April 11, 2013

McDonald’s and Activision Partner for Skylanders Giants Happy Meals

SkylandersMcDonald’s restaurants and Activision Publishing Inc. have partnered to launch Skylanders Giants Happy Meals. In North America, the program will run from April 12 to May 2, while supplies last, and will roll out in other select countries later this year.
Participating McDonald’s restaurants across the U.S. and Canada will offer customers who purchase a Happy Meal one of nine unique toys from Skylanders Giants, each with their own play feature, as well as a coupon for $10 off the Skylanders Giants starter pack. The upcoming Happy Meal program includes figurines inspired by Skylanders Giants characters Spyro, Gill Grunt, Drobot, Chop Chop, Ignitor, Jet-Vac, Tree Rex, Crusher, and Kaos.
To maximize awareness, McDonald’s will support the three-week promotion with a fully integrated marketing campaign that includes branded television advertising, in-restaurant merchandising, custom packaging, and an online web and social media presence.

Haba to Bring Back Götz Dolls to the U.S.

HabaHaba is bringing back the Götz product line of vinyl play dolls to American toy shelves. Haba will introduce the latest Götz line of Muffin, Aquini, and 18-inch Precious Day standing dolls with matching accessories. Götz dolls feature stylable, washable hair, sculptured faces, trendy clothing, and soft fabric or vinyl bodies.
The new line will include 13-inch Muffin and her counterparts 8-inch Mini Muffin and 16.5-inch Maxy Muffin. A second line of dolls, 13-inch Aquinis, features a waterproof vinyl design. Cosy Aquinis are a softer version that can be cuddled and bathed. The 18-inch standing, poseable Precious Day dolls will also be offered.
These dolls can be tossed in the washing machine. Place the doll in a pillowcase, turn the water to cold, delicate cycle, then let the doll lie, belly down, until dry. Only the Standing Dolls (due to their size) should not be cleaned in this fashion.

Disney Layoffs Announced for Studio and Consumer Products Division

The Walt Disney Co. is in the process of laying off some 150 employees within its movie studio and consumer products division, according to a statement by the studio. Reuters news service reported that the cutbacks were initiated as part of an internal audit ordered last year by Disney CEO Bob Iger. The announcement comes as Disney’s shares are trading at record highs. Shares in Disney hit a record $58.82 on Wednesday, with share prices up some 15 percent year-to-date.
“As part of an ongoing review to ensure that the studios’ operational structure and economics align with the demands of the current marketplace, we have made the difficult decision to reduce our staffing levels in several divisions of the studio,” a statement released to the The Los Angeles Times read.
Several media outlets have speculated that the cutbacks are a result of redundant positions created in the recent acquisition of Lucasfilm in November and Marvel Entertainment in 2009. Last week, Disney announced the closure of LucasArts, the gaming arm of Lucasfilm, which employed about 350 people.

National CASA Association and TIF Provide 50,000 Toys for SoCal Foster Kids

National CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Association and the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) partnered on April 5 at the Play Your Part volunteer event to provide 50,000 brand new toys to children in the California foster care system.
More than 125 volunteers sorted and packaged toys given by supporters of the TIF. Donors and sponsors of the event included Mattel, LeapFrog Enterprises, Funrise Toy Corp., and Women in Toys. Walmart donated the use of two tractor-trailer trucks to ship the toys to destinations throughout Southern California. The event took place in Los Angeles at a center provided by humanitarian organization World Vision. 
National CASA, a network of 946 community-based programs that advocate for abused and neglected children, will be working with CASA programs across the country to distribute the donated toys to children in the foster care system.

4Licensing Corp. Launches Rocket Monkeys Licensing Program

4Licensing Corp. (4LC), the worldwide licensing agent for the Rocket Monkeys property, has launched a licensing program for the new animated action-comedy series Rocket Monkeys. Rocket Monkeys currently airs on Nickelodeon networks on a global basis and on Teletoon in Canada. Through an agreement with Breakthrough Entertainment, 4LC is managing the marketing, promotion, and licensing initiatives of this quirky animated children’s series.
Rocket Monkeys launched on Nickelodeon earlier this month and introduces the universe to brothers Gus and Wally, two hapless “Monkeynauts” who cause more intergalactic calamity than they could ever prevent as they pursue important missions. 4LC’s comprehensive licensing and marketing program will capitalize on the Rocket Monkeys characters and will focus initially on the toys, apparel, games, and trend products categories.

ASPCA to Launch Toy Line with Commonwealth Toy & Novelty

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has entered an agreement with Commonwealth Toy & Novelty Co. Inc. to develop a line of plush toys and accessories. The line will aim to replicate the experience of adopting a shelter pet, bringing the ASPCA’s mission to a new generation of animal advocates. The line is tentatively set to launch by the end of 2013.

One Hundred New Manufacturers to Exhibit in Nashville for ASTRA

More than 100 new toy manufacturers will be showing new products in the exhibit hall at American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy, according to ASTRA. Most of these products are not yet available online, which gives specialty retailers the opportunity to be the first to offer them in their communities.  
ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy will be held June 16 to 19 in Nashville, Tenn. Admission to the ASTRA Marketplace exhibit hall is free to specialty toy retailers. Visit www.astramarketplace.org to register for free admission.

PlaySquare Partners with Curious Pictures for Touchable Television Production

PlaySquare LLC, the creator of Touchable Television for tablets, has entered into a partnership with Curious Pictures, producer of television programs, commercials, animation, feature films, and video games. Under the terms of its agreement, Curious Pictures will also be a production partner and provide support to PlaySquare in the development of Touchable Television episodes for its PlaySquare platform. The investment is being made through Curious Ventures, the venture arm of Curious Pictures.
Touchable Television combines existing children’s television episodes with original interactive content to allow a child to step into and participate in the story-world of a television property. PlaySquare transforms television from a passive viewing experience into an active adventure where the child is watching, thinking, and doing. Children can now be immersed in their television shows, playing with their favorite characters in their worlds and helping to move each story along.
PlaySquare will co-locate with Curious Pictures in their New York City studio. In addition, Jan Korbelin, CEO of Curious Pictures, will become an advisor and board member of PlaySquare. 

Kidz Bop Partners for Tooth Tunes Toothbrushes

Kidz Bop, the No. 1 music brand for kids ages 5 to 12 in the U.S., has partnered with Church & Dwight Co. Inc., the maker of Arm & Hammer Tooth Tunes to expand the Tooth Tunes Jr. branded products family. Three new Tooth Tunes Jr. toothbrushes featuring a popular Kidz Bop song are now available, including “We Found Love,”
“Party in the USA,” and “Good Feeling.”
Arm & Hammer Tooth Tunes Music in Your Mouth technology streams sound vibrations from the bristles of the toothbrush through the teeth, allowing kids to hear music while they brush.

littleBits Exhibits in MoMA Design Stores in NYC

littleBitsThe open hardware start-up, littleBits, has been invited to display in the windows of MoMA Design Stores in New York City from April 9 through May 12. The two window displays, titled “littleBits Make Big Things Happen,” feature 4-feet-tall kinetic sculptures made of wood, cardboard, and acrylic animated with “Bits” measuring less than 1 inch square. The installation required no programming, no wiring, and no soldering—just sensors, switches, lights, and motors snapping together with magnets.
The projects aim to present electronics as just another material, accessible to everyone including kids, artists, makers, and designers—not only engineers and experts. MoMA Design Store and MoMAstore.org locations began carrying littleBits kits in January following the acquisition of littleBits for the museum’s design collection and the inclusion of littleBits in the MoMA exhibition “Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects.”
While the displays are up, littleBits is also launching a challenge called “Make Big Things Happen” for enthusiasts excited by the potential of small electronics to create beautiful and impactful large-scale projects of their own. For more information, visit www.littlebits.cc/MoMAstore.

TIA to Attend Transatlantic Trade Forum

Stakeholders from various industries will convene with government officials from the U.S. and European Union on April 10 and 11 to discuss aligning standards and regulations at a High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum held in Washington, D.C.
The forum will mark the beginning of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU, announced by President Obama earlier this year.
Throughout the meeting, representatives from various industries will present their proposals for enhanced transatlantic regulatory compatibility to senior representatives of several U.S. and European government agencies. Representatives from the Toy Industry Association (TIA) will be present at the forum to hold meetings with officials in the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
TIA and Toy Industries of Europe are currently developing a joint position paper on the topic of a U.S.-EU free trade agreement.

Laser Pegs

Get Your Party on with the Newest Member of the Furby Family

Looking back, I remember being terrified of Furby when I was younger. Whenever a Furby commercial came on, I either ran into another room or attacked the TV with pillows. To my dismay, neither of these methods saved me from the Furby Fever that everyone around me seemed to be succumbing to. Read more.

Taking the Stress out of Travel

Seemingly endless construction and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Dead batteries in the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS. No wi-fi connection and nothing good on the radio. Uncomfortable seatbelts and restless little bodies. Though road tripping is a great option for a large family looking for an affordable summer getaway, sometimes a long journey in a crowded car can make a vacation more stressful than it’s worth. Portable gaming systems can be great (especially when coupled with headphones), but sometimes battery-free options are a safer bet for long journeys. For parents just looking to relax, there are a few great products on the market sure to keep little ones occupied in the car for extended time periods. Read more.

Outdoor Toys Are for Everyone

Spring is in the air, and kids are heading outside to enjoy the weather after this long, harsh winter. There are some great toys hitting shelves this season, giving kids and parents plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors. Read more.

Bronies, Rejoice!

My Little Pony is everywhere lately, which might be cause for Bronies—adult male fans of the magical, flowing mane ponies—to rejoice. These unlikely fans of the mainly children’s, mainly girl’s property find themselves addicted to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on The Hub TV Network and fawning over toys and plush tucked away in pink aisles of Toys “R” Us. Read more.

Little Pim Appoints Vice President of Finance and Operations

Little Pim, the award-winning, foreign language-learning program for young children, has appointed Adrienne Vaughan as vice president of finance and operations.
Vaughan has some 12 years of finance and operations experience in children’s entertainment at Disney Consumer Products and at Scholastic Inc. She was most recently at Disney Publishing Worldwide, where she was director of finance and managed the strategic and financial planning of multiple business models across physical and digital product lines.

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