COMMENTARY: Toys Are More Fun Than Candy

Mattel’s North American team recently kicked off an Easter program called Save the Bunny, which launched with a clever celebrity PSA. The concept is to promote giving toys, rather than copious amounts of candy, for Easter. As part of the promotion, consumers who visit www.savechocolatebunnies.com will have a chance to win a Mattel toy every day this month, download exclusive coupons on toys from Mattel brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, and Thomas & Friends, and win grand prize money.

As a parent and someone who loves toys, I whole-hardheartedly agree with this idea. Not only does my 3 year old not need a giant chocolate bunny, gallons of jelly beans, and piles of fluffy marshmallow chicks (OK, I’ll admit this is making me hungry), but I know from experience that I won’t actually let her eat it all, and I’ll end up eating it, which isn’t exactly part of my summer bikini plan (though I’m pregnant, so what’s the difference, right?). Anyway, she will have a lot more fun if I limit the candy to a few of her favorites, and fill that basket—er, strongly suggest the Easter Bunny fill that basket—with toys!

For retailers, signage suggesting spring/summer toys to fill Easter baskets should already be up, but it’s not too late! Many consumers wait until the last-minute to shop, especially with the holiday coming earlier this year. A special display of spring-like, small, basket-sized items makes shopping easy and promotes quick sales. The pharmacies already do this, toy stores should too! [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Disney’s Monsters U Sure to Scare Up Sales

Sulley Scare Mask

Disney is really good at a lot of things. One of those things is taking a beloved property and refreshing it, breathing new life into it, and turning it into a must-see movie or must-have property for a new audience of kids. They do it every year with Disney Princess (Last year was Cinderella, this year is The Little Mermaid). The film comes out of the vault, and the already incredible powerhouse that is Disney Princess (the No. 1 toy property ranked by annual 2012 dollar volume according to The NPD Group), launches an expanded program of licensed products focused on the Princess of the year.

However, Disney works some its best magic on the big screen, and Monsters University—due in theaters June 21—has success written all over it. Billed as a prequel to 2001′s Monsters Inc., the film follows fan favorites Sulley and Mike on their journey to becoming scaring professionals at Monsters University. (If you’re interested in attending, visit http://monstersuniversity.com/edu/.) [Read more...]

Reyne Rice Discusses Gender in Toys on HuffPost Live

Our good friend and Toy Insider Co-Editor Reyne Rice appeared on Huffington Post’s HuffPost Live discussion “Toymakers Should Create Gender-Neutral Toys.”

Click here to watch!

Like Square Shooters Dice Game on Facebook to Help Donate up to $3,500 to Autism Speaks

According to Autism Speaks, an autism science and advocacy organization, autism affects one in 88 children and “is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.” To help fund much-needed research, Cleveland, Ohio-based game manufacturer Heartland Consumer Products, LLC, marketer of the Square Shooters dice game, announces its campaign to support Autism Speaks.

For every “like” received on the Square Shooters page on Facebook during the month of April – National Autism Awareness Month – the company will donate $1 to the organization, up to $3,500. (Visit www.facebook.com/squareshooters)

Square Shooters is a multi-faceted game that launched in 2011, and consists of a full deck of cards printed on dice. A versatile game, users can choose to play the Square Shooters feature game; versions of other card games like rummy, 21, or poker; or even make up a new way to play.

”The game’s versatility is the key,” said Tom Donelan, Heartland’s president and CEO. “It can bring different ages and generations together. Play can be as simple as a matching game for kids or a game of chance for adults.”

Donelan’s oldest son Connor is a 19-year-old young man with autism. “Dice games are perfect for families who need fast-paced games that don’t require a lot of attention from every player. We accidentally found that the game fits our family’s particular play style when Connor picked up the dice and started playing—he’s not a big game player, but he enjoyed the fast action of Square Shooters,” said Donelan. “It’s by no means scientific evidence, but we believe—and hope—that other families affected by autism or other special needs will have a similar experience. Supporting autism is personal for us, and we’re excited to join the fight to fund research and give back to the autism community.”

Square Shooters is designed for one or more players ages 8 and up. The game is available at Walmart, Walgreens, Books-A-Million, and many independent toy/game retailers nationwide. For more information, visit squareshooters.com or like the Square Shooter’s page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/squareshooters.

Ickee Stikeez Now Available at Walmart and Walgreens

Ickee Stikeez, from Zing Toys, are squishy, monster-themed collectibles with suction cups that stick to flat surfaces. Ickeez stick to any flat surface, such as lockers, lunchboxes, windows, and cell phones. When pulled-off, the Ickeez make a loud “pop!” Characters come in “Podz” that are reminiscent of vending machine capsules, which also have built-in play. Kids can connect them to create various different structures and environments for their Ickee Stikeez characters. Each pack has a number, which can be entered on www.ickeez.com for additional content, back story, wallpaper, and short videos.
Ickeez Series 1 is now available at select Walmart locations and Walgreens. Ickee Stikeez Series 2 will be in all Walmart stores this holiday season. There are 24 total characters in Series 1. They are sold in three-pack blisters retailing for $2.99 each.

TOTY Award Winners Announced

More than five hundred toy industry executives and guests from around the globe gathered in New York City on February 11 to honor their peers at the 12th annual Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards and Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

A Toy Industry Association (TIA)-administered event in support of the Toy Industry Foundation, the  gala held in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center kicked off the 109th American International Toy Fair and paid tribute to today’s superstars, tomorrow’s bright up-and-comers, and illustrious toy industry icons.

Interspersed with the presentations of 12 TOTY Awards were two inductions into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame: Arnie Rubin, Founder and CEO of Funrise Toy, and the late Frederick August Otto Schwarz, founder of FAO Schwarz. The new inductees join a distinguished roster of nearly 60 toy industry luminaries who have been inducted into the Hall since its establishment in 1985.

Award winners were selected with the input of consumers (on ToyAwards.org), retailers (mass and specialty), media, and members of the toy industry. The five ballots were weighted and used to determine the category winners as well as the overall “Toy of the Year” award.
LeapPad Explorer by LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. received the coveted “Toy of the Year” title and was also awarded Educational Toy of the Year and Preschool Toy of the Year. The awards program included 77 finalists across the 11 categories.

And the winners are…

[Read more...]

Dark Horse Deluxe Offers a Unique Take on the Good Luck Trolls

The Good Luck Troll was originally created in 1959 by Danish fisherman and woodcutter Thomas Dam. At various times since the early 1960s, Trolls have been a top-selling toy, building a seldom-achieved brand equity. Dam Things, which holds all rights to the works of Thomas Dam, is in the process of launching a complete slate of merchandise activities and products for the Good Luck Trolls. Dark Horse Comics has been granted the license for a collectibles program. The line will consist of 15 different trolls, some of which are rare, sold in mystery box assortments.

Dark Horse felt the Good Luck Troll would be a natural fit in the designer vinyl and specialty retail arena, and has created Trolls with unique variations of color and surface treatments. The product development was closely supervised by Dam Things and its brand manager Dannie Festa of Festa Entertainment, including a trip from Denmark to the West Coast prototyping facility to assess and approve the works in progress.

[Read more...]

VeggiesTales Embarks on Live Show Tour

Big Idea Entertainment, a studio and producer of children’s and family programming, characters, and brands, will debut its all-new VeggieTales Live! God Made You Special tour in more than 30 major markets nationwide—including Atlanta, Nashville, Jacksonville, Birmingham, and more—beginning February 23, 2012. For the current tour itinerary, ticket information and group sales, please visit veggietales.com/live or iTickets.com.

VeggieTales characters Bob, Larry, and the rest of the cast bring zany antics to the stage with amusing, engaging storytelling and music. The show includes silly songs like “His Cheeseburger,” “Love My Lips,” “The Hairbrush Song,” and more. The show is designed to celebrate how unique and special each person is in a high-energy musical extravaganza.

World Vision has partnered with Big Idea Entertainment as a sponsor for the VeggieTales Live! God Made You Special tour. World Vision’s child sponsorship efforts provide access to necessities like clean water, health care, education, and more.

Stardoll Partners with Barbie for Global Doll Line

Stardoll, the global online fashion and gaming community for girls, has partnered with Barbie to bring the world of virtual dress-up and online play to life with the new “Stardoll by Barbie” line of collectible fashion dolls. The partnership marks the Stardoll brand’s first foray into translating its online fashion portal into physical dolls, allowing Barbie fans to extend the possibilities of the Stardoll world offline.

The “Stardoll by Barbie” collection will feature eight new fashion dolls, based on four of the most popular virtual Stardoll stores in Starplaza. Inspired by Stardoll avatars, “Stardoll by Barbie” dolls come packaged mirroring signature avatar poses. Each doll features details such as rooted eyelashes, a unique face and body sculpt, as well as a distinct signature style.

“Stardoll by Barbie” will be available at retail in the U.S. beginning this month, with another five dolls slated for spring 2012. Three accessory packs let Stardoll fans mix and match the fashions and accessories, and give girls the interchangeable closet experience of the Stardoll virtual world in the real world.

“Stardoll by Barbie” dolls will come with a gift card for complimentary membership on Stardoll.com for new and existing members, Stardollars to spend on all Superstar items on the Stardoll site as well as free exclusive virtual gifts.

Target’s Mommy Ambassador, Soleil Moon Frye, Reveals Top Holiday Picks

I attended Target’s Holiday Toy Preview on November 9, and had the great pleasure of meeting Soleil Moon Frye (Punky Brewster, Sabrina the Teenage Witch). She is Target’s Mommy Ambassador, and frankly, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Soleil has two daughters herself, and seemed to have a ball talking about her favorite toys for the holidays. Rocking a pair of comfy slipper socks, Soleil walked me through Target’s top holiday toy picks, and introduced me to the toys she chose as her personal top picks:

  • Disney My First Princess Doll and Toddler Dress Gift Set
  • Disney Cars Charge n Race Speedway
  • LeapFrog LeapPad
  • Barbie Hairtastic Printables
  • Paper Jamz Pro Series Microphone
  • Scrabble Flash

Perhaps I should have removed my heels and rocked some slipper socks myself. It was a pleasure to meet you Soleil!