth coming from a much higher base, we are going to see ternational brands more competitive, as pricing declines in imfar more significant gains in absolute terms. portance. Therefore, we expect to see a consolidating A unique mix of factors sets China apart from other emerg- competitive environment marked by the expanding presence of ing markets. With more than 210 million residents under the global brands over the next three to five years. ■ age of 14 in 2015, the sheer size EXPECTED ABSOLUTE GROWTH OF TRADITIONAL of the population allows the TOYS & GAMES IN 2014 TO 2019 market to grow dynamically over long periods of time without ap5.0 proaching saturation. While income levels in China 4.5 are still far below those seen in 4.0 developed markets, they are significantly higher than in most 3.5 other emerging markets, and are expected to continue to grow. In 3.0 2014, the median household in2.5 come in China was just under U.S. $10,000, nearly double that 2.0 of in India, and about 40 to 60 percent larger than in other pop1.5 ulous emerging markets such as Indonesia and Nigeria. By 2019, 1.0 we expect the median income in 0.5 China to reach U.S. $15,000 per household, further increasing 0.0 the wealth divide. MIDDLE EAST WESTERN NORTH LATIN EASTERN CHINA & AFRICA EUROPE AMERICA AMERICA EUROPE Chinese households are sig-





FanTOYstic Fact Raggedy Ann celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The character was invented by cartoonist Johnny Gruelle, who, according to legend, drew Raggedy Ann’s face on an old rag doll that his daughter, Marcella, played with. In 1915, Gruelle received a patent on his creation, and a few months later, after Marcella tragically died from a smallpox vaccination, he began keeping the doll near him at all times. In 1918, Gruelle published the children’s book Raggedy Ann Stories, the first in a long-running series starring the character and her brother, Raggedy Andy. The dolls themselves have been licensed to different toymakers over the years, including Aurora World, which celebrates Raggedy Ann’s centennial this year with special-edition dolls. On September 7, the 100th anniversary of Raggedy Ann’s patent date, Aurora will host a contest asking fans to share their favorite Raggedy Ann moments online for a chance to win an anniversary doll. It will be part of a weeklong celebration of Raggedy Ann on Aurora’s social media channels.

Raggedy Ann 100th Anniversary Doll


JAKKS PACIFIC PARTNERS WITH SKECHERS FOR NEW LINE OF TWINKLE TOES DOLLS Skechers USA Inc. has partnered with Jakks Pacific Inc. to launch a line of dolls based on Skechers’ popular Twinkle Toes characters. The launch includes four 6.5-inch dolls dressed in fashion-forward outfits and light-up Skechers Twinkle Toes shoes. Skechers and Jakks have also partnered to create original webisodes based on the dolls, animated by Cosmic Toast Studios, releasing bimonthly on twinkletoesusa.com. The Skechers Twinkle Toes doll line is available at Toys “R” Us and is scheduled to launch at select Target retail stores this fall.

SPIN MASTER CORP. RELEASES INFO ON INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERING On July 30, Spin Master Corp. completed its public offering of 12,225,000 subordinate voting shares priced at C$18.00 per subordinate voting share. The offering raised total gross proceeds of C$220,050,000. The subordinate voting shares will commence trading today on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol TOY. Pursuant to a reorganization transaction completed in connection with the offering, the company’s founders—Ronnen Harary, Anton Rabie, and Ben Varadi—each became the beneficial owner of multiple voting shares of the company upon exchange of the prior holdings in the company and its predecessors.

THE STRONG NOW ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS FOR INDUCTION INTO NATIONAL TOY HALL OF FAME Toy enthusiasts are invited to nominate their favorite classic toy or game for induction into The Strong museum’s National Toy Hall of Fame. Submissions are being accepted through July 31. The National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys that have engaged and delighted multiple generations, inspiring them to learn, create, and discover through play. Nominated toys should be widely recognized and respected, have enjoyed popularity over multiple generations, foster learning and discovery through play, and be highly innovative. An internal museum advisory committee made up of educators, curators, and historians will review each submitted nomination and determine which toys meet these criteria. A national selection committee will then review the narrowed slate of toys, and members will vote for their top picks for induction into the Hall of Fame. People can submit their nominations online or by mailing their written selections

Get the latest toy industry news delivered straight to your inbox each week for free! Subscribe to The Toy Book’s Toy Report. Send an email request to subscribe@adventurepub.com, and add that address to your address book to ensure delivery. For up-to-the-minute news, follow The Toy Book on Twitter: twitter.com/ToyBook, and like The Toy Book on Facebook: facebook.com/TheToyBook. Visit our blog at www.toybook.com.


to The Strong at One Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY 14607.

MARK CUBAN TO DELIVER WIT EMPOWERMENT DAY KEYNOTE Businessman and entrepreneur Mark Cuban will deliver the opening keynote at this year’s Women in Toys, Licensing, and Entertainment (WIT) Empowerment Day, to be held at Dallas Market Center on October 5. The annual event, held on the day before the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) Dallas Fall Toy Preview, offers female business owners access to industry resources, mentors, and—for those who pre-qualify—the opportunity to pitch Wal-Mart toy buyers onsite. Interested parties can register for WIT Empowerment Day by visiting WIT’s homepage.

KIDKRAFT ACQUIRED BY MIDOCEAN PARTNERS MidOcean Partners has acquired KidKraft Inc., a manufacturer of dollhouses, play kitchens, wooden toy trains, children’s furniture, and other products. Its items are carried by Amazon, Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us, Target, as well as independent toy stores. KidKraft will continue to be led by Steven Lampert, CEO,


and Charmaine Lampert, president and chief creative officer. KidKraft’s senior leadership will focus on expanding the company’s reach in current and new markets in partnership with MidOcean’s management and acquisition resources. Kirkland & Ellis acted as legal adviser to MidOcean. Lazard acted as exclusive financial advisor and Baker & McKenzie LLP acted as legal adviser to KidKraft.

TOY STATE TO PRODUCE DC SUPER FRIENDS TOYS Toy State will produce a line of DC Super Friends products in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP). “DC Comics is a legendary brand and has been redefining the superhero genre for decades. We look forward to adding Toy State product design and innovation to DC Super Friends at retail,” says Andy Friess, Toy State president. The product line will include R/C vehicles featuring popular DC Comics characters, as well as lights and sound features. Distributed under the Nikko brand, product is scheduled to arrive on retail shelves next year.



Toy Industry Association

Get Smart Educational Toys & Games Scale New Heights

by Kristin Morency Goldman, communications specialist, Toy Industry Association


ducational and STEM-based toys have grown in popularity over the past few years, and experts predict that the trend toward “Smart Play” will continue to flourish this year. Now found in just about every toy category from building sets to arts and crafts, these sought-after playthings include both back-to-basics learning toys and highly innovative products, including those that teach kids coding, robotics, multiple languages, and advanced mathematical concepts. At this year’s 112th North American International Toy Fair, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) named “Smart Play” as one of the top toy trends of the year, and we’ve got the numbers to back it up: According to Euromonitor International, the U.S. is currently the largest individual country in overall scientific/educational toy sales. The category recorded positive growth in 2013 for the first time since the recession, indicating that parents are becoming more willing to invest in high-end educational toys. And last year’s toy sales figures reported by The NPD Group

underscore the popularity of two categories that include an abundance of educational and STEM-related toys: building sets and youth electronics, which posted gains of 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively. “Educational and STEM toys run the gamut from logic and problem-solving activities to cutting-edge products that help kids build essential cognitive skills that can be applied to many aspects of school and life,” says Adrienne Appell, TIA’s leading trend expert. “One thing they all have in common is that they encourage children to explore, learn, and grow while also having fun, which is hugely appealing to both parents and kids. Toymakers are continuing to respond to that need by creating multilayered toys that truly enrich the play experience.” Retailers might want to consider positioning their educational playthings based on the different types of play they encourage or the skills they help to build; see below for some examples. Visit thegeniusofplay.org to learn more about the many benefits of toys and play, plus discover brand-new research, cool toy picks, and expert advice that can be shared with parents, caregivers, and other shoppers.



Lego’s Lego Classic promotes intergenerational play.

Toys that encourage learning at every age and stage are perfect for parents, grandparents, and kids to enjoy together as a family. These might include games, science experiments, building projects, and other hands-on playthings that will help build healthy bonds, connect kids and elders through play, and bring a


whole new dimension of learning to playtime. Examples include Astro Telescope (Thames & Kosmos), FrankenWords (The Haywire Group), National Geographic Ancient Cities Puzzle (4D Cityscape), Lego Classic Bricks (Lego Systems Inc.), and Teach My Baby Bath Time Numbers (Teach My Inc.).

SOLO PLAY Toys and games that kids can play alone—without adult intervention or instruction—can be very beneficial. For one thing, they encourage children to be creative and think outside the box. They also help kids develop their logic and problemsolving abilities through trial and error. Perhaps most importantly, these toys and games help to build little ones’ confidence and self-esteem. Examples include Joinks (Fat Brain Toys), Power Clix (GuideCraft), Sparkup the Magical Book Reader (Sparkup), PlayMais Fun to Learn ABC Playset (Playing Unlimited Inc.), and Double Dutch Dolls—Book Series (Double Dutch Dolls Inc.).

Kids can learn programming, robotics, and other STEM skills with toys such as Hexbug’s VEX IQ line.

ORGANIC LEARNING Organic learning presents itself when kids don’t actually realize that they are playing with an educational toy because they are so absorbed and engaged in the activity. From board games to tech games and kids’ tablets, these toys are more about the experiences produced by the toy or game, rather than the concrete lessons that are learned. Examples include Tiggly Math (Tiggly), Dr. Charlie (Cuddle Barn), Get Growing! Greenhouse (SmartLab Toys), Roominate School (Roominate), and Dino Pet (Biological and Popular Culture Inc.).

CODING, PROGRAMMING, AND ROBOTICS This relatively recent trend in educational toys is growing

Tiggly’s products, such as Tiggly Math, teach even the youngest learners basic skills.


in leaps and bounds. Through coding and programming, kids build high-level cognitive functions at a young age, sharpen their math skills, and enjoy the creative freedom that comes with customizing and controlling how their toys interact and engage with their surroundings. Examples include Meccano G15 (Spin Master Ltd.), VEX IQ line (Hexbug), LightUp Edison Kit (LightUp), Compose Yourself (ThinkFun), Ozobot (Evollve), and Code Master (Thinkfun).

WELL-ROUNDED PLAY Toys that incorporate many different types of learning all rolled into one have a long lifespan in the hands of a curious child. From creative activities that promote scientific discoveries to building sets that incorporate storytelling, these toys help children gain knowledge through fun and engaging experiences. Examples include Invicta Challenge Book and Model Kit (Citizen CG Inc./Invicta Challenge), ABC Magnetic Puzzle & Play Board (innovativeKids), Mighty Makers: Fun at the Fair Building Set (K’NEX Brands), Flip ’n Check (Teen Entrepreneur Boot Camp), and Maker Madness Activity Kit (Fibre-Craft). ■





by Deanna Atkins


oll collecting may be as old as the industry itself, but the newest generation of collectors is armed with video cameras, vlogs, and thousands of YouTube subscribers. They call themselves doll hunters. Doll hunting is a reinvented, pumped-up version of collecting all of the dolls from a specific doll line, or a variety of dolls from different lines and sharing the action on social media. Doll hunters are known for their vast collection of dolls, but the collecting itself is more intense when you have tons of doll enthusiasts waiting to see your next score. This is especially true if you have the privilege of being dubbed The Doll Hunters, who are also known as Mommy and Gracie, (and sometimes Daddy).


Melissa Hunter and her daughter Gracie started the Mommy and Gracie Show on YouTube in June of 2012, never expecting that only three years later their channel would garner more than 500,000 subscribers, and that their first “Doll Hunters” episode would hit 1.5 million views. While doll hunting has become a huge trend among bloggers and vloggers, Mommy and Gracie are the original Doll Hunters, a name that has defined them for years. “Somewhere in that first month when we started making videos, Gracie came up with the idea that we should take our camera phone


with us when we go hunting for dolls,” says Hunter. “We called ourselves ‘The Doll Hunters’ right away.”

IMITATION IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF FLATTERY When the Mommy and Gracie Show first launched, the goal was simple: for the mother-daughter duo to have fun together while filming video reviews of the dolls they already loved and collected. While other channels had posted toy review videos on YouTube, they became the first to film themselves going store-to-store in search of dolls. “Over the course of the next year or so, it became a trend that caught on on YouTube, which we were not upset about—we were actually really excited,” says Hunter. “All of the [videos] were fun for us to do and were never done with any calculated intention.” As doll hunting gained popularity and other channels started making their own versions, vloggers began to refer to their own hunts as toy hunting. “Everybody else called it toy hunting, which is very nice that they respect that The Doll Hunters are people,” says Hunter.


Mommy and Gracie began frequenting Toys “R” Us, Target, and Wal-Mart locations all over their home state of New Jersey in

Melissa and Gracie Hunter from the Mommy and Gracie Show


Barbie Career dolls

Descendants Kids doll assortment

search of Mattel’s Monster High dolls. But in their videos, they also began collecting My Little Pony Equestria Girls from Hasbro; American Girl, Ever After High, and Barbie dolls from Mattel; and more. While Melissa and Gracie Hunter love Monster High dolls, they are not biased to one brand, and neither are many other doll hunters. Jason Robert Keef, who runs his channel, The Dude with Dolls, also posts videos of toy and doll reviews and toy hunts. Keef can be found searching for Cabbage Patch Kids, Disney’s Descendants dolls, Lalaloopsy, Barbie, Disney Frozen, and various doll play sets. With these videos, doll and toy hunters are giving manufacturers an extensive amount of free publicity, as well as providing feedback about what they really like from certain lines and what they would like to see more of. “Fans are very vocal about wanting new dolls based on fan-favorite characters or featuring certain characteristics,” says Samantha Lomow, senior vice president, Hasbro Brands. “We frequently receive inquiries from consumers and fans looking for specific characters or dolls that we used to carry so they can add them to their collections.”


Part of what makes doll hunting exciting to do and to watch is when a doll is difficult to find. “When a particular doll style or character is no longer being produced, then it might become labeled as rare,” says Lomow. “An exclusive doll is one that is produced in limited quantities for a particular occasion.” When it comes to getting and keeping specific dolls in stock, Toys “R” Us says it is thankful for the increased speed of information so that it can see the types of dolls that its customers are most excited about. And, as a mass retailer, the company is able to work with manufacturers to bring in merchandise to satisfy customer demand.


Ever After High Spring Unsprung dolls

While doll hunting is a trial and error experience, Hunter explains that doll hunting does get hard when there are long periods of time when they cannot find anything. “We’re still having a good time because for us it’s just about going out and being goofy and doing it, but sometimes I worry that people are bored,” says Hunter. “We get more views on videos where we find stuff.”


Making it on YouTube is no easy feat, but enthusiasm and humor definitely help. Melissa Hunter believes the reason fans enjoy watching doll hunt videos so much is because “it feels like [the fans are] going shopping with Gracie,” she says. “They feel like they’re going with us and that they’re sharing this experience of hunting and failing. We don’t just post when we find stuff; we post when we don’t, too. And recently, we were in such a dry spell. It was so depressing.” The Doll Hunters once wanted to find a doll so badly that they got into their car and drove up to Canada in search of 13 Wishes dolls from the Monster High line, because they couldn’t find them in New Jersey. “We drove to Canada for dolls,” says Hunter. “We scored the doll and had the best waffle we ever had in our lives.”


As long as toys and dolls are still around, there will always be fans and collectors. “Super fans of particular brands have been around almost as long as the brands themselves,” says Lomow. “We’re glad to see that our most enthusiastic collectors are being recognized for their dedication in the space.” Only time will tell whether toy and doll hunters will still be posting their videos on YouTube in the coming years, but as Hunter says, “the content is interesting to children, and ■ I don’t think that will be going away.”



Flipsies, from VTech, combine traditional role play with collectible dolls and accessories. Every Flipsies doll and play set offers real world and dream world modes, with MagicPoint locations that elicit unique phrases from the dolls to stimulate imaginative role play. The line offers a variety of ways to play and has eight introductory themes that encourage girls to be anything they want to be, whether it’s a doctor, a marine biologist, a teacher, a baker, a rock star, a veterinarian, a fashion designer, or a princess. Each Flipsies doll wears a special charm that flips their dreams into reality, and includes two outfits and wigs, plus other accessories. The dolls can switch clothes, wigs, and accessories for more fun styles.

Hasbro Adding to its My Little Pony Equestria Girls line, Hasbro will introduce the My Little Pony Equestria Girls Shadowbolts and Wondercolts Sporty Style Deluxe Doll Assortments for kids ages 5 and up. The dolls are all ready to participate in different sporting events at the Crystal Prep Academy’s Friendship Games competition. The dolls in both lines come with a sports accessory, a unique hairstyle, and a custom coded necklace, which will unlock the My Little Pony Equestria Girls brand integrated app when scanned on any smart device. Hasbro will also roll out new dolls in its Descendants line. The Descendants Villain Kids Coronation Outfit Doll Assortment features the teenage daughters of Maleficent (Mal) and the Evil Queen (Evie). Each comes with rooted hair, a stylish dress, and fashionable accessories. The Descendants Auradon Kids Coronation Outfit Doll Assortment features the teenage daughters of Mulan (Lonnie), the Fairy Godmother (Jane), and Sleeping Beauty (Audrey). Each comes royally styled in an elegant coronation gown and includes several fashionable accessories. Descendants Villain Kids Coronation Outfit Doll Evie

MGA Entertainment The Bratz are back in MGA Entertainment’s new collection, Bratz Hello My Name Is, which aims to empower girls and encourage selfexpression. The line features mix-and-match fashion play, create-ityourself playsets, and dolls that come from different countries and cultural backgrounds. The introductory doll assortment reintroduces the core Bratz characters, and features the newest Bratz doll, Raya. All of the dolls come with an outfit and accessories that showcase their individual personalities and favorite hobbies.




Doc McStuffins Pet Vet Magic Talking Doc & Clinic

Just Play Kids can re-create scenes from Disney Jr.’s Doc McStuffins with the Doc McStuffins Pet Vet Magic Talking Doc & Clinic, from Just Play. Doc talks and sings the “Get Your Pet to the Vet” song and gives her pet friends Lambie and Findo checkups. Kids can give their patients baths, and when each pet is placed on the interactive vet center, their corresponding light-up X-ray magically pops up. Lambie, Findo, three veterinarian tools, and the Interactive Vet Station are included. Just Play also offers Best Fashion Friend Barbie large dolls with new fashions. Each doll stands more than 2 feet tall, and features points of articulation, an outfit, rooted eyelashes, and a brush for hair play. Fashion packs are sold separately for kids to dress their dolls in different and unique styles.


Jakks Pacific

There are 23 dolls to collect in Mattel’s Barbie Fashionistas line, which includes Barbie in two outfits, and her friends Teresa, Raquelle, Summer, and more. Each doll is dressed to reflect her stylish personality, and kids can mix and match the different fashions to show off their own style. Dolls in the collection are available in eight different skin tones, 14 different facial sculpts, 18 different eye colors, and 22 different hairstyles.

Barbie Fashionistas


Kids can create the perfect duet with the Sing-A-Long Elsa doll, from Jakks Pacific. They can pass the included mircrophone back and forth between themselves and Elsa, and sing the full length, Academy Award-winning song, “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel. Elsa’s necklace and dress magically light up, and she says more than 15 original phrases in both English and Spanish.

Sing-A-Long Elsa



Wicked Cool

Wicked Cool Toys has secured the Cabbage Patch Kids license, and will introduce a new line of dolls for kids, parents, and collectors. The adoptable 14-inch Cabbage Patch Kids are available in Preppy Girl, Rocker Girl, Adventure Girl, Glitz Girl, Trendy Girl, Glam Girl, Vintage Girl, and Adventure Boy. Each comes with a unique name, birth date, birth certificate—and for the first time—a bracelet with a heart-shaped charm that interacts with the Cabbage Patch Kids’ Adoptimals pets. Adoptimals are 8-inch furry friends that make sounds, say phrases, and have a special heart locket that lights up. Kids can also boogie down with The Dancing Cabbage Patch Kid. When kids squeeze the doll’s hand, the song “I Feel Good” comes on and the doll grooves to the beat.

Famosa Famosa’s Nenuco collection will feature new dolls and packaging that reflect the modern mom and kids’ desires to be just like their mommies. The line features soft-bodied dolls that range from 14 to 16 inches long and provide aspirational role-play for kids of all ages. For the youngest kids, My First Baby is available in two themes and has a soft vanilla scent. Kids ages 2 to 4 can practice being a real mommy with the Complete Starter Set—a 10-piece set that includes everything kids need to feed and bathe their babies, and comes with a crib for bedtime.

The Dancing Cabbage Patch Kid

Battat The Our Generation line, from Battat, expands with three new 18-inch dolls designed for kids ages 3 and up. June, part of the Retro collection, is a classic brunette doll dressed in a retro dress. Accessories include a headband, two bracelets, a pair of shoes, a pair of tights, and a pair of undies. Nahla and “A Garden Where Friendship Grows”—part of Battat’s deluxe dolls—includes a poseable doll, a chapter book, a garden play set, and a variety of fashion and garden-play accessories. Lastly, Amya, the chalk hair doll, comes with everything kids need to add a colorful touch to their doll’s hair. For every Our Generation product sold, a portion of sales goes to the Free the Children’s Power of a Girl Initiative. Amya




by Brian Levin, vice president, Intrepid Investment Bankers, head of the toys & giftware practice


laying with toys has always been an essential part of kids’ development, but today’s kids now have one gamechanging thing at their fingertips: technology. This new generation is inundated with tech, causing toymakers to add interactive learning and play elements to classic toys and games. Some examples include Play All Day Elmo, from Hasbro, which features age-appropriate play modes for toddlers and preschoolers, and Hello Barbie, Mattel’s classic doll with new abilities that allow her to learn and remember things. The addition of technological elements in toys has helped to fuel recent growth in the industry. According to The NPD Group, U.S. retail sales of toys grew to nearly $18.1 billion last year, an increase of 4 percent over 2013. Industry growth has attracted both strategic and financial buyers to the sector, with last year’s deal volume increasing 20 percent over 2013, while public company valuation multiples remained strong last year. Moreover, the sector has also seen an emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) toys and juvenile products that focus on helping kids learn basic scientific concepts and promote a lifelong love of learning. STEAM toys are not just science experiment kits; they are more sophisticated products that have valuable educational undertones, yet maintain fun and exciting play patterns for children. This segment of toys includes activity-based books, educational board games that teach language and culture, and building and engineering sets that teach coding and mathematical concepts. Recent merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the space includes the acquisition of Summit Products by Alex Brands (a portfolio company of Propel Equity Partners) through a liquidation sale in May of last year. Summit’s prod-


ucts are centered on providing kids with toys that allow them to learn about the natural sciences using outdoor games. The Maker Movement, as it is affectionately known, also allows children to interact with technology and use toys to build and create, while developing crucial spatial skills in the process. The construction segment has remained an active segment in the industry highlighted by the high-profile acquisitions of Meccano, which makes the classic Erector Set, by Spin Master, and MEGA Brands, the largest competitor to Lego, by Mattel. In May of last year, Alex Brands acquired CitiBlocs, a line of wooden construction blocks, to expand its presence in the construction space that already included Zoob, a line of movable construction pieces. A number of other companies in the educational toy space have also been acquisition targets in recent months. In April, Irving Place Capital acquired Bendon, known for producing activities that aid in early childhood development, and in June, Spin Master agreed to purchase Cardinal Industries, one of the oldest producers of games and puzzles in the U.S. Parents value educational toys that enable children to learn while having fun doing so. These toys have proven staying power in the marketplace and consumers have shown a willingness to pay a higher price for products with intrinsic educational value. We believe there will be considerable M&A ac■ tivity in this fun, creative sector in the coming year. To learn more about M&A transactions, valuation trends, and other newsworthy items relevant to companies and investors in the toys and giftware space, contact Intrepid Investment Bankers at (310) 478-9000.




Andrew Quartin, CEO 1. Thames & Kosmos is well-known for its fun, modern science kits for kids. What prompted the decision to enter the games category? 1. We wanted to expand on the types of skills we could teach through our products. Games help build social skills, stimulate logical and strategic thinking, promote visual-spatial and math skills, encourage family time, and inspire fairmindedness, confidence, and honorable characteristics. 2. Too much screen time is becoming an epidemic. Board games provide a great alternative to binge digital consumption. 3. Our parent company Kosmos has been publishing board games for more than 30 years. They work with highly esteemed authors such as Klaus Teuber (Settlers of Catan, Dohdles, Tumult Royale) and Reiner Knizia (Lost Cities, Keltis), among others. As with our science kits, the board games are not only fun, enchanting, and addictive, but also beneficial and wholesome in so many ways. 2. What was the inspiration for your inaugural game lineup? Are your games designed in-house or do they come from outside inventors?
 We felt that our inaugural lineup should focus on a variety of strategy games from celebrated authors. Many of the launches are re-issues of previously published bestsellers with great reviews from the board game community. Some are brand new from incredible authors and others are just games that we really love playing. We work with expert game designers from Germany and around the world. While many of our games are developed by outside designers, we have an incredible team of editors in Germany who are instrumental in further developing each game and preparing it for launch. In addition to our current designers, we are always looking for the next great game inventor. Our editorial team in Stuttgart receives hundreds, if not thousands, of board game submissions every year.


3. What trends are you seeing in the games category? How does Thames & Kosmos fit in with what’s popular on shelves? The entire category as a whole seems to be trending, and strategy games are particularly strong. In addition to the tangible benefits, strength in the category also helped shape our decision to focus on strategy games in year one. 4. How do STEM-based games offer a different learning experience than science kits? Although math and logic are common themes in our current lineup, I wouldn’t necessarily call our games STEM-based. Teaching science through hands-on experimentation is very important to us, but we also feel that wholesome play, strategic thinking, and social interaction are crucial parts of becoming educated and well-adjusted adults. 5. What is Thames & Kosmos’ mission within the games category? What can we expect to see from you in the future? Our global mission is to stimulate learning, critical thinking, problem-solving, and other important life skills by publishing high-quality, hands-on science experiment kits, craft kits, and board games. A few weeks ago, my colleague was conversing with the young owner of a new company who said that he had played with Thames & Kosmos kits as a teen—more than 10 years ago. He was inspired by our fuel cell science kit and went on to complete a degree in engineering and found a tech company. Today, he is living his dream and is helping other people live theirs. Internally, we talk about this opportunity all the time and it is what drives me personally. With board games as with science kits, we aim to change lives for the better and inspire children to try harder, compete harder, learn harder, think harder, work harder, and play harder. ■





consumer demand for tech-free fun drives game sales by Mary Couzin, president, Chicago Toy & Game Group


espite an influx of robots, tablets, and Wi-Fi-connected talking dolls, there’s a classic category in the toy space that just won’t quit: games. Retro favorites, such as Hasbro’s Operation and Jenga, are enjoying sales increases of up to 40 percent this year. These games, along with hundreds of others, are decidedly low-tech, fulfilling consumers’ desire to unplug from devices and connect with each other on a more personal level. Other factors driving game sales include growing consumer interest in products that reinforce science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) concepts; nerd activities that have become unbelievably cool; and campaigns promoting the numerous benefits of play. Manufacturers are cranking out board games that fit into all of these trends, giving consumers tons of options, and resulting in a game aisle that just keeps getting bigger.

goodbye, board: tactile games Tactile games ditch the traditional board, cards, and pawns for unique types of game pieces or play apparatuses that allow players to get more hands-on. With Hasbro’s Pie Face, players must fill a plastic purple hand with whipped cream, place their face in the face frame, and roll a die to see


how many times they must tighten the tension on the hand. One unlucky player will eventually land him or herself with a face full of whipped cream. The game allows for lots of laughs, tense and exciting gameplay, and a completely new experience for game night. Similarly, USAopoly’s Lift it!, Spin Master’s Moustache Smash, and Patch Products’ ChronoBomb all have very tactile and active elements. These games get kids and parents up off the couch and engaged on multiple levels. Sometimes jumping in and having fun without reading the rules is the perfect antidote to the non-stop world in which we live. Game inventor Peggy Brown says, “Once you buy a game, it’s yours to keep, so make up your own rules, play it a new way, deconstruct it, combine it with other games ... You can’t really play it wrong, just play it!”

full steam ahead: educational games Like lots of other toy categories, games aren’t just for entertainment. They provide kids with hands-on learning experiences, and because of this, parents are willing to spend more


money on quality games. Companies are creating more and more games that teach kids STEAM concepts, such as Thames & Kosmos’ Dohdles, which challenges kids to use clay to help with problemsolving and creativity.

adults only: games for an older audience Games are not just for kids, and while adults have been playing board games for years, many companies are cranking out games designed specifically with adults in mind. Largely based on humor, adult-focused games are typically intended for large groups of people. What’s Yours Like, from Patch Products, challenges one player to guess the mystery word based on other players’ descriptions, resulting in big laughs and easy bonding experiences. USAopoly will launch an adult-only version of its popular Telestrations game later this year; and the crowd-funded game Exploding Kittens is perfect for adults who enjoy whimsical fantasy.

for the people, by the people: crowd-funded games Crowd-funded games, which are financially backed by the public on digital platforms such as Kickstarter before they are actually produced, continue to gain traction. Backers pledged more than $53.6 million for tabletop board games on Kickstarter last year. One of the most well-funded campaigns was for Exploding Kittens, bringing in more than $8.7 million from 219,382 backers. Founder Elan Lee’s original funding goal was $10,000 to print 500 decks of cards, which he exceeded in eight minutes. Another heavy hitter is Sony Pictures and Cryptozoic Entertainment’s Ghostbusters board game, which exceeded its funding goal by 618 percent on Kickstarter, with 8,396 backers and more than $1.5 million pledged. Monolith Board Games’ Conan board game generated more than $3.3 million, and


CoolMiniOrNot’s Zombicide: Season 3 board game earned $3.1 million earlier this year.

from underground to the masses: hobby games go mainstream Niche board games from relatively small manufacturers, as well as Euro-style strategy games, are entering the mass market with tremendous success. Mayfair Games’ Settlers of Catan is currently the fourth largest board game brand in the U.S., with retail value sales of more than $80 million in 2013, even though it was largely an unknown niche brand nearly 10 years prior. Some traditional game manufacturers are adding games that fit this category to their lines, such as Gamewright’s Forbidden Island. This year, the company debuted a sequel to the popular strategy game, called Forbidden Desert. “[We are] selling lots of small card games, probably due to Hanabi and Love Letter’s popularity,” says Linda Schmidt, owner of Cat and Mouse Games in Chicago. “Also, anything with bluffing and/or deduction. The combination of social interaction and strategy (but not too much) that these games have is a real sweet spot.” Hobby games have enjoyed six consecutive years of growth and earned $735 million in sales last year, making them not so much of a “hobby” anymore. The game aisle has never been more robust, with more types of games on the market than ever before. From fiveminute card games, to updated classics, to strategy-based games that take hours to finish, there’s something for every type of player. Publishers, retailers, and consumers alike are enjoying the trend to get away from screens, meet face-to-face, and play tabletop games. Loads of choices are fueling games growth and will undoubtedly continue to do so. ■

Expoloding Kittens


E M A S G showcase

Star Wars Trivia Box, from Cardinal Games, will challenge players ages 8 and up to put their Star Wars knowledge to the test before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens this fall. The box features more than 250 questions to quiz even the most serious Star Wars fans, as players race to collect the most character cards to win the game.

The Peanuts Movie Snoopy Flying Ace Game, from Wonder Forge, sends Snoopy flying high above the Eiffel Tower as he chases after the Red Baron. Two to four players ages 8 and up flip cards and race to make matches before Snoopy spins to a stop. The game promotes physical dexterity, reflexes, and turn-taking.

In Fish, Fish Squish!, from Winning Moves Games, two to four players ages 5 and up mold five fish out of dough, and then flip cards until one player gets three matches in a row. The player who matches three cards in a row gets to squish any opponent’s fish. The last player with an unsquished fish wins.

Tetris 3D Puzzle Cube, from MasterPieces Puzzle Co., brings the brain-bending fun of the classic video game franchise to the tabletop for kids ages 6 and up. The puzzle features 16 plastic Tetrimino blocks and a hints booklet, which includes four increasingly difficult levels of challenges and clues.



E M A S G showcase

R&R Games will bring pandas in costume to game night with Panda Head, a trick-taking card game designed for two to five players ages 7 and up. In this game, players must try to avoid racking up points, because



points they score, the drowsier their panda Bananagrams’ Zip It is compact enough to play on an airplane tray table and other places

gets, and the panda that stays awake the

on the go. Featuring 24 high-quality letter

longest is the winner.

cubes, the game challenges players to take 12

This 63-card game

cubes and then race against their opponent to

takes about 10 min-

create an intersecting word grid. Each round

utes to play and trav-

lasts only a few seconds, so gameplay is fast-

els well.

paced and fun. Players track their points with scoring zippers on the unique travel pouch. This game is designed for two players ages 7 and up.

Take control of a mighty Planeswalker and prepare for battle in the Magic: The Gathering Arena of the RiddleCube the Game, from Educational In-

Planeswalkers game, from Hasbro. Players choose one of

sights, encourages outside-the-box thinking. Players

five Planeswalker figures to command as they move

must draw a challenge card, and fold, twist, and

around the map in a race to out-maneuver opponents and

stretch the RiddleCube to recreate the picture or

gain tactical advantages. They can cast spells, summon

word challenge depicted on the card. The first player

creature squads, or go head-to-head in combat and try to

to complete five challenges wins. Kids can play alone

defeat enemy Planeswalkers. Magic: The Gathering Arena

or with up to three other

of the Planeswalkers is designed for kids ages 10 and up.

people. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the game includes



Cubes, 100 double-sided challenge cards, and a 60-second timer.



USAopoly’s Lift It! challenges players to create structures using the Lift It! crane, which they can attach to their heads using the included headbands, or maneuver with their hands. Players race to beat the clock and construct what is on the building cards in order to advance around the game board. The game improves dexterity, balance, and hand-eye coordination in players ages 8 and up.

Kids ages 6 and up will get their synapses firing fast with Swingy Thing, from Fat Brain Toy Co. This brainteaser features colorful spinning flippers and dippers that will strengthen kids’ problem solving skills through 52 challenges. The brain-bending fun starts out easy with the Earth Blastoff, where kids only spin one of the dippers. The challenges get increasingly difficult, and once completed, kids can do them all again in the opposite direction, doubling the play value.



Building Beyond Boys The construction toy segment continues to make inroads with girls. by Phil Guie


ith the U.S. trying to keep pace with slapping on a coat of pink paint. Toythe rest of the world in scimakers balance the spacial elements ence, technology, engineerof their products—i.e., the construction ing, and mathematics (STEM) education, sets themselves—with plenty of verconstruction toys are more vital than ever. But in bal content. Part of GoldieBlox’s fororder to create more engineers, scientists, and mula for success has been stories mathematicians, construction toys—and that engage girls throughout the buildSTEM education as a whole—cannot ing process, to go with characters such continue to be marketed primarily toas the mascot character, Goldie, a ward boys, which has been the case young inventor kids can relate to. K’NEX’s Mighty Makers: Up, Up, and Away Building Set for decades. According to Chris Soderling, the This has been the argument of toy companies such as director of sales at GoldieBlox, narratives and protagonists apGoldieBlox, founded in 2012 by Debbie Sterling, a Stanford-ed- peal to girls’ verbal sides in ways that traditional construction ucated engineer. After introducing a girl-friendly building line, toys might not. GoldieBlox has enjoyed a run of success that has included a 30“Girls love Goldie,” he says. “They really fall in love with our second spot during the 2014 Super Bowl. Now its mission to get storyline, the characters, and the crazy adventures they go on.” construction playthings—and other toys that teach science- and K’NEX is taking a character- and story-based approach with engineering-based principles—into more girls’ hands is starting its Mighty Makers sets, each of which includes a figure with its to be adopted by the larger toy industry. own back story and personality. For example, the Up, Up, and While upstarts such as GoldieBlox and Roominate have Away Building Set features Ava, who shows up throughout the been active for a few years, K’NEX, one of the established lead- instructions for the main build and is interested in flight. The ers in the building toy category, recently introduced its Mighty use of characters diverges from K’NEX’s prior building sets, but Makers line, intended to inspire girls with builds that include the company decided on the change after analyzing market Ferris wheels, greenhouses, and more. The objective of the line trends and interviewing real-life girls. “We found that [girls] really like to have a character or figure is to keep girls curious about STEM subjects throughout elementary school. According to Kristen Krikorian, the director of in the set that they can identify with,” says Krikorian. marketing at K’NEX, this is not an easy task, given the contrarian messages that have long been projected onto girls Sharing STEM Knowledge Manually through popular media. Not surprisingly, given the emphasis on story and character, “We’ve been telling little girls, ‘Science, technology, and all GoldieBlox and K’NEX put a lot of time and thought into the inthat stuff is icky, and that’s something you need to leave to the struction manuals and other accompanying materials for their boys,’” says Krikorian. “Whereas now I think there’s a much girl-targeted building lines. For GoldieBlox, the manuals are not greater focus on saying, ‘Hey, girls like this stuff, too.’ There’s al- only step-by-step guides for completing a build, but the equivaways been a small group of girls who like [STEM subjects], and lent of storybooks, each one offering an involving storyline, characters for readers to aspire to, and appealing artwork. now we’re trying to get more who are interested into building.” Soderling says it is also essential that readers be able to understand all the STEM elements involved in a given build. Giving Construction Toys a Sense of Character “That’s critical to the magic of engineering,” he says. “We try While a toy needs to be visually appealing to some degree, there is more to building a construction toy for girls than just to make [the manuals] fun, engaging, and a challenge.”



For its Mighty Makers products, K’NEX not only includes instructions that double as character-driven stories, but each set includes a bonus challenge card that tests users’ understanding of STEM concepts. The card accompanying the Fun on the Ferris Wheel Building Set, for example, urges kids to adjust the wheel’s spinning speed using the different-sized gears in the set, which can make it go faster or slower.

imals—would be more effective in reaching girls than pastel colors or flowered designs. Laser Pegs has since created construction models intended to appeal to both genders, including its National Geographic Oceans, Animals, and Dinosaurs products. “The path of least resistance is to focus on traditional play themes and incorporate some factor of cuteness into the branding,” says Rainer Kuhn, CEO of Laser Pegs. “We try to appeal to a child’s intellectual interests regardless of his/her gender.”

Putting Gender-Based Play Patterns to the Test The Mighty Makers building pieces are compatible with all K’NEX sets; however, they come in magenta, purple, and colors that depart from the traditional K’NEX palette. According to Krikorian, the company performed focus group testing on boys and girls, and found that when both genders were together in the same room—along with bins containing parts in the regular K’NEX and Mighty Makers colors—girls would consistently choose the latter. This was accompanied by the realization that in general, girls like to build the same things as boys, but want the parts to be in colors that are made for them specifically. “We weren’t getting answers we were expecting, like, ‘I want to build flowers,’ or, ‘I want to build a doll house,’” says Krikorian. “We got answers like, ‘I like to build cars,’ ‘I like to build airplanes,’ ‘I like to build structures.’” Plenty of building toy companies have used focus groups to analyze how boys and girls differ in their approaches to construction play. For example, GoldieBlox determined that a story narrative is a huge point of interest for girls following hundreds of play-testing sessions. “They’re more interested in, ‘Why am I doing this? What’s the end goal?’ versus simply the ‘how,’” says Soderling. Other companies gleaned different data from their play-testing sessions, which nevertheless informed their product strategies. For example, Laser Pegs performed early market research with 50 to 75 boys and girls assembled in a play area, along with all manner of toys. The company found girls would choose its lighted construction sets in far greater numbers than boys. Since construction was viewed as traditionally appealing to boys, the company’s takeaway was that focusing on themes that appeal to both genders—such as space exploration, history, and an-


Building Blocks to the Future Looking ahead at the next two to three years, toymakers see girls’ construction becoming an even bigger part of the overall category, as more toymakers focus on what has been an under-served demographic. “Girls are, obviously, a side of this market that not all of us have been focused on for a very long time,” says Krikorian. The performance of new lines such as Mighty Makers will likely determine how quickly other companies dive in. The launch of Mighty Makers is being accompanied by a special video campaign, which, like many of GoldieBlox’s videos, focuses on girls’ empowerment. It will feature girls sharing what they want to be when they grow up, along with what makes them feel “mighty.” In August, GoldieBlox releases its new Craft-struction Box, which takes a step back from its character- and story-driven approach. Considered the most open-ended building experience from GoldieBlox to date, it includes more than 275 pieces, including blocks, connectors, and axles. The company is also expanding into action figures that retain a construction element and continue the mission of engaging kids’ interests through narrative. Its upcoming Ruby Rails Coding Action Figure teaches kids about aerodynamics, and includes a skydiving build. “It’s super rad,” promises Soderling. Since the inception of GoldieBlox roughly three years ago, construction for girls has come a long way, says Soderling, who has seen signs pointing to an even more progressive toy industry on the horizon—one in which a category such as “construction toys for girls” is replaced by just “construction.” One example he cites is Amazon’s decision this past May to drop boy and girl categories from its toy department search filter. “We need to stop thinking in pinks and blues, and recognize how limiting that is for the potential of our youth,” says Soderling. “We need to let kids decide what interests them with an open canvas.” ■


C ns ruc i n ys New to Alex Brands’ Zoob line, the Galax-Z Zoobotron features 304 colorful Zoob pieces that connect to form joints that rotate and axles that spin. Kids can combine them to form sturdy structures, including a 3-foot robot with glowing eyes. Recommended for kids ages 8 and up, the set also contains two Zoobonauts figures and step-by-step instructions to build four different designs.

With Peppa Pig and George’s Pirate Ship, from Jazwares, kids can role play as Peppa as she embarks on a journey at sea with her brother George. This 82-piece set includes the ship, Peppa and George figures, and a firing cannon.


K’NEX’s Mighty Makers is a line of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-based construction sets designed to empower girls. With the Mighty Makers: Fun on the Ferris Wheel Building Set, kids can help Emily build her own amusement park featuring a Ferris Wheel, a pirate ship ride, and more using K’NEX parts and pieces. Suggested for kids ages 7 and up, the set comes with instructions to create three mechanical engineering-themed builds.

The Kids@Work brand, from Amloid, has partnered with Crayola for Crayola Building Blocks, a preschool construction line boasting a wide range of colors and innovative play patterns. Dino Stackers, recommended for kids ages 1 and up, is a new line of stackable building blocks available in six colors and nine different shapes. The line includes Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor, and Triceratops sets, each with 71 blocks.


The VEX Robotics Hexcalator Ball Machine, from Hexbug, teaches kids about kinematics, linkages, and reciprocal motion. Once built, kids can turn the hand crank to power three hexagonal indexing wheels that transport balls uphill, where they are released onto the return ramp. Recommended for kids ages 8 and up, the Hexcalator Ball Machine moves the balls in a continuous loop at a rate of one ball per second.

The Mega Bloks Minions line includes the Castle Adventure, a buildable castle with walls that open to reveal a series of fun-filled rooms. The Minions can repel off the walls, zip-line from room to room, discover hidden corners, and drop a hammer to get at the gems in the display case. Recommended for kids ages 5 and up, the set includes buildable figures of Minions Bob, Kevin, and Stuart, with interchangeable parts for mixing and matching.


The Doc is in, thanks to the Lego Duplo Disney Doc McStuffins set, recommended for kids ages 2 and up. It includes a Lego Duplo figure of Doc McStuffins with a stethoscope, a Lambie figure, and a special two-sided decorated brick that features Susie Sunshine sick on one side and cured on the other. There is also a slide for Doc and her friends to play on when work is done for the day.

This holiday season, Laser Pegs will introduce the Interstellar Rover, featuring 100 of its new tinted bricks, which are Laser Pegs’ brightest bricks yet with or without the LED lights activated. The set also comes with two Laser Pegs, a Power Block power base, and tires. Along with the rover, kids can also build a hovercraft, a hydrofoil, a mini-submersible, a safari vehicle, and more with this kit.


The Sick Bricks line, from Spin Master, lets kids build different characters in the real world and then send them into the Sick Bricks app, which kids can access on a smartphone or tablet. With the 3-in-1 Power Up Playset, kids can power up their Sick Bricks characters through the buildable Throne of Power, which can also be rebuilt into the Warped Gate, unlocking an exclusive area in the app. The play set includes exclusive characters Franken Studz, Testy Monkey, and Doc Devio.


The C3 NBA Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving One on One Set, from The Bridge Direct, lets kids create their own powerhouse match-up between the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, Stephen Curry, and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ All-Star guard, Kyrie Irving. Recommended for kids ages 6 and up, the half-court-themed set features 150 pieces, including a hoop, a basketball, courtside seats, rafter jerseys, an NBA trophy, and articulated figures of Curry and Irving.




Cuddle Up with Charming Puppets

Plush Gets Interactive

Cuddle Corner Hand Puppets, part of the Nat & Jules line from DEMDACO, are personality-packed animal characters that come to life. These puppets encourage imaginative play for bedtime stories and more. They are made of soft fabrics and come in eight different animal styles: Dalton Dinosaur, Favian Fox, Mingus Monkey, Lonnie Lion, Gino Giraffe, Precia Pig, Cormac Cow, and Unna Unicorn. The puppets are 13 inches long—big enough to fit both kids’ and adults’ hands.

Bright Eyes Pets, from Blip Toys, is a new line of touch-activated plush with expressive light-up eyes. Kids can pat the pet’s head to see its eyes blink open and hear it sigh and sniffle as it wakes up. When kids tickle the pet’s chin, they will hear happy noises and see attentive wide eyes. When it’s time to snuggle up together for bedtime, a soft touch to the pet’s back puts it to sleep, as its eyes slowly close and it starts to snore.

Collect the Grossest Pets Around

Make Your Own Fashionable Bracelets

Moose Toys introduces The Ugglys Pet Shop, a new line of miniature collectibles for kids ages 5 and up. With 101 pets to collect, including characters such as Mugged Pug and Barfing Beagle, kids can swap their pets with friends. The pets also come with their own Gross Homes, which make more than eight sounds and stack to create a symphony of burps, farts, and gross noises. The collectibles are available in rare, special edition, and ultra rare limited editions.

Kids can make, wear, and share their own one-of-a-kind accessories with the Make2Wear Strand Bands Designer Kit, from The Bridge Direct. The kit includes everything fashionistas need to make fashion-inspired accessories. The included Strand Styler features an open center for easy weaving, slits on the bottom to hold the bands in place, and can be used on a lap or a tabletop. There are enough materials in the kit to make up to 15 fashionable bracelets, or kids can make other items, such as rings and key chains.

Hang Out with Peppa Pig Jazwares brings Peppa Pig fans the charm and fun-loving personalities of all their favorite characters with its new line of toys that parents and children alike will enjoy. The Peppa Pig toy collection features a range of preschool items, including plush, plastic figures, toy vehicles, play sets, and bath toys. With the Peppa Pig Deluxe House Set, kids can hang out with Peppa and George in their house. The playhouse opens to reveal four rooms—a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom—filled with fun furniture. It includes more than 15 play pieces, such as a washing machine and barbecue, and folds up closed for on-the-go adventures.





Building Sets

LIGHT UP for Girls






A Certified Strategy H

for Strengthening Your Store

by Kathleen McHugh, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA)

ow quickly can you name the three most important metrics in evaluating the financial health of your specialty toy store? Do you know what is essential when negotiating your store’s lease? Or how about this: What is the best way to provide a viable and recognized career path for your employees?

Planning for the long-term

If you know the answers to retail store management questions like these off the top of your head, you are no doubt one of the most experienced retailers in the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) membership. When you think ahead—whether you are focused on growth, or your own retirement, or both—do you have employees with the knowledge base and career commitment to keep your store growing and thriving? Recognizing the need for stronger succession plans and more professionalism in the specialty toy retailing industry, ASTRA has launched an innovative certification program designed to create stronger, more sustainable neighborhood toy stores. It is a way to promote career paths and best practices in retail store management in a way that will position stores to remain viable over the long-term. Staff at retail stores can access the course content through convenient on-demand webinars and earn the Certified Master Retailer credential by demonstrating their mastery of the material. In the future, a suite of additional business-building credentials for the specialty toy industry will be available, including Certified Play Expert, Certified Toy Sales Representative, and Certified Toy Manufacturer.

A winning strategy

Credentialing is a winning strategy for many business sectors. A recent survey by the International Accreditation Forum found that 83 percent of businesses completing a certification process said it added value to their organization, and about half reported an increase in sales. Eighty-one percent of people surveyed said that a certification is important to their customers. Designed specifically for specialty toy retailers, the Certified Master Retailer program gives storeowners the tools they need to build their store’s future. More than a course, it is a dive into retail logistics, which draws on



reliable research and proven practices that the most successful ASTRA retailers have found to be effective. The program will help ASTRA stores: • Differentiate. Gain the tools storeowners and employees need to stand out from big-box stores and other competitors in the marketplace. • Improve marketing. Learn how to attract customers and community partners using social media, print and email campaigns, an integrated website, and other techniques. • Increase business effectiveness. Identify personal and business goals, a specific business path, and a strategy for a store’s success. • Expand horizons. Increase your knowledge of the specialty toy industry to enhance your store’s operations and seize new opportunities. • Provide employee incentive. Provide training that will result in a professional credential to show your staff you’re ready to invest in their success.

Seven core curriculum areas

The Certified Master Retailer curriculum, which was developed with guidance by a steering committee of ASTRA retailers, provides several hours of instruction in each of seven core areas: Business and Finance; Merchandising; Marketing; Personnel Management and Coaching; Customer and Vendor Relations; Technology; and Children and Play.

Flexibility and affordability

“ASTRA’s Certified Master Retailer program creates better, stronger businesses, and a more professional type of specialty toy store,” says Phil Wrzesinski, owner of Toy House and Baby Too in Jackson, Michigan. “The beauty of the program is that it’s flexible—you can complete workshops at your own pace—and it’s tailored for independent retailers. Every class is designed to take your store’s level of understanding about the toy industry that much higher. Your customers will appreciate this, and so will manufacturers and sales reps who will know that you—when they see your certification—take your business seriously.” Debbie Scholl, owner of Fundamentally Toys in Houston, says, “Just a slight improvement in sales or margin will more than cover the cost of completing the courses. You can’t afford not to do it.” ●



Sophia’s Heritage In partnership with The Coleman Co. Inc., SOPHIA’S HERITAGE has released its 18-inch Doll Camping Series in the U.S. and Canada. The series, designed for kids ages 5 and up, consists of crafted outdoor accessories that enable kids to incorporate their memories of days at the park and nights spent telling stories around the campfire into their interpretive doll play. Kids can collect Sophia’s Coleman Cooler—a dollsized cooler on wheels in blue or aqua; Sophia’s Light-Up Coleman Lantern—a battery-operated light measuring 3.5 inches tall in green or aqua; Sophia’s Light-Up Coleman Camp Stove in purple or green; Sophia’s Coleman Sleeping Bag and Lantern Set; and Sophia’s Coleman Tent in purple. In addition, Sophia’s has released its first dollhouse scaled specifically for 18-inch dolls. Standing at 54 inches tall, this two-story dollhouse features a usable rooftop terrace and two balconies for additional play and storage.

Wonder Crew WONDER CREW, a line of dolls for boys created by psychotherapist and mother Laurel Wider, brings emotional intelligence and creativity to boys’ play. Inspired by boys, but appropriate for any child, Crewmates are ready for adventure and come with different gear. Backed by a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Crewmate: Superhero Adventure is the first available Crewmate doll, with others to roll out in the future.

Sophia’s Coleman Tent in purple


RAGTALES has added Sophie Rag Doll and Ruby Rag Doll to its line of soft toy dolls designed for kids ages 3 and up. Sophie is a ballerina rag doll ready for her dance class. She comes dressed in a delicate dancing skirt with a soft voile petticoat, a matching pink cardigan, and soft velour dance slippers. Ruby is part of a Ragtales collection inspired by the heritage of English life. She comes dressed in a ruby-red corduroy mini skirt, a luxurious red furry vest, and a pair of red fur-trimmed boots. Each doll measures 13.75 inches high. Ragtales’ dolls are distributed by Roundabout in North America. Sophia Rag Doll


Ruby Rag Doll



DOLLS The Bridge Direct


Sugar Rush ToddlerTime Baby, from ADORA, wears a layered sparkly pastel tutu and a wide grin on her face. A teal mock turtleneck jersey top with an embroidered heart and scalloped lace edging complete her outfit. Sugar Rush has her hair tied in two pigtails with bright polka dot bows fastened at the ends. Each Adora Friends comes with its own unique style to represent kids’ individuality. The dolls are dressed in a playful four-piece ensemble with a polka dot bow, striped leggings, a multicolored tutu, and white shoes. Kids can get creative and style their dolls’ hair with the included bright color extension and comb.

THE BRIDGE DIRECT introduces a new Strawberry Shortcake Doll to its line to celebrate the character’s 35th birthday. The Strawberry Shortcake Classic Rag Doll 35th Anniversary Edition is a special reproduction of the original rag doll from the 1980s. The new version includes all of the authentic details from the original, such as her hat, shoes, and her berry sweet strawberry scent, for collectors and fans alike. Strawberry Shortcake Classic Rag Doll

Sugar Rush ToddlerTime Baby

Elf Magic

This year, ELF MAGIC celebrates 25 years of Christmas tradition with the release of its Limited-Edition 25th Anniversary Workshop Elf, available in boy and girl styles. The anniversary elves come with 10 play accessories for kids to create a home away from home for their elves. Each set will include a 25th Anniversary Workshop Elf with a new removable Elfit, an Elf Magic Workshop Apron, a two-sided play scene, reusable Elf Magic stickers, an elf-sized blanket, a reversible bed by night/workbench by day, a Magic North Pole Snowflake Shaker and Flakes, a North Pole Passport and Elf Express Boarding Pass, an original poem, and the new Elf Magic’s The Very Best Gifts storybook.




Pixie Doodles

Madame Alexander

The Pixie Doodles line, from MADAME ALEXANDER, in partnership with Crayola, features five 9-inch fairy dolls that kids can decorate, color, and play with. The available dolls include Jazzberry Pink, Sizzling Tangerine, Purple Pizzazz, B’Dazzled Bluebell, and Misty Green Pixie Doodle. The fairies’ names are inspired by Crayola colors. Each doll has a colorful hairstyle and comes with a dress for kids to doodle on, as well as detachable, glitter-edged, decoratable wings; sparkling gem stickers; Crayola markers; and design inspiration. Little Sister babblebaby is a 14-inch Little Sister doll with sleepy blue eyes and a soft vinyl head, hands, and feet. The doll makes more than 80 real baby sounds when kids speak to her. She comes in a white knit dress accented by pink tulle with white polka dots, over pinkand-white striped leggings. A stretchy, hot pink headband with matching tulle is also included.

Little Sister babblebaby


A M E G Everybody’s


at ASTRA game night

by Phil Guie

ame nights are a terrific way to unwind, and the one hosted by

the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) dur-

ing its Marketplace & Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina was

no exception.

Co-sponsored by Blue Orange Games and Games Workshop, ASTRA’s

Game Night featured more than 30 game companies, eager to show off their

latest titles to hundreds of retailers and members of the press. With each company situated at its own table within a sprawling ballroom, dozens of indi-

vidual games took place at the same time. Every 10 minutes, all players stood up and moved on to other tables to begin the next round of games.

This year’s Game Night was the largest in the history of ASTRA’s Mar-

ketplace & Academy. Yet despite the sheer breadth of games on-hand and

the extended three-hour playtime, the event still couldn’t keep up with retailer

demand, according to ASTRA President Kathleen McHugh.

“Game Night is one of the most popular events at ASTRA’s annual Mar-

ketplace & Academy,” says McHugh. “Over the years, we have expanded

the hours and the number of games that are featured—yet somehow we al-

ways have more demand for Game Night than we have seats in the room.”

Elisa Moriconi, manager of The Learning Tree, said she was looking

forward to teaching her employees how to play several of the games. She

Retailers, manufacturers, and press gather in the Charlotte Convention Center for an evening of gameplay fun.

From the manufacturers’ points of view, events like Game Night allow

them to make a face-to-face case for their products. Ted McGuire, president

of Thames & Kosmos, was on-hand to personally demonstrate Dohdles!, one of his company’s games.

McGuire acknowledged the need to simplify games for 10-minute

demonstrations, which is not always easy.

“The challenge is in deciding which aspects of the game are most im-

was also excited to share what she learned about the most effective ways to

portant to teach, so that a retailer gets a good sense of why the game is fun,

says Moriconi, whose store is in Prairie Village, Kansas. “If you love a game

down in the less important elements of game rules and so on.”

sell games to customers.

“If you’re excited about a game, [the customer] is going to get excited,”

and you’re telling someone about it, they’re going to love it, too.”

Other attendees, such as Devoney Wolfus, the owner of Los Angeles-

based game store Landis Labyrinth Inc., appreciated the opportunity to play

a variety of games without having to purchase them first.

“To be hands-on, to get to know the product, that gives me the confi-

dence to go and place orders,” says Wolfus.



why it is valuable, what the selling points are, and why someone would play it,” he says. “And then we try to stay on message, and not get too bogged

Game Night presents retailers and manufacturers a unique opportunity

to come together for a fun night of gameplay.

“It’s about business and exercising the due diligence of learning your

products and getting tips for selling them,” says McHugh. “But it’s also fun

and a great way for ASTRA’s retailers and sales representatives to strengthen their working relationships.”


E M A S G showcase


a fast-paced geometric puzzle game.

Each player receives a set of 12 poly-

ominos, which are geometric shapes

formed from equal-sized squares joined

edge-to-edge in different arrangements.

At the start of each round, each player

gets a new puzzle panel. A roll of the die

determines which polyominos players

must use to perfectly fill in the empty

spaces on the puzzle panel. Any players who complete the puzzle within the

time limit yells out “Ubongo!” and grabs a gem at random from the bag. The fastest player also gets a blue gem and the second fastest player gets an amber

gem. Each gem color is worth a different amount of points. After nine rounds,

Taco Takeover, from THE HAYWIRE GROUP, chal-

lenges two to four players ages 6 and up to be the fastest taco maker in town. Players race against each other to see

who can correctly fill their taco orders first. Taco filling

cards are placed in a jumble in front of all the players and

on the count of three, all players quickly search for the taco

fillings they need, but be careful if you grab a La Cu-

caracha card or if you are dealt an Antacid by an opponent, you’ll need to dump your taco and start over.

the player with the most valuable gem collection is the winner. Ubongo is de-

signed for one to four players ages 8 and up.

Lay It or Break It, from FOTORAMA, is a crazy race to save eggs

from the frying pan and return them back to the safety of their nest. Two

Tugie is two-player game de-

signed for kids ages 5 and up,


players ages 5 and up can put on the included chicken beaks, and hook the

Kids roll the die to determine which

Then, they have to care-

other Tugs to topple over, they have

chicken-shaped magnets onto the back of their pants.

fully bend down to lift the

eggs from the frying pan

and carefully walk them

back to their nest. The player

with the most unbroken eggs is the

colored Tug they need to pull from the tower. If a player causes any

to collect those pieces. The player

with the fewest pieces at the end of

the game is the winner.

winner of this silly game.




WIGGLES 3D’s Bellz is a travel-ready magnetic game with 40 cus-

tom bells in four colors and three sizes. All of the bells are stored inside

the pouch, which opens to become the game arena. Players use the mag-

net wand to pick up as many bells of one color as they can. If a player

accidentally picks up any bells of another color, his or her turn is over.

Each player much decide how far to push his or her luck on every turn.

The first player to collect all 10 bells of one color wins.

In Yeti in My Spaghetti, from PATCH PRODUCTS, the

noodles are laid across the bowl and the yeti is perched right

on top of the pile. Two or more players ages 4 and up take turns removing the noodles one by one. The player who makes the yeti fall into the bowl loses the game.

With BRACKITZ, kids can build different models and architectural structures using 4-inch wooden planks, and 90- and 120degree angle connectors. Recommended for kids ages 3 and up, brackitz are available in 50-, 100-, and 200-piece sets. The planks and connectors enable kids to build 3-D, gravity-defying structures using STEM skills such as math, science, and engineering.

C ns ruc i n ys Joinks, from FAT BRAIN TOYS, are colorful wooden dowels and silicone connectors with one to five prongs reaching out in all directions. The dowels join with a simple push—and come apart with a simple pull—thanks to the bendable, flexible connectors. Kids can construct silly creatures, 3-D geometric shapes, and molecular and chemistry models. Each Joinks set includes 39 dowels in 3-, 5-, and 8-inch lengths; connectors in four different colors; nubby balls; and more. The MAGFORMERS Heavy Duty 73 Pc Set consists of 14 different geometric shapes, such as triangles, squares, and diamonds that click together using rare-earth magnets for open-ended construction. This STEM-themed set includes engine blocks and elevator and slider accessories that can be used to create moving forklifts, bulldozers, dump trucks, and more. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the set is compatible with other Magformers kits, and comes with instructions for building nine different vehicles.



The VW Bulli 60th Anniversary Set, from EITECH, contains 720 metal building pieces that can be used to construct a trio of 3-D models, including the title microbus. Once built, the VW Bulli features fully functional steering and a rear door that opens. The set also includes building tools and illustrated instructions.


MCFARLANE TOYS has partnered with HBO Global Licensing for a construction line based on the TV series, Game of Thrones. The line includes realistic building sets based on locations and characters from the show, including the Iron Throne Room; construction figure starter packs; and two-inch, buildable blind bag construction set figures based on Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and more. Iron Throne Room

Building on the other magnetic construction sets in the SmartMax line, SmartMax Build & Connect, from SMART TOYS AND GAMES INC., lets kids use screws to attach red curved pieces to other toys found around the house. The screws attach to any structure with a thickness up to 2.3 inches and allow for vertical building. Kids can attach the two accompanying expandable bars with screws to provide more length as needed.






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

BUSINESS DIRECTORIES 2015 Trade Show Directory $39.95 Independent Sales Rep Directory $69.95 Toy Wholesalers & Manufacturers $29.95 We carry Salesman’s Guides to Find Buyers and Trade Show Exhibitor Lists for Toy Fair and others! 1-800-635-7654 • forumpublishing@aol.com www.Forum123.com Free Magazine: www.RFmagazine.com The Toy Book Volume 31, Number 4 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bi-monthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2015 Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. Subscription rates: $48 one year, foreign $200. The Toy Book is a trademark of Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Toy Book, c/o Adventure Publishing Group, 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001. Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of the management of The Toy Book.


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

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

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


Flashback: July 1995 1.



1. Cap Toys’ Shout ’n Shoot II took water artillery in a whole new direction, with the ability to shoot 360 degrees around the wearer. In 1996, Cap Toys will have a new water gun to complement this toy in its second year. 2. Lewis Galoob Toys introduces the new die-cast Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars trilogy. 3. Kids and adults can turn ordinary balloons into colorful, magical gifts, centerpieces, or hanging decorations for all occasions with the FABalloon Fantastic Gift Maker. It comes complete with an assortment of decorating accessories. To use it, attach a balloon to the unit, pump it up, and use the arranging wand to fill it with included items as well as personal gift ideas.

Headlines at a Glance •

Warner Bros. has announced that Michael Jordan will star in a live-action, animated feature film opposite Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes characters. Space Jam is scheduled for release around Thanksgiving 1996 and will star Jordan himself.

Radica Games Ltd. has formed a joint venture with Hasbro Inc. to develop, make, and distribute handheld electronic video games and other products.

Greenman Bros. is investigating the possible sale of its wholesale business, Greenman Merchandising Services, in a move to free up capital that will allow the Noodle Kidoodle retail business to grow, according to the company. It has a target of 20 stores by the end of the current fiscal year, up from the five currently open.

Toy Manufacturers of America has announced the first Fall New York Toy Preview Show, scheduled for October 9 to 13 at the International Toy Center and surrounding area in New York. More than 30 companies have committed their attendance.


On July 15, 1995, Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy made their debut on the World Wide Web at http://www.unitedmedia.com with comics, information on Charles Schulz, trivia challenges, an aroundthe-world tour by the World War One flying ace, and more. The Peanuts Web launch is an 11-week event leading up to the 45th anniversary of the comic strip on October 2.

Todd McFarlane has announced that his toy company, formerly known as Todd Toys, has changed its name to McFarlane Toys. The name change was prompted after Mattel notified McFarlane that it has a doll in its Barbie line named Todd. The company felt that consumers may confuse an action figure line named Todd Toys as being associated with its Todd doll and interfere with the sales of both companies.

Dragon Ball, a top-rated children’s animated series in Japan, France, Spain, and Hong Kong, is scheduled to debut in the U.S.