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CONSTRUCTION, DOLLS, AND GAMES THIS YEAR’S TOP CATEGORY TRENDS

ARCADE RESURGENCE BRINGING THE NOSTALGIC EXPERIENCE HOME

SUBSCRIBE FOR MORE TOYS INSPIRED BY YOUTUBE CONTENT AND CREATORS


JULY/AUGUST 2019

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Volume 35, No. 4 — Published by Adventure Media and Events LLC

Group Publisher Jackie Breyer jackie@toybook.com Managing Editor Maddie Michalik maddie@toybook.com

DEPARTMENTS 5

Editor’s Viewpoint

14

Talkin’ Social Media

6

Stat Shot

51

Toy Association Perspectives

8

Industry Update

60

What’s New

10

Toy Association Update

62

WIT Stories

11

ASTRA’s Insights

64

Compliance & Regulations

12

Talkin’ Toys: LeapFrog

65

Industry Marketplace

13

Sweet Suite 2019

66

Flashback: July/August 1999

James Zahn james@toybook.com Associate Editor Jacqueline Cucco jc@toybook.com Assistant Editor Madeleine Buckley mbuckley@toybook.com

54 Breaking Down the ABCs of STEM Toys Developing Creative and Educational STEM-Focused Toys

18 Top Trends in Games A Category That's Still Playing to Win

Editorial Assistants Victoria Rosenthal victoria@toybook.com Miranda Siwak miranda@toybook.com Art Director Joe Ibraham joe@toybook.com

30 Hidden Gems This year's doll category is full of surprises — literally.

Production Director Bill Reese bill@toybook.com Sales and Marketing Director James Devin jd@toybook.com

42 The Construction Comeback

Controller/Office Manager Lori Rubin lrubin@adventurepub.com

How This Year's Construction Toys Stack Up 52 The Rise of Esports and Competitive Entertainment Viewing The Licensing Updates and Trends You Need to Know About

Sierra McCleary-Harris sierra@toybook.com Ali Mierzejewski ali@toybook.com

features 16 Subscribe for More Toys Inspired by YouTube Content and Creators

Senior Editors Marissa DiBartolo marissa@toybook.com

Flight Gears, from Learning Resources

56 Arcade Resurgence There are new players in the game that are bringing the arcade experience home.

U.S. Corporate Headquarters President Laurie Schacht laurie@toybook.com Adventure Media and Events LLC 307 7th Avenue, #1601 New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510 Fax: (212) 575-4521

On the Cover: Cry Babies, from IMC Toys The Toy Book Volume 35, No. 4 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bi-monthly by Adventure Media and Events LLC. Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2019 Adventure Media and Events LLC. 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 Media and Events LLC. Registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Postmaster: Send address changes to: Toy Book, c/o Adventure Media and Events LLC., 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001 or e-mail bill@toybook.com. Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of the management of The Toy Book.

Member, International Toy Magazine Association


EDITOR'S VIEWPOINT

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE REST OF THE YEAR by MADDIE MICHALIK, managing editor IN PUBLISHING — ESPECIALLY IN THE toy world — we’re always looking ahead. Our editorial team spends the year scouting trends and previewing new products to keep our readers up to date. And to think, we’re already more than halfway through the year! We’re having so much fun that I don’t even know where the time went! As we send this issue to the printer, our team is jumping right into the Toy Book’s September/October Toy Fair Dallas issue and wrapping up the Toy Insider’s holiday gift guide. (Tell a family member that you’re working on a holiday gift guide in the summer, and they definitely won’t believe you.) Even though the holiday season is approaching quickly, back-to-school season is right around the corner. This is the time for retailers to stock their shelves with educational toys as parents try to prep their kids to return to the classroom. The word “STEM” is thrown around to describe toys too loosely nowadays, and Wendy Smolen writes about how to thoughtfully develop creative and educational STEM-focused toys on page 54. In this issue, we also take a look at a few facets of gaming — including traditional board games, video games, and nostalgia-fueled arcade games. Despite game sales not rising at the rate they have the past few years, sales last year were still higher than they were in 2016, according to the NPD Group. Board games is a category that’s still playing to win, and Mary Couzin shares major trends in the category, starting on page 18. Although nostalgic toys is not a new trend, an emerging segment is becoming more affordable and popular to consumers: arcades. From Arcade1Up’s 3/4 scale, in-home cabinets to smaller, hand-held versions from Basic Fun!, the retro arcade movement is thriving, and we are here for it. Read more from Senior Editor James Zahn (and go on a trip down memory lane) on page 56. With the rise of esports, video games

"It's my American Girl Truly Me doll. She's so lifelike, they're going to count her in the next census!" are not what they used to be. Just ask Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, a 16-year-old kid who just won $3 million at the Fortnite World Cup last month, becoming the No. 1 Fortnite player in the world. Flip to page 52 to read more about the rise of esports and competitive entertainment viewing. Players like Giersdorf are becoming esports stars, joining the ranks of popular YouTube influencers who are getting their own toy lines. Check out page 16 to read about new toys and product lines inspired by these influencers. In this issue, we also take a deep dive into the dolls (page 30) and construction

(page 54) categories with comprehensive product showcases. I sincerely hope you enjoy this issue of the Toy Book, and I welcome any feedback and thoughts on our issue. Send over an email, or tweet at us @ToyBook. We’d love to hear from you! » Maddie Michalik is the managing editor of the Toy Book and senior editor of the Toy Insider and the Pop Insider. She reports on new products and toy industry trends, and has been featured on broadcast TV segments in the U.S. and Canada. Contact her at maddie@toybook.com.

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Top 5 Growth Properties

BUILDING SETS

1

LEGO THE MOVIE LEGO

DOLLS

1

L.O.L. SURPRISE! MGA ENTERTAINMENT

GAMES & PUZZLES

1

FORTNITE HASBRO

2

LEGO HARRY POTTER

2 POOPSIE MGA ENTERTAINMENT

OF THRONES 2 GAME HASBRO, ASMODEE EDITIONS

3

LEGO SPIDER-MAN

POCKET 3 POLLY MATTEL

ALL OTHER 3 DISNEY, RAVENSBURGER, CEACO

KITTIES 4 LOST HASBRO

DO YOU MEME? 4 WHAT WHAT DO YOU MEME?

PETZ 5 TWISTY SPIN MASTER

4 5 CONNECT HASBRO

LEGO

LEGO

JURASSIC PARK/WORLD 4 LEGO LEGO

5

LEGO OVERWATCH LEGO

Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, January-April 2019

Top 5 Properties

BUILDING SETS

1

LEGO CITY LEGO

DOLLS

1

L.O.L. SURPRISE! MGA ENTERTAINMENT

GAMES & PUZZLES

1

POKÉMON POKÉMON

2

LEGO STAR WARS

2 BARBIE MATTEL

THE GATHERING 2 MAGIC: HASBRO

3

LEGO THE MOVIE

3 HATCHIMALS SPIN MASTER

3 MONOPOLY HASBRO

PRINCESS 4 DISNEY JAKKS PACIFIC, HASBRO

4 UNO MATTEL

5 POOPSIE MGA ENTERTAINMENT

5 YU-GI-OH KONAMI

LEGO

LEGO

FRIENDS 4 LEGO LEGO

5

LEGO SUPER HEROES LEGO

Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, January-April 2019

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INDUSTRY UPDATE

EPIC GAMES, JAZWARES DROP FIRST FORTNITE R/C TOYS

At Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC), Jazwares unveiled the first Fortnite-branded R/C toy, the All Terrain Kart. Then, during the Fortnite World Cup last month, the company debuted the Battle Bus Drone. The drone is available for preorder now, with shipments expected to go out the week of Aug. 16. The 7-inch drone features lights and sounds from the game. Heading into the holiday season, Jazwares partnered with members of the FaZe clan — a professional esports organization — to debut the Fortnite R/C collection. »

TRU KIDS BRANDS OFFICIALLY BRINGING TOYS “R” US STORES BACK FOR HOLIDAY SEASON

Tru Kids Brands and b8ta, a softwarepowered experiential retailer, have entered into a joint venture to launch a new store experience that will deliver “the hottest toy products and brands,” carefully curated and showcased in highly immersive, smaller-format spaces. The first two new Toys “R” Us stores will open this holiday season, in the Galleria in Houston — a Simon Mall — and in Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. Brand partners and experiences will be announced in the coming weeks. »

Battle Bus Drone

ARCADE1UP LAUNCHES PREORDERS FOR MARVEL, STAR WARS CABINETS

At this year’s E3 Expo, Arcade1Up debuted a limited-edition Capcom Marvel Super Heroes Home Arcade Game cabinet and an Atari Star Wars Home Arcade Game cabinet. Both cabinets are now available for preorder from arcade1up.com (Marvel) and GameStop (Star Wars). »

MATTEL NAMED GLOBAL TOY PARTNER FOR TOP GUN FRANCHISE

Mattel has been named the global toy partner for Paramount Pictures’ Top Gun franchise, including both the original Top Gun and next summer’s Top Gun: Maverick. The company has rights to multiple categories, including die-cast vehicles and aircrafts, play sets, games, and other toys. The full line will be available globally ahead of the sequel’s U.S. release next June. »

THE TOY BOOK | JULY/AUGUST 2019 | toybook.com

Year-to-date through June, total U.S. toy industry retail sales dropped by 9%, to $7.4 billion, according to the NPD Group. This data reflects “unfavorable comparisons” to the previous year, partially due to last spring’s Toys “R” Us liquidation sale. For a better picture of the state of the toy industry, the NPD Group points to the compounded annual growth rate from 2016 to this year, which shows a 1% increase. NPD has a positive outlook for the remainder of the year, noting not only that negative Toys “R” Us comparisons will no longer impact the numbers, but also that a strong array of licensed movie tie-ins should provide a boost during the holiday season. And the growth is already happening. During the three weeks ending on July 20, the toy industry achieved a 9% year-over-year increase when compared to the same time period last year. »

HASBRO LAUNCHES HASLAB PROJECTS FOR TRANSFORMERS, SESAME STREET

Hasbro launched two new crowdsourcing campaigns following the success of

Atari Star Wars Home Arcade Game

8

U.S. TOY INDUSTRY HAS TURNED THE CORNER ON TOYS “R” US, NPD SAYS


its first HasLab initiative last year, which brought to life Jabba the Hutt’s Sail Barge — the biggest Star Wars vehicle ever produced. If funded, the Transformers: War for Cybertron Unicron will be the biggest Transformers figure ever, and the life-size Cookie Monster replica will be a screen-accurate representation of the famous baked goods enthusiast. »

HALO INFINITE NAMES WICKED COOL TOYS AS MASTER TOY LICENSEE

343 Industries appointed Wicked Cool Toys as the master global toy licensee for Halo Infinite — the next chapter in the iconic Halo video game franchise. The company will work with the game’s development team to produce a full range of toys and collectibles to complement Halo Infinite. Products will span multiple categories, including action figures, vehicles, play sets, plush, and role-play items. The line is set to debut in time for next year’s holiday season. »

ZING GLOBAL ACQUIRES MARSHMALLOW FUN BRAND FROM MARSHMALLOW FUN CO.

Zing Global acquired the intellectual property for the Marshmallow Fun brand through the Marshmallow Fun Co. As part of the purchase, Zing Global will now manufacture and market the brand, and Ozwest Inc. and Fizz Bizz Inc. will distribute the line in North America. The line of marshmallow blasters is fun for kids of all ages, shoots at a range of up to 30 feet, and holds 25 mini marshmallows for soft, edible ammo. »

Baby Shark Fingerlings. The new toys are in stores now, kicking off a robust assortment that will expand in the fall, with an educational tablet and smartphone, Baby Shark Family bath squirt toys, and a Baby Shark Melody Walker and Shape Sorter on the way. »

WOWWEE’S PINKFONG BABY SHARK TOYS SWIM INTO THE HOLIDAYS

The company behind such hits as Fingerlings and Lucky Fortune has a new collection of Pinkfong Baby Shark toys that is heading into retail for the upcoming holiday season, including electronic puppets and the first-ever

Mommy Shark Singing Puppet

STAY CONNECTED! @ToyBook


TOY ASSOCIATION UPDATE

SEE 2020 TRENDS FIRST AT TOY FAIR DALLAS Show Offers Opportunities to Connect — and Have Fun

by KRISTIN MORENCY GOLDMAN, senior communications specialist, The Toy Association TOY FAIR DALLAS (OCT. 2-4) IS THE place to scout what’s coming down the pipeline in the toy and youth entertainment product industry. Along with a new Wednesday-to-Friday date pattern, The Toy Association’s fall marketplace will include initiatives to elevate the trend-scouting, toy-shopping, and networking experiences for exhibitors, buyers, and all other trade guests at the show. “Toy Fair Dallas is a unique experience in the toy world, giving global retailers both large and small a sneak peek at what’s expected to be hot for Q4 the following year,” says Marian Bossard, executive vice president of global market events at The Toy Association. “... This year will feature great opportunities for product and brand exposure in front of buyers, influencers, and the media.” MEET THE TRENDS TEAM Do you have an exciting toy prototype, a new or developing product line, or a unique trend for next year? Book an appointment with The Toy Association’s trends team, which meets with hundreds of exhibitors each fall — in Dallas and Los Angeles — to see what’s new and cutting edge in the world of toys and play. The information they gather is used to map next year’s hottest trends and promote products and brands to media worldwide. “Meeting with us gives you the opportunity to have your toys and games promoted in broadcast TV segments, print and online publications, and on social media, where we showcase our industry’s amazing new playthings in front of millions of consumers,” says Adrienne Appell, the Association’s senior director of strategic communications. You can book appointments for Dallas with Angela Stanton-Weekes (aweekes@ toyassociation.org) or for LA with Adrienne Appell (aappell@toyassociation.org). Attendees should note that LA appoint10

THE TOY BOOK | JULY/AUGUST 2019 | toybook.com

ments will be taken during the week of Sept. 16. HEIGHTENED BRAND EXPOSURE In the toy business, fall is all about futurecasting, which is why the Dallas Market Center’s 13th floor will be playing host to the first-ever FutureCast Gallery, a convergence of art, commerce, toys, and business. Created in partnership with Steve Starobinsky, founder of lifestyle brand Kid@Heart and an expert in product discovery, the retailer-driven, experiential gallery will showcase the future of toys across 10 categories. Following a rigorous review and selection process, the fall marketplace’s top 50 toys will be highlighted in the gallery. The gallery will also serve as the meeting point for the Influencer Tour, to be held in the morning on Thursday, Oct. 3. The tour will take about 20 hand-picked digital and toy influencers to exhibitor booths, giving select brands an opportunity for heightened exposure. Companies interested in having their booths included in the tour can contact Laura Mangiaracina (lmangiaracina@toyassociation.org). HOT TOPICS: CHINA & STEM/STEAM Expand your horizons — and your business — by attending educational sessions on the 13th floor that will cover critical industry topics. “Safely and Successfully Selling Your Toys in China,” hosted in conjunction with Global Toy Experts and Messe Frankfurt, will be held on Wednesday and Thursday at 2 p.m. Speakers from China and the U.S. will provide valuable information on how to secure enforceable intellectual property protections and how to successfully sell to retailers, as well as offer information on demographics, price points, profit centers, packaging, and consumer data and insights. “STEM/STEAM Formula for Success”

will be held on Wednesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. The session will reveal 14 unifying characteristics of STEM/STEAM toys and engage participants in a variety of interactive exercises. NETWORK & HAVE FUN More than just a business show, Toy Fair Dallas is where the toy industry comes together to forge new connections — and have a bit of fun, too. Need to cool off after a busy day of meetings? Attend the Ice Cream Social on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 3 p.m. in the FutureCast Gallery. The latest addition to Toy Fair Dallas’ networking and social activities, the ice cream social joins events, such as the Opening Night Party, geared toward young professionals and those new to the industry, and more. FIRST & FOCUSED Toy Fair Dallas draws mass and specialty retail buyers from around the globe, with hundreds of companies converging to unveil their latest lines and prototypes in closed, open, and combination booths. Visit toyfairdallas.com for more info. » As The Toy Association’s senior communications specialist, Kristin Morency Goldman leads the development of content for the Association’s print and online communications. Her articles on toy trends, toy safety, and industry news can be found in trade and consumer publications around the world. She holds a master’s degree in media, culture, and communications from NYU.


ASTRA’S INSIGHTS

SPOTLIGHT YOUR SUCCESS WITH MEDIA COVERAGE Use earned media to leverage end-of-year sales.

by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association YOUR FOURTH QUARTER IS RIGHT around the corner. You have a long to-do list this time of year; yet many American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) members will agree that getting free “advertising” deserves a place on your priority list. Earned media — valuable coverage from bloggers, newspapers, magazines, TV and radio shows, and on social media — is all about trust. Like paid advertising, media stories can build awareness about your store and products. In contrast to paid advertising, earned media implies an objective view or a soft endorsement from a third party that does not have a stake in promoting you. Paid advertising gives you control, while earned media gets you impact and perceived authenticity. CRAFT YOUR MESSAGE Few of us can call ourselves experts at media interviews, but appearing on air or in print or digital stories isn’t as dauting as you think. My personal rule is to never turn down a legitimate opportunity to make toy buyers aware of independent toy stores and why they are worth checking out. It’s safe to say that for most independent stores, the core objective of media coverage is to reposition the competition. You know toys inside out — in fact, you know more about toys than pretty much anyone in your market. You have higherquality products with more play value. You offer unique items and top-notch services that cannot be found at discount stores. You live, work, and invest in this community. Typical big box stores and online retailers cannot make those claims, but you can. Be clear about the one big idea you want to communicate about why your store is different. I call that my “money line,” and I deliver it no matter what the interviewer asks me.

GETTING HOLIDAY COVERAGE To get coverage, you do need to reach out to local reporters and offer them ideas to make their jobs easier. They are on deadlines and want to share stories that have an impact. Here are some tips for getting holiday media coverage. • Leverage your good looks. Your locally owned, specialty toy store is wonderfully photogenic. You’ve got colorful toys, young children playing happily, and holiday-themed merchandising. Visually, that covers the warm and fuzzy magic of the season. Plus, you are bureaucracy-free, which means no time-consuming hoops for a reporter to jump through to get permission for a photo shoot. That makes you uniquely well-positioned to break through the pack of fourth-quarter retailers vying for coverage. • Spotlight your expertise. Another valuable asset you can bring to an editor, journalist, or blogger is your expertise about toys. Identify four to six local bloggers and journalists who cover toys, topics related to children and families, and small business issues. If you don’t already know them, call or email them — in advance of the holiday season — to let them know you are a go-to source for story ideas and an expert opinion on toys, child development, or seasonal retail trends. Mention that you have earned the Certified Master Retailer or Certified Play Expert credentials to add extra gravitas. • Make local matter. You are an expert on locally owned business. You live it every day. Bone up on the facts — “about half of every dollar spent in my store stays in our local economy, while almost none of the spending at huge online retailers stays in our community” — and ask a reporter to consider a “shop local” story featuring your store. Check out resources at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance to get your facts right.

• Highlight the best toys for kids. Reporters love lists. The so-called hottest toys, the top 10, the wish list, the holiday gift guide, and other toy lists are designed to be sure bets that get readers’ attention. • Get coverage of your Neighborhood Toy Store Day event. Use press release templates from the ASTRA website to let reporters know about your event. There are multiple angles reporters can cover, such as the event itself, its charitable tie in, or the importance of play. Whatever your plans are for getting media attention this holiday season with the limited amount of time and dollars you have available, check out other resources available at astratoy.org. I’ll look for you in the news! » Kimberly Mosley, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, is an experienced, award-winning, results-oriented association executive with a long track record of success in managing association operations, developing innovative programs, and growing revenue.

toybook.com | JULY/AUGUST 2019 | THE TOY BOOK

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TALKIN’ TOYS

LEAPFROG BUILDS ON ITS PRODUCT LINE

The Toy Book chats with Jennifer Eiselein, vice president of marketing and product development for VTech Electronics North America, about LeapFrog’s new LeapBuilders line. Toy Book: LeapFrog entered the construction aisle for the first time this year with LeapBuilders. What sparked the idea for the new line? What was it like transforming it from an idea into an actual product? Jennifer Eiselein: We continue to focus on our core LeapFrog infant and preschool categories and tech products for kids, but we also like to look at other categories where we think LeapFrog can make an impact. Building blocks are important tools to unlock children’s creativity, but [construction is] a category that is ripe for innovation. We saw an opportunity to take a unique approach to block play. We injected learning and technology into our introduction of LeapBuilders, our first-ever line of smart building blocks. Our product development team worked closely with our retail partners and analyzed consumer research to customize a product that provides innovative building play while remaining true to the learning content LeapFrog is known for. TB: How did LeapFrog incorporate technology into the building sets? JE: The Smart Star cube is what truly brings the LeapBuilders sets to life. When you insert a double-sided learning block into the interactive Smart Star cube, it recognizes the specific block and responds with lights, sounds, and songs. There is also a motion sensor that creates responses as you build on the Smart Star cube. The responses encourage children to keep building and create an engaging, extended, and independent play experience. TB: How do LeapBuilders products combine classic block play with curriculum-based content? JE: Each of the LeapBuilders sets includes a number of learning blocks for free play and building, specially designed to be

12   THE TOY BOOK | JULY/AUGUST 2019 | toybook.com

easy for little hands to put together and pull apart. Most sets feature a theme, so when a learning block is inserted into a Smart Star cube, it responds with sounds, educational songs, and phrases related to the theme. For example, the Food Fun Family Farm content centers on animals, fruits, and veggies, and the 123 Fix-It Truck incorporates numbers, counting, and tools. The curriculum-based content in LeapBuilders is meant to complement the skills children learn at home and reinforce early-learning curriculum in a fun, engaging way. Because the sets all work together, kids can get even more unique responses by mixing and matching sets. TB: How have consumers and retailers responded to the LeapBuilders line so far? JE: Initial interest has been tremendous! We worked hand in hand with our retail partners to develop a product we thought would resonate with consumers and offer a unique play experience they can’t find with other building toys out there. LeapBuilders is the perfect combination of building, learning, and fun, and we believe we’re offering consumers an innovative new choice for better block play.

TB: What lies ahead for LeapFrog for the rest of the year? JE: We are really excited to introduce a new spin on handheld gaming: RockIt Twist. It lets kids twist, turn, play, and learn with four sides of play. Colorful light-up controls include buttons, dials, a spinner, a slider switch, and a D-pad, which provide a totally unique way to play exciting games. Preloaded games with renowned LeapFrog learning content help kids learn skills, such as literacy, math, problemsolving, science, and creativity — all while having fun. We continue to incorporate educational content into our engaging infant and preschool lines as well. Our new Smart Sizzlin’ BBQ Grill, a complement to our popular Scoop & Learn Ice Cream Cart, recognizes the included play food pieces when kids attach them to the rotisserie skewer and introduces colors and numbers. We also have some great new additions to our Learn & Groove line, such as the Shakin’ Colors Maracas and Dancing Panda, that encourage learning through musical exploration. We look forward to continuing to develop innovative LeapFrog toys that enrich children’s development and make learning fun. »

LeapBuilders play sets come with a Smart Star cube that responds with educational songs and learning content when kids insert the blocks into the interactive cube.


INDUSTRY MARKETPLACE

THE TOY INSIDER AND THE TOY Book’s 10th annual Sweet Suite event took place on July 24 at Pier Sixty in New York City. Known as the Biggest Night of Play, the premier toy party was completely sold out for both sponsors and attendees, hosting more than 400 members of the press, YouTube creators, and digital influencers to connect with more than 80 toy companies in advance of the holiday shopping season. This year at the legendary Sweet Suite event, members of the press and top-tier digital influencers enjoyed one-on-one time with representatives from the hottest kids’ brands and properties on the market, including VTech, Just Play, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Jazwares, Nintendo, Kid

Trax, Blip Toys, Jakks Pacific, Basic Fun!, Crayola, Hasbro, PlayMonster, Mattel, LEGO, WowWee, Spin Master, Moose Toys, and more. Guests played with hundreds of new toys and enjoyed an exciting party atmosphere with tons of interactive elements, such as photo-ops, contests, games, and so much more. Attendees also enjoyed delicious food and cocktails, all while getting a first look at new product reveals and making new industry connections. Enormous swag boxes were shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgence in social media impressions, and ensuring that bloggers and journalists have products on hand to review and share with their

followers throughout the holiday season. The swag boxes yielded live and recorded unboxing videos on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Sponsors have already begun to reserve space at Sweet Suite 2020. Additionally, on Sept. 18, the Toy Insider team will host its eighth 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 holiday toy lists, as well as meet with key manufacturers before the holiday season. If you’re interested in learning more and securing Early Bird rates for these events, contact Jackie Breyer at jackie@toyinsider.com or James Devin at jd@toyinsider.com. » toybook.com | JULY/AUGUST 2019 | THE TOY BOOK

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TALKIN’ SOCIAL MEDIA

LEVERAGE YOUR BRAND’S SOCIAL MEDIA PRACTICES Top Mistakes Brands Make on Instagram by BEN GUEZ, founder, LAXIR WHEN YOU START A BUSINESS, YOUR brand needs to look legitimate on social media, requiring an audience’s attention. Unfortunately, if you are just starting out on Instagram, it is harder to gain a following and master the platform’s algorithm, and it’s important to remember some best practices for social media success. Here are the biggest mistakes I’ve seen brands make on Instagram — and why you should avoid them. BUYING FAKE FOLLOWERS This is a huge red flag, even for brands that are just starting out. It’s obvious that the follower count is fake when a brand has 20,000 followers with a poor engagement score. Fake followers will even leave a generic comment, such as “Nice!” with a thumbs-up emoji. Brands should stop buying fake and invest in the real. The only thing that bought or fake followers show is that as a company, you tried to take the easy way out and didn’t want to spend the time to organically grow your business. What does this show to potential clients aside from laziness?

Have a set theme and post images that relate to your brand image and signify to your followers whichever niche you’re in. NOT DEFINING THE BRAND IMAGE WITH AN INSTAGRAM THEME Posting images — even relatable images — isn’t enough. Although these images might receive likes, the followers probably don’t know what your brand is selling. Have a set theme and post images that relate to your brand image and signify to your followers whichever niche you’re 14

THE TOY BOOK | JULY/AUGUST 2019 | toybook.com

in. Stop posting pictures of your grandma’s birthday on your business page! You wouldn’t want your brick-and-mortar store to be a mess, right? Apply that same idea to your feed. SKIMPING ON INFORMATION There’s a reason why Instagram has a bio section. This is where brands can openly define what they do in a creative way. Express what the brand is and its values there. Try to make it welcoming and relatable, and always include contact information for consumers to easily connect with you. NOT ENGAGING WITH FOLLOWERS Simply liking a comment isn’t enough. Reply to comments and make each interaction with followers personal. Don’t use an automated tool to generate fake comments on your posts either. Think of it as a physical interaction. Would you ignore a question or comment a potential client gave you in person? Of course not! Don’t neglect your followers. BEING INACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA Spend a few hours each week or month to edit, write, and create engaging

content to schedule for future posts and let that website post for you. Do your research for that time period and find out if there are any upcoming events or holidays and make posts that relate to them. This way, your posting schedule is consistent and your social media accounts stay active. However, don’t post too much and end up spamming your followers with excessive content. DON’T BRAG Many companies love talking about themselves on social media. Be confident, not cocky. No one cares that you might be the best company in the world. They do want to know how your company can help them. Make sure your company doesn’t cross that line. Clients love success stories and confidence, but not if it comes across as arrogance. » Ben Guez is a French entrepreneur and founder of LAXIR, a digital marketing agency, and Universal Promote, a growth platform for real estate agents. With more than 80,000 followers on his Instagram account, Guez is seasoned enough to share some common mistakes he has seen brands make on social media.


YouTube-Inspired Toys

SUBSCRIBE FOR MORE From figures modeled after top esports players to games based on viral video challenges, YouTube and its stars continue to inspire new toys and product lines. Check out some of this year’s newest YouTube-inspired toys!

X-Shot Ninja Blasters ZURU These new X-Shot blasters feature designs inspired by Ninja, the No. 1 Fortnite player in the world. Kids can expand their X-Shot arsenal with these customized blasters and accessories.

FGTeeV Giant Mystery TeeV Bonkers Toys

Bonkers Toys introduces the first line of toys based on the FGTeeV and FV Family YouTube channels. The Mystery TeeV is an unboxing experience based on the channels, including collectible mystery figures, a Gurkey Turkey plush, a surprise squishy, a 6-inch action figure, and more. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, these surprises all come packaged in a retro, TV-inspired carrying case.

Ryan’s World Super Surprise Safe Just Play

Kids ages 3 and up can use the included key to open this safe and uncover four levels of surprises inspired by Ryan of Ryan ToysReview. There are more than 30 different items for kids to uncover by pushing, smashing, or decoding the boxes within the safe, including articulated figures, mix-and-match buildable characters, and treasure.

Ninja 2-Inch Collectible Figures and Emotes Wicked Cool Toys

This year, Wicked Cool Toys launches the first collectibles inspired by esports star Ninja. These collectibles feature bases that connect to easily display. There are 20 figures in this collection, including some classified as rare, extra rare, and ultra rare. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the figures are all inspired by Ninja and the emotes he uses in his videos.

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XOXO Friends Blip Toys

This is the first line of toys inspired by the YouTube channel Tic Tac Toy. The XOXO Friends line includes surprise boxes and surprise packs, which feature figures and accessories, such as swappable wings, bracelets, and putty. There are 24 figures and 36 swappable wings to collect in series one, including rare friends and wings.

Combo Panda Airlines Play Set Jada Toys

Jada Toys introduces a line of vehicles based on the YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview. The Combo Panda Airlines Play Set includes six plastic figures and accessories based on characters from Ryan’s channel. Kids can open the plane-shaped set to play, and store everything inside for fun on the go.

Baby Shark Official Dancing Song Doll WowWee

Kids ages 2 and up can interact with this plush baby shark as it sings the “Baby Shark” song made popular by the Pinkfong YouTube channel. The dancing shark will react when kids tap its head, clap, or call its name. The shark sings the entire “Baby Shark” song and features other sounds effects.

What’s in the Box? Blip Toys

This family-friendly game is based on the viral “what’s in the box” challenge, as seen on YouTube. Players ages 4 and up take turns putting their hands inside the included box and guessing what object is inside — only by touch. The other players choose which household objects to put inside the box for their opponents to guess.

Karina’s DIY Clear Slime Kit Craft City

This is the newest slime kit from YouTube’s “queen of slime,” Karina Garcia. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the kit includes everything kids need to make either clear or colored slime. It also comes with fruit Fimo beads to use as mix-ins.

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A Category That’s Still Playing to Win by MARY COUZIN, CEO and founder, Chicago Toy & Game Group BOARD GAMES REMAINS A STRONG category, even though its sales are not rising at the incredible rate they have been for years. Global and U.S. game and puzzle sales last year declined 1%, as overall toy industry sales decreased by 2%, with sales still higher than 2016, according to the NPD Group. And despite the loss of Toys “R” Us sales, statistics show that the games category is thriving. Successful tabletop game projects raised $165.3 million on Kickstarter last year, up 20% from 2017, according to ICO Partners. The number of successfully funded tabletop game projects also increased from 2,105 to 2,336. Hobby game sales in the U.S. and Canada totaled $1.5 billion last year, down 3% when compared to the year prior, says ICv2. This decline was driven by a 14% decrease in collectible games, which was the only category of five to show a sales decline. Growth in the other four categories

varied. Hobby card and dice games, for example, stayed flat, while role-playing games increased 18%. According to industry expert Lutz Muller, board games represent about 10% of toy sales worldwide and is the fastest-growing category after learning toys. North America and Europe account for one-sixth of the world’s population and two-thirds of all board game sales. Numbers aside, new board game cafes are opening, articles and podcasts about board games are plentiful, and existing game conventions are growing while new ones — both local and regional — pop up weekly. Board games are indeed doing well! I’ve been reporting on board game trends for many years, and this year I’m sharing major trends in the category according to a variety of knowledgeable colleagues in this market segment. Here’s what they had to say. (Editor’s note: Responses have been shortened due to space constraints. Visit toybook.com for full versions.) RAY ADLER, VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL HEAD OF GAMES, MATTEL A few things are standing out to me in the tabletop gaming space. The first is that speed to market matters. Some of the highest-volume games of the last year are items that capitalized on trends quickly. We’ve optimized our business so that we can move as fast

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as 60 days. The second trend I’m seeing is that brands matter and are resonating with consumers. As the games space gets increasingly cluttered, games that people trust and love that feature new innovation continue to outperform, such as our double-sided Uno Flip!, which we launched earlier this year. DAVID NORMAN, PRESIDENT, GOLIATH GAMES NORTH AMERICA Consumers are buying higher-priced items that are worth it. “Worth it” is a combination of many factors in games, including [the consumer’s] experience with the game and the quality of materials. For instance, we’ve had a significant increase in sales of our high-end Sequence and Rummikub games. [Another trend] is increased innovation. [I’d like to give] a shout out to the inventor community for its extra focus on games. I’ve seen more great products in the last couple of weeks than I have in a long time. LINDA SCHMIDT, OWNER, CAT AND MOUSE For kids, cooperative games are still king, but we’re also getting a lot of requests for games that incorporate social-emotional learning. ... On the other end of the spectrum, Hasbro’s Dungeons & Dragons is bigger than ever. Many adults who want to play role-playing games have difficulty finding the time, though, so we’re seeing demand for games that tell a story but are easier to learn and quicker to play. For many of our customers, the shared experience definitely matters more than winning!


TONY SEREBRIANY, DIRECTOR OF INVENTOR RELATIONS AND INTERNATIONAL SALES, USAOPOLY Current trends in the board game industry will likely remain true for the next couple of years. Crowdfunding will remain strong as the retail landscape continues to fluctuate, but more so for mid-tier and smaller publishers as a means of getting games directly to fans. Bespoke and modernized gaming trends will likely see some growth as more people find ways to elevate gaming with customized experiences and materials. PEGGY BROWN, PRESIDENT, PEGGY BROWN CREATIVE As the economy booms for folks with big bucks, regular people are still scrapping for disposable income. Games keep feeding their appetites for cheap entertainment in a huge variety of genres, providing engaging off-screen interaction and good, old-fashioned togetherness. Now that the election year is approaching, both manufacturers and retailers will likely become more trepidatious in anticipation of tariffs, trade policy, and tax changes, but board games promise to remain strong business for the industry and a solid value for consumers. MARK CARSON, PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER, FAT BRAIN TOY CO. One of the interesting trends I see in board games today is multi-generational play. The old-school approach of designing games for very narrow age ranges not only limits the market, but also unwittingly draws divisions in the family. Just as a 4-year-old doesn’t enjoy Trivial Pursuit, neither does an adult actually enjoy playing Candy Land. But we’re seeing more and more game concepts that have simple enough gameplay that a 6-year-old can appreciate, while also possessing a depth of play that older siblings, and even parents, find challenging and engaging. KIM VANDENBROUCKE, INVENTOR AND OWNER, THE GAME AISLE While we’ll always have the easy-onrules, TV-promoted games, mass market is seeing more and more depth of play in the game aisle. The line between specialty and mass continues to blur with the popularity of tabletop games. One area of growth is family-friendly games that

are light enough for younger players to understand, but offer enough strategy to interest parents and older teens. Roll-and-writes are super hot. We’re going to see more, with many line extensions building on already-popular game lines. THOMAS KAEPPELER, PRESIDENT, RAVENSBURGER NORTH AMERICA Today, consumers are looking for escape, connection, and fun, and it’s not hard to understand why, given our always-full, usually-jam-packed lives. Trend-wise, nostalgia and retro remain as hot as ever and, when done well, are propelling familiar stories and characters of an immersive licensed game to the best-seller list. Consumers are also looking for activities that are worthy of their time — whether that’s an hour-long strategy game or a quick-play brain game. Just as nostalgia makes a deep connection and fuels joy, games that matter will always be in fashion. STEVEN SCHOENMAEKERS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, CARTAMUNDI Digital Detox: In my mind, this is the growth driver for the games industry. Ten years ago, we were anxious about the impact of smartphones and video games. It’s wonderful to see millennials and families getting together to have a good time — to sit around a table and play games together. More and more people choose the joy of missing out (JOMO) and deliberately opt out of digital [activities] in favor of more meaningful experiences. Games are a huge help. These gamers are also increasingly in pursuit of an innovative, immersive game experience. Digital printing could play an important role, creating personalized and unique gameplay. LISA GUILI, GENERAL MANAGER, EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS Board games themselves are the trend. Why? Because board games are “the great connector.” ... In our “always on” world, Mom and Dad never really leave the office — at least from a fully present standpoint. Board games, even if just for a short while, are a conduit to valuable, real-life bonding that is essential in all family and friend relationships. At Educational Insights, our most popular

categories include preschool skill-building games, brain teaser games, and family-friendly party games. We’ve found surges in each of these areas because board games provide the ultimate “social network” for all generations. ANDREW LUPP, SALES MANAGER, PSI DISTRIBUTION As an overabundance of games continues to hit the market, three trends are emerging. First, enfranchised hobby gamers seem to be falling back on the lifestyle games that they have known and played for a long time — games that provide a sense of nostalgia, familiarity, and ownership with less risk of a negative experience for each dollar spent. Second, computer games and mobile apps are influencing industry design trends. ... Finally, we will continue to see a surge in games that rely on the unpredictability of human interaction and mental intangibles, where enjoyable gameplay relies on human socialization, connectivity, intuition, sensitivity, awareness, and perception. ANGELA HOLSTROM, DIRECTOR OF SALES, MINDWARE Finding the balance between following trends and maintaining our brand standards is something we are always focused on at MindWare. Fortunately, we have found that many recent trends have a natural place within our lines. The cooperative game category has proven to be consistently strong and, thanks to the cultural emphasis on kindness and social-emotional development, cooperative games by Peaceable Kingdom, a MindWare brand, are showing impressive growth. This strengthens our philosophy toybook.com | JULY/AUGUST 2019 | THE TOY BOOK

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that “kids who play well together play well in the world.” We are also seeing a trend toward classic play patterns. WAI OR, MANAGING DIRECTOR, LONGSHORE LIMITED An important trend in games is to bring back the classics: from cult games, such as Fireball Island, and board games, such as 10 Days and Hare & Tortoise, to kids and action games, such as Looping Louie, Lucky Ducks, Mr. Bucket, Pie Face, etc. There is a new generation of gamers who haven’t tried these great games before, and many parents are now playing these classic games with their children for a nostalgic experience. In Asia, the culture is embracing playing games with friends and families, and we are also seeing a similar surge in bringing back classic titles. TANYA THOMPSON, DIRECTOR, GLOBAL PRODUCT ACQUISITION, GAMES, HASBRO We know that games bring families and friends of all ages and generations together for fun, meaningful social inter-

actions. While content-driven games are popular for adults looking to have a laugh together, millennials are playing classic games, such as Jenga and Connect 4, in coffee shops and other social settings. Entertainment properties, such as Stranger Things, have allowed us to introduce new versions of traditional games while making games like Dungeons & Dragons mainstream. Action games (board games with a toy component to them) are also very popular for families who are looking for simple-to-understand games that allow them to spend quality face-to-face time together as they play. One trend not mentioned is the increasing conversation about the lack of diversity among game designers. Of my list of more than 3,300 independent professional toy and game designers, many of whom attend the ChiTAG Inventor & Innovation Conferences, about 7% are female. A study of the top 200 Board Game Geek designers showed that only 2.4% are women, and 4.1% are non-white males. Let’s hope that, a year from now,

YULU introduces King of the Ring, a game in which kids ages 6 and up launch their sumo-wrestler-themed rolling figures into the ring. Players compete to get their wrestler in the middle of the ring while trying to knock others’ out. The sumo wrestler in the middle when the timer runs out wins.

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these numbers increase and that we will be doing more than talking about it. In the past, I’ve compared the board game market to the culinary market. Sometimes fast food hits the spot, but other times you want a rich, experiential dinner or a classic family supper. It is the same with games. And now, the vast array of board games on the market is almost overwhelming, with more than 5,000 coming to market each year. On the upside, like food, board games are best experienced with others, and any time more people come together around a table, we discover we have more in common than not. » Mary Couzin is CEO and founder of the Chicago Toy & Game Group, whose mission is to promote the importance of play by hosting consumer, fashion, inventor, and media events, including Chicago Toy & Game Fair, Inventor and Innovation Conferences, Toy & Game Innovation Awards, PlayCHIC Fashion Show, Young Inventor Challenge, and more.

NORTH STAR GAMES introduces Wits & Wagers Vegas, a new version of the Wits & Wagers party game. In this game, players write down a guess to a question, such as “What percent of American adults make their own bed every day?” Then, players bet on which guess is closest to the right answer, even if it is not their own.

Kids ages 7 and up can practice their puzzle skills with Kanoodle Gravity, from EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS, which takes the classic Kanoodle game vertical. It can be either a two-player or a solo game, with 40 solo player puzzle challenges included. The game also folds into a carrying case for on-the-go play.


CRA-Z-ART makes its first foray into the games category with Flying Pigs. Kids ages 4 and up use the included wands to catch the pigs flying within the enclosed dome. The player who collects the most pigs wins the game.

In Slap Ninja, from JAKKS PACIFIC PACIFIC, kids play either as the Ninja Master or his student. The Ninja Master tries to defend his precious coin, while the student tests his or her reflexes, attempting to tap the coin in the master’s hand before getting slapped. When a player is defeated three times, he or she gets zapped. The game is designed for kids ages 14 and up and will be available this fall.

Smashing Pumpkins is a new card game, from WILD & WOLF. Players race to get rid of their cards by making matches and watching out for spooky ghosts. The cards feature pumpkin-themed images, such as lattes, pies, and soup. A classic arcade game comes to the game table with BUFFALO GAMES’ PacMan The Board Game. Players ages 8 and up take turns as Pac-Man, moving strategically and gathering as many pellets as possible. The remaining players work together as the ghosts trying to catch Pac-Man.

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In Zing Pong, from ZING,, players bounce colorful ping pong balls into the pockets of a 3D game pyramid. Players race to sink their last ball into the cup on top of the pyramid. The loser must draw a Zing Pong Mixture Card, mix the ingredients into the included cup, and drink the concoction. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the game will be available this fall.


In Sushi Scramble, from TOMY,, players each choose a menu card and a pair of chopsticks. Once they set the chef spinning, players race to fill the order on their menu cards by picking out the matching pieces of sushi. However, the chef keeps chopping, and any sushi he knocks off the board is no longer in play. The game is designed for kids ages 5 and up.

In Hank’s Twisted Challenge, from WICKED COOL TOYS, players race to get a ball of the end of a twisted wire by moving and bending their bodies. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the game also comes with challenge cards to make it more exciting.

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Pictionary Air is the newest Pictionary game, from MATTEL. Designed for players ages 8 and up, the game includes a special light-up pen tip and pairs with the Pictionary Air app. Players use the pen to draw their clue in the air, and the pen motions create an illustration on screen when the in-app camera is pointed at the drawer. The app can also record the drawers for replay videos.

In Tribes: Dawn of Humanity, from THAMES KOSMOS players & KOSMOS, experience 30,000 years of civilization in 45 minutes. Players take turns selecting actions from the action display, working to settle unknown lands, gather resources, and grow their tribe. The company also expands its EXIT: The Game series and its Adventure Games series with new titles.

Heist, from UNIVERSITY GAMES, is an electronic cooperative game for kids ages 7 and up. Players have five minutes to pull off a bank heist, with each person filling a different role on the team. Everyone must work together and follow instructions carefully to open the safe and win the game.


Dragon Snacks is a color recognition and memory skill-building game, from GOLIATH GAMES. Kids ages 4 and up can wave their hands to reveal treasure inside the dragon’s belly and get a color clue from his nose horn. Players must remember where the matching colored treasure is, then reach inside the dragon’s mouth to snatch it from his belly. The first player to collect three pieces of treasure wins the game.

Butts Up, from PLAYMONSTER, is a twist on musical chairs. One player stands in the middle and reads a statement from the device, such as “Butts Up if you have gone ziplining.” The other players are sitting in a circle of chairs. Any players who have done the action from the phrase — as well as the player in the middle — must get up and find a new seat. The player left without a chair becomes the player in the middle and must take a ring.

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In Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game, from USAOPOLY, players will square off with a deck of cards and a map of Nakatomi Plaza between them. There are three “acts”in the game, following the story of the original Die Hard film. One player takes the role of John McClane, while the others work together as thieves to stop him. The game features more than 200 custom components.

The Monopoly Voice Banking game, from HASBRO, features lights, sounds, and an interactive Mr. Monopoly banking unit. The Monopoly top hat is voice-activated and handles all of the game’s transactions, even keeping track of player’s money so there is no cash needed. The game is designed for kids ages 8 and up.

In Snail Sprint, a game from HABA designed for kids ages 5 and up, players race their snails around the board to the winners’ podiums. Players draw cards at the start of the game that tell them which color of snail they want to get to each podium. These cards stay secret throughout the game, so no one knows the winner until the end.


Horrified: Universal Monsters is a strategy game, from RAVENSBURGER, in which players work together to defeat classic monsters, including Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, and more. The game also features minifigures of the monsters. The game is designed for kids ages 10 and up.

LOONEY LABS introduces Marvel Fluxx and Jumanji Fluxx, versions of the classic Fluxx games featuring characters and elements from these brands. The Marvel version features heroes and villains from the comics, while the Jumanji version features allnew danger cards. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, both games come with a collectible coin and a second, specialty-exclusive version includes seven bonus cards.

With TOYSMITH’s Warrior’s Mark Throwing Stars, kids take aim with foam ninja stars. Like darts, players throw the stars at the included target. The game includes three throwing stars and is intended for either indoor or outdoor play.

KAHOOTZ TOYS’ Colorforms Silly Faces Game features characters from the Netflix series Charlie’s Colorforms City. Players ages 3 and up race to assemble the silliest face out of re-stickable Colorforms. On each turn, players spin the spinner and land on a part of the face to fill. The first player to fill all parts of the face wins the game. “Swap” and “unstick” spaces on the spinner add an extra challenge.

FAT BRAIN TOY CO. introduces Gridblock,, in which players take turns placing their game pieces on the grid. Pieces of the same color must touch, while pieces of the same shape must not touch. The player who places the most pieces onto the grid — or the player with the most open pegs surrounding their game pieces — wins the game.

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In Gembatan, from MINDWARE, kids ages 8 and up use amulet tiles and dual-direction gems to align colors. Players can only lay a tile if they have a matching gem, so they must plan their moves.

Players help protect the country as Black Panther in Marvel Wakanda Forever, from SPIN MASTER. Players represent the ďŹ ve tribes of Wakanda, with one player as the Black Panther. Players ages 10 and up earn points by vanquishing villains, and they can challenge the current Black Panther for the title.

Kids ages 8 and up can stretch, sculpt, and bounce their way to victory in Ultimate Putty Challenge, from CRAZY AARON’S. The set features 25 fast-paced, putty-based games, including head-to-head challenges, creative competitions, and skill-based activities. It also includes four exclusive tins of Thinking Putty. Players compete in these challenges to become the ultimate putty champion.


HIDDEN GEMS This year’s doll category is full of surprises — literally. by JACQUELINE CUCCO, associate editor UNBOXING IS A HUGE TREND RIGHT now — and there’s no surprise there. Browse through YouTube or Instagram Stories, and you’ll see video after video of consumers unboxing anything and everything, from celebrities opening PR packages brimming with beauty products to young kids tearing through blind bags loaded with toys. Toy companies are taking the surprise component of the big reveal and bringing it to the doll aisle in unique ways this year. Dolls are becoming more multidimensional as manufacturers add new, surprise elements to the packaging and more hidden gems inside for kids to uncover. In some cases, even the doll itself is a surprise, remaining a mystery until the moment kids unbox it. WHEN ONE BOX CLOSES, ANOTHER ONE OPENS Jay@Play takes the unboxing theme to heart with Boxy Girls. The dolls have backstories and personas that revolve around their love for online shopping. Each Boxy Girl comes with five mini shipping boxes, made to look like actual brown boxes with labels as if they came in the mail, filled with fashionable accessories that are delicately wrapped with colorful tissue paper and packing material, making the unboxing process as reminiscent of online shopping as possible, but in doll form. “The inspiration came from so much shopping being done by consumers. Well, how about dolls doing the shopping? And thus the Boxy Girls brand was created,” says Jay@Play owner Joseph Sutton. “The Boxy Girl boxes give kids the ability to unbox all the fun stuff that Boxy Girls purchased online.” Different retailers are participating in the Boxy Girls program in different ways, with different elements of unboxing incorporated into the packaging. “Walmart has [exclusive] window 30

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boxes, so kids can see the Boxy Girls they can collect. Target has the UnboxMe Girls version, and kids will be able to get 36 Boxy Girls exclusive to Target,” Sutton says. UnboxMe Girls are a blind-box version of the dolls, so kids won’t know which Boxy Girl is inside until they unbox them. SO MUCH MORE THAN A PACKAGE You can’t read a book by its cover, but you can read a toy by its packaging. Some companies are turning the act of opening the toy into part of the play experience. Blume, from Skyrocket, turns the unboxing process into an interactive experience with the dolls’ innovative blooming effect. The Blume dolls come packaged inside a plastic flower pot, and kids use the included watering can to water the “seeds.” After a few seconds, the Blume dolls emerge right out of the flower pot, hair first, like flowers blooming from the soil. The flower pot doubles as a play set, which kids can open to reveal more items concealed inside of the compartments, such as outfits, accessories, mini friends, stickers, and more. Kids get so excited about the unboxing itself that they are turning to social media to share their own experiences on camera. “We are seeing kids all across social media clamoring to get their hands on product so they can Blume their doll on video and share it with the world,” says Lindsey Scheftic, vice president of marketing at Skyrocket. “Girls are surprised every time with what doll they get and the magical unboxing experience. Between the watering of the pot, all of the extra surprises, and discovering you can mix and match

Jay@Play’s Boxy Girls Mini Box

hair and accessories, we have seen some great content out there already.” There’s another bonus of making the packaging more integral to the toy itself: It’s more environmentally friendly. “We think kids are just as conscious as parents today about generating excess trash. With Blume, everything is part of the fun, from the pot that can be individually customized and used as a mini play set or display down to the pot cover that can be used to hold water for the watering can,” Scheftic says. “We are also encouraging kids to [create] DIY artwork [with] their pots and create something that is long-lasting for their rooms.” Moose Toys is launching a new line of dolls called Capsule Chix that kids can construct themselves. Each collectible doll comes packaged inside a capsule machine. Kids can turn the style dial to release five surprise capsules in each pack. The packs contain different doll parts, such as hair and faces; clothing, such as tops, bottoms, and shoes; and accessories. Kids won’t know which pieces are inside, but each pack contains enough pieces to build a full doll. “We are always brainstorming new ways to make the unboxing experience unique and different, as well as part of play,” says Garrett Sander, Moose Toys’ girls’ principle


DOLLS designer. “With Capsule Chix, the capsule machine allowed us to split the doll apart so kids could build their very own doll with head-to-toe end customization.” Similar to Skyrocket’s Blume, Capsule Chix also has a fully reusable package that is part of the play experience. Kids can even store their Capsule Chix pieces inside. Hairdooz, from Headstart, have a dynamic unboxing process that includes spinning the shampoo-shaped bottle to reveal the doll, removing the hair cover to reveal the doll’s hairdo, removing the cape to reveal the doll’s outfit and pose, and smelling the doll to discover the fruity scent. The bottle’s interior is decorated with a salon design so it can double as a play set, and the chair and doll fit perfectly inside for storage.

feed the doll. “The element of surprise is always a fun aspect in a toy,” says Maria Jordan, senior brand manager for Cabbage Patch Kids at Wicked Cool Toys. “Not knowing if you are adopting a boy or girl is very exciting for any little kid. A surprise feature also helps promote collectibility as kids love to find full sets.” MGA Entertainment knows that it pays to combine dolls with collectibles, as we’ve all seen with the success of L.O.L. Surprise! The company is now adding slime into the mix, too, with the launch of Poopsie Rainbow Surprise. The dolls come with slime powder, shimmer, and glitter so kids can make DIY slime, which they can add to the dolls’ transparent fashions and accessories to create customized looks.

ON TOP OF THE TRENDS Why hone in on just one trend when you can have them all? Some companies are embracing a “the more the merrier” mindset, riffing off trends in both the toy aisle and the real world to give their toys a modern update. Wicked Cool Toys adds to the classic Cabbage Patch Kids line with the Lil’ Surprise Reveal, touching on the current trend of gender reveal parties. Kids can find out if they’re adopting a boy or girl Cabbage Patch Kid by searching for the pink or blue Xavier Roberts signature and a matching mystery bottle they can use to

THAT’S WHY HER HAIR IS SO BIG: IT’S FULL OF SECRETS A key feature in tons of dolls is the hair play, a fact that is not lost on companies such as Spin Master and Just Play. Candylocks, from Spin Master, are dolls that come cocooned inside cotton candy cones, which kids can unravel to reveal the doll underneath. The cotton candy-like fluff is actually the dolls’ hair, which is long enough for kids to fashion into different hairstyles using the accessories hidden inside. Just Play is taking advantage of the importance of a good hair day with Hair-

Dolls

dorables. The tagline of the Hairdorables line is even “Big Hair, Don’t Care.” Kids don’t know what dolls they are getting until they peel back the plastic film and find a variety of accessories inside. The new Hairdorables Series 3 dolls include a surprise hair tool that kids can use to color, crimp, or curl the doll’s colorful hair. HairDUDEables are new boy versions of Hairdorables, which come in two-packs containing a visible Hairdorable doll and a mystery HairDUDEable. This is the first time that the Hairdorables doll is visible in the packaging, but the HairDUDEable will still remain a mystery until opened. The doll category is becoming more multifaceted as toy companies add new features to spark kids’ interests. Companies are putting the focus on the act of unboxing, incorporating the packaging into playtime, and tapping into different trends to up the ante with new surprises around every corner. »

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

Awesome Bloss’ems, from SPIN MASTER, include a seed, sparkle soil, and a leaf-watering spoon packaged inside a decorative flower pot. Kids ages 5 and up can place the seed into the pot, cover it with the sparkle soil, add water, and watch as the doll sprouts from the soil. The flower on the doll’s head will hint at- which character is blooming as it emerges from the soil. Each Awesome Bloss’ems doll includes an outfit and a flower-scented blossom on its head. There are 26 Awesome Bloss’ems to collect from five different themes, including rare, super rare, and an ultra-rare doll with a real diamond tiara. Candylocks are dolls with soft, long, multi-colored “cotton candy” hair that is easy for kids to style. The doll’s hair texture makes it simple for kids ages 5 and up to create hairstyles, including braids, twists, buns, and ponytails. Each doll has its own scent, such as vanilla cupcake or cotton candy. Each doll comes shaped like a cotton candy cone, which kids can unravel to reveal which character is hidden underneath. There are also accessories to unwrap for additional surprises. There are 15 dolls to collect. Candylocks are available in 7-inch Candylocks Deluxe Dolls or the Candylocks BFF Pack, featuring two themed dolls that are designed to match each other.

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Dolls WICKED COOL TOYS’ Cabbage Patch Kids 14-Inch Kids feature removable clothing, accessories, and a baby powder scent. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, each doll comes with a birth certificate and adoption papers from Babyland General Hospital showing a unique name and birthdate. Babies ages 18 months and up can participate in a gender reveal with the Cabbage Patch Kids Lil’ Surprise Reveal by checking under the doll’s pajama flap to reveal a pink or blue Xavier Roberts signature. Each doll includes a hidden bottle, which kids can use to feed their doll, that matches the signature color, and a customizable birth certificate where kids can fill in a name and a birthdate. Wicked Cool Toys also introduces the Cabbage Patch Woodland Friends Cuties and the Cabbage Patch Kids Dance Time Tiny Newborn.

Disney Princess Ralph Breaks the Internet Two-Pack Fashion Doll Assortment, Elsa and Anna

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Glitter Girls A Putt with a Cherry on Top

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Cabbage Patch Kids Lil’ Surprise Reveal

BATTAT introduces the Our Generation Let It Roll Bowling Alley, which lights up for disco bowling and features a light-up sign and a functioning bowling alley with bowling noises. The set includes a hot dog Ferris wheel, a cash register, and other accessories. Our Generation dolls are sold separately. The Lori Sweet Escape Luxury SUV is a toy vehicle that opens into a music booth with rainbow lights and music. The SUV’s headlights light up, and there is a special spot for a toy pet, as well as storage for outfits, shoes, and luggage. Dolls, outfits, and pets are sold separately. Glitter Girls A Putt with a Cherry on Top is a mini-golf set for 14-inch dolls. The cherry lights up and spins, and the set includes a display table and accessories. These Battat products are recommended for kids ages 3 and up.

HASBRO’s Disney Princess Ralph Breaks the Internet Two-Pack Fashion Doll Assortment features dolls inspired by the princesses from Disney’s Ralph Breaks the Internet. Each two-pack includes a pair of Disney princesses, two removable outfits, three accessories, and a pair of shoes. The royal duos are Belle and Merida, Jasmine and Aurora, Elsa and Anna, Rapunzel and Tiana, Cinderella and Mulan, Ariel and Pocahontas, and Moana and Snow White. The Disney Princess Small Doll with Royal Clips Fashion Assortment features Disney princesses with one-clip outfits designed for quick, seamless wardrobe changes. Kids can choose from Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, or Pocahontas. Each princess comes with a signature gown inspired by the corresponding Disney movies. The Disney Princess Dolls with Extra Fashions Assortment includes dolls that each come with two removable outfits (a movie-inspired outfit and a floral-patterned party dress), a headband, and a pair of shoes. The dolls are available in Jasmine and Cinderella.


Dolls BTS Idol Doll Assortment

HEADSTART introduces Hairdooz, dolls that live inside a mini salon bottle-shaped packaging. Kids ages 5 and up can take off the doll’s dryer to reveal the doo, and remove the doll’s cape to reveal her pose and outfit. Each Doo has four unique hairstyles. There are 24 Hairdooz to collect across Wave One and Wave Two, including some with rare, color-changing hair. The Hairdooz characters include happy-go-lucky Pixie, superstar Sparkle, nature child Lilly, chic Crystal, moonchild Skye, and foodie Candy.

MATTEL Barbie Fashionista Doll Assortment is a diverse and MATTEL’s inclusive doll line with more than 100 looks, including a variety of skin tones, eye colors, hair colors and textures, body types, and fashions. This fall, Mattel expands the line with a Made-to-Move doll featuring a wheelchair accessory. These dolls are recommended for kids ages 3 and up. The BTS Idol Doll Assortment is a line of dolls based on the band BTS. Each look is inspired by the outfits the band wore in the “Idol” music video. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the dolls feature rooted hair and 11 points of articulation.

#SNAPSTAR Fabulous Fashions: Vita’s Chic Clothing Rack

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YULU adds to its #SNAPSTAR line of dolls with the #SNAPSTAR Picture Perfect! Aspen’s Fashion Photo Studio Studio. The nine-piece set includes the Aspen #SNAPSTAR doll, an oversized green-screen photo wall, a working spotlight with three different colored light filters, a star softbox light, a model stool, and several photo shoot and fashion accessories. #SNAPSTAR Pop Royalty: Echo’s Debut on the Pink Carpet! is a 10piece play set featuring the Echo #SNAPSTAR doll in a blue, full-length dress with purple heels and matching accessories. The set includes a pink carpet, a pretend TV camera and microphone for media interviews, a working spotlight, three gold stanchions with two pink ropes, and more. YULU introduces Vita, the newest member of the #SNAPSTAR team, with the #SNAPSTAR Fabulous Fashions: Vita’s Chic Clothing Rack Rack. Vita’s Chic Closet includes a double-sided green-screen, a green-screen doll stand, three hangers, an additional outfit, and fashion accessories. Kids ages 5 and up can give the #SNAPSTAR dolls digital makeovers using the free #SNAPSTAR Studio app.

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Dolls

JUST PLAY launches Hairdorables Series 3 with new fashions and customizable hairstyles in vibrant colors. Each doll includes a surprise hair tool that kids can use to color, crimp, or curl the doll’s hair. There is new packaging that comes with 11 surprises inside, as well as new themes and new pop-up backgrounds, including PJ Party, Outdoor Fun, and Dance Party. Each HairDUDEables BFF Two-Pack includes an exclusive Hairdorables doll and a HairDUDEables doll with 15 surprises to reveal. There are six HairDUDEables to collect in total. These dolls are designed for kids ages 3 and up.

Bébé Bath Tropicorolle

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COROLLE introduces Bébé Bath Tropicorolle, a 12-inch, water-play companion that helps babies ages 18 months and up slowly familiarize themselves with water, including bathtubs, swimming pools, and the sea. There is a tab sewn onto the doll’s back so that parents can hang it to dry when bathtime or water playtime is over. The doll’s head and limbs are made of soft vinyl that is lightly scented with vanilla, a Corolle signature. The doll’s blue eyes close when the doll is put down for a nap or at bedtime. Bebé Bath Tropicorolle is dressed in a printed outfit and matching sun hat and comes with its own bath toy. Léonie #40YearsCorolle is a 14-inch baby doll designed to commemorate Corolle’s 40th Anniversary. The doll’s soft body is posable, and its eyes close when the doll is put down for a nap. The doll’s face, arms, and legs are made with a softto-the-touch, vanilla-scented vinyl, and it comes dressed in a party dress with a coordinating headband and shoes. The doll is part of the mon grand poupon Corolle collection of dolls, fashions, and accessories for kids ages 2 and up. L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G.

Kids can unbox more than 20 surprises with MGA ENTERTAINMENT’s Poopsie Rainbow Surprise Dolls. Each package contains a 14-inch doll with brushable hair, DIY slime powders, shimmer powders, glitter, fashions with clear details, and accessories. Kids can make the slime and add it to the doll’s transparent fashions to create different looks. The doll’s shoes and purse can hold slime, too. There are four dolls to collect: Rainbow Dream, Amethyst Rae, Blue Skye, and Pixie Rose. L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. dolls are the big sisters to the L.O.L. Surprise! characters, and each doll contains 20 surprises for kids to unbox. Kids can slide the package apart to reveal the doll’s picture, bio, and the first set of surprises, including a garment bag with different fashions inside, a shoe box, and a hat box containing her accessories. Kids can continue unboxing to reveal a dressing room, which turns into a reusable play set. Each L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. also includes a doll stand. There are four dolls to collect: Swag, Royal Bee, Lady Diva, and Neonlicious. These dolls are designed for kids ages 6 and up.

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Dolls

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Cry Babies Magic Tears, from IMC TOYS, are collectible dolls dressed in animal onesies. Kids ages 3 and up can fill the dolls with water and squeeze their tummies to watch them cry tears. The dolls come in blind-bottle houses and include eight accessories: a sippy bottle, a bow, a pacifier, a chair, a personalized blanket, a sticker sheet, and two surprise accessories unique to each doll. There are 12 characters to collect, with one rare character available.

Boxy Girls Season 2

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SKYROCKET introduces Blume, dolls that mix over-the-top hairstyles with a blooming effect for a surprising toy reveal experience. Kids ages 5 and up can use the included watering can to add water onto the “seeds,” and after a few seconds, the Blume dolls will emerge right out of the flower pot — hair first. There are 22 dolls in the first collection, categorized by rarity — adorable, rare, super rare — and a mystical doll. Each doll blooms bigger than its pot and comes with an outrageous hairstyle, an outfit, a handbag, a mini friend, and a sticker book. Kids can alternate the hairstyles, outfits, and accessories between the Blume dolls. The package doubles as a play set, so no unnecessary pieces or extra trash are generated.

JAY@PLAY launches Boxy Girls Season 2 with four dolls to collect: Hazel, Hannah, Kiki, and Mila. Each doll comes with five shipping boxes filled with fashion surprises, including makeup, shoes, bags, jewelry, and more. The Boxy Girls Mini Box contains one mini doll, one pet, and eight shipping boxes with fashion and accessories for both the Boxy Girls Minis and their pets inside. The UnboxMe Girls come with one new and exclusive Boxy Girl. Each doll is 8 inches tall and has articulated arms, legs, hips, wrists, and an articulated head. There are 36 different dolls to collect, with a variety of shoes, hair, makeup, and clothes for kids to unbox. The Boxy Girls Studio comes with a variety of shapes so kids can mix and match walls. It includes an exclusive doll named Seven, as well as makeup, shoes, bags, and more items for kids to unbox. These dolls are designed for kids ages 6 and up.


DOLLS

Disney Princess Playdate Ariel

THE TOY NETWORK introduces the Princess Pony Doll Set. Kids ages 3 and up can play dress up and go on pony adventures with the doll.

Doll Coco, from HABA USA, features an embroidered face with rosy cheeks, dark brown eyes, and freckles. The doll’s brown hair is pulled back with a floral headband and is dressed in a removable, green-and-pink floral dress. Doll Coco also features a bean-bag bottom so the doll can sit on its own. The Doll Bike Seat — Flower Meadow features a washable, floral fabric that attaches to bicycle handlebars so that kids can bring their dolls on a bike ride. The seat can hold any HABA USA doll.

JAKKS PACIFIC introduces the Disney Princess Playdate Ariel for kids ages 3 and up. The lightweight, 32-inch doll is articulated at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, and knees so kids can pose it. The doll features long, red hair; a removable top and a skirt; a dinglehopper brush; and a tiara. JAKKS Pacific adds to its Fancy Nancy line with My Friend Bree Bree,, dressed in her signature outfit from the Disney Junior series. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the 18-inch doll features a removable tiara, a dress, shoes, and fully poseable arms and legs. The Perfectly Cute 14-Inch Giggle Fun Baby Doll features a tickle tummy button that kids can press to watch the doll giggle, wiggle, and kick up its legs. Kids ages 2 and up can place the pacifier in the doll’s mouth to hear realistic baby suckling sounds. The doll comes in three different ethnicities: Caucasian, Latina, and African-American.

Doll Coco

MOOSE TOYS introduces Capsule Chix,, collectible fashion dolls that come packaged inside a capsule machine. The dolls have a construction system that allow for more than 4 billion combinations of head-to-toe customization. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, each single pack includes five capsules that form one complete doll, with a rare or ultra-rare piece in every pack. Goo Goo Galaxy is a collectible doll brand of quirky baby aliens from outer space. There are four characters to collect, each with a different intergalactic theme with stars, sparkles, and micro-glitter. The dolls have squishy, slimy bodies that kids ages 6 and up can squeeze. Kindi Kids are bobble-head dolls designed to help make kindergarten less scary and more approachable for preschool-aged kids. The dolls come with interactive, food-themed accessories, such as a bowl of cereal that disappears from the spoon as the doll takes a bite. There are four characters to collect: Donatina, Peppa-Mint, Marsha Mello, and Jessicake.

Kindi Kids

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Dolls The GUND Misty Mermaid,, from GUND, is a 12-inch doll featuring pastel colors; a sparkly, turquoise tail fin; purple hair; a shell hair accessory; an iridescent tutu; and embroidered facial details. The GUND Starflower Princess Ballerina is a 12inch, plush doll featuring a holographic crown between turquoise hair buns; a multicolored layered tutu; an iridescent top; pink ribbon ballerina slippers; and embroidered facial details.

Splash and Play Mermaid

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GUND Misty Mermaid

MADAME ALEXANDER introduces the Splash and Play Mermaid, designed for time in the tub, at the beach, or in the pool. The 12inch doll comes dressed in a mermaid swim set with a hooded towel tail and is fully submersible in water. Designed for kids ages 2 and up, the doll also includes a bottle and a fish toy that squirts water. The Little Love Essentials — Dot Dress is a 12-inch, fabric-bodied, soft and cuddly doll made for babies of all ages.

SOPHIA’S launches the Everyday Friends doll collection: Chloe, Miley, Hailey, and Brooklyn. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, Everyday Friends dolls are 18-inch, all-vinyl dolls available with four different hair colors and two different skin tones. All of the Everyday Friends have rooted hair that kids can style, realistic lashed eyes, moveable arms and legs, and Sophia’s signature French-tipped nails. Each of the dolls comes dressed in a different color dress with a contrasting color belt, underwear, and coordinating shoes. The outfits in Sophia’s line of 18-inch doll clothes and the 15-inch doll shoes are compatible with Everyday Friends.

THE MANHATTAN TOY CO. adds to its Baby Stella collection with Baby Stella Beige with Brown Hair, featuring pigtails; a removable, striped, blue dress; bloomers; a cloth diaper; and a magnetic pacifier. Wee Baby Stella Twins Peach with Brown Hair features two Wee Baby Stella soft dolls with beige skin tones, removeable outfits, and magnetic pacifiers. The Wee Baby Stella Yoga Set includes a doll, a magnetic pacifier, a foam yoga mat, and a six-page soft book about yoga. The Baby Stella dolls are designed for babies ages 12 months and up. The Manhattan Toy Co. also adds to its Groovy Girls line with Groovy Girls Primrose, featuring soft yarn hair styled into pigtails with a plaid headband and light blue overalls with an embroidered flower graphic; and Groovy Girls Special Edition Willow, featuring embroidered facial features and hands and a removable outfit that attaches to the doll with a fabric fastener closure on the back. The Groovy Girls dolls are designed for kids ages 3 and up.

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Groovy Girls Primrose


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THE

CONSTRUCTION COMEBACK

by ELLEN CHEN, research associate, Euromonitor International ON THE SURFACE, THE IDEA OF playing with construction toys does not seem to align with the changing expectations of kids and parents. In many regions, sales in the construction category have dipped in recent years, hit by the growing popularity of video games and kids spending more hours consuming entertainment on mobile screens. However, several toy manufacturers have taken on the challenge and adopted the path of innovation, which enabled the construction category to bounce back last year. Moreover, the global market for construction toys is expected to register a 3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018-2023, which is above the traditional toys industry average, with positive forecasts in markets

such as the U.S., China, Mexico, Germany, and South Africa. SEAMLESS INTEGRATION OF PHYSICAL AND DIGITAL WORLDS High social media usage among preteens is not surprising anymore, and even younger cohorts are starting to catch up as they are empowered by increased access to smart devices. According to Euromonitor International’s Lifestyle Survey 2019, more than half of U.S. kids ages 0-5 years and 6-12 years have access to a tablet with full capabilities, and similar levels of access are recorded in the Western European and Chinese markets. Furthermore, access to gaming systems is also high, and in China there has

Source: Euromonitor International

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been a signiďŹ cant rise among kids ages 0-5 years, from 19% in 2015 to nearly 27% this year. Smartphones are also well within the reach of kids. Translating access into activities, 60% of kids ages 0-5 and 6-12 visit or update social networking sites on mobile phones almost every day, with activities such as watching TV and playing games following close behind. With kids increasingly digitally engaged, the amount of attention paid to traditional forms of play is decreasing. Digital integration and seamless transition between physical play and the digital world are key to winning innovation, as attested by the recent evolution and success of LEGO. The company has introduced individual mobile apps that bring more


Source: Euromonitor International

action and create storylines for different ranges of building sets. Furthermore, LEGO launched LEGO Life, an online platform combining all three popular digital activities — games, TV, and social media. More recently, the Danish manufacturer has collaborated with Blizzard Entertainment to create a line of figurines based on the popular shooter game Overwatch. LEGO’s efforts to embrace the digital challenge and redefine the meaning of play have not only helped the company reverse its revenue dip, but have also improved its relevance to boys — a demographic group that has become hard to please in view of the excitement generated by the ever-dynamic and interactive world of online and mobile gaming. Euromonitor International global surveys indicate that while the proportion of gamers among kids has gone up across boys and girls, boys demonstrate a higher proportion of frequent gamers across countries. OPPORTUNITY TO INTEGRATE STEM CONCEPTS Many of today’s parents are seeking products that can help their kids develop cognitive and social skills as well as fuel creativity and imagination. However, STEM toys have yet to find a wide consumer base, often due to the high prices. None-

theless, manufacturers of construction toys have been embracing ideas that successfully incorporate science and technology into their products. Take LEGO Duplo, for example. Duplo’s Coding Train allows kids to explore coding concepts by teaching them sequences and conditions. As LEGO continues to explore and redefine its construction toys for the new age of play, others have also been seeking to take play to the next level. LeapFrog is the newest player to enter the construction category with LeapBuilders, a product line designed for babies ages 18 months and up. LeapBuilders’ blocks are interactive and incorporate technology into the play, further responding to the changing physical play in times of age compression and early exposure to technology. LOOKING FORWARD There is no reversing the trend of kids engaging more with smart devices and the digital world, redefining playtime and screen time. The traditional toys and games industry must adapt more quickly than ever to connect with kids on a new level. LEGO’s ability to reverse the negative revenue trend showcases a successful formula that seamlessly connects the physical and digital worlds. As the traditional toys and games

domain has been losing its boys audience to video games, seamless integration can help raise the level of excitement and show the relevance of traditional “building blocks,” often seen as a foundation of play, in modern-day playtime. Additionally, innovation in construction toys raises awareness of STEM-related products and designs. Given the significantly higher levels of mobile activity and engagement among kids in middle- and high-income households, in countries such as the U.S., this type of innovation opens up opportunities to build a wider customer base through innovation that would appeal to both parents and kids in these households by transporting them into the world of science and technology through exciting new formats. »

Ellen Chen is a research associate at Euromonitor International, based in the Chicago office. In her role, Chen conducts research for the home and technology research team, focusing on the North American market. Her work provides strategic insights on relevant trends, innovation, and growth opportunities throughout the industry.

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Get kids ages 7 and up excited about space travel with the LEGO City Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control kit, from LEGO. The NASA-inspired toy rocket launch set features a modular, multistage rocket with cockpit, booster and payload storage modules, and a monorail system with stops at the rocket, research area with geode retrieval training, and launch control tower. Plus, there are six minifigures and a robot figure with a scanner. There’s also a launchpad with opening tower arms, a rover with an articulated grappling arm and launch control tower with a detachable window section, and both fold-out and countdown functions. Kids can use a mobile device LEGO Friends Lighthouse Rescue Center as a screen for interactive play opportunities with the City Explorers app. With the LEGO Friends Lighthouse Rescue Center set, kids ages 6 and up can coordinate a sea life rescue mission. This set includes a lab, a sea lion play area, a rest area, a TV room and an office, and an observation deck with a lamp that can be lit by pressing the lighthouse roof. Rescued sea lions access the lighthouse clinic using a clever, hinged pool that swings through 180 degrees to bring the sea lions into the clinic. Kids can use the included water scooter to rescue the sea animals and access a mini island where the sea lion is trapped in an abandoned shack, which has a button function that kids can push to set the sea lion free. There’s also a hidden treasure map, two mini-dolls, and five animal figures.

Design & Drill Convertible

Kids ages 6 and up will blast off with the Design & Drill Tech Space Circuits kit, from EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS. With 20 different space-themed missions, kids can create circuits that really work as they learn basic math and engineering skills. The kit features 20 connector bolts, 10 small connectors, five long specialty connectors, three long utility connectors, and a kid-safe power drill. Shift the fun of kid-powered play into high gear with the Design & Drill Convertible. Kids ages 3 and up can snap the pieces together and drill in bolts with the kid-safe drill to build their car and then customize it with colorful stickers.

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PLAYMOBIL’S Mars Space Station lets kids ages 6 and up venture into undiscovered worlds. Astronauts in training can see clearly into the beyond thanks to functioning lights beneath the central hub; an illuminated station interior, front ramp, and rotating hatch; and a central command space and modules. There are two free docking stations, fitness equipment, a removable roof, and a movable laser gun, plus alarm lights and sounds to warn against any threats. The set also includes two astronauts, a robot, a space station, a computer, tools, food supplies, space crystals, a telescope, a video recorder, and more. The Mission Rocket with Launch Site, outfitted with working lights and sounds, is all ready to journey into space. Kids ages 6 and up can help the crew tune up and check everything via the maintenance platform. Up to two astronauts can sit in the rocket’s cockpit, where they can steer the vessel toward Mars. When they arrive on the red planet, kids can operate the transport container and space capsule separate from the rocket and Mars Space Station dock them into the Mars Space Station (sold separately). Functioning lights and sound effects, including a countdown, thrusters, and space communication, bring the space action to life.


Winter is here. The Daenerys & Drogon building set, from MEGA CONSTRUX, lets kids ages 16 and up lead the Dothraki army into battle on Daenerys’ largest, Hi-Hat Café and most vicious, companion: Drogon. They can fend off the Lannisters and turn the tide to claim victory on the devastating, 20-inch-long, 2-foot-wide beast. The set includes a detailed, poseable, 2.5-inch Daenerys Targaryen micro action figure clad in season-seven battle attire — with authentic weapons and accessories. Pokémon Detective Pikachu fans ages 6 and up can head to the buildable Hi-Hat Café, where they can build Ryme City’s most popular location. The 325-piece set features buildable, articulated, poseable Detective Pikachu and Ludicolo figures, a hand-activated cafe shelf that spills cups and glasses on Ludicolo, and more.

Kids ages 2 to 8 can act out a police car chase with the Kullerbu — Police Car Chase building system, from HABA. The set features a wooden ball with a scruffy “robber” face with an eye patch and a frown on his face. Kids can chase the robber with the blue push-and-go police momentum car. The set includes two s-curves to create speed and features a city-atKullerbu — Police Car Chase night backdrop that easily clicks onto the track, complete with a police dog character. The small-format Hubelino Mini Building Box features bricks optimized to create compact marble runs. The set contains everything kids ages 4 and up need to get started: a base plate, building blocks, marbles, and a booklet with sample tracks and instructions. The set comes in a solid cardboard carrying case with partitions, so kids can store their bricks and carry them to play on the go.

K’NEX, a division of Basic Fun!, kicks off the 40th anniversary of Pac-Man with the K’NEX Pac-Man Roller Coaster Building Set. The working roller coaster includes more than 400 parts kids ages 9 can use to build the ride and then watch as the Pac-Man-shaped coaster car zips through twists and turns. The Walmart-exclusive set will be available in November. With the Dragon Revenge Coaster Building Set, kids ages 7 and up can design with 584 classic-sized K’NEX pieces, including a newly designed motor that powers both the dragon and chain-link coaster car lift.

Kids will learn about the physics of air pressure, suction, and surface texture with THAMES & KOSMOS’ Geckobot. The model walks vertically up smooth surfaces, such as windows, glass, and mirrors. Kids ages 8 and up can build six robotic models in addition to the Geckobot using a step-by-step construction and troubleshooting video and a 24-page, full-color manual and experiment guide that walks them through the building process. A robot that defies gravity?! That’s what kids get with Air-Walker, a four-legged bot that uses a system of suction cups and pumps to crawl along smooth, vertical surfaces, such as windows. Air-Walker uses technology similar to that found in Geckobot, but with easier assembly. Kids ages 8 and up can also build four other models with the same components and learn how suction and mechanical devices are used in the real world.

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VEX Robotics BattleBots Construct — End Game, from HEXBUG, features more than 250 pieces that easily snap together. Kids ages 8 and up can watch the realistic-looking weapon spin as the bot moves forward. The miniature, authentic bot features a signature front wedge armor plate that deflects attacks, all the way down to the orange, anti-flip tabs on the top of the bot. It has a realistic belt-driven disc spinner, which activates the weapon as kids drive around. The VEX IQ Build Blitz — Remote Control Construction Kit is the ultimate STEM robotics kit made for kids ages 14 and up. The kit has more than 800 easy-snap-together pieces that can be built into seven different motorized robots without tools. Budding engineers will learn science and technology concepts and can use the knowledge they gain assembling this kit to get a jumpstart in the VEX IQ robotics competition.

The Lauri Tall-Stackers Pegs Building Set, from PLAYMONSTER, encourages color and shape recognition and logical thinking while promoting creativity. It includes a guide for parents and teachers to use to engage kids ages 3 and up and helps teach STEM skills. Marbleocity 4 Bar Link introduces engineering and physics concepts to kids ages 9 and up via dynamic model kits that are made of real wood. Each marble machine kit includes a comic starring the “Tinkineers” and teaches a STEM lesson. The principles in the comic are reinforced as kids construct the model. The finished product is a showpiece-quality kinetic sculpture that really works. The one-hour build time is beginner-friendly, and the set connects to others for even bigger fun.

VEX Robotics Battlebots Construct — End Game

The Q-Ba-Maze 2.0: Colossal Set, from MINDWARE, features motion-activated, light-up cubes that flash in striking gem colors as marbles rock and roll through the mad marble mazes. Kids ages 6 and up get a lesson on gravity and cause and effect as they try out different combinations. The set includes 270 pieces set and a convenient fabric marble bag. The introductory KEVA Cutouts set includes 30 pine KEVA planks, 10 half planks, six columns, six battlements, four arches, and four portholes that kids ages 5 and up can use to add special details to their existing KEVA constructions. They can add turrets to their castles, porticos to their pavilions, and antlers to their moose. Then, they can turn the columns into train tracks and the antlers into interlocking building blocks that form a sturdy base for any structure.

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Kids can use Mini Blocks, from THE TOY NETWORK, to create miniature versions of their favorite animals. They’ll practice patience as they improve their building skills and create mini, collectible block characters. Kids ages 3 and up can choose from 24 different sets, including Tiger, Gorilla, Stingray, Alpaca, and more.

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing with PLUS-PLUS’ Apollo 11 Series, a line of space-themed building sets using the brand’s signature plus-sign-shaped building pieces. The 240-piece Saturn V Rocket Tube includes three new colors — Metallic Gold, Metallic Silver, and Glow-in-the-Dark — that kids ages 5-12 can use to build an out-of-thisworld creation that will launch their creativity. The 70-piece Astronaut Tube includes two new colors — Metallic Gold and Metallic Silver — that accent the astronaut’s spacesuit. Sushi Food Tube The Food Tubes line includes Watermelon, Taco, Sushi, and Snowcone kits (sold separately). Kids ages 5-12 can use the 70 pieces to create mouth-watering treats — all fun and no mess.

Kids can click and create their own adventures with MAGFORMERS’ Amazing Rescue 50-Piece Set. With the magnetic construction toy, kids ages 3 and up can build a fire station and fire truck and add wheels and fire accessories, crafting their own fire adventure. This 50-piece set includes 24 magnetic pieces, two characters, and emergency vehicle accessories to help kids keep the city safe. With the Amazing Police 50-Piece Set, kids ages 3 and up can take off in a police car and chase the bad guy. The set includes 24 magnetic pieces, two figures, an emergency vehicle siren, and much more to keep the city safe. Kids can create 50 ideas using the follow-along idea booklet or build custom adventures.

LEARNING RESOURCES’ Gears! Gears! Gears! Wrecker Gears helps kids ages 4 and up develop early engineering and other essential STEM skills. The building set was inspired by the world of construction, and with it kids can build their own bulldozers, wrecking balls, and more. Or, they can use their engineering skills to come up with their own designs. Kids ages 5 and up can travel back in time as they design, build, and play with their very own medieval castle with the Engineering & Design: Castle building set. Young engineers solve the included Activity Cards’ engineering and design challenges fit for kings and queens as they help the knights launch the catapult, lower the drawbridge, navigate trap doors, and more. As kids build countless combinations using the included 134 pieces, they’ll also hone their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Gears! Gears! Gears! Wrecker Gears

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The Douglas C-47 Skytrain (Dakota) D-Day Edition, from COBI, pays tribute to the legendary “Dakota,” one of the most popular transport aircrafts from World War II. Part of the company’s Historical Collection, the model is presented in a special version of the D-Day Edition issued on the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. It features movable elements, such as rotating wheels with rubber tires, rotating propellers and wing ailerons, and opening doors. The set is designed for kids ages 8 and up includes two figures of American soldiers: a pilot and a parachutist from the 101th Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles,” complete with characteristic helmets and a parachute backpack.

GEOMAGWORLD’s Swiss-made Geomag Classic magnetic products help stimulate ingenuity and creativity through play. By learning to use the invisible forces of magnetism, kids can create abstract sculptures, futuristic buildings, and 3D structures. The line is expanding with a new Rainbow line, distinguished by magnetic bars and plastic panels in rainbow shades to create bright, colorful constructions. Geomag Classic is designed to be an open-play system, so all of the product lines are compatible with each other. Each line is sold in packages ranging from 22 to 192 pieces and is suitable for kids ages 3 and up. Kids can expand the fun on screen with the Geomagworld app, available on iOS and Android devices, which offers interactive instructions for the product lines and provides a way for kids to create and share their new projects.

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Lumens, from E-BLOX, add a glimmer to playtime. The characters are based on the Story Blox series, and kids can create adventures with Seymour or Ruby, each with a glowing torso that spreads to their smiling faces. The line of minifigures helps make playdates educational, exciting, and ingenious. Kids can watch as Devyn the cat’s green eyes glow, too. The set includes Glen the dog, Robyn the robot, and Max the robot collectibles as well. With the Power Blox Light and Flight series, kids get to discover Ruby the workings of a Lumen motor, a fan, and a switch. The new series includes an Airplane, Helicopter, and a Shooter.

The world of OffBits, from FAT BRAIN TOY CO., continues to expand with LoaderBit, ChopperBit, and the OffBits Insect Bee. Kids can delve into the “nuts and bolts” of character-building creativity, combining familiar parts, cutting-edge design, and a 21st-century approach to collaboration. The OffBits system brings a unique new twist to classic construction fun. Once kids have built something new, they can use the included registration code to share it with an online community of creators.

OffBits Insect Bee


TOY ASSOCIATION PERSPECTIVES

UNBOXING REACHES NEW HEIGHTS IN 2019 Toy Companies Embrace Next-Level Reveals

by LAURIE CHARTORYNSKY, communications specialist and content developer, The Toy Association TOY COMPANIES ARE CONTINUING to add innovative ways for kids to unbox their toys to take the exciting experience of the reveal to the next level. Whether it’s incorporating unique packaging that transforms into storage or play sets or using different compounds that kids have to dig through to get to the surprise, the unboxing trend is ramping up in a major way. “Unboxing 2.0” is one of the hottest toy trends this year, according to trend experts at The Toy Association. “Family influencers truly started the unboxing trend on YouTube,” says Adrienne Appell, senior director of strategic communications at the Toy Association. “And now influencers are not only interacting with families, but they’ve also grown their relationships with brands.”

Just having a surprise toy isn’t going to create loyal and repeat customers.

“The Toy Association has recognized the growing trend, and Toy Fair New York has seen a rise in this burgeoning group of attendees,” she adds. This year, more than 100 different influencers and channels — including YouTube’s Ryan ToysReview, Stephen Sharer, Ninja Kidz, and ThatYouTub3Family — visited the show. THE NEXT WAVE OF UNBOXING The newest toy line from Bonkers Toys — which creates toys based on new media licenses, including Ryan ToysReview — will be based on the FGTeeV (the Family Gaming Team) YouTube channel, which has more than 10 million subscribers. Fans can unbox toys based on the popular channel this fall with the FGTeeV Giant

Mystery Pack, featuring a giant retro TV carrying case, mystery figures based on animated characters directly from FGTeeV, and surprise toys and collectibles that capture the energy of the FGTeeV videos. “Just having a surprise toy isn’t going to create loyal and repeat customers,” says Deborah Stallings Stumm, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Bonkers Toys. “Each influencer and channel is unique, and Bonkers works very closely with our YouTubers to find the magic that works for their brand to create the ultimate unboxing experience.” BURIED TREASURE Compounds, including sand and slime, offer new layers to reveal and enhance the unboxing trend — giving kids a more tactile and satisfying experience. Maya Toys’ Orbeez Wow World Wowzer Surprise figures come hidden inside a globe filled with clear Orbeez beads. Kids simply add water to the globe to magically reveal which Magical Wowzer they received. Garden of Wonder Series 2 hit stores in March, while Sparkle Surprise will be available this summer, and Polar Magic will debut this fall. DIFFERENT WAYS TO PLAY Toy companies are also unveiling unboxing toys that let kids explore different ways to play with collectibles. Mystery Makers by Plus-Plus USA is a blind purchase construction toy with a twist: While kids can see what color pieces they’re getting, they don’t know what they can build with them. Once kids open the box, they can either scan the QR code for a “swipe-to-build” online experience, or use the included step-by-step instructions. Candylocks, from Spin Master, transform from a cloud of cotton candy on a stick to a stylish and cute doll. Each doll’s

“cotton candy” hair, is super soft, long, and scented. The doll’s unique hair texture makes it simple for kids to create braids, twists, buns, and ponytails that won’t fall out. Shaped like a cotton candy cone, kids can reveal the doll and its unique, sweet-smelling hair with scents, including vanilla cupcake, and unwrap the accessories for additional mystery surprises. There are 25 Candylocks dolls to collect, available this fall. “With so many fresh and fun concepts that companies are bringing to the unboxing table, kids will continue to clamor for more, giving toymakers a terrific opportunity to continue to further innovate in the category,” Appell says. For more info on this year’s hottest toy trends, visit toyassociation.org/trends. »

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.

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THE RISE OF ESPORTS AND COMPETITIVE ENTERTAINMENT VIEWING

The Licensing Updates and Trends You Need to Know by REYNE RICE, co-president ITMA, global trend hunter/ToyTrends LET’S BE HONEST: KIDS LOVE ESPORTS. They are increasingly watching and engaging with esports brands, teams, and players. Add in the popularity of sports licensing for older fans — including tweens, teens, and adults — and it is no wonder that esports is one of the fastest-growing segments of the licensing industry. Although sports licensing has been around for more than 20 years, video gaming and competitive championship viewing via streaming channels, such as Twitch and YouTube, has raised esports’

worldwide visibility in the past few years. There are many genres of esports, covering everything from football, soccer, and race car driving — both Formula One and NASCAR — to professional video-gaming battle leagues, such as League of Legends, Fortnite, and Overwatch. The increased online streaming of championship video game leagues is helping to raise esports licensing awareness to new heights. In fact, a 16-year-old boy named Kyle Giersdorf (who goes by the nickname “Bugha”) won the Fortnite World Cup last

month, taking home a $3 million bounty in the individual competition and becoming the No. 1 Fortnite player in the world. “For the first time in generations, we are witnessing the birth of a new genre of esports: the video-gaming competitive championship era,” says Daniel Siegel, head of esports licensing at Activision Blizzard Entertainment. At Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, Siegel presented a case study on esports licensing based on key learnings from last year’s inaugural season for Overwatch

New York Excelsior won Overwatch League stage two in a reverse-sweep last year. Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

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League (OWL), Activision Blizzard’s first city-based global professional esports league. The Overwatch League will expand to 20 global teams this year, up from its inaugural 12 international teams last year. Activision Blizzard’s new licensing partnership with Fanatics is expected to grow its merchandising clout for licensed apparel and accessories exponentially. The deal will increase merchandising sales from products available exclusively at live events last year through an expansion to online and brick-and-mortar retail store distribution channels across North America and international territories this year. Likewise, other esports teams are also reaching into the online and retail store channels to expand their scope into all fan wallets. Special, event-exclusive merchandise is still a fan dream and a coveted badge of honor, only now even the more frugal fans can wear their team loyalty proudly. Esports licensing is indeed different from video game licensing. Siegel compared the two segments in this way: Video game licensing is focused on the fictional world surrounding the gameplay experience, while esports licensing is centered upon the nonfiction aspect of the esports video-gaming experience — the teams, the team logos, the real-world individual professional players, and the brand connections. TRENDS TO WATCH IN ESPORTS 1. Online esports gaming is also growing in offline entertainment venues. Although esports is essentially about digitizing the gaming experience, local esports leagues are adding to the entertainment value and fandom experience of attending localized tournaments and supporting hometown esports teams. Local teams also compete in a global esports arena, and the growth of the live, offline viewership fan base adds to the already rapidly increasing online viewership numbers. Both are being monetized and growing the revenue streams for esports franchises. 2. Merchandising and licensing opportunities in esports video gaming are expanding. From products exclusively available at local tournaments to a wider distribution across online and retail channels, there is more availability to a broader fan base.

Ninja Gold — Extra Rare Figure, from Wicked Cool Toys

3. Within esports, there are multiple layers of fan engagement: team loyalty, individual player loyalty, and the intense connection with the brand. The future of localized fandom will use media content centered upon teams, leagues, individual players, and live tournaments to help develop unique stories and powerful, authentic connections. Although teams who challenge each other play in fast-paced championships, each of the individual players add their customized and calculated spin on the team play experience. Individual talent is measured by the tools and tactics each player employs in the gaming competitions, their risk-taking quotient, and their quirky personalities. Speed, accuracy, and performing under pressure are all key factors to success, and each player brings their unique set of abilities, strengths, and weaknesses to the team — and the game. Fans recognize and reward their favorites with loyalty. 4. The influencer gamer is the next generation of broadcaster for many fans. For example, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, a Fortnite pro gamer and influencer, is heralded as the No. 1 fastest-growing esports influencer on YouTube, Instagram, and Streamer, and was named “the Biggest Gamer in the World” by ESPN the Magazine last September. With more than 10 hours of daily interaction with his 40-million-strong fan base, Ninja is a serious trendsetter.

The toy industry has already jumped on this influencer trend for esports gaming. Wicked Cool Toys is the master toy and collectible partner (excluding blasters) for Ninja. The company launched a comprehensive line of play and display collectible figures and emotes, vinyl figures, plush, mystery boxes, accessories, and games. ZURU has forged a partnership with Ninja, expanding its X-Shot blaster range. This alliance combines the popularity of Ninja’s devoted fans with the innovative design and value of the X-Shot blaster range, providing unique accessories and customization, and capitalizing on a key element of the Fortnite gaming experience. Funko created Funko Pop! Vinyl figures for League of Legends, OverFortnite and it was rumored watch, and Fortnite, at Licensing Expo that individual team player Funko Pop! Figures might be on the horizon for this year. Stay tuned! 5. Emerging technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, will offer new experiences and incredible live-viewing moments for fans. Asia is recognized as a world leader in incorporating innovative tech into live esports experiences. It has used holograms of in-game players to bring characters to life, utilized AR dragons flying above the audience at live arena events, and showcased a live performance of K/DA (a virtual K-pop girl group consisting of four themed versions of League of Legends in-game characters) at the Legends World Championship opening ceremony last year. With AR, VR, and mixed media technologies becoming more prevalent, and more affordable, we can expect other global venues to add these exciting components to the live viewership experience. »

Reyne Rice serves as co-president of the International Toy Trade Magazine Association (ITMA). She is a New Yorkbased global trend hunter, journalist, and contributing editor for multiple international publications, including the Toy Book and the Spirit of Play. She’s also a keynote speaker at more than 20 global industry conferences annually. She founded her own consultancy, Toy Trends, in 2003, and can be reached at reyne@reynerice.com.

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WENDY SMOLEN

BREAKING DOWN THE ABCs OF STEM TOYS Developing creative and educational STEM-focused toys. by WENDY SMOLEN, founder, wendysmolen.com NOT TOO MANY YEARS AGO, ALL A toy needed to attract parents was to have the alphabet on it. It didn’t matter whether the letter activity was age appropriate, kid friendly, used uppercase or lowercase letters, or even made sense. If it featured the ABCs and the packaging shouted, “educational!” then parents saw it as a leg-up to Harvard admissions. Today, new letters replace the ABC hype — STEM. Toddlers are now encouraged to learn advanced math, and preschoolers need to know the basics of engineering. There are stores with entire aisles devoted to STEM toys, including Barnes & Noble and Target. Discovery #Mindblown opened a STEM toy shop at the FAO Schwarz flagship store in New York City. There is no question that STEM is hot — but is a STEM-labeled toy really better than, for instance, basic building blocks? Let’s start with the premise that kids learn when they play. Every toy teaches them something. Blocks, piled high until they topple, teach cause and effect. Is it necessary to call it physics? Two years ago, Fisher-Price introduced the Code-A-Pillar, a build-your-own caterpillar toy, to encourage preschool-aged kids to arrange segments in different ways to “code.” It taught sequencing in a fun and age-appropriate way. Rather than

KIBO

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label it STEM, it was part of Fisher-Price’s Think & Learn line. Dr. Marina Bers spent more than 20 years studying child development at Tufts University and recently created KIBO, a coding toy for kids ages 4 to 7. She believes that coding — by any name — is the new literacy, and kids as young as 4 years old can, and should, learn it. “No one questions why kids need to learn ABCs; however, we don’t expect every child to grow into a professional writer,” Bers says. “Likewise, coding is both an important skill and intellectual tool. Not all children need to grow into software engineers and programmers, but 21st century kids need computational literacy so they can become producers — and not just consumers — of digital artifacts.” While Bers sees coding and STEM skills as critical for today’s kids to learn, she also stresses the importance of making sure toys provide opportunities for learning social skills, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. When developing KIBO, she used a pedagogical approach that envisioned coding as a playground — an open-ended environment in which kids could be creative, express themselves, explore alone and with others, learn new skills, and problem solve, all while having fun. “Children were able to use KIBO to explore a variety of interdisciplinary content including literacy, history, and more,” she says. No doubt, STEM-labeling is a magnet for today’s consumers. But calling a toy “STEM” is no more a guarantee that it’s good for children than plopping the ABCs into a cereal bowl. The label may get a parent to pluck it off a shelf, but it won’t get a kid to love it. The integration of research and innovation, fun, and function is what drives success. STEM hype is often just that: Hype. A good toy — STEM or not — has these ABCs built into its DNA.

STEM-labeling is a magnet for today's consumers. But calling a toy 'STEM' is no more a guarantee that it's good for children than plopping the ABCs into a cereal bowl.

• A: Age-Appropriate Skills Bers’ research with KIBO shows that kids as young as 4 years old are capable of successfully building and programming robots. As kids get older, they can master increasingly complex concepts and skills, including repeat loops, sensors, and conditional statements. Manage your ageappropriate expectations, as well as those of your consumers. • B: Balance Between Tech and NonTech Play Basic blocks can teach coding just as effectively as a Raspberry Pi. STEM toys don’t need to have every element of science, technology, engineering, and math. Sometimes, one well-executed skill set is sufficient. • C: Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Collaboration Kids spend enough time alone in a room staring at a screen. More toys that invite community and creativity are definitely needed in the marketplace. » Wendy Smolen has spent more than 20 years playing in the toy industry. She co-founded Sandbox Summit, an idea forum focused on the intersection of play, learning, and technology. She currently works with companies and organizations to create playful solutions that engage kids and families in innovative and impactful ways.


ARCADE RESURGENCE BRINGING THE ACTION HOME A Look at the Players Fueling the Retro Arcade Game Movement by JAMES ZAHN, senior editor FOR THOSE OF A CERTAIN AGE, THE experience of visiting a video arcade is an unforgettable snapshot of an era long since passed. The appeal of the flashing lights and the sounds — a mix of electronic blips and blorps set against the constant chatter of excited players and a soundtrack of ‘70s rock and ‘80s pop hits — shaped the overall atmosphere of something wondrous. From the local dives to the legendary confines of Bally’s Aladdin’s Castle and Disney’s fictional Flynn’s and Litwak’s, players are being drawn to what once was — and what still could be. NEXT-GEN? TRY PAST-GEN Coming out of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, the video game industry sits on the cusp of another next-generation console boom with the prospect of incredible new machines that will provide home gamers with updated graphics and tremendous processing power. Still, some of the most-buzzed-about innovations at E3 weren’t the latest offerings from Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony — they were arcade cabinets that will bring the authentic experience of playing four-decade-old games home. Just as the retro wave continues in toys, the gaming industry is moving forward by embracing its rich history, and the fans are here for it. A few years ago, some may have pegged retro gaming and retro arcades

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as a passing fad, but the movement is growing and is now a full-blown lifestyle. Arcade bars have an established presence in major cities, such as Emporium and Replay in Chicago; Coin-Op Game Room in San Francisco and San Diego; Barcade in New York City; House of Targ in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Tilt in Toronto; Up-Down in Minneapolis; and Button Mash in Los Angeles. Bandai Namco Entertainment even opened its own bar — Pac-Man Entertainment — in Schaumburg, Illinois, originally dubbing it “Level 257” after the kill screen that follows the final level of PacMan, which Namco released in 1980. Despite the increased availability of places to enjoy the communal experience of playing video games with others in a social setting, the bigger boom is at home, where cross-generational appeal is fueling nostalgia and turning it into a new norm. “For many, arcade machines are at the top of the list of ultimate symbols of cool — right next to that red convertible,” says Peter Gould, general manager at New Wave Toys, the company behind Replicade Amusements, which is a line of highly detailed, 1/6-scale collectible game cabinets designed to be played with and displayed alongside 12inch action figures. “The kids who grew up playing these games now have kids of their own and are wanting to share a bit of their childhood with them.” The cross-generational appeal

is reaching gamers who will play old arcade titles on their Nintendo Switch or Xbox One systems thanks to compilations, such as the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, Namco Museum, or Konami Arcade Classics Collection, and then find themselves longing to experience them as they did in the past, or wanting to experience them in their retro form for the first time. “In today’s crazy world, there is a significant movement toward simpler times. Gaming is no different,” says Scott Bachrach, CEO of Tastemakers, the company behind the popular line of Arcade1Up in-home arcade cabinets. Since debuting at Toy Fair New York last year, the company has expanded, releasing nearly a dozen of its 3/4-scale in-home cabinets, as well as new offerings,

Tiny Arcade Series 3 Pole Position, from Super Impulse


Arcade1Up’s Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cabinet

such as Counter-Cades, Wall-Cades, and decor for consumers looking to complete their in-home arcades. “Great games are timeless like a movie, TV show, or a great song. If it’s good, it never goes out of style. It just gets recycled, and if lucky, is reintroduced to an entirely new generation who gets to experience that greatness,” Bachrach says. “Classic arcade games, like Arcade1Up, do just that.” At E3, Arcade1Up dropped the curtain on its most-anticipated collection of cabinets yet — a trio of machines that has been fan-requested practically since day one: Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), the company’s first four-person arcade cabinet, featuring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Turtles in Time; Capcom’s Marvel Super Heroes, including Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men Children of the Atom, and The Punisher; and Atari Star Wars, which comes with the iconic X-Wing pilot controller that gamers first experienced in the early ’80s, along with the original arcade versions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. “I think our fans drove innovation from the start,” Bachrach says. “I would have never picked Street Fighter [as a launch title], but I was immediately corrected by a small sampling of fans

who stated, ‘Street Fighter is the most classic arcade fighting game there is, and it is the one that started it all.’ With that, we listened, and guess what? They were right.” When Arcade1Up hit retail last fall, fan requests and feedback were immediate, and the team at Tastemakers was listening. From quality control to features and title requests, the company was quick to react and allow fans — many of whom contribute via Facebook and Instagram — to share input that’s translated into reality. “An example of this includes dual speakers, deck protectors, better controls, faster button response, and, of course, a continuation of great titles,” Bachrach says. The retro arcade movement is resonating at retail, with audiences’ interest piqued by seeing callbacks to the heyday, such as the Palace Arcade on Netflix’s Stranger Things. “We were one of the early adopters for retro gaming and one of the key launch partners for Arcade1Up, which has been very successful,” says Clint Walker, director of merchandising at GameStop. “I think a lot of gamers don’t realize that a lot of this classic content is available, and they have an epiphany in our stores when they discover something that truly spoke to them when they were young-

er,” he says. And for many home gamers, a fullsize pinball machine is an aspirational purchase that requires investment, space, and maintenance. Companies such as Stern Pinball exist to fill that niche, with recent tables including licensed machines based on The Beatles and The Munsters currently in production alongside the original Black Knight: Sword of Rage. “There’s nothing more iconic in the pinball universe than the Black Knight character,” says Gary Stern, chairman and CEO of Stern Pinball. “Created by game designer Steve ‘the King’ Ritchie, the Black Knight has always taunted and antagonized players to battle him and now, for the first time, players will be able to fight back.” BREAK OUT THE SHRINK RAY For many gamers, the prospect of creating a physical arcade at home is not limited by funds, but by space. For those seeking maximum fun in a smaller scale, a variety of companies have stepped up to offer some options. Basic Fun! and Super Impulse are among a growing number of companies offering retro arcade games in a variety of sizes. Even Coleco is back in the game with new versions of the classic Mini Arcades it sold in the early ‘80s. Super Impulse leads the charge with Tiny Arcade. These small video game cabinets are fully playable with full-color screens, backlit artwork, and working controls — and they’re nearly perfectly to scale with other companies’ 3.75-inch action figures. Wave three hit stores this summer, with Tetris, Pole Position, New Rally X, and Q*Bert joining the lineup. The company also launched Micro Arcade, a line of pocket-sized games the size of a credit card. Pac-Man, Tetris, and an Atari combo featuring Missile Command and Centipede are already at retail. Basic Fun!’s Arcade Classics were among the first out of the gate — chunkier and initially with LCD screens — but like Super Impulse, recent releases, such

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as Fix It Felix Jr. (from Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph) and Rampage, boast full-color screens and high-resolution graphics. This fall, Super Impulse will begin releasing pinball counterparts for its Tiny Arcade, with a TMNT model as the first release, along with a Boardwalk Arcade line that will include other arcade staples, such as Skee-Ball. GAMES THAT TOYS CAN PLAY In the doll aisle at Walmart, kids can pick up an arcade cabinet scaled for play with 18-inch dolls from the retailer’s private-label collection, “My Life As…” The Arcade Retro cabinet features 100 games that kids can play while pretending that their dolls are at the arcade. Without context for scale, New Wave Toys’ Replicade Amusements are often mistaken for the real thing in photos — with famous arcade games, such as Street Fighter II, Tempest, and Centipede, recreated as full-featured miniatures. At E3, the company introduced cabinets for 1942 and Missile Command, as well as a change machine that doubles as a six-port USB charger for Replicade cabinets or other devices. New Wave Toys’ Gould says that there are quite a few challenges to balancing what the company does for both collectibility and playability. “The No. 1 challenge is making sure the miniaturized control panel stays true to the original, both visually and from a gameplay perspective,” he explains. “In cases where we have to compromise between the two, gameplay wins out because we want our machines to be as playable as they can possibly be. Visually, we make sure we get the scale right, first and foremost, and then we use traditional materials, such as wood, die-cast metal, and high-quality 3M vinyl art reproductions, to make a machine that not only looks good, but also feels great in your hands.” A NEW PLAYER ENTERS THE GAME Home arcade machines are not new — in fact, they’ve been offered for decades — but affordable ones are. For the past two years, Arcade1Up has ex-

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isted largely unchallenged, but this fall, a new player is entering the fold with a machine that could be an intriguing prospect for game enthusiasts who only have space for one machine. AtGames’ Legends Ultimate cabinet was first announced last year, promising 350 games from a variety of licensors. At E3, the company revealed that the machine will not just feature 350 games, but it will be Wi-Fi enabled, allowing future games to be added via DLC, along with the possibility for on-the-fly software updates and online tournaments. The latest version of the cabinet was showcased at the Toy Insider’s Sweet Suite event last month. At launch, the Legends Ultimate will have titles from Atari, ColecoVision, Data East, the Tetris Co., LucasArts, and more. It will also ship with an authentic, arcade-style control panel, which includes two joysticks, six action buttons per player, a high-performance trackball, and two spinners on a full-size cabinet. Additionally, the company will release the Legends Ultimate Compact edition, which will be a 3/4-size machine with 250 licensed games and specs that mirror the full-size Legends. While AtGames is new to cabinets, the company has been operating in the retro gaming space for years with a full range of Flashback plug-and-play game consoles licensed from Atari, Sega, and more. GIVING THE FANS CONTROL At the end of the day, the fans will continue to fuel the gaming movement, essentially putting themselves into the driver’s seat as the various companies are being placed in a position to react — or not. The gaming industry has been traditionally notorious for frowning upon customization and “modding” (modifying), but the retro space is opening up, and Arcade1Up has largely been supporting it. Rather than shying away from the community of modders at large, it’s not uncommon to see Arcade1Up sharing photos on social media complimenting individuals for their unique creations. “Our fans and the community that they created is fantastic,” Bachrach says. “They are passionate and want to

show off their cabinets: Some love to ‘mod them out,’ and they have done so in some incredibly creative ways. Here again, we have listened and have taken note, and this too has driven innovation into Arcade1Up machines with things like matching licensed risers and lightup marquees.” As we head toward fall, the retro movement grows, and fans will soon see a wide breadth of merchandise that’s inspired by the games of decades past hitting stores. Following big deals for the Tetris Co., Konami Cross Media NY inked a deal with Bioworld for Frogger, Contra, and Bomberman merch; and Mario Kart — which launched on consoles and expanded to arcades — is becoming a line of Hot Wheels from Mattel. In many ways, the home arcade boom is creating human connections by being disconnected from the current standards of modern tech. Walker says that an element of appeal for GameStop customers is something he’s familiar with as a parent. “With Arcade1Up, it’s not connected — it’s a safe environment for my family and children, but there’s still a community aspect,” he says. “It’s just innocent button-mashing.” Gould agrees, calling arcade games “the ultimate antidote to the complex, over-the-top console games that kids are playing today.” And at the end of the day, he says a lot of the lasting appeal comes down to the simple aspect of being able to maximize time spent with family. “Many people from the ‘Golden Age of Arcades’ generation don’t have the time required to learn how to play modern games well,” he says, “but they’re happy to have at least one game in which they can beat their kid, ... at least the first couple times!” » James Zahn, best-known as The Rock Father, is senior editor of the Toy Book, the Pop Insider, and the Toy Insider. A true multi-hyphenate, he is a media personality, writer, commentator, consultant, actor, adventurer raconteur, and overall pop culture and toy enthusiast.


GAME ON STERN PINBALL Owning a full-size pinball machine is considered an “achievement unlocked” for many home arcade enthusiasts. A sequel to Williams Electronics’ legendary Black Knight pinball machine from 1980, Black Knight: Sword of Rage is available in three levels of detail — Pro, Premium, and Limited Edition. The cabinet and table surface each feature distinctive hand-drawn art, and each game includes a custom sculpted, interactive, multi-functional Black Knight bash toy. The Black Knight will interact with players by taunting them with speech and movement, bashing and blocking shots. The game features a legacy sound package composed and performed by Scott Ian of Anthrax with Brendon Small from Metalocalypse, and includes custom speech by Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies.

NEW WAVE TOYS New Wave Toys’ Replicade Amusements are fully playable, 1/6-scale arcade machines. Each machine runs the original game ROM and is officially licensed by the original manufacturer. Street Fighter II, Tempest, and Centipede are among the first to be released, with other classics, including Asteroids, Dragon’s Lair, 1942, and Missile Command, are currently in development. Each cabinet reflects the unique shape of its full-sized ‘70s or ‘80s counterpart, with complete detailing, right down to the coin slot.

INNOVATIVE CONCEPTS IN ENTERTAINMENT (ICE) Super Kixx PRO Dome Soccer is the latest innovation from ICE, the makers of the famous Super Chexx PRO bubble hockey. Launched this summer, these arcade-quality machines are made in the U.S., and come complete with hand-painted figures, digital scoring, and live game calls. Players can customize each dome soccer game with graphics officially licensed by Major League Soccer, or take advantage of nearly endless customization options for a truly oneof-a-kind game room piece, direct from the company that supplies arcades and family entertainment centers.

TASTEMAKERS Tastemakers’ Arcade1Up line expands this fall with the long-awaited release of Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Home Arcade Game. The first four-player game cabinet from Arcade1Up includes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989) and Turtles in Time (1991) games, four complete sets of joysticks and buttons, and authentic graphics emblazoned with the Nickelodeon logo. Additionally, Arcade1Up will deliver a new version of a gaming experience that should be familiar to anyone who had a chance to eat at a Pizza Hut in the mid-1980s: the Namco Head-to-Head Pac-Man table. A 3/4-scale version of the tabletop staple that was made famous in the fast-casual pizza emporiums, the basic edition will feature Pac-Man, Pac-Land, Dig-Dig, and Galaga, alongside other Pac-related titles, in a self-contained table. The built-in screen flips side to side for genuine two-player action. A Sam’s Club exclusive will feature six titles and a pair of matching stools. The company will also issue a Capcom Head-to-Head Street Fighter table this fall. Sam’s Club exclusive Namco Head-to-Head Pac-Man table

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With the Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak, from WOW! STUFF, kids can appear to disappear, just like the legendary boy who lived. Using the Wow! Stuff app, they can recreate memorable scenes from the Harry Potter movies while wearing the cloak. After filming and photographing their magical adventures, kids can share them with their fellow wizards.

Lucky Fortune, from WOWWEE, is a collectible charm bracelet hidden inside a toy fortune cookie. When kids crack open the cookie, they’ll also find a matching paper fortune inside. The collector’s guide doubles as a classic fortune teller game. There are 100 bracelets to trade and collect, and kids can hang the colorful fortune cookie on their bags and backpacks as a stylish keychain.

KENT DISPLAYS’ Boogie Board Dash is a new game board designed for travel. Kids can play the four included road trip games and download more activities. They can easily hold the board using its EasyPass bezel and play for several hours without having to charge it thanks to the board’s replaceable battery, which lasts for years.

TOMY adds more sparkle to its collectible Ritzy Rollerz line with the Ritzy Rollerz Dance ‘N Dazzle Spa. Kids can give their Ritzy Rollerz a spa retreat with this new play set. They can roll their critters into the spa and click charms onto their wheels. The play set features lights, sounds, an exclusive Tori TaDa Unicorn on wheels, and 30 ritzy charms.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes & Daily Prophet Puzzle from WREBBIT 3D, joins the Diagon Puzzle, Alley Collection. Harry Potter fans can continue building their own alley at home with these two magical shops. The challenging, fun, 3D model brings kids into the wizard’s epic story as they solve this 280-piece jigsaw puzzle.

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WIT STORIES

WOMEN IN TOYS GEARS UP FOR EMPOWERMENT DAY WIT and Walmart Team Up to Host the Annual Mentoring Event by NANCY ZWIERS, co-chair, WIT Empowerment Day WOMEN IN TOYS, LICENSING, AND Entertainment (WIT) will hold its seventh annual Empowerment Day on Oct. 1. The day is dedicated to helping dozens of women each year give their dreams a chance. Many women spend a lot of time with children as mothers, educators, or community leaders. Not surprisingly, that “together time” often inspires promising new product ideas. Who better to see what children would like than those who spend so much time with them? Yet, many of these inventive women don’t necessarily have the avenues available to them to penetrate the black box we call the toy industry. As industry insiders, WIT has the infrastructure, the connections, and the know-how to launch a new toy — and welcome ideas from diverse sources. WIT Empowerment Day brings together aspiring female entrepreneurs and volunteer industry veterans to help give these product ideas the chance to become a reality. Industry veterans

just happen to include Walmart’s Vice President of Toys Anne Marie Kehoe and the bulk of her buying team. It all started nearly seven years ago. Patti Becker, founder and CEO of Becker Associates LLC and a leader in WIT, had the idea of arranging a Walmart pitch session at Toy Fair New York (TFNY) that was open to women in the industry. She knew that Walmart had launched its Women’s Global Economic Empowerment Initiative in 2011 and that it set a goal to increase its sourcing from women-owned businesses. Her timing was perfect: The Walmart WIT pitch event launched at TFNY in February 2013 and was a resounding success. Based on that success, WIT and Walmart moved it to Dallas Toy Fair, where the event has been ever since. Since 2014, Deb de Sherbinin and I — the WIT Empowerment Day co-chairs — have worked with Walmart, WIT staff, and volunteers to further expand the scope of the event. We have partnered with The Toy Association and secured a large space at the Dallas Market Cen-

Hair Blinger’s inventor relations pitch with Wicked Cool Toys at WIT Empowerment Day 2018 was a success.

ter. We will host the full-day event and evening cocktail reception on the eve of Dallas Toy Fair opening. PRICELESS ACCESS Participants can pitch to Walmart and toy inventor relations representatives from companies such as Spin Master, Hasbro, PlayMonster, Basic Fun!, Wicked Cool Toys. MENTORING ADVICE Participants can also attend multiple educational webinars leading up to the event and learn from more than 30 expert mentors across many disciplines at speed mentoring and informational sessions during the conference. These mentors are industry veterans who volunteer their time and generously offer their expertise. The educational program includes panel discussions with Walmart buyers, inventor relations representatives, financing and e-commerce marketing experts, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

At WIT Empowerment Day 2018, industry experts offered their expertise and encouragement during 15-minute speed-mentoring sessions.

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WIT STORIES

The Walmart buyer panel convened at last year’s WIT Empowerment Day to discuss its plans to help participants succeed in the industry.

INSPIRATION AND CONNECTEDNESS Keynote speakers have included Mark Cuban of Shark Tank; Melissa Bernstein, co-founder of toy company Melissa & Doug; and, most recently, Natalie Rebot, the inventor of the storybook projector Moonlite. To close out the conference, participants will share the value they have created in the toy industry and attend an evening cocktail reception to network with toy industry insiders. THE RESULTS ARE HAPPENING The event keeps getting better, and the partnership between WIT, Walmart, and The Toy Association is stronger than ever. For the many volunteers who help make WIT Empowerment Day possible, participant feedback is the best part. Consider Angie Cella, who came to last year’s WIT Empowerment Day with her invention of the Hair Blinger. A simple but powerful idea, the Hair Blinger is a cartridge-based system that kids can easily add sparkling crystals to their hair. Pitches to both Walmart and Wicked Cool Toys Co-Founder Michael Rinzler went well, they quickly signed a deal with Cella, and now the product is sold at Walmart. In fact, Kehoe has expressed excitement

about the toy’s possibilities. Cella couldn’t have been happier with her participation in Empowerment Day. “Things have gone great,” she says. “We signed the deal with Wicked Cool this past Monday night. It’s just been incredible these last three weeks. I feel like the last four years are finally coming to a head, and it’s all so surreal — and it’s all because of WIT.”

As industry insiders, WIT has the infrastructure, the connections, and the know-how to launch a new toy — and welcome ideas from diverse sources. Not every registrant will achieve distribution at Walmart as Cella did. However, we’ve learned that many perceive WIT Empowerment Day as a process, rather than an event. Walmart buyers give valuable constructive feedback to each person they meet and encourage women to act on the feedback and return the following year with a stronger proposition. Several

women have participated in WIT Empowerment Day over multiple years, gradually honing their offerings based on pitch feedback and mentoring. For example, Karen Kilpatrick pitched her product at our first WIT Empowerment Day in Dallas. She returned the following year as a volunteer, which ultimately led to her meeting the folks at Jazwares. They offered her a job as a manager and creator at JazWings and have since promoted her to vice president of marketing at Jazwares. The toy industry’s generosity is the rising tide that lifts all boats. Visit WIT Empowerment Day’s website at womenintoys.com/empowerment-day for more information on this year’s event. »

Nancy Zwiers is a recently retired, 29-year toy industry veteran who has held top executive positions at Mattel and Spin Master, where she was EVP and CMO. Zwiers also founded the consulting firm Funosophy Inc. She serves on the WIT Executive Board and as co-chair of Empowerment Day. She also started The Nancy Zwiers Empowerment Fund, which is a proud sponsor of WIT.

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COMPLIANCE & REGULATIONS

ETHICAL TOY SOURCING GAINS MOMENTUM ICTI Ethical Toy Program Endorses Latest Regulations

by MARK ROBERTSON, senior vice president, communications and stakeholder engagement, ICTI Ethical Toy Program NOW IS THE TIME TO EMBRACE manufacturing against a backdrop of new regulations, evolving consumer expectations, and global sustainability initiatives. ICTI Ethical Toy Program was at the forefront of ethical manufacturing last year. Last year's highlights include the launch of refreshed Ethical Toy Program branding, which reflects our role as the leading responsible sourcing program for the global toy industry. We also introduced major program upgrades, including a new, risk-rated audit checklist, updated ethical toy factory certification, and increased support for toy factories. LEGO was among the many toy companies that joined our new buyer membership program last year. The program offers advanced tools and support to help brands and retailers source toys responsibly. Our worker well-being programs, which are now in their fourth year of operation, reunited thousands of domestic migrant parent workers with their children who were left behind in China and advanced women’s empowerment at toy factories in India last year.

Last year brought new legislation, regulation, and initiatives focused on ethical sourcing issue areas worldwide. Examples included France’s devoir de vigilance (corporate duty of vigilance), along with soonto-be-enacted anti-slavery laws in Australia and Hong Kong. Alongside established legislation in the UK and the U.S., the new laws require toy companies to illustrate what they have done to combat slavery within their supply chains. Meanwhile, global sustainability initiatives, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the U.N. Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights, further oblige toy companies to consider wider risks in their supply chains. LOOKING AHEAD This year will bring further legislative requirements on modern-day slavery, with a focus on responsible recruitment practices at factories in supply chains. Ethical Toy Program Certification prohibits all forms of forced labor. The good news for the toy industry is that membership to the Ethical Toy Program shows conformity with

modern slavery legislation. The UNGPs are quickly emerging as the benchmark against which companies’ efforts to address human rights risks are judged. They will require companies to conduct due diligence to map human rights risks in their supply chains, protect and respect the rights of workers, and remedy any negative human rights impacts. The UNGPs are voluntary for businesses, but the German government, among others, is considering legislation to ensure compliance with the UNGPs should voluntary efforts prove ineffective. A total of 170 countries and territories adopted the SDGs, which are a blueprint to build a sustainable future. This year, the SDGs will continue to drive governments and businesses to address many sustainability issues. The SDGs also allow toy companies to embrace positive changes that deliver business benefits in their supply chains. Experience shows that investing in worker well-being at toy factories can boost efficiency, reduce costs, and increase recruitment and retention. Our common goals at the Ethical Toy Program are to support our toy brand and retailer members in managing supply chain risks, complying with regulatory requirements on sustainability issues, and realizing the business benefits of ethical manufacturing. We encourage toy brands and retailers to join the program and embrace responsible sourcing. This will ensure that they manufacture toys in a way that is consistent with industry values. » Mark Robertson joined ICTI Ethical Toy Program in August 2015. He leads the development of IETP's worker well-being, stakeholder engagement, and global communications. Robertson works with IETP's members to support responsible sourcing strategies and to drive collaboration across the industry.

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INDUSTRY MARKETPLACE

Playtime Sales & Marketing Co. LLC A Toy Manufacturers Sales Representative Corporate Office: 331 Piermont Road, Norwood, New Jersey 07648

TEL: 201-784-7727 FAX: 201-784-1912 E-MAIL: murraybass@playtimesales.com lensoyka@playtimesales.com carolleeman@playtimesales.com The Playtime Sales & Marketing Company, LLC. is a Toy and Electronics Manufacturers sales representative organization. Our prime focus is to represent Toy and Electronics Manufacturers to the Mass Market Retailers. The principals of our Company are Len Soyka and Murray Bass. Our only vocation has been in the Toy Industry. We are dedicated toy professionals. Our geographical areas of sales coverage and accounts include: • NEW ENGLAND…Connecticut North to Maine and Upstate N.Y. Accounts… CVS Drug, BJ’s Whle Club, and TJ Maxx, • NY METRO​ NY City and New Jersey. Accounts... dd’s Stores, Macy’s Backstage, Cititrends, Burlington Stores, Xmas Tree Shops, Shepher Distributors, Buy Buy Baby, Party City, National Whle., Bed Bath and Beyond, Stevens Intl., and NY area Supermarket chains. • MID-LANTIC…Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Western Ohio. Accounts…Rite Aid Drug, Group Sales, Boscov’s, 5 Below, Dollar Tree, Variety Wholesale and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // Target and Walmart • CANADA…Walmart, Toys R Us, Canadian Tire and Costco • CHINA…We maintain a full time Hong Kong sourcing Office We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.

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

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

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FLASHBAC

JULY/AUGUST 1999

U.S. MINT APPOINTS KERMIT AS SPOKESFROG The U.S. Mint announced a three-year agreement with the Jim Henson Co. in which Kermit the Frog will serve as the official spokesfrog for America’s 50 State Quarters Program. The U.S. Mint selected Kermit to raise public awareness of this 10-year initiative commemorating each of the 50 United States with a unique quarter design.

»

Tiger Electronic’s Furby Babies come in a variety of pastel colors. They can interact with other Furby Babies and original Furbies.

LICENSING SHOW NEWS

Nickelodeon will celebrate its 20th anniversary with the introduction of The Wild Thornberrys. Products will launch in the spring of 2000 with several partners, including Mattel — Nickelodeon’s master toy licensee — Simon & Schuster, and Paramount Home Video. Viacom Consumer Products entered a two-year licensing agreement with Toys “R” Us for an exclusive, Toys “R” Usmanufactured line of dolls based on the live-action series Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Warner Bros. will introduce Osmosis Jones, an animated story set inside the human body, with a live-action/animated movie set for the holiday season in 2000. A 13-episode series on Kids’ WB will follow the movie’s premiere. Pokémon, the Nintendo game that blossomed into a TV series on Kids’ WB, will continue to grow with the release of Pokémon the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back in November 1999. Four more games are scheduled for 1999: Pokémon Pinball, Pokémon Snap, Pokémon Yellow, and Pokémon Stadium.

Toy Sales (millions)

1. Star Wars

‘97

$707

2. The Lion King

‘94

$268

‘95, ‘96

$25, $204

4. Batman

‘96

$219

5. Aladdin

‘92, ‘93

$17, $201

6. Pocahontas

‘95

$173

7. Jurassic Park

‘93

$158

8. Small Soldiers

‘98

$116

9. Spice World

‘98

$110

10. Hunchback of Notre Dame

‘96

$74

3. Toy Story

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3

Intex’s Tweety Set is geared toward the kids’ market, while the TV Chair is one of the company’s

»

Release Date

Title

2

OddzOn’s Rugrats Micro Bubbles come with a mini bottle of Koosh bubble solution and a removable lanyard. Kids can remove the character’s head and use it as a bubble wand.

»

KEY THEATRICAL RELEASES ‘93-’98

1

bestsellers for adults.


MUSIC

sic to come away knowing that everything that happens teaches you how to develop into the person you were meant to be.” On the 12-song set, Dorough blends pop and rock stylings to weave a story of self-discovery. Available now (HowieDoIt Music)

BLU-RAY/DVD

PEPPA PIG: MY FIRST ALBUM You know her from making a big splash in muddy puddles, but now Peppa Pig is getting ready to make a big splash in music! The album features extended versions of kid-favorite songs from the series, composed by Julian Nott, in addition to new tracks composed by Paul Moessl and songs featured in the UK theatrical release of Peppa Pig: Festival of Fun. Harley Bird, the voice of Peppa Pig, sings on several tracks. Available now (eOne)

HOWIE D: WHICH ONE AM I? “The goal of Which One Am I? is to remind people that no matter what they’re going through, they can emerge victorious,” says the Backstreet Boys’ Howie Dorough about his debut family album. “I especially want kids who listen to the mu68

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JOSH LOVELACE: GROWING UP

SHAZAM!

On the second full-length family album from Needtobreathe’s Josh Lovelace, the singer-songwriter delivers a collection of southern-flavored Americana that explores a family dynamic of change. Some of the changes that inspired the record included friends moving away and a musician dad spending more time on the road. “Growing Up is about reflection and honest conversation,” Lovelace says. “It’s a look at the human experience and our interaction with it, inspired by and created for the whole person, whether you are 5 or 85. … We’re all in this together.” Available now (Stonycroft Records)

When Billy Batson shouts, “Shazam!,” the 14-year-old foster kid turns into one of the DC Comics’ longest-running superheroes: Shazam. In an adult body with unknown powers, Batson finds himself having fun while fighting the bad guys in a DC Extended Universe. Available now (Warner Bros.)

ANTS ANTS ANTS: ROBOT EP

UGLYDOLLS

Johnny Clay, Dave Gulick, and Nat Johnson — collectively known as Ants Ants Ants — serve up a four-song follow-up to their acclaimed debut album Why Why Why. The Portland-based trio manages to celebrate our future mechanical overlords with a floaty slice of sci-fi kindie pop for the whole family to enjoy. Available now (Pinwheel Records)

Hasbro released a full line of toys based on STXfilms’ UglyDolls, which was based on the plush dolls created by David Horvath and Sun-min Kim in 2001. Intended to launch a franchise — a TV series is already in production for Hulu — the musical boasts a soundtrack featuring Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Blake Shelton, and more. Available now (Universal)


BOOKS

PENCILS, PENS & BRUSHES: A GREAT GIRLS’ GUIDE TO DISNEY ANIMATION Created for kids ages 8 to 12, this nonfiction picture book explores the contributions of some amazing women who have worked at Walt Disney Animation Studios over the years. Author Mindy Johnson and illustrator Lorelay Bove look at story artists, inkers, painters, and animators who have gone on to do incredible things, such as designing Hollywood monsters or becoming a record-holding pilot. Available Aug. 13 (Disney Press)

VROOM! Author Barbara McClintock writes the story of Annie, a little girl with a big imagination and dreams to go far — in a race car. Created for kids ages 4 to 7, Vroom! follows Annie past fields and forests, up mountains, over rivers, through deserts, and home again. It’s a playful picture book that harnesses the high-octane power of imagination. Available now (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

SPOTLIGHT

LINUS THE LITTLE YELLOW PENCIL Author/illustrator Scott Magoon imagines a story about an adorable pencil who wants to win the Pencil Cup Art competition. Kids ages 3 to 5 will be encouraged to show off their work alongside the story of Linus and his eraser, who don’t always see eye to eye. Available now (Disney-Hyperion Children's Books)

DEAR JUSTICE LEAGUE The New York Times best-selling author Michael Northrop explores what would happen when members of the Justice League, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aquaman, and more, answer letters from their biggest fans: kids. This graphic novel was created for kids ages 7 and up. Available now (DC Zoom)

COMING SOON! 9/3 Star Wars: Jedi Academy No. 8, Harry Potter Wizards Unite: The Official Game Guide, The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novel: Boy-Crazy Stacey, Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl 9/10 Sesame Street Classics: 6 Little Golden Books, I Am Walt Disney (Ordinary People Change the World), I Am Marie Curie (Ordinary People Change the World) 9/17 An Elephant & Piggie Biggie Volume 2!, Guts, The Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade

THE GROWN-UP’S GUIDE TO MAKING ART WITH KIDS: 25 fun-filled activities invite parents and kids to draw the same subjects together with guided practice pages. Available now (Walter Foster Publishing)

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Profile for The Toy Book

July/August 2019  

July/August 2019  

Profile for toybook