April 04, 2013

Disney Closes LucasArts, Plans to License Star Wars to Game Developers

LucasArtsDisney has shuttered LucasArts, the game developing arm of Lucasfilm, laying off an unspecified number of employees throughout the organization. Disney, in a statement released to GameInformer, said it would cancel in-house development of Star Wars games and would instead shift to licensing the property to third-parties, “minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games.”
The announcement is in addition to several changes to the Star Wars franchise that have been announced since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in October. The company immediately announced that it would develop a new Star Wars film trilogy, which will begin with Episode VII. Last month, Disney announced it was canceling the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, currently airing on Cartoon Network, after five seasons as one of the network’s top shows. Lucasfilm halted all production of new content for Cartoon Network, saying it would “pursue a new direction” for its animated programming without providing additional details.

TIA to Present at California Green Chemistry Conference

Jennifer Gibbons, director of state government affairs at the Toy Industry Association (TIA), is slated to speak at the Prop. 65 Clearinghouse Green Chemistry Conference on April 9 in San Francisco.
The conference will prepare its audience of legal, business, state government, and NGO representatives for new regulations put in place through California’s Green Chemistry Initiative (CGCI), as well as similar regulations reflected both nationally and internationally.
Gibbons will address the challenges these new state regulatory programs pose for the toy industry during a breakout section panel entitled “States’ Green Chemistry Regulations: What Businesses Need to Know to Survive This Piecemeal Approach.” She will be joined on the panel by Diana Graham of Keller and Heckman LLP; Tim Shestek of the American Chemistry Council; and Ken Zarker from the state of Washington’s department of environment and conservation. The discussion will be moderated by Maureen Gorsen of Alston + Bird LLP.
The conference will be held at the City Club of San Francisco from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the “States’ Green Chemistry Regulations” panel scheduled from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. For those interested in attending the conference, registration is now open. For more information, visit the Prop. 65 Clearinghouse website or contact TIA’s Jennifer Gibbons at (916) 594-9432.

Aurora, Hasbro Partner for My Little Pony Plush
My Little PonyAurora World Inc. has signed a licensing agreement with Hasbro Inc. to launch a new line of soft and sparkly My Little Pony plush. The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic animated series is created by Hasbro Studios and is currently airing on The Hub TV Network in the U.S., Treehouse Network in Canada, and can be seen globally in more than 170 countries.
Aurora will initially release 18 My Little Pony styles, including 12 small, 6-inch ponies each with a personalized carrying bag and six soft plush ponies about 10 inches in size. My Little Pony plush will be available for purchase in both the U.S. and Canada in Aurora’s retail channel of more than 25,000 specialty stores and gift shops as well as online at shop.auroragift.com.

V-CUBE Receives Honor from Greek Exports Forum

V-CUBEVerdes Innovations’ V-CUBE has been given an honorary award by the Greek Exports Forum for its success as a newly established export company. The Greek Exports Forum, an internationally recognized body, consists of esteemed businessmen, investment bankers, and government officials and promotes some of the most well-known Greek brands globally.





The Hub Network Posts Viewership Growth    

The HubThe Hub Network, a children’s cable network, has reported six consecutive quarters and 15 consecutive months of year-to-year growth fueled by original programming, notably My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Littlest Pet Shop, and the recent premiere of season three of Transformers Prime Beast Hunters, all from Hasbro Studios, and Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures, from American Greetings.
For six consecutive quarters, The Hub demonstrated year-to-year growth in multiple demographic categories, according to The Nielsen Co. In total day for the first quarter of 2013, The Hub earned year-to-year time period delivery gains among kids ages 2 to 11 (+54 percent), kids ages 6 to 11 (+59 percent), adults ages 18 to 49 (+44 percent), women ages 18 to 49 (+63 percent), adults ages 25 to 54 (+38 percent), women ages 25 to 54 (+56 percent), two or more people (+48 percent), and households (+39 percent).
In prime (Monday to Sunday, 8 to 11 p.m. ET), The Hub earned year-to-year time period delivery gains among kids ages 2 to 11 (+72 percent), kids ages 6 to 11 (+38 percent), adults ages 18 to 49 (+74 percent), women ages 18 to 49 (+90 percent), adults ages 25to 54 (+67 percent), women ages 25 to 54 (+73 percent), two or more people (+67 percent), and households (+57 percent).

Toys“R”Us Towers Launches On iOS

Ubisoft has launched Toys “R” Us Towers, a free-to-play toy store simulation game with real-world benefits, for iOS devices. The game, developed in partnership with Toys “R” Us, is also currently available on Facebook.
Created by Ubisoft Quebec, Toys “R” Us Towers gives players the chance to step into the shoes of the newest employee at Toys “R” Us. Players manage their own toy store by building and designing a variety of toy departments and attractions, such as creating a science toy department or adding a Ferris wheel. As players amass experience and sales, they will progress through seven levels from trainee to store manager, all the way up to CEO.
By playing Toys “R” Us Towers, users can receive real-world coupons for discounts redeemable at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and on Toysrus.com. Within the first hour of playing the game, users can earn a coupon for 15 percent off their next in-store or online purchase and can continue playing to earn even more savings to use at Toys “R” Us.

Fat Brain Toys Offers Research for Special Needs Kids

Specialty retailer Fat Brain Toys has launched a new Special Needs Resource Center for families seeking toys, games, and play resources for individuals with developmental needs. A new website feature, “Special Perspectives,” will aggregate feedback and experiences from families of children with special needs. The site also addresses the growing trend of utilizing toys and games in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The resource currently includes more than 2,400 toys and games that have been selected specifically for individuals with a variety of special needs, including Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Down Syndrome, vision impairment, and 19 other categories. Throughout last year, Fat Brain Toys has collected more than 600 “Special Perspectives” from special needs caregivers.
The Fat Brain Toys Special Needs Resource Center can be found at www.fatbraintoys.com/special_needs/index.cfm.

Schleich North America Relocates to Charlotte, North Carolina

Schleich North America Inc., the German-based manufacturer of soft plastic figurines and collectables, has relocated its North American operations from Ottawa, Ontario Canada to Charlotte, N.C. The Schleich North America Inc. headquarters and distribution center is located in 125,000 square feet of office space at 10000 Twin Lakes Parkway in North Charlotte. The company will employ more than 60 full-time employees and plans to be fully operational by May 1.

Laser Pegs

Everything’s Comin’ Up Bubbles

This spring and summer, toy companies are incorporating a bit of bubbly fun into their lines. With prime weather for outdoor fun, we are seeing the usual sidewalk chalks, sports sets, family lawn games, water shooters, and, a favorite around this office, bubbles. As I sit at my desk as Funrise Toys’ Gazillion Bubble Twister spins and fills the office with bubbles, I realize that these simple toys are a surefire way to bring springtime joy to any playtime. Read more.

Turning a Complaining Kid into a Knitting-Whiz

This winter has been a brutal one for New Yorkers (and I’m not even sure it’s over yet). My niece and nephew whine and whine about putting on their winter’s finest: “The zipper pinches my chin!,” “I can’t breathe!,” “I can’t see with this hat on,” etc., etc. A good way to combat the incessant complaining and layering reluctance is to let kids make their own cold weather accessories. Read more.

Nineties Nostalgia

Ah, to be a kid again. In some ways, being an editor at The Toy Book lets me get close. Last week, we spent several days reviewing and testing product submissions for our spring edition of The Toy Insider. Over the weekend, a friend compared this to “Big,” a movie in which a boy magically gets the body of a grown man and becomes wildly successful in the toy industry. His young mind provided valuable insight that can fade as we become adults. This thought prompted me to reminisce about some of my favorite toys growing up. Read more.

FirstBIKE Offers Safe Balance Biking

Growing up, I loved my little red tricycle. But kids nowadays have something way cooler: balance bikes. Similar to regular bicycles, but without the pedals, these foot-powered bikes teach kids balance and motor skills. Because they look like regular bikes, little kids can feel like they’re on a big-kid ride. Read more.

The Joester Loria Group Announces Promotions

Michael Almedia has been promoted to director of sales at The Joester Loria Group.  In his new role, Almedia will oversee sales efforts in key product categories such as apparel, electronics, interactive, juvenile, sporting goods, tabletop, as well as non-traditional product categories.
Jackie Demaio has been promoted to senior brand manager. In her expanded role, Demaio will manage brand programs dealing directly with clients and licensing partners, as well as overall program initiatives.   
Trish Ahrens has been promoted to brand manager. She will continue her program management responsibilities across all beverage brands and full brand management responsibilities on select accounts.

Larry Doppelt of The Goldberger Co. Dies at 91

The Goldberger Co. has announced the death of Larry Doppelt, one of the principles of the Goldberger Doll Mfg. Co., its direct predecessor. Doppelt died on March 15, at the age of 91. Doppelt, along with his father-in-law Eugene Goldberger and his brother-in-law Seymour Goldberger, ran the company for more than 50 years. Doppelt was a WWII veteran and after his service decided to use his physical chemistry training in the toy industry.

Rovio Entertainment Sees Huge Growth in 2012 Led by Consumer Products

Rovio Entertainment Ltd., the mobile entertainment company and creator of the Angry Birds franchise, announced its financial results for the full calendar year of 2012.
Total consolidated full year revenue grew by 101 percent, driven by growth in games revenue and consumer product sales, and amounted to €152.2 million, compared to €75.6 million in 2011. Earnings before interest and taxes were €76.8 million, compared to €46.9 million in 2012, up 64 percent. Net profit after taxes was €55.5 million, up from €35.4 million in 2011.
The consumer products business unit’s revenue for 2012 was more than three times the revenue of 2011 and accounted for 45 percent of Rovio’s total revenue.

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