the Bloom Report
Toy and Game People Obituaries - RIP - Rest in Play
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Remembering Those that have Passed . . .
Mikael Nermark. Longtime Starbreeze executive Mikael Nermark has passed away at age 50. Nermark served as Starbreeze Studios' CEO and president twice during his 11 years at the Payday publisher, first in 2011 and then again in 2018 following a five-year run as the company's COO. Before stepping down and CEO and president last year, Nermark oversaw much of Starbreeze's reconstruction process as it sought to recover from financial hardship and regain long-term stability. Loved ones shared word of his passing in a LinkedIn post over the weekend, prompting an outpouring of memories and kind words from colleagues and friends. "Mikael have fought against his cancer for a year, and he have fought hard. His strength under the circumstances is truly inspirational and gives us all a perspective on life," reads the post written by Avalanche Studios co-founder Christofer Sundberg and Starbreeze global marketing director Pelle Sunnerot. "He lived every day like it mattered because it does and that is something we should all take with us as we honor his memory. His laugh, his guidance to us who have worked with him, his calm, his knowledge, his humor, and his voice will be with us forever. Gone, but never forgotten."
David Watt passed away earlier this month (Sept). Born in Ballymena in Northern Ireland in 1944, David worked for Lego from 1975 until 1999 as area sales manager in Northern Ireland, calling on independent retailers as well as some national accounts. Over his 24 years at Lego, David achieved the accolade of Top Salesman multiple times, winning the coveted Silver Lego Brick trophy with his name engraved. David will be remembered fondly by customers and colleagues alike, who describe him as full of passion and integrity for his work, with a great sense of humour. He lived for ‘the brick’ and was incredibly proud to work for Lego, taking great pride in what he achieved working for the group. Many of his customers knew him as the ‘Lego Man’.
Sir Clive Sinclair. Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, has died on Thursday 16th after a long illness at the age of 81. Sir Clive Sinclair's contributions to the world extend beyond gaming, so prolific were his inventions. But as games professionals and enthusiasts alike expressed their sadness at news of his passing last week, it's clear the impact he had on the industry -- especially in the UK -- was profound and a key pillar to his legacy. Best known in the gaming world for his ZX consoles -- the ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum -- Sir Clive Sinclair provided the platform for many a developer to start their career. It wasn't just their capabilities, but also their affordability, with a ZX80 priced at less than £100. Sinclair believed in a future where every household was home to a computer, and his games consoles helped prove that could become a reality. Tributes have already been paid across social media, but we reached out to notable developers from the time, industry veterans familiar with his work, and other games professionals to share their thoughts on the life and legacy of Sir Clive Sinclair
Robby Kanoff, former executive vice president of sales at Galoob Toys, died Sept. 16, 2021. A toy industry veteran with legendary ties to the world of wrestling action figures has died. “We lost a real legend yesterday,” says Graham Mottram, an industry vet and current sales lead at Story Time Chess. The Philadelphia-born Kanoff began his career in the toy industry in 1978 as national sales manager at Lewis Galoob Toys. In the season three Wrestling Figures episode of The Nacelle Co.‘s The Toys That Made Us, Kanoff recalled being perhaps the youngest sales manager in the toy business at the time at age 23. His efforts to guide Galoob from an importer of toys to a maker of toys led to licensed products inspired by Universal’s The A-Team, WCW, the Spice Girls, and more alongside original brands, including Micro Machines, Baby Face Dolls, and more.
Following his departure from Galoob, Kanoff — dubbed “Jewish Lightning” for his wrestling-inspired sales tactics — was one of the founders of The Original San Francisco Toymakers and re-acquired the license to produce WCW action figures followed by a deal with Extreme Championship Wrestling for a line of ECW toys. “Robby was a great salesman and an even better friend,” says Robert Weinberg, former executive vice president at Toys “R” Us and senior vice president of merchandising at KB Toys. For the past 20 years, Kanoff lived in Massachusetts with his partner, Josie Persichino. Kanoff was 66.
Reuben Klamer - Toy industry icon and inventor of the classic board game The Game of Life, died at home in La Jolla, CA on September 14, 2021. He was 99 and left this world reluctantly, telling a recent visitor “I don’t have a reservation!” The Game of Life was inducted into the permanent Archives of Family Life at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1981 and is second only to Monopoly in board game popularity. Produced by Hasbro, the game has been marketed in 59 countries and in 26 languages since its introduction in 1960. Although the exact number is probably much higher, it is estimated that more than 70 million Games of Life have been sold to date. (The Japanese edition, called Jinsei, has been the best-selling game in that country for more than 50 years.) Mr. Klamer’s colleagues, friends and neighbors described him as warm, kind, generous, intensely curious and a fabulous storyteller. He was known for his crackling sense of humor, his sartorial splendor (he had a huge collection of hats and dressed up in costume every Halloween), the mischievous twinkle in his eyes, and showing up to parties with the Pink Panther. Reuben loved good food, from the finest oysters to milkshakes, and would go anywhere for a great hot dog. He adored chocolate in any form,” one said, reminiscing that among Mr. Klamer’s favorite places was Serendipity 3 in New York City. “His joy was contagious and he was always bursting with ideas — an eight-year-old boy in a grown man’s body,” another added. “I think Reuben’s greatest accomplishment was how he managed to stay relevant to the very end,” said George Burtch, retired Vice President of Marketing for Hasbro and a longtime friend. “He was the most cheerfully persistent person I’ve ever met and he inspired so many, in and out of the toy industry.” Mr. Klamer had a gift for anticipating and capitalizing on trends, a talent for developing consumer "must-haves" across a broad spectrum of categories and the ability to work in a variety of media. While the bulk of his most successful products were in the field of toys and games, he also held design, development and invention credits in industries as diverse as textiles, plastics, aviation, publishing, music, television and film. Among his approximately 200 other toy credits are the classic Fisher-Price Preschool Trainer Skates, on the market for nearly 35 years; the Art Linkletter Hoop; Gaylord the Walking Dog (Ideal); Moon Rocks (Hasbro); Dolly Darlings (Hasbro); Erector-Constructor Sets (A.C. Gilbert), and Busy Blocks and Zoo-It-Yourself (Tupperware). Read More...
Adele Alessi - Her long-time colleague Duccio Abolaffio (CEO Diaframma) told Toy World: “Adele’s career at Diaframma spanned over 30 years. Through the good and the bad, her presence was constant. Even during Diaframma’s most difficult years, she decided to stay on without pay. She single-handedly built the company into the international business that it is today. She loved her work – selling was always fun for her. Even more so being told no, that just made her go at it even harder. Adele was at every single toy fair for over 30 years. She seemed to own every room she walked into and had the rare gift of capturing the attention of anyone she spoke to. She was the heart and soul of the party; those who partied with her will definitely agree. Adele was an inspiration – as an individual, as a wife and mother, and as a colleague. The kind words from people from the industry have just underlined how much she will be missed, and how vividly people remember her. She was filled with a voracious love of life. That she has been taken from us too soon can’t be put into words. Some people may not know that she had been battling with cancer for a while, but like everything else in her life, she faced it head on. She was always positive and enthusiastic, and never let go of these qualities until the very end. She taught all of the people who worked with her a lesson that she embodied most of all: ‘Leave your mark, always’. Rest in peace dear Adele.”
Seeing the news on LinkedIn and Facebook, many people posted heartfelt comments, including Rubies’ head of licensing Tracey Devine-Tyley, who said: “Today the toy industry lost a very special lady. Adele welcomed me into her home on several occasions and showed me the sights of Florence on the back of her scooter – an experience I will never forget. She was one of the most graceful, fun, elegant ladies I have had the privilege to know. She lit up a room in whatever country we were fortunate in the industry to find ourselves in. She was lucky enough to see her daughter compete in the Tokyo Olympics but she leaves AnnaChiara and Matteo behind. Rest in peace Adele. You will be greatly missed.”
Don Poynter, Novelty toy inventor never lacked for ideas, dies at 96 on August 13, 2021. Donald B. Poynter was a difficult man to sum up. He was an entertainer, an inventor, an entrepreneur. Creative and bold with an endless stream of ideas. Local folks long remembered his days as a theatrical drum major at the University of Cincinnati, where he twirled multiple batons while on stilts, a tightwire or a unicycle. Then he built a career inventing novelty toys and gadgets – some of them rather risqué, like the Go Go Girl Drink Mixer – that were featured on Johnny Carson and David Letterman. That made it difficult for his daughter to tell the nuns at school what her father did for a living. “I went home and asked my mom,” Molly Poynter Maundrell recalled. “She said, ‘Just say he’s self-employed.’” “I’ve had a fascinating life,” Poynter said in a 2019 Cincinnati Magazine article. One filled with accomplishments in a wide range of areas, from business to show business, and a number of celebrity encounters along the way. Near the end, a social worker called his daughter, concerned that the tales he told were hallucinations. “No,” Molly assured her, “they’re all true.” An industrious lad, Poynter built his own toys growing up. In 1937, he became the youngest member of the Puppeteers of America. While attending Western Hills High School, he was a lead actor on “Father Flanagan’s Boys Town” radio show on WLW and later on NBC. He also performed on air with Doris Day, Maureen O’Hara, Rosemary Clooney and Clarence Nash (the voice of Donald Duck), and played pool in Cheviot with Andy Williams. Mostly self-taught, he entertained as a baton twirler, ventriloquist and magician while in the army during World War II and to help pay for college. His stint as the legendary UC drum major brought him to the attention of Abe Saperstein, the promoter of the Harlem Globetrotters, who hired Poynter to perform during halftime shows twirling batons, machetes and flaming torches. He spent three summers traveling the world with the team and performing for royalty. In 1951, the Globetrotters played at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin and Jesse Owens ran a lap where he had won four gold medals in front of Hitler. Poynter was Owens’ roommate for a few days. In 1953, Poynter made and performed puppets for Jon Arthur’s children’s show “No School Today” with Big Jon and Sparkie on WCPO. He also wrote a stage show, “Midnight at Eight,” a dramatization of classic horror and suspense stories that starred Basil Rathbone. Poynter started his own Poynter Products Inc., in 1954 to manufacture and sell the wacky novelty items he created. He ran the mail-order business from his house in Hyde Park. His first toys, Play Logs, were three-foot-long Lincoln logs. He also worked with Sive Advertising in Cincinnati and directed the first commercial for Kenner’s Easy-Bake Oven, featuring his daughter Molly. “It was all funny,” Maundrell said about growing up with her father’s novelty business. “I was so intrigued with how he could come up with a lot of these things, the techniques he used. It was wonderful. It was probably the closest to a genius that I would come to.” Poynter designed the toys himself, molded the clay and built the mechanisms, then took them to Japan to have them manufactured.
One of his most successful products was the Little Black Box. You flip the switch and the gears turned inside as a hand reached out to pull the switch. The toy existed solely to turn itself off. Some of his popular items were the Matchbox Steer-and-Go, which allowed kids to steer a toy car on a moving landscape, the Executive Waste Basket Ball backboard, a “Little Shop of Horrors” fly-trap bank and the first talking toilet.
Poynter pitched the idea of paper dry-cleaning bags printed with dresses from Disney characters that kids could then use as costumes. Walt Disney called it “the best promotion I have ever seen,” Poynter said. Another character toy didn’t fare as well. Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, sued Poynter over his Dr. Seuss’s Merry Menagerie figures in 1968. Poynter then changed the packaging to say they were “based on” drawings Dr. Seuss had done for a magazine early in his career and Poynter prevailed in court. “Almost everything I’ve ever done is either making someone laugh or giving them pleasure, and if I didn’t, I’d be out of business,” Poynter said in an 2015 interview.
Philip Goodall, The well-known independent retailer and former chairman of the BATR has passed away. Philip was born in Ashburton, Devon in 1930. It was in the summer of 1940, watching RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes engaged in ariel dogfights with the Luftwaffe for the Battle of Britain, that his interest in flying was sparked. He completed his National Service in the RAF and decided to stay and train as a pilot, eventually joining Bomber Command. During his 25-year career in the RAF, he flew a wide range of planes which included co-piloting a Canberra in the first raid on the Suez Canal and the Vulcan, often with Nuclear armed missiles. The last jet plane he flew was Concorde, prior to it going into service. In 1975 he took retirement from the RAF. In the same year he and his wife Helen purchased an investment property in Thame which had been a family run cycle business. They were persuaded not to close the cycle shop and decided to run it themselves. At the same time, Helen came up with the idea of introducing toys and The Pied Pedaller was born. Toys quickly outperformed cycles and after 18 months, the store moved to a renovated former town cinema with two floors. Originally, the first floor was used for storage, but within five or six years both floors were retail space and with over 5000 sq ft, the Pied Pedaller was one of the largest independent toy shops in the country. Supported by the advice of experienced toy people, such as Paul Caspari of Robenau Toys, the Pied Pedaller joined the Andover based toy buying group, Concorde. Philip was a director of the group for several years before leaving to join Toymaster for a few years, before switching to Youngsters, with whom the business stayed.
Philip also joined the committee of the National Association of Toy Retailers (NATR), now the BATR, for which he was chairmen for five years.
According to Philip’s son Mark: “This was a particularly challenging time for the toy industry and the independent sector in particular, and Philip took his position as chair very seriously. It would be fair to say that he had a significant impact how the association was structured and succeeded over the following decades.” Philip’s chairman’s speech at the annual BATR Toy Fair dinner was always a not to be missed occasion, and often controversial. He also took great pleasure in writing a monthly article in the toy trade press for several years. In 1995, the business moved into outlet retailing, opening in Bicester Village and then rolling out into a dozen other outlet centres across southern England and Wales, under the Toyzone Banner. Philip retired from the business in 2004 and in the following years authored a book, titled ‘My target was Leningrad’, covering his years in the RAF and the Cold War strategy.
Stuart Crawford Toy World is sad to report that toy industry veteran Stuart passed away last week after a long illness. It is with great sadness that MV Sports and Leisure reports that the popular industry figure Stuart Crawford passed away on Thursday 19th August, aged 69, after a prolonged and debilitating illness. Stuart retired from MV in 2019 after 22 years with the company, having worked in the toy industry for over 40 years. After training at Nestle, Stuart’s first role in toys was in 1976 with Burbank Toys, then onto Acamas Toys in 1981, Pikit Toys in 1987, PMS in 1992 and MV in 1997. Stuart worked with all the major and independent retailers both past and present and was a champion of the independent retail trade in particular. He was perhaps best known for his role of national account controller at MV Sports. Speaking on behalf of MV, joint managing director Phil Ratcliffe said: “A larger than life character who wore his heart on his sleeve; nobody had a bad word to say about Stuart. Ever popular and widely respected, Stuart was always an honourable and trustworthy ambassador for the company.” “He was loyal to both the wider toy industry and MV, demonstrating unwavering support to customers, agents, directors and staff,” added Phil. “Our thoughts are with his wife Marie and family. He will be very sadly missed; Stuart was such a lovely person and will be fondly remembered by everyone here.”
His contribution to the industry was recognised with a BTHA Golden Teddy Award in 2018.
Sudoku: Maki Kaji, puzzle enthusiast, dies aged 69. Maki Kaji, the Japanese man known as the "Godfather of Sudoku", has died at the age of 69. Kaji gave the number puzzle its name after publishing it in his magazine Nikoli in the 1980s. Since then the popular game - involving placing the numbers 1 to 9 in each row, column and square of a 9 by 9 grid - has spread around the globe. Tournaments take place across the world and it is estimated that millions play versions of the game each day.
Russell Dever, the vivacious and engaging founder of licensing agency, Those Licensing People, passed away on 11th August aged 62, having sadly taken his own life after a long battle with depression. Renowned for his passion in children’s entertainment and content, Russell’s affection for the genre led him to found the Leeds-based licensing agency in 2013. Over the last decade, his client portfolio has represented some of the world’s best-loved, classic children’s brands, which Russell rejuvenated with his boundless energy and enthusiasm for the industry he embraced. Clients he has represented include Sooty, The Magic Roundabout, Roobard & Custard, and The Little Prince. Russell’s personality shone at industry trade shows and events where he was a regular exhibitor and sponsor, with an unwavering support for the licensing community and those within it who became his friends, not just clients or contacts. Alongside his licensing business, Russell was also respected in the children’s broadcast industry, having created and produced a number of children’s TV series, including hit show Little Monsters. It was his success in children’s entertainment which led the creative entrepreneur to expand his career into the licensing industry, about which he became so passionate. At the time of his passing, Russell was working on several production projects to be showcased at upcoming trade shows. In 2017, his youngest daughter, Leah Dever, joined the business and will continue her father’s work with its existing clients.
Bill Burke - The licensing stalwart was known for his creative spark and love of sharing his extensive knowledge with interns. Bill Burke, a long-time licensing executive who joined Licensing International this year as SVP Marketing and Communications, passed away suddenly at his home on 9th August aged 55. Prior to joining Licensing International, Bill was SVP Marketing for CBS Consumer Products, where he led Global Marketing (including Retail), International Licensing, and Licensing Operations for such iconic brands as Star Trek. Before that, he held senior positions with such companies as HIT Entertainment, Sesame Workshop and Foot Locker. “Bill was already a beloved and admired person within the industry when he joined the Licensing International team in February,” said Maura Regan, president of Licensing international. “In his brief period with us, and for those who hadn’t the pleasure of working with him previously, he quickly became a friend, creative spark and trusted sounding board for everyone on staff. It’s a measure of the man that he particularly enjoyed mentoring our interns, making sure that they got as much out of us as we got out of them. We will miss him personally and professionally.” He is survived by his wife Patty, daughter Erin and son Ryan.
Jack Hirsch, founding U.S. president of VTech Electronics North America. Hirsch began his career with Jewel Companies as a buyer and merchandiser in the 1950s and then with Mattel handling sales in the early 1970s. He also founded Waddingtons House of Games in the U.S. and worked as a representative of VTech toys before making the transition to the company’s founding president in the U.S. He served as president until 1991, when he moved into the role of Chairman of the Board. He remained actively involved in daily business activities for many years, before transitioning to an advisor role. “We were incredibly sad to learn of Jack Hirsch’s passing,” said Andy Keimach, president of VTech Electronics North America. “As VTech Electronics North America’s founding president in the U.S., Jack was a pioneer of electronic learning products with a lifetime of dedication to the toy industry. His contributions will never be forgotten as his legacy lives on through the company and resonates throughout the toy industry.”
John P. McMeel. Newspaper Syndicator With a Difference, Dies at 85. He and his business partner started in a basement, recruited a Yale student cartoonist named Garry Trudeau, and built the largest company of its kind. John McMeel, a founder of what began as a basement operation in a rented ranch house in Kansas — with a mail drop on Fifth Avenue — and grew into the largest newspaper syndication company in the world, died on July 7 at his home in Kansas City, Mo. Mr. McMeel and Jim Andrews were holding day jobs in the late 1960s — Mr. McMeel as a salesman for Hall, a newspaper syndication company in New York City; Mr. Andrews as managing editor of The National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City — but they were already moonlighting as the syndication moguls they would one day become. Before their company had any clients, it had a name, Universal Press Syndicate, which they chose because it sounded grown-up and corporate and as if it had been around forever. Mr. Andrews gave himself a pseudonym, John Kennedy, for the president he had idolized. Mr. Andrews, a cerebral former Roman Catholic seminarian living in Leawood, Kan., trawled for content creators like Garry Trudeau, whom he found in the pages of The Yale Daily News. (Mr. Trudeau was a Yale junior writing a strip called “Bull Tales” about a college quarterback named B.D. — the character who became the world-weary warrior in Mr. Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” — and the partners had to wait for him to graduate, and for the threat of the military draft to pass, before signing him up.) Mr. McMeel, a waggish and charming law school dropout, was the salesman.
William E. “Bill” Celeste - Bill was employed in the Purchasing Dept. of Western Publishing for 28 years then became Vice President of Purchasing at Patch Products in Beloit for 16 years, retiring in 2011. Many people have lost their phone friend and entertaining storyteller! William E. “Bill” Celeste, age 73, passed away peacefully Sunday evening, July 18, 2021, at his residence after a year long struggle with cancer.
Peter Lockey The director and co-founder of The Puppet Company, Peter Lockey, passed away on 1st July following a short battle with a brain tumour. Toy World is sad to report that Peter Lockey has passed away just shy of his 64th birthday. His son Sam, sales director at The Puppet Company, which this month marks its 20th anniversary, told Toy World the story of how his father came to be in the toy trade. “Previously a teacher, like my mum (Sue, co-founder), dad went into working for the family luggage business, after which he partnered with his father, Eric – who is also very creative – to make pine furniture.”
Willi Zapf The Zapf Creation team has shared the news that its former owner Willi Zapf passed away on 30th June at the age of 83. In 1958, Willi and Brigitte Zapf took over the management of the Max Zapf doll factory. Under the new name of Zapf Puppen-und Spielwarenfabrik, Willi and Brigitte Zapf launched Baby born in 1991. He sold the company in 1992, but continued to lead it through success, growth, and innovation, until his retirement in 1997. With passion and determination, he led the company to become one of the leading manufacturers of play and functional dolls, and Baby born grew into one of the best-selling products the doll sector has ever seen.” Andrew Laughton, who headed up Zapf UK for many years, told Toy World: “Willi was a true gentleman. I would not have even entered the toy industry without his support and belief. A good friend of my father, together they built the Max Zapf business in the UK until he sold it over 20 years ago. I’ll be forever grateful to Willi and the entire Zapf family for their friendship and the opportunity they gave my family. His son Stefan still works at Zapf, heading up IT, so the family connection to the brand still remains. It’s poignant that 2021 is the 30th anniversary of Baby born – the brand transformed the large doll business worldwide, and it was Willi who saw the concept and believed in it from the start.”
Ora Coster - We lost one of the greats this week - Ora Coster. She and her husband Theo were the brilliant leaders of Theora Design. They were celebrities in the inventing world and dear friends of mine. Pictured here are Ora and Theo with their sons Boaz and Gideon at the TAGIEs in 2012, receiving the award for Lifetime Achievement. Our hearts are heavy, but we are richer for knowing Ora and all the wonderful playthings she left behind. I am gathering stories, memories and tributes to Ora (and Theo) for a story. Please send me yours to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Hackard - Line Editor of the Munchkin game line for the past 12+ years, and freelance editor who edited several of Wil Wheaton’s books, among other projects, passed away on June 17 from brain cancer. He was 50 years old. Hackard also worked as a freelance editor, editing several of actor Wil Wheaton’s books, and had a previous four-year stint at Steve Jackson as an editor and Managing Editor. In his role as Munchkin line editor, Hackard developed many of the Munchkin line extensions, including licensed versions.
Michael Nunn - Michael was the third generation of the family to run the well-known Redgates store in Sheffield and chairman of White Rose Toys buying group. Toy World is sad to report that Michael Nunn has passed away peacefully, aged 93 . Michael was the third generation of the family to run the well-known Redgates store in Sheffield. Edwin Redgate opened the first store in Fargate in 1857, selling furs and sewing machines. From 1890 onwards ,Redgates sold fur pram covers and around this time, the first wheeled toys were introduced. The reputation of Redgates grew rapidly in the 1960s, when it became known in the trade as one of the best toy shops outside of London, often referred to as “the Hamleys of the North.” Michael worked in the business from 1948 to 1986, and was a key figure in the store’s move to its most-remembered location at Furnival Gate in the mid-1970s. In 1975, Redgates reached a milestone £1m turnover, which was a significant achievement at the time.
Having celebrated the company’s 125th birthday in 1982, Michael sold the business several years later to Zodiac Toys, which continued to run it for two years before it finally closed. During his career, Michael travelled frequently to Nuremberg, where he originally met doll manufacturer Hans Gotz and started the agency agreement which still lasts to this day. The business has been run for many years by Michael’s son Antony, who married Hans’ daughter Silke Gotz. Michael’s grandson Patrick also works in the toy business, carrying on the family tradition.
Michael was chairman of White Rose Toys, a buying group consisting of 19 retailers which eventually became one of the founding cornerstones of Toymaster. He was also an active member of the Fence Club.
M. RICHARD ROBINSON, JR. Scholastic Corporation Chairman and CEO, who had a profound influence on geek culture, passed away unexpectedly over the weekend, the company announced. He was 84, but had been in excellent health and active in running the company, as he had for nearly 50 years, the company said. In his roles as President since 1974, CEO since 1975, and Chairman since 1982, Robinson built Scholastic into the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, with $1.6 billion in annual sales. Robinson made a momentous decision in 2004, when Scholastic entered the kids graphic novel business with its new Graphix imprint (see "Scholastic to Launch Graphic Novel Line"). With Scholastic leading the way, kids graphic novels became the largest part of the graphic novel business, bigger than manga, superheroes, or creator-owned graphic novels. Big hits have included the Amulet and Bone series, adaptations of Babysitters Club, the work of Raina Telgemeier, and Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man.
Ditomassi spent more than 40 years at Milton Bradley — both before and after it was acquired by Hasbro, Inc. in 1984 — where he worked to bring worldwide recognition to game brands including Candy Land, Life, and Chutes and Ladders. According to his obituary, Ditomassi’s career at Milton Bradley began when he joined the company as a production trainee in 1960. In 1970, he became Vice President of Milton Bradley and General Manager of the Whiting Division. In 1982, Ditomassi was elected to Milton Bradley’s Board of Directors, and in 1985 was promoted to President of Milton Bradley. In 1990, he was named Chairman of Milton Bradley and Chief Operating Officer, Games and International, at Hasbro, Inc. Between 1996 and 1997 he served as President of Hasbro International.
John Wilson. John Wilson, the founder of renowned text adventure game publisher Zenobi Software, has passed away. A family member shared the news on social media, prompting an outpouring of tributes from those who knew Wilson. Also known as the 'Rochdale Balrog' because of his ties to the Greater Manchester town, Wilson turned Zenobi into a full-time venture in 1986to help produce and publish adventure games for a range of systems including the ZX Spectrum and the Atari ST.
Ebbe Altberg, - the CEO of Second Life creator and developer Linden Lab, has passed away. The Linden Lab team shared the news on the Second Life community forum, and praised Altberg for ushering in a culture of "profound openness and transparency" during his tenure. Altberg was appointed CEO of Linden Lab in February 2014, and prior to that worked at a range of high-profile technology companies including BranchOut, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.
Eric Carle, author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, died on May 23rd aged 91. A statement issued by the family read: “In the light of the moon, holding on to a good star, a painter is now travelling across the night sky.” Carle’s most famous book published in 1969 tells the story of a caterpillar with a giant appetite and has sold more than 50 million copies around the world and translated in 62 languages. His family said Eric Carle had died in Northampton, Massachusetts, from kidney failure.
Michael Loveland - Michael spent his whole career in the toy business until his retirement a few years ago, notably with Bandai, where he played a pivotal role in the formation of the UK operation back in 1982. Tasked by the Japanese parent company to set up a UK subsidiary, Michael and his brother Nigel successfully established the operation with its first UK office in Guildford. Michael went on to become Bandai’s European marketing director, and was part of the team that first brought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the UK and European markets, having brokered a deal with Playmates Toys. Michael was also instrumental in Bandai becoming the original distributor of the Nintendo range of electronic and video games. Michael was also involved with both the British Toy and Hobby Association and the Toy industries of Europe throughout his career, serving as an active Board member in both organisations.
Jon Seisa (from Jon's brother) It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our brother Jon Seisa of Long Beach, Calif. Jon passed away on April 16, 2021 at the age of 65. In early childhood you could see that Jon was no ordinary child. As kids we would set up the garage to look like a doctor’s office. We got bed sheets and draped them to cover dad’s work bench and walls. We would set up this hospital bed and put all kinds of strange things underneath the bed. Jon portrayed the “Mad Doctor”, while his brother, Rick, was the terrified patient. We’d invite the neighborhood kids to come watch the performance. It was hilarious and amusing to watch the neighborhood kids’ reactions, seeing Jon pulling out work tools, toys and all kinds of other different objects from his brother’s stomach. The neighborhood kids were scared, they thought it was REAL. What a BLAST it was! He was an animated character, hence his path was predestined. Jon was a gifted artist, illustrator and designer with a colorful and animated personality. In 1973 he attended Santa Ana College. While there he designed a large aquatic theme park, Magic Marina for an environmental design thesis. From 1976-1983 he was the Lead Art Director for Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, CA. While there, he worked with such renowned Disney artists and designers as Ward Kimball, Ken Anderson and Hollywood art director Harper Goff. In 1985 he took his many talents to Mattel, Inc. and helped create and launch some of their toy and doll product lines, including the Barbie Classique Collection. After seven years with Mattel, Inc., he then decided to venture out on his own as an independent Freelance Art Director. Jon is survived by his brother Rick and sister Debbie, as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. He will be deeply missed and will always live in our hearts. (Thank you Marcia Reece for letting us know.)
Richard Halliwell. Richard Halliwell, who co-created Warhammer Fantasy with Rick Priestley, Bryan Ansell, and Jervis Johnson for Games Workshop in its earliest days, has passed away, according to a Tweet by colleague Graeme Davis. In addition to co-creating the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy, Halliwell continued to develop the game in the 1980s, ultimately working on three editions. He also co-designed Dark Future, an apocalyptic car racing game in 1988, and designed two games based on 2000 AD comics: Rogue Trooper and Block Mania.
John Paul Leon. Well-known Marvel Comics and DC Comics comic book artist John Paul Leon passed away Sunday after a 14-year battle with cancer, according to a GoFundMe page posted by his studio-mates, Tommy Lee Edwards and Bernard Change. He was 49. Leon began his professional career with a series of illustrations for Dragon and Dungeon magazines, while he was still a teenager. While attending School of Visual Arts in New York, he drew the DC Comics/Milestone title, Static.
Kevin James Reeder, 64, of Champaign, IL died Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at home. Kevin was proud to be a design educator and product designer. As a design educator, he was a professor at Stanford, Ohio State and Georgia Tech, finishing his career at the University of Illinois. He was the first professor to ever achieve tenure at Georgia Tech’s Industrial Design Department and for several years was ranked as a top design educator in the United States. As a product designer, he specialized in toy design and children’s anthropometrics, creating products for Discovery, Mattel and others. He holds several patents and his work is featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Peter Woods - Toy World is sad to report that former Fence Club chairman and long time toy industry member Peter Woods passed away on 10th April. Peter died at home, surrounded by his family. He had suffered with declining health for the last nine months, and is survived by his wife Barbara and his three sons. The toy and licensing industries formed the backbone of Peter’s working life. From joining Disney in 1953, after working for both Warner Bros. and Republic Pictures, his career advanced through Ideal Toys, Western Publishing and Dekker, after which he worked on a freelance basis. Peter was chairman of the Fence Club in 1980, and is probably most remembered for setting up the annual golf tournament in 1979 in memory of Teddy Simmonds, who he knew well. At Disney, Peter’s boss, Eddie Davis, was one of the original members of the Fence Club, who founded the organisation with Teddy in 1960.
Terry Stephens - Popular toy stalwart has passed away at the age of 85. Terry spent many years in the toy retail business, where he rose to become a director of C.T.S., Upper Thames Wholesalers and retail buying group Youngsters. Later in his career, Terry switched to the other side of the fence, where he spent his twilight toy trade years working on the sales side for Gibsons Games.
Bill Gamson, Sociologist and Inventor of Games, Dies at 87. He created a game of simulated baseball that was a precursor to today’s fantasy sports. As a professor, he devised a role-playing game to help students address societal problems. Mr. Gamson, an eminent sociologist who explored the structure of social movements and whose childhood love of games led him to create one that became an inspiration for the fantasy sports industry, died on March 23 at his home in Brookline, Mass. He was 87. The cause was sarcoma, a type of cancer, his son, Joshua, said.
Ryu Asada joined Mattel in 2004 as a designer on the Matchbox brand before making his way to the Hot Wheels Team. Over the course of his 17-year career, Asada designed dozens of 1:64-scale die-cast vehicles for the $1 Hot Wheels mainline assortment, most recently serving as designer project lead. “Ryu courageously battled Stage IV colorectal cancer for four and a half years. Even throughout extensive surgeries and chemotherapies, he stayed positive and continued doing what he loved to do — designing Hot Wheels and sharing his passion for cars with the world. He had a strong will and fought until the end. He took his final lap at the hospital on March 23rd from complications of the cancer. His co-driver in life, Hazel Diaz Asada, whom he met at a drawing class at the University of Oregon 21 years ago, was, like always, by his side.
Gerry Crown - Founder of Crown & Andrews (Australia), an Entrepreneur, Bon Vivant, Champion Rally Driver, Serious Golfer, Loving Husband and Father and a real English Gentleman passed away March 12th, 2021 peacefully in his sleep. A beloved member of our toy & game industry family, we are very happy to have captured him in a video conversation with Adi Golad last fall. Many of his friends came together virtually from around the world to pay tribute: Gerry Crown... the Kingdom of the Heart.
Peter A. Flihan, Jr., Peter started as a buyer at B.Altman & Co, Buyer for Child World, Commonwealth Toy and then seeing a niche in that market, he and Linda Hejduk started their own stuffed toy manufacturer, Westcliff Limited. His son Peter joined them soon after, where they enjoyed more than a dozen years in business, travelling extensively to South Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia and China.
Frank Thorne - He was 90 at the time of his death on March 7. Thorne started working in comics in 1948(!), but was best known for his work on Red Sonja, a character he started drawing in 1976, at a time when the character was being developed in the Robert E. Howard Conan universe by Barry Windsor-Smith and writer Roy Thomas. Thorne provided most of the art for the Red Sonja solo series, which ran from 1977-1979. Thorne also created some of his own characters, including Ghita of Alizarr in an original graphic novel, Lann in Heavy Metal, Danger Rangerette in National Lampoon, and others. Thorne worked for Standard Comics and DC in addition to Marvel; did newspaper strips, including Perry Mason; wrote a number of books for Fantagraphics; and did magazine illustration work for Playboy, Hustler, High Times, and Vanity Fair.
Art Janis - It is with profound sadness the WowWee family announces passing of their Executive Vice President of Sales and dear friend Art Janis. An amazing friend to the Toy Industry, his warmth and good nature was felt by anyone and everyone he touched. The WowWee Family would like to share the following.
It has been an honor to have you in our lives. You were there from the very beginning, always positive, always smiling, always honest, always giving it your all….one of the “goodest” souls we have ever encountered. Your loyalty to anyone you called friend was unwavering, you have always been our shining example of what it means to be decent, caring and most of all real. We have so many loving memories of how you helped build and touch all our lives, including the succession of WowWee itself with the large fingerprint you have left both generationally on our family and everyone within our organization. We suspect the reason why your heart gave out is because you have given it to so many of us - it is the reason why you will never ever be out of our thoughts and out of our lives. We know how phobic you were to being nothing less than the vibrant, never better attitude you always brought with you everywhere you went, and we take some comfort knowing that you would never want to exist without being able to operate at full capacity…. which is motoring through an airport while picking up dessert and a Coke, phone in hand watching the Yankees. Please know that you will be severely missed and never forgotten.
Rest in peace our dear friend, uncle to the kids, loved by everyone at Wow Wee especially your HK brothers and sisters (Mark Ng, Fion, Gloria, Anita, Steven to name a few) and most of all your beautiful wife, Marina.
With much love always,
Your WowWee family
David Gold - Dave was with Ideal, Mattel, Spellbound Dolls and Just Play Toys.
Darrell Burge. Toy World is sad to report the passing of Hornby's Darrell Burge, well known for working extensively on the Airfix brand, who died suddenly on February 10th. CEO of Hornby, Lyndon Davies, described the news as ‘very sad and very sudden’. He commented: “Darrell had Airfix running through his veins, working at Humbrol in Hull before he joined Hornby in Margate in 2006. Working with both the Airfix and the Humbrol brands, he was highly respected throughout the industry. He was full of fun and energy, many would have met with him at shows and events across the country. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Jane, his children Emily, Martin and Gavin and his granddaughter, Oriana.”
Darrell enjoyed a long and successful career at Hornby. As product manager at Airfix, he oversaw the revitalisation of Airfix products and the brand over the last decade and was a popular member of the Hornby team. His former colleagues have been quick to share their fond memories of working alongside Darrell over the years.
Geoff Hall of Geoff's Toys Toy World is sad to report that independent toy shop owner Geoff Hall passed away on 6th February at the age of 89 after a short illness. Geoff made the move from running a newsagent to opening toyshops in the early 1970s, with the launch of the first branch of Geoff’s Toys in Coalville, Leicester, followed by two further shops in partnership with his wife and children. Having joined Toymaster in the 1990s to get better trading terms, Geoff became a longstanding and keen member of the group. He was still a member when the business ceased trading in 2018, after a successful 50 years. Geoff’s son Nick told Toy World that Geoff loved buying toys and was well respected by visiting reps and agents, although his formidable determination to get the best deal was something they came to be cautious about when calling.
Robert A. Altman, the co-founder of video game company ZeniMax Media, which published top franchises including The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, has died. His cause of death was not immediately clear. Altman co-founded the Maryland-based ZeniMax Media in 1986, ultimately becoming one of the video game industry's biggest publishers. In 2009, ZeniMax acquired id Software, famously known for creating classic games such as Doom and Wolfenstein. Last September, Microsoft acquired ZeniMax in a deal worth $7.5 billion. Altman was married to "Wonder Woman" star Lynda Carter. They had two children together, James Altman, 33, and Jessica Altman, 27.
Loretta Whitfield, co-creator of Black Baby Whitney doll, As a District of Columbia Public Schools and Howard University graduate, Loretta Whitfield, who died on Dec. 27 at the age of 79, knew the value of representation. Whitfield and her husband Melvin Whitfield established Lomel Enterprises- a combination of the beginning of their first names- as a means of offering toys to Black children that looked like them, and with research and hard work the baby Whitney doll was born. “Loretta [and] Melvin thought that there was a need to fill a gap that left children of color without positive images. They spent seven years researching and developing Baby Whitney, a Black doll. The Whitfields even hired an African art historian to design the doll’s face, which is based on a fertility doll in West Africa,” according to an obituary submitted to the AFRO.
The Baby Whitney doll was groundbreaking and featured as a toy to look out for in several publications, including the LA Times, Ebony and a 1987 New York Times article on the Black doll debate.
Kelvyn Gardner. a well known and much loved figure in the licensing community; his wife Michelle shared the sad news on LinkedIn yesterday.
Kelvyn passed away yesterday morning (26th January). Michelle wrote: “As I am typing this I just cannot tell you how we feel, we are at a loss… It was Kelvyns 66th birthday on the 22nd of January 2021 and was going to be our big wedding anniversary; 40 years. We had joked that he wouldn’t know one end of a ruby if it bit him, so I think I might have got some ruby coloured Warrington gear!” Kelvyn’s career in licensing dates back to 1979, when he worked marketing Disney products for an Italian publishing company. For the next twenty years Kelvyn marketed literally hundreds of licensed products all over the world. During the 1990s, Merlin Publishing, founded by Kelvyn and three colleagues in 1989, became the fastest growing private company in the United Kingdom. Kelvyn recently “relaunched” licensing consultancy Asgard Media. He was also managing director of Licensing International UK for many years and was an active member of the Light Fund charity, serving on the committee, and recently entertained the licensing industry with his Living with Licensing podcasts.
Kim Merrill, Chief Executive Officer Insignias Global, formerly of Uproar.
Steve Lightle. Comic artist Steve Lightle has passed away due to cardiac arrest tied to COVID-19, his wife posted on his Facebook account. He was 61. Lightle was best known for his time on Legion of Super-Heroes, on which he followed artist Keith Giffen in 1984, and for his brief run on the relaunch of Doom Patrol beginning in 1987. He was also a cover artist for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics over the years.
Dennis Watts Toy World is sad to report that Dennis Watts passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve, following a long battle with illness. After a career in engineering design, Dennis entered the toy industry in 1974, taking over his father Fred Watts’ toy shop in Melton Mowbray. Dennis acquired another local toy shop in 1978 and from the two shop names, he formed the Arbon and Watts business. During the 90s and 00s, the retail stores won the Midlands region Toy Shop of the Year award on five separate occasions. In the mid 90s, Dennis created Mail Order Express – the idea behind the new operation was to work with selected supplier partners to carry entire ranges. In 1999, Mailorderexpress.com was launched online, leading to a massive expansion in the early 00s, as the company rode the wave of the initial internet boom.
Kelly Flock. Former Sony, LucasArts, and THQ executive Kelly Flock has passed away. A number of notable industry figures shared the news online, and paid tribute to Flock's leadership abilities and commitment to giving new voices a chance to shine. Flock spent decades working in the industry at a number of high-profile companies, holding several senior positions at Sony, including president and CEO of Sony Online Entertainment.
Oscar Koveleski, founder of the Auto World and Kidracer brands, died Monday (December 28, 2020) at the age of 88. In 1958, Koveleski — a race car driver and scale model enthusiast — launched Auto World as a mail-order store from the basement of a home in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The operation, which initially placed ads in the back of magazines, became a popular catalog business and pioneered the hobby and specialty retail space through its extensive offerings of slot-racing cars and track sets, plastic model kits, R/C cars, building supplies, and other items from brands including TYCO, Aurora, Scalextric, and more. “At that time slot cars were a mainstream toy,” says slot car evangelist Dave Kennedy, former brand manager for Hornby Hobbies’ Scalextric/Airfix lines and former North American marketing manager at Carrera of America. “They became a staple toy in every mass-market store and catalog … everyone — and I mean everyone — that is in the business now follows in Oscar’s footsteps.”
Diana Green Diana Green, long time buying director of Greens Toymaster, passed away at home on 13th December 2020 after a short illness. Toy World is sad to report that Diana Green, a popular and well respected toy industry figure, passed away peacefully on Sunday 13th December after a short illness. Diana was a well known figure in the industry since the 1970s, having worked as buying director for Greens for much of this time. Working alongside her husband Geoff, Diana selected ranges for the Snowfold buying group’s FOB import programme, which supported members ranges and margins from the 1980’s. Later, she served as a member of Toymaster’s Merchandise Committee for many years, as the Greens Toymaster chain expanded to a total of 17 stores.
Mercedeh Ward - Mercedeh Ward contributed to the toy industry she loved in a myriad of ways over the course of her 35-year career. A mechanical engineer by training, with a degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Mercedeh leveraged her considerable smarts and work ethic to ensure thousands of toys reached the market to deliver happiness to children. Her amazing career spanned multiple companies (in order): Mattel, Equity Marketing, Playmates, Spin Master, MGA, Funrise, Zippity Blue, and Spin Master (again). At a time where there were few female engineers in the toy industry (and no one had yet heard of STEM), Mercedeh became the go-to product development expert for girls toys in Southern California, where executing the right aesthetic was paramount. She made major contributions to many powerhouse brands, including: Barbie, Bratz, and Amazing Amanda (first major animatronic doll). In her second stint at Spin Master, she helped drive the success of the #1 preschool brand, Paw Patrol.
Francis Spear Francis passed away peacefully on 13th December 2020. Francis was born in the town of Fuerth, near Nuremberg, into a Jewish toy trade family. His great grandfather, Jacob Wolf Spear, started J. W. Spear & Soehne in 1878. By the time Francis was born into this close-knit family – he was the youngest of five grandchildren – the company was being managed by his grandfather Carl Spear and a great uncle. ...
When (Francis) he joined Spear’s Games, Francis worked in a number of different departments, but his passion was for the production side of the business and he took on the role of production director, overseeing the manufacturing process. Francis became managing director of J. W. Spear and subsequently its chairman. He was respected by many in the toy trade for his honesty, loyalty and modesty. When the company was sold to Mattel in 1994, Francis purchased farmland in Hertfordshire. Read More...
Glyn Davies Toy World is sad to report that Glyn Davies passed away in Liverpool on November 20th, after catching coronavirus. Glyn had turned 70 in July. Glyn worked in the toy trade for many years as a rep and national account executive for several toy companies, including Blue Box, Rainbow, Mondo and Fisher Price. His final role of a long and distinguished toy trade career was at Bandai. Julian Boyers, former managing director at Bandai, commented: “I was deeply saddened to hear of Glyn’s death, which happened very quickly and unexpectedly.
Jimmy Hunter, the founder of Hunter Toys, passed away on November 14th, 2020. Jimmy took on the role of BTHA Chairman from 2000-2002 and was heavily involved for many years with both Toy Fair and the BTHA’s ‘Value of Play’ initiatives. He was the champion for Total Fun, the consumer event held in the early 2000s, while he was also the brainchild behind the longstanding Golden Teddy awards. His daughter Sally Hunter, who has followed in Jimmy’s footsteps by building a long and successful career the toy trade, told Toy World: “The fact that the Golden Teddy awards are still being presented so many years later gives me goosebumps.
Simon Holdsworth, Managing Director at Thos Holdsworth & Sons Ltd, passed away on November 14th, 2020. "Many of our staff have worked alongside Simon for more than 20 years. Words like mentor, great boss, good friend, awesome storyteller, gregarious, quick witted, dynamic, proud, demanding, knowledgeable and tireless are just some of their comments. He is, and always will be our champion! Our legacy for Simon is to keep the company running smoothly and exemplify the excellence that he demanded from us each and every day. There will be many memories, and no doubt a number of stories from your time spent with Simon, perhaps encouraged by his favourite tipple of a G&T or a wee glass of Grand Marnier! In the coming weeks, I hope that we get the chance to remember the good times and raise a glass in his honour." - Fleur Tisdale
NOTES on colleagues we lost before we publicly listed in the Bloom Report
Georges Gareau, President of Bojeux
Jim Mariol - He designed the world’s best-selling car, Little Tikes, beloved by toddlers for 40 years - 1- 2020, for more on Jim's prolific career, here is a Smithsonian article
Kazuhisa Hashimoto - Legendary Game Designer And 'Konami Code' Creator - 2-27-20
Jens Nygaard Knudsen - inventor of the LEGO Minifigure, age 78 - 2-26-20
Allison Katzman designed the Blythe doll, age 95 - 4-3-20
Satish Pillalamarri - Co-founder, North Star Games - 10-8-20
Lee Volpe - 10-27-20
Roger Shiffman - Co-Founder, Tiger Electronics (Furby) - 10-3-20 Roger Shiffman was perfectly cast as the public face of a toy company, Tiger Electronics Inc., maker of Furby, Giga Pets and other hits of the 1980s and 1990s. He had a jungle of curly brown hair and a cherubic expression that prompted the Chicago Tribune to describe him as a grown-up kid. He also had an insight early in his career: Toys and electronics were merging. In 1978, Mr. Shiffman helped found Tiger in a Chicago suburb. Starting with Mickey Mouse record players, Tiger teamed up with Hong Kong partners to make hand-held electronic games, often tied to movies. Furby, a talking furball with its own language (Furbish), sent parents into a desperate chase for scarce merchandise in the late 1990s. Hasbro Inc. bought Tiger in 1998 for $335 million and kept Mr. Shiffman as president of the business for three years. He survived surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2002 and celebrated by treating family and friends to a “Grateful I’m Not Dead” trip to Disney World, where his wife, Carol Shiffman, was inducted as an honorary Mouseketeer. Three years later he helped found another company, the short-lived Zizzle Toys. Mr. Shiffman died Sept. 5 of mesothelioma at his home in Highland Park, Ill. He was 67.
Joe Ruby, the co-creator of the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, has died aged 87. August 2020. Ruby, who created the much-loved characters alongside his creative partner Ken Spears, died of natural causes in California on Wednesday. "He never stopped writing and creating, even as he aged," said his grandson Benjamin Ruby. Warner Bros' animation president, Sam Register, said Ruby "made Saturday mornings special for so many children....
Bryan Stockton - Former CEO, Mattel - 8-2-20. Stockton spent 15 years at Mattel, including serving as Chief Executive Officer from 2012 to 2015 and Chairman from 2013 to 2015. Stockton joined Mattel in 2000 as Executive Vice President of Business Planning and Development. In 2003, Stockton was named Executive Vice President of International, and he was promoted to President of International in 2007. After leaving Mattel, Bryan focused his attention on photography. What was formerly a passion project, became an award-winning career. Bryan’s work was recognized by the distinguished Graphis Photography Annual, receiving a gold in their landscape category. His images were also hand-picked to be featured in Travel & Leisure. Most recently, Bryan was retained by the prestigious Relais & Chateaux resorts to bring a fresh look and “guest” perspective to their images including food, environmental, guest accommodations and activities.
DIANNA EFFNER - The doll world lost a renowned and beloved artist Oct. 14 with the death of Dianna Effner due to cancer. Born in 1945, Effner began designing and making porcelain dolls in the late 1970s, designing for a variety of manufacturers as well as producing and finishing dolls herself. Many of her designs have been released as vinyl dolls, but she is best-known for her porcelain dolls and her work as a mentor for other artists. She and her family established Expressions in 1992 to produce doll molds for the hobby, allowing other artists to reproduce her designs in porcelain. She also founded the Doll Dreamers Guild as part of her ongoing support of aspiring artists. Her designs continue to be popular with collectors and artists today. Read more about Effner’s remarkable career as a doll artist in this 2017 feature story from DOLLS magazine
Dave Spears of Spears Marketing. Paul David Spears, Devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend, David passed away on July 13 after suffering a major stroke. Born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, he received his B.A. from Evansville University and started his career as a copy writer for Sears Roebuck in Chicago. From there he moved on to marketing and spent 50 years in the toy business with Mattel, Takara and ultimately his own company. David will be remembered for his calm judgment, affability, humor, love of history, theater, music and the arts. On summer evenings he and Susan could often be found at Ravinia. In the winter you might find them at the Jazz Showcase. He both enjoyed and was frustrated by the Bears and took great pleasure from picking his Fantasy Football teams. A gentleman in every sense of that word, his family benefitted from his wisdom, decency and abiding love. Augie the cat will sorely miss his walks with David to get the morning paper. It was a ritual they both enjoyed.
Harvey Diamond - VP of International Licensing at Mattel and then President of H. Diamond International (June 17, 1936 - July 30, 2020)
Bernie Tenenbaum - Managing Partner of China Cat Capital and Lodestone Global, President of Children’s Leisure Products Group
Dom Emig - Toy Salesman, Walmart
Brian Downs - Toy Manufacturer Representative with Les Friedland Associates
Lucky Evani - Toys ”R” Us Buyer, Toy and Video Games
Robert Manlin President, Robert Manlin Marketing, Senior VP Sales, Larami Inc.
Alan Fine - Mattel exec heading up such functions as marketing research and strategic planning, licensing and entertainment, new business development, media planning and buying, packaging and consumer affairs. He is probably best known to us as the go-to guy for consumer research with his own company, KaleidOScope, especially for smaller toy companies.
Ken Spears - Co-creator of the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, died at the age of 82. Spears, who created the animated characters alongside his creative partner Joe Ruby, died of complications from Lewy body dementia.
Alan Roach – May 2019
Ted Kiesewetter - Founder of International Playthings, May 2019
Jerry Welch - CEO of The Right Start, then acquired Zany Brainy and FAO Schwarz, forming FAO
Peter Mayhew - Star Wars’ Original Chewbacca, May 2019
Rick Loomis 8-19 A legend in the tabletop RPG industry, served as the president of the Game Manufacturers Association for years.
Frank Brilando, 93, designer/engineer with Schwinn Bicycles for 4 decades and a two-time cycling Olympian. Started at Schwinn in 1951 as a draftsman, helped create the Sting-Ray and first derailleur-equipped mass-produced bicycles. "My guess is you will find Frank's name on more patents than anyone other than the Shimano family," said Jay Townley, a former Schwinn executive and bike industry analyst. May 2019
Bill Smith, the recently retired president and CEO of Huffy Corp., has died. Smith was at Huffy for 25 years, including 8 years as CEO, before announcing last September that he would retire in December 2018. RIP in May 2019
Jerry Robson - Tremendous Toys 8-26-18
Bill Dohrman - 2018
Abe Mor 3-18
Charles Lazarus (October 4, 1923 – March 22, 2018) Founder of Toys “R” Us, has passed away at the age of 94. The seeds for Lazarus’ vision to create a super market-like store just for toys were planted back in 1948 with his children’s furniture store, Children’s Bargain Town. Intended to cater to the post-war baby boom, over time his focus shifted solely to toys. He restructured the business in the late 1950s and, with the supermarket format, opened the first Toys “R” Us location in 1957.
By 1978, under the Toys “R” Us name (backwards R and all), his business became a public company and his vision, a reality. In the 1980s, TRU was in its prime under Lazarus’ watch, with the “Toys R Us Kid” jingle etched into every child’s brain. By 1983, TRU diversified its portfolio with the addition of Kids “R” Us clothing stores opening their doors in New Jersey and New York. By the following year, the company had both a nationwide and worldwide presence with wholly-owned locations in Canada and licensed operations in Singapore.
Lazarus stepped down in 1994 but remained a figure on the board as Chairman Emeritus. That year, he handed the reigns off to Michael Goldstein, who ran the company until 1998.
But the toy mogul was known as much within the industry for his work as he was for his giving. In 1985, Lazarus brought industry members together for a benefit gala in New York to raise money to improve the health and well-being of children. By 1992, this came to be known as the Toys “R” Us Children’s Fund, which now receives millions in donations that go to nonprofits for child health and safety. He was inducted into the Toy Association Hall of Fame in 1990 and received the National Retail Federation’s Gold Medal Award in 1995, recognizing his leadership and his role in revolutionizing the toy and juvenile product industries
Of the news of his passing, Goldstein described Lazarus as not only his mentor but as a second father to him. Goldstein says of the conversations he shared with Lazarus that the only regrets they both had are of the employees who will lose their jobs, the suppliers who will lose their best customer, and the children who will never experience Toys “R” Us.
Horst Brandstaetter - Playmobil founder, JUN 11, 2015
Ralf Baer – Magnabox, Simon’s co-inventor, Dec 8, 2014
Milton Levine – Ant Farm and founder of Uncle Milton – died January 16, 2011 at the age of 97
Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003), also known as Mister Rogers, was an American television host, author, producer, and Presbyterian minister. He was the creator, showrunner, and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001. Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, and earned a bachelor's degree in music from Rollins College in 1951. He began his television career at NBC in New York, returning to Pittsburgh in 1953 to work for children's programming at NET (later PBS) television station WQED. He graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with a bachelor's degree in divinity in 1962. He became a Presbyterian minister in 1963. He attended the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development, where he began his 30-year long collaboration with child psychologist Margaret McFarland. He also helped develop the children's shows The Children's Corner (1955) and Misterogers (1963). In 1968, he created Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which ran for 33 years. The program was critically acclaimed for focusing on children's emotional and physical concerns, such as death, sibling rivalry, school enrollment, and divorce. Rogers died of stomach cancer on February 27, 2003 at age 74. His work in children's television has been widely lauded, and he received over 40 honorary degrees and several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1997. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999. Rogers influenced many writers and producers of children's television shows, and his broadcasts have served as a source of comfort during tragic events, even after his death. Read More...
Sid Sackson November 6, 2002
Russ Berrie, founder of the toy company that bears his name, died suddenly on Christmas day. The cause of his death was heart failure, the company said in a statement. Berrie, 69, was the chairman and CEO of his namesake company. After working as a salesman in the toy business, Berrie used his own savings to start his company in 1963, operating out of a rented garage in Oakland, N.J. The company introduced and capitalized on such collectibles as trolls, “Bobble-Bods,” “Animagnets,” an array of plush animals and special-occasion porcelain figurines and, recently, home décor items. From ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in October to making an appearance on CNBC on Christmas Eve, Berrie was his company’s greatest cheerleader. Berrie lucked into the toy business almost on a fluke. After completing three years of college, he answered a classified advertisement and ended up working as a salesman for a Chicago-based toy concern. While the company he was working for wasn’t setting the world on fire with its toys, Berrie at least got a taste for the toy business and subsequently went to work for what was then the finest U.S. stuffed-animal manufacturer: Master Industries. Accordingly, Berrie’s company outgrew its garage to become a leader in the gift industry – with annual sales of over $300 million and employing more than 1,700 people worldwide. Berrie was also known as a generous philanthropist. One of his most recent and most substantial donations was to endow the Russ Berrie Institute for Professional Selling, at New Jersey’s William Patterson University, scheduled to open to students in fall 2003.
Stephen Hassenfeld (January 19, 1942 – June 25, 1989) was an American businessman best known for being the chairman and chief executive officer of Hasbro from 1980 until 1989. In 1980, Stephen's father Merrill died, and Stephen took over control of Hasbro. From 1980 to 1986, Stephen Hassenfeld increased Hasbro's profitability by 85% annually. Only two Fortune 500 companies have achieved such a high rate of growth in profitability. Forbes magazine rated Hasbro number one in a thousand-corporation survey of increased value during the first half of the 1980s, well ahead of other successful companies such as Wal-Mart and Berkshire Hathaway. In 1983, Hassenfeld established the Hasbro Charitable Trust, and in 1984, he created Hasbro Children's Foundation. The two charities help to improve the lives of children and their families throughout the world by providing management of grant donations in operating areas, product donation, matching gifts to higher education, special community projects, and volunteering. Also, in 1990, the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders was created. The Children's Center is affiliated with NYU Langone Health, and under its current director, Dr. Elizabeth Raetz has been making remarkable strides in alleviating the worst of children's suffering. (from Wikipedia)
Louis Marx (August 11, 1896 – February 5, 1982) was an American toy maker and businessman whose company, Louis Marx and Company, was the largest toy company in the world in the 1950s. He was described by some as an experienced businessman with the mind of child.
Marx was known by numerous nicknames, including "Toycoon," "the Henry Ford of the toy industry," "the hawk of the toy industry," and "the toy king of America. (from Wikipedia)
Merrill Hassenfeld (19 February 1918 - 21 March 1979) president and chairman of the board of Hasbro, Inc., the toy manufacturing giant that during the 1960s launched G. I. Joe, the first male action figure with accessories. The oldest of three children of Henry Hassenfeld, a pencil and toy manufacturer, and Marion Frank, a homemaker, Hassenfeld was born one year after his father and uncles Herman and Hillel founded Hassenfeld Brothers, Inc. After graduating as a business major from the University of Pennsylvania in 1938, Hassenfeld joined the family's firm, which by then had bought a pencil company. Just before World War II, Hassenfeld married Sylvia Kay; they had three children. At that time the company began including in its pencil boxes play stethoscopes and other toy medical equipment, sewing kits, and school supplies. In 1943 Hassenfeld's father placed his sons to lead the company's divisions. Merrill was put in charge of toys, while his brother Harold, headed pencils. Later, his brother's division split from Hassenfeld Brothers and became the Empire Pencil Corporation. The first best-seller made by Hassenfeld Brothers (the name was changed to Hasbro Industries in 1968) was Mr. Potato Head, invented by George Lerner. Introduced in 1952, it was the first toy advertised on national television. At first these toys were only plastic facial parts applied to an actual potato; by 1964 they came complete with a hard plastic body. Mr. Potato Head has sold over 50 million units since its development. (from Enclyopedia.com)
Marvin Glass - Marvin Glass was born Marvin I. Goldberg on July 14, 1914 and died at the age of 59 on January 8th, 1974. He changed his surname to Glass as an adult and founded Marvin Glass & Associates (or MGA as it was known) in 1941. Over his long and storied career, Marvin Glass helped develop and license hundreds of successful games and toys, including Yakity-Yak Talking Teeth, Mr. Machine, Mouse Trap, Operation, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, Tip It, Lite Brite, Ants in the Pants, Toss Across, Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle, and SSP Racers to name a few. At the time of his death, MGA was the largest toy design firm in the world and employed 75 designers, engineers, and model makers at MGA’s fortress of a studio at 815 N. La Salle Street in Chicago. In the years following 1988, when MGA was disbanded, many former employees of MGA started their on toy design firms in the Chicagoland area, including Meyer/Glass Design, Breslow, Morrison, Terzian & Associates (now Big Monster Toys), Rehkemper ID, Lund & Company, Barlow Design, Wayne Kuna & Associates, Barlow Design, and more. Chicago owes its status as “The Toy Design Capital of the World” to Marvin Glass and the many designers who were influenced by him.
Frank Hornby, 1863 - 1936, is the inventor of Meccano and Dinky Toys, as well as the founder of the model train firm that carries his name.
He began his remarkable career by producing toys for his own children in 1889, despite having no official technical experience, and went on to manufacture some of the most popular toys of the twentieth century. Hornby became a multi-millionaire as a result of his creations. Meccano Ltd was the largest toy company in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. Hornby purchased five acres of land in Liverpool’s Old Swan neighborhood, and the Binns Road factory opened in 1914. For more than 60 years, this was the company’s headquarters...
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