Saban Brands Teams Up with Random House on Julius Jr. Children’s Books

Julius JrSaban Brands has entered a global publishing deal with Random House Children’s Books for the preschool property Julius Jr. New products will include an interactive collection of books inspired by the TV series, which airs on Nick Jr. Random House has acquired worldwide English rights, and the books will be available starting this fall and published under the company’s Golden Books and Random House Books for Young Readers imprints.

“The Julius Jr. series will be a natural fit with young readers and we’re happy to share the fantastic adventures of Julius Jr. and his friends through visual storytelling,” said Elie Dekel, President of Saban Brands.

The fall collection will include a full range of color and activity books, leveled readers, storybooks, and novelty books for preschool-aged children.

New LeapFrog LeapPad2 Custom Edition Lets Kids Personalize Their Tablets

LeapPad2CustomAlong with providing access to nearly 1,000 learning games and creativity apps courtesy of LeapFrog’s educational library, the new LeapPad2 Custom Edition from LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. lets kids create unique looks for their tablets.

Similar to the original LeapPad2, the LeapPad2 Custom Edition includes a tech-forward design with access to leveled reading experiences. It also has 10 sticker skins and 11 digital wallpaper designs for more than 100 different ways to personalize the tablet, as well as front and back cameras and video recorders and 4GB of memory. It also comes with nine free apps.

Suitable for kids ages 3 to 9, the LeapPad2 Custom Edition is available online and at major retail locations in the U.S.

COMMENTARY: Lighting Up Imaginative Play: Light-Up Toys Provide Magical Fun For Kids

When I attended Fall Toy Preview in October, I had a conversation with a few industry executives about how when companies expand their line to include glow-in-the-dark or light-up SKUs, it often signals the end of the brand. They referred to glow-in-the-dark and light-up products as a “last resort,” and said it typically means that there are no other possible innovations for the product line.

However, I know a certain 4-year-old boy who would absolutely disagree with this idea, along with his 8-year-old sister (aka my niece and nephew!). LED lights have a strange magic to them—especially for kids. The bright colors they provide, just like glow-in-the-dark effects, seem like something out of a fantasy story that kids go crazy over—no matter how simple the technology actually is. There are some great new products hitting the market that reflect how great glow can be, here are some of my favorites:

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Tracer Racers, from Skullduggery, utilize Light Trail Technology as they blaze streaks of light on the glow-in-the-dark track. That’s right—LEDs AND glow play patterns. Lights galore! Magic frenzy!—and there’s more! Each Tracer Racer beams down purple light rays from its undercarriage onto the track, which is specially engineered to emit glow remnants only after the racer has passed. The new Tracer Racer drag racing sets include a 10-foot single lane set including one racer, an 8-foot double lane set with two racers, and a 12-foot double lane loop set with a light-up finish gate and two racers. The company will also introduce trucks to the line this year. Kids ages 6 and up are sure to enjoy all of the amazing light-up elements in this toy. [Read more...]

Sega Kicks Off New Era of Toys and Games with a Sonic Boom

SonicBoomlogoSega will launch a new branch of its Sonic the Hedgehog universe entitled Sonic Boom, which will be accompanied by a CG animated TV series, video games for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, new toys from Tomy, and more. To date, the character has appeared in more than 70 video game titles across a span of more than 20 years.

During a press event this past Thursday in New York City, the upcoming TV series was introduced as a character-driven comedy featuring lots of action and adventure. It consists of 52 11-minute episodes, and will debut in both the U.S. and France during the 2014 to 2015 season. “What we try to do is take the character and put them in situations where their personalities take center stage, and take us in interesting directions,” said showrunner and executive producer Evan Baily. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: These Valentine’s Day Toys and Activities Have Lots of Heart!

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and many people will give roses, chocolates, and jewelry to the objects of their affections. But lest we forget, toys and games also make fine presents. Looking around the toy industry, it’s clear that a number of companies were aware of potential opportunities, and responded with cool Valentine’s Day-themed products. But I also found some items that, even if they weren’t packaged specifically for the hearts-and-flowers holiday, are still perfect for the occasion. Here’s a brief rundown, though as usual, this is by no means an exhaustive list:

Phil.Feb7Plush dolls, from Aurora World Inc.: These dolls come in all shapes and sizes, and several of them sport that most familiar of Valentine’s Day icons: the heart. For example, Pink Promise, a soft, two-toned elephant, has heart prints all around the insides of its huge ears. There’s also Sad Sam & Honey, a pair of adorably sad-looking basset hounds, each bearing a heart with an “I Love You” message. Aurora World also has YooHoo & Friends, a trio of pastel-colored chimpanzees that not only present Valentine’s Day messages such as “Be Mine!” and “XOXO!,” but squeak when squeezed.

While the dolls I just mentioned are tailor-made for February 14, even if you take away the pink dye and hearts, these are still terrific plush animals. Both Sad Sam & Honey and YooHoo & Friends have big eyes and emotive facial expressions, which make them easy to empathize with and feel affection toward. Pink Promise, on the other hand, benefits from sheer generousness of proportions: It comes in four sizes, one as large as 22 inches from trunk to end. As such, this elephant is a potential pillar of emotional strength, and isn’t that what we all want for Valentine’s Day? Aurora World plush is suitable for all ages. [Read more...]

Pebble Handmade Toys Now Available in the U.S.

Feb3.PebblePebbles’ line of plush toys is available for purchase in the U.S. for the first time since the brand launched. The line of handmade products are knitted and crocheted toys made for a safe and tactile experience for babies and young children. The products are now available in specialty and gift toy stores nationwide.

The line includes a variety of soft toys and organic rattles. The Organic Bear Rattles, which are new for this year, are crocheted and feature a looped handle for easy grasping, a soft rattle sound, and designed for teething and fine motor development. The Organic Giraffe Rattles, also new for this year, are larger toys that have a gentle rattle sound. The Rainbow Bunny Rattle and Large Donkey are large plush animals recommended for young children.

COMMENTARY: Go! Go! Sports Girls Promote a Healthy Image for Girls

After struggling with self-image for many, many years, I feel that relaying the importance of confidence to a younger generation of girls is of the utmost importance. Young girls see and hear older women discussing hatred toward their bodies and the latest on fad diets; it’s such an unhealthy message to send. In a world where most “girl” action figures and dolls are stick-thin, and every famous tween girl looks ill-fed, a break in this trend is always quite refreshing. Go! Go! Sports Girl products offer girls products with a positive image to encourage healthy minds and bodies. The line was created after Jodi Norgaard had a disappointing shopping experience with her 9-year-old daughter, unable to find anything “stylish” that didn’t bare a stomach or involve high heels. Norgaard’s company, Dream Big Toy Co., aims to empower young girls with its motto “Dream Big and Go for It.” It seems that similar specialty toy companies have started to take notice, creating lines with a related approach.

ellaDream Big Toy Co. created Go! Go! Sports Girls as a fun and educational way to promote self-appreciation and the benefits of daily exercise, healthy eating and sleeping habits, self-esteem, and overall healthy life skills among girls ages 3 to 12, regardless of race and socioeconomic class. The Sports Girls are age and size appropriate, and most importantly, they do not encourage an older or overly mature image. The image is innocent with a strong message to girls about appreciating and being true to yourself. [Read more...]

Sprout Orders The Good Night Show Spinoff

Little Nina will be the newest addition to Sprout’s portfolio of original series. The animated series will feature the adventures of Nina, the host of The Good Night Show, as a young Latina girl. The series is expected to debut mid-2015.

The network has ordered 52 11-minute episodes of the animated show that will take viewers into the vibrant, multicultural neighborhood of Nina and her best friend Star. The show’s multilingual approach will incorporate English, Spanish, and sign language and will emphasize the value of communicating across multiple languages and appreciating other cultures.

VTech Offers New Learning App Buddles for InnoTab Tablets

VTech InnoTab 3S_BlueVTech offers new Learning App Bundles for the award-winning InnoTab Learning Tablet range. Available on VTech’s app store, Learning Lodge, these bundles feature newly developed, educator-approved content packaged in age-appropriate groups.

Designed specifically around the unique learning needs of individual kids ages 2 to 5, the Learning App Bundles each include seven games and an e-book (except Amazing Animal Museum, which includes eight games). Each bundle features content focused on a variety of developmental skills, such as language arts, reading, math, science, social studies, and problem solving.

Other themes for Learning App Bundles include Puppet Party, Tiny Toy Town, Lost City, and Fantasy Kingdom. The bundles are available at www.vtechkids.com.

Spin Master’s Paw Patrol Helps Boost Nickelodeon’s Ratings

paw-patrol-post-2Spin Master‘s Paw Patrol helped to tip the scales in Nickelodeon‘s favor, making it the children’s TV network leader in the battle between Disney and Nickelodeon for kids share, according to a report on Bloomberg News. The battle between these two large players grew even more after last year’s debut of Disney Junior, a channel aimed a preschoolers watching Nick Jr.

Nickelodeon cited Nielsen data that reported it averaging 918,000 viewers a day among kids ages 2 to 11 in the fourth quarter through December 15 compared to The Disney Channel’s 874,000 viewers. According to the Bloomberg News article, the ratings shift, is accelerating ad sales for Viacom, which posted its best quarterly growth in at least two years last month. The battle between the largest players in children’s TV intensified last year after the debut of Disney Junior, a channel aimed at preschoolers who watch Nick Jr.