Russ Berrie to Change Name to Kid Brands, Inc.
Russ Berrie and Company, Inc. has announced it intends to change its corporate name to Kid Brands, Inc., pending shareholder approval later this month. The company says the new name will reflect its new focus on purely infant and juvenile products. The company plans to continue to market its branded products primarily under the brand names of its subsidiaries of Kids Line, LaJobi, Sassy, and CoCaLo, and also continue to offer programs under licenses such as Carter's, Disney, Graco, and Serta.
Russ Berrie shareholders have been notified of the proposed name through the company's proxy statement and a vote will take place at the company's annual meeting on September 22. If approved, the company expects its NYSE trading symbol will be changed to KID.
Disney Interactive Studios to Acquire Wideload Games
Disney Interactive Studios has agreed to acquire Wideload Games, Inc. and Alexander Seropian, Wideload Games founder and CEO, will join the company, serving as vice president of creative, a newly created position. Seropian will report directly to Global Product Development Senior Vice President Jean-Marcel Nicolai, and will be responsible for overseeing creative development of Disney Interactive Studios’ video games.
Wideload Games president Tom Kang will serve as studio director. The studio, which will remain in Chicago, will focus on creating new intellectual properties for Disney that target a broad audience. Currently, the studio is developing an unannounced original family console game scheduled for release in 2010 from Disney Interactive Studios.
Babalu Acquires WJ Fantasy
Babalu, Inc. has acquired WJ Fantasy, a toymaker that has designed and manufactured nesting blocks, toys, advent calendars, and children’s books for more than 25 years. WJ Fantasy’s John Sullivan will continue to handle sales and will assume sales responsibilities for Babalu, while Kathy Morey will manage operations and day-to-day activities for both companies. Because of the mid-year acquisition and since the sales season is already underway, Babalu and WJ Fantasy will be run as two separate divisions through the end of 2009.
I Can Do That! Games Inks Richard Scarry Licensing Deal
I Can Do That! Games has signed an exclusive multi-year licensing deal with Cookie Jar Entertainment to develop and manufacture products based on the works of Richard Scarry. The first game by the company, Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It, will debut this month, and will be sold exclusively at Toys “R” Us stores. The game, for children ages 3 and up, features a colorful six-foot long game board with favorite characters such as Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, and Goldbug. Kids play by driving through Busytown streets, a buzzing farm, a packed airport, and a bustling harbor full of boats, to get to Picnic Island. Along the journey players try to find the hundreds of hidden objects and solve mysteries.
The launch of the game coincides with the U.S. premiere of Cookie Jar’s Busytown Mysteries, a preschool series inspired by the works of Scarry. The new educational series will premiere during the Cookie Jar TV CBS weekend morning block starting September 19. The series debuted in Canada last year.
JPMA Partners with It’s A Baby & Family Expo
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) has partnered with the It’s a Baby & Family Expo. JPMA will sponsor the It’s About Baby Safety Center, a seminar area in the expo’s Schaumburg/Chicago, Atlanta, and Ft. Lauderdale markets. The center offers visitors seminars on issues such as baby proofing and child safety, traveling with kids, and safe sleep for baby. JPMA will host a promotion online at www.jpma.org and on their Twitter page at www.twitter.com/JPMA, in which moms, dads, and caregivers can win free tickets to each of the three expos. In addition, each of the seminars will have free giveaways and drawings for prizes.
Kids Ages 12 and Younger Account for 45 Percent of Video Game Revenue
The NPD Group has released a new report, Kids & Cross-Entertainment Behaviors, which states that households with kids ages 12 years and younger account for 24 percent of video game industry unit sales and 45 percent of video game industry revenue. According to the report, 57 percent of kids ages 2-12 play video games, and 62 percent of them use a computer. It is reported that kids have an average of 68 leisure hours each week, and most of that time goes to entertainment. The report compiles a variety of research on kids including how they spend their leisure time, share of wallet, content acquisition, and top brands and licenses.
Neat-Oh! Signs Licensing Agreement, Adds to LEGO ZipBin Line
Neat-Oh! International, LLC has signed a new licensing agreement with LEGO for the LEGO City ZipBin Toy Box & Playmat. Like all Neat-Oh! products, the ZipBin is a toy and storage unit. All ZipBin products unzip flat to a playmat and kids can take out the toys without dumping. After play the toys zip back inside into a toy box. All ZipBin products are collapsible, portable, and have a wipe-clean surface.
New Family Centers Debut at Walmart Stores
Walmart is debuting a new Family Night Center in stores nationwide this month, which features savings on board games, movies, and party snacks. The area aims to help customers find new ideas for family time activities and save on popular items in a convenient "one-stop" area. Additionally, moms can go to www.walmart.com/familymoments and find tips from other mom bloggers on how to create a fun family night, as well as see more about recommended products, healthy snack ideas, and more.
According to recent research through Walmart Customer Insights, more than 50 percent of moms who shop at Walmart said they were watching more movies at home with their family to save money instead of going out. The NPD Group has also reported that board game sales in the first half of the year increased by 10 percent compared to the same period in 2008.
Toys “R” Us Launches Video Game Trade-In Program
Customers can now trade in their old video games for a gift card at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide. The new exchange program launched by the company allows customers to bring in used video games, in their original cases with the original artwork, to the guest services desk in Toys “R” Us stores where they will be given a gift card with the value representing the amount offered for the trade-in. The gift cards can be used immediately on products at Toys “R” Us stores, Babies “R” Us stores, and Toysrus.com. Customers can exchange video games for current systems including the Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo DS, as well as classic systems such as Atari 2600, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Game Boy, Nintendo 64, Intellivision, Sega Genesis, and more.
Lincoln Butterfield Signs DBG for Licensing Program
Dimensional Branding Group, LLC (DBG) has signed an exclusive licensing agent agreement with Lincoln Butterfield Animation. DBG will represent Butterfield’s N.I.T.: Neighborhood Investigation Team animated television property for development into consumer products such as toys, games, and apparel. Lincoln Butterfield will retain all rights to TV, film, internet, and motion comics and will have the first right of refusal on graphic novels, comics, and other books based on the properties. Lincoln Butterfield’s catalog includes RIP M.D., and TAN for tweens, and mature titles Venture Probe and When in Rome.
Warner Bros. Creates DC Entertainment
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. (WBEI) has created DC Entertainment, Inc., a new company founded to extend DC Comics’ brand and characters across all media and platforms. DC Entertainment, a separate division of WBEI to be run by Diane Nelson, will be charged with strategically integrating the DC Comics business, brand, and characters deeply into Warner Bros. Entertainment and all its content and distribution businesses. The DC Comics publishing business will remain the cornerstone of DC Entertainment, releasing approximately 90 comic books through its various imprints and 30 graphic novels a month.
In her new role, Nelson will report to Jeff Robinov, president, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. Paul Levitz, who has served as president and publisher of DC Comics since 2002, will segue from that role to return to his roots as a writer for DC and become a contributing editor and overall consultant to DCE. DC Comics will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2010.
Silver Cross to Release Teddy Bears, Rag Doll
Stroller and pram maker Silver Cross is focusing its attention to traditional toys, releasing three soft teddy bears and one rag doll in October. The new items have all been named after villages or famous people in the Broughton-based company’s area. The Broughton Bear has jointed legs and arms and a swiveling head, the Malham Bear is softer and designed for babies, the Helmsley Bear comes with a pram blanket, and the Bronte rag doll has a removable floral dress and lace smock. All of the items are packaged in a Silver Cross gift box.
WowWee Sablon Named Distributor for Wild Planet
Wild Planet Entertainment has signed a distribution deal with WowWee Sablon UK, Ltd., in which the company will become Wild Planet’s exclusive distributor in the UK, starting in January. WowWee Sablon will distribute the company’s Spy Gear brand as well as introduce a range of activity toys, active games, and boys’ construction toys to the UK market.
WowWee Sablon currently distributes products such as WowWee Alive plush animals, WowWee Robotics robots, WowWee Flytech toys, and WowWee Tech products. Wild Planet’s Spy Gear brand will celebrate its 10th anniversary in the UK next year. The companies plan to create a TV, media, and PR campaign to promote the anniversary and will launch new Spy Gear products available in January.
Jim Henson Co. Premieres Bedtime Series
The Jim Henson Company will debut a new musical series for preschoolers, Pajamimals, at MIPCOM. The series is currently available in the U.S. as a short-form, live-action series but will soon premiere as 25 half-hour episodes. The Pajanimals are four puppets––Sweetpea Sue, Squarky, Cow Bella, and Apollo––created by Jeff Muncy and designed and built by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The new show will feature the puppets after dark; when the Pajanimals fall asleep each night they enter another adventure-filled world and discover that nightmares aren’t so scary when friendship and songs accompany them. The original, bedtime-themed songs featured in the show focus on topics like sleeping through the night and being comfortable with the lights off.
Bix Pix to Develop New “Flipping” Cartoon
Author and artist David Sheldon’s characters will soon hit the small screen in a new kids’ cartoon series by Bix Pix Entertainment called TattarRattat. The series, aimed at kids ages 6 to 11, stars flipping, dual-personality characters created by Sheldon. The author/artist will serve as creative director and lead character designer of the cartoon, while Bix Pix will be in charge of development and production of the show and books/merchandise, and SupperTime Entertainment will handle marketing and merchandise. SupperTime’s initial focus will be toys and the company plans to offer an initial collectible cast of more than 30 flipster characters, each with two distinct and conflicting personalities. TattarRattat is set to begin production early next year with an initial distribution schedule of fall 2011.
Endemol Introduces New Global Distribution Operation
Endemol has announced a new global distribution division, Endemol Worldwide Distribution. The new division resulted from the integration of Endemol International and Southern Star International. Together, Endemol and Southern Star have 20,000 hours of content in a variety of genres including drama, reality TV, game shows, entertainment, kids’ programming, animation, and comedy. Endemol Worldwide Distribution’s combined portfolio will span approximately 400 broadcasters, licensees, and producers.
Cathy Payne, the former CEO of Southern Star International, will manage the division as CEO. The division will operate out of eight worldwide offices. New regional offices will open in Paris, Madrid, and Rome this year, and offices in Los Angeles and Miami will open in 2010. The company will also continue to operate out of existing offices in London, Sydney, and Hong Kong.
New Grant Program for Teachers from Playmobil
Through November 15, Playmobil will be accepting lesson plans from teachers in a program that will award educators cash grants and Playmobil toys for their classroom. Kindergarten through third grade teachers can submit lesson plans that feature Playmobil toys as the primary demonstration tool to teach a lesson in any subject. Four cash grants will be awarded to winners to be used towards supplies as well as more than 20 other prizes in the form of Playmobil toys. A one-page letter on school letterhead explaining how the prize would benefit the children in his or her class and the school must accompany the lesson plan. Winners will be selected based on four criteria: how the plan inspires creativity, the educational content, originality, and the ease of implementation. For more information, visit www.playmobilusa.com.