July/August 2018

Page 1





Volume 34, No. 4 — Published by Adventure Publishing Group

Jonathan Samet Publisher jsamet@adventurepub.com


Editor’s Viewpoint


Industry Update


Sweet Suite 2018

10 Toy Association Happenings 11 ASTRA’s Insights 12 Stat Shot

14 Retail Spotlight: Wonder Works 15 Retail Spotlight: HobbyTown

48 Raising the Bar 52 WIT Stories 54 Marketing Memo

25 Talkin’ Toys: IMC

56 Euromonitor

37 Industry Perspectives

57 Industry Marketplace

46 Property Profile: Ryan ToysReview

58 Flashback: July/August 1998

features Collectible dolls are taking over the doll category.

Maddie Michalik Associate Editor mmichalik@adventurepub.com Jacqueline Cucco Assistant Editor jcucco@adventurepub.com

Lori Rubin Controller/Office Manager lrubin@adventurepub.com

17 Dolls Showcase

U.S. Corporate Headquarters

What’s New in the World of Dolls

Laurie Schacht President thetoyinsidermom@gmail.com

26 Games

A Category That Is in It to Win It

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

28 Games Showcase

A Sneak Peek at New Board Games, Card Games, and More

38 Wire It Up

Technological Advances Help Fuel the Construction Category

39 Construction Showcase A Look at What’s New in the Construction Aisle This Year

49 Game On!

Cover Image: © Mitchel Wu Photography — All Rights Reserved

Stephanie Grassullo Associate Editor sgrassullo@adventurepub.com

Bill Reese Production Director bill@toybook.com

16 Mini Is Huge

A Sneak Peak Behind the Lens of Mitchel Wu, Toy Photographer

Ali Mierzejewski Senior Editor amierzejewski@adventurepub.com

Joe Ibraham Art Director jibraham@adventurepub.com

What’s Next for Toy Retail After the Loss of Toys “R” Us

50 Telling Toy Stories Through Photography

Marissa DiBartolo Senior Editor mdibartolo@adventurepub.com

Miranda Siwak Editorial Assistant msiwak@adventurepub.com

13 Where Will All the Toys Go?

Previewing this year’s Asia Toys & Games Show.

Jackie Breyer Editor-in-Chief jbreyer@adventurepub.com

Dazzling Dancer Wendy, from Madame Alexander Doll Company

The Toy Book Volume 34, No. 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 © 2018 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


FOURTH QUARTER MUSINGS by JACKIE BREYER, editor-in-chief THIS YEAR—“THE YEAR TOY ‘R’ US SHUT down”—will certainly be one of the most memorable for the toy industry. I think we can all agree it will be remembered as a sad event in toy history. But now what? Things are really starting to heat up as we head into the fourth quarter. I’m getting calls left and right about non-traditional toy retailers jumping into the toy category this year; retailers of all sizes and numbers expanding their toy offerings; brand new retailers (and some names from the past) opening toy shops for the holidays; and traditional toy retailers approaching their marketing and merchandising strategies from a new angle. Everyone wants a piece of what Toys “R” Us left on the table, but perhaps the void has been filled—and then some. Is the toy industry overcompensating? Earlier this year, some toy manufacturers were concerned with where they’d place all the toys they were producing for Toys “R” Us, and now they have more orders than they planned for. It seems like there’s a decent chance sell in will be good, and sell through will be… not so good, purely because the market may be oversaturated. It’s really fascinating to watch this develop as we careen into Q4, and I am extremely interested in seeing how this plays out. In this issue of The Toy Book, we are focused on dolls, games, and plush. Up 20 percent Jan.-April, the dolls category is one to watch, and MGA Entertainment’s L.O.L. Surprise continues its reign as the No. 1 doll brand, according to The NPD Group and kids everywhere. As such, mini dolls are making a big impression, with Mattel reintroducing Polly Pocket, and Moose Toys expanding Shopkins with teeny tiny Shoppies dolls. Read all about it on page 16. Games actually declined 4 percent for the Jan.-April time period, according to NPD, though the game shelves at retail continue to

© 2018 Jonny Hawkins

Cards Against Humanity boom with an array of fun new games not just for kids, but for adults and families as well. Trends range from retro/nostalgic to silly and gross, and we’re seeing innovative new game ideas all the time. I receive pitches for new games far more frequently than I do for any other category. Read more on page 26. Construction toys is another area that’s seen a lot of innovation in recent years. A far cry from the blocks I played with as a kid— though, importantly, simple building blocks can still be found—today’s construction toys incorporate technology, STEM concepts, augmented and virtual reality, and so much more. Kids can build nearly anything they can dream of, and that’s really what the building toy category is all about. Check it out on page 38. Speaking of using your imagination, I hope you noticed the amazing photography

on our editorial cover. Mitchel Wu is a toy photographer who brings toys to life through art and photography, placing them in situations that might otherwise only exist in a child’s imagination. We spoke with Wu to learn more about how he got into this genre and where his whimsical ideas come from. Check out the interview on page 50. There’s so much more inside! Enjoy this issue of The Toy Book, and tweet @toybook and @jackiebreyer with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you! »

Jackie Breyer is editor-in-chief of The Toy Book and the Toy Insider, and editorial director at Adventure Publishing. She has been reporting on new products and toy industry trends for 16 years. Contact her at jbreyer@adventurepub.com.

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DHX Media will premiere its new animated series Mega Man: Fully Charged, an original co-production with Dentsu Entertainment USA Inc. The series is based on the Capcom Mega Man video game franchise. Beginning Aug. 5, the show will air every Sunday on Cartoon Network in the U.S, and will debut on DHX Television’s Family Channel in Canada in the fall. Man of Action Entertainment serves as executive producer and story editor for the series. Episode trailers and feature clips for the new Mega Man: Fully Charged series will be available on DHX Media’s YouTube-based kids’ network, WildBrain. Master toy licensee Jakks Pacific will launch the consumer products program next spring. The line will include action figures, figurines, play sets, accessories, role-play items, and everyday dress-up and Halloween costumes. » Mega Man: Fully Charged


In the wake of Toys “R” Us’ liquidation, Amazon will publish a holiday toy catalog. Amazon will mail the catalogs to homes and distribute them at Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain Amazon purchased last year. »


The Toy Association learned from market sources that nylon 6/6 resin has become more difficult and expensive to obtain in markets worldwide, including China. According to the sources, tight supplies of adiponitrile (ADN) feedstock caused supplies of nylon 6/6 resin to become tight. This resin market tightness has led to higher prices for nylon 6/6, and some cite increases of more than 50 percent in the past several months. Some suppliers announced additional price increases on July 1. ADN suppliers are working to increase capacity, but tightness and higher prices are likely to persist into next year. While nylon (or polyamide) is not used in large quantities in toys, it is often the material of choice for critical applications such as gears, bushings, and bearings. Toy manufacturers may wish to consider alternatives for these applications, such as nylon 6 or acetal (polyoxymethylene). Members with questions may contact Alan Kaufman, senior vice president of

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technical affairs at The Toy Association, at akaufman@toyassociation.org. »

Pint Size Heroes, Vynl, key chains, POP! apparel, and more. »



Barnes & Noble Inc. launched its first Summer Game Night series at stores nationwide, featuring popular games from Barnes & Noble’s selection of game companies, including PlayMonster, Hasbro, and Asmodee. The series began on July 19 and takes place every Thursday at 7 p.m. until Aug. 23. Each week there is a new lineup of three games designed for families and friends. Featured games at every Summer Game Night event are available at a 10 percent discount to customers during the event. Additionally, customers receive a Buy One, Get One Free Frappuccino offer, and may purchase flatbreads for $5 at any store with a Barnes & Noble Café during the event. »


Epic Games partnered with Jazwares and Funko Inc. to create Fortnite toys and collectibles. The deals were brokered by IMG. Jazwares will launch a Fortnite collection featuring true-to-game figures, Domez, loot boxes, play sets, environments, gamereplica weapons and tools, plush, vehicles, and more. The new range of toys will launch worldwide in December. The Fortnite-branded collection from Funko will launch this holiday season and will feature more than 10 different product lines, including Funko’s Pop! figures, 5 Star figures,

Moose Toys launched its first boy Shopkins Shoppies Doll at International Comic-Con: San Diego (SDCC). Chip Choc was available in the Double Scoop Delight Exclusive pack at the UCC booth during SDCC. The pack included an exclusive Peppa Mint with her brother Chip Choc. Only 1,500 units of this item were available for purchase. Moose Toys also released Golden Collection Cutie Cars packs with premium Carot Cake and Donut Deluxe cars. The gold Cutie Cars feature a premium die-cast finish. Only 500 versions of this pack were available at SDCC. »


Spin Master Corp. acquired the rights to Fuggler, a line of collectible plush dolls. Originating in the UK, the Fuggler monsters have quirky characteristics, featuring unique toothy smiles, eyes, and signature buttonholes. Available in 9- and 12-inch sizes, there are more than 50 Fugglers to collect. Rare Fugglers feature glow-in-the dark teeth and eyes. The plush are available at Target, GameStop, and Hot Topic, as well as specialty retailers. » STAY CONNECTED!



THE BIGGEST SWEET SUITE EVER THE TOY BOOK AND THE TOY INSIDER’S NINTH ANNUAL Sweet Suite event took place on July 11 at Pier Sixty in New York City. Known as The Biggest Night of Play, the premiere toy party was completely sold out for both sponsors and attendees, hosting more than 400 press, YouTube creators, and digital influencers to connect with more than 90 toy companies in advance of the holiday shopping season. This year at Sweet Suite, influencers and the media enjoyed one-on-one time with representatives from the hottest kids’ brands and properties on the market, including Jazwares, VTech, LeapFrog, Nintendo, Just Play, Basic Fun!, Crayola, Dynacraft, Hasbro, PlayMonster, Mattel, HEXBUG, Jakks Pacific, LEGO, WowWee, Spin Master, Moose Toys, and more. #sweetsuite18 generated more than 40.1 million Twitter impressions and more than 900 Instagram posts and counting.

Enormous swag boxes were shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, which sparked a resurgence in social media impressions and ensures bloggers and journalists have products on-hand to review and share with their followers. The swag boxes yielded live and recorded unboxing videos on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Sponsors have already begun to reserve space at Sweet Suite 2019. Additionally, on September 20, the Toy Insider team will host its seventh annual HoliDAY of Play event in New York City, where 150 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 before the holiday season. If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at thetoyinsidermom@gmail.com or Jackie Breyer at jbreyer@adventurepub.com. »

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Cutting-Edge Toys & Games, Special Sessions, Networking Opportunities, & More by LAURIE CHARTORYNSKY, communications specialist/content developer, The Toy Association THE GLOBAL TOY INDUSTRY IS GEARING up for this year’s Fall Toy Preview in Dallas, where hundreds of companies will show off their newest and most innovative playthings for holiday 2019. Deal-making and scouting the next hot products will take priority for buyers at the show, but attendees will also have plenty of opportunities to connect with industry colleagues and participate in several special sessions that will make their time in Dallas well worth it. Exhibitors from veteran brands to small, specialized toymakers will present some of the most unique educational products, action figures, dolls, building sets, licensed products, tech toys, and everything in between, when the show returns to the Dallas Market Center, Oct. 2 to 4. “Buyers consistently tell us that Fall Toy Preview is a critical market event that is vital to the long-lead buying cycle and we are confident that this year’s show won’t disappoint,” says Marian Bossard, executive vice president of global market events at The Toy Association, the organization that produces the show. “Whether they are viewing products ready for market or still in the development phase, buyers will see thousands of fresh and exciting takes on toys and games.” SPECIAL SESSIONS, NETWORKING, AND MORE Kicking off Fall Toy Preview on Monday, Oct. 1, Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WIT) will host its annual WIT Empowerment Day at the Dallas Market Center, a free event for WIT members, held in collaboration with Walmart. The day will provide exclusive opportunities for women entrepreneurs to pitch their products to Walmart buyers; top toy companies, including Hasbro, Spin Master, Jazwares, PlayMonster, and Basic Fun!; and other industry experts for licensing or feedback. The day will also include networking opportunities and mentoring sessions, during which members can seek guidance from

industry experts on a variety of topics, including intellectual property, product and packaging design, manufacturing, sales, distribution, marketing, social media, and more. WIT will also host a Walmart buyer panel, an inventor relations executives panel, and educational sessions on e-commerce, licensing, and Google and Facebook advertising. At the close of the first day, Tuesday, Oct. 2, The Toy Association will once again host a themed opening night cocktail party for all attendees. Tickets cost $25 per person with the proceeds benefitting The Toy Foundation. Show exhibitors will receive two complementary tickets. On Wednesday, Oct. 3, attendees can sit in on an engaging lunch-and-learn session with David Becker, president of Blue Plate Media Services, who will bust the myths of traditional media strategies and share strategies for a “balanced diet of media buying.” The session is open to all Fall Toy Preview participants. NEW TRENDS Products shown at Fall Toy Preview will lay the foundation for The Toy Association’s top toy trends of 2019. Toy Association trend specialists will be on-site in Dallas to meet with exhibitors and discover the latest developments in toys, play, and youth entertainment. Trend information will be kept under embargo until the 116th North American International Toy Fair in February, when The Toy Association will unveil the biggest trends of the year in front of media and buyers. At Fall Toy Preview 2017, the team spotted an array of educational toys, particularly STEM/STEAM toys and toys that teach kids social responsibility, leading to the “Toys that Teach” trend announced in February. At last year’s show, they also saw an influx of nostalgic toys for a new generation of kids to enjoy with their parents, leading to the “Millennial Nostalgia” trend unveiled at Toy Fair. NEW FEATURES ON SHOPTOYS365.COM

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Looking to get a head start on deal-making? ShopToys365.com, The Toy Association’s digital marketplace, allows toy companies to showcase their products in virtual showrooms, and enables buyers to discover new suppliers and securely place orders online. ShopToys365.com hosts more than 20,000 toy buyers and sellers and has more than 90,000 products. Platform operator Balluun recently developed and launched two new features, SalesMatch and Lead Insight. These highly targeted matchmaking and lead management tools help users manage their connections and target communications using analytics and messaging features. The ShopToys365 team will be onsite at the Dallas Market Center to host one-on-one meetings and training sessions with buyers and exhibitors. “ShopToys365 has helped countless companies grow their sales and contacts in markets around the globe,” says Bossard. “We encourage all Fall Toy Preview attendees to sign up for ShopToys365, so that they can maximize their business before, during, and after the show.” » For more information about Fall Toy Preview, visit falltoypreview.org. Exhibitors interested in meeting with a member of The Toy Association’s trends team should contact Akshata Hase at ahase@toyassociation.org to book an appointment. Priority will be given to Toy Association members. To learn more about ShopToys365, contact Scott Evans at scotte@balluun.com.

Laurie Chartorynsky has been a member of The Toy Association’s communications team since September 2016. At The Toy Association, she is responsible for the weekly e-newsletter Toy News Tuesday, and writes articles based on the latest trends in the toy industry for trade publications. Chartorynsky has a Master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.


MIGHTY TOGETHER: Finding the Win-Win in Channel Relationships

by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association IF ANYONE EVER SAT THROUGH A Marketing 101 course on the way to building a toy-driven business, he or she has probably met the “Four Ps” of Marketing: product, price, promotion, and place. Most of us have an understanding of product, price, and promotion and how they fit together, but place? This refers to the distribution channel—the roles and transactions that get a hot-selling toy from the factory floor into the hands of a grandparent who is celebrating a grandchild’s birthday. For members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), the distribution channel includes the manufacturer, the sales representative, and the ASTRA store. CHANNEL RELATIONSHIPS The ASTRA board of directors made channel relationships a strategic priority for ASTRA. Our mission statement and strategic plan feature the interconnected roles in the channel. The “Mighty Together” concept that appears in many ASTRA initiatives reflects the teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, communication, and commitment this requires. A session at the recent Marketplace & Academy explored the challenges and rewards of teamwork throughout the channel. Toy experts, including moderator and toy industry veteran Roger Bildsten of Hip Hooray LLC; retailer Brice Elvington, owner of Toy Shop Florence; sales representative Christine Blumberg of Roberts Blumberg Giacobbe; and Damien Crocker, national sales manager at HABA USA, shared their perspectives.

BUSINESS REALITIES IN THE TOY INDUSTRY The pace of business and product cycles continues to accelerate. According to Elvington, this makes inventory tough to manage. “Will a fad be dying down before I get my 12 cases of the product? Will there be a knockoff that reduces value in my customer’s eyes?” The shrinking pool of retailers—about half of what it was 20 years ago—means sales reps need to expand territories, expand the number of lines they represent, or expand into alternative channels, such as bookstores and gift stores, to stay even. “Each of these options means we have less time and attention for each individual store,” notes Blumberg. Manufacturers operate on a significantly smaller margin than they did 10 years ago. “The myth that manufacturers are doing very well doesn’t fit with the fact that the market is shrinking, while the costs are rising,” says Crocker. “Often, we can’t increase the price to keep pace with our costs because the market won’t bear it.” For a manufacturer, selling through specialty is the most expensive and time-consuming way to do business, “but mostly we do it because we love the specialty side, and we believe in its importance for children and communities.” DEMO DAYS AND INTERCONNECTEDNESS The panel used demo days and game nights to spotlight the interconnected roles and challenges within the toy distribution channel. Manufacturers incur costs to provide and ship free demo products, so it’s important to them that the product is used as intended—rather than being put in inventory and sold—so it will promote sales. According to Blumberg, “every vendor would love a demo for every product,” but sales representatives who conduct product demonstrations have to balance the demand with the out-of-pocket costs for travel to the store and spending a Saturday on a demo. Elvington appreciates the support he gets via demos from manufacturers and sales reps. “Just because I’m not paying for it doesn’t mean someone isn’t paying for it,” he says.

But he points out that retailers also incur costs for demo events. “I pay to boost on Facebook and train my staff to be ready for a variety of scenarios on the day of the event.” STRENGTHENING THE CHANNEL Based on the demo example above, if each party in the channel bears a share of the cost, what can each individual do to support the others? How many units were sold at the event? Can you share pictures with signed photo releases to use for other purposes? Manufacturers and representatives need feedback, feedback, and more feedback, say Crocker and Blumberg. “Feedback from demos is so rare, and yet so valuable,” says Crocker. “We know we cannot get the same level of data from an independent store that we can get from a large chain, but please tell us if all the kids were yawning through a demo! We don’t want the feedback process to be burdensome—let us know what we need to hear in the way that is easiest for you.” The retail view on what would help? “Our market may love the demo product, and it flies out the door,” says Elvington. “But the manufacturer pushes us to use precious shelf space and inventory dollars for an assortment that is not a fit. We would also like to get some part of a sale when our store is used for showrooming. It would be great to find a winwin on questions like this.” Blumberg says that relationships are strongest when everyone is making money. Business goes best when everyone commits to adapting as needed. “Working together will not only help us survive, but thrive,” says Bildsten. “We need to talk with each other instead of at each other.” »

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.

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DOLLAR SALES Jan.-April 2018 vs. Last Year

The total U.S. toy industry grew 7 percent Jan-April ’18 year over year. Dolls grew faster than total toys, while Building Sets remained flat and Games/Puzzles declined 4 percent.


Dollar Sales ($MM)


Jan-April ‘17 Jan-April ‘18





$400 $300 $200 $100 $0

Building Sets



Note: Coinciding with the National Retail Federation calendar which includes an extra 53rd week in 2018, dollar sales and trends have been adjusted to account for the extra week.

Top 5 Properties








MGA Entertainment



2 Barbie Mattel

The Gathering 2 Magic: Hasbro

Ninjago 3 LEGO LEGO

3 Hatchimals Spin Master

3 Yu-Gi-Oh Konami

Super Heroes 4 LEGO LEGO

4 Shopkins Moose Toys

4 Monopoly Hasbro

Super Friends 5 LEGO LEGO

Princess 5 Disney Hasbro, JAKKS Pacific

5 UNO Mattel

Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service/January-April 2018

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What’s Next for Toy Retail After the Loss of Toys “R” Us? by HARVE LIGHT, managing director, Conway MacKenzie TOYS “R” US FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY protection almost nine months ago. The battles over assets are still raging in the courtroom, but the industry marches on. The filing’s immediate impact on the supply chain was harsh. Stores closed and thousands lost their jobs. As expected, there was a great deal of panic despite the fact that many anticipated the filing. What would happen to the supply chain? Worries about follow-on bankruptcies were common. Enough time has passed that now is a good time to ask the question, “Was there a ripple effect?” More specifically, what was the effect on suppliers and their liquidity? What happened to all the vacant real estate? How has the toy industry adapted? What are some of the unintended consequences? It is a little early to see the full impact on suppliers. They still have to go through the first holiday season since Toys “R” Us’ exit, but early indications point to two very different results. As expected, the other major retailers— Amazon, Walmart, and Target—are picking up a lot of the slack. The margin compression for suppliers in the U.S. is beginning to show itself, and it will have a negative impact on supplier profitability. The large toy makers appear to be the big winners in the race for share with these retailers. In addition, the bigger companies continue to deploy resources for growth outside the saturated U.S. market. The future is much less clear for small and mid-size toy makers. It is all about risk management. Without the breadth of product of the larger companies, retailers are less willing to take any risk on a company with one or two products, much less give up valuable shelf space. The broad, traditional toy lines with predictable results are winning the day. So, what happens to the hot new toy from the creative entrepreneur? One bright spot in this process is that liquidity appears to have been managed appropriately. When a supplier begins to see negative issues with a significant customer, communication with other stakeholders, espe-

cially lenders, is critical. If these conversations do not take place, liquidity and credit line availability can evaporate in an instant. In talking with lenders, it appears that these conversations did take place with many suppliers. In the months leading up to Toys “R” Us’ bankruptcy, several lenders indicated that exposure was reduced in a very controlled manner. This is also evident by the lack of immediate follow-on bankruptcy filings by suppliers. The next major hurdle facing suppliers is the upcoming holiday season. Do they have enough capital and liquidity to get through the season? One of the big issues that perplexes real estate observers is the amount of retail space that became vacant as more retailers fall by the wayside. It is a trend expected to continue. Toys “R” Us is no small contributor with the closure of all 735 stores in the U.S. While there will likely be many sites that will sit vacant for a time, there is no shortage of interest in many of the locations. Our firm’s real estate practice saw a high level of interest in retail space in general. Inquiries maintained a steady pace over the past several months. There appears to be a great deal of ingenuity and creative ideas to repurpose these properties. It is also evident that local communities are not waiting to see how these closures will affect them. Many local governments and property owners are now working together to develop alternative use plans for the more mature mall properties, and the ideas are wide-ranging. Whatever the result, the retail properties of today will look very different in the future. Unlike many other retail bankruptcies, Toys “R” Us was a dominant player in its space. There are some very interesting developments starting to materialize because of its exit from the market. As with several other iconic American brands, it is unlikely that this is the real end of the Toys “R” Us name. Someone will buy it out of the bankruptcy and find a way to resurrect it in the future. We have seen other brands, such as Converse and Eddie Bauer, rise from the dead. The

RadioShack name also survived, only to file again. HobbyTown recently announced it will open RadioShack Express shops in up to 100 of its stores. Toys “R” Us has that same brand appeal. It had such a long history that it is very likely we will see it again someday. The second interesting development is how the void left by Toys “R” Us will be filled. Walmart, Amazon, and Target will surely get the lion’s share of the business, but other companies are trying to take advantage. One intriguing announcement is that KB Toys, a long silent competitor, is returning to the market. Once a strong player in the toy market, it liquidated in 2009. Interestingly, Toys “R” Us bought the brand rights as a part of the liquidation process, only to sell it later. The current owners announced plans for 1,000 pop-up stores to try to take advantage of the current market conditions. It will be interesting to see how this works out. Additionally, Party City recently announced it will open approximately 50 Toy City pop-up stores for the holiday season. As we look back, many expected the collapse of Toys “R” Us to have a calamitous impact on the toy industry. Fortunately, many suppliers lived to fight another day. Planning and communication were two of the major contributors to their survival. New players emerged to pick up the slack and more will follow. However, the final chapter has not been written. The retail market continues to shift, but retailers and their suppliers are tough, scrappy fighters. Caution, communication, and capital will ultimately decide the winners and losers. »

Harve Light, managing director of Conway MacKenzie is a member of the American Bankruptcy Institute, the Turnaround Management Association, and the Association for Corporate Growth. He consults on the management of distressed situations.

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WONDER WORKS DEBUTS IN-STORE MATTEL SHOP Independent Toy Store Launches First Mattel Store-Within-a-Store and Reveals Future Plans WONDER WORKS, A SPECIALTY TOY store in Charleston, S.C., debuted the country’s first Mattel store within a specialty store on Saturday, June 2. Neighborhood toy stores, such as Wonder Works, are expecting that 2018 will be a strong year as new and returning customers flock to such retailers following the closing of Toys “R” Us. “We’re projecting a 20 percent increase in revenue between now and the end of the year,” says Christine Osborne, owner of Wonder Works. Osborne also says that the specialty retailer has been asked to do similar set ups for two other large toy industry manufacturers, and exclusively revealed to The Toy Book its future store-within-a-store concepts. “The store-within-a-store ideation has grown over the past four years. We are thrilled that it has finally come to fruition, and we are working with another big player in the toy industry as we speak,” says Osborne. “We are also happy to announce our partnership with Fat Brain Toys to create a merchandising space with an integrated play area. These innovations are bringing the experiences of shopping and hands-on play to the next level.” Wonder Works ensures its customers are

offered the largest selection of the market’s most in-demand toys and interactive shopping experiences, and companies such as Mattel are looking to strengthen their presence in the specialty market. Wonder Works’ first store-within-a-store concept is the result of eight months of design and planning, with a celebration of all things Mattel. The Charleston community was invited to this free Mattel celebration to kick off the summer season with countless free activities, sweet treats, the hottest toys of the summer, and a free toy for every child. In addition, a Camaro was on-site courtesy of Rick Hendrick Chevrolet in West Ashley, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Hot Wheels. The custom Camaro was modeled after the first Hot Wheels car released by Mattel in 1968. Nearly 6 billion Hot Wheels cars have been produced since 1968. Free popsicles, temporary tattoos, train decorating, bubbles, and more free activities were available all day for event-goers. Children had pictures taken with Barbie, and the Charleston Animal Society was on-site with dogs and puppies available for adoption. Wonder Works says the event was a huge success, and fun was had by consumers, staff, and employees alike. »


It took 25 people, 36 doughnuts, 60 Chick-fil-A chicken minis, 75 cups of coffee, and 478 popsicles to run the Mattel store-within-a-store launch event. If Wonder Works staff members could be any Barbie, the responses were: Equestrian Barbie, Unicorn Barbie, Rock Star Barbie, Baywatch Barbie, Construction Barbie, Teacher Barbie, and Totally Hair Barbie. Since the debut of the Hot Wheels custom Camaro in 1968, every generation of Camaro has been replicated in 1:64 scale by Hot Wheels. The 2018 Camaro Hot Wheels Edition is modeled after the iconic design of the original orange Hot Wheels custom Camaro. The 2018 Hot Wheels Edition Camaro from Rick Hendrick was featured at the event, and kids and parents loved climbing inside.

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The Toy Book chats with Bob Wilke, president, HobbyTown What is the strategy for rolling out RadioShack Express shops within HobbyTown retail locations? Our strategy with RadioShack is to place the initial product assortment in 50 franchise locations across the U.S. (most opened in the past few weeks) and anticipate placement in up to 100 stores by year end. As independently owned franchise units, the longer term depth and breadth of RadioShack products will be determined by each individual franchise owner. We have stores that are opening with small introductory assortments of 425 SKUs or larger introductory assortments with 750 SKUs. HobbyTown stores will have access to the full catalog of RadioShack products and will grow as market demand dictates. We expect the larger RadioShack Express locations within HobbyTown will be merchandised in up to 500 square feet. How does this benefit HobbyTown franchisees, and what are the benefits for RadioShack? The HobbyTown franchisees will be able to service a clientele that closely aligns with our current customer demographic (hobbyists, makers, DIY’ers, etc.). The participating HobbyTown RadioShack Express stores will be listed as authorized RadioShack dealers on the radioshack.com website and benefit from the site traffic of users seeking a local source for these products. As the exclusive retailer in the hobby industry, it will add value to HobbyTown franchise ownership. For RadioShack, the benefit will be the rapid expansion and return of RadioShack products to a large footprint of premier brick and mortar retailers in urban markets across the U.S. The current footprint of RadioShack dealers (about 420) are mostly in rural locations. Explain the turnkey approach for HobbyTown franchisees who are opening RadioShack Express shops. With the relatively small footprint for the initial merchandise selection, most HobbyTown franchise stores will incorporate the RadioShack

planogram in the existing radio control and/ or hobby supplies departments of the store. As market demand increases, stores that are currently at maximum inventory capacity will excise slower selling lines or product categories to create additional shelf space. The HobbyTown and RadioShack merchandising teams are collaborating to define the ideal mix and suitable space necessary to optimize the RadioShack Express in each location.

HobbyTown announced in April that it is expanding the footprint of toys within each of its locations. How is this progressing, and what is your expectation for fourth quarter toy sales at HobbyTown? The strategic plan for expanding the footprint of toys in HobbyTown franchise stores has advanced significantly since April. We have completed the onboarding process to begin distributing Hasbro directly to our franchise stores to complement our already established distribution of other major toy and game brands such as Mattel, Asmodee, Fisher-Price, LEGO, Spin Master, MGA Entertainment, etc. The 2018 HobbyTown National Convention was held last week in Lincoln, Neb., and our tradeshow vendor mix was heavily weighted toward new and established toy company relationships providing our franchisees with a wealth of opportunities to discover new products and sourcing options. We are also pursuing and securing co-op advertising partnerships with our key vendors to execute a Q4 marketing campaign to drive awareness of the HobbyTown brand as a pre-

mier specialty toy retail source. We are bullish on our expectations for Q4 toy sales as our merchandise selection, supply chain, omnichannel shopping, and customer shopping experience delivery are all coming together and aligning for a holiday surge. Are there opportunities for toy manufacturers to expand distribution in HobbyTown stores? Yes, we are continuing to aggressively expand our toy vendor relationships. We consider the best sourcing options for each vendor to best align with the purchasing needs of our franchise network; some relationships are B2B between the manufacturer and our stores, while others are suitable for our internal distribution to franchise stores. Are there opportunities available for additional HobbyTown franchisees to come on board this year? Yes, we typically require a minimum lead time of eight weeks prior to the store opening to accommodate financing, site prep, inventory processing, and fixture fabrication. We also prefer to open franchise stores prior to the Thanksgiving holiday to allow the owner/operator an opportunity to advance along the learning curve prior to the holiday customer and sales surge. What are your plans for 2019 and beyond? We are executing a 2020 vision for our brand to enhance the consistency of our brick and mortar shopping experience across all franchise stores and aligning our online presence (hobbytown.com and social media) to provide customers with a “wow” experience that goes beyond ordinary and beyond fun! The rapid changes in the retail landscape dictate constant innovation to remain relevant to consumers and exceed expectations. We will continue to seek out partnerships with vendors and retailers (such as RadioShack) that align with our brand vision and enhance the HobbyTown shopping experience. »

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Collectible Dolls Are Taking Over the Doll Category by MADDIE MICHALIK, associate editor THEY MAY BE SMALL, BUT THEY ARE mighty. Especially in dollar sales. The doll category this year looks like a case of “Honey, I shrunk the doll aisle!” as toy companies are creating new, smaller versions of dolls that were hot in 2017. The total U.S. toy industry grew 7 percent from January through April this year versus the same time last year. Dolls grew faster than total toys, with sales up 20 percent, according to The NPD Group (NPD). Additionally, dolls was the third-fastest-growing supercategory at 4 percent in the 12 months that ended in January 2018. According to NPD, L.O.L. Surprise! contributed more than one-quarter of the growth, followed by Hatchimals CollEGGtibles. A closer look at the data illustrates why the category is booming—the key here is that NPD categorizes some collectibles as dolls, with the play set and collectibles subset thriving.

Polly Pocket World Flamingo, from Mattel

“The primary driver for the growth in dolls was Playset Dolls & Collectibles, growing 61 percent, driven by L.O.L. Surprise! and Hatchimals CollEGGtibles. However, we also saw growth in Special Feature Nurturing Dolls, growing 35 percent, driven by Little Live Bizzy Bubs, Baby Born, Baby Alive, and Luvabella,” says Juli Lennett, senior vice president and toy industry advisor for NPD. L.O.L. Surprise!, from MGA Entertainment, is the leading doll property in the U.S., according to NPD. It is followed by Barbie (Mattel), Hatchimals (Spin Master), Shopkins (Moose Toys), and Disney Princess (Hasbro, Jakks Pacific). Additionally, L.O.L. Surprise! ranks as the top three selling items in the U.S., including the L.O.L. Surprise! Doll Assortment, Pets Blind Pack Assortment, and Lil Sister Assortment. These collectibles are dominating the doll category—and fueling its growth. L.O.L. Surprise! combines the experience of unboxing a toy with the collectibility of a line of cute dolls and accessories. These collectibles let kids unwrap layers of surprises, including a message, stickers, a bottle, shoes, an outfit, an accessory, and ultimately, a doll. Kids can also feed or bathe the dolls with water to reveal a surprise feature. “We are constantly ideating exciting and new iterations of L.O.L. Surprise! and looking for unique ways to keep fans on their toes with innovative, fun ways to unbox like never before,” says Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment. The line will further expand this year with L.O.L. Surprise! Eye Spy Series Under Wraps Dolls. “There’s so much newness in store this holiday season. Fans can expect a never-before-seen imagining of L.O.L. Surprise! In our new Eye Spy series, we layer secret messages and hidden codes where

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kids can use a spy glass to unbox their favorite toy and unlock surprises. L.O.L. Surprise! Eye Spy series includes Under Wraps (Dolls) and Biggie Pets, both with 15 surprises inside; new Pets; and new Lil Sisters to collect. Fans will also be thrilled to get their hands on the new L.O.L. Surprise! Interactive Live Surprise Pets, that are just like real pets,” says Larian. A major contender this year is a familiar face making a huge comeback: Polly Pocket. Mattel is reviving this popular line of micro dolls and play sets, adding to the list of nostalgic brands that parents will get to share with their kids—and making their millennial hearts flutter. There will be a few variations available, including the Polly Pocket World Assortment and Hidden in Plain Sight Assortment. Each of these compact play sets open up to reveal different accessories, and, of course, is small enough to take anywhere. The Shopkins characters are also getting the mini treatment with Lil’ Secrets sets. Moose Toys is shrinking down the Shoppie dolls’ world of Shopville into tiny sets that will fit in the palm of a hand. The line will include Teeny Shoppies characters and a mystery Tiny Shopkin. The full collection features six locations for kids to take on the go. The dolls category is thriving thanks to toy companies expanding successful lines to match the trendy collectibility of dolls, which will likely contribute to rising doll sales throughout the rest of the year. »

Maddie Michalik is an associate editor at Adventure Publishing Group, where she contributes to The Toy Book and The Licensing Book. She also reports on trends and news for The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider.

MOOSE TOYS adds to its Shopkins line with Shopkins S10 Mini Packs—Shoppies Dolls. Shopkins enters its 10th season with mini packs that are miniature versions of lifesize supermarket items, and they’re back with their Shoppies best friends. Four Mini Shoppies Dolls are available for purchase, including Summer Peaches, Pomme, Jascenta, and Lolita Pops. Each Shoppie stands 8.5 inches tall and is compatible with all Shopkins play sets.

MADAME ALEXANDER’s Lee Middleton Doll Newborn Twins are 16-inch baby dolls that come with a complete outfit, hat, plush animal, and certificate of adoption. Each doll features a Lee Middleton sculpt, lifelike fixed eyes, a vinyl/ fabric body, and a weighted fill for a realistic feel. The dolls are made for kids ages 2 and up. Madame Alexander’s classic collectible 8-inch Wendy doll is ready for a ballet debut. Dazzling Dancer Wendy wears a pink and gold ballet ensemble, and her golden blond hair is secured in a bun with a halo of golden ribbon. The doll includes a ballet outfit, tights, ballet slippers, and a certificate of authenticity, and is packed in Madame Alexander’s distinctive gift box. Dazzling Dancer Wendy features the articulated Wendy body and lifelike sleep eyes with lashes. The doll is designed for kids ages 3 and up. Lee Middleton Doll Newborn Twins

JAKKS PACIFIC introduces the Incredibles 2 Costumed Action Figures Assortment—Elastigirl, Violet, and Edna. Elastigirl and Violet come with removable masks and feature 11 points of articulation for maximum flexibility. Edna comes with removable glasses and five points of articulation. Each action doll features rooted hair, lens eyes, and full fabric fashion costumes. Made for kids ages 4 and up, each figure is sold separately.

Violet Incredibles 2 Costumed Action Figure

The Sea Sparkles line, from AURORA WORLD, features an array of beautiful mermaids and sea creatures. The Teal Princess mermaid wears a sparkling dress with a matching crown. Designed for kids ages 2 and up, the princess mermaid is 18 inches tall, is made of mylar material for realistic and soft hair kids can comb, and features high-quality fabrics that make the doll’s hair and dress shine.

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This year, SPIN MASTER’s Luvabella and Luvabeau adorn new outfits, and further advancements in programming. Luvabella shows affection with heart-warming expressions and a new snuggle mode. Children can care, nurture, and play with Luvabella with the doll’s interactive accessories. Whether it’s feeding time with her spoon, play time with her Lamby, or nap time with her bottle, Luvabella will respond with natural reactions. The more kids play and care for Luvabella, the more she learns, just like a real baby sibling.

HEALTHY ROOTS DOLLS creates dolls and storybooks that empower kids during the early stages of identity development via hair play. The 18-inch vinyl dolls are made to represent girls of color, and the doll’s hair mimics natural hair textures. The first doll in the line, Zoe, has naturally curly hair, and comes with the Big Book of Hair, a natural hair care guide.

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Hairdorables is a new line from JUST PLAY that combines fashion with colorful hair. The main character, Noah, and her friends have “Big Hair Don’t Care” attitudes and love to share their passions with the world via the Hairdorables channel on YouTube. The dolls are based on the 12 girls from the Hairdorables videos, and feature a variety of hairstyles in vibrant colors. Each doll package is a surprise, so kids must pull, peel, and reveal 11 accessories and fashions that unwrap the unique personality, style, and talent of the Hairdorables girl hidden inside. There are 36 Hairdorables dolls for kids to collect, including two rare and one ultra-rare. The collection is designed for kids ages 3 and up.

Boxy Girls, from JAY@PLAY, are dolls that love online shopping. Each Boxy Girl comes with four shipping boxes for kids to unbox. The Boxy Girls Fashion Pack comes with six additional shipping boxes. The surprises inside the boxes include makeup, shoes, bags, clothes, and more, and each is delicately wrapped with tissue paper and packing material. Boxy Girls are made for kids ages 6 and up.

Snapdolls, from CORTEX, are cloth dolls with interchangeable styles. Kids can mix and match the accessories. The dolls inspire kids to dream big, and include characters such as young scientist Zoey, future Olympian Maddie, and more.

The newest Cabbage Patch Kids collection, from WICKED COOL TOYS, features dolls available in a diverse variety of skin tones, hair colors, and themes. Each 14-inch Cabbage Patch Kid features new fashions and accessories with fun themes such as slumber party, luau, picnic, tea party, and more, and a lollipop accessory to interact with Lots-of-Licks Adoptimal pets. Each Kid is unique and comes with a name, birth date, official birth certificate, and adoption papers from BabyLand General Hospital. Wicked Cool Toys also celebrates the brand’s 35th anniversary with the Cabbage Patch Kids 35th Anniversary Edition Vintage Kids. These 16-inch dolls feature retro fashions and the original Cabbage Patch Kids yarn hairstyles.

IMC TOYS introduces Cry Babies, interactive baby dolls that cry tears while sounding like a real-life baby. The line comes in three different styles: Coney, Lea, and Lala. Kids can nurture and soothe the dolls and calm them down with a pacifier or by gently rocking them. Each baby comes in a removable animal onesie, features a different hair color, and large eyes. The dolls are designed for kids ages 3 and up.

Baby Bijoux is a new line from EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS. Made for kids ages 3 and up, the dolls help promote imaginative and nurturing play. Measuring 15.75 inches tall, the vinyl dolls are easy to clean and carry, so kids can take them wherever they go. They also feature a light, vanilla scent and movable arms and legs. Baby Bijoux dolls are anatomically correct and are available in both boy and girl styles in African, Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic versions. The Baby Doux line, designed for kids ages 2 and up, includes 12-inch cloth dolls that feature skin tones available in Hispanic, Caucasian, African, and Asian versions. Baby Doux

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MGA ENTERTAINMENT introduces Poopsie Surprise Unicorn, which magically poops slime. Each time kids feed their surprise unicorn and sit her on the glitter potty, it creates a surprise, collectible unicorn poop in the form of slime. Kids can then transform their unicorn poop over again. More than 20 surprises are included with each Poopsie Surprise Unicorn. Made for kids ages 5 and up, the unicorn also comes with an exclusive bottle, one poop character key chain, a unicorn shirt and diaper, a spoon, a hairbrush, a cleaning tool, a measuring cup, and a storage case.

JAZWARES introduces two new dolls based on the Hotel Transylvania franchise. The Mavis Bats Out Fashion Doll includes accessories such as a black dress, striped tights, bat wings, shoes, and a headband. The Mavis Monster Cruise Fashion Doll features a removable outfit, a tropical flower headband, and wedge sandals. Both dolls are 10.5 inches tall, have rooted hair, nine points of articulation, removable fashions and accessories, and are made for kids ages 5 and up.

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Wonder Crew dolls, from PLAYMONSTER, combine the adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of a stuffed animal. The 15-inch doll has a smooth vinyl head, arms, and legs, and a soft huggable body. The doll comes with a superhero outfit, a cape, and a mask, plus a matching cape and mask for kids. Accessory Gear lets kids add new outfits for the buddy and matching accessories for themselves. With the Astronaut set, kids can dress their buddy as a spaceman, while they wear a matching backpack that doubles as a buddy carrier. With the Firefighter set, children can dress their buddy in firefighter gear, while they wear a matching soft firefighter helmet. HASBRO adds to its Baby Alive line with the Real As Can Be Baby Doll, the most expressive doll in the collection. The doll will turn its head toward the direction kids speak, babble back, and laugh when kids tickle its feet. If Baby Alive Real As Can Be Baby Doll gets fussy, kids can calm it down with a bottle or pacifier, check its diaper to see if it needs a change, or rock it to sleep when it’s time for a nap. With more than 80 realistic sounds, movements, and expressions, the doll also comes with a removable sleeper, hat, bib, bottle with disappearing milk, pacifier, and swaddle blanket. The doll is made for kids ages 3 and up.

COROLLE’s newest doll set will help kids adjust to preschool. Gaby Goes to Gaby Goes to Nursery School Nursery School comes with accessories such as a lovie, a pacifier, a juice box, a cookie, and a bag to keep all her accessories in one place. The doll measures 14 inches, and its face, arms, and legs are made of soft vinyl with a soft body and sleeping eyes. Gaby is part of the mon grand poupon Corolle collection of dolls, accessories, and nursery items for kids ages 2 and up. Lilou is a large, 14-inch Corolle soft-bodied baby doll with brown sleepy eyes. The doll’s face, arms, and legs are made of soft-to-thetouch vinyl that is lightly scented with Corolle’s signature vanilla. The doll is dressed in a pants set, and wears a matching headband and removable pink shoes. Lilou is made for kids ages 2 and up.

Beach Play Set

MATTEL adds to its Barbie Career Assortment with new dolls, offering kids more choices than ever before. The Barbie dolls inspire kids to take on any goal. Each doll wears a career-themed outfit and comes with an accessory that enhances storytelling. Kids can explore careers in science and medicine with an eye doctor, pet vet, nurse, paleontologist, and scientist; the arts as a pop star; athletics as an ice skater or a tennis player; and discovery as a pilot or a farmer. Barbie Career Fashions and Playset Assortment are available for purchase separately. Each look includes career-themed clothing with a signature style. Kids can explore the worlds of medicine, teaching, and pet grooming with the play sets. All Barbie Career dolls and accessories are made for kids ages 3 and up.

SOPHIA’s 7-piece Beach Play Set comes with everything kids need to take their 18-inch dolls along with them to the beach. The set comes with a brightly colored shovel and pail with a movable handle, a volleyball, sunscreen, a hot pink screen-printed beach towel, and ice cream. Sold separately Sophia’s Beach Umbrella, Lounge Chair Set, and Coleman Cooler set allow kids to expand their imaginative play. Sophia’s Tea & Treats Set comes with 17 pieces for kids to play afternoon tea. With place settings for four guests, kids can invite their 18-inch dolls or plush friends to a gathering where each guest can be served tea from a brightly decorated teapot into their polka dot teacups on blue saucers. The set also comes with a savory petit on its own hand-decorated serving wrapper with a contrasting colored bow. This Tea & Treats Set is a smaller version of Sophia’s larger Tea Party Set and is a companion piece to the Dessert & Display Set. The Beach Day Play Set and Tea & Treats Set are made for kids ages 5 and up.

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IMC TOYS ENTERS NORTH AMERICAN MARKET WITH DOLL LINE The Toy Book chats with KAREN BRANSON, VP sales, IMC Toys USA about bringing Cry Babies to North America. What went into the decision to bring the Cry Babies line to the North American market? As a growing company, IMC Toys wants to continue to build a strong presence globally, starting with worldwide distribution of its flagship line—Cry Babies. Based on the great results for Cry Babies internationally, we decided it was to time to begin operating directly in the U.S. market, starting with the launch of our most successful line. What has success looked like so far? By the end of 2017, Cry Babies has secured top rankings in all NPD Special Feature Nurturing Doll categories globally. The Dolls supercategory is the second largest in the U.S. industry, a growing and competitive category. In order to break into this challenging market, we will be executing an ad hoc strategy where we will do everything needed to be successful. As Cry Babies has been a great success in the

European and international space already, we are confident it will also be in immense demand in the North American market and we will put our complete effort behind ensuring that happens. What makes Cry Babies special and how is it different from other interactive dolls in the market? We think the success of Cry Babies has been a mix of various elements working together—a new fresh brand in all the markets with a unique design, which is very different and modern. The colorful hair and eyes, along with the animal-style onesies, make them extremely cute and appealing. Also, Cry Babies dolls have intuitive functions, they cry real tears and, at the same time, emit real baby sounds, which make them seem very real. So the play pattern is simple—little ones can enjoy taking care of Cry Babies and nurture them with lots of love and care, just like real parents. What marketing plans do you have to support retail? We have a very strong 360-degree Cry Babies marketing plan in place, which has been developed collaboratively with our North American media and PR partners, creating a very complete and supportive marketing campaign for the new line. We have also designed a TV plan that will start at the end of July with more than +1.000 TV Rating points (TVR) emitted. At the same time, our digital campaign will start running on YouTube, the DisneyNOW

app, and video on demand. Our social media marketing and influencers campaign is already under way with incredibly positive response received from our consumers, though we are only in the brand-awareness building phase of our campaign. Finally, we also launched the Cry Babies microsite to build up the brand story and create a closer relationship with our target audience. Do you have plans to expand the Cry Babies line? What can we look forward to in Q1 of next year? For sure. We are looking to release new Cry Babies dolls in waves. We have some exciting product line extensions coming up early next year, and we are developing new products based on the most successful characters and new exclusive ones specially for the U.S. market. To complete the line, we will have a range of accessories that includes everything from new pajama sets and different baby strollers to carriers and walkers. Additionally, in 2019, we are looking to launch mini-size Cry Babies. An introductory collection from a larger range will be available in the first quarter. This will be the first step of the launch of Cry Babies Magic Tears—an animated TV series inspired by the Cry Babies Mini line. We are very excited about these launches and what we have now is just phase one of what’s to come from IMC Toys. »

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happy to report that the board game market continues to be on the rise. According to market research provider Euromonitor International, last year, games and puzzles totaled more than $10 billion in worldwide sales, and more than $3.1 billion in U.S. sales. Now that’s real winning. With a robust category and consumers who enjoy experimenting with different types of games, the game sector is similar to what’s cooking in the food industry, where people are willing to try unknown food in search of the next hot product. Best yet, they’re talking about it. Similarly, in the game universe, there are blogs, podcasts, cafés, Facebook


groups, Instagram accounts, and more devoted solely to games. Simply put, games are everywhere. Since so many people are playing, there are more trends than ever to satisfy all the different groups of individuals. It’s funny to think back to a time when the industry was worried about board games becoming a dying category. I’ve dropped the STEM, STEAM, and crowdfunding trends I’ve listed as trends in previous years because they are no longer merely trending; they are rock solid and here to stay. Check out some of the top game trends of this year, below.

Nostalgia What’s old is new, and that is certainly the case in the world of games. As much as new concepts and ideas add a fun twist to game nights, classic games are go-to options because they are tried and true. Everyone knows how to play them, and everyone has a favorite oldie, but goodie. Some evergreens that people play throughout the decades include Guess Who? (Hasbro), UNO (Mattel) and Gooey Louie (Goliath). Other companies are jumping on this bandwagon, with even more classic games that are set to make comebacks this year. These familiar faces include Fireball Island

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from Restoration Games; Jurassic Park Danger Game, which is based on the new film, but has original play by Ravensburger; Mr. Bucket and Hydrostrike, which trace back to the early ‘90s but make a return with Goliath; Gnip Gnop—also from Goliath—which has roots in the ‘70s but returns this year; and Stratego, which PlayMonster has successfully brought back.

Legacy Games Legacy-style games are traditionally tabletop games, where the game changes throughout the course of play. These are games that encourage players to destroy components and add rules every time they play, making it a new experience each time. There are a bunch of top consumer picks in this trend, such as Choose Your Own Adventure Game (ZMan), Charterstone (Stonemaier Games), and Legacy of Dragonholt (Fantasy Flight Games).

Silly Games. Think: Poop It’s no secret that poop and gross games reigned at New York Toy Fair this year. The slimier, stinkier, and sillier, the better. Kids are attracted to games that add a touch—or, more than just a touch—of gross to game-

SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS play. Things that may be somewhat taboo at the dinner table or in the classroom are all the rage during game time. Games that have been a hit with kids include the poop-centered Don’t Step in It (Hasbro) and Poopyhead (Identity Games), and the gross factor in Pimple Pete (Spin Master). Additionally, kids gravitate to just plain silly types of games, such as Pop Rocket and Catch the Fox (Goliath), Uh Oh Hippo (Educational Insights), Squawk Chicken (Mattel), and Who’s the Dude? (Identity Games).

Roll and Write Games

New roll dice and score games similar to Yahtzee and Farkle are making waves—or rather, rolls—and they include Qwixx and Rolling America (Gamewright), Don’t You Forget It Dice Game (Goliath), Word Shout (PlayMonster), Roll for It (Calliope), Dictitious (PlayMonster), and Poppycock Dice Game (Huzzayz).

Wooden Games Jenga (Hasbro) is THE classic wooden game that continues to top lists. Recently, someone from HyperX mentioned that a segment featuring 16 of their Esport gaming pros playing Jenga was one of their most watched clips. Wooden games are being left out on tables as accessible, stylish, and playable art. Games that fall under this trend include Bad Apple, Ghost Mine, and Balancing Bees (Getta1Games); Klask (Buffalo Games), Rummikub (Goliath); and the Marbles: Brain Workshop line (Spin Master).

Adult Games Games aren’t just for kids. In fact, there is an entire genre of games that markets to an adult audience. Goliath now has an entire category that is devoted to adult games, such as Shit Happens, Tossed Salad, True Colors, and Friend or Faux. Similarly, Spin Master will introduce Trust Me I’m Psychic, a social deduction game of true psychics and total frauds. What Do You Meme? (What Do You Meme), You’ve Got Crabs (Exploding Kittens), Smart Ass New Edition (University Games), and Go Bleep Yourself (PlayMonster) are all prime examples of popular party games that adults like to whip out when company comes over.

Game Nights and Game Cafés Game nights and game cafés are hotter than ever before. Every year, more and more pubs and restaurants add games for patrons to play. In these settings, there are often rooms with just tables and games, where customers fight for that coveted real estate so they can set up camp to hang out and play games the entire night. Some of the most played games in this type of scenario include Magic the Gathering (Hasbro) Santorini and 5 Minute Dungeon (Spin Master), Sculptapalooza (Educational Insights), Brain Fart (PlayMonster), and Ice Cool (Brain Games).

Mythical Creatures This year, yetis, cthulhu, unicorns, and other mythical characters will make appearances everywhere within the toy industry, with games being no exception. Just a few examples include Yeti, Set, Go! (PlayMonster), Unstable Unicorns (Unstable Unicorns), Unicorn Glitterluck (Haba), and Wizards Wanted (Mattel).

Penalty Play Surprises and Delights Nearly three years ago, Pie Face (Hasbro) hyped this trend and the games industry still sees no end in sight. Soggy Doggy (Spin Master), Watermelon Smash (Yulu), and Dunk Hat (Hasbro) continue to fuel the impulse trend, along with the many social media videos that quickly go viral.

Unique Packaging You can judge a game by its cover. Disruptive and unique packaging make a bold statement and attract eyes on store shelves. A few examples of games with stand-out packaging include The Cat Game and The Dog Game (Spin Master); Bears vs Babies (Exploding Kittens); True Colors, I-Top, Tossed Salad, and Battling Bones (Goliath); Playfoam Pals (Educational Insights); Escape Room EXIT series (Thames and Kosmos); and Quick Pickle (Mindware).

Solo and Two-Player Jess Tylkowski of Cat and Mouse Game Store in Chicago says, “More games like Sagrada now also include single or two-player variants because it can be challenging to get enough people to come over to play a game.” Popular one- and two-player games include One Deck Dungeon (Asmodee), Laser Maze (ThinkFun), and Squirrels Go Nuts (SmartGames). Also helping to fuel game sales overall are apps such as Dized, which provides tutorials that easily teach the rules of a game as users play them. Games that merge tabletop, apps, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are an increasing force in the industry. Sensible Object just raised $3.2 million to develop Voice Originals: When in Rome, an Amazon Alexa-powered board game. It is always exciting when there is this much going on in the category. As I often say, anything that brings people of all types to the table together makes this world a friendlier place where everybody wins. »

Mary Couzin is CEO and founder of the Chicago Toy & Game Group, with a mission of promoting the importance of play by hosting consumer, fashion, inventor, and media events. Events include Chicago Toy & Game Fair, Inventor and Innovation Conferences, Toy & Game Innovation Awards, PlayCHIC Fashion Show, Young Inventor Challenge, and more.

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ALEX BRANDS’ Plunge It is a silly game in which players quickly pass the plungers around until they hear the fart noise. Then, players race to be the first to plunge the poop. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the game will be available in the fall.

LEARNING RESOURCES’ Code & Go Mouse Mania Board Game is an analog coding game that teaches digital skills. Building on the success of Code & Go Robot Mouse, the board game pairs hands-on play with strategies based on fundamental coding concepts. Players take on the roles of rival mice in the hunt for blocks of cheese scattered around the game board. On each turn, players draw coding cards that they string together into sequences of commands to “compute” their way toward the cheese. They’ll have to navigate around maze walls that block their paths, and toward tunnels that speed up their journeys. The player who collects the most cheese wedges at the end of the game wins. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, the game is available now.

Sculptapalooza, from EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS,, is a party game designed for kids ages 10 and up. Players are divided into two teams, and use the squishy Playfoam to sculpt the command on the card. Some cards may challenge a player to sculpt with his or her eyes closed, use his or her sculpture as a charades prop, or tag team with another player to complete the command. If a team guesses what their teammate sculpted before time runs out, they score a point. The first team to earn 20 points wins the game.

Chomp-Itz Crocodile Dinner, from Identity Games, is an action game in which players wear a crocodile mask and try to collect fish using the snout. The first player to collect all of his or her fish and the gold fish wins the game. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, the game launched this summer.


THE TOY BOOK | JULY/AUGUST 2018 | toybook.com

SPIN MASTER’s Croc ‘n’ Roll is a fastpaced game that gets kids up and moving. Players place the colored lily pads inside the swamp ring, then turn the crocodile loose. Once the crocodile starts moving, players jump from lily pad to lily pad. If a player jumps onto the wrong color, steps outside the swamp ring, or bumps into the Crazy Croc, he or she loses a lily pad. The last player standing on their lily pad wins. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, it will launch this summer.

This fall, TCG—under license from Irwin Toy—will launch the 20Q artificial intelligence (AI) game to mark the 30th anniversary of the brand. The game features a new look and enhanced technology that builds on the original interactive electronic game. The new 20Q version is a battery-operated, handheld gaming system with improved AI capabilities, where players think of an everyday object and answer 20Q’s questions. Users can increase and decrease the speed of the questions, and answer “yes,” “no,” “sometimes,” or “unknown,” and the AI unit will provide the answer. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the game is available in three colors.

Itzi, from CARMA GAMES, is a fast-paced card game. Each player tries match his or her letter cards to the Itzi card in the center of the game. The first player to call out a correct answer and smack his or her card down gets to discard that card. Players flip over a new Itzi card and repeat the actions. The first player to get rid of all five letter cards wins the game.


Triple Cross, from WINNING MOVES GAMES, is a head-to-head battle game in which players place discs in the Triple Cross tower. A player can shift his or her opponent out of place by using the blockers to lock the opponent from the position. The player with the most three-ina-row combinations wins the game. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the game launched this summer.

ZING’s Shock Box is an electronic reaction game that challenges players’ focus, reaction, and speed. Each player takes hold of a controller and pushes the start button to activate Shock Box music and a red blinking light. Once the light turns from red to green, players race to be the fastest to hit their controller button. The players that do not push the button first will feel a shock and lose that round. For an added challenge, players can adjust the variable shock control on the Shock Box with two different levels of intensity and two game modes. Designed for kids ages 14 and up, the game is available now.


THE TOY BOOK | JULY/AUGUST 2018 | toybook.com

Flying Sushi Kitchen, from REDWOODVENTURES, challenges players to fill the correct sushi order using chopsticks to pluck pieces of floating sushi from mid-air. The game includes bamboo shoots, sushi rolls, and chopsticks for five players. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, the game launched this summer. Flying Sushi Kitchen

Jurassic Park Danger!, from RAVENSBURGER, is set in Isla Nublar and takes players on an epic adventure. One player controls the T.rex, Dilophosaurus, and Velociraptor dinosaurs, prowling through the jungle to attack the humans. The remaining players work as characters from the classic Jurassic Park film to fight against the dinosaurs. When a human character is defeated by the dinosaurs, he or she can immediately reanimate as a new character, but once the dinosaurs defeat three human characters, the dinosaurs win the game. If the humans manage to get three characters off the island to safety, those players win.

MINDWARE’s Smash Talk is a fastpaced word game. Each card contains five words, and teammates try to guess the words as quickly as possible. The buzzer keeps track of the time of the previous round, and each team must finish their cards faster than the team before them in order to stay in the game. Designed for kids ages 10 and up, the game launched this summer.

dude, from NORTH STAR GAMES, is a silly game where the only word that players can say is, “dude.” The word “dude” appears on each card in one of six different ways: dooode, dewd, dude, dude?, tiny dude, and tie-dyed dude. Players say the word as they think it should sound based on how it appears on the card, and listen to the ways that their opponents say the word “dude” to find a match. The player that finds the most matches wins the game. Designed for kids ages 13 and up, the game launched this summer.


THE TOY BOOK | JULY/AUGUST 2018 | toybook.com

This summer, THAMES & KOSMOS adds to its EXIT collection with two new games. Designed for kids ages 10 and up, EXIT: The Sunken Treasure sends players on a quest to find the treasure of the Santa Maria. With a difficulty level of 2 out of 5, the game requires players to solve the riddles and recover the treasure before time is up. EXIT: Dead Man on the Orient Express is a reimagined tale of the classic murder on the Orient Express. Players race to find the culprit of the crime before the train reaches its destination. Designed for kids ages 12 and up, the game has a difficulty level of 4 out of 5.

JAKKS PACIFIC’s Niffler Challenge Game is inspired by the mischievous Niffler featured in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films. Players load up the Niffler with jewelry and coins until it overflows and spills into the briefcase. The first player to spill the jewelry and coins wins. The two-player game is designed for kids ages 4 and up and will be available in the fall.


What’s That Smell, from WOWWEE,, is a new guessing game in which players must guess the scent correctly. The winner gets to pick a player of his or her choice to suffer the Whiff of Shame, and take three whiffs of one of four Stank Cards, including Old Toe Cheese, Diaper Blowout, Hot Chunky Vomit, or Smothered in B.O. For added fun, players can download the What’s That Smell companion app to capture the reactions on the slow-motion ReekCam. Designed for kids ages 14 and up, the game launched this summer.

Inspired by the viral internet challenge, HASBRO’s Don’t Lose Your Cool Game tests one’s ability to remain calm under pressure. Players wear the Cool-OMeter to measure their heart rate, and the opposing team rolls the dice to determine how they’ll try to fluster their opponent. A change in heart rate will affect the meter, and when the meter reaches the red color, the alarm will sound. The team that causes the alarm to sound wins the round. Designed for kids ages 12 and up, the game will be available in the fall.

King Arthur’s Camelot Wrebbit3D Puzzle, from WREBBIT3D, is inspired by King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The 865-piece 3-D puzzle lets individuals build the walls of Camelot to house Merlin and Sir Lancelot. Designed for kids ages 14 and up, the pieces are sturdy and easy to handle.

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Voice Originals: When in Rome, from SENSIBLE OBJECT, is a family board game that connects to Amazon’s Alexa for a voice-enhanced gaming experience where Alexa teaches players the rules and keeps score. When in Rome, the first title in the series, is a travel trivia game that takes players on a journey around the world with Alexa Air. As players travel, they will meet 20 real locals recorded from cities worldwide who ask questions about local customs, culture, street food, and more. Players earn points when they answer questions correctly and collect souvenirs. Designed for kids ages 13 and up, the game launched this summer.

In Gnomes at Night, from PEACEABLE KINGDOM, players work together to maneuver magnetic gnomes around the maze to collect treasures before time runs out. Players must use communication, strategy, and quick-thinking skills to win the game. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the game is available now.

Snot It, from KD GAMES, is a silly game that challenges players to collect boogers. Players fill the bowl with the foam boogers, put on the glasses, and wind the spinning booger bowl. As it spins, the player tries to pick the right colored boogers from the bowl using the snot hanging from the glasses. If a player doesn’t pick the correct color, he or she must return the boogers to the bowl. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the game will be available in the fall.

Spin Off

Snot It

Spin Off Off, from BUFFALO GAMES, is a game in which players simultaneously tilt the board to steer the balls in play. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, each player tries to roll the balls into the center goal, while keeping his or her opponent’s balls out of the goal. The first player to score all five balls wins. For more of a challenge, kids can add up to eight obstacle pegs to the board. The two-player game will be available in August.


THE TOY BOOK | JULY/AUGUST 2018 | toybook.com

Avocado Smash, from RIDLEY’S GAMES, adds a twist to the classic game of Snap. Each player receives an equal number of cards face down. One by one, they place the top card from their pile face up. As players reveal their card, they shout a number, starting with “One Avocado!,” and continuing up to 15. A Smash is achieved if the card that a player flips matches the number he or she says, or if both cards have an equal number of avocados. All players must then smash their hands down. The last player to smash his or her hand down loses the round and takes all of the cards in the center to his or her pile. The first player to get rid of all of his or her cards wins.

In Who Cut the Cheese?, from EPOCH EVERLASTING PLAY’s Game Zone brand, each player uses the special knife to cut the cheese wheel and listen for the funny noise that it makes. The player that “cuts the cheese” and hears the fart noise must go back to start. Players mark their progress along the game board, moving forward each time they avoid cutting the cheese. The first to reach the finish line wins.

SMARTGAMES’ Cube Puzzler Go challenges kids to build a cube from the seven colorful puzzle pieces. Kids must use logic and deduction skills in order to create the cubes to solve each challenge. The game includes 80 3-D challenges and a challenge booklet with solutions. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the game will be available in September.

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Pacemakers Extreme, from YULU, is an adult party game where players must pay attention to how many times opponents tap their paddles. One tap moves the pulse to the next player, two taps reverses the pulse, and three taps skips to the next player. If a player taps the paddle when it is not his or her turn, that player will feel a shock and be kicked out of the game. Designed for kids ages 14 and up, Pacemakers Extreme will launch in August.

Handimonium the Tiny Hands Game, from MATTEL, is a game that challenges players to perform easy tasks while they wear tiny hands. Simple actions will become hilariously tricky when players wear the tiny hands. The game comes with two sets of tiny hands, plus bonus pairs of paws and tentacles. Designed for kids ages 13 and up, the party game will be available in the fall.

TOMY’s Phil the Fridge is a game in which players race to get their food into the correct colored food-shaped holes before Phil decides to pop open. If Phil’s door pops open and food falls out, players will need to start again. The player who gets all the colored food shapes into the fridge first wins the game. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, Phil the Fridge will be available in September.


THE TOY BOOK | JULY/AUGUST 2018 | toybook.com

LOONEY LABS’ Anatomy Fluxx is a new addition to the education line that takes kids into the human body. The game incorporates bones and blood vessels, and players must try to avoid virus, mutation, and bacteria. The Learning Rules also feature anatomical trivia to test players’ knowledge. The game is designed for kids ages 12 and up, and may also be played by younger kids after the removal of the reproductive body parts cards.

Yeti, Set, Go!, PLAYMONSTER’s follow up to Yeti in My Spaghetti, features four different Yetis with four unique personalities. Kids choose their Yeti and work as a team, kicking meatballs onto a snowy mountain. Skill comes into play, as players try to get them to land on all of the ledges in their side of the mountain by aiming their Yetis by swiveling them back and forth. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the game will be available this summer.


THE BIG REVEAL Toys Tap into the Social Media Unboxing Trend by KRISTIN MORENCY GOLDMAN, communications specialist, The Toy Association FROM BLIND BAGS AND COLORchanging collectibles to pets and characters hidden within compounds, one of the hottest toy trends of 2018 is centered on “The Big Reveal,” according to The Toy Association trend experts. “Kids have been obsessed with unboxing videos on YouTube for the past few years, and now innovative toymakers are bringing that play pattern into toys that kids can play with at home,” says Adrienne Appell, trend expert at The Toy Association. “We’re seeing an incredible range of multi-layered toys that ultimately aim to surprise kids and keep them coming back for more.” The trend had an impact on the hot collectibles market, which helped drive industry growth last year. Thanks to toys such as L.O.L. Surprise! and Hatchimals, global collectibles sales grew 14 percent to $3.9 billion, capturing approximately 8 percent of total industry dollar sales. The connection between the toy industry and some of YouTube’s biggest—and youngest—stars that are famous for their toy unboxing videos also gained a lot of traction. This year, New York Toy Fair welcomed 7-year-old Ryan of Ryan ToysReview and 12-year-old Evan of EvanTube among its media, blogger, and influencer guests. At the show, Ryan unveiled a toy line that bears his likeness. “With millions of subscribers, these young influencers are having an incredible impact on the toy industry,” says Appell. Fans mimic YouTubers on their social media channels and get excited to open the surprise toys, see what they get, experience how it feels, and discover what the toys can do. Many of these toys are affordable, making them attractive to parents and easy for kids to buy with their own pocket money. Below are just a few examples of the many toys that are hitting shelves this year and capitalizing on “The Big Reveal” trend. 5 SURPRISE (ZURU) This new collectible line merges the anticipation of unboxing a surprise with the

addictiveness of collectibles. Kids unwrap, peel, and reveal what’s inside the 5 Surprise capsules, which contain five of more than 300 toys available in the first series. Additional waves will roll out every six months. MOJ MOJ! (MGA ENTERTAINMENT) Moj Moj! is a new collectible brand from MGA Entertainment that brings the excitement of “the claw” arcade game right into the toy aisle. The line features an assortment of soft and squishy limited-edition, rare, and ultra-rare characters in blind bags and innovative packaging. Moj Moj! is a physical embodiment of an emoji, allowing kids to express themselves with their characters. Each new series will be a different emoji. PLAYFOAM PALS (EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS) Playfoam Pals combines unboxing and collectible play with an addictive squishy compound, with a wild animal friend hidden within each pod. Kids can also pop apart their pal and swap its head and body with pieces from other Playfoam Pals to create customized critters of their own. Kids can use the Playfoam in each pod to sculpt nests, beds, perches, and other play props. The collection includes a rare golden animal critter. BUST-UPS (GENTLE GIANT LTD) Bust-Ups are pre-painted, snap together mystery model kits to collect, build, and display. These eye-catching miniature models come in dynamic poses and allow fans to re-create their favorite moments from popular science fiction and comic book franchises. The latest collection includes heroes and villains from the Star Wars universe. SMISKI (DREAMS USA INC.) Smiski are little creatures that love to hide in corners and in small places. These collectibles glow in the dark and come in blind boxes, so fans will never know which secret figure they’re about to unwrap. It features several different series of collectibles, including a

bath and a toilet series. WORLD’S SMALLEST BLIND BOX (SUPER IMPULSE) A tiny surprise is inside every box, with each box containing a secret and classic collectible toy from the World’s Smallest line, including Rubik’s Cube, Chatter Phone, Etch-A-Sketch, and more. This year’s line expansion includes two mystery items per box. Every miniature toy works the same as its full-sized counterpart. TOKIDOKI BLIND BAGS (AURORA WORLD) New Tokidoki plush blind bags will be released this year, including Mermicorno and Unicorno plush blind bags, as well as the debut of Moofia plush blind bags. Kids can continue to collect their favorite characters in adorable plush clip-ons, with each new blind bag potentially featuring a mystery character. ORBEEZ WOW WORLD WOWZER SURPRISE (MAYA TOYS) These collectible figures come packed within an Orbeez Orb. Kids simply add water to their Orb to reveal their hidden Magical Wowzer Pet. As an added bonus, kids can twist the top of the Orb to make their Wowzer dance. » 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.

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Technological Advances Help Fuel the Construction Category

by XANDRA HARBET COMPANIES THAT MANUFACTURE TOYS in the construction category are in a unique position to adapt their products to the latest trends that appeal to both parents and kids. These manufacturers continually transform beloved products with new twists to reflect the latest trends, making them covetable—even when consumers own dozens of variations of the same product. Classic construction toys infused with technology—such as K’NEX’s new line of building sets that allow kids to experience their roller coaster creations in virtual reality (VR)—and the increasing demand for STEM products are particularly noticeable trends that construction companies are incorporating into their new product introductions. Another example is Fat Brain Toys’ Offbits, which fills the desire kids have to be part of an online community, offering a platform for kids to

share designs and connect with other creators. Technology isn’t a new concept for the construction category, but as tech capabilities continue to rapidly develop, so does the ability to place new and engaging technological components into kids’ hands. While it offers increased options for household names, the new wave of technological advances also enables newcomers to enter the toy industry with fresh perspectives and modernized ideas on how to amp up the building category. GETTING OFF THE GROUND Toy inventors are now able to turn more complex tech building concepts into real construction products without as many resources as were required in the past. Social media and technology offer new ways to market and fund projects that started out as pipe dreams. The up-and-coming company Piper took to crowdfunding to market its idea and place a real product into kids’ hands. With Piper, kids can build a computer from wood and other parts and use it to play popular games, seamlessly merging traditional play with technology. Co-creator Mark Pavlyukovskyy came up with the idea while volunteering in Africa, later met STEM advocate Shree Bose, and, together, they developed the product and

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went on to raise more than $280,000 on Kickstarter with more than 1,000 backers. With STEM kits growing in popularity, manufacturers are creating construction kits with education and schools in mind. Schools provide the ideal market for STEM kits, which offer kids an early route to discover a passion for science and tech-based fields. Companies such as Thames & Kosmos make STEM products geared toward girls—a movement to encourage girls to develop an interest in STEM so they can later provide much-needed representation in the field. The Pepper Mint line features story-based STEM kits that allow kids to partake in hands-on science experiments while following a narrative featuring Pepper Mint, a young female scientist who acts as a scientific role model during play time. Whether kids play a Raspberry Pi Edition of Minecraft on a computer they built themselves with the Piper Computer Kit, share Offbits creations with an online platform of like-minded tech enthusiasts, or virtually ride a K’NEX roller coaster with an app, it’s evident that consumers are flocking to tech-infused construction toys with a new, unparalleled vigor. »


With MINDWARE’s Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 Starter Light Set, kids ages 6 and up can build mazes and watch the cubes light up when the marbles pass through. The cube design and sliding side connections allow the marble maze to take on surprising shapes, and the precision engineering of the double exit makes the marbles’ path a mystery. Four motion-activated cubes flash red, green, blue, or white every time a marble hits the cube floor.

PLAYMOBIL’s The Hidden Temple with T-Rex play set allows kids to discover the temple and use the ancient structure as a research base before heading out to explore the island. The set features a map that reveals a hidden path, a working temple gate, a T.rex with movable arms and legs, and a functioning pulley. Kids can use the included UV flashlight to reveal glow-in-the-dark features, such as the ruin’s crystal eyes. The set also includes the full Explorers team and other accessories, including houses, rockets, and animals. Barn with Silo, for kids ages 4 and up, features a working silo with storage space, a functional ladder, a main double entry, and opening loft doors. The set includes two figures, a horse, a cow, chickens, a rooster, a cat, hay bales, and a pitchfork.

The Tirpitz Battleship, from COBI, allows kids to learn history as they construct a model of the Tirpitz Battleship, a German battleship from World War II. This new construction block model is one of the largest sets COBI offers, and will be available this fall. The set consists of nearly 2,000 blocks and has moving parts, including its turrets and gun barrels. The set features a special stand, which makes it easy to display.

MAGFORMERS’ Sky Track is a 44-piece play set designed for kids ages 3 and up. Equipped with a sky shuttle and multiple track accessories, kids can create loops, ups and downs, and twists and turns for endless flight fun. Kids can watch as their shuttle does a 360-degree spin and climbs the lift elevator. Once the track is completed, the Sky Shuttle will go off-road in its Sky car.

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CONSTRUCTION MUKIKIM’s Jr Engineer Line allows kids ages 5 and up to develop STEM skills with sets that include instructions, parts, hardware, and the tools to build both featured items at once. The instructions include images, allowing kids to learn visually as they follow along. The construction parts are made from high-quality materials, featuring a variety of rigid, flexible plastic and soft silicone rubber.

BRACKITZ’s Bugz Race Park allows kids to race two Bugz through a play park of obstacles with friends and siblings. Kids can customize race tracks and obstacles for a Bugz competition, such as the Zig Zag or the Rocket, or use their imagination to make their own competition. The set includes 94 pieces and two motorized Bugz.

TOY STATE’s 16-inch kid-powered Fold Out Dump Truck Playset allows kids to play with more than 15 play pieces as the truck becomes a sprawling worksite that gives builders a lot of work to do. Kids can play with ramps, containers, a crane, and three Mini Machines.

MCFARLANE TOYS’ The Buildable Neighbor’s House large set is a fully 3-D, two-sided build. It features a poseable, buildable The Neighbor and The Kid figures and Neighbors House setting. The set contains 323 pieces that feature articulation in the main joints and interchangeable heads and limbs. The bricks and figures are compatible with other construction brands.

The Smart Engine with Action Tunnels, from BRIO, allows kids ages 3 and up to construct a track to run the battery-operated train. The set comes with two tunnels based on interactive smart technology.

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CONSTRUCTION THAMES & KOSMOS’ Pepper Mint in the Fantastic Underwater Science Voyage is a story-based STEM kit that lets kids accompany Pepper Mint on an expedition to the Bermuda Triangle. The accompanying story takes the characters from experiment to experiment, and shows them how to power small machines with the help of water. The experiments teach kids lessons in mechanical physics, electric circuits, and physical science principles related to water and air. The set comes with the materials to build the boat and complete the projects, a full-color illustrated storybook, a step-by-step instruction manual, and a Pepper Mint figurine. With hundreds of building pieces and more than 20 models and experiments, The Big Engineering Makerspace is a comprehensive STEM experience. In five chapters, kids can explore different areas of physics and engineering design as they build functional models and conduct tests on them.

Kids can assemble HEXBUG’s Battling Boxing Robots, which are smart-tech, self-stabilizing boxers. Using the VEX Pilot app, kids control their robot’s actions, deciding when to use a swift uppercut or a jab. Kids can warm-up and get used to driving with the app by practicing on a mock-rocker bot before challenging a friend to an actual match. The VEX Robotics Gatling Rapid Fire Motorized Dart Shooter is a handheld STEM build equipped with eight rubber-tipped darts. Kids can fire on a series of targets during a battle against friends. Made from more than 200 pieces, the Gatling Rapid Shooter is compatible with the VEX IQ platform.

With the Bendy and the Ink Machine—Ink Machine Room Scene Set, from BASIC FUN!, kids can collect and build the Ink Machine Room from the game Bendy and the Ink Machine. The set features construction toy stylization and includes three construction mini-figures. Each set is made from a traditional brick system that is compatible with most major brands. The set is inspired by the first chapter of the Meatly’s Bendy and the Ink Machine game.

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Kids ages 8 and up can race in four-wheel drive with the LEGO DC Super Heroes App-Controlled Batmobile. Kids can place Batman in the cockpit, activate the motors, and use their smartphone or tablet to control the Batmobile via Bluetooth. The Batmobile can drive forward, backward, left, and right, in addition to making 360-degree turns. Friends The Big Race, designed for kids ages 7 and up, allows players to race go-karts around Heartlake City. The set includes three go-karts, three figures, start and finish lines, and unique features such as changing rooms and a VIP lounge.

CONSTRUCTION Offbits, by FAT BRAIN TOYS, combines familiar parts with a modern approach to collaboration. Once kids build something new, they can use the included registration code to share it and show it off to an online community of creators. New additions to the Offbits line include GiraffeBit and MonkeyBit.

K’NEX, a division of Basic Fun!, introduces Thrill Rides Bionic Blast Roller Coaster Building Set, which allows kids to construct a Ferris wheel coaster car lift. With more than 800 parts, this roller coaster set includes made-in-theU.S. rods and connectors, a roller coaster track, a coaster car, a chain lift, a cardboard VR viewer, and graphic panels. Kids can activate the K’NEX Ride It! app to ride this coaster in the virtual world.

BiOBUDDi, from SNAP TOYS, is a 100-percent recyclable line of building blocks made for kids ages 18 months and up. Manufactured in the Netherlands, the set includes stickers for customization and instructions with printed activities. The Animals Learning set features animals on 27 pieces, and nine of them are colored and have four pegs so kids can easily stack them.

KAHOOTZ TOYS’ Plasticine Stick ‘n Shape Character Creator lets kids create colorful shapes with the mix-and-match character pieces. The Plasticine does not dry out so kids can make new creations over and over again. The kit includes 39 Stick ‘n Shape Character pieces, a rolling tool, a sculpting tool, no-dry modeling material, and an instruction guide.

With MEGA BLOKS’ Shape Sorting Wagon, kids ages 1 to 5 can learn to identify shapes. Little builders match the building blocks with their outline on the shape sorter to send them clunking into the wagon’s bin. Kids can stack, sort, play, and roll the blocks as they learn their shapes.

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Ski Patrol, from GEOSMART, is a 31-piece geomagnetic construction set, designed for kids ages 5 and up. The set includes turbo motors and unique track wheels that enable it to perform on multiple surfaces, including thick carpeting. Budding engineers can use their STEM skills to build multiple R/C vehicles and watch them go.



ABOUT POCKET WATCH “At pocket.watch, we celebrate the new digital stars and formats that kids love today, and with the introduction of Ryan’s World, we’ve expanded Ryan ToysReview from a YouTube channel into a true global kids franchise,” says Stone Newman, CRO of pocket.watch. “We worked hand in hand with Ryan, as well as the most respected licensees, manufacturers, and category leaders in the industry, to create a line that embraces everything Ryan loves—including blind bag collectible toys, slime, vehicles, stuffed animals, squishies, putty, and much more. And, from initial feedback, it is clear we are onto something big. We are confident that there is no category where our powerhouse digital franchises won’t shine.”


8 FUN FACTS Ryan’s favorite food is pizza.


Ryan’s most popular video to date features giant surprise eggs and has garnered 1.4 BILLION views.


Ryan’s favorite animals are pandas and dinosaurs.


Ryan’s favorite sports are soccer and tennis.


Ryan’s favorite color is blue.




If Ryan could choose one word to describe himself, it would be “curious.”


Ryan made his YouTube debut at three years old.


Ryan’s favorite part about being a famous YouTuber is knowing that he has friends all over the world.

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Under pocket.watch’s newly formed youth electronics umbrella, the company will work with KIDDESIGNS to create a laser tag game, a line of walkie talkies, a collection of headphones, and innovative electronic toys featuring Ryan ToysReview.

Under its pocket.watch Toys banner, the media brand will also introduce a line of Ryan ToysReview kites, gliders, and parachutes, created by BRAINSTORM PRODUCTS.

The initial launch of Ryan’s World consumer products is on August 6 at Walmart.

ACTIVITIES GAMES Under the pocket.watch Games umbrella, BUFFALO GAMES will develop a line of pocket.watch branded games and puzzles across all creator brands. In addition, Buffalo Games will create a pocket.watch board game and card game called Watch This Game!

Through a portfolio deal with ORB, this launch will feature a dedicated pocket.watch line of activities, including drawing toys, compounds, stickers and stamp kits, reusable ink, activity kits, craft kits, and slime that will be available later this year. ORB will also create new and exclusive ranges for its leading brand Soft’n Slo Squishies, one of the hottest selling toy crazes of 2017, for each of pocket. watch’s creator brands.


Master toy license BONKERS TOYS unveiled a new line of Ryan’s World products, including bling bags, figure packs, vehicles, and more based on the popular YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview. Kids can be just like Ryan with the Ryan’s World Giant Mystery Egg, which features an exclusive lights and sounds vehicle, ultra-rare figures, special slime and putty, a limited-edition squishy, and more. Kids can collect Ryan’s favorite personalities and a sixth mystery figure surprise with Ryan’s World 6-Pack Figures. Character personalities include Kung Fu Ryan, Arctic Deep Ryan, Professor Ryan, and more. The Ryan’s World Ryan’s Racers 2-Pack includes two pullback vehicles that kids can use to race to the finish line. There are eight different vehicles to collect, such as racecars, emergency vehicles, rocket ships, and more. With Ryan’s World Blind Plush Backpack Clips, fans can take their favorite Ryan’s World characters on-the-go, including Red Titan Ryan, Moe the Monster, Gus the Gummy Gator, and more. Additional items include mystery putty, mystery squishies, figure 2-packs, and blind bags.

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ARE HIGH-TECH TOYS HIGH-RISK? …Not If You Protect Your Ideas

by HOWARD N. ARONSON, managing director, Lackenbach Siegel LLC YOUR START-UP MAY NOT BE A unicorn, but if you’re making high-tech toys— app-controlled robots, figures with animated LCD eyes, virtual reality adventures, electric skateboards, etc.—you face intellectual property (IP) challenges that differ from those of traditional toy companies. With the assistance of your IP counsel, you can safeguard your business as you produce innovative products. The sooner you identify and meet the IP challenges of high-tech toy manufacturing, the better. In fact, the process starts even before you develop the idea for your product. SEPARATE YOUR PERSONAL CREATIVE PROJECTS FROM YOUR DAY JOB Many start-ups originate while the founder is employed by another company. If that’s your position, keep your product idea as different as possible from your projects as an employee. Don’t use your employer’s equipment—including computers, copiers, and phones—in developing your idea. Conduct your creative research on your own property and your own time. Because if you work on your idea at your employer’s place of business—you may later discover that your employer, not you, has intellectual property rights to your idea. CLARIFY JOINT OWNERSHIP Your company may find that it owns certain intellectual property jointly with another individual or company. Define that relationship with a written agreement. Specifically, the agreement should define who owns what and each party’s responsibilities, especially regarding licensing and transfer of any shared intellectual property rights. Without such an agreement, you may find that sometime in the future, the joint owner is able to take steps such as signing away what you understood as your intellectual property rights, requiring an accounting of your intellectual property rights from you, or providing access to your work to a third party. Be sure that you remove or limit these uncertainties with a proper agreement. AGREE TO AGREE Assuming that your employer doesn’t pose the only potential threat to your intel-

lectual property, you need to independently move forward. You can’t do it alone, and so in launching a high-tech toy start-up, you’ll often “farm out” parts of the project and often risk losing rights to artists or contractors who create discreet parts of the project under your direction. Whether it’s a drawing or a proprietary chip that you need, make sure that your IP counsel drafts and helps you execute a written agreement with any third party, laying out exactly who owns what intellectual property, and who has the right to use it. Do this before any work begins with contracted or outsourced entities. The written agreement—whether a license or an assignment— should clearly articulate ownership and use of the intellectual property created. RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO GO PUBLIC TOO SOON Certain intellectual property rights—patents most notably—can be compromised or destroyed by disclosure. For example, inventors who disclose their inventions to others without taking necessary precautions to preserve their patent rights—even in scholarly articles or grant proposals—can lose those rights, both in the U.S. and internationally. IP counsel can advise you on how to avoid that outcome. If there are rights that need to be secured before public disclosure, you can take steps to obtain protection beforehand, then you can tout your innovation publicly. KEEP YOUR SECRETS SECRET Without regard to timing, you can forfeit your trade secret rights when confidential information is publicly disclosed. A trade secret, unsurprisingly, is information that is not generally known. Trade secrets are particularly valuable because they don’t expire—they last indefinitely, until the secret is lost or discovered. To be protectable, a trade secret—whether a program, process, pattern, formula, method, compilation, technique, or device—must be used in business and must also offer an opportunity to gain an economic advantage over competitors who don’t have access to the trade secret. In addition, a trade secret must be subject to reasonable efforts to preserve confidential-

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ity. A trade secret holder is protected against unauthorized disclosure and use. But if a trade secret holder fails to maintain secrecy—or if the information is independently discovered, released, or becomes generally known—the “secret” loses protection. Thus, as you assess your IP rights, identify confidential information that should not be made public at all and ensure that it’s protected against disclosure. TAKE STOCK Identify all your protectable IP rights. While you may think that your technology as an invention is protectable by a patent, you may find that copyright, trade secret law, and trademark law also play a major role in your IP rights. The type of protection determines the strength of that protection and also the period of protection. Thus, a careful study of your work will allow you to take steps to obtain the greatest possible IP protection for the longest period of time. DON’T SACRIFICE LONG-TERM GAINS FOR SHORT-TERM SAVINGS ON IP PROTECTION Although it may be tempting to save costs by limiting investment in IP protection, such a strategy can doom a high-tech toy company in the long run. Any savings will be unimportant down the road if IP protection is lost or limited by failure to invest in reviewing, planning, and putting in place the appropriate IP protection for your innovation. Make IP awareness central to your high-tech start-up at the beginning, and continue to seek assistance as you make each business decision, so your company’s IP assets are properly protected now and in the future. »

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 at Lackenbach Siegel. Contact Aronson at haronson@lsllp.com or (914) 723-4300.

GAME ON! SOURCE ASIA’S BEST TOYS & GAMES IN HONG KONG THIS OCTOBER PRESENTED AND MANAGED BY COMASIA LTD., ASIAN TOYS & Games Show features four concurrent shows running Oct. 20 to 23 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The annual show is an important marketplace for toys, gifts, premiums, housewares, kitchen and dining, and lifestyle products, and is a must-attend event for global buyers looking to source products in southern China each fall. Among the four concurrent events, Asian Toys & Games Show is a major showcase and sourcing hub for Asian-made toys and games in Hong Kong every October. Last year, this industry trade show featured top-shelf products from more than 390 exhibitors from 15 countries and regions. The 2018 edition is expected to gather a strong lineup of approximately 400 exhibitors to present their best offerings in more than 600 booths. As technologies and consumer preferences continuously evolve, Asian Toys & Games Show keeps up with the latest market trends to offer the latest innovations and newest designs to buyers worldwide. This year, the show will feature a wide array of innovative and creative playthings presented by leading manufacturers and suppliers mostly from Asia, including STEAM toys, action figures and collectibles, smart toys with app-connected features and virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, electronic toys, soft toys and dolls, baby and nursery items, outdoor and sporting items, and more. This one-stop toys and games sourcing platform in Hong Kong offers plentiful business opportunities for fun and play. Online preregistration for free admission badges is now open at asiantng.com. Pre-registered buyers can also apply for the Special Buyer Sponsorship Program to enjoy up to HKD 2,800 toward their expenses during their visit to the show. 

by MADDIE MICHALIK, associate editor IN TOY STORY, BELOVED KIDS’ TOYS ONLY come to life when nobody is looking. Of course, this doesn’t happen in real life, except when Mitchel Wu gets his hands on them.

Wu is a Los Angeles-based professional toy photographer. He uses kids’ playthings to create engaging stories through images that capture the illusion of motion and emotion where none exist. An ex-wedding photographer, Wu has since divorced his day job in favor of bringing toys to life. He’s created images for Warner Bros. Entertainment; Mattel’s Ever After High, Monster High, Scrabble, UNO, and Hot Wheel’s 50th Anniversary; and IAmElemental. Wu captures moments that are a cross between effervescent fantasy and wispy daydreams. His technique makes you feel as though you are actually seeing something real—making you second-guess whether these figures aren’t actually moving on their own. Wu’s ability to animate toys and games, and put them in playful situations varying from flying liquid to moving debris, combines lighthearted situations with images that are stunningly realistic. For him, it’s not about the toy, but more about the story. The Toy Book caught up with Wu to talk about his photo aesthetic, his inspiration, and how he got started with toy photography. How did you go from wedding photographer to toy photographer? I photographed hundreds of weddings over the course of eight years. During that time, my daughter went through elementary school and junior high, and by 2015 was in high school. She’s a competitive swimmer and all of her swim meets are on the weekends. The unfortunate part about wedding

photography is that 95 percent of weddings take place on weekends, so I was missing out on a lot with my kid and wife. It was toward the end of 2015 that I decided to stop shooting weddings because I knew I only had a limited amount of time left with my daughter before she graduates and leaves for college. I had no plans for what to do after wedding photography, but fortunately it was around that exact same time that I discovered toy photography. My nephew was shooting toys, and he asked me to come along to shoot with him one day, and everything just kind of fell into place from there.

What was your first photo in this style? The very first picture I took was of some Stormtroopers. I was never even aware of toy photography—in fact, the first time I saw it on social media I thought it was incredibly bizarre. There are a lot of different kinds and levels of toy photography, ranging from pretty good images to some really strange and cheesy ones. Everyone does his or her own thing, which is what makes it so fun. My nephew and I finally got together to shoot. Coming from wedding photography, I had more than enough gear to shoot

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toys, but what I didn’t have were the toys. I borrowed some samurai stormtroopers from him that first day and we shot them in a nearby park. That’s how it all started. On that first day at the park it was more about taking photos of static characters and getting a feel for photographing action figures. But once I got home and was able to experiment and play with it, it really progressed pretty fast to where I was doing pretty cool shots of Stormtroopers falling off of cliffs, water splashes, or dirt and debris flying around characters. It moved pretty quick. I started in the fall of 2015 and I would say that as soon as I took my first photo, I really saw the potential of what you could make toy photography be as far as a career. I spent the first year learning the different techniques involved in how to do some of the practical effects that you see in my images, trying to develop a style, and working on my storytelling. I spent a good solid year on that before I actually started pursuing and booking some client work. My first official client, IAmElemental, commissioned me to create images around its stunning line of female action figures. What are some of your favorite kinds of photos to shoot? I don’t have a favorite type of photo to shoot, but the kinds of photos I like to shoot are ones that have a strong story. Last year, I was fortunate to have Mattel as a major client, and over the course of the year I created hundreds of images for them. I started off by shooting some of their Monster High and Ever After High dolls. They asked me how I would feel about shooting some things that were not doll or toy related. It was something new for me, and I’m always up for new challenges, so Mattel gave me games to create images around for their social media.

When I started shooting Uno and Scrabble, putting them in different stories and situations, I found myself enjoying the process as much as I did when I photographed action figures. It was an important validation for me that it’s not so much about a specific toy or game, but about the story I’m trying to tell. There are a lot of hobbyist toy photographers that will only shoot something like Star Wars or Marvel action figures, and that’s cool because that’s their passion, but for me creating stories is my passion, so you’ll see a wide range of toys and figures because of that. That’s what keeps it interesting for me. What photo are you most proud of? One of my all-time favorite images is of Woody sliding down the stair banister with Buzz Lightyear flying (falling with style!) right next to him, cheering him on. Those stairs are in my home, a house I’ve lived in for more than 20 years. I’ve walked up and down those stairs a million times, and every time I walk down them I have my hand on that banister. So, I’m always thinking about what I can shoot next and what’s the next story I want to tell. That idea just popped into my head, and then it just seemed so obvious because when kids see a banister or railing, their first thought is to slide down it. It seemed like the most natural thing to do, but for some reason I hadn’t noticed it in the years since I began photographing toys. I love that image partly because it was so elusive, but mostly because when I look at it, I feel there’s this unbridled joy on Woody’s face that exemplifies hanging out and playing with a good friend, having a great time. It just

looks like he’s having the time of his life. That’s my favorite image, but if I was to say what makes a great image for me, it’s an image that gets people to see characters in a different way. A good example is an image with two figures from the movie Alien that I created for this past Mother’s Day. These aliens, called xenomorphs, are terrifying, bloodthirsty monsters. I had mother and child xenomorphs sitting on a rock in a lake and it’s a really tender moment. The toy manufacturer doesn’t even make a xenomorph child, so I had to create the child using Photoshop. A lot of people were moved by the image and it received a lot of, “Aww, that’s so cute” kind of comments, but I can guarantee you that nobody has ever said that about these xenomorph creatures before. I love that image because I took these really fearsome killing machines and got them to pull on people’s heartstrings. It’s that kind of image that I strive for, and when an image succeeds on that level they become some of my favorites. How has the response been on social media? It’s been truly amazing. I found that toy photography lives on Instagram. There’s an entire worldwide community where you can find people taking pictures of their toys. It’s really cool because in the few years I’ve been doing this I’ve made some amazing friends from different corners of the globe, and have followers on nearly every continent. It’s been cool to see all these different eyes coming to my work. A lot of kids find their way to my social media pages as well, often through their parents, so the one thing

I’m always conscious of is to keep my work G- or PG-rated and family friendly. With that said, my humor can really get out there, in a goofy way—like in a recent photo where I shot a Rocky figure holding a chicken over his head and the chicken is laying eggs right into his mouth, shells and all. I was inspired by an iconic scene in the movie where Rocky is training and drinks a couple of raw eggs. Wondering about what people will like is always in the back of my head, but ultimately I have no control over that. Sometimes you think something is going to resonate with an audience and it doesn’t, and vice versa. I just follow what’s in my heart and have fun with it. Do you have anything else to share? Anybody that has any curiosity or interest in toy photography should try it because it’s just pure and simple fun! There are people out there doing it with cell phones, point and shoots, and with full-blown professional gear. In the end it’s just a way to have some fun and play with toys. If you’re interested in trying it, go for it! First and foremost, come up with some good ideas and stories. Don’t worry about going too crazy with the special effects or techniques because that comes with time and practice. I would much rather look at an image with a great story that isn’t executed perfectly than an image with great effects but with no story. Make me laugh, make me feel something. » To see more from Mitchel Wu, check out mitchelwutoyphotography.com and follow @mitchelwuphotography on Instagram and Facebook. All images © Mitchel Wu Toy Photography—All Rights Reserved.

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TIPS FOR BRINGING YOUR PRODUCT TO MARKET by DEB DE SHERBININ, president, Perk Consulting, WIT Empowerment co-chair WIT EMPOWERMENT DAY PROVIDES unique access to pitch Walmart buyers and toy manufacturers, and opportunities to learn about the best practices in developing and launching a product through speakers, panels, and one-on-one sessions with experienced mentors. The fifth WIT Empowerment Day falls on Oct. 1, right before Fall Toy Preview in Dallas. Dozens of industry thought leaders will volunteer their time and talent— and in many cases open up their rolodex—to help women entrepreneurs and startups from across the country take products or concepts to the next level. Here are 15 tips on how to bring your product or concept to market, from some of the mentors who have helped hundreds of women: Consider the competition. Visit stores and look at what is and isn’t working on competitors’ packaging. Read all forms of media and stay informed; keep your ear to the ground and know what’s going on around you. Allow yourself and your employees to try new things to explore different opportunities and gain learning experiences. —Maureen McHale, president, McHale Design Develop a brand promise. It shows what you stand for and differentiates you from your competitors. Everything you develop must ladder back up to your brand promise, including product, marketing, messaging, website, communication, etc. —Stacy Lellos, VP & general manager, Klutz Know your audience. Know the specific demographic of those who will use your product. Know your product. Know what makes it different, and what is sitting on the shelf next to it. Know your price points and understand the complete landscape of your product. —Veronica Walters, director of sales, Funko Be prepared when talking to your buyer. Show them you know what you’re doing, that you understand the competitive landscape, and that you have a media plan. If you believe in your plan, your buyer will, too. —David Becker, CEO, Blue Plate Media

Design your product with safety in mind. The U.S. CPSC Small Business Ombudsman Office can help steer you in the right direction for things such as testing labs, sourcing materials, freight forwarding, and more. Call (301) 504-7945, and you’ll actually get a real person at a government agency. —Shelby Mathis, small business ombudsman, U.S. CPSC If you are a female founder, get certified as a women-owned business. Becoming certified through WBENC gives you access to helpful resources, connections, education, and mentoring, and you can use the logo on your packaging and in your marketing. —Jill Sasso, senior director human resources, WBENC Manage your business. Don’t let it manage you. Each morning, think about the most important things you have to do, then do them without getting distracted by emails, employee issues, etc. —Jeff Pinsker, CEO, Amigo Games Inc. Figure out what you want to be. Know whether you want to be an inventor or if you want to get your product licensed. If you choose to create/invent, find a company that will license your product for you. —John Lee, co-founder & general partner, Bambini Partners LLC Know the buyer. Demonstrate that you know the buyer’s product category, volume, margin rates, and how your product fits into that category from standpoints of merchandising, financial, and competition. Ask for feedback and ask for the sale. —Leila Nosrati, consultant, Master Toy Advisors Do your research. Before going into a meeting, know the answer to any question before it’s asked. Be smart, on point, and prepared for anything that might come up. Surround yourself with brilliant people. Have supportive people who can help you and boost you. —Lisa Shamus, president, Lisa Shamus & Partners A picture is worth a thousand words. Customers make online and mobile buying decisions simply by looking at the pictures,

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reviews, and the title. When selling online, take control of and manage your brand content, image, copy, etc. —Matt Phillips, executive director, Tier 1 Visit uspto.gov. It’s a fount of incredible resources—both online and in regional offices around the country—whether you’re an inventor or you have questions about trademark or copyright. Document everything you do. Documentation provides a good record, and in negotiating an agreement, it helps you build good relationships. —Michele Martell, Esq., principal, Martell Media House Create a relationship with a production company and create a descriptive creative brief. Include the different product features; the environment of the media content, such as a house or a three-wall set; the talent you envision, such as kids or a mom; and your budget. —Pablo Garrahan, founder & executive producer, Fiction Films Ask yourself three questions. For the most effective public relations campaign, ask yourself these three questions before you begin: What is your objective? Who is your target audience? What distinguishes your brand from the competition? —Stephanie Azzarone, president, Child’s Play Communications Listen to the experts. There are two types of researchers: academic researchers and kids. Never ever introduce a product without testing it out on kids. Watch how kids play with your product and learn from it. —Wendy Smolen, Founder, WendySmolen.com »

Deb de Sherbinin, WIT Board member and co-chair of WIT Empowerment Day, is president of Perk Consulting and KidSmart. With more than 25 years’ experience in the toy industry, she offers innovative thinking, marketplace savvy, and strategic direction to entrepreneurs and companies to grow their consumer product lines.



Does your brand tell a tale that customers remember? by WENDY SMOLEN, founder, wendysmolen.com “STORYTELLING” IS THE NEW BUZZWORD. Everyone seems to have a tale to tell. Being innately social creatures, we relate to others through storytelling. It’s also a way to encourage customers to engage with your products. After the Obamas announced their new partnership with Netflix, in a press release, Michelle Obama said, “Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others.” At this year’s annual Peace of Mind Storytellers event produced by PeaceLove.org, 14 courageous souls each told a powerful and personal story about the way the arts changed their lives. The audience was mesmerized, and, more importantly, inspired to act. Stories matter—and motivate. While kids seem to delve right into storytelling when they play with dolls, play sets, and construction toys, companies (and adults) don’t always see it as clearly. Mixed messages, copycat marketing, and lack of focus too often derail otherwise good products. This year, nearly half of my clients asked me to help them create stories for their brands. In every case, the goal was to differentiate themselves by developing a relatable personality for their products. Companies large and small can benefit from clear, cogent storytelling that focuses their mission and entices their users. However, like a good book, a story needs structure to make sense. BE AUTHENTIC The most important part of creating a brand story is to be real. In the era of fake news and false promises, authenticity is paramount. You may be “the first,” but don’t claim to be “the best” unless you can validate it. Speak from your heart, not your ego. Customers are savvy and will believe you only if they trust you. Green Toys claims its toys are environmentally and socially responsible because they use recycled packaging and soy ink for printing. They follow through

on their promise. If you put five similar products on a table, what truly differentiates yours from the others? That’s what’s real—as well as what’s marketable. HAVE A THEME Like an elevator pitch, you should be able to tell the crux of your story in a few words. It needs to be consistent and persistent. LEGO aims to “to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.” Each brick set—from Star Wars to LEGO Friends to

about the brand and become ambassadors of your product. USE YOUR WORDS WISELY Tell your story in a way that’s clever, but be sure to be clear. There’s a reason why “Just Do It” screams Nike, or “Think Different” connotes Apple. The words are smart and provocative. Now consider how many toy companies’ taglines include the words “play, love, learn, laugh, fun, and build.” Too numerous to count! If your message is among the many, rethink how to use your words in ways that change customers’ perspectives and tell them who you are. In other words, go back to the first three tips.

GET GRAPHIC While words may tell your tale, storytelling is more than just a verbal message. Logo, color, font, design, material, Green Toys’ Ambulance & Doctors Kit product name, packaging, advertising, corporate culture, and causes all create a multi-sensory experience. Duplo—harkens back to that single premise. Everything about your brand and your product The theme should also have longevity and be contributes to your story. Wonder Workshop’s able to evolve over time. Play-Doh’s “cans of Dot and Dash use color, design, and quite a imagination” have been around since 1956. bit of humor to teach the serious subject of The colorful creativity compound still works coding. When it all works together, it’s a powas a stand-alone product, while evolving into erful message. The Barbie logo is immediately play sets, apps, and multiple shades and texrecognizable. The pink color is consistent. Like tures. Seamlessly, every iteration of Play-Doh the Nike swoosh, a well-honed “story” is both supports all of the others. memorable and relatable. » ENGAGE WITH YOUR AUDIENCE A good story taps into emotions. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs are all at your fingertips. But use them wisely. Create emotional experiences for and about your audience. Tap into the universal desire for community by inviting customers to engage with you. Personal tales on a website bring storytelling to life. When people have a stake in a journey, they’re more likely to care

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Wendy Smolen has spent 25 years playing in the toy industry. She cofounded Sandbox Summit, an idea forum focused on the intersection of play, learning, and technology. Currently, she works with companies and organizations to create playful solutions that engage kids and families in innovative and impactful ways. Contact her at W2smolen@gmail.com.


TRENDING TOWARD CHANGE Three Trends Impacting the Global Toys and Games Industry

by MATTHEW HUDAK, senior toys and games analyst, Euromonitor International TOYS AND GAMES GREW AT A FASTER pace last year, according to Euromonitor International, as slower growth from the traditional toys and games segment of the industry was more than offset by growth in the video games sector. Within video games, the launch of the Nintendo Switch caused a major boost in global sales, which grew by 15 percent last year. Traditional toys and games saw overall lower growth, with previously high performing areas, such as construction, registering some of their lowest growth in years.

toy category, due in large part to products such as Hatchimals CollEGGtibles and L.O.L. Surprise. The growth of collectibles is causing many toy makers to push their own brands into the market, hoping that innovative packaging or other small changes can make their collectible product stand out. While there is likely more room for growth, previous collectible trends, such as 1990s trading card games or toys-to-life products, all eventually lost steam, suggesting that at some point children will move on to the next toy craze.

COLLECTIBLES IN FULL FORCE Collectibles are a growing part of toys and games, with blind bag toys—toys that are sold in small packages where the consumer does not know which figurine they will get—now becoming much more common for numerous brands. The growing popularity of collectibles became more evident last year, as dolls and accessories became one of the fastest growing categories globally after years of low to flat growth. The category recorded the highest global absolute dollar value sales growth in the year of any traditional

NINTENDO SWITCH TO HAVE GREATER IMPACT IN YEARS TO COME Following years of disappointing sales with the Wii U, as well as diminishing sales of handheld consoles, Nintendo chose to release a new console, the Nintendo Switch, last March, which crossed both static and handheld console play styles. The new product was an immediate success, selling out and ending the year with nearly 14 million in unit sales globally, according to Euromonitor. Within traditional toys, the impact of the Switch, which boasts kid friendly games and

parental controls, is likely going to be felt more in the years to come. This is because the Switch sold out so quickly last year that it was likely only purchased by core gamers who camped out for the product. As Nintendo releases more kid-friendly titles, such as new Pokémon games, it is likely the Switch will push more children to move on from traditional toys and into gaming. A NEW RETAILING LANDSCAPE WILL EMERGE FROM THE FALL OF TOYS “R” US Non-store retailing is one of the fastest growing channels in traditional toys and games, almost entirely due to the growth of internet retailing. This growth has siphoned sales from various other retailers, but likely none more so than traditional toys and games stores. This is made most evident by Toys “R” Us, which declared bankruptcy last year, and liquidated stores this year. There will likely be a lot of immediate changes amongst other retailers of traditional toys and games to better compete for previous Toys “R” Us shoppers. Internet retailers, hypermarkets, and discounters will be some of the immediate beneficiaries of the void left by Toys “R” Us, as these retailers have a similar geographic coverage to where many Toys “R” Us stores were already located. In order to better compete for these shoppers, retailers will need to change shelf space, and even store layout, to have a better diversity of products, and ideally an area for children to try out toys. Long term, however, prior Toys “R” Us shoppers will likely land on a new toy retailer of choice, and channel distribution shifts will stabilize. »

Matthew Hudak is a toys and games analyst for Euromonitor International. In his role, he researches and writes on the global market for toys and video games, and drives analysis on the ever-evolving ways children and adults play.

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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...Toys R Us and their DOTCOM and aGlobal divisions, TRU Express, 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, Omni Global, 5 Below, Dollar Tree, Variety Wholesale and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // Gordman’s // Target and Walmart • CANADA…Walmart, Toys R Us, Canadian Tire and Costco • CHINA…We maintain a full time Hong Kong sourcing Office We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.


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

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Uncle Milton launches a new line of live insect habitats inspired by A » Bug’s Life, including Ant Island, a deluxe multichambered live ant habitat. The set features clear viewing domes, transparent underground tunnel views, and glow-in-the-dark chambers, as well as a mail-in-coupon for live ants.


Fisher-Price is now online at fisher-price.com. The website will serve as a storehouse of information about the company’s products and will offer parents and gift-givers tips on children’s toys without them having to set foot in store. The site features a complete online catalog, a personal shopper area, an interactive playground, a parents’ handbook, and more.

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Kids can make and dissect slimy aliens with Alien Autopsy, from NSI. Create the alien by mixing the alien gel in a mixing bowl and pouring it into the mold. Once it hardens, cut through the alien skin to reveal the oozing purple slimy blood and skeleton. The kit creates up to three aliens.




Basic Fun makes the original Operation game one level more challenging with the miniature Operation key chain that works like the real game. The battery-operated miniature features tweezers, a nose that lights up when the sides of the openings are touched, and removable bones­­—which are safe-guarded against loss by tiny strings.


Gibson’s Silly Slammers make crazy noises when dropped or slammed on a hard surface. The new line is called Tantrums.



Freaky Flying Discs, from WPF Toy & Game Co., are 9-inch soft-foam discs that feature popular characters and monsters, such as the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, and Dracula.