PlayAbility Toys Provides Kids a Special Kind of Play

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Adam Small, CEO of Playability Toys

Play is one of the essential foundations of development in all children. With toys, kids learn how to socially interact, develop emotional intelligence, define motor skills, increase physical awareness, and support skills learned in the classroom. For kids with special needs, the challenges they face may discourage or avert them from having fun while playing with traditional toys. PlayAbility Toys, a specialty manufacturer and retailer, designs and produces products for children in the special needs community to get rid of that problem. Twelve years later, the company’s mission still holds strong, and even consumers without special needs are interested in what PlayAbility has to offer.

According to Adam Small, CEO of PlayAbility Toys, there is a lot of evidence about sensory toys that engage sight, sound, and touch at a young age help with cognitive development. [Read more...]

With DreamWorks Dragons Adventure World Explorer, Berk Goes Where You Go!

PowerPoint PresentationWe’ve all taken rides in cars, but honestly, haven’t we all found ourselves wishing we could be soaring on the wings of dragons instead?

That’s now a possibility, thanks to DreamWorks Dragons Adventure World Explorer, a new mobile game from Microsoft and DreamWorks Animation, and inspired by the animated film, How to Train Your Dragon 2. It uses Here Maps to pull in GPS info, turning the real world into the user’s very own fictional Isle of Berk.

During a recent demo, we took the game on a tour of midtown Manhattan. In Train mode, many of the city’s mighty edifices appeared in the game as huge stones, landmarks such as Grand Central Station became a wagon repair shop, and Chelsea Market was besieged by Vikings (They correspond to check-ins for the popular app Foursquare). Meanwhile, players engage in missions as part of their dragon training, such as picking up and dropping off sheep at home base–the device, represented in the game map by a cart. [Read more...]

Archie Comics: Let’s Hear It for the Boy Next Door!

By Stuart Fischer

ArchieComicslogoWhen one thinks of the comic book character Archie, one envisions a bright-eyed teenager who has a constant smile on his face, as if he does not have a care in the world. That might be true of this wonderful fictional character, but the company behind him is a hard-working, innovative force: Archie Comic Publications.

Founded in 1939 by Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John L. Goldwater, the name of the company was first MLJ Publications. It was changed a few years later to Archie Comic Publications as a salute to the character that became its greatest success.

MLJ began publishing various titles during the beginning of the comic book industry, most of them humor, although there were also a few adventure series. The company’s first comic was Blue Ribbon Comics, published in November 1939, followed shortly by Pep Comics, which began in January 1940 and introduced The Shield, a patriotic hero who resembled Marvel’s Captain America, who started appearing one year later.

In Pep Comics issue no. 22, published in December 1941, Archie Andrews made his first appearance. The world would never be the same. [Read more...]

Cowabunga! A Look at TMNT Toys Past and Present

TMNTby Brandon Engel

Fans eagerly await the big screen return of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello. Not the Italian master painters, but the pizza-scarfing, reptilian wise-crackers who have been delighting young audiences since the early ’80s. Although the characters were originally created by artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as a parody of comic book franchises that were popular at the time, the turtle gang soon took on a life of its own, spawning multiple television programs, video games, films, and of course, toys.

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the forthcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, and although we’ll have to wait until August for the film’s premiere, there’s a slew of new products to hold our interest until then. [Read more...]

The Prettie Girls! from One World Doll Project Embraces a Multicultural World

OneWorldDolls-Group Prettie GirlsKids are easily influenced at a young age from the world around them, the people they interact with, and even the toys they play with. For young girls especially, something as simple as a doll can change the way they perceive themselves. One company’s solution is to make a positive impact through the doll category.

Trent. T. Daniel founded the One World Doll Project in 2010 with Stacey McBride-Irby, who began working for the company in February 2011. The company was established to bring multicultural dolls, products, and toys into the marketplace through the creation of The Prettie Girls! dolls.

“The days of there being this one prototype for the female figure–the blonde hair, blue eyes, and thin waist–is not a realistic representation of what our kids are seeing every day in their schools and mainstream America,” Daniel said.

The goal of the company is to create a line of products that represents true diversity in the melting pot society that the world is today. According to Daniel, the perfect place to start was with the development of a line of dolls that addresses and understands a certain market. [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...]