February 07, 2014

China Toy Fair

Spielwarenmesse Closes with Strong Increase in Visitors

More than 76,000 trade visitors from 112 countries traveled to the biggest Spielwarenmesse of all time this year. The extra buyers and traders came mainly from the major target markets of America, Asia, and Europe. The product groups Baby and Infant Articles, Carnival and Festive Articles, Fireworks, and Model Railways and Accessories noticed new impetus at this year’s show. Many of the 2,748 companies from 61 countries detected an increased interest in ordering among the visitors.
The premiere of the TrendGallery turned out to be successful in regards to design and content. Fit4Life, Mini is King, Retromania, and TechToys—the current trend streams presented there—were also core themes in all the halls at the fair. 
The changes in the other halls also proved successful. Nearly 87 percent of visitors rated their product spectrum as complete (2013: 80 percent), which also recognized the involvement of the small-series manufacturers represented.
The next Spielwarenmesse takes place from January 28 to February 2, 2015.

Sega Kicks Off New Era of Toys and Games with Sonic Boom

Sonic BoomSega will be introducing a new branch of the Sonic universe, Sonic Boom, which will debut a new look for Sonic and friends and launch the franchise’s first-ever CG-animated TV series. The Sonic Boom TV show is co-produced by Sega of America Inc. and OuiDO! Productions, and is set to debut in the U.S. and France during the 2014 to 2015 season. It is an ensemble comedy consisting of 52 11-minute episodes. 
Sonic Boom will be supported by a robust global licensing and merchandising program, anchored by new master toy partner Tomy. Tomy’s line will showcase new character looks, stressing interaction between core characters, and will feature new play patterns based on both the new game and TV series. Tomy will develop a comprehensive toy range across a broad number of categories including plush, action figures, R/C, role play, vehicles, and novelty.
The Sonic Boom video game for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS systems serves as a prequel to the TV series, and will deliver a different experience to previous Sonic games, with collaborative game play at its core.  Developed in the U.S by Big Red Button Entertainment and Sanzaru Games in collaboration with Sonic Team, it is the third title to be released as part of an exclusive deal with Nintendo.

Wicked Cool Named Master Toy Licensee for Wild Kratts

Starting this year, Wicked Cool Toys is the master toy license for Wild Kratts. In celebration, Chris Kratt will be at the Wicked Cool Toys booth at the American International Toy Fair in New York on February 17, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Wicked Cool Toys will be introducing a line of figures, accessories, vehicles, play sets, role play, and plush based on Wild Kratts, which stars real-life brothers Chris and Martin Kratt. The toy line is slated to debut this fall.


Warner Bros. Consumer Products Lines Up Toy Licensees

Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) enters this year’s American International Toy Fair with an extensive lineup of global licensees in support of its entertainment properties. On the film side, Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ upcoming Godzilla will be supported with new toy lines from Bandai America and Jakks Pacific. Jakks’ line of Godzilla products will include an Ultimate Large Scale Godzilla Figure with 12 points of articulation and a length of more than 43 inches, making it one of the largest toys in Godzilla history. The Hobbit Trilogy will receive new toy figures and other items from The Bridge Direct and Vivid Group.
WBCP and its licensing partners will also celebrate milestone anniversaries of several films: Both The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind celebrate 75 years with new toys from Mattel, Tonner Doll, and Madame Alexander; and for the 10-year anniversary of The Polar Express, licensing partner Lionel will offer locomotive sets.
For WBCP’s Batman and DC Comics properties, Mattel will release new Lights and Sounds Core figures and a Hot Wheels Batmobile Assortment, while the Lego Group will expand its Lego DC Comics offerings with new Batman and Lego Duplo sets.
WBCP’s licensing program for classic animation, including Looney Tunes, will continue under master toy partners The Bridge Direct and Character Group in the U.S. and UK, respectively.
For the TV show The Big Bang Theory, USAopoly will release a Monopoly game; Cardinal Industries will introduce puzzles, playing cards, and games; and Tonner Dolls will showcase dolls. Wonderland Toys will feature The Big Bang Theory dolls, gifts, and novelties. Another WBCP TV show, Supernatural, will get a new collection from Funko featuring Pop! stylized vinyls.

Hasbro, Amazon Team Up to Offer Transformers Movie-Inspired Products

TransformersHasbro and Amazon have partnered to offer the first official merchandise inspired by the upcoming movie Transformers: Age of Extinction. Amazon’s Transformers Headquarters Shop is now live on its website and features the first action figure available for purchase from Hasbro’s Transformers: Transformers First Edition Optimus Prime. The figure converts from robot to vehicle and includes new metallic embellishes, rubber tires, and is styled in the way the character will look in the movie. The product is also among the numbered line of “Thrilling 30” action figures celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Transformers brand this year. It is available exclusively on amazon.com before the broader toy line becomes available in May.



Sterling, Pimsleur Headline WIT-Walmart Entrepreneurs Forum

Debbie Sterling, engineer and founder of Goldieblox, and Julia Pimsleur, CEO and founder of Little Pim, will kick off the upcoming WIT-Walmart Entrepreneurs Forum, scheduled to take place on February 18, starting at 9 a.m., at the American International Toy Fair in New York. Keynote speakers Sterling and Pimsleur will speak on “Raising Capital to Fund Your Business,” which will include the obtaining of venture capital money for women-owned business.
The Entrepreneurs Forum will be followed by a panel discussion, “Pitching to Walmart,” scheduled for 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and featuring three women who have become successful vendors.

Disney Launches “It Starts with You” Safety Campaign

Disney Club Penguin, a virtual world for kids, will launch “It Starts with You!,” a global safety campaign that gives kids and families the resources they need to navigate more safely online. Developed primarily for tweens and parents of tweens, the campaign will include a safety PSA starring G Hannelius from Disney Channel’s Dog with a Blog on both Disney Channel and Disney’s online networks.
There will also be an online safety resource center to help kids and parents learn the latest in online safety and empower them to be good digital citizens, multilingual safety tips for kids about how to protect their information online, and more. The safety resource center, as well as additional information about these safety efforts, can be found at Club Penguin’s web site.

Smart Toys and Games Partners with Hooked on Science

Smart Toys and Games Inc. has partnered with Hooked on Science, donating building sets that allow students to playfully explore magnetism as part of learning STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts.
Hooked on Science inspires students to be inquisitive about the world around them and to develop a long-term interest in science and math. While working in groups, students will use the SmartMax School Sets for hands-on experiments, discovering the science behind the SmartMax magnets and engineering structures.
SmartMax School Sets come with 100 colorful pieces, including colored bars and easy-to-manipulate magnetic balls, all in a bin for easy storage. SmartMax Sets offer children the chance to experience magnetism and construction in a safe way, even from a very young age.
The diverse SmartMax line includes vehicle sets, glow-in-the-dark pieces, and LED-lit pieces, all of which can be combined with other sets for endless combinations. SmartMax School Sets are available on amazon.com, target.com, walmart.com, smarttoysandgames.com, and at quality toy stores everywhere.

Regal Entertainment Hosts Exclusive Giveaway Celebrating The Lego Movie

The Lego MovieRegal Entertainment Group will give away a limited-edition Lego minifigure to Regal Crown Club members at all RealD 3-D Regal locations playing The Lego Movie. Regal guests who purchase a ticket to the 3-D movie will receive one Pyjamas Emmet minifigure per transaction at the box office while supplies last. 
The movie follows Emmet, an ordinary Lego minifigure, as he tries to save the world when he is mistakenly identified as its most extraordinary person. The Lego Movie is the first full-length theatrical Lego adventure. It is opening in theaters today.






Mattel, Epic Records Partner for Multi-Tiered Barbie Campaign

Inspired by the Barbie brand tagline, “With Barbie, Anything Is Possible,” Mattel has debuted a new brand anthem for the doll this year. Serving as a positive, empowering beacon for girls worldwide, the high-energy, catchy pop song will be voiced by all-girl group Fifth Harmony. The partnership with Epic Records/SYCO recording artists Fifth Harmony includes the global debut of the lyric music video on barbie.com, followed by the launch of a music video and a Fifth Harmony Barbie doll collaboration.
To celebrate a year of girl empowerment together, Barbie will debut a full-length music video later this year featuring Fifth Harmony that brings the anthem’s spirited lyrics to life. Mattel will also introduce fans worldwide to a Barbie doll collection including five dolls created in the likeness of each Fifth Harmony member. The doll collection is set to launch at select retailers in the U.S. this holiday season and at retailers worldwide in early spring 2015.

Zagtoon Partners with Bandai and Disney Channel for Ladybug TV Series

Zagtoon has signed Bandai America Inc. as the master toy licensee of the new CGI TV series Ladybug, consisting of 26 26-minute episodes. The series is a co-production from French animation companies Zagtoon and Method Animation with Japan’s Toei Animation and has international partners such as SAM-G, AB International, Curlstone, SK Broadband, and its leading commissioner in France, TF1.

Bandai plans to develop a collection of dolls, role play, games, and lifestyle products bringing Ladybug’s superheroine to life. Jérémy Zag opened an office and studio in Glendale in order to manage all the Zag Inc. brands and to create Zag Animation Studio Films.

Zagotoon and Method Animation have also partnered with Disney Channel for the acquisition of Ladybug. The Disney Channel gained broadcast rights for Ladybug in Europe, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. The deal was done by PGS Entertainment.
Ladybug follows the story of Marinette and Adrien, Parisian junior high school students who are secretly superheroes. Using magical powers, they transform into the bickering duo Ladybug and Chat Noir, but neither knows the other’s true identity. They have been chosen to save Paris from the mysterious evil villain Hawk Moth, who wants their magical powers for himself. Marinette has to juggle her two identities: saving Paris as Ladybug and winning Adrien's heart as Marinette.

TIA Offers Chance to Win Two Tickets to TOTY Awards

Thanks to an anonymous donor, a young member of the toy industry can experience the 14th Annual Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards, courtesy of the Toy Industry Association (TIA). Eligible entrants must be under age 40, subscribed as a member of Toy Industry Next Generation (TING)—a special interest group of TIA—and attending TOTY for the first time. Entries must be submitted online and will be collected through midnight E.T. on February 9. TIA staff will announce a winner via e-mail and phone on the morning of February 10.
The TOTY Awards will take place on February 15 in New York City. More info can be found at the TIA website.

It’s Game On for Betty Boop, Hamilton Collection, and NFL

Betty BoopThe Hamilton Collection is partnering with King Features Syndicate to introduce a new series of collectible figurines featuring Betty Boop, the Queen of Cartoons, and NFL teams. The first in the series, “Three Boop-Oop-a-Doops,” is a figural bell measuring 4 3/4–inches high and features Betty Boop cheering on her favorite NFL teams. The figure is dressed in official team colors with logos emblazoned on her cheerleader’s uniform and megaphone.
Fans can view all available designs at The Hamilton Collection web site.




LeapFrog Sponsors PBS Kids Writers Contest

LeapFrog Enterprises is the national prizing sponsor for the PBS Kids Writers Contest, which is designed to promote the advancement of children’s literacy skills through hands-on and active learning. The contest is open to children in kindergarten through third grade.
Local winners will be entered into the national contest, where a panel of judges will rank the top 12 entries. National winners will be announced this summer, and LeapFrog will award a prize package that includes its LeapReader Reading and Writing System.

Makeup Kits for Girls Are Fun and Inexpensive

Little girls love to play with makeup. I know I definitely did. Unfortunately for me, my mom mostly stuck to neutrals, earth tones, and pale pinks—“boring” colors, in my young opinion. I wanted to open that makeup bag and see electric blue eye shadow, fire engine red lipstick, bright pink blush, vermillion glitter nail polish—you know, the works. But I made do with what she had, bland though I may have thought it, because it was fun to play with. For years, I’ve said that if I ever have a daughter, I will keep a stash of all the fun stuff (that I would never wear myself—I now, of course, completely understand why my mom kept the palette she did) and let her have at it as a special treat. However, there are lots of great makeup kits for girls available today, which may save me a trip to the cosmetics aisle of my drugstore. Read more…

Oregon Scientific Promotes Two and Hires New General Manager

Oregon Scientific has promoted David Riley and Robert Hauser to senior-level positions, and has hired Ryan Else as its new general manager in moves intended to strengthen its product development, marketing, and business-to-business initiatives in the North American region.
Riley has been promoted to director of product development and marketing. He brings more than 20 years of experience in marketing, product management, and business development. Riley will work closely with Oregon Scientific to align global leadership on product, pricing, and marketing strategies for the North American market.
As director of sales, Hauser will continue his current role developing sales strategies and channel distribution for Oregon Scientific’s line of electronic learning products. He will also oversee the development of the company’s presence in the business-to-business marketplace. Hauser, who joined Oregon Scientific in 2013 with 15 years of sales and business experience, will work to align overall global planning, strategy, and implementation of the business-to-business distribution channel.
Else joined Oregon Scientific in January and brings more than 15 years of experience in sales and marketing. As general manager, he will be responsible for overall profit and loss of the North American business unit. In addition, he will develop and implement the overall growth strategy of the North American business, while driving the Oregon Scientific team to deliver sales, profits, cash flow and other financial targets.

Mattel Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results

On Friday, Mattel Inc. reported fourth quarter and full year financial results. The company reported net income of $369.2 million, or $1.07 per share, compared to last year’s fourth quarter net income of $306.5 million, or $0.87 per share, and last year’s fourth quarter adjusted net income of $393.6 million, or adjusted earnings per share of $1.12.
For the full year, Mattel Inc. reported net income of $903.9 million, or $2.58 per share, compared to last year’s net income of $776.5 million, or $2.22 per share, and last year’s adjusted net income of $863.6 million, or adjusted earnings per share of $2.47.
By brand, for the fourth quarter, worldwide gross sales for the Mattel Girls & Boys Brands business unit were $1.35 billion, down 4 percent versus a year ago. Worldwide gross sales for the Barbie brand were down 13 percent. For the year, worldwide gross sales for the Mattel Girls & Boys Brands business unit were $4.32 billion, up 3 percent versus a year ago, and worldwide gross sales for the Barbie brand were down 6 percent for the year.
For the fourth quarter, worldwide gross sales for the Fisher-Price Brands business unit were $647.4 million, down 13 percent versus the prior year. For the year, worldwide gross sales for the Fisher-Price Brands business unit were $2.12 billion, down 6 percent versus the prior year, driven by a decline in Fisher-Price Core, and partially offset by strong performance by Thomas & Friends, Octonauts, and new franchises.
Gross sales for the American Girl Brands business unit were $331.6 million for the fourth quarter, up 3 percent versus the prior year. For the year, gross sales for the American Girl Brands business unit were $632.5 million, up 11 percent versus the prior year.

Activision Reports Better-Than-Expected Results

Activision Blizzard Inc. has announced better-than-expected financial results for the fourth quarter and calendar year.
For the calendar year, Activision Blizzard delivered GAAP net revenues of $4.58 billion, as compared with $4.86 billion for 2012. On a non-GAAP basis, the company’s net revenues were $4.34 billion, as compared with $4.99 billion for 2012. For the calendar year, GAAP net revenues from digital channels were $1.56 billion and represented 34 percent of the company’s total revenues. On a non-GAAP-basis, for the calendar year, net revenues from digital channels were $1.57 billion and represented a record 36 percent of the company’s total net revenues.
For the quarter ended December 31, the company delivered GAAP net revenues of $1.52 billion, as compared with $1.77 billion for the fourth quarter of 2012. On a non-GAAP basis, the company’s net revenues were $2.27 billion, as compared with $2.60 billion for the fourth quarter of 2012.
For the quarter ended December 31, Activision Blizzard’s GAAP earnings per diluted share were $0.22, as compared with earnings per diluted share of $0.31 for the fourth quarter of 2012. On a non-GAAP basis, the company’s earnings per diluted share were a record $0.79, as compared with $0.78 for the fourth quarter of 2012.
In North America and Europe combined, Activision Publishing was the No. 1 console and handheld publisher for the calendar year with the No. 2 and No. 3 best-selling franchises—Call of Duty and Skylanders, including toys and accessories.

The Walt Disney Company Reports Revenue Increase for Consumer Products, Interactive Segments

On Wednesday, the Walt Disney Company reported that for its consumer products segment, revenues and operating income increased 11 percent to $1.1 billion and increased 24 percent to $430 million, respectively. The higher operating income was due to increases at the company’s merchandise licensing and retail businesses.
The increase at merchandise licensing was due to the inclusion of Lucasfilm and higher revenues from the performance of Planes, Disney Junior, and Monsters University merchandise, partially offset by lower revenue from sales of Cars and Spider-Man merchandise. At the Walt Disney Company’s retail business, higher operating income for the quarter was driven by an increase in North America due to comparable store sales growth and higher online sales.
For the interactive segment, revenues for the quarter increased 38 percent to $403 million, while segment operating income increased $46 million to $55 million. Higher operating income was due to an increase in the company’s console games business, driven by the success of Disney Infinity in the current quarter compared to Epic Mickey 2 in the prior-year quarter, and growth from the company’s Japan mobile business.
Overall, the company reported record earnings for its first fiscal quarter ended December 28, 2013. Diluted earnings per share increased 34 percent to $1.03 from $0.77 in the prior-year quarter.

Step2 Sees Strong Results, Forecasts Strength in 2014

Step2 reported strong business results for 2013 and forecasts continued strength for 2014. The company says its growth was a result of new and innovative children’s toys, strategic planning for the company’s international expansion, and Step2’s commitment to providing excellent customer service.
To support the company’s goals for this year, Step2 is expanding overseas markets in Asia and the Middle East. With spring approaching, Step2 will also launch new products, including water and sand tables, light-it-up basketball hoops and climbers, and playhouses to encourage indoor and outdoor play.
The company will continue donating part of its profits to Saving Tiny Hearts Society, an organization that funds research on congenital heart defects in children.

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. Reports Strong Fiscal Third Quarter

On Tuesday, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. reported strong financial results for the fiscal third quarter ended December 31. The company also increased its financial outlook for the fiscal year ending March 31, and provided its initial financial outlook for the fiscal fourth quarter ending March 31.
For the fiscal third quarter, GAAP net revenue increased to $1.86 billion, as compared to $415.8 million for fiscal third quarter last year. GAAP net income from continuing operations was $578.4 million, or $4.69 per diluted share, as compared to $70.9 million, or $0.66 per diluted share, for the year-ago period. As of December 31, the company had cash and cash equivalents of $972.2 million.
For the fiscal third quarter, Non-GAAP net revenue grew to $767.7 million, as compared to $405.0 million for the year-ago period. Non-GAAP net income increased to $210.7 million, or $1.70 per diluted share, as compared to $78.8 million, or $0.67 per diluted share, for the year-ago period.
Non-GAAP net revenue from digitally delivered content grew 42 percent year-over-year to $132.8 million, driven by the Grand Theft Auto series, the NBA 2K franchise, and offerings for Borderlands 2 and BioShock Infinite.

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