June 16, 2011

Laser Pegs

Spin Master Named Exclusive Toy Partner for NASCAR

NASCARNASCAR Team Properties and Spin Master, Ltd. have joined forces as part of NASCAR’s strategic effort to build its merchandising program and to further its reach with the youth demographic. The multi-year agreement gives Spin Master the exclusive licensing rights for NASCAR-branded toy products, including replica vehicles, play sets, action figures, remote-controlled items, and more. The new items will hit mass-market retailers next year, as well as online e-commerce websites and specialty retailers nationwide.

Mega Nabs Warcraft, Starcraft Licenses

World of WarcraftMega Brands and Blizzard Entertainment have announced a licensing partnership to create Warcraft- and Starcraft-themed construction sets that will be available next summer. The gaming hit World of Warcraft is an online multi-player, role-playing game, while the second installment in the Starcraft series (Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty) is a real-time strategy game. The first construction toy sets from this deal will be based on iconic locations, characters, and vehicles from the two games.

Hit Entertainment Names Licensees for New Barney Products

BarneyBarney is back with new licensees for products that will attract both young and old fans of the television show. Braha has obtained the license to create Barney plush puzzle mats, while a Barney-inspired pillow will join the line of Pillow Pets from Ontel Products Corporation and CJ Products, LLC. Rasta Imposta is designing an adult Barney costume to complement the child’s costume they already produce. Yoostar is adding Barney & Friends to its library of content, allowing users to insert themselves into video footage from the show. Other apparel and accessories licensees include At Full Speed, Bio World, Classic Imports, Concept One, and Planet Sox.


Fisher-Price Named Master Toy Licensee for Max & Ruby

Max & RubyNelvana Enterprises has announced that Fisher-Price, Inc. will act as the master toy partner in the U.S. for bunny duo Max & Ruby. Fisher-Price has developed a full range of toys, including plush, play sets, and bath toys, that will be available next spring with a full launch in fall 2012. The Max & Ruby books, from author and illustrator Rosemary Wells, have sold over three million copies, and Max & Ruby DVDs (Nickelodeon Home Entertainment) have sold nearly 2.4 million copies. The brand is a top-rated show on Nickelodeon and it is also going on tour as a stage show by KOBA Entertainment this year.

Jakks Pacific Named Master Toy Licensee for Winx Club

Winx ClubJakks Pacific, Inc. and Nickelodeon have struck a deal giving Jakks Pacific a multi-territory master toy license to manufacture, distribute, and market a line of toys and other products based on the animated action and fantasy series, Winx Club. The Winx Club product line by Jakks is scheduled to launch in fall 2012 to coincide with the premiere of the new CGI episodes of Winx Club. The product lineup will span multiple categories, including dolls, play sets, role play, dress-up, and Halloween costumes. The agreement is for the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.
Winx Club, a co-production by Rainbow S.p.A. and Nickelodeon, will begin airing on Nickelodeon later this month.

NKOK to Produce Discovery Kids Toy Line

Discovery KidsDiscovery Communications, Inc., has signed a licensing agreement with NKOK, Inc. for the Discovery Kids brand. Through the agreement, NKOK will develop a collection of branded radio-controlled and interactive products inspired by Discovery Kids. The collection is designed to encourage kids to learn about and interact with the world around them. NKOK will create a line of Discovery Kids-branded radio-controlled stunt vehicles and the Shooting Robo Warrior Robot. NKOK will also release a line of Discovery Kids-branded non-R/C products, including a Trace-n-Draw Projector, Space Coaster Construction Rollercoaster, a sewing machine, and Space Ship Laser Tag. Products will be available at toy, mid-tier, and mass retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada beginning this fall.
The deal was brokered on behalf of Discovery Communications by Big Tent Entertainment, the North American licensing agent for the Discovery Kids brand.

Big Tent Named Licensing Agent for Discovery’s Science Brand

Big Tent Entertainment, the North American licensing agent for the Discovery Kids and TLC brands, has expanded its relationship with Discovery Communications, Inc., to include the Science channel. As the exclusive North American licensing agency of record for the newly re-branded network, Big Tent Entertainment will build a consumer products program based on the Science brand, as well as the network’s lineup of programming such as Punkin Chunkin and How It’s Made.
The Science licensing program will focus on the tween, teen, and adult male demographics in initial licensing categories of electronics, novelty, toys, activity/kits, do-it-yourself, apps, décor, and outdoor.

Publishing Program for Spin Master’s Zoobles

ZooblesCartoon Network Enterprises (CNE) has partnered with Penguin Group for a publishing program featuring Spin Master’s Zoobles, little characters that spring to life from small, colorful balls to form quirky and (sometimes) mischievous creatures. Available across all tiers of retail distribution, the program will feature readers, storybooks, color and activity books, and a collector’s guidebook based on the characters. The books will debut next spring.

Classic Media Celebrates Masters of the Universe Anniversary

Masters of the UniverseIn celebration of the upcoming 30th anniversary of Masters of the Universe in 2012, Classic Media and Mattel are launching a consumer products program for the franchise. The Masters of the Universe Classics toy line, featuring updated sculpts of vintage Mattel toys, will continue throughout next year, exclusively on Mattycollector.com.
The program will also include Halloween costumes and accessories from Disguise, launching first with Skeletor, He-Man, and She-Ra adult costumes, available this fall. Other new products include a 30th anniversary edition DVD box set from Mill Creek Entertainment (fall 2012). Publishing partners will be announced shortly.
Additionally, Classic Media is introducing a brand-new comprehensive Masters of the Universe style guide this summer, featuring retro artwork, all-new modern artist renderings, as well as a 30th anniversary logo.

Stone America Re-brands as M!KE Licensing

M!KE Licensing has announced the re-branding of its company name. Formerly known as Stone America, M!KE Licensing focuses on licensing partnerships that maintain brand integrity. Recognized in the industry for its innovative and strategic licensing programs, the firm will continue to be led by founder and CEO Michael W. Kempner and maintain core team members, including Vice President Caren Calabrese, Licensing Manager Kerri Zupp, CFO Seth Rosenstein, and Chief of Staff Alysia Gemma. The firm has represented a variety of brands ranging from corporate trademarks and character licensing to entertainment properties. The M!KE Licensing team works with a diverse range of clients, from those looking to strike a small number of key license agreements worth millions, to those whose objectives are to greatly expand their portfolio of licensees.

Spin Master Signs on for Moshi Monsters Toys

Moshi MonstersMind Candy and Spin Master, Ltd. have announced a partnership to expand the online gaming hit Moshi Monsters into a line of toys, to be carried exclusively at Toys “R” Us. The product offerings will include six plush Moshi Monsters characters, as well as 32 Moshling (monsters’ pets) minifigures, all available in late July. To integrate the toy experience with the online world, the toy design includes secret redeemable codes and trial memberships. Future merchandising will include trading cards produced by Topps and books from Scholastic, Inc.

Team Umizoomi Product Line to Kick Off with Math Kits

Team UmizoomiNickelodeon’s upcoming consumer products line for Team Umizoomi, a preschool series that focuses entirely on math, will launch with theTeam Umizoomi Preschool Math Kits. Offered exclusively at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide beginning next month, the kits will provide a hands-on, interactive way for preschoolers to experience math with their parents, and will incorporate math into everyday life. Thekits will also be available forpurchase online from Nickelodeon in mid-July.


New Partners for Chuggington

ChuggingtonLudorum has signed new partnerships across a broad range of categories for its Chuggington property. Modern Publishing will release eight coloring and activity titles this year. Giddy Up will add Chuggington to its Color Blast and Color ’n Carry lines, and is developing Chuggington products using its Surprise Ink, Water Wow, and new magnetic Stik Piks technologies.
For outdoor play, Pacific Cycle will release Chuggington bikes, trikes, scooters, and protective gear next spring, while Little Kids will bring to market a line of bubbles and bubble toys. Beginning this fall, Chuggington playballs and hoppers will be available from Hedstrom, with widespread availability next spring.
Other recent licensees include LeapFrog, which will create and market Tag & Tag Jr. books launching this fall, and I Can Do That Games, which will release a new Chuggington game. Chuggington’s master toy licensee, Learning Curve, will continue to create Chuggington play sets. 

Marvel Seeks Licensees for “Avengers Assemble” Initiative

Marvel Entertainment, LLC has announced that its “Avengers Assemble” licensing initiative will serve as a tent pole franchise, encompassing six of Marvel Studios’ blockbuster films and culminating with the upcoming release of Marvel’s The Avengers, in theaters May 4, 2012.
Marvel’s “Avengers Assemble” umbrella theme includes previously released films Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor, as well as the upcoming films The First Avenger: Captain America, and Marvel’s The Avengers. Marvel continues to look for opportunities with licensees across all core categories to build comprehensive licensing and merchandising programs, as well innovative retail and co-branded programs, as part of “Avengers Assemble.” Already on board are Hasbro, Hallmark, Huffy, Kellogg’s, Fruit of the Loom, and Brown Shoe, among others.

Nerd Corps Unveils Slugterrainea Property

SlugterraineaNerd Corps Entertainment’s original comedy action property Slugterrainea has secured
a television deal with Disney XD channels around the world. The deal grants Disney XD cable rights for the U.S. and globally, with Nerd Corps retaining terrestrial rights for rest of world. The 39 x 22 minutes 3-D animated HD series is currently in development and is slated to air next year. Slugterrainea is an epic sci-fi action-adventure series set deep underground, where the ammos live and only the quick survive. The series follows Elias Shane who is determined to be the greatest Slugslinging hero of them all.
Nerd Corps is in discussions with several partners to extend the brand to toys, interactive, publishing, and other long-lead categories. The series mainly targets boys ages 6 to 12, but can also appeal to broader audiences. Nerd Corps is also producing 39 x one-minute slugisodes for television and web.

Debit Swipe Fees to Be Cut

According to the Associated Press, the Senate voted last week to let the Federal Reserve cut fees that banks charge stores when purchases are made by using a debit card. Senators who did not support the proposal fell six votes short of the 60 that were needed to decline the price cut (a vote of 54-45). Currently, stores are charged 44 cents for every debit card that is swiped, which amounts to more than $16 million annually to banks and credit card companies.
In the suggested revised plan, the Federal Reserve wants to limit charges to 12 cents for every debit card transaction. A final ruling on the issue is scheduled to be made by July 21.

Two New Licensees for Splash! Animals Brand

Blue Ink Syndicate, Inc. has entered into licensing arrangements with MasterPieces Puzzle Co., Inc. and American Mills, Inc. for its Splash! Animals brand. MasterPieces Puzzle Co. will develop puzzles, while American Mills will create decorative pillows.
Committed to the conservation of endangered animals, Splash! Animals’ portraits of endangered animals are created by performing artists during a live art experience. In less than 10 minutes, artists create paintings and educate the audience about endangered and threatened species. An integrated licensing and merchandising program for the Splash! Animals brand is underway. 

Shane Acker to Lead Thomas the Tank Engine Film Adaptation

Thomas the Tank Engine will star in a live-action fantasy film adaptation of the children’s television series. Director Shane Acker (9) has signed on to lead a creative team consisting of Weta Workshop (Avatar, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Mattel’s entertainment properties design team. The goal of the new film is to make the Thomas characters and storyline more appealing to the entire family.
Hit Entertainment, which owns the Thomas franchise, has also named Chris Viscardi and Will McRobb (Alvin and the Chipmunks) and Josh Klausner (Shrek the Third, Date Night) as the writers for the film. Julia Pistor (Charlotte’s Web, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events) will serve as the producer.

Toy Licensing Deal for Dorothy of Oz

Dorothy of OzSummertime Entertainment has signed a master toy licensing agreement with Bandai America, Inc. through its exclusive licensing agent, Travis James LLC, for the upcoming 3-D, CGI-animated musical feature Dorothy of Oz. The line of Bandai toys will include dolls, play sets, plush, role play, trading cards, and more. The toy line is set to launch in conjunction with the movie release in summer 2012.
Dorothy of Oz stars Lea Michele (Dorothy), Martin Short (The Jester), Jim Belushi (The Cowardly Lion), Dan Aykroyd (Scarecrow), Kelsey Grammer (The Tin Man), Megan Hilty (China Princess), Hugh Dancy (Marshall Mallow), Oliver Platt (Wiser the Owl), and Patrick Stewart (Tugg). The film is based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz tale by L. Frank Baum and the further adventure books written by his great-grandson, Roger Stanton Baum.


TMNT Producer Granted Cabbage Patch Kids Movie Rights

Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc. (OAA), the owner of the Cabbage Patch Kids property, has granted CWA Carlin West Agency and film and television producer Galen Walker the rights to create an animated television special based on the Cabbage Patch Kids. Walker is most noted for producing the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and for being the producer of the next live-action TMNT feature with Paramount.

American Greetings to Oversee Licensing and Merchandising for the WotWots

WotWotsThe intellectual property and outbound licensing division of American Greetings Corporation has acquired the licensing and merchandising rights to the popular preschool property, the WotWots. As part of the agreement with production company Pukeko Pictures, American Greetings Properties has signed on to represent the WotWots brand worldwide. The WotWots television series, which airs in the U.S. on The Hub, follows two adorable siblings from outer space as they learn about the animal kingdom. 
American Greetings Properties will develop a comprehensive licensing program around the preschool brand that will initially focus on key merchandise categories, including apparel, publishing, back-to-school, home décor, and home textiles.

Victorious Products to Launch at Walmart for Back-to-School

Nickelodeon is gearing up for the initial launch of its Victorious products, based on the network’s live-action comedy series. The Victorious product line will be available exclusively at most Walmart stores in the U.S. and Canada during a special back-to-school window from this July to September. The product line will include more than 250 Victorious-themed products, including apparel, accessories, entertainment, and school supplies. Walmart will also carry the Victorious: Season One, Volume One DVD, beginning July 5, as well as the Victorious CD soundtrack and a special Nickelodeon CD featuring stars from the network’s popular shows. Both CDs will be released on August 2.

A Squared’s Martha & Friends to Debut July 1

On July 1, A Squared Entertainment, in partnership with Martha Stewart and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, will launch the multimedia property, Martha & Friends, at www.marthaandfriends.com, through AOL Kids.
Aimed at girls ages 6-11, Martha & Friends features an animated 10-year old Martha Stewart who, along with her three best friends and two dogs, show how fun and easy it is to cook, make crafts, and more. The property includes a short-form web series and interactive world of online games and activities that reinforce lessons taught in the series.
Every other week, a three- to five-minute webisode will be introduced, totaling 26 episodes. The Hallmark Channel will air a 30-minute July 4th Martha & Friends special on Sunday, July 3, at 9 a.m, and will also air five additional primetime holiday specials throughout the year. The Martha & Friends brand has plans to expand its licensing activities to include a branded line of merchandising products.

Imperial Introduces New Licenses to Bubble Lines

Imperial Bubble ToysImperial Toy has announced new licenses for its bubble toys, with products launching in 2012 and beyond. Imperial has partnered with Disney Consumer Products for a line of magical bubbles and bubble accessories based on Disney characters, including Disney Princess, Toy Story, Cars, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, to launch starting next spring. Each product line will include basic bubbles, bubble toys and wands, and dip and blow sets.
Go Bubbles, a new licensed bubble line, will also be released next spring. Go Bubbles stand over 18 inches high and deliver a continuous stream of bubbles when pushed down by a child (geared towards ages 3-5). Licenses include Little Tikes Cozy Coup, Disney Princess Carriage, and Hit Entertainment’s Thomas the Train.
Launching in the fall is a Cars Dip ’n Blow bubble toy, debuting at Walmart and featuring Lighting McQueen. The Lightning McQueen Cars Dip’n Blow functions as a bubble wand and comes with branded Cars bubble solution.
Imperial also has plans to expand its Marvel superheroes product lines and Hello Kitty bubbles and bubble toys, as well as branded products for Nickelodeon franchises.

ASTRA Re-Designs Website

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has launched a new website. Designed to be a central gathering place where ASTRA members can find information, communicate with one another, and share business insights, ASTRA’s web address remains unchanged at www.astratoy.org.
New features include an easy-to-use member dashboard, a user-friendly discussion board function, a job board, an improved store finder, an improved sales representative finder, new member lists, an upgraded membership directory, and content for parents and retailers about play and child development.

Major New Character to Join Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty City

Cherry JamThis fall, American Greetings Properties will debut a major addition to the world of Strawberry Shortcake: Cherry Jam. For the first time in more than five years, a new girl will join Strawberry Shortcake and her gang of friends. Cherry Jam is a mega singing star with tons of adoring fans, yet dreams of a home where she will be appreciated for who she is offstage—and her dream comes true in Berry Bitty City. Cherry Jam will make her first appearance this fall when Berry Bitty Adventures returns to The Hub for its second season. The introduction of Cherry Jam will be supported by a toy line from Hasbro, available next spring.

ASTRA Founder to Be Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Deb McCollister, a founding member of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) and a veteran specialty toy retailer, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy.
Other awardees will include Imagine That Toys (Wichita, Kans.), which will receive the Retailer Excellence Award; The Orb Factory, this year’s Manufacturer Excellence Award winner; and Vanessa Fondren of Diverse Marketing, who will be recognized with the Sales Rep Excellence Award.
The award ceremony will take place on Monday, June 20 at the Marriott Anaheim Hotel in Anaheim, Calif. during ASTRA’s annual Awards Breakfast and Business Meeting, scheduled for 8 a.m. PT.

Fox Consumer Products Appoints Three Execs

Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products has finalized its division restructuring, which was announced less than a year ago. The division has appointed Elizabeth Bohannon as vice president, global brand management, TV, and Jonathan Linn as vice president, global brand management, film. To round out the new team, Nan Staddon has been appointed to the position of vice president, strategy and financial planning.  
In their respective roles, Bohannon and Linn will lead brand strategy for some of the biggest television and film properties in the Fox portfolio. Before joining Fox Consumer Products, Bohannon was vice president, family marketing at Paramount Home Entertainment. Linn spent a combined 13 years at Disney, where he most recently worked in the Disney Live Family Entertainment area, leading international live. 
In her new role, Staddon will work closely with the department heads to help define Fox Consumer Products’ strategic business plan, company growth initiatives, and market opportunities for the future. Staddon previously held the position of executive director, business development at Fox Television Studios.

Toys “R” Us Reports First-Quarter Results

Toys “R” Us, Inc. has reported financial results for the first quarter, which ended April 30. Net sales were $2.6 billion, an increase of 1.1 percent versus the prior year. This includes the benefit of foreign currency translation along with net sales from new locations. Comparable store net sales were down 2.1 percent in the domestic segment and 1.9 percent in the international segment.
The learning toy and core toy categories continued to be strong, generating net sales growth of 7.9 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. The entertainment category (which includes video game hardware and software) and the seasonal category were down 6.6 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively. Internet sales continued to be strong.
Gross margin dollars were $978 million, compared to $945 million for the prior year. Gross margin, as a percentage of net sales, was 37.1 percent, an increase of 0.9 percentage points versus the prior year with improvements in both sales mix and margin rate (in certain categories).
Selling, general, and administrative expenses were $897 million, compared to $858 million in the prior year. This increase included a foreign currency translation impact of $24 million, increases related to on-going store operations, and investments in new stores, remodels, and overseas sourcing operations.
Adjusted EBITDA was $107 million, compared to $125 million in the prior year. Net loss was $67 million, compared to $55 million in the prior year.

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