September 28, 2009
Battlestrikers

Wal-Mart Canada Already Slashing Toy Prices

Gearing up for the holiday season, Wal-Mart Canada stores nationwide have dropped the price of some popular toys to $10, and new toys will be reduced to $10 every week between now and Christmas. Every week, Canadian shoppers will be able to find 10 toys––such as Transformers Universe (regular price $29.92), Tini Puppini Fashion Dogs (regular price $29.94), and Mega Bloks' Builder Racer (regular price $24.96)––discounted for 10 bucks. Wal-Mart Canada is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary and are expecting to lower prices for a slew of products to celebrate the event.

Universal to Produce Live-Action Barbie Film

BarbieUniversal Pictures has acquired the film rights to Mattel's Barbie and plans to produce a live-action feature film. Laurence Mark (Julie & Julia, Jerry Maguire) is producing the movie, while Barbie general manager/Mattel senior vice president Richard Dickson and Barbie vice president, entertainment Rob Hudnut will executive produce. Universal currently distributes Mattel's animated Barbie movies.

 

 

 

 

Hasbro Opens Russian Office

Hasbro, Inc. has opened a representative office in Russia in order to improve brand awareness and distribution in Eastern Europe, the company’s fastest growing market. Hasbro estimates it has a 3 percent share of Russia's $1.5 billion toy market where it currently sells toys via two distributors. Although Russian retailers are facing a difficult year, analysts say the demand for toys remains relatively stable.

Russ Berrie Officially Changes Name to Kid Brands, Inc.

Shareholders have approved the proposal by Russ Berrie and Company, Inc. to change its corporate name to Kid Brands, Inc. The approval happened at the company’s 2009 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, which was held last week. The new corporate name is effective immediately. The company will now trade under the symbol “KID” on the New York Stock Exchange. The company says it plans to continue to market its products primarily under the brand names of its subsidiaries (Kids Line, LaJobi, Sassy, and CoCaLo), and will continue to offer programs under select licenses such as Carter's, Disney, Graco, and Serta. Shareholders also re-elected several of the company’s board of directors.

Nintendo Slashes Wii Price by $50

WiiNintendo has dropped the price of its Wii console by $50 to $200. Recently, both Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. reduced the price on their video game systems. The Wii is the top selling console worldwide, and now with the recent price cut, the Wii will be tied with Microsoft's Xbox 360 Arcade as the cheapest. Both Microsoft's Xbox 360 Elite and Sony's basic PlayStation 3 cost approximately $300.

 

 

Former Marvel Head to Develop CGI-Animated Popeye Film

PopeyeFormer Marvel Studios head Avi Arad has acquired the screen rights to E.C. Segar’s Popeye and plans to develop a Popeye theatrical feature film. According to Variety, Arad plans to use computer animation to create Popeye. Warners is currently releasing the Popeye cartoons on DVD, and Fantagraphics publishes collections of the original Segar Popeye comic strip.

 

 

 

4Kids Named Licensing Agent for Mini Ninjas

Mini Ninjas4Kids Entertainment, Inc. has been named worldwide licensing agent (excluding Japan and Korea) for merchandise based on the Mini Ninjas, a just-released action adventure video game from Eidos Interactive. Mini Ninjas, developed by Io Interactive, follows the story of Hiro, a young Ninja and unlikely hero who is called upon to save the world after Evil Samurai Warlord hatches a plan to take over the world. Hiro must lead his small band of Mini Ninjas on a journey through a crumbling world, battle the magical hordes of twisted Samurai, and eventually confront the Warlord in his Fortress of Doom.
Mini Ninjas was released in September on Wii, Nintendo DS, Playstation, Computer Entertainment System, Xbox 360, and Games for Windows.

The WotWots Launches UK Toy Campaign

WotWotsThe Weta Workshop, the creative minds behind the WotWots, is launching its UK toy campaign this week, after two retail launches in Australia and New Zealand earlier this month. The UK launch will kick off at the London Zoo September 29 with “WotWots Fun Day.”  Hasbro, now officially confirmed as the WotWots worldwide licensing agent and master toy licensee, will roll out a retail and brand awareness campaign starting October 1 that will include mini plush, talking plush, vinyl figures, and feature plush. Hasbro’s licensing team has a significant number of new licensees confirmed this month, including: Hot Topic, which will produce jumbo size scrapbooks, activity, and art sets launching in February, and Hunter Leisure, which will produce children’s character costumes, bikes, and tricycles in next year’s first quarter.

ITV Appoints Toy Licensee for Upcoming Series The Prisoner

The PrisonerITV Studios Global Entertainment has appointed Factory Entertainment the master toy licensee in multiple categories for the upcoming television drama The Prisoner. Starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen, the upcoming show is a AMC and ITV Studios remake of the 1960s’ original, also called The Prisoner. The remake will also star Patrick McGoohan, an original cast member. Consumer products to be released by Factory Entertainment will include action figures, prop replicas, trading cards, and die-cast. The products will begin launching internationally this winter, and in the UK in the spring.
ITV has also announced that Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group USA, will re-publish the original version of The Prisoner novel by Thomas Disch, which will coincide with the U.S. television premiere of the new series in November. The book will be published this fall and will feature newly created packaging and tie-in art.

NCircle to Distribute DVDs Based on New Cat in the Hat Series

NCircle Entertainment has been named by Random House Children’s Entertainment to distribute a series of DVDs based on the upcoming PBS KIDS TV series, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! The new show, featuring the voice of actor Martin Short, follows 6-year-old best friends Sally and Nick, who are transported on a magical voyage of scientific discovery. The friends adventure to places such as the bottom of the sea and the top of the rainforest, traveling with the Cat and his energetic helpers, Thing One and Thing Two.
The first DVD is slated to hit store shelves in fall 2010 to coincide with the premiere of the animated preschool series on PBS. This show is currently in production for 40 half-hour episodes for the first season.

Baby Genius Celebrates 10th Anniversary with New Toys and More

Baby Genius is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the launch of new merchandise, a redesigned website, and more. In August, the company launched a new line of 24 Baby Genius early learning and development toys from master toy manufacturer Battat Inc., available in Wal-Mart stores. The initial assortment of toys includes activity, musical, and role-play toys.
Through a licensing deal with publisher Meadowbrook Press, Baby Genius launched of a series of Baby Genius Sing ’n Learn board books. Distributed through Simon & Schuster, four books were initially launched, and four additional titles are planned for the spring. Baby Genius will also debut the fall release of the new Baby Animals Favorite Sing-A-Longs DVD. In addition, Pacific Entertainment will release the entire library of Baby Genius DVDs and CDs with all new packaging.

Special Edition G.I. Joe: Cobra to Release

IDW Publishing, in conjunction with Hasbro, will release a special edition comic book in the G.I. Joe: Cobra comic book series this week, entitled G.I. Joe: Cobra Special #1. The new book follows twin brothers who have drifted apart and have formed a deep rift between them. The story is framed in panels with pages that mirror each other.  Each brother tells his story, and the exact panel-to-panel mirror highlights the very different views of life each brother has. G.I. Joe: Cobra Special #1 follows up on the surprise reveal from Cobra #4, and is written by Mike Costa and illustrated by Antonio Fuso.

Topps Premieres 3-D Live Football Cards

Topps and Total Immersion introduce a football version follow-up after the success of its 3-D Live Baseball cards. Topps 3D Live Football trading cards feature NFL quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Eli and Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, and more. Each Topps 2009 Football pack contains one interactive code card that players use when logging on to Topps’ 3-D Live section at www.toppstown.com. Once players have entered the section, they select the quarterback found on their code card, hold the card under a webcam, and the quarterback springs to life onscreen. On the screen, the featured quarterback pops up to fire passes to virtual receivers, while trying to avoid defensive obstacles. Fans can control the action with keystrokes.

TIF Launches Charity Auction of Exclusive Anniversary Character Toys

The Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) has launched a new online charity auction that will benefit children in need, as well as celebrate signature anniversaries of popular children’s characters. Through September 30, several exclusive, character-based, collectible items will be sold through eBay at www.givingworks.ebay.com. All proceeds will benefit TIF programs such as The Toy Bank, which donates newly manufactured toys to charities supporting underserved, homeless, and at-risk kids.
Each of the character toys––Barbie, G.I. Joe, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–––is celebrating a milestone anniversary this year. The auction will include five custom Barbie dolls, each from a limited-edition line produced for the icon’s 50th birthday; an exclusive leather golf bag and movie poster signed by the producer, director, and cast of G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, in celebration of Joe’s 45th birthday; two limited-edition gold SpongeBob plush toys for the character’s 10th birthday; and a set of hand-painted, limited-edition cold cast statues of all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, along with a certificate of authenticity signed by the creator, in celebration of 25 years of Turtle Power.

K.I.D.S. Charity Receives $330,000 in Products, $150,000 in Grant

The charity Kids in Distressed Situations, Inc. (K.I.D.S.) received nearly $330,000 worth of juvenile products at this year’s All Baby and Child Kids Expo (ABC). In addition, ABC donated a $150,000 grant to the charity, the fourth year the organization has provided the grant. At the end of the show, more than 100 exhibitors donated their show inventory, including toys, blankets, baby bottles, cribs, bedding, furniture, strollers, car seats, and books to K.I.D.S. The donations were distributed to homeless shelters, centers for abused and neglected children, military bases in the Las Vegas area, and other local programs through the city’s social services system.
K.I.D.S. has also teamed up with Communities in Schools for a national initiative that helps prevent children from dropping out of school. Elaine Wynn will chair the initiative, and the Las Vegas community will be the first place to benefit from the new program.

Boire Steps Down at Toys "R" Us

Ron Boire has stepped down as executive vice president of Toys "R" Us, where he also served as president of "R" Us Brands since February. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Boire's position was eliminated and he was terminated Tuesday without cause. The company offered no further comment on his departure. Boire joined Toys "R" Us as president in 2006 following a three-year stint at Best Buy, where he last served as chief merchant.

Spin Master’s New Canadian VP Named

Jeff Hurst has been named Spin Master’s new vice president of Canadian sales and marketing. Hurst rejoins the company with more than 15 years of sales and marketing experience in the toy industry, working at companies such as Hasbro, Leapfrog, and MGA Entertainment. Hurst will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of Spin Master’s Canadian business. Spin Master is Canada’s largest toy company.

Toys “R” Us to Buy Company’s Japanese Shares

Toys “R” Us has announced it will buy all the minority shares it doesn't already own in Toys “R” Us-Japan for approximately $84.7 million, or 587 yen per share. Toys “R” Us-Japan holds a 38 percent stake in the company. The company said the buy out is part of a bid to improve the efficiency of its group management, and it plans to invest further in the Japanese subsidiary by expanding its operations in the country. The Japanese subsidiary has confirmed that it has agreed to the plan.

Scholastic Reports First Quarter Results for Fiscal 2010

Scholastic has reported financial results for the first quarter of fiscal year 2010, ending August 31, 2009, in which the company reported a 14 percent rise in revenue from continuing operations to $315.6 million. The loss per share from continuing operations also improved to $0.68, compared to $1.13 in the period from the prior year. The company attributes the strong results to higher sales of educational technology to schools and to sales of children’s books in retail channels during the quarter. Scholastic typically records a seasonal loss in the fiscal first quarter, when the company’s School Book Fairs and Book Clubs generate minimal revenue.
Including discontinued operations, the consolidated loss per share in the quarter was $0.63 compared to $1.30 during the same period in fiscal year 2009. Free cash flow (as defined) in the first quarter was a use of $77.5 million, reflecting an $85.2 million improvement from a year ago. Net debt at quarter end was $236.4 million, compared to $400.7 million a year ago.

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