January 12, 2012


 Toy Fest West

Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair Opens

The HKTDC Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair kicked off Monday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). The fair, organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), ran through Thursday, January12. Three complementary fairs—the Hong Kong International Stationery Fair (staged by HKTDC and Messe Frankfurt (HK) Ltd.), the Hong Kong Baby Products Fair, and the HKTDC Hong Kong International Licensing Show—ran concurrently with the toy fair.
The 38th Toys & Games Fair welcomed first-time participants from Greece, Macau, Russia, and Ukraine. Group pavilions brought together companies from the Chinese mainland, India, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and Thailand. Other highlights included the World of Toys Pavilion, a new Animal Kingdom product zone, the return of the Eco Toys Display Zone, and the Brand Name Gallery, which boasted a record 80 exhibitors—30 percent more than last year. The Hong Kong Toys Conference took a look at the latest safety directives from the European Union and the U.S.

Sun-Mate Plans Licensed Products for Star Wars, Marvel, and More

KISS Hello KittySun-Mate Corporation has licensed manufacturing rights for several entertainment brands, including Star Wars. The company plans to develop ATM machines, arcade-style games, tabletop games, and guitars based on the Star Wars brand, available in the U.S. Spider-Man and other Marvel heroes will be featured on keyboards, drums, ATM machines, and outdoor activities. The company will develop pinball game machines under the Power Rangers brand for the U.S. marketplace. For the World Wrestling Entertainment brand, Sun-Mate will manufacture outdoor and backyard games.
Sun-Mate will develop electronic products and accessories for the North American marketplace under the Hello Kitty KISS brand. The company will also develop personal electronics for the Public Zoo clothing line, such as headphones and iPod and iPhone cases and accessories for the global marketplace.
Through its licensing agreement with Union Pacific, Sun-Mate will continue to manufacture toy train sets for American consumers. Sun-Mate has acquired North American licensing rights for Chevron, Texaco, and Gulf, part of the Chevron Products Company family of brands, and will continue to manufacture toy oil tanker trucks.
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Showrooms at Fifth Ave. Building to Display Products During NY Toy Fair

230 Fifth AvenueDuring American International Toy Fair in New York City, 20 floors of showrooms at 230 Fifth Avenue will showcase various types of toys, gift items, general merchandise, books, seasonal, stationery, and related products. The Toy Fair will run from February 12-15.
A listing of all participating showrooms can be picked up from one of the registration coordinators at the lobby registration desk in the building. Special perks and amenities, including the newly designed Buyers Lounge, will be available to all attendees.





Toys & Kids Russia, Slated for March, to Include World of Toys Pavilion

Spielwarenmesse eG is organizing a World of Toys pavilion at Toys & Kids Russia in Moscow, slated to run March 14-16. Companies such as NICI GmbH, Sieper GmbH, and Mattel Europe Holdings B. V. have already secured a place in the World of Toys Pavilion.
Not only will Toys & Kids Russia showcase toys, but baby fashions, strollers, and hobby, outdoor, playground, and sport articles will also be on display. In the special “What’s New!” area, exhibitors can highlight one of their new products to specifically attract visitors to their stand. Exhibitors can also develop personal contacts at meetings with potential Russian importers and distributors in the Retail Center.
Toys & Kids Russia takes place in the Crocus Expo International Exhibition Centre in Moscow for the sixth time. It is organized by RNTA Expo, a joint company of Spielwarenmesse eG and the Russian National Toy Association.

Dollar General to Open More than 600 Stores This Year

Dollar General Corp. plans to open 625 new stores and add more than 6,000 new jobs this year, the company announced. These new stores and jobs will be spread among Dollar General’s 38-state operating area, plus California and Massachusetts. In addition to the new stores, the company plans to remodel or relocate 550 stores and open a distribution center in California. The projected jobs follow on the heels of three years of positive job growth for the company. Including 2012, the company will have created more than 21,000 new jobs since 2009.

ASTRA Releases Full Program for 2012 Marketplace & Academy

ASTRAThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has announced the full program for ASTRA’s 2012 Marketplace & Academy, to take place June 10-13 in Baltimore, Md. The program can be viewed and printed at www.astramarketplace.org. Topics will include strategies for increasing toy store profits and tactics to ramp up the customer experience. Other subjects include the importance of play for healthy child development and using social media to promote independent stores. Special sessions will be available for manufacturers and sales representatives.



Innovation First Partners for Moshi Monsters Bobble Bots

Moshi Bobble BotsInnovation First International is launching Bobble Bots, a new brand and product line. As part of the launch, the company has joined forces with Mind Candy, the brains behind the Moshi Monsters brand, for the debut of Bubble Bots Moshi Monsters. The line will hit store shelves across Europe and North America this spring.
The line of bobblehead mini robotic pets and customizable play sets will feature the patented Hexbug Nano vibration technology. Moshi Monsters will be brought to life in their own customizable environment. The initial assortment of Bobble Bots Moshi Monsters will include 24 battery-operated collectible Moshlings and a variety of configurable, 3-D “dollhouse” replicas of the streets, yards, buildings, and houses found online in Monstro City. Every product will include secret codes to unlock digital assets in the online world. The products will be showcased (by appointment only) at London Toy Fair, Nuremberg Toy Fair, and New York Toy Fair.

Jakks Pacific Secures Licensing Agreements with Marvel, AMC

Jakks Pacific, Inc. has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Marvel Entertainment, LLC to manufacture, distribute, and market a line of plush products based on the Marvel Super Hero Squad that ties into the new Marvel virtual online world, HeroUp.com. The product line is expected to include collectible plush, plush clip-ons, and large plush with interactive, online components that unlock special features on HeroUp.com. The line is expected to launch at specialty retailers this spring with broad distribution in mass retail channels starting next year.
Under the same agreement, Jakks is expected to launch skill and action-based games that encourage active, physical play based on popular Marvel super heroes, such as The Avengers. Jakks’ line of Marvel games is slated to launch this spring.
Additionally, Jakks has announced that it has secured a licensing agreement with AMC to manufacture, distribute, and market deluxe Plug It In & Play TV games based on The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead Deluxe TV Games line will launch at retailers nationwide this fall. The games will bring the show’s action to life with a “pump and shoot” controller, multiple levels of zombie adventures, and a variety of game modes.

Sesame Workshop Partners with Qualcomm for AR Prototype Play Set

Qualcomm Incorporated and Sesame Workshop have joined forces to explore augmented reality experiences for children by creating a prototype play set that brings physical toys to life. An application is being demonstrated at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), running January 10-13.
The collaborative project explores the use of a tablet with a traditional play set, aiming to make children’s playtime more fun and educational. The prototype play set includes traditional elements such as common household objects and figurines of classic Sesame Street characters Cookie Monster, Bert, and Ernie. Additionally, the demo includes a tablet and an application that uses Qualcomm’s newly branded Vuforia augmented reality platform. When the tablet is pointed at the play set, the pieces and the play environment come alive through the tablet’s camera, transforming the play set into an interactive experience. Qualcomm is exhibiting at Booth No. 30313 in South Hall 3 at CES.

Thinkway Toys Named Master Toy Licensee for Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2Thinkway Toys has been awarded the master global toy license for Despicable Me 2, the anticipated follow-up to Despicable Me, and is partnering with Universal Partnerships & Licensing (UP&L) and Illumination Entertainment on the global production of toys. Despicable Me 2 arrives in theaters on July 3, 2013. Products will be available on store shelves in summer 2013.


Tim Bruckner to Create New Captain Action Sculpts

Captain Action Enterprises and Round 2 have announced that veteran sculptor Tim Bruckner is developing superhero action figure sculpts for this year’s Captain Action toy line. Captain Action, a popular superhero toy line from the 1960s, is slated to return to toy shelves starting in March, with new costume sets, including Marvel Comics’ heroes Spider-Man, Thor, and Captain America. Every three months, additional waves will be released.
Bruckner is best known for creating dozens of statues and more than 140 action figures for DC Direct. His 40-year career has included Hasbro, Sideshow, Dark Horse, Toy Biz, Hallmark, Mattel, Gentle Giant, and more.

Commonwealth Toy Gets License for So So Happy

So So HappyCommonwealth Toy & Novelty Co. has obtained the license to produce a complete line of plush toys, beanies, plush backpacks, and related products based on the proprietary lifestyle brand So So Happy. The brand, owned by Art Impressions, features a quirky cast of friendly monsters, robots, and other oddball characters.
The first products will roll out nationwide in May at specialty chains, department stores, and a major nationwide toy retailer. Plans are in place for multiple additional series, which will delve deeper into So So Happy’s portfolio of more than 200 characters. The brand’s message of positivity revolves around the core values of embracing your individuality, being kind, spreading love, and believing in yourself.


Waybuloo Plush License Awarded to Posh Paws International

WaybulooZodiak Kids has awarded a plush license for its preschool brand Waybuloo to Posh Paws International, LLP. Posh Paws International will produce a range of plush—including bean toys, feature plush, and window stick-ons—for launch at retail in July.
Waybuloo is a preschool series that transports children to Nara, a live-action world inhabited by animated characters called Piplings who embody a range of emotions such as love, wisdom, happiness, and harmony. Waybuloo is produced by The Foundation, part of Zodiak Kids and Decode Entertainment for the BBC. Zodiak Rights holds worldwide rights in all media for the property, with the exception of Canada where Decode Enterprises handles broadcast and home entertainment rights, and DHX Licensing represents consumer products rights.

Jazwares to Manufacture Fruit Ninja Products

Fruit NinjaJazwares is slicing into the mobile app category after being awarded the master toy license for Halfbrick’s popular app, Fruit Ninja. Inspired by Fruit Ninja’s fruit-slicing, action-packed adventures, Jazwares’ new range will include fruit figures and plush, featuring “splat” sound effects, slicing features, ninja blades, and branded bandanas, as well as electronics that include Fruit Ninja-themed headphones and speakers. Products will hit store shelves this spring.







Crowded Teeth Expands with The Land of Nod

Hi! Hi! Hi!Crowded Teeth, a whimsical brand of artwork featuring characters with bold graphic designs, has expanded its offerings with an array of products being manufactured and sold by specialty retailer The Land of Nod. The first Crowded Teeth item at The Land of Nod—–an art print featuring “Rainbow Bear Hi! Hi! Hi!”—debuted last week. New product introductions will debut throughout this year, and will include home furnishings (such as bedding, hanging décor, chairs, and more art prints) and toys, with wooden toys, plush, hand puppets, and arts and crafts items all in development.





Disguise Signs Expanded Licensing Deal with Marvel

Disguise, Inc., a division of Jakks Pacific, Inc., has signed an expanded licensing agreement with Marvel to offer consumers Halloween costumes and accessories based on new Marvel theatrical properties, including Thor 2, Iron Man 3, and the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man. Currently, Disguise has the rights to produce Halloween costumes and accessories based on classic Marvel characters and theatrical properties. Disguise is expected to launch the new Halloween products at retailers nationwide in time for Halloween 2012.

Big Idea to Release New VeggieTales DVD in Time for Easter

VeggieTalesBig Idea Entertainment is releasing a new DVD title, VeggieTales: Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men, on March 3 and March 6, in Christian and general market stores respectively. The DVD will feature family-friendly music, including a new Silly Song with a theme that was selected through a recent online fan contest. The episode also includes the animated short “Lenny & the Lost Birthday,” which teaches about handling hurt and forgiveness.
The DVD launch will be supported by a comprehensive marketing and advertising campaign, with licensing and promotional partners including Chuck E. Cheese’s, Fatz Restaurants, NHL, and NBA. The VeggieTales Live! God Made You Special! tour, launches February 26 in 35 markets to coincide with the DVD release.



Lionsgate to Distribute Home Entertainment for Lalaloopsy

Lionsgate has entered into an agreement with MGA Entertainment to acquire the home entertainment distribution rights to Lalaloopsy. Lionsgate will serve as the exclusive distributor of Lalaloopsy products for all packaged media and digital platforms in several territories, including the U.S., Canada, and the UK. Adventures in Lalaloopsy Land: The Search for Pillow, Lionsgate’s initial home entertainment feature release, will launch in March.

Griffin Technology Debuts Crayola Range at CES 2012

Griffin Technology and Crayola are premiering a new lineup of kid-friendly apps and mobile accessories at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show, running January 10-13. Crayola MyPhones are leading the range, available in earbuds and headphones styles this spring. Both styles have built-in volume-limiting circuitry that keeps sound pressure down to levels that are safe for young ears. Crayola MyPhones Earbuds will come in a range of bright colors, and each set will come with its own carrying case shaped like a Crayola crayon. The Crayola MyPhones Headphones are designed to fit over the ears, so nothing enters the ear canal. Each set of headphones comes with stickers and Crayola markers so children can customize their headphones.
Griffin is also showcasing new Crayola-inspired apps (Crayola Lights, Camera, Color! HD, and Crayola Silly Face Swaps HD); the Crayola Case Creator, a combination of a protective case and an app; and the Crayola Color Clickers and Crayon Classics iPod touch cases.

Scalextric Joins Forces with Star Wars

Scalextric has announced a three-year global licensing partnership with Star Wars for a range of brand new products on sale early this year. The products will be unveiled at the London Toy Fair in January, when show visitors will be able to get the first look at how they will build their own collection from Micro and Start sets, as well as on highly detailed and collectable solo models.
Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace is being released in 3-D this February.

Warner Bros, TT Games, and Lego Create Lego Batman 2 Game

LEGO Batman 2Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, TT Games, and The Lego Group are teaming up again to release Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes this summer for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Windows PC, as well as Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, and PlayStation Vita.
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is being developed by TT Games, and will be published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The game complements the recently released Lego Super Heroes: DC Universe toy collection. The line includes five construction sets, including The Batcave and three buildable, detailed action figures.




Hit Partners for Bob the Builder App

Bob the Builder MuckHit Entertainment has partnered with BigPlay Studios, a developer of game, education, and book apps, for the launch of Bob the Builder: Muck’s Train to Trouble for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, available in Apple’s App store this week. This marks the first app release for the Bob the Builder brand.
Bob the Builder: Muck’s Train to Trouble is an interactive reading experience, which also features painting activities, video clips, and games. Every page includes narration, character voices, custom animations, and easy-to-read words with highlighted text.
With this first Bob the Builder app, Hit Entertainment adds to its iOS apps portfolio, which includes apps featuring Thomas & Friends, Angelina Ballerina, Fireman Sam, and Barney.

Clifford Musical Kicks Off 50-City Tour

“Clifford The Big Red Dog Live! A BIG Family Musical” kicked off last weekend in Vermont and Connecticut. The 50-city live touring show includes both school and public performances. The new musical adventure teaches audience members that “it only takes a little to be big.” Through laughter, songs, and dancing, the characters and audience learn about Clifford’s Big Ideas (share, play fair, have respect, work together, be responsible, be truthful, be kind, help others, believe in yourself, and be a good friend) from the PBS Kids series Clifford the Big Red Dog. The production is directed by Mark Fleischer and produced by Mills Entertainment, in cooperation with Scholastic Media; The Brad Simon Organization serves as the exclusive booking agency for the production.

Million Minute Family Challenge Met

On December 21, participants of the 11th annual Million Minute Family Challenge across the U.S. and Canada met its goal and logged 1,049,531 minutes on millionminute.com. Million Minute Family Challenge is free and encourages families and other groups in the U.S. and Canada to play a game and then log their minutes of play, aiming to log a total of one million minutes from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. The challenge was created by Patch Products.

Chuggington Makes Parade Balloon Debut

ChuggingtonThe first Chuggington parade balloon, featuring one of the show’s trainees, Wilson, made its debut at the Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade in San Diego, Calif. on December 28. Ludorum developed the balloon in conjunction with Big Events, Inc. Chuggington airs daily on Disney Channel’s Disney Junior programming block.

Veteran Toy Marketing Exec, Diana Dunn-Graves, Passes Away

Diana Dunn-Graves, a veteran of the toy industry for nearly 20 years, passed away during the holiday break. Dunn-Graves started her career with Eden Toys before moving on to Gund, Inc. as vice president of marketing.
In 2001, she joined Fisher-Price, making a significant mark in the girls’ division as director of marketing. Dunn-Graves was then tapped to head up the infant and newborn team, which she led for seven years. In 2010, she was promoted to vice president of marketing at Fisher-Price Friends in New York City.

CHA Board Appoints New CEO

The Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) board of directors has named Andrej Suskavcevic as its new president and CEO. Suskavcevic's appointment concludes an eight-month executive search during which Tony Lee, vice president of meetings and expositions, served as CHA’s interim leader.
Since 2007, Suskavcevic has served as CEO of the Commercial Finance Association (CFA) in New York City. CFA is the premier trade association for the asset-based lending and factoring industries. Previously, he was vice president of operations at Financial Executives International (FEI) in Morristown, N.J., a professional association for CFOs, controllers, and treasurers. Suskavcevic is a certified association executive (CAE) and active member of the American Society of Association Executives.

Child’s Play Communications Names New VP

Jennifer Krosche has joined Child’s Play Communications as vice president. Prior to joining Child’s Play, Krosche was president of her own company, JYK Public Relations, where she specialized in online parenting and women’s media as well as mom blogger/influencer initiatives. She had worked or consulted for multiple agencies, including Marina Maher Communications, 5W Public Relations, and Pollock Communications.

The Joester Loria Group Promotes James Slifer

James Slifer has been promoted to senior vice president of business development at The Joester Loria Group. His responsibilities will be securing new clients, developing dynamic business partnerships for the agency, and continuing to manage sales initiatives across all of The Joester Loria Group’s portfolio of clients. Slifer has been with the agency for 10 years and currently serves on the LIMA board of directors.

Toys “R” Us Announces December 2011 Comparable Store Sales

Toys “R” Us, Inc. has announced its comparable store net sales and total sales for December. For last month, the U.S. domestic segment reported a 1.2 percent increase in comparable store sales. The learning, core toy, and seasonal categories generated the strongest comparable store net sales growth. The entertainment category, which includes electronics and video game hardware and software, was the weakest.
During the month of December, total sales for the domestic segment decreased by 1.2 percent, attributable to the company’s decision to open significantly fewer Toys “R” Us Express pop-up stores during the 2011 holiday selling season, compared to the prior year.
International total sales increased by 5.1 percent in December, reflecting benefits from the company’s recent acquisition of the majority stake in its businesses in Southeast Asia and Greater China, as well as foreign currency translation. Comparable store sales for the month in the international segment declined by 1.4 percent.
With these December results, quarter-to-date comparable store sales in the U.S. decreased 1.3 percent versus last year, while the international segment decreased 3 percent. Quarter-to-date total sales in the U.S. decreased by 3.6 percent. Total quarter-to-date sales increased 3.2 percent in the international segment.

Target Reports December Sales Results

Target Corporation has reported that its net retail sales for the five weeks ending December 31 were $10.1 billion, an increase of 2.6 percent from $9.9 billion for the five weeks from the previous year. On this same basis, December comparable-store sales increased 1.6 percent.
As a result of softer-than-expected holiday season sales, the company currently expects fourth quarter 2011 diluted EPS of $1.35 to $1.43, compared with prior guidance of $1.43 to $1.53. Both current and prior guidance include expenses related to Target’s investments in its 2013 Canadian market entry. Both current and prior guidance exclude any reduction in income tax expense from the resolution of income tax uncertainties, which the company expects to be approximately $50 million in the quarter, and also exclude the impacts of a potential credit-card receivables sale transaction and/or any potential early extinguishment of non-recourse debt collateralized by credit card receivables.

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Editor in Chief:
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