Nintendo Invites Fans for a Legend of Zelda Contest

legendofzeldaNintendo is holding a contest on Facebook that lets fans submit art inspired by The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD for the Wii U console. The creators of the five top selections will win a Wii U console and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD game. In addition, the five winners and top 50 finalists will have their art displayed on the main screen at The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert, where it will be accompanied by music from The Legend of Zelda series. The five winners will also have their art displayed in the lobby of the Seattle performance of the concert tour on September 12.

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses features live orchestral performances of theme music from The Legend of Zelda games. The Seattle performance will also include game-play kiosks for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HDThe Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for Nintendo 3DS, and photo opportunities with the King of Red Lions replica. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a remastered version of the Nintendo GameCube original. The game launches in October for Wii U and features high-definition graphics, GamePad features, and enhanced game play, such as faster sailing.

Toys “R” Us Releases Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids

toysToys “R” Us, Inc. has released the 2013 Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids, a toy selection resource for children with special needs. This annual shopping guide is available in Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores nationwide and online, in English and Spanish, at Toysrus.com/DifferentlyAbled. This year’s edition features 2012 all-around gymnastics gold medalist Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas on the cover, alongside Special Olympics Young Athletes Isabella Caesar and Samuel Lopez.

This year’s Guide introduces Toys “R” Us’ first Toys “R” Us App Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. The app guide currently features a selection of 25 apps identified to help children with special needs further develop key skills. Apps featured within the 2013 app guide include Swapsies–Occupations, PicSay–Photo Editor, Learning Letters for Kids, Bubble Buster, and Cookie Dunk Jump. All apps featured within this resource can be found in the Google Play Store for Android or the App Store for iOS.

Gabby Douglas is also helping to cheer on aspiring Special Olympics athletes. The Special Olympics Young Athletes program introduces kids to the world of sports and offers children ages 2 to 7 with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to play, compete, and grow while developing early cognitive, social, and motor skills. The Toys “R” Us Children’s Fund provides ongoing grants to Special Olympics to support the national expansion of Special Olympics’ Young Athletes program. Most recently, it pledged $1 million to become a founding partner of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games and presenting sponsor of the first Young Athletes Festival, which will provide children and their families with the opportunity to take part in the Young Athletes program, free health screenings, family seminars, and more.

The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games will be in New Jersey from June 14 to 21. This year, Toys “R” Us has partnered with Wynsum Arts, a social enterprise that makes app discovery and mobile technology accessible to children of all abilities.

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band Release Lishy Lou and Lucky Too

lishylouLucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band will release a new album of songs that create a world of adventurous listening for all ages. Lishy Lou and Lucky Too  is the new album and  features musical and theatrical guests, and will be available on October 1 on www.luckydiazmusic.com.

Lishy Lou and Lucky Too is a color-splashed, enhanced-reality, family-friendly variety show à la Peewee’s Playhouse, with a dash of The Lucy Show and the Marx Brothers comedy. Lishy Lou (Alisha Gaddis) and Lucky (a real-life husband-wife team) live together in a magical treehouse, and each episode presents a problem that Lishy, Lucky, and their friends and guests solve together. They’re a bilingual household (English and Spanish) that is filled with music and dance, encouraging movement and learning through song.

The album begins with the peppy theme song and a doo-woppy tune called “Thingamajig,”. Other songs spotlight people in history like Amelia Earhart (“8,000 Feet”) and Jackie Robinson (“Jackie”). The Beatles’ classic “Till There Was You” takes on new meaning when Lucky and Lishy sing it, and the song “When I Grow Up” will inspire kids to live their dreams.

The idea for Lishy Lou and Lucky Too came during a road trip, when together with daughter Ella, Lucky and Alisha shared music and stories. Lishy Lou and Lucky Too follows two family music albums from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band: A Potluck (2012), and the 2013 Spanish language release ¡Fantastico!. The band is also planning several family concerts this fall to celebrate the release, including a concert on September 14 at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

Barbie Partners with Girl Scouts for First Barbie Patch

barbie-logogirlscoutsBarbie and Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) partnered to create the first-ever Barbie “Be Anything, Do Everything” patch. The participation patch is designed to inspire the next generation of female leaders by encouraging girls to explore career possibilities through new program activities. The Barbie doll has been featured with more than 135 careers for more than five decades, and GSUSA has been dedicated to building girls of courage, confidence, and character for more than 100 years. In the spirit of Barbie doll’s career path and GSUSA’s heritage, the “Be Anything, Do Everything” participation patch allows Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies (girls in kindergarten through third grade) to explore career choices through the “I Can Be…” activity booklet.

The partnership is founded on the development of activities that encourage and inspire girls around the country to explore a variety of careers. With the core theme “Be Anything, Do Everything,” this partnership reaches girls online and offline, and includes an activity booklet, special patch, and a digital game and poll.

LeapFrog Partners with Random House for an Audio Book Library

leapreaderLeapFrog Enterprises and Listening Library, an imprint of Random House LLC, have partnered to bring Listening Library’s library of children’s audio books to the LeapReader platform. Listening Library’s audio books are available for download via LeapFrog’s App Center.

LeapReader is the new learn to read and write system that helps children build literacy skills and reading confidence with LeapReader’s three essential experiences–learn to read, learn to write, and learn through listening. Children sound out words and read sentences, write letters with interactive guidance, and develop listening skills, comprehension, and imagination through audio books, music, and more all available in the LeapReader library of more than 150 learning experiences.

Activision’s Skylanders Products Are a Force to Beat

Activision Publishing has announced that the Skylanders figures outsold all action-figure properties in the U.S. and Europe year-to-date in 2013–and the Skylanders property outpaced all toy properties overall in the U.K. year-to-date as of June 30.

As of July 31, the Skylanders franchise has generated more than $1.5 billion in worldwide retail sales in both North America and Europe. Skylanders Giants was also the best-selling console and hand-held game overall in dollars.

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Skylanders Swap Force

Skylanders Swap Force is being developed by Vicarious Visions and is the newest game in the franchise. Skylanders Swap Force builds upon the franchise’s signature gameplay and collectible toy experience, adding a new dimension to the “toys to life” innovation. The game introduces a play pattern—dynamic swapability—that lets gamers transform 16 Swap Force inter-action figures into more than 250 characters by swapping the top and bottom halves of the toys. Now Portal Masters can mix and match characters’ powers and moves to experience a level of choice never before seen in a Skylanders game. Fans  can also play Skylanders Swap Force with their entire collection of more than 100 characters from Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure and Skylanders Giants.

In Skylanders Swap Force, Portal Masters embark on a new adventure in the mysterious Cloudbreak Islands, home to a mystical volcano that erupts every hundred years to replenish the magic in Skylands. During an epic battle, a brave group of Skylanders were caught in the volcano’s eruption, which blasted them apart and sent them to earth. However, the magic of the volcano gave these heroes a new power—the ability to swap halves—turning them into a special team known as the Swap Force. Meanwhile, Kaos is back with a new evil plan, and now, Portal Masters everywhere must reassemble the Swap Force—in their original form or new combinations—and send them back to Cloudbreak to save Skylands.

Skylanders Swap Force also features new abilities, such as flying, climbing, digging, bouncing, or teleporting, which can be used in previously unexplored areas of Skylands centered on these play mechanics. Additionally, the game features 16 new core characters, eight new LightCore characters, and 16 new versions of fan favorite Skylanders from previous games. Now kids will have more than 100 characters from which to choose. The game’s high-resolution graphics brings detailed characters and richer environments to life, immersing players in the game. The game also has an assortment of gameplay modes for survival and battle, including Solo Survival Mode, Team Survival Mode, Rival Mode, Battle Arena Mode, and Ring Out Mode.

COMMENTARY: Oldies but Newer: Upcoming Video Game Sequels to Look Out For

With the impending release of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One, it’s only natural to be on the lookout for new video games to try on these latest platforms. However, games from other consoles and devices shouldn’t be excluded either especially with the forthcoming distribution of newer versions of old classics. Whether it’s a sport, action-adventure, or fantasy game, there’s a game out there geared towards any gamer in any genre. The best part is that the timeless games players have grown up with are being revamped to ensure a different gaming experience than previous versions. Before eliminating these new editions to opt for a newer series, it might be worth it to consider what these current renditions have to offer. Here are some classic franchise games getting ready to put out their latest publication that might capture your interest.

FIFA 14

fifa14The annual soccer game is back for another year filled with players across the world in various leagues and tournaments. The FIFA soccer video game series premiered in 1993, and is still going strong. This latest addition to the line will be available for a multitude of platforms including Xbox 360, PS3, and PC download on September 24 in the U.S. An early release version is also available for the PS3 and comes out on September 20. The game will also appear on the PS4 and other Playstation and Nintendo devices including the PSP and the Wii. The Xbox One however might arguably be the best deal for the console which FIFA 14 debuts on for free (at least in Europe anyway—with a preorder of the device) and comes with FIFA Ultimate Team Legends, which features legends of the game. Now, you can play with players of today and yesteryear, and can in fact see Pele tackle the ball from Cristiano Ronaldo—if that’s your preference. [Read more...]

Ubisoft and Sony Pictures Collaborate for Watch Dogs Movie

WatchDogUbisoft has announced that its film and television division, Ubisoft Motion Pictures, is collaborating with Sony Pictures Entertainment and New Regency on a film based on Watch Dogs, Ubisoft’s open-world action-adventure video game. Ubisoft and Sony will also release the Watch Dogs gameplay that will be available for PlayStation 4 this holiday.

Watch Dogs centers on Aiden Pearce, a hacker inflicting his own brand of justice after a violent family tragedy. Using his skills, Pearce hacks into Chicago’s Central Operating System (ctOS), which controls the city’s infrastructure. In the game, Pearce turns the entire city of Chicago into his ultimate weapon. The game received awards at E3 2012, including Best of Show from GamingExcellence and three awards (Biggest Surprise, Best New Franchise, and Best PC Game) from IGN. The game also won GameSpot’s People’s Choice Most Exciting Game of E3 2013.

Ubisoft Motion Pictures will oversee the project at Ubisoft, and at Columbia, Hannah Minghella and Sam Dickerman will oversee development while Alexandra Milchan and Andrew Calof will work on the film for New Regency.

From Up On Poppy Hill to be Released on DVD

fromuponpoppyhillGkids in conjunction with Cinedigm is releasing From Up on Poppy Hillthe latest from Studio Ghibli, the creators of Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and other animated pieces, on September 3Written by studio founder Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Goro Miyazaki, the film marks the first feature-length collaboration between father and son.

From Up on Poppy Hill is hand-drawn and is set in Yokohama in 1963. Japan is picking itself up from the devastation of World War II and preparing to host the Olympics. The mood is one of both optimism and conflict as the young generation struggles to throw off the shackles of a troubled past.  Against this backdrop of hope and change, a friendship begins to blossom between high school students Umi (Sarah Bolger) and Shun (Anton Yelchin)– but a buried secret from their past emerges to cast a shadow on the future and pull them apart.

From a screenplay by Academy Award-winner Hayao Miyazaki, the English language version is directed by multiple Academy Award-winner Gary Rydstrom from a script adaptation by Karey Kirkpatrick (James and the Giant Peach, Chicken Run, Charlotte’s Web) and is executive produced by Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy.  The movie features a voice cast including Gillian Anderson, Sarah Bolger, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Isabelle Fuhrman, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, Chris Noth, Emily Osment, Aubrey Plaza, Charlie Saxton, Alex Wolff, and Anton Yelchin.

Cinedigm will release the movie in Blu-ray+ DVD 2-Pack, DVD 2-Pack, and Cable VOD. The Blu-ray+ DVD combo and DVD releases both contain more than three hours of bonus materials and include original Japanese language and English language versions with subtitles and dubtitles, feature-length storyboards, celebrity cast recording featurette with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, an interview with Goro Miyazaki, original Japanese trailer and TV spots, the music video for the theme song by Aoi Teshima, and a featurette about Yokohama, exploring the history of the sea-side setting where the film takes place. Bonuses exclusive to the Blu-ray edition include a staff speech and press conference by Hayao Miyazaki, a 20-page booklet containing the original project proposal by Hayao Miyazaki, and a letter from Goro Miyazaki.

All Things Equal Launches Klondike Bar Game

Klondike-ComponentsAll Things Equal, maker of the Loaded Questions and Awkward Family Photos games, has partnered with Klondike for the new board game, What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar? The game dares families and friends to conquer hundreds of creative, courageous, and cockamamie challenges in the name of the slogan.

The 300 head-to-head challenges require quick thinking, creativity, and a willingness to laugh at yourself and with others. Players will find themselves asking for a date while grunting like a caveman, coming up with a funny new use for bacon, quickly answering a provocative trivia question or completing an absurd trivial act for a chance to win one of the six Klondike bar flavors needed to win the game. The reward for besting fellow players is a take-home champion card and bragging rights. The What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar? board game is now available at Amazon.com, and will debut at Fred Meyer, select Target and Toys “R” Us locations, and specialty stores later this year.