License to Build: Familiar Properties Fill Up the Shelves of the Construction Aisle

This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of The Toy Book. To read the entire digital issue, click here.

The construction play pattern has always allowed kids to create buildable worlds and adventures straight from their imaginations. But with a recent surge of licensed toys entering the category, kids are able to build more and more familiar worlds based on their favorite existing properties. According to The NPD Group, dollar sales of licensed building sets grew by 6 percent from 2011 to 2013. As the world becomes more multi-media driven, licensed properties are deeply integrated into kids’ daily lives. Established building toy companies, as well as those looking to get their feet wet in the category, are jumping on the bandwagon with characters and environments that are already a staple among kids—and even collectors. [Read more...]

Les Berger, Founder of Cardinal Industries, Passes Away at Age 95

The Toy Book is so sorry to hear about the passing of Leslie Berger, founder of Cardinal Industries.

In 1944, Les Berger founded the company with a dream and knowledge of plastics, on the corner of Keape and Hope Streets in Brooklyn, N.Y. The first product that he produced was dominoes. Now Cardinal Industries games and puzzles in some of the most popular licenses, while maintaining business in core basic games, such as dominoes. Berger continued to work, and until very recently, was still coming into the office to work. He was a true pioneer in the business.

Berger lived his 95 years surrounded by a loving family. His son Joel and daughter Bonnie, who have take over and grown the company to a very successful privately owned toy company that is committed to making family-friendly, challenging, and innovative games and puzzles that are affordable for everyone. His wife Sylvia has been his partner in life and business for 64 years.

He will be profoundly missed by his entire family:  Sylvia, Joel, Bonnie, Jody, his grandchildren Carly, Ilana, Justin, Perri; and his numerous friends and countless associates in the toy industry.

FunTime Inflation Station Pumps Up the Classic Bouncy Ball

MegaFun USA introduces the FunTime Inflation Station, a new way to display play balls to customers. This machine brings a 21st century update to a classic bouncy ball toy by adding a bit of interactive fun to the process of buying one.  You can watch the entire process in action here:

The FunTime Inflation Station is already at retailers including  Hy-Vee Stores, Do Best Stores, CVS, Party City, Toys “R” US Canada, HEB, Orscheln’s, Atwoods, Kroger/Fred Meyer, Great Wolf Lodge, Six Flags Great America, and Cedar Fair, as well as independent toy, gift, candy, book, and souvenir stores and zoos. Internationally, the FunTime Inflation Station will be carried in Germany, Russia, England, Ireland, France, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Ukraine, Serbia, Romania, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Uruguay, Honduras, Columbia, and Panama throughout this year and next. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: It’s All About the Robots

Earlier this week, Senior Editor Marissa DiBartolo wrote about how the floor of the American International Toy Fair 2014 was lacking in the realm of appcessories, and that many companies were heading back to the classic play patterns, especially in the activities category. I also noticed an emerging trend that does not heavily rely on app technology, but does not veer from the idea of incorporating tech into playtime: robots.

As I walked the floor, I saw a bunch of different robotic products that really displayed where the category is heading—and a lot of that was not app-reliant. Of course, most of these robots can be controlled with or used with smart devices, but gone are the days where “and it has an app!” was a suitable enough novelty to convince consumers to purchase the toy.

Ali.Feb27First, let me introduce you to MiP. MiP, which is short for Mobile Inverted Pendulum, is WowWee’s latest innovation in association with the University of California at San Diego’s Coordinated Robots Lab. MiP has unique dual wheel balancing (thanks to that inverted pendulum science!) and is a fully interactive robot. MiP is able to navigate his surroundings while being controlled by hand gestures or through a Bluetooth link to a smart device. MiP also has a personality that is communicated through motion, sounds, and his LED eyes. [Read more...]

Laser Pegs’ Pegasaur Greets Guests at the Toy Fair Entrance

Laser Pegs will construct a 15-foot-tall, 10-foot-long dinosaur, the Pegasaur, to greet guests at the entrance of the 2014 Toy Fair convention this weekend. A team of four people spent more than a month building the mammoth creature that is illuminated in shades of purple, yellow, green, and red by the thousands of LED lights that are encased inside each tiny Laser Pegs piece used to build it.

Here is a video showing the time-lapse construction process:

Grumpy Cat Attends Toy Fair with Gund!

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A Letter to the Industry from Björn Jeffery, Co-Founder & CEO, Toca Boca

Toca Boca CEO & Cofounder Bjorn Jeffery Photo[1]Dear Toy Industry,

Hope all is well! I’m writing to you from the App Store, where Toca Boca just had the biggest holiday season ever—we even landed in the Top 10! While the App Store is a space for digital products, so much of what you know about toys can be applied here—and there’s room for you to excel in this space.

Toca Boca started researching your products a little more than three years ago. We looked at play patterns and blockbuster toys—searching for themes that could work for us. Since you were such a key influence, I thought I’d attempt to return the favor. So here are a few things that we’ve learned from the App Store over the past few years that I would like to share with you.

First, think of the App Store as a toy store. If it was Toys “R” Us, you wouldn’t be putting your marketing material on the shelves. Yet that is often what I see in the App Store—an app trying to sell something in the physical world. Put your best toys on the shelves! There’s infinite shelf space in the App Store and many other toys from which to choose. [Read more...]

Kidz Bop Launches Kidz Bop Radio on Sirius XM

unnamedSiriusXM has teamed up with Kidz Bop, the No. 1 kids’ music brand in the U.S., to launch Kidz Bop Radio. Kids and families can now tune into Kidz Bop’s dedicated channel featuring music from the chart-topping Kidz Bop album series 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Kidz Bop Kids—Ashlynn, Bredia, Grant, Jayna, and Matt—will host the new channel.

To celebrate the channel launch and release of Kidz Bop 25, the Kidz Bop Kids sang songs from the new album during a special, in-studio performance yesterday. The special aired on SiriusXM’s Kidz Bop Radio, via satellite on XM channel 77, and through the SiriusXM Internet Radio app on smartphones and other connected devices, as well as online at siriusxm.com. For rebroadcast times, please visit siriusxm.com/kidzbop.

Kidz Bop Radio features non-stop music, featuring today’s biggest hits, sung by kids for kids.

Toys “R” Us Reports Holiday 2013 Sales Results

Toys “R” Us Inc. has reported its comparable store net sales for the five- and nine-week periods ending January 4.

For the five-week period, the domestic segment reported a comparable store net sales increase of 1.8 percent. The learning, seasonal, and core toy categories generated the strongest comparable store net sales growth. Internationally, comparable store net sales declined 1.1 percent for the five-week period. Australia, China, and Southeast Asia experienced positive comparable store net sales growth, offset by softness in Japan, Canada, and Europe.

Comparable store net sales for the nine-week period decreased 4.7 percent in the domestic segment and 3 percent in the international segment. The nine-week domestic comparable store net sales change is lower than the five-week change, due mainly to the late timing of Thanksgiving this year versus the prior year, which partially benefitted the current year five-week period. Internationally, Australia, China, and Southeast Asia experienced positive comparable store net sales growth, offset by softness in Japan, Canada, and Europe.

The five-week period refers to December 1, 2013 to January 4, 2014, as compared to December 2, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in the prior year. The nine-week period refers to November 3, 2013 to January 4, 2014, as compared to November 4, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in the prior year.

COMMENTARY: Inspirational Young Girls Can Change the World

American Girl has this wonderful program where they release a Girl of the Year doll, who comes along with stories, games, and activities that “celebrate what it means to be a girl today.” There’s a lot of dolls out there on the market that are providing great, positive messages to girls worldwide. Whether they are promoting positive body image, confidence, the drive to dream big, STEM education, or all of the above and more, girls have their pick of the litter when they are searching for a doll that is, in a sense, just like who they are or who they strive to be. American Girl announced their 2014 Girl of the Year on January 1: Isabelle, “an inspired dancer that finds her own way to shine.”

But some girls aren’t able to find that doll that would really make them feel special—and brave 10-year-old Melissa Shang has spoken out (adorably and politely) requesting that her favorite doll company, American Girl, make the 2015 Girl of the Year doll that is more like her.

Shang has Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a debilitating form of muscular dystrophy, and is leading one of the fastest-growing petitions right now on change.org for American Girl to create a Girl of the Year doll with a disability. Shang is truly an inspiration. In just over 72 hours of her starting the petition, more than 15,000 people have joined the campaign she has launched. [Read more...]