March 13, 2014

China Toy Fair

University Games Acquires Briarpatch
University Games will acquire the assets of Briarpatch Inc., a manufacturer of preschool specialty games and puzzles based on popular literary properties such as I Spy and Fancy Nancy. The purchase price was not disclosed by the parties.
The merger will increase University Games’ domestic revenue by approximately 20 percent. Additionally, the Briarpatch licenses will augment University Games’ Colorforms business. University Games will begin shipping Briarpatch products this month.
John Donofrio and Martine Redman founded Briarpatch in 1991, and Donofrio will join University Games in a consulting role.
The Briarpatch acquisition is the ninth acquisition since 1994 for University Games. Prior acquisitions include Great Explorations, Bepuzzled, Colorforms, JP Kids, and Front Porch Classics. 

Disney Interactive Cuts Staff Despite Disney Infinity Strength

As reported by The New York Times, The Walt Disney Co.’s video game and Internet division, Disney Interactive, laid off approximately 700 employees last Thursday, equal to 26 percent of its global staff. The staff cuts were the result of Disney’s decision to combine its mobile games and social games businesses—the latter of which is struggling—and to scale back in-house development of games in favor of outside licensing.
Disney Interactive will cut its annual game output by as much as 50 percent. A company executive stated that the division would pursue licensing partnerships in which it retains significant creative input.
The Walt Disney Co. had $1.84 billion in profit and $12.31 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter, in which Disney Interactive had operating income of $55 million on revenue of $403 million, according to financial filings. Unfortunately, the gaming and web division has lost more than $1.3 billion since 2008, and was profitable in the recent quarter due to the success of Disney Infinity, which debuted last August.

Potential West Coast Port Shutdown Looms Over Toy Industry

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) encourages members to develop contingency plans for shipments scheduled to arrive through ports on the West Coast. Upcoming labor negotiations between dockworkers and maritime employers could become contentious, resulting in a possible port shutdown or strike during the busy pre-holiday shipping season, according to the TIA.
Contract talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which are expected to begin in May, center on an estimated $150 million in excise taxes owed under the Affordable Health Care Act for the health care plans of ILWU workers. If negotiations extend beyond the July 1 expiration date of the current contract, a shutdown or strike could occur on the West Coast, costing the U.S. economy an estimated $1 billion each day. Any questions may be directed to Rebecca Mond, TIA director of federal government affairs, at

China Toy Expo to Introduce New Products Zone for Overseas Buyers
A special zone for new export-ready products will open at 2014 China Toy Expo. The zone, located in Hall W4, will be for overseas buyers to find products quickly, and will allow buyers to visit suppliers’ booths directly to make further inquiries. Visitors to the special zone will be welcomed by English-speaking professionals and, if necessary, will be offered business-matching services in a private meeting room.
China Toy & Juvenile Products Association, the organizer of China Toy Expo, will also send updated exhibitors and products information to pre-registered buyers by email, and will match buyers’ sourcing needs with suitable suppliers before their visits.

Bif Bang Pow!, ZICA Toys Partner for Twilight Zone Action Figures

Twilight ZoneBif Bang Pow! has partnered with ZICA Toys to create high-quality retro-style toys and action figures. The line will be based on the iconic characters from The Twilight Zone TV show. These 3 ¾-inch action figures are available for preorder and are scheduled to ship this fall.
Characters in the line will include Bob Wilson and the Gremlin from the episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”; Kanamit from “To Serve Man”; the Invader from “The Invaders”; Henry Bemis from “Time Enough at Last”; and Talky Tina from “Living Doll.” The figures will be produced in black-and-white and limited-edition color series.


State Officials Are on the Agenda at Fourth Annual California Toy Day

A series of legislative updates and round table discussions with state officials were confirmed for the 4th Annual California Toy Day, taking place at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento on March 19, according to the Toy Industry Association (TIA).
Sessions covering policy issues currently affecting toy companies with business operations in the state are scheduled. Green Chemistry: California’s Safer Consumer Product Regulations will allow toy companies impacted by California's new consumer products regulations to hear directly from Karl Palmer, chief of the Department of Toxic Substances Control.
Environmental Policy Discussions, featuring assembly members Tom Daly of the 69th District and Luis Alejo of the 30th District, will cover environmental policies that affect the day-to-day operations of toy companies, including extended producer responsibility, Proposition 65, and packaging laws.
Registration for California Toy Day is now open, and all toy manufacturers, toy importers, and toy distributors may participate in this free event. Questions or comments may be directed to the TIA’s Molly Carroll at (202) 459-0355.

Step2 Continues Supporting Research on Congenital Heart Defects in Babies

Step2Step2 Co., in continued support for the efforts of the Saving tiny Hearts Society (StHS) which is committed to funding research on congenital heart defects (CHD), will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of its Tropical Island Resort water table. This year in the U.S. alone, 40,000 babies will be born with a CHD, making it the country’s No. 1 birth defect. The condition affects nearly 1 million babies each year.
The Tropical Island Resort water table features packaging with tiny hearts superhero Myles splashing it up with his friends. Myles has a scar from his three previous open-heart surgeries—the results of being born with a severe complex congenital heart disease. The character is based on the two-year-old son of a Step2 employee.

Playmobil Launches Around the World Campaign

PlaymobilPlaymobil has launched its Playmobil Around the World campaign in celebration of the brand’s 40th anniversary this year. The program will engage fans and collectors worldwide as they take video and photographs of Tim the Traveler, a figure equipped with camera and red backpack, as he travels around the world.
Approximately 150 members of the Playmobil Collectors Club (PCC), an international community for Playmobil enthusiasts of all ages, have volunteered to participate in the campaign. Playmobil will place the fan-submitted pictures of Tim on a public map found on the brand’s anniversary and PCC websites.



Lottie to Be Available in 30 Countries

LottieArklu will increase its Lottie doll line’s international presence come June, when it will be available in 30 countries. Lottie is based on the proportions of an average nine-year-old girl. She can stand on her two feet, has hair that doesn’t tangle easily, and includes tactile clothes and accessories.

Animation Has Long Been a Promotional Vehicle for Toys

You’ve likely heard about the massive success of The Lego Movie, and maybe you were even one of the millions worldwide who have gone to see it. Despite its financial success, some have blasted the film for essentially being a glorified, expensive commercial for Legos. I don’t think that anyone can deny that The Lego Movie is obviously commercially motivated, but does that make it wrong? Is it all that different from children’s movies selling toys based on the film? Read more…

Let Kids Play with What They Want!

Every so often, I babysit my cousin’s two kids, one boy age 5 and one girl age 6. During one particular instance, we ended up saving a city on the brink of destruction while playing with a police construction set accompanied by a fire truck and superhero action figures. That’s when Alex asked his sister why she wanted to play with us when we were playing with “boy” toys. “Because it’s fun,” she casually replied in a heartbeat, adding a quick shrug. And it was as simple as that. But what would make Alex question why his sister wanted to play with him even though there were no female characters involved in the story? Read more…

Marble Runs Are on a Roll!

During Toy Fair last month, I saw quite a few marble runs on display, which is not at all surprising. This particular toy has been around since my own childhood and never seemed to go away for any prolonged span of time. Meanwhile, one of the vendors I spoke to said marble runs have actually increased in popularity over the past year, thanks to the growth of the construction toy category. He also said that many customers opt for larger sets—or else buy multiple small ones of the same brand—and that the ability to combine sets to build ever-larger runs makes for exceptional toy value in their eyes. Read more…

Les Berger, Founder of Cardinal Industries, Passes Away at Age 95

The Toy Book is sorry to hear about the passing of Leslie Berger, founder of Cardinal Industries, at the age of 95.
In 1944, Les Berger founded the company with a dream and knowledge of plastics. Now Cardinal Industries games and puzzles includes some of the most popular licenses, while maintaining business in core basic games, such as dominoes. Berger continued to work, and until very recently, was still coming into the office to work.
He will be profoundly missed by his entire family:  Sylvia, Joel, Bonnie, Jody, his grandchildren Carly, Ilana, Justin, Perri; and his numerous friends and countless associates in the toy industry.

LeapFrog Names Joanna Rees to Board of Directors

Joanna Rees has joined the board of directors of LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. Rees is a managing director of Soda Rock Partners, where she serves as an investor, board member, and senior advisor to several private high-growth companies and organizations. Previously, she founded and served as managing partner at VSP Capital, and has held several senior marketing management positions with Groupe Danone.
Rees is also active among entrepreneurs in the field of education, currently serving on the board of NewSchools Venture Fund, the mission of which is to improve public K to 12 education by supporting education entrepreneurs. She is an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University, where she teaches leadership at the Leavey School of Business.

Saban Brands Appoints Tim Juckes as Sales Director for UK Products
Tim JuckesSaban Brands has announced the appointment of Tim Juckes as the company’s new sales director of UK consumer products. He will manage all licensing, retail, and marketing efforts in this region, in addition to identifying new growth opportunities for the company.
Juckes will be based out of Saban Brands’ London office and will support the company’s activities in the UK for its core brands: Power Rangers, Paul Frank, Julius Jr., and Digimon Fusion. He joins after holding multiple senior design, sales, and retail roles during his 17-year tenure at Copyright Promotions Licensing Group (CPLG), most recently serving as sales and retail director. During his time at CPLG, Juckes spearheaded product development across Europe for Lucas Films and oversaw the retail launch of Skylanders.

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