February 10, 2010
Ming Minibus

Marvel Signs Multi-Year Agreement with Maisto

MarvelMarvel Entertainment continues to expand its presence in the toy category through a new deal with Maisto International for die-cast toy vehicles featuring Marvel’s Super Heroes.
As part of this worldwide, multi-year agreement, Maisto has been awarded the rights to produce and market a range of die-cast vehicles and playsets based on several Marvel characters and brands including Super Hero Squad, classic Marvel properties, and Marvel Studios’ upcoming feature films, Iron Man 2, Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America, and The Avengers.
Product categories planned are die-cast vehicles including cars, off-road trucks, motorcycles, planes, and trains, as well as die-cast vehicle playsets. The Marvel collection is scheduled to launch late in the second quarter of 2010 and will be available at mass market, collector, specialty, and toy stores.

WHAM-O Merges with Sprig Toys

SprigWHAM-O, Inc. has merged with Sprig Toys, Inc. The two have created a new line of battery-free, kid-powered preschool products under the new WHAM-O Jr. brand. WHAM-O will now have access to Sprig’s reclaimed wood and recycled plastic material, Sprigwood. In addition to Sprig’s products, such as the Eco-Trucks Dump Truck and the Dino Adventure Rig, the WHAM-O Jr. line will include WHAM-O’s inflatables and outdoor play products.

Ty Sues Toys “R” Us

According to Crain’s, Ty, Inc. is suing Toys “R” Us for using the Beanie Babies label on stuffed animals that Ty didn’t make. The lawsuit, which alleges trademark infringement and unfair competition, was filed last week in federal court. It claims Toys “R” Us is misusing Ty’s Beanie trademark, in advertising and on shelves, to sell and promote products not made by Ty. Ty wants a federal judge to rule that Toys “R” Us has infringed on the Beanies trademark, and is seeking monetary relief including profits made from selling toys with the Beanies term and any additional amount that the judge sees fit.
In other news, Ty has agreed to stop offering Bubblegum and Cleo Beanie Boos after Aurora World, Inc. filed a federal copyright lawsuit against the company. Aurora claimed that Ty’s Beanie Boos infringed on Aurora’s YooHoo & Friends. Ty also stated that it has never sold and will not sell Bubblegum and Cleo, and will pull images of the products from all displays and point of purchase (POP) materials nationwide. A judge has ruled that the fate of the remaining products in Ty’s Beanie Boos line will be determined at a trial.

Spin Master Partners for New Tween Series

Spin Master Entertainment and Titmouse Inc., a Hollywood-based animation studio, will co-develop and produce a new tween-targeted, animated musical series called The Special Offers. The show will follow four misfit kids who bond over their love for music and form the band, The Special Offers. Each episode will feature an original song, which will be compiled and distributed as a soundtrack album at the end of the season.
The Special Offers was created by Keith Fay, vice president of Titmouse, Inc., and features the music of Fay and Gina Schock, drummer of the Go-Go’s. Schock will serve as a producer on the series, while Spin Master Entertainment’s Matt Wexler and Jennifer Picherack and Titmouse Inc.’s Fay and Shannon Prynoski will serve as executive producers.
Spin Master will be the global merchandising, licensing agent and toy maker for the brand, with Titmouse creating the animated musical series and holding the global music rights.

Pretty Ugly Partners for New Products

Pretty Ugly DollIn addition to expanding its plush line, in March Pretty Ugly will release Series 2 Action Figures in new “C-Thru” boxes. Pretty Ugly will also debut six new Big Toe Collections in bright new colors.
The Ugly gang will also star in new books such as Random House titles Ugly Guide 4–The Ugly Guide to Eating Out and Keeping It Down, and Ugly Colors, a board book, to be released by April. In the fall, another board book, Babo’s Cookie Problem, will be released. Pretty Ugly will partner with Schylling to release new tin products including tin truck pencil holders, coin banks, wind-up robots, alarm clocks, and tin keepsake lunch boxes. Through a partnership with Abrams, the company will also release two calendars in the summer.

Walthers, Inc. Sells Darda Line

Wm. K. Walthers, Inc. has sold its Darda line of toys to Simm Marketing GMBH, a long time licensee of the Darda brand in Europe. Darda has been a Walthers brand since 2005. Simm Marketing GMBH was founded in 1926, when founder Richard Simm began making costume jewelry. In 1965, the company started producing toys and today Simm
distributes other toy lines in Germany and surrounding countries. Simm has been offering Darda products in Europe since 1999.

A Squared Entertainment to Develop Licensed Build-A-Bear Merchandise

Build-A-BearA Squared Entertainment (A2) is partnering with Build-A-Bear Workshop to produce original multimedia entertainment for distribution online, on-air, and on other digital devices. The companies will also develop a new line of licensed merchandise—including DVDs, accessories, apparel, books, and additional branded merchandise—that will be sold outside Build-A-Bear stores in select retail outlets. A2 will manage the entertainment and external licensing program for Build-A-Bear Workshop.



2010 Imports Forecasted to Rise

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail
Federation and Hackett Associates, approximately 25 percent more merchandise will be imported during the first half of 2010, compared to the same period a year ago.
U.S. ports handled 1.09 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in December, the latest month for which actual numbers are available.One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent. It’s estimated that in January, U.S. ports would have handled 1.19 million TEU, a 17 percent increase over January 2009. In total, it’s estimated that ports will handle 7.4 million TEU for the first half of 2010, compared to last year’s 5.9 million TEU.

Big Idea Inks Deal with Animation Studio

VeggieTalesBig Idea Entertainment is entering into a multi-production deal with animation studio Entrenched, Inc. The two companies will collaborate on brand new VeggieTales content, including DVDs, with animation completed by Entrenched’s sister company, Hawaii Animation Studios (HAS). HAS played a significant part in the production of Big Idea Entertainment and Universal’s 2008 theatrical release VeggieTales: The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, and the direct-to-video animated series 3-2-1 Penguins.


Twilight Star to Play Stretch Armstrong in 3-D Film

Stretch ArmstrongUniversal Pictures has announced that Twilight star Taylor Lautner will play the title character in the studio’s upcoming movie based on Hasbro’s popular Stretch Armstrong toy. The Stretch Armstrong movie, which will be in 3-D, is set to be released in 2012.
Universal also announced that it has moved the release date of the action-adventure movie based on Battleship to May 25, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, 2012. The movie was originally slated for a July 2011 release.



Encyclopædia Britannica to Release Interactive Science Books

Publications International, Ltd. has signed a new licensing agreement with Encyclopædia Britannica to develop and market SD-X enabled interactive science books under the Britannica brand. The deal was negotiated by licensing agency JRL Group.
The first series of books will be the Britannica Illustrated Science Library, which will include an SD-X pen. The technology will allow kids to place the pen on a word or image and hear it come to life with sound effects, information, and fun facts.
The new line of Encyclopædia Britannica illustrated science books will include eight titles with varying topics such as sea life, technology, space, and the human body, and will be available at retail stores in the fall. 

W!LDBRAIN Partners with Fuel Industries

All Girl AcradeW!LDBRAIN is partnering with digital agency Fuel Industries to develop television, motion picture, direct-to-consumer platforms, and consumer products based on Fuel’s four entertainment properties.
Fuel’s properties include: AllGirlArcade.com, a tween girl gaming portal and virtual world based on its Clik Stars property; Fairies and Dragons, a property for kids ages 6-10 that features four fairies and their dragon friends; Sideway, for teenage boys, which follows the rebellious New Yorker Noz and underground graffiti culture; and Tetsurai, a sci-fi property for teen boys, which combines television, an MMO video game, arcade fighter, and a role-playing game.

Frankie the Fish Hits Retail Shelves

Frankie the FishGemmy Industries is introducing a toy replica of “Frankie the Fish,” the mechanical singing fish that starred in McDonald’s now-famous filet-o-fish sandwich TV commercial. The commercial, created by Arnold Worldwide in Boston, appeared last February for four weeks, featuring the “quirky” song, “Gimme Back That Filet-O-Fish.” Gemmy’s Frankie the Fish version will feature motion-activated movements, the original version of the song, as well as a new club remix.

American Greetings and CPLG Launch New Strawberry Shortcake Websites

American Greetings Properties, the intellectual property and outbound licensing division of American Greetings Corporation, and CPLG, Cookie Jar Entertainment’s licensing division and licensing agent, is launching 14 new Strawberry Shortcake websites worldwide. The new websites will connect fans around the globe to Strawberry’s own home, Berry Bitty city, that mirrors the official U.S. website, www.strawberryshortcake.com. The websites will offer fans a variety of games, activities, downloads, health-conscious recipes, videos, and more. For a list of the new Strawberry Shortcake websites, visit www.toybook.com/new-strawberry-shortcake-websites.

JPMA Premieres Redesigned Website

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) has re-launched its website, www.jpma.org. The redesigned website features a new online community for moms, dads, grandparents, and other caregivers, called The ParentHood. The community features safety tips, articles, hot topics, prize drawings, and more; membership is free. The updated website also includes a new search function that allows visitors to search the website using key words and phrases, a private members-only section that offers industry resources, a detailed safety certification resource guide, and a press room for media.

Disney Japan Reaches Agreement on Acquisition of RNC

The Walt Disney Company, Ltd. in Japan will acquire all shares of Retail Networks Co., Ltd. (RNC) from Oriental Land Co., Ltd. RNC, a wholly owned Oriental Land subsidiary, operates Disney Stores in Japan. Starting on April 1, RNC will run the Disney Store business as a wholly owned Disney subsidiary. Disney Japan and Oriental Land have been in talks regarding the sale of Retail Networks since last year. Disney will continue to work with Oriental Land, a partner in Disney’s theme park business in Japan.

HIT Adds to Global Development Team

HIT Entertainment has expanded its Global Development Team by naming four experts to the newly created Global Advisory Committee. The members of the committee include Dr. David Buckingham from The Institute of Education in London, and the head of the Centre of Study of Children, Youth and Media in the UK; Dr. Sandra Calvert, professor in the department of psychology at Georgetown University, and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center; Dr. Renee Cherow-O’Leary, president of education for the 21st Century, a research and consulting firm in New York City; and Dr. Wendy Sims, associate chair of the department of learning, teaching, & curriculum at University of Missouri-Columbia and director of music education at the university’s School of Music.
HIT has also promoted Chris Rose to vice president of programming and development, and appointed Christina Schick to the newly created position of director of development. Rose will be responsible for shaping HIT’s new content strategy by sourcing and developing trans-media programming. Schick will be responsible for identifying creators and projects, and developing those properties to expand the HIT portfolio for preschoolers and older children.
Additionally, the company has approved the development of two new projects: For the Birds and Zip, Zip, Zippy. For the Birds is an animated comedy series for kids ages 8-11 that follows the adventures of Earl E. Bird. Zip, Zip, Zippy is a music-driven series that encourages preschoolers to physically participate in story-based adventures.

Target Entertainment Hires New Director of Licensing

Target Entertainment Group has hired Richard Woolf as director of licensing. Woolf will report to Helen Howells, who was recently promoted to commercial director. In her new role, Howells will aim to strengthen the collaboration between Target’s TV distribution and consumer rights teams. She will be responsible for managing children’s TV sales, the home entertainment and licensing divisions, and the master toy and publishing categories. Woolf will be responsible for all other licensing categories and will aim to expand Target’s current international licensing business.

The Jim Henson Company Hires New Exec

The Jim Henson Company has appointed Lisa O’Brien as executive director of children’s entertainment. O’Brien will report to Halle Stanford, executive vice president of children’s entertainment. In her new role, O’Brien will assist in developing and producing new projects across all children’s media and promote properties such as Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train. She will also focus on the company’s shorter form properties such as Wilson & Ditch: Digging America (recently launched on www.pbskidsgo.org) and The Possibility Shop (hosted on www.familyfun.com).

Animation Industry Vet Named Hasbro VP of Production

Hasbro Studios has named animation industry veteran Kathy Page as vice president of production. Page will oversee physical production of programming produced by Hasbro Studios, with much of the content aired on The Hub, the new television network launching this fall by Hasbro and Discovery Communications.
Page joins Hasbro from Sony Pictures Television where she has served as vice president of animation since 2007, overseeing production of series such as The Spectacular Spiderman, and Sit Down, Shut Up. Page has also worked for Warner Bros. Television Animation and Film Roman.

Scholastic Hires New Director of Consumer Products

Scholastic Media has appointed Chris Ursin as director of consumer products. In his new role, he will be responsible for selling licenses, promotions, and sponsorships for Scholastic Media’s portfolio, including Clifford the Big Red Dog, WordGirl, I SPY, The Magic School Bus, Goosebumps, The 39 Clues, Little Scholastic & Scholastic, Turbo Dogs, Toots, Kim Parker Kids, and Dragon.

American Greetings Hires Marketing Director

American Greetings Properties (AGP) has hired Gabrielle Oliff, former brand director at The Beanstalk Group, as marketing director. In her new role, she will be responsible for building brand awareness and the licensing portfolio for AGP’s cast of characters including Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Holly Hobbie, Maryoku Yummy, and Twisted Whiskers.

Hasbro Reports Positive Results for Q4

Hasbro, Inc. has reported 2009 fourth quarter and full-year results. For the fourth quarter of 2009, the company reported net revenues of $1.38 billion, an increase of $144.1 million, or 12 percent, compared to $1.23 billion a year ago. 2009 fourth quarter revenues grew 7 percent, excluding a $55.4 million positive impact of foreign exchange. The company reported net earnings for the quarter of $165.6 million, or $1.09 per diluted share, an increase of $72.0 million, or 77 percent, compared to $93.6 million, or $0.62 per diluted share, in 2008.
For the full year 2009, Hasbro reported revenues of $4.07 billion, an increase of $46.4 million, or 1 percent, compared to $4.02 billion a year ago. 2009 revenues grew 3 percent excluding a $65.2 million negative impact of foreign exchange. Net earnings for the full year were $374.9 million, or $2.48 per diluted share, an increase of $68.1 million, or 22 percent from $306.8 million, or $2.00 per diluted share, in 2008.

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Editor in Chief:
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