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Welcome to Your Weekly News Brief!


Happy Bloomin' Friday! 

It's my birthday today! And I share this celebratory day with many awesome industry colleagues/friends: Tony Serebriany, Rachel Griffin, John Bell, Tom Liddell, Liesl Diesel Kadile, Melanie Notkin, Christian Giove, Zach Weisman and others. I'm grateful for another year around the sun and another year in the toy industry with you! 

Happy St. Pat's Day to all our Irish colleagues and the ones who pretend to be Irish for a day!

​Thank you for reading the Bloom Report here or on the Bloom Report 24/7 News FeedPlease support our work by advertising and/or setting up a POP profile.


  • "I don't know anyone in the industry that doesn't read the Bloom Report." -Ken Lewis, President, 4Kidz, Inc.

  • The BLOOM REPORT is fantastic and it allows me to stay on top of all the breaking news in the Toy industry! - Wai Or, Longshore Ltd.

  • “I seriously look forward to Friday to learn most every update + more in the Industry. Priceless info! Thank you” -Michael Kohner, The Michael Kohner Corporation

  • "TBR is required reading for: inventors, manufacturers, retailers, marketers, suppliers, absolutely everyone!" - Robert Fuhrer, Founder, NEXTOY

  • If you are tired of these quotes, send me yours! 

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San Diego POP Pub Networking Event on March 27th! 

Thank You to The Op Games for Sponsoring! 

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2024 San Diego Toy/Game Industry Get-Together at the Stone Brewing Liberty Station Outdoor Garden Bar, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego March 27th, 6-9pm. Big THANK YOU to our sponsor The Op Games! A surprise game awaits you and a raffle for even more games! 

Join us at Stone Brewing Outdoor Garden Bar on Wednesday March 27th for a fun get-together with SoCal toy and game industry professionals! Whether you're a seasoned player or a fresh face in the industry, this event promises to spark creativity, forge connections, and level-up your network!


Super Casual. Super Fun. We've rented the venue, you pay for whatever you eat or drink! It is free to attend, but please rsvp here so we can give Stone Brewing a count to staff the event. 


Check out our past and future POP Pub worldwide events here Industry Get-Togethers. If you are interested in being a sponsor for this event or future ones, let us know!


Share this Invitation with Your Colleagues! All are welcome! See you at the pub!    RSVP HERE

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Chicagoland POP Pub Event on April 8th

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Join us at Meier's Tavern on April 8th for a fun get-together with Chicagoland's toy and game industry professionals! Whether you're a seasoned player or a fresh face in the industry, this event promises to spark creativity, forge connections, and level-up your network!


Super Casual. Super Fun. We've rented the venue, you pay for whatever you eat or drink! It is free to attend, but please rsvp here so we can give Meier's Tavern a count to staff the event. They do not take credit cards. Cash only. 


Check out our past and future POP Pub worldwide events here Industry Get-Togethers. If you are interested in being a sponsor for this event or future ones, let us know!


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Cartoon Lovers, Lexophiles & People in Need of a Smile! 

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Cartoons of the Week: Thank you Robert Fuher for this week's colorful cartoon. 

Lexophile Lovers:  "The Black-Eyed Peas can sing us a song but the chick-peas can only hummus one." Thank you, Jerry Cleary, for sharing with our readers! 

Memorable Quotes:

"The magic of toys is that they allow us to step into different worlds, explore various roles, and ultimately discover more about ourselves." - Debra Sterling, founder of GoldieBlox

Toy Industry Word of Day: Rabbit Hunt submitted by Kim Vandenbroucke. If you can think of a toy/game industry word not in our POPDictionary, add it and we will connect it to you POP profile, feature it here in an upcoming week and on POP's homepage! 

Have a cartoon, quote or a joke to share with your colleagues? Send it to me!  Mary

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Financial and Legal

Star Wars mastermind George Lucas — Disney’s largest individual shareholder — has come out with a statement supporting Disney’s board and CEO Bob Iger, urging Mouse House investors to reject bids by two activist investor groups to take seats on the media company’s board. “Creating magic is not for amateurs,” Lucas said in a statement released Tuesday. “When I sold Lucasfilm just over a decade ago, I was...


Billionaire Behind Bratz Dolls, Isaac Larian, says he and other investors have pledged a total of $200 million in financing and hope to raise four times that amount in crowdfunding in order to bid for up to 400 of the Toys R Us stores being liquidated in bankruptcy. The unsolicited bid still faces many hurdles, including finding other deep-pocked investors and getting a bankruptcy judge to agree to it. But this is the first public plan to keep the cherished toy brand in existence in the United States.


Czech Games Edition announced that they have acquired Oriens Karton, a board game and puzzle factory in the Czech RepublicThe factory, co-founded by Ludofact in 2004, is located 30 minutes away from CGE's Prague office, and will allow the company the luxury of local manufacturing of their products. This will help them have better quality control as well as faster turn-around times on orders. It also cuts down...


*** The above posted after tBR circulated on March 15th ***


Scholastic is poised to make a major strategic investment in 9 Story Media Group with its agreement to buy the Canadian co. for US$186 million. It’s a move that will open up more opportunities for Scholastic to turn its book-based IPs into broad-reaching franchises, supported by 9 Story’s experience and capabilities in animation production (Brown Bag Films), sales (9 Story Distribution Int'l) and licensing (9 Story Brands).


HABA FAMILYGROUP (in Germany) has emerged from its insolvency proceeding after a restructuring that included a workforce reduction of over 600 employees, the company announced.  The German company, parent of U.S. game and toy division Haba U.S.A., exited the insolvency proceedings under self-administration on February 29, 2024.

Former Activision boss Bobby Kotick wants to buy Tiktok. Kotick is also looking for partners, which could include OpenAI CEO Sam AltmanTikTok is in an exceptionally tough spot these days. Despite everyone you know using it for hours on end, the video-sharing app is currently facing legislation that would force its ban in the U.S pending a potential sale, and prospective buyers are lining up.

The European Union made history Wednesday, passing the world’s first comprehensive law regulating artificial intelligence. The AI Act is expected to officially become law by May or June, pending formal approval from EU member countries, with provisions starting to take effect six months after the rules enter the lawbooks. Rules for general-purpose AI systems like ChatGPT will start applying a year after the law takes effect. 

Mumbai-based conglomerate Reliance Industries is buying Paramount Global’s 13% stake in Viacom18 for around US$517 million, according to a regulatory filing. Already a majority shareholder in the venture, Reliance will now own 70.49%. Viacom18 operates Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. channels in India, as well as the studio behind popular local kids shows such as Motu Patlu, Pakdam Pakdai and The Twisted Timeline...

US House passes bill that could ban TikTok nationwide. The US House of Representatives has passed a landmark bill that could see TikTok banned in America. It would give the social media giant's Chinese parent company, ByteDance, six months to sell its controlling stake or the app would be blocked in the US. While the bill passed overwhelmingly in a bipartisan vote, it still needs to clear the Senate...

Embracer Group divests 'core' Saber Interactive assets in deal worth $247 million. Embracer Group has sold a number of key Saber Interactive assets, including studios such as 3D Realms, Slipgate, New World Interactive, in a deal worth $247 million. The news comes around four years after Embracer purchased Saber for up to $525 million. 



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Financial Reporting

Stonemaier Games sales were $16.7 million in 2023, down around 19% from the company’s $20.7 million sales in 2022, and off 32% from $24.7 million in sales in 2021. Founder Jamey Stegmaier did not disclose profits, but did note that the company was more profitable on lower sales in 2023 than it was in 2022, due to "improved partnerships and logistics." 

Audio platform Pocket FM bags $103M in funding as it eyes global expansion. India-based audio platform Pocket FM has secured $103 million in Series D funding led by Lightspeed Ventures, with participation from Stepstone Group. The company, which counts Tencent and Times Internet as backers, aims to expand into Europe and Latin America after looking at positive results in the U.S. market.


*** The above posted after tBR circulated on March 15th ***


LEGO, one of the few privately held toy companies to report earnings, says that revenue rose 2% in fiscal year 2023 amid a 4% spike in consumer products sales. The company’s DKK 65.9 billion (approximately $9.65 billion in U.S. dollars) in revenue outpaced the industry thanks to a portfolio stacked with nearly 50% new products — its biggest offering ever.


Box Office: ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ Lands Victorious $58.3M U.S. Opening; ‘Dune 2’ Nears $370M Worldwide



Trends, Lists, Market Research, and State of the Industry

Kids titles shine in Circana’s publishing bestsellers report. Children's book sales in the US were up by 3.3 million units last month, driven by a mix of classic Dr. Seuss titles, seasonal works and a Taylor Swift picture book.

REPORT: 52% of UK retailers will stock more licensed products this year. A new survey reveals that these sales account for more than 50% of annual revenue at a quarter of the region's major and specialty retailers.


*** The above posted after tBR circulated on March 15th ***


Toy Talk by The Toy Man Rick Derr from Toyfest 2024. Trends and Data now and in 5 years - the future of independent toy stores and the why’s and how’s behind the vision.


FEBRUARY 2024 CIRCANA BOOKSCAN - TOP 20 ADULT AND KIDS GRAPHIC NOVELS Anime Drives Adult Sales; 'Amulet' Final Volume Tops Kids Chart

February 2024 Circana Bookscan – Top 20 Author, Manga, Superhero Graphic Novels.


State of the Industry Q&A 2024: PMI Kids’ World. The newly minted CEO of PMI Kids’ World joins The Toy Book’s annual roundtable discussion. Omer Dekel, CEO, PMI Kids’ World, talks toys, licensing, and predictions for the months ahead.

Toyjobs has been the dominant recruiting

Stories, Comments, and Advice

Lunchables has taken the rise of visual generative artificial intelligence to highlight the seemingly limitless imagination of children, and its latest campaign is pitting what it calls “Kid Intelligence” (KI) versus AI, asking youngsters to submit their food-inspired creations for a chance to win a series of prizes.

The Millennium Falcon has landed on a 50p coin in the latest collectable Star Wars series from the Royal Mint. The coin depicts a silhouette of the fictional starship and the Rebel Alliance Starbird symbol, which is revealed when it tilts in the light. It is one of a series of coins dedicated to the vehicles featured in the Star Wars films.

In London, “competitive socializing” transforms pubs into stock exchanges, golf courses and cricket fields for those looking for more elaborate drinking games. These activities build on Britain’s strong tradition of pub games: weekly pub quizzes and, in centuries past, more old-fashioned competitions like Skittles and shove ha’penny. Most pubs today have little more than a dart board and a pool table.

Do you have a giant toy or game and looking for a home? Here you go..This Small Town in Illinois Is Filled with the World’s Largest Kitsch. Casey, Illinois contains 12 of the “World’s Largest Things” and a bunch of other “Big Things.” The World’s Largest Golf Tee, 56-foot-tall rocking chair, World’s Largest Mailbox—clocking in at 5,743.41 cubic feet—is also a technically functional mailbox that visitors...

*** The above posted after tBR circulated March 15th ***


John Baulch, Toy World. Under Pressure… it’s the Friday Blog! Anyone with a passing interest in horse racing will be aware that this was Cheltenham week – although not a massive fan myself, I have very fond memories of the festival from the days of being a guest of GMTV. I also remember walking around Cheltenham in just short sleeves on several occasions, so the weather is a little late in turning this year.


Christopher Byrne, The Disruption Report: Undue Influence(rs). Last year, as I stood outside Sweet Suite, a mom with a camera was trying to get the attention of her daughter who looked to be about six. Dazzled by all the color and excitement, the daughter was distracted. Finally, her mother yelled, “Why can’t you just twirl for the camera?” It was harsh, and her daughter started to cry, which made it even more difficult...

Reshaping Learning: The Pandemic’s Impact on Educational Board Games and Toys in India (Part 3/3). Tejasvi Bongirwar Musale is the CEO at Luma World, an award winning educational games startup based out of India that makes products for families around the world. After over 10 years of success leading teams and as top level management in telecom and healthcare, she felt the urge to follow her passion in education...

The 8 people who made 'Dungeons & Dragons' cool just launched their answer to the game.  Last year, people packed into a sold-out Wembley Arena to watch the eight-person cast of Critical Role play "Dungeons & Dragons." The team effectively brought the game out of nerd-dom and into the mainstream. But on Tues night, they took a break from the game that made them famous and launched "Daggerheart,"...


Google CEO Sundar Pichai Forgot the Most Important Rule of Leadership. It Could Cost Him His Job.  The contrast between Google's successes and its failures to launch largely comes down to the leadership of Pichai. I say that in part because it always comes down to the leader, but also because it seems clear that, in this case, Pichai has lost sight of the most important principle of leadership: He has lost the culture. 


NFT brands are stepping into the toy category. More NFT brands are blurring the lines between digital and physical collectibles by entering the toy category. Pudgy Penguins, an NFT line originally founded in 2021, expanded its partnership with Walmart last month to make its products available in 3,100 retail locations. Claynosaurz, a collection of 3D animated NFTs, is set to launch a line of dinosaur plush toys...


Ukrainian “toy therapy” project helps 30,000 war-affected children cope with trauma. A innovative Ukrainian project is using the power of toys to help thousands of children deal with the immense psychological stress and trauma caused by Russia’s brutal war. Ukrainian children have suffered psychologically and physically due to the war, experiencing trauma from being forced to sing the Russian anthem...

Protect ‘n Play | The art of toy patent disclosure. By Joseph A. Farco, Esq. of Farco ToyCo LLC and Norris McLaughlin P.A. As a toy inventor himself, Joe has an extensive experience in advising clients on intellectual property in the toy and gaming space.  Joe advises clients on different IP protection methods, such as obtaining the right type of patent on your toy, copyrights and trademarks for different types of...

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History and Nostalgia


The Lord of the Rings Recall Game from Milton Bradley. Released in 1978 from Milton Bradley, the Lord of the Rings Recall Game used characters and objects from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels to strengthen recognition skills and memory recall. The goal of the game was to be the player to match the most pairs of illustrated cards. Characters represented included Frodo, Gandalf, Treebeard, Legolas, Gollum...


Universal Building Set 733 from LEGO (1979). There’s a popular, misremembered idea about early LEGO sets — that they were just boxes of bricks without specific instructions. While it’s true that the first bricks launched without instructions, the success of LEGO bricks really increased when the company began to include ideas for what to build with the bricks. 

9 of the most valuable My Little Pony toys from the ‘80s and ‘90s. My Little Pony is one of those kid-friendly franchises that has managed to appeal to people of all ages. Whether you became a fan as a child back in the 1980s or discovered it recently by watching one of the newer films or TV shows with your child, there’s no denying its enduring charm. It all began in 1981 thanks to Bonnie Zacherle...

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Licensing and Entertainment 

Paramount Game Studios is joining a growing crowd of toycos and studios launching games in Roblox, bringing its first Avatar: The Last Airbender title to the platform this summer. The game lets players create element-controlling avatars and then battle it out against other users on the platform. Texas-based Looty Games developed the RPG with backing from the Roblox Creator Fund, which supports multiplayer games...


‘X-Men ’97’ and ‘The Animated Series’ Creators — Then and Now — Talk Revival, Playing With ‘Disney Money’ and Morph’s Nonbinary Backlash. “What the hell’s a mutant?” Over 30 yrs ago, Canadian voice actor Cal Dodd auditioned for Project X, an animated show at the now-defunct Fox Kids – a children’s programming block known in the ‘90s for Saturday morning cartoons. He was up for a character called Wolverine...

New streamer TF1+ is going international. The ad-supported platform, which only launched domestically in January, is set to expand across Europe this year and then head to French-speaking countries worldwide. When TF1+ launched domestically in January, it featured roughly 50 kids brands, including ZAG’s Miraculous and the Naruto anime franchise. Some of the platform’s most popular kids series today...

GKIDS has secured the North American distribution rights to the movie catalogue of Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda. GKIDS—which primarily specializes in indie animation—is on a mission to bolster the reach of its anime titles in the North American market with new theatrical and home entertainment releases.

See-Saw Films has just announced plans to make multiple live-action films based on Michael Ende’s classic 1979 novel The Neverending Story in partnership with a production shingle set up in the German author’s name. This story revolves around a young boy who gets immersed in a book about heroes trying to save Fantastica and its ruler from a mysterious force (known as The Nothing). 


Bulldog Licensing has announced two new partners for the phenomenally successful Magic Mixies property from Moose Toys. William Lamb Group, a major name in footwear for over 130 years and an expert in design-to-delivery production, is planning a range of footwear, bags, purses and accessories for the Magic Mixies brand. Launching initially with a retail exclusive bag in spring 2024, the full range of products will be...

*** The above posted after tBR circulated March 15th ***


A brand-new movie from Mattel, Barbie and Stacie to the Rescue, will make its UK linear TV premiere exclusively on free-to-air children’s channel Pop on Saturday 23rd March. The hour-long special will follow Barbie’s middle sister, Stacie, as she comes to the rescue of Barbie and Skipper. Barbie and Stacie to the Rescue marks the first time Stacie has played a lead role in Barbie content and includes five new original songs...

From Hogwarts to Eternia: Mattel’s UNO Fandom Decks Put a Stylish Spin on Game Night. The new premium UNO decks feature partnerships with Disney, Star Trek, and more. Since Mattel acquired UNO in 1992, the toys and games industry big has released a wide variety of twists on the classic card game. Now, the company is readying to launch a number of licensed UNO decks featuring popular brands.


Hasbro Hits the Bullseye with Target-Exclusive Transformers Optimus Prime Delivery Truck. An epic collaboration that recalls a rich history of retailer-exclusive truck toys. There is a long tradition of toymakers teaming up with retailers for toy trucks featuring corporate branding. From large-scale metal trucks by the likes of Ertl, Nylint, and Buddy L featuring livery inspired by past retail giants like Marshall Field’s...

BBC Studios has partnered with London-based meal kit company Gousto to launch a new range of family dinner recipes based on its flagship preschool franchise Bluey. Gousto will roll out these branded recipe kits next week, and they include easy-to-make meals inspired by the Heeler family’s favorite foods, such as Bingo’s BBQ chicken burger, Bluey’s fish goujons (pictured) and Bandit’s pork springroll wraps. 

Hamburg-based OneGate Media has acquired global rights to distribute a pair of live-action German movies for tweens and families. First up is Max and the Senior Squad (pictured above), which is produced by Frankfurt’s Neopol Film and slated for a domestic theatrical release in May 2024. OneGate has picked up worldwide rights, excluding German-speaking territories.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s games division is getting ready to publish its new licensed fighter game MultiVersus on May 28 as part of a strategic shift to pad its portfolio with more live-service titles (which are regularly refreshed with new content, characters, settings, etc.). Developed by LA’s Player First Games, this free-to-play concept for tweens teleports characters from iconic WBD franchises into themed game...

London-based distributor CAKE has picked up international rights outside the UK to a new CBBC series called Cooking Buddies. Putting a star-powered spin on the culinary content genre with headlining presenter Buddy Oliver—the 13-year-old son of English restaurateur and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver—this tween-skewing show will debut in the UK later this year. 


Taiwanese anime distributor Muse Communication has picked up Asian market rights to Science Saru’s upcoming series Dan Da Dan, which has already been acquired by global streamers Netflix and Crunchyroll. This spooky series centers around high-schoolers Momo and Okarun, who discover hidden powers and start to fall in love with each other while investigating the existence of aliens and ghosts

Mattel has teamed up with bridal industry giant Azazie to create a one-of-a-kind collection of wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses and flower girl looks inspired by the iconic toy brand. "The bold, powerful and playful collection takes direct inspiration from Barbie’s timeless fashion history," Azazie said in a release. "Azazie and Barbie inspire customers to see the limitless potential in themselves and their style."

CoComelon and Blippi owner Moonbug Entertainment has partnered with NY-based studio VaynerWatt to develop a new 2D-animated short series for YouTube called VeeFriends. Breaking Moonbug’s well-established preschool pattern, this concept targets six- to 11-year-olds and is based on a same-name IP (pictured) that was created in 2021 by tech entrepreneur and VaynerWatt co-founder Gary Vaynerchuk...

Paris-based animation studio HARI has lined up a raft of new deals to drive a consumer products and experiential push for its CG-animated slapstick comedy series Grizzy & the Lemmings. French book publisher Hachette Jeunesse will kick things off this spring with a range of Grizzy story and chapter books, followed by a line of collectible medals by Société Française des Monnaies. 


Nintendo and Illumination are developing a Super Mario Bros. sequel. Mario and Luigi will return to the global box office in April 2026, with Universal Pictures handling worldwide distribution and co-financing the as-yet-untitled film. Details about Mario’s return to the Mushroom Kingdom are scarce at the moment, but the new movie is slated to bow in US theaters on April 3, 2026, with Universal Pictures distributing...

Tapping into a huge popularity growth for motorsports, The Black Diamond Race, for kids ages seven and up, will deliver in January 2025.  European public broadcasters RAI (Italy) and RTVE (Spain) have co-commissioned a CG-animated, action-adventure series about the fast-paced world of high-performance car racing from Gruppo Alcuni and Broadvision in India.

Global independent animation studio Zag has signed a roster of new multi-media deals for its multiple-award-winning global franchise, Miraculous. On 12th March, Netflix added season four of the Zag Heroez Miraculous TV Series, and in July 2023, the blockbuster animated feature Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir, The Movie debuted in second place on Netflix’s global top 10 for English-language films...

The LEGO Group is thrilled to reveal the brand-new LEGO DUPLO Peppa Pig sets in collaboration with leading toy and game company Hasbro. Inspired by everyone’s favorite pig, toddlers can immerse themselves into the colourful world of Peppa Pig through LEGO DUPLO sets coming this summer. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Peppa Pig and it’s the perfect occasion for the new LEGO DUPLO Peppa Pig sets...

Jazwares, well-known for the Squishmallows plush brand, has inked a deal with Disney and The Pokémon Co. for a new range of pet products. Jazwares already has several pet offerings under its Jazwares Pets brand and is readily expanding further with additional licensing partners. At Jazwares Pets, we’re all about creating shared experiences between pet owners and their furbabies.

Sony Pictures debuts chilling new brand collaborations and themed products ahead of ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ theatrical release. Sony Pictures Consumer Products invites fans of Ghostbusters to gear up for the next chapter in the iconic franchise with new products and unique collaborations designed to further immerse enthusiasts into the pop culture phenomenon. 


Moonbug, VaynerWatt reveal animated series ‘VeeFriends’. The show will launch on YouTube this summer. Moonbug Entertainment and VaynerWatt, a production studio founded by VeeFriends creator Gary Vaynerchuk, Eric Wattenberg, and Matt Higgins, are partnering to produce a content franchise inspired by the VeeFriends universe. 


Super Impulse partners with Netflix for new Poptaters. The partnership will produce Poptater toys featuring ‘Squid Game,’ ‘Wednesday,’ and ‘Stranger Things’ characters. Super Impulse’s Poptaters brand is launching a new wave of licensed characters — all from popular Netflix series. Poptaters feature Hasbro’s classic Potato Heads brand mashed up with pop culture icons. 


Max US to debut six brand-new ‘Care Bears: Unlock the Magic’ animated specials. Cloudco Entertainment, owner of the Care Bears franchise, is proud to announce six all-new animated Care Bears: Unlock the Magic specials scheduled to debut throughout 2024 on Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max in the U.S. Adding to the 50 episodes previously launched to great acclaim in the U.S. on Max and elsewhere globally, the six...


LEGO expands Super Mario universe with new sets. Mar10 Day (10th March) was National Mario Day and The Lego Group marked the occasion by revealing an expansion to its already strong Super Mario universe. The company has also confirmed that the globally-loved Mario Kart will be coming in Lego brick form next year. Every year on March 10th, fans from all around the world mark Mar10 Day by celebrating...

Nintendo reveals upcoming animated Super Mario film. The film will be released in 2026. MAR10 Day celebrations took place on March 10, and Nintendo took the opportunity to give fans the latest in Mario news. The company released a YouTube video giving fans a look into what’s coming for the video game character, including a new animated film on the way. 


Sunlight Entertainment, team up for ‘Ryan’s World Rescue Squad’. Ryan’s World is getting bigger with the launch of Ryan’s World Rescue Squad. and the Kaji family’s production studio, Sunlight Entertainment, are expanding Ryan’s World with a new series, which highlights everyday heroes and first responders. 


Season two of Mattel and Nickelodeon’s Monster High animated series to debut March 11. Mattel, Inc. and Nickelodeon today announced that the second season of the hit animated series Monster High will premiere on Monday, March 11, 2024 at 2:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon. Everyone’s favorite boo crew will meet more fangtastic friends, fiends, and families, and face spookier challenges in the haunted halls of...


Jazwares unveils new Squishmallows x Stranger Things collaboration. Jazwares has announced a Squishmallows x Stranger Things collaboration based on the original series blockbuster from Netflix. Announced as part of Jazwares’ Squishmallows Day celebrations, the collection is set to begin rolling out globally in summer of 2024. 


LEGO, Warner Bros. celebrate 85 years of Batman with new building set. The LEGO Group teamed up with Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products and DC to celebrate 85 years of Batman. The LEGO DC Batman Gotham City Skyline building set re-creates Gotham City as seen in Batman: The Animated Series. 


'Barbie The Movie: In Concert' announces North American Summer Tour. Live Nation and Mattel have announced Barbie The Movie: In Concert, a live-to-film concert experience produced by Overture Global Entertainment that will bring Warner Bros. Pictures’ feature film, “Barbie” – Mattel Film’s first theatrical production – to life with live music from The Barbie Land Sinfonietta, a presentation from orchestrator and executive...

The Dragon Warrior unleashes ninja fury at Build-A-Bear Workshop. Kids can watch ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ with their own Po plush. DreamWorks’ noodle-loving panda is leaving the dojo and entering the workshop as a new Build-A-Bear plush. With Kung Fu Panda 4 coming to theaters, kids can kick off the adventure by watching the movie with their very own Po. 

Wow! Stuff unveils aggressive Nano Pods growth strategy. Even more licenses and a slashed RRP are setting Wow! Stuff’s Nano Pods collection up for a strong 2024, as consumer spending remains squeezed. Nano PodsWow! Stuff has announced the launch of an even bigger line up of its Nano Pod kids and kidult ‘connectable collectibles’. 

Iplayco, Rovio partner for Angry Birds attractions. Iplayco, the amusement and family entertainment company, is partnering with Rovio Entertainment to design a new line of interactive and gamified Angry Birds attractions for family-friendly destinations. The new attractions include the Attack on Pig City Ballistic Adventure; Protect Bird Village, a Tag Active experience; and Angry Birds Inflatable Bounce Park. 


Ravensburger introduces new 'Star Wars Villainous' two-player expansion format. Ravensburger introduced a new Star Wars Villainous two-player expansion format, with Revenge at Last expandalone game, which will hit preorder on June 24, 2024 and go on sale at Target on July 21, 2024. Star Wars Villainous: Revenge at Last game mirrors the new two-player expansion format that was announced for Disney Villainous...


Blippi joins forces with Tonies for Toniebox. Blippi has joined forces with Tonies as one of the newest audio figurines for the Toniebox, sharing stories and songs with young children. Tonies has announced the launch of Blippi for the Toniebox. Blippi’s entertaining, educational videos encourage children’s curiosity and inspire a lifelong love of learning. 


ZAG signs multiple ‘Miraculous’ deals worldwide. Global independent animation studio, ZAG, has signed a roster of new multimedia deals for its franchise, “Miraculous.” Netflix, Insight Editions, Yoto Player and Ravensberger will release new products based on the animated series. New multimedia deals in Europe include German publisher, Ravensburger, which will be offering novels and early reading ...


Super Mario Bros. Movie 2 sets up an epic Universal vs. Disney/Pixar clash for the ages after $1.36 billion success. The Super Mario Bros. Movie 2 has been confirmed with a release date that sets up a major animation box office battle between Universal and Disney/Pixar. The Mario video game adaptation was an enormous commercial success, surpassing all expectations and becoming one of the highest-grossing...

Oscar news; 'Got: House of Dragon' S2 release month; 'Fallout' and 'Parasyte' Trailers; First look deal for 'John Wick' director; 'Karate Kid' Casting; Warners Shuts Down Rooster Teeth. Showbiz Round-up. Two films with geek roots won Academy Awards on Sunday night.  Hayao Miyazaki won his second Academy Award when his anime The Boy and the Heron took the award for Best Animated Feature. 

UVS Games licenses 'Star Trek' and 'Tekken 8', teams with Wise Wizard Games for 'Star Trek Star Realms'; 'Godzilla' decks hit preorder. UVS Games licensed Star Trek and Tekken 8 for their UniVersus CCG, the company announced. Back in December, UVS teased that they were in the process of acquiring a new Sci-Fi license as they announced their 2024 lineup, and that license turned out to be Star Trek.

Orders for first issue of 'TMNT: The Last Ronin II' top 140,000 exceeding initial orders for original 'TMNT: The Last Ronin' launch. IDW has announced that orders for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin II – Re-Evolution #1 exceeded 140,000, and the publisher will do a second printing with a new cover by series artists Esau and Isaac Escorza. 

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People of Play


The Playground Podcast: California, NYC & What's Ahead: Andy Keimach of the Toy Association. There are big changes ahead for the Toy Association. After months of work and listening, there’s news about LA in the Fall (and Spring), New York, ongoing advocacy and much more.

Andy Keimach, interim president and CEO of the Toy Association gives us the scoop on what’s happening…and it’s good news.


*** The above posted after March 15th ***


Get to Know: Toy Inventor and ToeDesign Founder Aaron Tompkins. Aaron has gone from a toy hunter to a toy inventor in an amazing career that began in 1996. The founder of ToeDesign, Aaron talks with us about his work with brands like Hasbro, Mattel and Jakks Pacific, as well as the inspiration and design behind his own lines of original toys. Give his website a look here!


Meet Wolf, winner of our 2023 Fall Young Inventor Challenge ‘Most Authentic’ category. Wolf’s invention is called ‘Blanket Kingdom Game’. He is 13 yrs old, lives in Superior, CO and traveled to the Young Inventor Challenge (part of the Chicago Toy and Game Fair) last November to compete. We have a virtual option for kids not able to travel. Interested in getting involved in the YIC? Just let me know! These kids will fuel your passion for our industry to even greater heights!


Exclusive Interview with Disney Lorcana Trading Card Game Designer. To celebrate Disney Lorcana TCG: Into the Inklands launching today, I chatted with Ryan Miller, Brand Manager at Ravensburger and co-designer of Disney Lorcana TCG. Disney Parks Blog: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us for the Disney Parks Blog! Let’s start off with a brief history of you, your career, and how you ended up in this role today?

What does a head of inventor relations really do? TMS’s Andrew Hajithemistou explains. Andrew Hajithemistou is head of inventor relations at TMS, the agency behind McDonald’s Happy Meal campaigns. Here, he explains what his role actually amounts to and how it keeps one of the most popular commercial promotions in the industry fresh.

Cyber Group Studios, the prodco behind Gigantosaurus and 50/50 Heroes, has promoted Pierre Belaisch from SVP of creative development to CCO. Belaisch will now oversee the creative vision and strategy of the company’s development slate. He’ll also manage content from development through production, working closely with COO Raphaelle Mathieu (who is in charge of financing). 

The studio behind Nature Cat and Donkey Hodie has promoted producer Caroline Bandolik to VP of production. Bandolik joined Spiffy Pictures in 2014 and has worked on both of its signature kids shows in the ensuing years. In her new role, she will serve as Spiffy’s supervising producer on Donkey Hodie (a co-pro with Fred Rogers Productions for PBS KIDS) and new series Carl the Collector, which is set to premiere on...

Halilit appoints new Marketing executive. Halilit has welcomed Charlotte Hussey to the team. The appointment comes after the recent addition of two new brands to Halilit’s portfolio within the past six months. The company says it is dedicated to ensuring strong brand awareness among consumers. Halilit is a specialist supplier of developmental, sensory and educational toys, and has serviced the UK retail...

Funrise welcomes Mandeep Sira as Sales manager. Mandeep is joining Funrise with over 20 years of sales experience across fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), publishing, gifting, licensing and most recently in toys, having spent the last 3.5 years with MGA as a senior national account manager, working with multiple UK retailers. 


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Companies and Brands


TOMY: 100 Years of Fun! Congratulations to our friends at TOMY for achieving this amazing milestone and thank you to our guest writer Todd Coopee for sharing the news! 2024 is Tomy’s 100th anniversary year. Founded in 1924 by Eiichiro Tomiyama, the company cut its teeth manufacturing toy airplanes. This iconic toy company is also credited with being one of the first to employ a factory line assembly system...

University Games Preps Preschoolers With Briarpatch School Readiness Games. Briarpatch from University Games launches its new series of School Readiness games this Spring. The games utilize the company’s Play & Learn System as a fun way for children to develop early learning skills before they enter the classroom. The games use popular themes that are entertaining for kids to have fun while promoting holistic...


*** The above posted after March 15th when tBR circulated ***


Hamleys has further expanded in Italy with its second flagship Italian store opening in Galleria Alberto Sordi, one of the most iconic locations in the heart of Rome. This strategic expansion, in partnership with Giochi Preziosi, closely follows the recent Milan store opening at iconic Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The new store in Rome is housed in Galleria Alberto Sordi a historic shopping arcade acclaimed for its ...


Today The Op Games announced its popular title Blank Slate has received Circana's Toy Industry Award for #1 Selling Toy in the United States in the Family Word/Other Games category. The awards recognize the best-selling and top selling toys, properties, and manufacturers across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Europe, according to Circana's Retail Tracking Service.

Barbie attends Buckingham Palace for Women of the World Foundation festival. Mattel’s Barbie brand attended a celebratory reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Camilla, president of The Women of the World Foundation (WOW), marking the finale of The WOW Girls Festival Bus Tour. The WOW Girls Festival is a force for change across society in how it sees girls, their potential and the opportunities...

Board Game Club boxes are set to land in 100 UK libraries ahead of Easter, as Playtime PR commences an initiative designed to increase access to games for local communities. Board Game ClubFollowing a stellar response from games companies and huge interest from libraries, Playtime PR will be delivering the first wave of Board Game Club boxes to libraries across the country later this month.

Longleat welcomes Paw Patrol for Jungle Pups launch. Paw Patrol has gone on safari at Longleat to celebrate the launch of Jungle Pups, the latest series from the hit pre-school property. A life-sized version of the iconic Paw Patroller vehicle, as well as the famous pups themselves, visited Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire for a weekend of jungle fun on 9th and 10th March. 


OOLY opens renovated diverse marketing showrooms. Arts, crafts, and school supplies brand OOLY has reopened its showrooms at Diverse Marketing’s Dallas and Atlanta locations following a complete redesign of both spaces. Customers can now explore the remodeled showrooms, located at AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia, and Dallas Market Center in Dallas, Texas. 


All eyes on Toikido’s PeaKeeBoo: Toikido tells Toy World why new property PeaKeeBoo is one to watch in the competitive pre-school space. In December, Toikido – the IP-driven company behind Piñata Smashlings – announced its second major new property, PeaKeeBoo. This animated series leans into the charm of the classic childhood game, with its unique visuals and celeb narrator making it one to watch in...

Jawsome comeback: Mattel’s Street Sharks resurface, making waves among ’90s nostalgia fans. Making good on Mattel’s recent promise to mine its archives for classic brands to reboot, the Street Sharks are back in action! For the first time in more than 25 years, retailers will offer Street Sharks action figures, including Ripster, Slash, and Jab. 


Cartamundi announces Easter sampling of Color Addict. Cartamundi will be launching a UK-wide sampling and influencer campaign in partnership with Board Game Cafes for Color Addict this Easter. Color AddictPacks of games, including Color Addict, are being sent to a number of Board Game Cafes located in key towns and cities across England and Wales to enable families to visit and play during the Easter holidays. 


Interpret Machu Picchu in 'Publish or Perish: Winay Kawsay'. WizKids has announced Publish or Perish:  Winay Kawsay, a game of competitive research inspired by Machu Picchu.  The game will launch in November. In Publish or Perish:  Winay Kawsay, the players are academics researching the famous site of Machu Picchu, trying to prove that their interpretation of the site’s history and significance...


'Espana 1936' returns with new edition of the classic historical board game by Antonio Catalan. Devir Games will release Espana 1936, a new edition of the classic historical board game, into retail soon. Espana 1936, designed by Antonio Catalan, was first released in 2007 and was an Origins Award finalist in the Historical Board Games category in 2009 (see "Finalists"). 


Japanime Games unveils 'Core Connection: Nabla Conspiracy'. Japanime Games unveiled Core Connection: Nabla Conspiracy, a new card game, which has hit preorder. Nabla Conspiracy follows up 2020's Rise of Atlantis in the Core Connection line of card games. Players take on the roles of Mecha pilots competing against each other players in a battle against the Nabla’s Heart secret society. 


Babies R Us is coming to about 200 Kohl’s stores. Kohl’s said Tuesday that it’s teaming up with the owner of Babies R Us to bring baby gear, furniture and more to approximately 200 of its stores across the country. The retailer struck a licensing deal with WHP Global, a brand management firm with a portfolio that includes Bonobos, Joe’s Jeans and Anne Klein. .


'Mage Knight' returns with 'The Apocalypse Dragon - Expansion Set'. WizKids will release The Apocalypse Dragon - Expansion Set, a new expansion for Mage Knight Board Game, into retail in February 2025. Mage Knight Board Game is set to receive its first major expansion since 2015. The expansion, designed by Phil Pettifer, centers around Coral, a hero looking to take revenge on the Apocalypse Cult.  


The 'Battle for the Wellspring Battle Box' by Renegade Game Studios. The Battle for the Wellspring Battle Box is a new offering for the Heroscape miniatures game and contains everything needed for two players to set up and begin "The Battle of All Time."  It includes 6 new highly detailed miniatures featuring 3 dastardly pirates, a noble wizard, and 2 familiars in a head-to-head clash!


GAMA Expo news: Smirk & Dagger teases 'Boop The Halls!'. Smirk & Dagger teased Boop the Halls!, a new kitten placement game, which will hit stores in fall 2024. Smirk & Dagger follows up their Halloween-themed boooop with a Christmas-version of the game.  The gameplay of the new version is essentially the same as previous iterations of game, except this time the kittens are using a Christmas tree as their playground. 


GAMA Expo news: Trick or Treat previews 'House of 1000 Corpses'. Trick or Treat Studios previewed the prototype for their upcoming House of 1000 Corpses board game, a new cooperative game by Nick Badagliacca, which is headed to retail. This board game was first announced last August as part of a licensing deal with Rob Zombie. 


Amigo reveals 'Take Five: 30th Anniversary Edition': The classic card game returns. Amigo Games revealed Take Five: 30th Anniversary Edition, a classic card game by Wolfgang Kramer, which will head to retail in April 2024. Take 5! was originally released by Amigo in 1998 and is now returning to hobby retail. In this game, players cleverly place their number cards into one of the four rows of five cards each. 


Comic-sized 'Deadpool' RPG adventure for 'Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game'. Marvel Comics will release a comic-sized Deadpool RPG adventure for the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game this summer, the company announced.  Deadpool Role-Plays the Marvel Universe will include a comic story lead-in written by Cullen Bunn, with art by Mike Shelfer, cover by Mike Hawthorne, and colors by Alex Sinclair...


GAMA Expo 2024 news: 'You Gotta Be Kitten Me!' returns. Stone Blade Entertainment will release a new edition of You Gotta Be Kitten Me!, the classic party game, into retail. The new edition of this Liar's Dice-style game features a few new bells and whistles added on since the 2016 release of the game through Ultra PRO.

Fantasy Flight Games announced From the Abyss, a new expansion for Unfathomable, which will hit retail on June 7, 2024. This new expansion for the miniatures board game Unfathomable features expanded content as well as new mechanics for the game. Players will take off on the journey to Boston on the SS Atlantic, and will encounter some of the horrors from the deep: the Shoggoth, the Drowned Spirit...


New 'Dungeons & Dragons Onslaught' starter set incoming: 'Tendrils of the Lichen Lord'. WizKids announced Tendrils of the Lich Starter Set, for D&D Onslaught, which will hit retail in June 2024. The new standalone starter set contains everything players need to play this head-to-head miniatures dungeon crawler. 


'Fluxx's' next stop is The Hundred Aker Wood with 'Winnie-the-Pooh Fluxx'. Looney Labs will release Winnie-the-Pooh Fluxx, a new edition of the classic card game, into retail on September 5, 2024.Players can now join Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and company as they go on whimsical adventures in the Hundred Aker Wood with Fluxx. 


'Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG' delves into 'The Infinite Forbidden'. Konami Digital Entertainment announced The Infinite Forbidden, a new booster set for Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, which will hit retail on July 19, 2024. This booster set features the return of the unstoppable force of Exodia.  Players can summon a new Exodia Fusion Monster by revealing five pieces of Exodia from their hand, deck, or having them in play. 

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Gaming: Digital, Video, Hardware, and Development


New app Thomas & Friends: Let’s Roll coming this April during Autism Awareness Month. Mattel, a leading global toy company and owner of one of the strongest portfolios of children’s and family entertainment franchises in the world, has announced Thomas & Friends: Let’s Roll, a fun, new mobile app, created in partnership with StoryToys and designed under the guidance of neurodiversity consultants.

Monster Hunter: World tops 25M sales to cement record-breaker status at Capcom. Monster Hunter World has topped 25 million sales worldwide in six years to set a new all-time record for developer Capcom. The Japanese studio broke the news in a post on its IR website and said the milestone includes sales of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Master Edition. Monster Hunter: World...

The magic of My Little Pony returns in an all-new, open-world adventure game. Outright Games in collaboration with Hasbro, a leading toy and game company, has revealed the newest video game based on the iconic My Little Pony franchise with My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery. The title follows Sunny, Izzy, Misty, Pipp, Zipp and Hitch on an open-world cooperative adventure set in the kingdom of...

The Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame has unveiled the 12 finalists vying for induction in 2024, promising a trip down memory lane for members of the toy and game industries and gamers of all ages. Twelve electronic game finalists, ranging from pioneering classics to contemporary favorites, await their fate as the gaming world eagerly anticipates the announcement on Thursday, May 9 during...

Neon Wild, in collaboration with Universal Products & Experiences, announced that kids can now join Gabby and her adorable kitty friends from DreamWorks Animation’s hit Netflix series Gabby’s Dollhouse in animated adventure stories for the first time in the easy-to-use story app available on iOS and Android.

Pixar Animation Studios and the University of Colorado’s Renée Crown Wellness Institute have just rolled out a free social-emotional learning app based on Pixar’s 2015 CG-animated family feature Inside Out. InsideU is available on the university’s website as a free educational tool to teach kids ages six to 13 how to identify and process their emotions and successfully manage relationships. 


Highlighted Press Releases

WATCHITUDE SPRINGS FORWARD WITH EXPANDING DEMAND FROM U.S., EUROPE & MIDDLE EASTERN BUYERS. Slap, Tag’d, Glow And Step Counter Collection of Watches Wowed Retailers In The Opening Weeks Of 2024 From Atlanta & NETS to Spielwarenmesse & ToyFest

New Brunswick, NJ (March 19, 2024) –As buyers finally unpack their suitcases from a whirlwind of coast to coast and global trade shows, they all agree one thing. All the zooms in the world cannot make up for the in-person joy and connections created between buyers and manufacturers. Watchitude Co-Founders and brothers Albert and Dan Hakim attended numerous shows over eight weeks and brought home significant orders from not just U.S. retailers but markets in the Europe Union and the Middle East.


*** The above posted after tBR circulated March 15th ***


HOW WILL YOU MOOSH-MOOSH FOR MARCH MADNESS? Kids Of All Ages (That’s You Kidults) Craving Warmth, Comfort And A Bit Of Whimsy Can Choose Team Hoodies Or Team Starlight Buddies. Westlake Village, CA (March 13, 2024) – When you create the world’s softest plush buddies to cuddle with, what would be the next snuggly step? Moosh-Moosh debuts TWO Spring 2024 Collections with Hooded Blankets ($39.99 at and Starlight Buddies ($19.99 at A total of twelve new characters from Drac The Dragon Starlight Buddy to Caticorn Hooded Blanket are in stock and ready to join you on the couch, at bedtime or tucked inside an overnight bag for an oh-so-comfy adventure.

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Associations, Shows, Awards, Events, and Festivals

The Game Developers Choice Awards have arrived and they honored the best of the best in the world of video games from 2023 and Baldur's Gate 3 walked away with Game of the Year. This yr's show had 12 awards and the winners were chosen by industry professionals from around the world. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur's Gate 3 led the way going into the show with 7 nominations ...


*** The above posted after March 15th ***


The 2024 Oscars were the most watched in four years. The Jimmy Kimmel-hosted telecast on ABC averaged 19.5 million viewers, according to time zone-adjusted fast national ratings from Nielsen. That’s a 4 percent increase from a year ago. The 96th Academy Awards scored the biggest audience for any awards show since 2020, when that year’s Oscars — held a month before the U.S. went into lockdown in the early days of the...


Toy Association announces new board. The Toy Association announced the election of seven new members and two term renewals to its Board of Directors, including the election of Sharon Price John, president & CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop, as chairperson. The announcement was made during The Toy Association’s Annual General Meeting on March 7, which was open to all toy industry stakeholders. 

Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WiT) is thrilled to announce that the prestigious 2024 Wonder Women Awards Gala will be hosted in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world. Timed to coincide with LA Fall Toy Previews, the Wonder Women Awards celebrates the remarkable achievements of women executives, entrepreneurs, and changemakers who are propelling the toy, consumer products, licensing, and entertainment industries forward.

Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron walked away from last night’s 96th Academy Awards with the Best Animated Feature trophy—subverting many industry predictions that Sony’s superhero sequel Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse would win. Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Heron is the first movie with a PG-13 rating to come out on top in this Oscar category, which has favored younger-skewing...

GAMA Expo wrapped up its first Louisville, Kentucky show with record numbers, organizers announced at a public board meeting late Wednesday.  According to those preliminary numbers total attendees were at 2736, up 34% from the previous year.  890 retailers attended, up from 562 in 2023, representing 436 stores, up from 373 in the previous year.  Exhibit booths were up by about the same ratio, to 300 from 192...


The Bologna Licensing Awards 2024 has announced its shortlist, and Pokémon leads the field with four nominations. Now in its seventh year, this annual awards program celebrates international licensors/agencies, licensees and retailers. A total of 182 submissions were received from around the world, and winners will be announced at an awards ceremony taking place on the first day of the 61st-annual...

Toymaster is extending its congratulations to Clive Brown of The Toy Shop Melksham and Trowbridge, who was presented with a Golden Teddy by Roger Dyson on behalf of the BTHA at last week’s Regional Meeting in Swindon. Golden Teddy Awards are the BTHA’s way of recognising individuals who possess a high level of honesty and integrity and who are widely regarded to be the industry’s genuinely nice people.

Licensing for Retail Day attracts record numbers. The second Licensing for Retail Day, organized by Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) and License Global in partnership with trade association Licensing International, has reported that it attracted record retail numbers on Thursday 7th March. Held at Convene London, more than 240 licensing professionals were in attendance, including brand owners, licensees and a record...


ToyFest 2024 concludes, and dates for 2025 are announced. ToyFest concluded its 11th tradeshow in Las Vegas, held at the World Market Center. Toy & Gift Stores from across the US attended the Las Vegas Show including stores from 48 states and 24 international countries. The Las Vegas Market held their Spring Buying event parallel with ToyFest which made for an even better shopping experience for Retailers.

Prix Jeunesse has announced the 10 finalists that will compete for this year’s Shorts Prize during its festival week in Munich from May 24 to 29. The award honors short-form kids content, defined as an episode or one-off no longer than four minutes in length. The 2024 finalists were picked from a crop of 45 shorts submitted by producers, broadcasters and distributors from around the world.


Safety and Counterfeiting


TIE issues statement on proposed EU toy safety rulesFollowing yesterday’s European Parliament plenary vote on the proposed Toy Safety Regulation, Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) says it is ‘very worried’ about unintended consequences. On Wednesday 13th March, the European Parliament approved its position on revamped EU rules on toy safety with 603 votes in favour, five against and 15 abstentions. The text responds to a number of new challenges, mainly stemming from digital toys and online shopping, and says it converts the existing directive …

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RIP - Rest in Play - Remembering Those that have Passed

If you know of a colleague's passing, please send us information so we may share with our readers. Archives can be found HERE

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.

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.”...

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