February 24, 2010
Ming Minibus

Walmart Partners with DreamWorks and Spin Master for Dragon Line

How to Train Your DragonDreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. and Walmart have announced the first of many elements to come from Walmart's involvement with the studio on its upcoming feature film, How to Train Your Dragon, due in theaters March 26. The toy line, created by Spin Master Ltd., will be available at Walmart stores March 1, and will include action figures and dragons, Viking play sets, roaring plush dragons, flying dragon toys, and role-play toys based on the animated film. The toys will be geared to boys ages 5-8 and will range from $5 to $30. 
Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, How to Train Your Dragon tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn’t fit in with his tribe's longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. Hiccup's world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view.

Tatty Teddy Travels to the U.S.

Tatty TeddyTatty Teddy, the loveable gray bear behind the UK’s Me to You brand, is heading across the pond with the appointment of Stone America Licensing as the North American licensing agent for the brand.
The Me to You brand was launched in 1995 by Carte Blanche Greeting and has grown to become a successful character brand with approximately $800 million annual retail sales globally. The brand’s website, www.metoyou.com, boasts over 12 million page views since it re-launched last March.
The bear, called Tatty Teddy because of its patches and sewn-up seams, appears on a wide range of Me to You products, including greeting cards, plush toys, apparel, calendars, jewelry, and collectable figurines.

Manhattan Toy Partners with Parents Magazine

Parents magazine has partnered with Manhattan Toy to develop a new line of products for preschoolers. The new Parents line of developmental toys will debut at the ABC Kids Expo on October 10. The toys will be designed to encourage musical interests, stimulate imaginations, and inspire role play. The Parents line will blend high quality and whimsy in a way that offers children a rich array of visual and tactile stimulation and opportunities for creative exploration. Additional preschool toys will be added to the Parents line in January 2011, with infant products added in July 2011. All of the toys will be available for sale at specialty toy and gift retailers.

United Media Partners for Goodnight Moon Licensing Program

Goodnight MoonUnited Media (UM) has signed on to develop and manage a licensing program for HarperCollins Children’s Goodnight Moon; this will be the first licensing program for the classic bedtime story.
UM will develop a program that will target newborns, infants, and toddlers. The core products will include infant and preschool toys, gifts, apparel, accessories, domestics, and room décor.



The Erector Set to Debut as Feature Film

Meccano Toy Company’s Erector Set will soon hit the big screen in an original 3-D feature film based on the children’s construction toys. Helix Films, an independent production company, will develop the film, marking the first time Meccano has licensed film rights to its toys.
The details of the plotline are being kept a secret; however, the production company has said that the film will be a family fantasy/adventure. A possible film franchise could also expand to other entertainment platforms including television and video games.

Bandai Named U.S. Master Toy Licensee for Roary the Racing Car

Roary the Racing CarBandai America has inked a deal with UK television production and licensing company Chapman Entertainment and HIT Entertainment to become the U.S. master toy licensee for the Roary the Racing Car property. The new toy line will be available exclusively at Toys “R” Us stores starting this fall.
Bandai America will offer a full line of Roary toy products for kids ages 3 and older in categories such as die-cast, push-along and friction cars, remote control vehicles, play sets, and more. The die-cast vehicles, friction cars, and remote controlled Roary will be packaged with a special episode of Roary the Racing Car on DVD.


Schylling Named U.S. Darda Distributor

Schylling Associates, Inc. has been named the new U.S. distributor for Darda toys by Wm K. Walthers, Inc. and Simm Marketing GMBH. Earlier this month, Walthers sold the line to Simm.
As part of the transition to new ownership, both Schylling and Walthers representatives began taking orders for Darda products during Toy Fair New York. In-stock inventory will ship directly from the Walthers warehouse in Milwaukee. Future releases will ship from Schylling.

MGA Enters Boys’ Toys Realm with Launch of New Property

MGA Entertainment is entering into the boys’ toys market with the fall debut of a new property, The Legend of Nara. The fantastical property is targeted to boys ages 6 and up.
The Legend of Nara features a collectible assortment of bugs that look real. According to legend, a massive meteor storm has hit the planet Nara, and a once peaceful insect population is transforming. Their bodies start to elongate, their limbs begin to mutate, and the four tribes that once shared the Narian Valley are now at war in their search for ultimate power.
The toys will feature motorized and removable underbody chassis that allow kids to swap out bug bodies. The bug toys will also include a chassis hook to help guide them along their route as they race and battle.

Scholastic Signs Licensing Deals for Toys

Scholastic Media has signed new licensing deals for its Scholastic and Little Scholastic brands. Kids Station Toys, Inc. will create toy lines for both the Scholastic and Little Scholastic brands for children ages 8 and under. The toys will include cameras, electronic dictionaries, science kits, binoculars, and other electronic learning aids, role-play toys, and science and exploration products.
Tara Toy Corporation will create a full line of craft and activity kits for the Scholastic brands. The kits will include paper bag puppets, tissue paper art, and milk carton projects.
The new Scholastic and Little Scholastic brand toy lines are expected to hit shelves this year.

Cepia Rolls out at Build a Bear, Announces Next Wave of Zhu Zhu

Kung ZhuBuild-A-Bear Workshop announces that it has introduced the Zhu Zhu Pets into 50 of its stores with strong results and that the robotic hamsters will roll out to all of its North American locations by next month. Build-A-Bear will also carry some exclusively licensed Zhu Zhu Pets products.
At Toy Fair last week, Cepia announced new additions to its Zhu Zhu Pets line. It seems that Zhu Zhu Pets, the interactive, plush, artificially intelligent hamsters, have earned their black belts and will reveal their fast-as-lightning skills as Kung Zhu battle hamsters. These hamsters incorporate a level of action and excitement that appeals specifically to boys. The Kung Zhu clan joins the Zhu Zhu family in June. The Kung Zhu battle hamsters travel in packs and are part of teams. In addition to these eight Kung Zhu Battle Hamsters, Kung Zhu battle gear, vehicles, and training arenas will be available. Kids can build further upon their Kung Zhu world with a headquarters, mission control, and training ground for the Special Forces team, and a training ground, snake pit, and dojo base for the Ninja Warriors.
New lines Zhu Zhu Rock Stars and Zhu Zhu Pets Wild Bunch will also be available in June with a variety of accessories and habitats.

TIA Elects New Board Members

Eight new members were elected to the Toy Industry Association (TIA) Board of Directors at the Association’s Annual Business Meeting during Toy Fair New York.
Retiring Board Chairman Al Verrecchia, CEO of Hasbro, passed the gavel to Mattel International President Bryan Stockton, who will take over as chairman for a one-year term. Stockton had previously served as vice chairman; Soren Torp Laursen, president, LEGO Systems, will return to the Board and assume the role of vice chairman.  
The other newly named board members include: Andrea Barthello, ThinkFun, Inc.; William Beebe, Hoogaloo Toys; David Hargreaves, Hasbro, Inc.; Sam Harwell, Big Time Toys, LLC; Shirley Price, Funrise Toy Corporation; Chuck Scothon, Mattel, Inc.; and Robert Wann, Patch Products, Inc. The new board members will serve a two-year term starting this month.

Rubie’s, Fundex Sign on for CBS’ Beastly

BeastlyMore than a dozen licensees have signed up to launch a new merchandising line in support of CBS Films’ upcoming film, Beastly. The movie, starring Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) and Alex Pettyfer (Wild Child, Stormbreaker),will open in U.S. and Canadian theaters on July 30.
Rubies has signed on to develop costumes, masks, and accessories based on the film. Fundex will create games, co-branded games, and puzzles, while Bif Bang Pow will develop figures and bobbleheads. Harper Collins has signed on to create an original novel; Sticker You will create stickers, decals, static clings, and appliqués; and Storm City will launch the Beastly video game.


Crayola and Wild Planet Team up for New Games

Doodle MatchWild Planet will release its first line of Crayola-licensed games this fall. The new games are an extension of the partnership between the two companies; in 2009 Crayola and Wild Planet launched Crayon Town activity sets.
Guess My Picture is a game of creating and identifying pictures made from different shapes. Doodle Match, for those ages 3 and older, is a memory game in which players practice matching colors and objects. Players start by coloring images outlined on specially coated cardboard tiles. After use, tiles can be wiped clean with a tissue or paper towel. Color Mix-A-Roo is a no-mess game of color-mixing magic that teaches basic blending skills. Colors come pre-printed on the palette, which has a center dial. Players dial in combinations of two, three, or four colors to make a variety of shades.

New Licensees Appointed for Pinkalicious

PinkaliciousThe Joester Loria Group, the exclusive licensing agency for the Pinkalicious picture book series, is expanding the brand with a new consumer products program and a new collection of Pinkalicious merchandise. The book series includes the original book title Pinkalicious and two sequels, Purplicious and Goldilicious.
JAKKS Pacific will debut a line of “pinktastic” dolls, toys, and activity items inspired by the series. The line will be available at Walmart stores in the fall. CDI, part of the JAKKS group, will launch role-play items this fall, including Pinkalicious dresses, tiara, shoes, gloves, and a cupcake decorating set. JAKKS’ Disguise division will release the Deluxe Pinkalicious Halloween costume complete with the character’s iconic pink dress, wand, and tiara, for fall/Halloween 2010.
Fundex will release Pinkalicious interactive card and board games for fall 2010. Ceaco’s Pinkalicious product line will include 24 to 100-piece puzzles for kids ages 3 and older.
Madame Alexander will offer an eight-inch Pinkalicious figure with wand, a nine-inch collectible doll with wand and mirror, and 18-inch cloth Pinkalicious collectible dolls.

Allied Products to Develop Britannica-Branded Puzzles

Allied Products Company has been picked to develop and market a line of wooden and cardboard puzzles under the Encyclopaedia Britannica brand. Allied will produce the line of branded puzzles under both its Springbok and Majestic puzzle lines.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica Springbok puzzles will be sold at a wide selection of gift and specialty stores such as Hallmark, while the Encyclopaedia Britannica Majestic puzzles will be at retail stores. The first Britannica puzzle, “American the Beautiful,” will be on store shelves early this year.

Gogo's Lands TV Series

Gogo's Crazy BonesProducer and distributor Breakthrough Films & Television is partnering with Martomagic and PPI Worldwide Group to develop a television series based on the collectible toy, Gogo’s Crazy Bones. Gogo’s Crazy Bones feature hundreds of characters in multiple colors and designs, and are available in three packs, five packs, and collector tins. Each character has its own personality, strength, power, and score.
Gogo’s Crazy Bones is a Bulldog Licensing Limited property owned by Martomagic and PPI Worldwide Group. Joy Tashjian Marketing Group is the brand’s North American licensing agent.

Sakar Secures Batman License

Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) has awarded a license to Sakar International to produce a diverse range of youth electronics merchandise under the Batman brand, based on the DC Comics character. Products will range from digital cameras to walkie talkies and gaming accessories. The first items developed under the license are expected to be released for the 2010 back-to-school season.

Techno Source Signs Deal for Bakugan Games

Techno Source has signed a licensing agreement to create electronic handheld games based on Bakugan, the boy brand from Nelvana Enterprises and Spin Master Ltd. The games, which include an assortment of basic and premium trackball electronic LCD games, will be available for purchase at mass-market retailers this fall.

Shout! Factory Named Distributor for The Super Hero Squad

Super Hero SquadShout! Factory has signed a multi-year deal with Marvel Animation, Inc. to become the U.S. home entertainment distributor with licensing rights for The Super Hero Squad Show. Shout! Factory is planning to roll out a home entertainment product line, including DVDs, based on the series later this year.
The Super Hero Squad Show is an animated series featuring Marvel’s most popular characters including Captain America, Silver Surfer, Thor, Hulk, Wolverine, and Iron Man, with a comedic twist. The heroes team up to face the world’s greatest villains, aiming to protect Super Hero City from Dr. Doom’s wild and weird minions.


London Design Studios Merge to Form Fuse

London-based toy design studios Play On Design and Evolve NPD, Ltd. have joined forces to form Fuse, a toy and licensing invention studio. Fuse London, Ltd. is backed by an experienced creative team that has developed IP for toy companies such as Mattel, Fisher-Price, Spin Master, Bandai Europe, JAKKS Pacific, Basic Concepts, and Tomy Europe, among others.
Fuse’s company directions, says Director Pete Cartlidge, assure clients that all prior Evolve NPD and Play on Design commitments will be met. For more information, visit www.fuse.uk.com.

Inventor of the Easy-Bake Oven Dies

Ronald Howes, the inventor of the Easy-Bake Oven, has died at the age of 83. Howes created his famous invention in the early 1960s, as director of research and new product development for Kenner Products. Howes is also credited for contributing to what would later become a modern version of the Spirograph. Howes is survived by his wife, Nancy, six children, 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

LeapFrog CEO to Step Down in March

Effective March 1, Jeffrey Katz, current chairman and CEO, will leave his position as CEO and return to the LeapFrog Board of Directors as executive chairman. Bill Chiasson, current CFO, will become CEO.

Uncle Milton EVP Promoted to President

Uncle Milton Industries, Inc. has named Frank Adler as president of the toy company. Adler was previously the executive vice president of Uncle Milton Industries. As president, Adler will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of Uncle Milton and will focus on developing strategic plans to grow the company.
Adler joined Uncle Milton in 1995 as director of sales and marketing and has 20 years of experience in the toy industry. He played a critical role in developing the company’s Star Wars Science line and The Force Trainer. Prior to Uncle Milton, Adler was director of product development at Hersch Games.

JAKKS Names New EVP of Marketing

JAKKS Pacific executive Jeremy Padawer has been appointed to a new role as executive vice president of marketing for JAKKS brands. Padawer was formerly senior vice president of marketing for boys’ entertainment brands.
As EVP of marketing, Padawer is responsible for product development, marketing, new business, intellectual property, and entertainment content development for JAKKS, including girls, dolls, activities, preschool, vehicles, seasonal, construction, boys entertainment, electronics, and pets.

Spin Master Hires New Director of Development

Spin Master Entertainment has hired Melissa Wolfe as director of development.  
Most recently, Wolfe was the director of development for Cookie Jar Entertainment where she focused on the creative development of Cookie Jar’s animated and live-action properties. Prior to joining Cookie Jar, she was a development executive at Frederator Studios.

Chicco Appoints New VPs

Chicco USA has made two executive staff appointments. Bill Hasse has been named vice president of marketing and Lisa Rittenhouse has been appointed vice president of sales.
Hasse has 15 years of experience of working in the juvenile industry, working for Graco, Delta, and Simplicity, among others. Most recently, Rittenhouse worked at Medela where she helped build the brand and business for 13 years.

Toys “R” Us Plans IPO

According to the New York Post, Toys "R" Us' private-equity owners are looking to issue an initial public offering this summer. Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and Vornado Realty are now interviewing investment banks as potential underwriters. The IPO could be as worth as much as $1 billion. The cash would be used to pay down and refinance Toys "R" Us' $5 billion debt. 

Leapfrog Announces Fourth Quarter, 2009 Results

Leapfrog has announced its fourth quarter financial results. Net sales for the quarter were $188.6 million, a 36.9 percent increased compared to $137.8 million for the same quarter a year ago. Gross profit for the quarter was $83.4 million, up 73.2 percent compared to $48.1 million in 2008.
For the full year, net sales were $379.8 million, down 17.3 percent compared to $459.1 million in the prior year, which includes the negative impact from changes in currency exchange rates.
Gross profit for the year was $158 million, down 12.9 percent compared to $181.5 million for 2008. The decline, says the company, is a result of lower sales, partially offset by a higher-margin product mix.

Walmart Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results

Walmart Stores, Inc. reported financial results for the quarter and year ended January 31, 2010. Net sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010 were $112.8 billion, an increase of 4.6 percent from $107.9 billion in the fourth quarter last year. Income from continuing operations attributable to Walmart for the quarter was $4.7 billion, an increase of almost 24 percent from $3.8 billion in the fourth quarter last year.
Net sales for the fiscal year were $405.0 billion, an increase of 1.0 percent over fiscal year 2009. Income from continuing operations attributable to Walmart increased to $14.4 billion from $13.3 billion in fiscal year 2009, an increase of 8.8 percent.
For fiscal year 2010, adjusted earnings from continuing operations attributable to Walmart were $14.2 billion, or $3.66 per share, versus $13.5 billion or $3.42 per share in the prior year, an increase of 7.0 percent per share.  

RC2 Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results

RC2 Corporation has announced results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2009. Net income for the fourth quarter 2009 was $8.3 million, or $0.38 per diluted share, as compared with a net loss of $212.4 million, or $12.32 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter 2008. Net income for the year ended December 31, 2009 was $27.0 million, or $1.39 per diluted share, as compared with a net loss of $205.8 million, or $11.82 per diluted share, for the year ended December 31, 2008.
Net sales for the fourth quarter 2009 decreased slightly to $121.3 million compared with net sales of $121.7 million for the fourth quarter a year ago. Net sales for the year ended December 31, 2009 decreased by 3.6 percent to $421.1 million compared with net sales of $437.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2008.

Sears Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results

Sears Holdings Corporation has reported its fourth quarter and full year 2009 results. Net income attributable to Holdings' shareholders for the quarter were $430 million ($3.74 per diluted share) in 2009 and $190 million ($1.55 per diluted share) in 2008, and for the year were $235 million ($1.99 per diluted share) in 2009 and $53 million ($0.42 per diluted share) in 2008. Adjusted earnings per diluted share for the fourth quarter were $3.69 in 2009 and $2.94 in 2008, and for the full year were $3.19 in 2009 and $1.69 in 2008. Adjusted EBITDA was $1.034 billion for the fourth quarter of 2009 and $1.822 billion for fiscal 2009.

MEGA Brands Seeks U.S. Bankruptcy Court Protection

According to Reuters, MEGA Brands has filed a Chapter 15 proceeding in a U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware, clearing the way for a key recapitalization vote next month. The Montreal-based company said on Friday that it had started proceedings in Canada on February 12 to implement a restructuring that would cut its debt by about $290 million and annual interest expenses by about $30 million.
In its U.S. petition, MEGA Brands listed both assets and debt in the range of $100 million to $500 million. The restructuring deal, announced in January, includes raising C$100 million ($95.1 million) through a stock sale and $121 million in a private placement.

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