January 18, 2013

Laser Pegs

International Toy Fair

Disney Unveils Disney Infinity       

Disney InfinityDisney Interactive has unveiled Disney Infinity, an interactive game platform that allows users to create stories and play experiences starring characters from The Walt Disney Co. and Pixar Animation Studios. Disney Infinity allows players to both experience original adventures in some of their favorite Disney and Pixar worlds and to build their own worlds using the power of their imagination.
Disney Infinity integrates collectible character figures that come to life in the game.  These figures provide experiences that are true to these characters and stories, as well as the opportunity to bring characters from various films to play together. This game universe will launch in June across all consoles and will have a phased roll out across mobile and online devices throughout this year.
Throughout each story-driven experience, players will solve challenging puzzles, battle enemies, and explore locations from famous Disney properties, while collecting characters, vehicles, and gadgets from each world and saving them to a virtual toy box. Players can access their toy box and build and customize their own unique virtual world using their favorite characters, vehicles, settings, and accessories. Disney Infinity allows players the opportunity to share their creations in the toy box mode with friends both online and offline.
The Disney Infinity Platform includes Disney Infinity Interactive Pieces, Interactive Character Figures, the Infinity Base, and Disney Infinity Power Discs.

NPD Group: Toy Industry Ends December Strong                      

Consumers came out of their cocoons and rewarded the U.S. retail toy industry with a strong December, according to The NPD Group. Based on data from NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, it appears that many shoppers waited until the last two weeks of December to do their holiday toy shopping. Looking at these two weeks, dollar sales were up 18 percent and unit sales were up 10 percent when compared to the same time period in 2011.  
Overall, dollar sales for December topped $5 billion for the first time in three years, and were up 1.3 percent versus a year ago. This was the second consecutive December with revenue growth for the category, as 2011 dollar sales were up 1.5 percent compared with 2010.
For the year overall, U.S. retail toy sales totaled $16.5 billion, a slight decline from the $16.6 billion recorded in 2011.
The toy industry categories in the U.S. with the largest revenue gains last year were building sets (19.7 percent), arts and crafts (6.9 percent), dolls (5.8 percent), and infant/preschool (2.5 percent). Other categories experienced significant declines compared to 2011 including plush (12.6 percent), outdoor and sports (8 percent), vehicles (6.2 percent), and games and puzzles (5.8 percent). The remaining categories saw flat revenue including action figures/accessories and role-play, youth electronics, and all other toys.
Top properties for the year based on total dollar sales (in alphabetical order) included Barbie, Disney Princess, Hot Wheels, Monster High, and Star Wars.
Overall the licensed toy category grew only 1 percent last year.
The top 10 toys last year (in dollar order) were Leapster Explorer Licensed Software Assortment, from LeapFrog; Beyblade Metal Fusion, from Hasbro; LeapPad Explorer System Green, from LeapFrog; LeapPad 2 Tablet System Green, from LeapFrog; Hot Wheels Express Lane Assortment, from Mattel; Monster High Doll Assortment, from Mattel; Easy Bake Ultimate Oven, from Hasbro; Razor Scooter Assortment, from, Razor USA; LeapPad 2 Tablet Special Hardware Plus Bundle Assortment, from LeapFrog; and Barbie 3-Story Dream Townhouse, from Mattel.

UL Announces Move to New Consumer Products Testing Laboratory

UL has moved its consumer products testing laboratory based in Enfield, Conn., to a new, state-of-the-art 48,000-square feet facility, more than doubling its capacity and capabilities for quality and safety assurance testing. The company says the relocation will enable it to more efficiently meet the growing demand for analytical, physical, performance, and compliance testing of consumer products for retailers and manufacturers doing business in the U.S.
The new facility houses advanced instrumentation and equipment for the testing of consumer hard goods inclusive of toys, small appliances, electrical equipment, and general merchandise, and soft goods inclusive of apparel, fabrics, and textiles.  Additional laboratory capabilities allow UL to offer quality and safety assurance testing services in the U.S. for jewelry, playground equipment, and juvenile products.
The new facility is located at 1559 King Street, Enfield, CT, 06082, and the website is www.ul.com/consumer-products. All other contact information for the company remains the same.

Vivitar Planning Release of Three Tablets

Vivitar is planning a spring release of three different tablets designed specifically for children and families. Offerings will include the XO Learning Tablet, featuring  curated educational content, as well as support for bilingual families; the Camelio Tablet, which will offer a series of “personality kits” that can be tailored to the child’s interests; and a line of licensed tablets featuring Hello Kitty, Barbie, and Monster High branding for children in different age groups. All will be 7-inch Android-based models.
The announcement coincides with the Vivitar brand’s 75th anniversary and an expansion of the company’s portfolio to deliver a new generation of affordable, family-friendly products that build on the brand’s reputation of technology innovation in consumer electronics.

CPSC Chairman to Deliver Keynote Address at New York Toy Fair

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Inez Tenenbaum will deliver a keynote address on February 12 during the American International Toy Fair, according to the Toy Industry Assocation (TIA). Tenenbaum’s speech will immediately precede the TIA’s annual Toy Safety Compliance Update. Both presentations will take place in Room 1E19 of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
Beginning at 9 a.m., Tenenbaum’s keynote will address recent CPSC activity on the safety of toys and children’s products and in implementing the federal safety requirements and CPSC priorities for 2013.
Immediately following the chairman’s speech, the Toy Safety Compliance Update will begin at 10 a.m. and run until 12:30 p.m. The session will highlight important changes in U.S. federal, state, and international toy safety requirements, and will detail emerging issues likely to be under consideration by legislators and regulators in key markets around the globe. This portion of the session is free to TIA members; non-members must pay $149 to attend.
Registration for these presentations can be completed at the time of Toy Fair registration. On-site registration will be available at any Toy Fair registration desk.

Skylanders Reaches $500 Million in U.S. Retail Sales

SkylandersThe Skylanders franchise crossed $500 million in retail sales in the U.S., including accessory packs and figures, and reached this milestone faster than any other kids’ gaming property, according to Activision Publishing, Inc., a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. The figures are based on data from The NPD Group.
Additionally, together Skylanders Giants and Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure figures have outsold the top action figure lines in the toy category in the U.S., including such popular toy lines as Beyblade, WWE, and Star Wars.
Skylanders Giants, the sequel to Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, generated more than $195 million in U.S. sales, inclusive of accessory packs and figures, in 2012.
The franchise is supported by a robust licensing program that includes more than 120 licensees worldwide, in categories including plush, apparel, home décor, bed and bath, party goods, board games, and back to school.

Universal Partnerships & Licensing to Take Uglydoll Digital

UglydollUniversal Partnerships & Licensing has entered into a representation agreement with Pretty Ugly LLC, the creators of the Uglydoll brand, to expand the digital category of the Uglydoll world, or “Uglyverse.” Universal will launch interactive and wireless content, such as apps, games, widgets, and virtual goods. A feature film based on the Uglydoll characters is currently in development at Illumination Entertainment, Universal Pictures’ main supplier of family and animated films. The film will be produced by Illumination founder Chris Meledandri and distributed worldwide by Universal.




Lawless Entertainment Signs Deal with R. John Wright Dolls

Lawless Entertainment has finalized a deal with R. John Wright Dolls, Inc., on behalf of The Little Prince. RJW Dolls will use art from The Little Prince to develop collector dolls that will be sold worldwide at upscale gift and collectible shops. The dolls will be available for purchase mid-year.
The Little Prince, first published in 1943, is a novella and the most famous work of the French aristocrat writer, poet, and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
The novella is both the most read and most translated book in the French language and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France, maintaining sales of more than 1 million copies per year worldwide. Translated into more than 250 languages and dialects, with sales totaling more than 200 million copies, it has become one of the best-selling books ever published.

Sidekix Forms Strategic Partnership with Zoobies, Expands Line

Sidekix has entered into a strategic partnership with manufacturer Zoobies to deliver a new line of plush toys. As part of the partnership, the companies will collaborate on marketing and product development initiatives. Additionally, Zoobies plans to leverage its extensive international distribution network to introduce Sidekix into more retail locations throughout the world. Currently, Sidekix are sold in approximately 50 retail outlets across 12 states as well as through the Sidekix website.
Sidekix are versatile, multi-functional, two-in-one toys that transform from huggable 6-inch animals to super-soft balls children can toss around with friends, all in a zip. Sidekix come with magnets in their arms so that they can stick to anything that’s metal, such as lockers. They also have plastic clips that allow them to be clasped to items such as backpacks and bags. Children can currently collect and trade characters from the Best Friends, Safari, Barnyard, Mythical, and Endangered product lines.

Lion Rampant Imports to Distribute Schmidt Spiele Products

Lion Rampant Imports and Schmidt Spiele have entered into a new partnership for distribution and sales in North America. Game titles such a Dog, Vampires of the Night, Peek a Boo, and Magician’s Kitchen will soon be available in North American versions, and will include English, Spanish, and French instructions. In addition, Lion Rampant will again distribute Schmidt’s line of puzzles.

Digital Kids Conference to Provide Insight on Digitally Connected Children

Engage Digital has released the schedule for its 2013 Digital Kids Conference. The conference, taking place February 12 to 13 at New York’s Javits Center.
Engage Digital has once again partnered with the Toy Industry Association, co-locating Digital Kids with American International Toy Fair 2013. Along with insight gained at the conference, Digital Kids attendees also have access to Toy Fair and the Digital Kids Safety Summit, both running concurrently.
The conference features more than 30 keynotes and featured speakers from companies making the largest impact on the kids’ entertainment industry. This year, keynote speakers include: Victor Lee, vice president of digital brand marketing at Hasbro; Craig Sims, vice president of global licensing at Spin Master; Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games; and Lauren DeVillier, vice president of digital media at Disney Channels Worldwide, among others.
Lee, of Hasbro, will deliver a keynote on "Multi-tasking in Life and in Digital Marketing," which will cover how every company needs a marketing program that multitasks as much as they do.
Online registration for the Digital Kids Conference ends on February 8. Those interested in attending can access more information about the conference, the Digital Kids Safety Summit, and Toy Fair at http://digitalkidscon.com/register/.

Toy Industry Foundation Announces Record-Breaking Year

The Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) collected more than $16 million worth of toys and games last year, up 146 percent from 2011, according to the Toy Industry Association (TIA). The milestone was reached thanks to the help of toy manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and others within the toy industry, who donated more than 1.8 million new playthings to benefit children in need.
In total, The Toy Bank received toys from 372 unique donors (up 20 percent), including 119 donors who contributed to The Toy Bank for the first time.
Last year, toys and games were distributed to 145 charities within The Toy Bank network, serving children who are impoverished, ill, living in foster care or with a parent in the military, and affected by natural disasters.
TIF worked with more than 20 New York- and New Jersey-based charities to provide toys for about 40,000 young victims of Hurricane Sandy, the biggest natural disaster to hit the U.S. last year.

Sourcebooks to Offer Interactive Personalized Sesame Street Books

Sesame Workshop and Sourcebooks are partnering for the forthcoming addition of two Sesame Street books to Put Me in the Story, the personalized children’s book iPad app and website launched by Sourcebooks. The classic Elmo Loves You will be the first Sesame Street book to launch on the platform.
Put Me in the Story takes bestselling children’s picture books and integrates personalization, creating books that make children the star of the story.
The app is available on the App Store for free. Elmo Loves You will be available in February as an in-app purchase.  Custom print book orders will be available at www.putmeinthestory.com.


LeapFrog Appoints International Marketing Director

LeapFrog has appointed Sally Plumridge as international marketing director. Plumridge joins LeapFrog having worked in senior management positions at Tomy Europe and Mattel. Most recently Plumridge ran her own marketing and business consultancy, working with licensors and toy clients including WowWee.

Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products Appoints Senior VP for EMEA

Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products has appointed Bettina Koeckler as senior vice president, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) Fox Consumer Products.
Koeckler, who is co-chair of LIMA’s global marketing and membership committee, brings more than 18 years of both major multinational and owner-managed environments across business-to-business and consumer licensing and merchandising, beginning in earnest with her six years as vice president of licensing for Sony Pictures Consumer Products from 1997 to 2003.
Koeckler will lead Fox’s European operations after serving as senior vice president and general manager for global consumer products at Rainbow, the leading European producer of 2-D, CGI, and 3-D animation across all media platforms. There she oversaw properties such as Winx Club, PopPixie, Mia and Me, and Gladiators of Rome.

Toys “R” Us Releases December Financial Report

Toys “R” Us, Inc., has reported its comparable store net sales and total sales for last December. The U.S. domestic segment reported a comparable store sales decrease of 1.8 percent. The learning toy category generated the strongest comparable store sales growth, offset by weakness in the entertainment category, which includes electronics and video game hardware and software. Total sales for the domestic segment decreased 1.9 percent.
Internationally, in December comparable store sales declined 3.5 percent and total sales decreased by 4.1 percent, including a 1 percent unfavorable impact from foreign currency translation. Strength in Canada, China, and Southeast Asia was offset by economic weakness in Europe and Japan.
Adding in November results, which were impacted by Hurricane Sandy, quarter-to-date comparable store sales in the U.S. decreased 4.5 percent versus the previous year, while total sales decreased 4.7 percent. Internationally, quarter-to-date comparable store sales decreased 5.6 percent, while total quarter-to-date sales decreased 6.4 percent, including a 1.2 percent unfavorable impact from foreign currency translation. Canada, China, and Southeast Asia had the best results, offset by softness in Europe and Japan.

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