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the Bloom Report

Toy and Game People Obituaries - RIP - Rest in Play

If you know of a colleague's passing, please send us information

so we can share with our industry.

Remembering Those that have Passed . . . 

2024

Salvatore Anthony Mucaro of Fernandina Beach FL passed away peacefully on May 16, 2024, leaving behind a legacy of love, strength, and cherished memories. Salvatore was born in The Bronx, NY to Nicola Mucciacciaro and Christina Mucciacciaro (Nee DiMangano) on December 13th, 1934. He was the middle child of the family, and loved his two siblings, older sister Maria (McGuckin)and younger brother Mario Mucaro and their families dearly. Some of Salvatore's favorite childhood hobbies included building balsa wood model airplanes, playing street hockey and stick ball and racing pigeons. 

Salvatore worked in the toy industry from 1967 until his semi-retirement in 2010. He worked for such noteworthy companies as Remco Toys, Aurora Products Corporation, Mego Toy Corp., Ideal Toy Corp. and Coleco Toys, before starting his own development company Studio Geppetto with longtime friend and coworker John MacNett. He has several toy design patents and designed several successful toys in his long career as a package designer and toy designer. 

 

Shelly Morick - former Mattel sales executive. December 21st, 1937 - May 7th, 2024.

Jane Garner - Toy World is sad to report that licensing PR guru, Jane Garner of Kilogram Media, has passed away after a short illness.

Jane spent her career in the PR side of the licensing community. She initially ran the PR department at Copyright Promotions (now CPLG) before setting up her own agency, Kilogram Media, which specialised in supporting licensors and licensing agents from both the UK and international market. Throughout her career, Jane was ever-present at licensing shows and events across the globe, and numerous people from the licensing community will have spent many an enjoyable evening in her company...

 

Rob Auerbach - Tribute from CandyRific:  "It is with heavy hearts we write you that Rob Auerbach, Owner and CEO of CandyRific, passed away the morning of May 7, 2024.  An industry icon, Rob was a toy and novelty candy creator for more than 40 years with many historic items reaching the market. He founded CandyRific in 2000 with partners, Michael and Paul Roberts, steering it to be the global industry leader it is today.  A leader of licensing and branding in the candy industry, Rob’s passion was bringing great licenses and brands to products, making them amazing and enjoyable for everyone.
Rob founded Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Markets in 1977.  Those who knew him knew of his love for thoroughbred racing and he attended the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4.  Above all things, Rob loved his family.  He was the most positive person you could ever meet. Rob was a gifted storyteller with a great sense of humor, and he made everyone feel happier just being around him.
Our hearts go out to his wife, Pumpkin, daughters, Summer and Star, and all who loved him. He will be missed by all of us at CandyRific and Hilco Sweets, and we are grateful to have called him a friend. 

 

Walter Frederick Morrison, the inventor of the plastic flying discs that eventually became known as the Frisbee, died at his Utah home on Tuesday. He was 90 and is survived by three children. For decades, Morrison's creation has been an integral part of American life. Sure, there have been other flying toys, like the Aerobie or the Flip N Flyer, but even these seem less like competitors and more like slightly-modified versions of the original toy, sort of like weird second cousins. Frisbees, whose sales have passed 200 million units, are as American as baseball, apple pie, or fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Richard Keats, founder of Kaywood Industries, died on April 7 at the age of 97, leaving behind a legacy of toy innovation. Keats was a U.S. Navy Veteran as well as a graduate of Brown University. Following his degree, Keats joined his father’s company — Buddy L Toys — in 1948. After his father’s retirement in 1976, Keats took over and ran the company until it was sold to SLM in 1990. This wasn’t the end of Keats’ toy industry career. With experience from his time at Buddy L, he founded Kaywood Industries and continued to design and invent new toys. The company went on to license products to industry leaders including Fisher-Price, Mattel, Hasbro, and Spin Master.  Products that saw success with Kaywood Industries include Brush Your Teeth Barney, Playtime Big Bird, Flatsy, MakeUp Mindy, and more. Keats attended Toy Fair and the Dallas Fall Toy Preview trade shows yearly until 2019, demonstrating his deep investment in the world of toys. The toy industry has lost a talented and passionate inventor and designer. Keats passed away peacefully, and celebrated his 97th birthday on April 1. 

 

Jack McAllister - December 13, 1926 – April 19, 2024. He proudly served his country as a Navy Veteran during World War Two. Jack was truly a jack of all trades. He worked for Coast to Coast Hardware in Robbinsdale for many years. He was a toy designer for Sifo Toys as well as for Centuri Rocket Company. He designed cereal box premiums for General Mills. Jack worked as an engraver at Jostens and was employed by North States Industries as a designer and machinist. He also worked at Priemier Plastics as a designer and mold fabricator and was a machinist at NW Swissmatics. Jack was the proud creator of the games of BUNKERBALL and Racehorse Checkers. He also made a seed a starter kit which he named Roly Rooter. He made beautiful "Lucky Birds" out of wood and porcelain which he sold at the community market.

 

TRINA ROBBINS - writer, Artist, Historian, Advocate for Comics for Women and Girls. - Trina Robbins grew up loving comics but came of age at a time when comics for girls and women had disappeared and the industry was dominated by men. She helped transform the medium by creating her own comics, publishing and mentoring other women cartoonists, and documenting the history of the women who had always been a part of the industry but were seldom mentioned in the standard texts.  READ More...

 

Jeremías Babini passed away "unexpectedly" over the weekend, according to collaborator Daniel Benmergui. The Argentinian developer worked with Benmergui on 2023's Storyteller as an artist and co-designer. They first teamed with musician Hernán Rozenwasser on 2017's Fidel Dungeon Rescue. "[Jeremías] he poured his humor into every character, every animation, every detail," wrote Benmergui. "He gave life to everything we did." Babini first got into games in 2010 as an animator at social game developer Atommica. In 2012, he worked at Heavy Boat (as an artist) and Ludomancy (art director). Come 2015, he co-found Wonbats in Buenos Aires. At Wonbats, he worked as an art director on a number of Cartoon Network titles. Those games, some of which are still playable, include Steven Universe: Sword Dancers and Regular Show: Demonic Naptime.

Pamela Osborne worked for 60 years at the family run Osborne’s Sports and Toys, which she owned, in Rushden. She died peacefully on March 25th at the age of 91, with her family noting that ‘her smile and witty personality has always lit up our little corner of the High Street.’

Osborne’s is a proud Toymaster member, and Will Osborne, Pamela’s son, who currently runs the toy store with his partner, Libby, said: “She had a good life, she had 91 good years. The family has  been overwhelmed by the positive response of love, stories and best wishes that we’ve had. A response like that is a great comfort for the family. We knew her and loved her, but it’s nice to know the customers did too, and the response has just re-enforced what we knew about her, and that so many people felt the same.”

Gleda M. Estes: A Pioneer in Model Rocketry and its Educational Opportunities. It is with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to Gleda M. Estes, an icon in the field of rocketry and a champion for education throughout her life and career. Gleda passed away peacefully on March 30, 2024 at the age of 92, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to inspire generations to come.

Gleda Kane was born on March 4, 1932 to Lester and Anna Belle Kane in a farming community near Clarinda, Iowa. As the youngest of eight siblings, Gleda attended grade school at a nearby one-room schoolhouse and later moved to Clarinda, Iowa in 1946 to attend high school. During her high school years, she lived with the William C. Hemphill family, doing housekeeping, cooking and childcare for her room and board.

With plans to prepare herself for a career in nursing, she worked part time at the local hospital during her senior year in high school. Then, in the fall of 1950, she began her freshman year at Central College in McPherson, Kansas. It was in chemistry class at Central that Gleda met her husband, Vernon Estes. Gleda and Vern were married on May 16, 1951. They lived their early lives together in the Denver area where their three daughters Betty, Sharon and Linda were born. Together, they embarked on a remarkable journey, pioneering an innovative family business and ultimately shaping the landscape of model rocketry with the formation of Estes Industries, Inc. in 1958.

As a co-founder of Estes Industries, Gleda was Vern’s primary support and partner in their new business venture into the space-age hobby of model rocketry.  A modest mail order company in its infancy, Estes quickly grew along with the budding US Space Program in igniting the imagination of our country and contributing to technological advances needed to grow the hobby of rocketry. Her keen administrative skills and dedication complemented Vern’s technical ingenuity in the development of safe and affordable model rocket engines and model designs, making rocketry accessible to enthusiasts of all ages. Gleda’s contributions helped lay the foundation for the modern rocketry movement, inspiring countless individuals to reach for the stars.

It was Gleda who did much of the work as they got their small rocket company off the ground. She rolled body tubes, typeset and printed instructions, stitched the first Estes catalogs on her sewing machine, handled the bookkeeping, packed rocket kits, and processed and shipped orders.

Following the 1961 move to Penrose, Gleda managed the largest division at Estes Industries. It was her department that ensured kits were produced and shipped on time. She managed the mass mailings of catalogs, Model Rocket News, and other publications. It was her job to oversee the opening of the mail, and make sure each order was shipped out in the afternoon mail. Everyone at Estes knew that when it came to serving the everyday needs of customers, Gleda was the Boss. As Estes grew, so did Gleda’s division of the company. When Estes Industries was sold to the Damon Corporation in 1969, she was managing more than 150 employees. Read More...

Rich Rooney, PlayMonster Chief Operations & Logistics Officer, Passes Away, Aged 53. 

A longtime veteran of the toy industry, with history at Hasbro, Zizzle and Ridemakerz, Rich leaves behind an indelible and positive mark on the world of toys. 

Thoughts in remembrance of Rich can be shared here on the original post, and information of visitation and the memorial service can be found on Rich’s obituary page. 

See below for PlayMonster’s full statement on Rich and his impact:…

“It is with heavy hearts that we share the passing of our beloved colleague and friend, Rich Rooney. Not only was he a valued member of our team – a beacon of positivity, dedication, and professionalism – but his unbridled love of toys was clear throughout his years with Hasbro, Zizzle, Ridemakerz, and of course, PlayMonster, all together making him a leader in his field.” 

“Rich joined PlayMonster as the Chief Operations & Logistics Officer a few years ago and made an immediate impact during his tenure thanks to his unique talents, passion, and unwavering commitment to every project. Yet, it was his infectious smile, quick wit, and overall warm nature that won over the hearts of many, and that we, his PlayMonster family, will continue to cherish. He touched the lives of everyone he encountered, leaving behind a legacy of warmth and compassion.”

 “As we mourn his loss, let us also celebrate the profound impact Rich had on our lives, our company, and the toy industry as a whole.”

 “Our thoughts and prayers are with Rich’s family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

James M. (Jim) Ward, game designer, a member of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame for his contributions to Dungeons & Dragons and other games, has passed away, according to a post on his Facebook.  He was 72.
Ward was a friend of Gary Gygax from the very early days of Dungeons & Dragons development.  He and Rob Kuntz wrote Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes in 1976 for TSR, which was the first introduction of gods into the game.  He also is the creator of Metamorphosis Alpha, the first science fiction RPG, also published by TSR (see "Jim Ward's 'Metamorphosis Alpha'").  He worked at TSR for 20 years in a number of executive positions, and left in 1996.
Ward designed the Dragon Ball Z collectible card game, as well as helping with the Tomb Raider, Wheel of Time and Babylon 5 CCGs.  He founded the d20 company Fast Forward Entertainment with Timothy Brown, Lester Smith, John Danovich and Sean Everett (see "Fast Forward Takes Over Campaign").  He later joined Troll Lord Games as a writer and later the editor for Troll Lord's Castles & Crusades magazine, The Crusader Journal (see "Jim Ward Editor of 'Crusader'").
Ward had a series of health issues over the past 15 years.  He was diagnosed with a serious neurological disorder in 2010 (see "Jim Ward Fund Requests Donations"), and had a heart attack in 2014 (see "Jim Ward Suffers Heart Attack").
We knew Ward from his time at TSR in the 1980s and 90s, and found him to be a warm, funny man, and a gamer through and through.  We last saw him at a Gamehole Con in the late 2010s, and at that point he seemed little the worse for wear and definitely had the same warm heart.  Our condolences to his friends and family.

Mutsumi Inomata, a longtime illustrator and character designer for video games, passed away on March 10 at 63 years old. Per her official Twitter, her family held a private funeral, and a cause of death was not disclosed. "It happened so suddenly," wrote her sister. "She still has rough drafts, which I’m sure are still being worked on in heaven. Surrounded by her favorite cats, she’s surely creating more cute, strong-eyed characters."

Born December 23, 1960, Inomata is best known for her work on Bandai Namco's Tales games. Beginning with 1997's Tales of Destiny, she would work as a lead character designer on most mainline entries up to 2016's Tales of Berseria. While at Bandai Namco, she also briefly did character design for the Tekken series with Tekken 5, Tekken 6, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

Along with games, Inomata was a character designer or animator for anime. Those series ranged from City Hunter (and its sequel) to Sacred Seven and Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny.

Shigeichi Negishi, the entrepreneur who invented the world’s first karaoke machine, has died aged 100. Negishi, whose 1967 “Sparko Box” prototype is among several devices credited with ushering in Japan’s karaoke craze, died from natural causes in January. His death, which was made public last week, was confirmed to CNN by Shiro Kataoka, managing director of the All-Japan Karaoke Industrialist Association.

Born in 1923, Negishi founded and ran a company that assembled car stereos for automobile manufacturers in northern Tokyo. A regular listener to a singalong radio show broadcast in Japan at the time, he hooked a spare tape deck up to a microphone and mixing circuit so he could hear himself singing over music.

“When I asked the factory engineer, he said, ‘It’s easy,’” Negishi recalled in an account published by the All-Japan Karaoke Industrialist Association, an industry body for Japan’s karaoke operators. “So, I attached a microphone input terminal to the car stereo and created something like the prototype of a jukebox.”

Akira Toriyama, creator of the Dragon Ball, Sand Land, and Dr. Slump manga and the character designer for Dragon Quest and other video games, died on March 1 at the age of 69. The news was announced in a letter from his design and production studio, Bird Studio. The cause of death was given as “acute subdural hematoma,” and his family held a private funeral and requested that no gifts or flowers be sent.
“It’s our deep regret that he still had several works in the middle of creation with great enthusiasm,” the letter said. “Also, he would have many more things to achieve.”

As the creator of two best-selling series, Toriyama was hugely influential in Japan, and many manga-ka cite him as a significant influence on their work. In North America, Dragon Ball was an early hit and helped expand the audience for manga and anime to include teens.

Toriyama was born in Nagoya, Japan, in 1955 and studied graphic design in high school, eschewing college for a job with a local ad agency. His first published manga was Wonder Island, which appeared in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1978, and over the next two years several more of his stories appeared in the magazine (these were later collected and published in English by VIZ Media under the title Akira Toriyama’s Manga Theater).
In 1980, Toriyama came up with a goofy comedy manga about an inventor who creates a super-strong robot girl. The series ran for five years in Weekly Shonen Jump, and both the manga and the anime adaptation were massive hits. In Manga! Manga!, scholar Frederick Schodt writes that Toriyama’s income in 1981, when he was 27, was over $2.4 million, and in 1982, the series won the Shogakukan Manga Award.
Dr Slump made Toriyama a star, but Dragon Ball made him a superstar. As his editor, Kazuhiko Torishima, told the story in a 2016 interview with Forbes, Toriyama decided he wanted to move on from Dr Slumpabout six months after it launched, but it was the most popular manga in Shonen Jump and his editors didn’t want him to quit unless he came up with something even better. Torishima suggested a kung fu series, since Toriyama liked to watch kung fu movies while he worked, and this eventually evolved into Dragon Ball, which Torishima described as a “road movie” based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West. The series ran in Shonen Jump from 1984 to 1995 and was collected into 42 volumes. It is one of the top selling manga of all time, with over 260 million volumes sold throughout the world. It was also adapted into two very successful anime series, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. The different titles reflect a change in tone, as the manga started out with a lot of gags and slapstick humor but eventually evolved into a more action-focused story...

Terry Hess, a longtime environment artist for Obsidian Entertainment, passed away last week. The developer has launched a GoFundMe, whose funds will go solely to the late artist's family. Hess first worked as a 3D environment artist for BlackOps Entertainment and Manifest Games in the mid-2000s. In 2005, he joined Treyarch, where he worked on Spider-Man 3, 007: Quantum of Solace and 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops.

From 2010 to 2012, he stayed in the military shooter realm. After working on DICE's Medal of Honor: Warfighter, he joined Visceral Games and EA Montreal on Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel. In 2013, Hess started at Obsidian with its free-to-play game, Armored Warfare. He'd later be assigned to the team working on The Outer Worlds as an environment art lead.

Obsidian deemed Hess "one of the main contributors" to its early demo to publisher Private Division. The demo helped the team hone "in on the [game's] look, and is still a meeting that gets talked about with our colleagues at Private Division to this day."

Of his Outer Worlds 2 work, the studio noted he "pushed on what he felt we could, and should, be doing with the worlds we create from a visual standpoint."

"As we continue development of the sequel," it continued, "we will strive to make sure that vision is achieved."

"Terry was absolutely wonderful and can't be replaced," wrote Obsidian producer Mikey Dowling. "Tell people you love them."

"Last week Obsidian had an incredible loss of Terry Hess. He was a great friend and a lovely individual," added lead animator Cathy Nichols.

Janice Burgess, a longtime Nickelodeon television executive who sought to promote children’s curiosity and sense of play for decades, overseeing popular shows like “Blue’s Clues” and “Little Bill” and creating her own musical children’s show, “The Backyardigans,” died on Saturday in hospice care in Manhattan. She was 72.

Her death was confirmed by Brown Johnson, a longtime friend and the creator of Nick Jr., who said the cause was breast cancer.

In “The Backyardigans,” five cartoon animals — Tyrone, Tasha, Pablo, Austin and Uniqua — imagine their backyard as a place of adventure, traversing deserts, oceans, jungles, rivers and outer space while dancing and singing to music.

With the series, Ms. Burgess hoped to help children use their imaginations to have fun. In 2004, Ms. Burgess said in an interview with The New York Times that the idea for the show stemmed from memories of playing in her own childhood backyard in Pittsburgh.

“I really remember it as a wonderful, happy, safe place,” she said. “You could have these great adventures just romping around. From there, you could go anywhere or do anything.”

The series became a favorite of American preschoolers after it premiered on Nickelodeon in 2004. It was adapted into a live show, “The Backyardigans Live! Tale of the Mighty Knights,” in 2008.

In 2021, several “Backyardigans” songs, including “Into the Thick of It!” and “Castaways,” found a large and nostalgic audience on TikTok, years after their original release in 2005.

“Janice really taught me about representation in kids’ media and how important it was for kids to not only see themselves, but hear themselves,” Ms. Johnson said.

Ms. Burgess made sure to cast children of color, and the roles were recast every few years as their voices changed, Ms. Johnson said. Ms. Burgess wanted their voices to sound natural and “not Broadway,” she said. Ms. Burgess, a music lover, included 80 distinct musical genres in “The Backyardigans,” Ms. Johnson added.

“It was like writing a musical every week,” she said.

The music was composed by Evan Lurie, who said in an interview that Ms. Burgess’s “ability to cut to the meat of what needed to be done was just astonishing.”

Janice Burgess was born on March 1, 1952, to John Wesley Burgess and Alma Naomi (Thomas) Burgess. She grew up in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and attended the Ellis School, a girls’ college preparatory school. She graduated from Brandeis University in 1974, according to the university’s website.

She worked at WQED, the public television station in Pittsburgh, and Sesame Workshop before joining Nick Jr. in 1995. Working at Nick Jr. taught her everything she needed to know about creating a television show for young children, she said at a National Press Club luncheon in 2006.

At Nick Jr., she oversaw the production of “Blue’s Clues” and “Little Bill,” which went on to win Peabody and Emmy Awards. She won a 2008 Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding special class animated program for her work on “The Backyardigans.” In a statement, Nickelodeon called Ms. Burgess “one of the great architects of Nick Jr.”...

Remembering Those that have Passed . . . 

 

2023 and into 2024

John Birchwood.  Toy World is sad to report that popular toy trade stalwart John Birchwood passed away on 21st February.

John was born in Nelson, Lancashire in 1940 and educated at Manchester Grammar School. He started working in a retail store for Woolworths, before joining his father, Eric Birchwood, working for Mobo Toys. After that he moved to Chad Valley and subsequently joined Berwick Toys as sales director, eventually becoming managing director.

After the collapse of Berwick Toys and the Berwick Timpo Group in the early 1980s, some of its assets were bought from the administrators by A.B.Gee, where John worked for a short period before setting up on his own as a sales agent (Birchwood Agencies) with the help of his father, Eric. Amongst the companies John represented was Morris Vulcan (MV Toys) and after a number of years, John went to work for MV before establishing his own company, World Sports Int. UK in partnership with a Taiwanese manufacturer, which dealt predominantly in roller skates and in-line skates. In the early years of World Sports Int. (WSI), the company was the main supplier of in-line skates to mail order giants Littlewoods and GUS.

In 1994, John’s son Richard joined the business but unfortunately it was forced to close a few years later due to a series of production issues with the Taiwanese manufacturer. Richard takes up the story and explains what happened next: “In August 1998, with not a penny between us and the financial help of some of Dad’s friends from the toy industry (you know who you are and we are eternally grateful) and a friend of mine, we started J & R Sports, originally operating out of a 5,000 square foot warehouse in Aintree. In April 1999 my sister Lindsay also joined us. After a difficult first couple of years when the in-line skate business was slow, we introduced our JD Bug Scooter range in 2000 and from there the business went from strength to strength. In 2007 we relocated to a bigger warehouse in Huyton that we still run today. In 2011 we became the distribution partner for Madd Gear the UK & Ireland: this was the start of the pro scooter market and Madd Gear was a leading player. In 2012 we relocated again to our current location in Aintree.”

John continued to work until his 80th birthday, when he announced his retirement, just before the first Covid lock down. Although Richard admitted: “He continued to come into work over the next three years, never being able to stay too far away. He wanted to know how we were doing, what was happening in the trade and would avidly read Toy World to stay in touch with what was going on.”

As well as being a proud grandfather, John was also an avid Manchester United fan. However during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, John decided to join his son Richard watching Liverpool, taking him to his first European Cup final in Paris in 1981, with fellow toy doyen Ronnie Yaffe. Also a member of the local Mini Motoring Club, John would often take Mini trips around the UK and Scotland.

In memory of John, Richard and the family have started a tribute page that contains details of his funeral and also for his friends from the toy trade to share their memories of him with his family.

Our sincerest condolences to John’s children – Richard, Lindsay and Rachel – and his six grandchildren Emma, Olivia, Lily, Amelia, Zac and Ace, and all of John’s former friends and colleagues from the toy community.

Mark Dodson, a voice actor across video games, TV, and film, died from a heart attack over the weekend. He was 64.

Per TMZ, Dodson was attending Horror Con in Indiana on Saturday, where he's said to have had a heart attack while sleeping.

"Mark truly loved his fans and enjoyed meeting them at conventions around the world," wrote his talent agent Stellar Appearances. "[He]...added his unique voice and sound to each character and script he touched."

Dodson's voice acting career in games includes the Ghostrunner series as Adam Hamada and Barnabas in the Grim Dawn series. He also provided voices for Anamoly 2, various Nancy Drew titles, and Painkiller: Hell & Damnation.

Paul Crawford, creator of the Bendy games, gave his own condolences. Dodson previously voiced Nathan Arch in 2022's Bendy & the Dark Revival.

"Mr. Dodson had an amazing career, and I am honored he took part in our game," wrote Crawford. "Thank you, Mark."

Outside of games, Dodson is best known as the voice of Mogwai in Gremlins and Star Wars' Salacious B. Crumb. He returned to voice several Gremlins in that film's sequel, and reprised Crumb for 2022's Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.

Dodson is survived by his daughter Ciara and his grandchildren. Ciara, speaking to TMZ, said he "never ceased making me proud."

Barry Harding passed away on Sunday 11th February. Well known and liked throughout the trade, Barry Harding was a consummate sales professional. Former colleague John Mitchell described him as “honest, dependable, decent and totally committed – a salesperson of the highest integrity. He was dedicated to his craft and one of the most courteous people you will ever meet.”

Barry had a long and distinguished toy trade career which spanned over 40 years, working with major companies such as Fisher Price, Playmobil and Step2 before setting up his own sales agency, BG Marketing, which represented a number of international toy companies in the UK market, including Kiddesigns.

Following many years of service to the toy industry, in which he made a good deal of friends, Barry finally retired at the end of 2018. He will be remembered by his many acquaintances as always being perfectly turned out, with the dapper suits he wore epitomising his meticulous attention to detail and efficiency in business.

Toy World would like to add its condolences to Barry’s wife Gill and their children, Lee, Jason, Rebecca and Stuart, and all of his friends and former colleagues.

The funeral will take place at 11.00 am on March 12th at the Southend Crematorium (SS2 5PX), and afterwards at Roslin Beach Hotel.

 

Yoshitaka MurayamaEiyuden Chronicle and Suikoden creator Yoshitaka Murayama has passed away. Rabbit & Bear Studios, the company founded by Murayama to develop Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, shared the news on its website (as spotted by VGC).

"It's with a heavy heart and deep sadness we must inform you that the scenario writer and head of Rabbit & Bear Studios, Yoshitaka Murayama, has passed away on February 6 due to complications with an ongoing illness," reads the post.

"His hard work on Eiyuden Chronicle as scenario writer was finished but as his co-workers and friends, it saddens us to know that he won’t get to see the reactions from his fans. However, even with those feelings we need to accept the reality that he is no longer with us and continue to push his dream forward by releasing Eiyuden Chronicle to the world."

The studio said the finished game will maintain his "legacy and vision" and noted it will have more information on organizational changes in due course. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes publisher 505 Games also paid its respects on X.

"It is with deep and profound sadness that we have learned of the passing of our friend Yoshitaka Murayama, the creator of the forthcoming Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. Not only was he a true pioneer and visionary, creating cherished memories for millions of people around the world, but he was a wonderful partner and dear colleague," wrote the 505 team.

"His enthusiasm and creativity knew no bounds and the gaming world will feel emptier without him. All of us at Digital Bros and 505 Games wish to express our most sincere condolences to Murayama-san's family, friends, and all those at Rabbit & Bear at this time. He will be sorely missed."

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes was pitched as a spiritual successor to the Suikoden franchise, which Yoshitaka Murayama helped create during his time at Konami in the '90s.

Murayama worked on multiple entries in the Suikoden series as a writer, director and producer before eventually leaving Konami in 2002 to explore the world of freelance development. At the time of writing, Hundred Heroes is still slated for release in April this year.

 

Mark Sharp. Toy World is sad to report the passing of Mark Sharp of Outsourced Sales Solutions.

Mark, who also worked with Brainstorm, passed away on 9th February at the age of 57. David Lartner, director at OSS, and Nick Saunders of Brainstorm, for which Mark was an agent, shared some words with Toy World.

David said: “It is with great sadness and utter shock that we have to announce the sudden passing of Mark Sharp.

“Mark was a well-travelled man, living and working around the world in Australia and Far East, who met the love of his life, Annie, whilst in a Kibbutz in the Middle East. Mark was always bursting with pride for his two wonderful daughters, Amber and Imogen, and was always talking about them and their futures.

“Mark was a valued member of the OSS team and will be greatly missed. He was a much loved agent by his customers and as one said to me earlier: he was the type of guy you wanted to go and have a beer with.

“On his return from his travels, with Annie on his arm, Mark started his career in the toy trade, first working with Ty Beanies and then with Schleich. He joined OSS in 2015. At OSS Mark was more than a work colleague – we were a band of brothers who loved supporting our customers and then enjoyed our many nights out and weekends away. We were a family and this is devastating to write.

“Our love and support are with Annie, Amber and Imogen and the rest of Mark’s family and friends at this truly sad time.”

Nick Saunders told Toy World: “The entire Brainstorm team is absolutely devastated. Mark has worked for us for many years and I have known him ever since I came into the toy trade. He was a delight to work with and we will all miss him immensely – as will all of his customers. It hardly seems believable that we were with him all through Toy Fair, and now he has gone so suddenly.”

Toy World would like to add its condolences to Mark’s family and everyone who knew and worked with him.

 

Stephen Kennedy Lynn, 1965 - January 12, 2024. Our dear brother Steve passed away from complications related to his Type 1 diabetes unexpectedly on January 12. His passing leaves all who knew him greatly saddened, as his big personality, enormous heart, and huge talent filled our lives for 58 years. Steve was born in Long Beach, the 6th of 7 children of Richard and Catherine Lynn. He graduated from Wilson High in 1983, heading right off to Cal State Long Beach where he graduated with an art degree and a 4.0 GPA in all classes. At both Wilson and CSULB, Steve was the resident illustrator for all published periodicals, and he designed and painted murals at both institutions. Some of his works can still be seen there and elsewhere throughout California. Steve had his own art studios in Long Beach, Anaglyph Studios and Sow’s Ear Studios, where he had a successful career in art of all media, particularly in sculpture. He designed and sculpted the very first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures that were sold in stores, and he helped in the development of the characters themselves at the outset of their origination. Steve sculpted all of the best of the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, co-created and sculpted Mattel’s Street Sharks and Street Dinosaurs, created and sculpted The Toxic Crusaders, and for several years, worked in the Disney Art Department at Disneyland, where he did everything, including illustrations, sculptures, and ride design. When Splash Mountain construction went over budget, Steve was instrumental in the decision to use the recently-closed America Sings figures in the new ride. Read more...

Carl Weathers dies at age 76: Weathers starred in the Rocky franchise, Predator, Star Wars: The Mandalorian, and many more movies and TV series. Weathers starred in the Rocky franchise, Predator, Star Wars: The Mandalorian, and many more movies and TV seriesCarl Weathers, the legendary Black actor who portrayed Apollo Creed in the Rocky films and starred in dozens of other movies and TV shows like Predator, The Mandalorian, and Toy Story 4, died on Thursday, February 1 at the age of 76.

 

Lutz Muller - Lutz died earlier this month. He was President of Klosters Trading Corporation. Provision of business intelligence to large financial institutions - banks, hedge funds, venture capital companies - as well as to non-publicly quoted toy manufacturers. Klosters Trading is no longer active and will not be kept updated. Lutz was a Swiss who came to the U.S. the long way around - from a small alpine village in Switzerland to Asia, then the UK and Belgium, then Australia and Brazil. His background can be summarized by three concepts - CEO, packaged consumer goods, turn-arounds. Lutz is multi-lingual - he speaks fluently Swiss German, English, German, French. Thai and serviceable Portugnol and Lao. He was educated on three continents including North America at Harvard. He was also a member of MENSA. 

Merle R Lewis, Jr., age 80, of Erie, took his final breath on Thursday, January 11, 2024 at his daughter’s home in Wattsburg, Pa. He was born in Brookville, PA to the late Merle Ray Lewis and Florence (Wolfe) Lewis Thunberg.

Merle was a lifetime outdoorsman. He loved farming, hunting, horses, and gardening. Some of his best times were spent hunting with lifelong friends and his son, Jeff.

He was a masterful mechanic, with the ability to create the things his mind could conjure. He worked as a model maker and toy designer for Marx Toys right out of school and was proud that his name appears on the patent for the ‘Lectric Shot Shooting Gallery’. He followed his heart and changed careers in the 70’s by spending a summer at the Oklahoma Farrier’s College and learned the art of shoeing horses. He began to work on thoroughbred race horses, a livelihood that took him around the East Coast to racetracks in PA, WV, FL, NH, DE and Ohio.

Another dream took him to Alaska for a number of years, where he assembled his own on-site saw mill and built a home with trees he cut down himself in the Willow area.

He returned back to the Erie area in the late 90’s and spent his time tinkering in his garage, lending a hand to anyone he could help… and hunting. He was able to get a tree stand set this past fall, with the help of his grandson Trevor, but his health declined rapidly soon after.

He is survived by his sister, Debra Javens (William); his brother, Dale Lewis of Erie; his daughters, Lori Zaumseil (Troy) of Wattsburg, Jodi Gray (Scott), of Waterford his grandchildren, Halie and Trevor Lewis of Erie, Jace Wolz of Waterford and Cody Martinez of Boulder, CO, and his dearest friend, Charlotte Winkler.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Patricia Lovett Lewis and his former wife, Lois Mary Banister Lewis; his brothers, William M. Lewis and James L. Lewis; his sisters, Karen D. Lewis, Paula Thunberg, and Karla Thunberg. His most profound loss was the death of his son, Jeffrey A. Lewis, just over a year ago.

 

Karen Tenenbaum, founder and owner of Tenenbaum Law, P.C. and active member of the New York Metro Chapter of Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment. She died suddenly of a cardiac event on December 23 at the age of 64. In addition to her success as a tax attorney for more than 35 years, Tenenbaum founded Money Masters, Inc., an organization that provides financial literacy information and tools...

Jennell Jaquays Tabletop designer and video game developer Jennell Jaquays, who created Dungeons & Dragons adventures for a leading publisher of its time, has passed away at the age of 67. Jaquays is best known for developing the early shape of the tabletop industry during the heyday of TSR and other D&D publishers. Her most successful adventures, Dark Tower and Caverns of Thracia, were published for Judges Guild and featured both her game design and artwork.

Jaquays would go on to illustrate covers for plenty of other sourcebooks and modules, including the Dragon Mountain adventure included in D&D’s 1993 deluxe boxed set. Along with Call of Cthulhu publisher Chaosium, she also worked for several video game developers throughout the 1980s and 90s - Jaquays would help convert popular arcade cabinet games such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong to their console versions. In the late 1990s, Jaquays worked as a level designer for American video game company id Software while it developed the original Quake.

Dark Tower was the only non-TSR published adventure cited in Dungeon magazine’s list of the thirty greatest D&D adventure of all time, and Jaquays’ adventures would accrue several nominations for the H.G. Wells award. She was inducted in the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame in 2017.

As creative director of Transgender Human Rights Institute, Jaquays helped outline and petition for the adoption of Leelah’s Law in the US - the response to this activist movement led to the federal banning of conversion therapy amongst minors, which adversely affected trans youth. She was a staunch advocate for trans rights.

In a remembrance post on the EN World tabletop RPG forums fans and players shared their favourite Jaquays creations, including her Savage Frontier book and Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide, the latter of which many folks claimed was one of the best resources for running the game they had ever read.

Pauline Kerrison - Toy World is sad to report that Pauline Kerrison, of Kerrison Toys, passed away peacefully on Christmas Day with her family at her side.

Described by those who knew her as ‘warm and welcoming’, ‘one of a kind’ and ‘one of the industry’s diamonds’, Pauline was much loved by many people in the toy trade. During the 50 or so years she was involved in the running of Kerrison Toys, she forged numerous friendships that lasted a lifetime.

Her son Steve Kerrison told Toy World: “She loved seeing people at trade shows and events and would always make a fuss of anyone who visited the shops over the many years. Myself, Graham and Liz, and our families, would like to thank all of those who have expressed their condolences over the past few days.”

 

Murray Jackson - Toy World is sad to report that Murray Jackson, who founded Edx Education and recently established Edx Education UK, has passed away.  The founder of Edx Education was a passionate advocate for providing education opportunities to all. Over the past 20 years, Edx Education has grown into a major supplier to the international education market, exporting to more than 90 countries, with sales & marketing offices in North America, Europe, Middle East and Asia – including a dedicated trade website for the UK market.

The boom in home schooling following the pandemic kickstarted a trend for affordable toys that also offer educational value, and a real need for the company to extend its offering to consumers and toy retailers.

As well as establishing and running the successful company, Murray helped pioneer projects such as the opening of an after school center in Hualien, Taiwan, with the company sponsoring the renovations of a house and turning it into an after school centre for aboriginal children from the local primary school.

The Edx team contacted Toy World to inform us of the sad news of Murray’s passing and shared a letter that has been distributed to the Edx Education community. The letter reads...

Jack Leo Williams. Many people pass through our lives, but few leave as lasting of an impression as 82-year-old, Jack Leo Williams. Jack passed away on December 31, 2023.

He and his wife Linda, married forty-nine years, have lived in Falmouth for twenty-three years. He was born in Dorchester to Fred and Florence Williams, but when Jack’s dad died, the family moved to Avon. Jack went to work at twelve setting in place his life-long belief, “I was put on this earth to work.”

A 1959 graduate of Avon High School, he continued working at a new Bradlees Department Store, setting up and managing their newly created toy department.

In the early 1980’s he became a partner of what would become Freud, Morris, and Willims, better known as FMW, a toy manufacturer rep business on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which represented Domestic and International Toy factory manufacturers. For over half a century, he traveled extensively working in the Toy business throughout his New England territory, with over 30 trips to Hong Kong, eventually retiring at 78.

In 2015, Jack was honored by the Officers and Board of Directors of the American International Toy Industry Association for his attendance at the New York’s annual Toy Fair for 50 + years in a row!

He helped countless people throughout his personal and business career, always lending a helping hand if needed. He was well-known for his grumpy persona, but underneath his gruff exterior was a heart of gold, and he was respected by all who knew him.

His children include Kellie Wilder of Onset, Jeff Williams of Carver, John Crowley of Wareham, and they’re always missed, the late Kathleen Hanson, as well as 6 Grandchildren & 4 Great Grandchildren. Siblings include his sister Pat Olson and husband Arthur of Avon, and the late Margaret Iavelo and brother the late Fred Williams. He will forever be sadly missed for all that knew him.

Ana Ofelia Murguía, the Mexican actress who voiced great-grandmother Mama Coco in the Oscar-winning Disney Pixar animation Coco, has died aged 90. She had a key part in the film about a Mexican boy who crosses to the Land of the Dead, uncovering family secrets while trying to become a musician. The movie highlights the Day of the Dead and celebrates Mexico's culture. Its National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature said her career was "vital for the performing arts of Mexico". One of Coco's most memorable moments was the scene where Mama Coco and her great-grandson Miguel sing Remember Me together.

Bryan Ansell, The 'Grandfather of Warhammer'. Tabletop miniatures titan Bryan Ansell passed away on December 30, 2023.  His passing was announced by his wife Dianne via their Instagram account.

Ansell was the co-founder of Asgard Miniatures in 1976, which was based in Nottingham.  The miniatures they created at Asgard caught the attention of Games Workshop owners Sir Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, who decided to partner with Ansell to set up Citadel Miniatures in 1978.  There, he co-designed Warhammer Fantasy Battle in 1983 and eventually bought out Livingstone and Jackson to become the managing director of Games Workshop in 1985.

Ansell consolidated Games Workshop's operations to Newark and led the transformation that changed Games Workshop from an importer, retailer, and distributor of tabletop games to the most well known miniatures game publisher in the world.  He was with Games Workshop till 1991, when he sold out to Tom Kirby, and he then went on to run Wargames Foundry, a company he had founded in 1983.

Games Workshop founder Sir Ian Livingstone (see "Sir Ian Livingstone") offered up the following thoughts about Ansell's passing via X:

"Very sad news Bryan Ansell passed away. Bryan, Steve Jackson and I set up Citadel Miniatures in 1978 as part of Games Workshop.  He was a craftsman and dynamic entrepreneur who drove the growth of GW to the next level.  Without Bryan, Warhammer would not have launched."

ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp also offered up memories of his meetings with Ansell:

“I met Ansell in the mid-80s, when he was running Games Workshop and trying to expand the company’s sales in the U.S. He came to visit us at Capital City Distribution in Madison, and convinced us to stock a wide range of Games Workshop miniatures going forward," wrote Griepp.  "We shared an interest in cars, and I enjoyed showing him my brand new Lincoln Continental with all the latest electronics, and hearing about the other side of automobiles when he gave me a ride in his Aston Martin Lagonda during a visit to their headquarters in Nottingham, England.  I was clueless, and asked him why the Lagonda was considered such a great car.  ‘Because it’s a Lagonda,’ he explained.”

Ansell was 68 years old when he passed away. ICv2 extends our condolences to his family and friends.

Kamar de los Reyes - Actor Kamar de los Reyes passed away on Christmas Eve, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Per the outlet, he was 56 years old and had a "brief battle" with cancer.

Born November 8, 1967, the Puero Rican actor played Raul Menendez in Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Before its release in 2012, he called the role "one of the most amazing projects I’ve ever been a part of."

He would go on to reprise the role in 2018's Call of Duty: Black Ops IV and Sledgehammer's Call of Duty: Vanguard in 2022.

Outside of games, Reyes was best known for playing Antonio Vega on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live. He also appeared throughout shows and films like All American, Sleepy Hollow, and The Gifted.

THR reports that Reyes' two post-humous roles will be in Washington Black on Hulu and Marvel's upcoming Daredevil show.

 

James McCaffrey , a longtime voice actor known for his numerous roles in games made by Alan Wake II developer Remedy Entertainment, died at 65 years old over the weekend.

News first broke via actor Kevin Dillon and was later corroborated by TMZ. Per the outlet, he passed following a yearslong battle with multiple myeloma. Born 1958, McCaffrey was a TV and film actor best known for roles in dramas such as FX's Rescue Me and Fox's New York Undercover. He also appeared in USA's Suits and the 2003 film American Splendor.

He made his video game debut with 2001's Max Payne from Remedy as the title character. McCaffrey reprised the role for the 2003 sequel and 2012's Max Payne 3, which was solely developed by Rockstar.

Outside of the Max Payne games, he did additional voice work for Midway Austin's Area 51 and Eden Games' 2008 Alone in the Dark reboot.

McCaffrey's primary game roles would continue to be with Remedy. He played Tom Payne and Alex Casey in Alan Wake and Zachariah Trench for 2019's Control. Alan Wake II is his final role, where he reprised the part of Casey. This is the second Remedy actor to have passed this year, with the first being Lance Reddick.

On Twitter, Remedy gave its condolences to McCaffrey's family, calling the actor "our beloved friend and collaborator. [...] His remarkable talent gave life to our characters and left an enduring impact on our community."

 

Tony TrickettTony worked for some of the industry’s most prominent toy companies during a long and distinguished career which spanned five decades. His former Palitoy colleague John Nicholas told Toy World: “Tony was my friend and mentor. He and I worked together at Palitoy through the seventies, which was a golden era for the company. Tony was initially promoted to area manager, then to export sales manager and finally to other head office duties. I remember some fantastic times at Toy Fairs over the years, particularly one snowy night in Harrogate when we had a snowball fight around the island outside the Crown hotel, as well as many other Palitoy nights going back to the Brighton Toy Fair days. He was well-liked by all of his customers and his fellow reps: he was someone you knew you could trust and he always had a joke to tell. I am proud to have called Tony a friend and we will miss him.”

Most recently, Tony spent many happy years at Character Options, and managing director Joe Kissane told Toy World: “Tony was a wonderful man. He was hilarious, kind, generous and a true professional. I remember when he joined Character: we were in our early years and we were looking for a NAM to join Mike Rowe. Tony was recommended to us by Jo Hall – he had been made redundant and was working in a bakery. Mike tracked him down to where he was making bread, offered Tony the National Account Manager’s position and the following week he was selling toys again. It was undoubtedly one of the best decisions we ever made. I can honestly say he was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. The customers loved him, he spent many happy years with Character before he retired, and he is still talked about within the company.”

Sales director David Bramford added: “By all accounts, Tony was a truly lovely guy who earned legendary status amongst the Character team and naturally mastered the art of selling.”

Toy World joins all of Tony’s industry friends and colleagues in sending our condolences to his wife Marie and children Gary and Jackie.

 

Marlene Flumerfelt (the following is from Kirsten Anderson) - Dec 9th we had a beautiful celebration of life/funeral for Marlene Flumerfelt who we lost far too soon and suddenly. There were many people who knew and loved our dear friend Marleen that weren't aware of her passing or couldn't make it.  Marleen was a generous soul who was continuously helping others and a famous fixture in the hashtag#Tsawwassen/Delta community for decades as "the toy lady" owner and founder (1993) of the community toy store Toys & Tech (more toys than tech).

Marleen has been an integral part of our T.O.Y.S. forever friends foursome for 25 years! In 1997 we cheekily called ourselves the T.O.Y.S - Totally Outrageous Young Successes. What started out as a buying group pretty much immediately turned into a deep and lasting friendship.

We shared many and regular travels, adventures, laughs, mischief, milestones, joys and sorrows. Dancing at Toy Fairs in TO & NY and ASTRA events. A Marlene shaped hole will remain in our hearts always.

 

Mark Kaplan (Neil Talbot shared this sad news) - We lost a toy industry veteran recently that we want to acknowledge.  Born 9/15/44 in The Bronx, NY, died 8/25/23 in Tarpon Springs, FL.  Mark was raised in Wantaugh, LI. He graduated from Hofstra University.  He is a 40+ year veteran of the toy biz. An industry he loved. Mark started working at Times Square Stores then Enchanted Village where he met his dear wife, Monica. Then, Jamesway where he achieved the position of merchandise manager. He moved on to Ames where he achieved the position of VP of merchandise. A big hearted man, LOYAL to those few close to him and to those who reported to him. A tough exterior with a soft heart. He was a Big Yankee’s fan. He named his two cats Derek and Jeter. He leaves his wife Monica, 2 daughters and a sister.

Mark Kaplan (Neil Talbot shared this sad news) - We lost a toy industry veteran recently that we want to acknowledge.  Born 9/15/44 in The Bronx, NY, died 8/25/23 in Tarpon Springs, FL.  Mark was raised in Wantaugh, LI. He graduated from Hofstra University.  He is a 40+ year veteran of the toy biz. An industry he loved. Mark started working at Times Square Stores then Enchanted Village where he met his dear wife, Monica. Then, Jamesway where he achieved the position of merchandise manager. He moved on to Ames where he achieved the position of VP of merchandise. A big hearted man, LOYAL to those few close to him and to those who reported to him. A tough exterior with a soft heart. He was a Big Yankee’s fan. He named his two cats Derek and Jeter. He leaves his wife Monica, 2 daughters and a sister.

 

Marty Krofft, co-producer of iconic children’s television shows including “H.R. Pufnstuf” and “Land of the Lost,” died Saturday afternoon in California, his representative announced. He was 86. Krofft died of kidney failure in Los Angeles surrounded by family and friends, his publicist B. Harlan Boll said in a statement. 

The producer, along with his brother, Sid Krofft, are known for their work creating hit children’s television shows that spanned several generations in the 1970s. The duo had been doing puppet shows when NBC asked them to produce a Saturday morning children’s series. That became “H.R. Pufnstuf,” which had established itself as a fan-favorite character from their live gigs. “Its success spawned a feature film, produced with Universal Pictures as a partner and distributor,” his representative wrote.

 

Jim Southworth. Baldur's Gate 3 developer Larian Studios announced the passing of one of its developers, Jim Southworth. He served as the animation lead for the game's cinematics. "Jim cared deeply about his team," Larian wrote, "and the results shone through in their work. He loved making games, and we loved making them with him. We're all going to miss him." Southworth first joined Larian in 2019 as Baldur's Gate 3 was in Early Access as an art lead through the third-party vendor Turbulenz Limited. He then became a part of the studio full-time in 2021 to lead production on its in-game cinematics. His career spanned multiple studios and games, including 2005's Blade II and EyeToy: Kinetic and 2016's PlayStation VR Worlds.

Richard Gottlieb - From Chris Byrne: "It is with great sadness that I'm letting you know that my dear friend and colleague Richard Gottlieb died last night. 
Richard struggled with ALS and approached his illness with grace and good humor. 
I knew Richard for many years, but it was in the past four doing The Playground Podcast that we really got to know one another. We shared an abiding love for the toy industry, children, and child development. We also shared a love for literature, especially 19th Century novels, poetry, and Shakespeare that we loved talking about--as well as being able to quote classic Looney Tunes cartoons to one another. Off mic, Richard always made me laugh, and his sometimes-quirky, always mordant humor was a constant delight.
Richard had a huge heart, loved his wife, Wendy and of course his kids and grand kids. He took great pleasure in one grandson's approach to play and loved watching that.
We've lost a really great man who devoted his life to helping others and who took great joy in life. As Houseman wrote:
"Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town."
He will be missed. We're all a little richer for having known him, and his loss will be deeply felt."

Global Toy News Mourns the Loss of founder Richard Gottlieb

On October 26th Richard lost his battle with ALS which he had fought for roughly 2 years. He slogged through language slurring, then no language and using an electronic voice, then a feeding tube to eat and finally in the last few weeks deep double pneumonia that was too much for him to overcome. Throughout the ordeal, he maintained his sense of humor saying when asked to do a chore, “I have a disease, you know” and never lost his interest in others.

Born in Hampton, Virginia, he went to the University of Richmond and then started with Southern Distributers in 1971, he was with them until 1984 when he joined Western Publishing Company and traveled all over the United States selling books and other products. In 1990 he went to Cadaco and then in 1994 he moved to New York City and launched Global Toy News in 2007 which he wrote for weekly until 2 weeks ago. He also started Global Toy Experts with his former client, then colleague and friend, Steve Velte doing Expert Witness work, mergers and acquisitions and all things toys.

Richard was a big personality and he loved life, he loved people and he loved the toy industry. When we met over 7 years ago, since I am an educator, I was so taken with his fascinating career choice which I soon came to understand was his life blood. We talked about toys and games and their usage constantly. We often played games, especially word games which we played daily challenging each other to be better. He was a wordsmith and a book lover, reading constantly.

Richard had a highly creative mind, he loved all aspects of the toy business from the creation, the manufacturing, the marketing, the selling, the packaging- the whole shebang. Over the 25 years he did this he traveled to Texas, California, China, Germany and other places to speak about, write about and celebrate the business of toys. He met the most wonderful people from all corners of the world, a small portion of whom I was lucky enough to meet too, and he spoke about the many ideas, the friendships, the joy these toys, the toy companies big and small and, the toy people brought children. He was fascinated with all the possible ideas for their implementation at home and in schools. His advice when asked what toys to buy a child was always the same: Buy them something that you love and that has meaning to you and they will love it.

Earlier this month Richard was at The New York Toy Fair where so many of you said hello, came to find him, met with him and told him how meaningful he was to the industry. This meant the world to him and he felt the love and the respect and was both touched and gratified. We celebrated his 76th birthday a week later, so he exited elegantly with touchpoints from family, friends and colleagues earlier this month.

We were working on a book together with Chris Byrne about the toys famous people played with as children and the career paths they chose, and in his honor, we will continue that work.

Thank you all for making his world so full, he fed off your ideas, your energy and your wisdom.

He always wanted to be interesting and interested and that he was.

This article was written by Wendy Levey (Richard’s Wife)

https://globaltoynews.com/2023/10/27/global-toy-news-mourns-the-loss-of-richard-gottlieb/

David A. Miller, 91, died in Rye, NY on October 24, 2023. A long-time resident of White Plains, NY, he is survived by his wife of 69 years, Elizabeth (Dubitzky), children Alison Gjersvik (Gilbert), Susan, David A., Jr. (Karen), Nancy, and Deborah Sindell (Matt), grandchildren Elizabeth, Rachel, Benjamin, Matthew, David A., III (Trey), Chloe, Paige, Sam and Charlie, brother Richard J. (Judy) and sister-in-law Mildred Dubitzky. Graduate of University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) and NYU Law School and served in the Coast Guard. Co-founder with his brother of Eden Toys, a leading toy manufacturer, and later president of the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and chairman of the International Council of Toy Industries. He was inducted in the TIA Hall of Fame and served on the boards of Blythedale Childrens Hospital and Head Start White Plains and advised FIT's Toy Design Program. Board member of JCC White Plains (Kol Ami). A quiet formidable presence. Donations in his memory can be made to Blythedale Children's Hospital.

 

Yoshitaka Tamaki. Japanese artist Yoshitaka Tamaki passed away earlier in the year at 55 years old. Per Time Extension, Tamaki died in mid-July from lung cancer, and private service was held in his memory at the end of September.

On X, Tamaki's family said at the time that the service "was attended only by close family members."

Born in October 1967, Tamaki was primarily known for being a character designer on Climax Entertainment's games, notably the Shining series. His debut game was as an outline and storyboard artist on 1991's Shining in the Darkness.

Tamaki's final credited game is 2007's Shining Force EXA as a designer for the game's monsters.

Outside of those Shining games, he wrote (and drew art for) 1992's Landstalker and designed 1994's FEDA: The Emblem of Justice and 1997's FEDA 2: White Surge of the Platoon. In 1997, he formed his own studio Salamander Factory, which helped work on titles such as Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse and Project X Zone.

In 1999, he joined developer Swallowtails, which is credited with helping development on 2020's Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions.

"I hope that the work that he devoted his life to as a game creator will always be remembered," wrote the Tamaki family. "Thank you very much."

 

Ken Lally, video game actor, video game voice actor Ken Lally has died at the age of 52 on Tuesday, October 10. At time of writing, the circumstances of his passing haven't been revealed, but it was confirmed by actor Eva La Dare, who worked with him on Capcom's Resident Evil 5.

"It’s still so hard to believe. We will miss you and your amazing talent," she wrote. "Love you, Ken. Rest well."

Lally voiced NPCs in video games such as Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. He also had in main roles in titles like Mortal Kombat 9 (as Smoke, Shinnok and Goro), the remakes for Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 (Robert Kendo), and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Wayne Woods).

Outside of games, he did guest roles in Heroes and Star Trek: Enterprise.

"He brought Smoke, Goro, and Shinnok back to life in Mortal Kombat (2011)," wrote NetherRealm on X. "Rest in Peace Ken Lally, you will be missed."

 

Herb Feldman, APRIL 1, 1942 – JULY 29, 2023, Founder, Feldman & Assoc, toy reps. He grew up in Bayside, Queens, NY and was a good athlete and a passionate NY Yankees fan from the very beginning. Herb was an entrepreneur and after only a few years of work, he founded his own company where he thrived as an independent toy representative. After his retirement from the toy business, he split his time between NJ and Florida where he loved to spend time with friends and family.

Herb is survived by his wife, Sharon Goodhart Feldman, son David Feldman(Lucia), sister Judy Baumgarten(Harry), daughter in law Hope Feldman-Glassgold(Steven), step children Michael Kahn(Sharon), Julie Maloof(Brian), and Ross Goodhart, and 9 grandchildren, Julia and Brittney Feldman, Ethan and Olivia Glassgold, Evan and Hailey Kahn, and Jacob, Laila, and Skylar Maloof.

Herb is predeceased by his wife Bonnie Feldman, son Scott Feldman, and wife Annette Feldman.

A funeral service for Herbert will be held Wednesday, August 2, 2023 at 11:00 AM at Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapel, 68 Old Short Hills Road, Livingston, New Jersey 07039. Following the funeral service will be a burial at 12:30 PM at Beth Israel Cemetery, 1098 Woodbridge Center Drive, Woodbridge, New Jersey 07095.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.bernheimapterkreitzman.com for the Feldman family.

 

Pam Dobson. Toy World is sad to report that much-loved retailer Pam Dobson passed away last Friday, on the 29th September.

Ely’s Toys of Woodford Green was owned by Peter and Pam Dobson for many years. Peter passed away some years ago, and we are sad to announce the death of Pam on 29th September.

Elys Toys, which started life in 1920, closed in 2001, at the time citing growing competition from larger toy retailers and supermarkets. Peter and Pam were members of both Concorde Toys and Youngsters and were immensely popular throughout the toy trade. Many an agent used to remark what favourites they were on the territory.

Ely’s Toys was a traditional toy shop that was a popular part of the local community. Over the years Pam, Peter and their staff become friends with many of their customers, many of whom would visit the shop, not just to buy toys, but also just “for a chat and a laugh.” When the business closed, regular shoppers were dismayed and said they were very sad to see it go.

Pam and Peter met thanks to Pam’s brother, who was a good friend of Peter’s during his national service. The couple married in 1958, and shortly moved to London. Several years later, they took over Ely’s Toys, overseeing its expansion from a very small business to a much larger toy shop, a development which involved buying up the premises next door.

Toy World would like to add its condolences to Pam’s daughter Kim and her family at this very sad time.

Domenic Bettini, Director of Business Development at Playview Brands, passed away unexpectedly this morning, at the age of 55. Bettini was an esteemed expert in the toy industry and was recently appointed to his role as Director of Business Development. He was incredibly passionate and had a tremendous impact on the toy industry, with more than 20 years of notable success. 

 

Michael Gambon, the Irish-born actor who drew acclaim from both audiences and peers for his stage and screen work, and who won even wider renown as Albus Dumbledore, the firm but kindly headmaster of the Hogwarts wizarding school, in the “Harry Potter” films, died on Wednesday night. He was 82. Mr. Gambon’s family confirmed his death in a brief statement issued on Thursday through a public relations company. “Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife, Anne, and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia,” the statement said. It did not identify the hospital where he died.

 

Gill Sheppard. Gill Sheppard, the owner of Rainbow Toys in Midsomer Norton, has passed away following a short battle with cancer.

oy World is sad to report that the popular independent West Country retailer Gill Sheppard passed away on 7th September after a 19-month battle with cancer. Gill and her husband Julian ran Rainbow Toys of Midsomer Norton. Gill’s friend and colleague Keith Elmer told Toy World: “They were successful and immensely popular members of both Concorde and Youngsters Buying Groups for many years, and they epitomised all that was good about independent, family run toy shops.” Keith added: “Gill will be remembered for her infinite charm and gracious nature to all customers and suppliers alike.” Toy World would like to express its condolences to Julian and the rest of Gill’s family at this time.

Philipp Gosch. Austrian game developer Philipp Gosch and his wife Michaela (née Tritthart) passed away during last week's floods in Thessaly, Greece. Authorities recently identified their bodies after they were previously confirmed missing on September 7. Known by his online profile Saphire, Gosch was a lead software developer and technical artist in Graz, Austria. He was also a founding member (and vice president of) the Game Development Graz (GDG) association. On its website, GDG called him "an integral part of the Austrian and international game development scene." "Phil was known for his contagious enthusiasm, multifaceted talents, extraordinarily kind heart, and his always fun attitude," wrote GDG. "[He was] a driving force behind bringing the community together, spreading knowledge, and organizing events like our local game jams and the Game Dev Days." Gosch created a number of games during local game jams. Several of them are playable, such as Rootsy Tootsy Platformer from this past February, and the full list can be found here. Outside of game development, Gosch was said to be an avid skater with Michaela, and the pair took part in the Euro Freestyle Championship this past August. A (translated) website from the local skating community dedicated to their memory called the activity "the first connection between the two." "Michaela traveled all over the world as a freestyle skater and conjured up maneuvers on the asphalt that were difficult for 'normal' skaters to grasp. An enthusiasm that Phil began to share more and more. [...] Michaela and Phil, we miss you, Ride in Peace!" 

 

Nick Hancock, founder and senior producer of Active Pictures, which produced commercials for clients including Brainstorm Toys and LeapFrog.

Toy World is saddened to share the news that Nick Hancock, the founder and senior producer of Active Pictures, has passed away.  Jo Dickinson, post production manager at Active Pictures and a good friend of Nick’s, writes that after a long battle with cancer, Nick died peacefully in his home, surrounded by his family, on Sunday 17th September. He leaves his wife Sarah, two daughters, Becca and Abbie, and his two dogs. Information on the date and place of Nick’s funeral will be available in the comings days, for those who would like to attend. In advance of the ceremony, readers are invited to share photos and memories of Nick. His friends and family is hoping to put together a compilation of memories to play over a drink or two later that day – these can be sent to jo@activepictures.co.uk.  Jo said: “Nick started Active Pictures 23 years ago. He was incredibly hard working and very proud of what the business became. In this time, he collated a team of likeminded people who work together like a family, and he formed longstanding personal relationships with colleagues and clients alike. Since he started Active Pictures, Nick made close to 6,000 commercials, employed hundreds of freelancers, and has shouldered all of us in our progressing careers. We will miss his strength and support, unwavering optimism and positivity, his laughter, and his way of bringing everyone together.”

Craig Mair. Toy World is sad to announce the untimely passing of Craig Mair, a well known and much loved member of the UK toy trade. Craig was well known throughout the toy industry, having spent most of his working life at The Lego Group, with subsequent periods at Wizards of the Coast, Funrise and Spin Master. Former colleague at The Lego Group, Kerry Walgrove, has penned the following obituary: Craig had a huge heart and deep sense of compassion for others. As a colleague he was reliable, fun, creative and an endless source of energy. He loved karaoke and could always be relied on for a better than average rendition of The Gambler. Craig was a key member of the Lego UK team during strong years of growth for the company, and was instrumental in winning the Lego Group some highly coveted retailer awards, As a leader, he was an excellent coach and mentor, naturally empathetic and supportive. His tenacity and love for the brand played a huge part in many of those successes.

In his younger years, Craig was a keen sportsman. At Mark Warner holidays, he taught water sports. He loved cricket, but his first sporting love was hockey. He was an excellent skier and diver and an ardent supporter of England rugby, which offset a rather dubious affection for Tottenham Hotspur. Craig was a natural host and an excellent BBQ chef. Having strong family ties with South Africa, he spent years perfecting his own biltong recipe. His family parties were legendary, with his extensive music collection and natural, overflowing generosity. 

Joan Packard Luks, MARCH 14, 1946 – SEPTEMBER 4, 2023, Joan was a former President of Women in Toys and left a legacy of mentorship and work in toys and licensing.

Luks previously worked as the Director of Licensing at GUND, fostering partnerships with industry bigs such as Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop, and others. She then moved on to leading her own company, The Serenata Group. Luks also worked closely with her partner David Wollos at The ThinkTank Emporium.

“Joan's vibrancy, positivity, and warmth brightened the lives of everyone fortunate enough to know her. Her contributions to our industry were matched only by her genuine kindness and unwavering dedication to uplifting others.” WiT President, Janice Ross

In addition to her work in the licensing industry, Luks was an important member of the WiT community. Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment is a non-profit organization with the aim of advocating the advancement of women through a variety of opportunities in leadership, networking, and education.

Luks’ work as President of WiT included mentorship, advice, and support, working diligently toward the goal of a more equitable workplace for women in the industry.

WiT has extended its condolences to Luks’ family, friends, and colleagues. A memorial service will be held today at Gutterman and Musicant Jewish Funeral Directors. More details as well as the opportunity to share memories are available on the official page.

 

Frederick B. Held, passed away August 30, 2023. Fred was a past Vice President Operations and Marketing at Mattel and Former Global SVP Operations McDonalds.

Klash Singh - HTI has been in touch with Toy World to share the sad news about its employee. Klash Singh, who passed away last week, was a popular member of the HTI team and most recently worked as a Sales manager for the company.

In a statement, the company said: “It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you of the death of Klash, who passed away on Thursday 27th July 2023.

Klash spent over 20 years in the toy industry, being employed by HTI originally back in 2003 and moving on to spend nine years at Kandy Toys before returning to HTI in 2023.

Klash was 59 years old when she passed away. She had an infectious personality, enormous enthusiasm and passion. This was loved and admired by all, not just within the companies where she worked, but by all her customers past and present.

Klash will be sorely missed by all those who knew her. She was a very generous, considerate and kind lady. She leaves behind her partner Kevin, three children and three grandchildren, with another grandson on the way.”

HTI’s owner, John Hutt, commented: “Klash will be missed greatly and remembered dearly.”

 

Paul Reubens, the actor best known for portraying Pee-wee Herman, died Sunday night after a private bout of cancer. He was 70.

“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” wrote Reubens in a statement posted to Instagram after his death. “I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you.”

“Last night we said farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comedian, writer and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness,” wrote Reubens’ estate in the caption. “Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit. A gifted and prolific talent, he will forever live in the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a treasured friend and man of remarkable character and generosity of spirit.”

Reubens began his career in the 1970s after joining the Los Angeles live comedy troupe the Groundlings as an improvisational comedian and stage actor. In 1980, he launched “The Pee-wee Herman Show,” a stage production centered on a fictional character he had been developing for years. As Pee-wee became a beloved comic figure, Reubens’ show ran for five sold-out months, and he landed a special at HBO. Reubens also committed to the character in his interviews and public appearances.

In 1985, he teamed with Tim Burton on “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” the character’s feature film debut, which was a critical and commercial success. Reubens returned three years later for a follow-up film, “Big Top Pee-wee,” helmed by Randal Kleiser.

Jesse Horowitz - toy inventor loved by many. We are creating a POP profile page to show his wide impact on the toy industry. The following is what Howard Tarnoff posted on Linkedin: Jesse Horowitz passed away this past week while vacationing with family. He will be deeply missed by the many friends and family he impacted. To name just a few of his toy industry accomplishments, Jesse was the creator and designer of the JOHNNY EAGLE line, JOHNNY SPEED line, SILLY SAFARI game and SUZY CUTE doll. He conceived of the idea and helped in the development of STRETCH ARMSTRONG. He and his group were directly responsible for the creation of STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE and CARE BEARS.

John GibsonVeteran developer and programming visonary John Gibson has passed away. As reported by Time Extension, Gibson started out creating games for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the early '80s at Imagine Software. After Imagine went out of business, Gibson co-founded Liverpool-based studio Denton Designs and worked on projects such as Cosmic Wartoad and Gift from the Gods.

Gibson left Denton a few years later to join Psygnosis and became a key member of the company's Advanced Technology Group, where he made significant contributions to CD-ROM title Microcosm. According to MobyGames, Gibson remained at Psygnosis when the company was purchased by Sony but eventually moved to Warthog in 1998. Gibson would find his way back to Sony, however, with the seasoned developer joining Evolution Studios, which was subsequently acquired by the PlayStation maker 2007. At Sony, Gibson worked on titles including MotorStorm, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, MotorStorm: Apocalypse, and DriveClub. He spent two decades at the company. Tributes to Gibson have been pouring in on social media, with former colleague Paul Hughes describing him as a "legend of game development" and others highlighting his status as one of the "pioneers" of the UK game industry.

 

Liam Smyth - Director of Smyths Toys Superstores, along with three of his brothers. Liam Smyth has passed away at the age of 60. He died at the Mayo Hospice, Castlebar following a period of illness. Liam was one of the directors of the well known Smyth’s Toys retail chain, along with a number of his brothers.

Liam hailed from Claremorris, County Mayo, where the Smyths business began life as a newsagents. The company has since grown from its humble beginnings to become one of the largest toy retailers in Ireland and the UK. Liam worked as a director alongside Tony, Padraig and Thomas Smyth.

In 2018, Smyths acquired Toys R Us stores in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, re-branding the stores to Smyths and marking the start of the company’s expansion into mainland Europe. In 2022, this was furthered by the acquisition of French toy chain PicWicToys and stores opening in The Netherlands. Smyths now operates over 272 stores across six countries.

Tributes have been paid to Liam by the local Chamber of Commerce, where a spokesperson described him as a leading figure in the business life of the town. In a statement, members paid tribute to his tireless efforts to improve the economy and amenities there.

Liam was a proud supporter of Claremorris GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association). A statement from the club said his passing was a huge loss to the town: “Everyone associated with Mayo GAA would like to express their sincere sympathy on the untimely death of Liam Smyth, a proud Claremorris man and a great supporter of Mayo GAA over the years.”

The club said its academy squads benefited greatly from Liam’s support and added that “Liam always extended this support in a quiet and an unassuming way; his warmth and generosity extended to many other walks of life both locally and further afield.”

The Claremorris Chamber of Commerce statement added: “With his brothers Tony, Padraig and Tommie, together they accomplished what very few Irish businesses achieve, they grew one shop in a small town into a global giant. Liam wore that modestly. Regardless of how busy he was, he always found time for whatever cause or group needed assistance. He was one of a kind.”

Liam is survived by his wife Anne and their five sons: Alex, Ben, Harry, Josh and Sam. Toy World would like to add its condolences to them, and to Liam’s brothers Tony, Padraig, Thomas and Joe, his sister Maura and the extended Smyth family at this sad time.

 

John Cook - passed away on June 28th 2023.  A model maker and toy inventor, he worked at Mattel, Kenner and Playskool. He worked on Hot Wheels playsets, Star Wars, Strawberry Shortcake, Play Doh, Carci doll and much more. 

Simon Hedge - former managing director of Flair Leisure Products, lost his short battle with cancer on 20th June 2023.
Simon Hedge: 26th August 1966 – 20th June 2023

According to his family, friends and colleagues, who provided Toy World with the following memories, Simon will be best known for his long and hugely successful career at the company he started with Peter Brown 24 years ago – Flair Leisure Products PLC.

Simon made his debut in the toy industry when he joined Hasbro  in the early ‘90s. A few years later, K’Nex opened its UK business in 1994, headed up by Peter Brown and Russ Ward. Simon joined them in 1995 to manage the supply chain and operations. When the K’Nex International business transferred to Hasbro at the end of 1998, Simon moved back to Hasbro for a brief period before joining forces with Peter and fellow K’Nex employee Carl Moran, putting their redundancy payments and life savings into starting Flair Leisure Products PLC – a decision Simon’s wife Tina says caused him concern early on, having only just started a family: their first child, Ellie, was barely a year old.

Flair started trading on 1st March 1999 with Simon in the role of commercial director overseeing Marketing and Operations.The company forged vital and enduring partnerships that continued right through Simon’s career, most notably with Generation Media and Evolution PR.

In 2003, just four years after the company was created, Flair became a ‘Sunday Times Fast Track 100’ company, vindicating Simon’s decision to invest everything in the business. That same year, Flair was named Company of the Year at the 2004 Toy Fair industry awards.

In 2008 Peter, Simon and Carl decided to sell the business to Italian toy giant Giochi Preziosi, staying on to run the business with many of the original team.

Flair progressed rapidly up the NPD industry charts. In 2009, the company was awarded not only Supplier of the Year but also Girls’ Toy of the Year for Sylvanian Families. 2011 saw the company achieve what Simon referred to as the ‘champions league’ spot when it became the No 4 toy company in the UK.

In 2013, when Peter decided to take more of a back seat and became company chairman, Simon took on the role of managing director of Flair, a position he held for further eight years. He eventually decided to leave the business in July 2021, starting a new chapter in his life and career by working on various projects with Marc Sivner and David Greenberg at Singleton Trading.

Simon kept his business and personal lives very separate. A passionate football fan, he was a season ticket holder with his beloved Fulham FC for many years. The matches were a way for him to relax away from the busy world of toys.

A family man, Simon had two daughters with his wife Tina, and would have celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary on Christmas Eve this year. Ellie was born just before he started Flair, and Ruby was born in the early Flair years. Sadly, Simon lost his father, Peter, in 2019. His mother, Phyllis, says his father was incredibly proud of Simon’s achievements.

Friends have remembered Simon as ‘a big man with an enormous sense of humour’, who was both cheeky and quick witted. Those who knew him well enjoyed the way he rocked in his chair while holding his belly, laughing uncontrollably at something amusing; colleagues say there was a lot of laughter in the Flair years. Simon worked hard, but he also laughed a lot and loved what he did.

Always with an abundance of new ideas backed by sound commercial acumen, Simon was driven and passionate and could reliably spot an opportunity and how to make it work profitably.

His loss will be felt by a great many people, not least his family: Phyliss, Tina, Ellie and Ruby, and his sister Helen. Simon will also be missed by many friends and colleagues within the industry who knew or worked with him during his career.

Simon will be remembered as a respected and successful business leader, who didn’t seek the limelight and didn’t like too much formality. His numerous acquaintances say they will treasure their many fond memories of their time with this ‘unforgettable man – our boss, our friend, and all the silly jokes, fun and laughter we shared with him’.

Doris Mae Bergen, February 11, 1932 - July 5, 2023. Doris, 91, passed away peacefully on July 5, 2023 after a short illness. A long-time resident of Hamilton, Ohio, she had recently moved to the Knolls of Oxford with her beloved husband of 39 years, Joel Fink. Dr. Bergen was a professor of Educational Psychology at Miami University, and an expert in studying and creating ways to strengthen brain development in young children. Her work led to numerous books and dozens of national honors. An authority on children's play and humor, her research papers are housed in the Archives at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY. In 2019 she was inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame to honor the impact of her life's work after age 60. Having served as the chair of her department at Miami University for 11 years, Dr. Bergen didn't fully retire until age 85, and at the time of her death was still collaborating on another book. Born in 1932 in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Bergen was inspired by her father to trust in her intelligence and ability. She was the first person in her family to attend college. She grew up in Bucyrus, Ohio and attended Heidelberg College and Ohio State University. At age 42, after raising three daughters with her first husband, she earned her PhD in Educational Psychology from Michigan State University. Generous, optimistic, and loving to her family, Dr. Bergen loved discussing ideas, attending the theater, mentoring her students, and presenting research at numerous conferences throughout the country. Through the years she was active with the Hamilton Tree Board and as a member of her church, the Hopedale UU Community. She supported many charities and organizations that help women and the environment. In addition to her husband, Dr. Bergen is survived by her brother George, her daughters Ellen (Chris), Holly (Ray), and Gail, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Emile Morel Beyond Good & Evil 2 creative director and long-serving Ubisoft designer Emile Morel has passed away. As reported by IGN, news of his passing was first shared on Linkedin by current and former colleagues.

Greg Hermittant, who currently works at Ubisoft Montpellier as a producer, praised Morel's kindness and positivity.

"You've been such a great and kind partner during all these years at Ubisoft. I'm grateful to have worked with you on so many projects. Even through the most difficult times, you always remained the caring and supportive person you were with your beautiful positive mind," they wrote on Linkedin.

"But the most important is the wonderful moments we had. With no doubts Rayman Legends is my best memory. I will miss our private jokes and imitations. You will miss Beyond Good & Evil. Be assured we will continue your work."

Former Beyond Good & Evil 2 narrative director, M. Gabrielle Shrager, said that Morel passed away at the "shockingly young age of 40" and described him a "cherished colleague."

"We laughed and wept through good times and bad, and shipped a lot great games together," they wrote. "Emile was so very proud of Beyond Good & Evil 2, the Space Monkeys and his teammates. He will be sorely missed. May it be shipped in his name. RIP Emile. I hope you have discovered the mystery behind the Moksha gate."

Ubisoft Montpellier confirmed Morel's passing in a statement posted on Linkedin.

"It is with a heavy heart that we share the sudden passing of our friend and colleague Emile Morel. We send our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and teammates all over the world. We would like to take a moment to acknowledge the significant impact he made over the years on different games that make up the rich history of our studio," it reads.

"For us, Emile was a close friend and a boundless source of positive energy. We all valued his passion and the way he told stories. We will never forget Emile and his immense contribution to the BGE2 universe will forever endure. True Freedom Lies Beyond."

 

Ron Stuart, President of Learning Wrap-ups passed on June 22nd, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend passed away on June 22, 2023 surrounded by his loving wife and family. Ron was a giant of a man, physically strong, vibrant, full of faith and always active. He was born in Ogden, Utah on September 2, 1953, the oldest son of Kenneth Fernelius and Marion Wolthuis Stuart. Dad had a fantastic childhood growing up in Uintah, Utah, playing his favorite sports, working alongside his father in the garden, and playing with his brothers and cousins. It was the best place to be a kid. He graduated from Bonneville High School in 1971 and served a full-time mission in the North Carolina-Virginia Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After returning home, he attended Weber State College, where he met Christine Fackrell, while participating in a musical production together. They were sealed for time and all eternity on February 12, 1976, in the Salt Lake Utah Temple by his mission president, whom he adored, Rex D. Pinegar. Together, Ron and Chris have raised four wonderful children who appreciate the love and example of their dedicated parents. Family was everything to Dad. Honoring each other Dad and Mom, worked tirelessly for our benefit instilling the values of hard work, dedication, tenacity, humor, patience, love, and faith. He taught by example and with involvement, coaching our teams, working side by side, mowing the lawn, digging in the garden, serving others, and taking us on work trips where he used the time for special teaching moments. We loved being able to call Dad for anything and are certain he was as good as two men for any job.
Sports were a huge part of Ron’s life. He had a passion for baseball, basketball, football, and golf. He was an all-state baseball player in high school and later a talented fastpitch softball pitcher and home-run hitter, playing on national teams. All his life he loved playing golf, fostering lifelong friendships and countless memories. Nothing was better than playing with, coaching, and cheering for his grandchildren in all their sporting events, music, and other activities.
His career with Learning Wrap-ups, the company he and his mother started in the early 1980’s, took him throughout the US and the world selling Wrap-ups. He was passionate about education, helping children master basic math facts. He was always enthusiastically developing additional products for the company and working with his brother Rich to make Learning Wrap-ups successful and provide employment opportunities for others. Dad was a brilliant businessman, but more important to him were the friendships and relationships he created while working.

JOHN ROMITA, SR. - Will Eisner Hall of Fame Marvel artist, art director, and character co-creator John Romita Sr. passed away June 12 in his sleep, according to a Tweet by his son, artist John Romita Jr.  He was 93.  Romita Sr. had a long and illustrious career as a comics artist, beginning in 1949 for Timely Comics, where he met a young Stan Lee.  He did work for Atlas and DC Comics, ending up at Marvel in 1965, where he learned by doing pencils over Jack Kirby layouts on Daredevil.

After Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko left Marvel in 1966, Romita began penciling Amazing Spider-Man with #39, redefining the look of the character and helping to establish the look of the Marvel universe.  His initial run on the title spanned an almost uninterrupted string of 56 issues and over 50 covers.  Romita took over as Marvel art director in 1973, a position he held until the late 1980s.  He continued to do covers, story art, and inks, with published work through the 00s.

While at Marvel Comics, Romita co-created characters Mary Jane Watson, the Punisher, and Wolverine.

"He is a legend in the art world and it would be my honor to follow in his footsteps," Romita Jr. said in his post.  "He was the greatest man I ever met."

 

Lynette Crown, (30/11/1934 – 26/5/2023) - Shared by John Redenbach

Dear John,

The ATA recently published the sad news of the passing of Lyn Crown on Friday the 26th May. 

Lyn, the dearly loved wife of the late Gerald Crown was a wonderful support to him at Crown and Andrews Pty Ltd, as well as fulfilling the role of Finance Manager. In the early days of Crown and Andrews, Lyn also visited the stores like David Jones, Grace Bros, Myers etc doing their stock re-fill orders and then coming back to the warehouse to pack and invoice the orders.

Attending the Toy Fair and the 25 Year Club function was some of the highlights for Lyn as she enjoyed catching up with friends from the toy industry. Many people within the industry became lifelong friends to Lyn even after they decided to move on.

Lyn Crown’s family would like to advise that Lyn's funeral will be held on Friday the 9th June at 10.30 am at St. Kevin’s Catholic Church 36 Hillview Road, Eastwood NSW 2122.

Following the service refreshments will be served at Wallumatta Function Centre at Macquarie Park Cemetery.

If you are unable to be at Lyn’s service you can view the service on line here.

The ATA send our condolences to Lyn’s family and friends.

 

Mark Boudreaux - Legendary toy designer Mark Boudreaux has become one with the Force. We have compiled the many articles surrounding his life and passing in Mark's POP profile HERE

Harry Bradley - Hot Wheels Designer dead at 84. When Mattel was developing their new 1/64th scale die cast toy cars in the 60's, they sought a professional car designer from Detroit to help them. They wanted their cars to look fast and cool as they zipped around plastic tracks and loops.

Mattel hired GM designer Harry Bentley Bradley, who created the original "Sweet Sixteen" Hot Wheels cars, including his Dodge Deora showcar, and later, an Oscar Meyer Weinermobile loosely based on his 1995 version (recently renamed "The Frankmobile"—yuk!). So, both Hot Wheels and Hot Dog cars.

Brendan O'Brien, original Crash Bandicoot actor, died at age 60. Brendan O'Brien, the original voice actor for Crash Bandicoot, has passed away at the age of 60. The multitalented actor died on March 23, with word of his passing only spreading after an obituary surfaced online.

Born on May 9, 1962, O'Brien first started his acting career at the age of 10 with the 1973 film Honor Thy Father. From then on, he appeared in films and shows such as P.U.N.K.S., Hollywood Chaos, and Todd MacFarlane's Spawn. He took a break from acting altogether starting in 2004, which ended with The CW's Riverdale in 2020.

Starting in 1996, O'Brien voiced Crash and his nemesis Neo Cortex in the original Crash Bandicoot game. He'd go on to voice those two, along with other franchise characters like N. Gin, Tiny Tiger, and Komodo Moe during Naughty Dog's tenure with the franchise, and in the early days after the series was sold to Universal Interactive.

He later bowed out of the Crash series with 2001's Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex. However, his voice would be used via archive recordings for sequels such as 2004's Crash Purple: Ripto's Rampage, and Naughty Dog's Uncharted 4: A Thief's End in 2016.

Speaking to his time as Crash, his obituary page notes that he "encouraged nostalgic Crash fans in their own pursuits and loved signing their memorabilia."

Following his passing, the official Twitter for the Crash franchise wrote that O'Brien "was an incredible talent who brought Crash Bandicoot and other Crash characters to life. He will forever live on in the hearts of Crash fans."

 

Bob Smith - Atari 2600 programmer Bob Smith, a programmer at Atari, passed away on May 13. Time Extension saw the news of his passing from Smith's co-worker, Seamus Blackley on Twitter.

Blackley referred to Smith as "common name for such an uncommon man...if you play videogames of any type, this brilliant and kind man’s work and craft are part of you."

In the early 1980s, Smith was a programmer for Atari, particularly the Atari 2600. His first game was 1980's Video Pinball, and he would later go on to develop for titles such as 1983's Star Wars: The Arcade Game, and 1995's Solar Eclipse.

Smith also co-founded game developer Imagic in 1981 with Bill Grubb, Rob Fulop, and Dennis Koble. All four were Atari alums, and marked the Atari 2600's second third-party publisher after Activision in 1979.

Imagic went defunct in 1986, and during its lifetime released 24 titles, including 1982's Atlantis and Moonsweeper in 1983. The studio was heavily affected by 1983's video game, and was sued by Atari over the game Demon Attack, which Atari said resembled 1980's Phoenix. The two companies later settled out of court.

According to Smith's son, Adam Smith, Smith worked at Bally Sente in the later half of the 80s. His one game, Moonquake, never got released.

Later on at Accolade, he worked on Barkley Shut Up and Jam and its sequel. He was then the lead coder on the never-finished Star Control 4, which was canceled after Star Control 3 failed to meet expectations. Smith retired in the early 2000s to Oregon. He was 73 when he died on Saturday, in Clackamas, OR.

Frank Kozik - Chief Creative Officer of collectibles company Kidrobot, Iconic Graphic Artist Behind Album Covers Including the Offpsring’s ‘Americana,’ Dies at 61. Kozik’s death was confirmed by his wife Sharon, who did not give a cause of death but said his passing was “unexpected.”

In a statement she said: “We are devastated to inform you that Frank Kozik passed away unexpectedly this past Saturday. Frank was a man larger than himself, an icon in each of the genres he worked in. He dramatically changed every industry he was a part of. He was a creative force of nature. We are so beyond lucky and honored to have been part of his journey and he will be missed beyond what words could ever express.”

“He loved his wife, his cats, classic muscle cars, mentoring others and Disneyland. His forceful presence will be missed by all who knew him. His legacy, like all great masters, will love on through his art and our memories of him. More info on a memorial service will come soon. For now, we ask you please respect our privacy during this trying time.”

Born on Jan. 9, 1962 in Madrid, Spain, Kozik spent his formative years growing up under Spain’s fascist dictator Franco. As a teenager, he moved to the U.S., living first in Sacramento with his father before joining the Air Force, which saw him stationed in Austin.

A self-taught artist, in his late teens he began creating artwork for friends’ bands, starting with black and white flyers pasted to telephone poles. He soon moved into concert posters, including large silkscreen prints, for bands such as Pearl Jam, The White Stripes, The Beastie Boys, Green Day, Neil Young and Nirvana. He also directed a number of music videos, among them Soundgarden’s “Pretty Noose.”

Kozik eventually started his own record label, Man’s Ruin Records, releasing over 200 singles and albums by artists including the Sex Pistols and Queens of the Stone Age (whose debut single was released through Man’s Ruin Records). Kozik also designed most of the artwork.

In the early 1990s Kozik closed his label to focus on other media, including toys and collectibles. He became chief creative office of collectibles company Kidrobot, designing over 500 limited edition figures including his iconic Labbit characters (vinyl smoking rabbits) for which he collaborated with licensees such as D.C. and Marvel to create superhero-inspired versions. Read More...

 

Ivan Moscovich - Holocaust Survivor, Inventor, Artist, Author, Puzzler and so much more. From Bob Fuhrer, "It’s with great sorrow to share that the legendary Ivan Moscovich has passed away just shy of his 97th birthday. Ivan’s life story is among the most remarkable tales of survival having barely survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and 2 other camps to become an internationally known and acclaimed inventor, puzzler, author and artist. Please visit this link for more: https://peopleofplay.com/people/ivan-moscovich

Joan Frances (Bam) Widmer, August 18, 1926 - January 20, 2023,  known by friends and family as "Bam" (shortened from Bambina, as she was christened by the neighborhood Italian greengrocer) passed away on January 20th at Carolina Meadows, her retirement community in Chapel Hill, NC. Born in Chicago to Frances Wynn Heile and Charles Heyfield Pike, she and her younger siblings, Patricia and Dick, grew up in a well-to-do household, doted on by their maternal grandmother who loved to take them to concerts, plays, ballets and museums. Their mother, Frances, was a pioneer in many respects by having attended Smith College and even more so in starting and running her own industrial design company in partnership with her sister, Harriet, in the 1930's. Frances was also an accomplished watercolorist who left Chicago at 61 to move to Los Angeles where she worked as a soft toy designer until her death at 73. Career and creativity were in Bam's genes. Bam's father, Charles, from Newfoundland, and whose history is a bit shrouded in mystery, was a much-awarded athlete at UPenn and a physician. The family's early years during the depression included summers in Wisconsin with Bam's maternal grandmother, aunt and uncle at Oconomowoc Lake, a much beloved memory. Bam attended Purdue University, but left to marry her first husband, Harry Leonard, living for the first two years of their marriage in San Francisco where she worked in a lab at the University of California, San Francisco hospital. When she and Harry returned to Chicago, she joined with her mother to start a small company that designed and produced "Snuffy the Clown" and other baby items. The department store, Carson Pirie Scott, in downtown Chicago displayed a multitude of Snuffy the Clowns in their Christmas window one year. READ MORE...

Klaus Teuber, the designer of Settlers of Catan passed away on April 1, 2023 at age 70.  He was a German dental technician who became a professional board game designer. Klaus designed four games that won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award: Barbarossa (1988), Adel Verpflichtet (1990), Drunter und Drüber (1991) and The Settlers of Catan (1995). The latter sold over 40 million copies with many line expansions.

Steven W. Smith, toy industry PR veteran. Steven W. Smith, public relations toy industry veteran, has died after complications from heart surgery. Smith worked in the industry for more than 50 years and notably created the public relations campaign that launched Teddy Ruxpin, one of the most iconic toys from the ‘80s. Smith opened his first firm in 1984, working with Bandai, General Mills, Target, Nike, Home Savings, and the World of Wonders before the firm was purchased by Saatchi & Saatchi.

“Steven was a true professional,” says Scott Allison, Chairman and CEO of Allison+Partners. “When we started our company and opened our offices in Los Angeles, Steven joined our co-founder, Scott Pansky, and helped us grow the office bringing several of his team members and clients with him including Cakebread Cellars and the Blackhawk Network, formerly Safeway Gift Cards.”

He relaunched his firm in 1992 as Smith Public Relations with clients including Mattel, McKesson Corp., Carl’s Jr., Best Buy, Vivendi Universal, and Capitol EMI. He joined Allison+Partners as Senior Vice President in 2002.

Smith graduated from California State University, Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is survived by his son Todd and his sister Robyn Askenaizer, her husband Gary, and her sons Adam and Chris.

Dana Weise, 82, retired VP Sales Mattel, peacefully passed away on February 9, 2023, at home in Rockwall, Texas surrounded by his family.
Dana was born to Fred and Marion Weiss on November 24, 1940 in Lakewood, Ohio. After graduating from Avon Lake High School in 1958, he enlisted in the United Coast Guard and served from 1959 to 1963. He completed basic training at Cape May, New Jersey, and then transferred to Petty Officer's school in Groton, Connecticut. He specialized in electronics and communication technology. He was based in Galveston, Texas during Hurricane Carla in 1961. At the end of his enlistment, he received the CG Good Conduct Medal for exemplary service during his tenure.
Following his USCG service, he returned home and began a sales position with Beechnut and Lifesaver. In 1966, he joined Mattel Toys, Inc. serving as Vice-President of domestic sales. He supervised toy sales to over 2,550 Wal-Mart Stores nationwide until his retirement in 2000.

 

Bryan J Bendavid - SVP of Sales at Schylling, died on March 13, mere weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. The 56-year-old executive dedicated more than 30 years of his life to the industry, the past three of which have been spent growing the reach of classic toy brands, including NeeDoh, Big Wheel, and more.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Bryan … he was a dynamic leader, steadfast partner, and a cherished friend,” says Paul Weingard, President, and CEO at Schylling. “Bryan loved his work and loved his team, and we are thankful for all he has done for us. We will continue his legacy at Schylling as we honor and remember this extraordinary man.”
Bendavid entered the toy industry as an account executive at Russ Berrie & Co., eventually growing his profile and taking on leadership roles at companies including GUND, Epoch Everlasting Play, and Spin Master as he worked on bringing brands including Pusheen, Calico Critters, Trolls, and others to retailers across North America.
“Bryan has left an unforgettable impact on Schylling, its employees, and its customers,” adds Bryan Katzel, Vice President of Product Development at Schylling. “We are truly honored to have had Bryan as a member of our executive team and work family. While we are deeply saddened by his loss, our hearts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Bendavid is survived by his wife of 31 years, Lisa, son Jared, daughters Emily and Carlie, mother Jane, and sister Beth Piersanti and her husband Frank.

Lance Reddick, an actor for live action and video games, has passed away at the age of 60. Per sources speaking to TMZ, the actor is believed to have passed from natural causes. Born June 7, 1962, Reddick is best known for Cedric Daniels on HBO's The Wire. Throughout the decades, he accumulated a prolific TV career in popular genre shows such as Lost, Fringe, and Netflix's animated Castlevania series.

Beginning in 2009 with 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, Reddick began to do voice acting for video games. His credits include Bungie's Destiny franchise (Commander Zavala), Guerrilla Games' Horizon (Sylens), and Remedy's Quantum Break (Martin Hatch).

Reddick's final roles include the upcoming John Wick: Chapter 4 and Disney's Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

 

Stan Resnicoff - Director of Special Projects of Mattel Toys.  Tribute by Bob Knetzger: It is my sad duty to report the passing of Stan Resnicoff, a fellow ex-Mattelite. He passed away March 13, comfortably in his home in Redondo Beach.  I’ll remember him as a good friend as well as a very talented and creative designer. We met when he interviewed for the educational software designer position I had trouble filling at Mattel in the late 70’s/early 80s, when Mattel was doing Intellivision, Children’s Discovery System and Teach and Learn Computer product lines. I had almost given up when Stan flew in from NYC with his portfolio full of fun, fantastic and educational projects for kids that he had created for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bronx Zoo, Queens Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Museum, The Smithsonian--hire this guy!!

Stan had a long career in LA at Mattel and at Educational Insights. He also wrote music, created several kid books, made clever art projects, and wrote his memoirs as a VISTA volunteer and later of his very interesting experiences at Mattel. I can recommend both of those books. They’re just like Stan: smart and funny! 

https://www.amazon.com/Sleetm.../dp/0615687717/ref=sr_1_2...

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id885936791

So, so much more. We’ll miss you, but always remember you. RIP Stan Resnicoff

 

Ian Falconer, Creator of Olivia, the Energetic Piglet, Dies at 63. He was a stage designer noted for his work in opera when he hit the best-seller list in 2000 with the first in a series of books for children.

Ian Falconer, who had built a successful career designing opera sets with David Hockney and drawing covers for The New Yorker when he turned a character he had originally created as a Christmas gift for a niece into “Olivia,” a children’s book about a rambunctious piglet that became a publishing sensation, died on Tuesday in Norwalk, Conn. He was 63.

His lawyer and agent, Conrad Rippy, said the cause was kidney failure.

Mr. Falconer hit the children’s book jackpot in 2000 with “Olivia,” which was named a Caldecott Honor Book and remained on the children’s picture book best-seller list of The New York Times for 107 weeks.

He introduced his young heroine with understated drawings in gray, black and red.

“This is Olivia,” the first page read, under a drawing of the piglet singing from a book titled “40 Very Loud Songs.” “She is good at lots of things.”

By the time Olivia falls into bed at the end of the book, she has played dress-up — all the garments and accessories she tries out are red — built a spectacular sand castle, admired artworks at a museum and earned a time out for attempting a Jackson Pollock imitation on a wall of her house.

The book had some sly touches for the adults who would be reading it to their children, including reproductions of an actual Pollock and a detail from an Edgar Degas painting. Such grown-up flourishes would become a signature of the series — a photographic portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt in “Olivia Saves the Circus” (2001), a portrait of the real-life Supreme Court justices (with Olivia superimposed) in “Olivia Forms a Band” (2006), photographs of Martha Graham in “Olivia and the Fairy Princess” (2012). The most recent book, “Olivia the Spy,” appeared in 2017.

“You knew ‘Olivia' was going to be a big deal,” Dwight Garner of The Times wrote when the third book in the series, “Olivia … and the Missing Toy,” appeared in 2003, “because, at birthday parties and on Christmas morning, people kept giving your children copies of it. Or rather, people kept giving you copies of it, because ‘Olivia’ is one of those kids’ books, filled as it is with references to Callas and Jackson Pollock and the ballet, that hip mommies and daddies like to give to the children of other hip mommies and daddies.” 

For his latest children’s book, published last year, Mr. Falconer changed species. It was called “Two Dogs,” and it told the story of Augie and Perry, twin dachshunds who escape from their house one day while their human owners are at work and wreak havoc outside, but manage to escape blame. Jennifer Krauss, writing in The Times, called it a “delightful tour de force” and named it one of the best children’s picture books of 2022.

Dina Norlund died on February 22, 2023, at the age of 27. Her  graphic novel The Snowcat Prince was published by Oni Press on March 7. Born in Oslo, Norway, in 1995, Norlund studied drawing at the FZD School of Design in Singapore. In addition to a promising career as an illustrator and comics creator, she posted drawing tutorials and demos on YouTube, where she had a following of 175,000 subscribers.

Norlund’s body of work includes the self-published comics Fern and the Moon Rabbit, Sprout, and Greylegs. The Snowcat Prince is a middle-grade fantasy story that Norlund originally self-published in Norway, after funding it on Kickstarter; a year later, in 2021, Egmont published a slightly different edition, also in Norwegian. The Oni Press edition is translated from that version (see “Oni Press to Publish Dina Norlund’s ‘The Snowcat Prince’”), and the French publisher Albin-Michel has just acquired the rights to release it in French. Norlund’s website also lists another all-ages project, Nettle and the Hush-Hush, which was to be published by Egmont in 2022.

In April 2021, Norlund told her YouTube followers that she had been diagnosed with cancer the previous November, but that she had completed her treatment.

Oni Press will donate a portion of the proceeds from sales of The Snowcat Prince to the Norwegian children’s organization Sykehusklovnene in Norlund’s honor. “Dina was an incredibly talented artist and storyteller,” editor Grace Scheipeter said in a statement. “She was such a joy and inspiration to work with, and her passing is a heartbreaking loss. I know her work will continue to inspire young artists, authors, and readers the same way it will inspire me for years to come.”

Antony Nunn - From the fourth generation of his family to be involved in the toy industry, Antony Michael Redgate Nunn sadly passed away earlier this month.

Toy World is sad to report that Antony passed away unexpectedly on the 5th February, aged 69. He was the fourth generation of his family to be involved in the toy trade, as previous generations ran the well-known Redgates store, established in 1857, in Sheffield. In the 1960s, Redgates became known in the trade as one of the best toy shops outside of London, often referred to as the “Hamleys of the North.”

Antony’s journey into the toy trade began in 1971 when, at the age of 18, he moved to London to work for import business, Cowan de Groot. Two years later, armed with plenty of new-found experiences, Antony he returned to his roots in the North and joined the Redgates family retail business, overseeing Redgates’ wholesale division, Wilson Gumpert. Redgates and Wilson Gumpert were instrumental in the founding of buying group Toymaster; Michael Nunn, Antony’s father was chairman of White Rose Toys, a buying group which was a cornerstone to Toymaster as we know it today.

Antony met his wife Silke in 1977, the daughter of Franz and Marianne Goetz, founders of prestigious doll manufacturer, Goetz Dolls, based in Germany. After Redgates and Wilson Gumpert closed in 1988, Antony co-founded AM international with Mark Eckersley to distribute dolls, children’s toys, nursery goods and even garden gnomes.

In 1998, after ten years of successful trading, Antony decided to forge his own path and Antony Nunn Agencies was established. His son Patrick joined in 2009, and now the business will proudly continue under Patrick’s leadership as the fifth generation of the family to work within the toy trade.

Antony will be remembered in the industry for his good humour, fair and honest business practices, and his lifelong dedication to a trade that he was proud to be part of.

Outside work, Antony was an active sportsman, running marathons and half marathons as well as being a proficient golfer and an avid squash player, in the later years reverting to racketball. He would also never miss an opportunity to support his beloved Blades from the stands.

As a very generous, considerate and kind man, Antony supported several charities he was passionate about, joining Osteoporosis2000 as a director in 2000. More recently he was asked to become a patron of a local hospice: Ashgate Hospice, Chesterfield. This privilege filled him with immense pride and he dedicated a significant amount of his later life to raising money and bringing further awareness to the essential work and care the hospice provides.

Antony will be sorely missed by all those who knew him. He leaves behind his wife Silke, daughter Charlie, son Patrick and his grandson Walter.

 

John Sepenuk - Co-Founder and CEO of Cryptozoic Entertainment. The following is a tribute from Nico Blau, President & CEO at BOTI Ltd & BOTI Europe BV:

Earlier this week I was informed my dear friend and former colleague John Sepenuk passed away. I was blown away, couldn't believe it and felt a deep dark colored emptiness. 

John died while he was exercising one of his favorite passions, kite surfing. He was only 54 yrs young and is now survived by his wife Tania and their beautiful young son Brandon. 

It is hard to imagine only 2 weeks ago we had a couple of beers and shared some memories and jokes at my booth in Nurnberg.

John and I met in June 1999 in Carlsbad, California where we were both working for Upper Deck. John was running Asia and I was in charge of Europe. John was charismatic, smart, funny, good looking and he spoke fluent Japanese and Mandarin. When John walked into a bar, not only his good looks would catch the attention of the ladies, but his dark brown voice would make them melt: "Hi, I am Jaaawn, how'you doin'...?" 

He lived in Japan for a couple of years and even made it to become a sushi chef. 'Seppi' as many called him was flamboyant and entertaining. He loved life and loved to walk the line. One of his claims to fame: ‘At Upper Deck I was fired 2 times, but hired ... 3 times!’

It was not very difficult to get fired at Upper Deck. Richard McWilliam kept 100's of bullets in his office. Each one holding a name of one of the employees. John had at least 5 bullets with his name on it. If you caught McWilliam at a bad moment..bang!..you were "gunned down". Richard never re-hired people he fired, so for John to be fired twice and hired 3 times was a major achievement (according to John). The truth was John had unique skills and in the relationship with the Japanese Seppi was crucial.

McWilliam would always brag that he and only he made Konami grant Upper Deck Company the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG distribution rights. The reality? It was John who made it happen. Like many others, also Konami didn't like Richard (at all) but the alternative options weren't much better and Upper Deck had John. Seppi did the trick and no-one else. He never got the credits for it. In Nov 2008, John decided himself to leave Upper Deck for good. The paradox: Richard McWilliam had only 1 bullet left, this one carrying his own name.

The truth was you couldn't stay angry with John, even though he would cross the line from time to time. He loved life too much, he lived it to the max and people loved John for that. 

Seppi died at age 54, but he didn't leave a stone unturned, so I would argue he lived his life twice. I am sure he had much for more fun than those preaching a healthy, monotone & religious life stile in the hope they turn 100+ years. I am not sure what is better. John wouldn't want to miss anything, and he didn't.

And now God is having his hands full dealing with John in heaven.

John Sepenuk RIP

 #cryptozoic #johnsepenuk #upperdeck #licensing #toys #konami #yugioh

Tohru Okada - Japanese music producer Tohru Okada, who created the sound for Sony's PlayStation logo, has died at age 73.

Several Japanese news outlets such as Excite reported that Okada passed away on February 14 due to heart failure, and bandmates from his Japanese rock band the Moonriders later corroborated the news on social media.

"I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has worked with Toru Okada for a long time, and to all the fans who have loved Toru Okada's music," wrote the Moonriders in a translated Facebook post.

The PlayStation sound has been a part of the console for nearly its entire lifetime, and has typically been used in commercials for Sony's game system. For a certain generation, hearing that sound effect on TV was how they knew a PlayStation exclusive was about to be advertised.

Along with that sound effect, Okada created music used in several ads during the 1990s for Crash Bandicoot, one of PlayStation's most popular mascots at the time.

Okada was also a keyboard player and founding member of the Moonriders, along with Mother composer Keiichi Suzuki. The band wrote on Facebook that its concert intended for April 29 and April 30 has now been canceled, but they'll share their thoughts on the late Okada during the event.

Dave Hollis, Former Disney Distribution Exec, Dies at 47. He led the studio's theatrical distribution operation from 2011-18, playing a key role in the 'Avengers' series and the relaunch of the 'Star Wars' franchise. A charismatic executive, Hollis led theatrical distribution at Disney from 2011-18 during an unprecedented winning streak for the studio. He played a key role in the relaunch of the Star Wars franchise, as well as the Avengers series, Frozen and Ryan Coogler’s blockbuster superhero film Black Panther (2018).

During Hollis’ tenure, Disney experienced unprecedented box office growth, in 2016 becoming the first studio to cross the $7 billion mark in global ticket sales in a given year.

Hollis surprised many in 2018 when he announced he was leaving Disney to relocate his family to Texas to run his then-wife Rachel Hollis’ company, home of podcasts, conferences and TV shows. Rachel Hollis is an author, motivational speaker and social influencer.

He revealed in his 2020 self-help book, Get Out of Your Own Way, that he had found himself morose, at odds with his wife and drinking too much toward the end of his Disney tenure. “There is something unbelievably liberating about owning the truth of my experience,” he told The Hollywood Reporter at the time.

The following year, he wrote a second self-help book, Built Through Courage: Face Your Fears to Live the Life You Were Meant For, that chronicled his difficult, public divorce and personal reckoning.

He most recently published the children’s book Here’s to Your Dreams and had a podcast, Rise Together. He was a large part of an online fitness and transformation community with his partner Heidi Powell called Get Fit. 

Denni Rivette - A Tribute from Steve Rehkemper: A Vietnam Veteran and a toy industry veteran, Denni Rivette, passed away in Hong Kong on January 20, 2023 at the age of 80. Denni was a gifted illustrator and product designer throughout his long career which started in the 70's at Marvin Glass and Associates where he created many playful products, one of which has endured the test of time and is still sold today, the Hot Lips Telephone. After leaving Marvin Glass in the early 80's, Denni started a design consultancy in Chicago where he worked for many toy and consumer products companies. One of his earliest independent playthings was called Glazers, a squirtgun built into sunglasses. In the 90's Denni moved to Hong Kong to work for Tai Nam Industrial Co Ltd where he designed a continuous stream of toys across all categories for countless customers until he retired in 2007. Denni is survived by his wife Tammy Leung and was an extremely happy fun loving person until just days before his passing.

Julian Page passed away suddenly on January 3rd. Julian spent over 25 years in the toy industry, holding a variety of positions with Hasbro, Mega Brands and Mattel. Most recently, he has been working as National Account manager at VTech, a role he held for over six years.

At just 54 years old, Julian leaves his wife Vicky and two daughters, whom he often referred to as his ‘Three Page Girls’.

Julian was a great personality and was well respected, not just within the companies he worked at, but by all his customers past and present, his colleagues at VTech and his many friends within the UK toy trade and around the world.

A keen Coventry City supporter and avid golfer, Julian could often be found taking part in toy trade golf functions. As well as being a regular supporter of these charity events, he was the proud winner of the BTHA golf day in 2019.

On the Tuesday evening of London Toy Fair, friends and acquaintances came together to raise a glass in Julian’s memory, a gathering which close friend Tony Mace described as “a great turnout” which highlighted what a wonderful industry the toy trade is. “Julian would have been so proud of the respect he had from all his friends,” added Tony.

VTech Sales director, Graham Canning, commented: “Julian will be missed greatly and remembered dearly.”

The funeral will be held on Friday 10th February at St Johns Church, Warwick Road, Kenilworth, CV8 1HY at 1.00pm, and all are welcome.

The family has asked that mourners dress smartly (Julian loved his suits) and wear a splash of sky blue for his love of Coventry City. Family flowers only are requested, although those that wish  can make a donation to a fundraising page here.

The family has started raising money for a charity very close to Julian’s heart, acknowledging his lifetime as an avid fundraiser. Julian was diagnosed with having type 2 diabetes back in 2015, then discovered he had type 1 in 2017. Diabetes was a contributing factor to his passing, and the family would like to raise as much as possible for Diabetes UK, in Julian’s memory, to help raise awareness and knowledge around this debilitating disease

Annie Wersching, the actress who played Tess in The Last of Us, has died aged 45. Deadline shared the news alongside a statement from her husband, Stephen Full, who said Wersching taught her family to chase adventure and recalled how she was capable of finding "wonder in the simplest moment."

"She didn't require music to dance. She taught us not to wait for adventure to find you. 'Go find it. It's everywhere.' And find it we shall," he wrote.

Although perhaps best known in the game industry for her role in The Last of Us, Wersching also appeared in a number of television shows including Star Trek: Picard, The Rookie, 24, and the Vampire Diaries.

Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to Wersching on social media, including actor Troy Baker, who played Joel in The Last of Us and its sequel.

"Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you are grateful for the simple gift of knowing them. Annie, so much of Tess is what you imbued into the character," wrote Baker. "Your strength is her strength and in some way, you live on in not only her but the many roles you brought to life."

Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann, who co-created the franchise, also posted a tribute.

"I miss my silly friend who helped bring Tess to life," said Druckmann. "Annie, you left us way too soon. You will forever be part of the The Last of Us and Naughty Dog family.

A Go Fund Me campaign has been created to help support Wersching's family.

Lloyd Morrisett “Sesame Street” co-creator Lloyd Morrisett has died at age 93, Sesame Workshop announced Monday.

“Lloyd leaves an outsized and indelible legacy among generations of children the world over, with ‘Sesame Street’ only the most visible tribute to a lifetime of good work and lasting impact,” Sesame Workshop tweeted. “Sesame Street” was created by Morrisett, a psychologist who was vice president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and television producer Joan Ganz Cooney. They brought on Jim Henson and his Muppets to help bring the show to life. The first episode ran on November 10, 1969.

Morrisett was a co-founder of Children’s Television Workshop, now called Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind “Sesame Street,” and served as its chairman of the board of trustees for more than 30 years before becoming a Lifetime Honorary Trustee, according to the Workshop.

Marilyn Maher - Longtime CFO of game and toy distributor ACD Distribution Marilyn Maher passed away in Henderson, Nevada on January 2 after a brief illness.  She was 71.  The Maher family had gathered to celebrate the holidays in Nevada where she and her husband planned to retire. Maher became Chief Financial Officer of ACD after the purchase of the company in 2007 by her son Robert Maher, Jr. (who is CEO, see "Interview with ACD’s New Owner"), and had served in the role since then.  She and her husband, Robert Sr., have been splitting time between Middleton, Wisconsin (where ACD is headquartered) and their home in Oak Brook, Illinois since the acquisition.  Earlier in her career Maher also served as Executive Director of the YWCA in Freeport, Illinois.

2022

Tom Karen - A prolific designer who had a hand in designing a host of 1970s creations including the Raleigh Chopper, Bond Bug car and marble run toy has died. Tom Karen, who lived in Cambridge, died aged 96 on New Year's Eve surrounded by his family, a statement said. The industrial designer was born in Vienna, Austria, and arrived in England in 1942 during World War Two. A museum in Letchworth, Hertfordshire - currently hosting a dedicated exhibition - called him a "true great". In the statement confirming Mr Karen's death, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation - which runs the town's Museum at One Garden City - said he had overseen some of the UK's most iconic designs.

For years, Mr Karen's role in designing the Raleigh Chopper bike - manufactured in Nottingham - sparked controversy.

It was originally said that Raleigh's design director Alan Oakley had been on a fact-finding trip to the USA and was solely responsible, but Mr Karen said the firm later credited his contribution in helping create the children's classic.

His 1968 sketches of the bike - which sold 1.5 million units - have been stored in the archive of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Mr Karen, who was appointed OBE in 2019, was the managing director of Letchworth's Ogle Design from 1962 until 1999.

During this time, he helped design the Reliant Scimitar car, the Reliant Bond Bug - a two-seater, three-wheeled sports car that was launched at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire in 1970 - and Leyland lorry cabs.

The Bond Bug's unusual chassis formed the base of Luke Skywalker's landspeeder in Star Wars, while Ogle Design's association with Leyland resulted in Mr Karen designing one of the Popemobiles after the lorry firm was commissioned to manufacture them.

Ogle director Philip Martin said the firm was "deeply saddened" to learn of Mr Karen's death.

"He was an exceptionally talented designer and a very special man," he said.

"He was such an integral part of the Ogle success story. He pioneered so much of the work that we continue to do today, overseeing our progress from automotive designs, through the thrill of Star Wars and into aerospace.

"The company owes him a great debt of gratitude."

However, Mr Karen said one of his greatest achievements was devising the plastic marble run after watching his children play with a wooden one.

Josh Tidy, heritage manager at Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, described it as a "simple idea, perfectly realised and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of children for decades".

Museum at One Garden City has been running a retrospective of the inventor's career called Tom Karen Creations, which will continue until 10 March.

"The happy clacking sound of the marbles plopping down the latest creation has been the wonderful soundtrack of this exhibition, and filled Tom with so much joy," said Mr Tidy, who has curated the exhibition.

"His designs, artworks and sheer joie de vivre will continue to be remembered fondly for many years to come."

Darren Watts. RPG author, designer, editor, and former president of Hero Games. Darren Watts passed away on December 31, 2022 at the age of 53, according to a post from Hero Games.Watts had been in the games industry for decades as an RPG author, editor, developer, and publisher.  In 2001, he and Stephen Long purchased the assets of Hero Games, which included the rights to Champions and the Hero System game line, from Cybergames, Inc. through their company DOJ Inc. Watts then became the President of Hero Games. From there, Watts produced several Champions books including Champions Universe, Champions Worldwide, and Champions Universe II. He also co-designed Galactic Champions, Millennium City, and Lucha Libre Hero.

Watts left Hero Games in 2011. He continued to write and work fror other RPG companies, including Chaosium, and produced Darren Watts's Golden Age Champions, which was published through High Rock Press, in 2017. He also designed We Rate Dogs: The Card Game, published by Chronicle Books. Later, he worked as a consultant for Double Exposure conventions (Metatopia, Dreamation, DexCon, and Maelstrom).

Many of his colleagues have spoken publicly and privately of Watts' kind heart, community spirit, and help to other RPG designers. He will be missed.

 

Archer Maclean, Commodore 64 developer, has passed away at 60 years old.  Game developer Archer Maclean recently passed away at the age of 60. Maclean was a longtime programmer and designer best known for Dropzone on the Atari 8-bit and Commodore 64.

Maclean's passing was confirmed by several members of the retro game community, who wrote that he "produced some of the [Commodore 64's] greatest games...my heart goes out to his family."

Born January 28, 1962, Maclean's first game was the aforementioned Dropzone. Following the success of that title, he would go on to do design and graphics for 1986's International Karate (and its 1987 sequel, International Karate+), and several snooker simulation games, including Archer Maclean Presents Pool Paradise.

Several of these titles were developed at Awesome Studios, a subsidiary of the now defunct Ignition Entertainment. Maclean co-founded Awesome in 2002, and later left the developer in 2005. He went on to found Awesome Play, creators of the 2009 Nintendo Wii title Speedzone (or Wheelspin in Europe).

Though Speedzone marked the end of his time as a game developer, Maclean also wrote columns for Retro Gamer Magazine.

 

Kevin Conroy,  the voice actor best known for portraying DC Comics' Batman, passed away from cancer at the age of 66. The news was initially reported via Diane Pershing (the voice actor for Poison Ivy on Batman: The Animated Series), and later corroborated by Warner Bros. Animation.

"Our beloved voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, died yesterday," reads Pershing's post. "He's been ill for a while but he really put in a lot of time at the cons, to the joy of all of his fans. He will be sorely missed not just by the cast of the series but by his legion of fans all over the world."

Initially an actor for stage and television, Conroy rose to voice acting prominence with 1992's Batman: The Animated Series. That series ran four seasons, but he continued to voice the comic book character throughout its many spinoffs such as Batman Beyond and Justice League.

He would go on to voice Batman in nearly every animated DC project that featured the hero, and even got to play him in live action during the CW's adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths in 2019.

Outside of animation, Conroy went on to voice Batman in multiple video games, including Rocksteady's Batman Arkham and Netherrealm's Injustice franchises. His final role as Batman is in Player First Games' MultiVersus. And beyond Batman, his voice acting career included Lords of EverQuest, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, and Max Payne 2.

In a statement from WB provided to press, Batman voice director Andrea Romano wrote: "Kevin was far more than an actor whom I had the pleasure of casting and directing – he was a dear friend for 30+ years whose kindness and generous spirit knew no boundaries. Kevin’s warm heart, delightfully deep laugh and pure love of life will be with me forever.”

“Kevin was perfection,” continued longtime Joker voice actor Mark Hamill. "I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him – his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated.”

Conroy is survived by his husband Vaughn C. Williams and siblings Trisha and Tom Conroy.

Lesley John Cooke - Toy World is sad to report that industry veteran Les Cooke passed away peacefully at his home on 15th October.

Les’s former colleague and close friend, Bob Brechin, shared his memories of Les with Toy World.

When Bob joined Palitoy in 1967 as a toy designer, Les was responsible for the marketing of Action Man, which had been licensed the previous year from Hasbro. Les famously once said: “I had the best job in the toy industry – Action Man’s first Brand manager.”

“Les was quick to realise that Action Man provided more play scenarios than solely military adventures,” Bob explains. “Attending a research study, he noticed that one little boy was playing with the Mountain and Arctic Trooper Action Man as Scott of the Antarctic. This inspired Les to develop a range of adventure sets, which I was instructed to design. Action Man began to live up to his name, took on many roles and became a truly British icon.” Action Man was named Toy of the Decade in 1980, after winning the title Toy of the Year in its first outing.

In 1968, the Palitoy brand and its Coalville factory were bought by new owners General Mills. Les became Marketing director and was instrumental in introducing many iconic lines, including the hairstyling and makeup toy, Girls World; pocket-sized fashion doll, Pippa and the Discovery Time pre-school range.

When the Star Wars phenomenon exploded, Palitoy became the UK distributor of toys developed by sister company Kenner. Bob tells us that Les was loath to market the Star Wars range alongside Palitoy’s flagship Action Man concept, nervous about relying on the success of an unknown film to sell toys. He was persuaded by Kenner president, Bernie Loomis, who declared: “Star Wars will go on for twenty years.” After seeing the film, Les agreed with him.

Palitoy owner General Mills began to pursue global branding, introducing more ranges from the US to add to the success of Star Wars. As the likes of Care Bears joined the company’s portfolio, many of the classic ranges developed by Palitoy – including Action Man – started to be phased out. Les resigned from the company to join outgoing UK MD Bob Wilson to establish Emblem Toys in Leicester. Later they would resuscitate the ailing Matchbox Company.

“During my long association with Les Cooke, I have found him to be very committed, willing to embrace my ideas and always giving total support,” says Bob Brechin. “Everone I have talked to has demonstrated their respect and admiration for him. He had a strong affinity to toys and the long list of products he introduced attests to that. The British toy industry will mourn the passing of one of its stalwarts.”

Bob added that his thoughts were with Les’s wife Diane, and his children and grandchildren, at this sad time. Toy World would like to add its condolences to the family and all who knew Les.

 

Stevanne Auerbach aka Dr. Toy (Tribute by Jacqueline Fulmer, Ph.D., Director of Omnidoll Research.)  Pioneering mass media toy reviewer and early childhood studies author, Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D., known to her readers and viewers as “Dr. Toy,” passed away in San Lorenzo, CA, on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, at age 84, due to complications from stroke. 

Stevanne Auerbach was an accomplished speaker, consultant, and author, who had trained in child development and special education. Her works ranged from the esoteric: editing volumes on early childhood studies; to the practical: handbooks on the Peace Corps, careers in Home Economics, physical education for differently abled children, and the search for quality childcare; to the creative: a children’s book (The Alphabet Tree, 1988), a novel (The Contest, 2009), a book of poetry (Petals, 1973), and a screenplay. Her title, “Dr. Toy,” dated to her first assignment with Creative Playthings in 1968, where she developed its first education marketing program. She became one of the first mass media “toy reviewers,” evaluating toys, publishing articles, and appearing on radio and television in American markets from coast to coast, from 1986 to 2018. When her distinctive gold foil “Dr. Toy Award” stickers appeared on retail products, consumers would know that they were purchasing a quality toy that would enrich their children’s lives.

To have known Stevanne was to experience her enthusiasm for the value of play in everyone’s lives and her generosity in helping people at every stage of their lives.

Stevanne is survived by her husband Ralph Whitten, daughter Amy Beth Auerbach, grandson Josiah Metz, and sister Judy Schwartz (Martin Schwartz).

Stevanne was born to Jeane Sydney Rosen Stockheim and Nathan Carl Stockheim on September 22, 1938, in New York City. She was raised in Juniper Park in Middle Village, a newly developed neighborhood in the borough of Queens in New York City. Her mother spent most of her career working in public health, and her father worked as a firefighter and math and science teacher.   READ MORE...

Rieko Kodama. Skies of Arcadia producer and team leader on the original Phantasy Star games Rieko Kodama has passed away at age 58. According to a Sega statement to IGN, Kodama passed away in five months ago in May 2022. No cause of death was given.

Word of Kodama's possible death began to spread after owners of Sega's Mega Drive Mini II retro console noticed her inclusion in the console's credits, which stated "In Memory of Rieko Kodama." In response to queries about the message, Sega Producer Yosuke Okunari confirmed fan suspicions, writing "as you understand it. We respected her."

Kodama's three-decade career in video games (which she began under the name Phoenix Rie) spanned multiple console generations and game genres. She is often credited for being a trailblazing artist, director, and producer in an era when women's contributions to the video game industry were less-recognized.

Her early games at Sega included work on games llike Champion Boxing, Sega Ninja, and Quartet. Her art appeared in several landmark Sega titles including Altered Beast and Sonic the Hedgehog. Most recently, she produced the Sega Ages series of classic game ports on Nintendo Switch. Many of those ports brought games she helped create to modern audiences.

In 2019, the organizers of Game Developers Conference (disclaimer: our sibling organization) honored Kodama with the Pioneer award. In a message where she accepted the award, she gave thanks fellow Sega collaborators like Yoshiki Kawasaki for supporting her in her career.

In a rare interview with Kotaku around the same time period, Kodama reflected on the success of Skies of Arcadia, which has remained a cult classic among fans of Japanese Role-Playing Games. "Portrayal of dark worlds was certainly what was trending in Japan at the time, but our team preferred to create an optimistic protagonist who explored the world," she said in reflection. "[That] gave birth to Skies of Arcadia’s scenario and characters."

With Kodama's passing, the video game industry has lost one of the few women who has been a constant presence from the console industry's early days all the way into the modern era. Even fewer have worked on so many titles that would inspire game developers around the globe.

 

Carl Woodiwiss. Toy World is sad to report the recent untimely passing of Carl Woodiwiss, a much-loved and highly respected member of the A.B.Gee sales team. Carl Woodiwiss worked at A.B.Gee for over 20 years during which time he met his wife of 12 years, Cath, with whom he had two children, Lucy and Jack. 

Carl started off working in the model department at A.B.Gee, where his knowledge of cars, kits and collectibles was second to none, and it was this that helped Carl build up a remarkable rapport with the many customers he looked after.

Colleagues at A.B.Gee say Carl was a natural salesman, full of enthusiasm and always took great pride in representing the company at London Toy Fair, the Toymaster Show and The Toy & Gift Show. Carl had such a good relationship with his customers that he still kept in close contact even when he moved on to the Toy side of the business. He was very concerned that he might lose contact with customers whom he considered to be his friends, but this was never the case and he ended up making many more close connections with his new customers too.

Paying tribute on behalf of the A.B.Gee team, sales manager Andrew Hardwidge said:“Carl was a fantastic colleague and a dear friend with a great sense of humour. He had a heart of gold and a twinkle in his eye when he spoke about Cath and the kids, whom he loved very much. He will be greatly missed by his co-workers, customers, friends and most of all his family.”

Carl’s wife Cath has set up a JustGiving page with donations going to Cancer Research UK as this was a charity close to Carl’s heart

 

Kazuki Takahashi was killed trying to save people from drowning, according to new reports. The Manga artist is best-known for creating the Yu-Gi-Oh series, which went on to spark a lucrative card game and anime which became a worldwide phenomenon in the early 2000s. Takahashi died on July 4 this year, with his death provoking an outpouring of love from fans of the series, those who were inspired by him, his friends and family. It is now being reported that the renowned artist died while trying to save other from drowning at a popular dive spot in Japan. 

Takahashi reportedly dumped into the water to save a US soldier, an 11-year-old girl and her mother who had got into difficulty at the swimming spot. Major Robert Bourgeau spoke to military newspaper Stars and Stripes where he said the 60-year-old had tried to rescue people caught in a riptide but drowned when he got into difficulty himself.

Diana Wallman - Toy World is sad to report that UK retailer and toy industry veteran Diana Wallman has passed away after a short illness. Both Diana and her husband Ken have been fervent supporters of the Fence Club since Ken joined in 1989. The couple were regular supporters of functions until they moved to Australia about 10 years ago. Clive Jones of The Fence Club shared the sad news with members who knew the couple.

Many will remember Ken and Diana’s successful toy shop, Young Folk, and their sports shop, in West Wickham. Diana was heavily involved in both businesses; she loved working in the shops and being part of the wider toy trade through the Fence Club and the BATR. The couple were members of Upper Thames Wholesalers and subsequently Youngsters for many years.

Clive, a friend of the couple, explained that Ken and Diana were in the UK for their granddaughters wedding in July which they thoroughly enjoyed. Before they left Australia for the occasion, Diana had been given the news she had terminal cancer.

Following the wedding, the couple decided to stay on in the UK to catch up with family and friends, however, in late August, Diana’s condition deteriorated suddenly and their plans were put on hold. “Sadly, she continued to decline very quickly and then entered a hospice a few weeks ago,” explained Clive. “Ken says the care she received there has been fantastic and it was a very peaceful last few days.”

 

David Yeh 

 

Arnold Thaler, former Chairman of Viewmaster-Ideal, passed away on September 12th, 2022. He was 99 years. Here is an old video of Arnold Thaler talking about View-Master International old.   

Ralph Anspach

Rob Smith Game journalist and author Rob Smith, who served as editor-in-chief of publications including PC Gamer, Official Xbox Magazine, and Official PlayStation Magazine, has passed away. The news was shared by The Game Awards organiser Geoff Keighley, who previously worked with Smith for over two decades on the Game Critics E3 Awards. Keighley added that Smith was the author of 'Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts,' which charted how George Lucas formed and shaped the legendary game studio.

Smith also stepped into the development trenches during spells at EA and Treyarch, where he served as QA Manager and Community Manager, respectively.

More recently, he spent time working as a creative copywriter at Xsolla and was involved in producing the 2022 New York Game Awards.

Friends and colleagues shared their memories of Smith as news of his passing spread, describing him as someone who looked out for his co-workers to help spread kindness and sincerity, and "one of the most knowledgeable, experienced, professional people" to grace the games industry.

Brian Ayers. Sega Europe developer Brian Ayers has passed away at the age of 42. Ryan King confirmed during the weekend, saying that Ayers passed after a "short illness." "[Brian] was truly the best of us - warm, funny, brilliant, a huge loss to us all," wrote King. Ayers joined the game industry in 2008 as a sales executive for Konami. He was promoted to the rank of PR manager in 2010. He'd serve as the publisher's European brand manager until 2014, when he jumped ship to be Capcom's brand manager. Come 2021, Ayers left Capcom to become a senior product marketing manager at Paradox Interactive. Towards the end of 2021, he worked at Sega Europe for a similar position. Prior to working in games, Ayers was a vocalist for the London punk rock band Hitechjet. Ayers is survived by his partner Kay, and well-wishers can provide support via Ayers' JustGiving page.

Arnold Thaler, former Chairman of Viewmaster-Ideal, passed away on September 12th, 2022. He was 99 years. Here is an old video of Arnold Thaler talking about View-Master International old.   

 

Michael John Lyden, of Greendale, Wisconsin passed away Friday, August 26, 2022 peacefully at the age of 80. Born in Fall River, Massachusetts he spent his youth along the eastern corridor from Rhode Island to Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The toy industry was his heart and soul, along with the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle (done proudly only in pen) and endless books loaned from the library. He adored visiting zoos around the world, fascinated by Snowflake, the albino gorilla at the Barcelona zoo and Tandi & Khanya, the rare white lion cubs (along with generally most animals).
He adored long evenings at restaurants, discos, bars around the world, making new friends wherever he frequented. From Carlos & Charlie's in Hollywood to TJ's Piano Bar in Westport Connecticut, to most recently his daughter's wine bar in Greendale, Wisconsin, he was one to charm the socks off of anyone he met. Given the opportunity he'd gladly take you up on a well-made steak tartare with the perfect frites. He adored gushing stories about the golf courses he'd played or flying the Concord all while extending the evening with a sambuca and coffee, with exactly three beans for good fortune in life.
He loved regaling new friends and old with stories of his time spent in the toy industry, starting as a teenager as a stock clerk in the first Toys "R" Us in Virginia. From there he worked tirelessly and steadfastly to rise the ranks at Toys R Us, then to Mattel. At Mattel he led the development of Hot Wheels as Vice President of Boys Brands in El Segundo, California. At Tyco Toys in Mount Laurel, New Jersey he rose to President of Tyco US where along his journey he was instrumental in the creation of the legendary Garfield telephone of the 80s, and Tickle me Elmo of the 90s. His favorite times were spent at Toy Fair every year in New York City, and with his many dear colleagues he made over 50+ years in the industry.
He was the ultimate perfectionist, with a lust for life that is rarely encountered. He endeared himself to many throughout his broad and unique life around the world.

He was the proud father of daughters Kelly (Jeff), Megan and Jennifer (Jason); Grandfather of Russell, Jessica (Steve), Rachel (Brett), Elle, Sadie and Uma; Great-Grandfather of Zachary, Emilie, Madelyn, Nikolai, Hazel and Theo. He is survived by his sisters Frances (George) and Colleen. He is preceeded by his parents Francis and Evelyn (nee Lassonde) Lyden. 

 

Ralph Eggleston,  Longtime Pixar animator  and the Oscar-winning director behind the 2000 short film For the Birds who also worked in the art departments of films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles — has died. Eggleston died in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, according to Variety. Pixar Animation Studios confirmed Eggleston's death in a statement released on Twitter Monday. "In memory of Ralph Eggleston — animator, director, art director, storyboard artist, writer, production designer, and our dear friend. Pixar and the world will be forever grateful," the studio tweeted. Among his colleagues, Jorge R. Gutierrez, director of The Book of Life, also honored the moviemaker with a tribute.

 

Rob Hale, the indie game developer best known as Squid in a Box, has passed away. Earlier this month, Hale died of cancer, and his partner CJ recently broke the news on the Steam forums of Hale's game, Waves 2: Notorious.

"Rob was very passionate about their work, and ever so dedicated, over the years we were together they were always dreaming big and trying so hard to create the best game they could possibly make," wrote CJ. "It was a joy to support Rob, through that initial Kickstarter, and the years of indie development that followed."

Prior to indie development, Hale had worked as a modder and developer on triple-A titles. Their first solo game, Waves, was a twin-stick shooter that released in 2011. Waves 2 released as an Early Access title in 2015 and will remain unfinished. Despite that, CJ pointed out that Rob was "dedicated to their craft," even when that ambition didn't always lead to success.

"I know they would have liked to have completed that final project," CJ continued, "but as Covid encroached, the need to have a more stable income was looming and between these factors and Rob’s struggles with their health, they never got the time to cap off this particular branch of their legacy."

Both Waves games have been made free to play on Steam, something CJ said Hale had been considering in the months before his passing. "I hope this can be seen as a parting gift to all those out there that haven’t yet played either of these games."

Liz Goulet Dubois - It’s with a heavy heart that we share the passing of Liz Goulet Dubois,, one of Fred’s most prolific and influential product designers. Liz was instrumental in launching the Fred brand back in 2004 — helping define the brand language of fun and functional products and accessories. Many of Liz’s early designs have become cornerstones of the brand, and remain best-sellers today.

Along with designing some of Fred’s most beloved products, Liz also mentored the young designers that joined the Fred team over the years. She was wonderfully weird, and looked at the world through a different set of lenses - fostering the sense of whimsy and playfulness that has been the foundation of the brand.

Liz left the company back in 2018 to focus her efforts on writing and illustrating children’s books. She thankfully was able to see the publishing of her first book in a series, Duck and Cluck: That Egg Is Mine!, released this past January. The sequel is due to be released next spring. Visit duckandcluck.net for more information.

A scholarship fund has been set up in Liz’s name through The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for young authors/illustrators who are looking to break into the field.

Through the month of August, we will donate all profits from the sale of Liz’s collection of products on our site to her scholarship fund. https://www.genuinefred.com/.../designer-liz-goulet-dubois

Liz’s life revolved around being creative. Though it was cut short, the contributions she’s given to so many through her designs and illustrations live on. She was loved, and will be missed.

Her Friends at Fred

Amparo Serrano, One of Mexico’s most successful artists and toymakers has - known to many fans as Amparín — died last week following an accident in her home outside of Mexico City. The 56-year-old artist and designer was the creator and founder of Distroller, the international company behind the colorful Neonate Babies, Chamoy & Amiguis, and Virgencita Plis brands. Serrano founded Distroller in 2004 and built a business that quickly expanded across toys, licensing, and entertainment. The Neonate Babies aka Ksi-Meritos became an international hit that led to the opening of a few experiential Distroller World stores in the U.S. While the stores closed on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic, Distroller has remained a popular direct-to-consumer toy brand and recently exhibited at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.

 

Travis Day. Travis Day, an Irvine-area game designer who spent over a decade at Blizzard Entertainment, has died at age 41. The news comes from his sister Rachel Day, a VFX artist and producer at Bonfire Studios. No cause of death was given.

Day's journey in the video game industry began at 2005 at Blizzard Entertainment, where he worked first as a customer service representative, then quality assurance tester. He would eventually become a game designer on World of Warcraft and system designer on Diablo III. He also worked on major expansions for both titles.

In 2018, he left Blizzard Entertainment and joined Phoenix Labs, working on Dauntless. According to his Twitter profile, he also spent time at Lightspeed LA, Tencent's Irvine-area game development studio.

Day's colleagues left kind words for him in response to the news shared by his sister Rachel. He was described as "a pleasure and chat to work with," and "a friend, colleague and caring individual who shared his life and insights with anyone who would listen."

For her part, Rachel Day said that "Travis was loved greatly by friends and family and will be deeply missed."

Arthur Houtman. Game industry veteran and Vertigo Games managing director Arthur Houtman has passed away.

The news comes from a statement on Vertigo Games' website, where the company shared news of Houtman's passing. Houtman co-founded two companies, Vanguard Games and Force Field, which were acquired by Embracer Group VR division Vertigo Games in August 2021. Houtman remained with the company after its acquisition, acting as managing director of Vertigo Studios Amsterdam.

Vertigo Games wrote that Houtman was "instrumental" in transforming the small indie studio into a thriving company. It noted that even though he'd reached retirement age in 2021, he kept working at Vertigo Studios Amsterdam to help it navigate its status as a newly-acquired company.

"It feels extremely unfair that he did not get the chance to round off this final step and go and enjoy a well-deserved retirement after all the hard work he dedicated to our company," the studio noted. "Arthur will be remembered as a straight shooter who never minced words, but he was always honest and focused on the end result." "Above all, he was a humble, generous and kind man and a source of advice for anyone who wanted to benefit from his 30 years working in the world of video games." Colleagues on social media described Houtman as "one the most amazing and genuine people you'll ever meet in this industry," and "a true gentleman, a great friend and a very talented professional."

Houtman began his career in the video game industry as a producer on various CD-ROM prototypes, eventually landing at Infrogames (the company that would become Atari) as production director. He'd later work at Disney Online Studios before departing to co-found Vanguard Games. Vanguard Games would find some success with a pair of licensed Halo titles called Halo: Spartan Assault and Halo: Spartan Strike before pivoting to virtual reality development under the Force Field name. It released games like Landfall and Coaster Combat before being acquired by the publisher of Arizona Sunshine.

 

Paul Coker Jr., character and production designer on the timeless Rankin/Bass holiday specials and long-time Mad magazine artist, died at his home in New Mexico on July 23, 2022 after a brief illness. He was 93.

Coker was raised in Lawrence, Kansas, and studied art at the University of Kansas before taking a job as a greeting card designer for Hallmark in the 1950s. His relationship with the company spanned decades as he continued to provide artwork for cards while working on other projects.

During his career Coker worked for Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Pageant, Look, McCall’s, and was an editorial cartoonist for the New York Enquirer. He also contributed to Playboy, but spent most of his career illustrating for Mad magazine, which he joined in 1961. There he became one of The Usual Gang of Idiots, a group of artists who defined the look, feel, and humor of the magazine for years.

During his time at Mad he created several popular recurring features, the most recognizable being the “Horrifying Clichés” series. Over the next four decades he illustrated more than 375 articles for the publication.

In the late-1960s, Coker began contributing to the production and character design of Rankin/Bass specials and was responsible for many of the images that Americans now most closely associate with the Christmas season. He has credits on holiday films including Frosty the Snowman, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, among many others. READ MORE...

Richard Tait, 1964-2022: ‘Cranium’ inventor and serial entrepreneur was ‘the ultimate dreamer’. Tait passed away on Monday at his Bainbridge Island, Wash., home from “continued pulmonary complications due to COVID-19,” according to a Facebook post by his family, shared with GeekWire. News of his death was also shared in a note to staff from Valor Equity Partners Co-President Jonathan Shulkin. Tait had been a partner at Valor Siren Ventures since March 2019.

“It is with great sadness that Valor Equity Partners announces the death of our colleague and friend Richard Tait,” Shulkin wrote. “Our Valor community, as well as the many people that worked with Richard over the years, mourn his passing. He will be greatly missed.”

Tait’s son, Finn Tait, also posted TikTok videos and Instagram photos in which they remembered their father.

“He was a great dad,” Finn said in one video. “It was like having Willy Wonka for a father. I love him very much and I’m going to miss him a lot.”

Tait started at Microsoft in July 1988 and is credited with launching a series of new businesses at the tech giant. He helped pioneer client server computing in the company’s operating system division, ran the CD-ROM business with products like Encarta, and started a number of consumer-oriented online services including Carpoint, Sidewalk and others, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Tait was even the first boss of current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, whom he helped recruit from Sun Microsystems in the early 1990s.

“Cranium” board game. (Hasbro Image)

But it was Tait’s decision to leave Microsoft in 1998 that would largely define his legacy, as he and fellow Microsoft executive Whit Alexander co-founded “Cranium.”

It became one of the fastest-selling games in history and spawned a number of “Cranium”-branded follow-ups and related products. Gaming giant Hasbro bought “Cranium” for $77.5 million in 2008.

“We set out to create a brand that would give everyone the chance to shine,” Tait said at the time of the sale. “We’ve accomplished that and so much more, making history with great products that have won five Toy Industry Association Game of the Year awards.” READ MORE...

 

Ken Andrew. Toy World is sad to report the passing of Ken Andrew, owner of Hal Whittaker’s toy shop in Knutsford and known locally as Mr Toy Shop. Ken passed away at the age of 96, on July 21st. He first bought his premises, a former photography shop, in 1969, and soon established a succesful local toy business, known as Hal Whittaker. The store became popular with the local community thanks to innovations – at the time – such as the introduction of a range of fireworks and the launch of a Christmas Club. Ken’s daughter, Julie, explained that this was a development which was warmly embraced by the toy shop’s customers. “It was quite innovative,” she said. “Families welcomed being able to put money away each week to spend on kids at Christmas.

Julie added that ther father was passionate about doing the very best of everything in his toy shop. Ken used to travel to toy fairs in London, Harrogate and Brighton to source stock for his store, and his family said he became expert at spotting ‘the next big thing’. “We were popular at school as we always had the latest craze in toys – as an experiment,” added Julie. Ken’s love of amateur dramatics meant he often put on puppet shows for kids, which were very popular.

Ken’s son Stuart took over the family business in the early 80s, but confided that it was hard for his dad to let go. “He still wanted to be in the shop all day every day,” said Stuart. “He knew all the customers personally.” Stuart says he learned a lot from his father. “I try to make sure everything he used to do still stands. His old fashioned core values were instilled in all of us. He truly believed that very child should have the memory of a toy shop rather than the faceless world of going online.”

Stuart added: “In an increasingly difficult market place I still try to keep the shop true to its roots with a traditional feel coupled with the values and service he instilled into me – RIP Dad, your legacy continues.”

In Knutsford, Ken Andrew has been hailed as a ‘true ambassador of the town’ by customers recalling their treasured childhood memories. His family told the Knutsford Guardian it has been overwhelmed by fond memories shared by the local community. Julie said: “Everyone describes him as a warm, kind and generous man with a fabulous sense of humour.”

Customers remember buying their first toys from Ken Andrew in his beloved toy shop, purchasing classic brands like Tri-ang, Hornby train sets and Lego, and some recalled buying their first teddy from his wooden counter.

Ken’s funeral will take place on Monday, August 1st, at 10.30am at Birches Crematorium,Northwich.

Toy World would like to add its condolences to Ken’s wife, Marjorie, to Julie, Stuart, grandchildren Olivia and Josh, and everyone who knew him.

 

Robert Alan Koeneke, creator of The Dungeons of Moria, has passed away. Developer only released one game, but his work went on to inspire other titles such as Diablo. Rober Alan Koeneke, the developer behind rougelike title the Dungeons of Moria, has passed away aged 64.

As reported by PC Gamer, Koeneke's death was announced via his obituary at dignitymemorial.com.

He released Moria, which was inspired by the Lord of the Rings, in 1983 while attending the University of Oklahoma.

The game went on to be updated over the years and he eventually made it an open source project for the public.

"I am very happy to learn my creation keeps on going...I plan to download it and Angband and play them... " Koeneke said in a 1996 statement.

"Maybe something has been added that will surprise me! That would be nice I never got to play Moria and be surprised."

Moria was the only title that Koeneke developed but it went on to inspire other titles such as Diablo.

The series' co-creator David Brevik credits Moria along with Rogue, Nethack, and Angband as his biggest influences.

Tony Mines, a founding father of modern Lego animation, has died at the age of 44 after a months-long battle with melanoma cancer.

Mines passed away peacefully on Saturday July 9, one day after his 44th birthday, in Florence Nightingale Hospice in Aylesbury, U.K., his sister Gill Mines told Cartoon Brew.

“Although we knew his cancer was incurable, it’s still heartbreaking for us all to lose him so young,” said Gill.

Mines was born on July 8, 1978, in Leighton Buzzard. Although Gill pointed out that he was technically from “the posh side” of Linslade. Mines was a Barnfield College graduate who later studied animation at Newport University, South Wales.

He was diagnosed with melanoma cancer on January 1, 2022, which was later confirmed incurable in February. His body didn’t respond well to treatment, and he received the terminal diagnosis in April. Mines spent his final months living with his sister and brother-in-law, who cared for him to the end.

“Tony was a creative genius from a very young age, a mesmerizing imagination, and had the most wicked sense of humor and infectious laugh,” Gill said of her big brother. “He was also kind, loving, and thoughtful. Tony was very pragmatic about his cancer diagnosis and spent his last few months with friends and family, whilst doing the thing he loved most, drawing and animating.”

Spite Your Face Productions, the company name of British animators and filmmakers Tony Mines and Tim Drage, was a pioneer in the Lego filmmaking movement of the early 21st century. Films such as ONE: A Space Odyssey and All of the Dead quickly quickly went “viral” before the term even existed. Stop-motion films featuring Lego and other brick toys had been around for decades, but the work done by Mines and his collaborators was groundbreaking and foundational for the Lego films, both official and fan-made, that can be found all across the internet today.

 

Alice Bergman, 'Strong and Fierce'. Alice Bergman, an early feminist, civil rights activist, and founder of the iconic Upper West Side toy store, West Side Kids, died peacefully on Saturday morning, her daughter Jennifer Bergman informed the community in an email. The cause was pneumonia. Alice was 86. “Friday, she had a good day,” Jennifer wrote. “She spoke to friends on the phone, spent time with each of us and talked about her goals. Both Les [Jen’s younger sister] and I were by her side when she died. Her body was so fragile, but her mind and spirit were strong and fierce.” 

Those words seemed to define Alice Bergman, who arrived on the Upper West Side in 1961. In 1971, she started a handmade toy company, called Toys for All Children, eschewing the then-standard blond, blue-eyed, male-dominated version of reality for a more ethnically diverse, non-sexist one.

“She made an African-American, woman-doctor puppet – in 1971!” Jennifer exulted. “She was way ahead of her time.”

In 1981, she opened West Side Kids.

“I haven’t really changed very much about the store since she retired in 2014,” Jennifer said. And why should she?

It is a beautiful, old space – brightly painted, covered from polished-wood floor to painted-tin ceiling with shelves and stacks of toys and books. (There’s even a copy of the Constitution!)

“My mother’s philosophy about toys was very strong,” Jennifer told WSR in an earlier interview. “Play is a child’s work, and toys are the tools for that work. You need the correct tools to grow into a creative, interesting adult.”

 

Bruce Reynolds, toy rep in Seattle. (Note from Mary - while at ASTRA I heard that Bruce passed, but I have not been able to find more information. If anyone has more information, please me know. Thank you.)

Penny Sawyer LIEBERMAN, born April 18th, 1941 in Brooklyn, NY, died peacefully in her sleep after a long battle with pancreatic cancer on July 9th, 2022 in New York, NY. Penny is survived by her husband, Jay; her children, Juliet and Matthew Lublin, Erik and Alexis Ekstein, Andrea Lieberman and her husband Vincent Passeri; along with her beloved grandchildren, Jordan, Tyler, Garrett, Evan, Owen, Paloma, Leonardo; and her beloved dog, Bebe. Penny was a toy inventor extraordinaire, responsible for creating Puffy Stickers and The Pillow People, a line of soft pillow dolls developed to help children deal with their fear of the dark. Penny's Linkedin Profile is here.

 

Takahashi Kazuki, a Japanese manga artist credited with creating the “Yu-Gi-Oh” comic book series, was found dead on Wednesday. He was 60.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that Takahashi’s body was found in the sea, about 300 meters off the coast of Nago in Okinawa Province. It reported that he was wearing snorkeling equipment at the time. The body was identified as Takahashi’s on Thursday after the Japan Coast Guard connected it to a white rental car that had been abandoned some 12 kilometers away. The Coast Guard said that Takahashi had traveled to Okinawa alone. His body bore no noticeable sign of injury and an investigation into the cause of his death has now begun. Takahashi’s agency Studio Dice turned the artist’s web page black. READ MORE...

James Light. Hell Let Loose producer James Light has passed away due to complications resulting from cardiac surgery. He was 28. 

The Hell Let Loose dev team shared the news on Reddit and said Light is "one of the key reasons" the project has achieved success.

Light began his career in video games in 2018, joining Hell Let Loose publisher Team17's QA department to work on the multiplayer shooter.

He quickly rose through the ranks to eventually become a producer on the project, and is described by his colleagues as someone who possessed an "incredible work ethic, humility, and enduring kindness."

"Despite being extremely effective, he was always the first to champion the efforts of others and bring praise to the team as a whole," wrote Team17 community manager Greg Medlin.

"His achievements -- though quiet -- saw him develop into the role of production assistant, and then several months ago receive his final promotion to the position of producer -- formalizing his role in overseeing the entire PC development side of Hell Let Loose.

"He had more knowledge of the game than perhaps anyone else -- certainly more than me -- having reported and studied thousands of bugs -- knowing every intricacy and nuance across every aspect of the game."

The team said Light made an "indelible impression on the game," before adding that he also "made that same impression on us."

 

Bob Simpson - Bob was chief executive of Palitoy from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s and was credited with bringing top brands Action Man, Tiny Tears and Star Wars to the company.

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Bob Simpson, who was the chief executive at Palitoy during a golden era for the company. Although he was very much a ‘behind the scenes’ director, leaving Harry Trowell and his sales team take a lot of the limelight, he did a great job working with the American owners and helped to bring numerous top brands to the company, including Action Man, Tiny Tears and Star Wars.

The funeral service will be held at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Kirby Muxloe, just outside Leicester on Monday 11th July at 12.30pm. Any former colleagues wishing to attend the service and the wake at the Royal Oak should contact Bobwhitworth@btopenworld.com.

We are grateful to former Palitoy chief designer Bob Brechin for providing the following obituary: READ MORE...

Bernie Stolar. Former Sega of America president and Sony Computer Entertainment America vice president Bernie Stolar has passed away. 

The news was shared by GamesBeat, which said that Stolar's funeral service took place in Los Angeles over the weekend.

Stolar was a prominent figure in the games industry for decades and worked on the original PlayStation while at Sony, helping to launch the popular system while also signing key franchises including Crash Bandicoot, Ridge Racer, and Spyro the Dragon.

During his time at Sega, Stolar led development on the Dreamcast and acquired Visual Concepts, which was eventually sold to Take-Two Interactive and used by the publisher to create its 2K label.

Later on, Stolar became an advisor and director at in-game advertising company Adscape Media, which would later be purchased by Google.

Google then brought Stolar on board as its own games evangelist, helping the influential figure add to his already extensive résumé.

Those who knew Stolar have been paying tribute on social media after hearing news of his passing.

 

Mike Sellers. Veteran game designer, engineer, and university professor Mike Sellers has passed away. News of his passing was shared on social media by friends and peers, who described Sellers as someone with a great capacity for kindness and generosity.

Sellers began his career as a software engineer, working at companies including Tektronix and Mentor Graphics during the '80s. He eventually began applying his talents to games at New World Designers, where he worked as a lead UI and UX designer on a variety of products including children's games.

After that, he went on to establish Archetype Interactive and create massively multiplayer title, Meridian 59. After Archetype was acquired by 3DO, Sellers was snapped up by the studio to continue leading production on Meridian 59 and other game projects.

Eventually, Sellers would join Electronic Arts and work on titles such as SimCity Online, The Sims 2, and Ultima Online in his role as a senior game designer.

After departing EA in 2002, Sellers became a consultant before having stints at Online Alchemy, Kabam, and Rumble -- accepting leadership roles at all three companies.

In his later years, Sellers ventured into the world of academia and most recently served as the director and professor of practice on Indiana University's game design degree program.

 

Alison Quill. The founder and managing director of the specialist educational toy retailer Brightminds, Alison Quill, passed away in April. 

Toy World is sad to report the passing of Alison Quill, the founder and managing director of Brightminds, on 1st April after a long illness.

Brightminds told Toy World that only the day before her passing, Alison had contributed with her usual vigour and good humour at a board meeting, and that her drive, enthusiasm and knowledge shone through to the very end.

The specialist retailer’s official statement read: “Her colleagues will miss those attributes terribly but, above all, they – like us – will miss Alison the person. She was a regular fixture at various toy fairs at home and abroad, well known and respected throughout the industry. This world of ours now has one less genuinely good person.”

Alison was a science teacher who left the profession to form Brightminds in 1998. In her own words: “The National Curriculum became like teaching by recipe and I want to set off that spark in childrens’ minds.”

Alison was clear from the outset that the key was sourcing educational toys that inspire children to be curious about the world around them. Consequently, every product in the Brightminds range was tested and hand-picked to these guidelines.

Alison had been ill for some time and when news of her prognosis became apparent, she embarked upon a handover process as best she could, though her involvement in the day to day business had to be reduced. Her wish, according to her friends and colleagues, was that the company she had given so much to create and build continued to prosper and realise the aspirations of all of its employees, shareholders and loyal customers and suppliers.

The running of Brightminds is now being assumed by the remaining directors, led by David Crellin as interim CEO.

David says: “We have no greater desire than to carry on fulfilling Alison’s wishes in bringing a little joy and inspiration to the young people of this world. Whilst Alison can never be replaced, we do have the privilege of being given the opportunity to carry on her ethos and legacy. It is a mantle we intend to pursue to the best of our abilities”.

Toy World would like to join Alison’s friends and colleagues at Brightminds in sending condolences to her husband, John, and wider family

Maureen Hiron (1942–June, 2022) In Maureen's own words from an interview we did with her...

I’m Maureen Hiron and I’m thrilled to be inducted into the Games Hall of Fame. I used to be the head of the Physical Education department of an Inner London comprehensive school. Then part of that school fell on my head, and at 32 I was pensioned off from teaching.

The future looked bleak. But I did have one ace up my sleeve. I was already an expert bridge player, having represented England and Britain at bridge. So I devoted my mental energies to the game. And the thought processes involved penetrated the cloud that enshrouded my brain.

Then a medical phenomenon occurred. It appeared that the former dormant areas of my brain had taken over the role of the damaged parts. The result was that I was able to reason with the intuitive mind of a child, yet still retain my acquired knowledge and 156 IQ level.

The first manifestation of this came on April Fools Day 1982. I was listening to music by my favourite composer, Bach – when in a lightbulb moment I invented the first of my games.

This was Continuo. A game that is a nice blend of skill and luck. That a 5-year-old can play on equal terms with all other ages. That many can play together, yet is also pleasing as a solo patience game. That is understood in seconds and transcends all language barriers. Yes – that’s a lot of claims for one small game, yet it all proved to be true, judging by the millions sold.

But Continuo was no One Game wonder for me. I’ve now had over 70 games published, which are sold in over 50 countries.

I’ve been asked, “What makes a game successful?” If I had the answer to that, I’d never invent a bummer!

But for me, it seems that the quicker I invent a game, the more successful it becomes. Especially if the rules are minimal.

Take 7Ate9 (Unter Spannung in Germany and various other names in other countries.) I was helping Irish Bridge International Desmond Deery putting new cards into the bridge duplicate boards, when I had another of those flashes of inspiration.

Me and my company HIRON GAMES LTD came to the attention of City of London financiers – maybe because of my high-profiling with the media – I had even been the subject of a BBC TV documentary A WILL TO WIN. In the time-honoured phrase, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The idea was that my company would make a reverse take-over of a major UK games company, which had a stock-market listing.

My life – written off by my previous employers, had taken a considerable upturn.

But tragedy struck again. I was diagnosed with cancer, so my business ambitions (I had reached the semi-finals of the Businesswoman of the Year competition) couldn’t be brought to fruition – I needed to address the problem of kicking this cancer into touch.

But even whilst an in-patient at the Royal Marsden Hospital – the world’s first specialist cancer hospital – I continued to invent games, using my fellow patients as play-testers. Including CHIP IN, which my company produced to spearhead the Marsden’s £25 million appeal – under the then presidency of Princess Diana.

And I persuaded Brian Hitchen CBE, then editor of the Daily Star, to back the appeal. This he did, in a big way for two months, and often from the front page of the Daily Star. Sadly, Brian and his wife were killed in a car accident in Alicante, Spain.

I also involved the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – happily playing CHIP IN with her in her study, whilst members of the Cabinet waited patiently downstairs.

I’ve not restricted myself to inventing games. With my late husband Alan we wrote several best-selling books, including The Ultimate Trivia Quiz Game Book, which reached No.2 in the British Bestsellers list.

I also worked on a number of TV shows, including Krypton Factor and Fifteen to One.

And in 1990 I was voted ‘Londoner of the Year’ in London Electricity’s ‘Brightening Up London’ awards.

Sadly, Alan died in 1999, and my idyllic world came crashing down. Alan Hiron was a bridge world champion and was bridge correspondent to The Independent. We were considered to be the perfect partnership – as opposites – for I was as hyper as Alan was laid back.

I proof-read Alan’s articles and he play-tested my games. On his death I was appointed Bridge Correspondent to The Independent, and soon added 6 columns per week for the Irish Independent.

The music you hear is ‘Forward to Freedom’ – composed in the Matzar genre which I created. I wrote the music – tweaked for the better by Sheyla Bonnick of Boney M. Sheyla wrote the lyrics, with tweaks from me, and the whole is arranged by Sheyla’s Icelandic husband Ingvar Areliusson. And singing it is Sheyla Bonnick – a founder member of Boney M.

Just Sheyla – including all harmonies – her voice has gone from strength to strength.

During my college days I wrote a children’s operetta, which I called CATS – based on T.S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.’ Sounds familiar? But I did it first.

Then music went onto the back burner, when I got bitten by the bridge bug, and later the games bug. However…

Whilst on a Caribbean cruise in 2011 I met Sheyla Bonnick on MV Braemar. Boney M were the star turn on that cruise, and I was the bridge lecturer. There was immediate empathy between Sheyla and I.

Then I brought Boney M over to Spain to perform at my 70th birthday party, which was a roaring success.

Having recently renewed my interest in music, I had installed a concert organ, which I was teaching myself to play. Sheyla was impressed by the pieces I’d composed, and in a style she’d never heard before. When Ingvar came to take Sheyla home, she asked me to play those compositions again.

Ingvar was also impressed – impressed enough to to suggest Sheyla and I do an album together. And so the album LOOK BEYOND – in the new musical genre of Matzar was created, sung in its entirety by Sheyla Bonnick

It transpired that Sheyla was a keen games player, and so became a trustworthy play-tester of my games creations. And I became her business adviser.

Boney M – and especially Sheyla Bonnick’s group (all former members formed their own groups) have come back into demand again. Whereas the voices of the others have gone downhill, Sheyla’s has gone from strength to strength. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with her and Ingvar.

Especially as, in our breaks, we play-test my new games.

Mark Hatherill died on June 13, 2022. Hatherill’s career spanned 35 years in the toy industry, including positions at Mattel, Playmates Toys, and Munchkin Inc., working with iconic brands such as Barbie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Star Trek. He also consulted with multiple start-ups throughout his career. He is remembered as a mentor, advisor, and inspiration to those who knew and worked with him. He is survived by his daughters Mikayla and Morgan, wife Yvonne, father Donald, and siblings Michele and Michael.

Billy Kametz, voice actor who worked on numerous video games including Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Triangle Strategy, and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, has passed away.   Alongside his work in the games industry, Kametz also lent his talents to anime series including Attack on Titan, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and Pokémon Journeys.  An obituary shared on PennLive explained Kametz had been battling colon cancer and passed on June 9, 2022.  "Anyone who has met Billy will tell you he is one of the most sincere, humble and loving people they have ever met," reads the obituary.  "His infectious personality and smile always lit up a room with so much joy and happiness. Billy always left a positive impression on anyone he came in contact with. His love for his family, friends and girlfriend was always most important to him and that love will carry on forever."

Hidekazu Yukawa. Former managing director known as 'Mr Sega' appeared in several classic Dreamcast adverts. Former Sega managing director Hidekazu Yukawa has passed away aged 78. According to Famitsu, the games executive passed away from pneumonia in June 2021, but news of his death has only just been made public.

Yukawa took on the role of managing director in 1998, ahead of the release of the Dreamcast in December that year. He was also well known as 'Mr Sega' during his stint on account of his appearance in several comedic adverts promoting the launch of the console. Yukawa also made appearances in several Sega games, including Shenmue, and DLC for Sonic Adventure. Former Sega peers paid tribute to Yukawa on Twitter, including former Sonic Team head Yuji Naka and Sonic voice actor Junichi Kanemaru.

 

Andrew Simon Thomas, a prominent figure in the New York City game development scene and creator of several independent games, has passed away following a vehicle collision on June 1. He was 32.

Thomas' work included arena shooter Shillelagh and balance board-powered rolling game Roll Control. He'd previously worked at Shapeways, designing unique creations for the 3D printing platform.

Friends and colleagues on social media are mourning his passing, with some calling him "an amazing and chaotic creative force for good." Others noted his pivotal role in community organizing, referring to him as a great leader.

Digital Trends Gaming section lead Giovanni Colantonio (a longtime friend of Thomas) recalled their shared time in a high school punk band. "In that band, he pushed me to think completely different about art and be okay with making people uncomfortable and being totally out there," Colantonio wrote.

Heart Machine community and PR lead Yiyi Zhang said that Thomas "had an incredible drive to improve himself, create great art, and uplift others," and called him "a true inspiration and friend."

An image promoting the event captured Thomas' creative and anarchic spirit, turning a recently popular internet taunt into a commemorative message. "Andrew always evangelized touching grass as a way to stay grounded and find calm," the image reads.

 

Wilhelm K. “Bill” Maisch, a longtime fixture on the buying side of the industry died on June 6, 2022. Maisch was known to many for his work as the buyer for the kids’ category at AC Moore in addition to his time spent at H. Clay Moore & Associates, and Jacent Strategic Merchandising. Last year, Maisch joined Cra-Z-Art as vice president of new business development.

“Bill is a guy that I knew for nearly 20 years — he was a kind, knowledgeable, caring, and passionate merchant that helped me to build my businesses, and help to promote kids’ products,” says Doug Cass, co-founder of Kahootz Toys and specialty sales consultant at PlayMonster.

Maisch is survived by his wife Lisa; his brother, Julius; his nieces and nephews, Nicole, Danielle, Leon, Matthew, Savina, Arianna, Valentina, Michael, Samantha, John, Bree, Trinity, and Caiden; his mother in law Theresa; his sister in law Doreen; his brother in law Michael; and his three dogs Max, Jetta, and Zuly.

 

Marilyn Feoranzo - With great sadness, we at Beacon Media Group share news of the passing of our friend and colleague, media specialist Marilyn Feoranzo. Marilyn brought passion, skill, and wit to her tremendous work with clients every day — skillful and astute in her mastery of media planning, and tough in her negotiation and execution of top-performing media buys across the industry. She worked tirelessly to ensure clients got nothing less than the best in media delivery. And she made us laugh every day.

Across a career spanning four decades, Marilyn managed hundreds of millions of dollars in media spending with a specialty in network, cable syndication, and radio markets at Bozell Ad Agency, eventually acquired by True North, where she worked on the JCPenney and Bausch & Lomb accounts before moving on to Unilever working on brands including Dove and Lipton Tea. She then moved to the Wyeth Ad Agency, where she worked on over-the-counter and direct-to-consumer brands such as Advil, Centrum, and ChapStick before moving to Beacon Media in New Jersey to focus her specialty on the kids and family market. With Beacon Media, for more than 10 years, she developed and executed TV buying strategies for many of the largest brands in the toy industry, including MGA Entertainment’s L.O.L. Surprise! and many more.

Marilyn retired from her duties to focus on health and family in her final year, and while we are tremendously sad that she is gone, her fire, commitment, and example will long be part of our legacy and an approach that helps drive our team to success in the future.

Marilyn leaves behind a husband, Bill, and daughters Nicole and Danielle.

Rest In Peace, dearest Marilyn. We are eternally grateful to have known you. — The Beacon Media Group Team

 

Lizzie Wilding. Lizzie Wilding, VP of commercial operations at UK studio Dovetail Games, has passed away. The company shared the news on its website and explained Wilding had been battling colon cancer. "Dovetail Games and the industry have lost one of their brightest lights, a fantastic colleague, an amazing mentor, and most importantly a wonderful friend," wrote the studio. "Lizzie was a wise, caring, witty, fearless woman who we shall remember with great fondness and love. She was passionate about this industry and it’s people. She was an avid gamer, who always put players first and loved nothing more than making them happy by providing engaging, fun experiences." Wilding was one of the first recipients of the MCV Top 100 Women in Games Awards and spent over five years working at Dovetail, initially joining the company as VP of publishing. Prior to that, Wilding spent time in communications and marketing roles at major game companies like Jagex, Natural Motion, Codemasters, and EA. Dovetail explained that although Wilding "shied away from the limelight," she continuously went above and beyond to support her colleagues, many of whom turned to her as a mentor and guide. "Her light shone brightly at Dovetail and she leaves a hole not only with us but in the wider industry. She will be greatly missed," continued Dovetail.

"If you have followed her journey via social media over the past few months you will know that she has voiced a wish for everyone with any medical concerns to get looked at as early as possible, however small. Cancer is a cruel illness that doesn't care about your age, fitness level, or lifestyle. We encourage you to make that call.

"Our thoughts are with her family, husband Sam, children Zoe, Billy, Lucy, Robert and Jacob as well as her mother, uncle, and grandfather. Your presence we miss, your memories we treasure -- fly high Lizzie."

Paul Hyslop has died at 70. Known as 'H' to his friends, Hyslop spent much of the past two decades working at Just Flight, a UK-based publisher specialising in developing and publishing add-ons for Flight Simulator. His career began at Microprose, where he helped to establish the military software simulation brand in Europe, after which he went to work at Tomb Raider publisher Eidos, before joining Just Flight in 2002. Prior to working in video games, Hyslop worked for New English Libraries and even, according to Just Flight CEO Andy Payne, "ran a pub or two." 

He passed away on Monday, May 30.

"He treated everyone he met with absolute respect and never discriminated," Payne told GamesIndustry.biz. "You could be a junior PR person or designer, or you could be a global video games company CEO and H would treat you in exactly the same way. He took younger members of the industry under his wing, always with a smile and always wanting to see them do well.

"H was very much [a] father, uncle, brother and occasionally a son to so many people. It is a cliché, but everyone loved working with H, you just had to be careful not to take his advice all of the time, given his favourite saying was 'eating is cheating.' And he always knew how to have a good time, he knew all the places to go in all the cities we ever visited. His laugh was infectious, his loyalty unquestioned and his teamwork exemplary.

"A man with a wonderful waft of Kouros, a man with no ego, a man with friends of all ages, literally everywhere he went. And boy could he sell."

 

Colin Cantwell, an animator, conceptual artist and computer expert who played significant production roles in seminal science fiction films like “2001: A Space Odyssey, “Star Wars” and “WarGames,” died on May 21, 2022 at his home in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was 90. His partner, Sierra Dall, said the cause was dementia.  Mr. Cantwell’s work on several influential movies reached its peak with “Star Wars,” George Lucas’s hugely successful space opera. To impress Mr. Lucas, Mr. Cantwell built two elaborate steampunk-like spacecraft models from parts he had culled from dozens of hobbyist’s kits. He got the job before Mr. Lucas had found a studio. Mr. Cantwell produced the original designs for spacecraft familiar to fans of “Star Wars” (later retitled “Star Wars, Episode IV — A New Hope”): the X-wing, the Rebel Alliance’s starfighter; the TIE fighter, part of the Galactic Empire’s imperial fleet; the wedge-shaped Imperial Star Destroyer; the cockpit for the Millennium Falcon; and the Death Star, the Empire’s enormous battle station, with a weapon capable of destroying a planet. Read More...

John R Hall, Jr.  (February 28, 1946 - May 3, 2022) - John Hall began his career in toys with Child Guidance, which was eventually bought by Gabriel and then by CBS Toys. Ultimately, Hasbro purchased this group and John and his wife, Nancy, moved to Rhode Island with their two children, Jonathan and Kirsten, where he had a long career working at Hasbro as Sr VP, Director of Product Development for Playskool. He was affectionately known and embraced the moniker “Dr. No” by toy inventors for his discerning taste. John, with his characteristic dry humor also didn’t mind being referred to as “Dr. Know”. (information from Bob Fuhrer) 

David Ward. Co-founded Spectrum Games in 1983 (which would later become Ocean Software) has died at age 75. Ward's passing was announced by his son Ben Ward. Colleagues, friends, and family on social media described him as a legendary fixture of the United Kingdom game industry. Ocean Software had its heyday in the era of ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 games. He helped shepherd games like Daley Thompson's Decathalon, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and Short Circuit across the finish line. As the U.K.'s Science and Industry Museum notes, Ward and Ocean Games found a successful model for the video game business in an era when its competitors began to flounder. Part of the company's success was built on acquiring cheap licenses for popular films and producing games based on them. Ocean Software technically still exists today, though that's because it was purchased by Infrogames in the late '90s. Today, Infrogames is better known as, ironically enough, Atari SA. In 2004, Ward and Ocean Software co-founder Jon Woods were inducted into the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (better known today as The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, or Ukie) Hall of Fame. ELSPA director general Roger Bennett credited the pair for coining "the terminology of the games industry" and laying the foundation for licensed game adaptations that is still in use today.

 

Nick Alfieri. Independent games publishers Digerati and Big Sugar have announced that Nick Alfieri, founder and CEO of both companies, died late last week. Calling Alfieri's passing "unexpected," the statement provided by the two companies described it as a painful loss, and that his colleagues are beyond devastated at the news. Friends and colleagues on social media echoed these sentiments, praising his enthusiasm and collaborative attitude. Developers who signed games with his companies were thankful for his efforts to shepherd their games to release.

Big Sugar and Digerati have published a number of unique games, including a virtual reality entry in the Sam & Max franchise: Sam & Max: This Time It's Virtual. Other notable games from these two companies include Glee Cheese Studios' A Musical Story and Ludomotion's Unexplored 2.

Alfieri is survived by his wife and young daughter.

 

GEORGE PEREZ  (1954 - 2022) - Writer, artist, and humanitarian George Perez died of pancreatic cancer on May 6, at the age of 67. Born in the Bronx in 1954, Perez worked on numerous series for both DC and Marvel over the years, as well as for other publishers such as Malibu, CrossGen, and BOOM! Studios. Perez was known for his skill with complicated scenes, and he contributed to such groundbreaking projects as DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Marvel-DC crossover JLA/Avengers. Perez was also one of the founding members of The Hero Initiative, a nonprofit that assists comics creators in need. He received the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award in 2005, and in 2017 he was inducted into the Eisner Awards Hall of Fame. READ MORE...

 

Mel Squires - (the following is from Jerry Cleary) - Melvin Squires long time industry executive passed away at age 85 on April 23 rd , 2022 after fighting a courageous battle with cancer. He is survived by his beloved wife and best friend, Deena (nee Label). He is the loving father of Deborah Cleighton( the late Robert Cleighton) and David Squires (Diane) Proud grandfather of Skyler and Brayden Cleighton and Tyler Squires. He is also survived by his loving sister Helene Zeitz ( the late Marvin Zeitz) and former wife Bonnie Squiress. Mel was the leading buyer and general manager for A Ponnock & CO. a leading toy wholesaler who serviced the greater Philadelphia area and Mid-Atlantic states. Mel later served as a key account executive at both TYCO and TYCO Preschool. Mel is remembered for being tough but fair, a hard work ethic, a keen eye for product, his love of sports and a great sense of humor. He will be missed by all those he worked with during a long and distinguished toy career. Rest in Play Mel.

Robert Krakoff (October 4, 1940 - April 26, 2022)  “Razerguy”, the co-founder and former president of gaming hardware company Razer, died last week at the age of 81. Maybe you’ve never heard Krakoff’s name, but it’s possible you’ve been impacted by his far-reaching legacy. In 1999, Krakoff was behind the first-ever gaming mouse: the Razer Boomslang. Not only was it the foundation of Razer’s now-massive lineup of gaming mice, it arguably jumpstarted the entire gaming peripheral industry. Below, you can see Krakoff himself in an ad promoting the Razer Boomslang mouse in 2002 — alongside professional gamer Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, who signed a historic sponsorship deal with Razer long before the word “esports” entered the lexicon.  

Origin stories can be complicated, and the story of Razer is more convoluted than most. Razer wasn’t actually a company until 2005 — it was the trademarked brand of an entity called Kärna, which had invented an opto-mechanical encoding wheel that could track a mouse’s movements at 2000 dpi, far higher resolution than other mice at the time. (Yes, the first gaming mouse rolled on wheels, even though optical mice were becoming a thing.)

Kärna went bankrupt in 2001, and Krakoff co-founded Razer the company with current CEO Min-Liang Tan in 2005, but neither man invented the gaming mouse: This case study (pdf) details how a marketing agency named Fitch created the entire Razer brand, including the name, the iconic three-headed snake logo, the website, the packaging, and most importantly, the design and engineering of the Boomslang mouse itself.

None of this is in dispute: Razer’s first press release says the Boomslang was “designed by Fitch, Inc. for kärna.”

But it also quotes a “Robert Krakoff, general manager for Razer” — who would not only become the public face of the company for its first decade and change, but make an incredible impression as one of the most accessible public faces of a company you might ever have the pleasure to know.

You’d get a little message from Razerguy with every Razer product you purchased, and his public email address wasn’t just for show. He was known to respond to fans and sit down for interviews with scrappy journalists who barely had a following. Sometimes he’d give them jobs. According to his Facebook page, he studied journalism at UCLA himself, though he did so on a football scholarship.

He was also remarkably candid: in 2009, he told me, Sean, a similarly unknown journalist, that the company didn’t actually need to sell a single unit of his brand-new Razer Mamba wireless mouse at its then-exorbitant price of $130. The point, he said, was to inspire a huge audience of gamers with the innovation, knowing they’d choose other cheaper mice and merchandise from Razer.

A known leftie, he also told me he wished Razer could make a left-handed mouse, but that he didn’t have power as president of the company to make it happen — the board had apparently decided it didn’t make financial sense. A year later, I smiled when I saw Razer release the first left-handed gaming mouse, a mirror-image version of its best-selling DeathAdder.

While Krakoff still advised the company for years as a “President Emeritus,” Razer wasn’t his last act by a long shot. He also founded MindFX Science, a brand that focuses on selling energy drinks and supplements, serving as “a healthy alternative to the highly caffeinated energy drinks and pre-workout products.”

Fitness seemed to be an important part of Krakoff’s life. He played for the Los Angeles Rams for five years in the 1960s. As he grew older, Krakoff said he loved playing tennis, biking, and fitness training. He and his wife, Dr. Patsi Krakoff, even ran a blog focused on fitness and nutrition tips for seniors, and co-wrote a book about the secrets to staying young.

But under the name RM Krakoff, he also had a literary career all his own — writing a dozen books since 2009. After working as a copywriter, Krakoff said he “put his proverbial pen where his mouth was (the ink tasted like shit).” He dabbled in both fiction and nonfiction writing, penning everything from black comedies to sci-fi fantasies. His description of America Unbound: Fighting Demons in a Vanished Democracy is... a lot.

On Krakoff’s Facebook page, he said he would split his time between Jalisco, Mexico and Peoria, Arizona, as he enjoyed being “a sunbird and spending six months a year in each home.” He leaves behind two children, Scott and Robin, and five “very cool” grandchildren. Scott contributed the cover art for most of his novels.

“We are saddened by the passing of Co-Founder and President Emeritus, Robert Krakoff, known by everyone as RazerGuy,” reads a statement from Razer on Twitter. “Robert’s unwavering drive and passion for gaming lives on and continues to inspire all of us.”

 

Don Rubin (April 6, 1945 - April 8, 2022) Donald Joel Rubin, one of the world's premier creators of games and puzzles, died of cancer at his home in Santa Rosa, California on April 8, 2022. Don was born April 6, 1945 in Malden, Mass. He graduated magna cum laude from Boston University's College of Communication. 
His exceptional career evolved from teaching school in Maine, to serving as a creative consultant, scriptwriter, game designer, photographer, puzzler, research historian, contributing editor and writer. In the late 1980's his creation "The Real Puzzle" was first published in the Boston Phoenix, then The Real Paper, prior to its syndication in over 300 national and international newspapers and magazines through United Features Syndicate. The Real Puzzle generated so much fan mail that the U.S. Post Office gave Don his own zip code. Don became a mini expert in each field that was the focus of the weekly puzzle and attributed his creativity to a "poor diet and lack of sleep". He wrote many books including, "The Real Puzzle Book", "What's the Big Idea", "Those Incredible Puzzles", "Think Tank", "Brainstorms" and "More Brainstorms". His Parking Lot Puzzle has been called "one of the greatest puzzles of all time."
As print media gradually began to fade, Don refocused his creative genius on interactive games with original content working as a Senior Game Designer at Shockwave, Firemint, Ringzero Networks, and Electronic Arts. Don was a member of the Screen Writers Guild, with clients including Paramount Pictures, PBS NOVA, several Fortune 500 companies, and educational institutions. Don won numerous awards for editorial design, art direction, television and film design, photography, game design, advertising copywriting, and Web content development.
Although Don did not have children, he was an animal lover. At times he cared for many dogs, both his own and friends, bottle-fed a kangaroo, herded and fed cattle on an Australian working ranch, and back at home in Santa Rosa helped with the dogs, cats, chickens and bees.
Many friends sought out his keen intellect and insight into everything from current events, arts and cultural trends, to his astute reflections on everyday life. Don was a great fan of Samuel Beckett and could recite, "Waiting for Godot" in its entirety from memory, quoting recently, "I've talked with you about this and that, I explained the twilight, admittedly. But is it enough, that's what tortures me, is it enough
" (Pozzo)

 

Wieland Herold (1950-2022) - (from his son Florian Herold) - Wieland Herold has passed away. Wieland was a lot of things.

He was a husband, father of four children, school leader. But he also had a significant role in the press world of board games. For many years he acted as part of the jury "Game of the Year", as part of the "Göttinger Author Meeting" and as the editor of the magazine "Game and Author".

In recent years, he had put his focus on family, but still wrote about games and book reviews for his blog almost daily. At the end of his life, he was still a premier lecturer and photographer.

He was a great supporter of the development and the rights of German playwright.

What is important, he was also a beloved friend, a four-time grandfather and was always there for the family.

In my brother's h2o publication, there will be a game that he has contributed a lot to soon. This was the first time he worked hard on a game himself. It comforts me because after his death there will be something of him that will always remind me of him.

At the end of his life, he was not alone.

I asked him if anything is still open? He said “No, that’s all said.”

His words remain. He was a master of words. If you want to know more about him, you can read it at: http://www.mit80.de/

His last post is from mid-December. As long as he could, he always wrote texts.

I miss him every second.

He was my father.

Florian Herold

 

Undrea Leach. Streamer, voice actor and consultant Undrea Leach passed away in February. As reported by Game Developer, Leach entered the games industry via her work as a Twitch streamer, and later expanded into voice acting, appearing in indie titles such as Last Line of Retreat and Starcrossed. Leech also worked as a diversity consultant, and co-ran an initiative that helped industry professionals look for new jobs in games alongside writer Mitch Dyer.  Peers and friends shared tributes to Leach via Twitter. Fellow streamer Brooklyn (bklynbridge) said "she was a light in countless lives and she is missed terribly," while Dyer commented: "This is devastating. Nothing but love to her friends and family." Leach's family is raising funds via GoFundMe to cover burial costs.

 

Gilbert Gottfried, Aladdin Voice Actor and Comedian, Dead at 67 'After a Long Illness'. April 12, 2022. Known for his work in comedy films and as Iago in Disney's 1992 classic Aladdin, Gottfried was instantly recognizable for his over-the-top, exaggerated voice. A standup comic with a podcast called Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast! — the last new episode of which aired on April 4 — Gottfried was also known for his work on the popular PBS Kids show Cyberchase. His notable films include Look Who's Talking Too, Problem Child and Beverly Hills Cop II. He was also the focus of the 2017 documentary film Gilbert, about his prolific life and career. Gottfried reprised his Aladdin voice role of Iago — the villain Jafar's morally torn, wisecracking parrot sidekick — in the sequels The Return of Jafar (1994) and Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), as well as in various other Disney specials and series.

 

Fujiko Fujio A (real name Motoo Abiko) - passed away on April 7th, 2022 at his residence in Kawasaki, Tokyo. He was 88. Fujiko Fujio A is perhaps best known for his collaboration with Fujiko F. Fujio (real name Hiroshi Fujimoto) under the collective pseudonym Fujiko Fujio. The duo penned the world-famous Doraemon manga about the titular robot cat from the future and his friendship with the boy Nobita. The manga ran from 1970 to 1996. The pair worked together before parting in 1987, with Abiko taking the Fujiko Fujio A pseudonym, and Fujimoto taking the Fujiko Fujio F (later Fujiko F. Fujio) pseudonym. Fujimoto passed away in 1996. Doraemon has launched one of the most successful children's media franchises in the world, inspiring numerous anime films and three separate television anime runs, the third of which began in 2005 and is still ongoing and remains one of the most highly rated anime on Japanese television week after week.

Motoo Abiko also penned a number of successful manga series, including Ninja Hattori-kunKaibutsu-kunPro Golfer Saru, and Warau Salesman. Ninja Hattori-kun inspired a television anime that ran from 1981 to 1987, three anime films from 1982 to 1984, and a live-action film in 2004. Kaibutsu-kun inspired two television anime that ran from 1968 to 1969 and 1980 to 1982, respectively, as well as two anime films in 1981 and 1982. Pro Golfer Saru inspired a 1982 TV anime special, a television anime that ran from 1985 to 1988, and two anime films in 1986 and 1987. Warau Salesman inspired a television anime that ran from 1989 to 1992, as well as The Laughing Salesman NEW, a 2017 television anime that represents the latest adaptation of his individual work.

 

Jake Sivner - Toy World is sad to report the recent untimely passing of industry ‘rising star’ Jake Sivner at only 22 years of age. Following the sad news, friends and colleagues have issued the following statement:  “Jake had a zest for life and lived it to the full. Blessed with his dad’s charisma and confidence, he built up so many great relationships in such a short space of time and left a good impression on everyone he met. He was always professional and courteous and carried himself in a way you would expect from someone 10 years his senior. Everyone was always surprised when they realised just how young he was.”

Ben Russell, Zuru’s SVP, remembers Jake’s first days working in Hong Kong: “Jake started at Zuru as an intern in January 2018, supporting the sales manager for Asia during the Hong Kong and Nuremberg Toy fairs. At only 18 years old, Jake already had an impressive knowledge of the industry. When given the opportunity to pitch product, it was clear that he was a natural and very talented salesman. Jake had big ambitions and was eager to start working, so at the end of his internship, we were more than pleased to offer him a role as a sales executive, supporting sales in Asia.”

Although enthusiastic about gaining a position at the company, Jake continued to push for more responsibilities, and within his first 12 months was promoted to account manager with full territory responsibilities for Southern Europe.

Ben continued: “There were many highlights and wins for the business while Jake was at Zuru, but it was also clear that he needed more than we could offer at the time, so Jake decided to move on to become sales director with a puzzle & games company covering all markets. Jake remained a friend of Zuru and myself after he left, and we were all looking forward to seeing him again once the fairs and industry travel started again. Jake had a heart of gold and embodied the expression of ‘living life to its fullest’. His loss will be felt not only by those closest to him but also by those lucky enough to have crossed paths with this charismatic and charming young man.”

Since leaving Hong Kong, Jake went about setting up his own company, JAS Ultimate, and growing a range of toy brands into North America. The statement continues: “He had a keen eye for supply gaps that his company could support and aside from toys, worked with factories in South East Asia to develop and grow a range of kids furniture solutions. This would have been a whole new revenue stream through Wal-Mart and Target and a fine example of the broad commercial head Jake had on those young shoulders.”

Jake’s father, Marc Sivner, founder of Singleton Trading added: “Not only have we lost our precious son but we’ve lost a rising star in the toy industry.”

 

Michael G. Landsman, 85. He was the president and CEO of a number of companies: Superior Toy, Tudor Games, Peoria Plastics, HG Toys, and Miggle Toys. Michael was always generous and philanthropic, donating to a wide range of organizations. He loved golf, card games, traveling, and dining with his beloved Delayne. He will be deeply missed by family and his wide circle of friends.  Michael was the beloved husband of Delayne, née Hillman; devoted father of Barry J. Landsman and Stacy (Mark) LeBrun; proud grandfather of Rachel (Kevin) Daley and Ryan LeBrun; dear brother of Stephen A. (Beth) Landsman; caring uncle of Mark Landsman, Scott Landsman, and Sari Knight; treasured son of the late Sam and Jeanne; loving nephew of René (late Sheldon) Engerman; will be missed by many close cousins. The family would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Michael's exceptional caregiver Bob. Michael was born in Chicago and grew up in West Rogers Park and Oak Park.

Charles Marx, passed on April 4, 2022. Charles was the son of David Marx and newphew of Louis Marx. Louis and David co-founded the Louis Marx and Company.  From a friend and collegue of Charles, Jerry Cleary, "Charles was a great guy and a terrific Toy Person in his own right. Charles always carried himself with dignity and class and never used his name or celebrity back in the day to bully or take advantage of colleagues or customers. A family man, he was charismatic, kind and respectful of all who worked with him. Charles had a great eye for product and built a terrific segment of business for the company back in the day when retailers like Sears and Montgomery Ward had a significant market share in toys with their catalog operations. The customers loved Charles who had a great knack for supporting and balancing the needs of customer and company. I don't think Charles ever got the credit he deserved for his contributions to our industry. He was a true role model in how to conduct yourself as a businessperson and as an individual. I think I was the last salesperson hired by the old Louis Marx company and I have many fond memories of working with Charles for many years.  I lost touch with Charles over the past several years and just wanted to express my thoughts on  this wonderful person. May he rest in peace!!"

Estelle Harris, Mrs. Potato Head in 'Toy Story' series, dies at 93. Harris was best known for her distinctive voice and comedic timing, forever cemented by her role as the mother of George (Jason Alexander) in Seinfeld, where she appeared on 27 episodes. Her foil was Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza, and the three characters engaged in countless scenes of lovable bickering. 

She also had a robust voice career, anchored by her work as Mrs. Potato Head in the second, third and fourth chapters of the Toy Story series. Channelling the verve of her Seinfeld role, she has a loving and nagging relationship with Mr. Potato Head, perfectly voiced by Don Rickles.

From there, she popped up in many animated projects large and small, including films such as Brother Bear (2003) and Tarzan II (2005) and series such as Hercules, The Wild Thornberrys and Godzilla: The Series (all from 1998). – Reuters

Scott Bennie - Games writer, producer and designer Scott Bennie has died from pneumonia at the age of 61. News of his passing was shared on his Facebook page, reported via PC Gamer. Bennie is best known for his stint at Interplay during the 1990s, where he worked as a producer and designer on several RPG games including the studio's The Lord of The Rings adaptations and strategy title Castles: Northern Campaign. 

He also worked as a writer across several Star Trek titles, including Starfleet Command 1 and 2, Starfleet Academy, as well as the original Fallout game. Bennie also contributed several tabletop games throughout his career, including Dungeons & Dragons, Marvel Superheroes, and Hero Games' Champions. Industry figures, peers and former colleagues paid tribute to Bennie and his work on Twitter. Developer and Interplay founding member Rebecca Heineman called Bennie "a great game designer and writer," and added, "I will miss him." InXile studio head Brian Fargo wrote: " I was saddened to hear that Scott Bennie died today. He was a brilliant writer who worked with us at Interplay on some true classics like Star Trek: Judgment Rites and Starfleet Academy. RIP." Author Matt Forbeck said: "I'm sad to hear of the passing of my old friend Scott Bennie, who I met through the wonderful, tight-knit community of Hero Games designers back in the early 1990s. He was a sharp man, full of neat ideas, and bumping into him at a convention was always a highlight of that week."

 

Mohammad Fahmi - Coffee Talk creator and writer Mohammad Fahmi has passed away. The news was shared on social media by Fahmi's family and his colleagues at Coffee Talk developer Toge Productions. "Today we've received the most devastating of news. Our beloved Fahmi, the writer of Coffee Talk and a beloved friend of Toge Productions has passed away. We are absolutely devastated by his early departure," wrote the studio.

"Thank you for everything you had done for Toge Productions, for the indie game industry, for your friends and family. We will never forget you and you will always be in our hearts." Over the years, Fahmi worked on numerous projects including What Comes After, Afterlove EP, and Code Atma as a game designer, writer, and director. He also spent time at Gameloft as a programmer and designer, lending his talents to games such as Asphalt 6: Adrenaline and The Oregon Trail: American Settler.

 

Dean O'Donnell, a Massachusetts game industry fixture who wrote games and taught at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, has died at age 57. Word of O'Donnell's passing comes from an obituary posted in The Boston Globe. Some of his former students have taken to social media to share news of his passing as well. O'Donnell's life in games contributed to a number of early independent games from the early role-playing-game era, and eventually contributed words to the Titan Quest expansion Titan Quest: Immortal Throne. He taught at WPI for the last 29 years and helped create the university's Interactive Media and Games Development program. On Twitter, former students remembered how he encouraged them to chase social meaning in their game ideas, and expand the boundaries of what was possible in narrative games. His interests also included alternate reality games, table-top roleplaying games, and "overly complicated board games." He is survived by his wife, his sister, two nieces, and his great-niece.

R.I.P. Marcus King. ICv2 columnist, GAMA officer, and longtime game and comic retailer Marcus King passed away Tuesday, March 22, following heart surgery, according to numerous Facebook posts by friends.  King’s own final Facebook post, on Sunday afternoon, shared a selfie from his hospital bed and revealed he was going to have heart bypass surgery on Monday.  He’d had a heart attack, and was also suffering from Covid and pneumonia.

"This will be my last update with my old heart in bad shape,” he wrote. “In the morning, I am having either a triple or quadruple bypass, they’re just not sure. I will probably post again in three or four days, hopefully. Thanks for being my friend.”

King was a columnist for ICv2 from 2010 to 2017, sharing the lessons he’d learned in his 30+ years as a retailer. "Marcus was an original thinker, and he contributed many great columns to ICv2, sharing lessons he’d learned in decades in the business, and reflections on his life as a retailer," ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp said of King. "He had a warm heart, a sense of humor, and a generous spirit. He will be missed."

King began his retailing career in 1986, when he opened his first store in Anchorage, Alaska.  He opened Titan Games in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1994, and a second store in Kalamazoo in 2009 (see "View from the Game Store – Defining Success"). Although he he was best known as a retailer of tabletop games, he also handled (and wrote about) comics, collectible video games, and other products of interest to his customers.

In 2011, King sold his Michigan stores and moved to Kentucky, where he continued to retail, including a stint managing a retail store for online retailer Troll and Toad, and most recently at Main Street Games & Comics in London, Kentucky.

King was also active in GAMA for many years, including as board member and Vice President beginning in 2005, as a board member in the Retailer Division, and as a speaker at GAMA events.

King was passionate about retailing, constantly experimenting and sharing what he learned with fellow retailers in his column, posts on other sites, and on social media.  He was one of an early generation of game and comic retailers who pushed the business forward and unselfishly helped to grow the pie for everyone. His columns hold up: here’s a list.

Before he passed away, King had set up a Facebook fundraiser to help with expenses, money that will doubtless be needed by his family. Our condolences to his family and friends.

Emilio Delgado, ‘Sesame Street’s’ Luis for more than 40 years, has died. The actor died Thursday at his home in New York City. He had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, in 2020, according to a report from TMZ, citing his wife. Delgado had remained active in theater, starring in “Quixote Nuevo,” a version of “Don Quixote,” before the pandemic struck in early 2020. His extensive stage work included serving as artistic director of the Barrio Theatre Ensemble of East Los Angeles.

Still, he’ll be best remembered for the popular children’s program. Delgado had cited the PBS show’s importance as a cultural touchstone in the way people of color were depicted on TV.

“For the first time on television, they showed Latinos as real human beings,” Delgado told the Houston Chronicle in 2020. “We weren’t dope addicts. We weren’t maids or prostitutes, which were the way we were being shown in television and in film. Here, on ‘Sesame Street,’ there were different people who spoke different languages and ate interesting foods, and they were all Americans.”

“A beloved member of the Sesame family for over 50 years, his warmth and humor invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations,” Sesame Workshop said of Delgado in a statement to CNN. “At the forefront of representation, Emilio proudly laid claim to the ‘record for the longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series.’ We are so grateful he shared his talents with us and with the world.” READ MORE  . . . 

Ira P. Hernowitz - June 23, 1965 - March 6, 2022. Ira passed away after a long battle with cancer. Ira was born in The Bronx, NYC in June of 1965. He went away to sleepaway camp at Camp Olympus in upstate New York at a young age. The friends he made at camp would stay with him throughout his life, and the experiences he had there shaped him into the kind, generous leader that he was.  He attended the Bronx High School of Science and later Syracuse University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science and met his wife, Nancy. His passion and brilliance led him to an illustrious career in a wide variety of businesses, including Hasbro, Toys “R” Us, Kindara Fertility, and Carson Dellosa Education. In every position he held, he was a leader and an innovator while also incorporating kindness into everything he did and constantly pushed others to exceed expectations. He traveled extensively and had no hesitations about trying new foods or ordering sushi for the table. Those around him knew he could always be counted on for a nuanced opinion or sage advice.  He was deeply loved by his family and friends. They knew him as tenacious, brilliant, and resilient in the face of challenges. He was a mentor, a comedian, and had an incredible patience and perspective that endeared him to everyone he met. He was a skilled writer, an avid golfer who belonged to both Potowomut Golf Club in RI and Suntree Country Club in FL, and a frustratingly good Scrabble player. He was a kind soul who cared deeply about the well-being of all people. All who knew him will carry him with them always.

Steve Webb, head of Retail at Cartamundi, has passed away after a short battle with cancer, Toy World is sad to report. Dan King, general manager UK at Cartamundi, reached out to Toy World to say: “Steve had been fighting cancer for the last 10 months and he leaves behind his wife Nic and children Gracie and Jack. He was so brave and showed so much tenacity and positivity throughout this battle, which was why he was such a great sales person. Steve had only recently started his position but in the short time he was with the company he quickly became a much-loved member of the team. We are all going to miss him terribly and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.” Before taking up the role at Cartamundi, Steve spent several years at One For Fun (formerly H. Grossman) as strategic account manager. Prior to this, he also worked for A.B.Gee as a national account manager. David Mordecai, One For Fun CEO, said: “Steve was full of life, fun and laughter, and throughout his illness always tried to beat it and never ever moaned or got depressed in any shape or form. He was an inspiration to us all. He would rather be talking about his time playing football with Wimbledon and the Crazy Gang and having a pint. As his illness worsened, his bravery in how he dealt with it was remarkable. Our hearts go out to his family. He will be sorely missed by his colleagues everywhere, his customers, his friends and most of all his family.”​

Kim Jung-ju - founder of free-to-play giant Nexon, has died at age 54. Word of Kim's passing comes from The Korea Times, who was informed of his death by a Nexon spokesperson. He apparently died last month in the United States. Nexon did not provide a cause of death in its statement to The Korean Times. It did state that Kim "had been receiving treatment for depression, and we are sad that it seemed to have worsened recently."  Kim founded Nexon in 1994 after graduating from Seoul National University. The developer and publisher grew to be a powerhouse in South Korea's game industry on the back of games like MapleStory, and KartRider. Its recent hits have included Mabinogi and Vindictus.

Nexon is now headquartered in Tokyo under parent company NXC Corp., where it went public on the Japanese Stock Market in 2011.

Kim is survived by his wife and two daughters.

John Maxim -  Prolific toy and game inventor-engineer John Maxim died on February 6th at his home in Dallas, Texas, it was announced by his son, Michael. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. John began his career in the early 70s at Mattel in Preliminary Design. After several years at Mattel, he left to become an independent inventor. Among John’s many licensed inventions were Bumble Ball (Ertl), The Cutter (Crayola), Guzzlers (Ideal Toys), SpectraColor Image Pad (Irwin), Wibbly Wobbly Egg Race game (Vivid Imagination), Power Command Hot Wheels (Mattel) and countless other playthings. John was awarded dozens of patents. Later in his career, he was a founding member of the Sunshine Santas, a tight knit group of independent inventors residing in south Florida. John came to his ingenuity naturally. It was in his DNA. His family tree includes Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840-1916), an American-British inventor best known as the creator of the first automatic machine gun, the Maxim gun. He was knighted in 1901. Hiram Percy Maxim (1869-1936), an MIT graduate, invented the first commercially successful sound suppressor for firearms (the silencer). He also developed mufflers for internal combustion engines. John’s son, Michael, an engineer, spent eight years at Space X before leaving to follow in his dad’s footsteps as an independent inventor.

In his final days, John enjoyed his lifelong passion for creating toys, communicating with colleagues around the country about projects in development. (written by Richard C. Levy)

John Galt - His work spanned movies, TV, and video games, had died at age 81. Developer/publisher 3D Realms shared news of his passing on Sunday. Galt had worked with 3D Realms on games like Shadow Warrior and the original Prey. He voiced main character Lo Wang in Shadow Warrior, and played Grandfather Enisi in Prey. His other video game credits included John Romero's Daikatana, Ion Storm's Deus Ex, and more. 

On the silver screen, he provided the voice for President Lyndon B. Johnson in Forrest Gump and Oliver Stone's conspiracy film J.F.K. Galt's long acting career began in 1958, and he would make the jump to the world of television in 1974. In a 2019 interview with YouTube channel Jake The Voice, he explained that he landed the role of Lo Wang after doing monster voices for 3D Realms.

Bernard Smith - Toy World is sad to report that industry stalwart Bernard Smith has died aged 79, on 18th January after a short illness. Bernard Smith enjoyed a long and successful career in toys, starting in 1967 when he took on the role of area sales manager at Mattel. He then built up his sales expertise with roles at Tonka, Peter Pan and JW Spears – a company he returned to as sales director in 1990. This was followed by further stints at Mattel, Kitfix Swallow, United Overseas, Upstarts and University Games. Bernard decided to slow the pace a little in 2014, but loved the toy trade so much that he only managed semi-retirement and continued to keep his hand in as a sales agent for Rascals, a role he kept on until very recently. At the Toymaster Show in May 2013, Bernard was recognised by his industry peers as the recipient of a Golden Teddy. His nomination described him as ‘honest, kind, trustworthy, hardworking, loyal and friendly  – he brightens up the office with his great sense of humour.’ Friend and colleage Tom White shared a personal memory about the day: “Bernard’s face was a picture as his name was announced, and he froze in his chair from the complete shock of it!” Bernard’s motto was to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and his co-workers said that customers ‘loved and respected him’. Over his many years in the trade, he trained and supported a vast number of sales executives throughout the industry, who found him a dependable source of support, even through times of change and challenge. Bernard is survived by his wife Jo, son James, daughters Emma and Sara, stepsons Tom and Jack and nine grandchildren. 

2021

Paul McLaughlin - Career artist who worked on Fable, Black & White, and Godus. The UK games industry paid tribute to career artist Paul McLaughlin who died aged 57 in December. His career spanned over 30 years where he was most recently head of art for developer 22cans. He worked on titles such as Curiosity, Godus, and The Trial. Prior to serving in that role he was studio art director at Lionhead for 15 years. At the company he was responsible for the development of the Fable and Black & White series. As reported by Eurogamer, industry figures who worked with the career artist shared their thoughts on his passing, one of them being long-time collaborator and colleague Peter Molyneux. "Paul entered my life back in 1990 when he started at Bullfrog as employee number four. He was the first proper games artist I had ever encountered. Immediately he became invaluable, an essential part of the many titles we all worked on. He absolutely made all the difference on Powermonger, Syndicate, Magic Carpet, Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper," said Molyneux. "Then, when Lionhead was set up, he not only guided Black & White, The Movies and Fable but also helped direct the company. A great artist, a wonderful mentor and an inspirational man." He continues, "Paul was a huge cornerstone in my life. He was a professional, moral and funny person who had the ability to see the fair and sensible approach in any situation. I miss him every day in every way. His legacy will be felt and seen for a long, long time."  Paul McLaughlin is survived by his wife and three children.​

Russell Lees - Ubisoft veteran writer and narrative designer Russell Lees has died. News of his passing came from Ubisoft Montreal's narrative director Darby McDevitt. "We lost a dear friend and brilliant colleague this week," he wrote on Twitter. "Writer and narrative designer Russell Lees was a part of the Assassin's Creed and Far Cry families for over a decade. All who worked with him will attest to his patience, his generosity, his passion, and his bright spirit. "He will be missed, and remembered always as the most ideal artist in this busy, hectic industry -- devoted, collaborative, patient, and kind beyond measure." Lees had spent the last 13 years at Ubisoft Montreal, with a particular focus on the Assassin's Creed franchise. He contributed to AC Valhalla's Sciropscire and Oxenefordscire arcs, to AC Origins with the Wrath of the Druids DLC, to AC Syndicate with the Dreadful Crimes missions, to AC Unity with the Paris stories and Murder Mysteries, and wrote the Tyranny of King Washington DLC for Assassin's Creed 3, among others.  He also worked on Far Cry New Dawn and Watch Dogs 2, and was a prolific and successful playwright.

Lees had started in the games industry in 1995 as creative director on The Dark Eye at developer Inscape. He also worked at the likes of Zoesis Studios, Pandemic Studios, and Sensory Sweep before joining Ubisoft in 2009. Eidos Montreal's principal writer Ethan Petty, who previously collaborated with Lees on Watch Dogs 2, also paid tribute to him on Twitter. "He was one of the kindest people I've ever worked with and had an incredible sense of humor," he said. "His work brought thrills and laughs to millions of players. He will be greatly missed."

Gordon (Gordie) D. Otis -  Steve Springer of Max Margin Merchandising shares the following about Gordie with us:    Gordon was a toy buyer with "Twin Fair, a chain in Buffalo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Fair  He then worked for a Buffalo based catalog showroom chain called Century Housewares: http://blog.buffalostories.com/tag/brand-names/  I first met Gordon in Western NY (1979) when I became a toy buyer with a competitor, Naum's Catalog Showrooms (corporate office in Rochester NY).  This was a golden era for the catalog showroom class of trade.  In Western NY alone we had four:  Century Housewares, Brand Names, Present Company, and Naum Brothers.  Nationally others in this class of trade included Best Products, Service Merchandise and Ardans.  The entire industry started to disappear by end of the 80's, especially as whse clubs started to emerge. Gordon's next job was with Hills department Stores in Canton MA.  We were worked together as toy buyers in the crazy year of 1984.  Every category had a "hot" item.  Gordon bought Trivial Pursuit from Selchow & Righter.  I bought Cabbage Patch dolls from Coleco.  Masters of The Universe, GI Joe and Care Bears were also "Hot" and in short supply.  One funny story was in an attempt to get delivery from Selchow & Righter, Gordon went to their Long Island corporate office and stayed in the lobby for three days until they shipped his order.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selchow_and_Righter  Gordon then became an independent New England rep with a NYC agency, Ray Larson Associates.  After RL he started his own agency under the name "Playtime Ventures".  He called on New England accounts until about five years ago (2017).  Anyone who had the pleasure of working with Gordon will tell you he was "a great guy" and a joy to work with.  Many remember how he could light up a room with his unique laugh, which I describe as a chuckle.

Margaret Goldie. Toy World is sad to report the passing of popular independent retailer Margaret Goldie. When she retired back in 2007, Margaret summed up her career by saying: “You can’t wish to be in a better trade than the toy trade.” Margaret opened her first shop in Holbrooks, Coventry in 1972 and opened further shops in the Westmead Centre, Allesley Park, and the first floor of Intershop, in Bull Yard. Margaret subsequently opened a shop in the Lower Precinct in 1982, closing her first two shops at the same time. The Lower Precinct and Intershop branches closed in 1989 and 2000, respectively, and she moved to City Arcade.  On her retirement, Margaret told the Coventry Telegraph: “My most treasured toy is a six-foot Rupert Bear given to me to celebrate 25 years in the toy trade.” She also said that said her job was very rewarding for the happiness it has brought Coventry children over the years: “It’s lovely, you just imagine Christmas Day when they’re opening their toys.” Well-known Midlands agent John Nicholas told Toy World: “Margaret was an excellent buyer of toys, backing her judgement with some large orders. Her window displays won her many prizes, including an Austin Mini for her Care Bears window. In 2002, she was sponsored by John Hales of Golden Bear to be awarded a Golden Teddy for her contribution to the toy industry, which she was thrilled to bits with.” John added: “During the 1990s, she used to invite reps and agents along with a few retailer friends to her flat near Earls Court during the Toy Fair. You were always proud to be asked. A super lady who loved life, may she rest in peace.”

John Madden: NFL coach, broadcaster and video game icon dies at 85. Legendary American Football coach and commentator John Madden has died at the age of 85, the National Football League (NFL) has announced. The league said he died unexpectedly and did not give a cause.  Madden led the then-Oakland Raiders to their first Super Bowl victory in 1977 and became a hugely popular television analyst after retiring from coaching. He later became the face of Madden NFL Football, one of the most successful sports video games ever.  "Nobody loved football more than Coach," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.  "There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today."  Madden coached the Raiders from 1969 to 1978. He won Super Bowl XI when they went through the 1976 regular season with a 13-1 record.  He boasts the best winning percentage of NFL coaches who have taken charge of more than 100 games.  But he will perhaps be best remembered for his three-decade career in commentary, after retiring from coaching at just 42.  Known for his unpretentious style, Madden travelled to games in his own bus because he suffered from claustrophobia. He also developed a fear of flying.  Many younger fans know him as the man who gave his name to Madden NFL, published by EA Sports since 1988. The video game became so influential that some players and coaches learned new tactics from playing it.  Madden NFL became renowned for its realistic gameplay. EA first approached Madden with the idea in 1984, but it took four years before he was finally satisfied with the game, insisting it had to be as realistic as possible.  John Madden won 16 Emmy Awards and covered 11 Super Bowls from 1979 to 2009. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.  "People always ask, are you a coach or a broadcaster or a video game guy?" he said when was elected to the Hall of Fame. "I'm a coach, always been a coach." 

Mark Taylor - A legendary figure in the creation of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe (MOTU) franchise has died. Designer Mark Taylor was credited with shaping much of the MOTU aesthetic and the design for countless characters that contributed to the massive success of the MOTU brand in the 1980s. While formal credits for the development of He-Man and Skeletor have often been disputed over the years, Taylor’s work, along with that of another Mattel designer — Roger Sweet — eventually became the toys that are familiar to millions.  Some key design elements that shaped He-Man and other residents of Eternia were pulled from Taylor’s Torak: Hero of Pre-History, a barbarian-esque character that was in and out of development for many years pre-dating the launch of the MOTU brand in 1982.  Taylor’s work at Mattel began in the 1970s as a member of the Visual Design Group working on packaging for Barbie. Following his work on the MOTU franchise, Taylor went on to become a key figure in the development of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) line at Playmates Toys in 1987. Taylor’s work has been explored in numerous documentaries, including Power of Grayskull and The Toys That Made Us.  His Christmas Eve passing was confirmed by his wife, Rebecca Salari Taylor via Facebook.  Mark Taylor was 80 years old.

Jeff Hunter, Owner and CEO of Hunter Products Pty Ltd., popular Australian toy stalwart Jeff Hunter sadly passed away just before Christmas. 

Jeff was a hugely popular, larger-than-life character who was always seen at global toy industry shows and social events in Hong Kong, London, Nuremberg and many other places around the globe. Jeff’s daughter, Madeleine Hunter, product manager at Hunter Products, posted the following notice on LinkedIn: “As many of you know, we lost our Dad, the greatest salesman, Jeff Hunter on Thursday at 12.30am. He was surrounded by the six of us, as he would have wanted. Dad could sell ice to the eskimos and he got the biggest buzz when he got the order. He was a big kid and he just loved toys. Dad, we will ‘never never never give up’ and we will ‘sell, sell, sell’ and get that massive hit we always talked about – I promise you that. Rest in Peace Dad, your bubbly energy and enthusiasm will live on inside us all every day.”

MGA’s Isaac Larian referred to Jeff as “a legend in our industry”, while Richard North added the following tribute to Jeff: “For those who don’t know Jeff, he would light up any room he entered and leave it brighter than when he walked in. For those who did know Jeff, they will know he was always laughing and his stories were legendary and often carried words of wisdom. I know he would be proud to know that I’ve forgotten most of them simply because by the morning of any night out with Jeff and Jimbo, my head would hurt and my memory had gone. God bless you Jeff and your fantastic kids, who take the business forward in your amazing spirit and honour.”

Barry Burlison - Tribute from Jack Morrissey: Barry Burlison was a highly talented and creative individual. He always found a way to make things he developed work and as such sell at retail. In the late 1970's I worked with him on an ingeneous greeting card project he developed called POPCORN. It was comprised of 3D Popup cards for Birthday, Thank you, Congrats, etc. Barry set the standard for this genre that exists today. He also developed Popup Cards for travel/vacation destinations, such as Graceland, Duns River Falls. Etc. The photo above is of us at the NYC Stationery Show in 1980. Barry had great success in marketing the Science Tech line with Bowen Hill Mfg in Hong Kong. The line consisted of Microscopes. Telescopes, and science based playthings including flying saucers. Barry's talent, his kindness and his humor will be missed by all that had the privilege to know and work with him.

Henry Orenstein, Hole Card Cam Inventor & Transformers Catalyst, passes Away at 98.  The man responsible for changing the way we watch poker on TV, Henry Orenstein, passed away at age 98. Details of his passing weren't immediately available. Orenstein, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, is credited with inventing the hole card cam, arguably the top game-changer in poker.

The hole card camera, which exposes each player's cards to a television audience, was invented and patented by Orenstein in 1995. He didn't introduce the revolutionary product to the public until 1999 when the U.K.'s Channel 4 Late Night Poker show was first to use the hole cam.

Poker has never been the same and has grown significantly in popularity since that creative invention. Nowadays, virtually every poker event on TV or livestream utilizes the hole cam. Without it, there likely never would have been a poker boom in the early 2000s, and few recreational fans would be able to pick Chris Moneymaker out of a lineup.  Orenstein lived a full life and was one of the most respected and treasured members of the poker community. He was born October 13, 1923 in Poland. He survived a Nazi concentration camp, dealt with his parents being murdered by Nazis in Germany, and emigrated to the U.S. where he became a successful businessman and poker player.

When Orenstein arrived in the U.S. in 1942, he lived with his uncle in New York. He'd go on to start a toy company that was highly profitable and innovative. The future Poker Hall of Famer left such a mark on the toy industry that he was given credit for being the catalyst behind the creation of Transformers, one of the hottest selling children's toys in history. Without his vision to see potential in an unknown toy in the 1980s, Transformers may have never become so popular. As a poker player, he could hold his own on the felt. In 1995, he reached the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event final table and took eighth place for $51,900. The following year, he won his first and only bracelet, a $130,000 score in $5,000 Limit Seven Card Stud. In 2014, he reached the $10,000 Seven Card Stud final table and was eliminated in eighth place for $31,419.

Masayuki Uemura, the lead architect on the NES and Super NES consoles, died on 6th December at the age of 78. Uemura was an instrumental figure in the formation of Nintendo as the video game company we know and love today — his hardware design credits date back to the 1970s, and he also has a fair list of software producer credits to his name. It's no exaggeration to say that millions of players across the world have his engineering skill and expertise to thank for the systems we played in our youth and the great memories we formed with them.

Born in 1943, Uemura grew up in post-war Japan and developed an interest in playing with and constructing his own toys from a young age, partly due to the scarcity of new products available in the years following the end of World War II. He studied at the Chiba Institute of Technology and upon graduating he began his career at Sharp Corporation before eventually joining Nintendo in 1972, thanks to his relationship with Gunpei Yokoi. The two met and worked together while Yokoi was investigating Sharp's technology for use in light gun games in the early 1970s and Uemura evidently impressed Nintendo's chief designer at the time.

Primarily a toy manufacturer in those days, Nintendo's design process was naturally different to Sharp's, as Uemura told Kotaku via Matt Alt:

One of the things that surprised me when I moved from Sharp to Nintendo was that, while they didn’t have a development division, they had this kind of development warehouse full of toys, almost all of them American.

His first projects at Nintendo involved the creation of more complex electronic toys which existing staff lacked the technical know-how to design — the company had previously focused on producing hanafuda playing cards and simple toys such as Yokoi's famous Ultra Hand. As part of the newly formed R&D department, Uemura produced several light gun products such as the Laser Clay Shooting System and the original Duck Hunt (the light gun game that would eventually be reimagined for NES) before ultimately being made head of Nintendo R&D2. Yokoi's R&D1 would focus on arcade development (and later the Game & Watch handhelds) and Uemura's division would develop home consoles, beginning with the Color TV Game series. t was with these consoles that Uemura expanded his knowledge and began forming more ambitious hardware plans for a cartridge-based system. READ MORE . . . 

Ian Hetherington - The founder of Imagine Software, Psygnosis and Evolution Studios, Ian Hetherington, has died after a short illness. Hetherington was part of the team that launched PlayStation: he and the Psygnosis team directly influenced the technology that went into that first console.e. As the head of Psygnosis, he worked on major titles including Lemmings and Wipeout.  Hetherington co-founded the short-lived Imagine Software in 1982, before forming Psygnosis in 1984 alongside David Lawson and Jonathan Ellis. He stayed at the company until 1998, when he left to form Evolution Studios, another outfit based in the Liverpool area that went on to create a series of hit racing games, including WRC and MotorStorm. He left in 2007 and has since held senior roles at Realtime Worlds, Midoki and Immotion Group. He most recently appeared in a documentary marking 30 years of Lemmings. The news follows the death of fellow Psygnosis and Imagine Software founder David Lawson earlier this year. Tributes to Ian are already coming in from across the industry on social media and via email. Firesprite's Studio Art Director Lee Carus said in an email: "I really don't know where to start. He's had an impact on the entire direction of my life. If he hadn't have given that floppy haired kid from a rough estate, who dabbled in Amiga art, a chance who knows what could have happened? I wouldn't have met my partner who came up to Psygnosis on a two-week cover placement which ended up being five years. 20+ years of happy marriage later we'd later go on to have two wonderful boys who are the absolute centre of our lives. It terrifies me to think of what could have happened if Ian and I's paths hadn't crossed and I will be eternally grateful for that.  But I know this isn't a one off -- he jump started so many careers and lives. It's remarkable just how much of the UK games industry you can ultimately trace back to Ian. Some of the most senior people in the industry now, owe some part of their success to working with and learning from Ian. "So sad to hear Ian Hetherington has passed away," wrote Lucid Games' Martin Linklater. "A proper games industry legend and a lovely bloke. I had the pleasure of working with Ian on a number of occasions... at Psygnosis and then Curly Monsters. RIP Ian. Deepest condolences to his loved ones"

Miłogost Reczek - The Polish voice actor was a favorite of CD Projekt Red and was well-known for other dubbing roles in film, TV, and video games. Miłogost Reczek--known in the video game industry for his roles in Polish dubs of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Cyberpunk 2077--has died at age 60. He had apparently been in treatment for cancer since 2018.  News of his passing comes from a Facebook post from Polish audiobook company Storytel. Reczek's gravitas and talent had previously landed him the dubbing roles for characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars films (originally played by Ewan MacGregor), and Talos, a side character in more recent Marvel movies (originally portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn).  A deeper search of Reczek's filmography also shows he lent his voice to the Polish dub of children's show Thomas the Tank Engine.  Polish news outlets and commentators praised Reczek's talent and contributions to the world of Polish voice acting and dubbing. "Apart from his characteristic voice, which created many unforgettable roles, Miłek also had an irreplaceable sense of humor," Storytel wrote on its Facebook page.

Sarah Ross - formerly Zynga's vice president of global communications, has died. The news was broken by GamesBeat, which spotted messages from friends and family under a status on Ross' Facebook page. Ross had been working for Zynga for almost three years, having joined from mobile developer Jam City, where she held the same position for over two years. She also previously held marketing roles at mobile games developer Backflip Studios, as well as firms such as Yahoo, TechCrunch and Flipagram.  Ross was the driving force behind Zynga's social impact campaign Play Apart Together, which encouraged people to observe social distancing guidelines during the pandemic and stay in touch by playing games with their friends.  The campaign secured support from over 40 major games companies and the World Health Organisation, and gained more than 4.7 billion consumer media impressions from around the world.  Other campaigns Ross worked on include the Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiative #WordsWithHope.  In a message to GamesBeat, Zynga president Bernard Kim said: "The entire Zynga family was deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of Sarah Ross. Working with Sarah was a privilege. "We were in constant awe of her ingenuity, drive and compassion. Her mind and sheer will brought to reality incredible campaigns... She always went above and beyond and put others above herself.  "Her work at Zynga was groundbreaking and we'll miss her every day." In a tweet, Kim added: "Sarah was a force of nature at work and an incredible friend. We had amazing times together and I learned so much from her." 

Douglas Thomson - former president of the Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA), the organization that became The Toy Association, has died.  The Bronx-born executive joined the TMA as president in 1978 and led the organization in consumer safety and policy, public relations, and philanthropy. He was also a founder of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) Toy Design Dept. Thomson died at his Savannah, GA home on Oct. 22 at the age of 97. According to The TA, Thomson’s family is encouraging donations to be made to the Dartmouth College Fund in his name.

Jerry Houle - One of the pioneers of modern brand licensing and merchandising business, and one of eight founders of the world’s first professional licensing association which evolved into LIMA (now Licensing International), passed away on October 27 at age 76.

After stints at Fisher-Price and Milton Bradley, Jerry joined Jim Henson’s Muppets in March 1977 as its first marketing person and 25th employee. The MUPPET SHOW had launched the previous fall in 103 countries. Houle founded 7 divisions for the company, including worldwide licensing. In 1984, he founded his own agency, Bliss House, Inc., whose clients included Curious George, Chaplin, Monty Python, Princess Diana, General Motors, Survivor, Babar, among many others.  He also created and taught an MBA-level course on Licensing at Babson College, and spoke widely on licensing at events around the world.  He’s survived by his wife Margaret “Peggy” Houle;  sons Jerome L. Houle IV, William Fairfield Houle and James Lowther White Houle and their families, including six grandchildren; brothers Thomas Houle and Daniel Houle; and sisters Marybeth Donovan and Maureen Wiekert.

Malcolm Rose - He enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the toy trade.  His first role in toys was with Angel Toys, which he joined in the mid 60s. He then went on to hold several senior roles in the industry; as well as his tenure at Angel Toys, Malcolm lent his expertise to Illco, Tyco-Matchbox and Mookie Toys, among others.

His last full-time role was as sales director at Mookie Toys, where, over a 10-year period, he played an instrumental part in the growth of the business and its establishment as a pre-eminent force in the outdoor toy market, both in the UK and internationally. Malcolm formally retired from Mookie in 2005, but continued to work for a number of years on a consultancy basis, firstly for Top Banana Toys and then with Kelly Richardson at Kyria. Remembering Malcolm, Andrew Moulsher of Top Banana Toys said: “Malcolm was hugely respected by both the buyers he dealt with and his co-workers. He had a reputation as a straight talker, always showing great integrity and was never afraid to give a retail buyer the benefit of his experience if he thought they were making a less than judicious buying decision. In the main, they appreciated this and respected him all the more for it. He certainly had a significant impact on my own career development, and I shall miss him enormously.”

Affectionately known as “Grumps” by his family and many of his colleagues, Malcolm is survived by his wife Sandra, children Simon and Jo and grandchildren Sophie and Sam.

Tom Morey - Boogie Board Inventor Dies at 86: 'His Simple Gift…Will Be His Joyous, Lasting, Legacy' Tom Morey, an innovator whose love of surfing inspired the best-selling Boogie Board, died on Thursday in California. Even before inventing the Boogie Board in 1971, Morey was a surfing pioneer. He created the first professional surfing contest, the Invitational Nose Riding Championships, as well as a number of surfboard innovations, including the first polypropylene fin, per the California Surf Museum.  Morey's most famous creation came about in 1971 when he cut a piece of surfboard foam in half and covered it in newspaper, reported The Washington Post.  "The first thing that happens, I feel the ocean," he previously said of the experience of his first ride to The Orange County Register. "You don't get to feel the contour of the ocean until you get on a Boogie Board." He recalled thinking at the time, "This can really be something; this thing can really be something."  The creation was originally called SNAKE — which stood for "Side, Navel, Arm, Knee and Elbow" — but Morey eventually decided on the name Boogie Board, a nod to his love of jazz, reported The Orange County Register. As for his early pricing, the initial ad in Surfer Magazine listed the boards as costing $37, a number he picked because of his age at the time, per the newspaper. "That single device introduced more people to the joy of waveriding than any other person in the world," Kempton wrote in the California Surfing Museum's tribute to Morey. "His simple gift — a design that allowed anyone from paraplegics to Pipeline pros to boogie their brains out on a wave — will be his joyous, lasting, legacy." He went on to sell the creation and its trademark to Wham O in 1977, although he did not earn much money from the deal, according to The Washington Post.

Brian Goldner on Oct. 12th, 2021. It is with deep and profound sadness that Hasbro announces the passing of beloved leader and longtime Chairman and CEO Brian D. Goldner. 

Rich Stoddart, Interim CEO, said “Since joining the Company more than two decades ago, Brian has been the heart and soul of Hasbro. As a charismatic and passionate leader in both the play and entertainment industries, Brian’s work brought joy and laughter to children and families around the world. His visionary leadership, kindness, and generosity made him beloved by the Hasbro community and everyone he touched. On behalf of the Hasbro family, we extend our deepest, heartfelt condolences to his wife, daughter, and entire family.”

Mr. Goldner, 58, joined Hasbro in 2000 and was quickly recognized as a visionary in the industry. He was appointed CEO in 2008 and became Chairman of the Board in 2015. He was instrumental in transforming the Company into a global play and entertainment leader, architecting a strategic Brand Blueprint to create the world’s best play and storytelling experiences. Through his tireless work ethic and unwavering focus, he expanded the Company beyond toys and games into television, movies, digital gaming and beyond, to ensure Hasbro’s iconic brands reached every consumer. The culmination of his pioneering strategy was the 2019 acquisition of independent entertainment studio eOne. Mr. Goldner served on the Board of Directors of ViacomCBS and was the Chair of the Compensation Committee. Mr. Goldner and his wife Barbara were passionate advocates for improving systems of care for vulnerable members of society.

Edward M. Philip, Lead Independent Director of Hasbro’s Board of Directors, said “Brian’s passing is a tremendous loss for Hasbro and the world. Brian was universally admired and respected in the industry, and throughout his over twenty years at Hasbro, his inspiring leadership and exuberance left an indelible mark on everything and everyone he touched. A mentor and friend to so many, his passion and creativity took Hasbro to new heights. Our love and thoughts are with his wife, daughter, and family during this extraordinarily sad time.”

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.

Maki Kaji - 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 mary@chitag.com

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 NunnMichael 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. 

George R. Ditomassi, former Milton Bradley chairman and Hasbro executive, died on May 31 at the age of 86, it was reported by MassLive.

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 LovelandMichael 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.

Candace Irving - She worked with Mattel in Public Relations for many years and then moved on to Warner Brothers where she worked in Licensing (thank you, Sherry Gottlieb for letting us know.)

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.

Barry Walker  - owner of Conways toy stores and a former member, director and chairman of the Toymaster buying group, sadly passed away on Saturday morning after a long battle with cancer.

RYU ASADAOne of the most prolific Hot Wheels designers of the past 20 years has taken his final lap.

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.

Dear Artie,

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 BurgeToy 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. (The following tribute from Michele Litzky)  Kim Merrill was one of a kind. The consummate professional, account service maestro and trusted confident. We were sisters who met through our mutual client, Hasbro. She was my kind of girl From the start. We met while she sat on the floor in the back of the hasbro showroom painting a roadster for the toy parade. I joined her on the floor and a twenty plus year friendship began. I had no bigger cheerleader and few dearer friends. I told her sister today that she would have been by my side when I received my lifetime achievement award and she said Kim would have called her from the airport on the way.  RIP my friend.

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.

2020

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

2020

Nelson Hasson, Executive at Marx.

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.

2019 

Theo Coster 

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

Jim Muntz 

Len Clark

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.

John Teuschler 

Beau James 

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

2018

Jerry Robson - Tremendous Toys 8-26-18

Dominic Laurienzo 2-18 - Sr. Vice President of Design at Jakks Pacific, formerly Mattel  and ​Fisher-Price

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. 

2017

Leonard Greenberg - The founder of Coleco.

Loren Taylor

Tom Kremer

Ralph Kaufman-President of Jaymar Specialty

ROY RAIZEN (1930 - 2017) - Scarsdale, NY. A 1948 graduate of the Salisbury School and 1952 graduate of Lafayette College. He served in U.S. Army during Korean War. Those of you who knew Roy know by his hats and tee- shirts that he was an avid sports fan -- the Giants, Yankees and Rangers were his teams. He was past President of Beach Point Club in Mamaroneck, NY and the past President and Chairman of the Board of the Mid- Westchester JCC. He began his career working at Transogram Toy Company and later became a co-owner of Effanbee Doll Corp, a successful maker of fine dolls.

Stanley Weston(April 1, 1933 – May 1, 2017) was an American inventor and licensing agent who created the G.I. Joe toy line in 1963, as well as the very concept of the action figure.[1][2][3] Weston later sold the rights to his invention, which he called "outfitted action figures", to Hasbro for just $100,000 dollars. He later created his own company, Leisure Concepts, which represented and licensed products based on the likeness of Farrah FawcettStar Wars, and Nintendo. During the 1980s, Weston oversaw the creation of the ThunderCats animated series (1985–1989), which spawned the successful ThunderCats toyline. (Wikipedia) READ MORE  . . . 

2016

Omri Rothschild

2015

Horst Brandstaetter -   founder of toy-maker Playmobil, died in June 2015. At the time of his death, Playmobil was one of the world's largest toy companies, with $700 million in sales. While now famous for its two-and-three-quarter inch figures sold in thematic, Lego-esque kits, the company's origins were distinctly less whimsical. In 1876, a Brandstaetter ancestor founded the firm in Furth, Germany?then Bavaria?as a producer of ornamental casket fittings and locks. Family members later expanded to sheet-metal piggy banks, telephones and cash registers. Horst joined the family business, then run by his two uncles, in 1952 at age 19. He pressed for the aging business to think about entering new markets. Six years later, the company brought the hula hoop to Europe. The oil crisis of the 1970s made plastic scarce, and Brandstaetter asked a top lieutenant to develop a new toy that wouldn't require much of it. Together, he and that employee dreamed up the little figurines with hollow body parts that used less plastic. They hit toy store shelves in 1974. Brandstaetter stepped down from running Playmobil in 2000. The company's sole shareholder, he continued to go to the office daily right until his death. He is survived by two children.

Seymour L. Wane - passed away on Oct. 21, 2015, at the Brighton Gardens Senior Living residence in West Orange, N.J., at the age of 91. Mr. Wane was born on June 24, 1924; graduated from New York University; entered the US Navy during World War II, and rose to the rank of lieutenant j.g., serving aboard a destroyer escort in the Pacific campaign. Upon his return from service, he joined the Louis Marx Toy Co. and became vice-president of finance. The Marx Toy Co. emerged from World War II as the largest manufacturer of toys and operated three large manufacturing plants in Pennsylvania. Developing economies in Asia beckoned manufacturers to locate production within its environs, and Mr. Wane piloted the production move. In the later part of the 1960s, with no second generation interest in the business, Louis Marx considered selling the company and consummated a sale of the U.S., Hong Kong and Mexican enterprises to the Quaker Oats Company. With that accomplished, Mr. Wane continued his career as vice president of Brae Capital Corp., the financial vehicle of Louis Marx, Jr. Mr. Wane had an abiding interest in the affairs of young people, spawned by the Marx Toy Company's development of toys that taught children elemental skills. Continuing with his interest in children's education, he became president of the Millburn-Short Hills Scholastic Boosters, which raised funds for scholarship awards to qualifying Millburn High School seniors in support of their college tuition needs. Mr. Wane's wife, Cynthia, predeceased him, as did his daughter, Amy, and he is survived by his brother, Leonard, and children, Lauren Hochman, Jonathan Lowenberg, and Heather Feldman, and five grandchildren.

Isaac Heller, Co-Founder of Remco and Toymaker to a Generation. Isaac Heller got his start as a toymaker by buying up mountains of military surplus and transforming them into toys.  Isaac Heller, who died Saturday at 88, founded Remco — later based in Newark and then in Harrison, N.J. — with a cousin, Saul Robbins, in 1949. A former Navy electronics technician, Mr. Heller got his start as a toymaker by buying up mountains of military surplus and transforming it into toys that could zoom, soar or otherwise move. (The name Remco stood for “remote control.”)

“Every boy wants a Remco toy,” the company’s omnipresent television commercials intoned in a voice that carried the epochal urgency of a newsreel. In later years, after Remco began offering dolls, the tag line “... and so do girls” was appended. But its ellipses were almost palpable, so closely was the company associated with the construction of midcentury masculinity in miniature. In the 1960s and afterward, Remco was also known for its licensed products, including action figures of the Beatles, complete with combable mop-tops; the Munsters; and “Star Trek” characters. saac Heller, known as Ike, was born on July 23, 1926, in Ellenville, N.Y., at the foot of the Catskills, where his family owned a small farm. His parents, Morris Heller and the former Yetta Shapiro, Russian Jewish immigrants, had been settled there by the Jewish Agricultural (and Industrial Aid) Society, a social welfare agency. In the summer, to supplement their income, they rented out the children’s bedrooms to tourists; Ike and his siblings slept in the chicken coop. When Ike was 12 the family moved to Brooklyn, where he studied electrical engineering at Brooklyn Technical High School. He later took night classes at Cooper Union in Manhattan. From 1944 to 1946 he served in the Navy, where he repaired radar equipment along with almost anything else that came to hand. In idle moments, he built toys from spare electronics components for his shipmates to send home to their children.

After his discharge, Mr. Heller worked briefly as a toy designer before striking out on his own. As he well knew, warehouses all over New York were filled with military surplus going begging, and he visited each of them, buying up airmen’s earphones. From these, working in the basement of his brother-in-law’s upholstery shop, he built what became Remco’s first product and remained one of its best known: toy walkie-talkies.

The company’s other toys included Mighty Mike motorized trucks, the Shark remote control racecar, the Mighty Matilda aircraft carrier and the Movieland Drive-In Theater, which came with cars, a parking lot and a small projector and screen.

2014

Ralf Baer – Magnabox, Simon’s co-inventor, Dec 8, 2014

2013

Len Fuhrer83, Toy Industry leader for over 50 years. It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Leonard Fuhrer, 83 of Wellesley, MA on September 20, 2013.  Mr. Fuhrer was a leader in the global toy industry for more than 50 years.  He started his career with Simon & Schuster in 1956 after serving as a Lieutenant in US Naval Intelligence.  Mr. Fuhrer's distinguished career included executive positions at Topper Toys, Matchbox and Corgi Toys. From 1977 to 1994, Mr. Fuhrer was the President of the Toy, Hobby, Educational Group for Damon Corporation overseeing multiple companies including Estes Rockets, Arrow Industries, Hi Flyer Kites among others.  At the time of his passing, Mr. Fuhrer was the Lead Director and Chief Strategic Officer of Active Media Services, an International trading company with 14 offices worldwide.  Mr. Fuhrer also served three terms on the Board of Directors of the original Toy Manufacturer's Association of America (TMA). He is survived by his wife, Fran, son Robert , son David and daughter, Leslie and eight grandchildren. 

2011

Jerry Lawson - The trailblazing engineer helped lead the team that developed the first home video gaming system with interchangeable cartridges, which opened up a whole new world of playing games at home in the 1970s.

Milton Levine – Ant Farm and founder of Uncle Milton – died January 16, 2011 at the age of 97

James Becker, (Jan. 27, 1921 - Aug. 11, 2011) Founder of Anjar. 

2010

Saul Robbins (February 16, 1922 – June 13, 2010) was an American toy manufacturer, the co-founder of Remco, with his cousin Isaac Heller. He earned a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University.[2] Robbins served in the US Army in the Second World War. 

In 1949, he co-founded the toy company Remco in Newark, New Jersey, with his cousin Isaac Heller.[2][3] The name was a contraction of "REMote COntrol", and its first products were children's walkie-talkies.[3] Heller had been a U.S. Navy electronics technician, and they started by buying large amounts of military surplus and "transforming it into toys that could zoom, soar or otherwise move."[4]

Until the 1960s, they only made toys for boys, and they were the first toy company to use television advertising.[3] Their toys included the Whirlybird helicopter, the Barracuda atomic submarine, the Johnny Reb cannon, the Dick Tracy wrist radio, the Screaming Mee Mee-e rifle and Mr. Kelly's Automatic Car Wash.[4] Robbins was president of the Toy Manufacturers Association of America, and of the YM-YWHA of Metrowest.[2]

Jack Friedman - (1939-2010)For years, Jack Friedman’s New York license plate read, “Thanx ET,” a public wink at the movie-related merchandise that marked his first big success in the toy industry. He went on to establish THQ Inc., a Calabasas video game maker, and in 1995, co-founded Jakks Pacific, a Malibu-based toy company that scored its first hit producing action figures for the World Wrestling Federation. Known within the company for his yo-yo skills, Friedman had a fondness for classic toys — die-cast collectible cars, metal trucks, bulldozers — and a business strategy that revolved around licensing toys and acquiring other companies. One company Jakks bought was Toymax, which made Funnoodle pool products. It also developed a line of toys with Nickelodeon and manufactures products for Disney, Hello Kitty, Cabbage Patch Kids and dozens of other well-known brands. Born in 1939 in Queens, N.Y., Friedman started his career in the 1960s as a sales representative for toy maker Norman J. Lewis Associates. Backed by Lewis, Friedman founded his first toy company, LJN, in 1970. In addition to E.T. merchandise, the firm manufactured Michael Jackson dolls. READ MORE . . . 

 

2008

Bob Sklarsky - Owner of Uneeda Doll, a company founded in 1917 by the Sklarsky family in Brooklyn, New York.

2009

Harvey Greenfield,  founder of Commonwealth Toy  - It is with profound grief that we mourn the loss of our father, Harvey Greenfield. A leader in the toy industry, one of his greatest joys was creating toys for children. While he touched the lives of many, none more so than those of his children and grandchildren to whom he was utterly devoted. His world revolved around ours, and ours around his. Everyday without him is a struggle, and the void in our hearts will be with us always. Steven, Stacey, Lisa, Jessica, Alexa, Eddie, Richard, Scott, Lisa, Jake, Casey, Emily, Corey, Anna and Sam

2005

Raymond “Ray” J. Lohr - passed on October 3, 2005. He was born on September 28, 1912, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended classes at Xavier University, and enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in 1941. He married his wife, Vilma Treo, of Harrisburg, Pa., in 1941. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain at the close of WWII, in 1946. He received the Purple Heart. Ray was employed as a mechanical designer by Louis Marx Co. in 1935, and was retained by Louis Marx through WWII; he retired as Chief Toy Designer with 37 years of service, in 1972. His significant professional accomplishments included hundreds of mechanical patents for Louis Marx, and he was given credit for designing and conceiving the Marx Big Wheel and Rockem’ Sockem’ Robots. Ray was a member of the Erie Yacht Club from 1935 until 2000. His lifelong sailing companions were Dr. Ed Kemble, Don Robins, and Nat Reyburn. He was a life member of the Erie Kiwanis Club and the Maennerchor Club. He was a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church and enjoyed sailing, hunting, and playing pinochle.

2003

Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003), also known as Mister Rogers, was an American television host, author, producer, and Presbyterian minister.[1] 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...

2002

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.

1992

Sam Walton - Samuel Moore Walton (March 29, 1918 – April 5, 1992) was an American businessman and entrepreneur best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. grew to be the world's largest corporation by revenue as well as the biggest private employer in the world.[2] For a period of time, Walton was the richest man in America.[3] (wikipedia)

1989

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)

1998

Helen Malsed PLAYTHINGS WERE SERIOUS BUSINESS for Helen Malsed. The Magnolia housewife reportedly banked upwards of $1 million in royalties for the more than two dozen toys and games she created. Well, maybe not banked. “I’d get checks for $50,000 and just spend the money,” she told The Seattle Times in 1983. Not all on herself. Malsed, who died in 1998 after a series of strokes, wasn’t just an insatiably curious tinkerer who read both Seattle newspapers daily; she was as selfless as she was ingenious. When her son, Rick, was a boy, he suffered from illnesses that left him confined to their house for a few months. “Mom stayed close by and created a multitude of distractions to entertain me, to overcome the isolation and darkened house,” Rick wrote in a column for the Magnolia News after her death. 

One Christmas, he got a Slinky. The coiled spring developed by a marine engineer would somersault down the stairs, but Rick wondered how it would move if it had wheels. His father swiftly headed for the basement to attach some. Helen snagged a string from a window to tug the new contraption around. Later, she’d add plastic heads and tails of different creatures—a hippo, a caterpillar, a dog—to it.

In the early 1950s, she sold the Slinky Dog to James Industries, a Pennsylvania company that would have to expand its production facility time and time again to accommodate the sudden demand for the wiggling figure. Toy Story’s Slinky Dog character inspired another sales bonanza in the mid-’90s. Malsed wasn’t done inventing. She licensed Snap-Lock Beads, a plastic, infant-safe descendant of beaded bracelets and necklaces, to Fisher-Price a handful of years later. But the Slinky Dog would forever be her cash cow—and a welcome distraction for kids around the world. 

1987

Cliff Freeland (1915 - 1987) -  Cliff Freeland worked for and retired from the Louis Marx Company, where he was the Art Director and as such he traveled over the world.  He created the original Disneykins, studied magic under Blackstone, taught President Dwight D. Eisenhower how to paint. Freeland was a graduate of Pratt Institute in New York.  When he retired, he became a prolific painter of many styles. 

For Louis Marx, he was an Artist, Bodyguard, Designer and Magician.

1982

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). He was on the front cover of TIME in December 1955. 

1981

Dick (Richard) Keats- Owner and President of Kaywood Industries and of Buddy L Toys, Dick, a well-known New York toy designer who went to work for Buddy L the day after he graduated from Brown University in 1948.  In 1990, Keats sold Buddy L to SLM International. Before his death in 1981, Arthur Lundhal, Buddy L himself, wrote of his father: “He truly believed that the only really good playthings were those that could make a child’s dreams come true, playthings you could actually do things with, ones that really worked just like the big machines they modeled”.

1979

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)

1972

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.

(Thank you, Tim Walsh, for highlights of Marvin's career! For those that don't know, Tim has written many books about the toy and game industry, check out his website HERE!)

1936

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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Thank you for being a reader of the Bloom Report. — Mary and Graeme

 

Founding Editor and Publisher (1998-2020, Retired): Philip Bloom

We are honored to carry on Phil's 22 year legacy and continue the Bloom Report. Phil has been a mensch

and we've loved working with him. Here is a fun and interesting interview with Phil.

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Publisher: Mary Couzin, Chicago Toy & Game Group, Inc.

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