April 24, 2014

Sony Pictures Entertainment, Mattel Bring Barbie to the Big Screen

Sony Pictures Entertainment, Mattel, and Parkes+MacDonald/Image Nation have partnered on a live-action comedy based on the iconic Barbie doll. The film will go into production at the end of this year.
In her live-action big screen debut, Barbie will be shown inhabiting many of the 150 roles she has played throughout the franchise’s more than 50-year history, including a mermaid, a movie star, and the president.
The project marks the second collaboration between Sony Pictures and Mattel, which are currently developing a film adaptation of Masters of the Universe, based on Mattel’s popular action figures. The live-action Barbie film will be written by Jenny Bicks, produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, and executive produced by Parkes+MacDonald’s president Marc Resteghini alongside Julia Pistor, who will executive produce for Mattel’s Playground Productions.

Beyond Rubik’s Cube Debuts at Liberty Science Center

Beyond Rubik's CubeThis Saturday, Beyond Rubik’s Cube premieres at Liberty Science Center (LSC) in Jersey City, N.J. The exhibition, which marks the 40th anniversary of the puzzle toy, features interactive physical and digital challenges, and invites visitors to consider how the Cube emerged from a workshop in Communist-era Hungary to become a worldwide phenomenon.
LSC, Google, and the Cube’s Budapest inventor, Erno Rubik, designed the exhibition, which will be at LSC through the end of November. On the same day, the Bank of America Tower and the Conde Nast Building in Manhattan will be lit up in Rubik's Cube colors to celebrate Beyond Rubik’s Cube. The Empire State Building will follow suit on May 8.

World Congress Promises Comprehensive Look at the Play Industry

Members of all play-related industries are invited to attend the 2014 World Congress of Play, presented by Global Toy Experts and Creativity Inc. The objective is to foster new relationships, ideas, and businesses, and to engage in conversations about the rapidly changing play market.
The Congress will feature a cast of global speakers who touch on all aspects of play, including video games, traditional toys, digital play, board games, music, entertainment, theme parks, and more. There will also be out-of-the-box discussions regarding where the business of play might be headed.
The event will take place from September 8 to 10 at the Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel in San Francisco’s Union Square. Registration can be found online.

Nintendo Teams Up with National Park Foundation for White House Easter Egg Roll

NintendoOn Easter Monday, Nintendo of America joined with the National Park Foundation to bring active-play video games to the White House Easter Egg Roll. Nintendo was at the event with Wii Fit U and Wii Sports Club, two Wii U games that challenge players to get active.
Mario and Luigi costumed characters were on site to greet guests, take photos with fans, and cheer on families as they played. The White House Easter Egg Roll, which took place in President’s Park on the South Lawn of the White House, supports the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to help kids grow up healthy.






Marvel, Feld Entertainment Release Exclusive Comic Book for Marvel Universe Live!

Marvel Universe Live!This summer, Marvel Universe Live! will bring more than 25 Marvel characters together for a live arena show that will tour 85 cities. Feld Entertainment, the producer of Marvel Universe Live!, has released an exclusive prequel comic book created by Marvel, which gives audiences insight into the story behind the show.
The comic is available for a limited time with pre-ordered tickets, and will introduce a new item in the Marvel Universe that plays a key role in the live show: the Lectro Link. The Lectro Link will also be available as a unique collectible item, which customers can either pre-order online when purchasing tickets or purchase at the show.





Paws Inc. Signs Wicked Cool Toys as Master Toy Licensee for Garfield

GarfieldWicked Cool Toys has been appointed master toy licensee for the Garfield brand in a deal brokered by Bulldog Licensing Inc., Garfield’s U.S. licensing representative on behalf of Paws Inc. The agreement grants Wicked Cool Toys the worldwide rights to develop and market a line of figures, plush, vehicles, play sets, role play, and seasonal products based on Garfield. The Garfield products are expected to launch this holiday season.




TIA Announces PlayCon 2014 Guest Speakers

Digital experts from Google/YouTube, Amazon, RocketHub, and Tongal will present their insights on connecting with 21st century kids and moms, crowdsourcing, and crowdfunding at the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) International Conference of Play Professionals, PlayCon 2014. The event is scheduled to take place from May 7 to 9 at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Growing Up Digital: Creating, Consuming, Connecting” will feature Katie Rottier, head of U.S. industry, sports and toys, at Google/YouTube. She will provide tips and tactics for brands wishing to engage with kids and moms online. “Amazon: Key Customer, Marketing Partner, Platform for Customer Engagement, or All Three,” will be presented by Eva Lorenz, category leader for Amazon’s Toys & Games store. She will discuss how companies can maximize their success with Amazon by leveraging the online retailer’s resources. For “Get Out of the Box—Get Into the Crowd!” Brian Meece, CEO of RocketHub, and Caleb Light-Wills, senior vice president of product at Tongal, will provide an in-depth look at crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.
Full agenda details, as well as hotel and registration information, can be found at the TIA website.

The Prettie Girls Enjoys Strong In-Store Retail Launch

The Prettie GirlsThis month, The Prettie Girls!, a line of multicultural dolls from The One World Doll Project, began retailing at select H-E-B stores in Houston. According to an H-E-B representative, two locations sold through on inventories, resulting in management placing an additional order.
On Saturday, April 19, doll designer Stacey McBride-Irby made special appearances at certain H-E-B locations carrying the line to autograph dolls for children. “The genuine excitement of the children when they saw The Prettie Girls! made me proud to be the designer,” McBride-Irby says. “Having happy and smiling kids line up to see the dolls made me feel wonderful. It’s a dream come true.”


TIA Calls on Toy Companies to Take Action in Vermont and Connecticut

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) encourages toy companies with business operations in Vermont, Connecticut, or both to join with TIA in taking action against chemical bills under consideration in those states. According to TIA, Vermont Senate Bill 239 and Connecticut Senate Bill 126 would result in arbitrary lists of products that contain certain “chemicals of concern.” This, in turn, would result in additional testing costs for toy companies, as well as the potential for fees per chemical and chemical/material bans.

TIA member companies and their employees are encouraged to take action by sending pre-loaded and editable letters to their local Vermont and Connecticut legislators. Links to both letters can be found at the TIA’s website.

Pool Time Is the Best Time

Some of my fondest childhood memories were conceived on sunny days spent splashing around in the pool. Back in the day, it was tradition for my family to fight over the one noodle that wasn’t chewed up by my dog, or to constantly cheat during a riveting round of Marco Polo (The thing was, we were kind of bored and thoroughly enjoyed torturing each other). Today, lazily floating around on the water is my most anticipated summer activity, but the pool is still a prime spot for play. As companies gear up for swimming season, here are some of the latest toys that keep kids engaged at the pool and earning those pruned fingers: Read more…

These New Japanese Toys and Games Aren’t Just for Kids, Part 1

When it comes to toys and games, Japan has long enjoyed a healthy foothold in North America—think of all the Pokémon, Hello Kitty, and Power Rangers products that have made their way over. So far in 2014, that trend continues, with several new properties either just launching or expected to launch soon. But these are Japanese imports, meaning they’re sophisticated enough for grown-ups, even if they look like they’re for kids. Read more…

Howard Hitchcock Named President of Lionel

Howard Hitchcock has been named president of Lionel. Hitchcock has directed Lionel’s daily operations for more than a year as senior vice president and general manager, and has served in the same capacity at Lionel Racing since its inception in 2010. He will be responsible for both the train and die-cast divisions of the business, while continuing to lead the strategic planning and daily operations of the company.
Hitchcock, along with Chris Elrod, who was previously named chief financial officer of Lionel, will direct the company’s business efforts going forward.

Jakks Pacific Reports First Quarter Results

Jakks Pacific Inc. has reported results for the company’s first quarter ended March 31. Net sales increased to $82.5 million, up 5.7 percent from net sales of $78.1 million in the comparable period last year. The reported net loss for the first quarter was $16.3 million, or $0.74 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $27.6 million, or $1.26 per diluted share, reported in the same period last year.
Top contributors for the quarter included dolls, dress-up, and role play in Jakks’ Disney Frozen line, Disney Pirate Fairies dolls and dress-up, and preschool foot-to-floor ride-ons and wagons.
The company affirmed its previously issued guidance for the full year, which estimated net sales in the range of approximately $633 million to $640 million, earnings in the range of $0.30 to $0.40 per diluted share, and EBITDA in the range of $41 million to $43 million.

Hasbro First Quarter Results Show Strength in Girls Category

This past Monday, Hasbro reported financial results for the first quarter of this year, in which net revenues increased 2 percent to $679.5 million from $663.7 million last year. Foreign exchange had an unfavorable $6 million impact on first quarter revenues.
Net earnings for the first quarter were $32.1 million, or $0.24 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $6.7 million, or ($0.05) per diluted share in the prior year. Adjusted net earnings for the first quarter were $18.6 million, or $0.14 per diluted share, excluding favorable tax adjustments of $13.5 million, or $0.10 per diluted share. Adjusted net earnings for the same period last year were $6.6 million, or $0.05 per diluted share, excluding pre-tax charges of $28.9 million, or $0.14 per diluted share.
Looking at performance by major segment, the U.S. and Canada reported first quarter net revenues of $337.7 million, compared to $342.1 million in the prior year. The results reflect growth in the girls category, offset by declines in the boys, games, and preschool categories. The U.S. and Canada segment reported operating profit of $35.8 million compared to $37.7 million last year.
Based on product category performance, the girls category grew 21 percent in the first quarter on the strength of My Little Pony, My Little Pony Equestria Girls, and Nerf Rebelle.

Mattel’s First Quarter Results Include Gross Sales Decline for Top Brands

Mattel reported first quarter financial results, which included a worldwide sales decline for Barbie, but strength in some of the company’s other girls brands.
For the first quarter, worldwide gross sales for Mattel’s girls and boys brands were $656.9 million, down 5 percent versus the previous year. This included a 14 percent decline in worldwide gross sales for the Barbie brand. Worldwide gross sales for Mattel’s other girls brands increased 4 percent on the strength of Disney Princess and Ever After High, partially offset by Monster High.
Looking at Mattel’s other brands, first quarter gross sales worldwide for Fisher-Price Brands were $271.4 million, down 6 percent versus the prior year. Gross sales for American Girl Brands during the same period were $105.9 million, up 5 percent versus the prior year.
Overall, Mattel reported a net loss of $11.2 million, or $0.03 per share, compared to net income of $38.5 million, or $0.11 per share, during the first quarter of last year. Net sales were $946.2 million, down 5 percent compared to $995.6 million last year, while on a regional basis, first quarter gross sales decreased 2 percent in North America.

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