March 17 - 24, 2023
Welcome to Your Weekly News Brief!
Happy Bloomin' Friday!
No matter where you are in the whole wide world, nothing can bring a smile to kids’ faces quite like toys. When kids are hurting and in need, the people of play always rise to the occasion in tremendously heartwarming ways, as you will see in our articles centering on Ukraine.
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Columnist - Nancy Zwiers
In my first year in the toy industry—over 30 years ago(!)—I marveled to a friend: “Making a great toy is easy. Making a great toy at the right price is really hard. We literally count pennies!”
If you’re involved in product in the toy business, you are no stranger to cost reduction meetings. Getting cost-of-goods down to achieve a target gross margin at a strategic price point (e.g. $4.99, $7.99, $9.99, etc.) is half the game.
Working on Barbie and churning out dozens of advertised skus every year, we developed some solid conventional thinking on how to achieve what we called “cheap thrills.” Before I talk about these specific cheap thrills, however, I want to go on record with the following contention: Great design is one of the lowest cost ways to add value to your product—and especially with toys targeted primarily to girls. You only pay for great design once—it doesn’t show up in COGs so it adds nothing to this key metric. Bottom-line, never skimp on the quality of designers you work with—in product or packaging.
Beyond the “great designer” truism, we discovered some predictable ways to enhance product appeal without breaking the bank. Some are more applicable to girls and some are gender neutral. Here are a few:
The Toymaker’s Prize by an Anonymous Toymaker
As professionals in the toy and game industry our jobs are richly rewarded when we help children grow, learn, feel wonder and joy, when we make them smile and laugh.
This is a short story about three people I met recently: a boy named Sasha, an Orthodox priest named Luke, and Carl a Mennonite pastor. It’s a story about wonder, joy and a whole lot of smiles.
Let me first tell you about Bishop Luke, the Patriarch of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia. He called me out of the blue one day 2 weeks ago, directed to me by a mutual friend. He had learned that I was connected to the toy industry, and, with Spring approaching, he harbored hopes of building an outdoor play area for some children under his care. As we talked, I learned the children were Ukrainian refugees. I was taken aback to learn there are 12,000 Ukrainian refugees currently living in Philadelphia and that St Nicholas is supporting families with over 100 children. Their commitment is to provide basic needs for the 2-year period that the refugees are allowed sanctuary in the US.
Pastor Carl is from Lancaster Pennsylvania who, in addition to running a church operates several successful businesses in the Lehigh Valley, an hour north of Philadelphia. One of those businesses is called Green Acres, a retail business that sells outdoor products: grills, gazebos, furniture and wonderful, commercially graded playsets.
Given Bishop Luke’s needs I decided to visit Green Acres, asked the store manager how I could get a playset for a children’s center, perhaps at a discount, maybe a discontinued model or a used sales sample. As I explained what the purpose was, I was told what I needed to do: write a letter on formal letterhead, explain the need, send it to the Carl. So that’s what I did. READ MORE...
Industry Commentary - John Ellis
Licensing tech for a consumer product. Lessons Learned.
As long time optical design consultants, Optics For Hire has designed products for hundreds of applications from LIDAR for self-driving cards to ophthalmoscopes to street lights, spectrometers and laser tattoo removal systems.
Our modeling work occasionally included toys, for example helping Mattel on the Barbie Photo Fashion Doll which includes a camera and small display, but we never say ourselves as having any special consumer product industry knowledge or insight.
That has changed over the past few years, and our company has developed a new relationship with the toy and consumer productions industry, this time as technology licensors and inventors.
Moving from ‘for hire’ design consultants has been a learning experience and below I’ll share some of the lesson’s we’ve learned.
Cartoon Lovers, Lexophiles & People in Need of a Smile!
Thank you Boaz Coster for this week's cartoon!
Thank you Jerry Cleary for this Lexophile gem...
I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.
Quote of the Week...
I said "Somebody should do something about that." Then I realized I am somebody. — Lily Tomlin
Do you have a cartoon or a joke to share with your colleagues? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Can't wait to see what you've got!
Financial and Legal
A coalition of top movie and TV studios have secured a $30 mill judgment against the operator of two illegal streaming sites. The studios and defendant Dwayne Johnson (no relation to the actor) agreed to resolve the suit in a deal that includes an injunction barring him from continuing to operate any service that allows users to pirate movies, according to court documents filed on March 27.
WildBrain is expanding its in-house animation capabilities with the acquisition of Toronto-based pre-production studio House of Cool. Expected to close in Q4 this year, the US$11.4-million deal will see WildBrain pay around US$3.9 million in cash and issue shares worth US$7.5 million.
Utah Law Could Curb Use of TikTok and Instagram by Children and Teens. The law, which prohibits social networks from allowing minors to have accounts without parental consent, may come as welcome news to many families even as it raises privacy concerns. The new measure will also require social networks to give Utah parents access to their children’s posts, messages and responses.
Cartamundi has announced that it is to close its Waterford manufacturing facility in Ireland, a site David Germis, president of Cartamundi’s Global Solutions Division, says has been ‘a source of reliable quality production’ since 2015. The company gave a number of reasons for its decision, including the lingering inflation of shipping and materials and reduced demand for games since the pandemic.
Last week's winning bidder of the Flatiron Building failed to make the down payment on his $190 million winning bid by close of business Friday, NY1 has learned. NY1 reached out to the winner, Jacob Garlick, through the website of his Virginia firm, Abraham Trust, where he is a managing partner. There has been no response.
***The above posted after March 24th***
Crown Crafts today announced that it has acquired Manhattan Group, doing business as Manhattan Toy, and its wholly owned subsidiary Manhattan Toy Europe. The acquisition expands Crown Crafts’ presence in the growing category of developmental toys for infants and toddlers. Manhattan Toy’s product offerings of plush, dolls and wooden toys will complement Crown Crafts’ existing line of Sassy toys.
John Lewis mulls end of 100% staff ownership, John Lewis has suggested it may move away from its 100% employee ownership model in a bid to reinvent the company and to raise investment. Last week, John Lewis warned of job cuts and informed staff that they would not be receiving a bonus for only the second time since 1953, after posting an annual loss of £234m.
Swiss-based broadcaster RTS has acquired French studio Les Armateurs’ 3D-animated series Runes from distributor Prime Entertainment Group. Aimed at seven- to 11-year-olds, Runes (26 x 22 minutes) follows William, a 12-year-old boy who is heir to the throne of Normandy but must go on the run to save himself from evildoers trying to assassinate him.
Microsoft banks on regulations to build a mobile games store. Apple and Google have had a stronghold on mobile app distribution through their app stores for a long time now, especially for games. While Google’s Android lets users install games and apps from outside the Play Store, these alternative app stores have failed to offer significant competition.
Atari announced the acquisition of a dozen retro arcade games, including the 80s classics Berzerk and Frenzy. Atari will seek to expand digital and physical distribution of the classic titles, create new games based on the IP, and explore brand and merchandising collaborations.
Berzerk is a top-down, multidirectional shooter designed by Alan McNeil that was released for arcades in 1980.
Amazon is to cut around another 9,000 jobs across its global business, chief executive officer Andy Jassy has told workers in a message shared with Amazon employees on Monday. The statement began: “As we’ve just concluded the second phase of our operating plan (“OP2”) this past week, I’m writing to share that we intend to eliminate about 9,000 more positions in the next few weeks—mostly in AWS, PXT, Advertising and...
British producers and media execs are feeling reassured after the UK government announced an overhaul of the region’s film and TV tax reliefs last week. Under the new streamlined Audio-Visual Expenditure Credit (AVEC), UK-based kids TV and animation productions are now eligible to claim up to 39% on qualifying expenditures, which is a significant increase from the previous 20% to 25% allowance.
Could the US government actually block people from accessing TikTok altogether? The US government is demanding that TikTok's Chinese owners sell the social media platform, or risk facing a ban. It comes as more and more countries have been expressing concerns about what China might do with user data from the app. But banning the app is not straightforward - here's what might be involved. TikTok gathers...
Into the ‘lion’s den’: Questions the TikTok CEO will face from Congress today over a possible ban. On Thursday, TikTok's CEO, Shou Zi Chew, will be opening a lion's mouth and placing his own head into it. He's giving testimony in the US Congress for the first time, a scary thing to do. And at stake is the future of the phenomenally popular video-sharing app in the US. "I think that there is a real risk that if this hearing doesn't go well…
'Poop-themed dog toys' face Supreme Court showdown in trademark dispute. Facing a choice between a shot of Jack Daniel's and a chaser of "poop-themed" dog toys that resemble the company's whiskey bottles, Supreme Court justices seemed to find fault on both sides as they weighed a trademark fight between the two. The justices, taking a break of sorts from some of the weightier issues before them on cases about race...
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China Box Office: Makoto Shinkai’s Anime Hit ‘Suzume’ Soars With $50M Opening. Japanese anime is earning more than ever in China, while U.S. superhero films are fumbling.
***The above posted after March 24th***
GameStop showed a rare profit in its fiscal Q4 ended January 28, 2023, but still lost over $300 million for the full fiscal year. The quarterly profit was $48.2 million, a big swing from the $147.5 million loss in the year ago quarter.
Trends, Market Research, and State of the Industry
Streamers anticipated to spend US$26.5 billion on original content in 2023. Global SVODs will invest heavily in scripted content this year, with 10% of overall spend going to kids & family programming, according to Ampere.
***the above posted after March 24th***
2022 COMIC STORE SALES: BOOM CYCLE GOES BUST New comic sales have taken a beating over the last year, while the graphic novel category has largely held steady, and back issues remain a wild horse that’s usually a good bet.
Stories, Comments, and Advice
Today's Wordle marks the start of a new era for the game - here's why. When the New York Times bought Wordle in February 2022, it assured its millions of players that nothing would change about the game they'd fallen in love with. Wordle would still be Wordle, and most wouldn't even notice any difference. It remained true to that promise (mostly), but that's all changed with today's puzzle - which sees Wordle enter...
John Baulch, Toy World, People make the world go round …it’s the Friday Blog! With all the ludicrous parliamentary shenanigans this week, a surprise increase in the headline inflation rate in February and a subsequent rise in the interest rate slipped under the radar somewhat. However, these developments will have far more impact on consumer confidence and the retail channel than whether or not Boris Johnson took...
***The above was published after tBR started sending March 24th***
Residents of a small Australian town said sculptures of Minions have been appearing in locations around town since just before Christmas, and their origins remain a mystery. Locals in Warrack, a Victoria town boasting a population of about 70 people, said the first Minions sculpture appeared just before Christmas, and the statues have continued to appear on various properties to reach a current total of 24.
Gunned down and burned by the Nazis: the shocking true story of Bambi. Walt Disney made Bambi a cutesy schmaltzfest for kids. But the original story was a brutal allegory by a Jewish writer who later fled the Nazis. As the character hits 100, we look at the iconic fawn’s extraordinary life. Written by Felix Salten, an Austro-Hungarian, the coming-of-age novel would go on to be banned by the Nazis before eventually winding...
SXSW 2023: Problemista Premiere Cast Q&A. Problemista Synopsis: Alejandro is an aspiring toy designer from El Salvador, struggling to bring his unusual ideas to life in New York City. As time on his work visa runs out, a job assisting an erratic art-world outcast becomes his only hope to stay in the country and realize his dream. Tilda Swinton, RZA, Isabella Rossellini, Larry Owens, Catalina Saavedra, Greta Lee, and Julio...
Which US retailers are aggressively opening new stores? As consumers who once shopped in Walmart or Target switch to value retailers, Richard Gottlieb looks at the planned growth of US value stores. If investing in new locations is an indicator of success, then Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Five Below are defying the economic angst that is so prevalent lately and growing.
John Baulch, Toy World: Mixing it up …it’s the Friday Blog! Last week’s Blog about the thorny question of margins certainly prompted lots of comments and feedback, so I wanted to briefly return to the subject to share some of the more interesting nuggets I learned. First up, it seems I may have been given a slightly optimistic estimation of Mytoys’ market share in Germany – but even allowing for that...
History and Nostalgia
Cereal thrillers: the fans still in search of those little plastic toys. Amelia Tait hears how they got there and where they went – and meets the enthusiasts still tracking down these elusive treasures. No one would ever guess, says product designer James Allerton, just how many people it took to make the glow-in-the-dark, lightsaber-shaped plastic puzzles once dropped by Kellogg’s into boxes of Corn Flakes.
***The above posted after March 24th***
Tricky Peter Penguin from Remco (1969). In the late 1960s, Remco released Tricky Peter Penguin, a sound-actuated toy for young children. Advertised as “A Tricky Whistle Action Toy,” Peter stood 15 inches tall, was made primarily of plastic, and ran on two D-batteries. Once powered on, Peter was activated by blowing on a look-alike toy whistle that came with the toy.
Full House from Parker Brothers (1979). Released in 1979 by Parker Brothers, the Full House board game saw players take the role of innkeeper and advance the status of their property and guests to become the wealthiest hotelier in the game. Players started the game at the economy property level with $7,500 in paper bills.
Licensing and Entertainment
In a surprise pairing, kid-focused content company pocket.watch has linked up with sports-focused live TV streamer Fubo in a FAST channel deal. The agreement will see Fubo feature two of pocket.watch’s branded channels–pocket.watch’s eponymous channel and Ryan and Friends–on Fubo’s lineup by the end of the year, which in the US also includes major networks and sports channels.
Following a successful first series, animated production Pinocchio and Friends created by Iginio Straffi and inspired by the fairy tale of Collodi’s puppet is about to return in 2023 with original adventures brought to life in collaboration with Rai Ragazzi and in co-production with Toonz Media Group.
Irish animation studio Sixteen South has partnered with Nelvana to develop and co-produce A Horse Named Steve. The 2D-animated comedy series revolves around a self-absorbed horse and his endless schemes to capture attention and stand out from the crowd. This deal marks Sixteen South’s first Canadian co-production. The project is an adaptation of writer/illustrator Kelly Collier’s Steve the Horse picture...
PlayMonster and Hasbro expanding their existing agreements to allow PlayMonster to add more of the Playskool brand to its portfolio next year. “We are excited by the new ways in which PlayMonster is bringing forward the vision and values of the Playskool brand that still garners a universal fondness felt by parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents,” says Jess Richardson, VP of Global Toys & Games Licensing at...
LA-based agency Underscore Talent is branching out into production with the launch of Shorthand Studios, which will develop and distribute content that originates from family-friendly digital-first creators. Underscore already represents several kids and family brands, including The Royalty Family (pictured, 20.4 million YouTube subscribers) and The McCarty Family (7.1 million subscribers).
Hasbro‘s entertainment studio eOne and Amuse Animation are partnering to produce children’s entertainment in a direct-to-digital format. In what Jiella Esmat — Chief Revenue Officer of Amuse — is calling a “huge milestone” for the company, the new partnership project will be an animated series targeting preschool children available through digital channels.
Saudi Entertainment Ventures (Seven) has entered into an agreement with Hasbro to develop and operate the world’s first Play-Doh themed entertainment centres. The centres will open in 8 locations in Saudi Arabia over the next 10 yrs. Guests will be able to enjoy multilevel playscapes, creativity stations and sensory discovery activity areas that fully immerse them in the joy of playing with Play-Doh compound or toys.
***The above posted after March 24th***
WowWee and Hasbro, have announced their expanded partnership to bring more classic Hasbro gaming products to the outdoor play space and introduce new Nerf Super Soaker products. Following the success of the Nerf Super Soaker RoboBlaster, the expanded line focuses on epic activities for friends and family...
LA-based studio pocket.watch is boosting the kidfluencer space through a new funding partnership with New York-based creator-optimization platform Jellysmack. Under this fund, Jellysmack is investing US$25 million to provide financing to pocket.watch’s roster of kids and family content creators. The goal, the companies say, is to create “stability and predictability” to pocket.watch’s partner creators so...
The Dungeons & Dragons Coffee Club, under license from global branded entertainment leader Hasbro, is open for fans to register to join and curate their own brewing experience, with the launch of four new quality coffee blends based around some of the game’s most iconic monsters. These new blends are sure to entice Kaeth lovers (that’s coffee for those who are unfamiliar with the game’s universe) as each...
My Little Pony Series “Tell Your Tale” Launches March 27th, 2023 on Netflix! Welcome back to the magical world of Equestria! On March 27, the popular entertainment series My Little Pony: Tell Your Tale officially launches on Netflix, with 10 20-minute episodes ready for fans to binge. The 2D animated series is the ultimate insider’s guide to the everyday escapades of the Mane 5 and features a buffet of heartfelt, funny...
Heathside Trading have concluded a license agreement with Paramount Global Consumer Products to become the authorized distributor of Eaglemoss Hero Collector’s die-cast Star Trek ships. The ships will be sold on a new website – MasterReplicas.com — and through selected retail partners launching in March 2023.
Mattel Television announces new special, ‘Thomas & Friends: The Mystery of Lookout Mountain’. Mattel announced an all-new animated adventure, Thomas & Friends: The Mystery of Lookout Mountain. Thomas & Friends: The Mystery of Lookout Mountain will stream globally on Netflix on Saturday, April 1. Tied to Autism Acceptance Month in April, the movie is the first Thomas & Friends special to feature Bruno...
HGTV brings Barbie’s Dreamhouse to life. Inspired by the enduring popularity of the icon herself and by the excitement surrounding the upcoming release of the Warner Bros. Pictures film, “Barbie,” HGTV has announced the “Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge” hosted by supermodel, designer, author and entrepreneur, Ashley Graham, and featuring eight teams of HGTV superstars as they transform a Southern California...
JAKKS Pacific reveals new ‘Super Mario Bros Movie’ toys with a super audience giveaway. JAKKS Pacific and Disguise have announced their panel at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA to take place on Friday, March 24, 2023 from 5pm – 6pm in Room 213CD. Get an exclusive sneak peek of JAKKS Pacific’s 2023 toy and collectible releases for Nintendo + Illumination’s new animated action-comedy, The Super Mario Bros Movie...
Acamar Films launches campaign in support of Golden Bear Rainybow Bing. Spanning digital and social platforms as well as the Bing: Watch, Play, Learn app, the Rainybow campaign is supported by other Acamar Film licensees including HarperCollins and Tonies. Rainybow BingAcamar Films, the independent creative studio behind the award-winning pre-school animation Bing, is launching a colourful and comprehensive...
Kabillion, a top five AVOD network, announces another classic character joining the network on Wednesday, March 22. “Woody Woodpecker,” a series of animated shorts produced by Splash Entertainment, commissioned by Universal 1440 Entertainment, a production arm of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, will be broadcast on both Kabillion’s cable and OTT services.
Toikido has established a new partnership with garment manufacturer Cooneen by Design to produce a nightwear, underwear and swimwear range for its new IP, Pinata Smashlings. The first IP created solely in-house by Toikido, Piñata Smashlings is slated to become one of 2023’s most exciting children’s brands, offering a unique Roblox game together with a series of animated shorts, music, suite of toys...
MGA Entertainment partners with General Mills for L.O.L. Surprise! Mini Bites. MGA Entertainment, makers of popular L.O.L. Surprise! capsules, have entered into a licensing deal with the food company General Mills to produce a number of L.O.L. Surprise dolls and accessories based upon well-known cereal brands. The brands Trix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Wheaties, Lucky Charms, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs...
9 Story Media Group and Karma’s World Entertainment have signed two new licensing deals that are part of an initiative to support Black-owned businesses. LA’s CurlyKids Mixed Texture HairCare (shampoo, conditioner and hairspray) and Stafford-based Firstline Brands (silk bonnets and pillowcases) have developed their Karma’s World products.
Let the Fraggles play! With 'Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock: Card Game'. River Horse will release Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock: Card Game into retail on July 15, 2023. The zany Fraggles are featured in two fast-paced card games in one tin. The first game players can engage in is called "snap." In this game, players race each other to be the first to shout out “snap!” when they see a match between two revealed cards.
River Horse has 'Dark Crystal' in the cards. River Horse is returning to the world of The Dark Crystal with Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Card Game, which will release on July 15. Inspired by medieval card games, Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Card Game features tarot-sized cards with illustrations based on the classic designs by Jim Henson and Brian Froud.
Poetic Brands, the specialist apparel licensee for adults, kids and babywear, and Brand Collective, known for its unique tech and lifestyle products, are delighted to announce they will be forming a collaboration to extend the potential leverage of both businesses. Being part of the PDS Multinational Group and already hugely successful as separate enterprises, the coming together of Poetic Brands and ...
Mob Ent has appointed Reemsborko as its agent for consumer products licensing in Europe and Australasia for Poppy Playtime, the smash hit episodic horror video game. The first chapter of Poppy Playtime was released in Oct. 2021 and spawned an immediate and sustained wave of fandom via YouTube videos of gamers playing the game, due in no small part to one of the game’s main characters, Huggy Wuggy.
Paragon FX Group introduces Batman ’66, Wizard of Oz prop replicas. The toy-adjacent world of pop culture collectibles continues to expand with new offerings from Paragon FX Group. Over the past few months, the company, which has previously been featured at our sister publication, The Pop Insider, has launched a robust line of prop replicas inspired by Jurassic Park, Batman (1989), Supernatural, and more.
Ravensburger unleashes new details on Disney Lorcana, its entry into the customizable trading card game space. Ravensburger has dropped new information about its new trading card game, Disney Lorcana. In Disney Lorcana, players find themselves transported to the Great Illuminary, the center of the magic realm of Lorcana.
The LEGO Group releases icons classic Land Rover Defender 90 set to celebrate the vehicle’s 75th anniversary. The LEGO Group is releasing a 2,336-piece Icons Classic Land Rover Defender 90 set to commemorate the car’s 75th anniversary. The toy company marked the occasion by placing a yellow Land Rover Defender atop the Scottish Highlands, naming it the, “The Hardest To Reach LEGO Store in the World.”
People of Play
9 Story Media Group chief creative officer Angela Santomero is leaving the company to go back to her creative roots. The high-profile kids TV executive is best known for creating iconic shows such as Blue’s Clues & You! and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Santomero joined 9 Story in 2018 when it acquired Out of the Blue Enterprises, the company she co-founded with Samantha Freeman in 2005.
Roku shuffles up its originals and acquisitions leadership. Former head of alternative originals Brian Tannenbaum is now overseeing the Roku Originals team, with several other content execs taking on new roles. Signaling what might be a more serious run at original content, US AVOD platform Roku has announced a series of promotions within its senior leadership team.
***The above posted after March 24th***
Erik Quam has joined Smart Toys and Games, as the company’s VP of New Product and Business Development. Quam joins the US-based team and will also work closely with world headquarters based in Belgium. Quam is no stranger to the toy industry. His career spans more than twenty-five years, and he has played an instrumental role in the launch of several successful brands in the specialty toy arena.
The number of Black video game developers is small, but strong. In many ways, it all started with 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. The move paved the way for future systems like Atari and Super Nintendo, and by the time Lawson died in...
Former Nelvana development producer Brandon Lane has joined the “family business” at Toronto studio Balloon House Productions, working alongside his wife and co. president Kimberly Persona, as VP of creative. His initial goal is developing the studio’s first slate of shows, he says. Traditionally, the decade-old studio behind live-action educational shows Princess Sparkly Butt and the Hot Dog Kid and ...
Michigan City, IN bridge to be named for Lincoln Logs inventor. John Lloyd Wright, inventor of the Lincoln Logs toy and a prominent architect, is one of six people who will have their names attached to bridges ... Wright obtained a patent in 1920 for his Lincoln Logs: Notches in the three-quarter-inch-diameter wooden pegs allow them to interlock, letting users make log cabins and other miniature structures.
High-profile Marvel exec Victoria Alonso is leaving the Disney-owned studio after 17 years. Alonso has resigned as president of physical and post production, visual effects and animation production—a role she was promoted to in 2021. She was among the group of senior executives who were involved in shaping the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), spearheaded by president Kevin Feige and co-president Louis D’Esposito.
Stern Pinball named Ben Gomez as Lead Creative Designer for the Insider Connected platform. Gomez has spent 29 years designing real money and free-to-play casino games, including brands like Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, Monopoly, Willy Wonka, and The Princess Bride in his portfolio. “Ben is incredibly talented and brings a fresh voice and perspective to the development of Insider Connected. We are excited...
PlayMonster grows strategic sales channels with new hires Melanie Bailey and Dave Trentman. Leading international toy and game co. PlayMonster Group announced the growth of its sales division as it welcomes Melanie Bailey, National Account Manager, and Dave Trentman, Sales Manager Value Channel. The two toy and game veterans will lead PlayMonster’s specialty business and value channels, respectively.
Insight Editions expands staff following double-digit sales growth. Key staff hires last year include COO Tara Catogge formerly of Quarto, EVP of Sales and Marketing Chris Bauerle formerly of Sourcebooks, Publishing Director Jamie Thompson formerly of Chronicle Books, Executive Editor Edward Ash-Milby formerly of Barnes & Noble, Director of Sales, New Business Development and National Specialty Tim Golden...
Companies and Brands
Moose Toys has teamed up with word-of-mouth marketing agency Come Round for a nationwide in-home marketing campaign for its popular toy line Magic Mixies. As part of the (UK) campaign, which kicked off during the February half-term holidays, 500 families from across the UK were selected to receive a Magic Mixies Colour Surprise Cauldron and a Magic Mixies Mixlings Collector’s Cauldron, which were...
KAP Toys’ Hello Kitty Cappuccino goes viral on TikTok. The Hello Kitty collectible launched this week with national chain, HMV, and impressive support from social media. KAP Toys informed trade customers at the recent London Toy Fair that its Hello Kitty Cappuccino line was made for social media marketing. The individual cappuccino cups, which have a suggested retail price of around £4.99, simply need a splash of water...
***The above posted after tBR started to send on March 24th***
Barbie launches new Marine Biologist doll. The Marine Biologist Barbie doll is the latest Career doll, joining more than 200 professional careers over the brand’s 64-year history. Barbie comes complete with snorkel gear, including mask and fins to explore life below sea level, and science equipment and colourful marine life including a dolphin, The doll also comes with a mobile science lab that really opens and closes...
Bluey joins Red Nose Day challenge. Last week, Bluey joined Gethin Jones for his Red Nose Day Keep Dancing challenge, which raised over £1m for the charity. BBC One’s Morning Live host Gethin Jones put his best foot forward on Friday for Comic Relief as he undertook a 24-hour Keep Dancing challenge. Gethin was joined by the BBC’s Bluey costume character during the dance marathon.
Tomy expands Hey Clay into German market. Hey Clay, which offers a mix of clay and digital modelling experiences, initially launched in Ukraine in 2017 and has already received a multitude of award wins and nominations in the interactive and game applications industries, including Best Kids App and Best Game Design, as well as Best Arts and Crafts Toy at the Made for Mums Awards and Gold in the Project Baby...
Tonies has announced a partnership with the National Autistic Society to help amplify the incredible work it does to support autistic children in the UK. In celebration of the partnership, Tonies will be donating £10 from every sale of a Toniebox Starter Set and Toniebox Bundle to the charity during World Autism Acceptance Week, which runs from 27th March to 2nd April.
ChizSix Marketing & Media is expanding its clientele was tapped by Schylling to help usher in new products and innovations to life. ChizSix aims to play a pivotal role in bringing Schylling and its brands to the forefront of consumers, media, and industry stakeholders. Schylling is best known for brands such as NeeDoh, Big Wheel, LAVA, and more.
Premium Kids’ Bike Brand Woom Celebrates 10 Years with $5,000 Bike Sweepstakes. The premium kids’ bike brand woom is celebrating 10 years with the “Grow Up With woom” sweepstakes. Between March 21-31, families can enter their children for the chance to win a series of new bikes and helmets that will ride with the child throughout their entire childhood.
Sesame Workshop announced new resources addressing health and well-being inequities among young children, particularly in low-income, rural, and marginalized communities. These new resources from Sesame Workshop are made possible through a grant from Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services. The pandemic has had wide-ranging and lingering effects on ...
Create A Castle Growing Internationally, Now Available at All Target and Sam’s Club Canada Stores. Within a three-year span, Create A Castle has gone from besting major brands as a surprise winner of a TOTY Award, to Shark Tank winner. Now adding to that growing success, Create A Castle is continuing to build its international success in Australia with the addition of all Target and Sam’s Club stores in Canada.
Douglas Introduces Water-Loving Creatures to its Shoreline Collection. Once you’ve checked out the ocean at Douglas be sure to check out the shoreline, where even more fun is to be had. The lifestyle gift creator and plush toy maker is introducing four new shoreline playmates. Rex the Alligator is one of Douglas’ Mini Soft animals. He’s a real cutie sitting at 10” long. He’s extra-floppy and extra-poseable...
Simba Smoby Toys UK is ramping up its spring/summer marketing ahead of the seasonal outdoor toy months. Kicking off the company’s latest marketing efforts is a new ambassadorship with presenter Ashley Louise James, who will be publicising her affiliation with the brand at the end of March. Ashley will be promoting key lines from within the Smoby and AquaPlay ranges over the coming months.
The UK’s largest independent toy retailer, The Entertainer, has joined forces with retail industry charity the Retail Trust to introduce a range of new measures to support its employees’ health and wellbeing. They includes access to a virtual GP, digital support, financial aid, counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy, support following a critical incident, discounts and rewards, and the Retail Trust’s 24-hr wellbeing helpline.
FAO Schwarz honours ambassadors for Stop & Shop Help Cure Childhood Cancer Campaign. Childhood cancer patients Madison and Freja spent a special morning at the iconic toy retailer FAO Schwarz, where they were honoured for their ambassadorship. Yesterday (21st March), Stop & Shop and FAO Schwarz have celebrated nine-year-old Freja and 7-year-old Madison – patients at MSK Kids, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s...
The Elmer’s brand launches new ‘Elmer’s Squishies’ activity to inspire kids’ imagination. Elmer’s, the #1 glue brand for crafts in school and at home, is expanding its activity collection with new Elmer’s Squishies, designed to inspire your child’s imagination. This DIY kit includes everything to make your own customized, surprise squishy toy.
Rainbow High introduces new characters in Spring 2023 collection. Fashion doll brand Rainbow High, from MGA Entertainment, will launch six new characters in the Spring 2023 collection. The new range will feature Victoria Whitman, Priscilla Perez, Michelle St. Charles, Olivia Wood, Kim Nguyen and Aidan Russell – dressed in stylish outfits and accessories from all colours of the rainbow.
Games Workshop announces new edition of 'Warhammer 40,000'. Games Workshop announced a new edition of Warhammer 40,000, which will release in summer 2023. The 10th edition of Warhammer 40,000 will feature new models, new rules, and major changes to the lore of the game. In the next edition, the rest of the Hive Fleet Leviathan has arrived and The Imperium has their forces on the other side of the galaxy …
Waboba releases its new unsinkable flying disc FLOBO. Waboba is taking something old and making it new again. The outdoor toy company released a new floating disc called FLOBO, just in time for the spring and summer seasons. After fans reached out asking for a water-friendly disc, Waboba decided to create a flying disc that not only is impossible to sink, but also flies well.
Mattel unleashes Masters of the Universe 2023 lineup. Following a behind-closed-doors preview at Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg, Germany earlier this year, Mattel has officially unveiled its 2023 Masters of the Universe (MOTU) product line. As confirmed in The BIG Toy Book, this fall’s assortment is anchored by the 1980s-inspired MOTU Origins Snake Mountain Playset.
SmartGames goes on safari with Safari Park Jr. With appealing animal figurines included, SmartGames’ Safari Park Jr game has 60 puzzle challenges and is ideal for pre-schoolers. Safari Park Jr is the perfect combination between a shape sorter and puzzle game, bringing together a selection of iconic safari animals that love to have their photo taken.
Big Potato brings Pop it Pets to the UK. The rapidly expanding Buffalo Games and London-based indie games company Big Potato are now distributing each other’s products in the UK and US, including Pop It Pets, a brand new set of collectibles for kids. Last year they were the best selling collectible in Target.
Fill up the grid with 'Number Drop'. Alderac Entertainment Group will release Number Drop, a new dice game, for release into retail on August 18, 2023. In Number Drop, players roll dice to create shapes with numbers and drop them as efficiently as possible onto their board. Once the dice are placed, they can circle combinations of identical or consecutive numbers on the dice in order to score.
Capstone Games reveals 'Wandering Towers'. Capstone Games revealed Wandering Towers, a new cooperative board game for Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, which will release in Q3 2023. In this game, players assume the roles of fledging wizards who are about to take a final exam. Their final exam involves assembling Ravenskeep using their magic.
Para Bellum announces new 'First Blood' warbands. Para Bellum Wargames Ltd. announced new Conquest: First Blood Warbands, which will release on April 28, 2023, as well as an Adepticon 2023 exclusive figure set. The First Blood Warbands come with enough miniatures for a single player to field an army for a Skirmish game.
Osprey Games will release 'Sankore: The Pride of Mansa Musa'. Osprey Games will release Sankore: The Pride of Mansa Musa, a new Eurogame by Fabio Lopiano and Mandela Fernandez-Grandon, into retail in Q4 2023. In this middle-weight board game, players take on management one of the Sankore Madrasah’s prestigious schools to help spread higher education in 14th century Timbuktu.
The Nacelleverse expands at retail with Biker Mice from Mars action figures. In the 2023 edition of The BIG Toy Book, The Nacelle Co. unveiled a retro-style ad for its growing Nacelleverse, a world of interconnected storytelling rooted in relaunched retro toy brands. On the left side of the image, the Biker Mice from Mars took their spot alongside Sectaurs (formerly Coleco), The Great Garloo (formerly Marx Toys), Power Lords...
Take a trip down to 'Point City'. Alderac Entertainment Group will release Point City, a new card game by Flatout Games, into retail on September 22, 2023. This game is Flatout Games' follow-up to Point Salad, a drafting game released in 2019. Point City is also a card drafting game that features over 150 unique building cards.
Asda and Morrisons become latest to stock Desi Doll’s Islamic toy range. Farzana Rahman’s Desi Doll Company has announced that its Islamic toy range is now available in over 150 Asda, Morrisons and Selfridges stores across the UK. The brand is known for its dolls and toys that promote the Islamic faith and culture, and has been working hard to expand its reach and make its products more accessible...
Gaming: Digital, Video, Hardware, and Development
Sonic Frontiers has sped past 3 million copies sold. Sonic Frontiers has sold 3 million copies, according to Sega's Japanese Twitter. The milestone covers the game's worldwide release on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X | S in November 2022. Back in February, the game was already nearing that milestone at 2.9 million copies sold.
EA marks 15th anniversary of Mirror's Edge by pulling it from digital storefronts. EA is marking the 15th anniversary of Battlefield 1943, Bad Company and its sequel, and Mirror's Edge by pulling all of those titles from digital storefronts. The company explained that all four games will be removed from sale starting April 28, 2023, in "preparation for the retirement of the online services for these titles," which will...
Atari acquires a dozen retro stern electronics titles, including ‘Berzerk’ and ‘Frenzy’. Atari struck a deal to acquire a dozen retro arcade titles to add to its video game library, including the 1980s classics Berzerk and Frenzy. The games were originally developed by Stern Electronics in Chicago. The iconic gaming brand will seek to expand digital and physical distribution of the 12 classic titles, create new games based on...
Highlighted Press Releases
DID YOU HEAR? SHOUT! STUDIOS TO BRING MOZART’S TIMELESS MASTERPIECE THE MAGIC FLUTE TO HOME SCREENS ON APRIL 25. Families Can Experience the Magic from the Comfort of Home on VOD April 25 and Blu-ray+DVD Combo, DVD and Digital on May 16. Watch the Official Movie Trailer Here. Los Angeles, CA (March 27, 2023) – Grab the popcorn and gather everyone in the house for a magical adventure straight from the big screen to the home screen with The Magic Flute, available April 25 on VOD, and on May 16 on digital, Blu-ray+DVD Combo and DVD.
***The above posted after March 24th***
HOW ABOUT GETTING A LITTLE WILD ON OPENING DAY WITH JUNK BALL’S WILD PITCH COLLECTIBLE BALLS. When At Dick’s Sporting Goods This Weekend Be Sure To Start Your Wild Pitch Collection And Pick Up An Umpire Strike Zone To Track Your Backyard Ball Game! Seekonk, MA (March 23, 2023) –What is a Junk Ball anyway? It’s a pitch that controls the movement of the baseball and allows the pitcher to throw off a batter’s timing – such as knuckleballs, curveballs, and sliders. The more junk balls a pitcher can throw, the more likely they are to strike out their batter. Now, for the first time, Junk Balls are getting WILD with the Junk Ball® Wild Pitch Collectible Balls ($3.99). With a dozen different designs, and unique marbling and hydro-dipping manufacturing techniques, no two are alike.
Safety and Counterfeiting
IKEA has issued a product recall for one of its toy products sold in the Philippines following a potential choking hazard among children. IKEA said in an advisory dated March 24 that it is recalling the Blavingad fishing game multicolor product due to the threat of choking on the toy’s small rivets.
***The above posted after March 24th***
Hidden hazards: New report finds high number of recalled toys, calls for stricter enforcement. The report found the highest number of recalls recorded in 2022 in nearly a decade, according to Nancy Cowles, the executive director of Chicago nonprofit Kids in Danger (KID). “Last year had the highest number of recalls since 2013,” Cowles explained. “100 children’s products were recalled, over five million individual units.” KID released its annual report, “Hidden Hazards: 2022 Children’s Products Recalls,” laying out important …
Associations, Shows, Awards, Events, and Festivals
The UK independent buying group Toymaster has announced that its spring/summer catalogue will be available to read online and in print from 3rd April. The 16-page catalogue (unless you’re in Ireland, where it’s 20 pages) is jam packed with the latest toys and games from leading suppliers including Lego – which adorns the front cover – Spin Master, Playmobil, Character Options, Jazwares, Bandai, Funko and more.
The Toy Foundation chose ChizSix Marketing & Media as its Agency of Record, recognizing the work the agency has done in marketing, branding, and more for the toy industry. ChizSix, which launched last year, will develop communications campaigns between donors, volunteers, and industry partners along with supporting the Foundation’s Toy of the Year (TOTY) event.
Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WiT) has officially launched nominations for the 2023 Wonder Women Awards. “This year’s theme is Thrive Together: Celebrating Boldness, Impact, and Collaboration,” says Nancy Molenda, Wonder Women Awards Co-Chair. “We couldn’t be more excited to celebrate our industry’s remarkable women for their hard work, determination, and collaborative achievements.”
GAMA has announced the results of the recent election held to elect members of the Board of Directions in all categories except retailers, who will vote in a separate election beginning on March 28. The new and returning members of the BoD are: Eric Price, Mejia Games Factory (Production), Grace Collins, Snowbright Studio (Creator), Monica Rasso, Tabletop Enterprises LLC/Meeples at Sea (Media & Events), Lee Allentuck...
***The above posted after March 24th***
Applications are now open for companies to apply to exhibit at UK Toy Fair 2024. Taking place between the 23rd-25th January, Toy Fair will once again return to Olympia London, occupying both the Grand and National Halls. After a successful sold-out show earlier this year, Toy Fair looks forward to hosting another buoyant platform to bring together the industry under one roof.
Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) is now accepting entries for its Play for Change Awards 2023. The awards recognises toys and initiatives that help children navigate big issues. Those issues include how to become an inclusive society, how to live more sustainably and how to have the right skills to achieve your potential. This year marks the fourth edition of the awards which were launched in 2020.
Gaming Days, LLC. has announced that the date for Free RPG Day 2023 has been moved from June 17, 2023 to June 24, 2023. They also released a list of the RPG products slated to be available free to consumers on that day. The date change occurred because the original date coincided with the prerelease of The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, the new Magic: The Gathering Universes Beyond set.
Industry big JAKKS Pacific and costume design company Disguise have partnered up for a shared panel at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA. The panel will include previews of both JAKKS Pacific figures and toys as well as costumes from Disguise. One confirmed preview is a first look at the Rumble R/C Kart Racer JAKKS Pacific has developed for its line of toys inspired by the upcoming Super Mario Bros. Movie.
The Toy Insider’s legendary Sweet Suite event returns! The Toy Insider’s 14th annual Sweet Suite event is set to take place Wednesday, July 12, 2023, at Pier Sixty in New York City. This year’s event is packed with more toys, photo-ops, and hands-on fun than ever before. Presented by Adventure Media & Events (publisher of The Toy Book, The Toy Insider, and The Pop Insider), Sweet Suite is a legendary, invite-only toy party for press and digital influencers, including Instagram stars and popular TikTok creators.
Craft Buddy crowned Owner-managed Business of the Year. Craft Buddy has been named Owner-managed Business of the Year at the Thames Valley SME Growth 100 award ceremony that was hosted at the Bremont Headquarters in Henley-on-Thames London earlier this month. Co-founders Dino and Gary Wadhwani were thrilled to receive the award and spoke of their excitement at continuing to grow their business. Founded by Gary and Dino, Craft Buddy combined the Wadhwani Brothers’ experience in arts & crafts and sourcing products to …
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 colleagues. Archives can be found HERE
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!
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.
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