Jeremy Robinson has been appointed as Schleich UK’s new country manager. He will take over responsibility for the UK and Eire from Gary Wilmot.
VTech has hired Jennifer Eiselein, a former Amazon senior manager who was instrumental in the launches of the company’s Kindle tablets and e-readers, as its new marketing director. She will lead VTech’s marketing team from its U.S. headquarters in Chicago, oversee the creation and execution of innovative campaigns for VTech’s brands, employ strategies to generate brand awareness, and target customers to enhance growth in key markets.
Prior to joining VTech, Eiselein served as senior manager for merchandising and marketing at Amazon’s Appstore in the U.S. and Canada.
Michael Acton Smith, who has run Mind Candy for 10 years, will step down. He has stated that he wants to focus on a more creative role rather than the day-to-day running of the firm.
Divinia Knowles, who has been at the company for eight years, and is currently chief operating and financial officer, will become president. A new chief executive will be announced at a later date, the company has said.
Mind Candy is known for the children’s social network Moshi Monsters, one of the world’s most popular children’s social networks, with around 80 million users. The service operates through paid subscriptions; however, associated merchandise—plush toys, music albums and other spin-offs—generate roughly half of Mind Candy’s revenue.
K’NEX has promoted Rachel Robbins to vice president, legal affairs and general counsel. Hired in 2013, Robbins previously served as associate general counsel for K’NEX Brands, and prior to joining K’NEX, she was a partner in the Commercial Litigation group of the law firm Cozen O’Connor.
In her new position, Robbins will provide legal counsel to company management and business teams as to commercial relationships, as well as all general corporate matters, including contracts, employment, regulatory, and intellectual property.
Steve Youngwood has joined the board of directors for LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. He most recently served as executive vice president and general manager of digital media and entertainment products at Nickelodeon.
Youngwood joined Viacom in 1997 and most recently led all Nickelodeon Digital efforts, including websites, mobile, connected TVs, TV Everywhere and other emerging platforms. He also led Nickelodeon’s video, gaming, and book publishing businesses across all digital and traditional retail channels, and oversaw the acquisition and integration of five digital companies. Youngwood has also held various senior management positions in Consumer Products, ran the Nick and NickJr magazines, and worked in the Strategy and Business Development Group.
MGA Entertainment (MGAE) has appointed Anne Gates as president. Gates joined MGAE in early 2014 and MGA says she has proven to be a strategic and creative leader for the company’s portfolio of family entertainment franchises. In her new role, Gates will oversee all of MGAE’s global businesses and operations.
“Having Anne Gates as president will allow me to innovate and work more closely with the MGAE team on a vision for an exciting future, while Anne handles the day-to-day operation of the business. Anne and I will work very closely together to take MGAE to new heights,” says Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment. “Her incredible determination and proven performance in systematically growing businesses, paired with her exceptional management and entertainment experience, will help position the company for continued growth and leadership in the toy and entertainment world.” [Read more...]
Ryan McFarland from Strider Sports International Inc. has won South Dakota’s Small Business Person of the Year. He will join winners from the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Week in Washington, D.C., from May 15 to 16. At the conference, a National Small Business Person of the Year for 2014 will be chosen and the winners will have opportunities to meet with top SBA officials and national business leaders.
The Toy Book is so sorry to hear about the passing of Leslie Berger, founder of Cardinal Industries.
In 1944, Les Berger founded the company with a dream and knowledge of plastics, on the corner of Keape and Hope Streets in Brooklyn, N.Y. The first product that he produced was dominoes. Now Cardinal Industries games and puzzles in some of the most popular licenses, while maintaining business in core basic games, such as dominoes. Berger continued to work, and until very recently, was still coming into the office to work. He was a true pioneer in the business.
Berger lived his 95 years surrounded by a loving family. His son Joel and daughter Bonnie, who have take over and grown the company to a very successful privately owned toy company that is committed to making family-friendly, challenging, and innovative games and puzzles that are affordable for everyone. His wife Sylvia has been his partner in life and business for 64 years.
He will be profoundly missed by his entire family: Sylvia, Joel, Bonnie, Jody, his grandchildren Carly, Ilana, Justin, Perri; and his numerous friends and countless associates in the toy industry.
The Woman in Toys Board of Trustees has unanimously elected Ashley Mady as the organization’s new president, effective April 1. Mady is currently president and founder of Brandberry Inc. In addition, she has been an active board member of the South Florida Chapter Chair, co-chair of the Wonder Woman in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Awards Dinner for several years, and chairs the Web and Social Media Committees.
The announcement coincides with the 10th Annual Wonder Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Awards. Joan Packard Luks, president of Woman in Toys since August 2010, will receive the 2014 Presidents Award. Mady is Luk’s successor as president of the organization.
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.
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, we’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.