March 15, 2012

 Toy Fest West

NRF: February Retail Sales Increased 8.6 Percent Year-Over-Year

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), February retail industry sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, increased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted from January, and 8.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year. February retail sales released by the U.S. Department of Commerce showed total retail sales, including non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, increased 1.1 percent adjusted month-to-month and 10.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year. NRF continues to forecast retail industry sales will rise 3.4 percent this year to $2.53 trillion.

ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy Exhibit Space Sells Out

ASTRAExhibit space for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) 2012 Marketplace & Academy has sold out. The exhibit hall, which will be the biggest ever, reports ASTRA, will feature approximately 100 first-time ASTRA exhibitors.
 “Given the huge number of first-time exhibitors, the exhibit hall will be full of product we haven’t seen before,” says ASTRA President Kathleen McHugh. “And remember, even though exhibit space is sold out, we have plenty of room for any and all independent retailers.”
ASTRA will be held in Baltimore, Md. from June 10-13. For more information, or to register, visit or call ASTRA at 1-800-591-0490.

Digital Kids Conference to Feature Forum on Online Safety for Kids

Event producer Engage Digital is partnering with the kidSAFE Seal Program to make
Children’s online and mobile safety a major focus at the sixth annual Digital Kids Conference, to be held April 25-26 in Los Angeles. The groups are co-producing the Digital Kids Safety Track, a daylong event to be held on April 25. The forum will address safety issues of social networks, online games, mobile apps, virtual worlds, and more. Experts will provide practical advice and techniques for creating secure online and mobile experiences for children.
To register for the Digital Kids Conference, and to find out more about the Digital Kids Safety Track and other sessions, visit

TIA Partners with The Strong for Toy Design Con 2012

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) and The Strong, home of the National Museum of Play, are inviting toy and game designers to a three-day “play date.” Held June 24-26, The Strong will host Toy Design Con 2012: Informing and Inspiring Toy and Game Designers, which will bring the industry’s creative professionals together for a design conference. The event will explore the history of design, offer new ways to innovate, and provide updates on emerging regulations and technology affecting current and future toy designs. More information will be available in the Event section of TIA’s website in the near future.

Video Games Sales Fall 20 Percent in February

Total video game sales for February fell 20 percent to $1.03 billion compared to $1.33 billion dollars last year, according to figures released by The NPD Group. Total video game software, which includes console, portable, and PC, decreased the most (24 percent), totaling $485.7 million compared to $637.4 million last February. Video game hardware decreased 18 percent to $381.4 million ($466.9 million last February), and video game accessories decreased 16 percent to $215.2 million ($256.9 million last February). NPD analyst Anita Frazier noted that Xbox 360 was the best-selling platform for the month. PlayStation’s Vita also had strong sales. Three of the top 10 accessory packs for the month were Skylanders character packs.

NPD Releases Its Latest KIDS Survey

As part of its Kids Industry Data Service (KIDS), The NPD Group asked the unaided, open-ended question, “What would the kids you know say is the hottest new thing these days? It might be a celebrity, movie, TV show, toy, game, hobby, sport, website, brand, or retail store.” NPD compiled 3,950 mentions of things, and reported the top 10 mentioned responses.
Taking the top spot again was Justin Bieber (6 percent). Tied at 3 percent each were Apple’s iPad and Cars: The Movie franchise. Other responses in the top 10 included Twilight (2 percent), video games (2 percent), Angry Birds (2 percent), Dora the Explorer (2 percent), Lego (2 percent), Apple’s iPhone (1 percent), and Apple’s iPod (1 percent).
This survey was the follow-up to NPD’s September survey, in which Justin Bieber topped the list with 9 percent. Some of the brands, franchises, celebrities, or items that are emerging in popularity, according to the survey, include (in no particular order) Justice clothing for girls, Victorious, The Hunger Games, Skylanders, PlayStation Vita, Beats by Dr. Dre, Big Time Rush, Team Umizoomi, The Voice, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Jeremy Lin, Adventure Time, and Dubstep.

Shout! Factory Signs Multiyear Deal for Saban Brands’ Catalog

Shout! Factory and Saban Brands have signed a multiyear, multi-property deal that will bring Saban’s live-action pop culture series, including Power Rangers, to the home entertainment marketplace in the U.S. and Canada. The agreement gives Shout! Factory exclusive home entertainment packaged media (DVD/Blu-ray) and select digital rights to Saban Brands’ catalog of properties, including more than 700 episodes of Power Rangers (1993-2009), 92 episodes of VR Troopers, 26 episodes of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, and 88 episodes of Beetleborgs. The deal is for home entertainment releases and digital distribution across select entertainment platforms in North America. Shout! Factory plans an aggressive rollout of Saban Brands’ television properties beginning this summer.

ePal Corporation Acquires Carus Publishing

CricketePals Corporation has purchased all of the assets of family-owned global children’s publisher, Carus Publishing, including Cricket Magazine Group. Cricket, LadyBug, BabyBug, and Click are among the 14 publications included in the sale. To date, Carus has launched five iPhone apps, including Ladybug’s Bookshelf, which became the No.1 education app within 24 hours of launch. 







Guess How Much I Love You Series to Premiere March 23

Guess How Much I Love YouPreschool animated series Guess How Much I Love You—The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare will premiere on March 23 as part of the programming lineup for Disney Junior’s launch day as a 24-hour network.
The series, featuring 52 x 11-minute episodes, is the first adaptation of the classic Guess How Much I Love You picture book, written by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram, and published globally by Candlewick Press/Walker Books. CCI Entertainment holds the worldwide television distribution rights and licensing rights in Latin America, Asia, Middle East, and Africa. Candlewick Press/Walker Books holds the global TV tie-in publishing rights and the rights for licensing the series in North America and Europe, in addition to the global licensing rights for the classic picture book.



Sandbox Summit to Be Held April 17-18

The 2012 Annual Sandbox Summit will be held April 17-18 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and will bring together experts in the areas of children’s media, gaming, toys, and mobile to share the latest research and newest devices. Opening the event will be keynote speaker Rex Ishibashi, CEO of Callaway Digital Arts, who will address the state of play. Colleen Macklin, associate professor in the School of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons The New School of Design and Director of PETLab, will discuss how game creation is evolving. Other speakers include Russell Hampton, president of Disney Worldwide Publishing; Jeremy Roberts, director of technology of PBS Kids Interactive; and Eric Klopfer, associate professor and director of MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program. For more information, visit

New Garbage Pail Kids Feature Film to Be Developed

According to, Michael Eisner’s The Tornante Company will finance and produce the development of a new feature film based on Garbage Pail Kids, the trading card line published by Topps. Eisner bought Topps in 2007. The film will be produced by Toby Ascher, directed by PES, and written by Michael Vukadinovich. A feature film for Garbage Pail Kids was released in 1987.

Nickelodeon Extends Global Licensing Partnership with Fisher-Price

Nickelodeon is renewing its global licensing partnership with Fisher-Price, a subsidiary of Mattel, to develop toys based on Nickelodeon’s preschool programs. As preschool master toy licensee, Fisher-Price will develop toys from preschool TV series airing on Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. networks. Key products falling under the agreement include infant and preschool, plush, figures, preschool vehicles, and play sets.

Classic Media Acquires Noddy from Chorion

NoddyClassic Media has acquired the rights toNoddy from media content group Chorion. For more than 60 years, Noddy has been one of the UK’s most beloved characters, and in France, where he is known as Oui-Oui, he is consistently ranked among top preschool properties. The Noddy library consists of more than 250 episodes, and the latest series, Noddy in Toyland, is currently viewed in more than 100 countries. More than 250 million Noddy books have been sold worldwide. 







Studio Licensing Launches Consumer Products for NBA and Elvis
Studio Licensing has signed licensing deals for NBA Canada and Elvis Presley. Launching this fall, NBA Canada’s consumer products program will include licensee Gillyboo with a range of toy and activity sets.  
Consumer product deals signed for Elvis Presley include licensee Primemotion who is developing a range of adult-targeted collectible puzzles, including 3-D lenticulars.

The Walt Disney Company Re-elects Board, Names Independent Lead Director

Based on preliminary results, at its 2012 Annual Meeting, shareholders of The Walt Disney Company re-elected all 10 members of its board of directors and approved the board’s recommendations on the company’s auditor, its stock incentive plan, and the advisory resolution on executive compensation.
Immediately following the annual meeting, Robert A. Iger was formally elected as chairman, in addition to his current role as CEO. The board also unanimously elected Orin C. Smith as the new independent lead director. Smith, former president and CEO of Starbucks Corp., joined the board in 2006 and has served as chairman of the audit committee.

Guinness World Records Hires New SVP of Americas

Guinness World Records has named Peter Harper as the new head of the company’s U.S. office, which is based in New York City. Harper will assume the title of senior vice president, Americas, spearheading strategies across all business divisions including publishing, licensing, digital, television, and records management in North and South America. Samantha Fay, SVP of USA and global, will take her role overseas to run the global communications division, which is based in London.

Harper previously served as executive director of new product development at Time Home Entertainment, Inc. He has more than 22 years of publishing experience, including working for Time Warner for 15 years. He served as the Guinness World Records’ account director for Time Warner when the company was the U.S. book distributor between 2001 and 2009.

Clinton Group Sends Letter to Jakks Pacific’s Board, Jakks Responds

Clinton Group, Inc., an asset management firm with approximately $2.7 billion in assets under management, sent a letter to the board of directors of Jakks Pacific, Inc. requesting that the directors begin a sale process of the company, including “openly considering the indication of interest from Oaktree Capital Management, L.P.”  In September, Oaktree expressed an interest in acquiring Jakks Pacific at a price of $20 per share.
Jakks Pacific responded by saying the board “appreciates input from its stockholders,” and that it has not “received any communications regarding the sale of the company other than highly conditional expressions of interest from Oaktree.” Jakks went on to say “the board remains confident that continued execution of the company’s strategic plan, including potentially transformative projects planned and already underway, will provide significant value to Jakks stockholders.” The full text of Clinton Group’s letter to Jakks Pacific can be found here

Mega Brands Reports Financial Results for Q4 and 2011

Mega Brands, Inc. has reported its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year, which ended on December 31. Consolidated total net sales for 2011 increased 2 percent to $376.8 million, compared to $368.0 million in 2010. Sales increased 2 percent in toy lines and 3 percent in the stationery and activities segment. On a geographic basis, sales were up 1 percent in North America and 5 percent in international markets. Reported net earnings were $8.3 million in 2011 compared to $131.1 million in 2010.
Consolidated net sales for the fourth quarter decreased 3 percent to $108.5 million, compared to $111.8 million in the corresponding 2010 period. Sales decreased 8 percent in toy lines. Stationery and activities sales increased 35 percent. On a geographical basis, sales declined 4 percent in North America and 1 percent in international markets.
Reported net earnings were $0.2 million compared to $11.3 million in the same 2010 period. Adjusted net earnings were $0.3 million or $0.02 per share, compared to $11.5 million or $0.70 per share in the 2010 fourth quarter. The company says fourth quarter results were mainly impacted by lower than expected sales of toys in the U.S.

Majesco Entertainment Reports Financial Results for Q1

Majesco Entertainment Company, maker of Zumba Fitness, Cooking Mama, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, and other video games, reported financial results for the first quarter, which ended January 31. Majesco’s net revenues were $66.2 million, up 37 percent versus $48.5 million for the same period last year. During the first quarter, the company reported operating income of $7.6 million, compared to operating income of $8.0 million in the first quarter of 2011. Net income for the quarter was $7.7 million versus net income of $6.8 million in 2011. The company’s basic and diluted net income per share for the quarter was $0.19, compared to basic and diluted net income per share of $0.18 in the same period last year. Majesco expects a fiscal 2012 full-year net revenue of $130-$140 million, and non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.25 to $0.35.

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