June 30, 2011

Laser Pegs

FunGoPlay to Launch with Content from Sports Illustrated Kids

FunGoPlayFunGoPlay, an all-new online sports theme park that bridges the gap between offline and online play, will feature content from Sports Illustrated Kids (SI Kids). Participants in the virtual world will have the opportunity to access SI Kids sports videos, editorial content, and contests. Visitors to FunGoPlay.com will also receive SI Kids Real World Sports content in the FunGoPlay Newsletter. The partnership will launch next month with additional content appearing in early August. In addition, FunGoPlay TV (FGPTV), an online video player and a destination for fun sports clips, funny videos, and athlete features (called FGP Big League Bios), will feature SI Kids videos. FunGoPlay encourages kids to get outside and play with “connected” sports gear that keeps track of how much kids are playing, and rewards them for their physical activity with in-game bonuses.

Disney Announces Shake It Up Merchandising Program

Shake It Up DollDisney Consumer Products (DCP) will launch its first merchandising program for Disney Channel’s comedy series Shake It Up this August. The new merchandise program for tweens, based on the show, plays up the main characters’ dancing lifestyle and energy.
This October, a line of Shake It Up dolls, by Mattel, will join the Disney VIP Doll collection launching next month at Toys “R” Us and Walmart. Dolls in the collection include Hannah Montana, Alex Russo of Wizards of Waverly Place, and Sharpay from High School Musical and its spin-off Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. Each doll unlocks VIP access to www.disney.com/disneyvip, which will feature activities and exclusive content, to launch July 15.
Other products in the Shake It Up merchandising program include apparel and accessories.

Beanstalk Named Global Licensing Agency for Talking Friends

Talking BenBeanstalk has been selected by Outfit7 as the exclusive global licensing agency for Talking Friends. Beanstalk will launch a worldwide licensing program across multiple categories for Talking Friends, its series of mobile applications, and its cast of characters.
The Talking Friends franchise launched last July. Each of the Talking Friends apps features a fully animated 3-D character that comes to life when poked, tickled, and played with on mobile touch-screen devices (iOS and Android platforms).
The licensing program will feature products that incorporate specific play patterns and interactive features unique to each character. Select products will incorporate developmental elements of the characters such as speech, music, coordination, reading, writing, and sensory interactions. The licensing program will have a two-pronged focus with consumer products designed for ages 2-8 and tweens, teens, and adults. Products will include toys, games, apparel and accessories, social expression, arts and crafts, electronic accessories, home décor, and health and beauty.
The program will be available across multiple retail channels, and products are slated to roll out next year with a limited launch for this holiday.

Playmates to Premiere New Family Guy Toys This Fall

Family GuyThis fall, Playmates Toys, as part of its partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products, will premiere a fresh new toy line for Family Guy. The line will launch with the Family Guy Crazy Interactive World play set and figures. Each figure in the Family Guy Interactive World features a resistor that, when placed on the compatible play set, unlocks real character voices and more than 40 phrases from the show. The initial figures will include Stewie, Peter, Brian, Cleveland, Quagmire, and Lois with additional characters and environments coming next spring. Also available from Playmates Toys in the fall will be a seven-inch soft foam football shaped like Stewie’s head.
The release of the Playmates Family Guy toy line joins Fox’s yearlong “Something, Something, Something Anniversary” celebration for the series.

Androni Giocattoli Appointed for Puppy in My Pocket Beach Toys

The Giochi Preziosi Group has announced that outdoor specialist Androni Giocattoli has joined its list of licensees, in an agreement for beach toys and accessories for girls’ property Puppy in My Pocket: Adventures in Pocketville. As part of the two-year deal, girls across Europe (excluding Italy) will be able to get their hands on a selection of new toys, all inspired by the Puppy in My Pocket: Adventures in Pocketville TV series, co-produced with MEG and Mondo TV. The range will include a bucket and spade, watering cans, a wheelbarrow, and vehicles. 

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Inks Muppets Deal

This fall, Disney and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will introduce the Muppets to a new generation through a new publishing program. The program will launch in conjunction with the upcoming big-screen comedy, Disney’s The Muppets, which hits theaters November 23. The Muppets book program includes seven titles in an array of formats—featuring Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and other favorite characters. The line consists of a junior novel that features eight pages of full-color photos from the film, two early readers, a giant sticker book, a punch-out-and-play Muppet theater, a hardcover joke book, and the first in an original illustrated middle-grade series about a boy who wakes up as a Muppet. In addition to these new titles, the Muppets licensing program extends to toys, apparel, accessories, electronics, and more.

Activision Signs on for Lalaloopsy Video Games

LalaloopsyMGA Entertainment is expanding the Lalaloopsy universe into new entertainment frontiers. MGA has granted Activision Publishing, Inc. the exclusive worldwide rights to develop, manufacture, and distribute video games based on the Lalaloopsy brand and characters. The agreement covers entertainment software products across multiple platforms such as handheld, console, and connected platforms, as well as PC and mobile devices. The first Lalaloopsy Nintendo DS title is expected to debut this holiday season.
MGA Entertainment is also currently developing the first-ever Lalaloopsy feature-length movie. This made-for-DVD feature will be released next spring and will star the original Lalaloopsy characters.

Supreme Court Rules Against California Ban on Violent Video Games

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association this week, voting 7-2 that California’s ban on violent video games was a violation of the First Amendment. The Court upheld a Ninth Circuit Appeals Court ruling that the ban was an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech, violating minors’ rights. The ruling said governments do not have the power to “restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”

Women Are the Top Spenders for Juvenile Products

Women account for 77 percent of total dollars spent in the juvenile products market, making women the majority spenders in the market, according to “Juvenile Products Market Overview,” the latest report from The NPD Group. Nearly half of all dollars spent come from parents buying for their own children.
Buyers ages 25-44 account for 57 percent of dollars spent on juvenile products, while more than half (55 percent) of the dollars spent in the juvenile products market comes from occasion-based shopping such as childbirth, baby showers, and adoption.
According to the report, of all dollars spent, 15 percent comes from items purchased off a baby registry, and half of all money being spent comes from the clothing and layette, seats, travel and carry, and furniture and nursery categories.

NCircle Entertainment Releases New DVDs
Pocoyo DVDNCircle Entertainment, a distributor of independent non-theatrical children’s entertainment, is releasing four new DVD titles for children ages 6 and under. Animal ABCs and Animals 123s, based on the award-winning Animal Atlas series, encourage preschoolers to sing, count, and learn about different animals. Goodnight, Pajanimals, based on The Jim Henson Company’s bedtime series, follows four animals and their bedtime routine, comforting preschoolers as they do their own nighttime routine. Dance, Pocoyo, Dance! is based on the Nick Jr. series, and includes 12 songs to get preschoolers moving.



Surge Licensing Signs Deal for Skullkickers

SkullkickersSurge Licensing, Inc. has signed an exclusive licensing and entertainment agreement with Swords and Sassery, Inc. to develop video games, toys, television/film, apparel, and other tie-ins for Skullkickers, an ongoing series published by Image Comics that debuted in September. The property also includes trade paperbacks with the second trade slated to arrive in time for the holiday season.
Created by Jim Zubkavich and Chris Stevens, Skullkickers is the story of two monster-killing mercenaries, affectionately known as “Baldy” and “Shorty.” They’re an odd pairing in search of fame and fortune, making their living slaying werewolves, necromancers, plant monsters, the undead, and more.



Licensing Works Signs Moulin Rouge Barbie Deal with Mattel
Licensing Works has signed a deal for a Moulin Rouge Barbie Doll, brokering the agreement between Moulin Rouge and Mattel. The Moulin Rouge Barbie doll “wears a frou-frou costume, inspired by authentic Moulin Rouge Paris Cancan dancer design, [and] features rows and rows of frills and ruffles.” The doll is available for purchase beginning September 1 on www.barbiecollector.com and www.moulinrougestore.com. No more than 5,500 total dolls will be made worldwide.

DCP Appoints New VP and GM of Toys and Social Expressions

Disney Consumer Products (DCP) has appointed Mary Renner Beech as its vice president and general manager of toys and social expressions, North America. Reporting to Vince Klaseus, senior vice president of Global Toys at DCP, Beech is responsible for driving the U.S. business beyond its performance goals. She will oversee product category management, marketing, and licensee relationships, and will collaborate with the creative team to deliver compelling and innovative Disney-branded products to market. Beech will also partner closely with DCP’s internal retail and franchise teams and across divisions at The Walt Disney Company to drive the region’s franchise and business growth.
Beech has worked for DCP for 11 years, first joining the division as part of the film entertainment marketing group. Prior to joining Disney, Beech spent more than six years in marketing roles with Polo Ralph Lauren and Ann Taylor.

MGA Entertainment Announces New VP of Domestic Licensing

MGA Entertainment has appointed Carolyn Foreman as vice president of domestic licensing for the company. Reporting to Casey Collins, MGA’s executive vice president of global licensing, Foreman is responsible for creating, maintaining, and growing domestic licensing programs for various MGA brand initiatives. She is also responsible for expanding the licensing activities for all of MGA and Little Tikes product categories.
Foreman has more than 14 years of experience in all aspects of intellectual property management and merchandising, including roles at Universal Studios, Jerry Leigh
Entertainment Apparel, Junkfood Clothing, and Mad Engine Apparel. 

New Chair, Chair-Elect for ASTRA’s Board of Directors

At American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) Marketplace and Academy, members welcomed Michael Ziegenhagen, owner of Playmatters toy stores (Cleveland, Ohio area), as the new chair of ASTRA’s board of directors. Andy Cannon, owner of Discovery Depot (Cookeville, Tenn.), was designated chair-elect by the membership. Additionally, Lea Culliton, president of Haba USA (Skaneateles, N.Y.), and Ted McGuire, president of Thames & Kosmos (Providence, R.I.), were elected to the board of directors as manufacturer directors-at-large.

BJ’s Wholesale Club to Be Acquired Pending Approval

BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by affiliates of Leonard Green & Partners, L.P., with funds advised by CVC Capital Partners. The acquisition is an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $2.8 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, BJ’s shareholders will receive $51.25 per share in cash for each share of BJ’s common stock they hold, representing an approximately 38 percent premium to the closing price of BJ’s shares on June 30, 2010 (the day before LGP announced its 9.5 percent ownership stake in the company), and an approximately 7 percent premium to the closing price of BJ’s shares on June 28, 2011.
BJ’s board of directors has unanimously approved the merger agreement and recommends that all BJ’s shareholders vote in favor of the transaction. The merger is subject to approval by the shareholders, customary closing conditions, and regulatory approvals. The transaction is expected to close during fourth quarter 2011.
BJ’s will file a preliminary proxy statement with the SEC containing detailed information about the transaction and the board and independent committee process. Once the SEC completes its review of the preliminary proxy statement, BJ’s will file a definitive proxy statement with the SEC and distribute it to shareholders.

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