COMMENTARY: These Chocolate Chip Cookie-Themed Toys Are as Sweet as the Real Thing

Happy holidays, everybody! In honor of May 15, aka National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, named after the delectable treat invented at a Massachusetts restaurant during the 1930s, here are some toys featuring either the real thing or a synthetic one.

It was a little surprising to find so many playthings featuring the classic snack, but it makes sense: First, the chocolate chip cookie is every bit as iconic as any character in kids’ licensing. Secondly, in general, little kids are as passionate for cookies as they are for toys, so a cookie-based toy lets them have their cake and eat it, too (though not literally, unless you add a few extra eggs into the batter. But I digress).

Either way, these items gladden our hearts and make our mouths water just by looking at them:

NewSproutsBakeItcroppedNew Sprouts Bake It!, from Learning Resources: This 15-piece collection of baking tools lets kids indulge their ambitions with baking sheets, large bowl, measuring cup, and more. Best of all, the set comes with four toy chocolate chip cookies, which kids can practice lifting off the baking sheet with the toy spatula (A good skill to have mastered before eventually moving on to the real thing). Suitable for kids ages 2 and up. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Role Play Toys Engage Kids in Superhero Action

It’s no secret that kids are extremely influenced by the characters they see in movies and on TV. Superheroes are particularly influential, with their mankind-saving tendencies and super-human abilities. The best thing about superheroes is that they appeal to kids and adults alike, since many of the iconic superheroes we know and love have been around for decades. Fisher-Price’s DC Super Friends line is geared toward kids as young as 3 years old, and Lego will introduce DC characters into its Duplo line for the first time this year. While play sets and building blocks are popular play patterns for kids and adding their favorite superheroes to the mix is a great way to get kids excited, the toys that make kids feel like they are becoming their favorite superhero are some of the most engaging toys on the market.

Everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is now back on the block with new enemies. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opened in theaters Friday, May 2, and now kids can take home all of the web-slinging action, thanks to Hasbro’s intense line of role-play and action figure toys.

Marissa.May13.Hasbro.SPIDER-MAN-MOTORIZED-SPIDER-FORCE-WEB-BLASTERWith the wrist-mounted Motorized Spider Force Web Blaster, kids can fire foam discs featuring web embellishments up to 20 feet with rapid speed. Each Motorized Spider Force Web Blaster comes with 10 Nerf foam discs that can be stored in the storage compartment on the top of the toy so they won’t get lost. Don’t worry—the foam discs are harmless and don’t hurt if you get hit with them. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, kids can take on any villain with this fun role-play toy. I should also note—it’s unbelievably fun for adults, too (especially if you have kids around willing to scoop up the discs for you). Just don’t let the name fool you—there are no messy webs with this product, just soft, foam discs! [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: A Fresh Take on Traditional Outdoor Toys and Games

These days, it’s pretty crucial for toy companies to be as innovative as possible. But sometimes, providing kids with a new take on an old-school toy or game is just as effective. Sure, kids are ridiculously interested in tablets, iPhones, and computers, but when it comes to play the rules haven’t changed all that much. Although kids are now growing up in the “digital age,” they are always going to love running, jumping, laughing, and exerting energy in a physical way.

Toys such as pogo sticks, Skip-Its (my favorite), and sidewalk chalk were staples throughout my childhood, and contrary to those who believe kids are actually digital robots, they remain favorites for children growing up now, too.

Kidoozie Pogo JumperI never got around to mastering the pogo stick, but this bouncing device still remains a popular activity for kids of all ages. The Kidoozie Pogo Jumper from International Playthings offers kids a lot of hop, but enhances the fun by adding a built-in speaker that squeaks with every bounce. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Digital Properties and Toys Are a Match Made in Heaven

Today’s culture of apps and Internet memes has spawned a new category for licensees. These new digital brands have inspired toys that carry the excitement, reference, or joke of a digital property beyond its original state and into the physical world. Smartphones, apps, and the Internet have allowed people of all ages to swap images, play games, and contribute to digital communities faster than ever before. The appeal of a licensed toy can largely be attributed to an emotional connection—such as victory, challenge, or humor—to the property by a consumer. When I see a toy (or any other type of product) that I identify with a funny meme or a favorite app, I’m instantly drawn to it, almost like being in on an inside joke.

For the past few years, many a birthday card that I’ve given and received has featured cringeworthy images of a person (or several) in an array of ridiculous outfits, making odd facial expressions, in questionable poses, and more. Since 2009, Awkward Family Photos (AFP) has accrued nearly 2 million Facebook fans and currently offers plenty of products for fans to enjoy. AFP has also expanded its brand to include Awkward Family Pet Photos, adding a whole new hilarious dimension to the theme. Fans can purchase the AFP puzzle in either the pets or siblings versions, which feature 999 puzzle pieces and come together to create a collage of several awkward images.

afpboardgame

Fans can also enjoy a rousing game of ridiculous photos, questions, and answers with the AFP Board Game, from All Things Equal. A player flips over a card featuring an Awkward Family Photo and reads an open-ended question aloud. The other players must come up with their own answers; the player with the best answer wins the round. [Read more...]

Aryaball Kickstarts Into Motion

AryaBall HeadshotWith kids today constantly craning their necks down toward their iPhones and tablets, sometimes the perfect pick-me-up is a day at the park. But what parent wants to resemble a gym teacher or clutter up the car with a ton of sporting equipment just to keep their kids busy? Thanks to Babak Forutanpour, they don’t have to.

Forutanpour, owner and head coach of Aryaball, encourages active play through his new toy invention. The Aryaball and Aryabat are foam products made for kids ages 3 to 10. It allows kids to play five sports at once—with just one ball and one bat. The outer shell of the product is a full sized, regulation 5 soccer ball. The ball then opens up to reveal a football and flying disc. The football also twists and opens to uncover a soft baseball with the dimples of a golf ball. Kids can play baseball with the Aryabat or swing the tip out 90 degrees to turn it into a golf putter.

Forutanpour was inspired to create the product one afternoon when he was at the park with his son Arya. The two were throwing a football around when Arya, who the business is named after, asked to play soccer instead. Foruntapour did not have any other sports equipment with him, but after his son insisted, the pair ended up kicking the football to try to use it as a soccer ball.

AryaBall Product“That’s when it dawned on me that I’m not the only dad who forgot to bring all the balls to the park,” Forutanpour said. “I didn’t want to carry a bag with the soccer ball, baseball, football, and golf. I could reinvent the football and soccer ball. It’s about solving a problem I saw.” [Read more...]

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...]

Q&A with Michael Lillioja, President of Creata

CrocPot for PRCreata recently launched its new brand, Monster 500, exclusively at Toys “R” Us . The line features 10 characters that race for one of five teams in the Monster 500 speed competition. Each character will be sold as a small, 3-inch die-cast vehicle, but customers can also collect select large character feature vehicles standing 4 inches high and 5 inches long. Two play sets are also available.

The Toy Book had the opportunity to speak with Michael Lillioja, president of Creata, about thew new brand, and what launching its own brand meant for the future of Creata.

The Toy Book: Monster 500 is the first line that is produced by Creata as its own brand. What made you decide to launch your own brand after manufacturing for other companies for more than 30 years?

Michael Lillioja: Creata’s passion is toys. And we’re serious about fun. So it just seemed like a natural extension to use all of our expertise to create a line of toys that has the functions and features that kids expect today. We did a lot of research to make sure that Monster 500 provides the best experience possible.  

TBCan you describe the Monster 500 brand? What age groups is it for? Who is the target audience?

ML: Our target age-grading is kids ages 4 and up, with a sweet spot of 6- to10-year-old boys. Our secondary audience is the collectors or “fanboys.”

TB: Why did you decide on a Toys “R” Us exclusive?

ML: Toys “R” Us is the No. 1 specialty toy retailer that focuses exclusively on toys, and they are a great partner when it comes to launching a new product. We were fortunate to work with Toys “R” Us in the past, so it made perfect sense to continue that relationship with Monster 500. Our company history is rich with long-term partnerships. We see that the work we are doing on Monster 500 with Toys “R” Us is beneficial to both companies and has the potential to be a very long-term relationship.

Monster500screenshotTB: How does Monster 500 integrate classic physical play and new digital play? What sets it apart from other toys on the market that do this as well? 

ML: Every toy comes with a Monster Code that unlocks a virtual monster car in the free racing game app. It’s a best-in-class racing game experience, offered for free. And, with our “virtual blind box” unlock experience, you don’t know which Monster 500 character will be unleashed. It’s a surprise every time!

TB: What does the launch of Monster 500 mean for the future of your company? How has it changed the overall goals of the company? 

ML: Play patterns are changing. The Monster 500 launch is our recognition that the future of play will focus on the intersection of physical and digital. The creation of the Monster 500 line is an extension of Creata’s umbrella goal of adding play and fun to people’s lives.

Michael Lillioja is president of Creata, an insights-driven company working to bring brands and consumers together through play. Creata’s global brand activation capabilities include insights on how customers want to play; product design, development, and manufacturing; digital playground creation; and consumer promotion. Creata has 14 offices in 10 countries. www.creata.com.  

The Toy Book Chats with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO, Popstar Club

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO of Popstar Club, which is the manufacturer of the fresh, new doll line, The Beatrix Girls. Sherry gave me an overview of what makes her doll line so unique, and why girls are going to be clamoring for them this holiday season.

SherryGunther.BeatrixCEO

 

Where did you get the idea for Beatrix Girls?

The Beatrix Girls came out of the idea of tying music and dolls together. Ultimately the approach to this was to create a multiplatform brand that really reaches kids everywhere that they are, recognizing that kids are not just watching TV and they’re not just playing with dolls or toys, they’re not just online playing games or being social, they’re doing all of the above. A forward-thinking property really needed to have presence in all of those mediums and to have an integration between all of those formats ingrained in its DNA.

The webisodes are done in a very unique way. How did you come about using that style?

It’s interesting because the natural for me was to go with animation as I spent over 20 years in animation, but there were a lot of things that attracted me to doing it this way, creating webisodes that have the dolls featured interacting in real life. It comes out of the fact that the concept itself has the girls as real. So they’re real and they interact in our world. They’re a real pop star band, we9’re creating real music, not composed music like we would for a toy property or an animated show, but real, credible, pop music written by a platinum-winning writer/producer, mixed by a Grammy-winning engineer, so this is really relevant, today, great music and so we really want to sell them as true pop stars.

Animation oftentimes, especially when doing them based on a product or especially dolls, skews a little bit younger, and we really wanted to have the cool factor and have these be edgier. The medium that we used felt so much more current and fresh and innovative and YouTube generation-like and it felt much more fitting to the brand itself. It gives the dolls the credibility of being real in our world. They have a real human manager, they perform in real venues, so it allows us to play up that real factor for them. And then the scale gives us a lot of humor opportunities for 12-inch dolls interacting in a life-size world.

The really nice side effect that we found is that girls are really responding to the fact that they can relate to the way it was done because it was shot on purpose with hands showing and manipulating the dolls. The idea was that kids could really relate to it and feel like I can do that, I can get four dolls and with my friends create a scene and a scenario.

 

For some reason it reminds me of Mr. Bill, the old SNL skit.

That’s kind of what we were going for. We were going for rather than just sort of just straight, weak, almost too young-skewing animation. We wanted it to be edgier and quirky and fun and hilarious and this medium allowed us to do that, to have that feel to it.

[Read more...]

Musical Toys: An Inspiration to Pursue the Art

by Rachel Matthews, guest blogger

Not too long ago, the Kidz Bop kids found their way performing at venues in New York and New Jersey. Their collection of poppy, top 40 covers has allowed them to produce dozens of compilation albums, launch a U.S. star search, release books, video games, and toys.

The line-up of the group is in constant rotation as each member ages. Because of this rotation, many a child beg their parents for a singing lesson—especially in New York—after seeing a Kidz Bop performance. The chances of becoming a member is hard pressed as detailed by this young musician, but the combination of their U.S. talent search and brand gives hope to many children within the States.

Of course, aiming to sing for a band such as Kidz Bop is only part of what’s driving up sales in music -parents must by music-related toys to help further their children’s ambitions.

[Read more...]

Q&A with Drew Stevenson, Vice President of Sales and Retail Marketing North America, Mega Bloks

The Toy Book spoke with Drew Stevenson, vice president of sales and retail marketing North America at Mega Bloks, about the current state of the construction category and Mega Bloks role in the industry.

TB: Building sets saw a 23 percent increase in sales from 2011 to 2012, according to the NPD Group, and the category is the strongest toy category right now. Why has the construction category taken off over the past couple of years?

DS: Well actually, the category has been consistently growing for the past four years and we believe it represents a desire for more educationally beneficial toys, which absorb children’s imagination from the age of 1. Parents want what is best for their children and they understand more and more the benefits of construction in terms of skill development, creativity, self-expression, and sense of accomplishment. So, we are confident that the construction toy category will only continue to grow.

Mega Bloks will continue to offer more choices for preschoolers, boys, girls, and collectors, allowing all of our fans to continuously immerse themselves in this play pattern and grow with Mega Bloks. [Read more...]