MEGA Brands Seeks U.S. Bankruptcy Court Protection

According to Reuters, MEGA Brands has filed a Chapter 15 proceeding in a U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware, clearing the way for a key recapitalization vote next month. The Montreal-based company said on Friday that it had started proceedings in Canada on February 12 to implement a restructuring that would cut its debt by about $290 million and annual interest expenses by about $30 million.

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Tatty Teddy Travels to the U.S.

Tatty Teddy, the loveable grey bear behind the UK’s Me to You brand, is heading across the pond with the appointment of Stone America Licensing as the North American licensing agent for the brand.

The Me to You brand was launched in 1995 by Carte Blanche Greeting and has grown to become a successful character brand with approximately $800 million annual retail sales globally. The brand’s website, www.metoyou.com, boasts over 12 million page views since it re-launched last March.

The bear, called Tatty Teddy because of its patches and sewn-up seams, appears on a wide range of Me to You products, including greeting cards, plush toys, apparel, calendars, jewelry, and collectable figurines.

Stone America Appointed Licensing Agent for Lexani

Stone America Licensing has been appointed as the licensing agent for Lexani, a company that specializes in luxurious, custom wheels. The Lexani Lifestyle collection will include toys and games, electronics, publishing, apparel, accessories, automotive products, and health and beauty aides.

Lexani melds European styling and custom finishes to create a wheel line that is unique. According to the company, the Lexani Lifestyle collection will be trend-setting and high-quality, but at a value price.

Kids Compete in the First Bakugan National Championship

Thousands of Bakugan fans and brawlers packed New York City’s Roseland Ballroom over the weekend, as Spin Master crowned the first ever Bakugan national champion at Baku-Con. The toy company flew in 128 of the top Bakugan brawlers in America to compete in the championship event. Brawlers have been competing regional tournaments since January.

In the end, Christopher Ruff of Cerritos, Ca. was named the first Bakugan national champion. The regional Baku-Con champions are Chicago’s Abel Fernandez, Los Angeles’ Elijah Torres, Dallas’ Nick Spagnoletti, Orlando’s Matt Torres, and New York City’s Andrew Perico. During the weekend event, kids also participated in a wide variety of Bakugan activities.

ASTRA Offers Free Webinar

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is awarding retailers who register for the 2010 ASTRA Marketplace & Academy by February 28, a free webinar (valued at $49) on optimizing your retail store advertising on a shoe-string budget. Rick Segel will host the webinar on April 28 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. CST.

ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy will be held in Providence, R.I. from June 13 to 16.  Early bird registration prices for the event will also be available until February 28. For more information, or to register, visit www.astratoy.org or call ASTRA at 1-800-591-0490.

CPSC Chairman Gives ICPHSO Keynote Speech

Chairman Inez Tenenbaum gave her ICPHSO Keynote Address on February 17, reviewing 2009 and outlining plans for keeping kids and families safe in 2010. Toward the end of her speech, Tenenbaum warned, ”…And we have a new, expanded Commission. Not always unanimous in our votes, but all committed to keeping children safe. A new Commission that has new powers—and we are not afraid to use them. If you resist our efforts to recall children’s products, be forewarned, this Commission stands ready to be creative in the use of our enforcement authorities.

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Toys “R” Us Plans IPO

According to the New York Post, Toys “R” Us’ private-equity owners are looking to issue an initial public offering this summer. Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and Vornado Realty are now interviewing investment banks as potential underwriters. The IPO could be as worth as much as $1 billion. The cash would be used to pay down and refinance Toys “R” Us’ $5 billion debt.

Inventor of the Easy-Bake Oven Dies

Ronald Howes, the inventor of the Easy-Bake Oven, has died at the age of 83. Howes created his famous invention in the early 1960s, as director of research and new product development for Kenner Products.

After returning from a trip from New York City, Howes wondered if Kenner could develop a toy version of the chestnut roasters that were popular on many New York City corners. After collaborating with Kenner engineers, they decided that a light bulb to heat the oven was both safe and practical. Later, the light bulb would be replaced by a heating element.

Howes is also credited for contributing to what would later become a modern version of the Spirograph. Howes is survived by his wife, Nancy, six children, 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Are you ready for Kung Zhu?

At Toy Fair last week, I attended a press conference held by Cepia LLC regarding the next wave of Zhu Zhu Pets. It seems that Zhu Zhu Pets, the interactive, plush, artificially intelligent hamsters, have earned their black belts and will reveal their fast-as-lightning skills as Kung Zhu battle hamsters. These hamsters incorporate a level of action and excitement that appeals specifically to boys. The Kung Zhu clan joins the Zhu Zhu family in June. The Kung Zhu battle hamsters travel in packs and are part of teams. Four unique duos provide endless opportunities for epic battle play. In addition to these eight Kung Zhu Battle Hamsters, Kung Zhu battle gear, vehicles, and training arenas will be available. Kids can build, change and rearrange to make their own Kung Zhu battle arena where the hamsters square off wearing their unique armored suits. Kids can build further upon their Kung Zhu world with a headquarters, mission control, and training ground for the Special Forces team, and a training ground, snake pit, and dojo base for the Ninja Warriors. Other accessories including a combat bridge, y-turn, u-turn, hammer, missile attack tower, wheel of fire, and armored tanks to amp up the fight.
New lines Zhu Zhu Rock Stars and Zhu Zhu Pets Wild Bunch will also be available in June with a variety of accessories and habitats.

What do you think about Cepia’s main focus being on Zhu Zhu pets geared specifically to boys?

Kung Zhu Ninjas in Armor

Shout! Factory Named U.S. Home Entertainment Distributor for The Super Hero Squad

Shout! Factory has signed a multi-year deal with Marvel Animation, Inc. to become the U.S. home entertainment distributor with licensing rights for The Super Hero Squad Show. The series debuted on Cartoon Network US last October.

Shout! Factory is planning to roll out a home entertainment product line, including DVDs, based on the series later this year.

The Super Hero Squad Show is an animated series featuring Marvel’s most popular characters such as Captain America, Silver Surfer, Thor, Hulk, Wolverine and Iron Man, with a comedic twist. The heroes team up to face the world’s greatest villains, aiming to protect Super Hero City from Dr. Doom’s wild and weird minions.