China Toy Expo Shows the Dynamism of the Toy Industry in China

Resized.EMILIALSINAby Emili Alsina

Over 50,000 professionals of the toy, baby, and licensing industries visited the trade shows organized by the China Toy & Juvenile Products Association (CTJPA) in Shanghai from October 14 to 16: China Toy Expo, China Kids Expo, and China Licensing Expo. This attendance represents a 26 percent increase compared to the previous year. Alsina, editor of the Spanish magazine Juguetes B2B (specializing in the toy industry in Spain) and member of the International Toy Magazine Association (ITMA), attended these three trade shows to witness the latest trends and developments of the industry in China.

The toy market is very dynamic in China, and has a consumer (the parents) increasingly interested in products that provide educational value to their children. The kids, in turn, are increasingly interested in licensed products. China Toy Fair, which has been held for the last 12 years–and is the largest international toy fair in mainland China and the third largest worldwide–was celebrated simultaneously with the China Kids Expo (childcare sector) and the China Licensing Expo (licensing sector).

Resized.LEGOJuguetes B2B, a professional communication magazine specializing in the toy industry in Spain, attended the three trade shows to give informational coverage of the latest trends in the industry that will shape the Chinese market next year. The strategy of holding the three exhibitions simultaneously makes perfect sense, given the synergies that occur between the three different sectors. For instance, the licensing business has a large influence in the toy industry, with licenses for baby care products as well. Therefore, celebrating the events at the same time is an interesting opportunity for the professionals. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: This Holiday Season, Let’s Not Forget the Value of Games

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.21.15 PMJust this weekend, I attended a party at a friend’s house—a “FriendsGiving” gathering hosted by her and her husband. After a delicious pre-holiday feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and veggies, we decided to let the food settle while playing a game of celebrity Charades. Our game was spontaneous, so we worked with what was at hand: post-it notes, a pen, and a salad bowl. We tore up the post-its, wrote the names of celebrities, and tossed them into the bowl before breaking into teams and doing our best Michael Jackson, George Washington, and Vanna White impressions.

This reminded me that games aren’t just for kids. Somewhere along the line, the concept of “fun and games” became synonomous with youth, a lack of responsibility, and blissful ignorance. But one could make the argument that grown-ups need games even more than kids sometimes, to help us unwind, loosen up, and chill out at the end of a busy day or a hectic work week. [Read more...]

New Exhibition of Antique Trains and Toys Opens at New-York Historical Society

P.RHCS Gallery2This past Wednesday, the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library hosted a preview for its new exhibition, Holiday Express: Trains and Toys from the Jerni Collection. The showcase arrives right in time for the holidays, and includes a number of toys, toy trains, and scenic elements, some dating as far back as the 1850s.

At the museum’s Central Park West entrance, an abstract display shows the historical connection between the U.S. and the railroad, which opened up resources in the west to the east. Using American toys, including an electric train that will move through the entire tableau, it implies the consequences of progress and its effects on New York City.

Meanwhile, the adjacent Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History contains an expansive array of cases showing off antique toys of European and American origin. These go beyond oil-powered (not electrical) trains to the largest-known version of Gebrüder Bing’s Leviathan ocean liner; a zeppelin train of German origin; even a bridge accessory for a train set, designed by the architect Alexandre Gustave Eiffel and dating back to 1909.

[Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Something in the Air, or, How I Do Drone On

Unmanned aircraft, or drones, have been in the news a lot recently. This past Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the authority to regulate drones, and can fine those who fly them recklessly.

DJI.InspireMeanwhile, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal profiled a Chinese company called SZ DJI Technology Co., which has created a new commercial drone armed with a high definition camera, among other bells and whistles. From the video footage I watched, what struck me was that the drone only weighs two pounds, and looks a lot like the R/C flyer toys that constantly make their way through The Toy Book offices.

According to the aforementioned NTSB ruling, drones are legally aircraft. So in the eyes of the federal government, they aren’t toys, despite the groundswell of drone hobbyists popping up in places like Chicago, and despite the fact that one can see a clear trail of evolution between these controversial machines and less notorious R/C toys. [Read more...]

Q&A with Toca Boca on Artist Play Series, Toca Ink Tattoos for Kids

Toca-Ink_product-image_1This month, Toca Boca launched the Artist Play Series, a new project that invites international artists to celebrate the synergies of play and art by creating tools for play. The result is a series of toys that encourage imagination and self-expression. The line kicked off earlier this month with Toca Ink, a set of six temporary tattoos by Brooklyn-based tattoo artist Virginia Elwood. The Toy Book chatted with Toca Boca about the new line.

The Toy Book (TTB): Is this Toca Boca’s first licensed product line in the U.S.?
Toca Boca (TB):
Toca Ink, the first product from the Artist Play Series, is not a licensed product. It’s a Toca Boca product.

TTB: How did Toca Boca select each artist for the temporary tattoo line?
TB:
Toca Ink is the only temporary tattoo product we have planned. We partnered with Virginia Elwood on it after looking at hundreds of tattoo artists across the U.S. for one that had a truly personal style and high artistic integrity. Virginia’s love for this art form is evident in her work. She has a classic style, yet her bold personality still shines through. We were drawn to how she comes across as an artist first and a tattoo artist second. [Read more...]

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Neighborhood Toy Store Day Lets Independent Retailers Shine!

by Phil Guie and Deanna Atkins

ExteriorofKaleidoscope(Editor’s note: This article was updated on November 11, 2014)

This past weekend, playtime was definitely on at mom-and-pop toy stores located throughout the U.S.

Saturday marked the fifth annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD), an event started by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association to support locally owned toy retailers. Community members were encouraged to visit the independent toy store in their midst, and in return, participating retailers hosted in-store arts and crafts, games, and other activities that appealed to families.

In honor of NTSD, The Toy Book’s editorial staff interviewed owners of several neighborhood toy stores in their home communities. In their responses below, the store owners touched on their NTSD plans, the support they give and receive from their neighborhoods, the reasons why shopping at a locally owned toy store is a great experience, and more.
[Read more...]

Sesame Workshop Celebrates 45 Years of Sesame Street with New Apps, Games, and More

Cookie Monster and Alan Muraoka at the recent Digital Playground event hosted by Sesame Workshop.

Sesame Street turns 45 this year, and this past Tuesday, Sesame Workshop hosted a digital playground event in New York City to show off new apps, e-books, and other multimedia offerings for children age 5 and younger. During the morning-long event, several dozen little ones got to play test the latest in Sesame Street-branded games, which were set up at iPad stations. They also watched long- and short-format clips of Sesame Street online, courtesy of the brand’s latest digital video platforms.

During his welcome to guests, Scott Chambers, senior vice president of worldwide media distribution for Sesame Workshop, said that Sesame Street currently has an audience of roughly 5 million viewers on PBS. However, he pointed out that among the most recent generation of viewers, 63 percent of that audience is introduced to the program digitally; hence, Sesame Workshop’s latest efforts to develop the brand across a number of digital platforms.

Chambers, along with guest speakers Cookie Monster and Alan Muraoka of Sesame Street fame, took turns emphasizing the importance of self-regulation for kids–a theme reflected in several apps on-hand. One of the newest, Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame, teaches kids ages 2 to 5 how to deal with tough emotions by letting them play as a cute horned monster. Kids are presented with a choice of problem scenarios, such as having trouble getting dressed or getting ready for school, and then a choice of possible solutions. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Games, and Game-Players, Are Getting More Mobile All the Time

Nowadays, everything seems to be changing, from communicating to ordering dinner to dating. The same goes with the way we’re playing games.

We’ve known for years that games were becoming social. People (ahem, Gen X-ers) still send out Candy Crush and Farmville requests on the ever-dissolving Facebook. However, instead of these communally competitive games, new mobile apps are actually bringing players together to compete in a face-to-face (or screen-to-screen?) arena. For the most part, these apps are free (or cheap) to own, filling up the game cabinet without the expense of buying new extensions and themes of the same games.

1017181_150945871760166_378131469_nCards Against Humanity—a spin-off of the much more tame Apples to Apples card game—is a crowd favorite among my hometown friends. So when Evil Apples, a mobile version loosely based on both games from Evil Studios Ltd., was released for iOS devices, my hometown friends and I were brought back together in a competitively disturbing way. Users can prompt friends to download the app and join the game. Once everyone signs on, the game begins as players try to come up with the funniest–and most disturbingly wrong–phrases. There’s even a chat feature in the game for players to comment–or to remind stragglers that the game is waiting on their card. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: As Play Gets Smarter, More Toys Come to Life Digitally

It’s official: Smart toys are taking over the toy space.

Gone are the days in which kids are content with traditional methods of play. Books, activities, and games are all available for kids on mobile devices, and they expect their toys to be no different. But although the mediums that kids are interacting with daily are changing, the one thing that won’t ever change is that kids love play.

Angry Birds Stella Telepods

Angry Birds Stella Telepods

Smart toys integrate physical toys and technology—essentially giving digital life to toys. Manufacturers are starting to realize the added value in these products and how wildly popular they can be. More than 72 million kids say they want smart toys, according to market research firm Interpret in a GameByte study.

In addition, kids are using mobile devices more than ever before. Seventy-one percent of households with a child age 4 to 14 reported owning a smartphone in 2014, already up from 55 percent in 2012, according to The NPD Group. Also, kids who own tablets doubled from 2012 to 2014, growing from 21 percent to 43 percent, respectively. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: China Toy Expo Showcases Regional Toy Brands with Worldwide Potential

DreamBeyond2Toy trade shows are terrific places in which to catch a sneak peek of the next play product sure to take the marketplace by storm. Recently, I was covering China Toy Expo, sponsored by China Toy & Juvenile Products Association, which took place this past week at the Shanghai New International Expo Center in Shanghai. While the show featured plenty of toy brands that would be familiar to Westerners—many of them imported by Chinese companies for domestic distribution—there were also lots of Chinese toy manufacturers on-hand, bearing properties that they hope will do well at home.

And of course, if a product does well in its native market, one assumes there’s a good chance it will gain an international partner that will help it take the next step. Think of Lego, which began selling in Europe during the 1940s before expanding to North America during the ’60s. Not every new toy brand can be Lego, of course; however, it’s always fun to speculate on new products and their potential to become the next big global star due to built-in appeal, compelling features, etc. Here are a few domestically-made items from China Toy Expo, which in this author’s opinion, have a shot at breaking out worldwide. [Read more...]