Toys “R” Us Releases Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids

toysToys “R” Us, Inc. has released the 2013 Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids, a toy selection resource for children with special needs. This annual shopping guide is available in Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores nationwide and online, in English and Spanish, at Toysrus.com/DifferentlyAbled. This year’s edition features 2012 all-around gymnastics gold medalist Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas on the cover, alongside Special Olympics Young Athletes Isabella Caesar and Samuel Lopez.

This year’s Guide introduces Toys “R” Us’ first Toys “R” Us App Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. The app guide currently features a selection of 25 apps identified to help children with special needs further develop key skills. Apps featured within the 2013 app guide include Swapsies–Occupations, PicSay–Photo Editor, Learning Letters for Kids, Bubble Buster, and Cookie Dunk Jump. All apps featured within this resource can be found in the Google Play Store for Android or the App Store for iOS.

Gabby Douglas is also helping to cheer on aspiring Special Olympics athletes. The Special Olympics Young Athletes program introduces kids to the world of sports and offers children ages 2 to 7 with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to play, compete, and grow while developing early cognitive, social, and motor skills. The Toys “R” Us Children’s Fund provides ongoing grants to Special Olympics to support the national expansion of Special Olympics’ Young Athletes program. Most recently, it pledged $1 million to become a founding partner of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games and presenting sponsor of the first Young Athletes Festival, which will provide children and their families with the opportunity to take part in the Young Athletes program, free health screenings, family seminars, and more.

The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games will be in New Jersey from June 14 to 21. This year, Toys “R” Us has partnered with Wynsum Arts, a social enterprise that makes app discovery and mobile technology accessible to children of all abilities.

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band Release Lishy Lou and Lucky Too

lishylouLucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band will release a new album of songs that create a world of adventurous listening for all ages. Lishy Lou and Lucky Too  is the new album and  features musical and theatrical guests, and will be available on October 1 on www.luckydiazmusic.com.

Lishy Lou and Lucky Too is a color-splashed, enhanced-reality, family-friendly variety show à la Peewee’s Playhouse, with a dash of The Lucy Show and the Marx Brothers comedy. Lishy Lou (Alisha Gaddis) and Lucky (a real-life husband-wife team) live together in a magical treehouse, and each episode presents a problem that Lishy, Lucky, and their friends and guests solve together. They’re a bilingual household (English and Spanish) that is filled with music and dance, encouraging movement and learning through song.

The album begins with the peppy theme song and a doo-woppy tune called “Thingamajig,”. Other songs spotlight people in history like Amelia Earhart (“8,000 Feet”) and Jackie Robinson (“Jackie”). The Beatles’ classic “Till There Was You” takes on new meaning when Lucky and Lishy sing it, and the song “When I Grow Up” will inspire kids to live their dreams.

The idea for Lishy Lou and Lucky Too came during a road trip, when together with daughter Ella, Lucky and Alisha shared music and stories. Lishy Lou and Lucky Too follows two family music albums from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band: A Potluck (2012), and the 2013 Spanish language release ¡Fantastico!. The band is also planning several family concerts this fall to celebrate the release, including a concert on September 14 at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

LeapFrog Partners with Random House for an Audio Book Library

leapreaderLeapFrog Enterprises and Listening Library, an imprint of Random House LLC, have partnered to bring Listening Library’s library of children’s audio books to the LeapReader platform. Listening Library’s audio books are available for download via LeapFrog’s App Center.

LeapReader is the new learn to read and write system that helps children build literacy skills and reading confidence with LeapReader’s three essential experiences–learn to read, learn to write, and learn through listening. Children sound out words and read sentences, write letters with interactive guidance, and develop listening skills, comprehension, and imagination through audio books, music, and more all available in the LeapReader library of more than 150 learning experiences.

Activision’s Skylanders Products Are a Force to Beat

Activision Publishing has announced that the Skylanders figures outsold all action-figure properties in the U.S. and Europe year-to-date in 2013–and the Skylanders property outpaced all toy properties overall in the U.K. year-to-date as of June 30.

As of July 31, the Skylanders franchise has generated more than $1.5 billion in worldwide retail sales in both North America and Europe. Skylanders Giants was also the best-selling console and hand-held game overall in dollars.

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Skylanders Swap Force

Skylanders Swap Force is being developed by Vicarious Visions and is the newest game in the franchise. Skylanders Swap Force builds upon the franchise’s signature gameplay and collectible toy experience, adding a new dimension to the “toys to life” innovation. The game introduces a play pattern—dynamic swapability—that lets gamers transform 16 Swap Force inter-action figures into more than 250 characters by swapping the top and bottom halves of the toys. Now Portal Masters can mix and match characters’ powers and moves to experience a level of choice never before seen in a Skylanders game. Fans  can also play Skylanders Swap Force with their entire collection of more than 100 characters from Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure and Skylanders Giants.

In Skylanders Swap Force, Portal Masters embark on a new adventure in the mysterious Cloudbreak Islands, home to a mystical volcano that erupts every hundred years to replenish the magic in Skylands. During an epic battle, a brave group of Skylanders were caught in the volcano’s eruption, which blasted them apart and sent them to earth. However, the magic of the volcano gave these heroes a new power—the ability to swap halves—turning them into a special team known as the Swap Force. Meanwhile, Kaos is back with a new evil plan, and now, Portal Masters everywhere must reassemble the Swap Force—in their original form or new combinations—and send them back to Cloudbreak to save Skylands.

Skylanders Swap Force also features new abilities, such as flying, climbing, digging, bouncing, or teleporting, which can be used in previously unexplored areas of Skylands centered on these play mechanics. Additionally, the game features 16 new core characters, eight new LightCore characters, and 16 new versions of fan favorite Skylanders from previous games. Now kids will have more than 100 characters from which to choose. The game’s high-resolution graphics brings detailed characters and richer environments to life, immersing players in the game. The game also has an assortment of gameplay modes for survival and battle, including Solo Survival Mode, Team Survival Mode, Rival Mode, Battle Arena Mode, and Ring Out Mode.

From Up On Poppy Hill to be Released on DVD

fromuponpoppyhillGkids in conjunction with Cinedigm is releasing From Up on Poppy Hillthe latest from Studio Ghibli, the creators of Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and other animated pieces, on September 3Written by studio founder Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Goro Miyazaki, the film marks the first feature-length collaboration between father and son.

From Up on Poppy Hill is hand-drawn and is set in Yokohama in 1963. Japan is picking itself up from the devastation of World War II and preparing to host the Olympics. The mood is one of both optimism and conflict as the young generation struggles to throw off the shackles of a troubled past.  Against this backdrop of hope and change, a friendship begins to blossom between high school students Umi (Sarah Bolger) and Shun (Anton Yelchin)– but a buried secret from their past emerges to cast a shadow on the future and pull them apart.

From a screenplay by Academy Award-winner Hayao Miyazaki, the English language version is directed by multiple Academy Award-winner Gary Rydstrom from a script adaptation by Karey Kirkpatrick (James and the Giant Peach, Chicken Run, Charlotte’s Web) and is executive produced by Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy.  The movie features a voice cast including Gillian Anderson, Sarah Bolger, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Isabelle Fuhrman, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, Chris Noth, Emily Osment, Aubrey Plaza, Charlie Saxton, Alex Wolff, and Anton Yelchin.

Cinedigm will release the movie in Blu-ray+ DVD 2-Pack, DVD 2-Pack, and Cable VOD. The Blu-ray+ DVD combo and DVD releases both contain more than three hours of bonus materials and include original Japanese language and English language versions with subtitles and dubtitles, feature-length storyboards, celebrity cast recording featurette with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, an interview with Goro Miyazaki, original Japanese trailer and TV spots, the music video for the theme song by Aoi Teshima, and a featurette about Yokohama, exploring the history of the sea-side setting where the film takes place. Bonuses exclusive to the Blu-ray edition include a staff speech and press conference by Hayao Miyazaki, a 20-page booklet containing the original project proposal by Hayao Miyazaki, and a letter from Goro Miyazaki.

All Things Equal Launches Klondike Bar Game

Klondike-ComponentsAll Things Equal, maker of the Loaded Questions and Awkward Family Photos games, has partnered with Klondike for the new board game, What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar? The game dares families and friends to conquer hundreds of creative, courageous, and cockamamie challenges in the name of the slogan.

The 300 head-to-head challenges require quick thinking, creativity, and a willingness to laugh at yourself and with others. Players will find themselves asking for a date while grunting like a caveman, coming up with a funny new use for bacon, quickly answering a provocative trivia question or completing an absurd trivial act for a chance to win one of the six Klondike bar flavors needed to win the game. The reward for besting fellow players is a take-home champion card and bragging rights. The What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar? board game is now available at Amazon.com, and will debut at Fred Meyer, select Target and Toys “R” Us locations, and specialty stores later this year.

 

COMMENTARY: Kids Need to Move It, Move It

Today, kids are swarmed with toys that enable them to experience every world of play possible without ever having to move. Play buttons are all that’s required, and while this is incredible for the mind, it leaves the next generation sedentary. Millions of toys are available for molding the brain, but what are kids doing for their bodies? I remember a time that my mom had to beg us to come inside because it was getting dark out, and nothing could keep me still for very long. In a world where touch screens have replaced backyard swings, remote controllers have replaced running, and headphones have replaced jump ropes, it’s so important to get kids up and moving.

YgliderYvolution’s objective phrase is “Life through motion,” and with the Y Fliker and the Y Glider, kids can do just that. These scooters combine an innovative, extremely mobile design to the classic wheeled toy. The Y Fliker is a three-wheeled scooter that will get kids up and active, and there is no kicking the pavement for movement anymore. Riders move their hips from side to side to take off and use their own body movement to keep going. The self-propelled scooter has performance-rated wheels that allow the free-style scooter to perform carving and drifting actions, so that kids will never lose interest. There’s also a hand brake for increased control. The Flikr comes in four styles for different age ranges, so there is three-wheeled mobile fun for everyone. The Y Glider is perfect for first-timers; it’s a kid-powered mini scooter with a “lean to steer” movement method for kids in the developmental stages. The Glider also helps develop balance and coordination skills—something I certainly could of used a lot more of as a kid. The Glider has soft rubber handgrips and features the same three-wheeled design as the Flikr, so youngsters will feel just like the big kids. This Glider does, however, have a wider deck for a more stable ride, PU casted wheels for durability, and an easy-touch, rear safety brake for quick stopping. [Read more...]

LeapFrog Introduces Read With Me Scout and Violet

LEAPFROG ENTERPRISES LOGO
LeapFrog Enterprises has introduced Read With Me Scout and Read With Me Violet, two new interactive plush puppies designed to build early reading skills. Developed by LeapFrog’s team of learning experts, the products build off My Pal Scout and My Pal Violet, and offer an interactive story time experience with learning activities that build early reading comprehension, listening, and vocabulary skills.

Children can choose one of five books and as the pals read the story aloud, children build comprehension skills and early vocabulary. They also learn about the relationship between print on a page and the story as they turn the pages and listen to more than 70 spoken questions and audio responses. Parents can switch Scout and Violet into Sleepy Time mode to select a read-aloud story or eight minutes of lullabies.

Read With Me Scout and Read With Me Violet are the latest additions to LeapFrog’s line of Scout learning products that includes interactive plush friends such as My Pal Scout and My Pal Violet, My Own Leaptop, Chat & Count Smart Phone toys, and DVDs. The new plush puppies are available online and at major retailer locations in the U.S, Canada, the UK, and France, and will be available in Spain and Mexico later this year.

Shout! Factory Partners with Hasbro Studios for Animated Series

shoutShout! Factory and Hasbro Studios have announced a new distribution agreement to bring a library of nine animated adventure movie and pop culture TV hits to the home entertainment marketplace in the U.S and Canada.

This multi-year, multi-property alliance provides Shout! Factory exclusive rights to My Little Pony animated family adventures My Little Pony: The Princess PromenadeMy Little Pony: A Very Minty ChristmasMy Little Pony: Runaway RainbowMy Little Pony: Dancing in the Clouds, and My Little Pony: Friends are Never Far Away. The deal also includes TV properties Transformers Animated (2007-2009 TV series), Transformers: Armada (2002 TV series), Transformers: Energon (2004 TV series), and Transformers: Cybertron (2005 TV series).

PopCap Launches Plants vs. Zombies 2

plantsvzombiesPopCap Games has released the Plants vs. Zombies 2 game. The sequel to Plants vs. Zombies will initially be available exclusively for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Featuring a time travel theme, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is free to play and can be found on the App Store around the world in seven different languages with additional languages supported soon. The game will be available for other platforms later this year. PopCap also unveiled the official launch trailer for Plants vs. Zombies 2 on its YouTube channel.

Designed as an ever-expanding universe that will offer regular updates including new worlds full of new plants, zombies, and challenges beyond the first three that comprise the initial game, Plants vs. Zombies 2 extends the gameplay of the original game and provides players with dozens of new levels, plants, and zombies. While the vast majority of the game is entirely free to play, Plants vs. Zombies 2 players can also purchase upgrades and other in-game items.

In addition to new places, Plants vs. Zombies 2 includes a variety of gameplay enhancements, including Plant Food, which drops from glowing zombies and offers a temporary but powerful boost to plant attacks. Plants vs. Zombies 2 also includes new gesture-based power-ups that enable players to interact with zombies directly and  augment their plant defenses. Other features include touch screen power ups, side missions, and mini games.