June 09, 2010

Transom Capital Group Acquires Uncle Milton

Los Angeles-based private equity firm Transom Capital Group has acquired Uncle Milton Industries, Inc. The company will continue to produce toys and expand its presence in the science and nature category. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“Toys have been a large part of my life, so it was important to me, personally, that the company find a partner who demonstrated a real commitment to the Uncle Milton legacy,” said Steve Levine, one of the owners of the company.
Ken Firtel, managing director of Transom Capital, believes that Transom Capital “can add a level of operational sophistication that will improve its performance both from a top and bottom line perspective.”
Sherwood Partners served as an advisor to Uncle Milton during the transaction.

Iconix Completes Peanuts Acquisition, Forms Peanuts Worldwide

The PeanutsIconix Brand Group, Inc. has completed the acquisition of the Peanuts brand and related assets of United Media Licensing, a division of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., through a newly formed joint venture company, Peanuts Worldwide, LLC. The new company is 80 percent owned by Iconix and 20 percent owned by Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, managed by the Schulz family. This deal changes the landscape of Iconix and moves the company beyond fashion. Consumer products outside of fashion now represent approximately one-third of the company's overall revenue.
In addition to Peanuts, Iconix has acquired the licensing and character representation for a number of character brands, including Dilbert and Fancy Nancy. The purchase price for the acquisition was $175 million. Iconix funded its portion of the purchase price with cash on its balance sheet.

Disney Strives to Target Boys

Phineas and FerbAndy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products (DCP), last week announced DCP's new goal to significantly increase annual global retail sales of Disney- and Marvel-licensed merchandise within the next five years, with boys' merchandise playing a prominent role. DCP's core strategy is to focus on newer properties targeting the boys' market, including Marvel franchises, TRON, and the Disney Channel and Disney XD series Phineas and Ferb. Mooney said that the upcoming release of Cars 2 in June 2011 will be supported with cross-company initiatives that are expected to exceed Toy Story 3 retail sell-in.
The acquisition of Marvel and its properties, including Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, gives DCP an opportunity to reach older boys and enhance its overall marketing and growth efforts. The core Marvel management team will continue to run Marvel's domestic brand in New York and will collaborate with DCP's domestic team on select synergistic opportunities.
A full line of Phineas and Ferb merchandise will be available this summer, including skateboards, action figures, and an assortment of toys and playthings.

Big Tent Expands Relationship for Discovery Kids Products

Discovery Communications has expanded its relationship with Big Tent Entertainment by signing a three-year deal that extends Big Tent’s licensing representation for Discovery Kids-branded products.
As part of its extended agreement, Big Tent will release more than 50 new Discovery Kids products from licensing partners including Parragon Publishing, MerchSource, 505 Games, JAKKS Pacific, MasterPieces, SRM, and Kids Station. Big Tent will also expand its Discovery Kids licensing program in the following categories: platform-based video games, electronics, computers/computer peripherals, R/C, apparel, room décor, furniture, outdoor sport, and select food categories.

Bandai Named Global Master Toy Licensee for Thundercats

ThundercatsWarner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) has appointed Bandai America Incorporated as the global master toy licensee for the animated series Thundercats. Bandai will create and distribute products worldwide to complement the original brand property, as well as a new animated series set to air on Cartoon Network in 2011.
The new Thundercats, based on the series that first aired in 1985, is being called a “21st century re-imagining of the original.”

The Jim Henson Company Premieres New Properties

The SkrumpsThe Jim Henson Company is debuting several new properties and is looking for licensing partners in an array of key areas.
Me and My Monsters tells the story of the Carlson family who move from Australia to the UK and discover there are three monsters living in their basement. The show stars human actors and three monster puppets that are developed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The BBC Worldwide is spearheading licensing for the series in the UK, Germany, and Australia, and The Jim Henson Company is managing for the U.S. market. Wilson & Ditch: Digging America is an internet destination produced for PBSKidsGo.org for kids ages 6 to 10. Kids can embark on a cross-country adventure with two comical gophers as they explore America’s most interesting destinations. The company is seeking licensing partners in the areas of publishing, travel games, educational products, iPhone apps, and travel accessories.
The Skrumps is currently in development as an animated television project targeted toward teens and tweens. The company is seeking licensing partners in the areas of interactive video games, iPhone apps, and collectible toys.
The String Doll Gang, from Kamibashi Corporation, is a band of characters in the form of handmade string figures. Each kooky character has his or her own special power that is positive and helpful. The Jim Henson Company is looking to extend the current small doll collection into larger-sized dolls. The new dolls can be included with electronics, stationery, social expression, room décor, books, mobile content, and more.

Green Lantern Film and Toy Line Due out in 2011

Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) has granted DC Comics’ master toy licensee, Mattel, access to the DC Comics vault of characters, including Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, and more.
Green Lantern will make its theatrical debut around the world in summer 2011. The movie stars Ryan Reynolds in the title role as the newest member and the first human selected of the Green Lantern Corps. Mattel is launching a comprehensive line of products based on the film for both kid and adult fans. The multi-category toy line, hitting retail next summer, includes basic and deluxe action figures, vehicles, role play, play sets, games, and puzzles.

Angel Cat Sugar to Expand at Retail

Angel Cat SugarYuko Shimizu, artist and creator of Hello Kitty, will bring her new character brand, Angel Cat Sugar, to retail stores through a flurry of new licensing deals.
In the U.S., licensees include University Games for board games and puzzles, Scholastic for story books and activity books, MediBadge for stickers and temporary tattoos, Kellytoy for amusement and crane plush and novelty sporting goods, Dan-Dee Int’l for plush, Brown Trout for wall calendars, Pioneer Balloon Company for balloons and play balls, and Boston America for lip balm/gloss and cosmetic kits.
Scholastic currently has Angel Cat Sugar books on shelves, with 10 more titles planned for this year. Paramount Licensing is the manager of the property in the U.S.

An Array of Olivia Products to Hit Stores This Fall

OliviaChorion has announced that the first wave of Olivia consumer products will hit store shelves in the U.S. starting with back-to-school 2010. Global master toy licensee Spin Master will support its range of Olivia preschool girls’ toys with a major TV advertising campaign and promotional in-store marketing programs. Other categories will include games, publishing, puzzles, novelty, DVDs, apparel, and accessories.
Plans are in place for dedicated Olivia sections at retailers such as Toys “R” Us, Target, Barnes & Noble, and Borders. International consumer products are scheduled for a 2011 release with TV tie-in books paving the way in key markets.
Nickelodeon Home Video in the U.S. will launch a holiday DVD, Merry Christmas Olivia, October 5. Simon & Schuster will release Olivia Claus, a TV tie-in holiday title, the same day.

Pawparazzi Licensing Program to Launch

PawparazziNoodle Head, Inc., has picked Sharon Bennett of Bennett Branding to represent its Pawparazzi brand and oversee its licensing program.
Pawparazzi pets began as a line of collectible plush pets with funny celebrity personas, carried in unique couture purses. The company has expanded the brand to include play accessories, clothing, and a Fan Club that sends members gifts, newsletters, and special offers. Planet Pawparazzi, an interactive website, will debut in August.
The integrated licensing and merchandising program for Pawparazzi will include a line of merchandise and brand extensions, including publishing, interactive, apparel, accessories, social expression, home décor, entertainment, and more.

The Last Airbender Products to Be Released This Summer

Nickelodeon Consumer Products (NCP) has announced a full slate of consumer products for Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies’ live-action, July 2 theatrical release, The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Licensed products for the franchise include action figures, play sets, role-play items, vehicles, and more from Spin Master; video games from THQ; construction-themed sets and products from MEGA Brands; DVDs from Paramount Home Entertainment; junior novelization, movie storybook, ready to reads, and lost scrolls collection from Simon & Schuster; an activity digest, a full-color scrapbook, and an activity book from Random House; and Mad Libs from Penguin/Grosset Dunlap.

Classic Media to Represent Voltron
VoltronWorld Events Productions (WEP) and Classic Media have announced the re-launch of the Voltron brand in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the original Voltron series, which first aired on television during the 1984-1985 television year. Classic Media will helm international distribution and worldwide merchandising and licensing for Voltron.
As the first step in reintroducing theVoltron brand to fans, an all-new animated television series is being created. Voltron Force is the first original franchise-related television content in 10 years and is scheduled to debut on Nicktoons in 2011, with WEP and Classic Media producing along with Hollywood production company Kickstart Productions.


The Hub Adds Two New Shows to Its Lineup

The Hub, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Hasbro, Inc., has announced the addition of two new Hub Original Series programs to the network.
Live-action program Pictureka! and animated series The Adventures of Chuck and Friends will appear on the network when it launches October 10. The shows join The Hub’s previously announced series, which will offer programming choices across the network’s planned programming blocks of preschool, kids, family prime access, and family prime.
Pictureka! is adapted from the family board game and will feature contestants and their families as they take on the challenge of finding specific objects disguised in elaborate drawings. The show is produced by Hasbro Studios in conjunction with Ellman Entertainment.
The Adventures of Chuck and Friends features Tonka’s Chuck the Truck and a cast of friends in a song-filled series geared towards preschoolers. The show is produced by Hasbro Studios.

Mattel Launches New Property: Monster High

Monster HighMattel has added a new property to its portfolio of brands, Monster High. The property follows hip teenagers, who are also the descendants of the world’s most famous monsters, as they brave the ups and downs of high school. The characters include Frankie Stein, the daughter of Frankenstein; Draculaura, the daughter of Count Dracula; Clawdeen Wolf, the daughter of The Werewolf; Lagoona Blue, the daughter of The Sea Monster; Cleo de Nile, the daughter of The Mummy; and Deuce Gorgon, the son of Medusa. Websiodes have already premiered at www.monsterhigh.com. A 30-minute webisode special is slated for this fall, and a May 2012 live-action theatrical release with Universal Pictures is planned.
Mattel has signed an array of licensees to support the brand, including those in the categories of party/costumes, apparel, accessories, footwear, publishing, and toys.
Mattel will release toys and accessories based on the brand beginning in July.
Amscan will introduce an exclusive line of Monster High costumes at Party City, for tweens. The costumes, complete with a wig, will be available for this Halloween. High IntenCity will team up with Mattel for the first time for jewelry and hair accessories.
This September, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will release Monster High by Lisi Harrison, as a part of a multi-year and multi-book deal for the property. Following installments will be released twice a year with the second book of the series slated for spring 2011.

New Broadcasting and Licensing Deals for Babar, Max & Ruby

Max & RubyNelvana Enterprises has signed new broadcasting and licensing deals for its animated properties Babar and the Adventures of Badou and Max & Ruby.
New broadcasters signed for Babar and the Adventures of Badou include stations in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Thailand, and French Canada. Babar’s licensing agent, TF1 Licenses, has signed licensees for the French marketplace, including Lansay for toys and Viquel for back-to-school and stationery. Special programs are being planned to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Babar next year.
Nelvana is also premiering new Max & Ruby products in the U.S. The products include book titles from Penguin and Key Porter, exclusive themed merchandise from Toys “R” Us Times Square, and plush and puzzles at Barnes & Noble. Additionally, KOBA Entertainment will debut a new live stage show in Canada this September and a QSR promotion is planned for Q1 2011.

Warner Bros. Named Exclusive Distributor for LEGO Universe

Later this year, the LEGO Group will launch LEGO Universe, the first MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) based on the LEGO play experience. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) has signed on as the exclusive retail distributor of LEGO Universe outside of LEGO channels.
Developed by the LEGO Group and NetDevil, LEGO Universe enables players ages 8 and up to build, create, interact with friends, battle, and explore LEGO worlds. The MMOG is currently in a closed beta, and will release in the second half of the year.
To learn more about LEGO Universe, visit www.LEGOuniverse.com.

Penguin to Publish a Series of Moshi Monsters Books

Moshi MonstersMind Candy, developer of Moshi Monsters, has signed its first major licensing deal. The deal gives Penguin Group the rights to publish a series of books based on the Moshi Monsters property.
Moshi Monsters is a free-to-play online game that allows children around the world to adopt their own pet monster, play games, customize their homes, explore the virtual world, and solve educational puzzles.
The first book to be published by Penguin will explore Moshlings––the cute, colorful, and collectible pet creatures of the Moshi Monsters. The book will also contain a unique code to unlock a secret Moshling at the Moshi Monsters website.
Two books are planned for release this year globally, and five more will follow next year.

Easter Toy Sales Increase 5 Percent in UK

According to The NPD Group, traditional toy sales in the UK during the two weeks of Good Friday and Easter 2010 increased 5 percent in revenue. This year, toy sales during Good Friday week rose by 30 percent versus the prior week, which The NPD Group reports is not an unusual trend for the UK. Properties such as Stars Wars, Ben 10, and Toy Story saw an increase in sales by more than 50 percent, compared to the prior week.

McDonald’s Recalls Shrek-Themed Drinking Glasses

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and McDonald’s have announced a voluntary recall of the Shrek Forever After 3-D Collectible Drinking Glasses, due to a potential cadmium risk. The recall affects about 12 million units. No injuries have been reported. The glasses were sold exclusively at McDonald’s from May 2010 to June 2010 for approximately $2.

Madame Alexander

Craig Sims Promoted to VP, Global Licensing at Spin Master

Spin Master has promoted Craig Sims to vice president, global licensing. In his new role, still based out of the company’s Los Angeles office, Sims will manage and oversee all master toy opportunities and brand licensing initiatives for Spin Master, across all territories. He will be responsible for managing the relationships with all the consumer product groups within all the major kids studios and broadcasters globally. He will also oversee the evaluation, selection, and acquisition process in attaining new licenses for the company.

Nelvana Makes Several New Appointments

Nelvana Enterprises has made new appointments in its merchandise licensing and marketing groups, headquartered in Toronto.
Peter Maule has been named vice president, worldwide home entertainment and licensing, the Americas. Maule will assume leadership of the merchandise licensing team, adding expanded responsibilities to his previous role of vice president, worldwide home entertainment and digital media.
Carly D’Eon has been promoted to senior manager, licensing North America, and will oversee U.S. retail management, adding to her current portfolio of soft lines, social expressions, and health and beauty. D’Eon was formerly manager, licensing North America.
Tonya Lindo, director, licensing North America, will be taking on master toy partnerships in addition to interactive and publishing.
Nikki Hawke has been hired as director, marketing, and will oversee the launch of the new CGI Babar property. Hawke was formerly senior brand manager at Global Television.
Stephanie Zhuang has been promoted to marketing manager, and will be responsible for brand management of the relaunch of Beyblade. Her former title was project manager.

Warner Bros. Consumer Products Promotes Zulueta to EVP, EMEA

Pilar Zulueta has been named executive vice president and general manager, EMEA for Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP). Zulueta will be responsible for the management of licensing and retail business development. She will oversee regional sales and marketing related to consumer product categories including toys, apparel and accessories, housewares, promotions, and publishing, among others. She will manage entertainment brands including Looney Tunes, Harry Potter, Scooby Doo, and the DC Comics superheroes.

BBC Worldwide Appoints Two New Licensing Execs

BBC Worldwide has made two new appointments within its licensed consumer products division.
Carla Peyton has been appointed as senior vice president, licensed consumer products, BBC Worldwide Americas. Ian Wickham has been named the head of retail development, licensed consumer products for UK, Ireland, and EMEA. Both will report directly to Tom Keefer, senior vice president, global licensed consumer products.
The newly structured teams will see Peyton supporting Keefer on the licensing front for the U.S., Canada, and Latin America, while newly appointed Bob Traub, senior vice president of retail development licensed consumer products for the Americas, will lead the team’s retail efforts. Wickham will lead the UK and EMEA retail drive alongside Jackie Ferguson, licensing manager, EMEA.

Twentieth Century Fox Restructures Licensing Division

Twentieth Century Fox Television has implemented a strategic restructuring of its licensing division. Under the newly created banner Fox Consumer Products, Executive Vice President Robert Marick has appointed a team of senior executives charged with strategically exploiting the company’s television and feature film properties through consumer products, retail partnerships, and licensing initiatives.
To head the Global Brand Management team, Marick has tapped Pam Kunick-Cohen as its new senior vice president. Her team is tasked to determine long-term franchise opportunities both domestically and globally.
In order to translate the lineup of television and film properties into new products, a new Senior Vice President of Global Creative has been named—riCardo crespo.
The newly designated Global Category Management team will include Gary Rosenfeld, senior vice president of new media, who will continue his role overseeing Fox’s portfolio of video game projects and managing the division’s games development staff. Lora Cohn will serve as vice president, toys & social expressions, while Virginia King is vice president, fashion & home.

Walmart CEO Outlines Strategies for “Next Generation Walmart”

At Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting, president and CEO Mike Duke outlined four strategies for building the “Next Generation Walmart.”  He said Walmart is poised to deliver on Sam Walton's vision of giving "the world an opportunity to see what it's like to save and have a better life."  The strategies are: (1) to become a truly global company, (2) understand the business challenges that retailers will face and solve them, (3) play an even bigger leadership role on social issues that matter to its customers, and (4) keep its culture strong everywhere.
In order to be a more global company, Duke discussed the need to serve customers as a local store, share best practices, and leverage Walmart's global supply chain. He stated that over the next five years Walmart will create 500,000 jobs around the world. Duke also discussed the importance of price transparency and low pricing, and being a company that stays strong globally.
The company also announced that its board of directors approved a new repurchase program that authorizes the company to repurchase $15 billion of its shares. This program replaces the previous $15 billion program, which was announced June 5, 2009, and had approximately $4.7 billion of remaining authorization. Under the program, repurchased shares are constructively retired and returned to unissued status.

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