Universal Pictures and Walmart Unveil Exclusive Hop Merchandise
Universal Pictures and Walmart have announced a retail program tied to the upcoming live-action/CG-animated comedy Hop, the second film from Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me) that hits movie theaters across the country on April 1. Walmart customers can build their Hop-themed Easter baskets, and visit the movie-inspired “Candy Factory,” with 100 exclusive licensed products, including candy, toys, activities, and apparel.
“This is the first time we’ve worked with a licensed property to brand an important seasonal event in Walmart stores,” said Gary Severson, senior vice president, Home Entertainment, Walmart U.S.
The program, which rolled out March 17 in more than 3,000 Walmart stores, includes a dedicated aisle rolling out sweet Easter treats, and a Build-a-Basket Factory. Toys include character plush toys from Funrise; coloring and activity books from Dalmation Press; bubbles, pinwheels, paddle board, memory card games, etc. from Funrise; and Hop-themed video games for the Nintendo DS, DSi, and 3DS.
Kid Brands Fires LaJobi President Over Alleged Import Duty Evasion
Kid Brands, Inc. has fired LaJobi president Larry Bivona and the subsidary’s managing director of operations due to findings of an investigation into LaJobi and its alleged import duty evasion. Allegedly, LaJobi applied incorrect import duties on certain wooden furniture imported from vendors in China, resulting in a violation of anti-dumping regulations. The company’s board of directors, which initiated the investigation, supervised by a special committee of three non-management members of the board, found that there was misconduct by certain LaJobi employees in connection with the incorrect payment of duties, including misidentifying the manufacturer and shipper of products. An investigation into certain LaJobi business and staffing practices in Asia is ongoing.
Kid Brands has appointed Rick Schaub as the new president of LaJobi effective immediately, in addition to his ongoing role as president of Kid Brands’ Sassy subsidiary.
The board retained Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP to conduct the investigation. The investigation was initiated after the board was made aware of potential issues regarding customs duty paid on products imported into the U.S., while LaJobi was in the process of discussing customs duty issues with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Kid Brands currently estimates that it will incur costs of approximately $7 million relating to customs duty owed and may be assessed a penalty of up to one times the customs duty by U.S. Customs, as well as possibly being subject to assessment for additional duties on other items. The company filed a Form 12b-25 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to extend the due date for the filing of the company's annual financial report.
Skechers Announces Licensing Campaign for Original Properties
Skechers Entertainment is starting a comprehensive global licensing campaign for two of its original properties: Zevo-3 and Twinkle Toes. Paul Flett, senior vice president of global licensing for Skechers, will spearhead the program.
In Zevo-3, the first originally produced animated television series from the company, three young heroes are given powers they never asked for and are caught in a conflict between good and evil. They also discover that their superhero status has its ups and downs and with power comes responsibility. Zevo-3 premiered on Nicktoons in October.
Twinkle Toes, a direct-to-DVD movie, is currently in production. Twinkle Toes tells the story of 14-year-old Grace Hastings who is an amazing dancer, but has stage fright and can’t dance in front of anyone but her pet bunny. When her performing arts high school is threatened by financial problems Grace must overcome her fear, perform in a talent show, and save the school.
Skechers Entertainment will develop licensing partnerships in all categories including apparel, interactive, toys, games, accessories, food and beverage, stationery, gifts, arts and crafts, publishing, personal care, dress up and role play, home, novelty, seasonal, and back to school.
Scholastic to Celebrate 20th Anniversary of I Spy
Scholastic Media is kicking off its 20th anniversary celebration of the I Spy franchise with the publication of I Spy Spectacular: A Book of Picture Riddles, due out next month. The books features riddles by Jean Marzollo and photographs by Walter Wick. The year-long campaign will include a slate of new I Spy releases, including the I Spy Challenger for Leapster Explorer (releasing this summer), I Spy Castle for the Nintendo DS (releasing this fall), and five new titles from Briarpatch, Scholastic’s exclusive licensee for board games, puzzles, and card games.
Beginning April 11, the new products will be supported by the “I Spy a Celebration” campaign, which invites audiences to participate in the largest game of I Spy online, My I Spy. Scholastic will also host a live I Spy event, “I Spy a Celebration! 20 Years; 20 Kids; 20 Riddles,” in Times Square on April 12, and Jean Marzollo will host at an event on April 9 in New York City featuring an I Spy scavenger hunt, raffle, and product demonstrations.
Facebook Creator Says “No” to Action Figure
M.I.C. (Made in China) Gadget, the company behind the “Zuckerdoll” action figure, which bears the likeness of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, has ceased sales of the doll following a legal letter from Facebook’s legal counsel in China.
According to the letter, by selling the figurines on a website, the company used Zuckerberg’s portraiture “for commercial purpose and infringed his legitimate right.” Facebook’s trademark “F” was also used on the action figures, which has also infringed Facebook’s trademark right.
M.I.C. issued an apology and said they will comply.
International Truck and Engine Signs New Licensees
Stone America has signed new licensees for the International Truck and Engine brand. Jada Toys will develop the International Truck 4400 Flatbed Tow Truck die-cast in a 1:24 scale. Customcraft has signed on for wall/alarm clocks, travel umbrellas, flashlights, metal signs, fleece throw blankets, playing cards, key chains, koozies, ceramic mugs, and more. Shantou Chenghai Qingyitoys will create remote-controlled International trucks in a 1:32 and 1:38 scale, and H3 will create headwear, T-shirts, and sweatshirts in all sizes.
A new license was also recently granted for International Truck and Engine to Plasticolor in the United States for a variety of truck accessories.
Build-A-Bear Opens Shop in Children’s Hospital
Build-A-Bear Workshop is opening a new store this Friday in the Cook Children’s Medical Center, located in Fort Worth, Tex. The new store will be the company’s first shop inside a hospital. The Cook Children’s Build-A-Bear Workshop store will offer a variety of animals, clothing, and accessories in the medical center’s theme, including a patient gown; a Get Better Set with crutch, sling, band aide, and cast; a wheelchair; a lab coat; doctor scrubs; medical outfits; a bear-head pillow with the Cook Children’s logo; a specially designed safety bear; and a safety bear-sized T-shirt. Guests will be able to stuff their animal, give it a heart filled with wishes, make a personalized birth certificate, and record their own message to add inside the stuffed animal.
The Hamilton Collection to Release Figurines of Princess-to-Be Kate Middleton
The Hamilton Collection is bringing the princess-to-be Catherine “Kate” Middleton to fans with its new Kate Middleton figurine, a part of a new line of collectibles sculpted in her likeness. The first in the series, “A Royal Engagement,” features Middleton in her famously photographed royal blue dress and a detailed replica of her oval-cut Ceylon sapphire engagement ring, the same ring once owned by Diana, Princess of Wales.
Every month, collectors will receive a new Kate Middleton figurine, including “Officially Elegant,” which features the bride-to-be in the ivory dress she wore for her official engagement photos with Prince William. A new figurine is scheduled to come out every four weeks. Each figurine measures approximately 7.25 inches high, is hand-numbered, and comes with a matching Certificate of Authenticity.
Coolabi’s Poppy Cat to Air in the U.S. on Sprout
Children’s and family entertainment producer and rights management company Coolabi has secured a U.S. broadcast deal with 24-hour preschool television channel Sprout for its new property, Poppy Cat. Sprout will air the 52 x 11-minute animated series later this year.
Poppy Cat is based on the character created by Lara Jones in the Macmillan book series. The series is co-produced by Coolabi’s television production arm, Coolabi Productions, and King Rollo Films.
Poppy Cat launched on Nick Jr. UK last May and has been pre-sold to other international territories.
Alex to Premiere First App
On March 25, Alex will premiere its first app, Moody Monster Manor, targeted for kids ages 3 to 6. The free app for the iPhone, iPad, and iTouch features four monster-themed games and is a fun way for children to learn about emotions. Kids can create their own monsters, win monster merit badges, and learn about matching, colors, and animals, among other things. Activities include zapping Scared Sam’s bad dreams with a magical monster flashlight and whipping up a pot of Stinky Sneaker Stew for Hungry Hank.
The app will be available for download at www.alextoys.com and worldwide exclusively through the Apple App Store. On launch day, Alex’s website will also feature printable monster illustrations to color and a contest to win Alex monster-themed toys, including Diving Monster, Tub Target Screaming Monsters, Monster Bingo, Monster Clompers, and Monster Mitts.
Books Based on Discovery’s River Monsters to Be Released
Discovery Communications announced it will publish two books this year based on the hit Animal Planet series River Monsters, starring extreme angler and biologist Jeremy Wade. The first, River Monsters: True Stories of the Ones That Didn’t Get Away, was written by Wade and will be released by Da Capo Press, a division of Perseus Books Group, in April. The second, a children’s book named River Monsters, will be released in retail this August.
Learning Express Launches New Easter Basket Initiative
Learning Express will celebrate this Easter with baskets full of toys and games instead of sweets and snacks, as a part of a new initiative called Bunny Buffet. Concerned about childhood obesity in the United States, the retailer created Bunny Buffet as the “perfect alternative to the sugar-loaded sweets in a typical Easter basket,” said CEO Sharon DiMinico in a press release.
At Learning Express stores, parents can create a customized gift for kids by first choosing a free, colorful basket, then filling it with $25 worth of toys and games from the Bunny Buffet selection. At checkout, the bucket can be personalized with the child’s name.
The Bunny Buffet will be available at Learning Express stores through Easter.
Freaky Flipsters to Get App
Artist David Quentin Sheldon’s Freaky Flipsters characters will star in a new kids’ app that will be created and produced by app developer Night & Day Studios. Night & Day has developed apps for clients such as Nickelodeon, along with soon-to-be-released games for Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Yo Gabba Gabba, and The World of Eric Carle.
SupperTime Entertainment will be responsible for taking the Freaky Flipsters into other platforms for kids (ages 6 to 12), including television, books, and merchandise.
Sheldon is a children’s author and illustrator with more than 60 books published in the trade and educational markets. His novelty book, Monster Halloween, published by HarperFestival, served as an inspiration for the Freaky Flipsters.
The 39 Clues Coming to Taco Bell
Taco Bell is teaming up with Scholastic Media for a new consumer promotion featuring The 39 Clues. From May 17 to June 23, kids who visit Taco Bell will receive one of four custom The 39 Clues-branded premiums, including stories and activity pages. Taco Bell will support the promotion with a premium display insert.
The latest The 39 Clues novel, Book 11: Vespers Rising (written by Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman, and Jude Watson) will be released on April 5. Vespers Rising will be followed this fall by The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers. The 39 Clues movie is in development at DreamWorks Studios.
TIF’s Third Annual Do Good Stuff-A-Thon
The Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) is partnering with the My Stuff Bags Foundation once again for the third annual industry-wide Do Good Stuff-A-Thon, to be held May 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. At the event, the toy industry—from manufacturers to licensors to publishers—will gather to fill individual My Stuff bags with items such as toys, handmade blankets, clothing, toiletries, and more. The bags will go to foster kids in crisis.
For more information and to learn how you can participate, click here.