May 12, 2010

Royal Jumbo Appoints Spin Master as Stratego Licensee for North America

StrategoRoyal Jumbo, part of The Netherlands’ JumboDiset toy company, has appointed Spin Master as its partner for the production, sales, and marketing of Stratego in North America and Canada. The agreement with Spin Master will start January 1, 2011.
Royal Jumbo recently announced that its exclusive Stratego license agreement with Hasbro, which ends at the end of this year, would not be renewed. The partnership between Hasbro and Royal Jumbo lasted for nearly 50 years. Royal Jumbo cited that “strategic changes in both companies ultimately drove the decision not to renew the license after its regular expiration.”

Rubie's to Introduce Lady Gaga Costumes

Lady GagaRubie’s Costume Company has been awarded the license for Lady Gaga, licensed by Bravado International Group. Lady Gaga, the world famous pop-star and musician, is known for her wild collection of outfits. Her signature styles include the wearing of colorful and blonde wigs of all length and styles and her unique couture costumes.
Rubie’s is now the worldwide licensee of Lady Gaga Halloween Costumes and Accessories. The announcement was made by Howard Beige, executive vice president of Rubie’s. “We are extremely excited to put out the only officially licensed Halloween costumes for an amazing talent like Lady GaGa,” said Beige. Rubie’s will be producing these items in its factories around the world to ensure delivery for this Halloween.

MagicMarket Picked as Bella Sara’s Italian Marketing Partner

Bella SaraBella Sara has appointed a new Italian marketing partner, MagicMarket Twenty Five S.r.l. (MagicMarket). As the brand’s marketing partner, MagicMarket will work with Hidden City Entertainment to distribute, market, and sell Bella Sara collectible cards throughout Italy. 
MagicMarket will begin the partnership by launching Bella Sara’s Moonfairies collectible card series, scheduled to release in June.




Ming the Minibus Expands Presence at TRU

Ming the MinibusMing the Minibus has found a home in Hong Kong and China. After a four-month run, Ming the Minibus will be expanding to a five-foot section at Toys "R" Us locations. The section will include more than 20 new toy items, as well as back-to-school and stationery products.
Ming the Minibus, created by Australian educator Thomas Beckett, is an animated cartoon show featuring Ming and his friends as they travel to various countries around the globe. Through songs and graphics, kids learn facts about each of the locations they visit.
Good Link International, Ltd. is the producer of both the cartoon and the toy line.

Mythbusters Games Added to ZimZala Lineup

MythbustersThe makers of I Can Do That! Games have secured the license to make games based on the TV series Mythbusters, through a North American-based agreement with Discovery Channel. Mythbusters, Hit the Target Trivia Game will launch this fall for kids ages 10 and up as part of a new lineup of family games the company is developing, called ZimZala Games. The company currently has licensed games for Dr. Seuss, Curious George, and Richard Scarry Busytown. 
Can a penny kill someone if you drop it from the Empire State Building? Do sharks really go for blood? If you think you know the answers, you’ve got a leg up in the Mythbusters, Hit the Target Trivia Game, which includes Buster the crash test dummy. Players get the chance to launch Buster from a catapult—in an attempt to hit a target—each time they answer a question correctly.

TIA Meets with CPSC to Discuss Task Group

On April 26, representatives of the Toy Industry Association (TIA) met with technical staff of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to give an update on efforts related to cadmium and heavy metals. 
During the meeting, TIA provided an update on actions being taken by the TIA Task Group, which was formed earlier this year to develop a draft proposal that would enhance the ASTM F963 standard by including limits for soluble cadmium and heavy metals (HM) in accessible substrates of toys. TIA expects for the draft proposal, which will further align U.S., European, and international (ISO) toy safety standards, to be ready early this month.
TIA formed the Task Group to examine whether further updates to the U.S. toy safety system were needed following reports earlier this year that certain children’s jewelry products contained toxic or harmful substances, including cadmium and other heavy metals. Major retailers—including Walmart, TRU, Target, and Disney—are participating in the Task Group, as well as testing lab and associate members of TIA and other children’s product manufacturers and associations. 

Innovation First Files IP Infringement Lawsuit

HexbugInnovation First, Inc. has filed an intellectual property infringement lawsuit against Urban Trend, LLC and two of its principals, Robert G. Kushner and Michael Stoll, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.  The lawsuit alleges that the defendants committed trade dress infringement, violations of the Lanham Act, and other wrongful conduct in offering knock-offs of the HEXBUG Nano micro robotic toys designed and sold by Innovation First. 
The knock-offs, says Innovation First, copy the look and feel of the products, mirroring, among other aspects, their design, color scheme, and naming conventions. The company also alleges that the defendants lifted both form and content from Innovation First’s sales materials for use in their advertising. Innovation First premiered the HEXBUG Nano Micro Robotic Creature toy line in 2009.

Healthy Child Healthy World Teams with Brand Central, LLC

Healthy Child Healthy WorldHealthy Child Healthy World, a nonprofit that educates parents on how to protect young children from harmful chemicals, has appointed Brand Central, LLC, a consumer products agency based in Los Angeles, as its retail business development agency.
Together, the companies will create retail destinations for parents seeking guidance, information, and healthy products. Brand Central and Healthy Child Healthy World have both started negotiations with several retailers in product categories such as food and beverage, home improvement, health and beauty, and toys. 

IHOP-Licensed Play Food on the Way

IHOPThe Valen Group has negotiated new agreements for its client, IHOP. The group has picked Boley International for licensed play food sets. The play food will be available to retailers at the Fall Toy Preview in Dallas (October 5-8) and will feature breakfast items from the chain such as Funny Face pancakes and the copper coffee pot.
Lotta Luv, LLC has been appointed to manufacture flavored lip balm. The lip balm, in four flavors, will be available to retailers in June and will initially be sold in mid-tier department stores and specialty stores.



Omnilab Media and The Jim Henson Company to Produce The Dark Crystal Sequel

Australia’s Ominlab Media is teaming up with The Jim Henson Company to finance and produce a sequel to the Henson classic film, The Dark Crystal.
The sequel, Power of the Dark Crystal, will be a live-action, 3-D fantastical film, set hundreds of years after the events of the first movie. The movie follows the adventures of a mysterious girl made out of fire after the world has once again fallen into darkness. The girl and a Gelfling outcast steal a shard of the legendary Crystal in an attempt to reignite the dying sun that exists at the center of the planet.
Power of the Dark Crystal will be produced by Ambience Entertainment, the Australia-based production arm of Omnilab Media.  The movie will feature a mix of live action and traditional puppetry, combined with visual and special effects produced entirely in Australia.

GreenLight to Produce New Mecum Auction Block Series

GreenLight CollectiblesMecum Collector Car Auctions has teamed up with GreenLight Collectibles to produce 1:64-scale replicas of select high-profile automobiles sold across the Mecum Auction block. The limited-edition replica vehicles will be available for sale during Dana Mecum's 23rd Original Spring Classic Auction, held May 19-23 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
The new line, Auction Block Series 12, will include three die-cast cars: a 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge, a 2008 Chevrolet Corvette 427, and a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible (Top Up). The companies are also collaborating on a 1:18-scale replica of the famous 1965 Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe CSX2601, which sold at Mecum's Monterey Auction in 2009 for a $7.25 million—the highest price ever paid for an American car at public auction. The replica will be available in July with only 1,900 produced.

Bicycle Kicks off Yearlong Card Program

Bicycle Playing CardsBicycle Playing Cards, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, has kicked off a nationwide program promoting card playing. The yearlong program will invite families to rediscover card playing, emphasizing that cards are a great way for igniting relationships, reconnecting, and engaging in friendly competition.
As a part of the program, game show and TV host Chuck Woolery will invite families to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest "Hearts" tournament. The event will benefit The Alliance for Children's Rights in Los Angeles, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hollywood and Burbank.
Additionally, a custom-designed, double-decker bus will travel the country this summer with Bicycle Playing Card messengers, inspiring card play everywhere while supporting local charities. The “What's Your Game??” tour will make more than 100 event stops across the nation.
Codes will also be found in specially marked Bicycle Playing Card packages, which will unlock new card games and chances to win prizes. For official rules, visit

Madame Alexander

Arete Passas Named CEO of Zoobies

Zoobies, LLC has hired Arete Passas as CEO of the company. Passas has extensive consumer goods and toy experience, working at companies including Proctor & Gamble, Crayola, Scholastic, and Mattel, and is the former CEO of Manhattan Toy Company. Passas has also served as a director on the Toy Industry Association board and chaired the committee for the Annual ToyCon industry conference.

Earth Rangers Hires Mark Northwood as President

Earth Rangers has hired Mark Northwood as co-CEO and president. Most recently, Northwood has worked with Nelvana Enterprises (Corus Entertainment) managing worldwide licensing businesses and brands such as Bakugan, Beyblade, Babar, and Max and Ruby. Prior to Corus Entertainment, he worked at Disney, Thinkway Toys, and Hasbro.
In his new role, Northwood will manage and build the Earth Rangers brand and the Bring Back the Wild program. Peter Kendall, co-CEO and executive director, will focus on the development and growth of the Earth Rangers Centre. Northwood and Kendall will work together to expand Earth Rangers into a global children’s brand that educates children about the importance of protecting biodiversity and endangered habitats.

Carrera Hires Slot Car Racer and Reporter as Marketing Manager

Carrera of America, Inc. has added Dave Kennedy of Slot Car News,, to its staff as North American marketing manager. Kennedy launched the website in May 2006, while still working as a staff photographer for a suburban New York City newspaper. The website combines coverage of new products and creative reviews, as well as news on real racing. Kennedy is also a slot car racer, and has participated in national championship races and 24-hour endurance races.
In his new position at Carrera, Kennedy will answer users’ questions on message boards and on other social media websites. He will also hold racing events across the U.S. and Canada to promote slot car racing to the general public, as well as expand the exposure and value of Carrera’s U.S. website.

Bob Traub Joins BBC Worldwide as Retail VP

BBC Worldwide has hired Bob Traub as vice president of retail development for the Americas. Reporting to Tom Keefer, SVP global licensing, Traub will be based in BBC Worldwide’s New York office, and will work across the company’s portfolio of brands, including BBC Earth, Doctor Who, Top Gear, and In the Night Garden.
Traub joins BBC Worldwide with 16 years of U.S. and international licensing and marketing experience, including leading the global retail synergy plans for companies such as Chorion, Nickelodeon, and Marvel Entertainment Group.

Dark Horse Comics Promotes Sales and Marketing Executives

Dark Horse Comics has promoted Micha Hershman, formerly senior director of marketing, to vice president of marketing. Hershman joined the company last November from Borders Group where he served as category director for the pop-culture section.
Anita Nelson, who held the vice president of sales, marketing, and licensing post at the company, is being promoted to vice president of business affairs. Nelson will continue to oversee the sales and licensing divisions, and will also be responsible for new business opportunities for the company.

Sears to Undergo Transformation

Sears Holdings Corp. Chairman Edward Lampert says that the retailer will revamp the merchandise and services in its stores and boost its internet business, according to the Associated Press. Sears hopes that the two-pronged approach will continue the momentum it gained during the recession, when its profit rose as it cut expenses.
"Five years from now, I believe this company, to some people, will be unrecognizable compared to what the company was 20, 30, or 40 years ago," Lampert told investors.
Lampert spoke mainly about interacting with customers online and via mobile applications, saying that "People are getting their information online, and they're going to get more of their information from mobile devices. And if we're not there, the stores aren't going to matter."
Last week, Sears' shareholders elected the company's interim CEO and president, W. Bruce Johnson, to its seven-member board. Johnson took the post in February 2008 after Sears ousted then-CEO Aylwin Lewis. Lampert says the company continues to search for a permanent executive but sees no rush.

4Kids Revenues Down, Looking at Potential Acquisition

4Kids Entertainment, Inc. has announced financial results for the first quarter ended March 31. Net revenues for the three months totaled $4.2 million, compared to $9.3 million for the same period in 2009. The company’s net loss attributable to 4Kids Entertainment for the three months was $3.5 million, or $0.26 per diluted share, as compared to a net loss of $2 million, or $0.15 per diluted share, for the same period in 2009.
4Kids announced that it had received a non-binding indication of interest from a third party to acquire the company for a price representing a premium over the recent closing prices for the company’s common stock. The Special Committee of the Board of Directors has authorized the company’s management to provide the potential acquirer with due diligence information regarding the company’s assets and operations and intends to enter into discussions with the potential acquirer regarding exclusivity and the acquirer’s indication of interest.
The company also announced that its market capitalization had slipped below the minimum $15 million market capitalization that New York Stock Exchange listed companies are required to maintain in order to remain listed. 4Kids may be delisted from the Exchange at any time.

LeapFrog Announces First Quarter Net Sales Rose 42 Percent

LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. has announced its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31. Net sales for the quarter were $42.4 million, up 42 percent compared to $29.9 million for the same quarter a year ago, and included a three-point favorable impact from changes in currency exchange rates.
Net sales from the United States segment for the quarter were $32.7 million, up 47 percent compared to $22.2 million a year ago. Net sales from the international segment were $9.8 million for the quarter, up 28 percent compared to $7.6 million a year ago, and included a 13-percentage point favorable impact from changes in currency exchange rates.  
Gross profit for the quarter was $12.4 million, up 54 percent compared to $8.1 million a year ago as a result of higher sales and gross margin expansion. Gross margin for the first quarter was 29.3 percent compared to 27.1 percent for the same quarter last year, an improvement of 2.2 points.

Nintendo Misses Fiscal Year Forecast

Nintendo Co. reported that its 2009 fiscal year net income (ended March 31) totaled 228.64 billion yen ($2.4 billion), down from net income of 279.09 billion yen for 2008, and below the company’s expectation of 230 billion yen that Nintendo predicted in January.
Sales for the period were 1.43 trillion yen, down from 1.84 trillion yen in 2008, and slightly below Nintendo’s forecast of 1.5 trillion yen. Nintendo said it expects sales of 1.4 billion yen and income of 200 billion yen for the fiscal year ending in March 2011.

Kid Brands Reports First Quarter 2010 Results

Kid Brands, Inc., formerly known as Russ Berrie and Company, Inc., has reported its first quarter 2010 financial results ended March 31. Net sales for the quarter increased 9.2 percent to $61.5 million, compared to $56.3 million in the first quarter 2009. Gross profit for the quarter was $18.7 million, or 30.4 percent of net sales, compared to $16.6 million, or 29.5 percent of net sales, for the same period in 2009.
Net income for Q1 2010 was $3.5 million, or $0.16 per diluted share, compared to net income of $1.3 million, or $0.06 per diluted share, for the same period in 2009.
As of March 31, outstanding bank debt was $74.3 million, which reflects the repayment of approximately $7.9 million of bank debt in Q1 2010 and $56.8 million of debt repayment since the credit facility commenced on April 2, 2008.

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