January 13, 2010
Ming Minibus

JAKKS Partners with Dentsu for Boys’ Action Property

JAKKS Pacific, Inc. is teaming up with Dentsu Inc. to produce an animated television series based on Monsuno, a new original boys’ action property. The Monsuno property follows adventure-seeking boys who get their hands on re-awakened Monster DNA. The property is being developed as 52 animated episodes and will be launched as a toy line, both targeted to boys ages 6-11. Monsuno is slated to launch in 2011 in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Monsuno will be developed by JAKKS and Dentsu in conjunction with Dentsu’s Los Angeles-headquartered subsidiary, DCI-LA. Former producer of Bakugan Battle Brawlers, Mitsuharu Inoue, will serve as creative director.

Hong Kong’s Toy Exports Fall for 2009

According to figures released by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), Hong Kong’s toy exports fell 10 percent to $88.55 billion HK ($11.35 billion U.S.) in the first 11 months of 2009. While toy exports to Czech rose 58.2 percent, exports to Russia fell 57.1 percent, exports to the U.S. dropped 23.6 percent, and exports to the European Union dipped 8 percent. Baby product exports reached approximately $6 billion HK ($726 million U.S.) in the first 11 months of 2009. Hong Kong’s top export markets were the U.S., UK, Macao, Italy, and France.

Sakar Signs Licenses for Iron Man 2, EA Sports

Sakar International is developing an Iron Man 2-branded line of spy gear, inspired by the upcoming movie release. The products are being developed under a license agreement with Marvel Entertainment. Expected to feature over a dozen SKUs, the product line will include spy watches, walkie talkie/voice changers, digital and video cameras, nightvision goggles, blacklight decoders, micro-listening devices, and video game accessories. Release dates will coincide with the movie's slated opening on May 7.
Sakar has also announced a license agreement with Electronic Arts, Inc. to produce Wii and Nintendo DS gaming accessories and youth electronics under the EA Sports brand. Products will include gaming controls, skins and styluses for EA Sports and EA Sports Active titles, and a full range of audio and computer accessories such as MP3 players with sports-themed faceplates. The first items are expected to be released in spring 2010. The agreement marks the first time that the company will work directly with a game developer to design gaming accessories for game titles.

Enesco Inks VeggieTales License

Veggie TalesEnesco, LLC is entering into a licensing agreement with Big Idea, Inc., to develop and distribute new products featuring VeggieTales characters and their faith-based messages. Enesco’s portfolio of brands includes its Gund plush division and its Gregg Gift division, one of the nation’s leading producers of faith-based gift products. VeggieTales products from Enesco are expected to be offered to retailers by midyear 2010 and be available in stores by the fall.



Step2 Closes Georgia Plant

The Step2 Company is closing its manufacturing plant in Fort Valley, Ga., reports Georgia Public Broadcasting. The company notified the 104 employees today. Employees will be able to keep their benefits for 60 days and severance pay based on how long they have been with the company. Operations will be shifted to the company's two plants in Ohio. The Fort Valley plant opened in 2000.

Grani & Partners Broaden Product Range

GormitiSeeking to broaden its product range to the younger market, Grani & Partners S.p.A., a part of the Preziosi Group, has become active with its Preziosi Collection and GP Publishing divisions and brands across Europe’s newsstands, bookshops, and toy centers. The company is offering collections of gadgets and accessories, magazines, mangas, comic books, and DVDs under license.
Grani & Partners’ products (including accessories, soft toys, beauty and fashion sets, leisure products, school items, die-cast models, inflatables, magnets, stickers, cards, 3-D figurines, tin sheet objects, watches, alarm clocks, pen-tops, bags, plush dolls, and more) are based on significant properties in entertainment and sports for children. For more information visit the Preziosi Group stand at the Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Nürnberg.

WHAM-O to Bring Frisbee Production to U.S.

Starting at the end of the month, WHAM-O will produce half of its Frisbees in the United States, which the company says is an effort to increase manufacturing jobs in the domestic market. The domestic production is part of a partnership with Manufacturing Marvel America, a division of the international Manufacturing Marvel Group, which specializes in plastic injection molding for toys and operates facilities in California and Michigan. Last August, WHAM-O began producing one of its PoolZone products in Michigan.

Disney Store to Open in Times Square

A new Disney store is slated to open in New York City’s Times Square in the fall. The retail space at 1540 Broadway, between 45th and 46th streets, will include an interactive Disney Princess castle, a children’s theater featuring the latest Disney entertainment, and special events such as celebrity appearances and children’s activities. Renovations will begin soon. 
Over the next five years, Disney Store plans to strategically balance its retail portfolio, enter new markets, and transform more than 300 locations across the U.S. and Europe to feature the new design. The lease for the new space was signed with Vornado Realty Trust, negotiated by RCS Real Estate Advisors, and brokered by SRS Real Estate Partners.

Amulet to Publish Wimpy Kid Movie Book

Wimpy KidAmulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, will publish The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary, a new book by Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The book will release on Tuesday, March 16.
The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary will tell how Kinney’s bestselling novels moved from the printed page to the big screen. Twentieth Century Fox is set to release a film adaptation of the cartoons on April 2. The new book will feature all-new illustrations, movie stills, storyboards, and preliminary concept drawings.



New Environmental Sustainability Seminar at Toy Fair 2010

At Toy Fair 2010, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) will host a seminar on environmental sustainability. The seminar, “Growing Green: A Toy Industry Update on Environmental Sustainability and Bottom Line Growth,” will be held from 3:00-4:30 PM on Monday, February 15. Chaired by Danny Grossman, chair of the TIA Environmental Sustainability committee and CEO of Wild Planet Entertainment, “Growing Green” will feature a presentation by Laura Phillips, vice president of toys at Wal-Mart, who will discuss the company’s packaging scorecard, sustainability index, and the recent Green Business Summit.
The seminar will also touch on the toy industry’s definition of sustainability, key environmental updates in the legislative and regulatory arenas, updates for toy factories, and a panel presentation by the TIA Environmental Sustainability Committee on “How Doing Good Also Benefits the Bottom Line,” among others. TIA is also launching an extensive TIA member self-assessment survey covering environmental strategy and policy, manufacturing, product and packaging, and transportation and logistics. The survey will launch by mid-January.

Stone America Appointed Licensing Agent for StinkyKids, American Bass Anglers

StinkyKidsStone America Licensing has been appointed the exclusive licensing agent by Britt Menzies, creator of StinkyKids. StinkyKids are a group of 10 diverse “little stinKers” who learn to make the right choices through common mistakes. The group lives by the motto “Always Be a Leader of Good.” The StinkyKids plush line premiered last year in Nordstrom stores.
Stone America’s first priority will be to solidify a new master toy/plush licensee and publishing licensee. StinkyKids’ first book, StinkyKids and the Runaway Scissors, is slated to release this month.
Stone America has also been appointed the exclusive licensing agent by American Bass Anglers (ABA), the largest tournament trail for the weekend angler. Licensing categories available to manufacturers and retailers include toys and games, publishing, electronics, equipment,  apparel, accessories, and more.
As part of the deal, ABA and Stone America have created a new licensing/sponsorship model that provides licensees official tournament sponsor benefits, including but not limited to signage and experiential marketing opportunities at all ABA events and tournaments.

Simon & Schuster Signs on for School Gyrls Books

School GyrlsSimon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division will release a brand-new multimedia book series to coincide with the upcoming film, School Gyrls. The movie tells the story of the three real-life students who formed the teen pop group. Directed by actor and comedian Nick Cannon, School Gyrls is set to premiere on Nickelodeon on February 21.
To kick off the series, Simon Spotlight will publish a movie novelization and movie tie-in scrapbook in February. Aladdin Books will publish six original novels based on the three members of the pop group. Fiona Simpson, editorial director from Aladdin, acquired world rights through Fletcher & Company in association with UTA on behalf of Nick Cannon. A second movie is also being planned, as well as a possible TV series.

Marvel Files Federal Lawsuit over Comic Copyrights

Spider-ManMarvel Worldwide, Inc. filed a federal lawsuit in Manhattan on Friday asking a judge to invalidate 45 notices sent by the heirs of artist Jack Kirby that aimed to terminate Marvel’s copyrights. The notices said Marvel’s copyrights would terminate on dates ranging from 2014 through 2019.  The heirs notified several companies last year that the rights would revert from Marvel to Kirby’s estate. Marvel argues that Kirby’s work on the comics were “for hire,” which makes the heirs’ claims invalid.
According to the lawsuit, Kirby contributed to titles such as Amazing Spider-Man, The Avenger, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, and The X-Men. Marvel shareholders recently approved the acquisition of the company by The Walt Disney Co.    

Disney to Release 3-D Movies on Blu-ray

Walt Disney Studios will start releasing Disney Digital 3-D content for the home on Blu-ray disc beginning with Disney's A Christmas Carol and a special 3-D Showcase Disc. The new 3-D content for homes will be made available in coordination with hardware manufacturers’ to-be-released, 3-D home entertainment systems.
The 3-D enabled, Blu-ray release of Disney's A Christmas Carol will be available in fourth quarter 2010, and will be the debut title that will launch a line up of Disney Digital 3-D movies for the home. The 3-D Showcase Disc will be a compilation of upcoming 3-D product, footage, and promotional trailers from Disney's 3-D content library, including Walt Disney's 1953 animated short Working for Peanuts, and trailers of upcoming Blu-ray releases such as Disney's A Christmas Carol and Alice in Wonderland.

Report: 31 Percent of Kids Obtained Physical and Digital Content

According to Kids and Entertainment Content, a recent report from The NPD Group, 79 percent of kids ages 2-14 acquired some form of physical or digital content in the past year, with 31 percent acquiring both physical and digital content. In terms of money, $0.85 of every content dollar spent by kids went to physical items, while $0.15 went to digital. 
According to the report, video rental services and online music services were the top content-based household services or subscriptions used by kids ages 2-14 in the past year. Nineteen percent of kids used an in-store video rental service, 12 percent used an online video rental service, and 14 percent used an online music service. Paid subscriptions to online video game rental services and online gaming websites ranked towards the bottom.
The report also stated that the average age at which kids make their first digital download is 7 years old, and 41 percent of kids who own digital content said music was the first type they downloaded (game downloads followed behind with 38 percent). The report focuses on kids' ages 2-14 consumption of entertainment content including video and PC games, music, movies, TV shows, cell phone tones, and music videos.

CPSC Recalls Cloth Books

Big Rex and FriendsThe U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in cooperation with Macmillan, has announced a voluntary recall of approximately 204,000 cloth books entitled Big Rex and Friends. The book is being recalled due to an excessive level of lead in the sewn red dot of the Diplodocus image, located on the second to last page of the book. The books were sold at bookstores and retailers nationwide from May 2004 through October 2009. Owners of the book should stop using the recalled product and take the book away from young children. No incident or injuries have been reported. For more information, or to request a refund, visit www.priddybooks.com/recall.

4Kids Entertainment Appoints Licensing Agents in Asian Territories

4Kids Entertainment, Inc. has appointed several sub-agents for properties in its global portfolio. CLICK! Licensing Asia will now represent the American Kennel Club in China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, as well as Jim Henson Designs in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. Empire International Merchandising Corporation will be representing The Artlist Collection’s The Dog/The Cat/The Pig photographic properties in the Philippines. Additionally, Impact Licensing & Marketing will represent Jim Henson Designs in Taiwan. The companies will work closely with Ron Nowicki, executive vice president, licensing and marketing, and Dave Sharat, vice president of licensing and marketing, Asia Pacific.

TIF Receives $50M in Donated Toys

The Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) has announced that product donations received during the 2009 holiday season helped the industry reach $50 million dollars in donated toys. The product donations were received via The Toy Bank. Since The Toy Bank’s launch in 2003, more than 1,000 toy companies have donated over seven million toys to children in need around the world. The next big toy collection will take place after the American International Toy Fair, held in New York City on February 14-17, 2010. Exhibiting companies will be invited to contribute products to The Toy Bank.

LEGO Introduces LEGO Click

LEGO Systems has unveiled its first official iPhone application, LEGO Photo, available for free at the iTunes App Store. To use the app, users can choose a photo from an existing gallery on their iPhone or iPod touch, or snap their own photo, and then touch the screen to watch a masterpiece build. Then, users can upload it to a social networking page, email it, print it, or even tweet it. The app is part of a newly launched program by the company aimed at celebrating “CLICK moments,” described as lightbulb instances such as when the solution to a problem becomes clear, or when a great idea reveals itself.  LEGO also introduces a new short film that follows a fictional inventor’s journey to his “CLICK moment,” and premieres www.LegoClick.com, a blog that celebrates light bulb moments.

Hasbro Hires Former LeapFrog President

Hasbro, Inc. has hired Jerry Perez as senior vice president and global brand leader for the company’s worldwide preschool business. In the role, Perez will lead global strategy, marketing, and merchandising for Hasbro’s preschool brand portfolio including Playskool, Mr. Potato Head, and Play-Doh. He will also lead global efforts around the recently announced Sesame Street toy and co-branded games license, in which the first products will be released in 2011.
Perez has nearly 25 years of global and domestic toy industry experience. He has served as president of LeapFrog Enterprises and held positions at companies such as Learning Curve, Fisher-Price, and Kenner, which was acquired by Hasbro in 1991.

Gumby Creator Dies

Art ClokeyArt Clokey, creator of the popular clay character Gumby (the first to star in clay animated television segments), died on Friday in Los Osos, Calif. Clokey was 88. Gumby debuted in the 1950s on The Howdy Doody Show after Clokey created a 3.5-minute film called Gumbasia, a parody of Disney’s Fantasia featuring clay objects changing shapes to jazz music. Gumby eventually moved on to his own show, The Adventures of Gumby.




Former TIA Exec Joins Forces with PR Firm

Julie Livingston, former senior director of public relations at the Toy Industry Association, has teamed up with Child Play Communications for a strategic alliance in toy and youth entertainment public relations and social media. Livingston spent six years at TIA mitigating industry crises and appearing on programs such as CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and The View, as well as being quoted in publications such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Child’s Play Communications is an agency specializing exclusively in connecting companies with the mom market. The agency has represented Hasbro, Gund, Alexander Doll, Spin Master, and JAKKS Pacific, among others.
For more information, or for companies that need representation at Toy Fair, contact Julie Livingston at (212) 488-2060 ext. 12 or jl@childsplaypr.com; or Stephanie Azzarone at (212) 488-2060 ext. 11 or sa@childsplaypr.com.

RDF Rights Appoints New Director of Consumer Products

RDF Rights (RDFR), part of the RDF Media Group, has appointed Mark Watson as director of consumer products, kids & family division. Watson will assume the role this month when Rachel Barke, current director of consumer products, goes on maternity leave. Watson, who has more than 20 years of international consumer products experience, joins RDF after working as the UK licensing director at Twentieth Century Fox, sales and licensing director at Character UK, and most recently as a licensing consultant with Bespoke Marketing.
In his new role at RDFR, Watson will work with RDF’s kids division on all aspects of global licensing, retail, promotions, events, and home entertainment. The company’s portfolio includes Yo Gabba Gabba!, Waybuloo, Mister Maker & Big Barn Farm, and Escape from Scorpion Island, among others.

TRU Releases Store Sales Results for December, Holiday Season

Toys “R” Us, Inc. has announced its comparable store sales for the month of December (the five-week period from November 29, 2009 to January 2, 2010) and the 2009 holiday selling season (the nine-week period from November 1, 2009 to January 2, 2010). For the month of December, the Toys “R” Us, Inc. domestic division reported a comparable store sales increase of 4.6 percent, while the international division reported a comparable store sales increase of 1.1 percent. International results varied by country, with relative strength in the UK and Canada offset by declines primarily in Japan.  
The domestic division’s comparable store sales for the nine-week 2009 holiday selling season increased by 3.9 percent, while the same sales for the international division decreased by 0.7 percent. In both cases, the traditional toy categories were relatively strong, while video game systems and related products were relatively weak.

4Kids Entertainment CEO Takes Pay Cut

According to regulatory records filed last week, 4Kids Entertainment’s CEO Al Kahn is taking a 15 percent pay cut, and the company is reporting operating losses and declining licensing revenues. It was also revealed that the CFO and general counsel of the company will be eligible to receive payments of twice their annual salary plus a bonus if the company is sold or a change of control occurs. 

Sears Reports December Store Sales

Sears Holdings Corporation has reported domestic comparable store sales for December, quarter-to-date, and year-to-date periods ended January 2, 2010 for its Kmart and Sears Domestic stores. Kmart’s December store sales increased by 5.2 percent. The store’s quarter-to-date sales increased by 2.6 percent, and its year-to-date sales declined by 0.7 percent. For Sears, its December store sales declined by 4.3 percent, its quarter-to-date sales declined by 6 percent, and its year-to-date store sales declined by 8.8 percent.
The company attributed Kmart’s increased store sales to the toys, home, and apparel categories, as well as the impact of assuming the operations of its footwear business from a third party last January. Sears Domestic’s store sales, says the company, reflect sales of higher ticket hardline items.
Sears Holding Corporation expects net income attributable to the company’s shareholders for the quarter ending January 30 to be between $385 million and $465 million, or between $3.36 and $4.06 per diluted share. In the fourth quarter ending January 31, 2009, the company reported net income attributable to Holdings' shareholders of $190 million, or $1.55 per diluted share.
For the full year ending January 30, 2010, the company expects net income attributable to Holdings' shareholders to be between $190 million and $270 million, or between $1.61 and $2.29 per diluted share. For the full year ended January 31, 2009, the company reported net income attributable to Holdings' shareholders of $53 million, or $0.42 per diluted share.

Target Reports December Sales Results

Target Corporation has reported that its net retail sales for the five weeks ending January 2 were $9.741 billion, a 5 percent increase from $9.280 billion for the same period last year. December comparable-store sales increased 1.8 percent. The company’s quarter-to-date sales were $15.430 billion, a 3.7 percent increase compared to last year, while the company’s year-to-date sales were $59.147 billion, a 0.7 percent increase compared to last year. Comparable store sales for the quarter-to-date increased by 0.6 percent.

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The Toy Report

Jonathan Samet

Editor in Chief:
Jackie Breyer

Assistant Editor:
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Production Director:
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